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Back to Basics: Modern SRD Classes for Spycraft 2.0
by Zack C. Date Added: 05/29/2007 16:18:55
Great Book for anyone who wants to take Spycraft Back to the Basics!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Back to Basics: Modern SRD Classes for Spycraft 2.0
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Spellbound: The Channeler (Revised)
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/01/2007 00:00:00
Spellbound the Channeler

Spycraft is a modern game of espionage and well spies. It usually assumes a very near modern world that everyone is familiar with. But now they are starting to branch out of that and enter a more fantastic realm. This Spycraft PDF introduces magic and the first magic welding class. I trust it will not be for everyone and since it is a sourcebook that only is useful for magic it will be easy to ignore. But for those people wanting something a little more magical in their game they should be very pleased with this.

Spellbound Volume one: the Channeler is the first in this new series of PDFs for Spycraft. Crafty Games once again releases a book with a lay out and tone almost exactly like the Spycraft core book. It is written by Scott Gearin. The book is well book marked and comes in a full color on screen as a well as a black and white easy to print out versions.

The writer has chosen to just reorganize the classic D&D spell list and spells. They did a great job in doing this. They have eight very tightly organized schools of magic and each new class will be able to cast from one of those schools. The channeler gets access to the channeling school spells. The casting of a spell is done through the roll of the die. A caster always will risk failure but only one die will ever be needed to be rolled. The casters will be able to try to cast as many zero level spells as they want and they do not have to prepare spells in advance. Save DCs are based on the caster not the spell level and each feat one takes that involves casting spells can improve that. Spells are based off of many attributes though there is no minimum needed to cast spells. Know spells is based off of a profession skill so even if the character multi classes as long as they improve that skill they can learn more spells. As one can see there are many changes but they are good one that are well thought out and make a lot of sense. They really can make playing a spell caster a lot easier.

The class is a typical twenty level Spycraft class. It has a good many abilities and many of them are variable. It will be easy to make Channelers that do not seem to be the same or even look mechanically alike. There are some new feats in here but the majority of the book is dedicated to the spells. Overall they did a nice job of trimming down the spells lists of the d20 game and adding in new spells to fill out the many gaps. Many of the spells have nice improvements like Mage Hand goes up to Mage Hand V a powerful ninth level spells. Over all this is one of the better versions of completely re doing the spell lists I have seen. I think that even some fantasy D&D players might like using this instead of the current system.

The first Volume of Spellbound is an exciting and creative take on the standard arcane class. It easily makes it into something that can fit into the Spycraft world and makes it seem very different then just placing a wizard in there. The Channleler has its own feel and spells that really make it something special.



LIKED: Great alteration to the spells lists and defining how magic works

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Very Satisfied


Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spellbound: The Channeler (Revised)
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Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
by James M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/21/2007 03:24:21
Awesome. Does lots of cool things with the system. Skill caps make low level characters differ on skills a lot without barring untrained use completely. Someone without ranks in a skill can never get more than 15 on a check while a first level master can get a result of up to 30. A talented amateur can no longer outshine the supposed master. Skills have been expanded to include all the good modern stuff. They've also been defined quite well so every situation is covered pretty well. Everything from skydiving (standard, HI/LO and base jumping) to bribery.

The classes are awesome and great for making a team worthy of any action movie. Almost any combo of classes will make a viable team.

The feats are just awesome. There are fighting feats for everything. Whip style feat is even good. And the shotgun style feat is called 'This . . . is my Boomstick'

The chase system from the previous edition has been expanded to cover brainwashing, interrogation, hacking, infiltration and manhunts. It abstracts and covers each of the situations quite well.

The rest of it's great too, great gear system, more gear, fluid initiative, origins, it's all awesome. Buy this.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
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Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2007 00:00:00
Spycraft This is my Rifle

Spycraft and other modern games that use modern weapons are only as good as the latest information they have published. There are plenty of new guns and new designs hitting the market in the past decade and it can be tough for a RPG to keep up. That is where the Bag Full of Guns series comes in for Spycraft. This is the first PDF in that series and based on what I see here I look forward to seeing more. The small PDF support of Spycraft is nice to see and something I just can not speak enough of.

