Welcome to the Flaming Faggot

Callovia is called "the boundless empire" yet you have managed to find its northern border - a notorious roadhouse deep within the Madrasan Marches on the edge of the wilds of Llanvirnesse. The sign above the door reads "Flaming Faggot," which would suggest a cozy, homey inn with fresh biscuits served at teatime if not for the severed troll heads mounted on pikes at the gate.

As you cross the threshold the raucous din quiets momentarily as all eyes dart to the door and calloused hands drop instinctively to well-worn sword hilts. The threat, instantly assessed, is dismissed and roadhouse patrons go about their business hardly missing a beat.

Grim, hard-eyed men huddle around tables in close conversation thick with conspiracy; caravan guards gamble away their earnings; Caemric rangers sit close to the fireplace cooking the damp of the Black Annis from their clothes as they warm their innards with Red Dragon Ale; minstrels play and buxom wenches dance for the pleasure of men who pay them little attention - until they need a companion to warm their bed.

As you approach the bar, a huge, bald barman with a greatsword slung across his back slides a mug of freshly-pulled ale towards you, its frothy head dripping over the rim.

"Pull up a seat, lad," he says, "and let me tell you a tale of high adventure."

Monday, March 7, 2011

On the Drawing Board: Covert Ops

I've been procrastinating making this announcement for some time, but I think that it's finally time to bite the proverbial bullet and officially throw my hat into the old-school home publishing ring.

I've recently renewed my long time interest in the clandestine world of the secret agent, and for the past little while I've been working on my own old-school espionage role playing game, Covert Ops, which is inspired largely by Top Secret.  This won't, strictly speaking, be a retro clone because Top Secret isn't covered by the OGL, so it won't be possible to faithfully reproduce the rules.  What I do aim to accomplish is to recreate the spirit of Top Secret and create a game that does what the original espionage game did: provide a tool-kit for sandbox play, and update it for the 21st century.

I think the time is ripe for such a game.  I believe the OSR, with its solid foundation of D&D retro clones, is now ready to expand into other genres from the golden age of gaming.  Goblinoid Games has already given us Mutant Future, and I hope that Covert Ops will secure a place in the hearts of gamers who enjoyed the original espionage rpg.

The genre, itself, is becoming more topically relevant these days, too.  After the end of the Cold War there was a sharp decline in the popularity of spy thrillers and many critics suggested that the authors of this genre would have to close shop and move on to new subjects in this dawning era of world peace.  I was skeptical; as far as I was concerned the world was about to get a whole lot scarier.

Unsurprisingly, my predictions were correct and we find ourselves in an increasingly unstable socio-political world climate and facing an uncertain future.  Here's the value of the escapist fantasy that a game like Covert Ops offers: instead of watching helplessly as forces beyond our control destabilize our world we can play characters that have the power to make an impact on global events.  Whether those characters hunt down a terrorist cell, engage in some industrial espionage to avert an economic or environmental disaster, or sneak into North Korea to give Kim Jong Il a well-deserved wedgie, this fantasy empowerment can be wonderfully cathartic.  Because, the reality is that that new era of world peace never dawned and it ain't gonna any time soon.

Many governments of the day, however, decided to cash in on the "peace dividend" by dramatically downsizing their military and intelligence infrastructures.  It was just this circumstance that was explored in the movie, Ronin, which has been my primary cinematic reference in developing Covert Ops; highly trained operatives cut loose by their governments to find employment by selling their services on the open market.  And these days, it's a seller's market.

So that's the plan.  But talk is cheap and I've got a long road ahead of me to turn this dream into a reality.  I'm woefully ignorant of the whole game publishing business, so I'm going to be floundering around for a while, but I figure the best way to learn is to jump in the deep end and start paddling.

I'll try to keep everyone up to date on my progress as well as share my thoughts on the genre, but for now it's time to stop talking and get to work.


Matt said...

Sounds great. Good luck with it!

ze bulette said...

Sounds like a lot of fun - I'll be following with interest.

Anonymous said...


So, yeah, sounds good.

Shane Mangus said...

I think this *is* the time for such a game. I can't wait to see what you come up with!

sirlarkins said...

Can't wait! You're absolutely right--the time is ripe.

Sean Robson said...

Thanks, everyone, for the enthusiastic responses. I wasn't certain how much interest there would be in a game like this, but it seems that I'm not the only one with fond memories of Top Secret and its ilk.

Porky said...

You've got me very excited too. It'll be a lot of fun to follow.

The Happy Whisk said...

I'm so happy for you and your great adventure. Very exciting. I look forward to reading more about your journey. Very very cool.