Operation Indianapolis: The Sprawl at Gen Con

I offered The Sprawl and Dungeon World in the Games on Demand room at Gen Con. Players chose The Sprawl in seven of those sessions and I ran a private game for a backer. That added up to 31 seats (30 unique players—uncluding some of you!) over eight runs of my 2-hour con scenario, The Downtown Datatheft.

I adapted The Sprawl in a few ways to run in a two hour slot:

  1. pre-generated Corporations (the five example corps from the book: Solar Investments, HelixTec, Existence Entertainment, Ecuadine Petrochem, and Shanghai Securities).
  2. six background Mission Briefs (much like love letters in Apocalypse World) which included a prewritten a corporate background (answering the second cyberware question: hunted/owned/independant) and legwork and mission complications.
  3. abbreviating the Links step down to two questions on each Mission Brief.
  4. describing the job rather than playing out a scene with their employer.
  5. abbreviating the Legwork phase to one roll with 7-9 options customised to the Mission Brief.
  6. putting a stopwatch on the players while they made their plan.
  7. pregenerated individualised complications during the mission.

When I described the job, I asked the players which sprawl the game took place in. The eight games spanned the globe:

  • Marakesh, gateway between Europe and the Ecuadine space elevator in Mauritania.
  • ChiNdy, the Chicago-Indianapolis Sprawl.
  • Dubai, bubbled jewel of the United States Arab Emirates.
  • Manilla-Luzon, where underwater arcologies look down on bioengineered coral reefs.
  • London, hypertube-connected tenements sprawling from Bristol to Dover.
  • Bangkok, the Venice of South-East Asia, flood-waters rising, monsoons falling.
  • Detroit, the city of Robocop.
  • The Upper Midwest Megalopolis, draining the resources of the western US and sending back pacification forces.

Some numbers!

The 31 characters were quite diverse in Mission Brief and Playbook selection. The Mission Briefs were quite evenly selected: all were chosen five times except for Owned by Ecuadine (4 players) and Independant Operative (7 players). The most popular Playbook was the Infiltrator (6 players), which matches with last time I looked at playtest numbers. Next most popular were the Hunter and the Hacker (4 players each), although it wasn’t until the fourth game that someone chose a Hacker. Next was Reporter, Pusher, Tech and Soldier (3 each) then Killer and Fixer (2 each). Only one person chose a Driver, and while their plan and the mission setup allowed for some badass driving, they didn’t really do any as it turned out.

My biggest takeaway from these games was to put players on a timer more often. We weren’t really tracking experience, but I did make a set of Mission Directives, the second of which was “If you complete your plan within five minutes, mark experience”. I didn’t realise how much this would throw down a guantlet to the players until the first session. Planning a mission is 2m15.87s seemed very quick, but it turned out to be right in the middle of the recorded times. In the end, the quickest plan was 00m58.28s (the only group with three players) and the quickest time for a four player group was 1m22.64s. Congratulations to the Bangkok and Detroit crews respectively!

The remarkable thing about these times for me was that both the Detroit group (1m22.64s) and the Upper Midwest Group (1m25.44s) both went through at least two revisions of the plan in those times. All eight plans were perfectly workable and all succeeded (the highest the Action Clock ever got was 2200), although characters died in two games (a Hacker in London fried by Black ICE and a Fixer in Bangkok whose base jump went wrong). The Sprawl gives you plenty of help to keep going with the mission once the plan goes wrong, so there’s absolutely no reason to waste time second guessing your cool plan.

Three Tight Jams

As I noted in a (backer only) Kickstarter update, I was at Origins last month. I ran three games of The Sprawl in Games on Demand for players including external playtesters, backers, and interested people who missed the kickstarter.

I ran the same mission three times, The Bogatyrev Jam, a hostile extraction of a mobile target passing through the team’s sprawl, each time with fun and different results. When I run The Sprawl, I usually have the players write the corporations we create on index cards, but at Gamex back in May, I forgot to pack them, so I picked up a noteboard (as frequently used by Fate GMs for recording aspects in play). Here are the Sprawls we created over the three Origins games:

The Amazonian Landfall Sprawl

This was actually two linked Sprawls: The Amazonian Landfall Sprawl in the once-forested upper Amazon basin connected by a corporate controlled space elevator to the Amazonian Canopy Sprawl, a geosynchronous conglomeration of orbital platforms. This mission ended with a bloody, high-speed extraction from a passenger shuttle in the space elevator itself. Bogatyrev did not survive.

