Design Notes


A page where the Refs write down roughly what they were thinking of when they were designing this game, for the benefit of system pokers, rules nargs and other interested larpers.

As a general point, these rules existed to make us think really hard before breaking them. So yes, there are cases where one of these rules doesn't apply because another part of the system or setting was more important.

Overall rules design goals

  • Incentives to play to the brief, both in setting and the mechanics.
  • Incentive to do stuff now rather than hoard resources.
  • The system should be easy to use, and having to remember any numbers bigger than 9 should be avoided.
  • Skill trees should have reasonably varied effects, rather than the Crippling Overspecialisation of say, TT Cursing.
  • Fewer judgement calls for refs to make. Speeds play, les ref stress, no feeling anyone’s favoured. Use of secret rules or beadbags is preferable to having to decide what a PC got out of a ritual or an Ultimate Faith in TT.
  • There should rarely be a case where everything fails unless a PC has Skill X (Purging, Spirit damage, etc). There should be Good, Bad and Ugly solutions. This way PCs can always do *something* regardless of the OC factor of Who Turned Up.
  • PCs start competent, the power gap between newbie and veteran PC should be low enough that everyone is useful.
  • Everything is powered by Stamina, we only have to balance one set of mechanics.
  • It should be hard to steal your own fun. A starting PC will have a broad range of abilities and plot hooks. You can choose to ignore them but it’s hard to accidentally miss them.
  • Things which completely incapacitate a PC shouldn’t happen. FREEZE is boring because it either wins a fight or gets resisted.
  • Character Death should be nontrivial, and a risk that is present and obvious.
  • Heroic sacrifices should be decisions not deus ex machinas, and not Win Buttons. No ultimate faith, no overcast. You could blow yourself up with an overcharged ritual to save the day, but in the end it’ll be be an upstat to a thing that someone could already do.

System themes

These are many of the themes we wanted to include in the system.

PCs are better than XPs

Most of the good rituals in NFNC are Powered By Mates, and cost Stamina to all the participants. This means that even the highest-level PC needs to convince other characters to participate at a cost if they want to use their best stuff. Since anyone with Stamina works, there’s an incentive to find the people who haven’t been doing much (and so have more Stamina knocking about) and include them.

Limited Free Stuff

In TT, RECOGNISE X/DETECT was free, or essentially free in the case of a 1 mana spell that you can just regen the mana for. This means that there’s no reason to bother trusting someone if you have the ability to do a Recognise. Making investigation have a real cost means that information starts in the hands of those PCs who pay for it. For example, someone walks into the bar behaving strangely. In TT you’d have a cluster of PCs each calling RECOGNISE SPIRIT/MAGIC/ALCHEMY on them because why not? Might be useful. In No Flag, No Country, understanding an effect means taking some backlash from it, which might result in personal risk.

This is an area of game where we want PCs to be hesitant to act because it means those PCs who do choose to act get to control the information.

Easy Nonhuman Races

None of the races in NFNC have any difficult physrepping requirements, rules, or game-changing flange. They were designed to be roleplaying inspirations, not a means to mechanically specialise, and so don't need any sort of game balance checks.

Grey Faction Morality

There is no Designated Evil PC faction or particularly wuzzy one. All the factions are designed to be equally good places for altruistic characters or utter dicks. Celebrant might look nice on a skim through, but the pride Hannibal Lecter takes in all his “work” would make him an excellent Priest of Celebrant.

Skills should be Active

There’s little more boring than a skill that lets you turn Item A into Item B at will. Unless you can do something that can’t be accomplished by an NPC vendor, your PC has turned into a Coke machine where you insert money, receive shinies. Coke machines are not protagonists. With that in mind, our "gain money" skill comes with a selection of active communications-based abilities, and our "create consumables" skill is really some interchangeable skill slots with other things bolted on.

Limited, Uptime Buffs

The sudden appearance of a pile of buffs from someone who’s not appearing on a linear is a balance problem for refs as they aren't just looking at the party but what other spong might upstat them. See TT Blessing, buying a pile of potions, etc. Also, you’ve stuck a lot of consumables on the team and yet no roleplay has really occurred. NFNC tries to limit buffs. The best ones are things you can only cast on yourself, and they tend to require uptime casting, not "I put this on PCs before the linear while never appearing".

This is also why Talismans are limited to 3-4 a day. You can't hand someone a giant pile of consumables to let them blow through a linear. Or rather you can, but they can use a few of those and have to hand the rest out to other party members.

Early success is not absolute.

In combat terms, until you’ve won combat you haven’t succeeded. There isn’t FREEZE, BLIND or HALT for this exact reason- they make combats either too easy, or are blanket resisted and back to square one.

Defense is costly, but possible

In combat terms, RESIST and CRUSH RESIST are ablative. This has two functions; one, it prevents PCs from being useless just because they don’t have a particular type of damage (benefit attacker), two, it means that they can be included without making them overly powerful (benefit defender)

XP system

We've moved that out to its own page at Design:XP