Sep 11

Character Creation // Steps 1 and 2

If you’ve read the Kickstarter Preview [Link accessible for backers only] of The Sprawl, you may have noticed a big highlighted heading, “Extended Chargen Example”, at the end of Chapter 3: Making a Character. Over the next week or two, I will post sections from this extended example. If there’s some aspect of the process that isn’t clear, make a note in the comments and I’ll expand or clarify my description as necessary. This is the second post; the first is here: Step 0.

Step 1: Choose a Playbook

Norah (MC): Now that we have our corporations, you can choose playbooks and make the characters who will be the protagonists in our story.

She introduces the playbooks one by one, reading out the brief descriptions in Chapter 3, says a little about what kind of thing each playbook focuses on, and puts the playbooks in the middle of the table for the players to look at.

Sarah: I want to play an Infiltrator! Is that cool with everyone?

John: I was thinking Infiltrator or Killer, so if you take the Infiltrator, I’ll take the Killer.

Aanya: I’m grabbing a Hacker…

Takumi: Perfect, I like the sound of a Driver.

Step 2: Name and Describe your Character

Norah: Okay, so start at the top of the playbook by picking a name and look. Those lists are there for your inspiration, they’re not restrictive.

The players start reading the playbooks and making selections.

Takumi: Actually, I think I want to play someone a bit more social than a Driver, can I have the Fixer instead?

Norah: Sure!

John chooses the name Oakley for his Killer. Oakley has artificial eyes, a scarred face, muscular body and wears punk clothing.

John: Oakley is a rough looking guy with dark stubble that accentuates the long blade scar that cuts down his temple to his jawline courtesy of a jungle knife-fight. His eye balls are totally black, vat-grown replacements necessitated by exposure to flashbangs defending a corporate facility from a covert raid. He wears a deliberately punked up version of corporate military ware; corporate logos turned into anti-corporate slogans, torn and frayed edges on still perfectly fuctional fatigues.

Takumi chooses the name Hub for his Fixer. Hub has trustworthy eyes and a friendly face, a thin body and corporate wear.

Takumi: If you were to see Hub on the street, you’d think he was just a well-dressed corporate drone. He dresses to impress people in the corporate world; he wants their respect, and their money. He has a face that makes people trust him, with a friendly disarming smile.

Sarah gives her Infiltrator the name Zero. She gives her a nondescript face, restless eyes, a lithe body and street wear.

Sarah: Zero dresses to blend in. She has an extensive wardrobe and is always changing her clothes. There’s nothing remarkable about her face, except that her eyes are always flicking back and forth taking in information and calculating entry and exit routes. She moves with a cat-like grace and when she’s sneaking in somewhere, her clothing is always matched with the terrain.

Aanya decides her Hacker is named Core. Core has smug eyes, a smooth face, a small body and worn clothes.

Aanya: Core is a young girl, about 16, top of the hacking game and she knows it. She’s always looking for ways to embarrass her rivals and if you’re not a class-A hacker, she doesn’t think you’re worth talking to. She doesn’t give a shit about physical appearance, but her matrix avatar is a giant flaming demon with six arms and huge bat wings.

Sep 10

Character Creation // Step 0

If you’ve read the Kickstarter Preview [Link accessible for backers only] of The Sprawl, you may have noticed a big highlighted heading, “Extended Chargen Example”, at the end of Chapter 3: Making a Character. Over the next week or two, I will post sections from this extended example. If there’s some aspect of the process that isn’t clear, make a note in the comments and I’ll expand or clarify my description as necessary. This is the first such post.

Step 0: Define the Corporations

Sarah, Takumi, Aanya, John and Norah have gathered to play The Sprawl. They have discussed their understanding of what cyberpunk is and what kind of flavour they want to see in terms of technology. As MC, Norah has asked some of the questions in Chapter 9 and everyone has a sense of what aspects of society and technology they’re all interested in. They’ve decided to set their game in a sprawling future version of their home city, and discussed what that Sprawl might look like.

Norah (MC): Okay, Step 0 is to define the corporations that are going to be the major players in our game. I’ll start… I want the idea of corporate military forces to be important in our Sprawl, so I’m going to start our list with Shanghai Security, an Anglo-Chinese military-industrial megacorporation who have active defense contracts with half the world’s governments and actively attempting to undermine the other half through covert operations or outright warfare.

