Synthicide RPG Review

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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!

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Setting

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.

Key Players:

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.

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SYSTEM

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

  • Awareness
  • Combat
  • Toughness
  • Influence
  • Operation
  • Nerve
  • Speed

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.synthicide-bg

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.

My Thoughts

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.

My Rating

D20 #15I 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

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Further Musings on Backstories are Not Stories

So, here we go, Backstories are not Stories round two. Let me begin by saying I had have been thrilled with how the last week’s blog was received. It had many comments from all points of view on the topic. Additionally, I deeply enjoyed the exchange of thoughts and ideas that was had overall. Heck, my High School English teacher even threw his hat into the ring what an honor! So, with that out of the way, I want to take this time to address the topic a little further. Now, as I said before and many times while I was answering comments throughout the day. This is a hobby and a game. If you disagree that strongly you go do you and have fun! I am just a guy with a blog.

Why write about this more you ask?

To start with the first blog was more of an example of a technique. This blog will go into a bit more depth on some of the points that were brought up by comments. As well as one of the most concerning things that I encountered over and over as I read through the replies I wanted to address.

What was that?

Overwhelmingly a great number of the people who disagreed the idea of a resume or short form one page background version of a backstory felt I was just plain wrong. They also felt that this in some way was implying that I was attempting to stifle my player’s creativity. That somehow they would not be able to make rich quality backstory if they were restricted in any way in their writing. A few others also felt that the longer their backstory the better for both the Gamemaster and the Player.

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Any more thoughts on the last blog?

At its core, the post was solely intended as a helpful aid for both players and Game Masters.

It was inspired around Summarization much like the Evil Hat Dresden worksheet with the understanding that for a Game Master like it or not dealing with 4-8 Character Backgrounds can be daunting not to mention hard to remember all the details.

Oddly many people thought that I was trying to LIMIT their creativity and that “Less” would not mean more or somehow hurt the creative process for their background. That is, the furthest from the truth, summarization techniques are some of the effective memory retaining strategies in history. They teach you how to pick out the most important ideas in a text. As well as how to ignore the irrelevant info and how to integrate the core ideas in a meaningful way. My goal was to help your GM’s to more easily retain the info of your backstory.

Additionally, a long backstory puts the Game Master into the position of often having to say no. This can foster resentment and opinions that the GM is unwilling to let you be creative. Where does it hurt in the creative process to make a short sheet of your accomplishments for your Game Master and then approach him with your ideas? From there take this and bring it to the Storyteller, collaborate, create, and get on with the game.

After that, if you feel you want to write more go hog wild. But your GM has the relevant moments. The Sparks that add to that character that he can easily reference and bring to play in the game.

My close friend Mike had this to say and I agree-

The basis of roleplay is cooperative storytelling, When you write a lengthy story you remove that aspect of the game experience.

 

 

Guest Post: Capt. Jill’s Skyrim Beef Stew

I love gamer grub! You have seen in the past I have posted recipes. This one caught my eye on another blog and I just felt that it deserved the share!

As detailed in my previous post, my brain is currently taking a holiday. Or wants to. Is there a difference? I don’t know. As such, today we’re bringing you a special new feature: Guest posts! Today’s guest is from Capt. Jill of Capt. Jill’s Journeys. When Jill contacted me asking if I’d be interested in […]

http://skillupskillet.com/2016/01/23/guest-post-capt-jills-skyrim-beef-stew/

New players

Fresh meat, noob, newbie and nub to touch on a few. The fact is at some point we have all been there. We were all “That Guy” once.

The first thing we have to remind ourselves when we bring a new player into our group is they want to learn and for some reason they picked you. Show them respect for stepping up and letting you teach them the ins and outs of the game you love. This will go a long way to building a level of trust between your new player. As his GM trust is too important not to have built from the start. It’s like first impressions you never get a second chance to establish it.

Some things to consider when you bring a new player into your game group.
Where do you play? This to some may not seem like that big of an issue. But if you play at your home or a friend’s home and not a game store this issue could be even more problematic than the newness of your player by alone. Many of the factors here range from simple things like helping the player find the house you game at.
Am I comfortable with this a guy being in my home around my wife and kids. Maybe he’s a great guy but a smoker. Maybe you have children
and he swears a lot. So finding a new player is often more than just FINDING that player. Its finding a player and then feeling them out to be sure they will mesh with you your players and anyone that you come into regular contact with during your game sessions.
Granted as before if you play at a game table at your local hobby store much of the above sorts itself out being eliminated from the equation.

Treat your new players with the respect you would like others to treat you with and promote an environment that will speed the understanding of the game for your new player. I am not implying you hand hold this person every step of the way until he cuts his teeth on his first game. What I am getting at is maybe it’s not the best idea to invite your fresh new gamer to the epic level 4E D&D game night. Your setting him, your players and you up for a bad night in a case like this. In this example maybe it would be better to run a few one shots of 4E with first level Players to help him begin to grasp the basic concept’s. Or if he’s way new to RPG’s all together perhaps call for a board game night and introduce him to Castle Ravenloft or Wrath of Ashardalon. So he can see some of the 4E mechanics in action that way.

Easing your new players into the game in the long run will be best for everyone. There will be much less book and rules searching and questions to handle. Your new player with begin feeling confident and comfortable with the game and he can take his time focusing on the game not the rules.

The Fix

Its festival season and the party is enjoying some well earned Rest and relaxation. Over the course of the day one of the knights is the apparent stand out in the crowd. He is well on his way to sweeping the whole event and taking first prize.
It’s  about mid day and your returning from breaking for lunch festivities. The second half of the tourney is about to begin. One of the players overhears two squire talking,  One is the large teen squire of the stand out knight speaking to another younger squire angrily “Do as I say and well all be rich! Give this to your master before he starts his first pass. Just slip it in his drink.” As Knight walks past and the boy roughly pulls the other Squire to the side “Trust me it has worked on the rest of the field it will work again. No one will be the wiser.”

The tourney horns trumpet and startle you drawing your eyes in direction of the noise. When you look back the boys are gone.

Welcome and what to expect

Long ago I use to keep a notepad of all my Game ideas in one place for any instance when I would need a little something extra for my games. Every little idea that came to mind I penciled down and stored away in my own personal beat up brown leather binder of DM Goodness.  Sadly I no longer have that book. I will save that story for another time.

Well recently I picked up another notepad and I prepared to collect my ideas once more. I paused and made the choice to start this blog.  What I hope you will see in the coming days and weeks will be a collection of thoughts and Ideas on games and gaming in general. As well as reviews of things that might spark my interest or I hope will spark yours.This time the notebook is not just for me It’s for everyone.

What I hope will come of this blog is simple. I deeply hope that my knowledge and experience from years of gaming will make your games more fun and enjoyable. If I am able to reach even a few people and improve their gaming experience then this blog will have been a success.  With that in the words of some of my players   “Annnd Go! “