Saturday, 14 January 2012
Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes (part 1)
Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes is a role playing game published by Flying Buffalo inc. (Wikipedia).
It is basically a modern adaptation of the fantasy roleplaying game Tunnels & Trolls from the same editor. But where T&T was known for its fantastic and heroic tone (ok, and funny..), the fact of grounding MSPE in a more contemporary setting gave it a resolutely more realistic, even gritty, feel…
The blend of the simple and pleasant rules system of T&T and the needs of a more realistic setting gave birth to one of the most fluid and flexible gaming system ever written. Serendipity, like for some others games I love, but that's another story.
It has been one of my favourite games since it has been released. It is still available (see later) and my only regret is that a pdf version has never been released. It would have made the game easier to try, probably more popular and it would certainly have helped the paper edition sales.
MSPE is at heart a contemporary rpg in a very broad sense. It covers the three kinds of setting implied by its title: stories of mercenaries and action adventures (think Black Hawk Down, Eagle Has Landed or The Dogs of War), espionage adventures (think rather James Bond, Mission Impossible, or, novels of Ludlum or Higgins) and finally detective stories, whodunnits or noir (and there, you can refer to your favourite TV series, the traditional detective novels, or, even historical whodunnits, like the fabulous SPQR novels from John Maddox Roberts, as well as those of PC Doherty or even Brother Cadfael medieval mysteries).
The rules contain also indications on how to play horror adventures within MSPE, like Call of Chtulhu or Masterton novels (but I'll come back to that later in part 2).
MSPE can, of course, do pulps (think Indiana Jones, the Shadow, Doc Savage or Bob Morane (for french-speaking peoples)), it is one of its default periods and scenarios made for other games can easily be translated to MSPE.
Near future and anticipation are also within the field of MSPE and stories like Matrix, Dream Park or Blade Runner can easily be played. Time travel is another topic that lends itself perfectly to the use of MSPE, just like it is possible to use it to play Wild Wild West, SinCity, the League of extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta or Da Vinci code…
In short, MSPE is definitively a Gamemaster's dream, a toolbox to express your ideas and to work out the scenarios or the stories which your imagination can invent.
The very simple rules lend themselves easily to add what can be needed for your game.
As opposed to what the image of a contemporary rpg can suggest, the range of the game is extremely wide and covers a big part of the litterature of imagination and adventure, past, present and future.
In all those years I have been playing MSPE, I have made a few utilities destined to help a gamemaster to prepare his game sessions and to make in-session gaming easier, here are some of them:
The automated gamemaster screen for Tunnels &Trolls and MSPE. It is an Excel worksheet which contains all the tables used in play and that enables the gamemaster to make all the dice rolls called by the rules. Additional pages are added to record in advance all the characteristics which could be consulted during play, for PCs and NPCs. I don't use it anymore because most things that the automated screen does I would do now with Maptool, but it can help peoples who don't use Maptool.
And here is the french version of the automated screen.
Here is a character record sheet for MSPE/T&T, intended to be integrated into a notebook in which the player can write his notes, while keeping in sight the characteristics of his character.
There are an MSPE and a T&T version included (the only difference is the logo).
And here is the french version of it.
For those who would prefer a caracter sheet in the shape of small pocket (as those which are provided with the game in the boxed edition), it is still possible to order them from Flying Buffalo (look at MSPE character folders).
Here is a french translation that I have made.
Here are Photoshop brushes to customize images or illustrations by placing the characteristics of a character or/and the MSPE logo on them.
All you have to do is to find a picture or a photograph on Internet representing a character, an object, a weapon… usable in MSPE. You apply the brush to it, to indicate the characteristics, place the MSPE logo and the image is transformed into a play aid or handout. For pictures of characters of the 20's or 30's, have a look here.
And if you want to display the MSPE cover on your computer, here is the MSPE Wallpaper.
To get MSPE:
Flying Buffalo Inc PO Box 1467, Scottsdale, AZ the 85252 USA Phon: 480-945-6917 Fax: 480-994-1170 $9.95.
Online order. Flying Buffalo accepts Paypal payments.
I'll recommend that you add to your order the Case of the Pacific Clipper (by Dave Arneson, no less) to give you a feel of the game in a wonderful solo adventure (that also makes a good group adventure); and now you just have to wait for the postal service to bring you the game.
That's MSPE, but only the surface, and there are more things in MSPE, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. That's what part 2 shall be about.