The Strange RPG – A simple review for a simple system.


I recently got my copy of The Strange from Kickstarter. Let me preface this by saying that I own Numenera, I backed the Kickstarter for that as well and I was skeptical of the Cypher system at first. I have since changed my mind about how the system functions. At first glance the book is beautiful, they spared no expense on the artwork and the layout is fantastic. Very eye-pleasing, that is a big plus for me.

The system itself is simple but elegant, using mostly a D20 and the occasional D6 or D100. Your attacks, defense, checks, and 99% of all other player interactions will be comprised of a D20 roll plus or minus modifiers depending on the situation. The Strange puts the theory of multiple dimensions in to play in a very interesting manner. The Strange itself is a ‘network’ so-to-speak put in place by an ancient civilization. This network connects different recursions in varied ways. Translating to a different recursion has a few basic requirements. First off you have to contain ‘the spark’ which most characters are assumed to have. They must also be quickened, which all characters are assumed to be or will be soon. Basically you have to have the potential and know (on some level) that the strange exists. Going from place to place requires either certain items (for the first try) or a gate. From there you can go back as often as you want. We’ll go into that a little more later.

There are three stats to the system: Might, Speed, and Intellect. Each of these stats have a pool, which is the actual measurement of the stat itself. The pool has many uses you can spend points in your pool to use abilities or moves or heroic actions. The pool also serves as your de facto hit points starting with Might. We’ll get in to that later. Second off, each pool has an edge. Your edge reduces the cost of using that particular pool as each stat has its own edge. The last major part of your stats is your effort. Effort is a measurement of how heroic you can get, how much of your pool can you spend to take an action. Obviously more advanced characters can make more daring and impossible moves. Effort can also be used to increase the damage you do.

In the system itself there are three classes, one tied to each stat pool, Vectors to Might, Spinners to Speed and Paradoxes to Intellect. That being said, each class has use for each stat. Within each class there are not levels but tiers. Vectors are your go to ‘tanks’ per-se. Vectors rely heavily on their Might pool to beat peoples’ faces in. Most of their options deal mostly in doing extra damage or utilizing physical skills with side emphasis on defense and assisting others. Paradoxes are akin to spell casters than anything else and rely mostly on the intellect pool. Their abilities range wildly but take a hard line on defense, utility and some damage. They also have some control aspects to help manage the battlefield. Spinners rely on intellect and speed for the most part. They are, in a literal sense of the world, spinners using their inherent ‘charisma’ to baffle, confuse and generally control things. They are versatile in their abilities and have a lot of options that span from utilities and on.

Each tier requires the player to spend about 16 XP to advance four different aspects of their class. After that advancement they gain a set number of features and/or abilities. Every tier they gain at least 1 move (for Vectors), twist (for Spinners) or revision (for Paradoxes) and can replace one of their existing abilities with one of their current tier or lower. This makes it easy to swap an ability you don’t use very often for another.

The core of the Cypher system is your defining sentence. I am an adjective noun who verbs. By now you should know your noun, Vector, Spinner or Paradox.This brings us to the character’s descriptor and focus. Your descriptor is your flavor. You get a small bonus to a stat, a skill and a minor ability or enhancement. The core descriptors are Appealing, Brash, Clever Fast, Graceful, Intelligent, Lucky, Sharp-eyed, Skeptical, Stealthy, Strange, Strong and Tough. Every character has Foci, and depending on what rules your current recursion follows it may change depending on where you are. Since each recursion has its own rule set you may go from standard physics to a recursion that supports magic or enhanced science. Your character’s Focus adds more than just flavor to your class, it gives you greater definition and scales with your class tier giving you benefits as you advance. Some Foci can be utilized in other recursions and some cannot. When you translate to different recursions your gear changes with you to the best it can. Otherwise any unique items (with exceptions) are stored in a sort of limbo until you return to the plane tied to that body.

the base rules are laid out in a very straightforward manner. No matter what you’re doing your task is set to a difficulty number. That number equates to 3 points of difficulty for every 1 rating. Easy enough. If you’re taking a level 6 creature you have to hit a target number of 18 with your roll plus bonuses and effort. Of course there is a little more to it than that but that is the gist of the system, the basics. Certain conditions can make things more favorable or less favorable. Having higher ground for instance modifies your roll by one step, either in your favor or against.

Recursions at a glance:

Translating from place to place is covered in very easy terms as well. It is handled with a D20 roll and some time is added for meditating on the destination and recovery when you translate. Different classes get different abilities to ease this transition which makes it prudent to have at least one of each class with you when you translate. Once you have been to a place you no longer need the initial items to focus on (see the Core book page 125 for more details on translating).


My favorite part of this are the recursions themselves (and the fact that your PCs can create their own). The primary three are Earth (as we know it), Ardeyn (magic-based) and Ruk (advanced science) though there are many different dimensions to visit. Earth is a focal point in the madness of The Strange, it is unique (and I’m not telling why!) and because of the special circumstances that link Earth to The Strange it has generated hundreds of recursions. Ardeyn is a construct borne of the efforts of someone from earth. It was Carter Strange, the earth resident that first discovered The Strange, that create Ardeyn to save earth (No spoilers here again! I’m not saying!). Ruk operates on Mad Science, specifically biotechnology and body modification. Ruk is a recursion from another part of the strange that seems to be stuck on the shoals of earth after fleeing some sort of disaster. Other recursions exist as well. Atom Nocturne which operates under the laws of Psionics and is heavily influenced by Anime from earth. The Graveyard of the Machine God is a recursion that is based solely around the body of a dead mechanical god, this body is inhabited by creatures that used to be its servants. Gloaming introduces a parallel earth where vampires and werewolves exist. There are recursions for Oz, Sherlock Holmes and (my favorite) Wonderland to name a few.


The rest of the book covers monsters, Cyphers, expanding the rules, building a story and DM advice and finally a short adventure (which I will also not spoil).

All in all I can say this for a fact: If you have not picked up The Strange, get it now. Go, I’ll wait. Seriously though, this book is worth the money. There is a lot of information for players and GM’s alike. They have also condensed the information for players into a smaller player’s guide which takes out some of the fluff and GM information and just gives the players what they need to build a character. I can’t wait to see what’s next! Monte, Bruce, from one GM, Writer and gamer to another; Hats off to you good sirs, you have designed the game I’ve been looking for.

The Strange on Facebook
Monte Cook Games

~ by lordnightwinter on August 20, 2014.

One Response to “The Strange RPG – A simple review for a simple system.”

  1. […] The Strange just kicked everybody to the curb. The game mechanics have been compently discussed elsewhere. Suffice it to say that with the Strange, I can run fantasy, transhuman science fantasy, […]

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