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.
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.