I think the idea of keeping a copy of a Signature characters at each level they have attained is needless paperwork. I actually prefer the always divide by 5 rule for determining the TL as it is simple and not complicated. It is much less complicated than requiring players of varying levels to have copies of a character for every level they have attained. ...
It would be best if we retained those elements of the original campaign. The ring system worked well and was effective. The additional boost is that those who have/had current LSpy characters can jump right back into it plus you can add Wyrmstone as a spot on the ring. This also allows people interested in getting a leg up in Wyrmstone as players to play Spycraft and get used to the basics of the system. ... If it ain't broke, no need to fix it.
As for earning XP by running, I have no problem with it as it sits.
I'll probably add more as I get the chance to read through it.
By contrast, I found the character ring concept an utter failure. Secondary characters either never got played, or never got played much (let alone Tertiary characters, of which there were never many), which seemed to defeat the whole purpose of the ring.
The problem in practice is this: Nobody wants to feel useless. This concept sees its biggest application in the situation where a 10th level character sits down to play with a bunch of 4th and 5th level guys, and leaves everyone behind. This is not to say that a 4th or 5th level character is somehow lame, because that's certainly not the case. But there's a distinct difference between a 5th level character and a 10th level one. And the 10th level guy is going to be better at pretty much everything than his companions, which in turn makes the rest of the party get a little superfluous.
Worse, the 10th level guy's presence does terrible things to the calculated TL, in which disastrous case it's still easy for him, but a lot more work for everybody else. Consider the 10th level guy at a table with six other 5th level characters (as 7 was the max table size in LSpy). That's 40 levels divided by 5, for a TL of 8. That's pretty crazy. The 10th level guy is still outclassing every baddie in the mission, and the 5th level guys are themselves outclassed. It's gonna be a harsh session for the lower-level dudes, especially since their xp was capped by their level. The response from the lower-level players, and understandably so, is "I had to suffer through five hours of rectal plundering at the hands of souped-up NPCs and don't even get the full TL's xp? Fie on this campaign. You guys suck."
The above situation simply isn't fun. It may be fun for the 10th level guy who gets to be Gandalf for a day, but for the rest of his little spy fellowship it gets really old really fast.
The question then becomes: how does that get dealt with? Because if the established players are all playing their high-level dudes at the expense of the table's fun, then the newer players will just leave, and the campaign ultimately fails.
The older solution was the character ring. Via the ring, you got a "free" Secondary (and so forth) character you could play at lower-level tables so you wouldn't be "the goon who brought the character 7 levels higher than everybody else". It was a good idea, but in practice it didn't work, and here's why. Playing that secondary character meant you only earned xp for your Secondary's level, and added that xp to your Primary's total. This in practice meant that playing the Secondary was an exercise in lameness for the player, because he effectively played the adventure for no reward. 5th level xp going onto the 9th level character's dossier was just spinning the character's wheels. It would take two or three times as long for a Secondary character to advance the ring, since the Secondary couldn't advance if the Primary didn't. The first couple times a Secondary got played the player could feel charitable for "taking it for the team" and playing down to match the Threat Level. After that, it got old playing for such a reduced reward.
So how do both sides get to be happy? The role-playing issue becomes a matter of balancing the older players who have characters they love and want to play but are higher level because they've been playing longer, versus the newer players who want to play the game, but don't want to be second-fiddle all the time. The mechanical issue is the xp. The older player doesn't want to take an xp hit to play with lower-level guys (at least not all the time), and the newer players *can't* advance faster to catch up.
The fix is to dump xp entirely and play at a level everyone can agree to. Enter the Unlimited character.
An Unlimited character doesn't track xp. It can run at whatever level the table's at (and the player's prepared for). And most important, it's still the one single character that the player created and loves to roleplay--its abilities just shift some from one table to the next.
With Unlimited characters in place, the Ring concept becomes superfluous; the Unlimited character effectively *is* the Secondary character broken loose from the ring and allowed to do as it pleases. With an Unlimited character, you don't need to track a ring (which *is* useless paperwork).
