The Alexandrian

Posts tagged ‘cheat sheets’

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And at long last, the Hexcrawl essay draws to a close. As a final parting gift, I offer up two cheat sheets for running your own hexcrawls.

The Basic Cheat Sheet offers the stripped down core of the game structure. If you occasionally found your eyes glazing over during the previous 12 installments, this is probably the cheat sheet for you: Just basic navigation, encounter checks, and hex movement.

The Advanced Cheat Sheet is the full package: It includes the full watch checklist, the robust encounter system, the ability for characters to become lost, all the modes of travel, terrain modifiers, foraging rules, and tracking. The whole nine yards. (The tenth yard is the one where you make an awesome campaign out of it.)

Of course, you can also selectively pick-and-choose from the advanced elements, deciding what stuff you want to incorporate into the basic system.

Hexcrawl - Basic Cheat Sheet

(click for PDF)

Hexcrawl - Advanced Cheat Sheet

(click for PDF)

FURTHER READING
Thought of the Day: Hexcrawl in the Underdark
Check This Out: Hexcrawl Tracks
Check This Out: Hexcrawl Sighting Distances
Game Structures
Thinking About Urbancrawls

Trail of Cthulhu - System Cheat Sheet

(click here for PDF)

I’ve done several of these cheat sheets now, but for those who haven’t seen them before: I frequently prep cheat sheets for the RPGs I run. These summarize all the rules for the game — from basic action resolution to advanced combat options. It’s a great way to get a grip on a new system and, of course, it also provides a valuable resource at the table for both the GMs and the players. (For more information on the procedure I follow when prepping these cheat sheets, click here.)

This set of cheat sheets is for Kenneth Hite’s Trail of Cthulhu. I’ve talked about the GUMSHOE system in past, including what I consider to be its flaws and limitations. Have I been converted? Hmm… not exactly, but I’m not going to get into it here. (Partly because I want to let those thoughts finish baking before sharing them.) So why have I prepped a system cheat sheet for the game? Well, partly because Hite’s really good at what he does: The Stability/Sanity mechanics are fantastic (particularly the metagame methods of playing out long-term madness). And the method used to present the Mythos by treating it as a catalog of mysterious possibilities instead of an encyclopedia of cemented facts is just flat-out excellent and is possibly enough to recommend purchasing the core rulebook even if you never intend to play the game at all.

Trail of Cthulhu: Eternal Lies - Will Hindmarch, Jeff Tidball, and Jeremy KellerBut the major reason is Eternal Lies, a mega-campaign designed for the game by Will Hindmarch, Jeff Tidball, and Jeremy Keller. My great love for The Masks of Nyarlathotep and the influence it had on my node-based approach to scenario design may be well-known to readers of the Alexandrian, and Eternal Lies, while having very little directly in common with that campaign in terms of setting or plot, manages to capture perfectly almost everything that I love about its structure while, in my opinion, improving the actual content within that structure. I’ll also be talking more about Eternal Lies at some point in the near future, but the key element here is that it’s prompted me to run an entire Trail of Cthulhu campaign and that means I need a cheat sheet.

Which means that you get a cheat sheet, too.

HOW I USE THEM

I keep a copy of the system cheat sheet behind my GM screen for quick reference and also provide copies for all of the players. Of course, I also keep at least one copy of the rulebook available, too. But my goal with the cheat sheets is to summarize all of the rules for the game. This consolidation of information eliminates book look-ups: Finding something in a half dozen or so pages is a much faster process than paging through hundreds of pages in the rulebook.

The organization of information onto each page of the cheat sheet should, hopefully, be fairly intuitive. The actual sequencing of pages is mostly arbitrary.

Page 1: The core mechanics coupled to a list of the investigative and general abilities. Being able to rapidly identify pertinent investigative abilities that might be able to pull information out of a scene is pretty much the heart and soul of the GUMSHOE system, so I put these lists front-and-center for easy reference during play.

Pages 2-3: I’m not 100% satisfied with the sequencing of information on these pages. (For example, the stuff on “Explosives” should conceptually come under “Combat Options” instead of proceeding it.) But I made some compromises to make everything fit onto two pages instead of three, and in actual play this doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on ease of reference.

Pages 4-5: Similarly, my original intention was to get all the Stability and Sanity rules on one page, but they just don’t fit. So Sanity spills over onto its own page, but fortunately the remaining space is filled up nicely with the rules for Tomes and Magic.

