The Let's Play Archive

Bureau 13

by Bacter

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Original Thread: Vampire + Battlemech = Covert! - Let's Play Bureau 13!



Part 2

Part 3



Oh, boy. What did we get ourselves into this time?

What is Bureau 13?

Depends. Do you mean the pen and paper, or the computer game?

Both, smart aleck. But let's start with the PnP

Bureau 13, aka Stalking the Night Fantastic, is kind of a weird game, in an excellent way.

The core concept is X-Files meets Men in Black with Buck Godot's sense of humor. If that doesn't sound awesome, either you don't know what one of those things is (and it's probably Buck Godot, check him out here) or get out of my thread.

Bureau 13 is the secret 13th department of the Department of Justice, slogan "Protecting America from Everything". They handle supernatural threats that the public isn't ready to deal with - everything from vampires to demons to unruly robots to aliens.

They also heavily recruit from said paranormal entities, so it wouldn't be unusual to have a squad composed of a 300-year-old vampire, an ultramodern shock trooper, and a stranded alien going up against the chupacabra in Mexico.

Th...that's the greatest thing I've ever heard.

Isn't it? Add into the mix the following facts

1) Bureau 13 did this more than a decade before the X-Files OR Men in Black made any of this popular


2) The entire thing has a madcap sense of humor. It knows that this kind of plot works best when the explosions come as quick as the puns. This kind of thing gets stupid in a big hurry when it tries to take itself seriously.

In fact, let me stress that again. This game gets stupid in a huge hurry if it tries to take itself seriously.

That sounds... ominous

Well, we'll get into that more when we get to the computer game.

So why have I never heard of Bureau 13?

'Couple reasons, but mainly, it was made by tri-tac games, which used to be Tacky Tack games before they decided to take themselves seriously. They made games of the highest sociopolitical and philosophical caliber.

They also make games with 40-page-long combat resolution specifications. Every attack in B13 would involve somewhere between 5 and 10 die rolls, and lots of math. Yes, somewhat par for the course for an 80's RPG, but still pretty insane.

Bureau 13 is their flagship game, and they've released a lot of supplementary materials for it. There are a whole series of novels designed to flesh out the universe. And I like them! They are wacky and over the top, with Bureau agents having magically-equipped fighter jets and slipping through pocket dimensions all over the place.

The setting in the books and the core game has the world just bursting at the seams, just overflowing with supernatural menace. The world is ALWAYS one day away from being overtaken by brain parasites from the Amazon Rainforest or an army of superdrones being trained in Antarctica. Your agents have a desperate fight, but tend to take it in stride, chilled martini in one hand, plasma repeater in the other.

Then there's the computer game.

Uh oh.


Developed by Take Two software and published by GameTek in 1995, Bureau 13 has an extremely solid premise and an impressive pedigree.

The direction they took was even extremely promising: you are given a choice of six agents, and must pick two for your squad. Each one has very different abilities and powers, and those abilities color the way you interact with the game and solve the puzzles.

So what could go wrong with that?

Plenty. PLENTY. One review of Bureau 13 said it was the prototypical example of a good idea gone bad. I tend to agree. We'll get into more of what specifically is wrong with the game as we go, but suffice it to say that we'll have a lot to talk about.

So why LP it?

I said it was bad, not boring. There are mines of comedy gold here. Remember how I said if the game took itself seriously it got dumb? Watching that happen is just ONE aspect to this that makes it worthwhile.

Not only that, but the game feels INCOMPLETE. There is a surprising amount of detail in this game, considering how empty a lot of it feels.

That emptiness gives US an opportunity. We'll be developing an awesome backstory and in-mission happenings for our characters, meaning not only will I have pages of things to make fun of, but we'll be able to make a narrative that suits us as we go along.

Stick around, this is gonna be awesome!
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