The Paris Sprawl

One of the players introduced experimental man-portable laser systems into the fiction… so of course he was sliced in half by laser fire in the final showdown in a narrow Parisian street. I can’t remember whether I advanced the Action Clock to 0000 or not. Either way, the mission ended… poorly. I think Bogatyrev survived though.

The SeaTacPorCouver Sprawl

This one was a tangled tale in which every corp was implicated. It ended with a passenger jet hijacking, an air to surface missile, a spot of intra-team sniping, and Bogatyrev’s corpse dangling from a parachutist. Good times!

Coming Attractions

My next convention appearance will be Gen Con in a few weeks. I’ll be running The Sprawl in Games on Demand, hopefully with a new two-hour quickstart game. I’m running a backer reward game and I’ll try to find time in my schedule for a backer meet and greet; stay tuned! Twitter will probably be the best way to get in touch over the weekend.

Move Cull: Obligations

There are a lot of moves in The Sprawl. I’m in the process of revising and streamlining them. Currently in my sights is Obligations/Hit The Street. This is tricky because there are a lot of flow on effects, especially for the Hunter and Fixer.

Obligations basically has two effects: (1) signposting the potential for Contacts as a source of general complications and (2) specifically complicating Hit the Street.

Contacts as a form of complication (1) is already covered by the MC Agenda (Fill the character’s lives with action, intrigue and complication; Be mindful of the characters personal directives and put your bloody fingers all over them) and thus by the moves and principles, and by the explicit text in the Contact section.

Contacts as a player-facing complication in Hit the Street (2) can be handled by tweaking that move to include a player-selected source of complication. Conveniently enough, that’s a better implementation of contacts as a source of complication anyway.

This is what I’m thinking at the moment:

Hit the Street (Style)
When you go to a Contact for help, roll+Style, on a 10+, choose 3, on at 7-9 choose 2:

  • They have what you want, immediately.
  • You get a little something extra… (choose either +intel or +gear)
  • It doesn’t attract unexpected attention, complications or consequences.
  • The price is fair.
  • They don’t have a pressing problem they need your help with. If they don’t choose this option, take -1 ongoing to Hit the Street until you help them.

Basically now the choice for immediate success on on a 7-9 is between unwanted attention, contact trouble, and extortionate prices. Pick one to avoid.

For reference, this was the Obligation move:

At the start of each mission, roll+Obligations. On a hit, one of your Obligations has a pressing problem that they need your help with. The MC will pick the Contact and introduce the problem during the mission. On a 7-9, you can either help your Contact or avoid them and their problem. As long as you avoid them you take -1 ongoing to hit the street with your other contacts. On a 10+, you can’t avoid them or their problem.

Character Creation // Step 8

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. The earlier posts are here: Step 0; Steps 1 & 2; Steps 3 & 4; Step 5; Steps 6 & 7.

Step 8: Choose Directives

Norah (MC): Now choose two directives from the list on your playbook. In The Sprawl your character gets better by “marking experience” when certain conditions are met. You mark experience when certain moves happen…

Aanya: Like the Rep move I thought about choosing for Core: “When your reputation gets you into trouble, mark experience.”

Norah: Exactly! Everyone also marks experience when you, as a team, do what the mission requires according to the Mission Directives. Those are different for each mission. Finally, the third way you mark experience is with these Personal Directives. These apply individually, so choose two things from that list that you want to play to and get experience from.

John: Two of mine have a blank spot in. Can I write in when it applies?

Norah: Yes. You just have to make sure the sentence makes sense. Usually it can be a group or an individual, but sometimes one will fit better than the other.

John: Okay, well Oakley is a Masochist. When he suffers one or more harm, I’ll mark experience. He’s also Protective. He has a daughter in The Sprawl; he looks after her and sends her money.

