Tonight I put together the first eight pages of CONTROL, a game I hope to release in PDF form in just two weeks, time permitting.
CONTROL is an espionage game set at the start of the second Cold War, a period of intense emotions which I remember well. The game itself uses the model of Tiered Play, similar to Troupe Play. Players will play more than one character during the game.
At least one player must play a member of CONTROL, the committee which oversees espionage operations. Other players take the roles of AGENTS and ASSETS where the former are experienced and trained spies and the latter tend to be individuals who find themselves involved in espionage due to money, ideology, coercion or ego.
CONTROL makes decisions on agents and resources and keeps records on assets while trying to maintain and enhance their own career by working with the government. The enemy is a minor concern.
AGENTS try to build relationships with assets, negotiate with Control for resources and have to contend with the enemy.
ASSETS commonly just try to stay alive.
The game will, to a point, hinge on the interactions between the tiers.
To be honest it eludes me…how anyone could hold a baby in their arms and be drunk in by their tiny eyes, heart softened by their tiny fingers closing around your own elephantine digits…
….and then call the wee boy Roger.
I never knew any kids called Roger when I was growing up. But I meet people called Roger every day.
It justifies the opinion that we really are living in The Matrix. Everyone we know around our age was created at that age, as memory began.
There were never any infants called Roger. Ever.
Just to confuse matters, these are in alphabetical order but to my mind they represent the absolute cream of the crop when it comes to roleplaying games.
Amber – The godchild of Zelazny’s novels, Amber brought us some really innovative methods of determining hierarchy and conflict resolution in a diceless roleplaying system. Re-defining the player character as a “godlike being” among tiny humans while also making them juniors in their own hierarchy.
Ars Magica – The definitive fantasy/Mythic Europe game brought us Troupe Play – the idea that you would maintain multiple characters in a single game. This concept has since been applied to almost every genre. Ars Magica still leads the way in running a Mythic Europe game out of the box.
Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu – One of the first games where the ability to hit someone was not the primary focus of creating a character. It was the first time it certainly when more people were interested in creating characters as “professors” and “archeologists” rather than “fighters” and “magic users”.
CyberPunk – What did it do for us? In such a combat-heavy game, it got us seriously thinking about initiative, armour, the damage that guns inflict and also how playing a bona-fide X-factor applicant (Rockerboy) was a real option. It also gave us Netrunning and helped us realise that a Netrun was really boring for the rest of the players.
Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP) – redefined the super-hero RPG genre by presenting the most flexible, most configurable game system of all time without compromising simplicity. Talk about a game that refuses to die!
Pendragon – a shot in the eye for recent indie games which attempt to force immersive roleplaying by pigeon-holing players into restrictive roles. You play a knight. That’s it. Not a priest or magic user. Playing a rogue is right out. Not only that – it pays to be a Paladin. It’s essential to your progress to act like a knight.
RuneQuest – the champion of Basic Role-Playing and also shouldering Glorantha, one of the most popular culture-game settings out there. It helped re-define the role of the magic user (in essence, everyone is a magic user) and gave real depth to the relationship between gods and their followers.
Skyrealms of Jorune – my personal favourite as a culture-game setting which stretched the imagination as to what could be really familiar as well as superbly alien. Not everyone could take Thriddles seriously but the background, a web of secrets, was enticing and rich, richer perhaps than any other man-made background.
SLA Industries – a relative newcomer but in spite of the not-entirely-shocking revelations near the end, we had some of the most involving gaming in this setting which, on the face of it, did more for trivialising murder than any other game. It was the first and last game to successfully meld horror and sci-fi.
Vampire – love them or hate them, White Wolf brought a much needed influx of people into the hobby and some of them remained. We’ve not seen a change in the market since to the same scale and it would be unlikely anyway. Vampire taught us that a game could be about humanity and character and not just about wearing black leather trenchcoats, mirrorshades and strapping a katana to your back.
WFRP – takes a lot of rap for being a game for losers – by this I mean, the game setting kinda reinforces even more than CoC that you cannot win. Even if you do find the demon possessing the guy who is on the throne, tomorrow you’ll catch some horrific disfiguring disease and die anyway.
These are mine.
What are yours?
For the last forever, Aidan and I were working on a new game. It started out as an idea for a videogame based on racing through courses around the Solar System, such as skimming the rings of Saturn or around an asteroid with an irregular spin. The idea was exciting – at least to us.
Lack of time and money killed the idea but we did a lot more work on the RPG and board game. I concentrated on the mundane stuff. We’ve not had much time to work on it recently but I’m hoping for release before Xmas 😉
Over the last few hours I’ve been watching episodes of ‘The Sandbaggers’ – a Cold War spy thriller TV series which aired in the late 70s and early 80s. Twenty episodes were made and though it was not popular at the time, it is one of the few TV shows I’ve seen with truly intelligent dialog. I bought the series on DVD from Amazon and I’m working my way through the second season right now.
It doesn’t paint a glamorous picture of espionage in any way.
Back in the olden days I GM’d TOP SECRET/S.I. and I have copies of DELTA FORCE and the James Bond RPG. Of course, more often when I run an espionage game I use The 23rd Letter for lots of reasons.
This makes me want to write two games. One a Cold War thriller and the second a post WW2 supernatural/low power superhero game…
More than this – I’d give my right nut for a co-worker.
(Just noticed this thread on RPG.net)
John L. Morton of the University of Glamorgan wrote into the Guardian on July 21st with a rather excellent letter. It finishes with the following line.
So, biblical fundamentalism only makes one testable prediction, and it’s wrong.
I guess this is the whole point. We’re meant to take everything on faith…