Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Review of the N.E.W. RPG

Front cover of the N.E.W. RPG rulebook
N.E.W. is the sci-fi role-playing game produced by EN Publishing and is written by Russ Morrissey, a very amenable chap. In no time at all, it has become my all-time favourite RPG. In this article, I'll explain what I love about it and why as well as giving you a full review of its contents.
The hefty rulebook is split into five chapters - Future Careers, Future Equipment, Future Core, Space and Building a Universe. I'll go over each one in order.

This section is devoted to character creation. All characters start with 8 primary attributes - STRENGTH, AGILITY, ENDURANCE, INTUITION, LOGIC, WILLPOWER, CHARISMA and LUCK with a score of 3 in each and 2 secondary attributes, REPUTATION and PSIONICS with a score of 0 in each. A score of 4 is considered average for a human. There is no upper limit to how high an attribute can go but an attribute score of 12 typically represents performances exhibited by record holding human athletes or scientific geniuses. Scores higher than that represent superhuman levels. Attributes change during character creation and gameplay. The actual attribute scores are only used during character creation and advancement. During play, you use your attribute's associated Dice Pool. The higher your dice pool, the more dice you can roll, thus making it easier to succeed in a task. Attributes grant dice to these dice pools in a granular expanding scale, meaning that each new dice is harder to obtain - for example, an AGILITY score of 7 means that your AGILITY dice pool is 3d6, while an AGILITY of 10 lets you roll 4d6. Skills use the same expanding scale, granting more dice to your dice pool. So a skill rank of 3 in Pistols gives you 2d6. You would add that to your 3d6 for your AGILITY score of 7 when taking a shot at a hostile alien, meaning you get to roll 5d6 in total. You can also gain extra dice for high quality equipment. A dice pool is made up of your attribute pool, plus skill pool plus (or minus) the quality pool of your equipment. However, it may not exceed the level of your character's grade. So, starting characters with grade 5 are limited to a basic dice pool of 5d6. However, exploits, luck and situational modifiers can increase this initial score. So if the character took a turn to aim his pistol in the example above, they would get a +1d6 bonus to add to their dice pool, giving them 6d6.
Starting characters generally begin the game at Grade 5, which consists of an origin followed by four career grades. A grade is a tour of duty of either a fixed period or a variable period measured in years depending upon what you choose. Each grade gives you bonuses to certain attributes, a choice of skills and an exploit that allows you to perform certain actions with greater ease. There are 15 origins listed, 45 career choices, 7 species you can choose from (Androids, Borians (dwarves), Felans (cat-like beings), Humans, Ogrons (ogres), Spartans (very similar to Klingons) and Venetians (elves)), over 150 skills, 55 universal exploits which can be acquired by any character, 30 Psionic exploits and nearly 40 traits. With so many variables each character should be unique. At first, character creation looks complicated, but it isn't. There is a handy walk through guide to keep you on track and character creation becomes a lot easier the more you create. Characters advance in power and abilities by earning experience points, which may be used to increase an attribute or a skill, or to buy a new skill or exploit or, most costly of all, to advance to the next grade.
What I particularly love about designing characters for N.E.W. is that they come fully formed with backgrounds and are far more than a set of numbers on the page. They have personalities, they have back stories, they live and breathe. I find that so exhilarating and exciting. As one reviewer correctly said, "I've played several RPGs and this one has my favourite character creation system. As you layer on the various options you get a real feel for the character and its history. I've never played a game that got me that involved and invested with a character even before play begins." That is exactly how I felt about character creation!
This chapter is essentially a shopping list of stuff you can buy to arm and equip your character. It includes general gear, melee weapons, ranged weapons and ammo, armour, ground vehicles, drugs and cybernetics. The lists are well thought out and presented and cover the stuff you'd expect to find in a sci-fi game as well as some oddities you probably didn't imagine. However, by necessity, they are limited. It would be so easy just to fill the book with loads of equipment, like GURPS does with its Low-Tech, High Tech, Ultra Tech and Bio-Tech supplements. What really impresses me about this chapter are the full page colour illustrations of the gear from each of the various equipment categories. So if you want to know how a Laser Pistol, for example, differs in looks to a Cortex Radiation Emitter Pistol, you can see at a glance. There's the page showing the basic ranged weapons on to the right of here to show you what I mean. That is so cool. The old adage of a picture being worth a thousand words couldn't be truer.

This chapter covers the rules on how to play the game and consists of the following sub-sections,
The Attribute Check. This is the core mechanic of the game. Almost everything revolves around the attribute check. When you know how to make and adjudicate an attribute check, you know how to play most of the game. This section includes guidelines on assigning difficulty benchmarks, running
opposed or extended tasks, and details some common situations including medicine, chases, scanning, engineering, and more.
Countdowns. Countdowns are a special type of dice pool which depletes as time passes. They are used in any race against time, such as a ticking clock or a disease, when the amount of time available is not known. Countdowns are used to create suspense and tension.
The Role of Luck. LUCK is a special attribute which provides characters with a replenishable dice pool which can be drawn upon at-will to assist in various tasks.
Combat. Combat is a common occurrence in the game, whether it be exchanged gunfire at range or duels with laser swords. This section tells you how to move, attack, and perform other actions in
combat. Combat in W.O.I.N. is a tactical skirmish system where position and cover are very important.
Injury & Death. It’s a dangerous world, and harm can befall any character. Such harm takes three forms: HEALTH damage,status tracks, and diseases. Most damage is inflicted on the HEALTH stat and when that reaches 0, a character is unconscious and in great danger of dying.
Objects. This part of the book explains how objects can be broken or damaged, how to break down a door, or how much damage a computer console can take. It details various materials, from wood to
The Environment. The environment affects many things. Variations in gravity, severe weather, slippery surfaces, and many other environmental traits can be applied to areas both big and small. Fighting in the corridors of a damaged starship as the artificial gravity fluctuates and fire rages all around is very different to fighting on a frozen planet in the midst of a blizzard.
I have to admit that I love the dice pool mechanic. It is both simple and elegant. Having played a few simple skirmishes using these rules I have found that combat is a deadly affair and can be very brutal. The game does allow for critical hits in combat but interestingly enough, not critical misses. I'll go over how combat works in great detail when I post my first batrep.

