Publisher: Politically Incorrect Games
Review Dated: 6th, May 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 8/10 [ Really good ]
Total Score: 16
Average Score: 8.00
A key focus for any Wyrdmaster written GameWyrd review is whether the product does what it sets out to do. I think it makes sense; it’s not unknown to find a RPG supplement that promises to be a Guide to Zombie Sheep but gets entirely distracted by MooBad the evil sheep god. Er, for example. Politically Incorrect Games’ HardNova is part of the genreDiverson series and has a far more practical goal than being a guide to zombie sheep. HardNova is designed to be a one night wonder, a break from the stress of a long running campaign and although it doesn’t explicitly make the claim, I think such a product should be able to come to your rescue if you’re playing host, the TV explodes and your guests want to roleplay.
The 34-paged, US$4, PDF product succeeds. It’s easy to pick up. The scenarios provided can be completed in a single session. If people knock on your door and demand a game then you’re good to go. I don’t normally think much of a gaggle of pre-written scenarios at the end of a product, nor do I like to see more than one sample character, HardNova has both, is perfectly right to do so and I’m glad they’re there.
HardNova is a Space Opera; characters will be pirates, adventurers, starship captains and rebel psychics. In the 34-pages, many of which are consumed with the sample characters and scenarios, there are rules for psionics and for spaceship combat. It’s a six-sided dice system. The sort of dice you could rustle up in even a non-gaming household.
If you’ve looked at other Politically Incorrect Games product then you might well have encountered the bonus and penalty dice system. On your 2d6 roll you’re trying to roll as low as possible, you’re trying to roll under your total (trait + skill) and the addition of one or more bonus dice allows you to pick the lowest two. The presence of penalty dice means you have to roll extra dice and go with the highest pair. It’s quite a good tactic. It keeps the numeric range the same but changes the tactile experience of the dice roll too. Increasing the range the dice roll must succeed by is used to simulate difficult actions.
The character generation is fairly simple, but complex enough to warrant the inclusion of pre-genned character sheets (easy to print off and use when you’re dealing with a PDF) and detailed enough to satisfy most mature gamers. It’s point based. Split points up among your primary traits, work out your secondary traits, split more points up among your skills but limit that spending according to your traits. The optional extra of backgrounds adds a little more depth. You could play an android, say, or a cinematic sex bomb, will either modify a trait or two or give you bonus and penalty dice for certain roles.
If it so happens that the scenario is so popular that the players want an encore there are rules for experience points.
The combat system is easy – those 2d6 – and yet has enough flexibility to give the players some options. If you want to attempt a quick draw then the difficulty for the combat role increases. Unarmed attacks do damaged based on the attacker’s strength but firearm damage does not.
This system carries smoothly into the starship combat. There’s a starship character sheet and a couple of fully-fledged examples. If you want the stats for a solo space fighter then they’re here. The section simply gives the trait + skill roll needed for basic actions – trying to shoot down another craft and then offers up a couple of modifiers – you have a laser cannon, you have linked battery of laser cannons. It’s all that you need for one night’s play and if you do expand the game further than that’s easy enough.
I’ve few concerns with HardNova. It’s small but it’s large enough to do what it promises. I think the character generation system is perhaps a little too complex for my idea of a one off game – but that does allow the game to grow later. Similarly, if I was playing an afternoon’s game I don’t think I could be all that bothered with spending all my randomly rolled up credits – but there’s only armour and weapons to spend them on. There are four short sample scenarios but I think I’d rather have had three and then some stat blocks for random aliens and robots. It’s up to different gaming groups to decide whether they fancy not playing the campaign tonight and romping around space instead – but I can’t see too many groups getting campaign-strain too often. These points seem more like suggestions than weighty criticisms though.
HardNova is quick and clean. It does what it says on the tin. It’s a worthwhile download to have lurking on your harddrive and ready to save you when unexpected gamers beam down or regular gamers get bored with orcs.