Friday at Gen Con brought both the high and low gaming points of Gen Con 2016 for me. I soared to amazing highs in one game and then endured a 4-hour torture session on the same day. Being in a bad game is miserable, but coming off a great game and then entering the bottom of the gaming barrel is enough to drive me crazier than an encounter with Cthulhu himself.
Enough talk, on to the games!
The Cypher System for RPGs is world agnostic, but this particular game took place in a “Star Wars-like” world. An evil
empire Imperium lead by an equally evil Emperor Empress built a super-weapon capable of destroying the plucky heroes. The rebels planned and executed an assault on Singularity Base to steal the weapon.
This is a standard RPG adventure setup, but the assault required six teams of six people. This meant that the success or failure of the mission depended on six groups of adventurers completing completely different objectives.
Werlen, Haaldaar and myself joined “Team Yellow.” Fearing an air attack from Imperium dagger-class fighters during the raid, we were ordered to disable the fighters parked in the hangar bay. We picked through the pile of pre-generated characters and chose the following:
Werlen – Pilot
Haaldaar – Engineer
Trask – Noble with a silver tongue
Now, I must explain I did not choose the noble. Werlen shoved it into my hand and said, “This is you.” I have something of a reputation among my gaming group as slightly…evil. I tend to work the shadows, manipulate and generally cause havoc with a few well-placed words.
Ah, they know me so well.
We entered the base and encountered four guards. I believe the expectation was we would shoot it out with them, but I decided to bluff past them with my nobility and fast talk. It was going well, but the GM did an intrusion (basically in Cypher System the GM can alter a situation to make the PCs lives harder by giving us re-roll cards as payment). One of the guards was a “childhood friend” (we named him Bob) that recognized me as a rebel. Fingers reached for triggers…
Until I pulled out a cypher (a magic item, but in this universe they are “subtle” and are more like plot tweaks the players may deploy). I had a “Secret” cypher that allowed me to pull one secret from the universe. I chose to learn something embarrassing about the trooper from his childhood. After some discussion with the GM we decided that Bob had a baby…with his sister!
I blackmailed Bob into helping us bypass the door and then we stole his uniform and left him tied up in a bathroom.
We explored a bit and finally wound up in the control room for the hangar. A brief fight later we had control and the fun really started. Haaldaar started hacking to disable the fighter and we were well on our way to victory. Unfortunately, we heard reports that the other teams were not doing as well. Specifically the Green team, tasked with drawing as many troopers to them as a distraction needed help.
It was then I realized that I had the most powerful weapon in the building.
The public announcement system.
Much entertainment did I derive from sending troops to the wrong locations, announcing a nuclear bomb scare and having a loyal technician arrested by other loyal troops because he was a “traitor.”
We completed our mission with the help of a visiting PC from another table that got lost in the air ducts and wound up in the hangar and blew up most of the ships with an “accidental” fuel leak. Though we did keep a transport and one dagger aircraft.
We won! Mission accomplished. Except the other tables encountered heavier resistance and still fought waist deep in troopers and battle droids. So we refused to call it a day and jumped into the other teams. We sent our fighters to reinforce one table, Haaldaar and I went to the weapons lab to see what we could do and Werlen stole a dagger/fighter and became air support for another table.
We took the base and destroyed the doomsday weapon.
It was an amazing gaming experience. You actually felt…accomplished when the base fell and the last trooper surrendered.
My only real complaint was it was too short, but “Battle Interactives” when well done are a beautiful experience. I hope Monte Cook Games runs a BI again next year.
“The Strange” is a stand-alone game that uses the Cypher system in a multi-verse environment. Though the game has worlds ranging from dead holocaust-blasted cinders to cyberpunk and, in this case, a fantasy world.
A nearby starfall (meteor) landed in a nearby tomb and suddenly people started disappearing. Though much in the vein of a dungeon crawl the “enemy” turned out to be a crazed fallen angel-like being we cured and solved the problem. As usual with my group we never do anything the easy way and during the adventure a demon possessed Haaldaar and escaped from the tomb to cause more havoc on the locals.
Hey, that is a 50% success rate! Look to the positive where you can…
A fun game, but nothing on the level of the round preceding it and most certainly not in the dark pit that was…
This game was a role-playing low point for me. The premise is a zombie infection breaks out on a frozen world and we are the rescue team sent to evacuate the survivors from a hydrogen fuel plant. It was a cross between “The Thing” and “Aliens” and it sounded like fun.
Then I sat down and saw this:
The throbbing in my head started immediately. Though I have played many in my gaming career, in my old age I am increasingly intolerant of games that need Excel spreadsheets to run a character. I want to play the game, not balance my checkbook. It is the primary reason I do not play 3.5, Pathfinder or any of the other “crunchy” RPG games. In fact, this entire style of gaming seems obsolete to me. It might fly in 1987, but I see too many games that jettison the accounting for lean, efficient mechanics and are the better for it. You can play a fun, exciting game without needing software to track your character.
Biting my tongue, I jumped into the game. We landed on the frozen planet and proceeded to explore the hydrogen cracking plant. The GM and story were OK, but my issue was the underlying mechanics. The complexity slowed down the game and really pulled me out of the story. By the end, I was playing a miniature combat game with a patina of plot. This type of rules-heavy game was last on my personal game table years ago and I forgot. Forgot how the rules get in the way of story and role-playing to the detriment of both. Never again.
Trask, The Last Tyromancer