One thing I did want to comment about this question is that, in my experience, most of the new players who struggle with the Gearing Up phase do so because they are new to the game and have spent no time thinking about this sort of scenario. But, as they start to get playing the game more, they peruse these tables and the variety of gear that is in them help them get a better grasp of what they -can- do with their characters and help them create ideas for missions.
For instance, having a pesky Tradecraft or Resource pick that they don't know what to do with. At first they will panic because so many of those options are met with "What the heck will I need this for?" or "whats that do?" and that drags down the gearing up phase because often times these picks are ambiguous or hard to use in a lot of situations. Often times, choosing those items beforehand is difficult, because things like dossiers or bags full of guns wont be needed right out of the gate, but when you're actually -on- mission, those requests come in handy.
Meanwhile, when they get to the guns section, I have -never- at my table, heard a complaint about their being too many choices. People take a minute to look over the guns, either pick one they like or one they recognize and move on. From a background of games like D&D where the weapons section is rather large (albeit still simple in some regards) people don't complain too much about different types of weapons, especially if you give them pictures to go with it. I find that when/if there is a question about a gun, I go to IMFDB (internet movie firerarms database) and show them a picture, tell them what movie it was in, and the questions are answered.
I really like the idea of mission bundles, and I especially like the idea of removing calibers and instead making things cost a number of 'gear points' so you can choose whatever you want, as long as you spend the points on it. In an ideal world, I would have 2 sections to my gear section, and it would end up similar to how you guys approach the NPC creation. First, you had the creation rules and ways to make the NPCs, then you had a huge long list of pre-made NPCs for GMs to just use. That concept works marvels, because it allows you the freedom to make things amazing, or super quick.
If you make a gear section, where you start out with the rules for gear, followed by quick mission bundles/kits/common items for a variety of situations and then had the actual gear tables themselves it would be stellar. You could make personal gear bundles as well for different wealth levels and character classes. (Like, a Scientist might like: A Briefcase SMG that proteuses into a remote controlled robotic turret, a armored lab coat and a pair of sweet Thermal Vision sunglasses, while a soldier wants that .50 cal Barret or the Minigun, some body armor and a side arm and extra ammo). The cool thing with planning for Total Freedom is that once you have it locked in, you just have to take a little more time to turn that overwhelmed reaction into something of the past by addressing the concerns and creating a place specifically designed to speed up the game.
As a wrap up, Areas of improvement/suggestions
- Gear Points instead of caliber
- Quick Bundles for people who don't want to spend time on gear (you can even add new bundles in with suppliments like you do with Specialties and Talents)
- a difference between Gear Up phase picks and Mid-Op Picks. (I found it hard to know in advance I would need dossiers or bag full of guns, etc during gear up, and the Request mechanics always felt too complicated for me. Having things you can call on when you need them in mission should be made easier or at least more clear. This might help speed up gearing up as well)
-Gadgets. Everybody loves em, but they take a lot of time to make. This is the section that could use some examples and where the Bundle idea would excel. When I was a new player, I went through the backlog of spycraft magazine articles to find out what sort of things you guys made with gadgets to get ideas of what I could do before I really had a grasp on the system. These are the NPCs of the gear system. They could use a whole slew of pre-built options, and then a reference table later for making your own.
-Weapons. I love keeping the names. If you want to simplify the tables, you could remove the alternative ammo calibers for the guns, and instead make a table at the beginning that has damage per caliber for different fire arms. Thus, all 9mm guns might do a d12, but when you pick your individual gun, you choose the caliber of ammo for it, but the upgrades/quirks of the individual firearm remain the same and may alter the damage slightly depending. The different ammo types could determine the base cost of the gun, while the individual firearms would be a boost to that cost (much like the Dwarven made weapons, etc in Fantasy Craft)
Also, better clarity on what weapons counts as Tactical/Guided/Indirect proficiencies, etc.
-Vehicles. This section is excellent. The gear points system will clear up any of my problems with it. Pre-weaponized vehicles in mission bundles would be nice.
-Electronics. These are hard to keep up with in the modern society. I suggest you focus on the most significant ones, and make most of them common items or lumped in with gadgets. Some of the most important spy tools come from this section, but due to their complexity and player's lack of real world knowledge of them, it can complicate the game further. Not sure what the best approach is to this problem, aside from an attempt at simplifying some of the mechanics like signal strength and power rating, etc.
-Armor. Needs pictures. A lot of my players have their own ideas what individual armors may look like, but in the end, they try to shove a bullet proof vest on under their suit and say that its no big deal. Also, clarity on stacking DRs from things like shields/helmets could use some attention. If hit location becomes a more important part of the game this could be especially important
(Whew, ok, sorry for the long post. Had a lot to get out)
Oh, and one last comment my table just made for me to post: Put all the tables in the section with their expanded rules so we dont have to flip back and forth. So all the rules for guns would be with the tables for guns