A blog about games, gamers, and various and sundry geek culture-related ephemera and paraphernalia.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to My Underground Lair

Here's another Top Secret map from my scanning project, this one drawn some time in the mid- to late-80's. It's yet another villain's subterranean lair, this one located under a seemingly innocuous river-side warehouse:


Here's the surface/exterior map:

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Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm Hiding in Honduras - I'm a Desperate Man

While we're on the topic of espionage RPG's, here's something I've had laying around that's not from the scanning project and not for an edition of Top Secret: a character sheet for Palladium's Ninjas & Superspies game.

The Palladium house system may not be the smoothest rules set ever, and later additions may have taken the munckin-y aspects of the system to new heights (Rifts, I'm looking at you), but my friends and I had a blast with Beyond the Supernatural and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the day. (And continue to do so, although much less often than we did back then.) We never played pure N&S more than a couple of times, but the martial arts rules were regularly incorporated into our other Palladium games. These three books are - aside from my Bureau 13: Stalking the Night Fantastic book - the most worn books in my collection, and for good reason.

So, in honor of some fun times, and keeping with the espionage theme (more or less) here's my N&S character sheet:

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

You Gotta Give the Other Fella Hell

Here's a map from the scanning project that I originally made for use with Top Secret/S.I.. I think I drew this back in the mid-90's after watching True Lies for the umteenth time. It's a subterranean operations center for your PC's clandestine organization. Of course, this could also be an enemy operations center the PC's need to infiltrate. (Good luck with that.)

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I've Seen This Diamond Cut Through Harder Men

Here's another Top Secret memory courtesy of the scanning project: a villain's multi-level underground stronghold.

I distinctly recall drawing this up after a mid-80's viewing of Where Eagles Dare - those with a keen eye may even recognize a room or two on Level 5 inspired by those in Schloss Adler (and look for a nod to Remo Williams on Level 6). There aren't any sharks with frickin' lasers on their heads, but this should still be a fun romp for players who want to storm a bad guy's stronghold, a la Where Eagles Dare or Star Wars. Drop this location under the helipad on the Ville D'Arc island, and you've got one massive Big Bad's lair.

With its underground setting and multiple levels, this map really shows, IMHO, my dungeon crawling roots. I'll let you decide:

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Monday, November 9, 2009

How Was I to Know She Was with the Russians Too

Continuing my tribute to TSR's Top Secret, I thought I'd post something a little newer: a recent character sheet.

This one's not for original Top Secret, however; it's for that game's worthy descendant, Top Secret/S.I. Unlike most official character sheets for the games I play, I never felt the need to improve upon TSR's Top Secret agent dossier. It did what it needed to do, and did it well, IMHO. (I've got two sets of the original TSR dossiers, but if you're not so lucky, Mad Irishman has a faithful recreation available in PDF.)

Such was not the case with TSR's official Top Secret/S.I. sheet/folder. It was adequate, but it seemed to me that there was a lot of wasted space in the folder. So, here's a more compact character sheet for the game:

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Now on The Escapist: The Witch-Keep of Drakenmoor

Just a quick post to let everyone know that the latest installment of the "Dungeon World" setting, part of "The Days of High Adventure" column, is now live on The Escapist: "The Witch-Keep of Drakenmoor" is an 8-page location-based mini-adventure (in PDF). Enjoy!

Stay tuned to the Rust Monster, because next week I'll have a bunch more Top Secret goodies for you from my scanning project.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Odds Are You Won't Live to See Tomorrow

After my introduction to the world of RPG's via Basic D&D (evolving soon thereafter into a mish-mash of Basic and AD&D) I quickly began exploring the ever-growing RPG landscape of the early 80's. My early exposure (pre-1984) was limited to whatever I could find in the local Kay-Bee toy stores. This basically meant TSR's boxed games: Gamma World, Star Frontiers, Gangbusters, Dawn Patrol... and Top Secret.

I think Top Secret was my second post-D&D role-playing game. I'm not sure if it was the second one I encountered, but it was the second one that I actually purchased and immersed myself in.

It was natural for me to gravitate toward an espionage game as my second foray into the world of RPG's. After sci fi/horror, espionage was running a close second as my favorite genre. I'd grown up on the ubiquitous staple of James Bond (Connery, mostly), Matt Helm, and Derek Flint films, not mention a wide variety of Cold War and WWII-era espionage and action flicks, like Three Days of the Condor, Where Eagles Dare and Guns of Navarone. (All watched, of course, on one of our three local network stations on my tiny portable black-and-white TV set.)

A couple of my favorite childhood toys were the hand-me-down James Bond 007 Road Race Set and a piece of "Man From UNCLE" parephernalia I had found - the UNCLE badge and ID wallet from the Man From UNCLE Napoleon Solo Gun set. (Damn, that James Bond set was an awesome toy! There were no cars or controllers by the time I got my hands on it, but Hot Wheels and Matchbox vehicles worked even better, if you ask me. And I had never seen the "Man From UNCLE" series, but I knew cool spy stuff when I saw it.)

Yep, I really dug spies. (And still do.)

Of course, this would also have been late 1982/early 1983, the height of Reagan-era Cold War goodness. It seemed that not a day went by that there wasn't some form of international intrigue in the news. To say that the environment was ripe for espionage gaming would probably be a huge understatement.

Despite its multitude of quirks and subsystems (I still have trouble wrapping my brain around that hand-to-hand combat system!) I loved Top Secret from the very start. I made character after character, drew maps of villains' secret hideouts and underground lairs, and used the weapon creation subsystem to derive Top Secret stats for dozens of modern firearms. And I played the Hell out of the game with my nephew. Our characters, my Bryan Steele* and his Rick Savage, saved the world from evil villains more times than I can count. (*Did I mention that I was/am a huge fan of "Remington Steele?")

I've tried several times since that period (1982/3-1985) to recover or renew the experiences of my Halcyon days of espionage gaming - alas, to no avail. But I still have my nostalgic memories - and most of the materials I've created for Top Secret. I've shared the nostalgia - now how about the goodies?

Up first is "Ville D'Arc," a set of maps I drew up for a villain's island lair. This was made after seeing Octopussy (so, late summer 1983) so when you're painting your mental picture of the main house, try to envision it looking something like Kamal Khahn's house from that movie.

Here's the island map:

And here's the map of the main compound (followed by a key of the map's locations):

Last, but certainly not least, here's the map of the main house:

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