Predation

[Let’s Study: Predation Part 4] GM Chapters & Review

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Today we’re taking on the last few GM-centric chapters of Predation: Creatures and NPCs and GM Toolbox that comes with the book.

Creatures and NPCs

The biggest highlight and selling point of Predation has to be the modified dinosaurs. Whether genetic hybrids, or bearing high-tech weaponry strapped to them, Predation features a wide spectrum of different sorts of creatures that can appear in the game.

The chapter dives right in with a few notes on how you can use these rules for any Cypher system game that needs a cyborg dinosaur, and then moves on to discuss the myriad modifications that can be applied to a base creature. These range from self-healing to cybernetic body parts.

What follows is a hefty bestiary of modified dinosaurs, with a description of their roles and modifications, and a lovely illustration to hammer home that these aren’t just ordinary dinosaurs.

GM Toolbox

The GM Toolbox section covers tips and tricks in running a Predation game. Included are some very handy plot hooks to start off adventures, and more importantly the big secrets to SATI’s operations. In many ways, this was the bit that made the setting click better in my head. Knowing what the heck people were doing commuting back in time certainly puts this GM’s mind at ease.

Of course, there are more than just one explanation and leaving it up to the GM to pick their flavor is a good idea.

Cyphers

As many people familiar with Cypher System games go, cyphers and artifacts and are still present in Predation. I don’t feel that they’re a necessary part of the setting, and I honestly feel that they were tacked on just to have them, but it doesn’t detract at all from the fun. If you like them, then great, if not then you can pass on it, like I would if I ran this game.

Promised Land

The Promised Land is a quick introductory adventure for starting characters that throws them into the midst of a rather unique situation involving dinowrestling and some kidnapped dinosaurs. I won’t go into too much detail but I will say that I’m actually pleased to see that the adventure is not just a colorful introduction to the setting, but also a scenario that can be resolved with minimal violence if done carefully!

Review

Come for the big, stompy, laser dinosaurs, and stay for the big, stompy, laser dinosaurs. I have some lingering concerns with regards to the setting, in the sense that while there’s so much to see, the player characters are always challenged to somehow find meaning in a timeframe that has a ticking deadline looming overhead in the form of an asteroid with no clear means of surviving.

It’s a bit of a downer in what would have been a pulpy fun time, and while I could just ignore it, too many of the organizations seem to fixate on it to be able to just excise it from the setting easily.

That said, mechanically, Predation is a solid addition to the Cypher gaming line, and GMs of The Strange or Numenera will find a lot of fun toys to grab from here and throw into their games which certainly adds to its value.

[Let’s Study: Predation Part 3] Welcome to Grevakc

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Welcome to Grevakc, Earth 65 million years ago, now populated by time-marooned humans who have inhabited it for the last hundred or so years. Forced to adapt to their new surroundings, and cut off from the source of their advanced technologies, this version of humanity has taken to innovating in their own way.

Predation takes place in two major continents: Laramidia and Appalachia, as well as the Western Interior Seaway between the two. Given the nature of the worlds back then, both continents are wild and dangerous.

Laramidia

Laramidia is a long, thin island continent that hosts the biggest population of human life. Roughly divided into three main sections: Lower Laramidia, which hosts SATI’s three original commuter cities, Upper Laramidia, which is a smattering of towns and villages, and the Western Interior Seaway, where SATI has a few floating labs and large ships that patrol the waterways.

The city of Kelaino, the main site of the original commuter arrival is given a thorough treatment in the setting chapter, with a map and descriptions of all the landmarks and important groups within the city.

The rest of the Laramidia chapter goes on to describe the other settlements as well but the lion’s share of detail goes to Kelaino.

Appalachia

In stark contrast to Laramidia’s presence of large cities, Appalachia is considered to be the wild country. Still home to the hardy and the brave (or foolish) there are still settlements in Appalachia

Groups and Organizations

This short chapter goes over three organizations that have made an impact on life in Grevakc. Among them of course, is SATI, the same organization that created the time-travel commute that brought humanity in. The years since the collapse of time-travel has changed them, however.

The Butterflies are a second organization dedicated towards a rather fatalistic view that mankind should stop struggling against the incoming apocalypse. They’re pro-active about it though and prefer to sabotage efforts at salvation. Their anti-technology stance doesn’t halt them from scavenging from their targets and using such items against others.

The last group are the Genesix Fellowship, a quasi-religious cult that believes that their role is to find and prove the existence of the Garden of Eden, and that until it is found the way back to their time is forever barred.

I must admit that despite the massive pop-culture appeal of dinosaurs with lasers, I strangely find that the setting of Predation feels a bit bland. There’s a lot of detail and even a few plot hooks scattered throughout the chapters but nothing really reached out and grabbed my interest.

I’m left feeling a bit disappointed, but I’m willing to concede this could be personal bias. The setting is sound and it hits all the bases, but this could simply be an example of something that just isn’t my flavor.

