Eclipse and Spycraft

Aaand another question: Does Eclipse have a mechanism to model the “Equipment points” from Spycraft? I would assume it would be some permutation of “Equipage”, but I’m not sure how to proceed from there.

-Jasper

The trouble with translating Budget and Gadget points into Eclipse is that Spycraft isn’t at all clear on what they represent beyond a game convenience.

Calculating strictly on the game-convenience level – by doing quick Eclipse conversions of a few of the Spycraft classes – gives a conversion value of 1 CP per Budget Point and 3 CP per Gadget Point. Considering that “equipment” pretty much stands in for “spells” in movie-style espionage settings, that gives most of the Spycraft classes the rough equivalent of Paladin/Ranger style spellcasting, while the more gear-heavy classes get the rough equivalent of Bard spellcasting. That’s fair enough; the settings about spies, not mad scientists and megavillains (who’d be equivalent to a Wizard or Sorcerer). That would actually fit well enough; after all, the rules include abilities that – quite bluntly – allow the characters to occasionally defy the laws of physics, pull information out of nowhere and so on, all of which work a limited number of times per day. That sounds like fairly standard d20 magic to me.

It’s more interesting to take a look at what you’re actually buying though.

Budget and Gadget points determine how much gear a character can get for a given mission – rather arbitrarily divided into “standard issue” (bought with budget points) and “experimental” (bought with gadget points) gear. There’s no mention of differing groups having differing gear, of progress, or of differing technology levels. Nor are there any guidelines for pricing stuff that isn’t in the rules.

So where do your budget and gadget points come from?

  • Your base allotment of Budget and Gadget points depends on your Class and Level. Therefore they are a character attribute, and ought to be independent of any external organization.
  • Your sponsoring organization assigns Budget and Gadget points according to how urgent they think that a given mission is. Therefore they’re GM bonuses, assigned by an external agency for use on the missions it assigns.
  • Your Budget and Gadget points are affected by your Charisma and by a great big random factor – apparently representing your success in persuading your suppliers to give you what you need. Therefore they are social skills – except, of course, that they’re not; the roll is purely random (and seems to be set up in part just to make Charisma more important).

According to the information scattered through the text,,,

  • “Gadget Points represent your “pull” with Research and Development, and what lengths they’ll go to in order to make sure you’re properly equipped.” Therefore organizational rank, contacts, and backing should be very important – except that they’re not.
  • “Gadget points are used to requisition experimental super-science items and vehicles from the Agency” Therefore most gadgets will be unique, individual, items – soon to be either discarded as unworkable or added to the standard available equipment. But… that doesn’t happen.
  • “Budget points are a representation of the Agency’s available resources, as well as the agent’s “pull” with his superiors.” OK… so some abstracted level-based table really shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Perhaps there should be a system based on prior performance, or your relationship with your current superior, or something like that? But there isn’t.
  • “Budget point costs are based on utility, not the actual value of an item.” So why does an agencies available resources have anything do do with it? Why aren’t agents allowed to do things like pick up a laptop with personal funds? Aren’t the values in the book a set of purely arbitrary numbers picked by the authors to suit their own game master styles? After all, the “utility” of a given item is pretty subjective. Personally, I find string very useful indeed.

So if your agency sends six commandos fresh out of school on identical missions… they’ll be issued wildly differing equipment allotments, even if they’re all going at the same time and are on the same team.

I won’t get into the fact that lists of point values for “contemporary” gear become dated very very rapidly. (I could also do with knowing why Jeeps are classified as “super science devices” even WITHOUT special modifications, but oh well).

When you look closely, the Spycraft book is self-contradictory in a number of places. That can pass without notice in a game that isn’t mixing characters from differing agencies (with differing standard and experimental gear, differing resources, and differing procedures) or getting into any internal politics, or dealing with things other than set-piece missions – but it’s hard to fit into a more general system.

That’s a problem when you’re building a character with Eclipse. It’s hard to buy something when you don’t quite know what you’re trying to get in the first place.

In Eclipse…

  • Equipment assigned to a character by an external source to suit it’s needs is a freebie. If you want your character to get loaned stuff regularly you’ll want relevant Contacts, Favors, and perhaps even a Reputation. Working for some organization will also help, but is an optional extra. How much gear you’ll get… depends on the mission, your past performance, and the setting. After all, the Galactic Imperium might issue you anything from a dress suit and a concealed pistol on up through a small interstellar battle fleet for a diplomatic mission; it all depends on the situation. A minor border baron in a poor feudal setting might lend you a horse and a blade – or nothing at all.

That will cover the “per mission” variation.

  • Equipment as a Character ability is a little harder. The simplest way to do “budget” as a character ability is Gadgetry (Charisma Based). If you want to use the Spycraft listings for “budget points” and “gadget points” take it twice – once Specialized and Corrupted (only for buying “standard equipment”, only the stuff listed in the Spycraft books) to represent Budget and once normally to represent weird science gadgets. That will also obviate the need for that high (40-point) base value (which mostly serves to ensure that even a low-charisma character who got a bad roll gets SOME standard-issue gear and will help ensure that people will come up with a standard list to cut down on the game time spent “shopping”.

Of course, most d20 games assume that your character has, and will use, personal funds – and don’t assume that all your gear vanishes between missions. In Spycraft that serves to ensure that each mission (movie?) starts off fresh, but a lot of games are less episodic than that.

There are a lot of other ways to get equipment-as-a-character-attribute in Eclipse. You can take the Enthusiast-Create Relic combination – but Relics tend to be rather more powerful than most spy gadgets. Dream-Binding will allow the user to simply summon up packages of equipment – but that’s entirely too magical for a Spycraft game. Equipage will allow you to produce minor (or not so minor) items as needed, but that is – once again – rather overtly supernatural. You can even use Reality Editing to equip yourself, or take “has to have a focus item” on personal powers, or develop Innate Enchantments that require similar foci – but Gadgetry does almost exactly what’s wanted here. Why get more elaborate?

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