Game Preview: NRG Core Rulebook and Saga of Dragon Star Kickstarter from the GameSmiths, LLC

A smith, traditionally, is someone who works with metal forging items such as weapons and armor. So a “game smith” could be interpreted as meaning someone who forges games, right? GameSmiths, LLC is a new publisher offering some cool new role playing games such as the N.R.G Core Rulebook (sword-and-sorcery) and The Saga of Dragon Star (epic adventure). And they’re busy kicking both of those off with a new Kickstarter project that needs your help.

Perusing their Kickstarter page offers some great early images from these two projects, each with a different spin. Looking at the N.R.G. cover, there’s a lovely multi-headed hydra a group of fantasy heroes is working on. And the Saga of the Dragon Star seems to have more of a swashbuckling feel. Reading a bit further it appears that Saga invokes a “Weird West” Shadowrun style mixing six-shooters, magic, and fantasy races. And N.R.G. seems to focus more on the tactical side of fantasy RPGs, which is an interesting approach considering how many games are trying to speed up combat instead of slowing it down… Even so, the art on both fronts is very exciting, providing small glimpses into these worlds in black and white or color.

As someone curious to learn more about these new games, I decided I’d take a look at some of the freebies they’ve posted as sneak peaks at the
GameSmith blog.

I figured I’d start with the N.R.G System Light Beta document. And I have to say I was a little scared by the giant “Success and Failure Result Chart” on page 6. It reminds me of the “Quality Results Table” in the old James Bond 007 RPG (1983) from Victory Games which I was never a big fan of. The game seems to rely on a single d10 which has the potential to “explode” positively (on a 10) or negatively (on a 1) and you compare the number rolled (plus or minus any modifiers) to a Target Number (TN).

The example provided is “For example, you have a +6 modifier against a TN of 17. You roll a natural 10, re-roll, and get a 4. Your grand total is 20 – a Remarkable Success. The next round, you roll again but this time roll a natural 1. You re-roll, and get a 6. Your grand total is 3 – an Extraordinary Failure.”

Every time your character performs an action, you look at the table, find your TN, and compare your result. This is pretty much the same mechanic as that old James Bond game, which was percentile-based and you compared it against a Success Chance, ending up with a Quality Rating based on your roll after you looked at the table (Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Acceptable). In the NRG case, you end up with a result of “Extraordinary Failure” to “Legendary Success.”

Along the way, you roll a second d10 with each roll – a Fate Die – which may grant you additional points if it matches the other roll. And you have to compare it to another table…

Now… That basic mechanic aside, I like the concept involved of potentially allowing every PC to help their fellow heroes in battle. These “Maneuvers” can grant allies the ability to move again, have additional bonuses, grant rerolls, etc, by sacrificing their own points during combat. Character creation also appears to be pretty straightforward as well, offering choices in race, class, attributes, “Strategies” (advantages and disadvantages), skills, tactics/maneuvers, and equipment.

After reading through the rules, I wanted to see how combat worked in practice with those table lookups to contend with, so I checked out the N.R.G. System Combat Example. The stat blocks for the two combatants and the enemies offer a quick summary of their attributes and abilities. Reading through the short combat takes very little time and it doesn’t seem that the players have to figure out the degree of success or failure at all, that that task goes to the game master. And the flexibility of assigning energy on the fly to particular attacks or defenses really does make combat more fluid than it would seem in the rules description. The sense of humor relayed by the banter between players and GM keeps the mood light through the whole thing, so I appreciate that.

My hope would be that the N.R.G. Core Rulebook will offer more examples of combat and using various options, including the use of maneuvers to help other PCs. So despite my trepidation at the use of tables in the middle of combat to look up the quality of actions, I’d like to learn more.

Also included among the freebies is The Depths of Greed, an adventure for the N.R.G. system. It’s a traditional fantasy-themed adventure, drawing the PCs into a plot involving a roadside inn and a group of brigands intent on causing trouble… And I have to say I like the way it unfolds getting the characters into the fray quickly, with some solid potential for further adventures should things go well. It includes a collection of premade characters and stats for all the important NPCs and monsters, so you can jump in with very little prep beyond getting a feel for the system.

So the N.R.G. system is pretty well represented with the freebies.

And there’s a short PDF that includes some class previews for Saga of Dragon Star as well… Not only does this 5-page PDF include some very intriguing art, but some hints at what’s going on in the world. The Disciple is a mage of some sort attempting to keep some ancient spells intact to prevent demons from breaking out of their prison (and dealing with the occasional demon jail break). The Mana Rustler is a spellcaster, but the magical energy they use for those spells is fading. The Dragon Rustler brings a bit of dragon magic kung fu into the mix. And then there’s the traditional Gambler and Drifter (gunslinger).

Though there’s not much to go on, I’m liking these tidbits of the world. And it doesn’t hurt that this world will be detailed for both Savage Worlds and Pathfinder, so it’s not tied to a single system…

Are you interested in learning more?

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