East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes


The cover was what did it for me at the time – in a game shop filled with Larry Elmore’s buxom fantasy heroines and Chaosium’s tentacle monsters, the cover of Mercenaries, Spies and Private Eyes promised the sort of fun that I expected from a roleplaying game. I mean… Classy dames in fur? French-looking guys with silenced UZIs? Scarred evil masterminds? Explosions and brawling? Humphrey Bogart?!
Come on, shut up and take my money!

So I bought it.
The second time around, maybe five years later, my first box having been… ehm, borrowed and never returned (curses!), I ordered directly from Flying Buffalo Inc., taking advantage of an incredible special offer. I still have the box here on my shelf. Now that I think of it, this was probably my first ever online purchase. I used my Mosaic browser to access the Flying Buffalo web page.

The reason why I bought it twice is because MSPE was the sort of infinitely hack-able game system that was exactly what I needed, and what I liked. The way it handled skills and character creation was particularly advanced, given the fact the game came out in 1983, and it was pretty flexible, being geared towards simulating a pretty wide genre: espionage, mystery and thriller.

So you can say, I came for the cover, I stayed for the game.
Like most games I still cherish today (Call of Cthulhu and other D100 systems, the classic D6 System, Chill…), MSPE was the sort of game system you could learn reasonably quick, and you could break open, reassemble, expand and customize with your house rules, as needed.
And being a modern-day pulp action game, it basically allowed you to play anything, creating your own “setting” – you could draw bad guys, secret organizations, the odd Banana Republic with its dictator and his voodoo-slinging femme fatale… anything!

Admittedly, we had a lot more time back then.

And another thing that decided me, back then, was that the game had been designed by Michael A. Stackpole, a man that had never let me down, neither as a fiction writer or as a game designer.
My opinion has not changed through the years, or possibly just became stronger: the guy is quality, and his name could be used to sell me anything.

Now the reason for this post is, there is a kickstarter going, for a special edition of MSPE, featuring extra material and what not. The book will come out as a slick trade paperback, but with 6 bucks you can get a PDF version of the new rulesbook, which is what I will get. I would love the paperback, but mail expenses exceed the pledge, and I can’t afford it right now. So PDF it will be now, and maybe the paperback at a later time.

Will I ever play it again? I don’t know.
This would be just perfect to play a game based on Clive Cussler’s The Oregon Files. I would love that.
Or I could run a game based on my Corsair stories.
But really, the book is expected to be out for the end of May, and it would be a perfect self-present for my 52nd birthday. A little bit of nostalgia, and my own kind of Old School Revival.

And wouldn’t it be good to get a poster of that cover? Ah!

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

2 thoughts on “Mercenaries, Spies & Private Eyes

  1. Thank for Remembering MSPE Davide. Just wanted to let you know that the PDF of the Combined Version is now available on drivethrurpg.com

    Thanks again! cheers – Steve Crompton


    • Hi Steve.
      I backed the Kickstarter and I have downloaded my copy of the Combined Version last night. I’m planning a proper review as soon as I’ve gone through it properly.


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