Philippine Gamer goes to Singapore!

Posted: August 26, 2014 by Jay Steven Anyong in Roleplaying Games
Tags: ,

I’ve just been recently informed that I’ll be flying over to Singapore for a Business Trip. As such I won’t be able to update my blog for the rest of the week with the same regularity as before. That said, I’m hoping to be able to sneak some gaming-related things while I’m there.

There’s just one problem though: I don’t know a thing about Singapore.

Are there any people out there willing to help me get my geek fix while I’m there? Any good stores with RPG books in particular? I’m hoping to score some extra D&D 5e books if I can source them from there.


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Hey guys, welcome to the real start of the Let’s Study series looking into The Strange, the new RPG from Monte Cook Games.

The book first opens up with two short letters from the authors, Monte Cook and Bruce Cordell talking about how The Strange Came to be. It’s clearly a very personal work fueled by a lot of excitement and passion from both authors, and already I get the impression that there’s so much they want say and not enough page count to say it.

Welcome to the Strange

There’s an interesting decision to present the basics of the setting through an in-character document for this chapter. In this case, it’s a primer to The Strange from the desk of a certain Katherine Manners, a Lead Operative of an organization calling itself the Estate.

There’s upsides and downsides to this approach of course, with one of the advantages being that you can impart mood and tone better with an in-character text. To the author’s credit, this chapter manages to get many of the key concepts across.

The Strange, also known as the Chaosphere is an alien network created a long time ago that exists underlying our own.

In addition to Earth, this network also connects to various “Recursions,” tiny, self-contained universes that behave under a particular set of rules. These additional laws are classified by the Estate as Magic, Mad Science, Psionics, Substandard Physics and one other, which has been redacted in the document.

Two major recursions in the primer are Ardeyn, a recursion where magic works, and is essentially a fantasy setting populated by humans and a race called qephilim, which we’ll probably learn about more a little later in the text. The second recursion is called Ruk, which functions under the laws of Mad Science.

Other recursions exist as well, through a means called “Fictional leakage” which means that it is entirely possible that any (or all) fictional worlds on Earth have a corresponding recursion. Yes, this means that Sailor Moon is out there somewhere in a recursion of her own.

Translation is the process by which operatives of the Estate can shift between recursions. The process of translation essentially converts the person from one recursion to a being that fits the recursion they’re going to. Again, I expect that there will be more information on this later on in the book.

Finally Cyphers are given some detail, and is similar to Numenera in the sense that they’re devices that can create a single effect, and are meant to be used rather than hoarded.

Thoughts

That’s a lot of information crammed into what is essentially 2 pages of the book. Admittedly, the concepts introduced are all quite interesting but I can’t shake the feeling that the parts that hold back information detract from the experience.

The document is redacted at parts, making it slightly frustrating to the reader, especially since this is the part of the book which should actually make someone excited to play in the setting. There’s little information on what the Estate is, and what they do, only that they know about the strange and that the reader is assumed to be an Operative.

I’m getting the impression that it’s meant to be a teaser of some sort, but rather than leaving me wanting more, I have the unpleasant aftertaste of frustration in my mind at being left in the dark.

What compounds this feeling is the knowledge that the next chapters won’t give me that information as it launches into the Mechanical aspects of play first. How the Rules Work, how to Build a Character and Equipment and so forth. I won’t hear from these setting elements until much later in the book… at around page 135. At this point I’m hoping that the lack of an in-depth understanding of the setting won’t be a hindrance to character creation, or if I’m meant to skip the mechanical chapters and come back to it after I’ve read the setting.

That said, I do have faith in Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook and I’m looking forward to the payoff when I hit the setting chapters.

On Monday, we’ll tackle the rules and character creation for The Strange and see what we can come up with and if it remains to be as easy to build as it was with Numenera.

