Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Nuts & Bolts #35 - Review: Broken Immersion

Want if? Buy it!

Vitals

Published By: Ryan Chaddock Games • 59 pages • $5.00 (currently $3.00) • Full Color PDF

I'm a little behind in my reviews, both in those solicited and unsolicited, but the only way to do better is to make an effort to clear my plate.

What's In It

Broken Immersion is a supplement for The Strange that adds additional detail to the recursion of Ardeyn. Specifically it looks at Ardeyn's origins as an incomplete MMORPG that was uploaded to the strange as a means of plugging or blocking the "hole" (for lack of a better term) allowing the strange to connect directly to Earth.

The first portion of the product looks at character options. This gets a bit meta since it posits that occasionally a character translates in such a way as to gain access to the "character creation screen" of the recursion, a portion of leftover code from the recursion's initial seed. Discussion on options such as gender, race, and "class" (as a window on foci) follows. This elaboration provides a gateway to the meat of the chapter: new character options.

The first portion provides a handful of new racial options which are neither Descriptor nor Foci and provide Advancement options for players to invest in with experience. It's an interesting approach, but has the potential to get awkward when a player translates away (Do they lose access to that Advancement? Do they take a new one appropriate to the new recursion?). Likewise this does not suggest a similar Advancement option for Quephilim and golem characters. It's a nice addition for an Ardeyn based game, but may not work in a more travel prone campaign.

Following that are five new foci filling traditional MMORPG roles like tanking, support, and DPS. These foci are generally good, though as a person who doesn't play any MMOs I may not be the best judge of their match to those kinds of gameplay experiences.

Chapter two looks at the nature of the "base code" of Ardeyn, and how characters may gain foci that can tap directly into that code and manipulate the recursion fundamentally. This is a really interesting take on the recursion and reminds me much of the nature of the strange itself as an alien computer network itself. Four foci are offered to dive into this concept, much like Manipulates Strange Energy does for the strange itself. Of these four one requires the use of new "code cyphers" introduced later in this book. Another, Alters the Landscape, falls a bit flat in my opinion as the ability to actually change the landscape of the game, by adding removing, or moving features like walls, hills, and the like, isn't granted until 6th tier. The lower level abilities are good, but are based more on sensory abilities and object relationships. It's a good focus, but it could have been "advertised" better.

Chapter four introduces "code" cyphers and some new artifacts to the game. If regular cyphers are bits of the program of the strange network itself, then code cyphers are little bits of the program underlying the formation of Ardeyn. Named after video game console commands these cyphers have effects that mimic or are inspired by game effects like friending, going AFK, and the like. The artifacts are mostly a mix of "game gear" like weapons and armor, but there is an interesting "code based" artifact which deploys an invisible (untextured) wall.

The third chapter contains three examples of sub-recursions that are attached to Ardeyn in the form of "quest areas". These are fully detailed and can be run as an adventure session. I'm not certain if I will even gain the chance to use these (or possibly play them) so I left this chapter unread, and merely flipped through it quickly.

Closing Thoughts

Overall Broken Immersion is a pretty good product. There are a number of very good ideas and interesting implementations of the recursion as MMORPG concept. A few of the entries seem to lack a good connection between idea an execution, and the races will require some additional thought before they can be implemented into a standard game of The Strange. For a game set exclusively on Ardeyn there is a lot of material to mine here.

Score: 80% - A lot of great ideas, though some will be less useful than others to different groups.

Author's note: A complimentary review copy of this product was provided for the purposes of this review.