I do not claim to have the ways or means to explain Tradecraft in a way that will be clear to everyone. When I wrote it up, I imagined it was both an ephemeral skill and a means to pull of a blinder when the moment mattered.
For the former, The A-Team occurred to me, for some reason, though I can’t account for the precise connection. I had the notion that Saturday afternoon serials had this tendency to gift their characters with talents and connections that didn’t survive beyond the end of the episode.
The latter might well be the montage breakout from The A-Team as well, but it also connected to the notion that often players can’t account for all variable, and sometimes survival depends on pulling a rabbit from a hat. The revelation that saves their skin against an enemy. On the other hand, I also had the notion of End of Level Bosses from platform games that you can’t quite defeat on the first meeting — they survive to return later… and then again after that. You have the chance to recoup and find new weapons and power-up in the meantime, learning from your experience fighting the first time.
A Discovery of Witches
It features in the Recommended section at the back of the book. Season 2, that is. Watch the whole series at your own peril. If you haven’t watched it, do. If you plan to and don’t care for vague spoilers, don’t read on until you’re around Episode 3 or 4.
As an example of Tradecraft, here’s a quick (and inaccurate) synopsis of Episode 2, as a session of The Dee Sanction:
Diane and Matthew start their session of The Dee Sanction. They have been challenged with finding an answer to the question of Diane’s shadowy past and seek The Book of Life to bring clarity — Diane’s very existence otherwise might bring more terrors upon the Realm than the Pope, and King Philip combined.
The players chat and decide that their efforts might best be served by choosing System as their Tradecraft. While the who you know of Access might seem a possibility, it feels like what matters more to influence some obvious parties who could offer assistance.
In an encounter with Father Hubbard, Matthew chooses Politics as a weak spot in the teams’ Abilities — he uses the General Ability approach of Tradecraft to account for that. He manages to convince Hubbard that actions of the past might be resolved by reinforcing the relationship between Matthew’s family and Hubbard empire within the capital.
Over the course of the adventure, Diane uses Politics to swing both the Queen herself and John Dee to believe that a trip to Bohemia to see the Emperor might be worth their patronage — in both cases swinging the power of the Book of Life itself as a lure on the hook and indicating the value in asserting waning influence and power.
In the end, Matthew actually chooses to Deplete the Tradecraft, trading it to remove the Mark that would otherwise make his old companion in witch-hunting, Gallowglass, an enemy. The Mark dissolved, Gallowglass is turned — the GM and Players alike make notes on this point. For the GM, that change in balance will affect future adventures.
As it happens, the Depletion of the Tradecraft before the conclusion of the adventure means that neither Player has the know-how to de-rail Cecil’s suspicions or counter Hubbard‘s decision to raise the attention of Matthew’s father to his consorting with witches. But, perhaps the alliance with Gallowglass will make the difference.
There. I hope that that makes some sense. As I say, I can’t ensure understanding in a single example, but I’ve tried. Oddly, I think there might be another comparable example if I walk through the plot of The Expendables 2.