Thursday, August 27, 2009

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

…is to go back to 1985 and take my copy of Top Secret away from me, because I apparently had no business owning it.

I mentioned I’ve been fishing through my old game notes again and that I’d found a few old gems stashed away. Unfortunately, not all of them are fine sapphires; some are cracked glass facsimiles. As I shuffled through the old folders, I came across a water-stained manila envelope. Inside were a handful of blank Top Secret character sheets (or agent dossiers, as Merle M. Rasmussen would have me call them) and sheaf of old computer papers.

The aging computer papers comprised a mission that I wrote, but never played, for Top Secret sometime in the mid 80s. I can only establish the time frame based on the fact that it was written on the family’s Apple IIe and was obviously influenced by "Miami Vice". You can probably hear the warning bells ringing already.

Looking it over, I find myself experiencing some very mixed emotions. I’m pleased to still have an adventure I wrote almost a quarter of a century ago. Reading it again conjured up memories of me typing away on that old beige Apple computer. On the other hand, it’s probably the worst adventure I ever wrote.

The mission has a few problems. One, it’s a complete rip-off of the introductory module, Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle, which came with the boxed set. I can somewhat justify this as I remember why it’s a blatant plagiarism. I’d lost the actual module at some point, leaving me only with the cover. I was trying to reproduce the adventure based on the few memories I had of it. But I was going to outdo Rasmussen. Boy, did I ever, but not in the way I intended.

Problem number two was that, at the age of twelve, I had little understanding of some important real world issues, namely the price of goods and services. A $10 hotel room? Even in 1985 that was unrealistic. The plot (what little there is) also involved the international drug trade, a subject which I only had knowledge of from watching episodes of "Miami Vice". I knew drugs came in kilos, but other than that it’s not a subject I was well-versed in.

Lastly, it appears that I hadn’t quite grasped the concept of an espionage role-playing game. This adventure looks more like a modern day dungeon crawl. It’s got bad guys with loot to be pillaged and it looks like I intended the agents to just wander around killing NPCs until they found what they were looking for. What they were supposed to be looking for, I have no idea. I think the mission involved a missing team of agents that the characters were sent to find, but I’ll be damned if that’s it for certain.

I did find one part of it that made me smile, however:

This room is occupied by X1 (L.L. 13). It contains a matress, a chair and a empty desk. The man has $50 and a .357 Magnum. He will ask the characters if they want a smoke. If the enter the room he will shoot them.

That’s some bad-assery right there! Its got a John Cassavetes-meets-Han Solo thing going on.

I’ve scanned the module for preservation’s sake. It’ll be my version of someone whispering, “Respica te, hominem te memento,” in my ear if I ever get too big a head. If you’re one for car crashes, you can see this turkey for yourself here.

In the spirit of self-depreciation, anyone else have a turkey of an adventure to share? Something you look back upon and wince at? I ask the blognards to share their follies, so as to remind ourselves how far we’ve come and to never try and hide the fact that we, like these damn kids on our lawns today, once had a lot to learn about this hobby of ours.


Timeshadows said...

--I regularly purge my vaults of such like. ;)

Cool that you found it. :D

Vanadorn said...

I stayed in a $10 hotel room once.

It had "Day rates" and "Hourly rates" too.

The mattresses were not for human use.

Given the gritty nature of Top Secret, apparently your 12-year old self was more versed and worldly than you give yourself credit for!

I try to save every character sheet anyone's played in my games, as well as any moronic adventure I ever wrote but I know many of them have been lost to the winds of time. Sometimes I look at them for humorous purposes, other times to mine an idea, and other times just because by nature I am a hoarder and don't want to risk dumping them.

Ragnorakk said...

miami vice through top secret == a bad adventure? I find this hard to believe...

mmaranda said...

This makes me think of the first adventure I recall making. It was "written" on graph paper. Basically a map with notes about what baddies are where and a few room descriptions. These notes were mostly useless and near nonsensical things like "make a Poison Save or contract malaria if the PCs enter the tavern latrine".

The next page was a cavern that was a goblin lair. Lots of notes about hay for beds. As the players went deeper into the cave there were a few twists and turns but was extremely linear with one "hall" and rooms that branched off of it. Ultimately it lead to a fight with the goblin king on his pet carrion crawler.

No notes about how the PCs get from the tavern to the "dungeon" but lots of notes about the stuff inside and the monsters located there.

Anonymous said...

Oh man, what a great post! I think the majority of my Top Secret adventures (our heyday was 1986-88, 5th-7th grade) were similar to what you describe: basically an action-movie shoot-em-up (aka "dungeon crawl"), with some Bond-inspired gadgets and the occasional super-villain thrown in for good measure.

"Intrigue" for us went something like this:

Admin: "You see some guys in dark coats get into a suspicious looking car."

To which the players' response was usually a variation of:

"OK, let's blast 'em!"

It makes me cringe a bit to think back to this, but what an awesomely fun time it was...

Matthew Slepin said...

I have only my memories, but they match pretty closely. The one TS adventure I remember writing had the agents going to Egypt (good start: exotic locale) to find a lost pyramid (uh...). They had to get through some traps and enemy agents inside (wait, how did the enemy...?) to find a fabulous jewel: the Eye of Osiris.

"Espionage" is just another word for "dungeon crawl".

barrataria said...

Hotel room = $10
Tattoo= $120
Cafe meal= $50
Origanal Picoso in pawnshop= $100,000
memories= priceless

Anonymous said...

The first 'module' I wrote was a pirate's cave for my Fighting Fantasy homebrew, based strongly on The Goonies and a few SF books I'd read that year, back when I was 13-14. I recall putting a lot of work into the traps and clues. Though the game world, the pirate's cave, and the first set of house rules I ever wrote are now long gone, they are in some small way commemorated here:

Yes I wrote my own Fighting Fantasy/Basic D&D mashup nostalgia FRPG :)