Interview: Pat Kapera of Crafty Games, Part 3

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to sit in on a game of Spycraft 3.0 and chat in person with Patrick Kapera of Crafty Games for about 30 minutes at Tacticon in Denver.  I’ve posted the first two parts (here’s part 1 and part 2) already, and here’s the final bits… It was so much it wouldn’t fit in a single post. 🙂

Here’s the third part of that interview…

Spycraft_Third_Edition_LogoQ: So you’ve talked a little about Spycraft Third Edition. Obviously it’s a different style of game than the previous two versions. What are you most excited about with Third Edition?

It’s really hard to choose one thing. Spycraft Third Edition is an aggregate of choices across a lot of different axes of the game. Everything is different. The system is different. How we’re approaching modes of play is different. We have an in-store program that we’ve never done before, which is really exciting. The way that products are actually conceived is different in that we’re breaking things down into genres and sub-genres now instead of breaking it up into game components. Top to bottom it’s an entirely new game. And all those things together are what really makes Spycraft Third Edition so exciting to us.

Let’s take some of those in turn. We’ll start with the system because that’s where people are going to focus early on. Classic Spycraft was a d20 game. It spun off of [D&D] 3.0 and preceded D20 Modern by about 9 months. We had seen 3.0 months prior when Wizards shared the production docs with AEG, but at the time we had no idea what they were doing with Modern. As a result, Modern was developed completely separate from Spycraft and we wound up with two games that were in some cases doing similar things, but doing them in entirely different ways.

Thus, Classic Spycraft created this whole new wing to 3.0, and we think that’s one of the reasons it was popular. It was different and yet people could embrace it. We still had Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, classes, feats, and so on, but it felt like a whole new game. We introduced Action Dice, which as far as I know were not in that system at the very least, and were relatively new within the hobby as a whole. Some people had done things that were similar but certainly not to the extent or using the dynamic we set up. And Action Dice were really popular.

Spycraft2Spycraft 2.0 was based primarily on fan feedback, which is a dangerous approach: it works a lot of the time, but if you go too far with it you can wind up with a very mixed bag. What we wound up with was a modern game that could expand out in any direction you wanted. It could be about spies, but it could also be about giant robots or bombastic A-Team-style action or Greek legends come to life. These were all products we actually did, and so we wound up with a game carrying the name “Spycraft” that didn’t always have that much to do with espionage. It confused folks and rightly so.

It was also monolithically large. Like 2001, where’s my bone so I can pound it on the ground large. It was an enormous book with an awful lot of material in it, and that was intimidating for a lot of people. It still has a rabid following and we’re really proud of it, but it was very hard to maintain, and in the end it was something we weren’t synced up with anymore when we started working on Spycraft Third Edition.

Alex and I had moved on as designers. We’d done Mistborn. We were already working on things like Little Wizards. All those things sort of put us in a position to branch out with the flagship.

In the meantime we’d released Fantasy Craft, which was an evolution of Spycraft 2.0 stripped down and rebuilt for fantasy. Still a toolkit. Still big. A lot of material. Partly I think that happens with fantasy not because of depth of system so much as the nigh-infinite number of species, spells, alignments, and so on, that folks expect out of the genre.

Fantasy Craft is a great game. Still out there. Still doing well. People still love it. When we started on Third Edition we thought “what happens if we turn Fantasy Craft back into modern? Let’s ignore what’s come before, look at Fantasy Craft and point that toward modern espionage and see what happens.” Because the only choices we made going into Spycraft Third were that it would be modern and it would be espionage. That’s where we started.

There was a turning point as we started making more decisions for the game… in terms of system, we realized that Fantasy Craft wouldn’t work. Those choices boiled down to us not wanting as many derived values (and as it happens, the Third Edition beta has very, very few). We wanted one universal scale, which is pretty much impossible with a 3.0 offshoot. Skill focus and the Awesome Dice upgrade and a slew of other choices that we settled on just made it impossible to continue with the Fantasy Craft system.

So we wound up naturally evolving the Spycraft Third Edition system by degrees until we wound up where we are now, with a completely new game. It’s not an OGL game. It’s got a little of that DNA but outside of rolling a d20 and hoping for a high number, and classes (that look entirely different than what you might expect), the rest is very different.

Of course there are all these other aspects of the new Spycraft, things that make it not just a new game for us but a new game in general, but I could rattle on about for hours on end about those…

Q: Spycraft 3.0 is releasing in 2014. Where do you see Crafty Games going in the next 5 or 10 years?

Spycraft Third will be a big part of the next 5 years. It releases in 2014 and there’s no end date. We’ll continue with new products for the foreseeable future. It won’t be limited to modern — we’re do other stuff with it as well… Not immediately, but we have plans to branch out. There will always be an espionage slant, however, if not an outright focus. Always.

Crafty_Games_Logo-WEBThe game will be released in a modular fashion so that when you want to do something with, say, “Blockbuster Action” — as you see in the Die Hard movies and such — there will be a book you can use precisely for that. This way we don’t have to worry about the core doing everything. That modular presentation will branch out in different directions from the core.

Beyond that, a lot of decisions are made year to year, based on how products do on the market, how they’re received, and how people use them. We might do a second Little Wizards installment. That’s a possibility. Ten Thousand Bullets is coming at some point. I really want to say that will come in 2014 but at this point it’s 13 years in and counting, and it’s gong to hit when it hits. We’ve got a few other things in development. There’s one in particular — another big one that we won’t release in 2014 — that’s been underway for a couple years now. It’s completely unrelated to anything else. We’ll announce it when it’s ready. That’s how things go now.

We’re going to continue to do new things. Different products. Because that’s the lifeblood of a company. Getting out there and doing different things and challenging yourself and playing in different spaces outside your comfort zones.

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I have to thank Pat for taking the time to chat with me on two separate days at Tacticon. I had a great time just shooting the breeze about gaming in general and Crafty Games in specific!

For more about Crafty Games…

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