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.
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