Part of the problem you're talking about is the unwillingness of a player to play down in your first example. That player should have been playing down and using his Secondary on the ring which would have been 4th level. In the second example, if they are playing with friends, who cares about the xp over their playing with their friends. Having run LSpy all 4 years here in Arizona, I can say easily that NEITHER of these problems occured!
The ring worked here in Arizona. It worked just fine and those who used it here had no problems. The other problem you are forgetting is that all characters at a table had to be within two levels higher or lower than the average of the table which essentially nullifies your example. If people were not doing that or it was an overlooked rule, then it is not my fault. It was one I enforced here in Arizona, hence no problems.
The asinine part of useless paperwork is creating a character at every level just in case you need to play him at a certain level. Why keep so much additional paper? You've got two sheets to look after: a character sheet and a gear sheet of preferred choices (not having this second one slows down gearing up tremendously) versus having 2 or 4 sheets for those characters on the ring.
There are other parts I was not fond of in the direction the campaign was going when it was shut down but only one affected the abilities of a character class and isn't worth going into here.
When LSpy was created part of the idea of it was to minimize as much paperwork as possible including paperless certs and the ring was the better selection over a character at every level.
Keep in mind that you're under no compulsion to create a character at every level. The Spymaster MRD makes it a suggestion, not a requirement. If you want to be prepared with a character at certain benchmark levels rather than every single one, that's your prerogative.
Let's consider, then, some different scenarios and how much paper you're actually going to use for each:
1. The Character Ring from LSpy 2.0. For this you will need:
A Primary Agent character sheet
A Secondary Agent character sheet
A Tertiary Agent character sheet
And probably some gear notes for each character to ease intel phases.
2. A signature character for Spymaster. For this you will need:
A character sheet
2 to 4 character sheets containing builds usable at lower levels of play
And probably some gear notes for each build to ease intel phases.
3. Signature and Unlimited characters together. For this you'll need:
A dossier for your signature character
A Signature Agent Character sheet
2 to 4 different builds of the character usable at lower levels of play
A dossier for your unlimited character
2 to 4 different builds of your unlimited character to allow it to easily sit at whatever table you encounter
And probably some gear notes for each character to ease intel phases.
4. Unlimited characters only. For this you'll need:
A dossier to track your reputation
2 to 4 different builds of your unlimited character to allow it to easily sit at whatever table you encounter.
And probably some gear notes for each build to ease intel phases.
All but one of those seem pretty comparable. I'll concede that trying to track scenario 3, while certainly not hard, will certainly also take some time and attention. But there are certainly those who are willing to put in that kind of time.
That's one option, and it's a common one. But can there be other options?
What if all the established players already had level 1 (or in a pinch level 2) builds of their regular characters handy? That way they aren't playing a throwaway set of stats, "taking it for the team" to accommodate a new guy. The new Signature Character guidelines encompass that option.
What if the new guy were able to walk up to the table with a 10th level character right out of the gate and keep up with the rest of the group? That way he suffers no second-fiddle problems, forced to sit in the van and watch (or cower behind cover) while everybody else gets their spy on. The Unlimited Character guidelines encompass that option.
Actually according to your Sage-ORC rules set in the last sentence of the first paragraph under Signature Characters, you are required to have a character for each level attained.
"It is for this reason that a Character Build for each level of a Signature Character is required to be maintained and available."
So already most of your above examples are off unless the Signature Character in question is 4th level or less. This is of course not counting any Unlimited Characters nor (in terms of game readiness) the time it takes to copy anything on to a character sheet if they are not already copied.
Conversely, since I have a Tertiary character, the total amount of paper for the three characters plus the dossier would be about 7 pages minimum (not counting additional pages of dossiers which for me brings it up to about 15 pages).
If they wanted to play just to play or they didn't care about the experience points, then they can play someone's Personal Lieutenant or play an NPC for the GM. It all depends on the player walking up.
