The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier — Espionage RPG Inspirations

The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier

Photos — Star Bios — Plot Summaries — Technical Info
The essential companion to the most popular television adventure series

Author: Patrick J. White
Pages: 456
Published: 1991
Publisher: Avon Books
Amazon: Price may vary

“Good Morning Boxcars readers, in the paragraphs below, I take a look at The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. This book is very important for it holds every episode plot for the hit T.V. show Mission: Impossible, making it perfect for story ideas for your gaming session. Your mission, should you decided to accept it, is to discover this great source of inspiration and gaming material for your espionage RPG. Should you or any others reading this be caught, Rolling Boxcar will disavowal any knowledge of publishing the following inspirational suggestions. This article will continue after this sentence.” 

The Match is Lit
On September 17, 1966, at 9:00 pm on a Saturday evening, CBS television audiences watched as a tip of a match ignited a fuse that began a seven-year run and a two-year encore performance of the hit T.V. show Mission: Impossible. That lit fuse continued to burn as it moved over scenes from the upcoming episode in the opening credits. On top of this visual slide show, the show’s iconic theme song, which has since transcended the show into pop culture, played in 5/4 time. Its odd beat and arrangement along with the visuals of the intro added tension to the opening of the show. What followed next was an hour of sitting on the edge of your seat as a small group of highly trained individuals executed a detailed and precisely timed plan, pulling off the most impossible mission.

For those who aren’t familiar with the premise of the show, each episode the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) come together to execute their mission using extreme discretion on behalf of an unnamed government agency. Each episode started in the same fashion. The contact person and leader of the IMF would receive instructions in an audio-recorded format along with an envelope containing details on the mission. This recorded voice outlined the IMF’s mission should they choose to accept it. The voice recording would end with asking the recipient to destroy the recording or in later episodes, the message would self-destruct. Afterward, the team leader would then return home to choose the proper operatives for the mission.

The Impossible Mission Force is a private organization which specializes in covert activities. Their trained operatives to take on delicate assignments for the government and other groups/individuals. The IMF usually consisted of a five to six-person team but different assignments required varying amounts of personnel and specialties. Its leader, the head of the team selects the best operative for each mission from detailed dossiers listing each operative expertise and specialties. The original IMF talent consisted of Rollins Hand master of disguises, Willy Armitage strong man, femme fatale Cinnamon Carter, Barney Collier tech specialist, and Dan Briggs as the team leader. In future seasons other characters would replace the original members, but their roles remained the more or less the same. Only Barney Collier would stand the test of time and appear in each of the original episodes.

Mission: Impossible changed the way T.V. stories got told. The show’s stories always started in the second act. A troubling situation had already occurred and the assigned team was to make things right. A plan to fix the problem was already conceived and rehearsed; ready for implementation and improvisation if necessary. No matter what obstacles they faced the IMF would always come out on top and their foes unaware of their actions or true intent until it was too late.

Inside the Dossier
Those who didn’t watch the show when it aired or haven’t caught it on some streaming service can catch up as each episode of the original series (1966-1973) makes its way in The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier. The book starts off with an in-depth history and behind the scenes look into the making of the T.V. show. The author of the book is an obvious fan of the show and of the earlier episodes, which is evident by the level of detail in the history section and synopsis of the first five seasons of the show. After the fifth season, the amount of information on each episode reduces significantly. Nonetheless, the book includes the synopsis of the 168 original episodes. The book also includes the 35 episodes of the rebirth of Mission: Impossible (1988-1990) but lack synopsis or any usable detail for inspiration.

Each episode section of the original shows feature the title, aired date, writer, director, producer, and the music composer. Followed by the IMF team members that executed the mission is given. What follows next is what makes this book a real gem. As mentioned above, each episode began with a recorded voice handing out the assignments to the team leader. After the aforementioned, a transcription of the recorded dialogue from the episode is provided followed by a synopsis of the episode. A list of guest star and the author’s analysis of the episode completes each episode write-up.

Use it for your Espionage RPG
From the content available in The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier a gamemaster can make use of it in their Espionage RPG game. They can use the information as plot seeds and create their own adventure or put forth the mission as it was presented on the show and see if their players can pull off an impossible mission. Gamemasters stand a good chance at players not recognizing the plots from the original series as the show hasn’t been seen on T.V. in over 40 years. Die-hard fans of the show, of course, are the exception. The last episode of the original series aired in 1973 and it’s the last appearance in syndication ended sometime in the mid-70s failing to have the success that Star Trek achieved after its cancellation. Today the show can be streamed through Amazon or purchased on DVD. I remember my father and I watched the series in syndication. Alas, I was too young for the show to keep my interest past the catchy intro. I would later enjoy the series when it was available for streaming on Netflix in 2013 shortly before it disappeared from the platform. Millennial players will most-likely cite the Tom Cruise film series if asked and give you a puzzling look when they find out it was first a T.V. show (anecdotal evidence based on me asking my own children). I’d say it’s relatively safe to lift the old plots for your gaming session.

Mission: Impossible plots use small teams which fits well with gaming groups of five to six. Each member can specialize and shine when it’s their time to carry out their part of the plan. A plan of action could be already laid out for the team to implement, or they can research and gather their own intelligence to develop their own. The IMF relied heavy on executing their detailed plans as opposed to using firearms to complete their missions. It’s up to the players’ actions to determine if the mission is a success or not.

When using an original plot all the base elements are there to use, the plot, the players, and a visual reference if the aired episode is consulted. The gamemaster is left to stat up the NPCs outlined in the synopsis and create the maps for the mission. The players’ introduction to the adventure, like the shows, can start with record dialogue. A gamemaster could paraphrase from the given text or make up their own. A cleaver and creative gamemaster could acquire a cassette player from a thrift store or the bowels of their own basement to cleverly rigs a small smoke machine out of a vape pen to create the iconic, “this tape will self-destruct” simulation. It makes for an instant wow factor at your table.

Using the plots of the original episodes might prove difficult in creating an ongoing story; splicing episodes together to make and overarching campaign. T.V. shows at that time didn’t subscribe to the continuous weekly saga that shows portray today. What happened last week has nothing to do with what is happening this week on the show. Each show’s story was compartmentalized with the outcome not effecting future shows. This can still work at the gaming table as the IMF organization is there to serve their clients and not a single entity or organization. It also benefits players and gamemasters alike. With different missions needing specific skills players can play a variety of characters to meet the need of the mission and gamemasters can choose a mission based on who’s going available for the session. As long as each session is one mission which is quite possible to do, the IMF team did it in an hour, the game is essentially a one-shot session freeing the gamemaster from the worries of continuing a story without the players involved.

The Complete Mission: Impossible Dossier is out of print but available for sale in used book stores and online. The T.V. show is also available online or for purchase in a recorded format. Viewing the show is not necessary but could be useful to a gamemaster. I found my copy in my local used bookstore for a few dollars. I plan in the future to test my group to see if they have what it takes to pull off an impossible mission.

~ Stephen Pennisi

Follow Stephen on MeWe, or on Twitter at @DadsAngry
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