Quick Car Chase Rules

by Chris Johnson

Introduction

These rules allow quick, efficient, and accurate means to incorporate car chase scenarios into gaming sessions. The rules lean more toward simplicity than technicality. They are designed specifically to be used without the need for miniatures or counters on a map, although such items can easily be used if desired. The entire chase can be kept up with on paper, and can most likely be done without any paper and writing if need be. The level of realism by use of miniatures and other game-aids is entirely up to the GM and players. Since such events often occur unplanned in gaming session (i.e. the character suddenly jumps in his car and has to run down a escaping villain) the system was designed to be quickly accessible requiring no prior set-up.

These rules can be used for pretty much any car chase scenario, whether they be a basic police chase in the middle of an adventure, or an elaborate Indy 500-style car race. They are also extremely portable and therefore not limited to any one gaming system.

In short, if you are looking for a quick, yet fun means to handle car chases, then this is the system for you. If you are looking for a system that allows for car design, car accessories, possibilities for any maneuver imaginable, and an elaborate counter-based mapping system, then these rules are not for you.

If you are looking for a way to do car chases on an even simpler basis, check out the One-Brain Cell Car Chase Rules.

Basics

This system is turn-based . In short, each player is allowed 1 maneuver per turn. There are nine possible maneuvers the player can choose from.

  • Maneuvers
  • Left Turn
  • Right Turn
  • Sharp Left Turn
  • Sharp Right Turn
  • Bootleg Reverse
  • Hard Accelerate
  • Hard Brake
  • Soft Side Swipe*
  • Hard Side Swipe*
  • Quick Lane Shift
  • Sideswipe Hold*

* Can only be performed when in close proximity to another car.

The Game Turn

Usually a car chase will begin with one car ahead of the other(s). Initially the GM needs to decide how far apart the cars are, in units. (A unit does not necessarily represent a given term of measurement in the real world; it is simply a means to keep up with distance between vehicles.) It is also necessary to decide initial speeds for each vehicles. Each participant must start each turn deciding whether he or she wants to accelerate, decelerate, or maintain speed. For the sake of simplicity, unless one or more cars use a maneuver Hard Accelerate or Hard Brake, this initial acceleration/deceleration is the same speed rate among all the vehicles. In other words, if a black car is chasing a red car, and the red car decides to accelerate, his rate of acceleration is the same as the other car. (This is for simplicity purposes.) Therefore, if both cars decide to accelerate on their turn, no progress is made between the cars and the distance stays the same. If one car accelerates and the other maintains, then the distance between them is bridged 1 unit per turn. If one accelerates and one decelerates, the distance is bridged 2 units per turn. Note: if one player wishes to catch up with another car, he should probably also do a Hard Accelerate for his or her maneuver that turn. i.e. if a driver puts the pedal to the floor to catch up with a car, this action would not be an initial acceleration (although he might have done that too), but the maneuver called Hard Accelerate.

Once the initial speed decision is made that turn, each driver decides on a maneuver. Any maneuver can be performed, except the Side Swipe Hold, which attempts to hold position against a side-swiping car.

Order, or initiative, is determined in one of two ways. If the chase is used in a roleplaying game scenario, then find the character trait most akin to speed or dexterity in that game system (GM’s discretion) and compare all scores. The one with the highest trait score goes first.

If the chase is being done independent of a roleplaying game, each player simply rolls a die; the highest roller goes first. Any ties are rerolled. Then the maneuvers are executed in the order of initiative.

Maneuvers

As mentioned above, maneuvers are either movement, aggressive or defensive. Movement and defensive maneuvers can be done any time, no matter what distance lies between vehicles. However, aggressive maneuvers can only be done when another car is in close proximity. Only when a car has closed the gap between it and another by accelerating or Hard Accelerating (from the Maneuver Table) can aggressive maneuvers be done.

When a maneuver is executed, a 10-sided die will be rolled. Depending on vehicle speed, the attempt may or may not be easy. Consult the table below to determine what to roll, or less, to achieve success.

Maneuver 1-20mph 31-50 51-70 71-90 91-110 111-130 131-140 151-160 161+
L/R Turn 10 10 9 9 8 8 7 7 6
Sharp L/R Turn 9 9 8 8 7 6 5 4 3
Hard Accelerate 9 9 10 10 10 10 10 10 10
Hard Brake 9 8 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Soft Side Swipe 8 8 7 7 6 6 5 4 3
Hard Side Swipe 8 7 8 6 6 5 4 3 2
Quick Lane Shift 9 8 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
Side Swipe Block 10 9 8 8 7 7 6 6 5

If the roll is failed, then the car has, to some degree, lost control. This may or may not be something major. Roll on the table below to determine what has happened.

Roll Results
1-5 Minor skid; only insignificant loss of control
6 Car tires hit a slick area and the car has to maintain speed and direction for 1 turn
7 Minor fishtail; there is an 80% chance that control can be regained, otherwise the car will fishtail for 1-5 turns in the direction it was going until it stops
8 Car careens on two wheels. Temporary complete loss of control for 2 turns_ Car sustains light damage
9 Major fishtail; there is a 50% chance that control can be regained; otherwise the car will fishtail for 1-10 turns in the direction it was going until it stops
10* Tires catch on something and the car flips. Car sustains heavy damage. Driver may be injured (GM’s discretion)

* Cannot happen below 40mph. Under such circumstances, reroll.

Any player using Hard Accelerate increases speed by 5 mph per second. This is added to acceleration also gained by the turn’s initial accelerate decision, if that decision was made. So a player who decided to accelerate on a given turn, then chooses a Hard Accelerate that turn would get an acceleration of 10 mph. A player doing a Hard Accelerate after having decided an initial decelerate would cancel out and maintain current speed. As mentioned earlier, distance between cars is also a factor. One Hard Accelerate allows for bridging 2 units. One Hard Brake causes a loss of 2 units. This is along with (not included in) the units gained or lost from the initial speed decision at the beginning of the turn. So, if a black car, having initially decided to accelerate does a Hard Accelerate, and the red car he is chasing does a hard brake after choosing an initial decelerate, then the distance between the cars is bridged by 6 units. Remember, units are not a measurement of distance covered, but of distance between cars.

If cars speeds are exactly matched on a given turn, then each player must roll a die. The player who rolls the highest gains one more unit of distance, and the other does not.

Note: if players wish not to use maps, then they can keep up with the distance between cars by keeping the number handy on paper, until the cars are in close proximity of 1 unit from each other.

Collisions

If the distance in units determined at the beginning of the chase has been bridged to where the cars are 1 unit from each other, then a collision may occur between them. At 1 unit’s distance, a Side Swipe maneuver may be attempted. If successful, refer to the collision table below. Any turn toward, accelerating into, or decelerating into another car also causes a collision.

Also, if an object (another car or anything else) is in the way of a car, a collision occurs. (There may be instances where the GM may place obstacles in the path.) In the case of any collision, the severity is determined by a die roll on the table below:

Roll Results
1-5 Light collision; minor damage to the car; there is a 10% chance the car is rendered inoperable
6-8 Moderate collision; there is a 50% chance the car is inoperable; 25% chance of some driver injury (GM’s discretion on severity); and 10% chance of fire
9-10 Heavy collision; extensive damage to car; there is a 90% chance the car is inoperable; 50% chance of driver injury; 25% chance of fire; 5% chance of explosion

Note: If the collision involves two (or more) cars colliding, then this roll must be made for both cars.

When Only The Best Will Do

by Kevin Marzahl

In 1945, the Germans lost the Second World War, and for the second time since the turn of the century, they were forced to disarm. When West Germany was allowed to rearm itself in the mid-1950s, the remains of the Mauser factory in Obenhorf were given to a new firm for weapons manufacturing Heckler & Koch. Because it had no traditional designs and methods behind it, H&K was open to new ideas and advanced manufacturing techniques. The result was impressive. Since its first contract the G3 assault rifle for the West German government, H&K has turned out a range of excellent pistols, a versatile submachine gun, assorted rifles and machine guns, and even a combat shotgun. In the last three decades, H&K has become, arguably, the finest and most respected small-arms manufacturer in the world.

It is not surprising, therefore, that H&K weapons would find their way into espionage and related activities. One of the preferred weapons of the British Special Air Service is the HK MP5, an accurate, reliable, and compact submachine gun available in many forms. Even James Bond has had occasion to use the HK VP70 (see John Gardner’s For Special Services) and HK P7 (Gardener’s Icebreaker). Here are the gaming statistics for the H&K line of weaponry, as well as notes on each weapon.

Weapon Notes

HK4: This is the smallest of the H&K pistols. It is unique in that it may be chambered for .22, .25, 7.65mm,or 9mm short ammunition in a matter of minutes, simply by changing the barrel, magazine and recoil spring. This operation can be carried out in the field, provided that the user has the proper tools.

P9S: Although designed as a military sidearm (which accounts for its greater weight than the other H&K pistols0, it is an ideal police and security weapon. It has its own double-action lock, which allows it to be carried with a bullet carried in the chamber and the hammer forward. In game terms, this gives a shooter a +3 modifier to his net speed during the first shot determination.

PT (PSP): The “Polizei Selbstadepistole” was specifically designed for police forces. Two different magazines are available, an 8-round and a 13-round. It is a common weapon among the West German border guards and other security forces.

VP70M: The only H&K pistol capable of true automatic fire, the VP70M is an excellent weapon. Its holster doubles as a stock. With the holster stock attached, the pistol is capable of firing 3-round bursts. A civilian model, the VP70Z, is available, but without the the 3-round burst mechanism. It can, however, be fitted with a sock, as can all of these pistols.

PSG-1: As a precision, semi-automatic sniping rifle, this weapon is almost unequalled. It is normally made for single-shot firing, with a special silent bolt closing mechanism. However a 15 or 20 round magazine feed is optional. Fitted with a telescopic sight, it is deadly.

MP5: When H&K decided to add a submachine gun to its line of weapons, it used the G3 as the basis for their design. Its trigger mechanism is fitted for 2-, 3-, or 4-round bursts. No less than four magazines (for 10, 15, 20, or 30 rounds0 are available. In addition, it has many variants. The model A2 has a telescoping metal butt, and many others are arranged with varying combinations of sights, silencers/suppressors, and stocks. I chose to include the MP5K as a separate weapon, as it is completely buttless, has a shortened barrel, a fore-grip, and a higher rate of fire (3-, 4-, or 5-round bursts) having been designed specifically for anti-terrorist use.

G3: As the main rifle of the Bundeswehr since the 1960s (to eventually be replaced by the G11), the second most popular rifle in NATO, and H&K’s principal product, the G3 is obviously a fine assault rifle. It is actually a derivation of the Spanish CETME assault rifle. Its variation, the HK33, is for all practical purposes, identical to the G3, save for the fact that it is chambered for 5.56mm ammunition, and thus was not included as a separate weapon. A civilian model, the HK91, is also available, but with a rate of 2.

