The Briefcase Story

Happy GURPSDay folks. Lots of great GURPS material posted out there today (as there is every Thursday… and, really, every day!)

To bring some levity to this week, I thought I’d post something fun and light. In the spirit of The Bunny Story, I share with you now… The Briefcase Story.

Come, if you will, back to the days of my high school gaming — I’m guessing this campaign was around 1984. I was GMing “Top Secret” for five friends whose characters were a newly-formed squad of secret agents. For their first mission in the field, they were tasked with breaking into a skyscraper office owned by The Bad Guys to retrieve a very important briefcase and its contents without being seen and without leaving any evidence of the theft.

They planned. They reconnoitered and surveilled. They geared up. They planned some more. Then, once they had planned a little more, they executed their elaborate plan… and it went off perfectly! No guards observed them, no alarms were triggered, and the team carefully made it back to their van parked in front of the building with the briefcase in-hand and The Bad Guys none the wiser.

And then everything went to hell.

The four characters in the back of the van began a long and involved discussion of what to do now. Follow orders and return to HQ? Peek and see what’s in the briefcase? Sell it back to The Bad Guys? On and on and on.

Meanwhile, my buddy Jim’s character was in the driver’s seat and was the agent physically holding the briefcase. As it happened, he was sitting to my immediate left; the others were kind of “huddled” now, deep in character conversation.

Jim turned to me and said with a mischievous gleam in his eye, “I open the briefcase.” He wasn’t trying to be sneaky about it. He spoke in a normal conversational tone. But the others were so wrapped up in their debates over the next course of action they simply didn’t notice.

At that moment, my “still with that new GM smell” brain had a thought. One of my favorite toys as a child was Oscar Goldman’s briefcase from the “Six-Million Dollar Man” series.


If you pulled the handle and twisted, it opened normally, granting access to secret files and blueprints, a safe, electronic equipment and other spy goodies. But if you simply twisted the handle without pulling first, the case self-destructed (sending the side panel flying off!) and destroyed everything.

I suddenly thought that this was a great wrinkle to use in the game, so I answered Jim with, “The briefcase appears locked. If you want, you can use your ‘Engineering, Mechanical’ to try and open it.”

Jim nodded and rolled a couple of dice. One of the other players briefly glanced over but was quickly drawn back into the still-going “rear of the van” conversation about possibly auctioning off the briefcase to the highest bidder.

“Oh, crap.” Jim said. “I failed, badly.”

I smiled and replied, “The case starts beeping, slowly at first but quickly gaining speed. Beep… beep… beep-beep… beep-beep-beep…”

One by one, the other four players looked back to the front of the table until their conversation trailed off. One of them managed to squeak out, “Wait, what’s going on?” before Jim panicked and shouted, “Ah! I throw the briefcase out the window!”

The players froze in wide-eyed, dawning horror, a perfect mirror to what their characters were doing at that exact same moment.

By this time it was morning in the game, and dozens of passers-by were on the sidewalk hustling here and there (including into the building the agents had just burgled). A few noticed the case as it skidded across the pavement before hurrying past on their way to work. For a moment, the world froze, and then… BOOM.

The case disintegrated in a massive explosion that tore off the front of the skyscraper for many floors. Shocked civilians were caught in the blast and thrown around like dolls. Glass shattered everywhere, sending razor-sharp shrapnel ripping into everything and everyone. The agents’ van was violently flipped over, resulting in injuries to every PC except (of course!) for Jim’s, who somehow avoided taking damage.

People screamed and ran in terror. Concrete crumbled and buckled. Fires broke out and thick, choking smoke hung over everything. The PCs’ “local agencies” radio burst into frantic conversation as police, fire, and paramedics all scrambled to the scene. Chaos. Absolute, delicious chaos.

Being teenaged boys, and thus at the height of our gaming sophistication, we thought this was… the funniest thing ever!

It’s been more than 30 years since that game, and I can still feel my ribs hurting from laughing so hard, so long, and wiping away tears. Hopefully this wasn’t a total “you had to be there” moment, and you got at least a smile out of it.

If you’re curious about the fate of the agents, they were (naturally) disavowed by their agency and had contracts put out on them. We played another dozen or so games with the PCs on the run and trying to survive the manhunt. It was fun, but nothing else came anywhere close to topping that first game. I’m convinced it’s one of the experiences that permanently imprinted on my developing brain that “RPGs are the best!” So… thanks, Jim.

Do you have any early game experiences that really cemented the hobby for you? Any crazy, briefcase-wielding PCs in your past?


If you enjoyed this post and others like it, might you consider the Game Geekery Patreon?


  1. Good lord… that’s awesome. For a second, looking at the picture I thought you would throw that on the table, and make them decipher it!


    One of my recent “getting back into GM-ing in the hobby” moments, of a few years back, involved a Savage Worlds fantasy game. In that game the PCs were in a dungeon of sorts, and started finding strange geometric objects. Obviously carved by skilled hands. Maybe dwarves?

    They finally get to a locked vault, but Lo! A strange looking key hole.

    That’s when I put this on the table: (Thrift store Superfection find for the win!)

    They got close, but it exploded in their face. The PCs working on it survived, mostly. They were literally sweating. It was great.

    • OOH! Tomes, I love that. Jenga, Superfection… I bet there’s all kinds of tactile games that could be used to represent in-game stuff like that.

      Operation? 🙂 *BZZZZZ*

  2. The players in Dark Conspiracy game defeated an vampire nemesis named Gayle by gang-tackling him and shoving is face into the rotors of a helicopter he was trying to escape on in the middle of his villain monologue. Later they found information about the corporate cabal that was pulling Gayle’s strings and they burst into their boardroom to have their cocky hero moment. The board were shocked that Gayle didn’t defeat them and one of my players said “He would have been here but his flight was bloody murder..” and another commented “Gayle really looses his head when he’s behind schedule..” and it just went on like that for over an hour aweful pun after aweful pun, all of us laughing too hard to stop.

      • My friend Eric is a great punster. Around 1983 he had a cleric character in a D&D named Albert Hall. Eric was 22 at the time. He broke character a lot usually with puns and other humor. He wasn’t alone, we all did. But, Eric is also funny and distracting. The DM, a guy named Tom McCloud, was 40 at the time, and liked good jokes as the next man. So he was inspired to give Albert Hall a curse. Anytime Eric said anything, whether in or out of character Albert said it as well.
        Eric ran with this for many years.
        I’m thinking of starting my own blog, I might include this story.

  3. Well, here’s one for discussion. I played an ex-military type named Eneri Villain in a Traveller game, with a rank of Major. (Yes, I got much grief for that.) In the third act, in which my character and the other intrepid heroes were supposed to storm the big bad’s fortress, my character asked if any Navy ships were still in orbit. The GM said yes. My character then asked, is there anyone in this fortress that we’re not supposed to kill, any collateral damage, and hostages. The GM hesitantly said no. My character broke out A REALLY BIG GRIN and said to drop a rock on it. The third act therefor ended with the orbital bombardment, and certain death, of the chief bad guy. The GM was not amused.

2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. GURPS Day Summary Nov 4 – Nov 10, 2016 – Gaming Ballistic
  2. Overview of 2016 – Game Geekery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.