Lately I've been kind of obsessed with this Japanese RPG called Nechronica, which is a game about undead cyborg mutant Lolitas murdering each other in a post apocalyptic wasteland. The combat is centered around individual body parts being destroyed, so the dolls literally tear each other limb from limb over the course of the battle. Was there ever and doubt I would love it?
To call Nechronica an RPG is a bit of a stretch, as it is little more than a combat engine and a whole heap of gore porn style. It literally has practically no rules for non-combat activities, but the rules it DOES have are stylish and unique, doing combat in a way I've never seen in western games. It does a lot of neat things I'd love to use for fantasy-horror D&D (my home grown Bleaklands setting especially) so over the next few posts I'll be explaining some of the rules and talking about how to port them into a retro-clone. The main gameplay mechanic that I'm interested in is called the Parts System.
In Nechronica, a characters is created by recording and purchasing the individual organs, limbs and weapons that make up their body. These parts come in many types, ranging from the Basic Parts that all dolls begin play with such as hands, eyes, jaws, and brains, to the three categories of custom parts, which can add anything from crab legs, drill tipped limbs, poison glands and jet-nozzles. The various parts act not only as a health system, but each individual part is also a discrete action that can be used in combat. The mutation Tentacles is a Part that can be placed on any location (growing from your head, growing from an arm, etc) and can be used in combat to hinder opponents movement. Some parts act more as perks or feats, such as the armament Kung-Fu, which is located in the head and provides an additional action point.
Now, the way this works in combat: Attacks in Nechronica are made using a d10. Unlike most RPGs, there is very little inflation, so hit location is based off of the result. Results 7 through 10 each key up to a location; leg, torso, arm and head. 6 is attackers choice, as is a critical hit on an 11+. Each point of damage to a location knocks out a number of Parts equal to the damage, the target of the attack choosing the Parts to be destroyed. A 2 damage to the leg might remove the basic Bone and the mutation Adhesive Pads, depriving your character of two parts which provide movement bonuses.
Look, here is where I am getting with this: Nechronica has a fucking cool damage system. I'm going to put it into D&D now. There are several pretty substantial design obstacles in the way.
- Nechronica uses flat math where to-hit is almost always near 50%, while D&D's AC system means that hit probability fluctuates.
- Nechronica characters enter a death spiral by taking damage, becoming weaker and weaker as they continue the fight. D&D characters fight at full strength up till the moment they pass out or die at 0 hit points.
- Low level Nechronica characters can withstand more hits than low level D&D characters, but HP and damage inflation mean high level D&D characters can withstand much more punishment.
- Increasing damage potential makes it hard to balance basic Parts if they remain static, or, if it increases with level, requires players to potentially have to go edit over a dozen Basic parts on their character sheet.
- Nechronica damage is relatively low, perhaps 2 or 3 points on an attacks. D&D damage, especially spells, can involve dozens of points of damage.
Alright, so, this blog post has already gotten pretty long, and this is probably super boring to anyone who isn't really into game design. Next I'm going to try and hack the to-hit probabilities and figure out how targeting locations work. Uh, I guess stay tuned for that or whatever?