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Classic Spycraft: World Militaries
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2008 11:01:53

An RPG Resource Review:

World Militaries sets out to do for the rest of the world what US Militaries did for the armed forces of America – provide an outline of what goes on in different services and hence what kind of background and training prior service therein might give an agent. Naturally, given its scope, the amount of information provided on any one unit is small so further research is necessary should you require more detail.

The book consists of 6 chapters, five of which look at different parts of the world and the final one of which is the 'new rules' section. Coverage varies considerably, based on the authors' knowledge of different nations' armed forces – and probably the likely interest amongst players and GCs in using them as background either for agents or for the game as a whole.

The first chapter looks at Asian forces, namely those of the People's Republic of China (complete with the incongruously named People's Liberation Army Navy!), the Republic of India, Japan and both North and South Korea. A standard pattern is followed for each country, explaining the general composition of their army, navy and air force. There are notes on training, specialist units, likely arms and equipment and traditions; and a note on their views on gender and ethnicity – i.e. how well integrated into their forces are females and members of minority ethnic groups within that nation.

The second chapter is based around European forces with the exception of the United Kingdom, which gets a chapter to itself. Here we find France (including the French Foreign Legion complete with the Kepi Blanc), Germany, Norway and Poland. A useful feature of each nation's entry is a table of ranks, including the correct foreign language titles, so when encountering someone from one of these forces, they can be addressed correctly! This chapter also contains notes on the organisation of NATO and on the Geneva Conventions – the code that governs the treatment of prisoners of war. Finally it covers the Hague Conventions, another international agreement that defines the terms under which war may be waged – including how a state of war is formally declared and which weapons are deemed so repellent that they should not be used in combat. And, should your agents – or their enemies – really step over the mark, there's an introduction to the concept of war crimes.

Chapter 3 deals with Middle Eastern Forces. Here we learn about the armed forces of Iran (where, unlike the rest of their Islamic society, women are encouraged to participate fully albeit only as non-combatants), Israel, Pakistan (oddly, I'd have put them in with India) and Saudi Arabia.

Russian forces are the focus of Chapter 4, with quite extensive details of the various services of the current Russian Federation – and how things have changed since Soviet days. This could provide an interesting basis for a game, with former and current members of Russian forces seeking to carve out a living for themselves.

The last chapter of the survey of world militaries looks in detail at the armed forces of the United Kingdom. Within the British Army, the basis for much tradition is the regimental system – and anyone interested in exploring this further should hunt down the British Army's website and follow links to the different regiments. To a British soldier, the regiment is everything, and you’ll find veterans telling you that they served in the Cheshire Regiment rather than merely telling you they have been in the army! The Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are rather more homogenous, although they are not lacking in traditions either. This chapter includes notes on the armed forces of Canada and Australia, Commonwealth countries whose armed forces are structured on largely British lines.

Chapter 6, the final chapter of the book, is the rules section – no rules information appears in the preceding chapters. It begins by defining 'military agent' as an agent who is a serving member of the armed forces. The first rules cover new departments based on a selection of the units described in the preceding pages, ranging from Russian conscripts to Gurkhas, the French Foreign Legion and even Israeli military chaplains! Next comes some notes on specific military uses of existing skills – such as using Innuendo to denote your mastery of military field hand signals! – and a series of feats to develop your expertise at Close Quarter Battle, as well as Quick Study (you pick up new information fast) and Threat Analyst (you know a lot about the opposition's forces, each time you take the feat you pick the nation you wish to study).

Then come some NPC classes, mostly of use when you need an expert in a specialist field such as a Combat Engineer, and none of the agents have the skills required... or of course, as cannon-fodder such as a Third World Conscript. We then move on to training programmes, which allow agents to purchase the necessary skills for particular skills such as diving, escape and evasion, or even prisoner handling and political indoctrination. There's a bit about the sort of resources that a military agent in good standing can draw upon, and some extra military equipment you can requisition. This includes protective clothing, some new kits and a range of survival gear which you really shouldn't leave home without! For some rather bizarre reason, individual protective equipment (the formal name for the uncomfortable suit and respirator you wear in case of nuclear, biological or chemical threat) is described as MOPP – the US term for it, and the various levels of protection required also detailed according to the US system. There's also some ground, sea and air vehicles, vehicle equipment (want to air-drop that Land Rover?) and new bundles that cover regular issue kit for specific roles or tasks... including a humanitarian aid kit complete with comic books and soft toys for any distressed children you encounter! Even submarines and main battle tanks are covered, should the need arise.

The chapter winds up with notes on conversion to the Stargate SG-1 rules, useful as the majority of Stargate team members have a military background. There's also a thumbnail sketch of how much various countries spend on their armed forces and the qualifications (in terms of attributes and skills) for entering the officer corps or enlisted ranks in the various units looked at within the book.

