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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
******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite and most reliable unbiased publication in the known universe from our home in the Heartland,

And so with the news from the last couple of weeks,


Cluster War! DNA Gather Fruit
 
******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe from our home in the Heartland,

And so with the news from the last few weeks,


Cluster War! MZC attacks DNA
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

The Dewiek rise again!

After the death and destruction wrought upon the Dewiek Nation by the Architects, there was a period of calm if you were a werewolf fancier. But now the Dewiek have risen to once more in the name of the Dewiek Packs, led by Skarn. Their new message being one of peace, a most unusual change for the large humanoid wolves. While they rise from the ashes of the Mizuchi Combine the Galaxy waits to see how this new affiliation acts, baring in mind the Dewiek have something of reputation.

Empire invade the Cluster!

A significant force of GTT warships recently entered the Cluster, somewhere they have not seen the need to go for a very long time. At the same time the CIA banned the Dewiek Packs from it’s space and also sent a large number of warships into the Cluster to bolster the GTT’s presence. After this show of force the Crossley system, known for it’s wormhole connecting from the Cluster to CIA space shifted to be claimed by the GTT. Currently the Empire has over 200,000 troops and 2000 warships roaming the nearby systems. Inhabitants of the Cluster are waiting to see if there are any further developments. GTT CEO Xavier Fox when asked by our office dismissed it as a “Training exercise”.

Krell sale!

The Krell Clan Dark Angels has been selling off bases, outposts and even systems lately. It is unknown why they have decided to cash in their assets and territories, but it points to the accumulation of significant wealth by the Krell clan. If you have any spare cash and want to expand your assets then it seems to our office that the best place to go is the Dark Angel Clan and ask what will be going up for sale next, assuming they actually have anything left.

*** Affiliations ***

AFT Association of Free Traders (54) - Marion Tweedy
BLG Bolg Organisation (22) - Akhenaten
BHD Brotherhood (63) - de Molay
CIA Combined Intelligence Agency (64) - Laton CIA
DNA Displaced Natives Asylum (66) - DNA people
DTR Detinus Republic (58) - Morley Decker
DEN Dewiek Elder Nation (67) - <unknown>
DWK Dewiek Packs (19) - Skarn
FCN Falconian Republic (70) – Bacran *
FEL Felini Tyranny (49) - Juris
FLZ Flagritz Republic (47) - Kayxaer
FET Frontier Exploration & Trade (56) - Cu Chulainn
GTT Galactic Trade & Transport (52) - Xavier Fox
GCE Garcia Enterprises (4) - Neil
HEX Hexamon (23) - <unknown>
KRL Krell (30) - Namica
KRT Krell of the Reverence Temple (37) - Kal Torak
KST Kastor Kastorians (12) - Kastor
MZC Mizuchi Combine (86) - Mizuchi
MOH Mohache (73) – Listens
NHS Noble Houses (41) – Roy Roberts
NLF Naplian Liberation Front (38) - NLFHQ
SMS Stellar Mining and Smelting (53) - MikhailM
WMB Wimble Nations (25) - zz

* Leader MAY be inactive, affiliation may be active
** Only known contact, please update us if this is incorrect.

NPC / FoC: ARC, CIV, CGT, FRE, HBO, HEF, IND, ISP, JCN, MEK, MRC, PIR, PRV, TCA, TRN, KAS
Inactive: ANT, COD, DOM, HVE, IDC, IMP, RIP, RCF, SKW, TAG

*** Submissions ***

By private message to The Editor or via Mica if you prefer to remain anonymous.
 
GTT step forward to control protection and peace in the Stellar Empire.

With the retirement of Jack Johns and various lower-level IMP officers from public life, the Imperial Services were left on the verge of being unable to fill their role as protectors of the Stellar Empire. Due to the serious nature the Imperial Services found itself in, the Emperor recently travelled to GTT HQ to attend a board meeting with the directors of the GTT.

With Galactic Trade and Transport being one of the few remaining loyal Imperial Chartered affiliations, who also supply well over half of the war material to the Imperial Services, the Emperor sought the position of the GTT with regard to the Imperial Services becoming overburdened with bureaucracy and lacking effective leadership. Effectively the Imperial Services were at the point of collapse. A position highlighted when an opportunistic supposed ally subverted four Imperial Outposts in the Inner Empire, thinking their asset grabbing would go unnoticed.
 
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  Star Date: 221.30.5

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RAGNAROK COMES

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A Forlorn Hope

The seat of Dewiek Government has fallen. What began as a small group of Architect ships picking up retreating DEN forces, amalgamated into a much larger force. The bombardment fleet comprised dozens of Adult ARC ships plus several Planet Killers. The force made short work of the impressive fortifications of the planetary orbit of Newstart. Multiple heavily armoured and maximised deflector shield platforms crumbled. They did so only after releasing their volleys of antimatter and nova weapon batteries. Any DEN warships that remained from earlier encounters also stood the line. But within the week, the last defence was gone.

Bombardment of Wolf Lair starbase proceeded without further resistance from the Dewiek. ARC Plasmas ripped through starbase shields. They demolished tens of thousands of factories and research facilities. The ARC demolished the huge military recruitment and training facilities on the planet. Over half a million trained troops evacuated from deep bunkers, leaving a token ground defence.

