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1  Products / Spycraft Third Edition / I Cast Raise Thread on: September 22, 2013, 08:33:59 AM
1. Look for holes. What shouldn’t I do? That is, what parts of the game are so fragile they fail under stress or require Control to redesign the campaign because my character can do that? If something's wobbly before I’ve even concepted anything I run it by Control and see what his rulings are.

In Dungeons and Dragons 3.X this is the Diplomacy, Lucid Dreaming, and Use Magic Device skills; effects that create free permanent stuff, enable infinite loops, or shatter economies; the Book of 9 Swords’s Iron Heart Surge martial maneuver or the spell astral spell which permit virtual invulnerability; Fine spell storing +1 arrows and like items that permit easy access to sections of the game normally barred from certain characters. In Spycraft 2.0 it’s economics—many parts of a mission can be solved via bribes after PCs take 10 minutes to sell a UAV on Ebay. Being invisible (or, worse, hidden) for long periods while remaining mobile is totally a thing and makes the game crash pretty hard. Most NPCs who don’t specialize in them flounder far worse than PCs in Dramatic Conflicts (especially in chases).

2. What does the game think I should do? That is, what sort of options are available in the game? Does the game encourage certain actions over others? Does the game labor over details of some things and not others? Does the game favor allocating resources toward certain things and not others?

Pathfinder, for example, loves fear effects. I don’t know why, but there are dozens of different ways to make foes scared, and a lot of things that shouldn’t be easily scared (e.g. demons) actually kind of are, so while it’s badass to be able to make a demon panicked as a standard action by giving him the stink-eye and flexing, it’s still weird.

In Spycraft 2.0 there’s a dozen feats for chase Dramatic Conflicts but only 2 for manhunts and 2 for interrogations and, I think, 1 for brainwashing. So you’re supposed to chase people. That’s cool. There’s also a dozen different selectable treats for the grapple maneuver, but I think there’s 1 for the anticipate maneuver and maybe 4 for the threaten maneuver. Those lack mechanical depth, so a character who does that must have a backup plan for when he runs out of things to pick to do that better.

3. What’s the campaign? Although playing against the campaign can be interesting in the short term, an unintegrated PC is a long-term liability to team play. Consistently being unable to meaningfully contribute is unpleasant for everyone at the table. Even if we’re only hanging out for 4 hours during a pickup game, if your character doesn’t belong everyone’ll be uncomfortable.

I’m running a game set in a fantasy Amsterdam surrounded by enemies, one of whom is the Flock, the inscrutable eastern kenku barbarian-thieves. When I say inscrutable, I really mean they can’t be scruted—their alien mindset is inappropriate for PCs. If a player came to me and said, “I want to play a kenku,” I’d have to tweak the game hard to make that go… especially if he weren’t otherwise good at concealing his race. While everyone else in the party continues chasing down the hippie druids, mysteriously awakened flesh golems, and drow spies, the fantasy Mongol in fantasy Amsterdam PC’s struggles to merely exist overshadow his ability to interact with the plot. That sucks.

In Spycraft 2.0 being the best flamethrower user in the world is an uncomfortable choice in the pure spy campaign just as the super-cerebral hacker is in the brushfire wars campaign.

4. Pick a class to fit. In a class-and-level system, I then look at class. There are only really 20 choices to really make—that is, what level in what class will I take next?—, and usually class features provide more functionality than anything else. What do I want to do? How do I want to spend my time at the table? I’m going to want to do things and be proactive, bringing my skill-set to bear on the problems at hand. What skill-set do I want to have? Does the game support making that an effective, reliable choice? Eventually, the game’ll come down to fighting folks, so what tactics are interesting and effective? I pick feats and origins and whatever to support that concept and minimize conflict between the aforementioned stuff.
2  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Notebook] You are not a Jedi... Yet. on: March 06, 2013, 09:18:23 AM
I wonder how much non-combat functionality you see in the Soldier class, but your point is well taken.

The soldier has at least Intimidate, Search, Survival, and--arguably--Tactics as class skills. Although the only method of social interaction the soldier has is glaring, the only method the the sentinel possesses is stabbing. Further, fortunes of war'll see you though incidental environmental damage, armor use can get the soldier up to a space suit at a high enough level, weapon specialist can get higher caliber gear (albeit a limited sort but unrestricted to melee--grenades are versatile, after all), and one in a million does all sorts of stuff. O, any combat feat from fight on! opens a range of wackiness, especially among basic combat feats.

Much like dealing with 4th ed d&d adaptations where there is virtually NOTHING in their classes that doesnt' directly relate to table-top skirmishing, adapting material from MMOs tends to be starkly combat-centric. The sentinel actually gets it a little worse than most classes in that MMO, as its the only one of the 8 (per side) that has no non-DPS role - the others have tank or healing options, and some of them have strong stealth themes.

