The Influence of Spycraft

One of the great things about the OGL open gaming license was that it allowed many games companies to produce a raft of games which were broadly compatible and yet introduced new systems and subsystems which contained some really interesting ideas. Spycraft came out in about 2006, and I’ve already described the influence it had on how character backgrounds work in Starguild. There are two other elements it hugely influenced.

Dramatic Conflicts

They identified that scenes of chase, torture, seduction and the like are typically key dramatic moments in the genre, but tend to have been badly served in the past.

What they did was introduce a series of complex little mini-games to cover those dramatic conflicts. It looked like it might be fun, but I didn’t want to have an additional, completely novel game mechanic to handle it.

My solution was to extend the damage save mechanic to incorporate “dramatic saves” and use an extended version of my skill task mechanic. Some environments or situations are inherently more risky, and so participants can choose whether they want to succeed by winning the task themselves, or gambling that their opponent will not be able to face the risk and be forced to give up.

There are two main categories of dramatic conflict – chases and drama. Chases are subdivided into foot chase, vehicle chase and starship chases. Dramatic conflicts include manhunts, infiltration, net running, interrogation and large scale battles.

These are all situations were it is necessary to keep your wits about you, and so Intellect saves are used to avoid problems.


Spycraft had a great section on organisations, quantifying them and giving them real personality. Taking advantage of the OGL, I’ve been able to use substantial parts of this.

Organisations have a rating which reflects their size and power. The rating can be composed of a variety of points in history, goals, image, sites and equipment.

Each History rating point gives them one descriptive element of their corporate history (such as Betrayal, Rivals or Respected). Members of the organisation are so familiar with these that they get a +2 bonus on using specific activities – Intuition, Drama saves and Style respectively.

Each Goals rating point gives a clear goal for the organisation, and members of the organisation get a bonus conviction point if they are on a mission which is aligned with one of those goals (such as Anarchy, Exploration, Greed or Secrecy).

The Image rating reflects the amount of PR which goes into either publicising things or hiding them. Normally there is a ‘recorded’ level of information about an organisations goals, methods, leaders, members and sites. Each image rating points allows one of those areas to be made more or less prominent or secretive. Two points could make an area renowned or mysterious.

The Sites rating indicates the number of planets upon which they have special sites, and also the specific type of sites which give improved access to some kind of equipment. An organisation with sites 3 might have Armour, Harbour and Airstrip on three different worlds, giving better access to armour, watercraft and gyrocopters/dirigibles in three systems.

The Resources rating indicates the type of resources and maximum value of items which can be requisitioned by members of the organisation. An organisation might have Medical equipment, Espionage equipment and personal weapons of up to Cr50,000 value available.


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