Thoughts on the end of Shadowforce Archer

Recently, Alderac announced they were ending the Shadowforce Archer campaign setting (Internet Archive) for their Spycraft d20 espionage game. Naturally, fans of the setting were shocked and upset by this, but personally, I was happy about the news.

When Spycraft first launched, I was excited — here was a game in the spirit of James Bond, The A-Team and Sneakers and a larger-than-life game mechanic that perfectly suited the genre. When Shadowforce Archer came out, I immediately snatched it up … and was disappointed. I was expecting a campaign source book that provided a spy network for my PCs to work for, and various super-secret evil organizations for them to fight against. I got some of that, but I also got a campaign setting that was just too weird for my purposes, introducing new rules for mutants, psionics and magic.

This plunge into mysticism bothered me for several reasons. First off, these were rules designed to be used by players (if not right away, then eventually), yet they were in a book aimed entirely at GMs. Second, the book was entirely at odds with the tone of Spycraft. Spycraft was all about super-spy capers, and there was nothing in it that touched on the supernatural. In Shadowforce Archer everything touched on the supernatural — the bad guys used magic, the good guys neato weapons were created by brainy mutants and even the leader of the Archer Foundation was a psychic! Suddenly, my excitement for the game evaporated, and SA was the last Spycraft campaign book I bought.

Now I’m not saying that mystical stuff doesn’t have a place in a spy-oriented game — heck, Delta Green campaign for Call of Cthulhu is infected with the Cthulhu Mythos, and the tv series Alias has its occasional forays into the more-than-normal, and in those cases, it works. But it’s not what I wanted for a Spycraft campaign book. I wanted adventure and espionage, not voodoo and mutants.

With the cancellation of Shadowforce Archer, it looks like Alderac is coming around to my way of thinking. A new campaign setting is in the works, and from the talk on the Shadowforce Archer listserv, it looks like its going to be much more in line with a conventional espionage set-up. I, for one, will welcome it.

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