Thursday, June 30, 2011

Comic Ad

Four Color Promises is a blog that features the ads from comics that range from the '70s on through the '80s. It's pretty entertaining to revisit many of the very familiar images that are tucked away in my subconscious, somewhere. One image featured is this Top Secret/S.I. ad. This ad is apparently from Action Comics issue 606 (which I actually have).

The interesting thing about this ad is the four novels fanned out in the corner. Four novels. This is evidence of a book that never was produced. The four Top Secret/S.I. books that we know exist are:

  • Double Agent: Acolyte of Darkness/Web of Danger
  • Double Agent:The Hollow Earth Affair/The Royal Pain
  • Double Agent: The Hard Sell/Glitch!
The fourth book is a bit hard to make out, but I believe the titles are- Double Agent: High Stakes Gamble/Overloads of the Underworld. Yes. Overloads. I'm not sure if this is a typo because this entry is spelled this way.

I wonder if the unproduced Double Agent novel was basically a novelization of the High Stakes Gamble box set. It's too bad it was never released. I would have liked to see more Sebastian Cord. 

Also, notice the early box cover art for the High Stakes Gamble box set with the red border.

I do not recall seeing any other Top Secret/S.I. ads in comics those days. But I do recall seeing this ad in quite a few issues.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Paizo selling new TS/SI stuff

Paizo bought out a regional distributor,  American Eagle, and are offering the merchandize on their online store. There are many Top Secret/S.I. books in the mix. I believe these books are new or shelf condition.

Check it all out here.



Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Adventures of Indiana Jones and TS/SI

The Adventures of Indiana Jones was published by TSR in 1984 with at least 8 books or box sets. Even a whole issue of Polyhedron was dedicated to the game. This game was out while the original version of Top Secret was also being published.

It appears that the game mechanics for the Adventures of Indiana Jones RPG was probably the father of what became the game mechanics that ran Top Secret/S.I. in 1987. Here is a quick look at some of the details of both games.

Many of the fundamental elements of the game mechanics are quite obvious.
Attribute Modifiers is a little different. AoIJ uses the 1/2 modifier and the 1/4 modifier, but also have a X2 modifier that must've been dropped in the development of TS/SI.
Lucky Breaks and Bad Breaks carried over. TS/SI added the double roll feature, however. Lucky and Bad Breaks in AoIJ have an interesting rule- no matter what happens with a Bad Break, the result cannot kill the player character.
Attributes themselves are a bit different, at least in name. In AoIJ we have Strength, Movement, Prowess, Backbone, Instinct, and Appeal. TS/SI's list resembles more traditional games- Strength, Intelligence, Reflexes, Willpower, Constitution, and then derived attributes- Movement and Dexterity.
Initiative was streamlined for TS/SI by having everyone simply roll a d10 and whoever rolled highest can go first. Reality rules can be used adding a bunch of modifiers making it more complex. AoIJ had each character making a Movement check- highest level going first. If you make it, you go. If you fail the next one gets to try.
Damage is completely reworked. AoIJ uses three levels of damage where TS/SI has hit locations and hit-points in each location.
The Instinct attribute had an interesting set of rules around it for surprise or traps. In TS/SI this was covered well with a couple of Advantages. Sixth Sense or some of the Acute senses duplicated this ability.

It looks like many of the elements of the Indiana Jones RPG would work pretty well as pulp resources for 1930's TS/SI or Agent 13.

Saturday, June 11, 2011 and Star

TSR's success with Dungeons & Dragons gave them the ability to branch out into other genres for roleplaying games. Their take on science fiction was Star Frontiers which was published in 1982. When TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast the line was shelved like most of their other non-D&D lines. Star Frontiers enjoys a healthy online fan support ever since. In fact, somehow permission was granted from Wizards of the Coast to share the Star Frontiers content online for free ( 
It appears they've even expanded, or will, with a new site- ( It is unclear what the purpose for it will be at this point. The original website is real nice and as a Top Secret/S.I. fan, I'm envious.