G11: NATO began new weapon trials in 1977, and H&K, not surprisingly, was given a contract. It chose to produce something completely different – 4.3mm assault rifle using caseless ammunition. After encountering some problems, the round was changed to 4.7mm caseless. The weapon itself resembles a carrying case with a trigger more than a rifle but, nonetheless, it is an effective weapon and ahead of its time. Most importantly, the G11 does not receive any modifiers from the Automatic Weapons table (Hit determination Chart, page 24 of the TOP SECRET rule book). the reasons for this deal with the weapon’s firing mechanisms are quite detailed; basically, the rifle was designed to counter the muzzle rise inherent in all automatic weapons. Thus, it fires three rounds at the incredible rate of 2,200 rpm and can place them within a 3(FM) circle at 500 yards, or a 6′ circle at 1,000 yards (a variation of about 1.5 mils, for those familiar with the system).

21A1 GPMG and 13 LMG: H&K’s general purpose machine gun is the 21A1, which can be fitted with a bipod (near the front of the barrel) or a tripod. It generally takes metal link 50 round (7.62mm NATO) ammunition belts, although a feed system can be taken out and replaced with a magazine housing that will take the G3 magazine. This change must be carried out by a professional in a proper work shop. The 21A1’s little brother is the HK13 light machine gun. It fires 5.56mm NATO ammunition from 25-round magazines, not belts.

CAWS: There is a growing interest in automatic combat shotguns in the police and military circles. the Close Assault Weapons System was developed by H&K and Olin/Winchester primarily for the military. It fires 12 gauge ammunition (which cannot be fired from any other shotgun), loaded with shot, flechettes, or slug. It is incredibly lethal at close ranges and is still under development. It bears resemblance to the G11, both weapons having smooth, snag free bodies (resembling a carrying case, as the barrel is not visible) with a carrying handle over the grip.

Table I: Heckler & Koch weapon weights

QRC WP WK QRC WP WK
ah 7.39 4.25 br 5.4 2.45
bm 1.06 .48 bs 4.4 2
bn 1.94 .88 bt 7.93 3.6
bo 1.73 .79 bu 18.28 8.3
bp* 1.81 .83 bv 11.89 5.4
bq 15.86 7.2 bw 9.5 4.31

QRC – Quick reference code; see Table II for details.
WP – Weight in pounds
WK – Weight in kilograms
* These models come with a holster stock: WP-2.81, WK-1.28

Table II: Heckler & Koch Weapons

QRC Weapons PWV PB S M L WS Rate Ammo Cost Decp A C F P R HWV
Pistols
bm HK4 Pistol multi-calibre
.22, .25 46 0 -41 -141 X VF 1 10 400 -8 3 2 5 4 6 4
7.65mm, 9mm* 48 0 -39 -139 X VF 1 8 5 2 5 4 6
bn 9mm P9S 47 0 -37 -140 X VF 1 9 375 -10 6 1 5 4 6 5
bo 9mm P7 Pistol (PSP) 43 0 -40 -143 X VF 1 8, 13 350 -10 6 1 5 4 6 4
bp 9mm VP70M 53 0 -41 -141 X VF 3 18 450 -11 6 1 6 4 6 5
with stock 60 1 -25 -97 X F 3 NC 6 1 6 4 6 8
Rifles
bq 7.62 mm** High Precision Marksman 88 +6 0 -39 -91 S 1 **** 600 NC 26 0 5 3 6 16
Submachine Guns
br 9mm MP5A2 68 +4 -24 -92 -242 A **** **** 475 NC 14 0 6 4 6 12
bs 9mm MP5K 60 +4 -21 -84 -240 A **** **** 425 -13 7 1 6 4 6 8
Assault Rifles
ah 7.62mm G3 70 +5 -7 -53 -153 S 5 20 300 NC 20 0 5 3 5 14
bt G11 (4.7mm caseless) 80 +6 -9 -50 -100 S 3 50 1000 NC 23 0 6 2 6 18
Machine Guns
bu 7.62mm 21a1 GPMG 93 +9 -1 -33 -93 VS 9 50 925 NC 20 0 6 3 6 21
bv 5.56mm 13 LMG 85 +6 -6 -37 -97 S 7 25 850 NC 20 0 6 3 6 19
Shotguns
bw CAWS 93 +9 -5 -64 X S 3 10 1000 NC 20 0 6 6 6 18

* Short, all other 9mm weapons use standard ammunition.
** NATO: all 7.62mm and 5.56mm weapons use NATO ammunition.
*** At medium range, shotgun range modifiers are as follows: 51′ – 150′ – Halve the listed modifier, 10′ – 300′ – As shown. Shotguns have no effect beyond 300′
**** Special, see weapons notes

Final Words

First, fine weapons, especially those which are automatic, should be easily attainable by agents. This should be especially true of the G11 and CAWS, as they are experimental and very new. A system for equipment acquisition is found in the TOP SECRET Companion, and I highly recommend that Administrators use it, particularly in the area of weaponry.

Second, some readers may be aware that in the module TS 008 Seventh Seal, statistics are given for for the VP70 which are differ from those presented here. The difference are intentional, as I do not agree with those statistics. I believe that the version presented here is more realistic, but readers may choose which they prefer.

Third, some of you may notice that the ACFPR ratings do not tally to match some of the PWVs of certain weapons. This primarily because I used the guidelines given in Weapons Statistics. This was done to provide a more varied and balanced set of weapons.

Fourth, machine guns are potent weapons. If they are used in your campaign, Administrators should use the guidelines given in Now That’s Firepower!. For those using those guidelines, the penetration Factors for the HK21A1 and HK13 are 20 and 17, respectively.

Last, weapon design and conversion into gaming format is difficult. In research, differing (sometimes conflicting) information is found. The stats given here, I feel, are accurate. But sometimes weapons (namely the G11, CAWS, and to a lesser extent, the VP70) are very new with little use behind them; the only way to be completely accurate on them would be to fire them myself, and automatic weapons are not easy to come by. Readers may modify these statistics if, because of experience or knowledge, they believe that their versions would be more accurate. In any case, when you don’t want to take chances, break out the H&Ks.

Weapons Statistics

SECURITY CLEARANCE LEVEL:
For Administrators and Agents

BEGIN MESSAGE

TO: Administrators desiring clarification of inconsistencies between the statistics found on the Weapons Chart and statistics as generated using the optional Gun Design rules.

BY AUTHORITY OF: Merle M. Rasmussen, designer, and Allen Hammack, editor.

PURPOSE: Because of the bulk of correspondence we receive concerning weapon-statistic incongruities and gun-design problems, we have conspired to issue a statement in hopes of alleviating rule misunderstandings. We also hope to explain our reasonings behind particular rules and statistics within the current TOP SECRET® Espionage Game rules system.

MESSAGE: Why aren’t the PWVs of certain guns from the Weapons Chart the same as PWVs calculated from their A, F, P, R ratings using the optional Gun Design rules?

1) Five of the weapons (a, c, j, k, p) have PWVs left over from the original TOP SECRET manuscript and were never modified during editing.

2) One of the weapons (j) is the victim of a typographical error found under Gun Design in the section on Accuracy. A Rating of 4 should have a PWV of -4, not -2.

3) Variations between similar weapons are based on specific performance data and subjective reports from users of various gun types.

4) Different weapons with statistically identical A, C, F, P, and R ratings had their values slightly modified to make the weapons different from one another for game purposes.

5) For game balance, PWVs were varied independently of the weapon’s A, F, P, and R ratings with a tolerance of plus or minus 0 to 19.

6) All PWVs on the Weapons Chart were assigned and are “official.” Weapons denoted a, b, c, g, h, i, j, k, p, and u-ee are inconsistent, but will not be officially modified at this time.

Why are designed guns using the Gun Design 20 or less trait rating total such poor renditions?

1) Unlike weapons produced by professional manufacturers who spend a great deal of time and money on research and development, “homemade” weapons are pitiful reproductions. Few espionage agencies can afford a private armorer or an in-house gunsmith, and are more likely to contract the work out or buy standard weaponry commercially produced.

2) We strongly suggest modifying the given weaponry to suit your needs, as opposed to designing new weapons from scratch. Homemade weaponry would be easier to trace than mass-produced guns because of the distinctive rifling marks, unique calibers, and ballistics behavior of these relatively primitive firearms.

3) Many Administrators disregard the 20 or less trait rating total and convert real-life guns to TOP SECRET statistics directly. Overall average PWVs for weapon types are offered here to indicate design standard guidelines. The proposed values are: Pistols 35, Carbines 65. Rifles 75, Submachine Guns 80, Assault Rifles 70, and Machine Pistols 30.

4) These average PWVs can be modified plus or minus 0 to 19. For random modification, roll a 20-sided die and subtract one from the roll. To alter the average PWVs subjectively, simply adjust the figure (within the 0-19 range) by an amount you deem appropriate. The widest possible variances are found in pistols. One-handed machine pistols are deemed inaccurate in combat and are given low PWVs. Their lack of accuracy is compensated for by their increased rate of fire.

5) The data in this document is suggestive only and does not comprise official rule changes.

6) Shotguns are a class of weapons unto themselves. Their design, suggested PWVs, and Range Modifier statistics will not be addressed at this time.

How are Range modifiers defined for weapons being designed?

1) See reason 3 under the first question above.

2) Different weapons with statistically identical A, C, F, P, R ratings had their Range Modifiers slightly changed to differentiate them.

3) Based on statistical comparison of compiled weapon data for TOP SECRET guns, we would like to propose the following overall averages for Range Modifiers:

  PB S M L
Pistols 0 -45 -145 X
Carbines +3 -10 -75 -195
Rifles +5 -5 -45 -115
Submachine Guns +4 -25 -95 -245
Assault Rifles +5 -10 -60 -170
Machine Pistols +1 -25 -80 -220

4) These average Range Modifiers can be subjectively altered within the following parameters:

  • PB: + (0-5), but PB can never be less than 0
  • S: + or – (0-9); randomly, equivalent to d10-1
  • M: + or – (0-19); randomly, equivalent to d20-1
  • L: + or – (0-49); randomly, equivalent to ½d%-1

5) In all cases, if the actual gun cannot shoot further than medium range (600ft.), its long-range modifier should be X (not possible).

How were the weapons chosen for inclusion in the TOP SECRET rules, and why were those weapons chosen?

1) During the research phase, some weapon descriptions were determined to be so sketchy and vague they weren’t even passed on from the designer to the editor.

2) Certain obscure notes made during research were not deciphered, and hence there was a question as to whether such weapons actually existed. These questionable weapons were never submitted to the editor: the .38 S&W (5 shot) small-frame side swing revolver, the .38 Llama and the 9mm Double col. mag. self load.

3) Three weapons had identical weapon statistics, but the descriptions were so sketchy none were included. These weapons are the .41 mag., .44 special, and .44 mag.

4) All of these weapons were pistols, and we had a dozen others with fuller descriptions. We also wanted to include carbines, rifles, submachine guns, assault rifles, shotguns and other weapon types.

