Silvervine Games Core Rulebook & Cyrus Worldbook is a Universal/Multi-genre rules system and bundled fantasy steampunk world setting rules book published by the eponymous Silvervine games. The Silvervine system provides players with a simple core mechanic and unlimited, semi free-form character creation coupled with a fortune in the middle resolution system. The focus of the resolution system is to put the power in the players hands to explain the look and feel of their actions in the fiction, along with an emphasis on shared narration, allowing players to ‘pass the GM Hat’, and narrate the results of actions in the game, and the reactions of NPCs and elements within the fiction. Coupled with this expressive, free-wheeling system is a whimsical, slightly gonzo fantasy steampunk setting that mixes all sorts of furry character types and talking animals, Humans, elves, dwarves, ogres, automauta and others together in a JRPG, manga aesthetic world.
The Silvervine Games Core Rulebook and Cyrus Worldbook, or Cyrus Rules for short, comes as a 322 page PDF. It features Anime/Manga style artwork of varying qualities. There a lot of Furry creature races presented in the artwork, as they exist in the Cyrus campaign setting. The artwork is in full color, with some black and white sketches, and is of good quality for most part. Like some of the better stuff you might see on Deviant Art. Though there are some very amateurish scribbles here and there. The pages are laid out as a two column black & white text with a fancy border design and faded background design. It is a bit busy, but easy enough to read.
The rules themselves are written in conversational style filled with an infectious lets play energy by the authors.. (I want to play a game with these guys!) Running comic Geeba’s in Paradise adds some humor and breaks up otherwise dry sections of the rules. Overall it is a well done document.
The Silvervine System uses a Dice pool of D10s. To resolve a roll, you combine the 2 most relevant attributes to get your dice pool. THe base target # is 8, to count as a success. The attributes are Strength, Reflexes, Perception, Knowledge, Spirit, Toughness, Presence. A rating of 2 or 3 is average for most attributes.. SKills range in levels of 1-5, with 3 being high professional skill. Skills reduce the base target number needed for a success. So a skill of 1, would give you a base target # of 7 on your dice. This core mechanic is used through the rules.
THEMATICS, CINEMATICS, and SHARED NARRATIVE.
One of the more interesting game concepts and one that distinguishes the Cyrus Rules from other universal system is the central concepts of CInematics, Thematics and Shared Narrative. Thematics refers to the fact the base mechanics are effects based, a characters abilities are only defined in game terms. The specific look is defined by the character, this fits the freewheeling anime feel of game, where small, ostensibly weak characters can be super tough, etc. The Cinematics concept establishes the ‘’Fortune In The Middle’ function of the rules. The numbers just give the bare mechanical results, the ballpark. The player gets to explain the narration of results and how it looks within the fiction of the game world. Finally, the concept of Shared Narrative emphasises that each player have the chance to effect more of the fiction, including narrating the resolution of actions, the actions of NPCs where appropriate, etc. The idea is that the GM hat can be passed to allow each player to make contributions that lead to the most fun and memorable game results, by being able to narrate results in the fiction beyond just their character, as agreed on by the other players. Cool method.
These ideas and the free-wheeling energetic feel of the game is also brought across by SilverVines ‘10 commandments‘ which are included in the base game system chapter.
1.) At your table, its your game. (Rule 0)
2.) Thematics and Cinematics are there to advance the game so use them.
3.) Take Shared Narrative as far as you want to go.
4.) Players bring your special skills and powers into play.
5.) If it makes sense, let it happen!
6.) If it makes the game more fun, let it happen
7.) If you want to make a situation challenging, make it challenging
8.) Combat should be as balanced as you want it to be
9.) Rule 0
10.) Roleplaying is about fun for the whole group.
Character creation in the Cyrus Rules is similar to Tri-Stat/BESM’s freeform abilities. You pay xp cost for various semi-freeform abilities, beyond your attributes and skills. Characters are put into broad experience tiers based on thei point values, Novice, Journeyman, Adventurer, Hero, Epic, Legendary. Similar to Savage WOrlds rookie, veteran, hero. Which puts a cap on max skill level and Hit points.
The character creation process includes 8 steps.
1.) Determine Birth sign/ Archai blessing (5 element), which ties into Cyrus world background.
