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Origin of the Species: Light of Olympus
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/25/2015 08:26:04
The base concept of the Origin of the Species series is to enable the use of species other than human in your Spycraft 2.0 game. It doesn't matter why you want them there or how you intend to use them, you'll get all the information you need to create characters - be they player-characters or NPCs. It's up to you to provide a rationale for why they exist, what they are doing and how they actually become material to your game, there's none of the background 'fluff' that many sourcebooks provide. That's good in that it gives you a completely free hand, but the downside is that you have to make it all up for yourself.

In Light of Olympus, various species from Greek mythology are provided - centaurs, gorgons, fauns and tritons. While you have, as already discussed, to decide why they are there in the first place, there's a wide-ranging discussion that provides many alternatives from them being quite normal and integrated into society to the products of crazy experiments by mad scientists or alien invaders that just happen to look like creatures out of classic Greek mythology so got given appropriate names. Of course, you may decide that only one of these species is present, you do not have to take the lot.

The discussion also covers the underlying way in which species have been designed (this discussion is common to all Origin of the Species products). Basically any species is defined by how much it differs from a 'human standard' - some are pretty similar and others are wildly different. The primary example used is that of a medic attempting to treat such a creature. If you have spent the better part of a decade learning how to treat human beings, you might be able to cope reasonably well - at least with basic first aid - with a centaur patient, but a gorgon or triton might well throw you. Of course a medically-trained member of that species is going to be just as baffled by a human patient.

Getting down to business, the core characteristics of each of the four species presented here are listed. Centaurs we probably all know as halfman half horse, tritons are merfolk with a human top half and a fish tail, fauns or satyrs are very similar to humans except they have furry legs, horns and cloven feet, and then there's the gorgons - human except that their hair is replaced with a mass of snakes. Gorgons don't, at least initially, turn you into stone at a glance, but those snakes are venomous. Merfolk don't get around well on land but swim well and breathe underwater.

There are some specialties to choose from and a master class for each species to aspire to, and a wide arrangement of feats most of which are associated with a given species. Gorgons get a new Combat Action, the gaze attack, as well. There is a collection of fully-developed NPCs to give you ideas, as well as all the tables and notes you need to create your own.

If you are intrigued but unsure of how to use these species in your game, the final section - Character Seeds - may give you some ideas. These are very detailed write-ups of example low-level characters with a lot of the work done for you but plenty of scope (and guidance) for customisation. They also show how the character might advance effectively, developing appropriate aspects as they rise in level.

Intriguing ideas, for a campaign that's just that little bit different. Just how committed to Equal Ops is your agency...? Or is it your mission in life to hunt down such aberations for study or extermination?

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Origin of the Species: Light of Olympus
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Stone Sentinels
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/24/2015 08:41:21
If you want to add an unusual race to your game, this supplement looks at 'gargoyles'. Now, a gargoyle is an ornamental water-spout commonly found on mediaeval buildings such as cathedrals, so I think they are really talking about 'grotesques', the stone carvings that depict anything from winged horrors to caricatures of local personalities - but be that as it may, what would it be like if such statues came to life and walked among us?

The first part of the book takes you through all the elements of creating a gargoyle character, complete with all the necessary game mechanics. There's a vast array of feats, most of which alas require you to be a gargoyle to take them (some could prove entertaining additions for members of other species...), also expert and master classes for aspiring legends of the gargoyle world.

So, now we can generate gargoyles, what to do with them? Firstly, there's the need to decide how they came to be - magic, perhaps, or alien visitors from another world. Are they inherently hostile or if greeting with kindness would they reciprocate? Have they always been here (hence the myths and legends) or have they only just arrived in our midst? Are they a part of normal society or interacting covertly with us?

Once you've decided these, you can start to think about how they will fit into your campaign. There's some quite detailed discussion that ought to spawn a few ideas as to directions in which to take your game. Most are predicated on gargoyles as NPCs, interacting in various ways with player-character human beings - but it could prove amusing to turn it on its head and have the players play gargoyles attempting to integrate with the world (or spy upon it, invade...). Many other supplements are drawn in, particularly the World of Fire campaign setting which is ideally suited to adding this kind of weirdness. There's a whole organisation set up to keep gargoyles and humans apart, the Stonecutters (why cannot I get the episode of The Simpsons out of my head?) with their own agenda and structure: your characters may be part of it or working against it, or just run in to them once they have discovered that gargoyles are real. Plenty of scope for fun here... and the book rounds out with some NPC gargoyles all ready to get embroiled.

It's a fun, off-the-wall concept which could make for an entertaining campaign.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stone Sentinels
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Spookbusters
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/23/2015 08:31:49
This supplement is aimed at those who want to bring the paranormal into their Spycraft game, in particular those aspects of it relating to ghosts. After all, ghosts make for good stories and at least some of the techniques used in tracking them down and researching them are common to your average spy. This variant of the game is based on attempts to explain, exploit and control supernatural events such as hauntings.

There is a brief introduction to parapsychology, the 'science' of the study of such phenomena, including its early history and rise to popularity in the media (particularly on TV and in supermarket tabloids). There's also a useful glossary of terminology so you can sound like you know what you are talking about.

Next comes the vehicle for the adventures, Spookbusters Inc, a francised ghost elimination service. Sound familiar? Well, who're ya gonna call? With a sidebar detailing the Sydney, Australia, branch of the franchise, there's a run-down of the likely roles you'll need as you set up operations and some notes on standard operating procedures.

These are followed by some story seeds to get you going... and a sidebar explaining how real-world ghost investigations are considerably different from this style of ghost-busting. Naturally it is up to you what style of game you would like to play.

The next section looks at assembling your team, mostly in game mechanical terms of character abilities and skills, and also at the opposition - the abilities of your average ghost. These are somewhat more intangible, a bit like the ghosts themselves. There's an expert class (for a ghost hunter) and rather confusingly a master class for a ghost itself, the Legendary Ghost. It might have been better to separate this out and deal with characters and ghosts separately.

Then comes a collection of useful feats for both ghosts and ghost-hunters (again rather jumbled up) and the all-important specialist equipment that no well-dressed spook-buster can do without. This includes a 'sonic resonance lance' (don't cross the beams...) and a 'Spook-1' modified Humvee (must be better than a modified hearse with dodgy suspension).

For those who prefer a less-technogical method for dealing with ghosts, there's a section on exorcism, including the necessary game mechanics to model it in your game.

Finally, there's a whole swarm of ghost NPCs with full stat blocks and other notes; as well as ideas for the sort of campaigns you could run using this concept.

Overall it is a fun idea for some light-hearted gaming, although it comes across as somewhat jumbled and would have been better with the character and ghost material separated better. (Worth 4.5 stars, could I but give them - 5-star material with the organisation letting it down a bit!)

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spookbusters
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Origin of the Species: Transmechs Revised
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/09/2015 08:10:22
The Origin of the Species series of supplements is all about providing options for including non-human races - be they characters or NPCs - in your Spycraft game... but this one takes it to an extreme, providing all that you need to play a 'transmech' or in other words a transformer, a self-aware autonomous robot that is capable of switching form between two appearances, based on those common to the world in which they live. Product of some alien engineering - or even 'extreme science' on Earth - you might think they'd be better suited as invading opponents to your band of spies... but it could be quite entertaining to play one instead.

A transmech is a fully-conscious robotic lifeform, not someone piloting a strange mechanical exoskelton ('mecha'), and its important to remember that especially if you are playing one rather than fighting them. They tend to be large and quite obvious, at least in one of their forms. Naturally, they do not work quite the same as people: they do not eat or breathe and do not heal damage in the same way as a human being does. One form is the classic 'robot' style upright bipedal thing, the 'alt-mode' shape it can shift into (quickly, it's merely a full round action) can be just about anything provided it is at least approximately half the mass of the bipedal form (where the rest goes, nobody knows!). Things like vehicles, objects or even animals are allowed. Objects can include weapons, of course. A vehicle can be 'driven' by someone else, just like any other vehicle, and objects can be used as ordinary objects of that type, which could give rise to some interesting situations.

There are a lot of specialties and feats to enable you to customise a transmech to meet your needs, and copious advice on actually building and playing one. There's also a master class to aspire towards, the Legendary Transmech.

Next comes a good collection of campaign ideas - if there are going to be transmechs in your campaign, you will need to work out what they are doing there! As well as these one-paragraph ideas there is a full-blown campaign seed complete with a new organisation whose purpose is to protect at least some of humanity from encroaching transmechs. To get you started there is a horde of developed transmech NPCs, which provide good examples of what you can do with the basic rules herein.

Finally, there are three ready-to-play scenes involving transmechs. They begin with the party as human operatives in a world that has no knowledge of transmechs... but that doesn't last for long! The second one pits the characters as transmechs arriving on a new world and the final one involves said transmech team finding an ancient artefact and having to deal with it as well as the inhabitants of the world they are on.

It's an interesting concept which could prove the basis of a dramatic campaign if it's the sort of thing that appeals. An intriguing thought would be if a party of human agents find a single transmech who becomes part of their team, but you would need some strong role-players to pull that off successfully.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Origin of the Species: Transmechs Revised
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Origin of the Species: Classic Fantasy
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/07/2015 06:58:04
This supplement is about adding classic fantasy races to Spycraft. Now you may think that dwarves and elves and the like have no place in a contemporary espionage game... but what if, for some reason, they did? You may choose to run an alternate world in which they do exists - have you ever wondered what Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms would be like in modern times? - or perhaps the sudden emergence of such beings is going to be central to your plotline. 'Ordinary' human characters serving as agents of their government might then be tasked with finding the answers to such questions as Where do they come from? Are they a threat? and so on. The potentials are enormous if you are willing to give this a go!

This, of course, presupposes that the fantasy race(s) you choose to incorporate are NPCs. It's also possible for players to have characters of non-human stock, depending on what sort of game you are intending to run, and all the resources needed for the generation of such characters is included here. If non-humans are not integral to your campaign world, an interesting twist would be for players to portray the first few dwarves (or whatever) encountered by regular humans in a world similar to the real one, turning the sort of investigations mentioned in the first paragraph upside down.

The races covered here are dwarf, elf, orc and pech (basically a halfling/hobbit-style race). For each, the modifications from a base standard of 'human' are enumerated, and all the necessary game mechanics are provided to create and run characters of these races. Due to the completely open-ended nature of how they are present in your modern world, however, there is none of the background material common to most fantasy games. This is something you will have to invent for yourself, or turn to fantasy resources to provide.

Each race has an associated master class to aspire to, the Legendary. Before they get that far there are assorted specialties, abilities and feats that can be chosen to reflect the fact that they are not merely humans with pointy ears, short stature or whatever, but a completely different race altogether.

Finally, there are not only sample NPCs but a neat idea called 'character seeds': outline concepts for characters which you can then flesh out to finalise the design of the character that you will play. It's a good way to help steer you through the bewildering array of options available.

I must confess I opened this book thinking that it might not be a particularly good idea, now I'm having ideas for campaigns flooding in! This is one of the delights of reviewing: the opportunity to study concepts that do not initially appeal often reveals hidden gems you might have passed on at a first glance. It won't be a classic James Bond spy game, but used with thought the material herein could create a very enjoyable and memorable game.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Origin of the Species: Classic Fantasy
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Spellbound: The Seer
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/04/2015 08:06:15
Spellbound: The Seer is part of a series that allows the incorporation of magic into a Spycraft 2.0 game. Each volume presents a 'school' of magic and a corresponding base class for those magicians who wish to practise it. In this one, we meet the Seer, described as a student of mystery, master of secrets, and wielder of devastating words of power... if you are running a Spycraft game that allows for the supernatural and magical powers, this could be an interesting and potent addition to the classes available to your players... and probably great fun as an NPC too!

The supplement begins with some general remarks about having magic in your game, beginning with the need to set it as a campaign quality and then choosing which schools of magic exist in your setting. The discussion moves on to some thought-provoking ideas as to how magic might work - what's the source, how do you access and use it, what does it look like and what are the consequences of loosing magic on your world? Once you come up with your own answers to these questions, you have gone a long way to doing the groundwork to embed magic into your game.

There are some differences to 'standard' D20 magic, such as you find in Dungeons and Dragons. You make a skill check to cast each spell, for example, and can cast any spell you know without preparation provided you have sufficient power. Oh, and you can be wearing whatever you want, and various other changes. It makes for a simple and straightforward set of mechanics to underpin spellcasting.

Right, here we are looking at the 'Seer School' of magic, which has three strands or disciplines, being artifice, divination and word. Artifice is about exerting control over machinery, divination is about detecting things and observing even at a distance and word is using the very language of magic to sometimes devastating effect. Thus introduced, all that you need to generate a Seer character is provided. Depending on how you choose to interpret it (and several suggestions are given) a Seer ought to be a source of wise counsel to his colleagues, a practical ideas man for the party. He's an interesting character, with high skill points, a well-rounded class skill list, strong progressions, and a spell list that can create offensive, defensive, knowledge and crafting effects.

Next, the whole process of spellcasting using these rules is explained. Basically, it is a 'spell point' system where the caster expends a set number of points based on the spell he wants to cast. The points he has is based on his level and they refresh every scene (unless he is still maintaining a long-running spell, when he doesn't get the points powering that spell back). Normally spellcasting is quite noticeable (you need a Sleight of Hand check if you try to conceal what you are up to, and they still might notice the mumbling - you have to be able to speak to cast). You also need a 'spell kit' - the equivalent of the infamous 'material components' required of a D&D wizard - although its up to you and the GC to determine just what you need to have with you to cast effectively.

Once you have all that in hand, there are some magic-related feats to choose from and a goodly array of spells... as well as sufficient information on how they are put together to let you construct your own if you are that way inclined. The collection of spells just begs to be tried out and could provide a very interesting spin on an otherwise conventional Spycraft game if you decide to let magic in!

It's an intriguing proposition and one that could make for some memorable ones. Try it if you dare.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spellbound: The Seer
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Real American H.E.R.O.es Revised
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/03/2015 08:38:26
This work presents a bizarre fusion of military covert operations and comic book capers and yet - unless you are a die-hard realist - it works! In fact, even if you are a die-hard realist it takes little more than stripping off the silly names and as much of the exotic equipment as you are uncomfortable with to still get it to work.

Opening with a history of the United States Headquarters for Eminent Risk Oversight and a timeline of some of their major operations, we're soon immersed in the current structure and operational landscape of H.E.R.O. Somewhere along the line they have acquired an enemy organisation (over and above normal bogey-men like Communists and more recently terrorists) and this is the main focus of present-day skirmishing. This enemy is called National Military Exports (N.M.E.) and in true comic book style, H.E.R.O. operatives wear green uniforms and N.M.E. ones have blue uniforms. (Does N.M.E. mean something special, I wonder? The only acronym I know is a UK music magazie, the New Musical Express that's always known by its initials...)

Both H.E.R.O. and N.M.E. are presented as Spycraft 2.0 'factions' with all the associated game mechanics - so you can choose a side with ease. If you fancy N.M.E. or just need to know more about them, there's a potted history of how they came about, led by an insane megalomaniac who calls himself the Arch-Enemy. Calls himself that, mark you, it's not an epithet his opponents coined for him! Building N.M.E. up from a small private security contractor to its current state, they are apparently behind such 'incidents' as Three Mile Island, the first Palestinian Intifada, the Ethiopian famine, the Challenger tragedy, the War on Drugs, the Tiananmen Square massacre, Big Hair Bands, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and 9/11 - plenty here for a conspiracy theorist to get their teeth into.

Just in case these two factions are not enough, there are three more - the Morrigna Corporation (arms dealers), the Shirobikou clan (ninjas), and the Wreckers (a biker gang) - to spin into the mix. All much smaller, they shift allegiances as it suits them, allies one day, opponents the next... or maybe playing both sides at once.

Next comes all the details you need to build a character who is part of one or another of these factions, but with the apparent assumption that you'll be joining H.E.R.O. As well as lots of build hints, there's new material: new master classes, new feats... and lots of new toys! Much of this material will be of use whether or not you want to run this setting. If you enjoy cinematic action movies and want your characters swooping in on a monowing or a jet pack, this is the place to look. There's a vast array of vehicles and weapons to choose from, complete with brief descriptions and a chart with all the game mechanics you need to use them in play.

This is followed by various tables to help you administrate the faction mechanics Renown and Allegience. There are rank charts for each of the five factions so that you may measure your progress in them.

Then we get down to the real stuff: how to run a 'Real American H.E.R.O.es' campaign. It needs to be cinematic, larger-than-life and a bit black and white - clear distinctions between the Good Guys and the Bad Sorts. Big threats, high stakes and big action scenes in thrilling locations. Themes, objectives, a 'diabolical plot generator' (yes, really!) and even a system for creating handy McGuffins are explored. Finally, there's a whole bunch of NPCs from all five factions to sling into the melee.

Taken in a spirit of fun, this larger-than-life approach can prove very entertaining. Don't try and take it seriously - if you want to game that way, mine this for the bits you want and put them into a different setting. All good fun...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Real American H.E.R.O.es Revised
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Agent X: Firebrand
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/02/2015 08:03:31
The Firebrand is an interesting expert class, one that would be rather fun to play if you have the gift of the gab because at the core, this character is a rabble-rouser. He knows all the right buttons to press to get people worked up - and if he gets tired of espionage he could always retire to politics!

There are plenty of roles such an individual could fill, and some are suggested here. However, many might be better suited to an NPC unless your campaign is structured carefully to accommodate your Firebrand. From revolutionary to political activist or corporate raider (just a few of the suggested roles) it's quite easy to see how to weave a plot around him, less easy to know just what to do with him if your plot is about something else entirely.

Understandibly, the core attribute is Charisma, with Wisdom and Intelligence following along behind. There are plenty of interesting and useful class abilities to fit the Firebrand up as a figurehead that can sway the hearts and minds of those who hear him.

The game mechanics you'll need to run this character are provided: the usual table plus suggested feats and three new ones - the 'Cameraderie' tree which is used to enhance group combat by letting members of the team support each other better. There are also ideas for building the character, including different sorts of Firebrands depending on their origins - one who started life as a Pointman might have a completely different approach than one who was a Fixer or a Scientist, for example.

It is an interesting concept, used well in adventures that will make use of the Firebrand's particular talents it could prove memorable.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Agent X: Firebrand
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Bag Full of Guns: Dragon's Fury
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/30/2015 07:14:07
This is a rundown of contemporary Chinese small arms, which have been developed in isolation due to embargoes imposed on China in response to human rights violations. Just how useful it's going to be depends on whether the action in your game will visit mainland China, or someone from there might turn up elsewhere.

Starting with a plethora of different service pistols, there are also details of submachine guns, various kinds of rifles (bolt action, semi-automatic and assault), squad automatic weapons, machine guns, grenade launchers and mortars. Each comes with a quite detailed description as well as an entry in the master table at the back that gives all the game statistics. If public order is your reason for arming up, there is a collection of non-lethal loads for the riot gun (which is, for some reason, hiding amongst the machine guns).

The usual grumble of no illustrations aside, this is an interesting look at an arsenal that has developed in isolation from Western gun research. As they are real weapons, you can quite easily find pictures online, though.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: Dragon's Fury
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Agent X: The Runner
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/29/2015 07:45:48
This short supplement introduces an expert class called the Runner... but no athlete, he. Forget running-and-gunning, this runner is a 'netrunner' scampering along the information superhighway, getting into all the places he should not and copying (or destroying) that which others might wish to keep quiet. For profit or through ideology, it matters little. But he is not the traditional hacker lurking in his Mom's basement, this Runner is adept at physical infiltration as well.

All the usual information necessary to plan, build and play a character are provided. Intelligence is the primary attribute, but closely followed by Charisma and Dexterity. The Charisma is important because his core ability is Social Engineering - the art of getting information out of people rather than their computers (how else do you find out passwords without doing a brute force attack?) that is too often forgotten in fictional portrayals of hacker types. One, especially, of the class attributes is rather neat too - it's called Twitch and gives defence and initiative bonuses based on spending too much time dodging virtual bullets when playing first-person shooter video games!

There are plenty of other neat features, as well as notes on playing such a character, good feat and gear selections and a few new feats that ought to come in useful.

My main Spycraft character is a hacker type who's generally happier in the van maintaining contact with the rest of the party via headsets. This might just tempt him out...

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Agent X: The Runner
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Agent X: One-Man Army
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/28/2015 08:11:24
This short supplement presents a new expert class, one designed to provide a character with the same unstoppable and violent determination as shown by movie action heroes like Casey Ryback (Under Siege) or John McClane (the Die Hard series)... indeed although not mentioned by name McLean is referenced within the class abilities!

This character is designed as a tough combatant ready to both hand out damage and absorb a good deal, so unsurprisingly Constitution is his most important attribute, with Dexterity or Strength (depending on his preference for gunplay or fisticuffs) coming next. He has plenty of hit points, and will probably need them. Most of the class abilities are built around standing up (often alone) to overwhelming numbers of opponents... and include 'Yippee-Ki-Yay' (the McClane reference) which gives a defensive bonus for the rest of the scene after a critical success is scored with a skill use or attack and the character comes out with his catchphrase.

As well as all the game mechanics you need to generate and play a One Man Army character, there are notes on suitable talents and specialties to select and on playing him to best effect. There are also several new feats based around working with a partner as well as suggestions for existing ones that you might like to consider choosing.

Ideal for those who enjoy full-on cinematic action this is an interesting class to consider developing into as a campaign proceeds.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Agent X: One-Man Army
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Bag Full of Guns: This is my Gun
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/27/2015 08:20:35
Weapons technology is always moving on, so in some ways this is an update to Bag Full of Guns: This is my Rifle (published 2006 - this work came out two years later in 2008), and it should prove of interest to any character who has a vacant space in his gun cabinet.

It starts by offering a few new weapon qualities - like camouflaged (it's painted to blend in with a chosen terrain), modular (you can swap out parts of the system without recourse to an armourer's shop) and minimum range (think of a rocket-propelled grendade - they travel a preset distance before they arm, much safer for the firer) and a few others. And so on to the weapons themselves, beginning with a sub-machine gun and a huge sniper rifle designed for use against light vehicles and strengthened positions. An assortment of other sniper rifles follows, then on to assault rifles, a bolt-action rifle, semi-automatic shotguns and heavy machine guns. Plenty of firepower to hand when you need it.

Next comes some new ammunition types and weapon upgrades, followed by a couple of new body armours and a few useful gadgets. Now the Boomerang Acoustic Shooter Detection System, which helps you pinpoint that rascal who's taking potshots at you, was apparently developed in 2004 - although I recall something similar (if a bit more low-tech) being used in Northern Ireland in 1978! Nothing new under the sun, it seems. Finally there's a high tech personal battle management system called Land Warrior (in the US version, several other nations have devised similar systems) that puts a lot of information at the soldier's fingertips whilst still leaving him free to fight.

Each item gets a paragraph or two about what it offers (and how well) as well as an entry in the tables at the back with all the game mechanics you need to incorporate it into play. No pictures, alas, but as most are 'real world' developments you can find them online if you want to know what they look like and even read the manufacturer's advertising blurb for them!

You can never have too much firepower, and there are some interesting weapons here, as well as other equipment that is useful in combat.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: This is my Gun
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The Big Score
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/26/2015 08:05:45
The way in which equipment and resources in general are handled by Spycraft has always been a little odd. In real-world espionage, an agent going on an operation is treated in one of two ways, he either is rather grudgingly handed minimal kit and is expected to get on with it or (if his agency is desperate to get the job done) he will have equipment and resources galore offered to him and anything else he needs he'll merely have to ask for... Yet the core rules offer systems of 'gear picks' that require a fair bit of resource-juggling when preparing for a mission. The one bit the rules got 'right' (in real-world terms) is that agents are expected to return everything they've been issued, or account for its loss.

Here is an assortment of ideas designed to enable agents to build up, over time, their own personal (and personalised) equipment - something real-world spies like to do - and even to profit from their adventures materially. After all, not every agent is playing the Great Game out of pure patriotism or even a love of excitement. Here three mini-systems are presented which can be used in conjunction, or you can pick which ones suit your game style and discard the rest. The three systems are the Stockpile system, the Cash'n'Carry system and the Loot system. Depending on which you use, campaign characterists may change as well as the way in which equipment and other parts of the rules function.

The Stockpile system lets characters keep any item with which they are issued on a permanent basis, rather than having to hand it in every time they return from an operation. If you use the formal Intel Phase, that remains (but can be dropped if you prefer), and characters are still limited as to what they possess. Anything designated as a Restricted item cannot normally become a personal possession and will still be loaned out, if you're lucky, when the nature of the operation indicates that it might be of use. The agent's regular equipment is determined at character creation, by rolling Possessions and Gear Picks together and converting the Gear Picks to actual items. Any option taken that provides an item or an extra Gear Pick is included in the total at this point. At the end of a mission, the stockpile refreshes, i.e. anything lost is replaced. It's still a very mechanical system but it does allow for some continuity.

The Cash'n'Carry system caters to those who prefer cold hard cash to abstract gear systems. Gear picks are translated into monetary terms, and characters then have to purchase what they want with that money. Again, this system can be used to allow characters to keep a core or regular equipment (hence you use either Stockpile or Cash'n'Carry, not both). Characters now have to pay for their Lifestyle choice on a regular basis (rent, grocery bills and the like) but they receive a regular income as well as 'starting cash' with which to do so. They can even save - or splash out - as they please. Again, Restricted items may not be acquired during initial purchases, characters will need to get hold of any they want during the course of play - and if not stealing them will have to pay for them. When it comes to a mission, characters receive a sum of money (wages, expenses, term them what you will) that can be used to purchase items required for that mission and to pay regular bills. Characters may also be required to pay for training. It is still a mechanical system, but some players may prefer the added realism of thinking in terms of money. It also makes it easier to add in new items of equipment provided you can find a real-world price for them. Even if, like me, you live somewhere you cannot go out and purchase firearms legally, there's always the Internet to research overseas gun stores for tasty new 'toys' and their prices!

Finally, the Loot system accounts for all those Restricted items that a character may want to acquire and hang on to but which both the core rules and the rest of the material presented here do not permit. Again, however, it is a rather mechanical system with artificial restrictions, whither you are using Stockpile or Cash'n'Carry to determine what characters normally have.

It all depends on how you want to run your game. If you like cinematic spies, consider how James Bond always stops in to see Q before a mission (and sometimes has a mid-mission 'care package' delivered if the need arises)... and cash never seems to be a problem, except possibly at the gaming tables. If your style is more realistic, how much cash and gear people have needs to be monitored more closely although incomes may be generous. Using a mechanical system is one way to keep checks and balances on what characters may have, but can detract from enjoyment as well. There are interesting ideas here, consider them carefully and use what works for your group.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Big Score
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Fragile Minds
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/22/2015 08:12:01
This supplement is for those who'd like to bring real horror to their Spycraft 2.0 game. The main thrust of the book is horror of the supernatural nature, perhaps you want to mix in a bit of the Cthulhu mythos or other such monsters from beyond, but much could be utilised if you are seeking gritty realism, the sort of fear and horror that quite turns the mind and which can be imagined as part of a real-world espionage story.

To start with there are a selection of campaign qualities with which to set the tone that you want. These determine which aspects of the rules presented here you will use. If you want characters who are scared of the consequences of the sort of things they will have to do, consider using the basic classes from Back to Basics - they are less capable, and can be used to generate the feeling of 'I could die at any moment'... just the kind of thought no spy wants to have when embarking on an operation! Or you may wish to mix in occult knowledge and spellcasting for a quite different kind of horror.

To model the toll that such fear takes on characters, an expanded set of rules for stress damage are presented, making minds as vulnerable (if not more so) than bodies. This causes characters to sustain mental damage - in terms of phobias, mental disorders and even catatonia - as a result of the horrors to which they are exposed. Care needs to be taken here, most players find it far easier to cope with their characters sustaining physical injury (it's only hit points on the character sheet after all, they do not feel the pain) than anything that messes with their minds. To be run successfully, players and GC need to be in accord: even more so once a character sustains lasting mental damage which has to be role-played, it is not something purely represented in game mechanics.

Especially effective when created as a collaborative effort between GC and player, an Unhinged Subplot can be developed and run over the next few sessions culminating (you hope!) in a resolution that will help the character regain his sanity in a manner that also contributes to the ongoing storyline.

A whole slew of things which can cause a character to get stressed out are listed. Many assumes a rather less heroic approach than the classic spy/thriller one, casting the characters as mere ordinary folk rather than the larger than life heroes that normally inhabit a game, especially one like Spycraft. Then the discussion moves on to Forbidden Knowledge - arcane secrets it is probably best not to delve into... only you know how curious characters are, and they may need this knowledge to defeat the threat that they are up against.

Throughout, there are examples and suggestions of ways in which to incorporated different kinds of horror into your game. There is also a collection of monsters and cosmic horrors, if that is the direction you wish to take.

This style of game will not be for everyone, and other groups may prefer to switch to a different game system that's built around such horror from the ground up... yet if you like the spy genre and Spycraft in particular the way that these rules work embeds the horror into the core game mechanics rather than bolting it on as an afterthought.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fragile Minds
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Practice Makes Perfect
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/21/2015 08:33:40
If combat is the high spot of your game, especially if you like it cinematic and exciting, this resource supplies a lot of ideas (complete, of course, with appropriate game mechanics) to make it even more exciting and spectacularly cinematic. It does these through character options and feats, enabling each character to develop his own personal combat style by focussing on particular weapons and techniques. Characters can pick up advanced actions and tricks in place of taking new weapon proficiencies as they rise in level.

Naturally, you can do the same thing with NPCs - you want your antagonists to be able to put up a good fight after all, and to be memorable foes. A mechanism is provided for building this in to quick NPCs, whilst those you wish to detail in full - your major opponents - will use the same rules as characters. Either can use any of the various tricks and techniques presented here, of course.

The range of ideas presented is quite varied, including plenty of unarmed techniques for the brawlers (or martial artists) as well as ones to enhance gunplay for runners and gunners. There are even delightful quirks like Exhibition Shooting, which allows you to target items or scenery with a spectacular shot, showing off - 'That could have been your head!' as you demolish a statue for example.

Each trick - and there are 53 of them - has a descriptive paragraph showing how it works along with the necessary rules information to make it happen around your gaming table. They are also summarised in a chart for quick reference.

If that wasn't enough there is also a whole bunch of feats - basic combat feats, melee feats, ranged feats and unarmed combat ones - that you can take to further customise your fighting style. Many relate to mastery with particular weapons, and some even allow you to recover - more or less gracefully - from rolling a 1 when you attack!

These are somewhat mechanistic and best suited to those groups who'd like to be cinematic but who prefer to play out combat strictly according to the rules. If you tend to free-form and let things flow, relying on player descriptions of actions rather than stepping mechanically through each round of combat, this may be of less use - but it's still worth a look if only to understand how the rules can be made to support whatever it is that you want to do.

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Practice Makes Perfect
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