Monday, April 23, 2018

What does Neoclassical Geek Revival do better than other games

I get asked this question often and its a fair question. First the waffling bit of this post. I have generally grown to dislike the term "better" as better requires an end goal.  To be better requires a specific set of goals and not everyone likes the same thing in an RPG.  Is a flat d6 for damage better than varied dice of different types?  It depends on what you want the game to do.  But I do have specific goals in mind so lets dump that valid and reasonable chain of logic.

The second bit of waffling is that NGR is a very different game than OSR games in very subtle ways. It has a bit of uncanny valley going on with retro-clones where it is similar but also just slightly different so that things pan out very differently as each of the small differences compounds.  That is also a boring if reasonable line of discussion that doesn't suit the elevator pitch style answer people are looking for.

There are two major ones which I will say I like unequivocally better:  Stealth mechanics and Priest magic (miracles).

In OSR games stealth is binary.  You are hiding or you are found.  It also tends to be something one or two party members do while the others twiddle their thumbs and wait for the "Stealth bit" to end.   I have found that over the last decade and change (jeez this is getting to be an old system) explaining stealth has gotten easier.  Stealth has an accrual of "stealth damage" (called suspicion) that builds up until people are caught.  Being a rogue makes you better at stealth in the way a warrior is better at fighting, but everyone can be stealthy in the same way everyone can fight.  The reason this has gotten easier is this is vaguely an analogue to the way Bethseda games handle stealth so its become easier for people to intuitively grasp.  Accruing suspicion is the little eyeball icon getting bigger.  There are a myriad of other small changes that make this even better, since it ties into other factors.  For example this is also how random encounters are triggered.  As dungeons are much more dangerous this also makes stealth just as important (and often more so) than combat.  "Hitpoints" in NGR as "Luck points", and the same pool that you use to keep from being skewered in combat is the same pool you use to keep from being spotted or triggering random encounters. Bringing a lot of light with you will reduce penalties in combat, but also cause more suspicion every time you go into a hallway (meaning potentially more combats if you aren't careful).  You will often have tense resource draining conflicts through a dungeon without ever getting into a fight.  Because you are desperately trying not to.   NGR naturally ends up with way more heists than OSR games in my experience.

The second thing I believe NGR does better than OSR games is priestly magic.  Priests do not use Vancian magic.   They have their full assortment of spells available to them at any time and as often as they would like.  They do not have any spells for free.

To use these spells priests have to expend a resource called "piety", its basically a reward system from your god.  How much do they want to help you out.  You don't have any sort of daily pool to allocate, it isn't a renewable resource in that way.  Every point of piety you have to spend on miracles (priest magic) you have to earn.

Kill an abomination? take some piety. 
Bury the dead? take some piety. 
Destroy an enemy temple? take some piety.
Make a bargain with a demon? lose some piety.
Etc etc.

But priests never use spells frivolously. You don't waste spells because its the end of the day and you'll re-memorize them tomorrow.  Using that heal today means that is one less heal you can use in the future. It also forces players of priests to really act the part.  It takes player lead action to acquire the favour of your god if you want their help in the future.

Going back to the concept of uncanny valley for a moment.  NGR is not a retro-clone, not even remotely.  It does not have the same DNA as TSR D&D,  but it works towards a similar purpose of low fantasy adventure.  Of grappling hooks, crowbars, and battle axes being brought to bear on crumbling ruins and untamed wilds populated by monsters and men, explored on the scale of normal people without super powers.  To that end most adventures written for one will work for the other, what changes is how they pan out. NGR features a lot of schemes, stealth, and shenanigans with combat being avoided unless the fight is either an overwhelming ambush or desperate bid for survival since fighting is dangerous.

City of Tears is a desert themed NGR dungeon crawl,  coming soon!

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