Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Nuts & Bolts #78 - Review: Sight Unseen

Buy it now

Vitals

Published By: Ryan Chaddock Games via the Cypher System Creator • 13 pages • $2.99 • Full Color PDF

What's In It

"Sshhhh, listen, they have eyes and ears everywhere. The government is watching everything you do, everything we all do, and they are subtly controlling it all. Don't believe me? I have proof! Let me show you ..."

Sight Unseen is intended for use with the Cypher System Rulebook in games of modern investigation and horror. It's a resource for player and GMs looking to run games not of supernatural horror, but of the subtle conspiracy sort where the players uncover the horrifying truths that are being kept from the average Joe by the powers that be. These characters may soon find themselves in too deep, and with too much knowledge of dark things. Sight Unseen provides:

  • Twenty-seven new Cyphers
  • Five new Descriptors
  • Three new Foci 

Let's tackle those in reverse order (because I am contrary). The new Foci focus (foci focus) on investigation. These are Interrogates, Seeks the Truth, and Wields Science. If you want to play the bad cop, the guy who uses whatever methods are required to get the information the team needs, you may want to consider Interrogates, which does pretty much what you would expect. Seeks the Truth and Wields Science are pretty much the Mulder and Scully foci (respectively). Seeks the Truth is similar to Solves Mysteries but as the author states "Seeks the Truth is more about enmeshing oneself within the web of deception." Meanwhile Wields Science is about analysis and understanding. Connecting clues and interpreting those into actionable information to further the investigation.

The five new Descriptors, Dangerous, Intimidating, Nervous, Prescient, and Vengeful, are pretty self explanatory. Descriptors focus a character's mindset and outlook and inform how they play. A Vengeful Explorer who Seeks the Truth should be a very different character in play than a Clumsy Explorer who Seeks the Truth. The author also suggests that using changes in descriptor can be a great way to lay out character growth arcs and storylines, and I agree, I think it's a great way to show a character change and grow over a game.

Lastly there are 27 new Cyphers. All of these are subtle cyphers, and they are designed to fit into many of the typical encounters you would expect for a game of investigation and  conspiracy.

Closing Thoughts

The result of all of this is a very focused product that knows what it wants to be and accomplishes that goal easily. If you and your group are into running games based on the likes of The X-Files, The Manchurian Candidate, Enemy of the State, and the Illuminati then you probably could really get some use out of this. The foci interact strongly with the Insight mechanic in the CSR (pg 216) and the subtle cyphers are very flavorful and help to bulk out the options for subtle cyphers in a game genre that really needs them. My only complaint is that this product doesn't really offer any GM advice with regard to running such a game. Perhaps that's yet to come in one of the three advertised companions products, but I think their inclusion here would have been a nice addition to help GMs crack a genre which can be difficult to run.

Score: 85% A lot of solid character and GM options are here, but a little GM advice for running these kinds of games would have been a good add, and the lack is a bit of a miss.

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