Sunday, September 17, 2017

Creating a Cyborg Commando (Part II)


In our previous post, we generated a CYBORG COMMANDO character via the 'basic' character creation rules.  In this post, we will examine the 'advanced' character creation rules.  Specifically, we will convert our basic character, Cappellan Jennings, to the advanced format.

Conversion begins with a character's skills.  In the basic procedure, skills are purchased at a 'field' level; however, in the advanced rules, skills become more granular.  Each field consists of a number of 'areas'.  For example, the Communications field includes the following four areas:  'Strategies', 'Tactics', 'Simple (non-electrical) Communications Devices', and 'Electrical Communications'.  In converting a basic character's skill field to areas:
Multiply the score in that field by 3.  Divide that number of points among the Areas in that Field.  You must place at least one point in each Area, for a resulting minimum score of 2 in each, counting the one you get free.
So, Jennings' score of 3 in Computer Sciences becomes 9 points to divide among the three areas of the field:  'Ancient Computers', 'Modern Operation and Software', and 'Modern Hardware'.  Allocated evenly (and given the 'free point' for each area) Jennings has a total score of 4 for each area.  Like the Computer Sciences field, Personal Arts has three areas ('Mental Arts', 'Physical Arts', and 'Error Avoidance') so the calculations are the same.

The Personal Movement field has six areas.  Nine, of course, does not go evenly into six.  After each area gets one point (as required), three points remain.  Three areas receive the minimal allocation ('Land-Based Special', 'Aerial (non-powered)', 'Extraterrestrial') and three areas each receive one of the extra points ('Land-Based Normal', 'Aquatic Unequiped', 'Aquatic Equipped').

The Personal Weapons field has seven areas.  In this case, five areas receive the minimal allocation ('Ancient Bladed Melee Weapons', 'Ancient Blunt Melee Weapons', 'Ancient Missile Weapons', 'Heavy and Special Weapons', 'Artillery') and two areas each receive one of the extra points ('Common Devices as Weapons', 'Modern Small Arms').

Psychogenics is actually two fields, one in the dynamic division and one in the static division.  For the basic character, I failed to make the distinction.  Now, let us decide upon Static Psychogenics, which has five areas.  As such, all areas receive two points except 'Sending (One-Way Telepathy)', which receives only one.

The advanced character creation rules do not reference the MadMac skills (either for original characters or basic conversions).  Presumably, the same procedure applies.  Since those fields have 10 'basic' points, 30 'advanced' points are to be distributed among the areas.  As indicated above, Communications has four areas.  Dividing the points as evenly as possible, two areas receive eight points ('Strategies', 'Tactics') and the other two, seven ('Simple', 'Electrical').

The two Energy Sciences areas ('Air, Light, & Sound' and 'Energy Sources') each receive 15 points.  The same goes for the two Law Enforcement areas ('Investigations' and 'Suspect & Prisoner Handling') as well as the two Unarmed Combat areas ('Occidental Style' and 'Oriental Style').  The Strategy & Tactics field has three areas ('Personal Tactics', 'Personal Strategy', and 'Military S&T'), each of which receive 10 points.

Once skills are converted, stats are adjusted.  On the Character Record sheet, for each stat, there are rows for Capacity, Integrity, and Recovery.  In general, 'basic' stat values are multiplied by three and the result allocated among the Capacity, Integrity, and Recovery for that stat.

Because Jennings has 24 (non-MadMac) skill areas (even though he would rather do without some of them), he must have a Mental Capacity score of 24.  This leaves 21 points to divide between Mental Integrity and Mental Recovery.  Let's say 11 points to Mental Integrity and 10 points to Mental Recovery.  For the Neural and Physical stats, Capacity, Integrity, and Recovery each receives 15 points.

