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[Let's Read] Nova Praxis

Rangdo

I used to be Ovid.
Validated User
So, after having done a fairly extensive Let's Read on the Legends of the Five Rings corebook (link in my sig), I thought I'd do something a little different this time: Nova Praxis. I was actually given the pdf as a complementary copy several months ago, under the condition that I would talk about it (just generally, not necessarily with its own thread, and definitely not necessarily without criticism). So consider that full disclosure.

The one thing I can, right off the bat, be entirely positive (nay, ecstatic!) about, is its use of the pdf as a document format. Take a look at the video the author pointed me to, which shows you how it works:

[video=youtube;biBxNCZ1d1s]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=biBxNCZ1d1s[/video]

This really is a model that all publishers ought to be following. The video also gives you a decent idea of the high quality of the art, so I'll not go on about that in this thread.

Lastly, I'm more of a cyberpunk than transhumanism fan, and I haven't read Eclipse Phase, a game I've seen this one get compared to. So I'll not be commenting on EP, since I'm not qualified to, but even more so because this game ought to be considered on its own merits. For that reason, anyone who wants to compare the two games should take it to another thread, thank-you.

Nova Praxis uses a FATE variant based on Strands of Fate. It therefore predates FATE Core and FATE Accelerated, but it does claim to be “streamlined” and is complete in this pdf. Personally, I've never quite grokked FATE, so I'll be interested to see how well it is explained here.

Despite the pdf's extraordinarily extensive cross-linking, I'll be going through this page by page, for simplicity's sake. This will probably not, however, turn out to be quite as detailed a reading as my L5R thread, just for practicality's sake on my end.

The first section is called:

Overview

After a short introduction, we get:

What Has Come Before

This is the history of the setting, and a lot has happened. There's been a brief technological singularity, where a godlike AI called 'Mimir' was active then mysteriously shut down, leaving behind massive technological advances, including interstellar jump gates and replicators compilers. Old economic structures disintegrated and gave way to post-scarcity. Consciousness could be uploaded ('Apotheosis') and biotechnological bodies created ('Synthesis'). Laws were passed to define 'human' and protect non-augmented people, with conflict between 'Purists' and transhumanists. There was a huge war between two governmental factions using the technological advances and it destroyed the world's habitat, leading to the Exodus. In the new, off-world colonies, it was the corporations that ruled, and the corporate 'Houses' came together to form the 'Coalition' which uses social media to deliver services to its people and to help rule them. The old governmental factions are still active against the Coalition, though, and there is violent conflict over who is human.

Elements of Nova Praxis

These are listed as:

Post-singularity, meaning the tech which Mimir made available – innovation comes from deciphering Mimir's archive, not developing from old tech;

Post-scarcity, meaning that importance is measured not in money but in Rep, i.e. how well others have rated the person's contribution (like on eBay);

The Fall of Earth
, meaning the complete environmental destruction of the home planet in by war-machines gone mad, so that it is now quarantined;

The Rise of the Houses, to one of which each Coalition citizen belongs – each House has its own laws, which apply to its Citizens, irrespective of where they are;

Utopian Prison/Dystopian Freedom
, meaning that Coalition citizens may never want for anything, but they are under constant surveillance, whereas 'Apostates' live in frontier areas but have to scrabble to survive;

Conspiracy and Intrigue, either between the Houses in the covert 'Shadow War', often using deniable Apostates, or between Purists and transhumanists;

The Last Frontier, i.e. space travel;

Augmented and Virtual Reality, meaning you control computers via a neural interface and gestures in interfaces overlaid on the world around you, or you can enter into entirely virtual environments;

Transhumanity
in the form of Apotheosis and the ability to transfer your consciousness into different 'sleeves', and in the form of Synthesis, with the fusion of biological and synthetic life to create a 'superhuman' body that can be controlled and monitored precisely;

Savants: people who have hacked their own Apotheosis in order to break the legal limits on making yourself inhuman.

The overview finishes with a detailed timeline and a glossary of in-setting terms. I'll not dissect the timeline in much detail, since most of the topics touched on are mentioned above. There are just a few criticisms I have.