If you’d like to study with us, you can get a PDF copy of The Strange from DriveThruRPG for only $19.99 or roughly Php 860.00


I’m pretty happy to be able to get started on a new Let’s Study series after a harrowing week at work (and just a teensy bit of Gencon Envy from those who were able to attend the best 4 days of gaming.) Of course, rather than starting with something easy, I figure I might as well check out the latest game from Monte Cook Games: The Strange.

Written by Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook, The Strange is a new IP that is separate from Monte Cook’s Numenera, but also uses the same system. As for the setting… well, if you thought Numenera was pretty funky, The Strange is going to push your expectations even further.

Let’s go with the product blub first:

Beneath the orbits and atoms of our natural universe lies a network of dark energy. Those who have learned to access and navigate this chaotic sea have discovered an almost endless set of “recursions” in the shoals of our Earth: Worlds with their own laws of reality, reflected from human experience or imagination, given form in the swirling Chaosphere of the Strange. Worlds teeming with life, with discovery, with incredible treasures, and with sudden death.

Worlds sometimes jealous of our own.

The secret plunder of these worlds draws the brave, the daring, and the unscrupulous—and it draws dangerous enemies from these recursions back to our Earth.

And slowly but inexorably, it draws the attention of beings from beyond Earth’s shoals—beings of unfathomable power and evil from the unknown reaches of. . .

The Strange

Monte Cook Games is thrilled to announce its next big tabletop roleplaying game: The Strange! Written and designed by Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook, The Strange is a game that crosses multiple worlds, called recursions, which player characters can explore and defend. In The Strange, your characters change with each world they travel to, taking on new aspects suited to help them function in that recursion’s unique laws and structures. But dangers found in these recursions threaten not only characters, but also our very own Earth. If characters persevere, however, they can not only save themselves and Earth, they may even gain the ability to create a recursion of their own!

If you enjoyed the inspiring scope of games like Planescape, Gamma World, or Numenera, or mind-bending scenarios like Moorcock’s Eternal Champion series, the TV show Fringe, or movies like the Matrix, you’re going to love The Strange.

As a fan of Fringe, The Matrix and oddball science fantasy, I’m pretty certain that The Strange has me in mind. Tomorrow we’ll crack the book open and see what the game is like and how approachable it is to new players.


In keeping with the beginner-friendly nature of the game, the Game Master’s section starts off by defining the role of the Game Master in an RPG before moving on to the advice. It’s a simple section but useful in grounding new players with the concept and what they’re supposed to do with this game if they’re GMing.

What follows next is advice on making an Adventure, with a focus on key points of the story, and a few neat little practical points of GMing advice such as not outright revealing the source of the problem, and leaving it to the players to discover it for themselves. Again, this might be common sense to more experienced GMs, but it’s valuable for new GMs to have this kind of advice.

NPCs are also handled here, along with a Threat Value calculation for balancing encounters. It’s an interesting system to use, just to make sure that the player characters have a fighting chance since it’s easy for a GM to go overboard when building bad guys.

The last part handles running the game, with sage advice from the author on how to handle plots, adding things that will make people care about their characters and pacing. Finally, experience point gain and advancement is also explained here.

Sample NPCs are also provided at the end of the book, mostly villains that you can just drop into any game you’re running. It’s handy for GMs as a reference as well of what kind of villains can be put into the game as well.

Review

OVA: the Anime Role-Playing Game is a solid beginner-level RPG that has enough flexibility to handle wacky ideas from the anime crowd, while retaining enough crunch to feel like enough of a “game” to satisfy the average rpg gamer.

The system is easy to learn, and feels very quick to implement. The customizability of the characters is a big plus, and the system manages to handle all the bizarre situations of anime gaming without breaking a sweat.

With a clean layout, pleasing artwork, and a host of sample characters to work with OVA is a polished work that feels very professional and worth every dollar. Definitely a must by and a great gateway game to use in Anime and Gaming Conventions to get new players into the hobby.