5) We wanted to include common weapons used in popular espionage stories or used in real espionage and/or police work, not necessarily military weaponry.

The chart below lists statistics for some of the weapons which were eliminated from the original TOP SECRET manuscript for the reasons given earlier. Please keep in mind that the statistics are not necessarily accurate or complete. Note that each of the five gun traits range from 1 to 6. When comparing these trait values using the Gun Design tables, note that the phrase “equivalent to” means that the weapon acts like or fires the same as what is listed corresponding to the rating. The weapon may not actually be or appear as it is rated. For example: The Accuracy rating of “3” for the .44 mag does not mean that the gun has a 2½-inch barrel, but rather that in comparison to other weapons and in combination with the other four ratings the .44 mag fires as if it had a 2½-inch barrel. These weapon statistics are offered in the hope of further expanding the selections of pistols available to agents — and to their opposition.

Happy hunting!

QRC Weapon PWV PB S M L WS R AM CST DC A C F P R HW
vv .25 self-load 31 0 -54 -154 X F 1 6? 360 0 2 6 5 3 2 3
ww .32 self-load 43 0 -50 -150 X VF 1 6? 370 -2 2 5 5 4 4 4
xx 9mm Double col. mag. self-load 47 0 -46 -148 X VF 1 8? 365 -4 3 4 5 4 6 4
yy .357 Mag. 6-shot small-frame rev. 33 0 -40 -140 X F 1 6 325 -4 3 4 4 4 6 4
zz .380 self-load 45 0 -41 -141 X VF 1 8? 380 -2 3 5 5 4 4 4
aaa .38 S&W 5-shot small-frame rev. 34 0 -41 -141 X VF 1 5? 375 -2 4 5 3 4 6 4
bbb .38 Standard wt. 6-shot revolver 35 0 -41 -141 X VF 1 6 370 -4 4 4 4 4 6 4
ccc .38 Llama 47 0 -39 -139 X VF 1 8? 380 -6 3 3 5 4 6 4
ddd .41 mag. 43 0 -38 -138 X F 1 6? 320 -8 3 2 4 5 6 4
eee .44 special 43 0 -37 -137 X F 1 6 260 -8 3 2 4 5 6 4
fff .44 mag. 43 0 -36 -136. X F 1 6 280 -8 3 2 4 5 6 4

ADMINISTRATIVE CORRECTION

In reference to the article in DRAGON™ issue #49, concerning ammunition, the following clarification is necessary:

Gyrojet and microjet ammunition may not be fired from conventional firearms (ones containing firing pins). Such specialized ammunition is fired from cast aluminum launchers possessing electrical igniters. These miniature, solid-propellant rockets produce a visible burning tail and are not particularly accurate. The bonus to hit with such a weapon should be applied for targets at long range due to the acceleration of the projectile after launching.

Launchers may be used in a vacuum or underwater, since the projectiles carry their own oxygen supply to support combustion. If a launcher is used underwater, reduce all ranges by 75%; however, the damage from striking the target remains unchanged. Firing-pin ammunition may not be used in a gyrojet or microjet launcher. If they are the correct caliber, both microjets and gyrojets may be launched from the same device.

Residue buildup within the weapon barrel may cause the launcher to misfire after the tenth shot unless the weapon is cleaned properly. The chance of a misfire after the tenth shot is 5%, added cumulatively for each succeeding shot. Hence, if the gyrojet hasn’t misfired by the fifteenth shot there is a 25% chance it will misfire on that shot.

Gyrojet/microjet launchers operate off a simple nine-volt battery which is good for 30-90 [10x(1-6)+20] launchings. Cost of the battery is $1. Launchers cost $150, are pistol-sized, and may be smuggled past most metal detectors and some searches if they are disassembled. Launchers generally act as other pistols, duplicating their PWVs, Range Modifiers, WSs, Rates, ammo supplies, and other characteristics.

STOP

END MESSAGE

Special Equipment File

by Jimmy Anderson, Chris Johnson, Brent York, and Craig York

The SE File is a compendium of specialized equipment available to the agent through his or her bureau.

Prices are included for agents who have not been issued the devices for mission purposes.

Canes/Umbrellas

Umbrella Pistol

Cost: $600.00
This fully functional umbrella has a handle that can be detached from the umbrella shaft and used as a standard 9mm pistol. The handle can be detached with a sharp twist, which will also cause the pistol’s trigger to extend. The pistol has no magazine, but is designed to carry two rounds in the chamber. The umbrella is identical to a normal umbrella in every way except that it weighs about 4 lbs more. Below are the weapon statistics for the umbrella pistol:

PWV PB S M L WS RT AM CST DEC A C F P R HWV
26 0 -45 -150 X F 01 02 600 -10 2 1 2 4 5 4

Umbrella Sword

Cost: $50.00
This umbrella has a two-foot long sword hidden inside its shaft. It is usually detached with a strong tug on the handle. It is a weapon that is virtually identical to a foil/epee, so it has their characteristics for combat.

Cane Pistol

Cost: $600.00
Weapon works exactly like the umbrella pistol, except that it is a cane. It uses the same pistol mechanism in the handle, so modifiers are the same.

New Avenues For Agents

by Merle Rasmussen

Editor’s Introduction

The information you are about to read has been obtained by this magazine with absolutely no difficulty whatsoever. It is not classified or restricted, except that you need the original TOP SECRET rules to make full use of what follows. These charts and descriptions were composed by Merle Rasmussen, who also designed the game. This information, and a lot more, will be published in the TOP SECRET Companion scheduled for release later this year. In the next few issues of DRAGON Magazine, we’ll bring you previews of some of the major sections of the Companion. That is all… for now.

New Bureaus and Divisions

Two new bureaus and six new divisions, or subclasses of bureaus, have been added to the TOP SECRET game. The two new bureaus are Technical and Operations. The six new divisions are listed below, according to the bureaus to which they are attached:

Section 1–Administration Bureau (Special Operations Division)
Section 2–Investigation Bureau (Infiltration Division)
Section 3–Confiscation Bureau (Logistics Division)
Section 4–Technical Bureau (Specialty Division)
Section 5–Operations Bureau (Analysis Division)
Section 00–Assassination Bureau (Protection Division)

Section 1, Administration Bureau

Level Designation Experience Points*
1 Junior Case Officer 0
2 Case Officer 2,979
3 Senior Case Officer 6,857
4 Substation Chief 11,713
5 Station Chief 17,625
6 Office Director 24,750
7 Division Director 32,500
8 Bureau Director 43,000
9 Assistant Administrator 58,000
10 Administrator 80,000

* The agent must have at least this many total points, and the agent must have points in all four of the other bureaus (not including the Assassination Bureau).

40,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Section 1, Administration Bureau (Special Operations Division)

Level Designation Experience Points*
1 Meddler 0
2 Tamperer 745
3 Interloper 1,714
4 Intruder 2,928
5 Adjuster 4,406
6 Problem Solver 6,188
7 Avenger 8,125
8 Pragmatist 10,750
9 Expediter 14,500
10 Special Operator 20,000

* Total experience points, in any bureaus.

10,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Section 2, Investigation Bureau (Infiltration Division)

Level Designation Experience Points
1 Snitch 0
2 Foist 1,000
3 Inside Man 2,500
4 Plant 4,000
5 Ringer 6,000
6 Contact 8,000
7 Insinuator 11,000
8 Penetrator 14,000
9 Subversive 17,000
10 Infiltrator 20,000

10,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Section 3, Confiscation Bureau (Logistics Division)

Level Designation Experience Points
1 Bearer 0
2 Carrier 444
3 Messenger 1,333
4 Courier 2,666
5 Cut-out 4,444
6 Runner 6,666
7 Bootlegger 9,333
8 Smuggler 12,444
9 Contrabandist 16,000
10 Logistician 20,000

10,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Section 4, Technical Bureau (Specialty Division)

Level Designation Experience Points
1 Trainee 0
2 Clerk 79
3 Tinker 157
4 Hobbyist 313
5 Apprentice 625
6 Journeyman 1,250
7 Master 2,500
8 Academican 5,000
9 Consultant 10,000
10 Technician 20,000

10,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Section 5, Operations Bureau (Analysis Division)

Level Designation Experience Points*
1 Guide 0
2 Leader 979
3 Boss 2,857
4 Supervisor 5,713
5 Chief 9,625
6 Principal 14,750
7 Superior 20,500
8 Commander 29,000
9 Director 41,000
10 Operator 60,000

* Total experience points, from at least three bureaus.

30,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Section 00, Assassination Bureau (Protection Division)

Level Designation Experience Points
1 Lookout 0
2 Watchperson 2,222
3 Picket 4,444
4 Sentry 6,667
5 Ward 8,889
6 Human Shield 11,111
7 Bodyguard 13,333
8 Guardian 15,556
9 Defender 17,778
10 Protector 20,000

10,000 experience points must be earned for every level above 10th.

Explanation of Bureau and Division Classifications

No specific role is all-encompassing, nor should it be. Each agent brings particular talents to a mission that often overlap another agent’s talents. In the course of a mission, it is best to let the most qualified individual perform any particular task.

Administrator: This is not officially an agent’s role unless the admin has a character in the field or positioned where action can take place. Administration is, theoretically, where agents who have worked under all bureaus come to retire. Having survived at least four missions to get into administration, the agent/player should have plenty of ideas on how to design and moderate missions. Administrators often contact an operator to assemble a team of agents for a particular mission. The admin then uses agency resources to supply and pay the chosen operator, who in turn supplies and pays the selected (or surviving) agents.

Special Agents: Special agents work directly under an administrator without an official operator. They act as troubleshooters, blunt instruments (see below), and internal investigators, among other things. They often work alone or in small, tightly knit groups. Special agents may be assigned to groups including confiscators, investigators, assassins, or technicians, but generally do not reveal their unique classification. Special agents are generalists who earn experience as if they worked under the four bureaus, but they do not gain any bonus experience points or payments. Like technicians, they are allowed the use of special devices before they reach fourth level.

Investigator: This agent is the eyes and ears of an espionage body. Primarily an information-gatherer, an investigator observes, inquires, and examines the situation or target systematically, often using surveillance equipment. An investigator needs a good memory, and high Charm, Knowledge, and Observation values. Investigators should be proficient in electronics, languages, photography, and tailing. They generally report to their personal or team operator instead of an admin.

Infiltrator: Infiltrators are a subclass of investigators. Infiltration goes beyond surveillance; an infiltrator must become part of a group or organization in order to uncover its goals, aims, and secret activities. They usually report their findings to an operator. Infiltrators may eventually be called on to subvert or destroy the group from inside. Infiltrators need fewer experience points than investigators to gain a level. Experience points earned for infiltration do not apply toward investigation, and vice versa.

Confiscator: This agent is the hands of an espionage body. A confiscator’s main concern is seizing property. Most confiscators are well-coordinated and familiar with all types of valuable goods and security systems. Security detection and deactivation are a confiscator’s strengths, with picking pockets and gambling as side-lines. Confiscators generally report to their personal or team operator instead of an admin.