2.) Choose Archetype, broad outline of character of the form descriptor descriptor title, Warrior-Poet raised by Ogres, frex. as a guide to character creation
3. Choose Race, there are many many races in Cyrus background, Human Animalia (anthropomorphic animals/furries), Animos – talking animals, Elves (Dragon, Green, Oaken, Sun), Dwarves, Feychildren, Ogres, Mechanist Automata, also Orcs and Goblins. the game has a Very JRPG feel with a touch of whimsy.
4.) Choose Free Focus Profession/Field of Study. Your characters basic broad skills/abilities.
5.) Spend initial experience points. Here you can buy skills, weapon skills and weapons, Focuses, Magic and Spells, extra Attributes levels, and Extra Hit points. This feels very much like character creation in Tri-stat, beyond all the attributes.
6.) Determine Combat Ratings, Initiative Mod, Manna, Tech Points, Defensive Ratings
7.) Starting Languages
It is a fairly standard character creation system, with BESM and Savage Worlds being closest in feel of how it works. One point, I Don’t particularly care for the faux tribal line design of character sheet, YMMV
COMBAT & HAZARDS
Combat is a straightforward implementation of the core mechanic, functional and workmanlike.. Actions and initiative are a traditional action system implementation. You roll 1d10 plus bonuses for initiatives. On your initiative you may take on full action, or half actions, etc.
Attack rolls are made against a R# (Resistance # – the number of successes needed) based on targets attributes. Hitting with an attack requires, meeting an opponents defensive Rating, by rolling that # of success or more. A hits deals one level of the weaps dmg rating plus characters relevant weapon skill, with each extra success adding another multiple of that damage.
Armor is handled as a soak roll, with each success of TGH+armor dice absorbing the absorption rating of the armor for each success, up to the armor’s absorption cap. Similar to the damage roll. Overall it is a competent system with moderate detail, along the lines of Savage Worlds or similar system. Though a fair amount of rolling.
There is another chapter with rules for the typical hazards, falling damage, explosions, poisons etc. Which are simple implementations of the core mechanics. Again, at first glance they appear to serviceable competent rules.
MAGIC IN CYRUS
The magic system is handled as an effects based setup, with access to various powered spells dependent on a casting ability. So you’re character would buy Magic Casting Ability Level 1 for 35xp, and be able to purchase and cast 1st level spells. Much like Magery in GURPS. There are seven magic paths in the Cyrus campaign setting. Animancy, Arcanist, Archai Ritualist, Clavian Cultivation, Mancer, Maingthian Corruption, and finally Summoning.
With Animancy the character learns magic from spirits, celestials, or elementals). Arcanists are master magic users and theorists, who can purchase and cast spells above their level with chance of feedback. Archai Ritulaization is used by divine casters who learn magic through dedication to Taeos and the Archai. Clavian Cultivation lets the character cultivates his own spirit to access the power of magic. For a Mancer, the character is born with elemental power in their blood, gaining bonuses to cast spells of that element. Those who practice Maingthian Corruption, have the character learn magic through sacrificial dedication ot the Bone God, or a fell celestial. The character gains extra Manna for his sacrifices. Summoning practitioners can use and create summon tokens, objects with contain avatars of various spirits, celestials or creatures, think Final Fantasy summons.
Done as a Gazette/travel guide style. Interesting Steampunk style setting with lots of furry races. I Don’t normally like furry, but the style and feel of them in this world I find appealing. The sheer number adds to interest, along with the nature of the world.
The Travel guide is done in epistolary form as a letter between two brothers, interspersed with faux documents from the game worlds, as well as articles from the travel guide. I found it to be a rather interesting world, with some major metaphysical setting elements, such as the floating islands, and the endless sea surrounding the continents of the game setting. With its Steampunk elements, vast array of races, and touch of gonzo whimsy, it’s a pretty interesting and fun looking setting.
Overall, I like the Silvervine Games Core Rule Book and Cyrus Worldbook (Long title is long). The designers mention playing the game at several cons, and that let’s play energy shows throughout the writing of the book. The competent base mechanics combined with the ‘Fortune In The Middle’ resolution system and shared narrative thrust of play provides a stand-out design in the crowded field of universal systems. The free-form character creation combined with the JRPG fantasy steampunk sensibilities of the Cyrus setting makes for a pretty fun game to play. I’d play!