Test Driving The CRGE Engine

Hey everyone. This is going to be a bit of a special playtest, since it’s literally a playtest. Conjecture Games’ founder, Zach Best, asked if I can test out the Conjectural Roleplaying Gamemaster Emulator, or CRGE for short. I agreed and here we are. The RPG I’m playing with this is another movie-based title: There Is No Spoon, by Steve Darlington. Unlike Ghostbusters, I do not have a starting scenario in mind, so any story I have will be generated by CRGE.

One thing I will note right now is that there is a section that addresses the paradox of solo RPG being more of a GM’s job than a PC’s job and makes a suggestion of how to separate GM knowledge from PC knowledge, which I give kudos for. One thing I also found interesting was a section devoted to multiplayer Play-By-Post RPGs. I am actually a veteran of PbP RPGs and that I believe is where I got my start to roleplaying. There’s a lot of nice information regarding what to do when solo roleplaying, including whether to ask a big question or ask smaller questions revolving around a bigger one.

Perhaps the most important is the advice of always asking “why” after your questions are answered. Most games I played never tell this to me, but instead say “conclude from there your answer”. For example, if I were to ask Mythic if this door is locked and it says yes, it will just tell me “the door is locked. What do you do?”, but if I ask CRGE the question, it will instead say “Yes, but why is it locked?” It’s pretty thought-provoking and I like it for that. In fact, that is actually how I’ll begin this game, by asking why.

In true Matrix fashion, two people sit on a bench as one discusses with the other about the power of choice vs. the inevitability of fate. The following question I will ask will determine what character I play as.

[Q: Am I the guy talking to the person about this?]

Now, questions are answered not by determining odds or evaluating factors, but rather through what purpose the answer is going towards. Is it to find information? Is it to seek conflict? Or is it to bring closure? For this, I say it’s To Knowledge, since we’re just starting out and we’re trying to find out about what’s going on.

[Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 19.]

No, I’m not the guy on the bench talking about choice vs. fate, and I’m not the other guy either.

I’m the Agent that’s going to take the two out. Yeah, I went there. So, let’s stat this baby up. Another question though.

[Q: Is our Agent experienced at Kung Fu? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 93]

Yes, our Agent is good at Kung Fu, but he’s weak in Gun Fu. So our character is like so:

  • Matrix: 5
  • Kung Fu: 5
  • Gun Fu: 3
  • Body Chips: 3
  • Matrix Chips: 1

For Deal and Fate (TINS’ version of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying’s Distinctions and Milestones respectively), I will use Tangent Zero.

Nice. A pretty anti-villain sort of character. I can assume that’s why he’s bad at Gun Fu. He doesn’t want to kill anyone. Kung Fu is much better since he can knock people out. One more question and we can begin combat.

[Q: Is the Agent at melee range when the fight breaks out? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 57]

That is a simple yes. And, it actually helps bring us to our next mechanic of the system: The Surge Count.

A good chunk of the die results in a simple yes or no. When that is the result, we add 2 to the Surge Count and add or subtract the result from the answer, depending on how high or low it is. When it’s no longer a simple yes or no answer, then it resets to 0. In this case, we have the Surge Counter to 2.

So now we’re going to fight. Combat, and any other skill resolution, is done by rolling a D6 or two, depending on the situation. In this case, its two dice. Then, you roll under or exactly your number. Let’s throw down the dice. For this, I will use Trinity’s stats for the veteran that I will fight, though replace “Hot Babe” with “Tonfas”.

[Agent’s Kung Fu: 2 & 2, Double Success]

[Vet’s Kung Fu: 5 & 6, Failure]

As the old man talked with the kid about the difference between Choice and Fate, an Agent came out and attacked him. The old man tried to fight back as the kid simply ran off. The old man almost didn’t stand a chance and was on his last knees.

[Agent’s Kung Fu: 3 & 6, Skill Success]

[Vet’s Kung Fu: 5 & 3, Matrix Success]

While the Agent managed to throw a good punch at the old man, he dodged it fast enough to attempt to break his arm with a Tonfa.

