Every GC should familiarize himself with the following fundamentals before running any Spycraft game. These are rules that come up often and apply at all times.
When the characters want to do something that isn’t already handled with an attack or skill check, the GC must determine the Difficulty Class (DC). This can be a tricky prospect, especially given the fact that a DC which is high for a mid-level character might be entirely impossible for a low-level character. At any time, the GC may determine the chance that a character might be successful against a given DC (or, for that matter, a given Defense) by subtracting the character’s relevant bonus from the DC (or Defense) and consulting Table 7.1: Chance of Success (see right).
By and large, a Game Control should avoid setting any DC to “Impossible” unless he intentionally wants to prevent the characters from pursuing a given course of action. The DCs in Chapter 2 and throughout this book are intentionally set across an established range to provide a growing list of potential outcomes as the characters rise in level and purchase additional skill ranks. This tactic is perfectly fair for the GC as well, though considerable thought must be dedicated to the effects upon play. The GC should never prevent outcomes that are critical to the completion of a mission unless completion is secondary to the experience, or deliberately postponed until the characters achieve a certain level of play.
The GC receives a number of action dice at the start of each game session equal to the number of player characters present + twice the mission’s Caliber.
Example: There are 5 player characters present in a Caliber IV mission. The GC starts with 13 action dice.
Also, each time the GC offers the players a hint, increases the mission Caliber, or activates a Subplot, he gains additional action dice (see pages 53 and 398). Finally, the GC gains 1 bonus action die each time he awards 1 action die to a player character (see page 398). Thus, it’s important for the GC to keep awarding action dice so he doesn’t run out. The GC may spend his dice in any of the following ways, and as NPC classes, feats, and other abilities allow. All action dice left unspent at the end of a gaming session are lost. Special Note: The GC’s action dice are not a static type. They change according to how he spends them. Many action die uses don’t require a roll; in cases where a die must be rolled, the type is specified by use.
|Table 7.1: Chance of Success|
|DC/Defense Minus Bonus||Chance of Success|
|1 or less||100%|
|21 or more||Impossible|
1. BOOST AN NPC dIE ROll
An action die spent to boost an NPC die roll operates exactly like an action die spent to boost a character die roll (see page 61), except that the NPC type determines the GC’s action die type (see page 452).
2. BOOST AN NPC’S dEfENSE
An action die spent to boost an NPC’s Defense operates exactly like an action die spent to boost a character’s Defense (see page 62), except that the NPC type determines the GC’s action die type (see page 452).
3. BOOST A dC
Before a character makes a skill check, the GC may spend one d12 action die to boost the check’s DC by the action die’s result. The GC may only spend 1 action die to boost each DC.
4. ACTIvATE AN NPC THREAT
An action die spent to activate a threat scored by an NPC operates exactly like an action die spent to activate a threat scored by a player character (see page 62).
5. ACTIvATE AN ERROR SuffEREd By AN NPC’S OPPONENT
An action die spent to activate an error suffered by an NPC’s opponent operates exactly like an action die spent to activate an error suffered by a player character’s opponent (see page 62).
6. HEAl AN NPC
An action die spent to heal an NPC operates exactly like an action die spent to heal a player character (see page 62), except that the NPC type determines the GC’s action die type (see page 452).
7. PROmOTE A STANdARd NPC
At any time, the GC may spend 2 action dice to promote a standard character to special status for the duration of the current mission (see page 441 for more information about standard and special NPCs). If the characters defeat a promoted antagonist, XP is calculated as if he is a ‘full’ special character (see page 452).
8. SAvE A SPECIAl NPC fROm dEATH OR CAPTuRE
At the moment of a special NPC’s death or at any time during or after a special NPC’s capture, the GC may spend 4 action dice to cause the NPC to cheat fate, escaping by a contrivance of the GC’s creation (a distraction, an escape route, luck, a teleportation gadget, etc.). If an antagonist is saved, XP is rewarded as if he were defeated (see page 452). The NPC may not return during the same mission.
9. Add A CAmPAIGN QuAlITy
During the Intel Phase of each mission, the GC may spend 1 or more action dice to apply any number of campaign qualities (see page 405). He need not tell the players what qualities he’s adding until they come into play. Added campaign qualities last until the end of the current mission. Unlike scripting a campaign quality as a complication (see page 435), this option does not increase the mission’s XP reward.
10. PROmPT A dRAmATIC SCENE
At any time, the GC may spend 4 action dice to designate the current scene as “dramatic” (see page 424). Unlike scripting a dramatic scene as a complication (see page 435), this option does not increase the mission’s XP reward.
AwARdING ACTION dICE
The GC should award 1 or more action dice to a player character each time he attempts something exceptionally clever, exhibits superior leadership or problem-solving ability, entertains the group, or otherwise improves the gaming experience. Periodically, a player will nominate a player character for an action die reward, which the GC is within his rights to refuse if he feels the situation lacks the required “punch.”
On average, the GC should try to hand out at least 1 action die every 20–30 minutes of play. He should also try to spread action dice awards between all the players — if one player is shy or not as witty as the rest, it’s all the more important to reward him when he does something noteworthy. In the end, the most important thing is to reward behavior that the GC wants to see repeated, and ignore behavior that he’d rather not see again.
Special Note: In the first paragraph of this section, the GC is urged to award action dice when a player character attempts something clever. The word “attempts” is critical here — the GC should refrain from awarding action dice for accomplishments, as accomplishments are often already rewarding. Instead, the GC should strive to reward effort, within which all heroism is rooted. Further, by granting action dice before players attempt something that sounds risky and exciting, the player has more tools to pull it off.
When a GC finds the players stumped about what to do next (for example, they’re caught in a mastermind’s deathtrap and can’t locate the escape route), the GC may provide them with a hint. This hint must be helpful, though it may be vague or require context (for example, the GC may simple tell the players that they haven’t found everything within or near the death trap, hinting at a piece of debris they can hurl at the trap’s controls from across the room).
Each time the GC offers a hint, he gains 1 action die. Characters neither gain nor lose action dice for hints.
The characters often begin a mission with only a limited view of the current threat. Later, when the true scope of the danger is understood, their Faction or Freelance network rises to the new danger with increased support. During any but the last scene, the GC may increase the mission’s Caliber (usually based on new information the agents acquire), gaining 2 action dice per increase (e.g. if the Caliber increases from II to IV, the GC gains 4 action dice). Characters gain no action dice for Caliber increases.
At the end of the current scene, the characters are assumed to meet Factional or Freelance network supporters at a nearby rendezvous point, at which time they may exchange any of their mission gear for new picks at the higher Caliber. Further, the increased Caliber applies to all gear acquisition of any kind for the duration of the current mission.
CONTROllING THE vERTICAl…
Action dice are a tool meant to make the game more enjoyable for everyone. They can enable the players to succeed when it’s really important, and can help the GC redirect a mission back when it hurtles off course. They also serve as a tangible reward for creative and enthusiastic players. But their effectiveness depends upon how the GC uses them. If he spoils a player’s big moment of glory, or constantly picks on a single player, it ruins everyone’s fun. Used well, the GC’s action dice make situations more dramatic with a critical failure that leads to a subplot, or make the players work a bit harder for a victory, and they’ll thank him for it.