Monday, September 26, 2016

Review: N.E.W. Science Fiction Role-Playing Game

I received a PDF copy of the N.E.W. Science Fiction Role-Playing Game for review purposes from EN Publishing. I had been part of the early platyests of the What's O.L.D. is N.E.W line of products that form O.L.D., N.E.W., and N.O.W. When I saw that the combined PDF of N.E.W. was out, I was very interested as I don't have a dedicated Science Fiction RPG I like.

N.E.W. is an interesting creature and borrows some great ideas from other other games to create something special.

The book opens with an overview of N.E.W. and RPGs, in general. I really like the layout and the art of the book.

Chapter 1 focuses on character creation and goes over the Attributes (Strength, Agility, Endurance, Intuition, Logic, Willpower, Charisma, Luck, Reputation, and Psionics). Most Attributes start at 3 and our modified by Species, Homeworld type, Origin, and each Career you take (N.E.W. is a Lifepath system, like Traveller). While your Attribute is represented by a number, much like in the D20 system, it corresponds to a Dice Pool of d6's (for instance if my Strength Attribute is 7 then it is equals to a dice pool of 3d6).  Psionics and Reputation begin at 0.
  Skills are covered in this chapter and there is a good list broken down into Academic, Artistic, Combat, Crafting, Development, Gaming, Miscellaneous Hobby, Physical, Performance, Psionic, Sporting, Subterfuge, Social, Technical, Trivia, Vehicle, Outdoor and Other skills. Just like Attributes your skill rank equals a Dice pool. When performing a Task, you add your Attribute and your Skill Dice pools, as well as Dice from Equipment to gain your final dice pool (E.G. Agility of 2d6 + Pistols of 1d6 + RK5 of 1d6 = 4d6). It should be noted that Grade, which is similar to Level, limits the size of your Dice Pool. At Grade 1, your limited to 5d6.
   Species covered in N.E.W. are Humans, Ogrons (7 ft. tall, green skin, tusks), Venetians (hairless near humans, natural psionics, spiritual), Borians (4 ft. tall, red of blue skin, cheerful) Androids, Spartans (violent, near human with ridges on their foreheads), and Felans (cat people). Each species gives Attributes bonuses a series of skills that you may choose 3 from and an Exploit, which is similar to D20's Feats.
   Your Homeworld type also gives you bonuses to an Attribute and one of two Skills. You can choose from Agricultural, Arctic, Asteroid, Barren, City, Desert, Jungle, Ocean, and Volcanic
   You choose an Origin (17 total) and four further Careers (45 total) to round out the character creation Process. Origins may only be taken as your first Career. A Career may have a prerequisite to enter it, features a length of time in years (e.g. 2d6+6), Attribute bonuses (you may always raise your Hook Skill instead of one of those listed), a list of Skills you may choose two from (you may always choose a Defensive skill in place of one of those listed) and may choose one Exploit from a few options. The Careers presented cover pretty much everything I can think of for a Sci-Fi setting.
   Exploits are laid out, which as I said have the same impact as Feats do in other games. Each character gets the Aim or Feint Exploit, plus one additional Universal Exploit. A Universal Exploit are open to all characters and be chosen during any Career.
   Age is covered and how it affects a character's Skills and Attributes.
   A Trait is chosen by selecting a descriptor based on your highest or lowest Attribute (with a table to help you name it) and situational bonus based on it.
Derived Statistics are covered an include Health, Speed, Jump, Carry, Initiative, Defense, Starting Money, and Attacks. An option for Cinematic Mode is presented as a sidebar that beefs up Health.
   Psionics are laid out by Skill and Power and the Power Points are explained. I'm still a bit confused is Power Points are 10 x your Psionics Rank or Dice Pool. The types of Psionics presented are Biopsionics, Clairsentience, Clairvoyance, Ergokinesis, Metapsionics, Telekinesis, Telepathy, Teleportation. Meditation is important for Psi characters as it allows the regeneration of Power Points, though I'm unclear if you recover Points while resting.
   Rules for Advancement and the Starship Murphy round out the first chapter.
  There is a great rundown on character creation starting on page 14 that I found extremely helpful.
   An central elements to characters are Descriptors (which remind of the Cypher System) where you sum up your character like this: a[n] [age] [trait] [species] [career] who [hook]. Trait is derived from your highest or lowest attribute and hook is something to help you drive stories and gain a bonus d6 in the right circumstances.