[Agent’s Kung Fu: 1 & 4, Double Success]

[Vet’s Tonfas: 6 & 6, Failure]

However, a swift karate chop managed to end the fight as the Agent knocked the Veteran unconscious. He looked to the kid and proceeded to give chase.

One last question before we end scene.

[Q: Is the kid a newly inducted Redpill? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 42 (Surge making it 40)]

A simple no and two more points to the Surge Count. So I can create a follow-up fact: they were recruiting this kid to become a Redpill. I just happened to interrupt them. Well, guess I gotta get him before someone else tries to recruit him.

So now is a new scene. One question to set everything up:

[Q: Is the park we’re running through crowded? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 83 (Surge making it 87)]

Yes, it’s crowded, and both parties are held back by crowds. Also, because the answer is something other than a simple yes/no question, the surge’s reset. I’m making a clearing as the Agent pulls out his gun to scare away the crowd. I’m going to assume that it automatically works, but I’m gonna ask if it puts me at risk.

[Q: Are there any cops there? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 33]

A simple no and two points are added to Surge. I asked the question mainly because there might be a possibility where the cops might think I’m not a government agent. I assume they’re busy with dispatching some other operatives. I can safely say I easily catch up to the kid. And I think this is the good time for someone to intervene. If you have a question you know is likely going to be true, the engine advises you to just go with the answer, since all the questions are fixed around 50/50 odds.

[Q: Does the old man come back to fight me again? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 70 (Surge making it 72)]

A simple yes and two points are added to the Surge. The old man comes back and attacks me. Now I’ll try to do a PC Emulation, where I emulate what a player of the character would do.

[Q: Would his player use a Matrix Chip? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 8 (Surge making it 4)]

No, his player doesn’t use a Matrix Chip, but rather a Body Chip. He really wants to take me out and suddenly I have this ReBoot vibe going (I’m playing an NPC/A Guardian and my antagonists are the PCs/The User) so let’s dance!

[Agent’s Gun Fu: 6 & 3, Matrix Success]

[Vet’s Kung Fu: 6 & 3, Technical Double Success]

The Agent ran through the crowd, gun in hand as he screams for them to get out of the way. As they clear, he ran to the kid and tried to incapacitate him, but he was intercepted. The old man recovered and gave the Agent a well placed kick to the head. The force knocked the gun out of his hand.

Crap, I’m almost out. Though, I gotta wonder…

[Q: Does he get a Body Chip point as per the “Woah! Rule” Purpose: To Conflict. A: 50, No]

Alright, I just gotta land a success and he’s done. Also, I guess the why comes in that the lack of a gun is the Woah Rule.

[Agent’s Kung Fu: 6 & 3, Matrix Success]

[Vet’s Kung Fu: 6 & 4, Failure]

The Agent slams his palm into the Vet’s chest and pushes him out of the way.

[Q: Has the kid ran away? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 31 (Surge making it 29)]

Another no and two more points.

The Agent ran to the kid and proceeded to try and tackle him.

[Agent’s Kung Fu: 4 & 6, Skill Success]

[Kid’s Dodging: 5, Failure]

As we stated, the Kid doesn’t have a Matrix stat as he is a coppertop.

The Agent tackled him and two other agents followed him.

End of scene and we’re going to wrap it up now. We’re gonna interrogate the kid and see what we know about his almost-upbringing. For this, we will ask the Loom of Fate a question. While I could use a follow-up fact, I’m not sure if this guy was actively seeking out the resistance like Neo or if he just has doubts about reality like with Kid. For that, I ask:

[Q: Was he actively seeking out the resistance? Purpose: To Endings. A: 66 (Surge making it 70)]

Well, that settles it. (Yes and two more points) Put the bug in him, fuse his lips together, and interrogate him a la Batman. Badda bing, badda boom. Actually, I’m gonna probe him for questions. This is where I’ll break out this gem: The Universal NPC Emulator.

We already have our NPC in mind so no need to generate him. But we do need to know his thoughts on us first.

