The following article discusses a game that contains disturbing images and scenes of explicit violence and gore.
If you’re a fan of Capcom’s survival horror games, most notably the Resident Evil series, the above line is without a doubt familiar to you. It’s similar to the message splayed across the screen every time you boot one up, warning you that what you’re about to see is, frankly, horrifying.
I bring this up because it’s something I can’t stress enough: today, we’re going to be talking about Nechronica, a fan-translated game from Japan about zombie-cyborg little girls in a far flung future where humanity is completely wiped out. The themes and imagery used in this game are gruesome.
If you’ve got a weak stomach or are easily disturbed, this isn’t the game for you.
Consider yourself warned, dear reader.
1) Who Made This?
This game was developed by the Japanese game company Incog Labs. This is a company that was also responsible for the release of a game Golden Sky Stories, which is the absolute polar opposite of Nechronica (by virtue of it being a heartwarming game about cute animal spirits helping the villagers).
An unofficial translation is currently available, and still a work in progress. The core rules for playing (dice mechanics, character creation, etc.) have been completed, as well as some of the game’s setting information, and even a few sample scenarios to help give any new GMs an idea of how the game might be run.
What the game is missing, however, is details on devising one’s own scenarios. So while one could extrapolate from the information present in the sample scenarios, that only does so much in lieu of more distinct guidelines.
2) What’s The Premise and Setting?
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Nechronica is a game set in the far flung future, about 200 years from modern times. As computer and weapon technology advanced, humanity found themselves in a constant state of war. It was initially between nations, but as bio-weapons began seeing use, war quickly changed: humans were now trying to survive against their creations.
The humans lose, and after they’re completely wiped out, all that’s left are the bio-weapons called dolls and their AI commanders called Necromancers. To idle their time away, the Necromancers like to instill memories of what human-life was once like into their dolls, making what once destroyed humanity into a facsimile of it.
Nechronica is a game where you play as one of these dolls, possessing memories you can just barely recall of a life you may have never actually lived, while dancing along a war-torn hellscape to your sadistic master’s whims.
3) What Are The Mechanics Like?
Characters in Nechronica are composed mostly of skills and equipment they posses, most of which affect what you can accomplish in combat. Skills are acquired from your Position (what role you serve in Doll society) and your Classes. Additionally, your Classes also dictate what parts are available to you.
This game has some very detailed combat rules, with almost every part that makes up your character serving some purpose in combat. Outside of combat, most of what you’ll be doing is exploring and conversing with other players in character. Any sort of roll made outside of combat can be assisted with any part you have, assuming you can justify how it would help. (Thankfully, these parts include basic things like “Eyes” and “Arms.”)
Nechronica has comparatively simple mechanics. Everything is based on d10s, and you’re aiming to hit 6 or higher to succeed. Anything higher than 10 is critical success, which usually only grants special results in combat. However, critical failures are achieved on a 1, which usually end with any parts involved being destroyed.
The threats in this game are both being destroyed utterly, which happens when all parts are broken, and having your heart broken. Dolls in Nechronica have what are called “Fetters,” which represent their connections to other dolls. Stressful situations, such as horrifying encounters or even battle, cause these Fetters to acquire madness. When all of a Doll’s Fetters acquire a certain amount, their heart is broken, they lose their mind, and become one of the very monsters they fight against.
4) What Is This Similar To?
I’ve frankly had trouble finding any contemporary game that can accurately be compared to Nechronica. However it does have a few idiosyncrasies that are more common in Japanese games (tabletop and computer) than their Western counterparts.
There’s a certain kind of poetry present in the names. For example, in combat, there are five zones that characters can be in; a center zone shared between enemies and the players, and two back row zones for either side. Instead of naming them something like “center,” “short” and “long” for either side, the zones are instead named after various after-life worlds, such as Elysium, Tartarus, or Eden.
Additionally, much like many other games from Japan, Nechronica has very effective mechanics in place that unite combat and roleplaying without being cumbersome. For this game, it’s Madness and Parts. Madness is gained during combat, so it behooves you to participate outside of combat to reduce it beforehand. Furthermore, while Parts have explicit uses in combat, and their outside of combat use is left open ended. Overusing them is ill advised: critical failures are always a possibility that end with Parts breaking.
5) Is It Worth Getting Into?
This game is meant to be really dramatic; you’re taking on the role of a literal plaything, that may wind up completely broken either physically or mentally. So if you can stomach horror and play things straight, this game can really dial up drama.
If you’re more prone to clowning around and turning everything into a farcical comedy (like yours truly), it can lend itself to some hilarious moments. Moments such as an obsessive cannibal being trusted wholeheartedly by an oblivious ditz. A ditz that isn’t freaked out by a slimy green ooze seeping out of their third party member’s eye and into their mouth. Instead, the ditz would completely lose her mind when her favorite dress gets ripped up.
Just bear in mind: as of this writing, there’s no official translation, so if you’re the sort that insists on supporting the original creator no matter what, you’ll need to engage in the somewhat risky and very expensive practice of importing from Japan.
Aaron der Schaedel may or may not have inadvertently joined a frog-worshipping cult after making a soft-cover book out of the fan-translated .pdf of Nechronica. He actually isn’t sure if they’re really a cult, but even if they are, at least this isn’t the first time he’s found himself in the company of cultists. Aaron can be found on twitter @Zamubei (For now…)
Picture Reference: https://solarisjapan.com/products/nechronica-supplement-hakoniwa-no-monogatari-guide-book-role-playing-game
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.