Page 6-7: I knew the “Explosives” table was going to be part of the cheat sheet as soon as I read it in the rulebook. (Explosives may not come up frequently, but that table is too finicky for me not to want it at my fingertips whenever it comes up in play.) I wanted the references for “Credit Rating” handy because it felt important to keep that contextualized. The page on “Firearms” got added later based on the fact that I kept reaching for it during actual play.

MAKING A GM SCREEN

These cheat sheets can also be used in conjunction with a modular, landscape-oriented GM screen (like the ones you can buy here or here).

Personally, I use a four-panel screen and use reverse-duplex printing in order to create sheets that I can tape together and “flip up” to reveal additional information behind them. My Trail of Cthulhu screen currently looks like this:

  • Page 1: Basic Mechanics (Credit Rating/Explosives printed on the opposite side, Firearms behind it).
  • Page 2: Basic Combat (with Physical Injury/Recovery/Other Danggers behind it).
  • Page 3: Stability
  • Page 4: Sanity/Tomes/Magic

I hope you find them useful!

Trail of Cthulhu - Kenneth Hite

The Strange - System Cheat Sheet

(click for PDF)

The Strange is the new RPG from Monte Cook Games. The basic concept of the game looks something like this:

You may be familiar with the Fermi Paradox, the mysterious paradox which exists between the fact that conditions for intelligent life appear to be plentiful while intelligent life itself appears to be extremely rare. What we’ve discovered is that another scientific mystery — the existence and source of dark energy — is not so much a mystery as it is a smoking gun. We now know several key things about dark energy:

  • It forms a vast network which exists as a fractal substrate beneath the surface of reality as we understand it.
  • This network is, in fact, artificial. We don’t actually know why it was built, but we can tell that it’s the result of alien technology we can’t even begin to understand. This network is commonly referred to as the Strange.
  • The dark energy within this network is drawn to sentient life. When large populations of sentient life are present (like, say, a world with 7 billion people living on it) the concentration of dark energy rises precipitously.
  • Large concentrations of dark energy within the network cause the spontaneous creation of alternate realities based on the collective subconscious of the population. These realities are recursive instantiations of the “prime world” and have become referred to as “recursions”.
  • Unfortunately, large concentrations of dark energy also attract the attention of beings we refer to as “planetovores”. We refer to them by that name because the first time we encountered one, it attempted to eat the planet.

Other threats to humanity also exist in the Strange or emanate from recursions. For example, one of the many recursions in the shoals of Earth is the world of Ruk. It turns out, however, that Ruk is not a recursion of Earth: It was actually spawned from an alien world and then cast adrift through the Strange. Many people on Ruk, however, don’t like being stuck in Earth’s “gravitational pull” within the Strange and want to escape. Unfortunately, the only way they know of accomplishing that is to blow up the planet.

I’m still processing all the awesome material that’s been coming out for The Strange since the beginning of August, but I’ve also been running demo scenarios for Monte Cook Games. (I’ve run those scenarios for 20+ people now.) As a result, I’ve prepped one of my system cheat sheets for the game. This actually proved relatively simply, since the mechanics of The Strange are virtually identical to the mechanics in Numenera. (Somewhere on the order of 99.99% identical.) Where the system differentiates itself are the character creation mechanics (which use the same structure, but with a completely different set of content) and the incredibly clever mechanics by which you “translate” from one recursion to another. (The short version is that all characters in the system are summarized by their type, descriptor, and focus. For example, you might be a graceful paradox who solves mysteries. When you translate from one recursion to another, the core of your character — your type and your descriptor — remains the same. But as you are translated into the symbolic reality of the recursion, your focus changes. So the graceful paradox who solves mysteries on Earth becomes a graceful paradox who embraces Qephilim ancestry on Ardeyn and a graceful paradox who metamorphosizes on Ruk. It looks simple, but in actual play this simple mechanic — and the clever character sheet that makes implementing it a breeze — is addictively awesome.)

HOW I USE THE CHEAT SHEET

As with my other system cheat sheets, this one is designed to summarize all the rules of the game — from basic resolution to advanced combat options. I’ll make stapled copies of these sheets available to the players and also keep a copy behind my screen for quick reference: Serving as a comprehensive system reference, the sheets cut down on the amount of time required for rulebook references. The organization of information onto the cheat sheets should, hopefully, be intuitive. The actual sequencing of the pages is mostly arbitrary:

Page 1: For The Strange, the difficulty table is the heart of everything. Once you understand that, the special rolls, GM intrusion, and the concept of advantage/disadvantage 90% of the rest of the system actually becomes irrelevant. This page is likely to become superfluous quickly. You’ll note that I included examples of GM intrusion: This is unusual for my cheat sheets, but so much of the Cypher System is designed to empower strong, flexible rulings by the GM that providing this kind of idea fodder feels right to me and has proven useful during play.

