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One of the games I played a ridiculous quantity of from 1981 to 1992 was second edition (not SI) Top Secret.

As a teen this generally was a “why does anyone play any of the bureaus besides assassination? look at this cool gun combat system that we can use all the time!” but gradually became a more traditional espionage style game with a bit of extra violence because… look at this cool gun combat system that we can use!

It didn’t help that the first module we had was OPERATION: RAPIDSTRIKE which typically plays out as a stealth insertion with LOTS of gunplay.

Now, the game has some warts that we ran into and smoothed over as we got more and more play out of it. 1 second combat rounds are a bit intense, but hey, that’s what you get (and don’t get me going on the roll, pitch, and yaw calculations that Merle gave us for firing guns in zero gee environments in the pages of Dragon).

We had two house rules that helped game play immensely in our experience – and I honestly assume the first was EXPECTED from play but never really spelled out in the rules (I should really ask Merle one of these days).

1. Incorporate stat checks into play. Check against Courage. Check against Charm. Check against your AOKs.

2. This one pains me because I love all the weird conflict subsystems of Top Secret… but the Contact Reaction Table is quite frankly bad for the game. In one-on-one situations relying on anything except for AOKs, there is almost no way an agent can get anything from any but the most incompetent contact. But if you have two or three agents double or triple teaming the contact, then there is almost no way that the agents WON’T get what they want. This is where stat checks work better than the reaction tables… And I wish I still had a copy of the house rules document we had (typed up on a typewriter). I believe the way we did it was opposed checks (using the abilities listed in the Contact Reaction section) instead of checking the table, and whoever rolled higher AND succeeded “won” the contest, and the difference between scores indicated the level of success or failure (using the letter codes from the rules).

For stats over 100 (most prevalent with AOKs in early play, but they start showing up at later levels of play for all stats), you would add your “bonus” over 100 to your opposed test roll (so if you had an AOK of 147 and were trying to FOOL a contact, you would roll d100+47 and compare the result to their d100 roll).

How did your Top Secret games play out? Did you have any house rules?