Public Domain 1993 Jim Vassilakos
Top Secret has been lauded as a “good system” in the sense that it’s easy to run. I think the reason for this is that the rules are very streamlined. Everything is skill-check oriented, all the skills are tied directly to primary or secondary attributes, and other than GM-imposed modifiers, there isn’t a whole lot a variation for special circumstances. In short, it’s tight and very rules-light (and considering the company that produced it, this is a feat worthy of notice).
To make-up for this apparent simplicity, however, the game makes you do some work during character generation. You need to do a whole lot of repetitive calculations and table checks so that everything is legal and so that when you need to know your chance to accomplish something, you have the number already sitting in front of your nose. Handy, but it can make generating a character a real chore.
That’s where this program comes in. Before I tell you what it does, let me start with what it doesn’t do.
The program will not generate a complete character for you. There are so many rules that it does not even consider, I am hesitant to begin naming them all. Advantages and disadvantages for starters. Aging rules. Psychological profile. Starting savings. Equipment. Basic physical characteristics. I’ll stop here because this is starting to get embarrassing.
But let’s look at what the program does do. Basically three things:
- Attribute Determination
- Career Choice
- Skill Selection
Short and sweet, but these are the number-crunching parts of the character generation process. One might argue that these three things are the heart of the game just in terms of its mechanics.
Consequently, the program is divided into three stages, each of these stages covering each of these three areas in turn. And just to keep people from min-maxing, once you finish one of these stages, you can’t go back (you can always quit and start over again, but it’s more fun to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous decisions 🙂
Now I’m going to run through a very brief overview of what you can expect from each section of the program.
The computer roles your five primary stats. If the rolls total less than 275, you get to spread the difference between your attributes in the manner described on page 6 of the Player’s Guide. You can also void these rules to create the less than realistic character.
The computer prompts you to choose one of five career packages supplied in the Player’s Guide for the purpose of determining initial skill points (see page 29). If you select the “Other” career package, you will use the optional (page 31) rules concerning designing your own character background (or determining your initial skill points). These rules can be voided in order to create extraordinary characters (i.e. super-heros and arch-villains). You can also edit the data file “careers.dat” in order to add new careers or change the ones that are currently there.
You start with an empty repertoire containing thirty skill slots. You then proceed to purchase skills (from the data file skills.dat) by typing in skill reference numbers. You can modify a skill’s level, unselect a skill, view the skill lists, and modify the “prerequisite rule” to your liking. Once the character is accepted at this stage, the program will save the character to an ascii data file which you can import to your word-processor of choice. Make sure to specify a file name which does not already exist or you’ll end up overwriting another file.