Fair enough. But I can't type more because I'm to the bouncy part of the enter message window, though.
3  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Notebook] Jedi Expert Classes on: March 05, 2013, 10:57:22 AM
Party Role: Combatant. The sentinel’s role is to destroy enemies quickly and efficiently. While they can offer some encouragement to their teammates it is generally only in a martial context.

I get it. I really do. But, seriously, won't anyone playing this class have nothing to do--and no way to actively contribute--until the fight music starts? I mean, yeah, he can play field hockey with his Athletics skill, stuff Jeddy bears ("Use the plush, Luke!") with his Craft skill, and Sneak into the girls' lockerroom, but not a single class feature (outside edge cases) useable noncombat in ten levels?

This is mechanically interesting, but it'd be hard for me to give up 10 levels of table time on something that can have no impact on one- to two-thirds of gameplay.
4  Community / License to Improvise / Re: War Never Changes... or Does It? on: December 15, 2012, 11:18:30 PM
"...the accuracy of smart weapons is going to far exceed the nimbleness of someone loaded down like that..."

What about the use of Force Fields to counter the lethality of weapons? We could arrive at situation such as in Dune where anything moving faster than a blade is blocked and melee Weapons are in use. Or if guided missiles, some sort of man-portable ECM jamming automatically kicks in?

It doesn't even have to be a force field. It just has to be an ECM field.

I love the idea that when 1st world nations fight, it's--in theory--super-high tech but out in the field it involves folks running up and clubbing each other with their $1m sidearms because their smart bullets can't penetrate each other's ECM fields.
5  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Re: Getting the kids started early on: December 03, 2012, 11:57:36 AM
Quote from: Me, Yeah, I Said That
The rules (epublished... somewhere...) for younger-than-adult PCs were humiliating to the point of unplayability.
Quote from: Phil
There was a Signs and Portents article on playing kids within the SC2.0 rules, it's available on the main Crafty site...

Yeah, that's somewhere all right. Existing, however, doesn't make them good. Although it's not mandatory a PC take the Young or Teen talent from that article, it's the only way to get any advantage from taking an age other than adult. Being ages 7-11 means a -3 to Str & Con and a -1 on Dex, Int, Wis, & Cha, while ages 12-15 means -1 to every ability score. That's monstrous.

Nothing those Talents provide compensate for the ability score hit. The only advantage to either is that the Young talent makes your PC Small, which is, I'm pretty sure, otherwise impossible outside of species talents and feats. Seriously, Spycraft 2.0 says you can just say your character's an (adult-sized) Fierce Playboy toddler (which is weird, but whatever), so you don't even need the Young or Teen talents to take the underaged feats.

Children as PCs, under the rules, are only good for shooting yourself in the foot, which is a shame, because, as I said, there's a whole genre there.
6  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Re: Getting the kids started early on: December 02, 2012, 08:37:38 PM
He's starting to get hooked on the genre because he has been watching some of the Spy Kids movies and his sisters Kim Possible episodes.

An Aside: There's seriously a genre in there, and it's sad that Spycraft 2.0 never got to it. The rules (epublished... somewhere...) for younger-than-adult PCs were humiliating to the point of unplayability. I wish the Saturday Morning series had continued so I could drop Phineas & Ferb and Jimmy Neutron--and Kim Possible,* obviously--into my Spycraft 2.0 game instead of merely Transformers and G. I. Joe.

He's also been reading 39 Clues so its got him hooked.  The RPG angle came in when he saw me pull out my old Top Secret stuff and asked if he could learn to play.  It got me thinking of when I got started.  So now I'm trying to find this least scary way to bring him in and his sister into the hobby.

Again, I'm going to recommend Black Seven, which, while not a great game, serves as an interesting starting point. An even stronger suggestion would be establish a die mechanic (1d20 & target numbers, die pool & successes, whatever) and let it grow organically from what the players want to do. O, and find some logic puzzles, number games, and basic codecracking stuff for use as "phycial challenges."

* I'd call the character the gender-neutral Sam Azing. You can, too!
7  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Re: Getting the kids started early on: December 02, 2012, 07:38:01 AM
I wrote other stuff below this, but this is a better question: What does he want to do in the game that makes that game so attractive?

Age 7 is rough. My 11-year-old is pretty bright, but I wouldn't try to weigh him down with a mechanics-heavy RPG like Spycraft or TS at all just yet--although I really want to. I've had success with Apocalypse World hacks (core AW is a mature game, though). If he's familiar with the more video game-y elements, Black 7 almost runs itself.

