Thus far, my Raven Con poll is leaning towards Top Secret, which I have to say is not only a bit surprising but also encouraging as that was the game I was hoping to run but wasn’t sure how the gaming-community-at-large would feel about such an esoteric entry. Even though espionage games can work well with almost any generic system, I was particularly interested in doing Top Secret because, in my opinion, the older espionage games never got their fair shake in the market.
Part of that, I think, was the (then) gaming mentality. In a way, games like Boot Hill, Top Secret, and Star Frontiers were all produced with slightly more sophisticated game engines, and more realistic and deadly settings. The real problem early gamers had with these systems, especially Top Secret and Boot Hill, was adapting their playing style. So many of us came over from D&D backgrounds, which, in the early days, were almost always hack & slash dungeon crawls; not surprisingly, these systems simply wouldn’t support that style of play.
As RPGs have grown, the use of storytelling elements has received greater focus, which ironically makes systems like Top Secret appealing. If you play a modern day espionage game with a hack & slash mentality, you’ll no doubt wind up with a pile of dead characters. If, however, you design games around a modern spy thriller model, you should be able to create an adventure that’s fun, fast-paced, mysterious, and with only a fraction of the lethality.