Saturday, September 6, 2014

Premise Beach: Gaming the first season of Mission: Impossible

I've been watching the television series Mission: Impossible from start to finish, and am now done with the first season.

For those who don't know, the first season didn't star Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, but instead the main IMF agent was Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill (who went on decades later to plan DA Adam Schiff on Law and Order).  More trivia: Hill agreed to the role as long as they respected his orthodox Judaism.  The producers did, not realizing that meant that he wouldn't work on the Sabbath.  As a result, Hill was often unavailable and the series had to rely more heavily on other cast members, especially Martin Landau, who had not wanted that active a role on the show so he could be free to do movie roles.

While the cast would settle into the same five regular characters, the initial premise of the show had one sole full-time agent who would draw from a pool of volunteers or contract agents.  Despite having a consistent cast in the credits, in actuality the first season's roster of IMF agents was fairly fluid, and could have as few as two or as many as eight (although almost all of them had Martin Landau playing Rollin Hand).

I like the idea of part-time spies, and the light-hearted, clever, relatively non-violent (especially for this day and age), and moralistically black-and-white nature of the show really appeals to me these days.  In the wake of national events I'm having a bit of introspection about hobbies that have innately violent elements, so the notion of out-thinking an opponent rather than killing them has some traction with me.  Although to be fair, a lot of the bad guys in M:I would often end up being killed by their communist or criminal overseers as a consequence of whatever hijinks had occurred.

There's two ways to go about re-creating a Season One-style Mission: Impossible game.  One is to use a rules-heavy modern era game like d20 Modern or Aether.  The other is to go with a game based on a modern-day M:I premise: Leverage.  It's pretty straightforward for that system: Briggs, and then later Phelps, is the Mastermind.  Barney is the Hacker (early version).  Cinnamon is the Grifter.  Rollin is the Thief (and a little Grifter).  Willy is the Fighter.  I should stat these guys out sometime.

1 comment:

  1. A game like this would appeal to me, but, not to a lot of other players. Generally, players like an easy to understand combat than outsmarting opponents. Making experience points or equivalent rely on nonviolent solutions could be the answer. I will say the M:I program was able to build suspense consistently well.