TRF’s Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 3, Delta Green

On the Third Day of Christmas
My GM gave to me,
Three Green Boxes,
Two Draculas,
and a Final Girl fleeing to safety.

A man holds a book with a fearful expression in the forest, a man has a gun on a third person in the background


The game we pretty much credit for the creation of TRF, Delta Green brought together the podcast’s core working group with its take on mythos horror in the modern world. As potential Delta Green agents, the original TRF cast played out our first adventure on a backwater Air Force base in Nebraska. The rest is history.

No longer just a setting for Call of Cthulhu 6E, Delta Green is currently riding a successful Kickstarter towards a release as a stand-alone RPG using the BRP system. Look for it in Spring 2016.

Listen to our Delta Green episodes
TRF’s Twelve Days of Christmas

TRF’s Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 2, Night’s Black Agents

On the Second Day of Christmas
My GM gave to me,
Two Draculas
and a final girl fleeing to safety.

A man garrotes a vampire

Okay, this inside joke between Aser and Megan requires a bit of explanation. What shouldn’t require explaining though is how quickly the TRF cast behind Beyond the Threshold came to love Night’s Black Agents for its unique blend of supernatural horror, techno-thriller action and espionage drama.

Our plucky team of black ops realists have left a trail of destruction from Bosnia to the Bay Area and have been ready to draw down on each other as quickly as the bad guys from almost the beginning. It’s a game that seems tailor-made for TRF.

Listen to our Beyond the Threshold Campaign

TRF’s Twelve Days of Christmas

TRF’s Twelve Days of Christmas: Day 1, Final Girl

On the First Day of Christmas
My GM gave to me,
A final girl fleeing to safety.

Final girl cover shows a girl coered in blood with a knife facing a killer in a mask

Since we started recording, the TRF crew have checked out more horror movie RPGs than you could shake a severed limb at. Seriously, who would’ve thought this was a genre in and of itself? Of all the different slasher flick simulators though, none has grabbed and held onto our interest like a grudge from beyond more than Final Girl.

Sadly now out of print and only available periodically through places like Bundle of Holding, this quick-start GM-less game using a deck of cards has been a podcast standby pretty much since the beginning. Get your hands on a copy when you can

Listen to our Final Girl Sessions

TRF’s Twelve Days of Christmas

How Gaming Made Everything Better

I’ve come to gaming only recently compared to pretty much everyone else involved in The Redacted Files. However, as I take a break from editing what is scheduled to be our 65th actual play episode release, I have to think that I probably have the most of anyone in the bunch to be thankful to gaming for.

Simply put, I was in a bad place before I started gaming. I’d seen what had been a promising career and several fundamental aspects of my personal identity crumble as the last of my usable vision simply…went away. I was pushing away friends with whom I suddenly had nothing in common and was spending a lot of time just reading and waiting for something to happen. In all that media consumption though, I began listening to more podcasts again, and began reaching out to some of the folks who I found liked similar things about what we were listening too. What happened after that is nothing less then a turning point in my life, I started doing stuff again.

I started talking with some folks about playing a game on Hangouts, and maybe doing a podcast. I tried being more positive and open, and sharing the spark of optimism I was cultivating whenever I had the chance. And one of the people I found this way changed my life for the better, in pretty much every way imaginable.

I’ve played in so many games now, averaging at least three a week since the podcast hit its stride. And gaming has given me so much in return to for the time and passion I’ve poured into it. I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people that are part of this amazing community, had the chance to examine and poke at what makes me who I am in any number of interesting role-playing scenarios, and gotten the chance to tell stories that entertain. Most of all though, I’m grateful for Megan, without whom so much of all of this, of all of me, never would have come to fruition.

Thank you so much for reading. We here at TRF are overjoyed to be able to do what we do and that’s all because of our incredible listners and supporters. Thank you so much and have a very happy Thanksgiving.

