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Tales from the Table: Counterintuitive Terrorism

February 9th, 2010

Back in high school, I ran a fairly length Top Secret S/I game. The game started out as your typical spies for Orion vs. spies for the W.E.B. and everything moved along quite well until I bought the counter terrorism source book. I don’t remember the title and I’m too lazy to run down to my office to pull it off the shelf. Regardless, it was a great supplement, but it was not a good fit for the current campaign. Well, I didn’t care. I had spent my hard earned money on the book, and I was damn well going to use it.

It lead to the end of the campaign through a TPK (total party kill). All my fault, too.

What happened was the terrorists in the source book were geared towards demolitions, combat and stealth and not much else. The Orion spies were equally potent, if not more so, but they had spread their skill selections out across things like driving, flying, diplomacy, carousing, stealth, B&E, combat and a multitude of other things. While the PCs were very powerful spies, they just didn’t have what it took to take out the Bad Guys that were solely built for killing people.

I’m still very happy to own the book (I actually own every book published for Top Secret S/I), but I wish I had saved it for a different campaign with different characters that were intentionally built to be the combat specialists required to do counter terrorism in the modern age. To the GMs out there, learn from my mistake. Just because you bought a book, you don’t have to whip it out midstream in a campaign and incorporate elements into the current game. Sure, you can do that, but do it with more intelligence than what I used back in my youth.


Tales from the Table: I Hook Myself Up!

December 1st, 2009

Back in high school, I ran a Top Secret S/I campaign that lasted a reasonable amount of time. It started during the middle of summer vacation and ran almost until the end of my Freshman year. The game went very well for it being a new system to everyone. The game system had just been out a year, and there were already a decent number of supplements (which I now have all of them in my collection!) My players had a great time playing ORION agents working against the evil WEB organization. I decided to throw in some fantastical elements into the game. This was before I managed to get my hands on the source book that introduced psionics and what-not to the game, so I was totally winging it.

My plan was to have the players come to the final culmination of the campaign against the evil mastermind in his lair where he had setup a rig to inject psionic and superhuman abilities into himself. The machine wasn’t quite ready yet, and the mastermind (I forget what name I had given him) ran delaying tactics against the group until the machine finally came online. In the end, the players burst into the room and started blazing away with their guns. After many missed shots, Mike, bless his dice, hit with a critical to the head on the Bad Guy. He went down like a lump of wet meat and that was pretty much the end of the game. To wrap up, I decided the minions would surrender since their leader had been blown to bits.

I described the room to everyone, including the nefarious device of Dr. So-And-So (the evil masterminds always seem to be doctors, right?). I did my best to include details on stray wires, shooting sparks and made it sound like the device, which had a piece of head gear attached to it, held a great deal of danger and unknown features. As dutiful players, they listened to my description and before I could finish asking, “What do you do now?” Mark (Mike’s brother) jumped from his chair, knocking it over, and exalted, “I hook myself up!”

Damn.

I hadn’t planned on that eventuality. I figured they would dismantle the device, or rig it to blow or bring in ORION scientists to study it. I never, not even once, considered that a player would stick the gear on his head and flip the switch. It goes to show that no matter how many eventualities and contingencies you plan on, the players will always think of something radically different, yet totally logical.

So Mark jumped into the chair at the base of the machine, strapped in and flipped the switch.

What did I do?

The only thing I could do and be fair about it.

I gave him psionic and supernatural powers.

It may sound like it would unbalance his character, but it didn’t really. The powers weren’t all that great and not all that reliable. We didn’t play for very many more sessions before we moved on to something else, but for the few games Mark had his powers, we all had a hoot with them. I don’t regret allowing it to happen one bit, but I did learn a valuable lesson: Don’t let the Bad Guy’s uber-powerful munchkin-like toys fall into the hands of the Good Guys.


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