Stat-derived calculations are next performed.  Psychlons equal Neural Capacity.  The table on page 14 of the CCF Manual incorrectly states “Skills = ⅓ Mental Capacity,” when it should read, “skill areas not to exceed Mental Capacity.”  'Train' equals 100 minus Mental Integrity in hours.  'Actions' and 'Speed' are both derived from Neural Capacity and fractional Speed values are permitted in the advanced rules.  'EP' means Endurance Points, “which measure the character's stamina, or 'staying power.'”  It is derived from Neural Integrity.  I would think that a disembodied brain need not be troubled by fatigue poisons, but apparently I would be wrong.  Rather than the “number of days the character can function before sleep is absolutely required,” the Rest score – derived from Neural Recovery – represents the amount of “EP per Travel Turn (2.4 hours) . . . recovered by sleeping.”  In the advanced character creation rules, “Heal” is not referenced.

The calculation of Integrity Points “= Physical Integrity × 3,” presumes the the Hit Location optional rule is in effect.
          Divide your total IPs by ten, and round down.  Write that result in each space except the one labeled “Body.”  Add all those figures, subtract the total from the original total IPs and write the remainder next to Body. . .

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Creating a Cyborg Commando (Part I)



My previously owned boxed set of CYB✪RG C✪MMAND✪™ contains a dozen or so copies of the character record sheet – waiting for an adventure that will never be.  Let us make use of one of these records in generating a character.

Step 1 is appropriately named “Start.”  This step is about describing “your character – the human, that is, not the combined human-machine (cyborg) he or she will become.”  We are informed that “the most important aspects of a character” are “Stats” and “Skills.”  However, Stats and Skills are not described until later steps.
          Other details will be left to your choice.  These include your character's physical appearance (height, weight, etc.), historical background (home, education, etc.), and basic psychological traits (outlook on life, likes & dislikes, and so forth).
In recording such “other details,” the character record directs us to “use other side.”

Step 2 is “Select Stats,” but a better description would be “Assign Stat Scores.”  There are three Stats:  Mental, Neural, and Physical.

Mental regards “intelligence in the abstract, and the amount of information that can be retained,” as well as “the speed at which information can be acquired (learned) and used (recalled), and the accuracy of such information . . . willpower . . . general mental stability, and the speed at which the mind can recover from psychological damage.”

Neural is defined as “physical agility and speed of action . . . accuracy in attacking . . . stamina (endurance), the ability to maintain control over one's body, and the speed at which physical control can be recovered after it is lost (when the character has been stunned, knocked out, or drugged).”

Physical means “brute strength . . . the amount of physical damage the body can withstand before becoming useless or destroyed, and the speed at which physical damage will heal itself or respond to medical treatment.”

A player allocates “Points” among Stats and Skills.  Said points are abbreviated as “SP” (“the S stands for both Stats and Skills”).  Each character has 60 SP; at least 20, but no more than 50, must be allocated to Stats.  An average adult has a value of 10 in each Stat, except men have a Physical Stat of 15 and women have a Neural Stat of 15.  Let's just allocate fifteen points to each Stat.

Step 3 is “Psychogenics,” the science of “the phenomena currently called ESP.”  The psychogenic score of a character is “measured in Psychons of power” and “is equal to the Neural Stat score.”

Step 4 is “Calculations,” and deals with some of the Stat-Based Data to be recorded on the character record sheet.  “Skills” refers to the “maximum number of Fields of skill” a character may have; it is equal to one-third of the Mental Stat.  “Train” refers to the number of “hours needed for education in any skill” per point; it is equal to “100 minus Mental score.”  Actions, Speed, and Rest each equal 1 for characters with a Neural score of less than twenty.  “Actions” has to do with combat activity.  “Speed” is the “maximum distance the character can move, measured in map hexes per time unit.”  What is the length of a hex or time unit?  The rules relate, “Don't worry about it now . . .”  “Rest” is the “number of days the character can function before sleep is absolutely required.”