Bag Full of Guns: This is my Rifle is a PDF for Spycraft by Crafty Games. It is written by Alex Flag and it is very nice to see a consistent voice in the books. The PDF is rather short and comes in two versions. It does not seem like a lot of companies are doing that any more and I am pleased to see Crafty Games doing it. They have the full color version that looks like the main Spycraft book and then they have a simple black and white version that is a lot easier to print out especially for people with personal inkjet printers. The PDF is not that big being only seven pages long but it is book marked.

This Spycraft books deals with a few of the newest rifles and weapons of the United States Military. There is some good information on these weapons and not being a gun expert I am just going to assume it is all accurate. It works well for the game at any rate. One of the weapons is a nice Carbine. There is a shot gun system and a grenade launcher. Each is of course fully stated up in the Spycraft fashion. There is also some weapon qualities presented in the book. I like that not all of them are positives like the Limited Upgrades Quality. There is an upgrade in the book of the Airburst Fire Control System. I imagine a few players will be having a lot of fun with that one.

The weapons in here can also be used by other game systems with a good conversion. There is no conversion advice in here but moving to other games like d20 Modern will be easy while something more like World of Darkness will be a bit tougher. The weapon descriptions though are useful for any game set in modern times

This is a good addition to the Spycraft game. The short PDFs might be the way to go but I hope to see some more with a little more length at some point. It would also be interesting to see some of these that are tied with the cutting edge of weapons like on Discovery Channel?s Future Tech TV show. But I am sure that I am like a lot of Spycraft fans and just really happy to see the game getting some good quality support.


LIKED: Nice up to date information

DISLIKED: a little on the small side

QUALITY: Very Good

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
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Back to Basics: Modern SRD Classes for Spycraft 2.0
by Chris G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/18/2007 00:00:00
Spycraft is the game of modern spies and espionage. It takes the best of the d20 system and adds on rules for easy ways to equip characters with all the latest gadgets and has a great system of feats that give cool abilities. I have always preferred it to d20 modern so when I first got some of the PDFs I was excited to see what was being done with the game. I will admit for not being all that excited for seeing d20 modern classes done in the Spycraft style.

Back to Basics is a PDF by Crafty Games who now hold the Spycraft license. The twenty page PDF is written by Alex Flagg. The PDF comes in two versions. The main version is in full color and has nice art and looks very similar to the Spycraft book. The second one is a basic black and white PDF that has no art but will be really easy to print and use that way. What I like about the second one is the classes each take up one page so that a DM can just print out what a player needs and have it all there for them to easily reference. The main PDF is book marked though a book mark to each knack would have been helpful.

The basic classes of d20 Modern are all presented here. There is one that matches each attribute. For Spycraft they have been lengthened to twenty levels and they get an ability each level to match up with the Spycraft classes. Each class gets Knacks which are very much like d20 Modern?s Talent Trees. There are plenty of knacks presented in the book some of them for only one class and some of them that can be taken by multiple classes. The classes do a good job of being less of an arch type then the classes of Spycraft so someone can be the type of character they want to be without getting locked into what the class defines them as.

The book does a good job with the classes but one area I think it does not do that well in is with mixing the classes. It does have a little sidebar that talks about using the classes side by side and how the normal Spycraft classes will be a little stronger then the d20 Modern versions. But I also wanted to see suggests or ways to mix the character classes together through multi classing and any problems that might present. Also the same with prestige classes of Spycraft. I think this was a pretty big over sight as it is something players will want to do and DMs might be a little confused by the lack of anything on it.

For players and DMs of Spycraft this PDF will be a good addition for those that want a little more flexibility in the classes and less definition in what they are. It will also be beneficial for d20 Modern players that want to try Spycraft but really like the d20 modern classes.

QUALITY: Acceptable

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Back to Basics: Modern SRD Classes for Spycraft 2.0
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Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
by Jeffrey V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2007 00:00:00
Excellent game, if you like your RPGs rules heavy but still full of action.