She writes “Shanghai Security: military and heavy industry” on an piece of paper and places it in the middle of the table.

John: Nice! Well, I’d like to see biologic and cybernetic research play a part in the game, so I’m going to add HelixTec to the list. They got their start with genetic sequencing and have expanded to sit at the bleeding edge of cybernetics research. Their elite special paramilitary units have the best cyberware around and they regularly test their new models in covert operations in those regions where Shanghai is destablising non-compliant governments.

He writes “HelixTec: genetics, cybernetics, military enhancements” under Shanghai Security on the list.

Takumi: Well I want to see some cyberpunk missions in space, so I’ll add Solar Investments in here. They’re a financial conglomerate who operate exclusive orbital habitats both for data security and as exclusive communities for the ultra-wealthy.

He adds “Solar Investments: financial operations and exclusives residences” to the list.

Sarah: I like that idea too, Takumi. I think Solar’s big rival is Ecuadine Petrochem, a oil and mining conglomerate who are in the process of building a space elevator as part of their expansion into asteroid mining, and in the process, threaten Solar’s domination of near-earth transport and habitat construction.

Takumi: Great!

Sarah writes “Ecuadine Petrochem: oil, mining, heavy industries, expanding upwards”.

Aanya: Okay, so its just me left… I want a megacorporation that’s focused on cyberspace… oh, and media… Existence Extertainment. “It’s better than real life!”

She writes down “Existence Entertainment: virtual media and simsense”.

Sarah: What’s simsense?

Aanya: It’s when people with full-on sensory recording cyberware record everything they do for a while, then they or someone else sells those sensory experiences so other people can experience those things. Want to know what it’s like to do a HALO drop or be a Formula One driver? Or to rob a bank or be in a firefight?

Sarah: Ooo, that sounds creepy!

Aanya: Yeah! Turn on, plug in, and switch off forever!

Norah: That looks great! We have a military corp, a cybernetics corp, an orbital finance corp, big oil, and virtual media conglomerate. I can already see some missions in there!


You can back The Sprawl on Kickstarter.

Sep 05

The Kurosawa Extraction

This is a sample mission for The Sprawl. This mission will probably appear in the completed book, but it illustrates the style of the missions which will appear in The Mission Files, the first stretch goal for The Sprawl.

This mission has a very basic premise, a wide variety of methods of completion, and the potential for a lot of expansion. I’ve run it as a one-off game or as a campaign intro game at least three times. The MC can adjust the amount of time it takes very easily by introducing twists (or not) as required which means there’s plenty of time to focus on cyberpunk colour and learning the game.

The Kurosawa Extraction

Overview

The team are hired by Mr Smith to extract Mitchell Kurosawa from ________ (Choose a Corporation from the list for your game). Once they have extracted Kurosawa, they are to call Mr Smith for instructions on where to exchange Kurosawa for their payment.

People and Places

Mr Smith is a corporate fixer who works for _________ (A rival corporation from the list). She is in her 30s and dresses smartly in conservative business attire and hides her data interface cyberware under her hair. She will contact the team by phone and arrange a meeting in an up-market street-level restaurant in the business district. She will attend the meeting unarmed, but accompanied by two relatively subtle corporate security agents who will watch the meeting from a table across the restaurant.
Mitchell Kurosawa is a mid-level executive who lives and works in a corporate arcology in The Sprawl. He only leaves the arcology to travel, but he does so often, usually by corporate jet from the nearest major international airport. Whenever he leaves the arcology, he has a small security detail.
Kurosawa’s Security Detail comprises four highly trained corporate operatives. They transport Kurosawa between the arcology and the airport in two armoured limosines, two ride in the front of each limo. Kurosawa rides in the back of one, the other is empty. Each operative wears an armoured vest (armour 1) and carries a sidearm (heavy pistol: 3-harm close/near loud) and each car has a shotgun (3-harm close/near loud messy reload) and an assault rifle (3-harm near/far loud autofire) in a front seat weapon rack. Each is lightly cybered with a mix of sensory and martial cyberware and at least one has synthetic nerves.
Kurosawa’s Arcology is several miles from the Airport. Security is tightest at the arcology and additional corporate muscle is immediately at hand. Security at the airport is also tight, but less so than at the arcology; it will take external corporate assets longer to respond to an attack there. The drive between the arcology and the airport offers ample opportunity for high-speed freeway chases and close-quarters ambushes along surface streets, depending on the resources of the team.