Page 2: The core of the combat mechanics. If you’re teaching new players the game, you really only need to walk them through these first two pages. (I’ve been adding another column or so of additional material at the beginning of each subsequent section, slowly adding more tools to the players’ toolboxes.)

Page 3: The extended combat actions and options. The rules for “Trading Damage for Effect” are technically an optional rule, but I’ve found them too invaluable not to include here. (Compared to the draft version of the sheet, you may also notice that I’ve pulled out the guidelines for simplifying multiple enemies and the boss package you can use to buff NPCs. Very useful stuff for the GM that’s buried deep in the rulebook.)

Page 4: A collection of miscellanea. Optional rules are off on the right, but I haven’t used them yet in my own game. (You’ll also note a couple of house rules tucked down in the corner. These are still being playtested, but I think they’re useful.)

Page 5: Everything that you need to know about cyphers and the Strange. The big thing here are the translation mechanics, which you can use to really emphasize the important difference between translating through the recursions of the Strange and the kind of “teleportation” effect that players might be imagining from shows like Sliders or Stargate SG-1.

Page 6: Hazards & Combat modifiers. ‘Nuff said.

MAKING A GM SCREEN

These cheat sheets can also be used in conjunction with a modular, landscape-oriented GM screen (like the ones you can buy here or here).

Personally, I use a four-panel screen and use reverse-duplex printing in order to create sheets that I can tape together and “flip up” to reveal additional information behind them. For The Strange this is pretty straightforward. My screen looks like this:

  • Page 1: Basic Mechanics (nothing behind it)
  • Page 2: Combat (nothing behind it)
  • Page 3: Combat Actions (nothing behind it)
  • Page 4: Miscellaneous Rules, with The Strange printed on the opposite side and Hazards & Combat Modifiers behind it.

PLAY THE STRANGE

My only regret right now is that I’ve got enough gaming projects on my plate right now that I don’t know when I’ll be able to prep anything for The Strange beyond the introductory scenario and the demo scenario I’ve been running. But, like Numenera before it, this game already has my official “I Had a Ton of Fun Running That” seal of approval. So I recommend grabbing a copy ASAP and digging in.

The Strange - Monte Cook Games

FURTHER READING

The Art of GM Intrusions
The Strange: Fictional Linkage
The Strange: Violet Spiral Gambit
The Strange: Eschatology Code – Prep Notes
The Strange: Mastodon – Prep Notes

Better Angels - System Cheat Sheet

(click for PDF)

I’ve done several of these cheat sheets now, but for those who haven’t seen them before: I frequently prep cheat sheets for the RPGs I run. These summarize all the rules for the game — from basic action resolution to advanced combat options. It’s a great way to get a grip on a new system and, of course, it also provides a valuable resource at the table for both the GMs and the players. (For more information on the procedure I follow when prepping these cheat sheets, click here.)

This set of cheat sheets is for Better Angels, a One Roll Engine game from Greg Stolze and Arc Dream Publishing. The core concept of the game is that supeheroes and supervillains have their powers because they’re possessed by angels and demons, respectively.The conceit that makes this compelling, however, is that the supervillains are actually trying to mitigate the evil of the demon inside them: See, if a demon ends up inside of a goody two-shoes who refuses to do any evil in their name, the demon gets bored and leaves. That’s a problem, because every time a demon shifts to a new host there’s a chance they’ll end up inside of someone who is truly evil: A Jeffrey Dahmer or a Hannibal Lector with the powers of a demon is capable of truly despicable acts. So if you end up with a demon inside of you, the argument goes, the best course of action is to keep them entertained with evil acts that are big and splashy, but ultimately not all that harmful to the people around you.

In other words, you do all the wacky stuff that pulp era supervillains did: You kidnap the Statue of Liberty and hold her for ransom. You have whales swallow explosives. You burn down the mansion of Big Bank, Inc.

The problem, of course, is that demons are actually pretty good at that whole “corroding your soul” thing. So while you’re trying to do splashy-but-limited-damage evil, the demons are actively working to make you compromise just a little bit more; sacrifice morals you thought were sacrosanct; cross lines you promised to never cross.

And, mechanically speaking, what makes this concept really pop and turned the game into a must-play for me is that each player is responsible for both their Mortal character and for the Demon of the character to their right. This dual-role dynamic forces the conflict between Mortal and Demon into the open and the rules of the game expertly model the ethical battlefield / minefield that the characters are all trying to traverse on tightropes.

