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Every bug you ever stepped on is here, breathing the same noxious air as every star that ever burnt out, in this eternal post-life planetary system. And yet, against all odds, on each planet's surface new life is breeding, spawning endless creatures, plants and people to inhabit Death's domain.

Through their emissaries, the blind god Death oversees the galaxy and its denizens—they stave off power-hungry lords, catalogue the ever-expanding planetary system, track those who would evade their inevitable fate and maintain the proper order. These tasks are executed by soulbound clouds of toxic gas: the Death Agents.


Necronautilus is a tabletop roleplaying game for a Gamemaster and 1+ players. In it, players act as souls bound to clouds of noxious gas called Death Agents, exploring a universe outside of time consisting of planets full of creatures who ended up there when they died. While using their Words of Power to act on behalf of the blind god Death and maintain order in a post-death galaxy, they’ll see their powers grow and splinter while exploring the corporeal life they left behind.

made possible by backers on Kickstarter in summer 2020. Physical edition: 80 page hardcover book with black & white interior, available at worldchamp.io/store.


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In order to download this game you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $15 USD. You will get access to the following files:

necronautilus digital spreads.pdf 144 MB
necronautilus digital pages.pdf 99 MB
Necronautilus PlainText.txt 105 kB

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Necronautilus Character Sheet.png 398 kB
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Necronautilus Ship Sheet.png 818 kB
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Hello everyone!

I have some mechanical questions and thought I'd post them here so everyone can benefit. 

  1. What is the maximum number of Words of Power a single DA can have? The number of spots on the sheet?
  2. During character creation, Words have to be a minimum of 4 letters. Does that apply when a word shatters with a critical success? We had a player shatter "port" and I ruled that they just get 3 life back and lose the word entirely.
  3.  When rolling a ship module with 3/4 clock slots filled, do players roll 1d6 or 2d6? As written it's 1d6 but that seems a little odd?
  4. For the purposes of rolling a ship module, is Ship Condition considered to start at 8 or 0? 8 makes the most sense (otherwise ship rolls are guaranteed failures) but an empty clock that you fill as the ship takes damage makes that a bit counter-intuitive
  5. If a player doesn't have words in their collection, does that mean they can't generate a memory when they use a Word of Power?

I’ll wing some answers!

1. Correct, you can have words of power equal to spaces in the sheet. 

2. words have a minimum of 4 letters at any point.

3. It is 1d6, it’s meant as a last ditch effort sort of, you’re risking the last use of a module so the odds are more in your favor than normal

4. You’re right, there’s some dissonance between conduction as a positive connotation and damage as negative since were using a clock here. It is meant to start at 8 and deplete.

5. There shouldn’t ever be a point where a player doesn’t have any words in their collection, the gm should be passing out new words to players as or more often than they’re being used for any overcoming of obstacles or victories in battle, managing that is just sort of a new thing to be aware of during play for a gamemaster 

Perfect! That helps a lot. 

On that last point I'm finding that my players are consuming words really quickly in a single challenge clock. I guess you're saying that players should be receiving words during a challenge, not just upon completing it.

maybe! players burning through words is not something I encountered at all during testing so thats a surprising issue to come up, but yeah it'll just take a bandaid of your own making to solve which might either be starting with more words before the scenario or finding excuses to give them words during exploration/between challenges?

(1 edit)

Thanks for taking the time to help us out. This makes me think I'm missing something really important. I swear I read the book! 

Here's a brief example in the context of my players encountering a hostile Iron Porcupine (3):

1st word consumed: Iron Porcupine (3) attacks to start the encounter. A player uses a word of power to avoid the damage, and generates a memory. **this actually raises a couple of other questions I've had - do hostile creatures attack the entire party, or a smaller number of targets, or is it GM's choice? Can one player act to protect the entire party or does each DA have to act individually to avoid a negative outcome?

2nd word consumed: A player then uses a word of power to engage the Iron Porcupine (3) and succeeds, filling one portion of the encounter clock and consuming another word from their collection and generating a memory. 

3rd word consumed: Understandably angry, the Iron Porcupine (1/3) does a dangerous thing, and a player uses a word of power to guard against it consuming another word from their collection to generate a memory.

etc until the challenge is overcome. By my count that gets us to a possible 6 words consumed in one challenge, where the reward is one new word by default. Is it that my players are overusing their words?

haha no worries, you are running it as written but I think I have a few broad notes. aside, Creatures attack whomever, since gamemaster doesn't roll dice it is up to the players to react instead, so a player protecting everyone or each person rolling to avoid would both be acceptable.

This isn't explicit in the book but I would make sure players are starting with at least 3 Words in their collection when they land on the planet, not counting words that are used for any planet generation on your way to start the mission. Those generators at start of play I usually consider words (lowercase w) instead of Words (the game currency).

From your examples, it sounds like they're succeeding a lot more often than I expected, so they're having tons of memories early on! Since a Memory's starting value is higher than a Word of Power, that's meant to entice players more to use those so they don't just use Words, especially with successful Memory rolls granting you more Life. Of course, thats a choice, and it makes sense for a player to be more interested in their Words especially early in play. 

For a band-aid answer, I'd just start them off with more than 3 at the beginning of play. The other potential fix that's not in the book but is how I've come to like when running the game now is instead of making them spend a Word from their Collection to inspire Memory, instead make their Memory derivative of the action they just took. Like when you fire a laser cannon and hit your target, it prompts the memory of firing artillery in the Thorned Wars or something.

