Category Archives: Just my two cents

A Quick Glance at The New Cypher System Rulebook

A while back Monte Cook Games released a revised edition of their Cypher System Rulebook. While the system itself is mostly unchanged from the previous book, its better organized and they added some of the changes introduced into the system by the new Numenera core rules and the Expanded Worlds source book. With 450 pages the new Cypher System Rulebook is a veritable tome of a book. So is this new version worth it or should you stick with the original book?

If you are new to the system, you definitely should get the new edition. You get more material out of the box, there is much more advice on how to tailor the system to your setting, and the organization is better.

The last point is a bit contended in the community though. Abilities have now their own chapter where they are listed alphabetically for easy reference. In the previous book the abilities’ descriptions were given where they were first mentioned. With the new organization character creation might need more flipping through the book, but on the other hand looking up abilities during play become easier. I guess you could just print out a copy of the Abilities chapter (if you have the PDF version of the rules) for easy reference during character creation.

The core rulebook now supports nine genres: fantasy, modern, science fiction, horror, romance, superheroes, post-apocalyptic, fairy tale, and historical. The sections on genres are mostly identical to the ones in the old core book or Expanded Worlds, but in some cases they’ve added new foci or descriptors.

Overall there are many small changes and subtle additions to the system, which might help to make it run more smoothly. I also get the impression that they changed a few things to make it easier to run games in less fantastical settings.

The question remains – is it worth it? I already answered the question for people who are new to the Cypher System above, but what about the “veterans”? This is much harder to answer. The differences between the two books are pretty small and if you already own Expanded Worlds there’s even less reason to pick up the new core book. I recommend you check out the printed book in your local brick & mortar store first (note: it hasn’t been released yet), or you can download the preview PDF from DriveThruRPG or the Monte Cook Games online store.

Even though I love the system, I haven’t run it yet (aside from its Numenera incarnation). The new rulebook has rekindled my excitement for all things Cypher and I hope I can finally put it to use in the near future. I’ll keep you posted!

Finishing A Project, Looking Back

Back in September I wrote a couple of posts about long running reviews. Well it is now 28th of December and I have just finished my series on HARP, High Adventure Role Playing. I started on 10th of September and finished on 28th of December and it took 13 posts.

Obviously HARP is not a new game but Rolemaster Unified [RMU] is and a lot of the ‘new’ features in RMU have come from HARP where they are tried and tested.

I am glad to have completed this project as I had made a point of mentioning that Jeremy Friesen’s read through of Stars Without Number had been the inspiration but had also seemingly stalled. I do not have any of the difficulties Jeremy has had in keeping my Rolemaster blog updated. Even without external pressures I was shocked at how long it took to get this completed. Part of the problem is that people who read the Rolemaster Blog are not necessarily interested in HARP. Rolemaster is seen as the grown up game and HARP is the smaller, lighter version. In reality HARP is a full standalone game in its own right and does a lot of things as well or better than Rolemaster. Doing the read through has taught me a lot that I would not have discovered at a single read through. The difference came, I think, from the readers comments and questions.

If I had written a single article I would never have been able to cover the game in the detail I gave it. I would never have got the level of user engagement and furthermore I got regular HARP players chipping in who had more experience I had.

Having completed the series I agree with Jeremy that a read through is a massive undertaking and a lot of work but it broadened the appeal of my blog to new readers and it proved interesting to the regular readers once they got over the fact that I was not talking about Rolemaster.

Would I do this again? I certainly would. As long as there was a directly relationship to my regular readers. I don’t think I could do that here on Stargazer’s World as it would be a huge imposition to bang on about the same game week after week.

I think the next one I do will be for a completely new game rather than something old and well known.

Looking at FUDGE again

So this week I read the rules for Hack-n-Slash and they are pretty close to what I have been looking for. The deficiency is in the skills system primarily and the setting.

The latter is not an issue in any shape or form. Creating settings is a very personal experience and games seem to come in one of two varieties. The first is the setting is amazing and is the overriding driving force for playing the game. The second more generic rules and here is a vanilla setting you can tell any story in. D&D 5e plus The Forgotten Realms is an example of the latter and I would have said that Mutant Year Zero is a great example of the former.

The world of Hack-n-Slash is definitely the bland and generic variety than any GM can put their stamp on.

There are a few bits of Hack-n-Slash that I wasn’t keen on. The first was the preference for the adjective scales, mediocre, fair, good etc.. I am much more comfortable with target numbers. With Fudge both can be used interchangeably so that is not an issue.

The second change I would make is the skill system. I think it is my Rolemaster background but I want a little bit more granularity in the skill system. Fudge will allow me to do this as well so there is no barrier there.

Finally, and this relates back to the setting, I find the magic system is trying to be too much like the D&D spells chapter. I think fantasy RPG magic is an extension of the setting and cannot be separated from it.

I will offer up the 7th Sea magic system as probably the best magic system I have read in the past 10 years. It is far from perfect I am sure but it is just so perfect for the game setting. Each magical tradition, I am sure, is balanced against each other but each is treated as a complete individual and whatever rules and mechanics it needs to make it work are just applied to it.  Vision first implementation second. That is why Hack-n-Slash’s magic system feels flat, it wasn’t the designers vision.

SenileLarry and I have been emailing recently and he pointed something out to me. No Fudge fantasy games have been particularly successful. Those that exist are typically a single core book and then little or no support. Hack-n-Slash was the exception to his rule but he is basically right.

Even Digital Alchemy, the publishers of Hack-n-Slash are defunct, their website hasn’t been updated since 2012.

I think to some extent the problem is self fulfilling. The games do not sell well so there is no impetus to create more books for a game that doesn’t have a following. In a game designers group I am a member of it is generally accepted that most games on OneBookShelf will sell less than 100 copies. If you had pinned your hopes on building a platinum selling blockbuster game and then making your fortune writing and selling supplements and adventure modules then there is a very good chance that you will get the wind knocked out of your sails pretty quickly. The Fudge system itself is over 20 years old so if you use FUDGE as a badge of honour then it lacks a sense of being innovative. Ghost Ops didn’t mention its Fudge heritage at all. For me right now Ghost Ops is my gold standard of Fudge implementations.

I think right now the single most important selling point for a game has to be its setting. There is no market for a generic ‘fantasy’ game as we all have shelves full of those already. On the other hand Tales from the Loop is a platinum best seller and I think rode to success on the coat tales of Stranger Things. It is all about the setting.

So for me, I think I know where I need to go for my perfect Fudge fantasy game. It is to start at H&S and rework the magic and skills and fiddle with the character sheet. Nothing major there. The magic needs a setting and that is something that can only come from me.

While I am tinkering I think I would build in the Princess Bride wounds recording as I think that had the edge over the default H&S version but that really is tinkering.

Almost everything I create I release under a free license. In the past it has always been OGL. If I build this then I think I will release it. That would then mean to prove my point I would really need a great setting that captured the mass imagination. Now that has to be the challenge!

P.S. I mentioned Stranger Things in this post. Have any readers watched Dark on Netflix? Is it any good? What are your thoughts?