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Author Topic: NPC creation question, the rules of Spycraft  (Read 10890 times)
Aryxbez
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« on: October 06, 2007, 06:54:40 PM »

I'm not sure where to post for asking for help on rules, so if I posted the wrong area, please inform me of where I should post, as these subjects are somewhat vague.

One thing that is been bothering me when I took a look at the book today was the NPC creation rules. How do I make a balanced NPC encounter? As it is so general and doesn't really describe how to really do so, it is hard for me.

Also there is the Grades that go from 1-10, I don't know why it is there for, other than the higher grade=higher modifiers. So how do I know which grade 1-10 to use? I also don't know how to create a NPC of certain threat level. If I can't learn how to do such things, I can't run encounters and therefore will likely rather not play Spycraft.

Sadly there are even rules that I just don't plainly like. Such as the whole Fluid Initiative thing, with initiatives going up and down just for swinging a big weapon, or increasing due to bracing or something of those lines. I don't think Initiative should really change like such.
Also there is then Calibur, I'm not sure what is for as far as Gear goes, is it just there getting more money to buy things? Or is it also some upgrade thing for weapons, so is there a such thing as a calibur 3 melee weapon?, or even gun?
I was also going to bring up vitality/wounds, however I realized that you lose wound points if you have 0 vitality. If it is not the case, then that is likely a problem.
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« Reply #1 on: October 06, 2007, 07:29:26 PM »

Control Transmissions is probably the best place for this, but no big deal.

For npcs that have comparable modifiers to the player characters, you'll want roman numerals in the 3-7 range, with 5 being the average.

For threat levels, you add up the career level of each of the player characters and divide by 5. If your group has 5 player characters, it'll be the average of their career levels. If your group is larger, the threat level will be higher than their average, if the group is smaller, it will be lower than the average.

To get the npcs bonuses, you just find the entry on the relevant table in the npc section of the Game Control chapter, and look up the bonus that corresponds to the threat level and roman numeral that npc has for that stat.

It basically keeps the npc at the same power level relative to the pcs regardless of what the threat level or party size is.

Fluid initiative seems like a lot of things to track initially, but it has it's distinct benefits, especially for Triggermen and people who like using joint actions.
I usually just have a piece of scratch paper with the current initiative values for each pc and each npc squad (since they share the same initiative roll, if I recall correctly), and when it does change, which will usually only be for some of the characters, I just scratch out the old one and put in the new value at the end of the turn. Since combat in spycraft rarely lasts more than 4-5 turns, it's not too much work.

The caliber of gear that players take is (by default) equal to the caliber of the mission. It's basically how much of the resources the organization or freelance network is willing to give out for a particular objective.
At the beginning of each mission during the Intel phase, the team gears up with the number of gear picks from each category based on what their classes give them. Each of these is at the same caliber as the mission caliber, or lower, if you choose.
They also gain a number of picks equal to their charisma modifier (if positive), or sacrifice a number of picks equal to their charisma mod (if negative). Which categories these come from depends on whether they are Faction or Freelance characters.

There are caliber III melee weapons, but those are mostly 2-handed exotic weapons. Firearms range from caliber I to caliber V.
There are also upgrades that either come with a gear pick, depending on what the pick is, or you can acquire upgrades using gear picks. The number of gear picks you'd get that way is equal to double the caliber of the pick used.

And yes, if you run out of vitality, the damage carries over into wounds, just like with the vitality/wound point system in the older Star Wars d20 rpg. Also, if you lose all your vitality or take wound damage, you become fatigued.
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Gatac
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« Reply #2 on: October 07, 2007, 12:33:50 AM »

I see Toccata already answered your questions, so I'll add a few more details.

The advantage of the NPC creation system is that you only stat up an NPC once. When it's time to unleash it on your PCs, you just figure out their threat level, transform the NPC's 1-10 grades into actual numbers according to the tables and you're good to go. There is nothing keeping you from giving your NPC a Grade 10 in everything - it will be strong, but not hopelessly overpowering -, but in my opinion that's boring.

Like many things that look a bit strange in Spycraft, seeing this in actual play helps a lot with understanding how it's meant to be used.

Fluid Initiative can be a bit scary, but there's a few good tricks to track it. Toccato has a nice and simple solution, but if you want to build something more elaborate, how about this: Make a table with 51 columns (0 to 50), then use poker chips to represent your players and NPC groups. Whenever their Initiative changes, move them up and down in the "racetrack". Color the 50 and 0 columns differently. Whenever a character goes to those or beyond that, he must either Press (50 and above) or is sent Reeling (0 or below). You only need to keep track of those extreme Init numbers for one round, after which the character is catapulted back into the normal range. It's easier than a battlemap, too, since you only have to build it once. Cheesy

(Dammit, I now feel semi-compelled to build this.)

