I did a quick search of the blog and realized I haven’t talked about the Subplot system from Spycraft 2.0, like, ever. I’m not surprised, there are so many influences I draw inspiration from, it should come as no surprise that I forget a lot of them regularly. It seems I only just mentioned it for the first time yesterday.

Spycraft 2.0 is a ridiculously complicated modification of the d20 System. It could be considered similar to Pathfinder in the sheer number of systems it broke compared to the low volume of actual rule fixes it provided, but it presented new subsystems for play — chases, seductions, and other stuff to which Pathfinder has also laid claim.

(Spycraft 2.0 also published them at least three years earlier.)

Enough with the harping on Pathfinder. The point I wanted to get to was the Subplot system from Spycraft 2.0. It was designed with the idea of giving characters specific investment in otherwise standard missions. Say you chose a romance, or a mistaken identity subplot for your character. They could come up during almost any mission.

Subplots are character-specific adventure elements the game master can insert into an adventure, similar to how dragons, traps, undead, giants, or wilderness survival might be elements added to particular adventures. If your character has a gambling compulsion, the game master might use that to create a Challenge to overcome.

Including a subplot specific to a character tends to grant that character additional experience during a mission, if they confront the subplot and attempt to resolve it. Sometimes, subplots may crop up in several missions, creating a story arc the character tries to resolve, which can sometimes threaten the team and/or mission.

Consider Mal, who appears as a recurring subplot character who threatens the mission, and the entire team, whenever Cobb is involved.

In the above example, one character has an unresolved Subplot that is included in the mission as a sort of complication to the mission. Like other complications (monsters, for example) she gives the “contributing” player extra experience each time she’s confronted, while posing as a pretty standard mission element for everyone else.

Subplots provide an additional Challenge for some or all of the party, but are designed specifically to challenge the player to whom the Subplot belongs. Now, I’m not really for the “one-on-one” experience approach, I think every character whom the Subplot threatens deserves a share of the experience. That might just be me.

Like Spycraft 2.0, I want investigators to be allowed to pick and choose their Subplots, perhaps allowing whole collections of tables and charts to choose from. Each time they enter a dungeon, maybe they have the choice of “integrating” a specific Challenge, which threatens the whole party. It’s worth extra experience, of course.