I enjoyed answering "20 Quick Rules Questions" for Twilight: 2000 so much that I thought I'd look at answering them for another favourite game of mine that I'm even considering adapting for use as an alternate system for a Twilight: 2000 campaign:
|Yes, that's really a three-eyed goat, not a raven...|
(NGR logo by Dyson Logos)
For those of you unfamiliar with this system created by Zzarchov Kowolski, I'd highly recommend checking out Endzeitgeist's comprehensive review (a good accompaniment to this post in any case) and considering downloading the freely available "Art-free edition" to look over. It's built originally from "OSR" style retro-clone roots but has been tweaked and improved over the years from its origins as "Piecemeal" pre-2009 into a versatile and robust game system in its own right.
Note: all page references refer to the "Dyson Logos Edition" as that's the version I have, although the "Art-free edition" and other different art editions have a similar enough layout.
Neoclassical Geek Revival - 20 Quick Rules Questions
1. Ability scores generation method?
The default character creation method is known as "Shrodinger's Character" - the player determines some basic characteristics (name, species, gender) and allocates 80 points across the 7 attributes (pages 8-9). Alternatively, the player can roll 3d6 for each attribute and add up to 10 discretionary points but runs the risk of creating a very incompetent character (balanced by the chance of a very competent character).
The rest of the character is worked out during the first adventure, allowing them to tailor their character to survive the first session, as explained here (pages 12-13):
"The characters just happen to be the perfect heroes for their first adventure. The first session is "character creation" this session starts with all players naming their character, assigning a species and assigning or rolling their attributes. The players then proceed with their character by filling out aspects of their character when required and after any rolls are made. This requires some record keeping on the first game but allows for a more organic character creation."
This includes skills, items, traits, relationships, a major and a minor morality, and 3 pieces of "pie" - the NGR equivalent of class (or profession) in most other OSR / retroclone games. The concept of "pie pieces" is inspired and truly unique and really deserves its own discussion in a later post.
2. How are death and dying handled?
Death is the ultimate result of accumulated Strength or Health accrued points (page 41-45) - accumulating half your Strength in damage points results in "Incapacitation", accumulating damage points equal to your Strength points results in death. Stun points accrue against Strength also but have different effects at halfway and equal to the character's score.
This is one of the key mechanics of NGR and while perhaps initially complicated to grasp, allows for a versatile system that can cover a wide range of scenarios, challenges and contexts.
Disease, Poison (temporary disease), Intoxication, and Mutation points accrue against Health but have differing effects, although only Disease (and Poison) can lead to death.
Other points can accumulate against Agility (Suspicion), Will (Stress, Influence, Fear) and Charisma (Infamy) and lead to different penalties and effects but not death. There is an Unknown type of points that doesn't inflict penalties and is used for special effects.
There are no "hit points" per levels as such but each character has Luck points gained per level that are used to offset accrued damage and other points - this means that a higher level character with more Luck can "soak up" more damage (or other effects) without penalty, fending off the "death spiral" that is otherwise inevitable as penalties accumulate across the various types.
3. What about raising the dead?
Resurrection is a priest miracle in NGR (page 135-136).
"Unless the target was in a state of grace upon death, death can only be reversed within a number of hours equal to the priest’s cumulative faith. A sacrifice is always required. For evil patron’s this may be people; a good patron may require a loss from the priest, either something specific like sight or something generic like d4 health points."
It's very difficult to access at 500 piety points, however as this amount is equivalent to the reward for building a cathedral, converting a large region or completing an epic task of faith (page 127).
4. How are replacement PCs handled?
The "Shrodinger's Character" rules (see question 1 above) offset the issue of untimely PC death to some extent for the first adventure, improving newcomer survivability but after that, there are no guidelines per se for a replacement character other than using the normal character generation process.
5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
Each character rolls either their Agility die or if acting "with deliberate thought", their Intelligence die - this latter option means they forgo deliberately defending themselves. The character with the highest score can choose to act first, but the character with the *lowest* score must otherwise act first and can be *interrupted* by a character with a higher score (pages 54-55).
Effectively this system allows for tactics, overwatch fire and attacks of opportunity.
6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
Yes, indeed there are.
A roll that succeeds by 5 or more is a critical success, one that fails by 5 or more is a critical failure. A natural 20 is an epic success, a natural 1 an epic failure (page 38). This applies across not only combat but for the other forms of conflict (social conflict and covert actions).
