Thursday, May 31, 2012

Technoir, Smallville, FU RPG.

So the D&D game has been great even tho its D&D powered by Savage worlds. Its just so much better in terms of useable rules for a sandbox then I found OD&D to be. Yeah I love labyrinth lord as a rule set but by the time I tack on all the house rules we do actually use -things that date back from our D&D in the 80's and other stuff we have picked up along the way the house rules were getting very large. I've talked about this before. We can play savage worlds D&D and don't need house rules. Also our observation is the combats move much faster - for a number of reasons.

But last week we had two of the players no-show so we "unboxed" Technoir. Its cyberpunk clasic 80's style and more modern stuff verging on trans-humanism and is very tool kit oriented while still being a complete game. What I really admired was the story-path mechanic. Its reminiscent of the relationship map in Smallville only its a GM only resource used to propel the narrative. It works well and I was able to kitbash a story on the fly that felt like it was preplanned. We all had fun and that was what was important.

The core mechanic is essentially an opposed dice pool roll only the 'defender' does not need to roll but just sums up the contributing traits to determine their total which speeds things up considerably. You through around adjectives and can place them on the 'target' of your action. Essentially if you 'win' the roll you get to narrate. However if you don't 'Push" your action - spend some special story point like dice on the action - then the result can only be fleeting which constrains your narration and indeed even your choice of adjective.

Its a very subtle point but the resolution guideline has a step in the procedure which says you must respect the narration - this becomes very important in the case of fleeting results. So you narrate the story and you must observe for the scene the adjective regardless of the fact that 'fleeting' adjectives will disapear at the end of the scene. This is just one way in which the game drives the story. there are lots of story driving mechanics in the games design. If you do spend your push dice you a) lose them to the target of your action and b) can then make the adjective 'sticky' you need special attention to remove or deal with the adjective, or even 'locked' which makes it last permanently. Adjectives can be positive or negative.

The interesting thing is canny player soon realise they can take non-physical types of harm get adjectives and hence push dice and make thing go their way but its cyclical - literally what goes around comes around - and hence very Noir.  Hording push dice only results in trivial results and a trivial story line. So it is up to the players to 'push' the games drama forward. 

Its a lot like the FU RPG mechanics actually which is free and you can find it on RPGnow. Go have a look. FU is good in its own right so take a look. If you like cyberpunk and story support mechanics then I highly recommend Technoir.

I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to talk about the Transmission concept in Technoir. You use these 'Modules' to craft your game session. At the core they are a list of things, People, objects etc which play into the story you will craft. Its worth noting these take exactly the concept of sandbox pre-development i.e its a required game-mechanical representation of a "thing" you will use during the game session - in Technoir parlance 'Runtime' cute huh, nice co-opting of the computer term. What this means is not only is it a list of names and role but items, organisational entities and equipment too. They are really evocative.

Interestingly you can sequence Transmissions together as your story grows and moves around the world. One minor quible I have is that the content of a transmission is very small essentially it is a 6x6 matrix and then is everything stated out all under the one Transmission and per the rules as written they represent that locale. I'd probably extend this concept and say that a single Transmission is just a setting abstraction and have a number of Transmissions which could apply to a location. But it does work as is.

Overall its a really clever design and a fun game. Its much more of a pick up game then FATE <<anything>> ever was so if you want a good, fun, easy to use pick up game I say you could do much worse then Technoir.

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