Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Thoughts On My Cyberpunk Game

Max Headroom is continuing to blow my mind.

I watched "The Blanks" today and if you're not familiar, the new "Elected Representative" starts rounding up "Blanks," people who literally live off the grid--they don't exist in the government/network computers and they own televisions WITH OFF SWITCHES! In response, the Blanks hack the city's computers, causing a shutdown of television broadcasts, telephones, and even household utilities. Basically, Anonymous--the 1987 sci-fi style.

I watched this show religiously when I was a kid (I was in 6th grade when "The Blanks" aired) and watched the hell out of the original TV-movie. The show predicted many things that I find rather distasteful about modern society. Prescient is the best way I can describe this show.

Since watching Max Headroom is what got me on this Cyberpunk game kick, it's only right that what I watch works its way into my game. Both shortymonster and Phil mentioned Transmetropolitan in the last blog's comments. I, too, am a fan of Warren Ellis's gonzo sci-fi masterpiece. I think it's arguably the best written comic of that turn of the century period. The 90s were a transition time, from the heady optimism of the end of the Cold War to the reality check that was 9/11. Not too many people knew where we were heading, but if you read Transmetropolitan, you see Warren Ellis was one of them.

Max Headroom and Transmetropolitan. Two amazing glances into the future that show where we're heading if we don't start taking some control over our lives from elected officials and corporations.

So what does all of this mean for my game?

It means I have a LOT of work to do.

rainswept mentioned in his comment that Traveller and Max Headroom are chocolate and peanut butter. Yes, they are. While I've been looking at how I can add in cyberpunk elements to my Hard Times on the Solomani Rim game, the Third Imperium isn't a terribly cyberpunk future. That said, I really dig the Mongoose Traveller system. They have a pretty restrictive OGL, but I might be able to work the system. As it stands, I'd need special permission to use the equipment and cybernetics I am gathering from Supplement 4: Central Supply Catalogue and Supplement 8: Cybernetics, unless I'd want to rewrite the whole thing from scratch. I'm not that creative. However, necessity is forcing me into basically creating all of the careers from whole cloth. Here are some other things I've been kicking around:
  • Reducing the term length from 4 years to 2. Cyberpunk is largely about youth. My current Traveller game has characters with 20-24 years experience. 10-12 is probably where I'd cap it for cyberpunk characters. Let adversaries, contacts, and mentors be appropriate.
  • I've thought about adding in a Twilight: 2000-esque roll at the end of the term that determines if it's time to stop character generation. I'm thinking of using a mechanism similar to the aging mechanic--after three terms, roll a d6 and subtract the terms you have completed. If you hit zero exactly, you get ONE more term. If you are in negative numbers, you're done. Muster out, bucko.
  • I've debated adding an event table to roll when you are done with everything, kind of the "what just happened that might have steered you to the freelance world" of the game. Make one for each career, and it'll be more social, giving Allies and Enemies more than skills.
  • Neuromancer-style netrunning is out. I have never found a way to properly integrate Gibsonian hacking into a game. The attempts made in Cyberpunk and Shadowrun get an A for effort, but are just too clunky to be bolted onto a game that will mostly have non-hackers. Bryce never needed to jack in, so neither will you.
  • There will be considerable matrices to govern social interaction. Suits and hobo gloves aren't meant to mix. What you wear, how you look, and what you look like you can spend will all have effects.
  • Transmetropolitan had some gonzo shit in it. My game will too.
  • My social and political beliefs will have a huge effect on the game world. More than any other game I've run, this will be a reflection of ME. I won't rant or beat you over the head with stuff, since player fun is ultimately the goal of any referee worth a damn, but it will be there.
I have a lot of work to do.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thoughts on a Cyberpunk Game

I've been watching a lot of Max Headroom lately. FUCKING love that show. I would love to see it updated a bit more.

But more to the point, I want to run a game in it.

I've been on a Mongoose Traveller kick lately. I'm thinking it's time to get my blowtorch and solder out and see where I can go with this.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Mongoose Traveller: Hard Times On The Solomani Rim, Session 1

Cast of Characters:
Baron Khoiayahelu (Aslan noble (Imperial rank is much greater than his Aslan standing) whose family's mismanagement of the family holdings has sent him travelling)
"Chrome" (Droyne Sport pilot who has been separated from his kin and finds new families among various merchant ships he works on)
Alex Cross, M.D. (Rough around the edges former technician who became a medical doctor)
Mihai Greenman (Perennial underdog. Former Marine, Arms Dealer, Broker, and Vagabond.)

The Story So Far:
...This is the first session. This *IS* the story so far.


So the crew of the Far Trader "Princess Di" settled down into the backwater port of Bailey, not far from the fighting between the Solomani Confederation and what is left of the Third Imperium. Upon entering the main concourse of Fenian Station, the Imperial Starport on Bailey, they witnessed the huscarles of Duke Gaius Pol, the Hammers of Sarun, execute the staff and patrons of a brothel who were allegedly disloyal to Emperor Lucan. Shocked, they went to the Sinner's Feast, a local watering hole where they were approached by a smuggler named Xero (who Chrome and Mihai knew of) who offered them a job to sit on some contraband for a few days. The Baron nixed such dishonorable work.

While Chrome was attempting to secure passengers for a trip to nearby Mercy, the group was approached by Tania Llotman, an exotic dancer who was looking to the players (most notably, the burly one-eyed Aslan) to help her give an over exuberant fan an idea of what's up. Unaware of the concept of the Soiled Dove, Baron Khoiayahelu jumped at the chance to defend this woman's... honor.

The next day, the gang attempted to track down some cargo to go with their passengers. Unfortunately, most of what was available was too rich for their blood.

That night, they returned to the Sinner's Feast to fulfill the job they promised to Tania. She set them up at a VIP table while she danced. They realized that Christoph Ghuran was a drunk who didn't appreciate the party spending quality time with his woman. He eventually mustered up enough liquid courage to approach the table. Chrome, using his Droyne ability to not be seen attempted to administer a hypo filled with a sedative to Christoph, but missed. It wasn't quite a good old fashioned Texas-style bar fight, but a fight did ensue, with the Baron grappling and brawling with Christoph, Chrome getting inadvertently involved in a brawl after throwing a drink at Christoph to distract him. Eventually, the Baron took down the drunk. Tania was ecstatic and the party went on all night.

You can minimize the level of murderhobo in a group by having one noble who has an Aslan sense of honor.
When you're drunk and in a bar fight, it's really insulting to have drink thrown at you by a Droyne.
I need to stage some of the commerce stuff ahead of the dice rolls.
I need a better, more detailed map of the sector for the players.