Actually Played It: Nibiru RPG
My after actual play thoughts about Nibiru the Scifi RPG about lost memories.
What is Nibiru?
Nibiru is a science fiction game of lost memories, and a horror enigma. You play amnesiac folks who aren’t from around here; here being an immense space station in the cosmos. An immense craft of unknown origins or purpose. The inhabitants have never seen the open sky, it’s not a thing -yet, yet…one of you might have memories of playing on a grass field under the bright sun of a summer’s day. Yeah…
The mechanics are simple, but not rules-light. D4s are used in two ways. Roll and sum the totals used in opposed tests. The other roll and count 4s as successes. There are also two mechanics for effecting outcomes - one acts like fate or plot points, the other a flashback, specifically the recalling of lost memories. You also build your game’s skill list as you play. There are three, loose, styles of play that are framed by the physical region you are in. Political, intrigue in Antumbra the core region. An exploited, class struggle frontier that is the Penumbra. And some strange as all get out Umbra.
Actual Play on Twitch.tv
I ran a session zero and four game sessions with three players live on Twitch. The players picked Bright Town and the Machine as the habitats we’d explore. The initial premise is their patron, Helen took on a job in the big city o fSuruptu and needed their help and vagabond qualities to help complete the job. I spent the first session exploring where the characters have spent the last few cycles living in a remote flood plain part of the Penumbra, a twilight region of Nibiru. We played through the journey from there to Suruptu, a Big City. This got our initial skill list built and some practice with the different core mechanics of Nibiru. The next three sessions found us on a man-hunting job as our primary arc, exploring life in Surptu and the settlements outside the city in a tank.
What I liked
I was into the Nibiru lore. There’s a lot to love on there. From how automated the station is, what’s out there on the fringes of the Penumbra? or beyond? Humans repurposing of AI. The rich cultures and fungi lore. The d4 dice pool system is decisive, quick. Did I say Nibiru lore is very evocative?!
To do this again, I would run this offline instead of live-streaming. We would play weekly to keep the setting and lore fresh in mind. I was frustrated at working out how much exposition do I need to do to keep the Twitch audience onboard —IDK?! The setting is B I G. I also didn’t want to be monologuing live on stream. Not live streaming also provides room to make mistakes, look up, and argue about how a mechanic works, to get to a mutual understanding of the game. A friend once called Nibiru the French movie of games —it is high concept! It requires your effort.
Fishes and Wishes…
I wish the skill list was set, defined. It seems cool that a skills list that develops during play might be amazing! In reality, you will develop a list that looks like the one from games your group plays regularly. I don’t feel the effort is worth it. I also wish the characters weren’t amnesiacs. There is so much fantastic stuff going on in the Nibiru station, so many mysteries, so much lore, the amnesia schtick muddies the experience for me. In our games, the players had friction around what they know and didn’t know. The amnesia was a constant stumbling block. I wish there was more ‘grab’ to the D4 mechanics. Yes, at times it is a brutal, decisive mechanic, but also sometimes too nebulous. The sweet spot requires GM skill at framing and ending scenes.
So there it is. I have played Nibiru. I’d run it again for a small, invested group of folks and I’d run it offline. I’d stick to two habitats for the group and I’d shoot for 6-8 sessions of play. Bring your GM skills at framing and ending scenes around the D4 mechanics. Play to find out, and play fearlessly.