Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes

Aside from being a table top roleplaying aficionado, I also love to play computer games of all kinds. Recently I’ve started a couple of games from my youth including Ultima IV, one of the classics from the CRPG genre. Eventually I started working on my own Ultima-inspired game using a LUA framework called LÖVE. If you want to learn more about this project, feel free to check out my other blog.

While researching these games of old and the tricks their programmers used back in the day, I stumbled upon “The Digital Antiquarian”, a very interesting blog about old computer games. If you are into retro gaming or just interested in the history of this hobby, you should definitely check it out.

Especially in the early days of both computer gaming and tabletop roleplaying games there were a few designers who worked in both fields. While reading the Digital Antiquarian’s article about the post-apocalyptic CRPG Wasteland, I learned that Tunnels & Trolls designer Ken St. Andre and Michael Stackpole who is nowadays mostly known for his various novels worked on that game. In fact the mechanics in Wasteland were based on Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes (aka MSPE) which was actually based on St. Andre’s Tunnels & Trolls.

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As an avid collector of roleplaying games I immediately picked up a copy on DriveThruRPG. The 117-paged PDF is a scan of the 1983 rules and looks pretty nice. I haven’t had the time yet to read it thoroughly but it looks quite intriguing. Since it’s based on T&T the mechanics are pretty lightweight, even though skills and modern firearms are added to the basic T&T formula. Reading the game is definitely worth is, especially if you are not only interested in playing the games but also learning a bit about the history of roleplaying games. And for a 1980’s roleplaying game it actually doesn’t look that outdated.

Curiously there never was a Wasteland sourcebook for the Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes game, or at least none that I know off. I am pretty sure a lot of fans of the computer game would have eventually liked to continue their characters’ exploits at the game table. But I guess the fact that Electronic Arts owned the intellectual rights to the game back in the day, made this impossible. Luckily nothing prevents us to use the MSPE rules and adapt it for the wastelands of the South Western USA ourselves.

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