(Let's Read) The World of Synnibarr

Elemental

3819/08
What is Raven c.s McCracken's Synnibarr? It's the RPG of everything you thought was cool when you were fifteen. It's D&D with spaceships, dragons, cyborgs, ninja, talking raccoons and super-mutants, all at DBZ power levels. When you're writing up a Vampire character and trying valiantly to focus on a compelling character fighting to sustain their humanity after being transformed into a blood-drinking monster, there's that little urge that says "Yeah, but this guy can totally kick werewolves through walls!", and Synnibarr is that urge left to run free. It's Rifts on steroids, with more power, a more XTREME setting, and more broken rules.

But let's let the book describe itself. On the first page, we have a pissed looking dragon, the title and the capsule descriptions:

Over 400 pages and 100 illustrations. With more than 50 character classes and 1000 spell, mutations, psionics and special abilities. Includes instructions for engineering your own powers. Describes in complete detail the Worldship Synnibarr and the more than 300 characters and monsters than inhabit her.

This is
The World of Synnibarr
The evolution of gaming!
This isn't the first comparison I'll make to Rifts, but it is an interesting snapshot of a time when every other game setting seemed to be "like AD&D, but sci-fi / with more classes / where you can play as a lizardman or troll as well as a dwarf or elf."

Synnibarr, where you long to adventure....
you live to adventure....
but you don't always live long when you adventure.


Next, we have the special thanks. It includes all the game testers and their characters, such as Chip Bartley (Killgore), Troy Bartley (Warclaw), Brett Stewart (Tuch, Joe Null, Steelbreeze--this guy got through a lot of characters), Craig Stykel (Blade), and Bryce Thelin (Schernoklasptetor, which sounds like a painful medical condition). Yes indeed, we have a system where Killfuck Soulshitter wouldn't look out of place.

We are then sternly reminded that:

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events protrayed in this book are fictitious.
This will become increasingly hilarious as we read on. Next comes the dedication.

This book is dedicated to Fate and to the stifled adventurers within all of us, for we have the hearts and imagination, but not the powers or the frontiers.
Which is actually a bit depressing. Thanks, Raven. Then we have another disclaimer:

This book is not intended to foster any belief in the occult.
The second edition did come out in 1993, around the time that the BADD hysteria was still dying down. Bit of a blast from the past.
 
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Elemental

3819/08
Table of Contents:

I'll just skim over this and note the interesting bits:

Character Descriptions:
Alchemist
Amazon
Aquarian
Archer
Bio-Syntha Cyborg
Chameleon Drake
Dwarf
Giant
Gnome
Mage Warrior
Mutant
Ninja
Psielf
Shadow Master
Shadow Warrior
Shaman
Scarlet & Golden Tiger
Mage Tiger
Wereman
Winged Warrior
Chapter 2: Rising in Levels
First entry: Rising to Immortality & Godhood
Chapter 6: Reaction & Hirelings
Travel Between Dimensions
Creating Random Dimensions
Star Creation
From the start, we have a good idea of the power level, and the classes. Never mind that generic "Well, your class is a simply 'fighter', but you can call yourself a hoplite, gladiator or pirate." rubbish, no, you're a goddamn Ninja or Mage-Warrior right from the start. Something that D&D only hints at is that "adventurers" are a class apart. In Synnibarr, it's completely explicit. We'll see more of this later. For now, take a deep breath, we're into:

List of Tables

This is two pages of tiny text. Yep, McCracken sure loves those tables. Here's some samples:

387: Chameleon Hydra Earthpower Spells
28: Eye Colour
56: God Power From Worshippers
168: Mass Molecules Telekinetic Stats
100: Neria Bendix Shields
135: Chi Dim Mock Damage
No random prostitutes? I want my money back!