The ARC were not satisfied to burn the facilities and murder the workers. They deployed repeated salvos of their Virus Bombs on the wider population. Reports began to arrive of civilians of the world regressing. Leaving settlements and returning to nature. Much as the Dewiek found themselves some decades ago when they started to recover from the First Great ARC-DEN War. This time there was no High Lord Magnus willing to obliterate the world to save a remnant of the people. Newstart was already lost.

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Newstart is lost

 
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  Star Date: 221.27.2

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RAGNAROK APPROACHES

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End Game Lost

A short-lived period of peace followed the Dewiek Elder Nation’s historic and Saga-worthy defence against the Architect Planet Killers. A handful of the more typically encountered ARC ships were spotted picking off DEN support ships in Forlorn Hope before more than forty of them appeared back in End Game.

While the ARC “Adult” class ships, as the DEN had previously classified them, were eight times smaller than the “Planet Killers”, they were still as big as the largest ships any other species has managed to produce. Including the otherwise technologically advanced Dewiek.

Forty-four of these Plasma armed organic vessels smashed through the DEN forces left circling the orbit of Beacon, End Game. The mass of ARC weapons bombarded the DEN Shipyards at Ragnorak with their superheated ionized gas, razing the entire outpost to the ground.

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ARC Plasma weapons devastate End Game

 
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  Star Date: 221.22.5

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RAGNAROK BECKONS

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Assault on End Game

The ancient Architects have declared war on the Dewiek Elder Nation. The first sign of the conflict was subspace transmissions in a remote system in the Pocket Periphery. This followed reports that the ancient Ragnarok shipyards on Beacon were malfunctioning. In response, the Wolf Mother sent urgent orders to several Dewiek scout ships to patrol the End Game system.

The Konungr Smidamadr was the first to encounter the gigantic, “Planet Killer” class ARC ships. Measuring in at thirty-two hundred heavy hulls and armed with a hundred ARC plasma weapons, the ship was more like a mobile armed platform. It is certainly the largest vessel ever recorded. The scout ship was vaporised instantly.

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ARC Planet Killer dwarves largest DEN warships

 
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  Star Date: 221.11.4

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Caste Apart

The Flagritz Republic is (very nearly) no more. In its place, a single Hexamon and Flagritz power has arisen. The new Collective has absorbed much of the Flagritz holdings with only a handful of Clique-caste Flagritz systems choosing instead to align with the other Elder species, the Dewiek.

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Flagritz and Hexamon Hybrids - A hope for the Future?

 
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  Star Date: 221.3.3

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Meklanmania

Meklan scout ships continue to be seen around the Orion Spur periphery. These cyborg creatures in service of hidden ancient masters appear to be terrorising the Wimble Nation in particular. Despite public lamentations against the hardship of defending themselves, the Wimble leadership have not yet responded to our request for comment.

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Artist's impression of a Meklanised Wimble

However, Xavier Fox, CEO of Galactic Transport and Trade, did give us the following statement:

“We have engaged several Meklan ships, although currently the source has not been identified. GTT Directors have been running patrols and have engaged and destroyed numerous ships that have attacked outlying outposts belonging to different affiliations. The pattern of ships encountered leads us to believe there is a central source, but until that is found we would suggest any affiliation with assets in the area provide adequate defences.”

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Doomsday On Pause

At the site of the Thete anomaly, the Dewiek Nation has sent media sensation Sharon Aleman to the scene. Aleman, whose cybernetic enhancements allow her to directly interface with her ship’s sensor array, led her hardened crew into a dive of the outermost “edge” of the anomaly. After spending several days collecting and analysing data (mere minutes to the rest of us outside the anomaly), Aleman reported her shocking discoveries.

 
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  Star Date: 220.50.5

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Veil Lifted on Flagritz Home Space

As the Hellcadium ISR field continues to fluctuate, one of the newly exposed systems is Junista inside the previously hidden and inaccessible home periphery of the Flagritz Republic.

Over the past few weeks Flagritz Republic patrols and platforms have dealt with a number of scout ships from the Human Empire as the IMP wasted no time in exploiting this opportunity to poke around in their old enemy’s backyard. It is understood that at least one of these unarmed scouts was destroyed with no one willing to estimate how many more might be buzzing around.

Coincidentally, suspected IMP lackey, SSL TOAD, has also been overheard showing an obsessive interest in the Flagritz periphery. However, we have received no reports of this being anything other than his usual drug-fueled, barely decipherable mutterings at this stage.

Either way, this sudden, uninvited interest in the Flagritz Periphery has left the FLZ leadership muttering darkly about appropriate measures being taken. Defensive fleets and supporting structures are being deployed in the Junista system and beyond in expectation of further uninvited guests.

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When You stare into the Flagritz Periphery...

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Thete's Timey-Wimey Tease

Investigation into the Thete anomaly continued in the Dewiek Pocket Periphery. The anomaly was scanned from all angles by a number of the Dewiek Nation’s best sensor ships and officers. The data, collected over several weeks, was sent to one of the DEN’s most advanced scientific laboratories for analysis.

What they found will shock you!

 

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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