The book gives a good overview of the armed forces of selected countries that agents might either come from or need to visit in the course of their careers. However, if you want to use any particular nation's armed forces as a major element in your games, you will want to research them in far more detail than can be contained here. The fairly standard line art does not contribute much to the book and there are one or two minor errors (like a piece of text repeated on a different page) that really ought to have been spotted.

Probably more use as background material than for forging your campaign setting, there is some excellent flavour material that can be used to round out agents or for that matter their enemies that come from the countries covered in this book. A lot of the equipment is very useful, whether or not your campaign has a military slant.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Spycraft: World Militaries
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Classic Spycraft: Battlegrounds
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/13/2008 10:42:33

An RPG Resource Review:

Like the preceding two 'military-oriented' books from this publisher (US Militaries and World Militaries) this work is divided into several chapters of information on various topics, followed by a single 'New Rules' chapter which demonstrates how to utilise the information within a game. The aim – declared in the Introduction – is to provide some contemporary, historical and future military settings in which an espionage or military campaign could be run, along with lots of ideas for single adventures and events to use either in a wartime campaign or even as side excursions within a more conventional spy game.

The first battleground to be investigated is Afghanistan. The chapter opens with a description of the geography and terrain – which would have been vastly enhanced by a map of the area – and then a brief but reasonably accurate account of recent history since the 1970s, when the indigenous government was replaced by one supported by the Soviet Union. While there is rarely such a thing as a true 'government' in Afghanistan, with most of the land controlled by warlords loyal only to themselves, throughout recent history, the major powers have done covert battle by choosing and supporting sides, providing plenty of opportunities should you choose to run an historical game. There are a couple of really nasty ideas for how things might have gone really 'pear shaped' and propelled the world into the aftermath scenario that is dealt with in the penultimate chapter, and a fairly straightforward cave-clearance adventure that pits the characters, as Soviet Spetznaz forces, against a mujahadeen stronghold.

Next up is Bosnia, another part of the world that has spent most of the 20th century in conflict and continues in similar mode into this century. As in the previous chapter, this account begins with the geography and history of the region, culminating in more detailed notes on events during the 1990s. The various factions involved are described and the chapter ends with a mission in which the players, as SAS soldiers, are sent to raid a Serb-held village (rather confusingly, the mission brief is provided as 'Option # 1' although there aren't any others!).

The following chapter describes a seething maelstrom of revolution and drug wars, Central and South America. After a brief overview, focus settles on Colombia with a US presence ostensibly to counter the drug trade, but also bolstering the current government against left-wing insurgents before moving on to brief descriptions of the 1982 Falklands War, when British forces fought to expel Argentinean invaders, and the incident in Grenada the following year, when US troops intervened to quell a Marxist-led coup. There are also notes on Nicaragua and Panama. Again, unless you are a good geographer, you'll probably be running for an atlas to check where all these places are – a general map of the region would have helped greatly. In many ways, this part of the world may be the one best suited to those who want to run espionage games against a background of international conflict, as there is a wealth of opportunity for fact-finding missions and undercover support (or hindrance) of warring factions. Several of the wonderful collection of adventure seeds provided takes advantage of this, and there are other small-scale patrol missions ideal for a small group of characters operating on their own for those wishing a more military game. The full-blown mission provided is set in Colombia, with the agents pitted against a US 'advisor' who has gone rogue and set up as a warlord in his own right.

There is a slight change in pace for the next chapter, which visits Vietnam. Here, possibly one of the times the Cold War came closest to turning 'hot' as the capitalist and communist ideologies warred by proxy in the jungles and plains of Vietnam, new styles of warfare developed as conventional strengths of numerical superiority and more advanced technology proved insufficient. There's a lot of scope for groups who want to go historical, with espionage and covert missions galore as well as more conventional military patrolling. The scenario provided is rather thin, a downed aircraft with an experimental bomb aboard needs to be retrieved, but all you have to work with is a hilltop base and a few Viet Cong after the same objective.

The final 'setting' chapter looks at potential end-of-the-world situations. The basic premise is that an outbreak of a particular virulent influenza virus reaches epidemic proportions, and triggers internal unrest and international incidents that rapidly escalate to nuclear exchanges. The result is a devastated planet with about one-quarter of its former population scrabbling to survive. You can also weave in various 'flash-point' incidents detailed in the preceding setting chapters, or use them as the main basis for the disaster the world has suffered. While most of the material assumes that the catastrophes have already happened and the agents are now attempting to survive and prosper during the aftermath, it could also be interesting to run a campaign in which things are falling apart around their ears. The provided mission involves making contact with one of the few surviving Agency field offices… or – as for once the 'Option 1' is not the only version presented – it's an office belonging to an enemy organisation and the agents can make a hostile take-over instead.