Not much fun to read, but its intended to be played, not read!


LIKED: The comprehensive rules

DISLIKED: The art work wasn't to my taste

QUALITY: Excellent

VALUE: Satisfied


Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
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Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/11/2007 03:04:08
Don't let the title fool you; Spycraft is no longer tied to the espionage genre. Instead, Crafty games has set for themselves the loft goal of creating the book d20 Modern SHOULD have been. And although d20M adherents will still stick to the WOTC version, Spycraft 2.0 is a superb action game in its own right and, like d20 Modern, a framework upon which other things can be built readily. The chase and duel mechanics, which can be applied to an infinity of tasks, are especially elegant and well worth melding into just about any RPG. A lovely game, the only downside being that printouts of the large, full-color book are going to be very complicated (and the most likely way to get a hardcopy until the new printing gets decent distribution).

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/25/2007 05:16:44
If you are running a classical Superspy game, your agents will probably not requisition these weapons.

However, I consider the contents worthwhile for two scenarios: One, if you are running a more military-themed game (and Spycraft's very much at home in crunchy, tactical combat), this will be pure gold for a near-future campaign. Two, if your spies are going up against high-tech masterminds, their minions will likely be packing some of these guns - a nice way to give them some serious firepower.

I would've added a more in-depth look at Land Warrior, but I guess that would be out of place in a pure weapons supplement. Recommended, overall.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
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Classic Spycraft: Shadowforce Archer Worldbook
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/25/2007 05:09:45
Like my review of the Spycraft 1.0 Core, this will mostly focus on the conversation document since I already own the original print book.

First off, the book is less dated in the way that it is more fluffy than the 1.0 Core, containing tons of adventure ideas and plot hooks to play with. I really like the Shadowforce Archer setting, and unsurprisingly the main book is a good place to start. There's some crunch in the psionics and mystic rules, but that's covered in the conversation - psionics in particular receives the most in-depth overhaul yet as there's no comparable 2.0 system yet.

However, two sections of the conversation struck me as a bit of a cheat: the gadgets and the chemical augmentations. The gadgets can certainly be built with the 2.0 Gadget system, sure, but I think this would've been *the* opportunity to have a few examples statted out to help beginers grasp the Gadget rules. They're not mechanically difficult, but you have to grok them before you can play with them. Examples would really, really, *really* help, and I hope the Crafty guys do some example conversations in future PDF releases. Also, some things do not seem to have an obvious conversation - like the Battle Bus suites. (I've gone with just using big tool kits installed in a semi, but again, this is puzzle work and should, in my opinion, be considered for inclusion.)

The chemical augmentations, I must admit, never sat right with me, being odd and arbitarily powerful - granted, it's a conversation, but if the Crafty guys ever come across this topic again, I'd love to see some extensive rethinking of the concept. My dislike aside, the chemicals Endure and Sharpen refer to game mechanics that were changed between editions. This is precisely what the document is supposed to address, and a simple line to the effect of say "You may not receive critical injuries" or "The skill bonus applies to Search and Notice"...well, that would've been helpful.

This does not kill the product, by any stretch, but it's the little things that I'd wish to see addressed in the next iteration.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Spycraft: Shadowforce Archer Worldbook
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Classic Spycraft: Spycraft Espionage Handbook
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/25/2007 04:47:50
I don't intend to review the book per se - I'll only say that I generally like the layout and the fluff contained within the book. The crunch is, of course, obsolete now, but that's why there's a conversion PDF included, which is where I'd like to focus my review.

One can justifiably ask: Well, what is there to convert? Pretty much all the crunch is already updated in the 2.0 Core, so the conversation document focussed on getting the original Departments and the sample NPCs converted. The other big part of the conversation PDF is a sort of "conversation guide" to help you bring a 1.0 character into the 2.0 mechanics by providing tables for experience, skills and feats (classes are mentioned, but these are mostly 1:1 anyway). I guess these tables will be standard for future releases of the splatbooks with convert-able crunch - I hope we'll get some of the subsystems (like Presence) addressed.

