Perhaps I’ve been remiss in that my review of Cinematic Unisystem does not contain any true understanding of regular Unisystem. I played Witchcraft for one session, made a mundane character with GM assistance, and don’t recall rolling anything except maybe Alertness (that GM rarely calls for rolls that aren’t Alertness; building a character is very easy). Otherwise, I know it as the game that’s doing a lot of the same stuff as White Wolf, but in a different way.

And it works for them. While I haven’t actually gotten around to using Cinematic Unisystem for anything but Buffy and Angel, I’ve been sorely tempted a number of times (and mainly only stopped because running modern day games always winds up becoming more work than I expected, and D&D is a much easier sell anyway). It’s a less daunting system for the task of running a modern game than, say, White Wolf’s. It has a small list of skills and minimal balance problems adding or changing a few. It has concrete but simple guidelines for making traits that can be anything from a good sense of direction to fire breath. It’s a toolkit system that basically solves character stats and conflict resolution so you can get back to your game. Kitbashing White Wolf into another setting is more work: you have to decide what to do with the typical 30 skill list, you have to make up backgrounds, you have to make up powers, and you have to figure out what kind of tempers you’re using (e.g., do you need a Humanity trait? A magical power stat like Gnosis?). Once you’ve done the work, you gain the advantage that the game plays like a White Wolf game (if you like White Wolf games), but it’s significantly more work. Sometimes you just want enough stats to give the players something to look forward to raising with experience and to lend a veneer of credibility to conflicts.

That’s what Cinematic Unisystem excels at. It’s unabashedly just good enough to emulate a wide variety of genres set on a basically human power scale. It’s not trying to do something deep with the system influencing play (though drama points trend in that direction). It’s not trying to present a million player options (though you can certainly go crazy with advantages if you’d like). It’s a simple system that can basically fade into the background and, if you have a strong idea for a mortals-level, probably-modern setting, it’s a fine solution to serve as the engine for your game and let you tell the story you want.

Just remember to pre-calculate your maneuver bonuses.

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