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The Agency

The Agency - The Queen's Men

For me the best part of a gaming convention is to try new systems and ones you have maybe dabbled in. The former because buying new game systems when already a fair proportion of home and office shelves bulge with them is no longer an option (especially with a reluctance to part with systems gathering dust on said shelves) the latter because it is always good to see how others run a system you may not be too familiar with and well, it saves reading the rules, dun it.

The nature of convention games is that they are generally run fairly tightly and aimed at a group that are possibly somewhat unknowing of the system, genre or even roleplaying in general. This makes them absolutely perfect after sloshing your way down to Birmingham on a Friday armed with little more than a train ticket, bundle of clothes, toothbrush and your bodyweight in cans of Carling and Fosters (and a recently cleared credit card begging to be loaded up).


So with this in mind we booked The Queen's Men, set in the 'universe' of The Agency.

The Agency is a roleplaying game where players take on the roles of sixties style secret agents fighting the supernatural, so long hair, velvet suites, frilly cuffs and walking canes all round.

With our usual level of pre-game recon we were both hung-over (this being the Saturday) and blissfully oblivious to even the vaguer points of either genre or system. Suffice to say, somebody red 60's spies and that was good enough.

Armed with beer and staring at the GM who probably regretted ever agreeing to run an adventure, we listened somewhat half-heartedly while he explained.

The game is 'the show that never was'. The characters are the Queen's Men, this being a variant of the The Agency, set in an earlier period. Nope, this didn't register, nor did his comment that suiting my character up in a dapper wing collared coat, top hat and impressive drooping moustache was impressively anachronistic.

The explanation continued. The game is set on two levels. At one level there are a series of events that take place and the characters have to outwit, outfight and outthink the adversaries encountered, be they monsters, minions or natural events. Your run-of-the-mill RPG stuff we are all familiar with. The other level however puts a twist on this that I have never encountered the like of before. The whole of the stuff above is nothing more than poorly made stage props as the whole thing is nothing more than the set of a TV programme. In this case it was a TV programme suffering from budget cuts at a time when stuntmen are striking. The whole thing was being directed by a mad Frenchman (or was he German? accents were all over the show).

The game is very much rules light with a few stats and skills and motif about the character (as portrayed in the show). I went with facial close-ups in important scenes. These can be used to keep a character in a scene they would normally be booted from when, for a better expression, everything goes tits-up for them.
Each player also gets to chuck into the pot a complication that can later be taken by a player to give their character a bonus in that scene but will come back to haunt them. You make them up.

We added: foreign spy; drunk on set; wooden leg; betrayed by lover

The story was fairly straightforward. Earl of Dudley had abducted the daughter of a Lord Eltham (it was not dawning on me that maybe it was going to be set in mini-skirt heaven) and had taken her to an abandoned castle.

We opened with a quick one-on-one for each player to introduce the character and get a feel for how their actor plays him. A wizards lab with strange bubbling beakers and glass jars filled with pickled creatures for Dr John Dee, some roughhousing for Sir Francis Bacon and for Christopher Marlowe (my character), apologising to the lady as he leaves the bed to answer the Queens call (with cover strategically placed to cover the corset of the overweight middle-aged actor).

The opening scene in which the description of castle on the hill was met by a reiteration of the Camelot scene from Monty Pythons Holy Grail quickly got us into the swing of the game. Pretending to be an actor who is playing the part of the an Elizabethan agent, struggling under the weight of fallen masonry which is in fact polystyrene, polystyrene which due to budget cuts is only painted on one side. Lots of swaying around in our chairs with arms above heads trying to keep the imaginary painted side of the block pointing towards cameras ensued. More beer was ordered.

We battle our way through tumbling polystyrene blocks while hands in painted marigold gloves reach out at us from just off camera and things are going well, that is until one of the unpaid extras (as there are no stuntmen) manages to slap Sir Francis Bacon by accident. A proper punch-up occurs pretty much bringing everything down and the scene is wrapped as the Bacon, mosschops now dangling is last seen chasing the extra between the trailers.

Further scenes unfold in which Dr John Dee uses his mystical powers of levitation (things dangling from fishing rods) and a hurled monster strikes a fire alarm, which requires post-production sound effects and voice over. Most of them start with Bacon sporting a fresh set of moss-chops (in assorted colours, having quickly exhausted his own stock causing make-up to improvise) and end with him pummelling the same extra. More beer is consumed both by actors and players alike.

