Collecting Modern and Espionage RPGs and Roleplaying Games
What Is Modern Roleplaying?
I’ll define “modern roleplaying” as games set in the 20th or 21st century that don’t horror or superhero elements, and can’t be defined as purely science fiction games. As an outline, I’ll use the same categorization methods that the online gaming sites like DriveByRPG and RpgNow use for modern gaming: Crime & Detective campaigns, Military Games, Spies & Espionage, and “Urban Fantasy”.
Many of crime/detective rpgs not in the sci-fi cyberpunk category fit into either pulp settings (Thrilling Tales) or modern conspiracy settings, like Conspiracy X and Alternity. Spycraft is the classic version of the espionage setting, offering a detailed setting. “Urban fantasy” is the blending of traditional supernatural fantasy elements with a world quite similar (at first glance) to the world we know, such as the various World of Darkness games, C.J. Carella’s Witchcraft, andUnknown Armies. Shadowrun is similar in concept, though it blends cyberpunk with fantasy and is therefore more of a science fiction game.
Spycraft is one of the most popular modern espionage games on the market, where players can work for organizations like the Agency (CIA) or Shadowforce Archer (a group that faces some paranormal threats from their first setting) and play character archetypes like Advocate, Wheelman, Faceman, Explorer, Sleuth, Hacker, Intruder, Pointman, Snoop, Scientist, Scout, and Soldier. Books that are a little harder to find include the World Militaries Book, Fixer/Pointman Guide for d20, and Declassified Odd Jobs. Collectors also might be interested in the Spycraft Collectible Card Game, which has both starter decks and booster decks sold online.
Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes
Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes from Flying Buffalo is a game of spies, detectives, and international mercs. The Adventure of the Jade Jaguar scenario is an adventure into the deep jungle, whileMugshots 1 involves a 1937 Pacific mystery. The Mugshots adventure, written by Dave Arneson (who co-created Dungeons and Dragons), involves the disappearance of a fleet of seaplanes and the list of suspects includes a secret society, space aliens, a pulp madman, and the Empire of Japan.
Mugshots 2 is a resource book which includes 30 maps for various modern settings and a list of characters to fill out your modern adventures. Another MSPE modules includes Stormhaven, which won the 1984 HG Wells Award for best role-playing adventure. Other products to collect include Raid on Rajallapor, an Ident-a-Kit to add fingerprint clues to an adventure, and a package of 20 MSPE character folders.
TSR’s first spy setting was Top Secret, released in 1980 and using nothing more than d10 dice. Player characters are members of an unnamed spy agency, where they can join one of three different bureaus: the Investigation Bureau, Confiscation Bureau, and Assassination Bureua. Supplements for Top Secret include The Top Secret Companion, Operation: Sprechenhaltestelle, Operation: Rapidstrike!, Lady in Distress, Operation: Fastpass, Operation: Orient Express, Operation: Ace of Clubs, and Operation: Seventh Seal. Other scenarios were published in Dragon Magazines #26 and #39, so you might consider collecting those issues, as well.
Top Secret is the only game in roleplaying history known to have involved an FBI investigation of KGB and Mossad activities, because notes from a game session (supposedly involving those two agencies) were picked up by a civilian and turned over to the FBI. This led FBI agents to investigate TSR.
James Bond 007
The James Bond 007 roleplaying game was the most popular espionage game of the mid-1980s, when it won an Origins Award and a Strategists Club Award. Published by Avalon Hill’s Victory Games division, the James Bond RPG’s most collectible supplements includes the Villains Module, the Goldfinger Supplement, Live and Let Die, For Your Eyes Only, and 1985’s Man With the Golden Gunsupplement.
Many of the James Bond movies have their own modules devoted to them, and there’s even a Goldfinger 2 module. The James Bond RPG series stopped publication in 1987, so these are spy games distinctly set in the last great phase of the Cold War.
Feng Shui is the game of Hong Kong action movie adventures. Feng Shui builds a game around the novel concept of places of power. Whoever control these places with good feng shui tend to have events go in their favor, setting up the major conflict of the setting, which is based on the Shadowfist collectible card game setting. The main rulebook of Feng Shui, which made it on one prominent list of the best RPGs of the 2nd millennium, is the only book that’s going to cost you much money (roughly $45). Other supplements include Burning Shaolin, Blowing Up Hong Kong, Seal of the Wheel, and In Your Face Again.
D20 Modern was built to handle any form of modern campaign setting. Wizards of the Coast released the rule book in 2002, using the d20 system made famous by Dungeons & Dragons. The game is a good adaptation of those rules and d20 Modern has spawned a number of specialty rulebooks: Urban Arcana, d20 Future, d20 Future Tech, d20 Dark Matter, d20 Menace Manual, and d20 Apocalypse. The most collectible setting books include the Menace Manual, Modern Martial Arts Mayhem, d20 Future, the oddly-named Modern Past, and the d20 World Militaries sourcebook forSpycraft (the d20 Modern version, of course.).