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Deniable Asset
by Dave M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2013 09:00:54

Cross-posted from Modus Operandi:

Introduction Deniable Asset is an espionage roleplaying game with a heavy narrative bent written by Eric D. Sack and Brent Spivey and published by Random Encounters. It is currently available as a 47 page PDF from DriveThruRPG/RPGNow (purchase link at the bottom of the review).

Content Aside from semi-coloured back and front cover (which cleverly wraps around if you print it yourself), the PDF is a black and white, two-column affair. The text is spaced out with large margins and it doesn't take long to read through all the rules. Spaced throughout are various "quotes" (some of which I'm sure I should recognise) but there is not internal artwork.

Character creation is described in a single page and could easily be completed by complete beginners with just that information in the first 10 or 15 minutes of a game at a convention.

This is followed by 8 pages that contain the actual rules. These are relatively straightforward although a little indexing (or bookmarking) of the PDF would have been useful.

Mission creation is covered over 3 pages and then there are single page sections for Refresh scenes (a roleplaying scene where the agents get a chance to recover damage), chase scenes, obstacles, and Espionage Points (which allow extra dice to be rolled at important moments).

Character advancement is next along with advancing both gear and support team members (3 pages) before a single page on "Special FX Budget" which basically states that the game uses a "gritty" budget but doesn't explain any additional levels that may be used.

Finally we have 5 pages aimed purely at running the game with advice for those in the GM hot seat.

System Mechanically, Deniable Asset uses a d12 dice pool system which it calls the "Power of 12". A number of d12 are rolled based on the attribute (here called Modus Operandi) and each roll of 7 or more is counted as a success. There are four attributes (Blunt Instrument, Infiltrator, Investigator, and Technician) and you assign a number of points to each as you see fit (6 to your best area, 5 next, then 4 and finally 3). In order to attempt a task, you pick the attribute you'd like use and narrate how you'd use it. This is where I find the rules breaking down a little. One of the examples is "[u]sing a gun" and, in it, it explains how you could use any of the attributes to fire the weapon (rather than just the obvious choice of Blunt Instrument) as long as the narrative backs it up. This means that, in essence, and with a bit of clever thinking, you could always use your best attribute to complete tasks. Indeed, this is highlighted but then hand waved with a "this is a role playing game" response (twice in fact) before stating that, actually, you might want to use a weaker attribute in order to protect your stronger ones against damage. In regards to damage, similar to the PDQ System, the attribute used in a losing conflict is reduced by one. This is regardless of the total number of successes which seems a little strange as the rules state that the greater the number of successes the more, well, successful the attempt - this obviously doesn't translate directly into damage. Once a character's attributes are all reduced to zero then they are dead - except they aren't. Instead the player or the GM can choose to take/give a Flaw (which is a small phrase relating to the "death"). Anytime it is deemed appropriate, the Flaw can be enacted and a single d12 is taken away from the attribute roll. Similar to Flaws are Perks which add a single d12 to an attribute roll.

Conclusion As previously mentioned, Deniable Asset is heavily based on the narrative with the group, as a whole, working towards creating an interesting and dynamic story. As such, the rules are on the light side. This isn't my normal sort of game though so I found it a bit jarring. However, amongst the burgeoning "Indie" community, I can see this game working well.

Rating: 7/10

[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deniable Asset
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Deniable Asset: Hiding in the Mosque
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/11/2011 12:15:51

This compact product provides all you need to play a short adventure of Deniable Asset, which will be a contemporary spy game designed using the Power of 12 game mechanic and with the intent to launch you straight into fast and furious action. So it begins, after a note from your 'section chief' that welcomes agents with a stark reminder that their job is merely to complete missions as assigned: no questions asked, no moral quibbles permitted.

First up is a chart of agent characters. Whilst the adventure is intended for 1 to 4 players, the idea is - unlike many such quick-starts which have a more 'take it or leave it' approach - to let the players choose a character most appropriate to the concept they'd like to play. This is facilitated by it being possible to cram all you need to know about eight agents on a single sheet! The benefit of systems designed for minimal preparation: each character has four skills that they are good at, the rest covers basic description, languages spoken (fortunately everyone has a couple in common...) and so on. Next comes sufficient explanation to actually use the characters in a game. It's very simple - each skill (called a Modus Operandi) has a number beside it, that being the number of D12s you roll (NOT role... sort the difference out please, proofreader!) when you try to use that skill. If you want to do anything not covered by the Modus Operandi you have, you default to a single D12. Each roll of 7 or more is a success, and for every die that comes up 12 you get to roll another one. The main thing, though, is that any action you want to perform has to be role-played, described - you don't accomplish things by rolling dice alone!

There are two styles of play, Micro and Macro. In Micro play, you decide for every action what if any of your skills apply and roll the appropriate number of dice. For Macro play, you choose the most apposite skill for the intended outcome - so if you are trying to cause harm to someone, EVERY action to that end will come under your Blunt Instrument skill (even if you start off by trying to find out where your intended victim is... which in Micro play might involve your Investigation skill).

Every roll is opposed, often by someone else (if you are trying to hit or bamboozle someone, for example). The key thing is to get more successes than the opposing roll. To help with that, you have a finite pool of Espionage Points which you may add as extra dice to any roll... provided you can come up with a good explanation of what clever trick or piece of equipment you are using to give yourself an edge. When they're gone, they're gone, so use them wisely. The remainder of the system is described in equally simple terms, with the key to everything being able to explain what it is that you want to do and how you intend to accomplish it before actions are actually resolved by rolling the dice.

Rules explained, the actual scenario is presented, 'For Administrator Eyes Only' of course! Oh, and it's quite a treat... at least from the GM's point of view. It starts with the characters in a situation that's probably not quite what your players expect, and gives plenty of opportunity thereafter for them to role-play and interact through what transpires thereafter... and that is not straightforward, no simple introductory mission here. Layer upon layer of intrigue, the characters having to decide whom to believe as well as what to do and how to do it... and like all the best introductionary scenarios, there is plenty to base further adventures on if you'd like.

This has a freshness and charm about it, a concept of treating any interaction as a 'conflict' to be won or lost, or resolved, in the same manner whether you use firearms or words to achieve your goals. Even if you prefer a different ruleset, this can provide an overlay, and a cracking adventure. Look out for the release of the full game!

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Deniable Asset: Hiding in the Mosque
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