Montag, 21. September 2020

desert v1.23 (pdf)

"Wait for the darkness to be electrically lit."
 GOLD - Summer Thunder

After some playtesting and other feedback, here's an updated version of desert reflecting what I've learned. If the next playtests are satisfying, I'll add an extended example of play.

Some generators for improved usability:

Sonntag, 2. August 2020

desert v1.22 - a Cyberpunk roleplaying game (pdf)

"desert doesn't have conflict or catastrophe built into its mechanics. You move through a near future cityscape and interact with artificial intelligence and, sometimes, people."

For the most recent playtest, I put together a pdf of the current rules for my Cyberpunk rpg desert. I'm making it available here for anyone interested in reading or playing the game.

Some generators for improved usability:

Freitag, 5. Juni 2020

Cyberpunk city generator

This is an expanded and reworked version of the table that feeds my Cyberpunk city generator.

Type 1 district

Office-husks converted to public housing.

Description: What is left of the horizont werken tech hub has been turned into affordable flats. Wired up garages and wide, empty streets attest to an automotive past that never came.

The river's edge against a horizon of steel and light.

Description: A tepid flow, aquiescent to aseptic parallel embankments. Reflectors and odd, blank signs guide wispy findolls. Low cargo is floating along like detritus.

Fields draped in cerecloth.

Description: Only lifted at harvest, special actifoil covers all agricultural product. Former croptracker masts rise spindly behind the rows. They have been refashioned to prevent theft as well as contamination.

The electrical shoreline.

Description: A Leuven patent for wave power generation. The plant lies there like a stranded beast drawing its last breaths. An endless automaton, white scales jittering.

Droning rail tracks elevated on concrete tuning forks.

Description: Withering graffiti covers petriflanks licked by railway police lasers. An anti-grip surface is supposed to prevent suicides. The occasional buzzdoll keeps the bases clean from vegetation.

A pale view of stilts.

Description: Semi-dismantled radio towers loom in some fenced-in military installation. All around are rotten trees and dirt tracks.

Type 2 district

A sequestered entertainment district, beaded memory clubs.

Description: Errors and missing animations have replaced boarded up windows in this augmented building line. The Memory clubs leak, here. Faces are said to appear in the puddles.

Pale skyways like ramparts.

Description: Indoor palms wilt in the vast halls and vitreous ascents of a trade exhibition site. Logoplaque is thick here and throughout the surrounding infrastructure.

The old town below a canopy of fake tram wire.

Description: Arches like raised eyebrows line cobbled streets. Flying sparks illuminate silent stone. Couples dine in near-empty restaurants.

A red-meshed, misshapen tower.

Description: Stacked with wireless equipment, flat rooftops huddle around it. Empty streets and poorly ventilated stairwells see people pass by eachother in rare encounters.

A waning of businesses and crammed shops.

Description: Piled up bits and pieces fade behind display windows. Next to doors and entrances are naked keypads, the numbers rubbed out from use.

High-density residential.

Description:  Far apart, numbered residential towers contrast sharply with an unbuilt horizon. Dead straight tram lines run past them. Automatic roller-shutters open and close in snyc like the many eyes of ever-sleepy giants. 

Type 3 district

Massive construction projects dotted with recharging paperdolls.

Description: A complete overhaul of public transportation has split open the street in this district. The white dolls on standby make it look like someone left paper cranes across an operating theatre. In the first months, children used to watch from the balconies of their isolated apartment blocks.

Median strip bars.

Description: Dismantled auto streets haven given way to impromptu garden hangouts supplied by nearby cafés and bars. While not in use they are mostly storage for light chairs and tables. 

An old church, cold trees.

Description: The red stone blocks house a data centre, but visitors may still put up silent candles for the departed. The tired facades of the neighbouring streets contrast with a newly built train station where technicians arrive.

A busy logistics centre, dolls under an artificial moon.

Description: Newly arrived cargotrams are processed within minutes by a fleet of liftdolls. At night, as longs as no human supervisors are around, they operate in strangelit darkness to cut down light pollution.

