It is seriously scary these days how short of a time between wanting something, and having it come to your door. Well, two days after learning about this, it is here, and I am seriously impressed with this book. This is not a POD hardcover, this is a professional job, the paper-stock is really heavy - almost stiff - and there is a built in bookmark. Good binding from what I can tell. All the additional content from different editions of the game is included. The book was even shrink-wrapped in plastic, and in pristine quality with no bent corners or damage.
I did pay a little more than list price, but in my feeling, worth it. I will get way more use out of this than a similarly priced video game, and it will last me a lot longer. If you love this game it is highly recommended. If you are curious, please go for the PDF.
Will this just sit on a shelf? I get this feeling I will say that now, but end up flipping through and enjoying this one much more than other books I have picked up recently. To me, when the creator goes out of their way to create a better-than-POD book, it elevates the game to a level where I enjoy it more. This is not to say I am not thankful for my POD books, it is just in this era we have publishers going the extra mile on crafting a lasting, quality experience, and that shows a love and respect for their players that I really appreciate.
Nicely done here.
Will I Use It?
There is something about the alternate universe of T&T and MSPE that appeals to me. T&T is a "handful of dice" game that tosses away chapters full of rules for a bucket of dice, dark humor, and some timeless solo adventures. MSPE to me is simple at its core, and it has that "roll 3d6 for your scores and go" feeling where I could pick an old movie, create some characters for the stars of the show, and play through the film my way.
Both of them are not B/X, but retro in the same way, and simple and incredibly easy to get going. A few games still sing to me these days, and this is one. It is hard to put my finger on it, but for years this game felt somehow different and special, even though our main campaign never used these rules - this system still felt like a treasure to me. It has a timeless quality like a movie made a long time ago that never really gets old, and while games today come and go, this one I can keep coming back to again and again.
It still captures my imagination.
It is funny, since games like D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder 1, D&D 4, and many others I feel had times that came and gone. I can still play them today, but what made them fun for me at the time were the other people playing them. You were a part of the crowd. People were talking about them. They were part of the shared excitement and culture.
With MSPE I bet many playing today have never heard of it, and I remember buying this a long time ago when I was a kid. We never really used it that much, but it felt special then like it feels special now. And it transcended decades of gaming to still feel relevant and interesting, despite its relative obscurity today.
As a set of rules, it is short and a less heroic subset of T&T with some add-ons for modern gear. There is a skill system. Leveling is the old chart-based method. The scores never blow out beyond human normal. This is a simple 3d6 system, with a 2d task resolution system. Combat is incredibly deadly (and there is a lot of missed shots). So what makes it feel special?
The art is a huge part of this game. That cover nails it for me and ushers in the golden age of Hollywood in all its spectacle and glory. This is the "movie game" for most all of film from 1920 to 1990. And it does it all with a simple 3d6 system like D&D but not D&D.
With a B/X game, the B/X elements would take over the feeling. You would roll those stats, pick a class, and the first thought in my head would be, "Where is the dungeon?" It is hard for me to escape that feeling with B/X since it feels embedded into the DNA of the rules.
With MSPE, this is a 3d6 system, but T&T is the dungeon game and that works on an entirely different scale than the modern rules. You can't really "dungeon" here, and the focus becomes the story. Not buckets of dice, please avoid combat, and let your skills and abilities be how you do things. The rules almost "aren't there" and they melt away as a backdrop. You are supposed to roleplay here, and figure your way through a complex plot with in-depth characters and NPCs.
The rules are secondary, but they are there to keep this a game. If you know how saving rolls work that is 80-90% of what you need to know to play and referee. The combat chart in essence is just a saving roll guideline table, so even that can be eliminated if you understand how ranged combat should work. Determine a challenge and pass/fail results, pick an ability, determine a saving roll level, modify, and have the player roll. That is most of the game.
The Feeling is the Game
One could say MSPE is a feeling embedded in the game's DNA like B/X's feeling is embedded. With B/X, light a torch, descend into the depth, fight monsters, and grab the loot. With MSPE, you merely need to think of your favorite classic movie and crack open the book.
If T&T's home world was Trollworld, a world run by monsters and savagery; MSPE's home world in my mind is Filmworld, a world where every movie in the gold and silver age of cinema plays over and over again, all starting the same way, but the outcomes are a million butterflies scattered to the wind. Those outcomes are determined by those who play.
To me, if B/X is the quintessential kitchen-sink fantasy game, then MSPE is the quintessential "every movie without a licensing deal" kitchen-sink film roleplaying game. Casablanca, Seven Days of the Condor, Easy Rider, any Sam Spade film, any Kubrick film, classic TV like The Untouchables, Gunsmoke, and the list goes on and on - this game covers them all in spirit and feeling.
Could I use another generic system, such as GURPS? True, but that would take hours of startup and getting everything setup and ready. GURPS is this realistic "sim" style game in my feeling, great for some things, but for games where your initial investment of time and thought should be on the level of "roll 3d6 for your stats and play" MSPE feels like the better choice. If we are going to play Sam Spade adventures tonight I don't want players pouring over books full of advantages, disadvantages, point-buy skills, and hours of character optimization (or questions from new players).
For a sim, yes, definitely a detail-oriented game works. For something intended to be lightweight, one-night, and possibly throw-away? Give me a simple 3d6 and go game like MSPE. Could I just use B/X and save myself even more time? I could, but the "why aren't we in a dungeon" feeling creeps up on me again. For me, MSPE is removed enough from dungeon-ing that it feels distinct and to the task, and there is always T&T sitting there in the basement with a bucketful of six-sided dice should the catacombs call.