Interview: Shane Ivey on Delta Green

We are extremely grateful to Shane Ivey for taking time out of his schedule to answer some of the questions we had about Delta Green and the current Kickstarter campaign. TRF is a huge fan of Delta Green, and a lot of our material is inspired by the awesome conspiracy/mythos blend it presents. You can find the Kickstarter here! Also, we’re releasing a play through of the scenario Last Things Last on Sunday, so you can see how we deal with being tasked with a mission.

What led to Delta Green becoming a stand-alone RPG? What are some changes you are making to Call of Cthulhu to make the system work better for Delta Green?

Delta Green has always been a series of sourcebooks for Call of Cthulhu, and every one of the Delta Green developers have always loved Call of Cthulhu as their favorite game. But Delta Green has always emphasized things a little differently than Call of Cthulhu. It’s set in the present day. There’s not the same distance between the players and their characters as when modern-day gamers play 1920s academics and explorers.

Delta Green is about realistic people in our own modern world. Even when its protagonists are federal agents and special forces operators, they’re meant to feel and act like real people with real vulnerabilities. All too many of us personally know people who have been exposed to the terrible traumas of violence. We’ve seen the long-term toll it takes on the individual psyche and on family. Delta Green is a game about brave men and women who choose to confront overwhelming terror and trauma to keep it away from their loved ones. It was critically important to Delta Green’s developers that the game respect the real-world price that people pay for making that choice by reflecting it in the rules and game-play.

So Delta Green characters have Sanity Points and Hit Points, as you’d expect, but they also have other features that come into play in long-term games. Bonds are your two or three most important human relationships. They can protect you from losing Sanity Points and they can help you control yourself when your Sanity snaps, but relying on them too much weakens them. The shared traumas of a Delta Green mission often causes agents to develop new Bonds with each other, which in turn weakens their Bonds back home.

There’s an optional rule for tracking Work Performance, which could result in your agent getting fired for bringing too much baggage home from Delta Green missions, and which in turn can damage your Bonds. There’s an optional rule for detailing what kind of equipment and tools your agent can obtain. Trying to get too much too quickly can impact your Work Performance if it’s on the job or it can damage Bonds if you’re burning through your own money.

The core mechanics received some tweaking, too, to suit the way we want Delta Green to run.
Most actions revolve around skills that have percentile ratings, as before. But we encourage the GM to not bother having players roll dice for their skills at all unless the situation is a crisis or otherwise out of the agents’ control. In the slow investigative scenes that usually begin a mission, just look to the rating of a skill. Tell the player if the agent understands or finds what they’re looking for, or tell the player that they need someone with greater expertise. Leave the dice for events that SHOULD feel random, like using a skill in a crisis or interacting with unpredictable non-player characters. That way when your expert with a 65% skill fails the roll a third of the time, it makes sense. That was a terrible crisis — it would have been impressive to succeed at all!

We’ve tightened up the way combat works to make violence swift, brutal, suspenseful, and unforgiving, while leaving many core issues firmly in the hands of the GM to allow room for common sense at the table.

We’ve revised the way Sanity Points work, and the way characters develop mental disorders, to suit the way we want the game to run and to better reflect the way these disorders work in the real world. In Delta Green, an agent can gain a long-term disorder over a long period of time due to a slow accumulation of stresses and traumas. And sharp moments of overwhelming, immediate terror can cause a short-term loss of control as the “fight or flight” response kicks in.

We want the way things happen in the game world to feel like they would happen in the real world. That makes unnatural horrors have even greater impact.

Is there a threshold of success for the Kickstarter that could lead Arc Dream to think it viable to restart the Delta Green line beyond this project?

At this point (Friday afternoon, Oct. 23) we’re less than $300 away from hitting 600% of the goal that we set to relaunch the game line. So yeah, it’s launched. Just from this project’s fundraising we’ll publish:

-The Agent’s Handbook (the core rules for players without much information about the setting or the supernatural).
-The Case Officer’s Handbook (everything in the Agent’s Handbook plus tons of information about the setting, the supernatural, the Cthulhu Mythos, cults and factions, and customizing any or all of it to keep players guessing).
-A Game Moderator’s Screen with quickstart rulebook, sample characters, and a scenario.
-Impossible Landscapes (a campaign and sourcebook about Carcosa and the King in Yellow).
-Control Group (an introductory campaign built to bring newcomers into the game).
-More than a dozen downloads, including six scenarios.
-Conversions of nine scenarios written for earlier editions.
-And it looks like we’ll hit the next big stretch goal to unlock yet another big book, Deep State, which will detail the secret government programs and private-public partnerships that surround and bedevil Delta Green.

