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Cyborg Commando 2.0 MOAR CAPS

CYBORG COMMANDO

The Epic Saga Continues

CAPS STILL NOT OPTIONAL

Welcome back! I know, even for me, this was a long time between updates, but I’ve been:

Roll Activity
01-30 Ranting on the D&D Next boards
31-80 Ranting on the SWTOR boards
81-85 Actually playing SWTOR
86-90 Working on fiction for my writer’s club
91 Working on Stellar Warriors
92-95 Being distracted by funny cats on the Internet
96-00 Looking at porn Studying new coding techniques.

So, now that that’s been established… back to creating a CYBORG COMMANDO!

When we last left our intrepid CYBORG COMMANDO, he, or possibly she, was void and formless. I hoped to find some inspiration in the book for a character idea, but what I found was inspiration as to how not to write a core rulebook. The book is filled with endless details on how the cyborgs work, down to things like the precise angle of rotation of the neck and the alloy composition of various body parts and the fact your head is actually almost completely hollow and..

Oh, yeah. Your brain is in your chest. Your head… well…

The head of a CYBORG COMMANDO

You could smuggle drugs in there. Seriously.

Yeah. It’s kind of interesting that one of the leading forms of real-world nanotech now is “lab on a chip” technology, which puts all sorts of chemical analysis functionality onto a microchip, leading towards real-life tricorders. Back in the 1980s, of course, we thought you’d need to hollow out your head to do this sort of thing.

There’s a lot of really weird details in the rules, and it takes up a lot of the rules, except, it’s not really “rules”, is it? Most of this would be called “fluff”, and fluff can be good, but it’s not fluff that inspires you or gives you an idea what the world is like, it’s fluff that shows the writer probably got a degree in mechanical engineering and this is his first chance to use it. For example, we learn the Yield Strength of the frame of a CYBORG COMMANDO is 8,047 T/m2. I have no idea what that means. Is it useful in-game, in any way? No, because there’s no rules anywhere that turn “Yield Strength” into some kind of mechanic you can use to decide if your CYBORG COMMANDO is crushed by a truck or whatever. “Ten times stronger than steel!”, if technically imprecise, provides a reader with an idea, a mental image, a conception, of how tough a CYBORG COMMANDO is. “Yield strength”, for the bulk of readers, who presumably don’t know the “yield strength” of common items you find in your home and office, tells you nothing. Even in a freeform, GM-decides, make-shit-up kind of rules system (which CYBORG COMMANDO is and isn’t, and in all the worst ways), it’s a useless piece of information, because it doesn’t give the GM any assistance in making a ruling. The book is filled with stuff like this, page on page on page, and there aren’t many pages in total.

Sure, background is great, and having a little fluff to help define and ground the technology of the game is very useful — but you could cut the amount of text dedicated to this by, literally, 90%, and convey just as much useful, setting-defining, information. (Then there’s things that provide information not even used in the setting, like a page of math, detailed formulas, for hyperspace travel times, when there’s no space travel in the game. If there was a plan for future expansion with rules for space travel,  that’s where this should have gone.)

I still haven’t gone on to developing my character, have I? The above rant is a partial excuse for why it took so long to get to this point… trying to find something to hook into. Even games I’ve been unimpressed with, or which were mechanically very simple, gave me more ideas for “what kind of character can you be” than CYBORG COMMANDO does. I will be first in line to laugh at White Wolf’s purple prose, shallowly stereotyped splats, and labored emo first person narratives with light-gray text on slightly-less-light-gray backgrounds and moire pattern watermarks, but there’s no way that, by the time you’re ready to fill in the dots on your character sheet in a White Wolf game, you don’t have a lot of ideas for what kind of people exist in the game world, what you can be, what kind of k3wl p0w3rz… I mean, angst-filled personal dramas… you get based on what you pick, etc.  CYBORG COMMANDO gives you about as much inspiration as picking “Player A” or “Player B” in an 8-bit arcade game.

Even the skill list isn’t much of a help, as it’s written like a college course catalog… without any course descriptions.

Seriously.

The CYBORG COMMANDO skills list

"I'm going to major in Medieval English, and then join OWS."

