Reading Teknochock – rollspel i en snabb och brutal framtid by Olav Nygård

One of the games I got on GothCon XXXV was Teknochock by Olav Nygård. I looked at an early draft of the game and gave some feedback, a few months later Olav came by the Indie Gaming Lounge and gave me a copy of the completed game.

Teknochock cover

Teknochock cover

The book
The game is 144 pages in A5 format. The text is single column, but pulls it off without becoming hard to read, thanks to enough space between the lines. It is a pleasant read, the rules are clear and the setting is even poetic in places, but it took around two hours to get through.

There are lots of black/white illustrations by a number of different artists. The styles are varying, but there are only a few pictures that feel a bit out of place.

The setting
The setting in Teknochock is cyberpunk. The PCs are members of a street gang in a city modeled on Bladerunner or Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy. Players who have played Cyberpunk 2020, Mutant 2089 or NeoTech will feel at home.

The life as a gang member is tough, drugs and violence is everywhere. All the PCs start with one mental problem, rolled from a long list in the book.

The rules
The rules are elegant and simple. Eight stats that each cover one aspect of the life on the street, paired in groups of two. Assign a fixed number of points within each pair to know how good the PC is at action within that area. The typical value is 8.

Basic resolution rolls are done by rolling any number of D6s. The sum of the dice rolled should not exceed the value of the ability, and if it does not every 1, 2 or 3 counts as a success. The player can play it safe with few dice, or roll several for a chance of multiple successes. Various tweaks and exceptions are laid upon that system to add some further depth to the characters.

The PCs get experience from playing adventures, and as they raise their status stat they climb within their own organization. When the status gets high enough the PC has managed to leave the street. Teknochock has a win condition, but one that shouldn’t affect the game if only one-shot adventures are played. Nevertheless campaign play is supported.

The form
The form is GM plus players. But the two page example of actual play shows how all the players have input on the story, not just the GM. A story game in a traditional costume. There is a section with advice to the GM and an intro adventure that the GM is expected to flesh out a bit when running.

The setting is good, there is enough information in the book to write and play a few adventures. And the dark future comes to life in the setting.

The rules are very good, a simple mechanic that manages to have depth, and the rules will produce broken gang members, desperate to fight their way up from the misery on the streets.

The form is good, the play example, GM advice and example adventure show how to run and play the game. It might not be a perfect match for an absolute beginner, but I can definitely think of worse games for such readers.

Will I play it?
I hope so, the rules are solid, and I like the setting material. I might hack it a little bit to support journalists or police officers as characters first though. The 20 year old game Mutant 2089 was my goto game for the genre, but Teknochock has taken it’s place. – The author directs the reader to Boningen, but there is not much information about the game there yet. Look under the files section for stuff regarding nTEK, an older incarnation of the game

Visiting GothCon XXXV

I just got back from GothCon XXXV, where I as usual helped hosting the Indie Gaming Lounge.

The games we had brought. Photograph by Joel Möller.

The games we had brought. Photograph by Joel Möller.

As usual we offered indie games, tea and candy on a drop-in basis. Popular games this year were Apocalypse World, Berättelser från Staden, Den Yttersta Domen, Fiasco and Null State. The weather was great, the finest I have ever experienced at GothCon, so many games were played outside.

I managed to do play tests of two of my current projects at the con, first a game of The Academy, the game formerly known as The Cadet Game.

The Academy playtest

The Academy playtest

We tested the bounds of the game and played with six players. Yet we managed to both build an academy, generate characters and play through three years at an orbiting space station and do epilogues for all the characters in a four hour convention slot. It was fun to see that the game worked so well, and I got some valuable feedback on the flow of the game.

Then I played a game of The Phenomenon, a super hero story that turned very 80’ies era supers comic in the end. It was very different from the angst ridden Mummy game in the previous test. I think I have the balancing down now, and it feels good that the game actually works for many different types of stories as intended.

While the World Ends

While the World Ends

Before leaving for home I ran a demo of While the World Ends for two players. This is first time I know of that the game has actually been played in English rather than Swedish. The story revolved around an archaeological dig for alien artifacts on a mysterious moon, and it turned into an exciting story as usual. I might get back to that game with a more lengthy actual play report later, but for now I can finally offer a photo of the artifacts of play from a game played entirely in English. The previous posts have only featured Swedish language artifacts: Greenhouses and Clef society

I got some new interesting Swedish games with me back home, and I hope to get back to them on this blog later with Reading posts.

The Cadet Game is dead, long live The Academy!

I met with Anders for deliberations yesterday at GothCon, and I will now present the winners in the Name the game, and get your own name into the game – competition.

