TSR released the Top Secret espionage roleplaying game in 1980, created by Merle Rasmussen. Top Secret had completely different rules than their popular Dungeons & Dragons game, and was a clean break from the fantasy genre.

By 1981, they’d re-worked the rules into a 2nd edition. Visually quite similar at first glance, the rules underwent significant changes, particularly combat from what I can see. There are slight, but noticeable graphical differences between the books and boxes.

Top Secret editions and printings:

  • 1st edition, 1st printing (1980)
  • 1st edition, 2nd printing (April 1980)
  • 2nd edition (February 1981)
  • 2nd edition (1983 box)

This page will collect and archive my old school TS sets side-by-side photos. I don’t see too many of those 1st edition sets come through the shop – 1e Top Secret is definitely more rare than 2e.


Top Secret RPG sets available in the shop – What does Wayne’s Books have at the moment?

Check eBay

Top Secret product line detailed at the reference site – All the classic 00-series adventure modules and accessories.


Box Exteriors

Left: 1st edition, 2nd printing (April 1980) & 2nd edition (February 1981). Right: 1st edition, 1st printing & 2nd edition (1983 box). I believe the 1983 box has the same book as 1981 box.


Box Interiors

A noticeable change is the box itself on the inside. This was something TSR Hobbies did at the time, all across across their game lines. Most commonly seen in the Holmes Basic D&D set, early TSR boxes used a box blank with the graphics as a glued-on sheet, both top and bottom. This “glued sheet” box format was retained for a brief time, before being replaced with a box with the graphics printed directly on the paperboard.

Close-up of the Top Secret box interiors: 1e (left) and 2e (right). Top lids (black border), bottom lids (white). Added more shots from another pair of TS sets (added April 2021).


The TS Book Printings

Top Secret black box book printings title page

The 1981 book appears to have been completely re-typeset in a different font.

The combat section looks quite different between the editions. These are the same pages. This wasn’t just a simple “correct errors and typos” between editions.

Handouts pages and character sheets. Book back covers. Extra photo of the Dragon flyer in the 1980 box


1st edition, 1st printing set

EDIT 30 May 2020

Top Secret Box 1st ed 1st print set
Top Secret rulebook 1st 1st inside cover

1st print book’s inside cover looks mostly the same as the 2nd print photo’d earlier in the post, except for the copyright block. No printing stated here.

Top Secret rulebook 1st 1st book printings copyright

Administrator File TS001 (Operation Sprechenhaltestelle ~ Code Name Pisces)

EDIT 12 April 2021

TS001 modules from 1e and 2e TS sets. Not a lot of differences.

However the Agent Handout is different. In the 1st edition set, the handout is a separate sheet. In 2nd edition, the “cover” is gray, and stapled into the centerfold, for detachment by owner.


DICE and crayon from 2nd edition (February 1981) set

EDIT 14 Aug 2021


Top Secret RPG sets available in the shop

Check eBay


See Also: 

High Stakes Gamble (1988): Monte Carlo location plus Vehicle Expansion for Top Secret SI RPG

GATEWAY TO ADVENTURE: TSR’s Classic Games Catalog (1980 & 1981)

Top Secret SI: Player written character background and (mostly) finances

Top Secret: Player-made GM aids