While Top Secret/S.I. has also enjoyed pretty healthy online support, it has never been granted permission to host the game material online for free. A few of us TS/SI fans have tried (Modus Operandi tried annually) with no success. That hasn't stopped some people. has had the rules online for several years. While there hasn't seemed to be a problem with this, I do not believe there has ever been permission granted to do so. 

Now, the people who are behind the Star Frontiers site have been working on one for Top Secret/S.I. It has been promoted on the Frontiers site as 'coming soon' and has been for about two years. It is unknown if permission has been granted or if this is another site similar to the Spies.R.Us, that will have to be determined- if it is ever completed. There is the option of registering for the site and I did get an email from the administrator, but beyond that there hasn't been a lot of action.
Check out what is up so far. Top Secret/S.I.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Critical Hits and Bad Breaks and the Paradox in the Rules

Top Secret/S.I. has a unique dice mechanic with hand-to-hand combat. With a single roll of the percentile dice you can determine if you hit, where you hit and how much damage. All in one roll. As per usual, with two d10 the first die is the Tens digit and the second die is the Ones digit. With HTH combat you'd read as above, but also the first die- Tens digit is the Damage dealt (assuming you hit) and the second die- Ones digit would correspond with the Hit Location. A roll of 34 would result in 3 points of damage to the right arm. A 18 would be 1 point to the right leg, etc.

According to the rules on page 71 of the Players Guide any double roll (00, 11, 22, 33, 44, etc) is a critical hit. Further, critical hits in the Hit Locations of 0, 1, 2, or 3 are instant kills (which can be avoided by the victim spending a Luck Point, pages 90 and 91 of said Players Guide).

Rolls of 01, 02, 03, and 04 are Lucky Breaks where something beneficial happens. Conversely, any roll of 95, 96, 97, and 98 are Bad Breaks. Rolls of 00 and 99 are the ultimate of each respected extreme (page 8 of the Players Guide).

Here's where these rules are in paradox- in the rules as written the combination of doubles and Hit Locations result in the left leg- Hit Location 9, impossible to score a Critical Hit as it would require a roll of 99 to hit the left leg, but a 99 is an extreme Bad Break.

The work around for this fluke is to make one additional roll. One roll to determine if you hit, this would be the roll that would be susceptible to the Lucky Breaks or Bad Breaks. And then a second roll to see where and how much damage dealt, this roll would be exempt from the Lucky Breaks or Bad Breaks.

Here's a link to the Yahoo Group discussion about this...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

ALPHAS is F.R.E.E.Lancers

The SyFy channel has a new show that resemble's TS/SI's Cyberpunk/Powers setting.

Top Secret/S.I. was a modern espionage RPG where typically character/agents would go on missions, etc. TSR expanded the line in both historical and futuristic settings with 1930's pulp through Agent 13 and near future tech with F.R.E.E.Lancers, respectively. As a rules supplement it provided TS/SI with low powered super powers that were not too beyond reasonable, not like most comic books. Unlike Agent 13, which was a stand-alone separate setting, F.R.E.E.Lancers was directly tied to the game's ORION vs WEB setting, sort of the next part of that story. It was basically espionage special agents with low leveled super-powers.

From what we've seen, this new show from SyFy, ALPHAS resembles F.R.E.E.Lancers in many ways. It looks like a special S.W.A.T. team of relatively low-powered agents working together on espionage-like missions (what, with sniper rifles and so on). I'd say it would be a ready-made RPG adaptation.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Top Secret/S.I. on Fantasy Grounds

Fantasy Grounds 

Fantasy Grounds is an application acting as a virtual online gaming table primarily intended for pen and paper style narrative role playing games.
Fantasy Grounds is designed to perform many of the things you can do while playing at a conventional gaming table and move it online.
Run games as the gamemaster or take part as a player, the application provides all the necessary tools to communicate, manage information and perform tasks such as rolling the dice or creating drawings.
I haven't used Fantasy Grounds, haven't had the need. But I was impressed to see that they even service our Top Secret/S.I.

This is the most fancy character sheet I've ever seen for TS/SI.

link to the Fantasy Grounds TS/SI Wiki page


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