What we publish beyond those six books depends on how the game line performs over the next year or so. We have enough ideas to keep going for years as long as gamers stay with us.

Which of the proposed source books are you most excited to see released?

The Case Officer’s Handbook, though if the terminology matters it’s a core game book and not a sourcebook. It includes the rules engine that Greg, Dennis and I have been working on for years as well as great resources for building a Delta Green campaign as a world filled with secrets, so even the most die-hard, well-read player will always be surprised and frightened.

Of the sourcebooks proper, I personally most look forward to Deep State. That book will let us really dig into the core philosophical issues that have always been at the root of Delta Green: the risks and benefits of power and secrecy, and the ways we change as individuals and as a culture when we come to accept things that we once found abhorrent. Those issues are even more relevant today than in the Nineties when Delta Green first appeared.

How did you decide to add a Gumshoe version of Delta Green to this Kickstarter? Are you planning to continue a relationship with Pelgrane for Delta Green materials?

We know Simon Rogers and the Pelgrane crew very well. Kenneth Hite, author of Trail of Cthulhu and Night’s Black Agents, is one of the developers of Delta Green: The Role-Playing Game. Simon and Ken came to me with the idea of a Gumshoe version of some kind. I loved the idea and ran it by the Delta Green Partnership (the creators and owners of the Delta Green property: Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, and John Scott Tynes). There was immediate and unanimous enthusiasm. The rest was just hammering out details.

Pelgrane plans The Fall of Delta Green and if that does well a supplement to it, probably a scenario collection. We’ll see how things stand after those come out.

What do you think has lead to Delta Green’s enduring appeal?
A large part of it has always been the setting — the non-player characters that players encounter in the game. Delta Green has always featured factions and actors who are well-rounded and interesting. Even the clear villains are three-dimensional characters. You may not find their aims and methods sympathetic, but you can see why they make the choices they make. Even when that choice is to throw the rest of humanity on a bonfire for the sake of just a little more life.

Delta Green is about characters who feel real, in a world that feels real, encountering unreal cosmic horrors that are entirely beyond their capacity to understand or confront. It’s about player characters who stand up as long and bravely as they can in the face of the death that the universe wants to inflict on us all. Delta Green agents are incredible not because they’re so much more dangerous or lucky or bad-ass than everyone else, but because they are not any of those things — and yet they stand and fight.

That means Delta Green does not pull punches. It does not offer second chances. It doesn’t give your character any points to spend for plot immunity. If you step into the darkness, you take your chances. It is incredibly suspenseful and chilling.


Again, a huge thanks to Shane Ivey for his team, and all the people at Arc-Dream who are making it possible to get a chance to get this amazing product. There are tiers to get whatever you want, including, hardback books, PDFs, and releases of previous Arc-Dream materials. You can check out the Kickstarter, the website, or find Shane Ivey on Twitter. You can also find Delta Green @DeltaGreenRPG. Want to help spread the word and get more rewards? Look at some of the ways listed here! The campaign runs through October 29th, so get your pledge in while you can.

Don’t forget to listen to this Sunday’s episode to hear more about Delta Green!

