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Author Topic: Spycraft Third edition Wishlist and Suggestions Mega-thread  (Read 25988 times)
TheAuldGrump
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« Reply #15 on: March 20, 2010, 11:08:57 PM »

For the Love of God, Fix The Gear Rules

I think FantasyCraft pointed to a sea change in how you looked at gear, but I just want to be clear about this: gearing up in SpyCraft 1.0 AND 2.0 was a nightmare. Even if I included options to simplify it from the Big Score, my players would spend long periods of game time on trying to grasp what all those codes meant and what upgrades they could get and what precisely they needed and then I'd have to track special qualities and flip pages to figure out how X interacted with Y and...well. You get the point, I'm sure.

I'm personally not all that interested in detailed lists of equipment - and while I realize some players like to dig deep into hardware even my tech-head, NRA member, min-max loving players would get confused and annoyed by these interlaced gear systems and subsystems. The game is really about what the characters do and how they interact with the obstacles I present them with, NOT whether or not they picked the optimal armor, weapon, vehicle, or kit for the job. I'd personally suggest that if you want to include lots of specificity and qualities for each and every bit of non-living equipment that you make it more optional and maybe even in a Gunbunny-friendly sourcebook rather than in the core rules.
Here I have to disagree - the Gear rules, along with the NPC rules, are the best part of SC 2.0. Gearing up with my group does not take long, even when they get into the mid to high levels. I would go so far as to say that your proposed 'fixes' would leave me cold. Undecided And the Gear system in Fantasy Craft, while workable, and better than many, is just not as good as SC2.0 - at least when allowing SC to use the Big Score rules. I much prefer an exhaustive list to 'Musical Instrument 50p'. (Have I mentioned how much I hate that particular entry? Well, I do.) I like specifics much more than I do a white box with black lettering labeled 'STUFF'.

*EDIT* The number one reason that I have not switched to Fantasy Craft with my SteamCraft game - Big Score adds the flexibility I need to SC2 , making it much more flexible than that of the Forge in FC.

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Be Careful With Gadgets

On a similar note to my previous plea, I'd like you to be more cautious when it comes to gadget rules. While I realize its partially the GM's job to spot when a player has abused a given system, 2.0's open-ended gadget options could quickly go from "that's cool" to "that's totally ridiculous and unbalancing". Things like Skill Boost, for instance, would often result in PCs who had no Computer skillz but who could defeat any Hacking challenge provided they spared some gadget slots to get a bunch of limited use +10s to their skill checks. This was especially grating if we had another PC WITH Computer skills but whose player was less system-savvy and couldn't keep up with the min-maxer. Ultimately, I ended up having to lock out practically every gadget rank in PBP games because of this.
Not sure about this one either - I would be happier if my players picked up more gadgets than they do. It also sounds like you spend a lot of time on high Caliber missions, since there is a limit to how crazy they can get... and it sounds like your PCs are spending a lot of time beyond what seems likely inside of a moderate Caliber mission. Send 'em out to kill Cthulhu when armed with Sporks for a Caliber I mission....  Evil  (Seriously, do try lower Caliber missions - the Spork comment is a long running joke.)

That said, the Gadget system could use some clarification, I have used the S&P articles more than once to get the players to try thinking beyond simplest uses.

Things that I would not mind saying goodbye to:
Floating Initiative. I kind of like it, but there is nothing in the game that is more likely to bog down in minutae, quibbling, and disagreement, let alone the difficulty in explaining the system to new players.

Dramatic Conflicts. Don't get me wrong, I love them,  but aside from the Chase rules, I haven't used them in over a year. Sad It is much easier just to run it as a complex action.

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« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 11:24:34 PM by TheAuldGrump » Logged

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« Reply #16 on: March 20, 2010, 11:17:19 PM »

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Take Your NPC and Shove It, I Ain't Tracking Him No More

FantasyCraft did a lot of neat stuff to make the Crafty engine easier to grok and work with. It did, however, do one thing that made me fear for my sanity in running it. This is the notion of PC created/controlled NPCs with their own roman numeral-laden, NPC quality-having stat blocks. Which level. And change. And somebody has to sort out at the game table using the NPC chapter.

