As regards my taste in games, I am rather omnivorous. But at this stage of my life there are a few things you can say about an RPG that will attract my particular interest. With seven children and the whole box of responsibilities which that entails, I am especially fond of games that are;
- Low prep, while still presenting the illusion of a living world moving in the background.
- Sandbox style, allowing the choices of the protagonists to drive the action, and not a predetermined plot.
- Fast playing, with rules which are light enough to not require much reference in play and consistent enough to allow on the fly rulings that make sense.
For this week’s review, I’m going to go over how Jeremy Keller’s Technoir manages to meet those criteria in some interesting and innovative ways. I’ll also talk about the one or two issues I have with the system, but those mostly come down to differences of preferred play style. You might just find the bugs I’m pointing out look like features to you.
Technoir uses a fairly straightforward d6 based dice pool system. A number of dice are rolled based on the character’s innate attributes, positive extrinsic factors (Adjectives to use the game’s terminology,) and negative factors (also Adjectives.) All the dice are rolled together, with negative dice canceling positive dice of equal value. The highest remaining positive die is then compared to a target number. Success allows a situationally appropriate adjective to be applied to the target of the action.
Technoir uses an innovative system called Transmissions to generate situations to draw the protagonists into interacting with the game world. Using one requires negligible preparation and could likely be done completely on the fly. Transmissions generate a situation with ties to the player characters, not an actual plot, this leaves the PCs free to drive the direction of play with their own choices. A free Transmission (Twin Cities Metroplex) is available to give an idea of how they work.
The are only two issues I have with Technoir;
- It seems best suited to running short multi session arcs, rather than long campaigns or one shots. The latter two being my preferred game types.
- The system is designed in such a way that rolls are only made against another character, there is no “vs. Nature” in this game, no suspense about whether or not your character can jump over that ravine. All characters are assumed to be competent operators who will succeed at anything remotely within their wheelhouse unless they are being directly opposed by another actor. This makes a bit of sense for the genre, but I really kind of miss rolling to bypass the alarm system or hotwire the car.
As I said, even the issues I have with Technoir are matters of taste. All in all, I recommend taking a look at this game if you like either the Cyberpunk or Hard-boiled Detective genres and are looking for a game that handles them well in a low prep, fast playing fashion. The PDF is available at DTRPG and a hardcopy can be purchased at IPR.