Step 5 is “Select Skills.”  There are two Divisions of Skills:  Dynamic (which includes the categories of “Movement” and “Combat”) and Static (which includes the categories of “Arts & Language,” “Sciences,” and “Law”).  Among the five Categories there are twenty Fields.  A Skill's score is measured as Skill Rating (SR).  “Thanks to the intensive training before entering the CYBORG COMMANDO Force,” the rules state, a character “has a starting SR of 1 in every Field of knowledge, indicating a level of skill just above total ignorance.”  SP not spent on Stats are allocated among Skill Fields; each SR costs 1 SP.  Our character has 15 SP left and a maximum of five Fields, so we can assign 3 SP to each of five Fields:  Computer sciences, Personal arts, Personal movement, Personal weapons, and Psychogenics.

Step 6 involves “Other Details,” the nature of which were summarized in Step 1.  If “Other Details” are decided in Step 6, there's really no reason to have the Step 1 that is described.  Step 4 includes the statement, “Skills are determined in Step 4.”  It would seem that, at one point, Step 1 was “Select Stats,” therefore “Select Skills” would have been Step 4.  The “Start” Step 1 was probably added as an afterthought.

Step 7 is “The CC Body,” in which Physical Stat-Based Data is figured.  “The Physical Stat of the CC body equals [the character's] natural Physical score plus 100.”  “Integrity Points” (IP) are effectively hit points; a character has a number of IP equal to twice the Physical Stat score. “Damage” is the amount of damage the character can inflict without weapons; it equals Physical / 10.  “Heal” also equals Physical / 10; it represents the amount of damage a character can recover daily without medical aid.  However, “this applies to organic parts only . . . The CC body does not repair damage unaided.”  (I don't know why this data should be calculated from  the CC Physical value.)  “Heft” is the “amount of weight . . . that your character can Throw, Carry, or Lift.”  If the Metric system is employed, weight is represented in kilograms.  “Throw” equals the Physical Stat score, “Carry” is 10 × Physical, and “Lift” is 20 × Physical.

Step 8, the last step, is named “Meet MadMac.”  MadMac is an acronym for “Miniaturized Analog / Digital Macro-Algorithmic Computer.”  It is “a revolutionary type of computer that works with the organic brain, assisting it with the task of running the CC body.”  For purposes of character generation, the MadMac provides a SR of 10 to five Skill Fields:  “Strategy & Tactics,” “Unarmed Combat,” “Communications,” “Energy Sciences,” and “Law Enforcement.”

That's it for basic character creation; next time we'll tackle advanced character creation.

Both the Campaign Book and CCF Manual have the following statement on their respective title pages:  “Special Thanks to Jennings Cappellan of the Rare Earth Information Center.”  Jennings Cappellan is such an awesome name, I've decided to use a variation of it for the character.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Combat in Cyborg Commando



When making attack rolls or skill checks, CYBORG COMMANDO players roll two ten-sided dice.  However, instead of adding the results together or interpreting one result as 'tens' and the other 'units', the results are multiplied together.  This method is called the d10x system.  The CCF Manual lists various reasons why CYBORG COMMANDO employs the d10x system:
  • “Most people can multiply two single-digit numbers easily, and often with less trouble than adding two-digit numbers.
  • “The system produces results that still span the convenient 1-100 range...but with unusual frequencies of results.”
  • Regarding combat, “a single d10x roll determines the chance to hit and, in many cases, damage as well.”
  • Regarding improvement of skill scores, “minimal gains in low scores produce great leaps in the percentage chances of success, but improvements in high scores produce only small increases.”
For skill checks and stat checks, success is determined by rolling a certain number or less.  However, for combat, the opposite is true:  “An attack is a 'clean miss' if the result of the d10x roll is a given number or less.”


