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Bureau 13 was the first horror/paranormal role playing game to be published. It was released by Tri Tac Games in 1981. Players take the roles of super secret government agents working for the clandestine Bureau 13. Their job is to fight a range of paranormal and extraterrestrial infestations.

Bureau 13 uses Tri Tac's standard combat system that uses everything from bullet type to hit location to odds a bullet will pass through flesh and strike a second target. It also uses its large batch of ability scores. See my write up on Fringeworthy for an expanded review of the Tri Tac combat system.

Bureau 13 borrows a lot from H.P. Lovecraft, which was the source for a later horror RPG called The Call of Cthulhu. An element of Lovecraft's stories was the ability of characters to stay just this side of sane when encountering unspeakable horrors. Bureau 13 mirrors this with a Mental Stability attribute. Call of Cthulhu later incorporated this game element with a Sanity score. Where Bureau 13 departs from Lovecraft and Call of Cthulhu is in atmosphere. Bureau 13 jettisons the horror aspects and shoots for camp and humor. Some critics see that as a fundamental flaw. The appeal of horror is horror. It's hard to play up the horror of horror when from the get-go the rule book cover art is by Phil Foglio.

Similar to the Fringeworthy/Stargate parallels, Bureau 13 has that "Hmmmm... I could swear Hollywood raped this game for ideas" feel to it. Many have noticed The X-Files shares a lot of ideas. The game itself actually uses the term "X Files". As well Bureau 13 members are nominally FBI agents and issued FBI ID badges (see my Tri Tac Games write up regarding how this got the company in trouble with the real FBI). The Men in Black movies also seem to mine the game's zanier elements and its alien infestation theme.

Although Tri Tac seriously felt Stargate used Fringeworthy as source material, the company has been unable to make much headway on getting Hollywood to pay up for scooping their IP. It would seem Tri Tac is the PARC of the game world, good at spotting trends early on, bad at capitalizing on them. The company was, at least, able to capitalize in a small way on the X-Files mania of the mid-90s by licensing Bureau 13's name to game developer Gametek for a computerized adaptation.

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