Wizards Can Ride Starships in These Excellently Crunchy RPGs

Two RPGs that throw off the shackles of the "rules light" trend give players customizable spellcasting systems and the ability to design starships. Combine O.L.D. and N.E.W. RPGs and you can have both.

O.L.D. and N.E.W. are mutually compatible tabletop RPGs designed by Russ Morrissey, owner of EN World. The game system is touted as "crunchy," which, if you're unfamiliar with RPG parlance, means, "lots of systems, subsystems, modifiers, and formulas." Crunchy games tend more toward the simulationist side of RPGs. Your level if interest here is going to be strongly affected by your desire to play a game with a table like this one:

Wizards Can Ride Starships in These Excellently Crunchy RPGs

Let me get it out of the way and say that I'm less and less simulationist the older I get, at least when it comes to RPGs (if we're playing a wargame, you'd better know whether that artillery unit is encumbered or unencumbered, son; then roll on the weather table to see if this road is muddy). And there are, of course, any number of rules-heavy fantasy and science-fiction RPGs one might choose from already in existence. However, the O.L.D./N.E.W. Kickstarter (I'm not a fan of the gimmicky names, to be honest) is already quite successful, so clearly there's an audience. And there are some very cool features that make these games stand out.

It's one thing to have wizards here and starships there, but quite another to have wizards on starships. Or space pirates riding dragons. The ability to blend fantasy and sci-fi isn't unprecedented, and a truly successful universal RPG system is something of an ungraspable grail, but the idea is awesome. Elves with laser blasters! Time traveling clerics in space! Space marines leading the king's royal guard! It just sounds like fun.

Wizards Can Ride Starships in These Excellently Crunchy RPGs

O.L.D. also has a crazy spellcasting system that's incredibly customizable. Each spell is actually a list of related spell effects, and casters can decide as they cast which version to use, powering it up or down by spending different amounts of Magic Points.No morning spell memorization. That's a lot of versatility in a magic system out of the box, but you can also combine spells and create totally custom effects. To be sure, it's a complicated system, but if you're willing to put in the effort to learn all the ins and outs, you'll be casting all kinds of totally unique spells.

Along the same lines, being able to design your own starship is pretty sweet. It is, again, a heavy system with a lot to wrap your head around, but in the end you'll be able to create something unique and really feel a sense of ownership over it.

Wizards Can Ride Starships in These Excellently Crunchy RPGs

The class system is quite open-ended as well, allowing you to take on a variety of traditions or careers (there are dozens of them to choose from). Interestingly, each new career ages your character, so in addition to some new abilities, you advance along an age track, gaining or losing age-related characteristics. And despite all the rules crunch, all characters can be boiled down to a simple sentence (you may recognize the idea from Numenera): "My character is a [blank] year-old [blank] who [blanks]." New characters can be created in a few minutes.

This brings up one of the main selling points – while there may be a lot going on under the hood, you don't have to deal with all of it. The basics are pretty straightforward, and you only need to deal with the starship design parameters if that's your jam.

Wizards Can Ride Starships in These Excellently Crunchy RPGs

The core dice mechanic is a tweaked version of an old favorite, rolling pools of dice and adding them up to hit a target number. There's an unnecessary extra step in between whatever your attribute in a skill or ability is and the actual number of dice you roll, but the system makes good use of all different types of dice, because your dice pools use better dice as you gain power and experience. Just starting out? You'll be rolling D6s. With a few adventures under your belt you may be rolling D10s instead.

I like some of the concept art (some of which is recycled from other projects), and overall I think O.L.D./N.E.W. looks like an interesting project by people who truly love RPGs. It might not be my particular cup of tea, but it's always good to have more flavors of tea available. You can check out the playtest documents and see if these starship wizards are the ones for you.