Welcome back! Today we’re looking at the basic mechanics that power OVA. Is it as fast and friendly as it looks? Only one way to find out.

Actions

The basic mechanic for OVA is surprisingly simple: Take 2 six-sided dice and take the highest result. If they roll doubles, add them together and use that as the result of the roll. This value is compared to a difficulty number. If the value is higher than the difficulty number, then the roll is a success.

Modifiers

Here’s where it gets interesting. Modifiers can add or subtract dice depending on the Abilities and Weaknesses of the character in question.

When handling more than two dice, the roll is still interpreted the same way. Any doubles, triples or other matched sets are all added together, and the highest value is taken as the result of the roll.

In the event that Weaknesses reduce the number of dice to less than zero, then the player rolls negative dice instead. These are still two six-sided dice, but are read differently. Rather than taking the highest value, the player takes the lowest value as the result of the roll. Matched sets do not get added together in this kind of roll.

Difficulty and Opposition

Difficulty numbers in OVA range from 2 (Easy) all the way to 12 (Nigh Impossible.) When going up against another character, the difficulty is set instead by an opposed roll.

Drama Dice

Here’s something interesting. Apparently when a roll is pretty bad, you can spend 5 Endurance to add a Drama Die. This is an additional die that you can add to the roll (even after seeing the result) to try and improve your chances.

Drama Dice can be earned in play as well by improving the game through your participation.

Miracles, on the other hand are an automatic success of a single action at the cost of 30 Endurance. This is especially handy in those really dramatic situations, but be careful, a GM may refuse a miracle if they feel that it is not appropriate to the situation.

Everything Else

The mechanics cover a host of other special cases including critical successes (by rolling boxcars, or two 6’s), extended actions, hampering others, teaming up and hidden rolls.

Scale rules deserve extra mention here as it allows for wildly differing combatants to go up against each other. Scale adapts depending on the situation, so where being small helps, they get scale advantage over the opponent, and when the opposite is true then the big stompy robot gets the bonus.

Combat

Now that we’ve gotten the basics out of the way, let’s move on to combat. OVA’s rules have been pretty much rules light to medium at this point, and I feel that it does a good job at being easy enough to teach and learn. Here’s hoping that combat continues that trend.

Initiative

As with many systems, OVA combat begins with Initiative rolls. Initiative is determined by rolling 2 dice + any applciable bonuses and abilities – any penalties and weaknesses.

The highest roll goes first, followed by the next highest and so on.

Attacks and Defense

Attacking in OVA is resolved by a basic skill roll of 2 dice + bonuses, abilities & perks – penalties, weaknesses & flaws.

This is opposed by the Defense roll, which uses a similar pool of dice. The higher of these two rolls succeeds like in a regular opposed roll.

Interestingly (and perhaps appropriate to the genre) Countering is an option as well. This allows you to make an attack roll in response to being attacked. Whoever wins this opposed check is the one to deal damage. The catch is that countering causes the character to lose their next action.

Damage

Damage is resolved by taking the amount by which the Attack roll exceeds the Defense roll and multiplying it by the Damage Multiplier of the attack. So an attack with a Damage Multiplier of 3 succeeds in overpowering a defense by 2 points, then it deals 6 damage.

Everything Else

The OVA combat rules goes into other special cases again, including special conditions, health and recovery, special damage types and combat maneuvers.

I’m pretty impressed that the book covers most of the basics without taking up a lot of pages. combat is still pretty detailed, but has a medium level of crunch that is easy enough to learn, and the special cases are fun and interesting enough to encourage their use.

OVA is turning out to be quite the introductory-level RPG for me. It’s easy enough to learn, complex enough to give a sense of achievment and covers a wide array of situations and character types for almost any campaign concept.

Is it tactical? Sort of, but not in the positioning and counting squares sort of way. It keeps things light while still being engaging.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the GMing chapters of the game, and see if we can find some specific advice on how to run Anime-esque games using the system.