The second fiddle problems, sitting in the van to watch and the cowering behind cover are all GC handle-able problems. I've had veteran players sit in the van because that is their character design. I've had a guy at the table playing a 2nd level character when everyone else was 5th (notice the same level disparity as your 4th and 1st) and he was more active than almost everyone else at the table.
It is the GC's responsibility to make sure the players are all involved, even if they've chosen a character who likes to sit in the van. To avoid the second fiddle, send problems the direction of the PC and make them targeted by lesser challenging foes in combat. If they enjoy sitting in the van, then give them a problem at the van itself regardless whether it is combat or skill intensive.
As long as the player is involved and having a good time, there should be no worries. So on your above example, the table of players get to use their 4th levels and the new guy either gets a sample PC (keeping any xp he earns to add to the new character he will create). The alternative is the Unlimited but the problem therein is someone who has never played before, doesn't know the rules, and hasn't even cracked the book. They won't want to create a character when you can just hand them one.
I have run many OP games, Living Greyhawk, Living Spycraft and others, across many states and sizes of events. I can say that we put some very careful thought into the rules as they stand, with a lot of examination of OP RPG play, and that is what has created the rules as they stand, and we really believe this fixes many of the described problems. If you never observed these problems, that doesn't mean they didn't exist, they likely still did, the players just probably never said anything and/or quietly never returned.
I recognize this problem because at gamedays I would run, I would find the players not returning and ask them what the problem was. Invariably, it came down to the second fiddle syndrome. This is HUGE in OP RPG games, across the globe, and it just makes a big barrier to entry for new players to stick around. I believe that with unlimited characters and the way TL is structured, this is effectively alleviated.
Also, we are not asking you to /create/ new character builds at all levels. We are asking the players to /keep/ new character builds at all levels of Signature characters. If you are porting an LSPY character, then we request that you digup the older builds, but it is not a requirement.
We realize that the goal of less paperwork may not be achieved, but that goal is only one of many others that may not be around. While less paperwork is not one of the rallying cry's of Spymaster, We are still less paperwork than many OP campaigns, which require a full 8x11 sheet per player, per game.
I'm all ears here, but so far all I see are complains, no alternate suggestions. I can say with some assurance (although nothing is ever in concrete) that we are not going to be running with the exact same rules as the old Living Spycraft.
However, we are always open to suggestions for improvements. If you have criticism, fantastic! Just follow it up with some proposed solutions--other than "just use the old LSPY rules."
I'm not trying to be harsh here, I'm just saying that I look at this as an evolution, and change happens, I think it is how we roll with the change that is important.
This might have been interesting news to know before GenCon... the question about LSpy came up a couple times, and not once did the existence of a freelance alternative come up. Alas, I saw the post but didn't have time to investigate it.
I'm interested to see how this will play out. I'll help out where I can, though I am sort of out in the sticks.
Yeah, sorry; there was some concern from Crafty that we would be conflicting for noise. Some of those @ GenCon new about the campaign, but we didn't want to send out a blast right before GenCon and steal thunder from Crafty. However, If you did discuss it with the core Crafty crew, I am surprised none of them mentioned it.
1) I ran my first LSpy game JUST before LSpy died, but never made a character. Is it possible to claim that XP now since you are grandfathering? (That said, I'm not sure where the record is.)
2) This verbiage confuses me: "they may select one Signature Character and apply the XP and Reputation to that Character, as if that character had played the scenario at half their max level and received all rewards and all objectives were met". What's the point of the half level thing? What does it even mean? If you play a character at half level, you still apply XP as if full level. If the meaning is that the latter doesn't apply, are you punishing GMs for GMing? If not, what's the point of even mentioning the level thing?
It's important, too, to note that we're no longer the "official" anything. The reason Crafty killed the old LSpy was that they felt like they had to spend time dealing with "Official" stuff. So we're unofficial so that they can concentrate on putting out supa-cool products, which we all love. :)
In practice, though, this means they're unlikely to mention us, since if they did it could imply some kind of "official"-ness, which they can't afford to slide back into. So it's on us to get the word out there.