The book rounds off with a 'New Rules' chapter, which primarily deals with concepts necessary for running a long-term campaign without much resupply – be it trips behind enemy lines in any setting or the survival image of the last setting. However many of the rules, such as those providing a more realistic view of injury and recovery and the ones for poisons and weapons of mass destruction, could be adopted by GCs running games in any setting who want greater realism and truly scary effects when their agents are wounded or encounter Bad Guys who are happy to throw nuclear devices or deadly diseases at them. There’s also a section on having a 'battle in the background' – while recognising that the focus of a role-playing game is going to be the individual players there will be occasions when using material from this book that a group of agents may find themselves surrounded by a larger-scale combat, and provides some incidental events that may befall them (snipers, incoming stray mortar rounds and the like).

The rules should be approached with some caution, as it is possible to turn the whole thing into a die-rolling exercise rather than playing out actions such as scavenging for supplies. On the other hand, if your priorities are such that you'd rather not waste game-time on any particular aspect, you have the option of using the rules in a mechanical manner and getting on with what you want to do during a play session.

Overall, the book gives a good overview and some excellent starting-points for running a different sort of spy game than hitherto presented in the main ('Silver') Spycraft books, one in which combat and violence provides a constant background. I feel that anyone wanting to run a campaign in any of the settings will need to do quite a bit of research into the localities and likely incidents before they will be able to begin; and may also benefit from accessing other RPG material that has looked in more detail at the area of interest – for example Holistic Games's Real Life Roleplaying books on Afghanistan and Colombia, or Palladium Books' Recon if you are heading for Vietnam.

This product gives some excellent ideas for broadening the scope of a Spycraft game from pure espionage into small-unit military operations and wartime spying, and provides good starting points for several campaigns.

The main drawback is that there are no maps! Even a map-freak like myself doesn't have every single nation's detailed layout at their fingertips – and even if you don't want to research the area further you are going to need to get maps covering the region in which you set your game.

I am always a bit wary of attempts to mix role-playing – a very individual activity, where each player has one character and you rarely get hierarchical command structures within the group – and the broader scope of a full-blown war situation, but this offering from AEG manages to create the right balance: a backdrop of a war situation against which teams of player-character agents or special forces operatives will be able to operate in a more conventional role-playing manner.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Spycraft: Battlegrounds
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The Big Score
by Scott S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/07/2008 15:13:38

This is a very good system for the Spycraft system. It is great for campaigns.

Been using the Cash and Carry system for a few weeks now. It works well in my campaign. It makes more sense and it is fun to see the greed in your agents. I made 1 change to the purchase of abilities to $100K * the new stat point you are buying.

Should give it a try if you are running a campaign.

S



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Big Score
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Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
by Justin M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/25/2008 23:45:28

A simply fantastic book, with great rules, but beyond that: GREAT IDEAS for running any spy/military/modern game. As a treasure trove of ideas, knowledge, gear, it can't be beat.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
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Hanukkah Havoc
by Abraham E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/23/2008 21:04:23

Without a doubt, this was the most unfortunate purchase I've evr made (to date). The plot line is reed thin and would insult a six year old's intelligence (ask my children!), the characters are right out of some smarmy c-level (or worse) wnnabe James Bond flick, and the setting bears no relationship to reality.

The only good thing about this game is the price, though it troubles me that I used paper and toner for the loser.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Hanukkah Havoc
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Classic Spycraft: 1960s Decade Book
by Louis P. J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2008 07:20:13

The best espionage book ever created to make the 1960s Cold War spy genre come alive. Even if you play D20 Modern and not Spycraft this book is incredibly useful. Don't miss on picking it up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Spycraft: 1960s Decade Book
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Origin of the Species: Classic Fantasy
by Amy G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/31/2008 23:57:22

As the first hints of what we will be seeing in the upcoming release of FantasyCraft, I'm really excited and pleased to be able to have this product as my own!

I love the SpyCraft system as a whole, and adding fantasy flair just makes it all the better to me!

And as a novice to the SpyCraft rules, I found that I actually understood this book far more than I expected to, piquing my excitement for the genre even more!