Foreword & Editors Note:

Over the last decade, the Synnibarr gaming system has been tested by thousands of players and hundreds of referees. So after five revisions from 1980 until now, I think we have finally got it right. I hope you will agree.
Playing Synnibarr will open avenues in your imagination for which you probably did not know you even had an address.
I'm holding you guys to that, you realise.
 

lionrampant

Registered User
Validated User
I heard friends mock this game pretty hard when it came out, but I never actually saw it in a store in order to skim it. Looking forward to finding out if the horror stories are justified.
 

Elemental

3819/08
Our first proper chapter, and backstory!

Into imagination's fury I plunge thee. Ride the storm and ye shall be enriched.
Quotes like this head every chapter. If GMing paid anything, I'd probably put that on my business cards.

Anyway, we start 800 million years ago. Some guy called Aridius gets born, becomes a mage, and becomes a god because he's just that awesome. He looks for some worshippers not already taken, finds Earth, and...

....hold up. So Aridius was looking for worshippers for 798 million years minimum before he came across humans? That's a bit inefficient for a god. Heck, he could probably seed a world with animals and cause them to evolve into his worshippers in that time. Synnibarr subscribes to the idea that you can create epicness by adding three to five zeroes to the end of every timespan.

Anyway.our God of Hope & Command (no, that's actually what he's called) turns up on Earth, and sends an avatar to help people out and gather worshippers. But then the Gods start fighting with the "powers of darkness" who are trying to destroy the universe, and take themselves and their enemy out by freezing them all in time in the "dread dimension of Shadarkeem*".

Why the asterisk? Because we get a helpful box explaining this unfamiliar term:

Shadarkeem is the birth dimension of the Gods. Only Venderant Nalaberong power works there. The Gods become mortals whenever they are in this realm, and no normal mortal can survive there because the dimension drains all forces including the life force, except for God Power and Venderant Nalaberong.
Well, I'm glad we cleared that up.

As a side effect of this, the universe starts to break down and stars start going nova. In the "vast core of the universe", scientists send messages to Earth telling them they're doomed to get toasted, but the avatar steps in. He can't save everyone by just teleporting them out of the way, so he settles on the much simpler plan of:

1: Pull Mars out of orbit.
2: Hollow & enlarge the planet until you create a hollow "worldship" double the size of Earth. Add vegetation and oceans on the inside and outside.
3: Add an "organic-electronic network" to produce gravity and generally stop the whole construct from collapsing under the weight of it's own improbability.
4: Add in engines to propel this thing across space, with a power system that provides unlimited energy.

Much simpler!

Anyway, the avatar then picks 400 men and women and transforms them into "adventurers" with special powers to protect them against aliens and other threats.

Now it gets a bit random. A woman is born with two months before launch, grows to maturity in fifteen minutes, and feels a compulsion to start screwing with the power system, killing all but 1500 humans. I should add that I didn't paraphrase that bit--there really isn't an explanation for who this bad guy is, where she comes from, or why she sabotages the ship.

Anyway, another mutant called Steelbreeze (remember him?) runs to the antarctic using his super speed, goes into the inner world and fixes the reactor just before the stellar storm hits. He also comes out of nowhere.

The point of this randomness is that Synnibarr is crippled on take-off, requiring double the expected time to arrive, most of the worldship is irradiated, and the colonists survivors are also isolated by a "werestorm".

Steelbreeze nevertheless started the drive and piloted the Worldship our of harms way. Such is the stuff of which adventurers are made!
Synnibarr's twisted history unfolds on the long voyage. Plotdevicium radiation causes "drakes" to appear. An alchemist called Lord Midnight and his seventy-two headed chameleon hydra starts breeding them for more power, then the midnight sunstone hydras kill him, rule for 26,000 years, then the drakes rebel, create the UDF (United Drake Force) and fight the hydras for 24,000 years. Oh, and there are two alien invasions, three by "Dark Lords and great evil powers", and one by evil alchemists.

However, in all cases, all of their plans met with defeat at the hands of some good adventurers from Terra and elsewhere.
There's an endearing simplicity to all of this. No ambiguity, no worries about creating an interally consistent world. Threats come along, inflict massive civilian carnage, and we need some legendary adventurers to come along and save us all! The setting makes no damn sense, it is built solely for player characters to wreck stuff in, and it's completely shameless about this.

