Dinosaurs, a major part of humanity’s life since the announcement in 1842. From books, TV Shows, and Video Games to Movies, they inundated the world with roars, squeaks and images of what we believed their life was like. Then the year 2017 hit and Predation stepped from the shadows. A dinosaur based tabletop roleplaying game. Predation, written by Shanna Germain took us back to that time period. It’s a beautiful, rich setting based on a number of TV shows and movies that are my personal favorite, like Jurassic Park and Terra Nova, with enough science background to give it a realistic feel.
Predation is based on the Cypher System Rulebook 1st edition and you’ll need it, at a minimum, to play the game (Expanded Worlds will also add to your Character Creation choices). The game will also play with the Revised Cypher System Rulebook, though the page references will not be the same. Predation introduced a new style of gameplay to the Cypher System: The player characters get a dinosaur companion. So, when you’re at the table, not only are you the player character you created, but you’re someone else’s companion. Which makes for an interesting take at the table (Let’s be honest, it’s fun.) The artwork is as sexy as we have come to expect from this team, the layout is lovely and the work done on it is excellent.
Character creation is done the same way as it is in the core Cypher System Rulebook. In other words, you build the character sentence, “I am an Adjective Noun who Verbs,” where the Adjective is your Descriptor, the Noun is your Character Type, and the Verb is your Focus. There are new types that come pre-flavored with custom ability lists: Karn (the Warrior type), Tec (the Science-based Adept type), Pteryx (the Explorer type), and Osteon (the Speaker type). There are 23 new abilities called Cretaceous Abilities that are custom for this setting, five new descriptors and four new foci exclusively for Predation (along with a list that suggests some appropriate Foci from the core rulebook and Expanded Worlds if you have that supplement).
Chapter 6 introduces a new mechanic called: Companions. These are dinosaurs or early mammals that accompany you on your adventures. Once companions are created (similar in concept to an NPC follower from other game systems), they are not under the control of the player or the GM. They are instead passed to the player next to you (physically or virtually in a way that no one is playing more than one character and one companion). Multiple types of companions are given along with base statistics for them as well as special abilities. The chapter ends with companion dispositions, an idea much like Descriptors for a player character. Chapter 7 covers Equipment in Predation including the money used. Yes, monetary value is actually covered in Predation (That should make Josh happy).
Next the book moves onto the setting, Grevakc, a Cretaceous Earth explored by a corporation named SATI using time-travel. This is laid out over the course of three chapters with a fourth dealing specifically with three organizations your players may befriend or run afoul of. The setting details sections of the land with some towns to give GMs a place to start from, but as with Numenera, there are plenty of points on the map that detail something there but no description is given, leaving room for the GM to breathe.
The section that follows details some of the creatures and NPCs characters will encounter in the world of Grevakc as well as the modifications that may be made to them. Yes, modifications, because a blade-horned triceratops with a rail gun on its back is a brilliant idea. The first chapter here deals with the modifications, and the second deals with the creatures and the NPCs themselves.
The last section of the book contains a short chapter for GMs on running Predation. This is meant to be combined with the one on Running the Cypher System in the core Rulebook (Chapter 25 in the Revised Core Rulebook). Next, there is a chapter detailing new, Predation-flavored Cyphers and Artifacts along with the Predation version of Numenera’s Oddities, Remnants. After this is a 9-page introductory adventure called Promised Land designed to introduce new players to the world of Grevakc. Finally, in the back there are some inspirational resources, some answered scientific questions, a glossary, and the character sheets for both the player characters and companions.
My two favorite parts about the Predation setting and rulebook are first, you know, dinosaurs *squee*. But also that it’s not the same way you would look at a Dinosaur from another setting that has them, like Dungeons & Dragons. It’s a different take on adventuring in a realm with those creatures. Second, the companion you choose is an actual important part of gameplay, not just a bit of fluff as a side note. It is not simply there to soak damage or carry your pack around like so many NPC followers are, nor is it to be a source of information like so many GM PCs are expected to be. In this case, your companion can only ever know as much as you, the players do.
Predation is also slightly darker than most of the other settings. Death is a very real thing for player characters and NPCs that they might get attached to. The setting is well thought-out with enough mystery for the GM to come up with their own spin, but enough of a framework that you can work well within it and not fully need to. In this, Shanna Germain has done an excellent job with her first book for Monte Cook Games.
In summary, Predation is NOT a toolbox. It is a setting and a guidebook for playing and running in a futuristic science meets dinosaurs. While you might take the companion mechanic and port it to a different, home-brew Cypher setting of your design, it was not necessarily set up with that in mind. I enjoyed the read and learning about it. I would like to see it re-released for the Revised Cypher System, perhaps with some expansion on the setting, however, it’s not particularly hard to shift from the original ruleset to the revised one in this instance. Shanna did an excellent job with her dinosaurs and I hope you enjoy it too. Happy gaming!
- Joann Walles