Questions

What department does Kurosawa work for?
Why does he travel so much?
How long has Kurosawa worked for his corporation?
Does Kurosawa engage in any recreational activities which require him to leave the Arcology?
Does Kurosawa have a family? Do they live in the arcology with him? If not, why?

Legwork Clock

1500 The team is making some noise, but nothing serious… yet.
1800 The target hears vague rumours.
2100 The target hears definite, but unconfirmed rumours. The opposition clock starts at 1500.
2200 The target has reliable information about the time of the run. The opposition clock starts at 1800.
2300 The target has reliable information about the team. The opposition clock starts at 2100.
0000 The team is precisely identified. Advance the target’s threat clock.

Action Clock

1500 Kurosawa’s security detail is wary and suspicious.
1800 Kurosawa’s security detail are on edge and alerted.
2100 Kurosawa’s security detail is beefed up (six guards with indiscreet armour and sidearms).
2200 Additional security is deployed (a team of six with assault rifles and armour jackets) to control the situation.
2300 Additional security is deployed (air support or another team) to assist with Kurosawa’s evacuation.
0000 Further vehicular support and security teams.

Mission Directives

When you accept the job, mark experience.
When you decide when and where to take Kurosawa, mark experience.
When you complete the extraction, mark experience.
When the mission ends, mark two experience.

Running the Mission

As it stands, this mission is very simple. Do some legwork, discover Kurosawa’s schedule, ambush him as he drives to the airport. However, it is potentially very open. The team could attempt to extract Kurosawa from the arcology or the airport or might try to find some way to lure him out of the arcology, perhaps by threatening his family. A full on infiltration of the arcology might be a good opportunity to use conduct a mission. Threatening his family might involve playing hardball; how that roll goes might determine what kind of security he brings when he comes out.

This is a perfect mission for a team with a Driver, but it doesn’t require one. Hackers will have to think creatively to be useful in a mobile ambush or chase scenario, but there are always traffic control and street light systems to be hacked.

Unless the team go digging for information on Mr Smith, keep the identity of their employer ambiguous as long as possible to allow for final twists. In an ongoing campaign, this mission is the perfect “too easy” mission which actual conceals a setup. If the team doesnt cover their bases when they get paid, it’s a perfect opportunity. This also makes this mission a good one for one-off play. If the mission is quicker and simpler than you expected, and you all want to play longer, it can easily be extended with a twist at the end.

Hacking the Mission

You may need to adjust the loadout of Kurosawa’s Security Detail depending on the capability and style of the team. If the team is focused on violence, make assault rifles the primary armament of the Security Detail. If the team is focuses on non-violent approaches, remove the auxiliary longarms and maybe the synth nerves. Of course, if the team focuses on non-violent approaches, those armaments shouldn’t matter anyway…

Potential twists to this mission include:

  • A rival team attempts to extract Kurosawa.
  • A rival team attempts to murder Kurosawa.
  • Kurosawa is bait to lure the team into a trap.
  • Kurosawa offers the team money, bleeding-edge tech, or corporate secrets not to turn him over to Mr Smith.

Aug 12

The Virtua Purge

A mission in The Sprawl for Big Bad Con 2014, Oakland, Oct 17 – 19.
No prior experience of The Sprawl is needed.

The Virtua Purge

>>..Replay Annotated Transcript..>>
Good evening. >>Crisply pressed Italian bespoke suit.>>
I represent the Special Threats Division of VirtuaTech. >>Tone of a man used to being obeyed.>>
SimSys West is a small but important subsidiary of our company. Important because of the personal connections between its current CEO and the highest echelons of VirtuaTech. Highest echelons. >>Pauses for emphasis; individual eye contact.>>
Regrettably, it has come to our attention that the executive board of SimSys West is structurally compromised. >>No pause. No obvious concern. Professional detachment?>>
Because of the aforementioned personal connections, I have been tasked with contracting the services of an external troubleshooting team to investigate, report, and, if necessary, purge the SimSys executive board immediately before the executive nominations in five days. Timing is of the essence in this operation. >>See attached files for operational and remunerative details ..FILE001..FILE002..FILE003..>>
>>..End Annotated Transcript..Replay? [Y/N]..Repeat? [Y/N]>>

The Sprawl is a game of mission-based action in a gritty neon-and-chrome Cyberpunk future. You are the extended assets of vast multinational corporations, operating in the criminal underground, and performing the tasks that those multinationals can’t do, or can’t be seen to, do. Deniable, professional, and ultimately disposable.