Protector: Protectors are a subclass of assassins. Instead of killing and destroying, protectors try to prevent such acts. They are trained in assassination and sabotage techniques in order to better protect against them. Protectors of live targets are called bodyguards, and are trained to use their own bodies as shields to protect other agents or VIPs. Protectors of installations, vehicles, or valuable objects are called guards.

Assassin: The infamous yet regretfully necessary assassin is primarily a cold-blooded murderer of prominent persons and secret agents. Rating high in Physical Strength and Willpower, these agents perform dangerous, often suicidal, tasks in the line of duty. Assassins are experts in explosives, poisons, firearms, and unarmed combat. Assassins generally report to their personal or team operator instead of to an administrator.

Analyst: Analysts are a subclass of operators. Their job is to examine and interpret bits of information or physical evidence. Analysts rely on their memory and observation to assemble clues into useful knowledge. Analysis is primarily a desk job; analysts rarely venture into the field to collect their own data. An analyst in the field is a talking encyclopedia, and may have inside information that other agents are not aware of. Analysts should have a high Knowledge value and several Superior Areas of Knowledge, and should be able to speak several languages. Experienced analysts may become kidnapping targets of enemy agencies, because they can be pumped for information.

Operator: In the field, an operator is the boss. The operator leads the team, pays its members, enforces team regulations, and reports directly to the administrator. Most operator duties are mundane and bureaucratic, such as recruiting and training new agents. Many operators, tired of the constant danger of field work, strive to become administrators, whose lives are safer. An operator is personally responsible for the actions of agents under his control. An operator also is responsible for the proper use and care of expensive or valuable special equipment borrowed from the agency. An operator may be a resident of the area where a mission is being carried out. Specialists advance on the same experience point schedule as technicians.

Specialist: Specialists are a subclass of technicians. Specialists are highly trained in one specific field of study. They are limited to this one job, which they perform very well. In other skills, specialists will have average training at best. A specialist chooses a specialty when the character is created, and is called on to perform only that function. The specialist is extremely dedicated. Specialists will rarely be allowed to leave their low-profile desk jobs to accompany a team of agents on a mission. They are, however, experts in their fields and hence may be called on to perform a specific function. Technicians are allowed the use of special equipment before reaching fourth level. Technicians also get a +100 experience point bonus for courses completed in espionage college.

Technician: The technician is a generalist who usually is seen only in support roles, and rarely is placed in the field. Technicians often earn their first experience by attending espionage classes. Those few who are assigned to work with assassins, confiscators, and investigators can expect an equal share of the hazards and difficulties. Many technicians carry no weapons, relying on team members for protection. The technician operates equipment, bandages injuries, analyzes compounds, or studies special devices.

Logistician: Logisticians are a subclass of confiscators. They are equipment handlers; the logistician’s job is to procure, distribute, maintain, and replace agency equipment and personnel. A logistician may need to perform the opposite of a confiscator’s job: altering and returning stolen items without being detected. Travel documents, tickets, ammunition, and the necessities of life are supplied by the logistician. When agents need to flee as quickly as possible along the shortest route, a logistician is the person who knows where to go and how to get there…

Agents can work under one of four bureaus: Investigation, Confiscation, Assassination, or Technical. When a character is created, the player decides which bureau the agent will work under for the first mission. A character can work under only one bureau at a time.

All experience points earned on a given mission must be applied to that bureau only. At any time between missions, a character may change to another bureau. Experience points apply only to the bureau in which they were earned. All beginning characters and characters working under a new bureau for the first time are considered 1st level with zero experience points in that bureau. A character may return to a bureau he left previously; new experience points earned in that bureau are added to the experience points the character earned in that bureau previously.

Special classifications

All rules that apply to bureaus also apply to divisions beneath the bureaus. An agent who is working in a division is also considered to be working in the bureau to which that division is attached. For example, an agent who has worked in the Infiltration, Logistics, and Protection Divisions has worked in three bureaus. If an agent has worked in the Investigation Bureau, the Infiltration Division, and the Logistics Division, he has worked in only two bureaus.

Characters who have earned experience points in more than one bureau are valuable agents. They are given a special classification which defines their combination of talents. The agent’s level in the special classification equals the lowest level the character has reached in any of the bureaus where the agent has earned experience. For example, a character who is a 3rd level Investigator and a 2nd level Confiscator qualifies as a 2nd level Magician. “Membership requirements” are as follows:

Magician: Investigation or Infiltration, plus Confiscation or Logistics.
Hunter: Investigation or Infiltration, plus Assassination.
Sleuth: Investigation or Infiltration, plus Technical.
Saboteur: Confiscation or Logistics, plus Assassination.
Wizard: Confiscation or Logistics, plus Technical.
Mechanic: Technical plus Assassination.

As an example of how special classifications work, assume that Shadra, a new recruit, has decided to work in the Technical Bureau. She pays the school entrance fee out of her own pocket, and completes the Pyrotechnic Chemistry and Duplication course in 9 weeks. She earns 90 experience points, plus 100 bonus points for working under the Technical Bureau. She now is classed as a 3rd level technician. On her first field mission, Shadra decides to work in the Confiscation Bureau, and she miraculously gains 455 experience points. She now is a 2nd level confiscator besides being a 3rd level technician. Her special classification is a 2nd level Wizard.

Magician: Masters at sleight of hand, confidence games, and deception, magicians are welcome on any missions that are conducted in public view. Magicians are escape artists, masters of disguise, and alluring entertainers all in one. A magician generally reports to an operator.

Hunter: Not necessarily a killer at all, a hunter traces the movement of prey, learns its habits, its strengths, and its weaknesses. The hunter is often a loner who blends in with the shadows, tries to find the target, and often fascinates or forces the surprised target out into the open. Once this occurs, other agents can investigate, confiscate, or assassinate the target. A hunter generally reports to an operator, but can organize a manhunt personally if necessary.

Sleuth: As information experts, sleuths are valuable assets on highly technical missions where quick, clear thinking is a must. Brilliant, systematic, charming but never assuming, sleuths often solve the problems they pose. Sleuths are cautious yet surprising, and often fool those they come in contact with. Wiretapping and codebreaking are two of a sleuth’s strong points. Sleuths generally report to a team operator.

Saboteur: Not mad bombers or political terrorists, saboteurs are dazzling, fast-acting experts with a toolbox. Not only must saboteurs know how to stop a machine or a process, but they must know how the mechanism should work properly. To sabotage a series of machines, saboteurs must remove or destroy the same part on each, so a few of them cannot be repaired by cannibalizing parts. Saboteurs work well with mechanics (see below). They usually report to a team operator.

Wizard: At one time wizards were seldom more than safecrackers, but modern technology has expanded their role. Wizards can deactivate security systems, hot-wire vehicles, find hidden openings, and withdraw information from computer files in seconds. These agents nearly always use tools, and are welcome on delicate missions with time restrictions. Wizards work well with sleuths (see above) and generally report to a team operator.

Mechanic: Mechanics are agents whose role is to create “accidents”. Like wizards, mechanics rely on tools and are concerned with subtlety and secrecy. Often working alone with explosives, gases, poisons, and special devices, mechanics must rely on technical knowhow. While mechanics occasionally aid assassins, they perform many other jobs as well. Mechanics work well with saboteurs and hunters. They usually report to personal or team operators.

Special Agents

An exception to the special classifications system is the Special Operations Division of the Administration Bureau. Special agents can begin working in the Special Operations Division without having worked in four other bureaus first. They may only work in the Special Operations Division and may not transfer to any other bureau. Special agents gain experience and are paid as if they worked under all four of the other bureaus. They may never collect a +100 Experience Point Bonus or a +$25 Base Job Payment Bonus. Like technicians, special agents may use special devices before they reach the 4th level of experience.

Contracts and free-lance work

Agents may choose to go independent and become private “spooks”. Individuals and corporations hire such individuals for security and, occasionally, for espionage. Contracts are often verbal, to reduce the number of (possibly embarrassing or incriminating) connections between the contracting parties. Most contracts specify exactly what the agent is expected to do (who, what, where, how, and when) and how much the agent will be paid. Seldom will the true reason (why) be explained. It also is commonly understood that if the target offers better pay than the contractor, the contract may be broken and any advance payments made to agents will be returned to the contractor.

The enemy agent

Normally, an agent is loyal to the agency that employs him. An agent who is loyal to one agency while pretending to be loyal to another is an enemy agent. For example, agent X is employed by the CIA as an analyst. Agent X, however, is loyal to the KGB, and is passing information to it. Agent X is an enemy agent. Or, consider agent Z, who works for the CIA and is loyal to the CIA. Agent Z has convinced the KGB that he is loyal to the KGB, and is passing on misinformation about the CIA. Agent Z also is an enemy agent. Enemy agents can work inside or outside the agency they oppose.

The admin should be aware of the enemy agent’s plans, and can use the enemy agent against other player characters. An enemy agent who knows the layout of an enemy headquarters could give false directions to a confiscation team invading those headquarters. An enemy agent could sabotage team equipment or assassinate team members. In general, enemy agents look for actions that will weaken the enemy agency and protect their own agency without jeopardizing their cover. Discovered enemy agents usually are given the option of becoming double agents or being prosecuted. Agent provocateurs are enemy agents.

The double agent

An agent whose loyalty shifts covertly from one agency to an opposing agency is a double agent. For example, agent X, the KGB enemy agent working inside the CIA, is caught passing CIA secrets. To avoid prosecution, agent X agrees to become a double agent and pass false information to the KGB contacts. Or, CIA enemy agent Z may grow tired of taking orders from Washington and ignore the false information being issued to him, instead passing on actual CIA secrets.

Double agents caught by their first employers usually are given the option of becoming a triple agent or being prosecuted.

The triple agent

An agent whose loyalty has covertly shifted from one agency to an opposing agency, and then back again to the original agency, is a triple agent. For example, agent Z, who gained the confidence of the KGB by becoming a double agent, and has gained access to sensitive information, now secretly shifts loyalty back to the CIA, using the new confidence to pass information out of the KGB.

The triple agent is in a precarious position. If the deceived agency unmasks the agent, the agent probably will be prosecuted.

The deep penetration agent

An enemy agent who has worked for a long time developing a near-perfect cover is a deep penetration agent. The agent advances to a position of authority so he will be trusted with confidential information. Deep penetration agents can work into any government agency or private industry. Many such agents become respected members of their communities to enhance their image as anything but a spy. A deep penetration agent inside another intelligence agency is known as a “mole”.

The blunt instrument

In an age of economic cutbacks and world recessions, certain espionage activities may be curtailed or abolished by bureaucrats and politicians. Disgruntled field operators and administrators often retain certain agents as unrestrained troubleshooters, or “blunt instruments”. For example, an agent previously issued a license to kill in the line of duty may have “officially” lost that license. However, in the eyes of his immediate superiors the license has been retained.

