Shadows of the Apt is a book series by Adrian Tchaikovsky that features a civilisation of human like beings who express aspects of insectoid life in their physiology. Before I go any further I heartily recommend you pick up ‘Shadows of the Apt’ Book 1: “An Empire in Black and Gold.” This post will contain mild spoilers for the first two books.

The Kinden, as these beings are called, all have a connection to an Ancestor Spirit which grants them an Ancestor Art specific to their breed. Certain races are also Apt, incapable of harnessing the magical arts but able to grasp technological concepts such as clockwork and engineering. Conversely the Inapt have access to magic and mysticism but cannot understand how simple devices like locks function. They understand that a locked door cannot open, but they cannot envisage how such a device works, even if someone explained it to them.

I thought this would be interesting to try and convert into Cypher System Descriptors. To begin with, I’ll be taking a look at the Beetle, Mantis and Wasp Kinden.

Apt races cannot take any character option related to magic. Inapt races cannot take any character options relating to technology. Shadows of the Apt is largely fantasy based, with aspects of Steampunk.


Beetle Kinden
Beetle Kinden are usually a short, stocky, hardy folk, given to great industry and artifice.

Beetle Kinden are an Apt race.
Choose One Skill: Chemistry, Lockpicking, Machinery, Metalworking, Physics, Piloting, Repairing, History. You are Trained in this skill.

Beetle Kinden have a +2 bonus to their Might Pool.

Ancestor Art:
Most Beetle Kinden are able to anchor themselves firmly through their hands and feet. They are trained in Climbing.

Beetle Kinden are also very resilient to poison. They are considered Trained in Might Defense.

In extremely rare cases, some Beetle Kinden have been blessed with Flight*. Even rarer than this is the ability to see in the dark.

Link to Starting Adventure
 Your latest attempt at a flying machine crashed spectacularly nearby and you asked the party for help.
2) You freed an Inapt party member from unjust imprisonment by melting their shackles with a chemical compound or by picking the locks.
3)  You owe a fellow party member a debt as one of your inventions destroyed one of their prize possessions.
4) You’ve been hired by a party member to complete some sort of great work of artifice.


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Disclaimer: This Descriptor assumes your campaign setting is covered in a considerable amount of water and has access to a considerable amount of scientific or magical wizardry. Cetaceans need support technology to function well in a party. This was inspired by Numenera: Into The Deep and the Blue Planet RPG.


   1. a mammal (such as a whale, dolphin, or porpoise) that lives in the ocean.

You are a sentient aqua-form, analogous to a dolphin or whale from Earth. You have either been genetically modified, cybernetically enhanced or your ancestors were uplifted from their normal existence some time in the distant past.

Dolphin Analogue

Quicksilver: +2 to your Speed Pool and +2 to your Intelligence Pool.

Agile: Trained in Initiative while in water.

Dive Deep: The Dolphin Analogue is capable of holding their breath underwater for up to twenty minutes.

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Over the few years or so there has been something of a renaissance in tabletop gaming. Here I’d like to highlight some of the systems, rules and mechanics that have really caught my eye recently.

Group Skill Challenges
I first encountered these as a concept in the always divisive Fourth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons. The basic concept is that the party need to make a series of successful skill checks in order to overcome an obstacle or defuse a dangerous situation before they generate too many failures. The Difficulty Class is set (which is the number you have to beat to succeed) and the players utilise whichever of their characters skills would be relevant for the situation.

This appeals to me on a couple of levels. Firstly it promotes teamwork from the party. In a similar vein, it might also utilise some rarely used skills that have been gathering metaphorical dust on someone’s character sheet. Take for example, forging your way through a dangerous dark forest. What skills could apply? The obvious choices are Nature, Tracking, Navigation and similar skills. Physical skills such as Endurance or Athletics. Less obvious choices might be History. Perhaps there was an ancient tale hidden in an old book that told of a safe path through the forest.

Skill Challenges open up a discussion on how the individual can contribute to the success of the group and give all characters a chance to shine. The other great thing is that this approach can work with virtually any D20 based system.

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“These go to eleven.” -Nigel, Spinal Tap

In the Cypher System, Horror Mode is an optional rule where GM Intrusions become more frequent on PC dice rolls, generating an atmosphere of tension and fear. After having a bit of a stream of consciousness on Twitter, I had a thought where this could be applied in different situations.
One of which was the idea of a group of hapless mercenaries, backed up by an array of entirely untested military technology, suddenly find these weapons are potentially more dangerous to their wielders than the enemy. The Horror Mode mechanic is only in effect when they fire their weapons, representing the unpredictable nature of their firearms.

Heinrich Von Tessmacher hefts his brand new Triple Barrelled Plasma Annihilator, sighting on a slime coated Tentacled Molester. He rolls his dice.

“You’ve rolled a 2. The power core has been forcibly ejected and you’ve just irradiated Dave.”

“Dave, roll on the Numenera Mutations table. No, the Harmful ones.”

In this specific example the Horror Mode GM Intrusions should ideally be linked to the function (or lack thereof) of the weird and wacky weapons the players are wielding. This is obviously for a less serious campaign, think something along the lines of the original Ghostbusters film, where they all had experimental nuclear particle accelerators strapped to their backs and weren’t *entirely* sure what they would do when they fired them. As a consequence, they got the job done, but not before a large number of innocent chandeliers, table settings and paintings got vaporised.

Whatever you do, don’t cross the streams.

The Cypher System Rulebook is available from Monte Cook Games

The picture above is from the film Doom

Blame it on the Boom Boom is a song by Black Stone Cherry 😀

The Finites

You’re a Time Bomb. Literally.