Also, there's optional rules for Static Initiative, if you really don't like the system. It's a bit of a misnomer, since the Init still changes from some class abilities, but it does become much less mobile and therefore easier to track.

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« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2007, 01:29:33 AM »

And here's a quick mockup:

Download

I'm not the most gifted in design, but I hope that helps a bit. Haven't test-printed it, so it might very well be too small for your chosen tokens. In that case, I guess I'd have to dump the rudimentary condition tracking and just give you big fields for the Initiative count.

How it works: Roll Init. Place everyone in the column corresponding to their Init count, and everyone starts the combat Flat-Footed, of course. After that, just go down the track - starting from the left-upper corner - and have people act as their Init count comes up. If something changes, move accordingly. I didn't go overboard with the status effects, but this does allow you to track who's unconscious. I'm not sure if the Dying row really adds anything, but I find it good to know that one of my teammates is currently bleeding out so I can initiative countermeasures Wink

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Aryxbez
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« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2007, 04:06:23 AM »

I thank you guys for the aid, and the download, even if I can't truly download it.

However, how does one figure out the Threat level of an NPC? I know that the threat level is the PC's lvs divided by 5 and such. As I believe the whole Grades of 1-10, and other such things determine what threat level the NPC  should be.
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« Reply #5 on: October 07, 2007, 04:26:27 AM »

The threat level of the NPC is automatically the same as that of the team that tackles the mission. There's some minor tangling via "grades", which can raise or lower the effective threat level the NPC is calculated for, but that's advanced stuff and not generally worth bothering with for 99% of the cases.

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Bill Whitmore
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2007, 04:42:11 AM »

One thing that is been bothering me when I took a look at the book today was the NPC creation rules. How do I make a balanced NPC encounter? As it is so general and doesn't really describe how to really do so, it is hard for me.

One thing to bear in mind when you are working on NPCs is that you're goal is not really to create a balanced NPC, but rather a balanced scene.

Page 9 of the Second printing defines scene as "A single self-contained challenge usually confined to one location and consisting of 1–3 objectives and possibly 1–2 NPC opponents."

Page 440 of the Second printing says that "On average, each scene should produce approximately 500 XP. We strongly recommend...that no scene produce more than 750 XP."

Each objective, NPC and complication adds to the scenes XP total and it is this total that you are using to balance a scene.

But, I always hated simple answers and I find examples SO much easier to work with so let's write a sample scene:

This scene is the final scene in the mission.  Our agents have been on the trail of an international weapon's smuggler, codenamed Casper, and they have finally tracked him back to his jungle base.  Their intel says he is at the base now, so if they act quickly, they may be able to bring him down.

The first thing we need to do is identify the NPCs involved and the tasks that need to be accomplished.

NPCs:
   Casper
   Casper's guards

Objectives:
   Neutralize Casper (preferably alive)
   Retrieve any records that may indicate any deals that Casper has made in the past

Next, I would create the NPCs.  I usually start with one of the sample NPCs listed in the book and then modify from there.  In this case, conveniently, I can use the Arms Dealer with minimal modifications.

Casper (Special NPC — 79 XP): Init IV; Atk V; Def V; Resilience IV; v/wp: IV; Competence: VII; Skills: Networking VII, Streetwise VIII; Wealth: VII; Weapons: 5 ื Caliber IV; Gear: 2 ื Caliber II; Vehicle: 1 ื Caliber III; Qualities: feat (Burglar, Criminal Contacts).

Casper's XP value is derived by first adding up all the roman numerals
   IV+V+V+IV+IV+VII+VII+VIII+VII = 51.

By default, NPCs start with a Caliber I Weapon, Gear and Vehicle.  Anything over that also adds to the XP total.
   Upgrading a weapon from Caliber I to Caliber IV = 3
   Adding 4 more Caliber IV weapons = 16
   Upgrading a Caliber I gear to Caliber II = 1
   Adding 1 more Caliber 2 gear = 2
   Upgrading 1 vehicle from Caliber I to Caliber III = 2

Feats are worth 2 each so 2 feats = 4

By my calculations, the total is 79 (not 78 as listed in the book).  Also, special NPCs get a x4 multiplier to their final XP value so he is actually worth  316.

We would repeat the process for the guards (I will use Hired Gun in this case but I am adding the minion quality so that they will work in groups plus some ranks in notice since they are supposed to be guarding)

Casper's guards (Standard NPC — 50 XP): Init V; Atk VII; Def V; Resilience V; Damage Save: VI; Competence: IV; Skills: Notice V; Wealth: IV; Weapons: 1 ื Caliber III; Gear: 1 ื Caliber III; Vehicle: None; Qualities: feat (Rock and Roll!, Style Over Caliber), minion.