Inspired by Gibson; Powered by the Apocalypse.

Aug 07

The Quine Trilogy

The Quine Trilogy
A trilogy of loosely linked games in The Sprawl for Gateway 2014.
Los Angeles, Labor Day Weekend (Aug 29 – Sep 1).
No prior experience of The Sprawl is needed. Participation in all three games is not required.

The Quine Experiment (Sat, 9am)
The wind whips the cold black sea into a frenzy around the legs of the oil platform. No lights, at least not without vision enhancement. Thermo shows movement. Weak glows from bundled figures with far too much firepower. The hacker’s feed is a blinding contrast; a shining white pillar of light with vertical lettering. Quine Virtual Machines: powering your world. T-3 minutes.

The Quine Interface (Sat, 2pm)
When the Sprawl’s largest arcology goes dark and deploys lethal automated defence systems against everyone within a 1000 meter radius, everyone want to know what’s going on. Most of all the owners. Back in the old days they had a saying: “Make em pay when the sun shines.” Yeah. Quine’s over a barrel; it’s time to get paid.

The Quine Denouement (Sat, 8pm)
“There’s a couple of ways this could go down, noob. Either you deliver the package as contracted, or any sorry fucker who cares about you can pick your genetic material out of the dust of this godforsaken place”
“I like the third option.”
“There is no –CLICK– Fuck! All teams, engage!”

The Sprawl is a game of mission-based action in a gritty neon-and-chrome Cyberpunk future. You are the extended assets of vast multinational corporations, operating in the criminal underground, and performing the tasks that those multinationals can’t do, or can’t be seen to, do. Deniable, professional, and ultimately disposable.

Inspired by Gibson; Powered by the Apocalypse.

Jul 30

Straight Outta Chiba: Playbooks and Basic Moves

Today I passed the 50% mark in my final revision of v0.3 of The Sprawl. This mostly involved cleaning up the Playbooks, especially gear and relationship of moves to the new Basic Move arrangement. This afternoon I posted those Playbooks and Basic Moves on Barf Forth. Please read and incorporate them into your games… or tell me why not! All the usual channels are open.

The Cyberware and Gear chapters don’t require much work, so the next big hurdles will be the Matrix chapter (which, from the Matrix moves in the Basic Moves section above, you will note has been significantly revised) and the chapter which actually tells the MC how to run the game. The latter is mostly there in framework, but needs expansion and examples.

My aim is to have the bulk of the work done by Friday night, such that I can finish it up on a couple of flights over the weekend and disseminate v0.3 next week.

Jul 11

The Engine Room of The Sprawl

My post on the Driver sparked a discussion about directives which I have now incorporated into MC’s Agenda. Here are the (now) four things that drive the MC’s moves:

Make the world dirty, high-tech and excessive.
The Sprawl is a contemporary city turned up to 11. The dangerous parts of town are more dangerous; the affluent parts are dripping with excess and guarded with lethal force; the government is more self-serving and corrupt, and more in the pocket of their corporate masters; those corps are more uncaring and arrogant; the technology is shinier and more powerful but used for dirtier and more perverse ends. Everything is dripping with money, dirt, exploitation, power and violence.

Fill the character’s lives with action, intrigue and complication.
In The Sprawl, missions are filled with opportunities for action and betrayal. Make sites inaccessible and heavily guarded not to kill the characters but to challenge them to perform daring infiltrations, engage in furious fight scenes, execute exciting heists, escape double-dealing employers and pull off skin of the teeth extractions. Be a fan of the characters; give them opportunities to be badass professionals.

Be mindful of the characters personal directives and put your bloody fingers all over them.
Moves and directives name people and organisations that the players want to interact with. Be aware of these and tie them into the game as often as possible. As a general rule, a player should have a chance to gain at least one experience from each of his or her directives in every session. That means that those lovers and children, current and former organisations, and enemies and mysteries need to appear frequently. Use those people and groups to pull the players in different directions: divide the group, distract them from the mission, threaten loved ones to compel action. Make the players make hard choices.

Play to find out what happens.
Don’t plan outcomes or storylines; plan starting positions and vectors of action. Set up a situation in which several NPCs and groups with conflicting goals come into contact, insert the characters, then have those NPCs and groups take action in pursuit of the goals and react to the characters’ interference.