7. Do I get any benefits of wearing a helmet?
Yes. A helm improves the chance of avoiding critical hits, by increasing the "threshold" of success required to score a critical hit but has an inverse effect on perception (page 80).
8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
I'm not sure - I can't find specific rules that cover this situation in the published rules.
Addit: I've asked on the NGRRPG subreddit and Zzarchov gave this answer:
If you use the "theatre of the mind" blast effects for AoE spells the only risk is that it has a number of targets that may end up higher than you'd like if people are clustered together (power level 2 hits 3 clustered targets for example with a blast). So if you have two of your party fighting two enemies and you want to hit both enemies, you'll also end up hitting one of your own in the blast.
The main danger with missile weapons in melee is for the shooter. It takes 1 action to shoot, 1 to reload, and 1 to defend yourself and you only have 2 per round."
(TheRanting Savant) What about #burst weapons?
"Still fine. Two things come into play here:
- Characters are assumed to duck and weave and move about the area they are in rather than being static during a round.
If you shoot at someone in melee with one of your party members with a burst weapon (you had mentioned earlier a post-apocalyptic setting so I am assuming an ak47 for this) that you would first yell "duck" or "suppressing fire" or in some way motion to you party member to move out of the way as you shoot. If you fumble then the opponent might have you shoot your teammate as their opportunity attack.
- It is assumed that characters will naturally help each other set up optimal situations because they are competent adventurers.
Guns DO have one rule where shooting at someone in melee is more difficult. If your opponent doesn't have potential cover to hide behind they can't use their combat modifier to try to avoid being shot. If they are in the same area as your party member they could use your party member as potential cover and thus add their combat modifier to defense.
They could also take a block action to hide behind your friend and get a cover bonus no different than hiding behind a tree or rampart (regardless of if you are using a gun for that one)."
- Zzarchov Kowolski, NGRRPG subreddit (April 2019)
9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
It's implied that you'll need to run and/or withdraw from exploring too deep into the "dungeon" - the further you penetrate the more XP you gain, but there is a trade-off and a limitation implied.
Given there are solid rules for "social" conflict and "covert operations", there's the opportunity to solve encounters and conflicts through means other than fighting.
10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
Not in the core rules per se - there's no actual "Monster Manual" for NGR.
The accrual of points of various types (pages 41-45) simulates debilitating effects and is probably the closest to the level drain of various retro-clone games.
11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
Yes, there are saving throws, although they work somewhat differently in play to retro-clone style games and are related to attribute checks rather "saving throws" based on class and/or level. To gain the chance of a saving throw the player must declare a *specific* course of action in response and the GM determines whether this is "crazy enough to work!", "a standard response", or "a brilliant defence!" and adjust the resulting success or failure accordingly (pages 40-41).
"Occasionally, characters will encounter events where they have but a split second for a chance to avoid crippling injury or certain death. These events allow a character to declare a course of action to try and avoid the injury through making an attribute check such as dodging falling rocks or avoiding a ball of fire. Normally this action has to be related to one of the two actions the character is currently performing."
"Often I will describe to the players a small click or a tug at their boot and mentally count to three. If someone hasn’t announced they are doing something they do not get a saving throw. If this is a new player to the game, give them one warning where you explain the concept and let them think about a saving throw."
12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
Encumbrance is tracked using a simplified and abstract "dot" system (page 76-78).
"The dot system is basically categorizing weight and general difficulty in carrying items with a number of dots. It’s fairly abstract because while important, it’s also boring and time consuming since items carried change so often. The dot system specifies how many ‘dots’ worth of equipment you can carry, as well as where you carry the item, without a lot of fuss."
13. What’s required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for downtime?
Gaining a level results in improved modifiers depending on the amount of "pie" pieces in each class (table on page 13), an extra piece of "pie" at 1st and 10th level, and a "milestone" at 1st level, 5th level and 10th level. Milestones act as level caps unless the character has accomplished something appropriate to pass these barriers (page 141).
"Milestones act as a barrier, preventing heroes and villains from levelling up until they perform feats or acts worthy of further levelling. This means that merely slaying goblins all day for a few years is unlikely to raise one to tenth level. Each milestone represents becoming another ‘tier’ of villain or hero."
Training allows learning new skills after spending a season on a successful check (page 31) or learning a combat trick after a day spent with a teacher who knows the trick (pages 94-95).
New spells are not gained automatically, they must be discovered and/or deciphered during play whether form spell books, other spell storage items or reverse engineered from creatures.
It's not entirely clear, but the "Experience Points & Level" section occurs in the final chapter entitled "End of the Session" which implies levelling up can occur during downtime or if the adventure spans more than one session, during the adventure.
