Shade. James Shade. I have to admit...I am biased towards spy novels, movies and tv shows. Must be the name. I grew up with the James Bond movies. Saw 'em all from Dr. No to Skyfall. I was also a big fan of the Mission: Impossible series, the Ludlum and Clancy novels and, of course, Spy vs. Spy. Pretty much every man wanted to be as suave and debonaire as those clandestine characters. And the gadgets were so cool! And, yet again, there was another wide open gap in the roleplaying market. So few good spy games and even fewer done well.

          Whipping up a quick and dirty system for Spymaster was pretty easy, and populating the world with evil geniuses and quirky henchmen was a lot of fun. But it was the gadgets --an important focal point, in my mind-- that gave me the most trouble. How to come up with something new, original and useful was the biggest problem. And also the weaponry and vehicles. At least it had the advantage of an "assigned" equipment system so that one doesn't have to purchase all that stuff. Of course, the years of the Cold War brought the greatest spy stories and so the bulk of what is included is derived from and meant to be utilized in that era. The setting is maleable enough, though, to be played even in current years.

          Mechanically, guns do a lot of nasty damage and that needed to be reflected in the game. Though I am a big fan of the superspy that can make it through an entire mission without taking a scratch, it's hard to portray that properly in an rpg without sacrificing too much realism. The effects of damage add a nice touch, instead of just generic hit points.The stats are pretty straightforward, as is the skill improvement system. It is beautiful in the way it allows one to get RIDICULOUSLY good in a particular skill, to the point of never missing. And, of course, crits had to be included, making one think twice about just standing out in the open and mowing down the enemy.

          Probably my favorite part is getting to roll all those d20's for stats and skills, and all the reroll opportunities you have for boosting those numbers, instead of just assigning a flat amount to each. It may be random but, in my opinion, it makes it more fun and exciting. Also, being able to start the game with plenty of contacts and allies, in addition to the support of your home organization, makes you feel like you have plenty of options out in the field and you aren't just out there on your own.

          So I hope the coolness factor of this game shines forth for you as much as it did for me. And may the terrorists in your campaign NEVER win!