Page 9 informs us:
The average result of a normal d10x roll is 30¼.  The median result is 24; that is, you are equally likely to roll either 24 or more or 24 or less.  Exactly one fourth of all the possible results are odd numbers; three fourths are even numbers.
As previously noted, a Combat Turn (CT) represents 8.6 seconds and is divided into ten phases of 0.86 seconds each.  The ten phases are split into two cycles:  phases 1 - 5 in the first cycle and phases 6 - 10 in the second cycle.  A character can perform a number of actions in a cycle equal to the “first digit of the Neural Capacity score (or 1 if NC is 9 or less).”  At the beginning of every Combat Turn, players must announce what actions (such as attacks) they intend their characters to commit for both cycles.  This establishes when in the Combat Turn any given character will act because each phase is reserved for a particular type of action (most of which are attack options):
     Phases 1 & 6:  Zap Weapons
     Phases 2 & 7:  Fast Projectiles
     Phases 3 & 8:  Slow Projectiles
     Phases 4 & 9:  Lobbed Objects & Projected Substances
     Phases 5 & 10:  Physical & Sonic Attacks, plus all Miscellaneous
Miscellaneous actions include any activity other than an attack or movement.  Phases are resolved in order.  A character always has the option to forgo an announced action.  If an action announced for the first cycle is forgone, “you may revise your intentions for the second cycle.”

Movement need not be announced at the beginning of the Combat Turn and does not count against the number of actions permitted to a character.  If a character is not otherwise committing an action in a given phase, he (or she) may move two meters (or yards).  The maximum number of yards (or meters) a character may move (under his or her own power) during a Combat Turn is ten times the character's Speed value.  (Speed equals Neural Capacity divided by ten.)  This movement allowance is reduced by terrain modifiers as well as what attacks the character attempts in the Combat Turn.  For instance, “Each laser shot has a -1 movement penalty, and each grenade, a -2.”  If a character forgoes an attack in a Combat Turn, the movement penalty imposed by that attack no longer applies.

Starting characters have a Combat Rating (CR) of 10.  If an attack roll is equal to or less than the attacker's Combat Rating, the attack misses, “not hitting anything.”  Assuming the attack is not a clean miss, any modifiers are applied to the result.  “If that total equals or exceeds the Defense Value (DV) of the target,” the rules state, “you have successfully hit it.”  Every 'target' has five Defense Values, “one for each of the five basic attack forms.”  These attack forms are represented by the acronym LITES:  Laser, Impact, Thermal, Electro-magnetic, and Sonic.

Prediction Aiming Digitizer (PAD) programs allow Cyborg Commandos to improve their attack roll results by expending additional Power Units (PU).  “The amount of the...bonus is always equal to the amount of PU expended for it.”

“The amount of physical damage the character's body can sustain” is measured in Integrity Points (IP).  The damage inflicted by an attack “is either fixed or standard.”  Hand-held weapons inflict fixed damage (1 - 20 IPs depending upon the weapon).  Standard damage is equal to the original attack roll (with a possible modifier).  Lasers – for example – inflict standard damage.

The advanced combat rules include special effects (SFX).  Special Effects come into play if the attack roll was doubles (“that is, the same number on both dice”) and otherwise successful.  For Special Effects, 1d10 is rolled and a table is consulted.  The specific effect depends upon the target:  Normal Human, Cyborg Commando, or Alien.  Possible effects include:  “Flees in fear,” “Weapon destroyed,” and “Damage doubled.”

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Xenobiology


Eighteen years from now, in the world of the CYB✪RG C✪MMAND✪™ science fiction role-playing game, aliens will invade the Earth.
          The entire invasion is controlled, directly or indirectly, by one “master race,” the existence of which is not initially known to Man.  Members of this race call themselves a term meaning “controllers of reality” in their own language, but to the commanders of the invasion force, they are simply “the Masters.”
          A Master is a wormlike creature with trilateral symmetry.  An adult's smooth tapering body is 61 cm (2') long, 15 cm (6") wide at its thickest (uppermost) point, and topped by a bulbous head about 31 cm (1') in diameter.  Three sucker-like mouths and three eyes are evenly spaced around the head, and eighteen small tentacles protrude from the body, again evenly spaced and symmetrically located.  The creature's body masses about 41 kg (90 pounds), and has a total volume of 27,000 cc (1,650 cubic inches).
However, the entities that player characters encounter are called Xenoborgs.  “The Xenoborgs as a race are pawns of the Masters,” the Campaign Book states, “though they are not aware of this.”  Xenoborgs have no organs; instead they consist entirely of “X-cells” – which are capable of independent movement.  Immature X-cells are lozenge-shaped and mature X-cells have five sides.  By configuring their X-cells in various ways, Xenoborgs have a “shape-alteration ability.”