YAY!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Origin of the Species: Classic Fantasy
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Origin of the Species: Classic Fantasy
by Scott S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/31/2008 11:08:30

Well although I am very happy with most of what they have done here. There are errors in the full version that seem not to be present in the Print version. The dwarf entries for instance. I do love the new feats and specialties, I think they really add to the races much more then any other D20 Product. Overall the product is done well, but: I ask my self what takes the elf 100 years to learn that an Orc gets in 15. It has bothered me for a long time. No one seems to get it. Next the heights seem a little low to me. The dwarf will not likely break 4 feet tall. What is up with that. You can't be stout if no one can see you. Geesh. Now they are in reality as wide as they are tall. The legendary Dwarf, Why exactly does he use an edged weapon underground? They would blunt with every miss. Not very smart.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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Twas the Night Before Deathmas
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2007 05:48:26

A very small glimpse of "World on Fire", a rendition of "A Stealth Christmas" and a pretty good chase scene. This one leans towards the action side of action-comedy.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Twas the Night Before Deathmas
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Hanukkah Havoc
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/29/2007 05:16:42

A more-than-slightly comical romp through old Jerusalem to stop an extremist from unleashing a bizarre device. Worth a look.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Hanukkah Havoc
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Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
by William V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/23/2007 13:27:46

Kewl! Far and away, the best use of the d20 Modern system to date! Very complicated, so if you're not already familiar with the d20 system, be prepared to spend weeks or months studying this chunky, 500-some page pdf. (In the interest of complete disclosure, I myself have yet to finish it!) However, it is more than enough to launch into the action-packed world of espionage, danger, thrills and daring-do! Very nicely designed and illustrated, but don't expect to print this out or your printer will never forgive you! LOL If I could I'd give this 10 out of 5 stars. :D



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Spycraft 2.0 Rulebook - Second Printing
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Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
by Teos A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2007 11:33:03

The first Bag Full of Guns supplement, it does focus on rifles, but also includes a shotgun and grenade launcher. The weapon quality Modular is introduced, and reflects how many of the weapons can switch between upgrades (each switch is a separate stat line for the weapon - a very cool idea!). The upgrade "Airburst System" is introduced for grenades, as well as the ammo type, providing a more lethal alternative for those wanting to use grenade launchers more often.

Brief descriptions are provided for each weapon, adding more color and history to the weapon choices.

Overall, the weapons are well designed and will be of good use for players looking for assault rifle/shotgun/grenade options, as well as for GMs that want to introduce a few new toys.

The content is not completely indispensable, but at the price it is an excellent buy.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: This Is My Rifle
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Bag Full of Guns: Red Heat
by Teos A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/04/2007 11:25:12

This Bag Full of Guns supplement contains a wider variety of weapon types, including pistols/revolver, SMG, rifles, and a ballistic knife. In addition, the Soviet flavor adds some regional utility for certain missions, NPCs, and PCs.

The new "Submersible" quality is introduced, and several of the weapons are designed for special applications (many are silenced).

For the price, this is an excellent purchase for someone who wants to introduce Soviet weaponry or is looking for special application weapons or for a player that is looking to flesh out a Soviet or Eastern European character. For anyone else it is still a very good purchase.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bag Full of Guns: Red Heat
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Practice Makes Perfect
by William C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/19/2007 11:48:56

Spycraft 2.0 – Practice Makes Perfect This review is after I have looked over the book and read it to see what I liked and didn’t like… All ratings are based out of 5 points…

  1. Art: a. Cover Art – This is a good evocative drawing, but I feel that it lacks some of the realism that prior art has shown. It is cartoonish and just lacks that something that grabs my eye. - 3.5 points

  2. Layout: a. The book looks clean and the layout is easy to follow, there are some issues where things are in strange places… Like an explanation before the new mechanic that looks like it is a part of the new mechanic instead. – 4 points b. Tables – Now these are an improvement over the old tables and are cleaner and easier to print as well. The tables layout Cost/Bonus in an easy to read format. – 5 points

  3. New Mechanic: a. The new option to trade Weapon Proficiencies for Tricks is an interesting take and allows a combatant to do more than just have the golf-bag of weapons option. – 4 points b. The new options themselves are interesting, but there are some that are mechanically the same for a slightly different thing. (Example is actions that use a different stat in place of strength to modify your attack check.) They could have been rolled into one and been a choose the one that fits option. - 3.5 points

  4. New Feats: a. These are also similar to the new mechanic in that they are good but there are multiple ones that allow the same effect for a different subset of weapons (One of Blunt and One for Edged that offer the exact same benefit but use a different subset of weapons.) – 3.5 points

All in all I feel that this is a great option for players or GC’s to use to modify a PC/NPC to make them a specific type of fighter without using Feats alone. Total – 23.5/6 = 3.916 (Rounded to 4 points)



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Practice Makes Perfect
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Origin of the Species: Light of Olympus
by Loren D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/20/2007 18:19:05

Spycraft really is the HALO of the D20 system--the killer app that makes it truly great. Its "toolkit" approach to the system gives it a wide range, allowing it to encompass any genre, and while it began its life as a modern/espionage product, the Spycraft engine fits fantasy just fine.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Origin of the Species: Light of Olympus
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