Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Welp, the snow was fast, if not exactly thick today, and I stayed home from work because of it. Not because I couldn't get to the job...I'm walking distance from my day gig. But my wife is not, and so needed to work from home, and that meant someone else had to mind the boy (me) since we had no nanny in the snow.

But that's cool, because I love Diego and he and I get along famously (though he's not quite ready for the gaming scene...some day, some day). I even got a couple naps in myself, which is always a good thing. Plus we got to walk around in the stinging, icy, fast-falling snow. I put five layers on the kid and he fell asleep in the Baby-Bjorn. I tell ya', he just wants to be snuggled and rocked.

[which is a good thing, because if he'd inherited the wife's penchant for motion sickness we'd ALL be in trouble!]

Being out and about in these conditions, not to mention seeing nothing but white outside my window all day, led me to thinking about an old Top Secret adventure: Operation: Whiteout. Written by none other than Merle Rasmussen, creator of Top Secret, Whiteout appeared in the July 1984 issue of Dragon magazine, one of the first I ever owned (I still have it, but it's so old I'm missing the cover, which is why I can't cite the issue number).

Operation: Whiteout is a very cool adventure: players infiltrate an installation in Antarctica to find out to what extent a group of neo-survivalists might be up to nefariousness. Similar to TS:0 (Operation: Pisces, included with the TS game), it provides a site based adventure with many numbered encounters, a list of NPCs, and several pre-gens. It's non-linear in design, and while there is a plot (so to speak), there's no designated timeline of events to push the action. PCs are able to work in their own fashion and the bad guys will go about their daily business. It's pretty cool, a good example of what a nice Top Secret adventure should look like.

On the other hand, looking at it makes me think: wow, that is a crapload of work Mr. Rasmussen put into it. Lots of specific rules for Antarctica (including weather tables, vehicles and movement rates, random crevasses and systems for identifying them and what happens if you don't, etc.), plus the installation itself, complete with individual named and statted NPCs (close to 50...all with varying degrees of knowledge about the operations, day and night encounter areas, job occupation, etc.). A tiny little microcosm world of adventure...and if the PCs do what they're supposed to do, in an intelligent manner, they'll bypass most everything Merle bothered to write-up. He's just accounted for a ton of different possible contingencies.

Just thinking about what went into the writing of this simple Dragon magazine adventure makes me exhausted. It would take hours of research on the scientific outposts in Antarctica alone (not to mention the history of the continent and various international treaties) to do this...and 1984 was long before the internet and wikipedia. Wow.

I don't know if I'm just lazy or if Rasmussen is just uber-dedicated.

Between that and re-reading Haven: City of Violence the other day, I've got Top Secret on the brain (or so it would appear). Maybe I need to run a game of TS. Last Thursday I played a board game down at the Mox which was fun but less-than-satisfying. I could probably be up to snuff on Whiteout by tomorrow...assuming anyone comes out in the snow (I doubt I'll be driving to Cafe Mox...I wonder who I can get to show up at the Baranof).

Top Secret...gosh, maybe I need to do a series of post on that. I wonder if I'll be going to work tomorrow...
: )


  1. I recently ran a two-sessions short campaign based on "The Thing" movie (using the GUMSHOE rules) and I had to do quite a bit of research to just "frame" the adventure, give PCs appropriate backgrounds etc.; and I used the internet. Indeed I can only imagine how much time it would have took me just to do the research bit. Just a note that this was one of the best campaigns I have ever run. The players were so paranoid, that in the end, one of them (a doctor and commandant of the station) decided to kill himself and ALL the others by detonating a grenade on the chopper come to rescue them. Everyone (me included) was simply stunned by this finale. Awesome nihilist fun.

  2. Well, someone else who owns Haven! I thought I was the only one!

    And "Operation: Whiteout" was on eof my favorite adventures back in the day. :)

  3. @ Antonio: Damn, I envy your opportunity to *play* GUMSHOE. I own two of the games (Trail of Cthulhu and Mutant City Blues) and have yet to get the chance.

    And Carpenter's The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all time.
    : )

    @ Anthony: Yep, picked up Haven, used, awhile's a little dark for my tastes these days, though.
    ; )

  4. "Whiteout" was in Dragon #87. You're not missing much with that cover... following on Denis Beauvais' awesome work for #86, I found Jack Crane's "The Enchanted Forest" to be less than enchanting. (Sorry)

    Lucky thing Rasmussen was there... the Ares articles were good, but the rest of the magazine was wasted on me.

    & a third (predictable) cheer for The Thing... & a less predictable plea for the awesomeness of In the Mouth of Madness.

  5. I used Fear Itself, since it's the grittier of all the GUMSHOE games. With possible exception of Trail of Cthulhu, which I don't own (yet).
    It's also the lighter in terms of rules, with fewer skills (for example, there is only one catch-all skill for all the investigative procedures.)