Let’s start with the basics. Vurt: The Tabletop Roleplaying Game is published by Ravendesk Games, and is based on the books written by Jeff Noon. It uses Monte Cook Games’ Cypher System for the rules. If you want to know more about the Cypher System, consider checking out my previous review on the Core Rulebook.
Once I realized this was based on a book, and I happened to be prepping for a number of major road trips, I loaded up the audiobook versions of the first couple books and off I went. This isn’t a review of the books, but by the time I finished, I could certainly see how this could make a fascinating game. Spoiler: I was right about that.
The book is beautifully laid out with excerpts from Noon’s books colourfully interspersed throughout. Ranging from a few sentences to full pages, it includes one of my favourite lines ever:
“Now then, to say the dream was past its sell-by date was to do a serious disservice to sell-by dates, to selling things in general, and to the whole concept of linear time as measured out in dates passing by in a regular fashion on a calendar.”
Most games include a bit of flavour text here and there. But Noon has a great cheekiness you don’t often get in games. Little details aside, the book is split into several 3-5 chapter sections, keeping things tightly organized.
After a few pages of introduction, the first part in all about character creation. There is a brief chapter explaining the process, then a chapter dedicated to each part of the character description. In Cypher System games Player Characters are built around a single statement that includes a Mode Descriptor, Type, and Focus. “I am a [adjective] [noun] who [verbs]. “I am a Shadowvurt Mathmagician who Takes the Reigns.” Your Mode Descriptor (Shadowvurt) is like genetic makeup, in a different setting it might be an elf or dwarf. The Type (Mathmagician) is like your character class, a fighter or magic user. Your focus is your specialization. So in a nutshell, the adjective is who you are, the noun is what you do, and the verb is how you do it. Cypher lets all these things be pretty open, but there are Vurt specific choices for all of them, plus there are the usual stats and stuff.
Part 2 is all about equipping your character. There’s a chapter on general equipment, a chapter on vehicles, and a chapter on Blurbflies (or simply Blurbs). Blurbs are a bit like tiny drones that are used around Manchester to show a constant stream of advertisements to people. But since that’s boring, they can (obviously) be augmented to do all sorts of fun and destructive things as well.
Part 3 is the boring part (aka the rules) while Part 4 gives all the information you could want about the Real World, the Vurt World, and “Feather Trips”. Amongst other things, Vurt Feathers are used to send users into an interactive entertainment experience. The chapter on Feather Trips gives somewhat detailed descriptions of some of the more popular Vurt series, like Balloon Quixote. They aren’t fully fleshed out adventures, but detailed enough for a good Gamemaster to run as a series of side quests, or strung together for a night of adventure. I’m not a good GM, so I’d love to see these fleshed out into more detail, maybe even a full series of published adventure paths.
Many of the creatures and Non-Player Characters that appear in the Feather Trip section are detailed more fully in Part 5, the Gamemaster Section. There are also four introductory adventures in this section. Followed by pre-generated characters and a blank character sheet to close out the book in Part 6. You can also download a form-fillable PDF of the character sheet for free from the Ravendesk Games web-shop.
The Cypher system is a solid system, and Vurt is generally considered one of the best sci-fi novels of the 1990s, so the combination of the two works perfectly. There is so much that can happen in both the real world and the Vurt world that the possibilities are pretty well endless. If you already know the books, I have no doubt you’ll want to try this out. If you don’t know the books, fear not. There is more than enough world-building in this rulebook that you won’t be lost. Well, at least you won’t be any more lost than the players who do know.