For those of us who already have the hardcover, you're basically just buying this for the searchability of the main book and the conversation notes. The Crafty team has already explained their reasoning for not selling the conversation PDFs seperately, and I can see their point (after all, they do need to make money) - so I'm not aiming to complain on that front. I am saying, however, that this is a better deal for those who never bothered with the 1.0 books back then and want to check them out now.

I'm going for an overall rating of four on this one - presentation is good to great as usual, but the main appeal of this set is the fluff in the main book and the conversion PDF, with the (rich) crunch of the main book merely vestigal. The whole product falls squarely into the curiosity/nostalgia slot for me.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Spycraft: Spycraft Espionage Handbook
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Bag Full of Guns: Red Heat
by Robert M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/25/2007 04:26:18
Another great PDF from Crafty. It covers some of the odds and ends of modern Russian weapons - I was glad to find the various suppressed weapons and specialty calibers in it. The only thing I felt was missing would be the AN-94 Abakan assault rifle, but compared to the gear in this one I guess it's a bit too mundane.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: Red Heat
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Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2007 10:47:51
An RPG Resource Review:

This is the revised version of the original Spycraft 2.0 originally published by Alderac Entertainment Group before the Spycraft line was bought out by its authors when they set up Crafty Games.

It is not, as the authors state, something you want to sit down and read. It is a reference work, to empower you to run contemporary adventures by providing the necessary game mechanics. The work can only be described as epic - it is one of the most solid and comprehensive rulesets I have ever read, packed with detail as to how to resolve just about any situation that might arise... or at least, the tools to work out how to resolve it if it is an unforeseen situation. That's quite a benefit, many rulesets give you the mechanics for the things they have thought of, but leave you quite at sea if you need to extend the rules to a new occurrence.

Everything is very well organised, and although the options are often complex they are explained clearly and are easy to find. Both the table of contents and the index are well laid out and comprehensive, while the text itself is organised in a logical manner. However, despite the good organisation, visually it is a bit of a nightmare - text almost illegible through over-heavy 'ghost' images on the page, and tables where white and yellow text are printed on bright green.

The Introduction looks at the whole concept of espionage-based games, and explains the way in which the book has been constructed. It also talks about how this ruleset draws on standard D20, and where it differs (being an OGL rather than a D20 work), and how various 'qualities' are applied to the campaign itself, as well as to characters and items therein. There are also notes on how 2.0 differs from the original Spycraft game.

One of the biggest changes is the introduction of a Dramatic Conflict system. If you know the original game, one of its strong points was the system provided for administering a cinematic chase scene. Drawing on this mechanic, a system for playing out all manner of epic multi-part skill checks has been devised. I am not sure how well this works: you have comprehensive rules for die-rolling your way through the situation, but many such epic scenes are better role-played than settled purely by the dice... and if that particular event does not interest your group enough to role-play it (e.g. a prolonged investigation and examination of evidence) you will probably want to abstract it far more than working your way through the complete Dramatic Conflict process would involve.

Chapter 1 looks at character generation. As the whole system is devised around the concept that you can play virtually any kind of game - contemporary, maybe recent historical and on into fantastical futures - it needs to be pretty broad and flexible to accommodate the sort of game you intend to play. The whole system is straightforward and replete with choice, whatever you have in mind it is difficult not to find a way of doing it. Indeed, you will do better approaching character creation with a clear idea of what you want to play, else you may flounder a bit to come out with something that is interesting.

Chapters 2 and 3 follow on with Skills and Feats respectively, and consist of lists of what is available along with ideas on how best to make use of them. Again there are plenty of options and careful choice is necessary to match the sort of character that you want to have. It's worth keeping an eye on future development as well, as choices made early on may limit or at least delay which directions your character can go in as he rises in level.