However, this isn’t the worst thing. There are two worst things. Yes, two. Each is more worst than the other. That’s more worst than you’ll find at Octoberfest in Chicago. The two worst things about the skills are: First Worst, almost none of them are described. No, not even a single line of description — the rules helpfully explain there wasn’t room for such useless trivia as “What do the skills do”, we had to have space for the populations of dozens of cities (because it’s important to know that Caernarfon has 12,280 people, and that Cullera has 12,335), hyperspace travel formulas, and to tell you that the Xenoborgs lost 14 colonels in their invasion. You know, I gave Star Rovers a lot of good-natured ribbing over the fact there were no space travel rules, but even if I felt the rules they included instead were of secondary importance, they were at least rules. You could use them in a game. Should asteroid mining have been booted to make room for space travel? Sure, probably, but you wouldn’t stare at the asteroid mining rules in stark incomprehension and ask “Why is this even here at all? What purpose does it serve?” The other first-worst thing is that the skills are often referred to by number. How much information is gained by writing “attempts a skill check in the area of Physical Sciences (56o)”? The “560” doesn’t help you quickly find the non-existent skill description… it just wastes space.

(A few skills are described, mostly the “Psychogenic” and combat-related ones.)

Anyway, to acquire skills, I spend SP to purchase Fields, which are skills ending in multiples of 10, not Areas (which end in single digits) or Categories (ending in 00). This is the Basic game; you get more flexibility in the Advanced game, but I’m not going there unless someone pays me.

So, I have 30 Skill Points. That’s… uhm… not a lot. I mean, a whole lot of not a lot. How about 10 in 220, “Unarmed Combat”, which gives me 10 in “Occidental Combat” and “Oriental Combat”, the two Areas that are in that Field. (Somewhere, Steve Long is weeping.) That leaves me 20.

Well, 10 more in Personal Weapons. That makes me equally skilled with everything from 231 Ancient Bladed Melee Weapons (including agricultural tools) to 237 Artillery. (“Can you handle a howitzer?” “Why, sure, I used to cut down wheat with a sickle on my farm back home!”) (I should cut CYBORG COMMANDO some kind of break here, since this is “basic” character generation and many games have nothing but a “combat” stat, especially games of this era. But I’m just not in a forgiving mood right now.)

I’ll put 5 in Personal Arts 410, since that gives me access to 411 Error Avoidance, which covers “Karma & Fate” and “Serendipity”. And the last 5, I dump into 630 Criminal Activity, since almost everything under it seems vaguely useful… though with only 5 points, I’ll probably suck at it. Due to the lack of skill descriptions, it’s unclear if 634 Sex Related Crime covers “running a prostitution ring” or “committing sexual assault and getting away with it”. I guess that’s the sort of thing you need to argue with your GM about. OTOH, there’s no indication that CYBORG COMMANDOs are, ahem, “fully functional”, so it may be moot. A pity. Given the style of the the rest of the book, one might expect something like “The synthesteel duraplas pseudopenis of the CC unit is 19.8 cm in length and is covered with TextuWeave Quasiskin that transmits simulated neural responses at a rate of 10.94 megagigs per kilounit. It can be set to vibrate at 500 RPM.”

Yes, I went there. What, you expected class, decorum, or good taste? Did you read my Alma Mater review?

And so…. I’m done. My nameless CYBORG COMMANDO is ready to go kick some ass. Or get his ass kicked, since from what I can tell, I have a ten percent chance of hitting someone. No, wait…. after several minutes of studying the mind-numbingly confusing graphs, it seems I have a 27% chance of rolling 10 or less using the d10x system. Wow, that’s intuitive. (Also, raising my skill from 10 to 11 is meaningless, because you can’t roll an 11 on d10x. You have to raise it to 12 to see any gain.)

And in conclusion…  I’ve got to find something better for my next article. I have nearly 3000 game books in my collection. This can’t be hard. Synnibarr. Synnibarr should be fun. Unless someone wants to send me a copy of that game where you play flower penis vampires. That could also be fun.

Battlelords Of The Twenty-Third Century, Part 2

When last we left our intrepid would-be employee of some future Blackwater, he had just chosen his species — the Eridani, a race of Voldermort-looking dudes (again, in the interest of fairness, I want to stress that Battelords well predates Harry Potter and I’m just using the term because everyone knows what Lord Voldemort looks like… much in the same way that people tend to compare games to WoW even if the tropes WoW uses originated in Everquest or DikuMUD) who are basically Ronin….Innnnn….Spaaaaaaace, total stick-up-their-ass stoic warrior dudes who are loads of fun to play, especially if the party has some less straight laced types in it.