Starry railyards.

Description: Inconstant light from thousands of old lamp posts floods the steel lattice holding train cars. Everything moves slowly, gently here. Shades crawl across the rust. 

Ghostly teletourists, benevolent hauntings.

Description: Tour guides gesticulate towards venerable architecture, seemingly addressing empty streets, entertaining passers-by and the occasional cat. The lively foreign audience is only revealed in AR.   

Type 4 district

A tidy market square, wafts of coffee.

Description: The green cargotram arrives for the market early in the morning ladden with produce. Over the next hour or so vendors set up shop around it using the tram's modular exterior surfaces as sunshields.

Ancient baths, embedded in glass.

Description: A museum hidden within the district. Gaps in the panels and open masonry serve as counterpoint to the omnipresent visualization tools on the glass. They seem to reassure visitors that the place is, in fact, real history.

A school complex's nested atria.

Description: Angular contours and an emphasis on overlap characterize the buildings here. In stark contrast, the school memory club almost resembles a containment building.

Verdant Spielstraßen.

Description: Overgrown walls, small toy-strewn streets and gardens characterize this residential district. Most of the kids playing here are grandchildren.

A crowded promenade.

Description: Windows to expensive portside restaurants and lofts reflect the people idling along on wooden planks. Beyond, see-through ferrycubes silently travel across the harbour.

A variform set of zero-emissions apartment buildings.

Description: Simple like children's toys and with strong luminescent lines these structures promise easy and unambiguous living. A multi-year wait is a given here, though.

Type 5 district

A futuristic community centre.

Description: Hygienic sitting nooks invite study, relaxation, media consumption and talk. The centre thrones majestically over an endless sea of ephemeral studios and hip restaurants.

A pixelated naval base.

Description: The base does offer daily tours but any recording of the premises or the nearby area is blurred. Even with the naked eye, details are hard to make out on the grey, many-faced weapons platforms. People still go.


Description: A lived-in tech demo that was never realized and has been sold of bit by bit to a wide variety of firms and individuals. The future, dispersed.

Foyers, the citizen frontier.

Description: Chambers and boards, non-government organizations, state agencies and courts maintain representational buildings here, mostly devoid of people. Personal meetings are exceedingly rare with visitors usually being offered something to drink and then placed in front of expensive sveltscreens.

Tech campus slants in an AI-inventoried park.

Description: Kinetic facades glint and stir like vertical lakes suspended over the trees. From the restaurants and gyms just outside the park, they appear like a mirage.

Some government agency, one more office tower.

Description: These sites used to have steel fences and flagpoles. Not anymore. Now this is just another one of the district's office buildings. A fountain and some art exhibition adorn the entrance. Clean office desks and calendars are perfectly visible behind a thin skin of glass.

Type 6 district

Dreaming vertical gardens.

Description: These green needles and spires buzz more with sensors than insects and aside from benefitting various microclimates deliver a wealth of data to all who take an interest.

A softlit transport hub.

Description: High speed trains pull into the old station with a warm hum. Pigeons pick crumbs between glowing platform markings. Facing the station are expensive hotels, modern glasscor lounges behind historic facades.  

A major dollworks cluster. 

Description: Affluent corporate lines supply a hub of research facilities, data centres, offices and apartments woven into an older city district. From here, hundreds of firms maintain and observe doll operations worldwide from the outskirts factory to arctic ressource extraction.

Narrows of proud flagship stores and matte boutiques.

Description: Brand libraries glare in the eyes of customers moving in between piles of free generics while injectable store music courses through their wireskin. From the drink at the bar to the daily opening event, everything here comes with new designs from new faces.

Thousand-mirrored facades.

Description: Bicycles, trees, sleek trams and observant eyedolls, clouds pass by in the glass. Sometimes, new things appear there, too. Gentle sketches of someone dancing, of animals or ancient machines.

Reserved residential, ostentatiously unvisible.

Description: Some say these houses appear differently to every onlooker, reveal secrets or desires. But there are no home tours, no break-ins, not a few residents haven't been spotted outside for years. Do people live here?