Review: Cypher System

Cypher System Corebook cover. Shows images from superhero, horror, scifi, and fantasy scenarios

The greatest thing about the prior Cypher System games, Numenèra and The Strange, is the simple, flexible, yet deceptively nuanced mechanics that work together to really animate any story you care to tell. Yet as liberating from the setting of the Ninth World as The Strange was, it still constrained the “anything goes,”” mentality of the system within a framework of alternate realities. What the Cypher System Rulebook offers is what The Strange so tantalizingly teased us with last summer, the tools to tell any story we like with Monte Cook’s elegant little game engine.
Cypher System Corebook cover. Shows images from superhero, horror, scifi, and fantasy scenarios

The concept of the Cypher System Rulebook is anything but original, and some might mistakenly think that because much of the content is similarly familiar, the book has little to offer: on the contrary though, the book provides a wealth of tips about how to customize a Cypher System game to meet any GM’s needs. Much like previous releases, the book begins with an introduction to the basics of gameplay, then proceeds to follow the A woman dressed in black hugged from behind by a ghostprocess of character creation through the selection of descriptor, type and focus: the adjective, noun and verb of the statement, “I am a ______ ______ who ______.” The Cypher System also adds a new concept – flavors. You can add a flavor to your type and get some new options for your character to pull from. The flavors include Technology, Magic, Combat, Stealth, and Skills/Knowledge. These let you customize your character a little more, like if you want a talk-y character who is also really good at punching people.

From there we discuss equipment, and that’s where things get interesting. Rather than a setting section,following the more detailed treatment of the rules, this book has breakdowns for the most common sorts of genre into which most players will naturally gravitate. In each such section, for Fantasy, Modern, Science Fiction, Superheroes, and Horror, there are tailored suggestions to make your games more unique and memorable. Beyond that, a helpfully well-populated list of creatures is just itching to be let out to challenge the PCs. These range from tried and true adversaries from the previous Monte Cook releases to creatures unreal and mundane from Earth and…elsewhere

So you’ve pick from the long list of foci and descriptors, select which character types you want in your game and what focis they can use. Next you go to the relevant genre section, read it through the advice there and then settle on what Cyphers and other equipment you think would be appropriate for the setting. Once done, you pick a few locales, populate them with settlements and set out some creatures and NPCs for them to run into. And just like that, you’re done with creating a campaign setting.

Ships in the air with bright lights above a victorian looking cityWhen you’ve figured all that out, you document everything on the campaign design sheet provided at the back of the book and hand it to your players to provide guidance for character creation. It’s as easy as that.

As I read through Numenèra for the first time, I thought about how much I loved the system and wished it could be adapted to other genres. Then I played The Strange and fell in love with the freedom I had to explore different genres in the same campaign. Now, we’ve come full circle. With the Cypher System Rulebook, I have the tools to tell the story my players want to tell. Thanks Monte Cook Games, and keep up the great work.

The Cypher System is available from Monte Cook Games as a hardback ($59.99) or PDF ($19.99). The PDF is also available on DriveThruRPG.

Game Review: Love Letter

If there is anything I admire most in game design, it is elegant simplicity. The exacting and realistic detail or infinite customizability possible in many games can prove extremely engaging and entertaining, but a game that manages to create a challenging and fun experience with a simple set of rules is truly noteworthy. Of course then, I was very interested in trying Love Letter from AEG, for what could be simpler than a card game for two to four players with only sixteen cards?

The aforementioned cards all represent members of a princess’s household. Each card has a point value and the quantity of that card in the deck printed above a description of its special ability. Each round represents a day in which the princess’s suitors attempt to smuggle a letter into her hands to win her favor. At the beginning of a round, each player is dealt a card. On his or her turn, a player draws a second card and decides which of the two in their hand to discard, which triggers its special ability. At the end of each round, the princess retires to her room to read the successful suitor’s letter and thus improving their chance at courtship, as represented by a small token. Players achieve this by either knocking out all competitors or holding the card with the highest point value when the supply of cards has been depleted. The game ends when a player collects enough tokens, otherwise known as winning the princess’s love and permission to court her.

Each card in the deck offers an interesting way to interact with other players, anything from letting you guess their card for a chance to knock them out, to making them show your their card or even trade cards sight unseen. Of course you could be holding the princess, a card you may only discard at the cost of losing the round but guarantees success if you can make it to the end of the  pile of available cards. Megan and I played the game twice with each other and once with my sister. Rounds are typically quite fast as the straightforward set of options presented by play make for a delightfully swift experience. Rounds typically take less than a minute and it is very conceivable to blow through many games in a short sitting. While certainly not brimming with tactical depth, Love Letter manages to stay fresh and exciting through multiple play-throughs, particularly with people you know (and like to screw over at the earliest opportunity.)