You wake up. There’s an unfamiliar tightness around your throat, a strong chemical after-taste on your tongue. With a shaky hand you press your fingers against your neck and find a segmented metal collar securely fastened there. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” says an unfamiliar tinny sounding voice. It takes a moment to realise that the voice is emanating from the collar itself.

They come from all walks of life. From the most dangerous criminal to the average citizen on the street. Abducted and pressed into service by a faceless organisation whose ultimate goal is unclear. They are charged with all manner of tasks, from petty theft to assassination. Refusal is never an option because of one important fact:

The Clock is Ticking.

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Nadine Vink.

An Addicted Warrior who Looks for Trouble.

Tier: 1
Effort: 1
Recovery: 1d6+1
Might: 14      Edge: 1
Speed: 14      Edge: 0
Intellect: 8   Edge: 0
Damage: Chainsword 4, Handcannon 4, Knife 2.
Armor: Leathers 1 or Bodyglove 2

Initiative (T)
All tasks related to maintaining drug supply. (T)
Healing (T)
Climbing (T)
Running (T)
Stealth (T)
Deception (T)

Twitchy, Drug Consequences, Physical Nature, Cypher Use (2), Practiced with all Weapons, Brawler, Thrust, Wound Tender, Physical Skills (Climbing, Running), Stealth Skills (Stealth, Deception)

Armoured Bodyglove, Leathers, Chainsword, Handcannon, Knife, (In)Appropriate Clothing, First Aid Kit, Rebreather, Stimm Injector (2 doses), Knife, Flashlight, Rations (1 day), 50 Handcannon Rounds. Read the rest of this entry »

Numenera: The Raft

Posted: October 29, 2015 in Cypher System, Numenera, RPG
Tags: , ,

The Raft

There have been eight worlds before this one. Each has seen the rise and fall of countless civilizations over the course of a billion years. During the decline of one of the many great civilizations of Earth’s ancient past a group of thinkers and scientists foresaw the end of society as they knew it. To this end they built a powerful communications array to broadcast a distress message into the void. There was great debate as to what the content of this message should be and ultimately the end result was a little…confusing. However the message was sent in the vain hope that someone or something was out there listening to their plight.

Unknown to the Earth based think tank they had been under observation for some time by the Velarii Ascendancy, a race of highly advanced alien beings who had devoted themselves to preserving endangered species across the universe. They received the garbled message from Earth, some of the finer points being lost in translation across the gulf of the stars. Fearing that Earth was soon to be destroyed the Velarii launched a life raft into space, intent on rescuing at least some remnants of humanity from the cataclysm they believed would soon befall them. As fate would have it the life rafts quantum drive malfunctioned, causing the ship to arrive far later than it intended.

Soon after the vessel translated back to real space was set upon by attackers unknown, who fired boarding torpedoes filled with voracious creatures that fed on technology and bio mechanical devices. The Velarii, biomechanical constructs themselves, suffered terribly at the hands of these invaders and all hands were lost. The gleaming triangular prism of The Raft now orbits Earth, near derelict, its automated matter transportation array firing mindlessly upon the Ninth World attempting to rescue individuals who are by now less than dust. Occasionally the automated systems get a match to their genetic profile and spirit away a hapless Ninth Worlder in a flash of bright white energy.

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In honour of receiving my Into the Night PDF for Numenera and inspired by a fellow Cypher System fan Troy Pichelman, here’s a fun little something I cooked up. Please check out the links at the bottom of the page for various sources and systems I pay homage to. 🙂

Name: Century Peregrine

Type: Light Freighter

Level: 5(15)

Health: 20

Crew Minimum: 2 (Pilot, Co Pilot.)

Passengers: 6

Armour: 2

Shield Rating: 1
(The Shield rating is added to Armour for the purposes of damage resistance, however Shields, while active, are also effective against Ambient Damage, which usually ignores Armour.)

Special: ‘Shields, Double front!’ As an action, the Pilot or Co-Pilot may double the Shield Rating on one facing (Fore, Aft, Port, Starboard, Dorsal or Ventral) at the expense of losing the Shield Rating on all other facings. It takes another Action to redistribute Shield power.

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Moon Shinobi

Moon Shinobi are produced by and are the property of Wyrd Miniatures and are featured in the skirmish game Malifaux.

The Cypher System Rulebook is produced by Monte Cook Games.


Hailing from distant swampy regions these Gremlins known as the ‘Tri-Chi’ (more commonly known as the Moon Shinobi) slavishly follow the Brewmaster, a mysterious figure renowned for always having a plentiful supply of swamp brewed moonshine at his disposal. These alcoholic creatures are practitioners of Drunken Gremlin Kung Fu, a deceptive martial art that gives opponents the impression that they are fighting an inebriated fool. An impression that lasts just long enough to leave said opponents bruised, bloodied and missing any valuables they might have been carrying.

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On Offense and RPGS Part Two

Posted: September 9, 2015 in Blog

So DrivethruRPG have posted a follow up to their content policy:


I for one think this is a fairly sensible way to handle things from this point forward. Excerpts of note:

“When having discussions about these types of situations, it’s always important to remember that being professional and kind in feedback will create better dialogue. It’s very difficult to continue a conversation and figure out the message when hateful words are said out of anger and spite.”

“Whether you agree or disagree with someone, remember that there is a human on the other side of that conversation that does have emotions and feelings like you do.”

I’ve always felt something similar about discussions on the web. Its far too easy to go into a spiral of name calling and ‘us versus them’ mentality so prevalent these days. It stops being a discussion and starts being a war, which I for one am fairly sick of. No one wants to talk about a situation, just grab the torches and pitchforks and go witch hunting. Its just not constructive.

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