Jul 10

Straight Outta Chiba: The Driver

I’m working on the playbooks today. There have been a few minor tweaks to some moves, but the biggest changes are the addition of a couple of sections (name options, tailored directives in a new format, and character creation advice) and the reworking of the Gear section. Here’s the Driver:

Driver

Neurotransmitters lick with their chemical tongues the metal and crystal in his head, and electrons spit from the chips, racing along the cables to the engine starters, and through a dozen sensors Cowboy feels the bladed turbines reluctantly turn as the starters moan, and then flame torches the walls of the combustion chambers and the blades spin into life with a screaming whine. Cowboy monitors the howling exhaust as it belches fire. On his mental displays… he watches fore and aft and checks the engine displays and sees another set of green lights and knows it’s time to move. The howling of the engines beats at his senses… the flaming corn-alcohol throbs through his chest like blood and that the shrieking exhaust flows from his lungs like breath, that his eyes beam radar and his fingers can flick missiles forth like pebbles. Through his sensors he can taste the exhaust and see the sky and the prairie sunset, and part of his mind can feel the throbbing radio energies that are the enemy’s search planes…
Hardwired, Walter Jon Williams

Wheelman, transporter, drone jockey. Whether it’s a sleek coupe, a rumbling hog, a drone-rigged panel van or a radar-baffled ex-military whirlybird, when you jack in and feel the wind rushing over your exterior panelling, you own the road and you are the car. When the job goes smooth it’s the easiest gig there is – like a Sunday drive with grandma – but when things turn sour and the team needs a quick exit, well, that’s where you really earn your Cred.

Name. Cartman, Squirrel, Roadkill, Aziz, Tower, Cowboy, Luka, an animal name, a violent name, a cocky name
Look. Choose one from each line:
Eyes: laughing, cool, hard, cold, distant, artificial
Face: blank, covered, attractive, decorated, rugged, thin
Body: toned, lithe, compact, scarred, augmented, flabby, unfit.
Wear: flashy, formal, casual, utility, scrounge, vintage, leathers, military, corporate.
Stats. Assign each stat one of these numbers: +2, +1, +1, +0, +0, -1. Your Cool should be +2 or +1.

Cyberware:
You get:
Control Systems: Allows direct neural control of an appropriately configured external device such as a vehicle, weapon, recording device, or hacked electronic system. Choose two of following tags: +encrypted, +relay, +multi-tasking, +relay, +unaccessible.

Moves
You get these two:
Wheels: You start with a cyber-linked vehicle. If your vehicle has Power+2, it may start with one mounted weapon system. To build your vehicle:
Choose a Frame: Bike, car, hovercraft, boat, vectored thrust, aircraft, helicopter
Choose a Design: racing, recreational, transportation, cargo, military, luxury, civilian, commercial, courier
Choose a Profile:
Power+2 Looks+1, 1-Armour, Weakness+1
Power+2 Looks+2, 0-Armour, Weakness+1
Power+1 Looks+2, 1-Armour, Weakness+1
Power+2 Looks+1, 2-Armour, Weakness+2
For each point of Power, choose a strength; For each point of Looks, choose a look; For each point of Weakness, choose a weakness. If your vehicle has Power+2, it may mount one weapon system; Military vehicles may mount an additional weapon system.
Strengths: Fast, quiet, rugged, aggressive, huge, off-road, responsive, uncomplaining, capacious, workhorse, easily repaired.
Looks: Sleek, vintage, pristine, powerful, luxurious, flashy, muscular, quirky, pretty, garish, armoured, armed, nondescript.
Weaknesses: Slow, fragile, sloppy, lazy, cramped, picky, guzzler, unreliable, loud.
Weapons: Machine guns (3-harm close/far area messy), grenade launchers (4-harm close area messy), missile launcher (5-harm far area messy slow), autocannon (4-harm far area messy)
Second Skin: When jacked in through your Control Systems to a cyber-linked vehicle:
if you act under pressure, add your car’s power to your roll.
if you mix it up, add your car’s power to your roll.
if you play hardball, add your car’s looks to your roll.
if you help or interfere with someone, add your car’s power to your roll.
if someone interferes with you, add your car’s weakness to their roll.

