Neon Sanctum and Game Design

I was recently sent, in the mail, a deck of interesting cards with some instructions to go check out the rules online. I had expected this package and opened it excitedly. It was Neon Sanctum; a new game that I had been asked to write a review for. I did write a full review and it is going to go up at Roleplayers Chronicle sometime soon. Here I’m going to ponder on the mechanics, what I’ve worked on so far in my own game design work, and game design in general.

I didn’t go to university or anything like that for game design; though law school did prepare for a career in the interpretation of rules and phrases. Forever. So I’m not an expert at game design by any stretch; I’ve written some things, published some things, hopefully going to publish more things. Neon Sanctum does this interesting new thing that I haven’t seen much before where your skills, items, and much of how your character is defined is done through a deck of cards. Each card has a value, and some special rules, which are then applied to classic roleplaying die roll. Its a very interesting mechanic which is a little reminiscent to the skill cards that WotC tried to use to accompany 4th edition. It works better though.

I think one of the things I like the most about this mechanic, and other different mechanics, are the capacity to reinforce the media while also forcing the brain to think differently. How skills refresh and work in this instance reflects the feeling of increasing desperation and planning that must be put into any combat or other incident. It builds desperation into the setting, reflecting a its cyberpunk/post apocalyptic vibe. In practice, it works a bit like the GUMSHOE system where stress for the players managing their character reinforces the stress of the setting. Its very interesting moving forward.

It makes for an interesting step moving forward, and it works very well for creating better game systems. While the d20 system and some of the classics are great systems, they do not translate as well for horror or other types of games. As lowering production costs and Kickstarter together are conspiring to change the landscape for many of these games, I’m excited to see how things are going to change.

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