Dienstag, 26. Mai 2020

Von "storygames" und anderen Irrwegen. Eine kleine Begriffskunde.

Ich lege hier einen Beitrag aus G+ Zeiten in stark erweiterter und aktualisierter Fassung nochmal neu auf.

Storygames, story games: Es lohnt sich erstmal zu schauen, wer den Begriff heute (2020) noch benutzt. Einen guten Grund gibt es dafür nämlich, sollte man meinen, nicht mehr. Das gleichnamige Forum hat nach jahrelangem Darben - seine Hochzeit war Anfang der 10er Jahre - 2019 endgültig die Pforten geschlossen. Die Zahl an noch Aktiven, die dort über Rollenspiele diskutiert und sie entwickelt haben, sich deswegen also story gamer oder ihre Spiele story games nennen könnten, ist überschaubar. Zumal zum Beispiel Jason Morningstar und andere sich dem Label früh verweigerten. Fiasco ist einfach ein game. Tatsächlich kommen viele in den 10er Jahren publizierte Indie-Rollenspiele ohne den Begriff aus. Dominiert haben die letzten Jahre dagegen Rollenspiele, die sich aktiv und bewusst mit Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) überschreiben und mit dem beliebten Akronym auch hinreichend präzise beschrieben sind. Das Prinzip hat sich in Forged in the Dark (FitD), Belonging outside Belonging (BoB) und Rooted in Trophy fortgesetzt. Die meisten neuen Indie-Rollenspiele entstehen allerdings seit etwa Anfang 2019 in einer auf Twitter und die Spieleplattform konzentrierten Szene, die überwiegend jünger ist und in der einfach von games, rpgs oder ttrpgs gesprochen wird.

Kurz gesagt ist die Wahrscheinlichkeit hoch, dass wenn heute jemand von storygames spricht und damit nicht Videospiele meint, die Person selbst die so bezeichneten Rollenspiele weder spielt noch entwickelt. Im Wesentlichen sind das zwei Gruppen von Leuten. Einmal PbtA-Designer*Innen, die ihre Design- und Spielphilosophie von den als storygames bezeichneten Indie-Rollenspielen abgrenzen wollen. Das ist gerade deswegen nachvollziehbar, weil es sich schon bei Apocalypse World um ein rückwärtsgewandtes Projekt handelte wie Autor Vincent Baker bestätigt. Zwischen Abgrenzung und dem offenen Versuch ein breites Spektrum an missliebigen Spielen, das sie natürlich nicht als solches erfassen, grundsätzlich aus dem Kreis der Rollenspiele und damit dem gemeinsamen Hobby auszuschließen, bewegen sich dagegen Fans von old school Rollenspielen, die häufig noch unter OSR (Old School Re...) firmieren. 

Hier schließt sich gewissermaßen der Kreis, denn aus dem Kampf gegen falsche Rollenspiele ist der Begriff story game überhaupt erst hervorgegangen. Damals allerdings noch als Selbstbezeichnung. Ausführlich nachzulesen ist die Begriffswerdung hier:

Fazit ist, dass der Begriff storygames keine Szene mehr beschreibt, toxisch (geworden?) ist und letztlich trotz interessanter Versuche ihn inhaltlich nutzbar zu machen ( in die Irre führt, weil immer versucht werden wird, story bspw. auf ein Indie-Rollenspiel wie My Daughter, the Queen of France zu projizieren, dass eine Situation entwickelt, die Geschichte in so unterschiedlichen Rollenspielen wie Monsterhearts und Microscope zu sehen, aber in traditionellen Kampagnenpublikationen zu ignorieren und so weiter. Der Begriff hat keinen Gegenstand. Insofern empfiehlt es sich beim Rollenspiel als dem echten gemeinsamen Nenner zu bleiben und im Zweifelsfall mit 'ohne Spielleitung', 'Indie-', 'Genre-','Drama-' o.ä. zu spezifizieren.