I know, I know. A good player will be sure to take care of this on their own, preferably before/between sessions. But, man; that's just a whole new level of crunch for me to instruct my players about if they decide to have a Personal Lieutenant, Animal Partner, or some mysterious minion-summoning class or Feat ability I have yet to comprehend. Do people really play with these PC-controlled-NPCs that much? And is there any way we can make it simpler for us GMs to work with them? 'Cause, right now, if I see them in 3.0 as they appear in FantasyCraft, I'm going to probably get an ulcer and redact their mention with black blocks. But that may just be me.

Our group has PC-controlled-NPC's in basically every game session, usually multiples of each.  One uses summons pets, I have an Animal Partner, another has a captain's Personal Lt, and you're right, the PC's have to take responsibility and build their guy themselves.  That said I consider them super simple for GM's to work with - we don't actually have to do anything, the onus is entirely on the PC.  My table rule is if they haven't pre-built one that I approve of, it has to come from the Foes chapter, unchanged.  That way we don't spend 20 minutes waiting for a player to come up with his steed.

I personally hated the old personal lieutennant rules, and tried to avoid using them, because they were always kind of dead weight in my experiance and lacking in the flexibility of the FC version.  Animal Partners in SC2 were worse, because you had bugger all XP.

I also agree with TheAuldGrump here - I loved the gear rules [post second printing Wink], and I want to see more gadget options.  I'm happier telling my players that for a particular campaign they can't use stuff then I am having to invent it.
« Last Edit: March 20, 2010, 11:46:41 PM by Turnip666 » Logged
TheAuldGrump
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« Reply #17 on: March 20, 2010, 11:33:29 PM »

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Take Your NPC and Shove It, I Ain't Tracking Him No More

FantasyCraft did a lot of neat stuff to make the Crafty engine easier to grok and work with. It did, however, do one thing that made me fear for my sanity in running it. This is the notion of PC created/controlled NPCs with their own roman numeral-laden, NPC quality-having stat blocks. Which level. And change. And somebody has to sort out at the game table using the NPC chapter.

I know, I know. A good player will be sure to take care of this on their own, preferably before/between sessions. But, man; that's just a whole new level of crunch for me to instruct my players about if they decide to have a Personal Lieutenant, Animal Partner, or some mysterious minion-summoning class or Feat ability I have yet to comprehend. Do people really play with these PC-controlled-NPCs that much? And is there any way we can make it simpler for us GMs to work with them? 'Cause, right now, if I see them in 3.0 as they appear in FantasyCraft, I'm going to probably get an ulcer and redact their mention with black blocks. But that may just be me.

Our group has PC-controlled-NPC's in basically every game session, usually multiples of each.  One uses summons pells, I have an Animal Partner, another has a captain's Personal Lt, and you're right, the PC's have to take responsibility and build their guy themselves.  That said I consider them super simple for GM's to work with - we don't actually have to do anything, the onus is entirely on the PC.  My table rule is if they haven't pre-built one that I approve of, it has to come from the Foes chapter, unchanged.  That way we don't spend 20 minutes waiting for a player to come up with his steed.

I personally hated the old personal lieutennant rules, and tried to avoid using them, because they were always kind of dead weight in my experiance and lacking in the flexibility of the FC version.  Animal Partners in SC2 were worse, because you had bugger all XP.

I also agree with TheAuldGrump here - I loved the gear rules [post second printing Wink], and I want to see more gadget options.  I'm happier telling my players that for a particular campaign they can't use stuff then I am having to invent them for others.
Heh - I do like the Personal Lieutenant rules better in FC than I did in SC. Smiley The retired Soldier in the steampunk archaeology group has one, but I have managed to get the other PCs to look elsewhere for their feats.... I like the idea more than I do the mechanics.

And yeah - the rules are much better laid out in second printing in regards to Gear. There is still too much table flipping - mostly between the Qualities and the Ammo for various weapons., but that has only been a problem in a couple of the Delta Green games. Partly because I cheated, and printed out copies of the Gear rules from the PDF - I put the Qualities and Ammo sections into page protectors, so there is a lot less flipping around.