The independent

A self-employed professional, agent who works for the highest bidder is an independent. These extremely mercenary agents usually work for money only, prefer verbal contracts, and do not like being set up or sold out. In the past, an agent who quit an agency was considered a defector. Now, “going private” and becoming a corporate spook is a more respected option for agents who resign or are dismissed by their agency. (Espionage is not as financially secure as it once was.) Private individuals and corporations find an increasing need to hire persons with espionage training and experience.

The sleeper

An agent ready for immediate use but currently inactive is a sleeper. Retired agents and recently recruited agents without a first mission are considered on reserve. Retired agents restored to active duty may resent their new status. On the other hand, recent recruits are often eager to take on any assignment.

The security risk

An agent who knows too much is a security risk. The agent cannot be allowed to resign or retire, lest agency secrets are accidentally or intentionally revealed. The agent cannot be eliminated because someday he may decide to reveal all of the information he has gathered about the opposition. The agent has the dubious honor of being too dangerous to let go and too valuable to eliminate. A security risk is followed and watched closely by members of all agencies; the opposition would like to capture someone with so much information, and the friendly agency needs to prevent a kidnapping or defection. Of course, opposing agencies must realize that their own operations could be jeopardized if such a knowledgeable agent was captured, and then returned to his home agency.

Now That’s Firepower!

by Desmond P. Varady

The mission had gone off without a hitch. Agent Dan and his partner Gadgets were running through the forest now, but a boat waited for them just a hundred yards away, and the pursuing guards were far behind. Dropping his backpack and rifle to lighten his load, Dan kept his holstered 9mm Browning. They quickly broke into the clearing around the beach. Just a few more seconds and –

Suddenly, the thumping of a helicopter echoed out of the dawn sky. Dan heard the rattle of the M-60 machine gun and saw sand fly up in a straight line across the beach in front of him. The boat was only moments away, but its crew had no kind of anti-aircraft gun. Dan and Gadgets turned and ran back into the woods, knowing that their only chance to survive lay in reaching ground cover.

The helicopter was hovering over the treetops before them. Dan heard the chattering of the machine gun and the crack of bullets flying past him, and he jumped across a dune, rolling on the ground. Gadgets screamed in agony, collapsing in the sand with blood splattered across his clothing. Dan unholstered his Browning, knowing it would have little effect against the chopper. He jumped up and took three quick shots while the gunship was turning to adjust to the strong ocean breeze. He quickly dropped behind the dune just as another line of shots kicked sand across the top of the dune and into his face.

Believing he’d had it, Dan flashed a quick look back at the boat – saw his operator Florence raising an M-72 light anti-tank weapon across her shoulder. She pulled the trigger with a grim smile. In a split second, the helicopter exploded in an enormous fiery ball and fell into the trees below…

Although the TOP SECRET rule system provides an array of personal arms for agent’s use in the field, some situations arise when heavier weaponary would be used by agents or their adversaries. There are many styles of TOP SECRET play, and commando-type missions might utilise machine guns and personal missile launchers. This article dicusses the use of these weapons in TOP SECRET play.

Machine Guns

Standard use of a machine gun requires a crew of two – an aimer/shooter and an ammunition feeder. Up to four people can assist in the firing of a machine gun; all individuals involved are known as a fire team. Machine guns do not use magazines to feed ammunition. Instead, they use long belts of individual bullets which can be fed through the gun at an incredible rate. Belts come in varying lengths according to the type of gun being used (see the Weapons Table). Ammunition belts can be linked together for a continous feed; this is usually done by the ammunition feeder in the machine gun crew. If only one man is firing the machine gun, it takes two phases to link belts together. Rechambering a new round in the machine gun after discontinuing fire takes one phase. Lone shooters cannot link belts whilst firing.

Bracing for a machine gun is standard equipment and consists of a bipod or tripod used to support the weapon whilst firing it. With its standard bracing equipment, a machine gun can be used on any horizontal surface and suffers no firing penalty. Other possible areas for bracing a machine gun and costs for necessary accessories are listed below in the Weapons Table.

Adapting machine guns for use in a vehicle as a standard part of its equipment (e.g. behind rotatting headlights) costs.

Because machine guns have ggreat range and power, they can be used to penetrate the outer defese material of buildings or vehicles so that the bullets have full effect on the occupants. This aspect is covered under the Penetration Factor Section below. Finally machine guns always use the Multiple Targets optional rule (p. 44, TOP SECRET rule book).

In order to determine the success of a fire team or an individual using a machine gun, a Base accuracy must be calculated. Take one half of the Offense of the individual or the averaged Offensive value of the fire team (half of the Offense is used because most of the effectiveness of a machine gun comes from the gun, not the shooter); to this add the Projectile Weapon Value of the machine gun. The result is the percentage chance of hitting the target(s). Adjustments of this value are as follows:

1. Movement adjustments for both shooter and target, as per the Hit Determination chart (p. 24, rule book).
2. The amount of area cover in the machine gun’s field of fire;

none 0
light brush, few trees -10
heavy bush, small trees -15
heavy trees, rocks -30

3. Special adjustments;

hand-held use -20
lack of bracing -10
emplacement +15
penetration use -30
extra crew 5 per
untrained shooters -15

One person can use a machine gun hand-held (“Rambo-style”) as a small-arms weapon. All of the above restrictions apply, plus the following:

1. The user must weigh at least 175 lbs, and have a physical strength of 85 or greater; otherwise, the user is knocked down and hits nothing.
2. Normal penalties apply for automatic fire, as per the Hit Determination chart for the “the Automatic; Submachine Gun” class (p. 24, TOP SECRET rule book).
3. Long ammunition belts are too unwieldy for individual use. Belt lengths of greater than 50 bullets cannot be used by any agent.
4. Lone shooters cannot use the machine gun in an emplacement.

Machine guns can be used to great advantage when an emplacement is established. This involves a number of aspects described below.

1. The machine gun must be braced in some permanent position, like a rooftop, bunker, etc.
2. The crew must have at least 50% cover while firing the gun; sandbags, buildings, or vehicles can provide this cover, as can other objects at the discretion of the Administrator.
3. Finally, the machine gun must have an established field of fire—that is, the machine gun must have been fired at least once in this position and the field of fire been marked and tested by the crew that is using the weapon.

All 7.62mm NATO-round belts use a disintegrating belt material which, as the bullets are fed through the gun, breaks up and falls away. NATO machine-gun ammo belts come in lengths of 50, 100, 200, and 300 bullets, and cost $4 and weigh 2 lbs., for each 50 bullet increment.

Soviet 7.62mm rounds come in boxes of 50, which are then fitted into either ammo boxes similar to magazines or into metal-link belts. Boxes come in 50- and 100-round sizes, link belts in 50-, 200-, and 250-round sizes. Either system can be used in the PK-GPMG or the Goryonov SG43. The cost is $5 and weight is 2.5 lbs., for each 50-round increment prepared; stats include box or belt weight-and cost. Soviet 7.62mm rounds must be prepared before combat. Soviet and NATO 7.62mm rounds are not inter-changeable.

Vickers and Browning ammo comes in belts of 100 and 250. Costs and weights are the same as 7.62mm NATO rounds. Browning belts are disintegrating; Vickers belts are made of cloth and can be cut with a sharp knife.

Disintegrating link belts can easily be broken to any size. Machine gun rounds are not interchangeable with small arms rounds of the same caliber.

Personal missile launchers

The advance of modern technology has created many new personal weapons, among these the personal missile launchers (also known as PMLs, LAWS, or light anti-tank weapons). These weapons are tubes 3ie-5ls in diameter and 22im-36l. long (sometimes available in a collapsed form 6lr- 16l. smaller for easy transportation). The tube contains one missile, launch devices, and sighting apparatus. This self-contained system is not reuseable, and the tube is discarded after it is fired.

The missile systems outlined in this article use a crew of one. Operation usually consists of preparing the tube (expanding a collapsed tube, attaching sighting apparatus, etc.), sighting, and firing, all of which can be done in five seconds. The Weapons Chart shows relevant statistics for live missile launchers; effective range is the maximum distance at which the missile would have full penetrative and explosive capabilities. Hit determination and missile effects are outlined under the following explanation of Penetration Factor.

Penetration Factor

Both missile launchers and machine guns have a new statistic called the Penetration Factor. This number is the percentage chance of a projectile (either missile or machine gun bullet) penetrating the outer defensive material of a structure or vehicle.

This statistic is treated somewhat differently for each weapon.

Machine guns: In order to use the penetrative abilities of a machine gun, a normal check of hit determination must be made.

The machine gun must be on the same horizontal plane as the target. A declaration of the attempt to penetrate must be made by the machine gun crew or shooter, because the use of a machine gun for penetration results in a -30 modifier to hit.

Penetration checks proceed after a successful Hit Determination check. Take the base Penetration Factor of the machine gun and add the appropriate adjustments from the Penetration Factor Adjustments table.

If penetration succeeds, half of the bullets fired will affect the occupants of the building or vehicle. Randomly choose targets within the structure or vehicle and apply the appropriate damage from the General Injury Determination tables (p. 25, TOP SECRET rule book). No body part is effectively shielded from penetrating bullets by the vehicle or building protection.

Whether penetration succeeds or not, any attempt to use penetrative fire against a vehicle should result in a normal roll on the Bullet Use Against Vehicle table (p. 38, TOP SECRET rule book), since any attempt to use penetrative fire has to follow a successful hit on the vehicle.

Machine gun fire can only penetrate one barrier. After that, the bullets will lose their penetrating effectiveness.

For example, an agent using an M-60 GPMG hand-held decides to use penetration against a group of thugs pulling away in their getaway car. Adjustments to hit are using machine gun for penetration (-30), car moving 5 mph (-15), agent is stationary (+0), no area cover (+0), using machine gun hand-held (-20), lack of bracing (-10), short range for M-60 (+0), and the PWV for the weapon is 93, for a total of 18. Adding in the successive shot adjustments for an automatic weapon, the totals are 18%, 7%, and then 5% for each of the remaining six shots. The agent gets two hits, both of which roll on the Bullet Use Against Vehicles table and one of which has a chance of penetrating the car. For the former, rolls of 23 and 75 indicate that the car’s speed is reduced by 50%. For the penetrating bullet, determination is as follows: M-60 Penetration Factor (+20), normal vehicle protection on the car (+0), car moving at 15 mph (-5), short range ( +10), size of target (+0), for a total of 25%. The agent’s player rolls a 23, then consults the General Injury Determination table for a random target (chosen in this case by the Administrator to be the driver of the car). The die rolls indicate a serious fracture in the head for 10 points of damage. The driver had a Life Level of 8, so he slumps at the wheel and the car crashes into a lamp post.

Personal missile launchers: A missile does not have to make an initial “to hit” roll in order to be effective. A missile launcher’s effectiveness is determined through the process of checking the success of penetration. This is done much as for the machine gun; the base Penetration Factor is adjusted by appropriate modifiers on the Penetration Factor Adjustments table. The resulting number is the missile launcher’s combined percentage of hit determination and successful penetration.