There’s three methods of rolling characters. Roll percentiles in order, then roll three more and replace any three with the new rolls; Roll ten times, discard the lowest 2, then assign them in the order you wish; and roll eight percentile dice five times and then choose which set you like, placing them in the stats in order. Number 2 is the “most popular”, and it’s also the easiest, so that’s what I’m going for.

Ten rolls:9,12,44,86,25,45,55,87,54,23.

As usual, my rolls suck. Obviously, we drop the 9 and the 12.

The eight attributes are:

Strength, Manual Dexterity, IQ, Agility, Constitution, Intuition, and Charisma

No, wait, that’s seven attributes.

OK, there’s an “Agression” score. Every other attribute has a table; Aggression doesn’t. It’s very easy to overlook. So, OK, 8.

It’s recommended that you roll on the “I Was Just Growing Up” and “Fickle Finger Of Fate” charts before assigning attributes, so let’s do that, shall we?

Past Is Prologue

“Life charts” or “Fate Charts” or “Backgrounds” or whatever were really, really, big in 1990s era games. They hardly originated there… I remember the first edition of Mekton had a “Lifepath” system that could get you spinning endlessly as you diced for the hair color of your sixteen siblings and whether or not you liked any of them, but the nineties were the golden age of finding out you were born on a farm and your older brother tried to kill you and you were kidnapped by gypsies and encountered a mentor who taught you how to ride a motorcycle and then your girlfriend was assassinated by space nazis and you worked on an ice planet in their broccoli mines and then, when you were twelve… so let’s see what we get here.

There’s two tables, Table 1 and Table 2. If you want to roll on Table 2, the “good” table, you must roll on Table 1. If you roll three times on Table 1, you can roll twice on Table 2. If you are married filing jointly, subtract the total of line 45 from…

I’ll just roll once on each.

Table 1: 40. I have hydrophobia. According to the table, “Your mother dropped you in water and you sunk”.

Table 2: 32. I was a famous cyball player (+2 charisma). Since we’re on a 1-100 scale, that’s not a whole hell of a lot.

I can also roll once or twice on the Fickle Finger of Fate table, plus an additional once on the Warrior Fortune table.

Fickle Finger Of Fate: 78. I was mugged while walking my pet, -200 credits. Boy, this is going to really look crappy on my performance review.

Warrior Table: 04. Hey, cool! Obtained training in swordsmanship at the famed Swintash school. +10 to hit with edged weapons! That actually fits my character. Go, me!

Time to assign stats. As an Eridani, I get a bunch of bonuses and only a few penalties, so let’s just work this out. I want to be a kick-ass sword wielder, so I figure we’ll start with the physical and go from there. My base numbers, again, are: 44,86,25,45,55,87,54,23

Strength: 87+10=97

Manual Dexterity: 45+5=50

IQ: 44+10=54

Agility: 55+20=75

Constitution: 86+5=91

Aggression: 54+15=69

Intuition: 25-5=20

Charisma: 23+2-10=15

So what’s all this mean? Well, there’s a lot of very AD&D 1st edition tables with “Minimum for an Orion” and “Maximum for a Ram Python” here, so I’ll check to make sure I’m not breaking any bounds. There’s also plenty of attribute-dependent things like encumbrance, etc. My strength of 97 gives me a +2 to damage, an “SB”… that’s skill bonus, for strength based skill checks, or +12, and I can dead lift 660… lbs, I assume. My 75 agility gives me a -2 Defensive Modifier (that’s added to my opponents roll, so it’s subtracted, which is a good thing, except, again, we’re on a percentile scale, so that -2 is going to be more an annoyance than a real benefit. “The enemy rolls a 98, plus his attack bonus of 47, so he hits you.” “Did you remember to take away 2?” “Yes.” “Oh, OK, then.”) I also have a +4 to my attack rolls with archaic hand held weapons, so I’m already at a +14 to hit. Sweet!

I just want to note the Constitution table has “System Shock” and “Resurrection Percentage” values.

Lastly, my Intuition of 20 makes me “Absolutely Clueless” and gives me a -20 to sight, hearing, and smell checks, and my Charisma of 15 means I am “Ugly as !%$&*”. No, really, that’s what it says — literally transcribed. Oh, and there’s a Henchman Loyalty Base. By the way, if Charisma is pure appearance, as would seem to be the case by the comments, why did being a professional Cyball player improve my Charisma, however slightly? Did we get free plastic surgery or something?