This game is highly recommended. It is quite inexpensive with many flavors to choose from, including the recently released Batman version. A blind accessibility kit for the original can be purchased from 64 Ounces Games.*

Available on Amazon

* The accessibility kit from 64 Ounces Games used in this review was won by Megan as a prize in a contest run by 64 Ounces Games paired with a copy of the game donated by AEG.

Game Review: Lovecraftian Shorts

H.P. Lovecraft, as a man and author, has inspired a great deal of controversy in the days since his death. However unpleasant his views may have been when seen from a more enlightened point of view though, he doubtlessly occupies a unique place in the world of horror fiction. From subtle psychological torment, to pulse-pounding chases, Lovecraft’s stories could easily place you up against world-destroying fiends and leave you to wonder what really just happened? Now, the rules light game Lovecraftian Shorts gives you and two friends the chance to invent such a tale of your very own: don’t forget to use the word cyclopian.

As might be expected, gameplay begins with character creation, something so simple that it can be rolled randomly. You can use as much or as little of the suggested character creation tables as you like. When combined with a d10, they can provide your character with a first and last name, an occupation, a hobby, and a signature piece of equipment. None of these details have any mechanical impact on the game whatsoever. They can help inform your decisions though in how to play your character. For our playthrough, Rob was a criminal who liked fishing and carried a magnifying glass. Megan was a writer who collected thimbles and carried a newspaper. And I was a priest who enjoyed falconry, who for some reason, carried a grappling hook. Megan and I rolled the same last name, so we played as brother and sister.

With characters established, players move onto the game proper. The story unfolds in nine scenes, with players taking turns until each has narrated the events of three. Each scene has a title, determined either at the beginning of the game or on the fly. Similar to Fiasco, the player who has the spotlight narrates the scene while he or she plays his or her character just like the other players.

Unlike Fiasco’s voting mechanic, the narrator elects a point when success or failure of his character would be pivotal to progress of the story. He or she then rolls a d10 to determine success. A score of 8 or better yields success. The score can be increased by any character choosing to employ one of their bonuses to confer a one time boost to a roll. If failure cannot be avoided, the player can elect to either be hurt or go insane. Each confers a penalty to all subsequent rolls. The twist is that insanity leads to success.  If the challenge is not dealt with, it falls on the next player in turn to overcome the obstacle. The scene does not end until success is achieved. Luckily, penalties do not stack. however, if a character is both hurt and insane, and rolls less than an 8 again, they die.

When the ninth scene ends, the story is over. The game can be played in about an hour and flows quickly once the players internalize the rather straightforward rule set. This is a game best suited to smaller scope adventures, as nine scenes really isn’t much to work with all things considered. We had trouble coming up with appropriate scene titles at the outset, but did better as we went. With bonuses expended and all characters mad and hurt, the concluding scene made for a chaotic and dangerous end to the story.

Some may be put off by the limit of one die roll per scene, or the free-form nature of the storytelling. Players may veto any narration of what their character is doing, or anything that goes against the flow of the story when they are acting as narrator. In our play-through, Rob, Megan and I:

1. Went to the beach and saw Deep Ones rise from the sea,
2. Climbed up a rope with the help of a mysterious stranger to reach a car and flee,
3. Raced through a town overrun by monsters,
4. Talked our way through a military blockade,
5. Encountered the mysterious man again and noticed something odd about him,
6. Remembered the man’s true nature at the cost of Rob’s sanity,
7. Defended against an attack by the mysterious man come to silence any witnesses to his true form,
8. Convinced the military not to use Rob as a means of locating the evil entity behind the attacks,
9. Unsuccessfully failed to fight off final attack and died dragging the menace down into the sea.

