Thursday, March 2, 2017

RPG Review: Cryptworld

Welcome to a review of Cryptworld by Pacesetter, an RPG which includes a complete rule set for modern horror, and adventure style gaming. Cryptworld is available at and and you can pick your poison be it print (soft or hardcover) or PDF format.

Disclosures: Links to product pages in this review, include my & Amazon affiliate identification. I receive token % in compensation if you purchase something on the landing page. This review is property of Kenzer and Company, republished here with permission, and may have been modified by the author. The PDF Cryptworld was provided by Pacesetter, free of charge for the purpose of this review.  
For lack of better terms, Cryptworld  is sort of your everyman all-purpose horror game. Though the game derives most of its inspiration from 1980’s as well as late 70’s to early 90’s horror flicks-the actual theme of the game is left open or for the CM (Crypt Master/ Game Master) to decide.

The very essence of Cryptworld is written on the back cover:
“INVESTIGATE-strange occurrences and supernatural sightings.”
“HUNT-irredeemably evil things that torment humanity.”
“DESTROY-malicious forces of the unexplained.”

Cryptworld  follows more of a campy horror theme rather than what one might consider pure horror. However as the description above indicates, what the game lacks in one regard, it makes up for it with monster mashing, with an adequate listing of “Things” (monsters) for characters to try their wits and mettle against.
The game system is flexible to fit most gaming styles so if you’d like a little more mystery and a little less mash the game seems able to abide. A section on Character Foundations provides a good amount of detail towards secret agencies and societies, providing a solid foundation of ideas for the CM to get a game going. As per usual though, we must start with making a character.

Character creation is organized a bit different in comparison to other RPGs. If performed in order, players are tasked with selecting their character’s background and skills before rolling for the basic abilities.
Characters have eight basic abilities (attributes) they are strength, dexterity, agility, personality, willpower, perception, luck and stamina. Each ability score is determined by rolling 3D10, multiplying the product by two and adding an additional 20 points to the score. The final result will be a range between 26 and 80. After all eight scores are rolled a player assigns the numbers too each ability as they wish. I liked this feature.

A Skill Table is rolled on to determine, between three to six, the amount of skills each character receives upon creation. Players may create any background (as the CM approves), or basically any they can imagine as there is no character class with Cryptworld, but one of their skill selections should fit their chosen background.
In regards to mechanics, ability scores play an important impact on skills. Each skill base is represented by at least one, but up to as many as four skills. The relevant abilities are averaged, to provide the skill base. For instance, the base of the Computer skill is Perception and Luck. The base score of these attributes is cumulated, divided by two, and now you have your skill base score. Skills progress three levels for advancement, but begin on the specialist level which awards +15 to the base total. Expert can be purchased at character creation (at the cost of a skill selection) or later with experience points and awards +30 to the original base, while the Master level awards +55 points to the base.

Ability scores have a ceiling of 80 while Skills are limited to the skill base +55 points, at the Master level.  Ability scores can be advanced beyond character creation as well as players can advance a skill by spending experience points. Speaking of which, Cryptworld doesn’t have character levels. Player characters collect experience points and spend how they wish to further build their character’s abilities, skills, or paranormal talents.

The next steps are determining the characters unskilled melee score (STR+AGL/2), the characters Penetration Bonus in regards to combat, as well as the characters stamina recovery rate and the number of wounds a character can endure.
Unskilled melee score is just that relating combat skills without a weapon or combat training. Typical hit points are determined by stamina which in turn relates to the number of wounds a character can endure. Wound boxes are provided on every character sheet and wounds are accumulated as a character takes damage; exceeding the number of wound boxes means character death. The highest number of wounds available in Cryptworld is fifteen with most starting characters averaging about twelve or so. A characters stamina score determines the amount of damage that can be received before the character loses consciousness.

