We’ve all had the experience of reading through a shiny new RPG and stumbling across a really cool little mechanic which perfectly encapsulates a genre or has intriguing depth to it or feels really original. What are some examples you’ve seen?
A couple for me:
In Troika, an OSR game, the order of inventory matters. When trying to retrieve something in a hurry, you have to roll under the item’s position in the list. This makes inventory management, a usually arithmetic staple of the OSR into thinking about item practicality which is cool
In Dead World, a wild west reskin of Apocalypse World, Open Your Brain is replaced by the following. It perfectly encapsulates the scene of a character showing their personal philosophy to the world, which feels so very western
When you indulge your vices and your mind is besotted with your particular pleasures (booze, opiates, whores, gambling, violence, righteous anger), you gain revelatory insights amidst all this squallor. Roll+will and pontificate, in brief or in full, about the nature and truth of things. On a hit, the MC will seize on something you’ve said and elaborate on your insight. On a 10+, they’ll straight-up tell you something you hadn’t realized before. On a 7-9, they’ll hint at the answer to something that’s been vexing you. On a miss, some truth will set you free, but not this truth. No, this truth is gonna shove you right back into the mud.
In Fellowship, a LotR inspired PbtA game, NPC followers are used like resources. They each have a trait or two (e.g. the hunting bird has Eagle Eye and Go For The Eyes) which they can use once per unit of adventure. This allows a companion to be incredibly useful but never outshine the players
And despite it being old hat, of course I have to mention Apocalypse World’s GM agenda, principles and moves. The idea of formalising the GM’s role and responses is a really cool one.