The graphic at the beginning of this post is page 42 of the Cyborg Commando Campaign Book.  Figure five shows a tessellation of four-cell tetrads; such tessellations “form most of the Xenoborg's body.”  Figure six shows cell groups that “are created to perform specialized functions, including those carried out by the organs of terran life forms.”  So, an entire page (out of a book of 64 pages) is taken up by two figures that exist only convey the concept that X-cells can fit together in different ways.  How does this better the game?  Is this supposed to facilitate immersion?  Perhaps they should have included diagrams of common Xenoborg forms and weapons – things that player characters would actually observe in the game.  At least the book defines various types of organelles like vacuoles and ribosomes – you know, important information every campaign needs.

The Campaign Book states that Xenoborgs resemble “giant-sized version[s] of the microscopic dust mite commonly found in households.”  For purposes of invading Earth...
          Their forms had been selected, with careful consideration of Man's psychology, to resemble something feared by the entire race.  Some of the policy makers had favored the reptilian form, but that idea was discarded – primarily because the myths of Man indicated repeatedly that humans always defeated the dragons, and dinosaurs were laughable.  A demonic form was almost used, but finally voted down because of its utterly imaginary origins, and also due to the popularity of a role-playing game in which such beings were routinely encountered and destroyed.  No, a perversion of reality was considered best; a deadly extrapolation of a normal creature, known to peoples of all social, economic, and political climates.  The attacking troops were made to resemble insects – but larger, more horrible, and far more dangerous.
The smallest Xenoborgs are 4.5 meters (or yards) long and 3.1 yards (or meters) high and wide.  Xenoborgs increase in size as they increase in rank; 'colonel' Xenoborgs are 7.1 yards (or meters) long and 4.6 meters (or yards) wide and high.  The Xenoborg Emperor has a size of “about that of a large building, roughly 450,000 cubic feet.”  We are told that, “All X-cells not dedicated to specific functions take part in communications exchanges and interactions – thoughts which, though slower than human thoughts by an order of magnitude, are nevertheless just as effective and intelligent.”  Thus, larger Xenoborgs are more intelligent.

From page 36 of the Campaign Book we learn:
          Though the aliens do craft and use devices of various sorts, they do not rely primarily on inanimate objects as tools.  Instead, the create genetically engineered beings to perform various tasks, because life forms provide maximum diversity and adaptability.
Xenoborgs have power sources which are “part plant, part animal” and are “known by a name which translates best as 'Powwers.'”  Seriously?  “Translates best as” 'powers' with an extra 'w'?  In the words of the late General H. Norman Schwartzkopf, I call bovine scatology.  Are we supposed to stress the second syllable in order to distinguish it from the usual 'powers'?  I would accept something along the lines of 'Ergmod,' but 'Powwers' is just dumb.  “Similar in principle (though not in practice) to Earth's electric eel, a Powwer stores energy and releases it...[when] carefully stroked and prodded in a certain way...”  (ahem)

Teleborgs are another product of Xenoborg genetic engineering.   They...
          ...are multi-purpose creatures with many abilities.  Generally, they are the mounts on (and occasionally in) which Xenoborgs travel, not only on land, but also through water, air – and even space.  Teleborgs can thus be divided into four basic categories according to their use...
          Reproduction is accomplished by budding.  Weight at birth is about 50 kg (110 lb) within a volume of 57 liters (2 cubic feet), but the creature quickly grows to full size is sufficient nutrients are available.  That density, about 877 grams per liter (55 pounds per cubic foot), is maintained by all the specie of this race, whatever their eventual sizes and shapes...
Some Teleborgs can function as supply bases.

Lastly, there are Bugborgs (or 'buglies').  However, less than a paragraph is devoted to Bugborgs.  “They comprise the aliens' major response to the rise off the CC Force,” page 47 of the Campaign Book indicates, “arriving about 8-12 months after the invasion.”