Picks-at-Flies (picks_at_flies) wrote,

Review: Spycraft 2nd ed

Spycraft roleplaying game: version 2.0 (AEG, MGP 6100)


Spycraft is any over-the top spy game you can imagine. Mostly you will think James Bond, but also The Ipcress File, The Man from UNCLE and Enemy of the State.


Spycraft is the game which made people sit up and say D20 (aka D&D v3) can be adapted to a non-fantasy game. So you have the same six stats, you have classes, skills and feats. You also have Hit Points, except it's called Vitality (the effort need to avoid damage) as well as wounds. They did at least make Vitality more balanced and less explosive. The skills pretty much cover everything you expect, with some having narrow focuses.

Added to this mix, they add Action Dice as beenies, and a comprehensive chapter on gear and how you acquire it.

The heroes

Freelance spies. Or you work for an agency. Spycraft 2.0 is written without any real background. Which is fair really, it doesn't need it.

The villains

The main conceit of the book is that villains are larger than life, which is why the James Bond reference is so prominent (especially the Roger Moore and Pierce Brosnan eras). Nobody will be surprised to find a lair within a volcano with an obvious, easy to activate self-destruct mechanism.

The look

What art in the book is reminiscent of the better mainstream comics - clear line art with textured colour. Stereotypes are present but mixed and non-sexual (there isn't a 'sexy spy' class or stereotype).

The good

The authors really, really thought about this. If feels like it there are a lot of options all of which are viable and all of which are in-genre. If you like the number-crunching side of roleplaying and the genre suits you, this game will suit you.

It also has some very good advice for running games within the genre. It's a small section but helps a lot.

The bad

I don't feel there is anything intrinsically bad here. I think if I was 13 again I could happily absorb this book and spend hours poring over different options.

The ugly

My major beef is personal: this is far too complicated. There are tables upon tables upon tables. There are 12 basic classes and a similar number of expert classes. There are so many skills you don't know how to pick them (partly, I'll confess, because there are very few truly niche skills which you can ignore, like in D&D). The feats.... so many feats. Worse for me is that you have to pick Talents and Specialities at the beginning, sort of like nature and demeanor from White Wolf books except that they come with substantial rules effects. Then there are the Action Dice: STs have 12 ways to use them, and then the way the players can use them on top. So about 20 ways.

Looking back, D&D is just as guilty of this (hello spell tables). I just don't like it any more. My mind would explode.

It does inspire me to play in the genre, but I would like to adapt it to the Houses of the Blooded system. Not least because I love the idea of the players using Cunning and Learning to define the plot for me. Probably much better than anything I would come up with. And because I think Style points work much better than the distracting Action Dice.

Execution - 6
Ideas - 9
Tags: d&d, review, roleplaying
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