SF2 4

Necronautilus (2020)

Like Spelljammer with a doom metal soundtrack, in Necronautilus (2020), you play as a sentient cloud of poison gas and soul stuff, exploring a dimension where everything that ever died now resides, from bugs to dinosaurs to people to stars. You travel the dead yet paradoxically living galaxy in a nautilus ship, enforcing the will of Death, who empowers you. Yet you also seek answers about your own lost history — you were something else once, alive, autonomous, with hopes and desires. What happened to you? The only thing you remember is your reason for becoming an agent of Death.

The very light system is based around Words. The beginning value of a Word of Power is six and it can be invoked by rolling under that value with two six-sided dice. Players navigate successes however they like. Thus, “Fire” can start one, burn the flesh, burn the heart, discharge a gun or manifest four building-sized letters; so long as there is some connection between the Word and the effect, no matter how tenuous, it happens. Once used, Words are made into Memories, which give the character Life. Accumulate 30 points of Life and your character will be restored to a semblance of it — and then, in the inverse of most RPGs, removed from the game.

Rolling over the Word’s value results in no manifestation of power — it then changes. Say, “Fire” to “Fired,” which limits your application considerably. This is balanced by raising its value, making it easier to succeed the roll. Rolling the exact same number as the value overcharges the Word.

They then go forth from planet to planet, doing Death’s bidding.

A bit like Dialect, Necronautilus scratches at the way we communicate and the way meanings are slippery, changeful things. I love this game. It feels like the edge of something entirely new.

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