[Q: Is he distrustful of us? Purpose: To Endings. A: 17 (Surge making it 11)]

No, he is not distrustful to the Agents, and he’s willing to talk… Holy shit. Alright, I’m just gonna ask it the cutting question right now. No needing to chip it around.

[Q: Is he buying time for people to come and save him? Purpose: To Endings. A: 95]

Yes, he is buying them time and they’re coming shortly. So three exchanges of dialogue, and then he’s getting rescued. My character doesn’t know this.

[Q: Does my character take the time to invest in a lie detector? Purpose: To Endings. A: 13]

No, he didn’t and he doesn’t seem to think he could lie about stuff. Why might come in the fact that human dialogue is warming to him, so he doesn’t care if it’s a lie so long as he is buttered up with words. I can see why Agent Smith is the top ranked agent.

[Q: What’s the kid’s bearing? We know he’ll be friendly, so what will he talk about? A: 51, Support of future action]

Alright, here’s how I’m gonna do it: I’m gonna word it like the Resistance are the enemies. If I can manage to get him to agree with us, I won’t have to put a bug on him. Remember, I know that he’s gonna get rescued, but not my Agent.

“So, we’ve heard a bit of you, Mr. Andrews. You’ve been under our radar for about a month now. Reports of you breaking into libraries, hacking into vital government archives, and for what? To find out the identity of a dangerous terrorist group?” The Agent asked the kid in the interrogation room.

“Yeah. I’m willing to put my life on the line to find him.” He said.

“Why?” The Agent asked.

“Because I wonder about the future. Is it always what it is cracked up to be? Before you stopped us, a man told me about the difference between fate and choice. It is that doubt I have in my head. Are the future actions we make really guided by our choice, or is there something far greater? Agent, I am sure what you are doing is for the betterment of the future, but I want to know what future lies for me, and I will not sit and let fate give it to me.” He said.

Now’s a good time for that wall break.

[???’s Bike Fu: 1 & 3, Double Success]

[Agent’s Roll To Dodge (Matrix): 6, Failure]

The wall crashes down as a mysterious man bashes in on his bike. The Agent is crushed under the falling wall as the bike lands on the table, shattering it.

“What took you so long?” The kid asked.

I just decided they took out the Agent because he was going down anyways. Just one last question.

[Q: Is this man the old man from before? Purpose: To Endings. A: 4.]

Now, while 4 results in the No, And result, I want to just show off the Unexpectedly feature, which is the CRGE’s version of the Random Events in Mythic or Poet, though they essentially modify the answer. For example, a yes to why the door is unlocked but having the unexpected modifier of “Entering the Red” can mean “the door is unlocked, but opening it leads into an ambush”. To do this, I roll a D20 and see what comes up in the chart.

[Random Event: 2, Tying Off]

Well, that confirms that whoever is saving the Kid, while it isn’t the old man, is a resistance member recruiting him to be their newest member. The Agent fails his thread and the game is over.

I like this. I really do. I’ve seen a couple of engines that are essentially “Mythic, but simplified”, but this takes the simplified part and leaves out Mythic to forge its own identity. It’s not just “ask and see”, it’s “ask and create”. The Surge Counter helps keep the player on their toes instead of just going “yes. Yes. No. yes. No.” all the time. The example of play that the creator gives in the engine is pretty entertaining and is worth a read when it comes out.

I’m going to say my problem. One that’s mostly my fault and not the engine’s: I’m straightforward. Yes, asking why helps with most of the questions, but for the most part, I never ask myself that and just take the answer at face value. At most, this is just a vanilla taste of what’s to come. The game is in its draft and when it comes out, I hope it sees some use from people.

Until we meet again, bon voyage, gamers.

One thought on “Test Driving The CRGE Engine

  1. Excellent! I really loved how you took follow-up facts to heart. Great story too. FWIW, CRGE is virtually done. It is in art right now (the excellent Matthew Vasey of UNE and BOLD is at it again). I expect it by the end of the month or early March. It will be up on DTRPG under the Pay-What-You-Want system.

    Thanks for all your feedback, kind words, and shared creativity!


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