Chapter 2 deals with Starting Money and Wealth and then covers General Gear, Servies and Foodstuffs before heading into Weapons, Armor, Shields, and Vehicles. Not only are many, many options presented, but rules for customization allow endless possibilities.
We also get rules for Addictions, their Side Effects and example Drugs and rules for creating Drugs. Next comes Limitations on organic beings and Cybernetics. The chapter finishes off with Organization rules, example Organizations and Special Items.

Chapter 3 covers the rules of play, creating dice pools, using static difficulties, Equipment Quality and it's impact on dice pools, Maximum Dice Pools, Indirect Skills, Difficulty Benchmarks, Complications, Critical Success, Opposed, Extended, and Contested Tasks, Chases, Countdowns, Luck, Combat, and the breakdown of a combat turn and the environment.
   The basic rules are add Attribute + Skill + Equipment to build a Dice Pool and roll that many d6 and totaling them vs a Difficulty.
The Difficulty may be assigned by the GM or be taken from an NPC/PC in the form of a Defense (Melee, Ranged, or Mental). GM assigned Difficulties rate from 7 to 45 and how they are generated is clearly explained in a sidebar. Complications remove dice from your dice pool. A Critical success is when you roll three 6's.
   The Countdown mechanic is used for dramatic tension such whey a character is dying or when you are trying to outrace and exploding starship. A dice pool is created either by from an Attribute or simply assigned by the GM. Each round the dice are rolled and any 6s are removed (you can speed things up by counting 4,5, and 6s). When you get rid of the final die, the looming threat occurs. Certain actions can Stabilize or Replenish a Countdown. Stabilization stops the Countdown completely.
   The Luck Attribute lets your lower your Luck Attribute and add to a dice pool on a 1:1 basis, power an Exploit, absorb damage, deduct dice from a pool on a 1:1 basis, perform a signature move, add dice to a damage roll. Additionally, Luck dice "explode" on a 6, meaning your roll the die again and add it to the 6, repeating as long as you continue rolling 6s. The Leadership Skill's dice pool can be given to others and used like Luck. Once per day, you may spend 5 minutes replenishing your Luck.
   A Combat round begins by rolling Initiative. Each character gets 2 actions and can move and attack in any order. When attacking you form your dice pool up to your maximum size by adding Attribute + Skill + Equipment. Cover and range factors will modify your pool. You can boost damage by spending dice from your pool on a 2:1 basis (Subtract 2 dice from your Attack for 1 additional die of damage). Certain Exploits also allow you to spend Dice for Effects. Finally, you can Luck dice to your pool, which will allow you to exceed your max dice pool. Roll your dice and total them and compare to your target's Defense. If you hit roll damage and compare it to your target's SOAK (Armor subtracts damage). Anything left over damage is removed from your target's Health. A Critical Succes (three 6s) pushes a target one stage along a Status Track.
   When a character's Health is reduced to 0 or lower, the character is unconscious and at risk of dying. Immediately the character forms a Countdown dice pool equal to their Endurance and each round it is rolled per the Countdown rules. Health can be recovered by resting for hone hour each day. Your Status Track has five Degrees: Normal, Mild, Moderate (-1d6), Severe (-2d6), and Extreme (-3d6). You move one step down on the Status Track when you suffer a Critical Hit. Tactical combat with miniatures is accommodated for those who want it.

Chapter 4 provides a great deal of information about Space and Space Travel and details Starship Combat as both Theater of the Mind and Tactical combat. A useful section detailing the roles on a Starship is included.

Chapter 5 gives the GM advice and rules for building a Universe, including building worlds, creatures, and new species.

Appendix 1 details an example Solar System.

Appendix 2 details aliens and foes.

Appendix 3 is a short encounter to begin playing.

N.E.W. is a well done and interesting game, character creation is far more involved than I usually go for with my schedule, but I think it would create some well-rounded characters. The rules work and make sense. I would advise you to buy this if you are looking for a SF game and would recommend it over Traveller. I also think much of the engine could be used if you had an interest in the D6  System (OpenD6 or Mini Six) as new options and rules.

I'm anxiously awaiting the N.O.W. rulebook and look forward to getting my hands on it.
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