You could combine this with GM giving immediate-use words on successful rolls, so in that example, I as GM would give the player the word Artillery and they could choose to immediately use that for their Memory or stash it and use something else from their Collection, which feels like a nice average of how the book works and how to patch it!

(+2)

Necronautilus is melodic death metal spelljammer. Or maybe afterlife-punk farscape. You play as agents of the god of death, in a dead post-death galaxy, and you both carry out death's will and work against your role and fight to return to life.

The PDF is 43 pages, with a layout style that is expressive and experimental and stops just short of going full Mork Borg. There's a lot of excellent art, and sometimes the line between what is layout, what is text, and what is art gets blurry, but it all makes for a fairly cohesive effect. Also the body text is quite readable. The only page where you have to turn your head to the side to read it is a chart of words of power.

Words of power are, incidentally, the mechanical backbone of the system. Every character has them in place of skills, and they're as open-ended as you could wish. There's still dice, but you roll your dice under the value of whichever Word Of Power you're currently deploying. Succeed, and in addition to your success the word grows more specific. Fail, and the word grows more powerful. Crit, and the word loses a letter.

There's two more kinds of things you can roll on, Luck and Memories, but I've never seen anything even remotely like this in a system. It's fresh as heck.

Plus, in addition to the stuff you can roll, you also carry a secondary stockpile of non-powered words that you can use to affect the narrative, permanently world-building parts of the galaxy or bolting modules onto your party's organic ship. Creating a planet or a bank of turbolasers is as simple as spending some words.

Perhaps for this reason, lore-wise, there's a *lot* going on in Necronautilus. Apart from the trippy cosmic situation, there's bits of weird and bizzaro fantasy, as well as pulp and raygun gothic and biopunk and a whole lot else. The book sometimes tells you things in a way that hints that maybe you shouldn't believe everything the book tells you, but the general quality of the writing in book is fantastic.

I went in expecting this to be good, but even still I was caught off guard.

In fact, one area where I was not expecting a lot of innovation---and where I got completely bowled over---was the design of the character sheets.

In Necronautilus, each piece of a character corresponds to a piece of a skull, and each skull-piece has unique mechanics and plugs into the game's metaphysics in a way I wasn't expecting. For example, you have a limited number of items per mission, and those are made out of your own soul-stuff and creating one crosses off one of the skull's teeth for a mission. Or for a more lore-based example, your HP sits in the skull's right nostril, and the higher it goes, the closer you are to defecting from your mission.

Essentially, Necronautilus characters start as memoryless cats' paws of death, but as they grow so do their senses of self---expertly mirroring the way player characters grow at the gaming table.

My only real critique of the book is that I think it's worth noting that Necronautilus' intended style of play is not gritty-crunchy, blow-by-blow, tactical combat against small groups of skeletons. It wants big situations that resolve slowly. So, think Shadow Of The Colossus, or the God Of War boss fights, and make those what a typical combat looks like. Each fight significantly mutates the players' stat blocks during the course of it, so small speedbump or placeholder fights are strongly disincentivized. Death is also not much of a mechanical threat (you just get back up after being killed,) so the real tension is more in how you change than in what you die for. This also means that you have to rely on the GM and the group to build atmosphere, because the complexity and risk in combat isn't really the game's sell.

In terms of GM resources, there's a *lot* that are provided, with everything from random tables to advice on how to run and adventure and listen to your group.  Someone who's GM'd a bit before, no matter what they've GM'd, should be able to pick this up no problem. However someone totally new to rpgs might get a bit overwhelmed if they were hoping for more complex math and computer-game-style structure.

Still, this is a heck of a book, and if you like fresh dice systems, weird-but-grounded fever-dreamy settings, doom-y tones that are somehow philosophical rather than oppressive, and a lot of creative freedom to tell wild stories using mechanics that emphasize change and self-examination, Necronautilus is for you. 


Minor Issues:

-Page 16, Words Of Power and Words in Collection are two separate things, right? Words Of Power don't get used up when deployed? I had to read this section several times to figure this out, and the similarity of the terms makes it tough to understand.

-Page 17, Memories, this says that there's more information on page 24, but it's 25

-Page 25, Memories, Are these expended when you use them? What happens if you overflow the character sheet?

(+2)

I just saw someone post the sweet play map and other Kickstarter stuff, and now I am jealous! Is there anywhere to get those extras, post-Kickstarter?

I have leftover posters that are going with the books until they’re gone! Stellar Remnants zines and a few sizes of shirt leftover will go up at worldchamp.IO/store at the end of the month

Hell Yeah.

(+1)

I'm glad I was able to get in on the Kickstarter for this and got my book last week. It's even better than I expected so kudos to Adam for this amazing game!

I was wondering: where's the best place to ask questions about some of the rules? 

(+1)

thanks for the kindness! Here is a good place for rules questions in case other people have the same one and wanna see the answer. 

(+3)

I was lucky enough to playtest this game, and it was so flexible and fun. The mechanics are simple and moody enough that, even if you're not into the excellently dripping aesthetic, it can easily be hacked for any setting/genre where people operate under unclear orders, harboring hope & rebellion in their hearts.

(+2)

So glad I had the opportunity to try out this game! It's incredibly fun and creative. Would recommend to anyone looking for an RPG that will really capture their imagination.  

Can we have the game in single pages, not Spread?
Thanks a lot

I'll get that uploaded this week!

Thanks a lot!