Next, we should examine the objectives.  Each objective gets rated from I to V, with I being easy and V being difficult.  The tables on page 433 in the second printing list sample objectives and their difficulties.
   Neutralize Casper - IV (Trained military combatant they are trying to bring down) (Critical)
   Retrieve any records that may indicate any deals that Casper has made in the past - II (A form of investigate.  Casper's business transaction are kept in a hidden safe onsite.  They need to learn about the safe, find the safe and crack it to succeed)

Objectives are worth 25 XP per grade so the above Neutralize is worth 100 and the Investigate is 50.

Now we need to add it all up:
   Casper - 316
   Guards - 50
   Neutralize Casper - 100
   Retriece records - 50

   Total XP value - 516

That XP value is right on par for a scene.  You would have to add some other accoutrements (like actually selecting the equipment the NPCs are using and some maps).  You may even want to add some other complications (these include things like door locks, security cameras and the like) but since this is in the jungle, I think they rely primarily on manpower.

I hope this helps you in developing your own missions, and I hope to hear how it is going in the future.

Bill Whitmore
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Bill Whitmore
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« Reply #7 on: October 07, 2007, 04:56:53 AM »

I thank you guys for the aid, and the download, even if I can't truly download it.

However, how does one figure out the Threat level of an NPC? I know that the threat level is the PC's lvs divided by 5 and such. As I believe the whole Grades of 1-10, and other such things determine what threat level the NPC  should be.

Threat level is not determined for PCs or NPCs separately, rather it is used to determine a mission's Threat Level.  That number is then used to determine the actual bonuses for the NPCs during play.

Now, referencing the NPC Statistics tables (on page 444 of the second printing) cross reference the Roman Numeral with the Threat Level to determine the NPCs bonus

Another example:  There are 4 agents tackling the scene just written.  They are each level 4.  Threat Level = sum of agent levels (16) / 5 = 3 (drop the fractions).  The guards would then have the following stats:

Init +2; Atk +3; Def +2; Resilience +2; Damage Save: +8; Competence: +2; Skills: Notice +5; Wealth: IV

In this way, NPCs automatically scale to the level of the agents.  The roman numeral ratings indicate the relative strengths and weaknesses of an NPC.  Absolute values are derived from these relative levels compared to the PCs levels.

(Note: Wealth does not convert directly into another stat but rather is used for other purposes, most notably, their resistance to bribery)
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Aryxbez
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« Reply #8 on: October 07, 2007, 06:03:37 PM »

So for grades I should use 5 for average, staying between 3-7 correct?

I also guest then that grades 8-10 to be reserved for powerful evil sidekick, or very powerful NPC like a Genetically enhanced Super Elephant or something.

Yes that example looks to me that it will help, and I'm glad you care enough to hear how I will fair later on running this game.

If you are interested to know, the campaign is going to be the megaman X setting essentially, I even got a thread of this subject in license to improvise. Now I think I am going to mention this whole Setting thing in my profile.
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« Reply #9 on: October 07, 2007, 07:03:17 PM »

Yeah, that's about right. Roman Numerals of 9 or 10 will get you values that are unattainable by a player character of equivalent level.

Keep in mind that minions will normally fall pretty fast even if they are a numeric "match" for the players. That's just the nature of minions.
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« Reply #10 on: October 07, 2007, 11:31:08 PM »

[Bill Whitmore drops mad knowledge on the board.]

I hear by nominate this post for classic thread status.  Seriously, I've been looking for a nice clean example like that for about a year.  Cheesy
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Bill Whitmore
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« Reply #11 on: October 08, 2007, 02:50:28 AM »

[Bill Whitmore drops mad knowledge on the board.]

I hear by nominate this post for classic thread status.  Seriously, I've been looking for a nice clean example like that for about a year.  Cheesy

Thanks Smiley
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« Reply #12 on: October 08, 2007, 10:57:40 AM »

I second it because this is a solid crucial breakdown on NPCs and people just starting with the system will find it invaluable. Nice going Bill!
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« Reply #13 on: October 08, 2007, 02:43:54 PM »

I hereby testify that I saved this thread for futur use Smiley .
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« Reply #14 on: October 12, 2007, 09:34:15 PM »

And here's a quick mockup:

Download

I'm not the most gifted in design, but I hope that helps a bit. Haven't test-printed it, so it might very well be too small for your chosen tokens. In that case, I guess I'd have to dump the rudimentary condition tracking and just give you big fields for the Initiative count.

Very nice. We have an initiative tracker going into the final print version of Second Printing, but this one has some additional functionality that's really helpful. Mind if we host it?

Also, Steel Squire were demoing a really nice initiative tracker made out of light sheet metal with magnetic dry-erase name plates for characters. You write down a character's name on one of the plates and move it around on the board, or into a status column for "out of play" characters. Hm. Seems not to have been released yet. Too bad, nice product.
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