Spy Thriller Comparo

I’ve decided to do a bit of a project.  Recently, I was going through all my books and PDF’s looking for that “perfect” spy thriller RPG.  There’s a LOT of them, and I’m really having a hard time deciding which game to use.  So I’m going to do a big comparison of each of the games I’m considering.

This list won’t have each and every game in that genre that exists, of course.  I’m only going to pick through ones I own.  I’m going to create either two or three player characters in each system and pit those characters against a similar challenge.  Initially I’m thinking about doing a straight up combat scene, at least at first, to see how the mechanics work; how smooth, fast, realistic-ish, and fun one of the most intensive parts of any role-playing game can be.

This whole project is going to be done is several stages.  I’m going to first go through the entire character creation process.  This will show how difficult it is to create a core character.  This will also highlight how in-depth a character can be with minimum work, i.e. how the character creation process enables or inhibits backgrounds and development of their pre-game history.

Next will probably be the same but for the antagonists of the scene.  I’ll find out how easy it is to set up an encounter, and whether or not it is easy to judge how difficult (or not) to make an encounter match how experienced or capable the players are.

I’ll follow that up with the combat scene itself.  It’ll probably be the same scene for each game; a straight-forward combat scene that includes as many types of modifiers I can come up with without making it all too confusing.  I’ll use weather, vision, and other environmental effects to spice it up a bit.

This is the list of the games I’m going to try to use.  I say “try” because it’s a pretty big list, and I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get through them all.  It will definitely take a while, so if you’re interested in watching how things develop, please be patient.

  1. Modern AGE by Green Ronin Publishing
  2. ConspiracyX (Second Edition) by Eden Studios (Unisystem)
  3. Covert Ops by DWD Studios
  4. D20 Modern by Wizards of the Coast
  5. D6 Adventure by West End Games
  6. James Bond 007 by Victory Games
  7. Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes (MSPE) by Michael Stackpole
  8. O.W. by EN Publishing
  9. The Laundry by Cubicle Seven
  10. Top Secret S/I by TSR

I’m only going to use any iteration of the d20 system or derivatives other than d20 Modern, and am therefore not including Spycraft 1st or 2nd Edition, or UltraModern5, or games like that.

I’m also not including any non-genre specific games such as GURPS, or HERO, or such.

You’ve probably noticed that I included Top Secret S/I, but not the original Top Secret.  It’s for a good reason.  Top Secret, the original TSR Spy RPG, was one of, or maybe the first RPG of the genre, and it was incredibly popular for a very long time.  It’s a great game, one of my all-time favorites.  However, I’ve got to admit that the S/I edition was so much better in so many ways that I’d be dumb not to include it instead of its older brother.

There are a lot more games like this that aren’t on my list.  No game not on this list should be thought of any less than any I am going to use.  I don’t own them all… much as I wish I did.  And there are some that I do own that probably should be on this list, but 10 is plenty, and I had to slim it down a bit.

Please let me know if you feel strongly about any particular game that you’d like me to use, or if any on my list seem like they shouldn’t be.

Keep watch on my blog while it still exists, and I’m going to try really hard to get through all of this before I have to shutter my doors.

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