Firstly, the timespan is really, really short, given how much has happened: the setting's 'today' is 2140. This can be justified as the aftermath of Mimir accelerating human development, but given post-singularity human lifespan is given as up to 250 years, I'm wondering what effect the short timeline has. Is this world dominated by people who remember pre-singularity Earth?

Secondly, the remaining human population is given as 94.6 million. That's not a lot. It's roughly the current population of Ethiopia or, for Americans, the combined population of California, Texas, Florida and Ohio, or a little less than Germany plus the Netherlands. Given the images of giant megacities in the art, I expected a lot more than that.

Lastly, the apocalypse on Earth was from out of control war machines, who are said effectively to wipe out South and Central America, Africa and China, as well as less technologically advanced nations. The UK, US, Russia and Canada survive the best, with the Japanese escaping via Apotheosis. It's unclear what happens to continental Europe, the Middle East or South and South-East Asia. As a fan of CP2020, I always liked the idea that the need for space programmes to be based on the equator meant that the off-world populations came from cultures outside the modern First World. This isn't the case here, and while I appreciate the realism in having the least well-off suffer the most from global cataclysm, it makes for a fairly conventional, 'West+Japan' sci-fi future.


This is just the overview chapter and my initial impressions of the setting is that there is a lot going on. It doesn't really cohere, but it is jam-packed with plot hooks and conflict. I don't know how or if it all fits together, but I can already say it seems very gameable.

Comments are welcome: it's helpful to know people are reading and that I'm not just typing into the ether!
 

leetsepeak

Registered User
Validated User
I hate to be *that guy* because when I saw who had made Nova Praxis, I was kind of turned off to it. But getting a review of it in this format is perfect, because I really want to see if I can like it so I can decide whether I want to buy it or not. Much obliged!

I think so far what I'm getting is that it sounds like Eclipse Phase. Or Eclipse Phase lite? I have to admit, that's another part of my negative reaction when I first read about it. I hope it does some stuff to sort of stand on its own.

Also looking forward to the rules review. I have no experience with FATE, but I am shopping for a ruleset to use for a sci fi setting, so if there's good ones here, that'd make me happy.
 

En Sabah Nur

Retired User
Ooh! This is cool. I'm really loving Nova Praxis.

Some thoughts:

Yes, the PDF is badass. It makes using other PDFs seem primitive and clumsy in comparison.

For that reason, anyone who wants to compare the two games should take it to another thread, thank-you.
Yes thank you. They are similar in some ways and different in others. Some folks seem to get real testy when you start comparing them, so that's enough said about EP in this thread I think.

Nova Praxis uses a FATE variant based on Strands of Fate.
There are definitely some SoF-isms in there, but Nova Praxis reads more like some of the other versions of Pre-Core Fate to me. It uses Skills instead of SoF's Abilities, it uses Stunts instead of Advantages, the stress system is more like the one in Starblazer, etc. But it does have SoF's Aspect Alphabet, Persistent Aspects, a stronger focus on gear, etc.

Is this world dominated by people who remember pre-singularity Earth?
Yeah, most people would remember Earth before the Exodus. It's only been 27 years since it happened. Still, humans were colonizing space before the technophage went all genocidal. So I guess there would still be a few who were born and grew up elsewhere and never set foot on Earth.

Given the images of giant megacities in the art, I expected a lot more than that.
There are a few mega-cities in the setting. Olympus is the largest I guess, followed by Titan. And the cities on Luna are pretty big. But other than that, I get the impression that most settlements are pretty small. There really aren't that many people left.
 

Delgarde

Registered User
Validated User
I think so far what I'm getting is that it sounds like Eclipse Phase. Or Eclipse Phase lite? I have to admit, that's another part of my negative reaction when I first read about it. I hope it does some stuff to sort of stand on its own.
Only in that they're both future settings, dealing with the consequences of Singularity. Aside from the basic premise, they're not much alike...
 

Mechalus

Registered User
Validated User
Very cool.
It may be worth mentioning that the PDF has been updated a little bit since that video was shot.
 

face_p0lluti0n

Registered User
Validated User
I think so far what I'm getting is that it sounds like Eclipse Phase. Or Eclipse Phase lite? I have to admit, that's another part of my negative reaction when I first read about it. I hope it does some stuff to sort of stand on its own.
In my opinion, Eclipse Phase leans much closer to being a Horror Sci-Fi game than Nova Praxis, which feels a bit more like straight Sci-Fi, possibly tinted slightly with Cyberpunk or Technothriller themes.

