By Jared Sorensen, Memento Mori Theatricks , $10 PDF
What is octaNe? It's a game like no other. No really.
Setting wise it's kinda like Mad Max got kidnapped by a B Movie director and taken to a rock n roll strip club. It's a post apocalyptic world of mutants, road warriors, and kung fu monkeys.
octaNe is a PDF download from Memento Mori Theatricks, the game-design garret of Jared A. Sorensen. If you're dubious as to the value of PDF games, then I definitely suggest it as your first purchase, since there's enough cool stuff in here to make you a convert. Sure there's no artwork, but the ideas alone are worth the cost of entry.
System wise octaNe is simple, yet elegant. At it's core it strips things down to the basic concept: You're playing characters doing cool things, and the rules are there to say who gets to describe what and when. That's about it. Sure there are skills and character types, but the basics of the system boils down to if you roll high, you decide what happens, if you roll low the GM decides. If you want tactics or realism (whatever that means in an RPG), then OctaNe isn't for you. Any fight can be over on a good roll, and players can introduce outlandish story ideas easily, so it won't suit a megalomaniac GM. What it is good for is weird-as-hell player-driven story.
Lots of the attitude and atmosphere comes from the character types: Road Warrior, Death-Rock Siren, Six String Samuri, Capuchin monkey, Smartcar Rustler, Masked Luchador, all weird but cool character concepts. A quick read through and you'll be easily be able to pin down what you want to play, and if by some chance you can't find something, you can invent your own. Then it's a case of picking your styles, of which there are 6 (daring, ingenuity, craft, charm, might and magic) and skills (not rated, you either have them or not). It's important to note that styles aren't stats. They don't measure how good you are at something (you can pretty much decide that yourself), they're more a measure of how likely you character is to act in a certain way. The more your character acts a certain way, the more you get rewarded with plot points, these can be spent to do cool stuff even when you don't have a skill or style that's appropriate.
Setting wise octaNe is full of cool concepts, but it's certainly not an in-depth background. The book is written with broad strokes and leaves you to fill in the blanks. You get a post-apocalypse trash-culture America, where there are mutants, demons, zombies, ninja, giant sloths, and smart cars. Each major area and city of the setting gets a brief overview, plus we get a rundown on typical vehicles, weird inhabitants of the world, and magic traditions. The setting info leaves a lot for you to fill in during play, which is kinda refreshing.
You get plenty of advice on how to run a game in this freewheeling style, from stopping a game from stalling, to four different styles of play ranging from Arthouse (mythic storytelling) to grindhouse (think Russ Meyer). So there's lots of flexibility for style of game within the rules.
All in all octaNe is damned good value and a lot of fun.