Norah: Tell us about Oakley’s daughter! What’s her name? How old is she?

John: Her name is… Robyn. She’s ten and lives with a foster family. He sees her every week or so. She thinks he’s in the army. Which is kinda true…

Norah: So when Oakley puts his responsibility to Robyn ahead of the mission, you mark experience.

John: Cool!

Takumi: Money is a major motivation for Hub, so I’m going to pick the Financial Directive first: When Hub hinders the mission for a chance at extra profit, he marks experience.

Norah (looking at her notes): Is that how his team got killed in Peru?

Takumi: … Oh… yeah, definitely! He got greedy and they got dead.

Aanya: Yikes!

Takumi: And since then he’s made a lot of contacts in the shadiest parts of cyberspace, trading sensitive information. When his membership in Darknet hinders the mission, I mark experience.

Norah: That’s the Network Directive, right?

Takumi: Yup!

John: How long will it take for Takumi to sell us all out?! Wow!

Aanya: Core’s not going to sell the team out, but she is going to cause trouble. I’m choosing Illustrious! When your desire for fame draws unwanted attention to the mission, mark experience.

Norah: Perfect! What else?

Aanya: Um… Revealing! I want to know more about Hub’s Darknet. When Core discovers more information about Darknet, mark experience.

Takumi: Awesome!

Norah: Lucky last, Sarah.

Sarah: Yeah… I was looking at the full list in the book but I’m just going to choose two from my playbook: Financial and Violent. She has a lot of repressed rage at the corporations, and it often comes out in missions: When she deliberately chooses to use violence to overcome a problem when a non-violent option exists, I mark experience. Financial is the same as Hub has.

Norah: Great, we’re almost done, just one step left…

Character Creation // Steps 6 & 7

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. The earlier posts are here: Step 0; Steps 1 & 2; Steps 3 & 4; Step 5.

Step 6: Choose Gear

Norah (MC): After you’ve chosen your playbook moves, look at the gear section of your playbook and follow the instructions there to choose your gear.

Killers get their custom weapon, two other weapons and another item. John gives Oakley a linked silenced machine pistol and a machete as subtle options to balance The Shanghai Special. He chooses a armoured jacket – less protection than body armour, but way less obvious.

Fixers get one weapon and two other items. Takumi chooses a semi-auto pistol, trauma derms and an armoured coat for Hub.

Infiltrators get three weapons and one other item. Sarah chooses a stealth suit, as well as a silenced smg, a hand taser and a sword to give her several quiet options.

Aanya chooses a performance deck and names it Hellblade. She chooses three programs: Lockdown, Sift and Alert to help Core spot and overcome ICE, and make some big scores on the side. She chooses a flechette pistol, armoured clothing, and a flashy motorcycle.

Norah (MC): Once you’ve chosen gear, write down that you have five cred.

Step 7: Consider Background and Contacts

Norah (MC): Next think about your character’s background. Where did they come from, where did they grow up, who do they hang out with? This will guide the kind of contacts you have, so make a few notes about that.

John (playing Oakley): I already said that Oakley has a military background. He came from a working-class Hispanic family in some sprawling megacity on the eastern coast of the US.

Sarah (playing Zero): Zero lived in a middle-class suburb on the outskirts of the Sprawl. She had a happy and sheltered upbringing before the chemical accident. Then she spent a lot of time in hospitals, both for herself and for her family.

Aanya (playing Core): I’m going to play to the stereotype and say that Core is a spoiled brat who ran away from her cushy life in a corporate arcology, Her mother was an executive and her father was a researcher. They left her alone a lot because they were always travelling.

Takumi (Playing Hub): Takumi’s childhood was unremarkable, but he had a pretty decent career in corporate media before he decided to pack it in for the excitement and paycheck of a corporate troubleshooting career.

Character Creation // Step 5

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. The earlier posts are here: Step 0; Steps 1 & 2; Steps 3 & 4.

Step 5: Choose Playbook Moves

Norah (MC): The next step is to pick your playbook moves. Each playbook has one or two moves that you get automatically, then a list from which you choose one or two more. Your playbook will say how many moves to choose. Look at that list and pick your starting moves. Some moves might have options to choose from that further define how that move works for your character. Make those choices now too.