Oh, right, so we are in Elizabethan times. Gotcha. My character will ditch his top hat for the next scene.
Dealing with mermaids (shot in soft focus) looking to drag us into the ornamental pond required some cunning. The first was persuaded to slip out of the scene and make her way to the trailer of the character playing Christopher Marlowe. To the other it was explained that with one mermaid on the boil back at the caravan, the scene needed to be over pretty sharp, so irrespective of what it said in the script, if the little lady didnt bugger off right now, she would never work in television again. Scene wraps with Bacon dunking extra in the ornamental pond off camera.

The final scene in which (we decided with a much obliging GM to change the ending) it is revealed that the Earl of Dudley is in fact the Lord Elthams daughter the very same one my actors character started the episode in bed with (er, no it didnt make sense, if she was already abducted. We vaguely justified it as the same actress also likely to be one of the mermaids whatever, nobody watching the show would give a figs). The whole abduction thing was a ruse to lure us into a trap. It also ties up the betrayal of lover complication I picked up earlier.



A few minutes later my character is hopping across the set using his wooden leg (yeah, got that one as well) to drive back minions of the nobles daughter while Sir Francis Bacon crosses foils with the lady herself. I say lady, though by this point she has been replaced by a certain extra in a very poor wig. An extra out for revenge it needs to be added. Soon fake swords have been discarded and the pair are fighting dirty, scrapping their way across the set, knocking over fake walls and calling each other wankers. The director is having a field day, saying it is brilliant, this is how they would fight and to keep rolling. Bacon grapples her/him to a hold and rips of the wig. Dr Dee declares its a man and the camera zooms in Christopher Marlowes face (recreated at the gaming table by use of fingers and thumbs to frame my face to a reveal a look of horror.

As it turned out, the chap running the game was none other than its creator. We bumped into him the following day, quite sober for a change. He confirmed that we had actually played it in the fashion it was meant (there was a debate over breakfast as to whether he was just humouring a bunch of drunks). I would recommend giving it a go for pure comedy value.





 
News
Is open for business...
 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Wimbles Crisis Solved ***

The Wimble Crisis of 217 has come to an end with the human Baron making way to the wimble Grandfather Paden Mastaak. Celebrations were held in Wimbledon upon the news with crack teams of Wimble security staff guarding all the pies.

It’s unclear how long the Wimbles will enjoy this new era of peace and self-determination.

Vocal Wimble Dinasha, one of Paden’s early backers, has chosen this precarious moment to bait Dewiek, Flagritz and humans who were initially disposed to be friendly to the new administration. Whilst the Wimbles' history with the former-slave-loving Flagritz could be understood, their animosity towards the Dewiek and humans was more mysterious. One insider alluded to a rise in the number of cases of foot-and-mouth across the herd as being a likely cause.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Storm in a Teacup *** Yahn Bares All * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door ***

The stargates are closed! Reports from multiple sources indicate at least three of the stargates, all within Dewiek controlled systems, have been closed.

Two different sources have indicated that the TCA have been spotted recently in a number of systems and may be behind this turn of events. A scan sent to the SSS indicated eight TCA ships were recently spotted first in the Faery system and later near the Kasmer stargate.

Another source, suspiciously put the blame on the ARC, suggesting the ARC and DEN were working together because they “need to trap [the TCA] and try and finish them off after the DEN bodged their operation to protect the ARC while they incinerated the MEK homeworld, which ended up with several ARC ships being destroyed and the job only being half done."

However, with no public statement from the Dewiek themselves, its hard to know whether these rumours are reliable.

Lord Igor of the Dominion and Erasmus Andersen of the Garcia Family both offered public apologies at the delay in meeting their trade commitments because of the recent closures. The not-so-subtle subtext being that someone will pay with blood for this interference in their business. Or at least with a stealthy price rise.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Wimble Civil Strife * Who Sniffs the Sniffers? * Largin’ It * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Videtis quantum scelus contra rem publicam vobis nuntiatum sit? ***

The Flagritz Empire is no more! The Flagritz Republic is reborn! Quick on the heel of the collapse of the Empire, the Fessin caste declared a new era of foreign and economic policy with a rapid withdrawal behind the Black Gate.

The new ecologically-friendly Prime Minister Kayxaer, asked for patience as “economic” reforms were undertaken. It remains to be seen whether there will be any price to pay for the dramatic changes being made by the reclusive Flagritzi or whether it will all be sunshine and rainbows going forward.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Large at Large * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Bravo for Freedom ***

Naplian Forces have attacked three human pirate outposts in the Morroglyph system. A spokesperson for Naplia HQ told the press that the plucky duct-tape loving free people would continue their war against slavers and pirates in their home periphery.

