Welcome to Narrative Role-Playing or NRP!
The brief introduction below will help you decide if NRP is for you. But, just for fun, you might want to read it anyway, even if you’ve already made up your mind.
To help you become familiar with the game, official terminology will be put in bold type upon first appearance in isolated contexts, so you can learn the jargon. Some of it is the same as in other role-playing games, and some of it is tweaked a bit for the purposes of NRP.
What is Narrative Role-Playing?
It’s role-playing reduced to its core, distilled to its essence. It’s group storytelling, digging into the emotional hooks that make us love novels, movies, and television dramas. Want a campaign you can’t stop playing, a campaign you can’t forget years after the maps are stashed away and the dice have stopped rolling? NRP is your game.
Realism is important to NRP, but not to the point of simulation. Just to the point of maintaining player immersion. So, if simulation wargaming is what you’re looking for, NRP is not for you.
Success is important, but not to the point of power gaming. And success does not always mean winning the player’s goal. In NRP, success is role-playing success. The players can lose their mission and still succeed so long as they stayed true to their characters. The story can be a tragedy, and the player characters (or PCs) can still advance. Just like in those novels, movies, and television dramas you love.
How does NRP do this?
By adding a moral element to character development. Like in other RPGs, characters in NRP can improve their skills and attributes. They can become better at combat, at magic, at investigation, at coding, at stealth, at psy ops. But equal in importance, they also have drives, some positive and some negative, some healthy and some unhealthy, intrinsic or extrinsic, which affect their action rolls.
Acting against their drives penalizes the characters’ action rolls. Acting in service to their drives adds bonuses. But it matters whether these drives involve sacrifice or self-indulgence. Advancement from level to level depends on the nature of the character’s drives.
At early levels, sacrifice is called for. But, at a certain point, the character must be true to himself or herself to advance. Eventually, the character has to reconcile the selfish and the altruistic to reach the highest level.
What is the narrator’s role in this?
Well, like in most role-playing games, NRP has a dungeon master, a game master, a referee who maintains the integrity of the campaign. But, in NRP the role of the narrator is less about designing the player’s mission, less about protecting the realistic simulation of the game world, and more about managing the integrity of the narrative, the story itself.
The narrator is charged with managing the conflicts facing the player character’s drives. Games are primarily designed not to challenge the characters’ skills and attributes, although this is important, but to challenge the characters’ drives.
Does a player character value knowledge above all else? Then the situation facing that PC, crafted by the narrator, should bring his or her curiosity into play. Does a PC value some organizational loyalty above all else, to a familial, religious, political, or military group? Then the situation facing the PCs should bring that loyalty into play. Does a PC value pleasure or physical prowess above all else? Then the situation should bring those drives into play.
What does this mean for players?
The players should think of themselves as actors, surrendering their personal, out-of-game identities to the drives of their in-game characters. Immersing themselves in their characters and the things they want out of life. Full immersion. Full engagement with their characters. The truest role-playing.
“The play’s the thing,” as Shakespeare had Hamlet say. And Hamlet was pushed forward by his drives, to tragedy. But it was an engaging tragedy, one that civilization has not been able to forget. The aim of NRP is to recreate this engagement for its players and its narrator, to inspire unforgettable gaming sessions that touch us long after the dice have been set down.
Simple Game Mechanics
NRP attempts to reduce simulation dynamics common in other RPGs, in order to elevate narrative role-play. This means keeping game mechanics as simple as possible while still maintaining player immersion in a believable game world.
This is why NRP uses simple, traditional d6 rather than the menagerie of dice common in other RPGs. Everything is managed by the same action roll dynamic, and all influences (primarily attributes, skills, and drives) modify these rolls in the same way, simple plus and minus.
Relying on d6 also allows NRP to reduce game mechanics by making the effects of action rolls more definitive, less detail-oriented than simulation-driven games. Players should not have to be doing so much math during game play.
NRP also attempts to reduce game mechanics by eliminating the middle-man of numbers like attribute scores, which then indicate modifiers. Instead, modifiers describe everything by themselves and affect action roll outcomes directly. So, rather than a character’s attribute having a score like 15 which then indicates a modifier like +2, the character’s attribute would simply have a modifier of +2 to relevant action rolls.