Posted in: Character Creation Challenge, Role Playing Games, Spy-Fi

2024 Character Creation Challenge Day 5: Top Secret S.I.

Day 5 of the 2024 #CharacterCreationChallenge and I will be creating a character for the Top Secret S.I. system. So I’ve been waiting a long time for this entry. There is a little bit of a tragic backstory with me and this game. In the early days of my involvement in the role playing hobby I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons. While a friend would have a copy of the original Top Secret espionage role playing game, we never had the chance to play.

When TSR released Top Secret S.I. in 1987, I picked up the original boxed set. Then I picked up the High Stakes Gamble expansion (I walked a long way through Tucson, Arizona to get that box). I lost count but eventually I had the majority of books for this system. But, I never had the chance to play it. I kept this collection when I (foolishly) sold off my D&D collection in the mid 90’s. As I move, and I moved a lot, I kept that collection with me. After one move, I couldn’t find the box. There is a saying that after 3-4 moves it’s the equivalent of a house fire. So somewhere along the line I lost the contents of that box. I kept hoping that I’d open up one of my many storage boxes (something I’ve been planning to get rid of) and I’d suddenly find the collection again, but I had my doubts of seeing it again.

I started looking at re-acquiring the books. However they are not available anywhere except for Ebay. And since these books were popular, they are usually expensive. I lucked out in 2023 when the first boxed set came up for auction at a reasonable price. Sure the box was hammered, but the books and other contents were in good condition. It even had the original dice still sealed in it’s bag. While I’ve kept the box in the shipping package, the books I’ve been able to use to create a character.

In the boxed set there is a Players Guide, an Administrators Guide, an Equipment Inventory, a GMs screen, some cardboard character standees and a foldout map of several generic locations. The Character Dossier (character sheet) is four pages long. There is a character creation summary on the font of the GMs screen with the process listed on page 5 of the Players Guide.

There are seven attributes for a character. STRength, REFlex, INTelligence, WILlpower, CONstitution, MOVement and DEXterity. These are generated by rolling a d6 (for the tens digit) and a d10 (for the ones digit) and adding 10 for the first five attribute in order. After I rolled these, I added them all together. If they didn’t reach 275, I could take the difference and spread them through the different attributes as I saw fit. Luckily my total all together was 290. For MOV and DEX (the secondary attributes) I was instructed to add STR and REF and divide by 2 (for MOV) and REF and INT divided by 2 (for DEX). Whee I love extra math steps in character creation. (not)

OK for step four I’m instructed to determine my character’s sex, nationality, hair color, eye color, general appearance, name, handiness, native language and age. Whew. These are all items that I choose (other than Extremely Ugly, Extremely Attractive or Ambidextrous as they are advantages that I’d have to buy). Nick Tanner was born in Arizona, USA and speaks English as his native language. He is 6’1″ with black hair and blue eyes with no extra-ordinary features. He is right-handed and is 24 years of age. On to step five.

The reality rule? If you want to really round out your character, determine his psychological profile? Loyalty, sanity, cruelty, etc. Let’s see what the book says. Ah, the reality rules make the game more realistic, but may slow down game play. Looking at the section for the psychological profile, it has suggestions, but no tables to roll against. Since the reality rules appear to be optional, I’m going to skip them in favor of getting the basic characteristics down. If this was for a campaign (and not under a time crunch) then perhaps I’d dive deeper into these.

Advantages and disadvantages are step six. The standard is to select one of each (there is a point based reality rule option). There is quite a list, or I can make up my own as long as they make sense (and both items don’t cancel each other out). From the list I selected Toughness and Phobia (spiders).

Next we choose the background for the character. This is basically what the character has done for a living besides being an espionage agent. There are several packages available to choose from (or I could make my own). They only had four career packages listed which were pretty generic. So I picked Entertainer. The original idea was that this character was going to be an athlete (wrestler) and that seemed to be the closest one. From the background we get the number of skills known in each category (Mechanical, combat, etc.), starting money and level of career.

And as you probably guessed, the skills are next. There are a set that I can choose from and they are pretty basic as well. If I understood the background information, I have a set of skill points to spend in different categories. I selected the skills I through the character would need. But I’d also be working with the GM to make sure that the background of the character would be viable in the campaign they were setting up. Knowing the Spanish language isn’t going to help if most of our missions are going to be in the Orient, etc. While getting my skills, I noticed a major issue (see Afterthoughts below) so I tried to make the skills match what I thought they should be. It was confusing, but I think I got the basic gist of it right.

The last step is purchasing equipment. But the next chapter is “Playing the game” with basic rules. The index shows no equipment in the players guide, so now I have to pull out the equipment book that came in the boxed set. And that states it’s for administrators (aka the GM) only. I looked through it and just decided that this guy has a pistol and a few spy trinkets that wouldn’t normally be cared by an every-day individual. I really would have been pressing on the GM for guidance on this part. But I’m thinking that the character is mostly done. I didn’t scan the last page since it was cover identities.


Considering how many times we see the typical, “criminal is recruited to be a spy” trope in shows, they didn’t have any criminal options within the character creation. I wonder if this came up in any of the expansions. It had been so long that I had read them that I don’t recall.

The skill costs probably needed some work as well. As an “Entertainer” I had to spend two skill points in the mechanical category. The first (which was a per-requisite for other skills) cost 1 point. All of the other skills costs more just to get to level 0 (basic knowledge of the skill). So I’d have to dip into the extra skill points just to spend my mandatory two. Yea, that would have been homebrewed out if I was GMing this.

The character sheet could also be improved slightly. I don’t know if I’d ever get a chance to play/run this game in a campaign, but if I did, I would consider re-making the character sheet. I’ll have to see if anyone made any videos showing this game in play just so I could see how the system works. It’s a percentage based system (roll under to succeed) so it sounds like it should be simplistic.

Additional Notes:

I’ve really been enjoying reading the various entries on social media and the different message boards. I’m also happy that several of you are posting on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. I’ve seen several veterans returning and quite a few new participants as well. These have included some very interesting ideas. There is one person who appears to be re-creating the Scooby Doo gang in different RPG systems.

Coming Up Next:

Tiny Wastelands

This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) or click on my social media links with any comments.

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