Friday, March 7, 2014

No D&D No Cry ‘Madness of March’ Blogstafarian – Day 8

Other blogs can be found HERE.

The questions can be found HERE.

8 What spy RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details.

The more of these questions I answer, the more I see how narrow my roleplaying experience is. I think once my degree dies off and I have free time again I owe to it to myself to go Constantcon crazy and play some of these older (and even some newer) games and genres I know of but have not experienced directly.

OK, so for spy games I have only played two. The first was a disastrous run through the old Top Secret RPG. We were kids and had little clue of what we were doing, so ‘play’ is a relative term. The second time was in uni, and our traipsing around the town of Sprechenstale was a mess of gunfights and intimidations that was far removed from ‘spying.’ I figure the Admin ‘pixel bitched’ too much, expecting us to magically find the right NPC contact and get the clue, so we responded by shooting the place up. It was fun, but I think the game could have been more a classic spy game with clearer objectives, a consideration borne out by the rules themselves, which have clear roles (investigation, confiscation and assassination if I recall) for each character.

That leaves the other spy game I’ve played – Palladium’s Ninjas & Superspies. Like Top Secret I have had two runs at the game. The first was an abortive mercenary style game where the unkillable characters and plethora of attacks and martial art moves made combat a turgid mess.

I am lucky that I gave the game a second chance, for when I GMed I made lots of observations about Palladium and changes that made the game really hum. First, I realized from prior experience that the game need some lethality, so I composed the house rules that would later form the nucleus of my Palladium Patch, which floated around the internet a few years back. Here are a few of the changes:
Armor Rating – AR is changed to reflect how much damage a character or object can take. For living creatures, any damage up to AR is subtracted from SDC, while any in excess of AR is taken directly from Hit Points. Armor takes SDC damage up to AR then passes it on to the wearer. Watch players get wary of hand to hand and start running from guns…
(Also, use the optional critical damage tables! The risk of a broken arm or leg will force the characters to be creative)

Combat Momentum – Since most characters have multiple attacks/actions, a different style of adjudicating combat is necessary. Roll initiative as normal, but whichever character gets it keeps on attacking until one of the following occurs: 1) they run out of attacks, 2) they fumble (roll a natural 1) 3) they decide to stop attacking and use their remaining actions later. Implementing Combat Momentum made the game much more cinematic and sped up combat immensely.

(NB: Also, find the older unrevised edition if you can, but the newer edition works just as well. Just don't mix the two as power levels vary greatly.)

In addition to the above houserules, what made the game shine was the story we chose to copy – not James Bond, but Remo Williams. Bond may be good on paper or in the movies with scads of conversation, seduction, politics and scuttling about, but games need simpler and faster action. Remo Williams the Destroyer delivers that in spades, and with a game like Ninjas & Superspies all characters have varying degrees of Shinanju-like mystic combat prowress.

In fact, if you’re thinking of running a spy game, I’d suggest Remo Williams or Mack Bolan as inspiration. Let’s face it, for starters cheap pulp is a better fit for a game of action than stirred martinis, which needs a certain frame of mind and GM-player understanding of genre.

Makes me want to play Victory Games’ 007 now….

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