Ring Side Report- RPG Review of The Strange

RPG-The Strange

Producer-Monte Cook Games

Price-$41 here http://www.amazon.com/The-Strange-RPG/dp/1939979161/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1407796403&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Strange

System– Cypher

TL;FR-It’s the next RPG from Monte Cook Games, so It’s going to be good.  100%


Basics– Ready for some Strange?  The Strange is a semi-sequel RPG to the previous hit Numenera.  In this RPG, the concept of the Strange is first and foremost.  The Strange itself is a chaotic mix of ideas where different versions of reality can be generated.  In these different pocket “dimensions”, steampunk, video game, popular fiction, fantasy, literature worlds/universes can be created and existed in .  However, monsters that eat whole worlds prowl out in the chaos.  In this game, your job is to keep that from happening.


Mechanics or Crunch-There is a lot here, so let’s go topic by topic.


Mechanics Basics- Remember Numenera?  This is pretty much the same.  GM never rolls the dice.  Players say a task or activity, the GM sets a level, multiply that level by three, and player rolls a d20.  Hit the number-succeed. Don’t-fail.  Your differnt powers and skills may make the number on the d20 lower.  The system is quick, easy, and keeps the focus on the story.


I’m a blanking blank who blanks– Character generation is select one of  descriptor that give you a general power, a class from one of three options, and an additional power that grows as you gain “levels” or tiers.  Character generation is again quick, easy, and keeps the focus on the story instead of min/maxing.


Worlds of “who blanks”-In my day job (thing that keeps me in the RPG books), I am a research scientist.  That’s great in a place where “science” works, but what about a place with magic?  Well, since a major part of this game is about changing worlds, the last part of each characters blanking blank who blanks changes depending on the world!  So, when Ed the crazy paradox who researches leave Earth and moves to a world of magic, I get a chance to choose what kind of character I change into based on the new world.  Now Ed is a crazy paradox who practices soul sorcery and looks like Anubis as I enter the magic world of Ardeyn.  This is the BIGGEST change in The Strange.  Your character is a near infinite number of characters as you can go to a near infinite number of worlds.  And that is awesome!  The book comes with a bunch of different descriptors that give all kinds of different options based on the different types of worlds presented.


Infinite Worlds-The Strange is infinite (as far as we know…).  The base book comes with some basic worlds to play in, but the game comes with rules to make any type of world you want.  The book even gives rules for the players to create their own worlds.  You can tell the Bruce Cordell was a major writer as the Lovecraft world is presented, and that makes me happy.  Want to play some Oz?  Done.  Wonderland?  Done.  Again, awesome!


Translation-the newest mechanic that is presented is translation.  This is the process of moving from one world/universe/reality to another.  It’s fairly simple, but the rules give a good introduction on how to do it as well as different way to move between worlds/universes/realities (portals, cyphers etc).


Mechanics Summary-This game is basically a bigger version of Numenera.  Heck, since The Strange is all inclusive, Numenera CAN exist within this game!  That’s not a bad thing!  This game feels like Monte Cook Games learned from Numenera, and Numenera was an excellent system to start with!  Small new additions make this an even better systems in terms of mechanics.  This game isn’t for the min/maxers out there, as it’s set up to be a super easy to use system that focuses on the story.  The mechanics of this one really do focus on the story first, giving just enough math to make things happen, but enough options to keep anyone happy. 5/5


Theme or Fluff- The theme is strange (pun intended) and fun.  You play a combination of MIB/RIPD/Delta Green/Stargate/Warehouse 13 Agents.  It’s a fun theme with an infinite number of places to play.  Heck, the book introduces fiction leakage-ideas leaking from one place to another and creating worlds/universes in the Strange.  So, you if you want to start a game where every single work of fiction comes from a different place in the Strange and cultists from Lovecraft are summoning Kaiju/Transformer monsters from beyond reality and the ritual must take place in a world based on 50 Shades of Gray with the end goal of destroying Earth, the game give you the tools to make that happen.  The theme covers all the themes you could want while adding its own touch to everything.  And again, that is awesome. 5/5


Execution-This book has a lot of ground to cover.  From introducing the cypher system to the multiple different descriptors needed to play this game in different realities to describing the setting, this book does a good job explaining how the game works.  Things are as close to perfect as you can with this size book.  The book does have the occasional sections where things get a bit textbook dense, but the number of pictures keeps that to a minimum.  The font, layout, pictures, and breaks make this fun to read and will keep you digging deeper and reading.  And this book is over 400 pages!  That number of pages for the price when considering the quality of the RPG is insane! 5/5


Summary-Monte Cook Games knows how to make an RPG for their target audience.  You CAN’T min/max in this system.  If you want to power game, look elsewhere!  This game is designed to tell a story, move it along quickly, and draw you in as quickly as possible.  The mechanics are amazing.  If you like the cypher system, you will like this.  Heck, the best part of this game is EVERYTHING from Numenera has a place in The Strange.  Each power, descriptor, and idea can be SOMEWHERE in the strange.  I suspect that within a few weeks a handy list giving which types of worlds/universes the Numenera powers/descriptors would work in will be out there (or I will make one!).  The idea that you change, but don’t, as you enter different worlds is a phenomenal addition to the system and RPGs as a whole.  I love what I see, and if you get a chance, you will too.  However, here is a word to the wise.  Since your characters change settings and powers fairly quickly, the player’s handbook is a good addition as it will really help you know how your powers work in each world, and the game won’t stall as the players have to pass the book around to understand each world they enter and how their characters fit in.  Give this one a look as soon as you can! 100%

5 thoughts on “Ring Side Report- RPG Review of The Strange

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  2. I bought the Strange based on this and a few other recommendations. I feel cheated.

    The Cypher system is great. Fast, quick, story-focused. The art and production values are likewise top notch.

    The game fails badly when it comes to writing, setting, and story.

    The book is written in a familiar, chat-like tone which feels as though the author is telling you about his game over a beer. It never ever feels as though he’s talking about a living, breathing world, nor is there any fiction worthy of the name to draw you in. Incredibly mood-destroying.

    The setting is a derivative yet illogical blend of Lovecraft, Trinity, the X-Files, and World of Warcraft (!!!). Evil space monstrosities were stopped by a programmers copy-pasting WoW into dark space. Really?

    Finally, the author never writes in fiction or myth or hints. Rather, he throws EVERYTHING at the wall and sees what sticks, but then doesn’t flesh it out. It’s the worst of both worlds: so sparse you need to build everything up yourself, yet without any attention-grabbing myths or secrets to make you want to. For example: “planetovores” (really??) ae gobbling up planets. We get no scary stories, but the author throws out that some of them are AI’s and some are rogue aliens and so on. Just enough to spoil the mystery, but not enough to work with.

    All in all, I give the book a 2/5. Good system and art, poor writing and setting. Very unhappy I spent 90 AUD on this.

    1. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy the book. I liked the book and the system.

      I think the illogical blend is part of the fluff of the system. You get everything you want as the different worlds mix. Also, WoW is going to be part of our culture as MMO’s won’t die, so the addition of this to modern fantasy seems like a great idea.

      However, I do feel for you. I hope you can sell your book second hand and make back some of money.

      Thanks for your thoughts, and I hope I can better help you going forward.

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