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« Reply #18 on: March 21, 2010, 06:03:21 AM »

About gear, one thing i would like to see coming back are the equipment Bundles. I used them a lot in Stargate, and it's something i really missed in SC2.
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« Reply #19 on: March 21, 2010, 06:33:12 AM »

About gear, one thing i would like to see coming back are the equipment Bundles. I used them a lot in Stargate, and it's something i really missed in SC2.

I hear ya - I still give them to players for quite a number of missions.
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« Reply #20 on: March 21, 2010, 08:01:45 AM »

With respect to gear, while I do have some players that are simply confounded by making a decision between 3 or 4 different guns (the usual answer when you get it whittled down that far is "just pick one", but some seem incapable), my biggest problem is gear categories. They seem to multiply gear selection time.

Reason being that it's fairly straightforward to say "for this mission, we need x, y, and z", whereas if you have (say) 1G, 1T, and 1S, the conversation goes more like "we need a V pick, but we can't get one. But I have a T pick, but don't really need one, but let me agonize for a while over what we might need."

I'm thinking house rule for SC 2.0 is you can pick any gear category, but have minus one grade if its not one of your listed categories.

As far as gadget rules go, I like most gadget mechanisms as is. I don't find allowing big skill bonuses to be a problem. It lets you tackle tough challenges as well as compensate for weaknesses in your agent lineup (= make the character you want instead of the "someone's got to play the cleric" syndrome of D&D).
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« Reply #21 on: March 21, 2010, 09:03:33 AM »

Reason being that it's fairly straightforward to say "for this mission, we need x, y, and z", whereas if you have (say) 1G, 1T, and 1S, the conversation goes more like "we need a V pick, but we can't get one. But I have a T pick, but don't really need one, but let me agonize for a while over what we might need."

I'm thinking house rule for SC 2.0 is you can pick any gear category, but have minus one grade if its not one of your listed categories.

One thing I did, only for a single game though, is to decategorise gear picks - so if someone had 2W, 1S, 1G and charisma 12, they got 5 picks of any type.  Worked pretty well and didn't cause any huge hiccups, the classes with more exclusive gear categories tend to have more gear picks anyway so they aren't overly penalised.

A house rule we've used alot more consistantly [>80% of all game time] is that Charisma bonus picks can be from any category, that way faction characters without weapon picks can still pick up a gun, or the group can get whats needed for the mission.
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« Reply #22 on: March 21, 2010, 01:26:41 PM »

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Mathey - first, welcome. I've greatly enjoyed reading your threads over on RPG.net.

Second - thank you for that post. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's this sort of honesty and clear-eyed commentary (good and bad) which will be key to us sorting what fans want. Without getting too far into it, I can tell you just about everything you mentioned here is something we've got under the microscope, and it's very helpful to hear your take on those issues here.

Thanks! It really does make a difference when you know the guys behind the books are lending an ear.

As far as my issues with gearing up and gadgets, I can only speak from personal experience obviously, but its never not been something of a chore for me and my players. That's not universally applicable, I realize, but its significant enough for myself and many other people who have played or run SpyCraft's past iterations to be worth stating. Repeating, even.

To give some perspective, I have a tabletop group that is (mostly) the same people I ran a fairly long-lived Shadowforce Archer campaign for in SpyCraft 1.0. I also have run four or five play-by-post games on RPG.net that used SpyCraft 2.0. Of those games, I'd hazard a guess that maybe one or two of them were traditional superspies and the others were pseudo-realistic. One was a mercenary game in the vein of the movie Ronin and one was a very stripped down Word On Fire game that mainly focused on interaction and investigation. Later on, I tried running 2.0 for my tabletop group in two separate premises, neither of which went very far. All of my games are narrative-heavy - but they also tend to feature action and combat in varying doses and styles.

With the SpyCraft 1.0 tabletop game, it was the first experience for most of them with a modern action-adventure game but they took to it pretty well. Being quite pulpy and cinematic, there were numerous gadgets in the campaign: submersible cars, lots of grapple belts (everybody loves 'em), sub-cochlear ear radio implants, and if memory serves somebody used a holographic gizmo of some sort. We also had one player who played a Triggerman and really became an expert at gaming the weapon modding rules presented in one of the class sourcebooks. So expert, in fact, that he consistently outperformed every other player in every combat scene. And I'm not talking a minor but noticeable difference; I'm talking a vast distinction that made the others feel kind of left out.

