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Old September 11th, 2013, 05:53 PM
Kilgs Kilgs is offline
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Since it was requested in another thread, here is a snippet of issues from Agent. I began this review back when it was released but set it down since it was mostly negative (except the CharGen section) and that nevers helps the hobby. Agent was my most anticipated book so maybe my invective is enhanced by that but I still think this book should never have been published as it was. There are other issues with the book but the copy of the review I have (with me) on my work PC only covered these two in detail:

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...The Character Generation chapter also provides information on three new benefits (for lack of a better word). Agency/Trust is the government unit that the character works for and Trust, like a skill, is effectively the character’s pull in the Agency. This is discussed more fully in the Agency section. The other two are a hybrid of skills/benefits: Cover Identity and Networks. Both of these new bonuses represent really interesting and unique attributes for the Agent career.

Unfortunately, they’re just weak outlines with almost no discussion within the book regarding how to handle them.

Cover Identities are just that, fake personalities that are constructed for the undercover agents. These CI’s are rated just like skills and that indicates how secure the identity is under observation. The different Agent career skill tables and Events can result in the character gaining a Cover Identity. When you get it, you have the option of taking a different career (Merchant, Scout etc) and gaining skills through your Cover Identity. In addition, your CI gets a rating of Very Weak(+0). Successive rolls that result in a Cover Identity allow you to create another CI or boost the rating of an existing one. A Weak (+1) CI has forged documents, some secondary documentation to back it up etc. The different ranks tell you how detailed the identity is and how it can hold up to investigation.

Cover Identities is an excellent. Unfortunately, there is simply no discussion of how to use a Cover Identity in gameplay. Does a Patrol Officer’s undercover CI pass muster on a different planet? At what level is a fake Imperium ID effectively faked? How does the rating match up against high-tech scanners? The concept is excellent and the delivery is weak. Cover Identities are barely mentioned again in the book and less than 150 words are dedicated to explaining them. There is no helpful information provided for a GM to determine how a CI works in gameplay.

Networks suffer from the exact same problem but with even worse results. A Network is rated and obtained just like a skill. When an Agent gets a Network, they have to choose what kind it is and the book provides a list of six categories of different networks. That’s it. Actually I’ll just reproduce the entire section and you can decide:

“Agents may also create networks of informants, contacts and allies. Networks must be cultivated over time but may pass on rumors and useful information or provide help in times of need. Networks are rated numerically like skills and are acquired through events, skill tables or through roleplaying. Networks are as follows: Street, Criminal, Politics, Corporate, Military, Academic.”

That is the entire section on Networks.

Here you have one of the most pivotal tools in an agent’s arsenal, the almost requisite network of connections, informants and seedy contacts that is prevalent in every detective story, cop movie and novel and that’s all it gets? This is a complete failure and I won’t even go into how many opportunities were lost to deliver a solid benefit to the Agent career or the absolute nightmare for a GM and a player to hash out just what the effectiveness and boundaries a Network could provide in a game.
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In the interest of being positive, my review on the character generation tables/careers was pretty glowing! But that was only the first 15 or so pages. I'll post that also when I get access to my more complete copy at home.
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Old September 11th, 2013, 07:09 PM
Shonner Shonner is offline
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I had a feeling those items were what bugged you about Book 5: Agent. Such rules can become major issues for certain types of gamers. I appreciate you posting this though.
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Old September 12th, 2013, 03:05 AM
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MCEvans MCEvans is offline
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I think your right about these needing to be fleshed out better, that said.

Cover Identities (CI) just formalizes what PCs try to do to get in or access to something or place they are not supposed to be or do but try anyway.
These would always be a CI-0 now an Agent has the ability to create a CI that might actually work. As for TL of the CI best available to the given organization, and to use an older skill as I can't find a MgT equivalent, Forgery the level would be 10 as most would real documents just tacked to a fictional name, this would be true even for an Agent CI-0, any non-agent the Forgery level is what they could find and afford and be subject to other DMs.

Networks have always been part of Traveller, if you were a Scout you have a Scout network, Navy, Army, Merchant and so forth. An agent just has the ability to create/have more. Most PCs will have 1 formal network (prior service), 1 semi-formal ('current' service), 1+ informal based on skills (Street+Streetwise, Diplomacy=Diplomatic and so forth.

With that background do you need them fleshed out more probably for new comers, but there has aways been some form of this in any RPG I have played.

What would I like to see-
CI - what kind of paperwork & possessions that are needed/received by level, this way any PC can create or improve CIs in game
Same thing for Networks.

Would this create more paper work, Yes (each CI should have its own record sheet). But could create more adventure hooks. I can see a PC having 1 connection that is both an Ally & an Enemy as to the PC and a CI or even to 2 different CIs. Networks could be connected to CIs, lose the CI lose the network.

As I said these are just formalizations of what PCs do any way.
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Old September 12th, 2013, 10:57 AM
jaggeh_ie jaggeh_ie is offline
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for cover identity rules i followed some of the rules for manchurian conditioned soldier character in compendium 2. they worked really well.

Any time my agent was using the CI they could only access the skills invested in the CI, if they wanted to use any of their normal skills they had to make a roll based on numbner of witnesses and type of skill they were trying to use. a Failure meant their cover was potentially blown.
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Old September 12th, 2013, 11:00 AM
Kilgs Kilgs is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MCEvans View Post
As I said these are just formalizations of what PCs do any way.
True but, for the Agent, it is more. It's a Benefit from Mustering Out or gained in lieu of a skill in Chargen. So, it should do more.

And I'm with you... there needs to be more about it. I was thinking two ratings... one for depth (effectiveness) and one for range (how widespread). How do you use it? How often? A quick fix is a Network gets you one Contact/Informant* per session/scenario that the PC can outline. "Okay, we need to get into that building, I bet I know a guy who can get us uniforms for that security company..."

An Agent, or Agent campaign, is really all about Networks and how they're used. A huge tool like this given three lines is... a foul.

There are a number of other issues with the book... Trust being one. Also, the book presented an excellent opportunity to explore alternative legal systems. The Courtroom mechanic is kinda neat except it assumes that the campaign is based in the United States (or similar legal system). It missed a huge opportunity to provide some information on possible differences in legal systems. It provides absolutely no information on how to use laws or law enforcement in a game, no discussion of rights, of all the many things that are important to such a campaign.

I'm not looking for a treatise on law although each book covering a subject should, in fact, cover that subject in layman's terms. If I bought Agent to run a police procedural, I would be quite disappointed to discover that there is no discussion of "actual procedure."



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*The Informant rules cover an entire page so it seems that the author could have done more work in fleshing it out.
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Old September 14th, 2013, 01:52 PM
Putraack Putraack is offline
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Hmmm, food for thought. I'm glad to see the review on Agent, since an espionage game using Traveller rules, likely in 2300ad, has been in the middle of my "want-to-do" list for some time.
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