Chapter 4 is the main change from the original 2.0 print version of this work. Looking at equipment (or Gear) it has been reworked into something which, if still complex, is actually more or less useable. Still, while James Bond always had his gadgets, one is reminded of the line from the original (spoof) Casino Royale where Sir James Bond in his retirement comments on "Joke-shop spies" as younger agents show off their gear. In the real espionage world, equipment comes in one of two ways: either you get what you're given or the powers-that-be are so eager to get the job down that they are throwing kit at you, get you anything you might possibly want. Spycraft, if you choose to go by the rules, doesn't work that way. The idea is that you have a kind of allowance which you spend on gear picks - if you are lucky you know what the mission will involve in advance, but of course, that is the initial briefing and since when did briefing officers know what field agents are going to have to face? I generally find it easier to look at real-world equipment and then figure out how it will work in game terms only if its use is going to require an element of chance. Most of the time it doesn't, it is the individual's ideas on what to do and their skill at carrying it out that will make the difference.

Chapter 5 goes through the rules for combat and is pretty straightforward stuff, especially for those who like a mechanistic blow-by-blow approach to their brawls. It is worth all participants taking their time to understand the process or a simple gunfight could occupy an entire evening while people check their options.

The whole of Chapter 6 is given over to Dramatic Conflicts. Again, it's a matter of the way in which you like to play your game. Role-players will find most of it tedious and irrelevant, they'd prefer to play out interactions rather than roll dice. Some folks will be content with a mechanistic way of resolving conflicts and they will find this an exceptionally fair and consistent way of doing so. Others will find that some of the topics it covers interest them enough to go through the process while the rest require more abstraction.

The topics for which the use of the Dramatic Conflict mechanism is suggested are chases (for which it is excellent), brainwashing, hacking, infiltration, interrogation, manhunts and seduction. The one where it really falls down is infiltration - sneaking into an enemy compound is the very essence of espionage adventure and needs to be played out, not reduced to a series of die rolls. My group prefers to play out their interrogations as well, but they are a bloodthirsty evil bunch at the best of times!

Chapter 7 is entitled Game Control and is excellent. It contains all manner of ideas such as how to set up a campaign (with plenty of ideas that set your mind going), details on creating effective and memorable NPCs from the main villain to hordes of minions and much, much more. It is something you will come back to again and again as your campaign develops.

Overall, it is an extremely comprehensive and well thought out set of rules, mechanically sound and expandable to accommodate whatever you want to do in a consistent manner. At times it is too mechanistic and complete missions could be undertaken solely by rolling dice = insufficient account is taken of the fact that this is a role-playing game, not a computer simulation of events. It is a very useful guide to gaming in a contemporary setting, but needs to be used with caution lest you become bogged down in rules.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
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Classic Spycraft: Spycraft Espionage Handbook
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2007 18:01:44
An RPG Resource Review:

This, the core rulebook for Spycraft, is a solid yet flavourful read, containing all you need to get a game of Spycraft up and running... well, apart from the D20 Licence necessity to have a Wizards of the Coast core rulebook for certain details of character generation and advancement. Sensibly, the Introduction contains a summary of what's different between Spycraft and Dungeons & Dragons, while the Character Generation chapter makes specific references as appropriate.

The book opens with some general background on 'Honour among Spies' - spying as the Great Game - and an introduction to the basics of role-playing and the implementation of the D20 game mechanic for this game.

The first chapter deals with Agent Creation. It starts with an informal questionnaire designed to get you thinking about the sort of character you'd like to play, and what makes him 'tick' - delving deeper and even making the interesting suggestion that you might care to 'get into character' and complete one of those online personality tests! After giving a nice overview of the character sheet provided, character creation proper begins. In Spycraft all agents are human beings, but to give some variety over and above the class you choose, you also have to select the 'Department' from whence you came, which gives both background flavour and various game advantages and disadvantages. The ones presented here are just about all based around a background as a spy even before you begin (with the possible exception of Military Operations, but even that has a 'cloak and dagger' slant to it); however later publications in the Spycraft line provide additional departments that allow for a wide range of backgrounds and former careers for your agent.

