By Elton Robb
And now for my first review this week, I am going to review Spycraft
's (and D20's) answer to Top Secret, S.I.
by TSR, inc.
Spycraft, D20 SystemT
is hailed as a game that is said to deliver the spy action
genre to your games. After all, this is susposed to be the D20 version
of Ninjas and Superspies
(wait a minute, Ninjas and Superspies
is already D20 . . . ). Lets take an inside look on how this delivers
the Spy Genre to the D20 System.
Introduction: Honor Among Spies
The introduction introduces us to the Underground World of Espionage. Aptly
named "Honor Among Spies" it gives us an inside look at the world and subculture
in which the CIA, KGB, and Mi6 operate. The world it presents is one
where spies play Chess with government, the private sector, and private citizens.
Such axioms like defeat is a matter of degrees
, subtlety is
your weapon,business is business
, and never reveal your opponent
to anyone outside the game
are explained in a way that James Bond and
Ethan Hunt understands them. The introduction also gives you an overview
of the D20 System as far as the genre is concerned. Although the game
is published under Version 1.0a of the Open Game Liscense and you do require
the Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edtion Player's Handbook
hasn't been revised quite yet).
Chapter 1: Agent Creation
Okay, you are all fired up to create your very own Secret Agent to do battle
with the Forces of Evil (in this case, anyone who doesn't have your country
at its best interest). Okay, before you create that pointman, or that
snoop, or even that fixer, there is some things you have to consider first.
The writers of the game start at character creation where most novelists
start --- your Agent's history. After that is finished, you have to
come up with a way on how your team got started (okay, we've got handpicked!).
Then you determine your Ability Scores using 4d6.
Then we can find out what department you came from. The list of departments,
and their summaries, are available below:
- The Home Office: Agents from the Home Office are the prototypical
Superspy. James Bond, Jim Phelps, and Ethan Hunt are all from the Home
Office. These spies are trained to be confident, suave, and are known
to pull off the impossible.
- The Power Brokerage: Agents in the Power Brokerage department
are those that deal in political circles. If there was a movie equivalent,
it would be Doctor No. In the real world, most spies work in the Power
Brokerage as they try to make someone a traitor to their own Country. Examples
would be the agents in Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- Military Operations: Trained in the use of military hardware,
Military Ops agents act as the frontline of the Agency. The military
operation in A Clear and Present Danger represent these kind of agents.
- Computer Espionage: These spies are the young rebels of
the Information Age. They are the hackers and crackers into computer
systems, and they can practically crack or hack into any computer system and
exploit its secrets. An example would be Martin Bishop from the movie
- Urban Assault: Agents of this department are efficent, military
operatives who work in close-quarters. Agents from this department handle
operations that take place where maximum stealth is required. I think
the "A-Team" television series dealt with this a couple of times.
- Black Ops: Tough and grizzled agents that deal with corruption
within the Agency. Although I think computer games like Rainbow Six
deal with this kind of agent.
- Wetworks: Okay, the Assassin's Guild sums up what the Wetworks
department is susposed to be like. Agents who eliminate other targets.
The villains in Patriot Games represent this kind of agent.
- "The Basement": Agents who deal with strange and supernatural
occurances. Agents Mulder and Scully from the "X-Files" should immediately
pop to mind (I feel a Call of Cthulhu D20 Crossover coming on!).
After you pick your Department where your Secret Agent comes from, its time
to find out the role he plays in the team. Classes include: the
, a man with a talent for impersonation, disguise, and being
a confidence man. These are often sent in to gather intelligence before
the mission is undertaken. This is Templeton Peck from the "A-Team."
handles the resources of the entire team, also they double
as the burgler. Jim Phelps in "Mission: Impossible" acts as the Fixer
in both the T.V. Series and the movie version. The Pointman
often helps out other agents, but they are also the most versatile. Characters
like James Bond and Ethan Hunt are pointmen. Snoops
crackers and the hackers, and the electronic bloodhounds. One of the
agents in Mission: Impossible
that have been disavowed fills the role
of the Snoop. So does Mother and Carl from Sneakers
are the muscle of the team. They are trained to eliminate
anything or anyone who gets in the team's way. However, players will
identify with most of the A-Team from "The -Team" television show when they
think of this class. Wheelmen
have their wheels, and are often
capable in a fight. Although fun to watch and a parody, I think Woody
best represents the Wheelman to players. Of course,
you can Multi-class
your agent. For instance, Templeton Peck
was military trained in "The A-Team," making him a Soldier as well as a Faceman
and Ethan Hunt may have had some
Snoop training as well as being a
Chapter 2: Skills
D20 is updated to Modern; as new skills are presented for the Spy Genre.
This isn't primarily New Uses for Old Skills, as the skills Boating,
Bureaucracy, Computers, Cryptography, Driver, Electronics, Forgery, Hobby,
Mechanics, Pilot, and Surviellance are all introduced. As you can tell
from the name: you get a quick overview what the skill is about. For
instance, Computers are for those who work with computers (almost everybody),
and Driver are for those who drive cars (again, almost everybody). Each
skill is described, along with the rules for Skill Usage is reprinted from
Core Rulebook I.
Chapter 3: Feats
Okay, we have all the feats of Spycraft
organized into different categories
for your typical Spy. They are Chase Feats: which help in driving.