All missiles affect the 10′-radius area just beyond the first penetrated protective barrier (usually a door, wall, or window). All persons in that area are immediately killed. Other effects as follows:

1. Surrounding wood and plaster structures will catch fire 60% of the time.
2. Surrounding brick and concrete structures will crack and collapse 15% of the time.
3. Persons in surrounding areas will take damage as follows:
Unprotected by hard cover (walls, rocks) within a 30′-radius area surrounding the blast area – 2-20 points damage.
Falling or burning debris (if applicable) within a 30′-radius area as above – 1 – 10 points damage.
On side of barrier from which missile came, within a 10′-radius area – 1-10 points damage.

If a missile successfully penetrates a vehicle, the vehicle is totally destroyed and all of its occupants killed. Obviously, the effects of missiles used against player characters are devastating. Using the Fame and Fortune point option (p. 41, TOP SECRET rule book), Administrators can allow the player agents to escape unharmed or with minor damage. This, of course, includes the offering of some suitable alibi for survival by the player agent(s).

If, because of high armor protection or quirk of fate, a missile does not penetrate its target’s armor, roll on the Non-Penetrating Missile Effects chart to find the result of this occurrence.

Training

Agents are assumed to go through basic espionage training, during which familarization with all of the basic TOP SECRET weapons is achieved. This is not the case with the weapon systems outlined in this article. Agents planning to use these weapons in the field must receive an extra amount of training and indoctrination on the use of these weapons, as outlined below.

Machine guns: A one-week course teaches agents the mechanics of operating a machine gun—set up of the weapon, establishing fields of fire, familiarization with the positions of aimer/shooter and ammunition feeder, the use of various bracings available, and how to operate a machine gun from all of these positions with highest effectiveness. Course cost – $750.

Personal missile launchers: A one-week course introduces agents to the major types of personal missile launchers available and their operation. Topics include missile ballistics, range orientation, and effective use against vehicles. Field operatives attending this course shoot dummy and actual missiles in practice. Course cost – $2,000.

The costs of these courses include the salaries of training personnel and the cost of the ammunition or missile systems expended.

If one person in a machine-gun crew has training, all crewmen benefit from this situation and no penalty is taken by the fire team. Novice shooters take a -15% “to hit” penalty and cannot use the machine gun for penetration. An untrained missile-launcher user takes three times as long in setting up the missile launcher for use (15 seconds), and the shooter’s Offense is halved for purposes of determining penetration.

Campaign notes

Both of these weapon systems have proven to be very lethal in all playtesting situations – as they would be in real life.

Some guidelines and warnings are offered for agents’ information and Administrative caution.

1. Machine guns have a very high degree of accuracy in short- and medium-range situations. Agents are warned not be fool-hardy; without proper cover, crossing an established field of fire is like writing a ticket to your own funeral.
2. Both missiles and machine guns cause great destruction to personnel. Administrators should consider use of these weapons carefully in all scenarios. Properly used, they can provide excitement that your TOP SECRET game has never seen before, but improper use can lead to the destruction of a campaign.
3. The use of these weapons should be supplemented by the use of the Fame and Fortune point option (p. 41, TOP SECRET rule book).
4. This writer has found that the most effective use of these weapons has been in three scenario situations: first, a situation in which both the team of agents and their adversaries have one or the other system, thus balancing each other; second, a situation where the agents have access to one of the weapon systems in the face of an otherwise overpowering foe; finally, a situation where the systems are used in a deterrent role, such as the machine guns used in the scenario Whiteout (see issue 87 of DRAGON Magazine).

Weapon Chart 1: Machine Guns

Name PWV PB S M L WS Rate Ammo HWV Weight Cost PF
.303 Vickers MK1* MMG (England) 82 +10 0 -20 -65 VS 6 250 rnd belt 16 33/15 $700 14
.30 Browning MMG (USA) 94 +1 -10 -35 -110 BA 4 100/250 rnd belt 18 30.8/14 $800 20
7.62mm M-60 GPMG (USA) 93 +10 0 -35 -85 VS 8 50/100/200/300 rnd belt 22 22.75/10.4 $950 20
7.62mm Goryonov SG43 MMG (USSR) 94 +8 -5 -30 -82 VS 7 50/200/250 rnd** 22 30/13.5 $850 20
7.62mm PK-GPMG (USSR) 95 +10 -3 -30 -90 VS 8 50/200/250 rnd** 24 19.5/8.9 $925 20
7.62mm MAG GPMG (Belgium) 101 +10 0 -37 -100 S 8 50/100/200/300 rnd belt 20 23.75/10.8 $950 18
7.62mm NATO MG-42 101 +10 -2 -35 -85 VS 10 50/100/200/300 rnd belt 20 25.5/11.6 $950 20

PF – penetration factor
Ammunition sizes given in number rounds per belt.
Weights given in kilograms/pounds.
All other statistics are as pg 21, TOP SECRET rule book.
* – The Vickers machine gun requires a 2-lb. pack of water in order to fire it; the water is used as a barrel coolant. The pack cost is included above, but the pack must be refilled for every 200 rounds fired.
** – Rounds per belt or box (see text on Soviet 7.62mm ammo).

Weapon Chart 2: Personal Missile Launchers

Name Nation Effective Range PF Weight Cost
Arpac Freeflight ATM France 150′ 68 2.75/1.3 $150
Miniman Sweden 600′ 77 6.25/2.84 $200
Armburst 300 Germany 750′ 62 9.5/4.3 $300
M-72A LAW USA 450′ 85 4.5/1.92 $225
Sarpac AT France 450′ 75 5/2.2 $185

PF – pentration factor

Weights are given in kilograms/pounds.

Penetration Factor Adjustment Table

Target protection
plaster/wood, 1″-2″ +40
plaster/wood, 3″+; aluminum, 1″ +20
brick, 6″; normal vehicle protection +0
brick/concrete, 12″ -5
steel reinforced concrete, 6″; armorplating, 1″ -10
steel reinforced concrete, 12″; armorplating, 2″ -20
per 1″ of armor plating over 2″ -10
Range*
point blank (machine guns only) +20
short +10
medium (up to effective range for missiles) +0
long (machine guns only) -40
per 50′ beyond effective range for missiles -10
Offense of firer(s)**
40 or less -10
90 or greater +10
Size of target
tiny (doorway, telephone booth) +10
small (car, helicopter) +0
medium (tractor-trailer, small house) +10
large (warehouse, mansion) +25
Movement of target (vehicle)
under 10mph 0
per mph over 10mph -1

* – Ranges are as per p. 21, TOP SECRET rule book.
** – The Offense of a single firer or the averaged Offense of a fire team is modified by the Hit Determination Wounds Modifiers, p. 20, TOP SECRET rule book.

Non-penetrating Missile Effect Table

d100 Effects
01-05 Missile is a dud; it will hit and fall in front of the first barrier it strikes, without exploding.*
06-20 Non-penetrating explosion; missile does 2-20 points damage to all within a 20′ radius on the side of the target where the missile strikes; vehicle occupants take no damage.
21-45 Non-penetrating explosion; 1-10 points damage done to all within 20′ radius on the side of the target where the missile strikes, and protection of targeted area is reduced by one class.**
46-70 Penetrating explosion; 1-10 points damage done to occupants of vehicle and to those within 10′ radius beyond the first barrier penetrated, and protection of targeted area reduced by two classes.
71-00 Penetrating explosion; 2-20 points damage done to occupants of vehicle and to those within 10′ radius beyond the first barrier penetrated, and protection of targeted area reduced by three classes.

* – Unexploded missiles can still be used for their explosive capabilities. A demolitions expert (designated by Administrator’s discretion) can hook up detonators to explode the missile manually, with the same effects as described in the text describing building damage.
** – The reduction of protection by classes refers to the variable protection adjustment which the target receives on the Penetration Factor Adjustment Table. For example, a two-class reduction for 1″ armor would give the target an effective protection of normal vehicle protection, or of 6″-thick brick.

How to Make and Maintain a Top Secret Campaign

by John J Terra

When I originally introduced the Top Secret game to my AD&D game players, the response was less than over-whelming. Out of the fifteen people in my campaign, only four showed any interest in trying out the game. Everyone else was either unexcited about a “modern-day” role-playing game or disliked dealing with real weapons and actual world problems such as terrorists, spies, and the like. It seemed a bit too close to reality. That was eighteen months ago. Today, our Top Secret campaign contains ten players out of those fifteen, and one of the first four is an Administrator, too. Some of these players even like it better than the AD&D game! How was this turnaround achieved?

This article will try to give some answers. The Top Secret system is an excellent espionage role-playing game that should enjoy more popularity than it currently has. Of course, since any game is only as good as the person who referees it, perhaps the observations and advice included here will help other Administrators develop more fun and interesting campaigns, and perhaps win over some of those hesitant players.

The organization

One of the first things an Administrator (or Admin, for short) should have established before starting a campaign is a good espionage organization for player character spies. The organization is responsible for sending the agents on missions, paying them upon successful completion of said missions, and disciplining them for rules infractions, among other things. To create a strong, believable spy organization, answer for yourself the following questions:

1. Who started the organization, and why?
2. What are its goals, and how does it go about achieving them?
3. Is it a known agency, or is it secret? If secret, why?
4. Where is it located?

For example, I created an organization called ICICLE, short for InterContinental Investigation, Confiscation, and Law Enforcement. It was established by thirty Western and neutral nations to be a pool of agents that cannot be traced to one single country. It exists to keep national stabilities, prevent wars, foil Eastern-bloc espionage activity, and combat terrorism. The agency is unknown, to the public and to most non-member nations, since the agency feels secrecy is one of its best weapons. Its main headquarters is in Coventry, England.

As you can see, the international flavor of the group justifies many different agent nationalities working together in a logical way. Also, its multi-faceted role promises the full gamut of missions with the whole world available as possible locales. Consequently, the agency has many enemies to deal with, since they cannot achieve their goals without stepping on a few toes.

Since there are no moral alignments in Top Secret gaming, the Admin may wish to assign a code of ethics and rules for the organization. Such rules could prevent “over-enthusiastic” agents from torturing, looting, and firing twenty rounds at the nearest KGB agent who looks at them the wrong way. Spies, after all, are supposed to be subtle.

Of course, a nice, healthy agency bureaucracy can put a damper on agents who do things such as taking equipment from enemies that they have killed. When my agents defeated a piracy attempt by a group of machine-gun-wielding terrorists, suddenly everyone wanted to keep the AK-47 assault rifles left by the terrorists. So, everyone found themselves filling out form P152a, requesting permission to keep items they found. A percentile dice roll of 20% plus 5% per level of agent gave the lucky applicants the weapon they wished.