EP comes back over and over again to how precarious humanity's existence is and how close humans are to wiping out their own species. Transhumanity is threatened by AIs, aliens, political differences, gray goo, and all manner of other problems, so much so that the default EP campaign involves a group of PCs working for a secret group that is dedicated to keeping all of the extinction-level threats in check.

NP, on the other hand, definitely presents a feeling that humanity has already stabilized and ensured its own survival. Humans did kill Earth, just like NP, but we're not living every day of our lives in fear of a laundry list of apocalypses that are all one failed containment mission away from wiping out the species. The default campaign model in NP feels more like Mass Effect crossed with Ghost in the Shell and/or Shadowrun.

The other thing that struck me about NP is that there is one monolithic society, not multiple tiny ones all trying to eke out an existence in their own habitats and planets. Additionally, that society has achieved a very delicate balance between serving the needs/wants of those who embrace Transhumanity and those who fear it, but the citizens of the giant mono-nation have to deal on a daily basis with that balance being threatened to be pulled down the slippery slope in either direction by hostile, barely-contained Pro/Anti Transhuman party politics, which are then made worse by the fact that either of the two sides of this argument have to contend with the reprehensible actions of extremists who take their party line too far.
 

semiomant

lego signatura rerum
yeah, lets read Nova Praxis. But instead of believing the back cover blurb, lets look at the self-description on p.7 of my PWYW-pdf.

>>Nova Praxis is...
>>...a tabletop role-playing game featuring an evolution of the award winning FATE game system used in Strands of Fate,
>>streamlined and tailored specifically for Nova Praxis.
>>...self-contained. You do not need to own, or be familiar with, any other FATE game to play Nova Praxis.

No quibbles here.

>>...a relatively "hard sci-fi" setting that takes place during the aftermath of a short-lived technological singularity.

So the thing is really a pre-singularity setting with space opera tech updates by AI. There was singularity (another worthy topic of analysis would be if a single AI plus some new tech is really a singluarity in the sense Vernor Vinge coined the term), but now its gone. It's as post-singularity as a post-apocalytic wasteland in 2020 is post-modern, because it comes after modernity.

>>...an exploration of the tropes of transhuman sci-fi: mind uploading, resleeving, artificial intelligence, and augmentation.

All tech well known from cyberpunk fiction.

>>...an exploration of the societal impacts of a reputation-based post-scarcity economy.

And that post-scarcity society is a state (sic!), the coalition, which engages, as we are told two paragraphs down in author voice, in oppression. Yeah, some exploration that is: pre-deciding that post-scarcity is best represented by oppression.

>>...a game in which players play characters who slip between the cracks of civilization and perform jobs their patrons would
>>rather keep off the books.

Now we get it. It is cyberpunk tech plus oppressive dystopia plus secret jobs off the books: it's Shadowrun in spaaaaaace.

>>...a setting full of conflict. The Houses wage a secret Shadow War against each other, purist and transhuman ideologies clash
>>violently, and apostates rebel against the oppression of the Coalition government.

Well, in this allegedly transhuman setting, we see that transhumanism is one "ideology" among many, bravely battled by captialistic apostates. Ayn Rand would be proud. Of course, the only choice for a post-scarcity state is oppression, there are no conceivable alternatives that should be part of an exploration of themes. Forget Iain Banks, or Charles Stross: Firefly is the best reference evar for transhuman roleplaying.
I can understand that a RPG needs conflict. This one handles it so poorly that the conflict sabotages any real exploration of transhumanism, it's already decided for the sake of conflict that it's a corrupt dictatorship ideology.

>>...home to railguns, powered armor, starships, security drones, bipedal warframes, swarms of nanomachines, kill-sats, and the
>> horrors of accelerated evolution gone wrong

Wooohoo, more tech updates to Shadowrun spaaaace, more ways to kill con guards ... er ... house guards in the "game of reputation-thrones". And we see that singularity breeds "horrors". Clearly more of that unbiased exploration thing going on.

The main text establishes even more clearly and firmly what we learned from this textbox on page seven. It would be easy to bring citations, or deconstruct the premise more deeply.
 

