Thoughts on Spycraft 2.0 Pocket Edition

Summary: Excellent, but too much crunch for my taste. 4 bullets out of 5


I picked up the Spycraft 2.0 pocket edition some time ago. The price was right and Flaming Cobra doesn’t gouge Canadian customers with shipping (unlike, say, Lulu or even IPR). My buddy Brad in Halifax was a Spycraft fan, and he ran us through some adventures, including using the Stargate RPG, which used the SC engine. I read lots of good stuff about SC 2.0 which made me very, very curious.

Now, I haven’t played SC 2.0, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Here are my thoughts.

Character creation got me excited. And by excited, I mean hot date, dancing close, imagining where the night will lead excited.

Okay, sorry about that. Bleach out that mental image and let’s get on with this.

I really love the options and ideas provided. Not just the classes, but stuff like the gear picks, which are broken into electronic, gadgets, resources, security, tradecraft, vehicles and weapons. This idea and its execution is so outstanding, I am stealing it—well, is it stealing if I credit the source?—for all my games, whether they be set during the Trojan War or during the Rebellion Against the Empire.

The classes themselves have been extended and changed somewhat. I never was a huge fan of SC’s classes, but reading SC 2.0’s classes got me thinking of character concepts and how I could build them. This is always a good thing. SC 2.0 includes a good selection of base classes and some more expert classes to help build exactly the kind of character one imagines.

The skills include both the skills and the kind of checks one might make with them. This is another excellent idea, but this is where things starting bogging down for me. From this point on, I started to skim, started to skip ahead.

And here’s why: I’m looking for less rules during game play, not more. My go-to game right now is True20. Savage Worlds is a very close second, but because True20 is so close to d20, it is well within my comfort zone mechanics-wise.

Now, True20 doesn’t have a lot of rules for actions during game play, but it has enough. I ignore most of them. Seriously, even with something relatively streamlined like True20, I find there are too many rules. Rules slow me down during my games. If I have to open my book, you’ve broken my rhythm and I have to work to get it back. The last thing I want to do during a tense situation at the game table is interrupt with rules’ interpretation. I just want to move, to go, to get ‘er done.

Then there are Dramatic Conflicts. I have barely skimmed the surface of this, just looking for the guts of it to see what I could steal. This maps out ways to work stuff like chases, interrogations, hacking, etc. Again, awesome mechanics, but I am trying to avoid mechanics. I am going back at a later date to strip mine the ideas here and see if I can graft them on to my style of play, somehow. It simply too much work, for me, to learn this new system.

There is a lot to recommend SC 2.0, especially if you love that in-game crunch, the rules that tell you exactly what you can do, when, and how.

And that is the crux of it. SC 2.0 is not bad. I can’t say for certain, not having played it, but it reads absolutely outstanding. I can see why there are so many great reviews. I can see why there are so many dedicated fans. It’s just that this is different enough that I would need to learn it, just like a totally new game.

I have neither the free time nor the inclination to do that.

Sue me.

This is the exact same reason I haven’t bought D&D 4E. I’m sure it’s a great game (there is no sarcasm there, I can actually imagine a few styles of play for which I would prefer something like 4E), but there’s too much to learn. I am happy with True20, which had very little new to learn.

So there you go. If I had found SC 2.0 back in 2002, I would likely have latched onto it and never let go. Back then, I enjoyed delving into the rules, getting a basic idea, then learning the rules completely by playing them. Right now, that’s not what I want to do. I want something lean and mean that is easy to learn and doesn’t make me run back to the rules in the middle of the game.

Here’s the bottom line: I would strongly recommend SC 2.0 for modern action/adventure games run by people who like to learn rules and like to have lots of them to learn. I would strongly recommend SC 2.0 pocket edition for people like me who run modern games, but who may not want to learn all of SC 2.0, but would rather steal aspects of it to bolt on elsewhere.

Given the cost of the pocket edition and what is contained therein, I would say it provides a heck of a bang for your buck.

I’m giving Spycraft 2.0 pocket edition 4 bullets out of 5.

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  1. I play in a Savage Worlds Solomon Kane game and while I am enjoying it playing a claymore wielding Scotsman. I do find the system is simplistic but lacks in detail. I definitely prefer class based games.

    1. That pretty much nails it for me: the level of detail is my problem with SC 2.0. I don’t think I need that level of detail. Details, for me, can bog down my game.

      And, oddly enough, I don’t have much of a preference for class-based or non- these days, not after playing Savage Worlds and Mutants & Masterminds.

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