Anyway, Synnibarr finally arrives in the destination solar system, but a stupidity inducing plague tears through the world at the same time, so nobody thinks to get off. Until it's cured, a lot of knowledge and civilisation is lost.

And so this world exists, with adventure awaiting in every valley. Lost cities are scattered through the jungles and hidden civilisations thrive, just waiting to be discovered and explored.
I'd also like to note that "Venderant Nalaberong" sounds like an Indian soap opera.
 

Nickskills

God King of Pants!
Validated User
Would this be a bad time to point out I was in a Synnabar Campaign? I was a ...errr...Shadow Mage? The basic Wizard type. I remember having an addiction to blood oranges (casting costs Con points, blood oranges replenish them), and having all sorts of neat spells. My favorite was on that transformed x pounds of one element into another. I seem to recall that being the entirety of the spell description. So I transformed some random badguys Carbon atoms into Helium. Hilarity ensued.

I also remember there being a random adventure chart. The end result of this was being hired in a bar, travelling on a supersonic boat, being attacked by sharks who could swim at Mach 2 (our boat only did mach 1.2 or somesuch), videotaping some dragons, getting attacked by a dragon, and sailing home to collect our reward. It had all the quiet dignity of a panty raid on the high seas.

I also remember someones Ninja character climbing up a wall. "Can you do that?" we asked. We then looked over at the rulebook, and decided "probably".

I will be adding my thoughts and actual play experiences as Elemental goes through this book. Did I mention that the supersonic sharks turned into sharks when they jumped on our boat?
 

NulSyn

Hippo, Nature's Ninja!
Validated User
Would this be a bad time to point out I was in a Synnabar Campaign? I was a ...errr...Shadow Mage? The basic Wizard type. I remember having an addiction to blood oranges (casting costs Con points, blood oranges replenish them), and having all sorts of neat spells. My favorite was on that transformed x pounds of one element into another. I seem to recall that being the entirety of the spell description. So I transformed some random badguys Carbon atoms into Helium. Hilarity ensued.

I also remember there being a random adventure chart. The end result of this was being hired in a bar, travelling on a supersonic boat, being attacked by sharks who could swim at Mach 2 (our boat only did mach 1.2 or somesuch), videotaping some dragons, getting attacked by a dragon, and sailing home to collect our reward. It had all the quiet dignity of a panty raid on the high seas.

I also remember someones Ninja character climbing up a wall. "Can you do that?" we asked. We then looked over at the rulebook, and decided "probably".

I will be adding my thoughts and actual play experiences as Elemental goes through this book. Did I mention that the supersonic sharks turned into sharks when they jumped on our boat?
I have played in a few campaigns of Synnibarr. One lasting near 6 years.

It's particularly good if your trying to emulate combats in Dragonball, or play in a world that often reminds me of a lot of "crazy world" anime. But the power/magic system does an awesome job of emulating DB combats....spells flinging around, teleports as dodges, reflection shields, etc....
 

riotgearepsilon

Grumpy Gus
Validated User
The setting makes no damn sense, it is built solely for player characters to wreck stuff in, and it's completely shameless about this.
This is why I want to play this game so badly. I want to be an alchemist and build a death robot made of ninjas.
 

Baz_Anderson

Retired User
If Synnibarr is the "Plan 9 From Outer space" of role playing game, then that's why I've never bought it, though you'll see it on ebay from time to time. They both scream out to have someone there to go through it with you -- whether it be Mike Nelson or Joel Robinson and the bots, or a group of friends looking over your shoulder who keep saying "Oh, we have to run this!".

Both a "Plan 9" DVD and a copy of World of Synnibarr are the entertainment equivalents (for me) of the Necronomicon. I doubt even my sarc-fu is strong enough to maintain the sense of humor and composure necessary to having them just sitting around the house with their strange black-light-in-the-daytime auras simultaneously repelling and fascinating me. How would I ever get any work done?
 
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