TheMouse

garmonbozia
Validated User
Now we get it. It is cyberpunk tech plus oppressive dystopia plus secret jobs off the books: it's Shadowrun in spaaaaaace.
"Shadowrun in space," comes with some baggage that doesn't really apply. It looks closer to Ghost in the Shell in space to me.
 

Iozz-Sothoth

Cruel Angel's Viva Voce
Staff member
Moderator
RPGnet Member
Validated User
yeah, lets read Nova Praxis. But instead of believing the back cover blurb, lets look at the self-description on p.7 of my PWYW-pdf.

>>Nova Praxis is...
>>...a tabletop role-playing game featuring an evolution of the award winning FATE game system used in Strands of Fate,
>>streamlined and tailored specifically for Nova Praxis.
>>...self-contained. You do not need to own, or be familiar with, any other FATE game to play Nova Praxis.

No quibbles here.

>>...a relatively "hard sci-fi" setting that takes place during the aftermath of a short-lived technological singularity.

So the thing is really a pre-singularity setting with space opera tech updates by AI. There was singularity (another worthy topic of analysis would be if a single AI plus some new tech is really a singluarity in the sense Vernor Vinge coined the term), but now its gone. It's as post-singularity as a post-apocalytic wasteland in 2020 is post-modern, because it comes after modernity.

>>...an exploration of the tropes of transhuman sci-fi: mind uploading, resleeving, artificial intelligence, and augmentation.

All tech well known from cyberpunk fiction.

>>...an exploration of the societal impacts of a reputation-based post-scarcity economy.

And that post-scarcity society is a state (sic!), the coalition, which engages, as we are told two paragraphs down in author voice, in oppression. Yeah, some exploration that is: pre-deciding that post-scarcity is best represented by oppression.

>>...a game in which players play characters who slip between the cracks of civilization and perform jobs their patrons would
>>rather keep off the books.

Now we get it. It is cyberpunk tech plus oppressive dystopia plus secret jobs off the books: it's Shadowrun in spaaaaaace.

>>...a setting full of conflict. The Houses wage a secret Shadow War against each other, purist and transhuman ideologies clash
>>violently, and apostates rebel against the oppression of the Coalition government.

Well, in this allegedly transhuman setting, we see that transhumanism is one "ideology" among many, bravely battled by captialistic apostates. Ayn Rand would be proud. Of course, the only choice for a post-scarcity state is oppression, there are no conceivable alternatives that should be part of an exploration of themes. Forget Iain Banks, or Charles Stross: Firefly is the best reference evar for transhuman roleplaying.
I can understand that a RPG needs conflict. This one handles it so poorly that the conflict sabotages any real exploration of transhumanism, it's already decided for the sake of conflict that it's a corrupt dictatorship ideology.

>>...home to railguns, powered armor, starships, security drones, bipedal warframes, swarms of nanomachines, kill-sats, and the
>> horrors of accelerated evolution gone wrong

Wooohoo, more tech updates to Shadowrun spaaaace, more ways to kill con guards ... er ... house guards in the "game of reputation-thrones". And we see that singularity breeds "horrors". Clearly more of that unbiased exploration thing going on.

The main text establishes even more clearly and firmly what we learned from this textbox on page seven. It would be easy to bring citations, or deconstruct the premise more deeply.
I see that you're new here, which is why I'm not threadkicking and formally warning you and am instead giving you a chance to tone down the general hostility and contribute usefully to the thread.
 

face_p0lluti0n

Registered User
Validated User
"Shadowrun in space," comes with some baggage that doesn't really apply. It looks closer to Ghost in the Shell in space to me.
The Stand Alone Complex series would probably provide excellent inspiration for a few NP campaigns. I think SAC and NP share a particular post-cyberpunk thematic current - "New tech is here, it changed everything, it didn't destroy us or kill our souls, so exactly what kind of functional society do we make with this now?" followed by a society that is utopian to some, dystopian to others, and starring group of semi-outsiders who don't buy fully into either side but work against extremists from both so that society has the opportunity to work out these questions peacefully.

That's not the only thing NP does by a long shot, but I keep looking at it and thinking "Yeah, I think this could easily pull off a Ghost in the Shell: SAC style of narrative..."
 
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