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Jun 10

AAR: Operation Angel Basin Setup

Between May 27 and May 29, a team of four MCs ran a series of linked missions set in a collaboratively generated Sprawl.
This was Operation Angel Basin.

Here’s the initial public pitch. I had a couple of goals for this project. The first was to play a series of linked games, something which my schedule hasn’t allowed recently. The second was to generate a Sprawl collaboratively with a larger-than-normal group. In these posts, I’ll be giving my report in regular text and my analysis, suggestions and thoughts in italics.

Before the convention, the MC team (4 of us–Thanks to Rob, Colin and David!) had brainstormed an overall theme, some implications, and potential mission ideas. The theme was “Cloning”. We had a general idea of how we wanted the plot to progress and what we wanted to be revealed in each of the four slots.

We began on Friday night with a setup session. This was scheduled from 8-12, but we gave stragglers time to arrive and ended early, so it was more like a leisurely 3-3.5 hours. This was the plan:

Welcome and Introduction

(Explain cyberpunk? Explain The Sprawl.)

We had allowed space for 16 players at the setup session. As it was, we had half that, in no small part because of the way I had structured the event. One of my unanswered questions when I developed this concept was “how many players would skip a full gaming session of a 2.5 day convention to participate in a setup session. It was great to see enough interest in the concept that three groups worth of players (including MCs) did so. All the players were familiar with cyberpunk (never a given at a convention or even just a regular gaming table) and all but one had played The Sprawl before.

Bathe it in Neon

Explain overall location for our Sprawl: Los Angeles 2050

  • Have each player give our Sprawl one piece of cyberpunk colour.
  • Centrally locate these so the players and GMs can refer throughout.
  • Ask questions about the colour and its implications for this cyberpunk future.

The colour that characterised our Los Angeles was:

Neon
Continuous rain
Low-grade flooding
Flying cars
Skyscrapers to the stratosphere
Holograms in the mist
Ads on the clouds
Blues and greys and chrome
No AIs… yet
Governments are irrelevant
Sub-molecular robotics (Picites, by analogy from Nanites)

So, a mix of typical cyberpunk (especially Blade Runner) with some unique characteristics. The last item in particular ended up having a major effect on the game.

Rob had a set of portable dry-erase sheets which stuck to the walls (mostly!) with static electricity. We wrote all the cyberpunk colour, Corps, and area descriptions on those so everyone could see them and refer to them throughout.

Make Everything Corporate

  • Each person writes the name and major focus of a Corp on an index card.
  • Explain it to the group.
  • Writes it on a commonly visible surface.
  • Max of 2 minutes each.

The Corporations that ruled our Sprawl (and their main area of operation) were:

Virtua-Combine Electronics (virtual mining)
Sands-Olson Network (media)
Memory Solstice (VR, media)
L.O.B. Co (consumer goods)
Fullerton Universal Kinetic Unified (heavy industry)
Ares Manufacturing (heavy industry, especially asteroid mining)
Google ID (financial)
Verizon-Blackwater.Gov (police and municipal services)
Athenatech (cyber & bio-tech)
Isis and Osiris Inc (rejuvenation technology)
GeneSense (pico-bio-engineering)

That gave us a good range of corporate specialisations.
The time limit was a precaution, but it wasn’t necessary in this case.

Make The Sprawl Dirty, High-Tech, and Excessive

We divided the room into three groups to create three different sections of the Sprawl.

  • Build part of Los Angeles at each table
  • Where is it? What makes it different to today? What makes it cyberpunk? What makes it special? What is its reputation?

Each group had one MC, while I acted as the interface between the three groups. Listening in to their ideas and communicating relevant bits to different groups (for example, the two weather control elements, and the extension of the 10 Freeway to Catalina.

The three parts of Los Angeles that the players created were South Bay-Long Beach, Orange County and the Channel Islands-Cataline Marine Sprawl.

Make Everything Personal

  • Pick playbooks and make characters.
  • MCs ask questions: What makes the characters distinct from other characters with the same playbook? Where are they based?
  • MCs ask the cyberware questions. Who are they +hunted and +owned by?
  • MC’s record answers and make notes on the characters.

As players finished creating their characters we transitioned into a 5 minute break. I began to circulate the sign-up sheets for each of the four game slots.

Entangle the Characters in The Sprawl

We then moved into the modified Links Phase.

  • Each player writes down on an index card a kind of mission their character participated in, the target corporation, and one playbook that their mission requires.
  • MCs collect the cards and arrange them into an order.

This was the part that had the most potential for problems. We had to rearrange the players into two groups of 4, run a brief links mission, then repeat the process three times so that every player got to play out the links mission they wrote down. As it turned out, we didn’t have any trouble.
Our considerations when arranging the missions were:

  • Aligning the required playbooks. So if there was one Hacker and one mission required a Hacker, that mission couldn’t run at the same time as the Hacker’s own mission.

We started by looking at the requirements. If there were multiple missions that required a certain playbook, we started with those to reduce the chance that we would be stuck later.

  • Shuffling the characters to create a thick network of links.
  • Balancing the corporations that were targeted to create drama.

We had two or three runs against Ares and GeneSense, so we started with missions against those two, and ended with missions against those two. Establish the clocks early. Give opportunity to finish with dice rolls with real consequences.

  • Run the links missions.
    1. Go to table, quick intros
    2. Do the scene/mission
    3. Lead player makes the Links Mission Move (a custom move for this Operation)
    4. Characters gain Links as usual.
    5. Repeat until everyone has been the lead character on a mission.

The Links Mission Move
When the corp investigates who messed with their shit, the MC determines which stat best reflects the progress of the mission. The lead character rolls that stat.
10+: The corp doesn’t find much. Describe what they find and increase that Corp Clock by 1.
7-9: Choose one:

  • Someone was running a scheme and you fucked it up. Who was it? The MC will create a Threat and increase that Threat Clock by 1.
  • Whose DNA was left at the scene? Increase the Corp Clock by 1.
  • Who did the Corp catch up with later? The MC will make a move with serious future implications.
  • You were home free until ______ sold that paydata. Take +2 Cred and Increase the Corp Clock by 2.

6-: They’re on you like rice on a California roll. The Corp Clock increases by 3.

As we wound down, I circulated the mission sign-up sheets again.

Think Offscreen

Thanks to a lot of 6- rolls, the clocks escalated quickly! Notably, Ares and GeneSense were 0000 and 2200 respectively. That decided which corporations would start at the center of our story.

Based on the created characters and the post-Links clock states, we whittled down the list of corporations that we needed to think about. The Corps that were central to the series were:

Memory Solstice (VR, media)
Ares Manufacturing (heavy industry, especially asteroid mining)
Isis and Osiris Inc (rejuvenation technology)
GeneSense (pico-bio-engineering)

Corps that played a small roll were:

Sands-Olson Network (media)
Google ID (financial)
Verizon-Blackwater.Gov (police and municipal services)
Athenatech (cyber & bio-tech)

Corps that were only used for colour were:

Fullerton Universal Kinetic Unified (heavy industry)
L.O.B. Co (consumer goods)
Virtua-Combine Electronics (virtual mining)

Several Threats were also generated by character creation, most notably the Pixie KIllers, a gang/resistance organisation dedicated to keeping humanity free of picites.

Read about the Missions here.

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