Synthicide RPG Review
When robots are Gods, killing humans is fair game.
Civilization collapsed long ago in the wake of mutant warfare. Survivors toil beneath the bootheel of their privileged Synthetic overlords. The Tharnaxist Church, a corrupt machine cult, suffocates the Galaxy with their tyrannical dogma. Yet you and your friends make a name for yourselves as sharpers, lowly space criminals contracting with gangs and mega-corporations alike.
What Synthicide brings to your game table:
- A dark, hostile sci-fi setting where humans are worthless and money is everything
- A galaxy of noir adventure and high technology
- Debuts the ACTIONS Rule Codex (ARC), an attribute-based rule-set designed for imaginative role-play and full-throttle combat
- Automated Game Master (GM) tools to quickly build NPCs, traps, and mission ideas – all on-demand
- A Plot Twist system with surprises for players and gamemasters alike
- Optional rules to up the grittiness and depth of the game, including Faction Heat, Mental Trauma, and Shock Damage
By: Will Power Games Page Count: 216 Price: $22.00 DTRPG
A few months back I was contacted by the creator of Synthicide the RPG, it was a pleasure and an honor to be asked if I would like to not only review Synthicide the RPG but have the creator himself run a few games for me on Roll20 as well! I more than happily accepted as I’m not one to ever turn down the opportunity to game.
Then life, the universe, threats of hurricanes and robot God’s did everything that they could to intervene. Sadly that game never happened despite both of our efforts. Having a game with the creator or not I am still going to get this game reviewed. So here we go!
Synthicide is set in the Milky Way galaxy but far in the future. History, for the most part, has been completely forgotten as mankind was nearly wiped out by a virus. Much of history and technology is now controlled by a machine cult church called the Tharnaxist Church. The church, for the most part, leaves humanity to their own devices unless they harm machine or destroy machine intelligence. This is a crime known as Synthicide, when you do it you are sure to end up with a price on your head, but it can also make you rich.
Players play sharpers, freelance spacefaring starship owners just trying to earn enough money for their next meal and enough fuel to keep them in the black. Food, fuel, and supplies are all expensive. The only thing cheap Synthicide is life, players must make the hard choices to survive.
Synthetics are constructed machines commissioned by the church. They fulfill contracts for the church and they are effectively Immortal. Synthetics are highly intelligent and for the most part look down on the human species.
The church is an immensely powerful entity in the game that runs everything with an iron fist, hoards technology, and builds synthetics. They worship a machine God, their priests are ruthless. The only ones punished in the church are those that harm synthetics, no one else is ever deemed worthy.
Additionally, the world is rife with many kinds of mutants that were scattered throughout the galaxy after becoming twisted by the P virus that nearly ending all of humanity. Most of the game takes place on the edge of rim space trying to stay away from the church and make enough money to get to the next payday stay out of trouble, survive and maybe make enough money to someday retire. Overall it gives the entire game a cyberpunk in space feel it is very gritty Noir in its theme
Most of the game takes place on the edge of rim space trying to stay away from the church and make enough money to get to the next payday stay out of trouble, survive. maybe make enough money to someday retire. Overall it gives the entire game a cyberpunk in space feel as it has a very gritty Noir vibe in the theme.
Now I must admit I’m kind of a fan of the rule system here, the game runs on what is called ARC (Action Rule Codex). Broken down into three main systems Role play Actions, Battle Actions, and Resolve & Cynicism. In the system, the only dice you’re going to need is a d10.
Skills are done up in an old-school style as players roll based on relevant attribute instead of specific skills. Complex skills that would require specialization in are called Focuses, each character has an aspect that will give them access to at a selection of Focuses. and This speeds up gameplay immensely and I personally am a fan of this. Further, I loved the fact that attributes in Synthicide are an acronym of the word “Actions” just hit me right in my sweet spot, I loved it. The attributes in Synthicide are: ACTIONS
This old-school approach to a new system feels fresh and original as well as refreshing to see done so well.
Combat runs off battle actions and has its own table to determine what you can do in a combat round. Every player has several options of things that they can do, depending on how much speed they have in the round. This results in a flow of combat that can feel very real. Some characters will choose to take regular actions each round and stay consistent as the battle flows. Others may take a round to build up some points and move and attack at the right moment in sudden bursts of flurries of action. I find the battle action table interesting and long enough to give players a variety of things they can do and short enough that it’s not too bulky to weigh the game down or worse yet stretch combat out.
All players also have Motivations and origin stories that you can either choose or roll at random for. There is a nice selection of options and feels very cyberpunk inspired to me, I found it a nice touch.
Another very cyberpunk feeling element of Synthicide is the Bioclass. This section is very brief but it denotes how much meat over metal or metal over meat your character has. Depending on your choice it will affect your ACTION and HP.
Players as they level gain access to traits that they meet the requirements for that show their growing experience in the world. These are similar to Edges of Feats of other systems.
Add to these features in the game Psychic powers, Mutations, Cybernetics and more and you have a tremendous amount of depth that Synthicide brings to the table.
I appreciate that even though their ship section was not very deep in ship selections. I was pleased to see a few tables to give your ship some backstory and favor provided. Best off all even if oddly placed was the trade section. Providing players with options of good options to fill their holds and make a profit. I would have like to see this maybe in the GM section and slightly expanded on. Yet I can see the added benefit of it being the player’s section to motivate the players to find work on their own with the GM help.
Game Master Section
Chapter 7 is the beginning of the Game Mastering section. This first part of game prep even at only 5 pages long is a clinic on how to prepare for games. In addition to being both fantastically well thought out and explained simply is with the price of admission alone. Three pages of the five pages presented here about how to prep a game could be directly applied to any game you own.
The GM Tools portion provides you with tips on how to create NPCs and a huge list of NPCs for the GM to use as well as quick and dirty planet tools.
This section wraps up with 13 Mission outlines. These outlines are excellent and each is set up in the two approach style mentioned in the Game Master section. It is awesome to see the team practice what they preached earlier in the book and provide you samples for you to see in action or use yourself.
The GM Section wraps up with a chapter on optional rules to add more crunch to your game if you want to get more in depth. The Final chapter of the book is a gazetteer of the setting, planets, timeline and established factions of the world.
So personally the setting is well written and there is a ton of detail that you get in Synthicide. I get a very strong cyberpunk in space feel from the setting. A cyberpunk where you replace the corps with the church. Then sprinkle in a shade of Bladerunner where the Synths are worshiped instead of hunted. I find myself on the fence, I want to love it, and at the same time, I want to throw the church over my shoulder and bring in corps. Truthfully there is no reason why you could not do a little bit of homebrewing and do just that. I enjoy the “ACTIONS & Combat” system very much. Not only is it fast-paced but it feels very easy to pick up and learn.
The only thing that I did not enjoy this product was the occasional space filler that they chose to go with. From time to time they filled small portions of the book with what looked like blocks with encoded symbols and letters. This drove me nuts because for awhile I thought it was just badly rendered in the PDF and maybe actually readable it turned out it was just gibberish.
I will be giving Synthicide a 15 on my Runkles Rankings scale. This is a stand out gritty space setting that has an excellent cyberpunk in space vibe. It fills a nice niche for gamers and I could see myself or my group playing this game.
You can pick it up on DTRPG Here