When players work together in this game and are familiar with each others’ styles, it is very easy to build momentum and pile on the gory details. The game can be a lot of fun as three makes for an easy conversational feel with everyone getting a turn to pitch in their two cents. And as with other improvisational, GM-less games, it is remarkably surprising how satisfying the ending can be.

Lovecraftian Shorts makes for an easy recommendation, particularly at its very modest asking price. It makes for an ideal game when groups are short a player or three friends merely want to kill an hour with some fun, light role-play. It is highly recommended.

Our play through was released as an episode earlier this year. You can buy the game for $1.99 at DriveThruRPG.

Rob Weeks is the driving force behind the Balls and Bayonets Brigade Podcast. You can find him at @ZombieSlag on Twitter or @FireflyPodcast.


Game Review: Mars Colony

Mars Colony, those two words can evoke so much, and have over the years. From frontier exploration, to colonial oppression, to an excuse to shoot things, Mars Colony has served as the canvas for a great many visions of what might be. Tim C. Koppang’s Mars Colony takes yet another approach that’s summed up nicely by its tagline: the role-playing game for two players, about personal failure and government.

This is explicitly a two player game, with one person taking on the role of the protagonist, called the Savior, and the other, called the Governor, embodying all the obstacles the Savior must overcome. The Savior is either a man or a woman, named Kelly Perkins. Much of the game centers on the impact of the games events on him or her. Since Megan played the Savior during our play-through for The Redacted Files Podcast I will refer to Kelly as her through the rest of the review.

Set up is quick and easy, but does involve some thought. The players must sketch out in broad strokes four political parties, what they stand for generally and how much power they have. Characters encountered during the story may belong to one party or another, influencing their interactions with the Savior. Each player also writes three fears he has about the government on cards which are placed face down and shuffled. Two of these are revealed and help characterize the problems besetting the colony and can serve as inspiration for scenes. The Savior selects a Sympathy, a character with whom she has a special connection. Lastly, players decide on three health indicators for the colony, the conditions that the Savior must fix to stabilize the situation.

Play is relatively straightforward. After an opening vignette, the players start taking turns. The Governor can establish either an Opposition Scene, in which he narrates how the problems of the colony are about to impede the Savior’s progress, or a Personal Scene, in which both players engage in free-form role play about the Savior’s reactions to the events of the game. The Savior can also establish Personal Scenes, or can choose to narrate a Progress Scene. In a Progress Scene, she narrates what she is doing to resolve the problem, then rolls two dice to see how well she does. The sum of the dice are points that go to the goal of stabilizing the situation. She can roll as many times as she likes, but each roll comes with the possibility of failure, represented by a 1 on either die, which erases all progress for the scene. The game mechanics force the Savior to take risks to actually achieve her goals. If she fails, she loses progress made in that scene and the colonists admiration shifts to contempt, too much of which will see her removed. To avoid contempt, she can lie, keeping the progress she’s achieved in a scene before the failure. The more she lies though, the greater the chance of being caught. After her first lie, a roll of snake eyes will lead to scandal and the discovery of her lies, a 1 and either 1 or 2 after the second, 1 and 1, 2 or 3 after the third, and so forth. Scandal erases all progress won through lies and a whole lot of contempt. After the Savior narrates the ninth progress scene or is removed by the colonists, the game is over. The Savior narrates her personal aftermath, while the governor narrates the eventual fate of the colony based on the Savior’s actions.