One salty Naplian libertarian told the SSS, “The people of the Naplian Home Periphery are sick and tired of human criminals coming here just because their homeworld is an overcrowded hell. It’s time for them to go back home.”

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Igor of Fang and Horns * Admiral Loves Dick Turpin * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

.What is It?
..a wOrmhOle?.
…No.. worse..
….the KANG singularity!…
…..It pulls us IN…..
……lOOks sO familiar……
…….yet so strange…….
……..what is……..
………that?……..

*** Flagritz Liberalise Economy ***

In good news for all the galaxy the Flagritzi have vowed to liberate all slaves across their Empire. Furthermore, the hectapods have given up eating other sentient species; taking up a strict diet of veganism and soy chai lattes. Sales of turtle neck sweaters and Forbidden Fruit laptops have skyrocketed.

The news was cautiously welcomed by the benevolent Felini Tyranny who looked forward to reducing the War phase of their daily Nap-Lick-Nap-War-Nap-Eat-Sleep cycle to a perfunctory forty winks.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Baron Womble * A Short History of the DPP * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Empire Strikes: Solo ***

A massive fleet of some 1600 warships, including large numbers of super-heavy capital 300 and 400 hullers, attacked the DEN in the Solo system, catching them with their metaphorical pants down. The DEN gate platform and some two hundred DEN freighters were subject to antimatter missiles amongst other high tech ordinance.

Jack the lad, Viceroy of the Empire, claimed a victory for freedom and the Imperial (right of) way leaving the sullen Dewiek unusually unresponsive.

With DOM platforms firing on CIA ships, will the IMP now demand the DOM add them to the Do Not Fire lists as well? And what exactly is the nature of the DOM and DEN alliance in light of the sustained attack from the Empire? And will the DEN’s alien friends stand idly by as the Empire fleet camps in the vital gate system of Solo? How will the DEN retaliate for this action or are they ready to roll over and have their bellies rubbed?

All this remains unknown. All that is certain is the “feel good” factor across the DTR has increased, with citizens reassured that for some time yet, they may continue in their slumber with the easy assurance that their number is not coming up anytime soon.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * New BHD Guy * DOM Statement * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** To Ur Is Dewiek ***

Dewiek forces had a hefty smackdown against the mysterious living ships known as the T’Cath (TCA). Seven adult TCA 400 hull capital ships, each firing eight of their notorious plasma cannons, were killed by a DEN and DOM fleet of some 700 ships.

Of the minimal losses suffered by the DEN / DOM, one-eyed Magnus and Nevets Motnhap of the FEL were amongst the dead.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Caribbean Congo Continues * Ur Witness Report * * Hive Briefing * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** The Long Quiet Season ***

Listen…
There’s no sound of anger or of annoyance,
There’re neither cruisers racing on the jump lanes
Nor there jump lanes for them to race on,
There’re neither monks chanting on the battlegrounds
Nor bells calling us to the True One.
There’s neither the lightning cracking of the sky
Nor the persistent Naplians pattering on my roof.
There’s no Dewiek arm in arm to admire the magnificent view
There’re no war drums to feed Human ears
Nor Hive sirens to steal the boredom away
There’s no unfamiliar wing creeping underneath the Falconian sun
Nor floods to enshroud the Aquaphid grounds
The land lies lonely out here
On this lazy summer’s day
There’s no pollution to poison the airs of Inversion
Nor forests to give them life
All I hear is the hushing sound of the wind
Assisting the sand to fall into beautiful undulations.

Whilst we’ve been away: * Operation Giantslayer * Naplian Liberation * Back in the DTTR * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Falconians Saved ***

The Imperials have cunningly saved the Falconian Republic from being consumed by the Dewiek Elder Nation and at no small cost to the DEN either. Whilst the new pro tem Consul crowed about the “victory”, all former FCN systems besides Acropolis have been taken over by the two warring Empires - Human and Flagritz.

Was it all worth it? For the IMP / GTT it clearly was, for the movement of a few hundred thousand troops is surely nothing to the cost they endured trying to and failing to knock the DEN out of Solo after the fact. The FCN now plucked off most of their navy and wider assets are a tiny nothing of their former self. The DEN may have resorted to some dirty namecalling but can the costs endured to save an enfeebled FCN have really been worth it? Time will tell.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * INDignation * FELicitous Caribbean * Nah Plan for Naplia * Mercs Trouble DEN * &etc

 

Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic