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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Non-Comic: Silly Spycraft 2.0 Book Rant

Okay, you may or may not know I like role playing games. I grew up playing them in some form or another and they're fun. Okay, that's established.

Anyway, last time I was at the comic book store I ended up taking home a copy of Spycraft 2.0. This is because I have a thing for spies. Especially cheesy sixties spy shenanigans. Sit me in a room with a bunch of Mission Impossible, Get Smart or Man from UNCLE DVDs, I'm a happy camper.

I was looking curiously at the alternate campaign sections, because I'm never happy unless I'm trying to do something much more ridiculously complicated than the standard, apparently. There were some of the obvious settings/themes: Military, Conspiracy, Espionage, Near-Future, Light-hearted, Street. Some more surprising ones like Apocalyptic, Horror, Pulp or Western.

What I was really looking forward to was something historical themed though. I'm not a huge stickler for historical accuracy and any game I run is undoubtedly going to be at least a little bit silly/cheesy anyway, but I thought it might be an interesting idea. Certainly there's a lot to work with. There are a lot of pretty infamous Revolutionary War or Civil War figures after all. Or my favorite era for espionage: the Elizabethan Era.

Considering all the pots Sir Francis Walsingham had his fingers in, you'd think there'd be all sorts of possibilities worth at least a BLURB in the Alternate Campaign section, right?

Nope. Nothing. They have don't have any blurbs on tweaking the game to fit the era that pretty much INVENTED modern intelligence (let's just say there's a reason Neil Gaiman used him as the base for Nick Fury in 1602) but they have blurbs on the WILD WEST.

Come on! I like shootouts and gun-slinging in the ok corral and outlaws and that sort of thing too, but it's not really well suited for SPYING. The kind of campaigns center on "renegade saviors" and "personal quests".

Okay, admittedly, something like the Bourne Identity would suit Spycraft, I'd say, and IT has renegade saviors and personal quest(s) up the wazoo. But it's also got the evil shadowy corporation to fight against! I'm pretty sure that you need some kind of scary commanding type organization to either work for or fight against seekritly to be a spy thing.

Okay, admittedly, if I stop and think about it, I can find some potential in the setting, but I still resent the fact that it got a blurb over various other historical settings that are ACTUALLY KNOWN for involving spies.

Oh well, it's a perfectly good book otherwise and worth the money. I'm just irrationally irked.

I guess I'll just have to tweak an Elizabethan era campaign myself. Hmph, stupid book. Making me actually get off my ass and do my own damn thinking. Yeesh.


  • At September 03, 2008 7:31 AM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Spycraft HAD a 70s era Bond/Man From UNCLE campaign supplement. Less serious spying, more over the top stuff vs. bad guy groups who use acronyms. Can't remember if it was for the regular d20Modern variant Spycraft or 2.0 though...

    I played the original version in a couple campaigns and always ended up frustrated by the class-system, since I was always having to aim for some damn prestige class instead of STARTING as the Sniper or Profiler I wanted...

    For Elizabethean spying. Hmm. Castle Falkenstein maybe? Though I guess that would Victorian in era. Mars:1888? TSR's probably long out of print For Faerie, Queen & Country? *ponders*

    Lace & Steel? No idea where you could find that one though...

    Of course theres always kludging stuff together using GURPS or the Hero System...

  • At September 03, 2008 8:23 AM, Blogger Jer said…

    I don't know about the Spycraft 2.0 book itself, but for Wild West spycraft the ultimate resource for ideas is the old TV show "The Wild Wild West" - Secret Service agents James West and Artemis Gorden touring the old West in a passenger rail car and foiling plots of villains out to take over the good ol' US of A sounds like a campaign I'd like to play in, actually.

    I'd love to see a good RPG sourcebook on the Elizabethan era in general, and spycraft in that era in particular. The old TSR historical campaign setting "A Mighty Fortress" had some stuff for a 2nd edition AD&D campaign, but there aren't that many RPGs that focus on the Elizabethan era. That's a damn shame - I know it's too civilized for dungeon crawling and not-yet-civilized-enough for steam-powered monstrosities, but it seems like it would be a great era for gaming.

  • At September 03, 2008 9:28 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is slightly off topic but...does anyone happen to know of any good books on Walsingham?

    Whenever I hear anything about him (which isn't all that often - Elizabethan history comes up less then you might think in daily conversation ;) it's always intriguing and I think I should try and find out more about him. Of course then something shiny comes along and I forget. :)

  • At September 03, 2008 10:07 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    jer: THAT makes sense! You know, I'd completely forgotten Wild Wild West existed. That definitely explains why it would be in spy book!

    dan: Wikipedia lists a few books that look really interesting and I'd like to check them out myself once I've finished with other law school-type assignments. Just type in "Francis Walsingham" and check the reference list. :-)

  • At September 03, 2008 10:41 AM, Blogger SallyP said…

    I've always had just a tiny little crush on Walsingham. He was so cool...and just a little bit sinister. And VERY good at his job.

  • At September 03, 2008 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks Kalinara :)

    After I posted my comment I did have a quick look at the Wikipedia references. I was hoping that maybe someone else might have done the hard work of actually sifting through them ;)

    Besides what's the point of the web if I can't leech off er...I mean learn from the experiences of smarter, more well-read folk than myself :)

    I guess some book browsing (virtual or actual) lies in my immediate future :)

  • At September 03, 2008 12:12 PM, Blogger Rob Rogers said…

    It's not the Elizabethan period, but the Jack of All Trades TV series (starring Bruce Campbell) was a fun spy series set after the Revolutionary War (the two main characters are spies for Thomas Jefferson). Possibly some good source material there.


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