Next up, we’ll tackle the rest of the Predation book’s chapters, including Creatures and NPCs, Running Predation and the sample Adventure.

[Let’s Study: Predation Part 2] Character Creation

Predation’s character creation follows the now-familiar Cypher formula of “I’m an adjective noun who verbs.”

Character Types

In Predation, the players choose from four setting-specific character types:

  • Karn – These are the ultimate warriors of the setting, that go well with aggressive companions
  • Tec – Scientists and inventors, the tec are the ones who build machines and conduct research. Their companions tend to utilitarian or serve as extra muscle to keep them safe.
  • Pteryx – Are the explorers and wanderers that track and trick their targets. Their companions often are chosen to help scout terrain or move in and out of places quietly and quickly.
  • Osteon – The lorekeepers and performers are the social characters of the setting, and have dinosaur companions that serve as bodyguards

Descriptors

This serves as the “Adjective” of the formula, and aside from the descriptors of the Cypher System Rulebook, Predation has a list of several new ones. Each descriptor grants a host of things for the character, including a bonus to a character’s stats, a few abilities, skills and a few drawbacks (“inabilities”) and an initial link to the starting adventure to choose from.

Foci

The “Verb” of the formula is taken up by picking a Foci for the character. Much like the Descriptors, Foci also grants a connection with the team, as well as abilities per Tier for the character.

Companions

If there’s something about Predation that really sells it, it would be the fact that all the characters begin with a dinosaur companion.

Picking out a companion is as straightforward as character creation, along with starting statistics, the players also choose the companion’s type, background and disposition.

Playing Companions

Another interesting gimmick is that rather than playing both your character and your character’s companion, the responsibility for playing the companion dinosaur is given to a different player.

This leads to an interesting dynamic where the companion player gets to add an aspect of unpredictability to a situation. That said, there’s still an interaction roll made where a character can tell their companion what to do. It’s up to the companion’s player to actually decide how it goes about it though.

Companions can be taken from various categories, such as Tyrannosaurs, Raptors, Ornithomimids, Ceratopsians & Ankylosaurs, Pterosaurs and even Early Mammals!

Overall, character creation and companion creation in Predation follows the same complexity of Cypher System. I’m a little iffy with regards to the names, but all the Cypher games tend to have funky naming systems for their character Types.

The addition of companions effectively doubles the number of Player Characters in a game, so it might get confusing. But that’s not a fault of the system and I expect that it’ll get easier with play.

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at the setting of Predation and see just how much trouble characters can get into!

If you’d like to follow along or get your own copy, Predation is available in PDF format in DriveThruRPG for only $17.99

[Let’s Study: Predation Part 1] Introduction

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Dinosaurs, time travel and weird science! With a combination like that, how could you possibly go wrong? Monte Cook Games’ latest Cypher System game, Predation has all three of these in crazy amounts, and author Shanna Germain tackles it with gleeful enthusiasm.

I’ve been lucky to have been given a Review Copy of the game, and I’m digging into it now to see if this will become my new favorite Cypher System setting.

In this series, we’ll be taking a look at the game, and see if it lives up to the hype. I appreciated Numenera and The Strange before, so I remain optimistic that Predation will be a great product that will appeal to anyone looking to fire lasers while riding bioengineered dinosaurs.

So, what are we in for? Let’s take a look at the marketing blurb:

Welcome to the Cretaceous. Our ancestors won’t climb down from the trees for another 66 million years, but here we are now. Time travel seemed like a good idea. Exploring the ancient world. Building. Creating an entire society here in the jungles of our primordial Earth. Until those SATI guys messed it all up.

We’ve got gear. We’ve got guns. We’ve even bioengineered a few dinos to our liking. And that’s good, because we’ll need it all to survive. History says there’s an asteroid headed our way, and there’s no one left alive who knows how to get back to the future.

Welp. Certainly sounds like a crazy time (and place) but I do like the fact that there’s already a self-imposed apocalypse in place in the form of said asteroid impact.

SATI

Thankfully the opening chapters of the book tell us exactly what SATI is. An international conglomerate, Space and Time, Intg. sent a group of bioengineers and paleontologists and other specialists back to the late Cretaceous period on top-secret missions.

The problem was, that within a decade, something went terribly wrong, and the time-travel process broke down, leaving the commuters (as they were called) stranded in time.

Now (or Then, but you get the picture)

That was a hundred years ago. The early commuters had to survive, and so they adapted to the harsh world, using their sciences to build communities, breed bioengineered dinosaurs, raised families and tried to find a way to get back home.

But with so much time passing, a new generation of humanity is coming to take over. Those born in this era, never having belonged to the future. This is home to them, and it is among them that your characters belong.

It’s quite a setup for a game, and I’m honestly intrigued. I’m hoping that Predation is able to do something new with the Cypher System, and isn’t just a reskin of Numenera. There’s a lot of promise to the setting as is, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be in for quite an adventure.

If you’re looking to join in and study along, you can grab a PDF of Predation over a DriveThruRPG for only $17.99!

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