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Nechronica: The Long Long Sequel (Kamiya Ryo)
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Information 
Nechronica: The Long Long Sequel
Tsugihagi Honpo (Patch Works)

Year of Release: 2011
Designer: Kamiya Ryo

Die Rolls: 1d10, plus or minus situational modifiers. Success on 6 or higher. No opposed checks.
Classes: Characters can choose 1 of 6 Positions and 2 of 6 Classes. The second expansion book adds one extra Class.
Time System: Action points. Most abilities cost AP; taking a turn does not.
Distance System: Zone-based (5 zones, arranged in a line.) Multiple characters can occupy the same zone.
Meta-Currency: Sort of. Madness Points can be used to reroll checks and pay for some abilities, but are more closely tied to other game mechanics than is the average meta-currency.
Non-Combat Options: Checks only.



Setting

Later. Is that becoming a theme? It's the only part of these posts I can't sneakily write from memory while sitting around at work.


System

Character Creation

Creating a character in Nechronica begins with the choice of a Position and two Classes (one Style is referred to as the Main Class, while the other is the Sub Class.) Positions broadly represent what the character does in the game, while Classes represent how they do it. For example, the "Alice" Position focuses on keeping their allies from going insane, while the "Junk" Position focuses on being a scrappy fighter even in a losing situation. The "Stacy" class focuses on enduring injuries and shielding others from harm, while the "Requiem" class focuses on ranged offense. One can choose the same class twice, which grants access to a powerful ability unavailable to anyone less specialized. Despite the modest number of Positions and class available, the number of possible combinations lends a unique touch to each character.

The next step is choosing abilities (referred to in the fan translation as Skills.) Each character chooses one ability from their Position, two from their Main Class, and one from their Sub Class.

Finally, one selects Reinforcement Parts for their character. Reinforcement Parts resemble both equipment in other RPGs, and abilities; they're the source of most core attack and defense abilities possessed by PCs (abilities granted by Positions and Classes focus more on buffing Reinforcement Part abilities or providing miscellaneous utility.) There are three types of Reinforcement Parts, known as Armaments (conventional weaponry and armor,) Mutations (just what you'd expect,) and Enhancements (high-tech bionic equipment.) The types of Reinforcement Parts a character can start with depend on their chosen classes.

It's worth noting at this time that Reinforcement Parts supplement Basic Parts, a set of 12 parts possessed by every character. Basic Parts are not very powerful, but ensure that every character starts with certain capabilities such as attacking and movement if they neglected to choose any Reinforcement Parts that provide an alternative or more powerful means of performing these actions. As combat in Nechronica consists of 'damaging' Parts and rendering them unusable, Basic Parts also serve as hit points of a sort.

All Parts exist in Locations, of which there are 4; Legs, Torso, Arms, and Head. Some Parts (including all Basic Parts) must be in specific locations. For other Parts, the player can choose where to put them.

The final step of character creation depends on the other PCs. PCs start with bonds towards each other, known as "Fetters." The nature of their Fetter both informs roleplaying and determines the mechanical consequence of the Fetter if (or when) they go mad.

There's the usual bevy of character background and flavor choices, such as hints about your character's past before they were undead and a keepsake from your mortal life, but none of them have any effect on the game system themselves.


Character Advancement

There is no concept in Nechronica analogous to levels, but after each game session, the GM (known in Nechronica as the Necromancer) rewards the dolls with experience points (known in Nechronica as Favor Points.)

XP can be used to learn new abilities from your Position or Class (or a different Position and Class, but this is more expensive) or acquire new Reinforcement Parts.

It can also be used to acquire, erase, or change the nature of Fetters; regenerate Parts that have been damaged; or remove Madness Points.


Checks

All checks in Nechronica are fundamentally identical. Roll 1d10; on a roll of 6 or higher you succeed, and on a roll of 5 or lower you fail. A roll of 1 of lower is a critical failure, and a roll of higher than 10 (only possible with modifiers) is a critical success. The effect of criticals depends on the type of roll being made.

What creates depth in the game system is the way in which abilities (or, in the fan translation, maneuvers) are designed. A huge number of abilities in Nechronica directly manipulate the result of die rolls, such as the Basic Part "Arms," which allows you to boost either your own on an ally's die roll by 1 - turning a failed check of 5 into a successful check of 6. The direct inverse is the "Legs" part, which lowers an enemy's die roll by 1, potentially turning their success into a failure (or a less decisive success.)

As a result, every die roll in Nechronica is itself a miniature battle in which multiple actors can struggle to determine the success or failure of the action.


Combat

Nechronica's combat system takes place on a map consisting of 5 zones. In the fan translation, these are known as Eden, Elysium, Limbo, Hades and Tartarus. These zones have little special significance (unless a Position ability grants it to them,) though PCs usually start closer to Eden, and enemies usually start closer to Tartarus. They're mostly an easy way to represent the range of characters from each other.

Timekeeping relies on an action point based system, superficially similar to the Count mechanic used in early editions of Night Wizard. The character with the highest AP can take a turn; after their action, it becomes the turn of the character with the next highest AP, until everyone on the battlefield has 0 or fewer AP. Then the next round starts. A key difference from Night Wizard is that the act of taking a turn does not itself cost AP. It just means that character can use 'active' abilities, such as attacking with most weapons. Abilities are what consume a character's AP (though some are free; these are instead limited by how many times they can be used per round or battle, or the situations they can be used in.) They usually cost a modest number of AP, from 1-3, while the average PC will have a starting AP of 9.

