Friday, March 10, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes

Mercenaries, Spies, and Private Eyes is a game that bills itself on being an adventure game in which you can play the three eponymous things from the title, as well as pretty much any other "modern day" type of character. Happily, it also dips its toes into the pulp pool, giving rules on making characters with psychic powers and providing a whole section on running a Lost World campaign. Including stats for dinosaurs! Pretty spiffy!

MSPE, as the game is more acronymically known, is based on the rules for Tunnels & Trolls. It eschews T&T's 5-gallon-bucket-of-d6s rolling mechanic in favor of a much easier, more straightforward one based off of it's primogenitor's saving roll mechanic. Briefly: Roll 2d6, if you get doubles, roll again and add, add the total to one of your stats, meet or beat that number on a chart to succeed. MSPE, unlike T&T, also has an extensive skills system, it's entirely possible this is where T&T got its Specialties rules for future incarnations of itself.

The mechanics of this game are also going to be super familiar to anyone who is old enough or retro enough to have played the old Wasteland computer game, as the skill mechanics are pretty much a direct port.

Character creation starts off nice and familiar. You get a list of attributes. You roll 3d6 for each. You place them in order. MSPE uses T&T's TARO rule (Triples Add and Roll Over) with a modification. If you get a triple on an attribute (three fours, for instance), you get to roll two additional dice and add that to the base total. Thus, the possible maximum for attributes is 30--big enough that truly exceptional characters are possible, but with a much lower ceiling than T&T or Power Trip.

Once again, no idea what I'm going to make. I'm just going to roll. Let's see now...Strength 8...Luck 6...Uh...Intelligence 14, that's good...Dexterity 11...Constitution 10...Charisma 18!

Wait! 18 is three sixes! I rolled a triple! I get to roll two more dice. Holy meatballs! My character's Charisma is 27! I don't think I've ever played anyone as drop-dead sexy as this person before in my life.

Oh, and Speed 9.

I calculate my derived attributes and discover that I am not going to be doing very much in the way of fighting. You get +1 to your adds for every point of St, Lk, and Dex over 12...and -1 for every point below 9. This gives me a total of -4 adds. My missile combat adds are based solely off my Luck, so I get a -3 there. Definitely lover material, this person!

I get 3d6x100 starting cash. The problem in this game isn't that I don't have enough money to buy things, it's that I don't have enough things to buy. There are extensive (like, Palladium-level extensive) lists of various types of weapons, but not much in the way of general equipment. I do get to purchase a sword cane, though! And I also buy a leather jacket to give myself a nominal amount of protection.

When it comes to the game, it seems like Intelligence (IQ) is the most important attribute. You get a number of skill points equal to your IQ and all skills are rated based on IQ. Thus, if I had an IQ of 8, I couldn't buy any skills that had a prerequisite of IQ 9 or higher. This means that you won't have any dullards that are PhD candidates or doctors, but it can also be severely limiting as far as making characters goes. There also doesn't seem to be any real way to improve your IQ during the game to get more skills, though there's a lengthy paragraph about how you can lose IQ (and skills) from brain damage.

You can buy multiple ranks in a skill. According to the book, the cost doubles each time. The book then lists this cost as 1,3,7, which I don't think quite maths right, but I get what they're saying. When you make a save roll where a skill comes into play, you get to add your skill rank to your total. Interestingly, this game explicitly states that skills are not tied to attributes. What this means is that you could use your knowledge of guns to be better at firing guns, to do forensic analysis of ballistics, to build your own gun, or similar.

That's just the sort of thing I like in my spy adventure games!

I whipped through the skills section and bought all of the Charisma-heavy skills first. Then I went back and grabbed a few other skills to round out the character and make him more interesting. I think he's a brilliant, very handsome, persuasive, Italian gentleman who was recruited to some agency or another for his interpersonal skills. I bought no fighting skills and am hoping on his glib tongue and quick wits to save him.

What a shock, it's another Geoff Bottone character...

Paulo Navino, Handsome Gentleman

Iberian/N African
5’10”/190 lb

Melee Adds -4
Ranged Adds -3
IQ 4
Horsemanship 1
IQ 8
Chic 1
Fast Driving 1
IQ 10
Bureaucracy Mastery 1
Confidence 1
Diplomacy 1
Elocution 1
Gambling 1
Seduction 1
IQ 12
Disguise 1
Master’s Degree 1
Observation 1
IQ 13
English (Free)
Castilian Spanish 1
IQ 14

Sword Cane $90, 3 dice
Leather Jacket $100, absorbs 1 die of damage from each attack.


  1. That's doubling all right. First one is 1, then 2 (1+2 is 3), then 4 (1+2+4 is 7). It's just kind of an obtuse way to put itm

  2. Oh, I get it now! I guess they were just assuming that the player would buy all the levels at once (so it's 3 points for 2nd level because you have to buy 1st, too).

    Weird way to go about it, but it makes sense now!

  3. You get 2 attribute points every time you level, which you can spend anyway you want, so you can increase your IQ for example. Cheers.