Choose one more:
Chromed: Choose another piece of cyberware at character creation or in downtime. Describe how you got it and paid for it as usual.
Daredevil: When you drive straight into danger without hedging your bets, you get +1 armour. Mark experience.
Drone Jockey: You start with two drones. For each:
Choose a motive style: Rotor, fixed-wing, tracked, wheeled, aquatic, submarine.
Choose a frame:
Tiny (insect-sized): +small, +fragile, +stealthy, pick one sensor.
Small (rat- to cat-sized): choose one strength, one sensor, one weakness, and one other from any category.
Medium (dog-sized): choose one strength, one sensors, one weakness, and two others from any category.
Large (bear-sized): +obvious, choose two strengths, one sensor, one weakness and two others from any category
For each point of Power, choose a strength; For each point of Looks, choose a look; For each point of Weakness, choose a weakness.
Strengths: Fast, rugged, off-road, responsive, uncomplaining, easily repaired, stealthy, tight encryption, autonomous operation, robot arm, weapon mount.
Sensors: Magnification, IR, jamming, image enhancement, analysis software.
Weaknesses: Slow, fragile, unreliable, loud, loose encryption, obvious.
Machine guns (3-harm close/far area messy), grenade launchers (4-harm close area messy), and personal firearms can be installed in drones.
Weapon Mount: a weapon can be mounted on the drone. The size of the weapon is determined by the size of the frame.
A small drone can mount a gun dealing 2- or s-harm with a range tag of close or less and without the autofire tag.
A medium drone can mount a gun dealing up to 3-harm with a range tag of near or less.
A large drone can mount a gun dealing up to 4-harm.
Eye in the sky: When helping or interfering while piloting a drone, roll+Edge instead of +Links.
Hot shit driver: When you’re driving a linked vehicle in a high-pressure situation, roll+Edge. On a 10+ hold 3, one 7-9 hold 1. You may spend your hold 1-for-1 on the following:

  • Avoid one external danger (a rocket, a burst of gunfire, a collision, etc).
  • Escape one pursuing vehicle.
  • Maintain control of the vehicle.
  • Impress, dismay or frighten someone.

Iceman: When you try to fast talk someone, roll+Cool.
Right tool for the job: You have two additional cyber-linked vehicles (build each in the same way as your custom vehicle).
Sweet Ride: When you hit the street in your car, add your car’s looks to your roll.

Gear
Custom cyber-linked vehicle (as described above).
Choose one weapon:
Automatic shotgun (3-harm close messy autofire)
Heavy pistol (3-harm close loud)
Machette (3-harm hand)
Choose one:
Armour jacket (1 armour)
Synth leathers (Armour 0, discreet, subtract 1 when rolling the harm move)
Trauma derms (allows you to apply first aid)

Directives
Choose two:
Illustrious: When your desire for fame draws unwanted attention to the mission, mark experience.
Intimate: When you put your friend ________________ ahead of the mission, mark experience.
Rejected: When your former membership of _________________ hinders the mission, mark experience.
Vengeful: When you harm _______________ or their interests, mark experience.

Drivers in The Sprawl
Playing a Driver in The Sprawl puts a spotlight on movement in the game. With a Driver in play, every mission should involve mobility and the chance for high speed chases, interceptions, and extractions. The Driver is more than a high-pressure taxi service. As the Driver, push the team towards mission strategies that highlight your skills, your vehicles and your drones.

The kind of Wheels you choose also pushes the game in a certain direction. A Driver with a powerful racing car will have a different approach to a Driver with a rugged cargo helicopter or a military hovercraft. Talk about your vehicle choices with the other players and the MC; make sure your vehicle choice fits with the kind of game everyone wants to play.

Drone Jockey gives the Driver a lot of mission role flexibility. Drones can be configured for stealth infiltration, high-flying oversight, or combat. All of these roles are useful in both the Legwork and Action phases both as the main agent of a scene, or by assisting a player engaging in some mission activity. Eye in the Sky increases your ability to help or interfere with your team remotely.

Iceman and Sweet Ride give the Driver some muscle in social interactions.

Jun 25

Revising the Basic Moves

One of the most pressing issues in the current revisions I’m working on is in making the Basic Moves work properly. There were three main issues in the 0.2 revision: Maneouvre did what I wanted but in a boring way, I always ended up fudging Fast Talk slightly in play, and Play Hardball just didn’t really work at all.

