[Let’s Study The Strange by Monte Cook Games] Part 2: Basic Mechanics & Character Creation

Posted: September 10, 2014 by pointyman2000 in Let's Study, Numenera, Roleplaying Games, The Strange
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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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:


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.


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


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