Hey everyone, welcome back as I try to pick up from where I suddenly left off in my Let’s Study series for The Strange by Bruce Cordell and Monte Cook.

Core Mechanics

The basic mechanics for The Strange is actually the same as those in Numenera. When trying to resolve an action with an uncertain (and dramatically significant) outcome, the GM sets a difficulty. This difficulty is defined by a degree of difficulty, which ranges from 0 to 10. The degree of difficulty then determines the task’s target number. As a rule of thumb, the target number is always 3x the degree of difficulty. So a difficulty of 3 would have a target number of 9.

Skills, circumstance and equipment can decrease the difficulty of a task, making it easier for characters with the correct training and equipment to succeed.

Rolling

Players roll a d20 to attempt a task. Unlike other systems, there are no bonuses here that modify your roll, you just look at the value that you rolled and compare that to your target number.

Combat

The mechanics in combat mirror those of the rest of the rules, which does help in simplifying things. The trick here is that the GM never rolls dice. Making an attack against an opponent involves rolling a d20 against the target number of your opponent.

Creatures have a level from 1 to 10, which in turn is usually the basis of the target number to hit them, as well as to avoid their attacks.

Damage is never rolled in the system, instead it’s a flat amount determined by the weapon or attack used.

Special rolls

Rolling a 19 or a 20 gives added perks to an attack or task. A 19 nets a minor effect, such as increased damage, or inflict some sort of status effect on your target. Outside of combat a 19 might get an extra perk to go with your success. A 20 on the other hand is a major effect and can get you an extra something that gives you a beneficial situation in addition to succeeding.

Rolling a 17 or 18 also gives you extra damage, but has no non-combat benefits.

Rolling a 1 is always bad as it means that the GM introduces a new complication into the encounter.

Character Creation

Making a character for The Strange should be interesting given that I don’t really have a strong grasp as to what the setting is like from the introduction. There’s a lot of high level information, but little in the way of me coming up with a concept. That said, the way that Numenera worked was filling out a sentence from options in the book so I hope that going through the chapter will be able to inform me better than the introduction did.

First off, let’s go over the primary stats of a character in the Strange. These are Might, Speed and Intellect. Each of these stats have two components: Pool and Edge.

Pool is the basic measurement of the stat. It’s essentially the raw value of the stat in question and is used to determine who is Stronger, Faster and Smarter among characters.

Edge on the other hand is how proficient a character is at the use of that stat. It serves as a discount whenever a character has to spend Pool to activate a power or use Effort.

Speaking of Effort, a character can spend 3 points in an appropriate Pool in order to reduce the Difficulty of a task by 1. This is called spending Effort, and the Edge value of the stat determines a discount that applies for the difficulty reduction’s total cost.

Character Descriptor, Type and Focus

Much like in Numenera, a character in The Strange is summarized in a single statement: “I am a [Adjective] [Noun] who [Verbs]“

It sounds funky, but it becomes rather elegant later on once you get to check out the various character components that fill in these slots. The adjective is called the character’s Descriptor, the noun is the character’s Type and the verb is the Focus.

Type

We begin by picking the character’s Type first. Character types in The Strange come in 3 varieties: Paradox, Spinner and Vector.

Vectors are the action-people of the bunch. They’re physical savants with access to abilities that let them do more than normal people. These abilities, called Moves, are connected somehow to The Strange.

Paradoxes are the mad scientists and the sorcerers. They’re the characters capable of messing with the laws of standard physics in bizzare and interesting ways. Their abilities are called Revisions, and involve twisting the rules of reality to suit their purposes.

Spinners are the quick-witted talkers. They’re the ones who can bluff their way through security, convert the enemy to their side or win the hearts of minds of people. Their abilities are called Twists, which are used to distort, adjust and exploit situations.

For this character, let’s go with a Spinner. I’m intrigued by the idea of a fast-thinking character with just enough of an edge to make things work to his favor… kind of like John Constantine in Hellblazer.