Additionally, as the Admin, I sometimes give one or two agents a special assignment. Usually it involves keeping an eye out for “abnormal behaviour” in his or her team-mates. Any act of unjustified malice is reported, and goes on the agent’s dossier. This sort of mission is usually delegated to a member of the Investigation bureau. If you are not interested in designing your own agency, you can choose an agency already in existence, either an actual one (FBI, NSA, Mossad, DI-5), or a fictional one (UNCLE, CONTROL, IMF). The advantage with these groups is they already have a defined structure, origin, etc. There is very little preparation necessary on the part of the Admin, though a bit of research can help in playing the organization the way it is meant to be. [See DRAGON issues 93, 97, 98 and 99 for potential organizations that may be used in Top Secret games]

The reality factor

The tone you set for your game is very important. You can expect players to behave for the most part in the same manner that you do. Ask yourself just how realistic you want your campaign to be. Is your setting one that includes robots, lasers, clones, and other things not exactly commonplace in our time period? Perhaps you want something like the television show “Get Smart” where everything is either tongue-in-cheek or downright crazy. The above-mentioned settings allow for a truly interesting, not to mention bizarre, campaign. However, things can get out of hand. Games like this can disintegrate into nonstop joke fests. This in itself is not so bad, if you wanted it in the first place.

My favorite approach is the realistic one. While I have run certain secret organizations which steal nuclear bombs or create lethal gasses and such, my missions for the most part are based on things that exist today. My standard is this: Can the situation that occurs in this adventure possibly happen or have already happened?

The world news section of your paper can offer some truly exciting ideas for adventures. The recent West German spy scandal, with its wave of defections on both sides, provides some interesting possibilities for missions. Also, there’s illegal arms shipments to Iran to be stopped and cocaine smuggling from South America to be foiled. What about the recent attacks on NATO installations by terrorists? These are the sorts of things from which good adventures come.

By the same token, it is strongly suggested that if you do use current events for inspirations, good taste should prevail. Sending agents out to avenge assorted car bombings or hunting down Salvadoran death squads seems to be a poor reaction to the tragic and confusing goings-on in some parts of our world, especially when such events are embroiled in controversy and it is hard to tell who the bad guys are.

Making the agents do too much, or making them do something so far-fetched that if it happened in the real world it would be the end of civilization as we know it, is another trap into which Admins may fall. Take the following adventure. See if you can spot where it starts to get a bit unrealistic. The agents are supposed to go to the Soviet Union and book passage on the Trans-Siberian railroad. They are to go to this remote area where a secret lab is located. Once at the lab, they are to break in and steal a particular object. After they take it, they are to go to Vladivostok and steal an experimental submarine, then sail it to Pearl Harbor.

If anyone out there raised their eyebrows at the words “experimental submarine”, then give yourselves 500 experience points (plus an extra hundred if you are an Investigator). Does anyone have any idea how tight Soviet Naval security is? If you remember the true story of the Soviet destroyer that tried to defect to Sweden, only to be stopped by a massive force of maritime strike aircraft and naval vessels, you know that the Soviets would be even more paranoid about an experimental submarine. A mission like the above mentioned one is certainly spectacular, but tell me, what does one do for an encore? How can the Admin outdo himself now? Only by making the situations more and more impossible. While some Admins find this acceptable, I think that AD&D gaming has a good term for it: Monty Haul.

If you intend to run a campaign that meshes with our current world situation, then forget such missions as assassinating Qaddafi, Khomeini, or any other irksome leader. Don’t bother trying to overthrow Castro, blow up the Soviet aircraft carrier Kiev, or spark a war between China and the Soviet Union. Stay with things that could be happening behind the scenes.

Scenario work

Now that you have an agency from which you can send agents, and you have determined the overall tone of your campaign, your next step is to provide your players with exciting, challenging, and fun missions that will keep them on their toes, and possibly even attract new players. First, let’s look at the ready-made scenarios available at your local hobby shop.

The one common denominator in all of the Top Secret modules is the feasibility, however remote, of the situation really happening. Just recently, PLF terrorists hijacked the ocean liner Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean, which is exactly what happens in one particular module. (I won’t reveal which one… It’s supposed to be a surprise for the agents!)

The two most far-fetched modules are TS 002, Operation: Rapidstrike!, and TS 008, Operation: Seventh Seal. They deal with mad scientists and nuclear terrorism, respectively, and are very challenging. Situations in real life along these lines are possible, but not probable.

TS 004, Operation: Fastpass, is a classic East-West defection scenario. The maps provided give the Administrator some fine inspiration for further adventures in Eastern Europe.

TS 006, Operation: Ace of Clubs, is a nice whodunit, and offers a good chance for players to really role-play their characters, as well as bone up on old skills or learn some new ones. Like Fastpass, it can be used over and over again.

My favorite is TS 005, Operation: Orient Express, which gives not one but six different adventures on the European Rail system. This module is a real bargain. Like Fastpass, it too, can be used over and over, and is a valuable resource for traveling in Europe by train. It is also perfect as an escape route for your NPC villains who have been foiled by your intrepid players! If you do not have the Administrator’s screen, this is another good item. Not only do you have the charts at your easy reach, the mini-module is challenging as well. The same holds true for the recently released Top Secret Companion volume.

I will not go into the modules included in DRAGON Magazine, due to the difficulty in locating the issues that have them. If you can, by all means get “Operation: Whiteout” (DRAGON issue 87).

The other scenarios available to an Admin are the home-grown variety. Unlike the preplanned modules, design-your-own modules offer you the advantage of complete freedom of design. Since the campaign hinges on the missions it features, extra care should be taken in preparation of scenario. A constant string of badly planned games will lead to a decline in players.

The missions you give your agents should be consistent with the goals of the organization to which they belong. The first thing that should be considered is what locales are to be used as backdrops to the mission. Taking a package of plans from point A to point B is easy enough, but add the Soviet Union as the scene of the adventure and things become harder to do. Recovering the remains of a ditched USAF B-52 may seem routine, but if the bomber crashed in Libya, well …

Which leads to another point, namely the objective. Let’s take the crashed B-52 bomber as an example. It crashed in Libya, so why are a group of NATO agents trying to salvage it? It just so happens that this particular plane has some state-of-the-art elint (electronics intelligence) equipment on board, commonly used by the majority of the NATO nations, and it cannot fall into the wrong hands. There’s your objective. Find the equipment and bring it back. If you cannot do this, then destroy it. thus far, this still seems like your basic recovery mission, rehashed from movie, television, and book plots. Ah, but now comes the next element!

Call it “complications” or “plot twists” Nothing is ever as it first seems. This can be information either unknown to or withheld by the case officer assigning the mission. Murphy’s Law reigns supreme in the field of complications. Back to the example: The agents are briefed and sent packing to Libya. What the agency does not know is that the KGB was immediately tipped off about the crash, and Soviet agents have already dispatched a team to retrieve the equipment. Also, a group of nomadic terrorists are converging on the wreckage, and a group of anti-Qaddafi partisans have seized the surviving crewmen in an attempt to bargain for military aide from the USA

Does this sound complicated? Of course it does! But if the Admin is organized, there should be minimal confusion. Once again, plausibility should take precedence over complications. It certainly would not make sense to have a squad of militant neo-Nazis also converge on the plane. Everything thrown at the players should have a logical (and not far-fetched) explanation.

Notice that the last plot twist is not necessarily bad, if the agents play their cards right. In theory, the Western agents and the anti-Qaddafi faction are pursuing the same goals. If the agents find these people, both groups could benefit. Always give the agents an even break. Remember, you are not out to kill everyone off.

Thus, designing a module can be as easy as following these steps:

a. Select a geographical location;
b. Create a situation;
c. Create a list of people involved;
d. Draw up maps and floor plans, if needed;
e. Make up a chronology, so you know who is where and when;
f. Set the objectives for the agents, and write up their briefing;
g. Whip up a series of nice twists and complications (since things are never as they seem); and,
h. Invite the players over and enjoy!

Books and movies can be good sources of adventure, as long as you are careful that your players are not reading or watching the same things you are. Take one of those plots, and ask yourself what you would change if you’d written that book, or directed that movie. Watch “The Avengers”, “Mission: Impossible”, “I Spy”, and “McGyver”, for visual inspirations, and read books by Ken Follett or Robert Ludlum for literary inspirations.

While we are at it, movies like Rambo, The Terminator, Dirty Harry, or Commando, while nice to watch (I suppose), are terrible excuses for a TOP SECRET adventure. Besides, you could go crazy rolling all of those gunshots to see if they hit, and where, and how severe the wounds are, and so on.

Personalities

A good adventure can combine an exotic setting with a tough challenge. You can weave plots and sub-plots, with clues strewn about for your agents to find and piece together. But if you don’t have good, realistic non-player characters, you are wasting your time as well as that of your players. Since many missions involve human targets and contacts, it is incumbent upon the Admin to come up with NPCs that the characters can believe in and relate to.

Every good story has an antagonist, and what is a TOP SECRET adventure but a story in which characters participate? An antagonist can be anyone from a basic lackey who guards a target to a wily KGB colonel who seems to slip through the agents’ fingers time and time again, to return and befuddle them in the future. Obviously, the Admin would spend more time developing the latter NPC, though most NPCs deserve some minimal fleshing out.

Languages known, high AOKs, a physical description, and a short personality sketch should be included for all but the most insignificant characters. It also helps to throw in detailed, ad-libbed descriptions of a few random passersby. It makes the players suspicious of them, since they probably think you would not bother describing the NPC unless it means something important. It sure does mean something, all right. It means the players will go crazy. This can be fun. More on this later.

Remember, these NPCs have origins, goals, motivations, and a few ingenious ideas of their own. They, too, have been trained and outfitted by their respective organizations. They are not just clay pigeons waiting to be blown away by trigger-happy agents — at least, not all of them are. Even the lowly guards should be alert, suspicious, and competent. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be guards in the first place!

Of course, the greatest temptation for the Admin is to allow the NPCs to act upon knowledge that they would have no way of knowing. The Admin has to put himself in an NPC’s place, and ask what he would know and do in a particular situation, limiting your responses to what can be allowed based on the NPC’s statistics. One frustrating hazard the Admin faces is when some of his prize NPCs are wandering into a brilliantly planned trap, courtesy of the players, and there is no way NPCs could know anything about it. You have to sit there and let it happen.

Give the NPCs a three-dimensional quality. A particular assassin may be fond of classical music (give him a Fine Arts AOK of 100), or a jewel thief may have a personal distaste for killing and thus not carry a gun (this would be a perfect character to give a high Evasion rating to, for making easy escapes!).

Not every confrontation with an enemy agent need be fatal. Nothing injects a little color more than a healthy rivalry with someone who can be a challenge. This lends continuity to the campaign. The players get a sense of accomplishment in foiling and outwitting an archenemy. Perhaps the rivalry will ultimately end with one side or the other dead, but at least both can be satisfied that each gave a good account of themselves, and the victory will have been well-earned.

Write down the stats of your NPCs on 3″ x 5″ cards, and file them in alphabetical order to keep everything organized and quickly accessible. This is perfect for those NPCs that always pop up at the most inopportune times.

