Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice

Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice! is a podcast by Roger Bell_West and Michael Cule, in which we pontificate on role-playing games.

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A Complete Pain, Because They Have Principles 01 March 2017


This month, Mike and Roger talk about adding new players to a long-running group, spy stories (including a game Roger didn't know he wanted to play), and the golden age(s) of gaming.

We mentioned

Alarums and Excursions, Pendragon), Mission: Impossible, Burn Notice, Wikipedia on HUMINT operational techniques and tradecraft in general, the official history of MI5, Stitchers, the 1960s psionic campaign, Leverage), My Co-Worker Is A Time Traveller, Diana: Warrior Princess, GURPS Espionage, RuneQuest, Rolemaster, Over the Edge. Everway, Adventurer, Conqueror, King, Dungeon World, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy, and Mythras.

Music by Kevin MacLeod at, and Topher Mohr and Alex Elena.

Roger wishes to clarify that rotation is about an internal point (the Earth rotates on its axis); revolution is about an external one (the Earth revolves round the Sun).

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:35am on 16 March 2017

    Almost by definition I feel you don't notice a golden age until you're no longer in it. I started gaming at 18 when I went to Cambridge University having never even heard of it in the wilds of a Yorkshire comprehensive school. I started with AD&D like many of us, and it was a golden age because I'd never done anything like it before and I was at University which was a fantastic experience. It's not something that playing OSR is going to bring back, we don't play for 7 hours straight on a Saturday afternoon in a room on Trinity College Great Court (with a view of the fountain, Master's Lodge and college chapel) and then put our gowns on to go to Formal Hall for dinner any more.

    I have had other golden ages, but they're not usually so long lasting as that first one and generally depend on a great campaign with drama, scope and sweep. To give a bit of a list of such campaigns for me: Bob Dowling's Empire (pseudo ancient Chinese), Mike Tittensor's Hellas (Mycaenean Greek heroes), Roger's Reign Of Steel. Honourable mentions go to Roger's Age of Aquarius (more of a Golden Moment due to short length) and John Dallman's currently running Infinite Cabal (though this is periodically in danger of being ruined by the actions of some of the other PCs and attitudes of some players).

    Apart from Infinite Cabal I'm in a slump at the moment, at times approaching a pit of despair. Some weeks it is only loyalty to the group that makes me turn up. For all of my current campaigns I have been gaming with the groups far longer (17 years and 27 years) than the current campaigns have been running, and there will hopefully be good times again in the future. If I leave I may not be present for that future, and the group may need to recruit a new player which is never easy, and I have to find something else to do that night of the week.

    It is interesting that you broke spy stories down into Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, because that is almost exactly how the two agencies in the UK split things between them (we Brits are aware that it is much more complicated in tbe USA). I was surprised you didn't mention this in the podcast, it's probably not obvious to non UK listeners.

    New players. Um, it doesn't happen often for us. About once a decade for the Fridays campain, and it generally has been word of mouth or personal contacts as a result of which it has worked much more smoothly than the Wednesday group new players Roger has seen. Claire has fitted in about as well as the last two additions on Fridays. What have we told our Friday additions? Not a lot, it probablty helps that they mostly joined at the start of a new campaign or at least in one case when we returned to a campaign after a multi year gap playing something else. So they started fresh with everyone else really. Points values don't matter so much on Fridays giving we're often playing homebrew games or adaptations of something simple like BRS.

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:19am on 16 March 2017

    The intel vs counter-intel split is how most countries do it, so I didn't think it was worth mentioning explicitly. (Yes, even the USA - CIA vs FBI. The US is prone to duplication of agencies with the same function - see Homeland Security - and the NSA in particular had basically no oversight for many years and so was able to get its tentacles into everything, but the general approach is still "police" versus "spies".)

  3. Posted by Phil Masters at 04:35pm on 19 March 2017

    I seem to recall reading that people within the intelligence community regard the usual popular view of intel vs. security as the inverse of the truth-as-they-see-it. Popular fiction treat intelligence work as cool James Bond types running around the world, driving fast cars and romancing foreign babes, and counter-intelligence as plodding glorified coppers breaking down doors. In fact, the reality is (seen as) more like sneaks and blackmailers lurking in embassies preying on human weakness, vs. solidly patriotic hard workers keeping their countries safe.

    (I guess that the point of Homeland is thus that viewers want the CIA to be Carrie Mathison, but we know at heart it's Dar Adal...)

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 10:02pm on 19 March 2017

    Yeah, that's fair - neither side has a particularly glamorous job, but the counterintel types at least get a pension and the occasional medal.

  5. Posted by Robert at 10:38pm on 20 March 2017

    The only other split to consider is internal vs external. The CIA's remit is generally outward focused and their duties within the USA are subject to considerably more limitation. The FBI is entirely internal in its focus.

    I would encourage interested folks to look towards the original Delta Green pdfs. While dated now, both DG and DG Countdown have good lists of agencies in the appendices. DG Countdown has the international agencies list so perhaps more relevant to this specific discussion.

  6. Posted by Phil Masters at 11:19am on 21 March 2017

    Internal vs. External is usually going to map to Security vs. Intelligence. A country protects itself and its secrets on its own territory, and spies on other countries abroad.

    Of course, there'll be fuzzy cases, but the MI5 vs. MI6, FBI vs. CIA divide mostly works that way. It's theoretically the sign of an authoritarian state that it uses extra-legal, sleazy or ruthless "intelligence" techniques in "security" operations on its own territory and against its own citizens. Or at least, we want to think so.

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