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What does it take to be a “neotrad” role-playing game?

Traditional roleplaying games are not so tied to tradition if you consider the new “neotrad” wave of titles we are experiencing in the last years. In 2015, Tomas Härenstam speaking about his Mutant: Year Zero roleplaying game, defined it “neotrad” game for the first time. “it’s got the production values, ease of use and plentiful campaign material of a traditional RPG, combined with the kind of clever and thematic rules design usually found in the indie games”, he said.

Since then, we saw the number of titles that can be associated with this quite loose category rising. Gamers are growing up, in number but especially in age, so a tabletop roleplaying games need to be abreast of the times, requiring less time and effort, cutting downtimes, taking some useless responsibilities away from the master job and, generally speaking, be competitive with other entertainment media. “Modern” RPGs (or indie, or new wave) are a very good answer to these needs but they offer a different game experience so many gamers are not comfortable with their approach.

So, in pragmatic terms, what it takes to be a “neotrad” role-playing game? I tried to summarize some of the recognizable elements that can help to define an RPG as neotrad:

  • Asymmetric gameplay. The game master doesn’t roll dices for png actions (she can still roll for random effects) so she can focus on managing the scene rather on calculations. The players roll dices to react to png actions (such as attacks) so the playing characters and their players are kept in the spotlight all over the session.
  • Clear agency for PCs. Players Characters are created with a specific mission or assignment, or other meaningful tasks to fulfill in the game. They are not simply created as part of the fictional world, they have a close link with the game itself.
  • Shared party creation. The gaming party is not created on players’ initiative only, there are specific rules to create bonds, connections and strong motivations that held the people together. In this way contrasts and arguments between PCs are limited by a common destiny.
  • Chekhov’s gun. “If you have a pistol, then it should be fired” it means that mechanics should not appear just to give unlikely options or false promises. Once a rule has been designed, there should be a fair probability that it comes into play in every session. In this way, players can be sure that everything they learned is useful and the GM has not to memorize useless rules. This is also true for the character sheet, it should report only skills or traits that are effectively used by players.
  • Bounded bookkeeping. Limited use of tables (from critics to equipment), long lists or other means that require browsing the handbook too often. This saves time and keeps the players’ attention alive.
  • Wide GM Support. Like Modern RPGs, neotrad don’t underestimate the GM job and give her all the means to manage the rules (with a fair number of samples) as well as the players at the table. Also, rarely a neotrad game uses the battle grid, relying more on abstract “zones” and other means to manage the fictional positioning.
  • No rule zero, or golden rule. Self-explanatory.

There are other interesting elements to consider like a playable setting (it’s not as pleonastic as it seems), the inclusion of techniques like the failing forward and a fiction first approach, but these elements are not so relevant from a neotrad perspective.

Some neotrad RPGs include Numenera (Monte Cook Games), 7th Sea (Chaosium), Vampire the Masquerade (White Wolf), Mutant: Year Zero (Modiphius), The One Ring (Cubicle 7), Symbaroum (Free League), Tales from the Loop (Modiphius), Forbidden Lands (Modiphius), Coriolis (Modiphius), Alien (Free League), Scheherazade (Space Orange 42).

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Questa voce è stata pubblicata il 9 dicembre 2019 da in Approfondimenti, English con tag .

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