We’re back with another episode of our long running show, Just Dumb Things. The Premise of our show is that our host will recount gamer horror stories for the amusement and laughter of the people watching at home. Today’s episode features one of our favorite games in the universe (I realize we use that term a lot, but we had a lot of games that we really enjoyed at various points in our lifetime), Spycraft, from Alderac Entertainment Group.
This is the 1st edition of the Spycraft rules, which are a reimagining of the D20 system rules from Wizards of the Coast (the early 3rd edition of Dungeons and Dragons). It’ll later be replaced by a second edition from Crafty Games, and that edition basically becomes the engine for Fantasy Craft (check it out, it’s an interesting iteration of the D20 system).
We played this game forever, with a couple of core characters and a bunch of revolving doors that opened up to central casting for other add ons.
This iteration is compatible with the Stargate RPG also published by AEG during their D20 system kick. (That by the way is also a fun game)
I have two horror stories from this game that i’ll cover today but really, this game and group of players covered all the spaces on the dumbshit bingo card. Between players not having a firm grasp of what they were doing, and everyone else deliberately antagonizing one another, it’s a wonder we didn’t fail every single mission we ran.
My Favorite part about this game is that i actually get to play in it, so i get stuck trying to control the chaos from the other perspective.
Fixer Ninja #1 & Fixer Ninja #2: these two guys seemed to be inseparable, and were the infiltration team that opened doors and let the rest of the team in. Also known as the Shotgun squad for their propensity for popping out of air vents with Shotguns. Fixer Ninja #1 can’t stand Wheels.
Wheels: the team Wheelman, a little bit of a high maintenance personality that makes sure that we know he’s the wheel man, and the rest of us would be walking without him. He and Fixer Ninja #1 can’t stand each other, and this is going to come up in today’s story.
Smirks: the team Faceman, who’s really just the nicest guy in the universe. He gets along with just about everybody and is probably the best asset to the team. He is not a problem.
Snoop 1 and Snoop 2: The information specialists on the team, these two spend their days in a van looking things up on the internet and being tangentially helpful in the field. Snoop 1 is completely useless in combat situations, and Snoop 2 likes to shoot people with long distance weapons.
Muscle: The actual ninja in our party, Muscle provided quiet kills when the rest of the team was making a bloody racket. Often wandered around as protection for the snoops.
Soldier #4: If you’ve read the previous articles in this series, this is our prototypical problem child. For this story, this is our 9 and 17th sessions, respectively. Session 9 he’s on his 7th character, because the rest have either died, been captured, or he’s gotten bored with the game. I lost track by session 17.
Pointman: My character, and technically the team leader. I need an adult most of the time when dealing with this group. I have some social interaction skills and a high powered sniper rifle.
So the caper starts in the most traditional of ways, with us being sent to Iceland to track down a missing scientist, recover some diamonds, and do some other things. I honestly don’t remember the briefing that well because the rest of the team are already starting to annoy each other. We get the mission brief, get a chance to gear up (Spycraft has a neat system where you can request additional resources and equipment in addition to your personal gear).
The information gathering portion of the team (Fixers and Snoops) are doing a pretty good job of tracking down the people and the things they’re supposed to be doing and we manage to find the scientist we’re looking for, but there’s a complication. His daughter’s been kidnapped by the real bad guys, and they’re holding her until after their plan comes to fruition in order to keep the science guy quiet. (He’s a specialist in lasers and Geothermal energy).
We go into spy mode, find the girl, and proceed to initiate rescue plan #1. This plan goes fairly well, the team manages to detain the goons holding the girl, and Pointy and Muscles go rescue the girl from the farmhouse. Meanwhile, the rest of the team after teabagging the goons, manages to aggravate each other to the point where the characters are pulling guns on each other. Not being there, and out of radio communication, Muscles and I are unable to bring the situation back under control.
We’ve got the girl back safely, and then gunshots ring out across the field. I pull the scope from rifle, and try to figure out what’s going on. Well, Wheels has just emptied the clip of his gun into Fixer Ninja #1, and the rest of the team is in the middle of detaining him (with clubs and tasers) while snoop 1 is trying to apply life saving medical treatment to Fixer Ninja #1. I’m assembling my rifle as we walk back because i’m pretty sure i’m going to shoot the whole team and start over.
The timing of the recuperation of Fixer Ninja #1 actually gave the bad guys a much better chance of completing their mission (which was to shoot down Air Force One with a laser focused through diamonds and powered by Geothermal energy). We did manage to stop them, but after the mission, the team dispersed, and the last thing i heard out of Wheels as i was leaving was “Yes, Finally took that fucker down.”
Mostly the same team, except for Soldier #4, who’s on Soldier #something. This one’s an “explosives expert”. We’re tracking down a major plot point that involves us recovering something from a sunken submarine, dealing with a shark, and not dying at the bottom of the ocean. Miraculously, this part succeeds without an issue. We’re off to the second part of our mission (Getting the hell out of here) when things blow completely up in our faces.
I make what i recognize later as a cardinal mistake, i left the table to go to the bathroom. Before leaving the table, i looked at Demolition kid and pointedly say, “I’m going to the bathroom, don’t blow anything up while I’m gone.” I have told them our plan is to steal the helicopter off the mega cruise liner we’ve snuck aboard, and they know that’s the easy street way out of the mission.
I come back from the bathroom to this statement. “Uh, he blew up the helipad.” I looked at the table, my eye twitched, and the justifications for why that was an appropriate decision were made.
“We couldn’t have gotten close enough to the helicopter to steal it.”
“Then how’d you get close enough to plant charges on the helipad?”
This continued for about five minutes until the rest of the group decided to try and figure out how to get off the ship now. It took three long hours of figuring out what was going on and evading security before Demolition Kid killed three or four other necessary people and we finally escaped.
So what’s the moral of this story? I really don’t know. The GM of this game blamed me for letting the inmates run the asylum, where i took the point that we’re international spies, and i am low level manager in a bureaucracy. This wasn’t the first time players escalated out of character issues into in game shooting matches, and eventually it was decided that we couldn’t have nice things like high explosives.
There are dozens of more interesting moments of wtf, like the day half the team forgot to search a guy for the homing beacon, or the day Wheels decided to play chicken through the streets of London with MI 5 in super cars, or the day i about shot Demolition Kid in the face at Heathrow for being the worst goon ever. Hmm...that’s all the same caper...maybe next time.