HOW I USE THEM

As I’ve described in the past, I keep a copy of the system cheat sheet behind my GM screen for quick reference and also provide copies for all of the players. Of course, I also keep at least one copy of the rulebook available, too. But my goal with the cheat sheets is to consolidate information and eliminate book look-ups: Finding something in a half dozen or so pages is a much faster process than paging through hundreds of pages in the rulebook.

The organization of information onto each page of the cheat sheet should, hopefully, be fairly intuitive. The actual sequencing of pages is mostly arbitrary.

Page 1: I’ve adopted the green/purple distinction between Strategies and Tactics from the Better Angels rulebook. Understanding the explicit sinister/virtuous antithesis between each Strategy and Tactic is the core of the system and that’s headlined here along with an overview of the incredibly simple ORE mechanic.

Page 2: And here you’ve got pretty much every other mechanic in the game. (New players mostly just need to understand the “Damage” column here; everything else is relatively nonessential for launching your first session.)

Page 3 / Page 4: Demonic Prerogative and Domain of the Human cover everything you need to know about playing each of your characters. For Better Angels to really work, the players all need to understand the full dynamic of the game’s central conflict. (It’s particularly important to grok the methods a Demon has for mechanically corrupting their host and the methods a Mortal has to maintain or regain their moral equilibrium. Being clear on each side’s “end game” is also important.)

Pages 5-7: As I’ve discussed in the past, I generally don’t put “character option chunks” in the cheat sheet. The superpowers in Better Angels, however, are generally pretty streamlined. As a GM I also found it easier to parse NPC stat blocks with a power cheat sheet. And, last but not least, players found it useful because the effect of each power in Better Angels varies based on your current stats (and those change frequently and rapidly); so it’s not like other games where you can really familiarize yourself with your current powers.

Page 8: The ability to construct devilish devices (a.k.a. supervillain death-rays) is something I saw new players overlooking, so the full procedure gets highlighted here. (This isn’t “first session critical”, but it’s something I’d consider reviewing at the start of the second session.)

Page 9: This page has all the mechanics the GM needs in order to run angelic NPCs / superheroes.

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED

These cheat sheets are not designed to be a quick start packet: They’re really useful as a tool for an experienced player teaching the game to new players, but you’ll find it really difficult to learn the game from scratch by just reading through them. (They are an adjunct to the core rulebook, not a replacement.)

You also won’t find most of the optional rules for the game.

MAKING A GM SCREEN

These cheat sheets can also be used in conjunction with a modular, landscape-oriented GM screen (like the ones you can buy here or here).

Personally, I use a four-panel screen and use reverse-duplex printing in order to create sheets that I can tape together and “flip up” to reveal additional information behind them. For Better Angels my screen looks like this:

  • Page 1: Basic Mechanics (with Demonic Prerogative & Domain of the Human behind it)
  • Page 2: Other Mechanics (nothing behind it)
  • Demonic Aspects (with both pages of Demonic Powers behind it)
  • Angels (with Devilish Devices and the logo sheet behind it)

I hope you find these useful!

Numenera - System Cheat Sheet

(click for PDF)

A couple months ago I posted a draft version of my system cheat sheet for Numenera. At the time, I predicted that I would be running the game sooner rather than later. That turned out to be really, really true. I’m now running the game regularly for three groups:

  • The original playtest group I organized.
  • A second group which had gathered at my house for random gaming and asked me if I had a roleplaying game ready to roll.
  • A group composed entirely of players new to roleplaying games.

It’s been a rousing success with all three and I’ve now run a total of 12 sessions. At least one of these groups will be winding down once the original adventure is completed (Vortex), but one of the groups has already transitioned to a full campaign using The Devil’s Spine as a foundation and the group of newcomers also appear to be interested in the long haul (although I think they’ll end up going a different direction).

In any case, I’ve used my play experience to both expand and refine the cheat sheet, which I now consider to be in its final version. As before, this cheat sheet is designed to summarize all the rules for the game — from basic action resolution to advanced combat options. I’ve found that it’s a great way to get a grip on a new system and, of course, it’s also a valuable resource at the game table for both the GM and the players. (For more information on the methods I use for prepping these sheets, click here.)

IT’S STILL A GM SCREEN!

The cheat sheet still uses landscape formatting suitable for insertion into a modular, four-panel, landscape-oriented GM screen. (Just like the one backers of the Numenera kickstarter were able to buy as an add-on. And which you can buy here.) I’m not including graphics for the front of the screen, but if you buy the Numenera GM Screen PDF you’ll be totally golden.

