I think I may have mentioned my obsession with the Top Secret RPG in the past? Well, Fastlane is the RPG to handle that genre from the other side. Fastlane is a game where everything is in flux, it’s all about gambling, high-stakes, and going full-tilt full-time until you burn out. It’s the perfect game for something like James Bond. And I played a session of it using the setting from the first Top Secret module (Codename: Pisces) to see how it would change the feel of the setting.
Boy did it. Players suddenly were brave, outgoing, and pushing to extremes instead of being cautious spies. The fact that there’s a secret casino in the setting that they managed to get to early in the game also helped.
Fastlane is designed to be pretty setting-neutral, where the first part of the game is picking out what kind of game to be playing (we skipped that part, as I knew what I wanted to do with it). It’s also the first RPG I’ve seen that uses a roulette wheel as the resolution mechanic. Definitely worth picking up a copy – I got it in print, but there’s also a PDF version for $6.00 at IPR.
I helped Mike make his character for the game, which we’ll be using here as the sample PC. We played the game “by the book” for the first session, so each character has 36 poker chips in the bank with which to buy their stats.
As the setting is a black market area of a small neutral European town, and the players are seeking out how various defectors from both sides are moved in and out of the town to their new homes, Mike decided that instead of a high-rolling James-Bond style spy, he was going for more of the Federal Agent type – but to add to the intensity of the game, he’s a dirty federal agent who is definitely not above picking up some graft on the side and looking the other way when it suits.
Now, Robert Lee (Bob to his friends, which he has few) likes to think of himself as a people person. He’s got 6 points in people, with a style of Paid Connections – they aren’t friends really, but people he’s been around. He makes friends with money, spending like mad to make himself look big, and people tend to flock to someone who spends freely. He goes for assets of 5, it would be higher since he’s basically got an unlimited expense account courtesy of Uncle Sam, but he spends it so quickly that he can rarely replenish it in time… if it sinks much lower he might even finally get cut off (after all, he’s not really in it for Uncle Sam, just himself). He’s not looking at being all that brave, but he has to have some amount of backbone to keep stealing all this money for his own ends – so a nerve of 3 with a style of slippery suits the job nicely. With all this emphasis on double-dealing, his guile is his high stat at 7. He is a smooth operator, manipulating not only his enemies into paying him, but his employers into thinking he’s working hard for them, even when he’s plastered and losing money hand-over-fist. While Robert used to be a very clever operative, he’s let the drugs, the booze and the partying and easy life get to him and he just doesn’t think things through as clearly as he used to when he got posted here. Thus a sobriety of 3, no longer skilled at using his head. This is also the stat he plans on increasing once the game begins, as he realizes that he’s got to start playing smarter again if he wants to keep living on easy street.
Then we come to the give-and-take of favors. Robert owes some big favors to his superior in the local branch who assigned him to this cushy operation. Typically he pays him back with expensive gifts, but occasionally actually has to do work for him. Also, shortly after Donald Eiser (another character in the group who is playing a classic James Bond style spy) came to town, he forwarded Robert a night’s worth of chips at the roulette table when Robert was down on his luck and had his car up as collateral.
Along the way, he’s accepted bribes from a variety of sources, but one of the big ones is Alain the Shark, an arms dealer who operates nearby and moves weapons around the Mediterranean. The bribe was pretty small for what Robert looked away from, so Alain owes him – even if Alain doesn’t like to think so. And finally Robert has been harvesting a small number of minor favors by throwing money around.
Robert Lee, Dirty Federal Agent
Chips in the Bank: 12
Lucky Number: 33
People: 6 (paid connections)
Assets: 5 (untraceable cash)
Nerve: 3 (slippery)
Guile: 7 (double-dealing)
Easy Living is my life! (1)
High Stakes Gambling is my life! (1)
The Government is my life! (0)
I owe Johnathan Tanner (my boss) a 5 point favor
I owe Donald Eiser (British spy) a 2 point favor
Alain the Shark (arms dealer) owes me a 4 point favor
Mike (local croupier) owes me a 1 point favor
Alanna Dean (waitress) owes me a 1 point favor
Samuel Potter (pawn shop owner) owes me a 1 point favor
The Agency (1)