After coming across this post by Vincent on Barf Forth, I was all ready to rework Fast Talk and Play Hardball into a combined move of some sort, but when I opened up my master document to make some revisions, I saw that I’d already tweaked Play Hardball towards what I wanted. Here’s the new version of those two moves:

Fast Talk (Style)
When you try to convince someone to do what you want with promises, lies or bluster, roll+Style. For NPCs: on a hit, they’ll do it. On a 7-9, they’ll do it, but someone will find out. Advance the appropriate countdown clock.
For PCs: on a 10+, both of the following apply. On a 7-9, choose 1:

  • if they do it, they mark experience
  • if they refuse, they must act under pressure to go against your stated wishes.

The previous version had retained the language of Apocalypse World which was essentially about bartering and trading within a face-to-face society (I’ll do this if you do that). The new version makes the 10+ hit better, and makes the 7-9 cost a hit on the mission clock. Now the move is more suited to a faceless impersonal society where you may never run into the person you’re Fast Talking again. They’re probably just a corporate employee with bigger concerns than whether they let the suit with the plausible story into the warehouse. At question is whether they let you in and whether someone important finds out that they did it.

Note that the requirement for (the much debated) “leverage” is still there in the form of promises, lies and bluster: “I’m a Valdez Combine Internal Investigator. If you don’t let me through this door, you’re in deep shit!” If you threaten violence and don’t intend to follow through — “Open the door or I’ll shoot this lab tech!” (while holding your buddy in a lab coat) — that’s bluster, and falls under Fast Talk. If you intend to follow through, that’s covered by the next move…

Play Hardball (Edge)
When try to get your way with threats of violence and you intend to carry through, roll+Edge. On a 10+, they do what you want. On a 7–9, the MC chooses 1:

  • they attempt immediate action to remove the threat but not before you inflict harm as established.
  • they do it, but they want payback. Add them as a Threat.
  • they do it, but tell someone all about it. Advance the appropriate mission clock.

So once again, at question is do they do it, or do they have some direct or continued effect on the story.

[Edited to make all the 7-9s successful for the player. Thanks Colin!]

Finally, Manoeuvre wasn’t quite where I wanted it to be. I had some good suggestions on this one which made me realise that the main problem was that the results of the move didn’t feed back into the fiction appropriately. This change aims to do that, and reduce duplication with Mix it Up.

Manoeuvre (Mind)
When you attempt to gain a tactical advantage over an opponent, through advanced planning, careful positioning, or clever manoeuvring, choose one:roll+Mind. On a 10+ hold 3. On a 7-9, hold 1. You may spend 1 hold per roll to:

  • Take Cover: Gain +1 armour until you move or are outflanked.
  • Get the drop on them: You are in perfect position to act.
  • Hide: You evade their attention for the moment.
  • Aim: Receive +AP forward (see Weapon Tags in Chapter 7: Assets).
  • Impress, dissuade, confuse, dismay or embolden your opponents.

Note that all of these things are actions that a character could take anyway for fictional positioning. This move is there because sometimes those set up movements add complications to the game, and that’s fun.
There might be further changes here, in terms of adding options to the list. Suggestions are welcome!

There may also be some slight tweaks to the Check it Out and Research questions, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with the Basic Moves.

Jun 25

Back on the Grid

After several months of neglect as I finished writing my dissertation, I’m back working on The Sprawl. I’ve been saving up the feedback I’ve received over that time and I’m currently reading through the document and collating all those suggestions and found errors. The feedback has all been positive. Many of the suggestions I’ve received have been right on target with a part of the game that doesn’t work quite right or needed expansion. Some of the suggestions have helped me think about exactly why something is the way it is and won’t be changing. All of the suggestions and comments have been useful, so thank you!

I have three pieces of news:

  • First, I created a Google+ community for The Sprawl this afternoon, which you can find here: The Sprawl on G+. This will provide a more public venue for discussing various game and design issues, in parallel with the Apocalypse forums at Barf Forth.
  • Second, I’ve started revising the basic moves. Play Hardball hasn’t worked for me (and others) for a while, and both Fast Talk and Maneouvre are in for revisions. Stay tuned for posts on all three over the next week or so.
  • Finally, I’ve started assembling a team to help me with the Kickstarter for the game. Once I’ve completed the current revision process, I’ll be launching a Kickstarter to fund art, editing, layout, and the like. I hope to get that underway by the end of the northern hemisphere summer.

So slip on your Texas catheter, slot your best chips, and jack in for the ride.

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