In our play-through, Megan stepped into the role of Kelly Perkins. Mars Colony on her arrival faced rampant corruption, out of control crime and poor nutrition. Her Sympathy was Alex McPherson, a former lover who she’d known when they worked on the initial setup for the colony and left behind to be the public face for the colonization project back on Earth. She first tried to tackle corruption, but had to lie when she failed to get the mayor on-board with her plan, rolling well on the first attempt but getting a 1 when she tried for more points. She stayed on corruption  in subsequent scenes, winning over people with an impassioned speech. She then shifted to crime, trying to build people’s confidence in their government’s ability to protect them. She pushed her luck again though and had to lie to cover up just how badly that went. Corruption and crime intertwined with the last indicator when criminals stole a food shipment. Megan inspired the colonists by setting a good example and actually shamed many of the thieves to give back what they’d taken, and hoarders to share what they’d been keeping back. Along the way, she took solace in Alex’s companionship and shared her growing misgivings with him. Eventually she called in the military to seize suspected criminals identified through covert surveillance (one of the fears on the cards)in a way that kept local government’s hands clean. To clench the deal, she made an arrangement with one of the captive gang leaders to push crime out of the public eye and stabilize that indicator. The great thing about indicators is that once you solve a problem, another comes up to take its place. Megan was then beset by failing atmospheric processors. While trying to finally settle the colony’s nutrition problem though, she had a scandal and much of her success was undone just one round before the endgame. She struck at corruption with her last scene, naming names and calling out the bad apples before leaving with her work undone. The result for the colony was a middling existence, stumbling along as an expression of humanity’s stubbornness that was too big to fail. Kelly Perkins left with Alex to enjoy a quiet retirement and obscurity.

With two players who are comfortable with one another, a game like this flows out with a constant give and take that is difficult to recreate with larger groups. Both players are always on, either speaking or actively listening so they know where they’ll put the next piece of the puzzle. It’s a style of game-play that I’d highly encourage everyone to try, especially if you have a significant other who is also into the hobby or who might be engaged by a more personal experience.

This is a product very much of its time, as evidenced by the two quotes from George W. Bush and Barack Obama that introduce the game. Its elegant yet engaging mechanics can prompt some thought about bigger questions for those apt to engage in such, particularly the difficult choices faced by anyone trying to accomplish anything in the world of modern politics. Regardless though, it’s a great way for two people to spend an hour or two together, creating a powerful story.

Mars Colony was a runner-up for 2010 Indy Game of the Year. You can get the PDF for just $6.00. Find out more from the author’s website:

Why The Cypher System is a Blind GM’s Best Friend

One of the principal selling points for the Cypher System is the ease with which a GM can pick it up and be running epic games of action, intrigue and suspense in just minutes. The thing is, that many of the steps that Monte Cook Games took to achieve this happens to make the game a dream to run as someone with a visual impairment.

Simplified Movement:
Distances in the Cypher System are abstracted to immediate (within arms reach), short (10 to 50 feet), long (50 to 100 feet), and beyond 100 feet. This means that out of the box, the system doesn’t rely on movement grids, map squares or require you to establish ranges. Moreover, line-of-sight and other conditions are defined solely by the narrative. This means that with an imaginative group of players involved in the story the GM is telling, combat can move smoothly without having to manipulate miniatures or tokens as part of the core experience.

Simplified Bonuses and Penalties
My Cavalier in Pathfinder often has bonuses to his attack roll from his strength, the weapon he wields, abilities he and other party members are using, and circumstances of combat: so he can have a +9 to to a d20 roll as a level 3 character. The Cypher System’s measure of difficulty, in steps ranging from 0 to 10 with training, assets and circumstances decreasing the difficulty by steps, and bonuses only ever adding 1 or 2 to a roll makes managing the math at the table a trifling concern. I grew up having to manage complex equations in my head, but I’m glad that when I’m telling players what to roll, I don’t have to with the Cypher System.

Accessible dice rolling apps and random number generators aren’t that hard to find, and there are now even Braille dice on the market, but what requires even less time- not having to roll at all. The GM sets targets for the players to roll against, and when non-player characters enter combat against one another, players are designated to roll for them. It’s an elegant distribution of responsibilities that keeps the story flowing nicely while preserving the gaming aspect of the experience for the players.

Braille d20 from 64 oz Games
Braille d20 from 64 oz Games

All of this makes running The Strange for the podcast a breeze. I’m still what I’d consider a novice player, let alone a GM, so I think I’m still prone to making simple mistakes. But the consequences to the experience for the players I think have been far less than they could have been thanks to the features of the Cypher System. Blind or otherwise, if you’re interested in making the jump from running a character to running a game, I’d urge you to consider Numenèra or The Strange as terrifically accessible starting points, in more ways than one.