14. What do I get experience for?
A whole lot of things actually, not just killing monsters like many games (pages 143-149).
XP is awarded as either group XP (split between the party members and NPCs with levels) and individual XP. Characters can gain experience from the following sources:
- Travelling overland
- Exploring and reaching locations
- Completing dungeons
- Defeating minions
- Slaying monsters
- Outsmarting the opponent
- Finding and bypassing traps, riddles and puzzles
- Treasure aka "the Big Score"
- Completing an epic quest worthy of a "milestones"
In addition, characters can gain awesomeness which is traded for a chance to gain fate points which can be used re-roll poor dice rolls, restore luck points or modify a scene in a favourable way.
Characters that undertake a life-altering quest can gain destiny points which are used similarly but have an even more profound in-game effect when spent.
15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
Some combination, with an emphasis on narrative like many "old school" games.
The core mechanic is Attribute checks against different difficulties adjusted by modifiers (page 39).
The Perception attribute is key here, likely modified by the Rogue's Expert power, which adds +5 when employing skills on attribute checks compared to the usual +2 (page 17).
16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
Retainers and hirelings are not specifically detailed.
I'd suggest using the "Retainer" rules from the readily available "Rules & Magic Free Version" of Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) or other retro-clone systems as a starting point.
Henchmen in NGR specifically refer to the unusual "personal item" of Bards - a "personal item" is otherwise a weapon, trophy, holy symbol or similar piece of equipment specific to the character that improves between adventures. These henchmen are Level 0 companions that may take the form of a body- guard, squire, personal assistant, student or some other minor role (pages 26-27):
"The main benefit of the henchmen is that the bard can choose to make one of her henchmen suffer grisly death on behalf of her or another member of the party. This could include the henchman shoving a bard out of the way of a volley of fire from an ambush, setting off a dangerous trap, or being crushed by falling rocks in a landslide. You can feel free to give each henchman a nice red shirt if you would like."
Morale is used for both individuals and mass combat but is not checked for levelled characters, including player characters (page 66). A morale check is triggered under certain conditions and causes an appeal that can inflict !d6 fear points if successful against Presence based resistance. Several spells can trigger morale checks or inflict fear points.
17. How do I identify magic items?
A Wizard with the Sage power can identify magic items and decipher texts (page 19):
"This power allows the wizard to discern the magic involved in mystical artifacts and creatures. A sage may study an individual or item and attempt to discern what spells are influencing the item or creature, permanent or otherwise."
This power is not an automatic success, requiring an opposed d20 roll with modifiers but the extended part of the power can also be used to reverse engineer an effect from a creature or item to learn a spell of their choice, although this destroys the creature or item.
18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
This depends more on the campaign, but magic items, including potions and magical weapons, are discussed in passing in the basic rules and implied to be part of the base game.
There's no "magic item chapter" however in the base rules.
Several examples of unique magic items are given in Zzarchov's dual-statted LotFP/NGR adventures such as The Gnomes of Levnec, A Thousand Dead Babies, The City of Tears, and other titles. The implication from Zzarchov's other work is that in a default NGR game magic items are rare in keeping with the philosophy of magic items in a default Lamentations of the Flame Princess game.
19. Can I create magic items? When and how?
Yes, at least simple "one-charge" ones.
Potions, scrolls, runic pendants, and even food are suggested items for use with the spell storage spell but the item only lasts without deteriorating if stored under perfect conditions or using spell components (page 121). Any character who knows the desired spell and the spell storage spell can create a simple magic item.
Each character class except the Fool (no item) and the Bard (see "Henchmen" above) has a "personal item" that can improve over the course of play. Wizards have a talisman as a personal item which provides them with bonuses to their spellcasting and priests can gain a relic as their personal item (pages 21 and 23). Warriors and Rogues can gain a trademark item or lucky item respectively as their personal item - although not magical per se these add benefits similar to magic items in other game systems (pages 16 and 18).
Rules for more complex magic items are not given although "+X" magic weapons are implied in the section "Items of Different Materials" as comparable to faerie silver, meteoric iron and other rare materials (page 88).
20. What about splitting the party?
As many have said before, never split the party - it's always a bad move!
OK, all jokes aside, the main issue is the meta-game issue of player boredom while one group or player sits out while the GM concentrates on the others but this is better discussed elsewhere (such as here, or perhaps here).
Appendix: Various NGR Resources
- Original Unofficial Games blogspot site (less here since the demise of Google+)