Episode 11 – Top Secret RPG

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For your eyes only. Don’t accept this Podcast if the seal is broken.

INTRO: I love the world of espionage and this is the first in our ‘Spy Sequence’ that we’ll be peppering through the next year. We’ve had another iTunes review too – please give us one if you haven’t already.

OPEN BOX: Top Secret was one of those games that we only played a few times, but it made a lasting impression on us. In this section we remember those early games and I challenge Blythy about whether or not he really likes spy-based games.

POTTED HISTORY: The game emerged from a single vision, born from a college dorm, in this section I talk through the history of the game. If you want to hear the story from Merle Rasmussen’s mouth, then seek out The Dead Game’s society’s interview with him from 2014.

JUDGE BLYTHY RULES!: We roll a character and Judge Blythy complains that there are far too many tables. In a thrilling exchange, there is a transformation as Judge Nutmeg transforms into Mr Hand-Wavey Davey.

THE WHITE DWARF  DRAGON: Top Secret didn’t appear in White Dwarf, so we turn to Dragon – a magazine that fully supported the development of Top Secret.

STARBURST MEMORIES: Blythy and I discuss our favourite spy moments from films and television in a brand new feature that includes an overly complicated audience participation feature.

OUTRO: There’s a chance to play Top Secret if you join our Patreon campaign. This is a thank you bit for all those who are already supporting us.

Author: Dirk

Host of The GROGNARD RPG Files podcast. Talking bobbins about Runequest, Traveller, Call of Cthulhu, T&T, AD&D and others from back in the day and today.

15 thoughts on “Episode 11 – Top Secret RPG”

  1. Simon had it slightly wrong. It was Harry Palmer who was the great cook (like his creator Len Deighton). James Bond IIRC had a very basic approach to feeding himself when he wasn’t on a health food kick after one of his visits to the country health resort.

    And the character of James Bond is a tricky one just like all ‘iconic’ characters when considered by writers who want to do subtle and sympathetic characters. ‘Psychopath’ is wrong: Bond isn’t normally delusional in the way you’d get with true psychopaths. ‘Sociopath’ is wrong too: he doesn’t have the selfishness and manipulativeness except… Well, except when on a mission and when dealing with women. He’s clearly not a whole or healthy human being: he’s a bit of an arsehole but one who has decided to dedicate himself to a cause. He is also mostly a ‘stone killer’: it doesn’t bother him to off other humans. This is probably a requirement for all 00 agents. It doesn’t necessarily make him a bad person.

    And Bond isn’t (quite) as nasty as his literary forebears, John Buchan’s Richard Hannay and Sappers’ Bulldog Drummond who verged on fascism in the 1930s.

    The problem with espionage games for me is the fact that the genre is not really suited for team play. The source material is all about one agent (all right, two in the case of THE MEN FROM UNCLE) on his own against a horde of enemies with very little help. Getting three agents to work together is hard. And at the moment I’m finding giving five enough to do in my DRACULA DOSSIER game really hard. (Nearing the end now, but Dracula now knows they are after him. They have just failed in their first, most surprising attempt to destroy him.) .

    1. Of course Harry Palmer is a cook! We have always had fewer players which is why espionage appeals to me. It fits. The problem with NBA is that it over resources two players. They seem a bit too good.

      An arsehole dedicated to a cause … I feel another tee shirt coming on…

    2. Ken Hite cites the movie ‘Ronin’ as an ideal template / foundational ‘text’ for ‘Nights Black Agents’.

      Being honest, when it was first released our group pegged it straight away as an excellent ‘rpg’ movie – it played just like a game session.

      Multiple characters – some with skill ‘specialisms’ – really just like a PC group.

  2. I enjoyed this episode. I’d love it if you guys would review Top Secret S/I and compare it to the original. I share a lot of the criticisms you had about the original, but fell in love with S/I. It would be cool to hear what you guys think of it.

  3. As always, I don’t listen to this just for the insightful discussion of games that sometimes don’t get the respect they deserve.
    I don’t listen just because of the excellent guests and diligent research.
    I don’t even listen just to hear your reminiscences of small bowls of crisps and radiator-based seating/power dynamics – though these are strangely fascinating.

    I mostly listen for the moments where you and Blythy are chatting about gubbins, and he ends up killing himself laughing at a slightly laboured joke about hitting people with tables.

    Your unique podcast chemistry magic kept me grinning for the whole walk with the dogs (again).

  4. I have listened and re-listened to many of the GrogPods. I find them strangely therapeutic.

    However, re-listening to this Pod makes me wish I could find more time to game. Man oh man, do I ever want to run some TS. I think Dirk is correct about just using the percentages to decide outcomes rather than tables. On the other hand, if you were playing with just one other person, I think the tables could be fun (and tension-building).

    Thanks, guys!

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