With gear picks, the Triggerman always knew what he wanted ("Whatever gives me the biggest bonus!"), but just about everybody else struggled to make decisions. They often seemed to be a bit like blind men trying to describe an elephant when it came to picking the "right" gear for a given mission. This didn't get better as we played; if anything, it got a bit worse as they realized that they had forgotten something or other critical in the previous mission and tried to cover all their bases.

To try to address this, I gave them copies of the equipment chapter - which did help, tried to email them briefings ahead of time - which often didn't, and I also gave them bundles to try and calm their minds about the vital gizmos they'd need - but it still would take a lot of time and agonizing nitpicking to get them out of the HQ and in the field. And when I say a "lot of time", that may be relative; for me and my players, spending 1/2 of a session, 1.5 hours or so, flipping through charts of equipment and conferring about who gets what is not our idea of a fun time (well, save for that one Triggerman). It just isn't what we're into.

I want to emphasize that we DID have fun with this SFA campaign, but as a group it was agreed that gearing up was the least fun part of an otherwise action-packed gaming experience. The second least favorite part would have to be the way the Triggerman's system expertise co-opted numerous scenes, but that's another issue.

Moving on to the Play-By-Post games I ran with SpyCraft 2.0, initially I had thought it had addressed many of my concerns about gear. Gadgets could be custom made rather than selected from pre-fab lists, there were seemingly easier ways to acquire equipment and "mundane" items in the field, and weapon modification was no longer the sole domain of one player. More choices, I figured, would mean a happier time for all.

In practice, however, 2.0's gear system was as much of a pain as 1.0's for me and my players if not more so. To wit:

Categorical gear picks (as others have noted) could be a bit of a pain to wrangle with, especially since the team's plans were contingent on what their gear slots allowed. CHA picks should have theoretically alleviated this, but then there was a twist based on whether you were Faction or Freelance - AND the organization ratings could also provide more things to be aware of.

Nobody liked deciding on Common Items ("Is a flashlight a common item? What about a camera? Cell phone? Encrypted cell phone? Is a pen a common item? Oops, I forgot paper. Oops, I forgot a bag. Anybody got some duct tape?"). There ARE people who like knowing precisely what is in every pocket on their PCs person, but in my experience they're not the majority of gamers out there - or at least the gamers I personally seem to attract.

Reserve picks were a rarefied mystery beyond most of my player's comprehension - or interest - or time. Net Worth and Reputation? We tracked it, but I can count on one hand the number of times people used 'em, even after I tried pushing them as an alternative to meticulously pre-plotting gear selections. Didn't work.

Weapons were not only more detailed and varied, they had upgrades AND qualities, and ammo and some upgrades cost more than one upgrade and certain upgrades had to go in certain virtual places on particular weapons. Worst of all, the upgrades and qualities existed in different parts of the rulebooks; you'd get a weapon, sort out its stats, add an upgrade, look up the upgrade, then get told it added a quality, look up the quality, then adapt the stats you looked up in the first place to figure out what you actually had. More realistic? I guess. More engaging? Not for myself or most of my players. More headaches? Absolutely.

Armor was quite powerful relative to the damage of weapons, meaning that my covert operatives would often end up strapping on helmets, vests, kneepads, and who knows what else when doing covert spy stuff. When your otherwise non-combative hacker kits himself out like one of the characters from Army of Two, I'd say there's a serious disconnect going on. Oh, and armor and vehicles also had upgrades and qualities to flip through. Whee.

Spending Cash we did use. A lot. Mainly because my guys loved bribing people and buying stuff in the field.

Gadgets - well, I grew to hate them, to be honest.

Consider a relatively low-key Caliber II mission, say "steal this dingus from this enemy base". If I have a Level 1 PC, his skill rank in his main class skill is 4, perhaps a bit more if he got the right talent, specialization, or skill feats. He may have a +2 or +3 to that skill via attribute; that's something like +8/+9 if he's really emphasized this in his construction. This is his main skill, the thing he's known for.

