Of Our Own Creation: A Look at Necrobiotic
The dead walk among us. It was we who put them back on their feet.
Every once in a while, something new and extremely interesting comes along in the tabletop space that makes me stop, sit up, and look a little bit closer. Whether it’s interesting mechanics to power the game or a setting unusual enough that I could dig into it and come back wanting more, these games almost always end up joining my shelf. This time, I found something that will definitely be joining my shelf. This time I found something that combines both interesting mechanics and that unusual setting. This time I found Necrobiotic.
In the early twenty-first century, something changed. The birth rate decreased and the rate of deaths spiraled out of control – society and civilization began to slip away and, by the time it was all said and done, humanity was reduced to a twentieth of its population. Gone were what we considered modern amenities, replaced by a struggle for survival for the people – that is except in Florence. After experiencing the Great Hecatomb and having bodies piled up in the streets, the city’s most brilliant minds came up with a solution: animating the dead. Created with a mixture of mad science and technology, these new constructs serve the survivors of humanity living within the walls of Florence, giving them a modicum of civilization all under the pall of the death that surrounds them every moment of their day. It is in this setting, a city of the living surrounded by the dead, that Necrobiotic throws you as a player and shows you a celebration of life among grim undeath.
Driving this entire experience is a unique mechanic built around your character. Represented by a mix of abilities, your character’s primary way of acting upon the world is your customized deck. Played with a standard deck of cards for each player (although you can, as I found in our one-shot of the system, easily use a tarot deck as a rather thematic stand-in), you play cards from your hand – your breath – with each suit representing one of your character’s proficiencies as you aim to total your cards up to multiples of eight in an effort to accumulate successes. While a character starts with a selection of cards based on their archetype, overtime you’ll expand upon your character by customizing your deck – removing low value cards, adding more high value cards, and weaving in face cards that provide you special abilities.
In play, Necrobiotic plays like a mixture of a highly narrative-based roleplaying game with the Machinist guiding players through the scenario and a resource-based card game where your hand represents your available moves – often you’ll find your decisions influenced by what you’re currently holding in your hand, what you can do in this breath before having to take a moment to recoup and take a breath, refilling your hand with cards and providing you a new set of opportunities.
I, myself, along with a couple of my regular players – Zev of Vucari Gaming and Big Texissimo – had a chance to play a session in mid-April guided by Mitchell, one of the heads of the game from Penny for a Tale. It gave me a chance to look at the game for a perspective I don’t often see – where usually I end up running the games I take a closer look at, being a player gave me a chance to see the game in action from the hand management perspective.
Each of the three characters we brought to the virtual table from the pregenerated selection each felt unique, bringing their own kits and potential solutions to problems – where I was playing a old Technosophist and using old world technology, Zev played a zealous Architect who was able to build, maintain, and modify the constructs and Big Tex brought a gruff soldier in power armor to the group. We were able to get a whirlwind tour of what its like to play the game and just what horrors can await in this world as we investigated a murder in the streets of Florence – one with a terrifying murderer awaiting us at the end.
Overall, Necrobiotic looks to be an amazing game with a solid core mechanic in a setting that is at the same time both amazingly beautiful and uniquely horrifying. While I haven’t yet got a look at the final rules that will be in the finished product, I’ve had a lot of time to read through the available quickstart – the same document we had access to for our one-shot to show us how to play and let us select our characters. I’d recommend taking a look, if just for the absolutely gorgeous and thematic art throughout.
Necrobiotic isn’t officially available yet but has now gone live on Kickstarter as of this morning. The prices are extremely reasonable and I’d recommend at least picking up the core rulebook in the form of the PDF – it will most definitely be worth it to support such a creative entry in the annals of tabletop RPGs.