Takumi reads the moves on the Fixer playbook and sees that Hub gets two moves automatically: Hustling and I know a Guy who knows a Guy. Takumi wants Hub to be the kind of Fixer whose side jobs support his shadow work, so looks over the options for Hustling and chooses Surveillance and Technical Work as his two jobs. He writes down that he has 2-crew. Hub gets one more playbook move; Takumi chooses Smooth (which substitutes +Style for +Links when helping) because wants to be able to support the rest of his team well, regardless of his personal history with them.

Aanya sees that Hackers get Jack in and Console Cowboy automatically. Neither require any choices. She looks over the rest of the moves and is faced with a hard choice. Aanya wants Core to be an ICE smashing badass, but she also wants her to have a little notoriety. She decides that Core will start off skilled, but not known: the confident and talented young gun with a chip on her shoulder about the lack of recognition. Rep can come later. For her first move, Aanya chooses ICE Breaker to give Core an edge against all types of ICE.

Infiltrators get Covert Entry automatically. Sarah sees Zero as more of a sneaky type than a face, so she chooses Cat Burglar. Sarah already gave Zero a good Edge score, so she decides to double down on legwork and take Case the Joint. That extra +gear (from Cat Burglar) and +intel (from Case the Joint) will give her lots of options to get out of trouble during jobs.

John looks at the Killer’s moves and sees that he has several choices to make. His two set moves are Chromed and Custom Weapon. For Chromed, John looks over the full list of cyberware in Chapter Five, but decides to go with a Targeting Suite so Oakley can use his Synth when he shoots people.

Norah (MC): Who installed that second piece of cyberware and what’s your relationship with them now?

John: It was another Shanghai Security mod; installed before he skipped out on them.

Norah writes a x2 next to “Oakley is hunted by Shanghai Security” on her MC Sheet.

For Oakley’s custom weapon, John builds a big genade-lugging gun. He chooses shotgun as his base and adds the options automatic, hi-powered, and ridiculous payload. He names it The Shanghai Special (4 damage close/near loud messy autofire breach dangerous).

Finally, John considers his move choices. Oakley is already pretty tough in a combat situation, so John decides to give him a non-combat option. He is attracted to Serious Badass which uses Style and Emotionless which would allow him to substitute Synth for Edge when playing hardball. Oakley already has +1 Edge, so Emotionless isn’t much of an improvement and John does want Oakley’s low Style to cause trouble, so he chooses Serious Badass.

Character Creation // Steps 3 & 4

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. The earlier posts are here: Step 0; Steps 1 & 2.

Step 3: Choose Stats

Norah: Once you’ve all given your character a name and description, its time to assign stats. There are six stats in The Sprawl: Style, Edge, Cool, Mind, Meat and Synth. You use Style when you want to be slick. It’s used for convincing people to give you want you want. You use Edge when you’re trying to be professional and street-smart. Edge is a measure of how well you can give the impression that you’re a badass. You use Cool when you’re trying to stay calm and focused in stressful situations. You use Mind when you’re trying to think logically and strategically about problems and situations. You use Meat when you’re relying on your natural body to do things and you use Synth when you’re relying on your ability to interface with and operate technology, especially cybernetics. Particular moves on the move sheet involve adding particular stats to dice rolls, so look at the move sheets and see what kind of moves each stat corresponds to. Synth doesn’t correspond to any particular moves, but a lot of cyberware substitutes Synth for another stat. So if you want to have a lot of cyberware, you should consider that.
You can change your stats later on in character creation if you want. If you decide that you want to choose a playbook option that uses a different stat than the one you thought you wanted, that’s cool.

John looks at the Killer playbook. It says that he should assign positive numbers to Oakley’s Meat or Synth. John wants to play around with a lot of cyberware, so decides that Oakley will have Synth +2. He still wants Oakley to be tough without cyberware, and badass as well, so he sets Edge and Meat to +1. He doesn’t care so much about Cool and Mind, so they get +0, and he’s like to see Oakley get into trouble in social situations, so Style -1.

