An RPG Resource Review:
The concept behind this product is simple. It's a rework of the D20 Modern basic character classes as described in the SRD (Systems Reference Document, the thing you use if you want to create Open Gaming Licence materials) into Spycraft terms. If you are asking why, the reasoning is simple. What if you don't happen to want to use the quite defined base classes in the Spycraft rules? Perhaps you are not undertaking a conventional espionage mission, or you have a very clear picture of the character that you want to play but cannot see quite how to create him using the rules as given.
So, whether the game is different or the character is one you wish to build precisely as you like, here's an opportunity to stick with the Spycraft system and yet have the versatility and freedom to make a character from more generic classes. You do this by setting 'Basic Classes' as a campaign quality. This replaces Spycraft 2.0 base classes with these basic ones, but does allow the use of the expert and master classes later on as you rise in level. It is possible to mix these with the base classes from Spycraft although people who prefer to maintain very strict game balance will find that the basic classes presented here are marginally underpowered and maybe a bit less 'cool' than the base classes in the main rulebook. Overall, characters created using these rules will be a bit less cinematic than their base class fellows at lower levels. However, if the flexibility appeals, being able to create a character that is precisely what you want will outweigh this.
While based on the basic classes presented in the SRD, the ones here are a bit different - so there's a definite advantage in purchasing this product if the concept appeals rather than just using the SRD. To start with, all classes run to 20 levels, SRD Talents have been replaced with Knacks, and there is a wide range of 'Knack Trees' for you to choose from.
As expected, the classes are the Charismatic Hero, the Dedicated Hero, the Fast Hero, the Smart Hero, the Strong Hero and the Tough Hero; each based on one of the attributes used to describe your character. This enables you to create a character based more on natural ability rather than the more skills and prior training approach used to choose a Spycraft base character class.
The Knacks are interesting. Each time you level up, you gain a new class ability which you can select from a wide range of class-specific and general knacks. Many are in a 'tree' format, with levels 1-5 which you select in turn as your skills improve. Some allow you to take a different variant of the ability each time you choose it - for example if you take the Damage Resistance knack you need to specify which type of damage you are resistant to but can take it several times to cover you against a wide range of eventualities. The knack descriptions provide ideas of how they can be useful as well as providing the precise rule mechanic for actually using them in play. They do, of course, go further than this - they can be used to define the whole style of the character and a good role-player will have little difficulty with this even when the situation does not call for use of rules and die rolls. Many of the knacks relate to abilities which you might well have picked up using a Spycraft base class, but here of course you are not constrained to following a set profession and so can pick and choose knacks to suit your concept.
For people who come to the game with a strong idea of the precise character they wish to play, it provides the tools to build the character according to that model, rather than having to find a 'best-fit' amongst the base classes provided in the core rules.
There is the usual danger of rather colourless 'generic' characters, and it can be a bit harder to become really good at whatever your core talent is. And it takes away some of the flavour, I'd rather be a Wheelman than a Fast Hero with the Vehicle Expertise Knack... sounds better when bragging in the bar!
Overall, it is an excellent idea for those who want to craft their characters outside of the standard mould. It might have been even better if the new basic classes had been built so that they could mesh with ordinary base classes to allow for even greater versatility.
[4 of 5 Stars!]