Basically DungeonPunk applies the gritty, cynical aesthetic of CyberPunk to heroic fantasy, usually with magic as tech. Sometimes this is just a surface gloss: long coats & mirror shades on your dual-pistol wielding dwarf warrior. What I’m looking to do is emphasize some of the things that I see as making the “Punk” part:
The street finds its own uses for magic (tech)
Criticism of conformity: you can have a comfortable life, or freedom, but not both. Opting for freedom drops you into the seamy underbelly of society, scrabbling for a living. You’re not really a punk, imo, if the Establishment is universally hated and despised. Fighting against alien invaders who want to eat you isn’t punk; fighting against alien invaders who want to give you boring 9-5 jobs with health and dental in alien call centers is.
The protagonists are society’s outcasts and losers, not the movers and shakers. Being a high-level adventurer doesn’t get you an audience with the king and the hand of the prince/princess, it gets you an unpleasant interview with the head of the secret police where he offers to drop the charges if you do a little job for him…
Some quick impressions of Numenera from Monday’s game:
I like the mad-lib character generation. I might even steal it.
The names Glaive, Jack, and Nano for the character types aren’t particularly evocative for me. Nanotech is the new phlebotinum and it already feels worn out.
Cyphers is a bad name for the one-use devices. The one thing they’re not is mysterious, since to make them worthwhile you know exactly what they do (I guess they come clearly labelled).
The hard limit of two Cyphers (or three if you’re a Nano with Expert Cypher use), while clearly a good idea to prevent characters from accumulating a huge pile of them and spending too much time staring at their character sheets looking for the right device to solve a problem, seems pretty contrived. I’d prefer some kind of sliding scale of increased chance of mishap and wilder catastrophic failure.
Multiplying by 3 all the time is kind of a nuisance. Not sure why it’s better to have everything ranked in difficulty 1-10 with bonuses and penalties applied to that number, but have to multiply by 3 to derive the d20 target.
Having the player roll both attack and defense vs. target numbers is fun, though our GM made a minor goof and had us rolling low for defense as if we were rolling the opponent’s to-hit against us.
The GM Intrusion mechanic is immersion breaking. Personally I’d get rid of the choice to accept or spend an XP to reject _and_ the compelled give XP to another player; both those decisions can’t be made from an In Character POV, and the latter can’t even usually be attached to the fiction.
The game is an odd mix of broad strokes and fiddly details. I’d prefer to stick to the broad strokes.
I think it would be nice to encourage more colorful character descriptions and abilities; the characters depicted in the game art seem much more exotic than what the character generation process turns out, though that might just be a failure of imagination on my part.
I’m not sure what I think of spending your stats (which are also your hp) for extra effort or to power your abilities; I am sure I don’t like spending XP for temporary bonuses.
I’m planning on playing in Jonathan Henry’s Numenera campaign once he gets that up and running, but what playing this did for me was make me want to work on a far-future science fantasy setting for Zap! more than run a game of Numenera myself.
The idea of a low-magic fantasy setting seems a bit odd to me, in that the idea that the world we live in is low-magic strikes me as a very modern one. As far as I can tell at most times and places in our world, which has no magic at all, people nonetheless believed that the world was chock full of magic. It might have been hard to make use of reliably, though most superstitions seem to me to be every bit as formulaic as D&D wizard spells, but it lurked everywhere and you needed lots of protection against it.
I can kind of see wanting a setting where objective proof of the existence of magic is hard or impossible to come by if you want something that feels like our world. And I certainly get not wanting the solution to every problem to be just magic it away. But many (most?) low-magic settings I’ve seen in games take it much farther than that, to where hardly anybody even claims to do magic or have never encountered anything they regarded as supernatural, and that doesn’t quite feel right to me. To the modern mind the difference between natural and supernatural is obvious and complete: your cattle catching a disease vs. somebody levitating in front of your eyes are completely distinct kinds of phenomena. In a setting based on the pre-modern world I’m pretty sure that shouldn’t be true.
I was flipping through Fate Accelerated at the game store yesterday, and it seemed like the mirror-universe version of my own SFX! There are strong similarities (maybe because I played and hacked so much FUDGE back in the day), but almost every concrete difference I noticed was the exact opposite of how I like things to be. Starting from the very beginning with the description of the purpose of this tabletop RPG being to gather around with your friends to take turns telling little parts of stories, through the FUDGE special dice, the use of names that need to be continually converted to numbers and back, and the damnable economy of points that need to be spent to actually have the fiction of the world have any bite, the meta decision whether to have a failure or a success at cost, negotiating back and forth over “compels”… I can practically feel the game staring at me, stroking its goatee and toying with its agonizer.
Anyway, you can currently get the pdf (or epub or mobi) version as Pay What You Want over on RPGNow. If you ever wanted a game that has many of the elements I like (rules light, freeform chargen, resolution driven by genre-logic, shared responsibility for the details of the world) delivered in a way that makes me cringe, check it out.