Consider a Level 1 Intruder. He gets 1 Gadget pick for his class. He grabs Skill Check, Caliber III (he gets to increase the caliber of a gear pick thanks to Gear Prep). He gets +12 on 3 checks - and it doesn't matter what skill, so he could take the very same skill the previous PC has specialized in. That means three times out of the number of times that skill comes up, the Intruder is going to be the guy who does the check for the team while the other guy (who built his character around this skill) sits and twiddles his thumbs. Now consider what happens if the Intruder and his less system-savvy pal level and gain more gear picks AND skill ranks. Assuming the same caliber for a later mission, the Intruder can now get a few skill checks at +12, or the same skill check multiple times at 3 uses a pop. He can now outperform multiple fellow team members and/or do it many more times in the mission.

That's really just the tip of the iceberg; Healing, Damage Resistance (lethal), Invisibility...these are things in the reach of PCs in Caliber II+ missions if the GM hasn't specified that they cannot get 'em and yet grant a massive advantage to those who can. They also presume a super-tech focus for the game, one where equipment IS more important than character ability. Even if I restricted Gadgets with organization ratings to Caliber I in my "realistic" tradecraft game, I'd end up with guys boosting their Impress with "pheremone sprays". Not because it fits the game, mind you, but because "Hey! Free bonus!".

In theory, they provide a jumping off point for the imagination of the GM and his players. In practice? Min/Maxer Heaven. I really would almost prefer the fixed list of gizmos from 1.0, even; at least those tried to rationalize things better and didn't simply offer super-powers - AND it was somehow easier to know which ones would imbalance things in play.

As far as the time it took my players to pick stuff - well, play-by-post is unique in that its a kind of game where everybody accepts that it's going to take a long time to do even trivial tasks. People get to it when they can get to it, and if they have a job, family, and social life, that can mean long waits and more time to browse and read and be selective. In tabletop, well - it was fairly awful in my experience. Its possible that my tabletop group (no longer including the aforementioned Triggerman) is made up of wishy washy wafflers who get confused by charts in general - but we've played other crunchy games (4E, 3.5, Shadowrun, and Champions, among others) with equipment lists that were less painful. Heck, 1.0 was less painful, I'd argue.

I know that there were extensive revisions to 2.0 (I own the first run, the revised, and even the pocket edition), but even with the reorganized, explicated, and adjusted gear rules, they made my players want to cry. And that's not a great feeling when you're trying to help them get to the cool stuff that I think makes the game so great; for many people who aren't into tracking all those facts and figures, they won't go any further with you, and even if they do (as many repeat PBP players have told me), they will always let you know that gear still bugs 'em.

For those of you who LOVE the gear system of 2.0, I don't want you to think I'm in total opposition to all that detail and crunch. It can be neat to get precisely what you need and know precisely what it does. I honestly understand that even if I don't prefer to play that way. But, for those of us who don't want to spend as much time on the props as they want to spend on the characters and getting their Spy on, it can be a big obstructing speed bump.

Does this mean we need to have "generic" firearms, armor, vehicles, and totally nerfed gadgets? No! Hell no. I'm just saying there's more choices along the scale between that kind of bland extreme and the other - which would be, I don't know, grain weight charts and factored velocity simulations. I think you can keep the range of options and detail in SpyCraft 3.0, but I personally feel it needs to be more carefully considered in light of other play styles, interests, and how much fun it actually adds to the game. I'd hazard a guess I'm not alone in this feeling, even if its not a popular sentiment on these particular forums.
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« Reply #23 on: March 21, 2010, 01:40:46 PM »

mathey, stop being so vague. Try actually expanding on your points sometimes, will you? These super-short posts will not do.
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« Reply #24 on: March 21, 2010, 01:53:02 PM »

Well, I think there's an encyclopedia entry I read once that...

Wait. What's that? Oh.

...

 Wink
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« Reply #25 on: March 21, 2010, 02:19:10 PM »

Excellent follow-up detail, mathey. Thanks again!
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« Reply #26 on: March 21, 2010, 02:33:08 PM »

I don't disagree with any of your points Mathey, as there certainly is potential in the gear system [in both iterations of the game so far] for everything you talked about happening, however I don't consider this a fault of the gear system.  The skill gadgets are great for things like automatic lock picks, auto-hacker programs [which you kinda mentioned], and other useful and flavourful things.