Secondary Statistics

This covers random other stuff. The first is Terrestrial Knowledge, which is the chance you’ll know anything about a particular planet. To determine it, you roll %ile dice and divide by 3. 17, divided by 3 is  5.6, and we round up to 6. I have a 6% chance to know anything, but since there’s 20 galaxies in this setting, I think that’s pretty good.

Military Leaderships: I add Intelligence, Aggression, and Intuitions, divide by 4, and round up: I end up with a 36.

Persuasion is Intelligence+Charisma, divided by 3. 23

Bargaining is Persuasion-15, or 8.

Given that there’s a bunch of skills later on, I have no clue why the “Secondary Statistics” are not just, you know, skills, or why Persuasion and Bargaining are broken out as they are. Anyway, there’s the numbers. I do get to add some racial bonuses, though, so my final Secondary Scores are:

Terrestrial Knowledge: 21

Military Leadership: 56

Persuasion: 18

Bargaining: 8

Frankly, I think any race of beings known throughout the galaxy twenty galaxies for being warrior-lunatics would have a huge bonus to “Persuasion”, but, then again, I got mugged while walking my pet. I don’t even know what kind of pet it was. Fooey.

Hey, there’s a Racial Preference chart!

Yeah. Getting a bit of déjà vu here….

ADDRacialPrefs
BattleLordsRacialPrefs

One of these things is not just like the other….

I now need to figure out my size class, which is based on my height and weight, so I have to go back to my racial description to see what dice I roll. I am 82 inches tall and weigh 280 lbs. This makes me size class 6. I have 10 Body Points, and can make 3 punches per turn.  My Social Status is content, which gives me a 25% bonus to starting money, which is determined by my race, which gives me 100 * 6d6, and I rolled a total of 25, so, 2500*1.25=3,125 galactic… whatever, minus 200 since I got mugged walking my pet. Yes, I’m still bitter about that. That leaves me 2925.

 

Skills to Pay The Bills

Everyone begins with 50 Proficiency Points, except I’m not Everyone, I’m an Eridani, so I begin with 40. I will be complaining to the Galactic Equal Opportunity Board forthwith. I get a few bonuses due to my race, as well — I get three levels in Archaic Hand Weapon, and Archaic Hand Weapon skills cost 1 point less. I can start with only three levels in any skill above and beyond my racial levels, so let’s see max out “Whack People With Sword”. Lessee, here’s the skill table and… my eyes! Sweet cold and merciless gods of space, my eyes!

I’m obviously spoiled by modern layouts. Wow. This is just one giant wall of numbers and symbols. Sure, it all makes sense eventually, but this is the kind of thing that tends to send folks running in terror.

BattleLordsSkillChart

There’s two full pages of this. Yeow! (Really, though, this is cleaner and more straightforward than many similar games of the era, and it’s probably better to have all the vital information in a chart, however abbreviated, than to have to flip across multiple pages to compare skills, but it’s still an overwhelming mass of numbers and symbols, hard to take in all at once.)

The most important number is “SC”, which is “Skill Cost”, which is “How much it costs to get a level in this skill”. Archaic Hand Weapon only costs 2 points per level, or one point ’cause I’m an Eridani and I rule, baby, but there’s a little squiggly symbol next to it which means “Does not give standard +10$ modifier”, see skill description to see how it is used.

I need to specify type of weapon… that’s easy, “Big Ass Sword”. Then I look at the Hand to Hand Combat Chart. If I add 3 levels (for a total cost of only 3 points), to my pre-existing 3, I will be at level 6, which gives me a +24 hit bonus and +2 damage and +1 to “number of attacks”. Add in my +10 from my race and my +4 from my Agility and I’m at +38, which seems pretty good without any knowledge of what the combat system is actually like. I also have a +2 damage from my Strength and a +2 from my skill level, so +4, which if most people have Body Points in the low double digit range, as seems to be the case, means I’m doing serious whackity with each hit. (A two-handed sword, which requires minimum strength of 70 to wield, does 2-12 points of damage and has a base 85% chance to hit, so my chance to hit is, I’m guessing, 85+38 minus some defensive whatever. 2-12+4 is pretty sweet damage, though. Maybe. Actually, I have no idea.

And I think I will stop here for the nonce… picking skills is the best part of games like this, so it deserves its own take. Then we ought to be done!