Certain activities require a long and variable period to complete or demand segmented progress, possibly against a time limit or while under fire. In the Spycraft 2.0 system, these are called “Complex Tasks.” Disarming a bomb is an example of a Complex Task — especially if the bomb is set to go off in a matter of minutes or rounds. Though less tense, conducting a thorough study of the type of mud found at a crime scene is another example. In both cases, the activity is lengthy enough that a single skill check is inappropriate, and intricate enough that having several manageable objectives along the way is helpful.
Each Complex Task is comprised of 2 to 10 “Challenges” (potentially more, in the case of extremely involved activities) — the higher the number of Challenges, the lengthier and more intricate the activity.
A Challenge handles 1 discrete objective or step in a Complex Task activity with 1 skill check. Each Challenge operates exactly like a skill check, and is subject to all the rules for a standard skill check, except that it’s linked to a larger project, and must be completed before the character may move on to the Complex Task’s next Challenge.
With each successful Challenge, a character completes 1 objective in his Complex Task. With failure, he makes no progress. Further, the error range often rises — usually by 1 or 2 — as the pressure of the Complex Task mounts and the seeds of doubt take root.
Complex Task skills are described throughout this chapter, along with additional rules, Challenge modifiers, and result effects.
Each time a Challenge results in a threat, the Task takes a turn for the better. Often, the current Challenge’s cost or time requirement is reduced. The specific effect of each threat is detailed in the relevant skill check description, or determined by the Game Control.
A critical success with a Challenge always has a set effect — the character finds a shortcut or other way to skip a step, completing 2 Challenges with the current skill check.
Each time a Challenge results in an error, the character hits a serious complication. Often, the character’s tools are ruined, money is squandered, or the project careens down the wrong track. The specific effect of each error is detailed in the relevant skill check description, or determined by the Game Control. A critical failure with a Challenge always has a set effect — a number of completed Challenges equal to the number of action dice spent to activate the critical failure are undone and must be retried. Should this reduce the number of completed Challenges below 0, the Complex Task fails and may not be reattempted.
|Behind the Curtain: Complex Tasks|
Standard skill checks are often abstract, summarizing hours or even weeks of effort in a single roll. Thus, some players might question the necessity of Complex Tasks, believing the same activity could be accomplished in one step.
There are several reasons for them. First, Complex Tasks establish a unified system for tense skill use, a way for the Game Control to inject prolonged uncertainty into the game.
Second, by requiring multiple checks, a Complex Task prevents a character from simply running over a critical or lengthy segment of a mission, forcing him to settle in for a bit and get familiar with an important element of the storyline or setting.
Third, Complex Tasks mitigate some potential abuses of the action die system. When a mission’s climactic skill resolution is spread over several checks, the characters can’t simply hoard their action dice for one obvious high point; they are encouraged to spend their dice regularly throughout the game instead of trying to break one otherwise balanced trial. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, Complex Tasks establish parity between the combat system — which typically involves a large number of rolls — and the skill system, which is traditionally handled with one roll per activity. It increases the chance that the GC and team become invested in skill use, and decreases the chance that one poor roll sends the characters wildly off course or randomly hampers their progress. Finally, it rewards skillful and persistent characters over lucky ones, encouraging strong, well-rounded character design.
The GC may refrain from using the Complex Task system when he feels a series of checks will undermine the pacing of his story or needlessly bore the players. Likewise, when he needs to extend a plot point or simply wants to give the players more chances to roll dice, he can convert any standard skill check into 2 or more Challenges. In either case, the time required to complete the activity remains static — it is either condensed down to the time requirement for 1 skill check or divided between Challenges as the GC sees fit.
Suggestions for describing each Challenge and its completion are included in each relevant check description, but the GC is encouraged to adapt each step to the situation at hand. For example, when a character is disarming a bomb featuring 5 Challenges, he might have to a) disable the auto-detonator on the bomb’s housing, b) remove the housing, c) identify the bomb’s core mechanism, d) locate the bomb’s ground wire, and e) clip the bomb’s “heart line.” When Challenges are defined in this fashion, the players are much more likely to become invested in the Complex Task, improving the experience for everyone.
Some GCs may decide to take this a step further, choosing a separate relevant skill for each Challenge. This greatly enhances play value and heightens the sense of surprise along the way — especially if the GC doesn’t inform the players of the nature of each Challenge until they reach it. It also reduces the chance that the players become bored with the process, but it increases the preparation required and makes the Complex Task more difficult for a poorly rounded team to accomplish.
Each time a character begins a Complex Task, the GC may decide the character is “under pressure.” Any palpable threat to the character’s chance of success should prompt this decision. Combat is considered pressure for nearly all tasks, while other pressures are conditional. It’s commonplace to hear constant nearby shouting when erecting a building, for instance, but it’s distracting when coding computer software.
When under pressure, any character wishing to attempt a Challenge must first make a successful Resolve (Con) check against the Challenge DC. With success, he staves off the strain of the process and proceeds with the Challenge, suffering no ill effects. With a critical success, he need not make Resolve (Con) checks again during the same Complex Task.
With failure, the character suffers 1d6 stress damage, and with a critical failure, the error range of each Challenge he attempts during the current Complex Task is increased by 1.
When a character completes the final Challenge before the Complex Task’s time limit (if any) elapses, he completes the Complex Task, with an effect noted in the appropriate section of this chapter, the appropriate skill check description, or per the GC’s discretion.