Saturday, January 7, 2017

The RPG Character Library: Cyborg Commando

Cyborg Commando makes me sad. It has a wonderful premise that gets bogged down and ultimately suffocated by poor organization, random tangents, and unfortunate game design. I mean, here's the elevator pitch: You're a psychically-sensitive individual whose brain has been placed in a robot body so that you can fight the bugs invading earth from outer space? How cool is that?!

Not terribly, unfortunately.

Much of this can be laid squarely at the feet of the GM's guide, which contains scientific minutiae about how the cyborgs work, that the aliens are made up of super-large, geometrically-shaped cells that link together Tangrams style, and what sort of commando bases can be found on which continent. It's all terribly dry with none of the fluff that would make the game interest. I guess the age of fluff was still to come (the game was released in the '80s), but even contemporary games like Star Frontiers or Top Secret gave you some idea of what the world was like and what you could expect while adventuring through it.

Character creation in this game proved to be a lukewarm spill (not a hot mess, but close), requiring me to jump back and forth between sections repeatedly, hunting for obscure rules, and squinting and saying, "what" in disbelief at one sentence or another. I should also point out that I used the basic character generation rules. There's a more complicated one, but I don't recommend that for anyone, ever.

How does the basic character generation system work? Well, I'll tell you. It starts off innocently enough: You get 60 points to spend on your character, of which you use some number to purchase stats and the remainder to purchase skills. The game doesn't go out of its way to give concrete numbers, saying only that a character should spend 20-50 points on stats. I went with the top end of that spread and spent 50.

You have three stats, Mental, Neural, and Physical. I soon learned that Physical referred to your organic body which, by this point in your character's career, is sitting in a bacta tank somewhere for when the alien menace has finally passed. Your cyborg body is equal to your organic physical rating + 100 (because a brain in a jar counts for a lot when compared to the exoskeleton containing it).  Based on that, and on the fact that Neural heavily influences your secondary stats, I went with high Neural, moderate mental, and minimal Physical.

At this point, the game mentions that Psychogenics could be a stat if you and the GM wanted it to be. All characters are, by their nature, somewhat psychically-inclined, because it's your mental powers that allows your brain in a jar to use their robot body. I went full-bore and said, "Yes, my GM has allowed Psychogenics, so I will put points in that," only to not find any rules on how to calculate or use Psychogenics. It turns out those rules are in the Advanced Character Generation section.

Moving on!

My secondary stats were calculated as follows: I can have a maximum number of Skills (but not really), equal to 1/3 my Mental. I will Train a point in a skill by spending 100 - Mental hours in study. My rather high Neural allows me to take 3 actions per round, function for three days without rest or sleep (despite being in a cybernetic body), and move three hexes per combat round.

I also do 11 damage in unarmed combat, have 210 Integrity (or Hit) Points, and heal 11 points of damage per day--wait, no--I heal 11 points per damage on any organic parts that I have remaining. So if my brain takes damage, I can heal it. If my cyborg body takes damage...well, presumably there's rules for that somewhere.

Fine. I also get to calculate my Throw, Carry, and Lift values. The system gives me the option of using Imperial or Metric units, but then states that using Metric gives me an advantage, so I use Metric. This ain't my first RPG, son.

And, again, how much I can throw, carry, and lift is based partly on my starting Physical stat, because that body that's floating in a tank of preservative is really helping out with its muscle power, here.

Okay, now for skills. All untrained skills have a rating of 1. I get to pick any five skills of my choice and distribute my remaining 10 points between them. There are skills for art history, science, and for appreciating the classics, but this is also Cyborg Commando, so I specialized in all of the fighting skills. Because, duh.

Then, on top of that, the game gives you a handful of other skills that your character gets from basic training. If you didn't train these skills, you get them at a rating of 10. If you did train them, you get them at a rating of 9 + your current rating.  This leads me to believe that I didn't leave enough points for skills and that I'm relatively unskilled at the skills that I purchased.

But no! It turns out that Cyborg Commando uses the d10x system, in which you roll 2d10 and multiply the results together. If the final result is less than your stat or skill, you succeed. This creates a freaky probability curve that I don't quite understand, but it does seem to make rolling against my relatively low stats and skills somewhat more likely.

The last part of character creation involves copying down a big long list of things that my character's cyborg body provides. I note that I have a 200 power unit battery, and that I can slowly recharge by touching an outlet (I get back 7 PU per minute). The body is equipped with numerous functions, including on-board weaponry, that cost variable amounts of PU to use.

Or I could buy a gun, use that, and save my PU for other stuff. I mean, the characters in all of the game art are equipped with pistols or rifles are whatever, so that makes sense. Except that nowhere in any of the books are any tables that tell you how guns work, how much damage they do, or what they cost.

All that being said, here's my character.

Steve, the Cyborg Commando
Mental: 15
Neural: 30
Physical: 5/105

Skills:  5 
Train: 85
Actions: 3/round
Rest: Function for 3 days until rest or sleep is required
Speed: 3 hexes per time unit

Damage:  11 damage from punches or kicks.
Heal:  11 points of damage healed per day, organic parts (brain) only.
Integrity Points: 210 HP

Throw: 53 kg
Carry: 1,050 kg
Lift: 2,100 kg

All unlisted Skill Fields have a rating of 1.

Vehicles: 4
Personal Movement: 4
Strategy & Tactics: 13
Personal Weapons: 4
Unarmed Combat: 13
Energy Sciences: 10
Communications: 10
Power Units:  200 

Defenses: Resistant to corrosion, shielded versus electricity, create an Emmer Net at a cost of 1 PU per turn to deflect radiation and scramble radio symbols, effectively have a bulletproof vest all over my body, convert 10 points of impact damage to 1 PU, so shooting at me makes me stronger, eyes are not affected by bright lights or glare, I can reflect lasers with a mirror I carry, I think, smoke blocks my vision, I can use conductive material in the area to cleanse an area of smoke--10 cm/5 cm of material per minute.

Ultraspeed: Costs 20 PU per combat turn. X5 to Speed and Number of Actions. No apparent effect on Initiative.  My onboard computer uses all means necessary to stop incoming projectiles.

Electrostat: 10 PU, Range 3 meters. Lightning bolt that does massive Neural damage.

"Laser": 5 PU, Range 1 km, damage d10x.  Pew pew! I can spend more to burn holes in things.

Microwave: X PU equal to range, Range 1-100 meters, damage d10x.

Sonic: 10 PU per combat cycle, Range 50 meters, damage d10x. Fire off a pulse wave from the diaphragms in my hands.

1 comment:

  1. Much of this comes, I think, from the primarily wargaming angle of early rpg design. There's a greater attention to numbers and tables and such than to making a story with background and an interesting world. In the day, story came from player actions... it really was all about YOU.

    It's an interesting artifact of those days, if only to see how far we've come.