We got a whole bunch of awesome names and deciding on finalists and winner was very hard, thank you everyone who submitted entries, I wish I had more games in the making.

The five finalists

  • Matthijs – Fantastic Boarding School!
  • Maciej Sabat – The Burschenschaft
  • w176 – The rules growing up
  • Wordman – Warding School
  • Jim Pinto – The Academy

And from those five we selected the winner:

The Academy, as suggested by Jim Pinto. Congratulations!

(The Academy was submitted by both Jim Pinto and w176, but Jim posted a day earlier. Still, two people independently arriving at the same name must mean something.)

I will get back to the finalists with PDF games when it is ready. Jim, you’ll hear from me in a while.

Reading Mythic Russia – Heroism and adventure in the land of the firebird by Mark Galeotti

I saw Mythic Russia when it first came out, it looked like an exciting game but for some reason I never bought it. The years went by and I forgot all about that game about medieval Russia. But then, a few weeks ago, Lulu had a free-shipping-drive, and as I stocked up on While the World Ends books for GothCon, i stumbled across it again. This time I bought it, and since it came in the mail I have been reading it.

Mythic Russia cover

Mythic Russia cover

The book
Mythic Russia by Mark Galeotti is one of the thicker books I have reviewed here on the blog, 320 pages US-letter. I have gotten lazy, reading such large games feel like a chore these days, but there is something about the game that kept me picking the book up over and over again.

The cover is lovely. The interior looks like most games did fifteen years ago, lots of double column text, and illustrations or gray boxes every now and then to break up the text into more manageable chunks. Numerous artists have been involved, and their pictures have one thing in common, they are very pixelated. I don’t think that is a result of the Lulu printing as such, perhaps it is the transfer from the originals that shows. But if I hold the book at arm’s length the illustrations are nice, even though the sheer number of styles involved leaves a somewhat scattered impression.

The text is wordy, especially in the rules sections, I had to dig through a few columns of text to find the specific rule when I wanted too look up how to do this or that.

The setting
The setting in Mythic Russia is unsurprisingly a mythic Russia. An anachronistic Russia where the fairy tales bleed into the world. Most history and fantasy I have encountered in gaming is based on western European history, but this game looks to the east and presents a wide variety of possible settings/character backgrounds. To me it feels like an new kind of fantasy, familiar yet different. Besides various kinds of Russians the game provides background (and the necessary rules) for Mongols, Teutonic knights, Lithuanians among others.

Religion (and magic) is important, both in the setting and and in the game text.

The rules
The rules are based on the HeroQuest game engine by Robin D Laws, but it has been tweaked in a few places. As I’m not familiar with HQ, I can’t tell for sure what is new.

Character generation is very neat; write a short 100 word text about your character, then extract keywords from that text and use them as the character’s abilities. There are no lists of predefined skills, stats or abilities, everyone comes up with their own that best describe the character.

The task and conflict resolution use the same basic mechanic, even though there are some optional rules for those that want more detailed conflict resolution. A curious detail is that there is no strict task resolution as such, e.g. if you want to jump over a rock, you have to enter into a conflict with the rock.

All abilities have a value between 1 and 20. Roll one d20, a one is a critical success, less or equal than the ability is success, higher than the ability is a failure and a 20 is a critical failure. Both the PC and the opponent rolls the die, and the outcomes are compared in a table to see the result of the conflict.

If a skill should rise above 20, 20 is traded for one mastery bringing it back down to something between 1 and 20 again. Masteries can be used to bump the results of die rolls. E.g. if you have 4 + 1 mastery, and roll a 5. That would usually be a failure since it is above the ability, but the result is increased to the next step by the mastery which makes it a success.

The system also has a HeroPoints, which a player can use to bump the results of die rolls, add stuff to the narrative, or use to advance the character if any should remain after the adventure.

The form
The Form is traditional with a GM and a group of players playing their characters. An intro scenario with pre-gen characters is provided.

The setting is excellent, about 200 pages are dedicated to describing the rich mythic Russia setting. There are loads of adventure seeds and events in the text. A group could play for years without exhausting the material in the book.

The rules are good, once you penetrate the text. The power level and feel of the game could easily be adjusted by the phrasing of the abilities.

The form is weak, the reader is assumed to know how to play RPGs already, and if you do it is not a problem. There is a short section with GM’ing advice, and a very short section with advice on how to play with children.

Will I play it?
Maybe. The mechanics seem solid, and the setting is very nice. I might pick one of the sub settings and just focus on that, to not have to explain 200 pages of setting to the players before the game can start. I’d like to have the time and commitment for a campaign before starting though. – Details on the game on the official Mythic Russia blog.

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