You may notice, however, that the final version of the sheet has more than four pages. What I’ve been doing is printing the “Miscellaneous Rules” and “Numenera” pages using inverted duplex printing and then taping that sheet to the “Hazards & Combat Modifiers” page. Insert the “Hazards & Combat Modifiers” page into the screen and you’ll be able to fold the other sheet over so that it displays the “Miscellaneous Rules” page, but can be flipped up to show the other two pages.

(Alternatively, of course, you can just choose two pages not to include.)

WHAT’S NOT INCLUDED

These cheat sheets are not designed to be a quick start packet: They’re designed to be a comprehensive reference for someone who has read the rulebook and will probably prove woefully inadequate if you try to learn the game from them. (On the other hand, they can definitely assist experienced players who are teaching the game to new players.)

The cheat sheets also don’t include what I refer to as “character option chunks” (for reasons discussed here). So you won’t find types, descriptors, or focuses here.

You also won’t find most of the optional rules for the game. I may add those later, but not yet. (The exception are the rules for modifying abilities; I suspect they’re going to be too useful not to have handy.)

HOW I USE THEM

I generally keep a copy of my system cheat sheets behind my GM screen for quick reference and I also place a half dozen copies in the center of the table for the players to grab as needed. The information included is meant to be as comprehensive as possible; although rulebooks are also available, my goal is to minimize the amount of time people spend referencing the rulebook: Finding something in 6 pages of cheat sheet is a much faster process than paging through a 400 page rulebook. And, once you’ve found it, processing the streamlined information on the cheat sheet will (hopefully) also be quicker.

The organization of information onto each page of the cheat sheet should, hopefully, be fairly intuitive. The actual sequencing of pages is mostly arbitrary.

Page 1: For Numenera, the difficulty terrible is the heart of everything. Once you understand that, the special rolls, GM intrusion, and the concept of advantage/disadvantage 90% of the rest of the system actually becomes irrelevant. This page is likely to become superfluous quickly. You’ll note that I included examples of GM intrusion: This is unusual for my cheat sheets, but so much of Numenera is designed to empower strong, flexible rulings by the GM that providing this kind of idea fodder feels right to me and has proven useful during play.

Page 2: The core of the combat mechanics. If you’re teaching new players the game, you really only need to walk them through these first two pages. (I’ve been adding another column or so of additional material at the beginning of each subsequent section, slowly adding more tools to the players’ toolboxes.)

Page 3: The extended combat actions and options. The rules for “Trading Damage for Effect” are technically an optional rule, but I’ve found them too invaluable not to include here. (Compared to the draft version of the sheet, you may also notice that I’ve pulled out the guidelines for simplifying multiple enemies and the boss package you can use to buff NPCs. Very useful stuff for the GM that’s buried deep in the rulebook.)

Page 4: A collection of miscellanea. Optional rules are off on the right, but I haven’t used them yet in my own game. (You’ll also note a couple of house rules tucked down in the corner. These are still being playtested, but I think they’re useful.)

Page 5: Everything that you need to know about the numenera. This stuff is highly situational, but one concept I’ve found needs to be stressed to new players is the idea of scavenging for numenera. This process appears to be non-intuitive so you need to let them know it’s an expected part of the game world.

Page 6: Hazards & Combat modifiers. I expressed bafflement when I posted my draft version of the sheet for why all of these modifiers exist. In actual practice, I’ve found them more useful than I anticipated.

PLAY NUMENERA

As I mentioned before: Y’all should grab a copy of Numenera and start playing ASAP. It had my official “I Had a Ton of Fun Playing That” seal of approval and twelve more sessions has only served to add a “I Had a Ton of Fun Running That” merit badge.

Numenera - Monte Cook Games

FURTHER READING

The Art of GM Intrusions
Numenera: Calibrating Your Expectations
Numenera: Last Precept of the Seventh Mask
Tales from the Table: Last Precept of the Seventh Mask
The Numenera Tavern
Numenera: The Wandering Walk
The Moon of Numenera
Numenera: NPC Allies
Numenera: Grappling
Numenera: Attacking Objects
Numenera: Identifying Numenera
Numenera: Into the Violet Vale – Prep Notes
Review: Weird Discoveries

(Please note that the title page has been altered to remove the copyright logo graphic I originally used in the draft version. All Numenera content on this website is issued under the fair use doctrine and it should be explicitly understood that no content on this website is issued under the MCG fan use policy.)

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