When asked if I could preview Nova Praxis, I thought this would be an easy task; spend a couple of days skim-reading it, then throw a few words on the page. How hard could it be?
I was wrong. Nova Praxis is not something to be skim-read. It sucks you in, demands to be read and enjoyed word-for-word. This is a thing to be savored, not rushed. So much for deadlines.
Novas Praxis is a beautifully illustrated, self-contained hard science fiction role-playing game built using the FATE role-playing engine. It’s around 200 pages long (I am previewing the Beta, so the actual page count will change) with an art style and layout that reminds me of (and clearly draws from) the large-scale science fiction strategy genre. As this is an area which hasn’t been fully explored in role-playing games previously, that makes Nova Praxis very much a good thing.
The game postulates a believable timeline from 2030 to 2140 which sees the discovery of nanotechnology, the creation of the first Artificial General Intelligence (and subsequent banning of them), and the destruction of Earth. That’s before the game even begins! I don’t want to spoil too much of the story behind the game setting; suffice to say it is extremely evocative, with plenty of scope for role-playing opportunities. It neither feels too broadly sketched nor too tightly drawn to give the players and GM room to create their own tales. It has managed to hit that sweet spot, and that’s no mean feat.
[Editor's note: I just opened the book - I found the setting's timeline incredibly engaging, and that's only in the first chapter! -Tourq]
The campaign “world” is our very own solar system, with a few notable exoplanets thrown in for good measure. This helps make the setting more familiar than the usual sci-fi game, but at the same time brings the differences into sharp relief; The future has shaped the worlds around our Sun in many different ways. The setting is “ruled” by Coalition Houses, each having their own special focus and interests, and this corporate conflict acts as a major driving force in the game.
The rules of the game themselves are FATE-based and use only six-sided dice (and poker chips or similar for Fate Points) for skill resolution. The lightness of the game engine meshes well with the hardness of the setting to create something where the focus is very much on the story being told, rather than on the mechanics of the game. Usually, hard sci-fi systems have similarly hard and complex rules, and end up creating something too doughy to be playable. Nova Praxis, again, gets the blend just right.
Players are encouraged to create Aspects (facets of their character which are used in play) that are rich and evocative (in their terms, Nova!) – don’t just be “Smart”, but instead have a “Mind Like a Bio-Steel Trap” – to help bring the story-telling and setting forwards. Aspects can come from many sources (Characters, Consequences, Maneuvers, Scenes, Zones and Equipment) and they all combine to allow the player to spend Fate Points to influence the direction of the scene.
Character creation is both fast and detailed. Your hero has six Aspects covering six different areas, and begins play in one of three states – Pure (human, possibly with genetic modification), SIM (you have uploaded your mind to become an entirely digital entity) or Sleeved (your digital mind has been downloaded into an artificial body). Intriguingly, it’s possible that your character will change from one state to another during play with your human character using an Apotheosis Augmentation to become software, then being downloaded to a biosleeve body to walk the world once more.
Generation is rounded out by choosing Skills, Advantages and Gear, and the calculation of your Rep-Rating (your reputation among the Coalition). I would rate character generation as roughly on par with Savage Worlds in terms of complexity, and significantly less complex than some FATE-based systems I have seen.
I could go on, and probably will. This is a great system and setting that shows so much promise and doesn’t disappoint at any step of the way. When it comes out of Beta, I will be the first in line for a copy, that’s for sure.