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Top Secret / S.I.

Top Secret / S.I.

Espionage games have been one of my vices since I was a teen. Of course, back then we mostly played them as “sneak around and shoot people” games instead of actual espionage, but over the years I’ve looked back on them with some serious nostalgia. Top Secret/SI was the second edition (third technically, the second printing of the first edition was officially released as the “second edition” but only had one rules change and some cosmetic changes from the first printing) of the TSR classic Top Secret RPG.

Somewhere along the way, we managed to lose Merle Rasmussen, the Administrator and creator of the original game. And the change is felt throughout the game. Douglas Niles created a much more streamlined game in the end, but one that I just couldn’t obsess over the way I did the minutia of the original.

But since I picked up a copy of the game at the Garage sale last week, it’s about time I sit down and make a character for it.

For this character I’m thinking of something that gives a good cover for international travel and for generally being in odd places. And considering the second-most popular article on this site is the character I created for the “Hot Chicks” RPG, I’m going to go with a male adult movie star.

Attributes are determined by rolling a d60+10 (not a true d60 either, but a d6 d10 combination where the d6 is the tens digit, resulting in a number between 20 and 79 for all stats).The result is a character slightly above average in everything but a weak willpower (he’s got a thing for the ladies… and the men), and a strong constitution (so he can… perform… more). As my total points in ability scores is under 275 (by 4 points), I get to spread another 4 points around between the stats as I please (except I can’t use this to bring a stat over 70, so I can’t adjust his already nearly superhuman Constitution of 78). Not wanting to improve his one weak stat, I bring up his Intelligence.

What’s interesting about this mechanic is that the average character would have 252.5 points between their ability scores, giving them around 22 points to spend in this way, and few characters will be rolled up that exceed this 275 point line – so you do get some option to customize your character even though creation is initially random.

Like classic Top Secret, based on these primary attributes we determine some secondary attributes – unlike the original however we only determine two of them, instead of a half-dozen. In this case we get Movement and Dexterity, each being the average of two other stats (and both using Reflexes as one of the stats – effectively trying to reduce the overall uberness of a character in a modern combat game with a high initial “dexterity” score).

After describing basic background characteristics (sex, nationality, age, etc) we select a set of advantages and disadvantages. Outside of point-buy games, this was one of my first exposures to an advantages / disadvantages or merits / flaws system in character creation. In this case, we’re going for an adult film star, so a point of Attractive Appearance, and a point of Athletic Ability seems warranted – however I’ll pass on Acting Ability. There’s also a two point advantage called Sensuality which makes seduction into a full enamored type event – I decide to pass on this, since while he’s good with the ladies, he’s not the kind of guy you fall head-over-heels in love with. Instead I pick up Stamina, allowing him to exert himself twice as long as normal characters with his already nearly-superhuman Constitution and to be able to recover in less than half the time from fatigue and exertion.

Now I need to figure out four points of disadvantages. Lechery is a 2 point flaw that makes him require a Willpower check whenever confronted with the opportunity to pick up a woman, even if it endangers the mission. Finally, I decide he’s a deep sleeper – whenever he does manage to rest after “work”, he’s hard to wake up.

Then we get to the character’s pre-spy life, which determines starting skills and cash. In this case, Mr Holmes is an “Entertainer” (the options are Military, Professional, Worker, Entertainer and Other). As an Entertainer, he must spend at least two skill points in mechanical, 2 in combat, 4 in education, 10 in general and 4 in language. This leaves him with another 8 points to spend as he pleases. Ignoring the immediate pun, he picks up “Basic Tool Use” and then I try to stick to his theme, while picking up a few “interesting” skills with his few bonus skills.

As an entertainer with some level of achievement, he has a starting savings of 2d10x$1,000 – $16k.  Pulling out the “G4 File: Guns, Gadgets & Getaway Gear”, I go spend some of it – wishing I had picked up the Wealth advantage so he didn’t have his vehicle options limited to the Toyota Corolla GTS….

John Holmes

Sex: Male
Nationality: American
Race: Caucasian
Native Language: English
Handedness: Right
Age: 29

Strength: 55
Intelligence: 51
Reflexes: 59
Willpower: 32
Constitution: 78

Movement: 67
Dexterity: 55

Advantages
Attractive Appearance (1): +1 on NPC reaction rolls, -10 to target’s Will to resist seduction attempts
Athletic Ability (1): +10 MOV
Stamina (2): Double exertion limits before being tired, recover in 2 minutes instead of 5.

Disadvantages
Lechery (2): WIL check to avoid trying to pick up women.
Deep Sleeper (2): 1/2 INT to waken.

Skills
Basic Tool Use | 0 | MOV | 67%
Electronics | 0 | INT | 51%

Basic Firearms | 0 | 1/2 DEX | 28%
Basic Melee | 0 | 1/2 STR | 28%

Basic Liberal Arts | 0 | 1/2 INT | 26%
Anthro/Psych/Soc | 0 | INT | 51%
Business/Economics | 0 | INT | 51%

Acting | 0 | INT | 51%
Driving/Automobile | 0 | DEX | 55%
Fine Arts | 0 | DEX | 55%
Lip Reading | 0 | INT | 51%
Photography | 0 | INT | 51%
Social Chameleon | 0 | INT | 51%
Swimming | 0 | MOV | 67%

Interrogation | 0 | WIL | 32%
Stealth | 0 | MOV | 67%
Tracking | 0 | INT | 51%

Savings: $5,100

Gear
Toyota Corolla GT-S | Max Speed 115 | Accel 11 | Handl +10 | Brake 45 | Prot -30 | Pass 4 | Range 430
Smith & Wesson .357 Snub-Nose

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