So we thwarted a real-world terrorist attack this one time.


There were four of us in the game group playing on the weekends in the attic of Housing. It’s 1987 and West Germany still existed and that’s where we were on an unusually sunny day ((If you’ve been to Germany, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)), huddled around a table in a darkened room playing roleplaying games. Teenagers.

The game was Top Secret/SI, where you play a bunch of spies doing spy stuff. The mission wasn’t going well. We wound up in the middle of a stupid rules argument. See, one of the agent’s cars was rammed off a bridge into the water below and the character tried to swim to safety. But he didn’t have any points in in the Swim skill. Because I was a teenager that didn’t understand that the primary purpose of roleplaying games was to tell awesome stories nor did I understand that secret agents were supposed to be awesome at what they do, I naturally ruled that if you didn’t put any points into swim, your character didn’t know how to swim.

“That’s stupid,” one of the teenage boys countered. I don’t remember his name, but I still remember this dumb argument. “Everybody knows how to swim!”

I didn’t.

I responded by saying if we were all Swiss teenage boys, we’d be arguing that “everybody knows how to ski” because we’re from Switzerland and everyone knows how to ski there. But look, we aren’t from Switzerland and we don’t know how to ski, which is why we, if we were characters in this game, would have to put points into the Ski skill.

John Wick’s Wilderness of Mirrors fixes all this, by the way.

I won over the group with that, but I could tell this person whose name I can’t remember was still upset that his secret agent nearly drowned, so we took a break for a few minutes. One of the gamers went over to the window to bask in the actual sunlight, glanced down, and said, “Hey, I think that guy has an Uzi.”

We went over to the window, curious.

Down there, in a four-door sedan, were three, maybe four, men in plainclothes. In the lap of the man in the front on the passenger side was a submachine gun. It was down in his lap, hidden from view from passersby. But not from us, four stories nearly straight up.

We couldn’t see the other people’s weapons, but he said that all of them were armed.

So we went downstairs to our nearly drowned secret agent’s player’s apartment and told his mom. She called the MPs.

I used the word “Housing” above. This was right next to a military base: Campbell Barracks in Heidelberg, West Germany. There were three blocks in Housing, each with three four-story tall long apartments that were used for the families of married US Army servicemen. To the right of the car with the men with guns, the entrance to Campbell. In front of, the main gates to the NATO and HQ USAREUR section where some sort of meeting was going on that day.

It was kind of an important area.

During my time there — I’m not sure if it was before this or after, someone tried to get into Campbell through the main gate using a fake ID. It was only spotted by the person in the car behind that guy when that second driver saw the back of the fake ID was a playing card. The second driver shouted to the guard to stop that car. They did. Inside the trunk: explosives.

So she’s on the phone with the Military Police. Is there anybody else outside? Yes, it was a sunny day. There were children playing in the courtyard playground. Okay, they said. We need someone to get those kids out of there. The MPs are on the way.

Our secret agent player was frozen. He wasn’t going to go out there. So I did. Outside. With my back to armed gunmen who might open fire if they realized what I was doing. And I sheperded the three kids out of harm’s way.

I don’t tell this story that often, but it fit today’s topic. Somewhat.

The MPs arrived and took the car away.

One year ago: Favorite Publisher

Last year my answer was “anyone that pays their freelancers on time”. I’m lucky enough to work in a field with good companies and people; I have clients that don’t delay payments or act in bad faith. At least two of my clients have surprised me with bonuses, one with payments beyond what was negotiated because they realized they were instigating scope creep or realized that one element of the job was much more complex than we both anticipated.

So the same holds true today.

Two years ago: Favorite Game Fiction

“Captain Seymour Dicklogic broodingly surveyed his fleet.”

Ug. I still hate Game Fiction. Those annoying one to four page slices of life from the setting put at the start of game book chapters, especially when you have different writers with completely different styles? Bleah.

Oddly, I like example text that has in-game fiction snippets.

Last year and the year before, my answer was the Shadowtalk in Shadowrun’s earlier editions. It still holds true to today. Those game books existed in the game world — what you were reading (up until the “Game Information” back half) were files that you could download, annotated with comments and threads of comments. Here’s what I wrote about the Aztlan sourcebook:

But back in the SR2 era, there was the Aztlan sourcebook, which starts as a datafile about Azltan/Aztechnology that includes an entire secretly-recorded conversation cryptically commenting about that datafile in standard ShadowTalk format. But no, that is not the file you are reading. You were reading the leaked file with the secret cabal’s comments in it and everyone is now commenting on the datafile and the cabal’s conversation. Not only that, but some members of the secret cabal came to this leaked file and made their own comments about it.

Fantastic stuff.

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