Following department selection, you can then choose one of the six 'core classes' as your starting one: Faceman, Fixer, Pointman, Snoop, Soldier and Wheelman. Most of these are fairly self-explanatory. A Faceman is a master of disguise and deception. A Fixer is not only good at finding stuff, he's also a good burglar. The Pointman is not one in the military sense (the fellow who goes at the front on patrol) but is a versatile operative who can turn his hand to many things, and gives support to the rest of the team. The Snoop is the computer expert, while the Soldier takes the lead in combat and the Wheelman is the vehicle specialist. Each class has a range of useful abilities unique to it, which are enhanced as you rise in level. Of course, you can choose to change class when you get a new level, and you'll then acquire some, but not all, of the abilities of your new class.

There are some minor differences from Dungeons & Dragons. Rather than Hit Points, a character has both Wounds (= to his Constitution) and Vitality (rolled on a class-dependent die, and with the addition of any Constitution bonus). Damage is taken from Vitality first, and that is quickly regained once the fight is over. Wounds are, well actual physical wounds and take longer to recover from. Every character also receives Action Dice. This Alderac Entertainment Group innovation gives the player the option to roll an extra die to increase their chances of success at anything, provided the roll is made before the GC (Game Control, the name for the GM in Spycraft) announces the results of the roll. Every 1st level character starts with 3d4, but over the course of a session the GC may reward good play, quick thinking or whatever they please with additional Action Dice. As this is the only way the GC gains Action Dice for his NPCs, it behoves him to be generous! As you increase in level, the die type and number of Action Dice increase, and the pool is refreshed each session. Characters also have a modifier for Inspiration and Education checks. These are used to modify a d20 roll, Inspiration may be used when the player wants a hint from the GC, and Education when the character may well have knowledge (probably from his training as a spy) that the player doesn't possess.

The next two chapters deal with Skills and Feats. There's a comprehensive list of skills, which are handled conventionally according to D20 rules. Each skill is provided with a range of examples of things that you can do with it, complete with details of the required die rolls. No real surprises, apart possibly from the way in which Languages are handled. You may speak your native tongue plus as many languages as you have taken ranks in the Language skill... but every time you enounter a new language being spoken you may make a roll, the DC being set according to how uncommon the language is, and if you succeed you suddenly 'remember' that you know that language, and may add it to your character sheet!

Feats are grouped by various types, and many are hierarchical (you need to have particular feats before you may take another one in the 'feat tree'). Unfortunately there is no comprehensive list of all feats. There are Basic Combat Feats, Melee Combat Feats, Ranged Combat Feats (firearms feats, in other words), Unarmed Combat Feats (your martial arts ones), Chase Feats (which relate to driving and other vehicle skills), Covert Feats, Gear Feats, Basic Skill Feats, Advanced Skill Feats and Style Feats. These last are quite fun - you can be Filthy Rich, a Card Shark or possess a Safe House, for example. It's all a bit complicated, and it's quite difficult to choose - you need a clear picture of the way you intend your character to develop and - if you are going to aim for one of the Prestige Classes given in other books - often need to start selecting appropriate Feats (and for that matter skills) right from the outset.

The next chapter looks at Finishing Touches for your character, including such things as backgrounds. They expect you to spend skill points on backgrounds, although most of the suggested ones are actually a licence to the GC to cause even more and personalised trouble for you! You are supposed to gain extra XP (experience points) for missions in which your background takes effect, but to my mind this rather mechanises roleplaying - so I have discarded this rule, ask players to fill out a background questionnaire and leave them to spend all their skill points on skills. There's also an explanation of how to use Action Dice, and details on 'Gear.'

Character equipment and weapons are divided into 2 groups. You have your 'personal' stuff which remains in your possession, and then you have 'mission specific' gear which has to be returned after the mission has been completed. While that makes sense, there is a complicated system of personal and mission 'budgets' where you are given an allowance of points to spend on the items you want (or think you'll need). In the 'real world' an agent is usually quite well provided for, and certainly given whatever equipment his parent agency thinks he'll require for the task he's been set.

