Roll4 Review: LokDown

Hey, you got your fantasy in my Sci-Fi! Now we’ve got Carbyne Jungle, a setting built on the Tri-Forge engine from Nor Cal Mythos Entertainment. We’ve reviewed Carbyne Jungle’s pre-release, along with the Tri-Forge engine, and now Nor Cal is ready to do it again with the Lokdown Expansion!

Lokdown is a full expansion coming to the Carbyne Jungle universe, coming to kickstarter April 15th. This is a review of the early edition of LokDown.

What’s included

We have a review copy of LokDown, so some of this may change in the official release. In it’s current form, it has a total of 180 Pages, but it’s likely that the early edition will actually separate into two separate books: one for players, and one for GM’s. The art and formatting are very reminiscent of Carbyne Jungle’s layout. Since this is still in the early edition phase, I won’t go too much into this, since it may change drastically before release.

As with any RPG, there are sections for character creation, gameplay, equipment, and game mastering. However, NCM goes a few steps beyond by also including a starter mission, a great addition for any GM. Much to my delight, Lokdown also includes some excellent one-page rules references for both players as well as Game Masters. This is one thing more systems need. I absolutely love when there are premade handouts while my group becomes familiar with a new system.

Tri-Forge Engine

LokDown includes all of the information you would need from character creation to running a campaign, all rules included. Much like Carbyne Jungle, LokDown uses the Tri-Forge engine, which has one of the coolest feature in any system: it’s actually three. The Tri-Forge engine encompasses a Stock ruleset, Strategic, and Flip and Fight. The best part, you can use all 3 at the same time. Each player at the table can have a character that adheres to any one of the three rulesets, while still being able to play together. Beyond awesome.

If you’re a big fan of crunch in your systems, the stock rules has a fair bit of crunch to them, the stock ruleset will do you perfectly. Once you get familiar with it, you can graduate to the Strategic ruleset, which includes additional rules, tools and resources to help your character get an edge over your opponents. That being said, if you decide to never use the Strategic ruleset: you don’t have to, these are only extra options that you can have available to you. LokDown includes both of these rulesets.

On the flip-side, you also have the Flip and Fight ruleset. This is a streamlined version of the system that uses a deck of cards as opposed to a traditional set of dice. Personally, I find the Flip and Fight ruleset to be my personal favorite of the three in Tri-Forge.

This is still an early release, so this may change in the future, but some things I would like to see included in the official release is a page in the beginning of each sourcebook describing what the Tri-Forge system is. Another thing I’d like to see is a few example scenes for combat and skills.

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The Lore

As normal, Nor Cal Mythos over-delivers on the lore behind LokDown. From the beginning, you have a full sense of the setting, and the brutality of the world, and it only expands from there. The lore in this book is just as expansive as the original Carbyne Jungle, albeit on a smaller scale. You will have no problem thinking of two or three different kinds of campaigns that you could run directly in the given setting, just by the amount of lore included.

Boiling it down to stock, Lockdown is the story of interstellar travellers that made an emergency landing thousands of years ago on a mysterious planet. The planet is locked in orbit with one side facing the sun, producing an unlivable scorching environment. The opposite side a frozen wasteland. All that exists that is habitable is in a ring surrounding the planet between these two sides. For the sentient creatures on board to survive this harsh wasteland, they had to adapt.

LokDown • Roll4 Network

While canonically LokDown takes place within an isolated planet, I personally don’t see why any of the species or archetypes can’t be transferrable to your campaign. Actually, there are suggestions on how to create different kinds of campaigns using the LokDown expansion included. From the style of Mecha Shonen Anime, to Cyberpunk Noir, to Space Opera. It’s a simple addition, but one that I very much appreciate. Let’s look at what kinds of characters you can play.

Species

There are four species available in LokDown:

  • Xenoton: Xenoton have had their DNA splices with a mysterious organic-metal compound named “Demonsteel”. This caused their bodies to become partially mechanic over the generations.
Xenoton • Roll4 Network
  • The Godai: Early terraformers found other ways to survive in the environment. The Godai formed pacts with the primal metallic elements of LokDown
Godai • Roll4 Network
  • The Shastra: The Shastra evolved from genetic mutations created by A.I. entities, using creatures available to them, resulting in a half-animal species.
Shastra • Roll4 Network
  • The Bloodbourne: The Bloodbourne fused their DNA with the strange people called the Daemons, the original inhabitants of LokDown.
Bloodbourne • Roll4 Network

Character Options

Character creation is a fairly involved process in Carbyne Jungle, but not overly so. I would find it comparable to your choice of Dungeons and Dragons. If you’ve played a Tabletop RPG before, you’ll pick it up fairly quickly. However, the amount of options is pretty extensive in LokDown, many of them are based in story as much as they are mechanics, which really ties the expansion together. The first option would be your Species, as listed above.

Next up is your Society Domain, which is going to be where you grew up. This includes The Shastra Pyramids, The Godai Domes, The Xenoton Caravans, and the Bloodborn Airships. These do not have to match your species, it just indicates the ancestors that created these different societies. Each of these gives additional options and bonuses to your character. Then is the Archetypes.

There are 8 unique Archetypes included in LokDown, each with their own strengths. If you’re coming from D&D, Archetypes will be what LokDown would call classes. Budo Warrior, Gunslinger, Healer, Samurai, Shapeshifter, Shinobi, Sorcerer, and Summoner. Unsure of what to play? NCM thought of that.

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image 6 • Roll4 Network
I love that Nor Cal Mythos adds this section to their books. It can help new players quickly determine that their characters are exactly what they’re hoping for.

Then, on the more mechanical side, you’ll choose your Attributes, Skills, and Backgrounds, with backgrounds being roughly equivalent to what some systems would call feats. There’s a lot that’s in these books alone, but if you include the class options in Carbyne Jungle, the amount of customization is incredible.

Our thoughts

The absolute hands-down best part of all of Nor Cal Mythos products is their distinctive writing style. With having 3 distinct rulesets, there are some pages that you’ll be rereading. But, reading it is so much fun. Nor Cal brings a sense of humor to everything the publish, silly puns, taking jabs at the other members, and a sense of wit. Reading this book makes you feel not only like you’re a part of the team, but also like you’ve been playing at their table for years.

Sci-fi-fantasy is a hard line to walk while feeling thematically correct, but LokDown makes it look effortless as it backflips down the line. In my opinion, it’s secret is customizability from the ground up. There is a big emphasis in the Tri-Forge engine on customizability, for you to play the game that you want, and LokDown delivers.

Mark your calendars! April 15th 2020 is when Nor Cal Mythos Entertainment’s new Kickstarter drops. It’s a perfect blend between the mysticism of fantasy, and the overtly technical sci-fi genre’s, so be sure to keep your eye out.