As a First Tier Spinner, my character gets the following:

Starting Stat Pools:
Might 9
Speed 9
Intellect 10

I also get 6 more points to divide among my stat Pools. Spending those, I end up with:

Might 9
Speed 12
Intellect 13

I also start with the following abilities as a First-Tier Spinner:

Effort: 1

Quickminded: You have an Intellect Edge of 1, Might Edge of 0 and Speed Edge of 1

Cypher Use: You can bear two cyphers at a time

Practiced with Light and Medium Weapons: If you wield a heavy weapon, increase the difficulty of the attack by one step.

Manipulator: You are trained in deceiving, persuading or intimidating (choose one)

Translation: You can participate in the process of traveling to another recursion. As a spinner, you are most effective at hastening a translation.

Twists:

Spin Identity (2+ Intellect points): You convince all intelligent creatures who can see, hear, and understand you that you are someone or something other than who you actually are. Cost increases by +1 per additional victim

Spin Encouragement (1 Intellect Point): While you maintain this twist through ongoing inspiring oration, your allies within short range modify the difficulty of one of the following task types (your choice) by one step: defense tasks, attack tasks, or tasks related to any skill that you are trained or specialized in. Action.

Descriptors

The next step is to pick a descriptor to fit the character. As with the Type, each Descriptor in the book also provides further modifications to the character.

For this character I decided to go for the following Descriptor:

Clever

Smart: +2 to your Intellect Pool

Skill: You are trained in all interactions involving lies or trickery

Skill: You are trained in defense rolls to resist mental effects.

Skill: You are trained in all tasks involving, identifying or assessing danger, lies, quality, importance, function, or power.

Inability: You were never good at studying or retaining trivial knowledge. The difficulty of any task involving lore, knowledge, or understanding is increased by one step.

Additional Equpiment: You see through the schemes of others and occasionaly convince them to believe you – even when, perhaps, they should not. Thanks to your clever behavior, you always start out with an additional $200 (or local equivalent) when you appear in a new recursion for the first time.

Initial Link to the starting Adventure: You talked your way into the situation because you thought it might earn you some money.

Focus

The last part of the character is the Focus. This works like the Descriptor and Type, but in The Strange, there’s a little twist to it as well.

The Foci of the character can change when translating to a different recursion. Some Foci can be dragged across to a different recursion, while others only work in a given recursion.

For this character, I figure I’d play up the entire espionage angle and just go for

Operates Undercover

Connections: Pick another PC, no matter how you hide or disguise yourself, this character always knows where and who you really are.

Equipment: Street clothes, disguise kit, light tools, duct tape, a weapon of your choice, a pen knife, a smartphone, and $700.

Minor Effect Suggestion: You can immediately attempt to hide after this action.

Major Effect Suggestion: You get a +2 bonus to Speed defense rolls for one round.

Tier 1: Investigate: You are trained in perception, cryptography, deceiving and breaking into computers. Enabler.

As you can see, character creation in The Strange, like in Numenera is a relatively straightforward process of stacking templates together. This opens the game up to all sorts of funky characters, and given the nature of Translation in the setting, you can even change your character’s Focus every time they translate to a new recursion.

I will have to repeat myself from my Numenera review here that the character creation system for The Strange is easy to learn, and quick enough for casual players to get started right away. Some players will need extra time to read through all the Types, Descriptors and Focus descriptions to try an optimize their character, but aside from that the process of creation itself is very swift.

Next up in the Let’s Study series for The Strange: the Rules of Translation, the funky world-shifting process that allows the player characters to shift from Recursion to Recursion.

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

And I’m back!

Posted: September 2, 2014 by Jay Steven Anyong in Dungeons & Dragons, Roleplaying Games, The Strange

I’ve returned from my business trip to Singapore last Saturday night, but with a few social obligations and my Wedding Anniversary yesterday I’m only really beginning to settle in to the old routine just now. Apologies for those left waiting for the rest of the Let’s Study series for The Strange, but I’ll get back to that shortly once I have all my ducks in a row.

In other good news, I was able to get a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook courtesy of my brother, who flew in from Australia on vacation. He was able to find a copy there and bought it a week before he was heading home. This means I’ll be able to get a review or a Let’s Study series on 5e very soon.

Well, that’s it for this momentary personal post. I just need to get my bearings and I should be able to continue my series on The Strange.

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.