In Necronautilus, which I reviewed earlier this month, players act as Death Agents, solving problems and cataloguing the galaxy for the Blind God Death. At their disposal, they have Words of Power (effectively acting as spells, abilities, whatever), Memories (of their life before), and, well, Luck. The setting feels like Spelljammer if Sunn 0))) had written it, and in fact they even have a “Nautilus” spaceship to fly around in this infinite setting.
With World Champ Game Company’s permission, I’ve made available a Necronautilus character keeper using Google Slides, including character sheets and a ship sheet. Please feel free to make a copy and use with your own group!
But is it NSR?
Honestly, labels don’t really matter. We had fun, and that matters more than anything else.
That said, you might find that Pandatheist’s definition of New School Revolution games helps you find other games you like.
NSR games have:
- A GM: Yes, this is the default (although the book does present a GM-less option for groups who want to experiment). Not much to add here.
- A Weird Setting: “Through their emissaries, the blind god Death oversees the galaxy and its denizens—they stave off power-hungry lords, catalogue the ever-expanding planetary system, track those who would evade their inevitable fate and maintain the proper order. These tasks are executed by soulbound clouds of toxic gas, the Death Agents.” What the fuck else do you need?
- A Living World: In a literal sense, this isn’t true (the world is “dead”). In another literal sense, it is (“despite this, our galaxy also contains new life”). I’m not actually sure what this means in Pandatheist’s proposal, but the game does presume that the world changes and evolves as the players move through it.
- Rules Light: The core rules fit on one 2-page spread of a digest-sized book. Everything basically comes down to a 2d6 roll under (or equal, for greater effect). The entire book, including lots of sample content and a Mörk Borg-esque artistic layout, is like 82 pages, and players would only ever see like half of that at the very most – they literally just need those two pages for the main experience.
- Deadly: Necronautilus plays with this a little: if you drop to 0 Life, you experience a Rush which changes your character, but then you return. Just don’t do it more than 5 times, because then you’re expelled from the Agency. However, if you ever hit 30 Life, you are also dismissed and return to a “normal” afterlife – so effectively, yes, you can “die” by letting your health drop OR get too high!
- Emergent Narrative: The game uses clocks to track progress, obstacles, and monsters, with the GM encouraged to “label the clock with the target or obstacle, not the method, allowing the Agents to creatively pursue their goals”. Everything emerges from how the players use their Words of Power and Memories, with the GM maintaining a light touch by creating interesting challenges based on the mission and what the players have done.
- External Interaction: If this means that the group of players interact with each other, whether to figure out what to do or how to deal with a challenge, then it’s required here. You need to discuss what exactly the invocation of a particular Word or Memory will do, for example. I don’t really know what this is.
- Exploration: A group can go through an entire campaign without a bit of combat. The Agents’ mission types are discovery, surveillance, and maintaining balance. Floating through the weird void to understand what is in it is entirely valid, and you will likely find that dealing with those challenges provides the greatest joy in the game.
I compare this to Troika! (which my friend Yochai says “stands out” and there’s “no better example” of the weird) – and, for my money, Necronautilus is both weirder and lighter in the rules. But it’s weird in a way that I feel I can manage, unlike the Troika! or Electric Bastionland, where I love the engine but the implied setting doesn’t work for me.
Most importantly, the game feels like Troika! and Into the Odd and such games for me. If you like those, I think you’ll like this one, too, and that’s what NSR really means in my mind.