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.