Accessibly Indie

My knowledge of Forge games is probably on the slim side, all things considered. I can recognize the names of a lot of the more acclaimed indie RPGs, and even tell you a little about what they do, but most of that’s from reading blogs and forums that mention them. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the system for Sorcerer, for example, while I only have a cursory understanding of Dogs in the Vineyard, Apocalypse World, and Burning Wheel. Unless I’ve specifically reviewed or made house rules for something on this blog, chances are good that my familiarity with it is low.

This is all to say that I can’t be sure that what Technoir is doing isn’t just the natural recombination of Forge game DNA. But, to me, it feels incredibly innovative. And what it has going for it in spades is accessibility. Players around here will go for a cyberpunk system with a largely traditional player/GM relationship featuring otherwise innovative mechanics the way they wouldn’t for an introspective shared-GMing game where story trumps advancement. That’s not to say such games wouldn’t be fun, just that they’re a harder sell and are more likely to be tried as an experiment than as a regular campaign. Technoir is one of the few games I’ve found that fits in the overlapping venn circles of what I’d consider both “indie” and “would play every week.” And that’s a really valuable commodity in a world where there are several flavors of D&D that are easier to write sessions for and get players to show up for every week than the vast majority of games out there.

That’s not all to say that it’s a perfect system and I’ll never houserule it. I’m already thinking about tweaks to how hurt dice and death works. Harbinger would really like some capacity for man vs. nature instead of just man vs. man conflict. There are definitely things that I’m not 100% on board with in general, and things I would tweak for different settings.

But the really cool thing about the game is that spindling and mutilating it is a core assumption. All the systems, while unexpectedly dynamic in their results, are pretty chunky and easy to get a feel for. As a GM, you can pretty easily figure out what the ramifications might be for tweaking or even rewriting whole sections of the game. This is not an engine where changing one system results in a cascade of ramifications throughout how player characters work. Hell, the designer himself is committed to two upcoming supplements that are likely to feature pretty major rules tweaks, and then a guide on how to make your own.

There are a lot of games out there that are fairly easy to mod. There are others that try to be generic and universal, such that different settings can be played with a few switches adjusted. But Technoir for whatever reason feels altogether more modular to me. The core of the game is a bunch of systems that work well together, but don’t necessarily require one another. We’ve seen one way you can put them together. When Mechnoir and Hexnoir come out, we’ll see a couple more. But every kid with a new set of Legos knows that the spaceship that they show you how to make in the instruction booklet is just a start.

And I’m looking forward to seeing what else I can use these Legos to build…