Review: Code Warriors

Code Warriors is an upcoming SciFi/post-apocalyptic TTRPG about programs trying to survive inside a rapidly-collapsing computer system, developed by Nerdburger Games.

The Basics

In terms of mechanics, Code Warriors keeps things simple and straightforward. Each character has 4 Traits, namely Body, Mind, Charm, and Heart, ranging from 1 to 4, and your score in each trait shows how many d8s you roll when you need to make a check. Checks have a Target Number (TN) between 5 and 8, and you need at least once dice to roll that number or higher to succeed.

In addition to the Traits, each character has 3 “Tracks” called Skill, Juice, and Overload, each with 8 boxes. Every time you make a trait check, you mark one box in one of the tracks, depending on the outcome of the check. If you fail the check, you mark 1 Skill box as your character learns from their failure – when the skill track is filled, you essentially “level up”, clearing the track and gaining some points to spend on things I’ll talk about in a bit. If you succeed the check, you mark 1 Juice box. Juice is a bit special because it is used as both currency, and as a resource to use or enhance various abilities you have. The additional effect of the Juice track is that since there’s also a cap of Juice you can carry, it is encouraged to spend it rather than hoard it. Finally, If you succeed the check with 2 or more dice, you mark 1 Overload box, representing the unstable energy of the collapsing system. This is actually a negative, because when you fill the Overload track, you gain a Glitch, a negative feature.

The Programs

Characters also have 2 Condition tracks, Physical and Stress. These are essentially also your Hit Points, as they represent you getting injured, hurt, demoralized, et cetera. Completely filling up the Physical track means you are most likely dead, and the Stress track leads to a “Shut Down” where you fall unconscious, or even catatonic.

Getting a bit more into character creation, you can first choose your Program Type. There are 7 of those with their own unique Features and Upgrades, each having a different role in the System before the collapse, but now having to adapt to the new reality. In addition, players can also choose 2 Specializations out of 15, with options like Fighting, Persuading, Leading, etc. Besides all the hard mechanics however, characters also pick 3 Anchors and 3 Foci. These are concepts, ideas, objects, people, etc that are important to them and should be heavily involved in the roleplaying aspect.

Overall, there’s a small adjustment until you get the hang of all the tracks and how they work, but the system is simple and straightforward enough that I think one session would be enough to clear things out. You might have noticed that i haven’t made too much mention of combat mechanics and such, and that’s because there isn’t something specifically for that – fighting is just Trait checks, and while it’s obviously a significant part of a post-apocalyptic RPG it’s not the main focus. Code Warriors is not too mechanically constrictive, and relies more on roleplaying and describing your actions.

The Setting

There is quite a bit of worldbuilding done for the setting of The System included in the book for Code Warriors. In general, The System is essentially a representation of a computer system as seen by the programs inhabiting it. There are people, and places, and all kinds of things to explore. The problem is, something came up, and now the whole System is collapsing. The programs themselves most likely don’t know why, as it’s probably an external reason and they can’t really imagine a world outside the computer, but there are other possibilities too. Maybe it’s a virus, maybe there’s a lack of memory, or a million other reasons.

This ties a bit with the scope of the game as well; you have a few options about what the ultimate goal is. Maybe there’s a temporary unrest but ultimately the problem is fixed, and everything goes back to the previous situation. Maybe the problems are more widespread and it takes a lot of effort to finally make things right, and by the end things have changed too much to go back to the old status quo – but a new equilibrium is established. Maybe the problem is completely out of control and cannot be fixed – and it’s simply a waiting game until the complete destruction of everything that constitutes a world for the programs. There’s quite a bit of emphasis on agreeing on this sort of thing beforehand with the players, something i completely agree with, because things can get quite dark with these sort of stories. There’s a lot of similar advice throughout the book, making sure to know everyone’s boundaries and limits.

The book contains several chapters with information on a setting, including several locations and settlements, details on how they are organized and what’s going on there, as well as NPCs, aberrants (that is, programs that have become corrupted), information on how the progression of the collapse affects those places, and possible missions/stories to follow. There’s also information on how such a society of programs would work before the collapse as well – since they would have completely different concepts of self, identity, family, etc than humans might.

The Kickstarter

Now in terms of logistics, a couple of words on the Kickstarter project. The game is already made, most things are done, and in fact the Kickstarter is already funded in the first day, with the Stretch goal containing more Upgrades, Gear, System info etc looking pretty close as well – and this post comes out at just day 2 of the project. In addition, Nerdburger have already completed several Kickstarters in the past without issues, so I don’t expect anything to come up.

There is only one book, including all the information I talked about, so it’s a mix of both a Player’s handbook and a GM’s manual. You get a digital copy at $20 and a physical at $40, which is I think pretty reasonable and an expected price, with an additional tier of $60 that includes a set of 6d8 custom dice in their own tin box. Note that these prices do not include shipping, but that is written up in the KS page so there aren’t any miscommunications or such.

But that’s enough out of me, go ahead and check out Code Warriors for yourself!

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