This section covers astronomical information, space phenomena, space travel and starship combat, along with guidelines for starship operations and crew roles. I'll be honest, I find designing planets and star systems boring and I much prefer to use or convert existing material. This is what I'm doing for my upcoming campaign. Also, when I've ran previous sci-fi campaigns with the GURPS Space and FGU's Space Opera RPGs, I've rather neglected starship combat. N.E.W. is the first sci-fi RPG that has made me want to run some starship combats. For the first time in my life I have actually bought some starship miniatures, which I plan to use in my campaign. Starship combat takes place on a hex grid map, and I've even purchased a 3' by 3' hex grid mat from Deep Cut Studios in which to fight my starship battles on. Another thing that I love about these rules is how they give all of the PCs on a starship a role to play in a ship to ship combat. Even though I'll be playing solo, this means no character need be neglected in starship combat.That gets a big thumbs up from me. By the way, rules for designing your own starship are not covered in this rulebook. For that you need the N.E.W. Starship Construction Manual supplement, which is available in printed book and PDF formats.

The final chapter of the book presents rules for designing your game world setting. So, in here are the rules for designing star systems, planets, civilisations, species, careers, organisations, monsters and NPCs. It would appear to be a lot of work to do, especially as the game is setting neutral, i.e. it is up to you what the background is. This approach is one I heartily approve of as it means I can easily adapt and convert the background from other systems and integrate them into something that is uniquely mine. My primary source for my background setting will be that of FGU's Space Opera setting. I am very familiar with this setting from the 1980's, having ran a very long running campaign using it back then. Later, when I fell in love with GURPS in the 1990's, I converted my FGU Space Opera PCs and background to GURPS Space. I never imagined that I'd be returning to that setting many years later, but it feels so natural for me. I'll begin to detail my game setting for my The Ace of Spades Campaign in my next post.

N.E.W. is everything I would hope to find in a sci-fi RPG. Up till now I thought that GURPS 4th Edition was the finest RPG system ever created. I do still love it but it can suffer from being over complex. WOIN appears to have taken the best bits from GURPS and made the rules simpler to understand and easier to play. The sandbox nature of WOIN gives the Games Master so much freedom to create the setting that he wants. I see this as a system with massive potential, that I hope I'll still be playing in 10 years time. What is very gratifying is the amount of additional support the game has from its creators and its fans. EN Publishing has an open licence policy so that fans can print and publish any material for their WOIN games without fear of breaching copyright. As such, there is already a lot of material available for this game, much of it free of charge.
If you are at all interested in buying the N.E.W. rulebook, you can download a PDF version of it from DriveThruRPG for just $10 or £7.76. For that bargain price, you get a beautiful 285 page set of rules that I highly recommend. Here's the link - http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/191271/NEW-The-Roleplaying-Game Alternatively, from the same source, if you want a hard-backed book version of the rules, plus the PDF version thrown in for free, it'll cost you $49.99 or £38.77. I went with the second option and received the book in less than a week and the PDF copy within seconds.
I would say that if any RPG book deserves a 10 out of 10 rating then it is this one.


  1. The dice pool reminds me a bit of West End Games Star Wars (D6 system). It does make things very straightforward.

    When you described the character creation I couldn't help thinking of Traveller which I GMed for many a year.

    The sad thing is that when you are young you have the time but no money and when older you have the money (in comparison anyway) but no time.

    Looking forward to the batrep. Also interested in seeing their 2000ad based sourcebooks.

    1. Many thanks, Jason. Sadly, I never did get to play the WEG Star Wars games, but I bow to your knowledge.

      Traveller, however, is a game I'm quite familiar with, although many years have passed since I last played it. I can see your point regarding character creation.

      Your observation about time and money, is so true, although I am in a most fortunate situation of having time and money. Yeah, I know, lucky me!

      Batreps will be a while away as I need to get my background info in place first, although I might fit in the Daleks vs Cybermen batrep a lot sooner than I originally planned.

      I too, can't wait for the 2000 AD stuff to appear.

  2. Great review Bryan, very informative and looking forward to watching this play out in your batrep's

    1. Thank you kindly, Dave. I can't wait to start posting batreps here.

  3. Thanks for an excellent and informative review Bryan, your enthusiasm shines through, but doesn't imply any "bias" as you explain your valid reasoning.
    I can tell that your AAR reports are going to be a "must read", and I can assure you that I'm as fired about seeing see the games with your modelling and painting skills on display, as you probably are about playing them!

    1. Much appreciated, Greg. I felt it was important to give my own insights into my review here about why I like this system so much. It really does have so much to recommend it. I am super excited about playing it and recording my games, and more importantly, sharing them here on this blog.

  4. sounds like its a well fleshed out, yet flexible system mate! I like a universe that you can expand into....

    1. Thanks, Andy. The sandbox nature of the rules gives you unlimited flexibility to set your universe however you want. I like that a lot!

  5. Nice review, I'm looking forward to reading your Battle Reports on this! I'm waiting for the Now version to be released :).

    1. Many thanks, Trevor. Once I get the background info to my campaign posted You can expect a lot of batreps here. From the excerpts of NOW that I have seen I can't wait for the full rulebook to be released.