Review: Modern Arms Guide
Written by Dave McAlister
Unlike the previous releases for Spycraft, the Modern Arms Guide is a soft-bound book totalling 144 pages. The cover, in keeping with the previous releases, is silver with a monotone drawing depicting a man firing a sub machine gun and is printed on stiff card. The interior is printed on heavier, non-glossy paper than the previous releases and the silver ink is replaced by black for the headings and border and by grey for the page edges and chapter lead pages. Included throughout the book are various pieces of black and white art, the majority of which are line-art drawings of selected weapons. Overall, the presentation and layout is of a very high standard and the replacement of the extremely reflective silver ink is a definite positive point.
As would be expected from something calling itself a “Modern Arms Guide” this supplement contains a heavy bias towards weapons. The supplement is divided into eight chapters: New Rules, Melee Weapons, Hurled Weapons, Exotic Weapons, Firearms, Accessories, Tactical Weapons, and Protective Gear.
Chief among the rules additions is the inclusion of a new prestige class, The Triggerman, based on the archetypal pistol-in-each-hand combatants made popular by the likes of John Woo. This prestige class is balanced and well thought-out, adding to the cinematic feel of the main rules. Following on from this are three advanced combat options: fluid initiative, new movement actions and morale. The most adventurous of these is the fluid initiative. The Spycraft writers have attempted, successfully it must be said, to inject some realism into the initiative rules. At the very modest cost of slightly increased complexity, initiative can now change during combat – from round to round. Taking damage, or even firing a weapon with which the character is not proficient, lower the appropriate initiative, while aiming or being on higher ground improve the appropriate initiative. Although these additions are marked as “of greatest interest to experienced Game Controls, and should be considered optional” they have been written in such a straightforward manner that they can be incorporated with ease into any session. Likewise, the new movement actions and morale rules add an element of realism to the proceedings.
Also introduced are various qualities that can be incorporated into weapons and gear. Examples of such are armour piercing (which enables the weapon to ignore 3 points of damage reduction), and suppressed (which makes it more difficult to hear the weapon being fired). Many of the weapons detailed later in the supplement have at least one of these qualities but rules are also presented for characters to incorporate these qualities themselves thereby creating masterwork items.
The remaining new rules are weapon and gear concealment, new weapon malfunctions, damaging (and repairing) gear, and the black market. Perhaps the most useful of these are the concealment and black market rules. The concealment rules are extremely useful, given that the characters are secret agents, whereas the black market rules add an alternative method of procuring gear while “in the field”.
The remainder of the supplement, some 114 pages, detail real world weapons and gear. The majority of these pages are descriptions of the weapons or gear and game statistics, although there are optional recoil rules and amplifications on the use of the Improvised Weapon feat.
The recoil rules are, again, very simple, but very effective. Although having no effect on standard attacks, recoil comes into effect during autofire, burst, and strafe attacks. Each firearm has a recoil rating and if this is higher than the character?s Strength then penalties to hit are accrued based on the difference between the two numbers. That is, if the weapons recoil rating is 14 and the character?s Strength is 12, the character accrues a ?2 penalty to all autofire, burst, and strafe attacks.
As a side-note, the supplement was originally to be called the “Modern Arms and Equipment Guide” (and is still called such in parts of the supplement itself) and a ninth chapter, “Other Gear” was intended for inclusion. Unfortunately, space requirements necessitated the removal of this chapter. However the Spycraft team have made it available as a free download from the official website.
A very well written and thought out supplement, the Modern Arms Guide will appeal to the majority of Spycraft players. Although there are some that, perhaps, will not be that interested in the detailed weapons, the additional rules and prestige class provide something for everyone. Indeed, with little work, the initiative rules could be used in any d20 game.