Last is selecting Paranormal Talents if it is allowed by the CM. For the most part Paranormal Talents follow the same line as skills. The base score is derived by specific ability scores and divided to get the average. Paranormal Talents work much like psionic abilities or magic spells of other games, allowing supernatural abilities. A specific amount of Willpower is burned off to enact a Paranormal Talent. Considering the high number of skills this section of the book feels a little neglected.
Beyond character creation, rules are provided to that cover all manner of game play and actions. Checks and how they actually work as well as combat were of particular interest and I thought of as unique compared to most other game systems.

An important aspect of play with Cryptworld is the use of checks and how they function. Ability checks, Skill Checks and Combat checks each rely on an action table as a key that gives a basic descriptor of the level of success. Failure for ability checks where physical danger is present means the CM must decide the appropriate damage. In regards to Skill Checks which utilize research or knowledge, failure simply means no information could be gathered, while for combat checks failure indicates the target was missed.
A successful ability check comes at four levels of success each listed here being better than the last they are; Limited, Moderate, High Success and Colossal Success. However, only the Colossal Success for physical ability check is immune to the possibility of damage, which is left to the disposition of the Crypt Master (CM) who would most likely who be weighing the specific danger of the task and corresponding ability check being performed.

Skill checks follow roughly the same guideline, success or failure. Success is progressive, based on the margin achieved. Tables are provided which give suggested modifiers for the CM to consider.  
Combat checks fall under two guidelines armed and unarmed combat. One design element that is interesting with Cryptworld is the lack of detailed weaponry. Without a guideline to determine damage the CM uses the Action Table as a key to determine the amount of Stamina and Wound Boxes effected on a successful attack, which also a knockback may occur. While weapons ranges are included and modified and their use detailed under skills and some combat tables, these weapon effects are less determined by the specific weapon being utilized and more dependent on the Attack Margin. In other words the skill proficiency is more important than the weapon itself.

Use of an Action Table to determine effect, for combat or skills, rather than straight rolling for damage or skill success is a rather abstract in my mind. Though it’s an interesting feature one drawback is that two distinctly different weapons wielded with the same skill prophecy and with the same attack margin can produce the same damage. In other words (theoretically), a bullet delivered from a pistol and one delivered from a rifle might produce the same damage, or at least use the same rank of potential damage as it is. Though I’m not completely sold on it, the damage system is interesting because it means that higher skill proficiencies yield better results, say what you want but many games don’t capture this as adequately as they should.
My thoughts on Cryptworld overall are that a as a system, some things in regards to mechanics are easier, while other aspects feel a bit more complicated than they need to be. I blame those damned D10s.

If the goal is to make a simpler system, then the choice of excluding the other dice seems rather moot.  I’m not certain of the reason, and perhaps I’m being unfair, but why limit the mechanics to ten sided dice if not to make things simpler? If I had to guess I would say that perhaps the use of D10s is the Pacesetter system…
Though the idea of using a Key for skill and combat checks seems a bit complicated at first, I can see that in many regards this would move gameplay along quite nicely; in fact making checks a lot easier. This will appeal to some and not so much for others. Anyone one who has played a system, in which a five minute battle took an hour of real time or more, knows what I’m talking about. I don’t imagine this occurs with Cryptworld.

As I said, Cryptworld  is an everyman all-purpose horror game. The game has a unique system that will take a bit of time to get accustomed to and a game that “borrows” a good deal of its theme and ideas won’t offer much original. However, the use of broad strokes will have their own benefit in the hands of the right CM.
The cover art fits the campy horror theme as well as the layout and black and white interior art is pleasantly consistent. The page format is three columned text, which sort of gives the book a newspaper feel to it. Tables are legible, but overall I felt there should have been a better separation of information; that said, they do the job. Weighing in at a mere 92 pages cover to back, there is defiantly a good amount of gaming content.

If you like campy style-monster mashing or like your horror genre a bit on the lighter side, I’d say you couldn’t go wrong with giving Cryptworld a try.

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