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;

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
penetration use-30
extra crew5 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.


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

.303 Vickers MK1* MMG (England)82+100-20-65VS6250 rnd belt1633/15$70014
.30 Browning MMG (USA)94+1-10-35-110BA4100/250 rnd belt1830.8/14$80020
7.62mm M-60 GPMG (USA)93+100-35-85VS850/100/200/300 rnd belt2222.75/10.4$95020
7.62mm Goryonov SG43 MMG (USSR)94+8-5-30-82VS750/200/250 rnd**2230/13.5$85020
7.62mm PK-GPMG (USSR)95+10-3-30-90VS850/200/250 rnd**2419.5/8.9$92520
7.62mm MAG GPMG (Belgium)101+100-37-100S850/100/200/300 rnd belt2023.75/10.8$95018
7.62mm NATO MG-42101+10-2-35-85VS1050/100/200/300 rnd belt2025.5/11.6$95020

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

NameNationEffective RangePFWeightCost
Arpac Freeflight ATMFrance150′682.75/1.3$150
Armburst 300Germany750′629.5/4.3$300
M-72A LAWUSA450′854.5/1.92$225
Sarpac ATFrance450′755/2.2$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
point blank (machine guns only)+20
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 10mph0
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

01-05Missile is a dud; it will hit and fall in front of the first barrier it strikes, without exploding.*
06-20Non-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.
21-45Non-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.**
46-70Penetrating 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.
71-00Penetrating 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.

Leave a Reply