Neurogrind is one of my favorite labs. Between the dark atmosphere, the intriguing but bizarre character of Squich, and their unique nanotech powers, it’s easy to love Neurogrind. If you look at Retroscape’s last book, you’ll find Neurogrind’s chapter is a hair longer than every other chapter. We were pretty obsessed.
But Neurogrind has some issues. They’re one of the most complicated labs to play. They come with a robot, which means your level 1 character has two things they have to control. The robot has a lot going on, by default, and can be a bit confusing for new players. Second to that, one of their core abilities is their nanoswarm, and you don’t even get that til second level. When people pick up Retroscape for the first time, I want them to READ Neurogrind but I haven’t really wanted them to PLAY Neurogrind. It’s complicated for a first-time Retroscape player and it worries me.
So that’s a problem.
The bigger problem is that we KNEW we had these problems, but we also knew that we were addicted to Neurogrind’s aesthetic and abilities. We’ve already written adventures and characters with Neurogrind that we adore. What could we do?
Well, Jake posed a simple question the other day: What is Neurogrind’s science: nanotech or robotics? And the answer? Neither.
Neurogrind is a lab about interlinking the human mind with machine. We’ve built the lab into a fight between big robots and nanoswarms, but really, Neurogrind is attempting to connect to whatever they want. So we have a new gameplan:
(1) Nix the robot companion. This seems sad, but it’s the opposite. We’re moving all of the best parts of Robot Companions from Neurogrind into the generic crafting elements. Soon you’ll be able to build a robot companion for your Ascent characters, your Tribe operative, and your Network agent. If you want a robot, you get a robot. You don’t have to be Neurogrind.
(2) We move Nanoswarm to the first level. We want Neurogrind to be the mechanical repair and hacking lab. This gives them that. Plus, it’s MUCH easier for new players than a robot companion. And if they want the robot companion, just take the specialty!
(3) Interlinks. This is going to be the big one — you’ll be able to create “neural interlinks” in items that allow you to control them remotely. So if you do build a robot, you can throw your neural interlink into it and see through your robot’s eye. You can control your robot remotely, silently, and share skills with the robot.
But — even more interesting, in my opinion — is the new abilities this opens up. You could attach an interlink to your car, controlling your car remotely. You could attach an interlink to your gun, creating a self-aiming turret. You could attach an interlink to your computer, allowing you to access your computer remotely.
These changes are going to boost the party role for Neurogrind, making it clear which lab will be the best hacker and mechanic. Neurogrind will still be all about robotics, but their true skill — remote cybernetic interfacing — will really start to shine.
This lab revision is on its way, and I can’t wait to introduce the new Neurogrind!