Many abilities are not active, but are used in response to other characters' actions or to supplement your own actions. The only reason not to use them is because you think you might need them more later in the round, or because it might consume precious AP. If you don't have much AP in the first place, and use your abilities too freely, you can easily waste it all without ever getting a turn!

Another unique aspect of Nechronica's combat system is the way damage is modeled. This begins with the hit check; a successful hit isn't just a hit, but determines which Location of the opponent's body you hit (against all PCs and some enemies; other enemies have no Locations.) A roll of 7 hits the Legs, a roll of 8 the Torso, a roll of 9 the Arms, and a roll of 10 the Head. A roll of 6 allows the target to choose where they want to be hit, while a critical success allows the attacker to choose where they hit, and also do extra damage (equal to the final result of the die roll minus 10.)

Each point of damage causes one of the Parts in the Location to become damaged, which means it can't be used until healed (either by an ability or by stripping defeated enemies of replacement parts.) Fights end when all parties on one side of the battle become incapable of attacking, due to all Parts they could use to make attacks having been damaged.

Finally, if any character rolls a critical failure on a hit check, their attack instead hits an ally within range (or themselves if no allies are within range.) This can be devastating if they were trying to use an area attack...

This isn't all there is to the combat system. There are chain attacks and explosive attacks, damage shields and enemies that can directly inflict Madness. But it suffices to say that Nechronica has an exciting and highly tactical combat system built on the simple and easy-to-learn principles above.


Non-Combat

While Nechronica is clearly focused on combat, it has two key systems that allow for gameplay outside of combat. One is that PCs can be asked to make Action Checks in order to accomplish something challenging, such as opening a stuck door. If they have relevant parts, they can use them in order to add bonus dice to the roll - but a critical failure will result in all of those parts getting damaged.

The second system is Madness. In Nechronica, PCs are regularly asked to make Madness Checks, which test their ability to psychologically endure a horrifying situation. A failed Madness Check results in that PC having to place a Madness Point upon one of their Fetters. Each Fetter can safely hold three Madness Points; if the PC has to place an additional Madness Point upon that Fetter, it enters a state of Madness, and causes a debilitating effect depending on the nature of the Fetter. For example, if a PC goes mad over a "Protective" Fetter, they're unable to move away from the same zone as target of the Fetter on the battle map, and must spend their action moving there if they are not in the same zone for some reason.

The PCs can fight against Madness by making Conversation Checks with each other, which allow a Madness Point to be removed from any Fetter if successful. The Necromancer can either allow Conversation Checks as a reward for good character interaction, or offer them as an incentive to take a break from the action and engage in roleplay.

Madness Points can also be voluntarily taken in order to reroll any check, or as the cost of certain powerful abilities.




Personal Opinions
Quote:From the moment I laid eyes on the title page of Nechronica, I knew I was in for a treat. The subject matter is, let's not mince words, creepy (in the sense of the word that usually involves police being called.) It won't be for everyone. But the game oozes style, and the mechanics are built to complement it perfectly. It's just icing in the cake that the combat system in Nechronica is one of the most fun I've played in any TRPG; it would be a great game even if you could find similarly thrilling battles elsewhere. The Madness system, while fundamentally very simple, adds a lot of flavor and gives a strong incentive for players and GM alike to RP to the fullest.

The problem, because there's always one, is that fundamentally a post-apocalyptic zombie game is gonna be about two things: fighting the walking dead and the emotional bonds between the survivors. And while Nechronica handles both of these things well, it eschews everything else. For game groups that aren't murderhobos, it can lead to campaigns feeling dreary. Repetitive. Just as traveling through the ashes of a dead world would likely be, I suppose, but I don't think that was the reason it was designed that way. In all likelihood, like a lot of Japanese TRPGs, it just wasn't made with extended campaign play in mind.

Perhaps this is where the balance issues come from. Nechronica suffers from a power creep problem; as PCs gain new parts and abilities, they can create combos that will obliterate enemies with absurd ease unless those enemies are specifically designed to withstand them, something which the rulebook doesn't provide a lot of support for. The class added in the expansion book, Psychedelic, can more or less negate the ability of the average enemy to do damage within a few combat rounds (including the enemies in the sample scenario in that book, ironically enough.) It's not a crippling flaw, especially if you're willing to just ban the most egregiously unbalanced combinations, but designing encounters in Nechronica feels a bit like walking on eggshells.

Regardless, Nechronica is a game that knows what it wants to focus on - short game sessions about journeying in a world filled with horror, murdering zombies and trying not to go insane - and does it excellently. It's well worth playing, and campaign play isn't impossible, either. Just be aware of the system's foibles.
- Anzelotte


In Summary

Pros:
  • Character creation isn't overly complicated but allows distinctive characters
  • Easy to learn, yet exciting and dynamic battle system
  • Just about every game mechanic reinforces the unique zombie-girl theme

Cons:
  • Basically no interesting non-combat gameplay
  • A few spots of poor balance, including the entire Psychedelic class added in the expansion
  • Even accounting for the above, it can be difficult for the GM to create challenging enemies




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