As well as 'Gear' you also have 'Gadgets' which start with some of the sort of gizmos that people like James Bond have to play with and get even more unlikely and extreme. Good if you like your spies to be cinematic tending towards the comic-book end of things, but to be used with caution if you prefer a more 'realistic' game.

A fair range of equipment and weapons is listed, with both the price in 'budget points' and in real money given. Weapons are mostly generic, with an eye towards the use of the Modern Arms Guide for more detail and game statisitcs for 'real world' firearms. Most of the equipment is quite straightforward and should leave your agents well-equipped... even for such specialised operations as those that might require a space suit! (Don't laugh, the Space Shuttle turns up in the vehicles section... and there is at least one published adventure where a quick jaunt into orbit is involved!). The gadgets are a mixed bag of useful and silly, while the vehicles are quite impressive, and there's a fine collection of add-on gadgets and 'the usual refinements' to enhance and customise your vehicle once selected.

Next comes a chapter on combat, the usual sort of details about how it all works. Naturally, the main focus is on combat using firearms, although there's also scope for melee, fisticuffs and martial arts. However, lurking amongst more conventional attack actions is a gem - the taunt. You may use your Bluff skill to taunt your opponent even in the midst of combat, and goad him into a rash move.

Chapter 7 is one of the real joys of this book: it's all about running chases - from a simple footrace to high-octane exploits with cars, aircraft, etc. The system allows for the performance of specialist manoeuvres, and enables the hunter and the prey to choose their tactic and then spring it upon their opponent. While it's mechanical, and has the potential to drag out if you are not careful, it's an excellent way of simulating the vehicle chases that are a staple part of many 'action movies.'

The next chapter deals with 'Tradecraft' - the actual art of spying, the tricks that are used in playing the Great Game. The types of missions that can be undertaken, and how to assess the 'threat level' - and so determine how much mission budget to make available for the purchase of gear and gadgets. This moves on to a discussion of various methods both of presenting missions to agents, and what they can do once they have been given a task, or a situation to resolve. It's somewhat of the nature of the trade that you'll be told what to do - which makes the GC's job easier - but it's often left to the agents to decide exactly how they intend to accomplish their mission... and so the GC has to be ready to react to their actions and ensure that everything runs smoothly (in game terms, that is: not necessarily as far as the agents are concerned!). There's a range of tactical advice: communications, forceable and stealthy entry techniques, dealing with the authorities, transportation and so on - quite a good primer for the new spy here. Sources of information, techniques for collecting evidence and interviewing people, security checks, travel arrangements, getting your weapons to where you need them: it's all here. Agents should study this chapter thoroughly!

The final chapter, Control, is aimed at the GC. It explains useful things like how to use Action Dice to your NPCs' advantage, tips on judging just when the PCs and NPCs will be able to spot each other sneaking around, environmental effects... and much, much more, even rules for such spy pastimes as gambling for hight stakes! That done, the 'Mastermind System' is introduced. This is a mechanism for designing the opposition such that game balance is maintained between the agents and their foes. Personally I find it far too mechanical and a bit stultifying, but it is an adequate yardstick for making sure that your Bad Guys are neither overkill nor a pushover.

The chapter winds up with a selection of serial (Spycraft-speak for a scenario) ideas - in outline, you'll need to work on them before you can use them in a game, NPCs and some excellent advice on the planning and running of a game. This last is again essential reading.

Overall, this is a book jam-packed with detail, clearly presented and useful for anyone wishing to run or play a contemporary espionage game. At times it runs the risk of getting too mechanical, of substituting die rolls and numbers for role-playing... but you can always set the book aside and role-play to your heart's content!

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Spycraft: Spycraft Espionage Handbook
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Spellbound: The Channeler (Revised)
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/12/2007 10:47:22
An RPG Resource Review:

The book opens by explaining what it is attempting to do. This is, to introduce classical 'fantasy' magic into the contemporary or future setting by presenting the D20 SRD (system reference document, the 'open source' reference to the D20 system) spells in a suitable manner. In the effort to explain how magic operates within Spycraft 2.0 a little less sales pitch and a bit more coherence about how it is all intended to hang together would have helped - the introduction to magic reads more like a product 'blurb' encouraging you to buy it than an explanation of how to use it in your game.