Combat Feats: which allows you the knowledge to subdue or beat somebody
up. Covert Feats allows you to be stealthy, evasive, and an all around
not seen spy. Gear feats lets you have access to the GEAR that Q gives
James Bond. Skill Feats lets you be more skilled at what you do. Style
Feats would make a James Bond out of you or anybody. Some new feats
include: Career Operative (Combat Feat), Speed Demon (Chase Feat), Improved
Equilibrium (Covert Feat), Extra R&D Support (Gear Feat), Field Operative
(Skill Feat), and Five Star Service (Style Feat, of course you have to be
(another feat) to have it).
Chapter 4: Finishing Touches
Okay, your agent needs some finishing touches. These include backgrounds,
subplots that help you roleplay your character. Backgrounds are important,
if they show up in the Game Control's story (Spycraft's
term for the
Game Master or Dungeon Master, henceforth GC
) your character can gain
Experience for dealing with them once a season. So be sure to tell
the GC about them. Examples include Amnesia, Debt, Fear, Hunted, and
Nemesis. And do not forget your personal gear, your name, or your code
Finally, we get to see the gadgets and the gear that James Bond uses and
you have access to . . .
Chapter 5: GEAR
So, you go to see Q (or whoever) to get the goods to defeat the Evil Dr.
No (or Doctor Evil, or whomever). In Spycraft
, Q can give you
a lot of options. Everything covered in Chapter Five deals with the
Spy Genre, so you too can have latex masks, a taser gun, a stilletto, a garrote,
and that favorite of anarchists, the Molatov Cocktail. You can also
have modern weapons like the Uzi, a sniper rifle, a .50 magnum pistol, mace,
a semi-automatic rifle, and a pump action shot gun. There are over
50 different modern weapons, all with D20 stats. That's not all!
As well as access to thrown weapons, missile weapons, and the ever popular
exotic weapons, Q can also give you some Armor (armor is handled differently,
see below on the section on combat), some other protective gear, special
costumes, pencil cameras, special shoes, powerful computers, drugs, poisons,
and other things. Except he can't arrange food and lodging, thats handled
by other persons in the department.
What if a special vehicle is what you need? Maybe a flying car or helicopter
perhaps? Q can also introduce you to these Spy machines. Maybe
the mission calls for a Rolls Royce, decked with bulletproof armor, smoke
screen, and oil slick? Maybe it's a Lamborghini Diablo you want with
a built in missile launcher, nitro, a heads-up display, and proteus package
(your Diablo can hover?)? Q can get you all these things. So
you too can be James Bond, or Condorman. Fortunately, a vehicle has
as many firm or hard points equal to it's wound points divided by 10 (round
Chapter 6: Combat
Okay, it's your basic D20 combat found in Core Rulebook I
with some modifications. First of all, say good bye to Attacks of
. They aren't needed in the Spy Genre. Also say
good bye to Armor Class
. Armor does protect you, but it absorbs
damage. Say good bye to Hit Points
, and say hello to the
from the Star Wars RPG
. Except you
can only take one negative Wound Point before dying. Also say hello
to Action Dice
, which are used to modify skill checks and other considerations.
Otherwise, there is no real modifications to Combat.
Chapter 7: The Chase
Okay, so you want to enact your favorite chase scene from your favorite movie?
This chapter shows you how to create your favorite, enternally sharp,
chase. This chapter comes complete with an Andrenaline injection! The
vehicle's statistics come into play here: especially speed, defense, handling,
hardness, and wound points. The rules deal with terrain: so you can do ground
chases, water chases, air chases, and foot chases. The Chase, however,
is reduced to step-by-step sequence for ease of play: you Choose your Manuever,
make a manuever check, spend your action dice, Resolve your Manuevers, handle
obstacles and leads, other actions, and deal with crash rolls (if needed).
There are several manuevers that are explained, like the Box In, Crowd,
Cut Off, Gun it, and Shortcut manuevers. Then the above steps in the
chase sequence are explained.
Chapter 8: Tradecraft
This presents the world of Espionage to the GC and the players. Articles
on Espionage, Being a Spy, the World in which Spies operate, and articles
on missions are in the chapter on Tradecraft. Rules and advice for
handling investigation are also presented. Also tools for the Agent
are presented, and I don't mean their gear. Agents have resources from
their Agency, their Government, the Legal Process, and other things. Rules
for travel is also handled in this chapter.
Chapter 3: Control
These are the rules for running the game, so it's for GCs only. Rules
handling action dice, encounters, the environment, and other things are presented.
And of course, the most fun part is presented. Development of
your Mastermind, his Henchmen, and their minions. You decide the hook,
his level, his development, and so forth. And then Campaign design
(also called Serials), and Foil design. And then some sample threats
are presented: like Julian Bosque, Franz Leiber, and Kholera.
Then Serial types are discussed, as well as other elements. It all
depends on what you want to run. Want to run a James Bond or Mission
Impossible serial? Check out the Super Spy serial. Maybe a Political
Thriller is more of your type, check out the Political Thriller serial. What
to do something supernatural? Go pick up a copy of Call of Cthulhu
and we will talk . . .
Spycraft presents everything you need to run a Spy Game using D20. A
fast paced game full of real action and Spy Drama. Not only that, since
it's D20, you can combine genres. Imagine Half-Orcish Pointmen from
the Home Office, Elvish Facemen from Wetworks, Dwarven Fixers from the Basement,
and Halfling Snoops from the military department. Maybe even Gnomish
Wheelmen from the Power Brokerage is your cup of tea. Maybe a Wizard
from the Computer Espionage Department is what you want. This game delivers
not only to fans of the Spy Genre, but can be used by any GM/GC to improve
their D20 game. I give Spycraft a rating of 4 for Style, and 3 for