The problem only arises when the party has a specialist who gets left out in the cold by another rules savvy player who used gear to his advantage.  A smarter min-maxer would give the skill boost to the specialist to ensure a success, after all +9 +12 > +0 +12.  Also don't forget skill caps, the untrained player can't get over a 15 anyway, so that +12 isn't going to do him that much good [unless they actually count as skill ranks, forgive me if I'm mistaken].

Extensive weapon upgrading can get a little annoying, especially if one player dedicates 2 hours to it pre-game and arrives with an unholy abomination, while everyone else has sharp sticks.  My solution to this is simply to tell the player no, same with gadgets I don't want them to have.  "The Agency doesn't have that item."  Simple and to the point, and it makes sense - why would your espionage agency have item X with 42 specific upgrades sitting around, or a gadget that doesn't fit your game for that matter.

I will disagree with you about armour - in my opinion the hacker should dress like someone from Army of Two, as long as the people around him are.  If he's in a swat unit, or a battlefield, he should dress as they do - both to avoid standing out [and being a potential target], and to have adequate protection [if they feel they need kevlar, why shouldn't he have it too].  Of course if the scene is set at a 5 star dinner party, the hacker shouldn't be wearing riot gear...

On the topic of common items - I agree, they are a massive pain in the ass for most [I don't mind comming up with a list, but my group hates it].  What I've done is let the player make gear checks to see if he thought of packing a pen and note pad, usually with a [fairly mellow] DC based on the suitation - in a raid characters will have zip ties, but the player could forget, so a quick DC15 gear check and "Yup, you remembered to pack zip ties, you have a bag of 100".

I think the Crafty boys are in a bit of a quandry - the only improvements people want to make are about the gear system, but at the same time if they make it hyper quick and simple they will annoy an equal number of people who want to be able to pick up specific gear [be it for mechanical or roleplaying reasons - I for one like gearing up as an agent of my chosen agency/background/nationality would].  They have to figure out something that's both fast and easy and complex and deep - an unenviable position.
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« Reply #27 on: March 21, 2010, 03:17:59 PM »

I will say this, though people might be expecting it anyway due to the way FC handles it: Do away with Skill Check Caps. The FC style untrained penalties are fine, but I don't think in my years of running/playing SC2 I've EVER used Skill Check Caps for anyone with more than 0 ranks in a skill.

Also, more non-combat oriented Expert Classes in the core book. This is SpyCraft, not SoldierCraft. Most of the 1.0 Prestige Classes from the Faceman/Snoop guide kinda got folded into Faceman in 2.0, and left a noticeable hole. While I'm on the topic of Facemen: Make a good base class that's an obvious pick for a Socially focused character that isn't also focused on Disguise. Maybe something that gets bonus Style Feats every other level like Soldiers do with Combat. As is, a disproportionate number of my players go with Soldier as their base class of choice just because the huge number of bonus feats means they can be excellent at combat and use their regular feat choices for all their non-combat stuff.
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« Reply #28 on: March 21, 2010, 07:24:29 PM »

In the above statement, you could fold some of the Sleuth's abilities into the Faceman, since 3.0 will be more espionage oriented, and grant some similar abilities or leave the Sleuth unchanged in 10KB.

As for the Gear, I've never seen anyone specifically go out of their way to step on another character's toes, even in LSpy, except if they had similar builds at the table which would be accidentally. In regards to Common Items, I always reference it as if your character may go on vacation and be forced to go directly into the field without a chance to really re-up his Gear. He'll have his Possessions too. I also have always suggested that people look at their Interests when making their Common Item list. What do they do in their spare time? They still can get a number of additional common items based off of their Wisdom before they depart on a mission and they may even hold some in reserve. The other option is to let them hold all their Mission Common Item picks in Reserve and just do Gear checks for them.


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« Reply #29 on: March 22, 2010, 11:43:33 AM »

SC3 must have faster moving but still involving Dramatic Conflicts please !!!!

Eg Car chases, Casino Royale style card games etc

And I think it would be a good idea to move the Tradecraft section from WoF to the SC3 rulebook.  Smiley
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Lo, there do I see the line of my people Back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.They bid me take my place among them
In the halls of Valhalla Where the brave may live forever !!!
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