However, if you're just going for exposure, cutting out minigames usually works better than forcing system mastery early.
8  Products / Spycraft Third Edition / Re: [DEVELOPMENT] Missing skill checks/uses? on: October 14, 2012, 09:37:29 PM
Lip reading. It's one of a handful of things the current game can't handle. And I've no idea to how to handle it. It makes no sense as a Proficiency, it'd be too boss and always picked as a Knowledge, silly as a skill (the DCs would have to be... weird), and overpriced as a feat.

Also plotting a course; i.e., a noncombat method to get from point A to point B faster, safer, or cheaper--a Survival check when you're in charge of the transportation, or a Cultures check when someone else is. Everybody makes crap up for astrogation; such a thing should probably be quantified.

Quote from: Alex
Let's say in a game a character wanted to show off his refinement when handled a bottle of fine wine, but there's no skill check for that you could find; that would count for my question (even if some of us might use a Knowledge Check with synergy from Science or Cultures).

Huh. I could find it. That's an Impress check, probably Perform or Persuasion.
9  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Re: Build Me an Icon: Sterling Archer on: March 16, 2011, 06:18:13 AM
Privileged Stranger Exp14.

That's 6 bonus Chance feats and a whole LOT of class features that can be explained as drunken, dumb luck.
10  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Re: Filling the roles on: October 09, 2010, 04:47:05 PM
Quote from: Goodlun
I solved the over planning thing with a timer in real life.  I give them 15 mins to work some thing out.  If they get the old "Life is what happens while you plan" Oh well while you where trying to figure out how to get the ambassador he got on the plane and left for Argentina.

It's okay that I'd probably leave your game when you whipped out the stopwatch / kitchen timer / hourglass, right?

I understand the need to keep the game moving, but who's the prop for? Is that for you or for the one bumbling player who refuses to learn the gear system and doesn't understand his character? I can see punishing the latter--he deserves it, to a degree (I mean, unless he's just being a jerk about things or he's somebody's boyfriend and therefore a necessary evil for quorum or whatever). But as to the former why make the game that vicious? In a tournament environment, I can understand it--time limit, blah, blah--, but as an occasional player, arbitrarily whipping out the stick of pain smacks of you being a jerk--"What's the matter? You're not spy-y enough for my game? You lose!" (and cue the Nelson laugh.)

Some players really enjoy the planning phase. To give them an arbitrary limit on amount of time they can spend doing so--in real life!--well, that's rude. "This is how we've chosen to spend our time," say the players. "You want to spend it differently, find different players." And then you should.

A different angle: You ever play SJG's Car Wars? Part of the game's puzzle was putting together the best car for your budget. Off-the-shelf designs were available, but one of the game's joys was building your own killer car. If a player were always assigned a car and never able to tinker with the design system, the game be unbearable. It's borderline now, of course, 'cause it's a game about cars shooting each other, but you get the idea.

Some folks want to figure stuff out then hit things. Forcing them to hit things now--when you're at your weekly gaming session--is mean.
11  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Kickin' It Old School on: October 09, 2010, 02:02:56 PM
In middle school, when I started in on RPGs, the science teacher (for whom I was the DM) was adamant that his PC could employ then-contemporary medical techniques (e.g. CPR, wound cleaning with alcohol) in the D&D game I was running. This was, of course, back in, like, '84, so role-playing was new and junk, but even then I knew the difference between what he knew and what his PC knew. And he was big enough to let it go.

Not the chemist, and correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't a thermite reaction eat through floor long before it set the whole place ablaze?

...And there you go. Does she want a war-crime-in-a-can? (Yeah, I know it's an awesome phrase--that's Clayton Oliver's quotation.) Have her pick one or build one.

You let the players build one bomb for free, and then the hey-let's-just-build-a-bomb strategy continues forever.

Which, of course, can be totally okay. Explosions = awesome.
12  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Spycraft 2.0] Warehouse 13 on: September 29, 2010, 04:15:03 PM
The idea is that the Warehouse gets placed in the most powerful/dependable location. Warehouse 12 was destroyed (maybe in the London Blitz) so it got moved to the United States. Every item in the Warehouse is either destroyed or shipped to the next one.

The Warehouse takes care of artifacts that appear in that era so usually its stuff within the last few hundred years. I don't think there are many that are before the 1800's in the show.

Isn't Warehouse 12, essentially, Sanctuary? Crossover--again--, yo!
13  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Spycraft 2.0] Warehouse 13 on: September 27, 2010, 09:27:47 AM
The enemies can't get past a little bit of damage. My worry is not that the enemies will lose, just that the players will get bored. If I can't create bad ass enemies to fight. They are going to go up against the Lovecraft's Necronomicon, a compendium of all his notes. Draws the reader into the Lovecraftian universe, if they die in the book they die in real life. The only way to escape is to close the book, either by doing a resolve roll or have someone outside close the book.

Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series has a great deal of information about traveling within books. If you've time before your next session, the first and, IIRC, third are really good.

And, really, I'd just go ahead and suck them into Unknown Kadath (sp.) or send them to the Mountains of Madness and be real about it.

Other idea is Houdini's Key, an artifact that allows the user to open any lock and knot. The mission will be about capturing the guy responsible for using it to steal. The idea is that the guy is a thrill seeker and will only steal from high profile areas. The downside to the artifact is that it has to be ingested and can rupture organs if used too often. The mission structure is for them to try and corner the thief, there allowed to use anything at their disposal, including a Seerer with telekinesis .  I'm giving the thief a better run speed then normal people though. Cat burglars should be.

Cat burglar? Nah. Spy, dude. A spy who can get in anywhere, bypass any security system, open any lock, escape any cell? That's awesome. Ingested is weird, though. Have it provide itself with a +10 to Stash Item checks or make the error range for opponent's search checks increase by the user's starting AD or something (but, then again, I guess that might imply ingesting...). The great thing about the spy angle is that it gives the PCs an entire organization to go up against, rather than just one dude who can be dropped with a lucky hit--and it raises the stakes. Remember, when the spy learns of the warehouse, where do you think he's going next? Especially because he can bypass all of the security...

Might bring in a second Warehouse to try and be rivals. I know Warehouse 12 is supposed to be gone but they could be rogue.

Okay, now this is interesting, and puts you on your way to establishing your own mythology. Let's say your PCs are new recruits to Warehouse 21, and that's where all of the artifacts of the last 10 years are stored (which would be a bizarre list), but the jealous rivals of Warehouse 20 (where the last century's stuff is housed) are pissed about their funding cuts. That's kind of cool. Also consider time travel: If your PCs are Warehouse 13ers, what about their future selves from Warehouse 13.5--grizzled veterans who travel back in time who also know that killing the PCs kills themselves? That's pretty awesome.

Also remember that in the Warehouse 13 continuity, Eureka exists. And take your pick of bronzed baddies who could have become worse than Hitler but didn't because of the Warehouse's intervention. Now imagine that spy with Houdini's lockpick having access to Global Dynamics or the bronzing mechanism. You have plots for years.
14  Community / License to Improvise / Re: [Spycraft 2.0] Warehouse 13 on: September 27, 2010, 12:20:46 AM
Just because I want this thread to continue.

Simple list of artifacts:
  • Booth's Derringer: Good at icing politicos.
  • Washington's Wig: Makes anyone a great leader/general.
  • Edison's Dynamo: Powers anything.
  • Bell's Phonograph: Unencrypts everything.
  • Marconi's Radio: Doesn't work.
  • Ford's Model-T: Never runs out of gas; only goes 15 MPH.
  • Custer's Arrow: Kills any agent with Reputation of <100.
  • Geronimo's Blanket: Survive any fall.
  • Enola Gay's Pilot's Helmet: Never feel guilt.
  • The Amber Room: Infinite wealth.
  • Titanic's Wheel: Crash any ship.
And that's top of my head. Each one of those is an adventure. Maybe.
15  Legacy Games / Spycraft 2.0 / Re: Filling the roles on: September 26, 2010, 11:51:06 PM
My group has suffered extraordinary analysis paralysis for most of the years they've played SC.  If I give them a situation and then let them have at it, the next couple hours (no exaggeration) becomes a planning and contingency session. [...] We only get about 6-7 hours playtime per month; I can't waste it in planning.

I say officially adding the phrase analysis paralysis should immediately become a priority. That's awesome. If that's been used before, use it again, and, if it hasn't, use it now!

But I can see the kind of group that would come out of--I run an at-the-table glacially paced game, but an in-game-reality fast-paced game (days are sessions long--I don't know what to call that--high-stakes minutiae?), but I get 20+ hours of gaming a month, so, yeah, I can afford to be 3x as slow.

But it also helps if your PCs know what they can do. That is, given the mission, they should know someone's going to hit things, hack things, engineer things, sneak around things, or whatever, and those decisions should be able to be made fairly quickly. I mean, we still game and junk.

And then they finally get to gearing up.  Which used to be another hour.
Okay, that's a whole different issue unless PCs are lending each other gear.

So this model I'm asking about here works for us - I'm just looking to maximize the play time for each player.

Are you unhappy or are your players unhappy or both? Or neither? Some folks--like most Shadowrun players--really get pumped on mission planning. That's not a horrible downside, especially if you're a careful DM who listens to all of their worries and concerns while they're planning because invariably the PCs come up with far cooler crap than you could have... and then you get to one-up them next session. That can be fun and awesome.
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