Another matter entirely concerns the brief contacts, the faceless cut-outs, or the horde of 100 angry Iranians that the agents have brought down on themselves due to sloppiness. Life stories, relatives, and what flavor ice cream they enjoy are moot. These people need only the briefest detail, since they are only cannon fodder. Concentrate only on the NPCs that you think the agents will most likely get involved with in one way or another.

Case officers and other members of the players’ organization may also be fleshed out, with satisfying results. For example, if your spy organization has two case officers — one who happens to be very easy-going and another who is short-tempered — notice how differently the players act towards each in situations like debriefings. Once again, the players get a sense of continuity. They will get to know and come to expect certain behavior from certain NPCs. Needless to say, agents who act disrespectful towards a grouchy superior can expect the worst missions imaginable.

In short, make your NPCs human. Agents will be less prone to kill if the characters they face seem real. When running an NPC, play the part well. Ham it up! That’s what role-playing is for.

Just because you’re paranoid…

In the AD&D game, a DM can strike terror in the heart of the stoutest players simply by rolling dice, deliberately glancing at certain charts, then smiling wickedly. This is known as a paranoia roll. The TOP SECRET game allows the same opportunity, but it must be more subtle.

What a wonderful world we live in! Such variety, such excitement. So many people, each with their own story. People can be peculiar — even normal people. Reflect this in the game. Observe: You and your three friends are agents in Vienna, Austria, trying to track down a dangerous GRU agent. The following description is read to you.

“You four are seated at a sidewalk cafe. At the table on your right are two men dressed in badly tailored suits. They are furtively looking around the cafe, and one man keeps adjusting his tie. The waitress seemed extremely friendly; she asks your names and where you are staying. Twenty feet down the street is a parked Mercedes in which a man appears to be listening to a Walkman. At the fourth table behind you is a man in an ill-fitting suit drinking vodka and chain smoking smelly thin cigars. He looks arrogant. The waitress arrives with your order. The dishes are not prepared quite to your liking. The waitress explains that the cook is new. At the street corner sit four people at a bus stop, two men and two women. They are not traveling together.”

Does anyone have any idea who the enemy is? There are many possible leads, and the situation certainly looks threatening. That is the idea! In the world of espionage, everyone is suspect. It is a world where each mistake could be your last. Let the players know this. Use your voice to your advantage. Stress mundane facts. “The man in the car appears to be listening to his Walkman”. Of course he does! He is listening to it. Players, however, will kick their imaginations into high gear and suspect that the Walkman is a gun or something. This could lead to some very amusing (or horrible) results.

This is a big world with an even bigger population. Try to have as many people as possible in a starring role. Don’t make all KGB agents alike, wearing ill-fitting suits and having Coordinations of 30. These people are experts. Avoid stereotypes.

Incidentally, the two men looking uneasy are trying to pick up girls, hence their unease and furtive glances. The waitress is merely a flirt, the man in the car is on vacation, and the arrogant vodka drinker is a man who happens to be arrogant, drinks vodka, and has poor taste in clothes. And the cook? Oh, he’s just new, that’s all. The GRU agent is one of the women who even now is taking a seat on the bus which has just pulled away. Better luck next time.

…doesn’t mean they won’t get you

“Don’t get mad; get even.” It’s not really the best way to live, unless you happen to be an Administrator. The complications tables given in the TOP SECRET rules, as well as in the Companion volume, are exactly what the Admin needs to drive home the point that actions have consequences — sometimes fatal ones. This is especially true when the complications call for an assassination attempt against the PC agents.

When such an action is called for, by all means, give the agents a fighting chance. In fact, the attempt itself can be the basis for a whole adventure. The agents just would not know that for a fact. Take the following example.

A long while ago, the agents in my campaign broke up a nest of Exterminators (a group of assassins mentioned several times in early DRAGON issues; I made them a world-wide assassins’ network) in Paris. Unfortunately, a few of the enemy agents escaped with a good description of my agents. All was forgotten and other missions followed, until one day a London tabloid came out with a story hinting at the existence of an ultra-secret Western spy agency based in England.

The description fit “my” agency to a T, and the higher-ups, who were positively livid at these uncomfortably accurate allegations, immediately dispatched the intrepid agents to find out where the leak was. They visited the reporter at his office. So far, so good. What they did not know was that the story was a tip given by an Exterminator. The Exterminator then rented an office directly across the street from the reporter’s office window, set up surveillance equipment, and watched to see who would nibble at the bait.

By the time they realized what was going on, several of the PC agents were killed and the killers had escaped, to return someday to plague the agents again. An archenemy is born, and a contest of survival begins.

In that particular scenario, the agents did have a few chances to guess at what was happening. It was not a hopeless situation. In fact, the mission in Paris that started the whole thing in motion was very sloppy, hence the vendetta’s generation. Had loose ends been tied up a bit tighter, the enemy would have less information to go on and less of a chance to strike back.

Thus, retaliation by enemy agencies is not always certain; when it is, there is still a chance the agents can find a way to survive it. Be creative in the actions of your NPCs, and your players will enjoy the challenge, even if they do manage to get their characters killed in the process.

Administrator style

The beauty of the TOP SECRET game is the low margin of error allowed to the participants. In AD&D games, if three-fourths of the party gets wiped out, the resurrection, wish, or alter reality spells are trotted out, and POOF! All is well. On the other hand, if four out of six agents on a mission get gunned down by the Red Brigade — well, it was nice knowing them. This makes TOP SECRET gaming very, very exciting, knowing that each mistake could very well mean the end — unless, of course, you have a Fame and Fortune point to spare.

Fame and Fortune points are all that stand between an agent and the enemy’s Uzi. They are very potent and should be carefully played. Fame and Fortune points are the players’ only chance to alter your reality and change the flow of events in your game.

The Admin, like the DM, has the last word in any situation. There may be times when a player could expend every Fame and Fortune point he or she had, and it would still do no good. Obviously, such times should be few and far between, and should have a rational explanation. A fanatical assassin or sentry who is determined to dispatch an unconscious agent may in fact be able to do so, regardless of how cleverly the player uses his points. The TOP SECRET Companion recommends that the players give an explanation for how the point is to be used. Personally, I feel that this opens the door to too many bizarre explanations, as well as forcing the Admin to keep track of which agents used which excuse, and it should be avoided.

If the agent failed at some non-combat maneuver and expends a point in order to succeed (such as for leaping a chasm, jumping off a speeding train, etc.) then let the attempt succeed. In projectile combat, saying things like “I resemble the shooter’s brother”, or “The bullet ricocheted off my belt buckle,” seems a little silly. Why not just alter the effect the bullet had, changing a serious wound to a light wound? Simply explain that the wound was not as bad as originally feared.

One final suggestion. If an agent has just committed severe premeditated stupidity (e.g., rushing at a loaded AK-47, drop-kicking a vial of nitroglycerine across the room, wandering into a critical nuclear reactor), then, for heaven’s sake, kill off the fool. Points should be used to bail an agent out of a jam not of the agent’s doing, not as a cover-up for deliberately bad playing.

Disciplining unruly players in the game is another tricky thing. In AD&D games, the DM can bring in “bolts from the blue”, divine intervention, and other things that can make fantasy life interesting. In the modern-day world of TOP SECRET gaming, however, an Admin’s options are limited, and even in the context of those options, he or she must be careful, for TOP SECRET characters are not as resilient as their AD&D counterparts. A hit squad that gets too effective could conceivably create the TOP SECRET version of a party-killer.

Once again, this is where a bureaucracy comes in handy. Any decent bureau should be keeping tabs on the psychological status of its agents, as well as their performance. It further stands to reason that the agency would encourage other agents to report signs of erroneous behavior to their case officers. (Admins should use caution when exercising this privilege, or the game winds up resembling a certain other humorous role-playing game involving traitors, The Computer, and many laser blasts.)

Agents found to be abnormally violent or prone to fits of wanton vandalism could possibly be transferred to husky-cleaning duty in a Yukon branch office. Withholding experience points or payment (perhaps even levelling fines), giving forced leaves of absence without pay, or getting chewed out by a case officer in front of everybody are some ways of dealing with out-of-control agents. If these measures fail, consider locking them up for psychiatric observation, enforcing dismissal, or the ultimate trouble-ender: termination. It is recommended that you not assign the latter duty to PCs; things may get personal.

As an Administrator, you must be ready for whatever off-the-wall solutions your players come up with. Try not to force your players into doing things the way you want to do them. A player in our campaign tried his hand at Administrating and became frustrated while the players got bored. He wanted to see the players take a very specific course of action — and, like any good players, we refused to be placed in rigid confines.

Perhaps one of the disadvantages of TOP SECRET gaming is that it takes place in a society in which, if one has the money, one can go anyplace, buy anything, and do anything one wishes. Admins must be prepared to ad-lib like crazy when the players decide to rent cars, go to a restaurant, or demand to see the Soviet ambassador even though you never “wrote one up!”

Props can add a very nice touch to a game. The above-mentioned player who tried to control the agents had the best briefing I have ever seen. He had glossy photos of people who were supposed to be our targets, as well as a news magazine article related to the mission. Part of the briefing was tape recorded. We were also supplied with a road map and other such materials. Despite the problems, much of the adventure was very impressive.

This list of suggestions is by no means complete. Hopefully, they may help make the chore of running the game a bit easier and fun for the Admin. Of course, should you reject these suggestions and get captured by the Regiment of Aggravated Top Secreters (R.A.T.S.), this agency will naturally disavow any knowledge of you.

Author’s note: For anyone who wishes to use ICICLE in a TOP SECRET campaign, here are its statistics, using the format given in DRAGON issues 93, 97, 98 and 99.

ICICLE (InterContinental Investigation, Confiscation, and Law Enforcement)

Nature of agency: International Western and neutral agent pool
Governing body: Private individuals with numerous governmental connections
Personnel: Unknown; possibly in the low hundreds
Annual budget: Unknown; possibly in the tens of millions
HQ: Coventry, UK (front: Excalibur Investment Firm)
Established: 1975
Activities: Worldwide intelligence/counterintelligence, defection protection/prevention, law enforcement
Policies: Secrecy and subtlety are our best weapons. Keep the peace. Do not kill if unnecessary.
Objectives: Keep the world from blowing itself up. Calm down trouble spots. Prevent undesirable elements from getting too powerful. Remove anyone who resists said objectives. Maintain a strong international force of agents that any single country can draw upon, and not have their activities traced to them by their adversaries.
Areas of involvement: Worldwide
Allies: Mossad, FBI, Scotland Yard, and Italian anti-terrorist units
Additional data: The public has no idea of this agency’s existence. It was founded by a group of wealthy ex-spies from six Western nations. There are sub-stations and branch offices in selected countries (not to be confused with safe houses). The KGB, CIA, CON, and the Exterminators suspect that some sort of private organization exists, but they have no details.
Bureaus: All
Alignment profile: 01-94/07-94/01-94