The Fixer playbook says that Hub should have a Style of +2 or +1, so Takumi assigns his +2 there. He looks at the Fixer moves and sees a couple of moves that use Edge, so he makes that +1. Hub is a lover, not a fighter, so he puts the -1 into Meat and the +1 into Cool, leaving Mind and Synth at +0.

Sarah has played The Sprawl before and knows that Infiltrators need to stay cool in crazy situations, so she puts the +2 straight into Cool. Sarah wants Zero to be good during the Legwork Phase, so she puts her +1s in Edge and Style so she can observe and hit the street to find out as much as she can about places before she sneaks in. She plans on avoiding fights, but doesn’t want to be a liability when they happen, so Meat gets and +0, as does Mind. Synth gets the -1; she’ll look for cyberware that’s good without having to substitute Synth for another stat.

Aanya sees that Hackers need Synth and Mind. She looks at the moves and sees that Synth is used for most of the hacking tasks, but Mind is used for taking down ICE and research. Core’s gotta be an ICE-smashing badass, so Mind gets the +2. Synth and Edge get the +1s. Aanya wants to play up the young kid angle, so puts the -1 in Meat. Style and Cool get the +0s.

Step 4: Choose Cyberware

Norah: Next think about the cyberware options on the playbook. While you do that, think about the two questions I’m going to ask you. The first is “why did you decide to get part of your body cut out and replaced with chrome and circuity?” and the second is “how did you afford to have that done?” The first question is open ended and theres a list of options to use as inspiration: prosthetic, forced, loyalty, enthusiasm, necessity, junkie, genetics, career, ideology, memory, military. The second question has three choices: Did you scrimp and save and buy it yourself, in which case it’s not very good and there are a list of options to choose from there. Did someone else pay for it, and now they own you? Or did someone else pay for it, but you’ve skipped out on whatever deal you had and now you’re hunted? If you’re owned or hunted, choose which corporation owns or hunts you.

John (playing Oakley): I chose synthetic nerves for Oakley. He knew that if he wanted t be more than an expendable security grnut, he had to get some mods, so he signed a lifetime contract with… he looks at the list of Corporations established in Step 0… Shanghai Security.

Norah (MC): So do you still work for them or are they after you now?

John: Oh, yeah, I skipped out on my contract after two years doing covert ops in Central Asia, went AWOL and now I’m hunted.

Norah writes down that Oakley is hunted by Shanghai Security on her MC sheet.

Norah: How about Hub, what cyberware does he have?

Takumi (playing Hub): Hub is always plugged in; he has a cybercom unit with the +encrypted and +jamming tags. He got burned real bad on a job in Peru and his whole team got killed by a Shanghai Security response team because their pointman lost his radio down a ravine. He vowed never to be seperated from the global communications net again. He was working for HelixTec at the time, and they paid for it. He’s owned.

Norah writes down that Hub is owned by HelixTec.

Sarah (playing Zero): I’ll go next! Zero has skillwires. Her nervous system got messed up by a toxic contamination even when she was a teenager. Ecuadine Petrochem compensated the victims, but the medical care either tied them into a debt spiral to pay for the for proprietary medicine, or forced them into what amounted to indentured servitude to pay off the skillwires that gave them back full motor control. Zero always hated Ecuadine and as soon as she could she slipped under the radar and out of their grasp.

Norah: So she’s hunted?

Sarah: Yup!

Norah writes down that Zero is hunted by Ecuadine Petrochem.

Aanya (playing Core): Okay, lucky last… Core has data storage and interface hardware.He has a row of interface jacks down his left temple, and a series of memory card slots down his right. He designed and built it all himself and had a friend install it.

Norah: Core’s friend performed brain surgery on him?

Aanya: Yeah, she’s a black clinic cybersurgeon.

Norah: Sounds like a good person to know! Since you paid for it yourself you have to pick a negative tag. Is it +unreliable, +substandard, +damaging or does it suffer from +hardware decay?

Aanya: It runs too hot and is slowly frying her brain. Damaging.

Norah: Nasty!

Norah writes down that Core’s data storage and interface cyberwear is damaging.

Character Creation // Steps 1 & 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.

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.

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


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.


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.