So in the sticks or not, run some demos. Let's spread the love.
I can attest to this, as its happened to me. I showed up with a lv 2 character amidst a party that was about Threat Level 10. The team was worried that me, and my lv 1 compatriot would die horribly. We were not so worried, and eagerly joined in the fight. Things were a little scary at times, but thankfully, Spycraft is one of those games that only gets you dead if you are really careless or the whole team fails. My character ended up bringing a tank that could proteus into a Mobile Home, and we stormed the 10K Bullets demo without really even suffering that much vitality damage. Puma was there, he can attest that low level characters do have a chance if the party works with them and doesn't just leave them behind. It actually was my time to shine I felt.
I think that sure it may be scary, but there are options in the rules to shift the threat level one direction or the other by a little to make up for it. We decided as a team to leave it as it was, but some tables may wanna scale it back a bit.
Not only can I attest to it but so can Pat as he ran that session. It depends on whether or not the players are willing to be helpful and I've rarely found a table that wasn't, at least in LSpy or any Crafty demo.
At Origins last year, Charlie and another guy took some newbies under the wings for a mission I ran where Charlie had a fire truck that could proteus into an attack chopper (and yes, he paid for all of it including the film crew to follow them around claiming the change was part of Transformers 2).
In non-LSpy OP games there might many problem players in this regard (and frankly it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest), but I have yet to see it for any Crafty game I've run.
I always thought it was cool to have lv 3 iconics that people can pick up and play with and then use the Xp they gain from that session to start their own character after they've sat through a session. Alternatively, for many of my home games (although whether this is advisable or not for demos who knows) I usually just make my characters start out at 3rd level anyways because 1st isn't quite survivable enough, and by 3rd level you can really start to shape the character's role in the party.
Maybe we could alleviate some of the problems by just having everyone start out at 3rd level... In the long run, starting out there doesn't change too much, but having a little meat on the base characters may make it more fun for new players while not so overly complicated their heads spin.
Don't forget the part where I got knocked out cold by the arch villain in one shot and the newbies smote his ruin upon the countryside whilst I bled out at the bottom of the stairs. That was pretty cool where they got to do all the fun stuff and I just got to play enabler.
One other pretty funny bit was when they were all storming the house using flamethrowers etc to imitate a 'gas leak/explosion' to flush all the bad guys out, while I sat in the car trying to maintain our cover and not resort to busting out the assault rifle.
Ultimately, the flexibility of the Signature vs. Unlimited character situation is just that -- FLEXIBLE. If you, or your normal gaming group, likes one option over another, use it. All of the above examples fit within the specified rules.
One situation that hasn't been described that still works is that all players could sit down and play 20th level characters without having ever played them before.
The flexibility offered is all about letting the PLAYERS decide what is most fun for them. No one is going to deny anyone the opportunity to "play down" from the table if they want to (by playing a 3rd level character when everyone else is 10th level). However, it doesn't force a player to play down to 3rd if they don't want to.
In all this, it must be remembered that the rules are there for the greatest enjoyment by the most number of people not to cover every possible situation. Also remember that many of the rules can be treated as guidelines if everyone is alright with it. We are here to have fun, after all.
We discussed starting @ 3rd in Wyrmstone, but the key difference to remember is that 1st level in Spycraft is MUCH different than 1st level in D&D. A 1st level Spycraft character can still have a lot of fun and romp around with some savvy. I personally do not think it is quite as important to do 3rd level starting with Spycraft.
As for Iconics, with the advent of Unlimited characters, we eventually want to have an iconic library from level 1-20 for each Iconic character, which can be played in an Unlimited character fashion. There is also the rule that the first time you play, as an iconic/unlimited character, you can immediately turn the XP over onto a new Signature character (at least it used to be there, I'll have to check the rules). Per the Signature rules, the XP earned would be best equivalent as if you played it at the Signature Character's max level (in this case 1st).