I like the spy genre. I like SpyCraft. I liked that 2.0 was a toolkit that ventured outside of the spy genre, but I think I like the idea that 3.0 will be re-focused on spies once more. You're welcome to disagree of course, but that's not what this thread is about. No. This thread is about SpyCraft 3.0 and actual honest-to-god espionage roleplaying in its many and varied forms. What do the spy-lovin' gamers out there want from 3.0 as it relates to this specific type of game?
Personally, I like making spammy lists like this...The Great Game(s)
The term spy genre is probably a bit like fantasy genre; it conjures popular images, but those don't really express everything that exists under its umbrella. FantasyCraft isn't just for dungeon crawls or high fantasy; it can be used for sword and sorcery, dark fantasy, wuxia, and steampunk just to name a few familiar subgenres. I hope (and fully expect) SpyCraft 3.0 will follow suit, offering us options for many flavors of espionage adventure. There's the familiar big-budget blockbuster gadget-laden style that people still tend to associate with the 20th century Bond films and its imitators, but you've also got the much less gear-focused Bourne films, grim LeCarre spy novels, that awesome Sandbaggers show, Clancy technothrillers, weirder stuff like the old Prisoner TV series, Metal Gear Solid, all those spy genre crossbreeds, and a whole lotta things I've probably never even heard of.
I don't think it needs to be all-inclusive, though; I'd be perfectly happy if they kept the focus to 20th and early 21st century spy hijinx, m'self. There's some cultural, technological, and social assumptions in that period that are think are ideal for the genre.
Given Crafty's ability to make FantasyCraft as flexible-yet-focused as it is, I don't think I have much to worry about here. Specialists AND Generalists
I always liked how SpyCraft's past iterations emphasized team roles for each class and therefore each PC. I liked that you had a designated guy for driving stuff (Wheelman), another for killin' people (Soldier), and yet another for making everybody gel (Pointman). Its suited to group play, which is the typical tabletop experience, and it provides for dynamics and tactics that encourage the social aspects of gaming. I also liked when 2.0 gave us some ways to specialize and potentially specialize even more if we wanted to. That's all good.
I would, however, like to see better ways to create characters who aren't so focused in one field. I know that it'd be wrong to have one class that is "omnicompetent", some sort of over-powered monstrosity that eclipses everybody else - that'd be no fun for the specialists (See: Scientist). On the other hand, in my experience the class roles can get to be a little too
specialized. This is especially true given the Result Caps and penalties for untrained skill checks in 2.0; my players' characters often seemed a little myopic somehow when it came to getting the job done. It wasn't that they weren't James Bond or Jason Bourne experts-at-everything; it was that they were experts-at-one-thing-and-that's-it; anything outside of their class' conceptual niche was a real bitch and not all that flavorful. This would actually become even more extreme at higher levels, when a 10th level PC who doesn't get Athletics (0 Ranks), for one example, is going to be constantly owned in a grapple by most 10th level NPCs.
I know that multiclassing is an option, but there's something that bugs me about it; those strong specializations do weird things when they overlap and compete for space. Also, Cross-Class Skill Ranks=A Pain. I also know the Pointman can pick and choose options from other classes - but that's relatively long after 1st Level and he still ends up being mainly a motivator rather than an actor. And, yeah, there are the campaign qualities that remove or adjust the penalties for untrained skill usage and cross-class skills - but those are the exception rather than the rule.
I think the notion of Origin Skills found in FantasyCraft is a step in the right direction (player picked universal class skills), but I'd like to see some more ways to create a PC who doesn't quite fit the typical class roles but who IS conceptually and
mechanically consistent. This PC might be less awesome at driving, shooting, and sneaking than more Specialized characters, but I'd like it if they also aren't relegated to support roles. Do I have suggestions on how to do this? Well; no, not yet. But I think its worth thinking about. We Can't All Be Armchair Commandos
I know that SpyCraft has a following that really likes guns, vehicles, and military history and tactical stuff. I'm cool with that, honest; soldiering is a great foundation for modern adventure gaming. But - its not the only one. Its not even the preferred one for many players. And I don't think it should be the start point for an espionage game system or how it approaches equipment and combat.
Granted, Intelligence was and still is steeped in warfare. But its a fairly distinct kind of warfare from paramilitary operations, I think, and one with different philosophies, interests, and themes tied to it. I personally feel that the natural reaction for SpyCraft agents to hostiles should maybe look more like James Bond (whatever version) than, say, Rainbow Six. Don't get me wrong; a Rainbow Six game could and should be an awesome campaign to play. But, personally? I don't want my Spy
Craft PCs to start raids with kevlar helmets and M4s as their default way of dealing with a Top Secret mission or covert objective.
How this ties to the system is in the details and the presentation.
Armor, for starters, is a bugaboo of mine; you can't make it potent (nigh necessary
) and not expect people to take it. At the least, there should be genuine penalties to using it even in a realistic game - AND maybe even incentives for PCs in a more cinematic game to not
use it. As its presented in even the revised 2.0 rulebook, though, you'd be a putz not to wear it all the time and with nomex underpants. That doesn't sit well with me, no matter how players rationalize it. If there was a way to make it tactically viable for games doing Rainbow Six but also
make it less appetizing or appealing to games about discretion and guns-as-genuine-threats...well, that'd be nice.
I could elaborate on this as it regards the entire Gear chapter in 2.0, but I'll keep it brief; I think everybody who cares to know already knows how I feel about it. Lets just say that I kind of like the idea that a gun is a tool, a means to an end rather than end unto itself. And Gadgets - there should be ways to make 'em fun and easy to use in a game that favors them, but they should also be something a GM can tone down or remove without screwing over the PCs.
Lastly, I think you can push
skills even more and make non-tactical solutions to problems even more appealing. I know that a team of PCs quietly bribing and influencing NPCs into surrender might sound boring to many players, but some times its as fun as pumping every thug you meet full of lead. And, really - if I'm running a game that has a lot of combat, I think it should also be easier to dial it from "hardcore tactical simulation" to "crazy over-the-top mayhem". How much of this would be easily solved with a few Campaign Qualities? I don't know; probably most of it. But I feel like putting this bug in the ear of the designers while I have the chance and before my camouflaged, face-painted brethren storm this thread.