Basically, the intention is to provide a means for having magic and spells in a contemporary game. This is to be done by creating a series of magic-using classes, each based on a particular category of spells. So no generic wizards: you are an Enchanter or a Sage or - in this case - a Channeller, and you specialise in the chosen category of spellcasting.

Mechanically, there are differences to spellcasting as you may be used to it - summed up by regarding magical power as being personal. The spells you know are skill-based - Profession: Channeller - and so you can continue to learn more even if you take levels in a non-magical class. Probably the most significant change is that you are limited by your personal power, rather than an arbitrary list of spell numbers and levels, when casting spells; and there is no need to choose in advance what you intend to do - if you know how to cast a given spell and you have sufficient power, you can work your magic without need for further study or preparation. Likewise, the roll to actually cast a spell, and the save (if relevant) depend on the caster himself rather than on what he is trying to do.

This explained, it's on to the Channeller character class itself. Channelling is defined as the manipulation of force, energy or weather - you can specialise in one area if you so wish. As normal with any base class, as you rise in level there are various class abilities you can add in which enhance your casting abilities. There are also a series of High Magic feats, which are applicable to any magic user, rather than being Channeller-specific. A note on 'spell kits' - which you are expected to acquire via the standard gadget picks - is a bit confusing. While the contents serve the role filled by material components in standard fantasy magic use, they appear as window-dressing rather than serving a practical purpose... and not having one does not appear to make any difference to your spells.

The next few pages cover the basics of spells themselves - very general material about spell features such as casting time, duration, areas of effect, descriptors used and so on. This leads one to wonder if later volumes in the series are going to be extremely repetitive or if owning all of them (or at least this first one along with any other spell school you are interested in) will be essential to understanding the system.

Finally, we reach the Channelling spells themselves. They are well-constructed and allow plenty of scope for the caster to tailor the spell to do precisely what he wants - provided he takes the time to understand the full ramifications of the game mechanics. This isn't a casual spell-using system, to use it at all (never mind effectively) you will need to take the trouble to understand how it works mechanically within the rule system. That said, once you do grasp them you will be creating some epic effects!

Overall, it is a powerful and well-constructed set of rules for magic use. It is overly mechanical, you will have to add the 'magic' to the rules for yourself. Bring your own poetry to the party, but here you have a sound collection of rules for turning it into breathtaking magical effects. It will be interesting to see how the remainder of the series matches up.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spellbound: The Channeler (Revised)
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Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/11/2007 07:42:09
An RPG Resource Review:

This product is designed as the first of a series that will look at a range of different weapons for use in the Spycraft 2.0 game. Naturally it is of particular use if you are the sort of player who likes to go into technical detail rather than just have a handgun or a rifle; but even for those of us who are not 'gun nuts' it provides interesting flavour and detail when planning what your character is going to carry.

The stated specific focus is contemporary US Army rifles, but in fact the featured weapons are rather more experimental and not on general issue. They are the FN SCAR (popular with US Special Forces), the Heckler & Koch XM29 OICW (which is rarely used due to expense and complexity although it's a good weapon) and the Heckler & Koch XM8 Carbine. Combat specialists might well be familiar with them, however, and so it's quite interesting to give them the opportunity of having a rather more unusual weapon.

There are also notes on grenade launchers (the sort you attach to your rifle) and shotguns (surely worthy of their own supplement), and a rather strange 'airburst' system for those wanting to have indirect fire without the bother of calling in an artillery strike.

If you are seeking an unusual and distinctive battlefield weapon, these are worth a look. However, none of these are suitable for the sort of covert action you'd associate with classic espionage adventure – not even as a sniper weapon if you have an assassination planned.

Overall, this is interesting but thin – these would have been better kept for a larger work on firearms in general, too specialist for many people to be really interested in them as a stand-alone work. If you are running or playing in a very military campaign they could be useful.

Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
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