Erzählspiel: Das Schöne im Deutschen ist, dass es den Begriff Erzählspiel doppelt gibt, was deutlicher als bei den story games zeigt, wie sehr es darum geht, wer ein Rollenspiel gerade so nennt und wie wenig darum, was für ein Rollenspiel das eigentlich ist. In Übersetzung bezeichnet der Begriff seit den 90er Jahren die World of Darkness-Systeme (von storyteller/storytelling system), ist mittlerweile aber für Indie-Rollenspiele recht geläufig. Das verwundert nicht, da die deutschsprachige Szene der englischsprachigen bekanntlich 5-10 Jahre hinterherhängt. Das eigentliche Tragische ist allerdings, dass Das Schwarze Auge und Cthulhu nicht häufiger Erzählspiel genannt werden. Eine verpasste Gelegenheit.

So etwas wie eine Erzählspiel-Szene gibt es in Deutschland immerhin noch, in welch schwieriges Fahrwasser die These vom Erzählspiel angewandt auf Rollenspiele aber inhaltlich führen kann, habe ich hier schon einmal auseinandergesetzt:

Am treffendsten bezeichnet der Begriff Erzähl-Spiel deswegen immer noch ein Kartenspiel wie Es war einmal, in dem das Geschichtenerzählen das Spiel ausmacht und nicht etwa wie beim Standardbeispiel Fiasco das Rollenspiel.

Narrative: Während gelegentlich noch narrativist anzutreffen ist - die seit mindestens einem Jahrzehnt irrelevante GNS-Theorie bespreche ich hier nicht - ist dem Begriff narrative in neuerer Zeit tatsächlich nochmal größerer Erfolg beschieden gewesen und zwar im narrative dice system von FFGs Star Wars Rollenspiel. Das Narrative daran ist laut Chefdesigner Jay Little, dass die Würfel auch das Wie und Warum eines (Miss)erfolgs andeuten. Die Kombination aus situationsbedingten Modifikatoren und einem Würfelergebnis, das vom Patzer bis zum kritischen Erfolg auslegungsbedürftig ist, zeichnet ja nun eine überwiegende Mehrheit der Rollenspiele aus. Wer erinnert sich nicht der sonoren Stimme irgendeiner Spielleitung, die beruhigend versichert: "Ja, mach doch ma'n Wurf und dann schaun'wer." Vom Prinzip her passiert das natürlich auch da nicht weniger, wo bewusst auf Würfe verzichtet wird. Es bleibt Jay Little's Verdienst uns das nochmal bunt vor Augen geführt zu haben (das soll das wirklich tolle narrative dice system nicht schmälern, möchte ich mit einer 30 Sessions langen Star Wars EotE Kampagne im Rücken sagen).

Montag, 27. April 2020

[English] d e s e r t - a Cyberpunk rpg.

[This is the core rules chapter of my in-development Cyberpunk rpg. If you try the game, please let me know how it went. Together with the two posts on Building and Character Creation, this is about half of the text. What's missing is the city generator and district descriptions (you'll find some of that on the blog), setting information and appended rules options.]


d e s e r t does not play like the roleplaying games you're already familiar with. There is no gamemaster, no adventuring party and ultimately no story. 

It is a roleplaying game about experiencing and interacting with a randomly generated near future urban environment. You play ordinary people, not outstanding professionals. Due to advanced electronic surveillance, they live in a dual city, the one they see and the one that sees them.

The minimum requirement for play is creating a building (see 0 BUILDING) and a character (see 1 CHARACTER). d e s e r t can be played for as long or as short as you like. You can always come back to a game later or start a new one by making another building and a new character.

To play the game you need:
- A group of players.
- Building sheets, character sheets, a player screen and log sheets. [Link]
- A good number of six-sided dice, a set of 36 for example.
- Similarily shaped tokens in different colours.
- A small container like a box or a bag to draw tokens from.
- Pencils and paper.

The basic elements of play in d e s e r t are description and action.

Describe surroundings like the city, a building, nature, a street, a room, a person, an item. Anyone may at any time describe any one location, thing, person or animal. Once something has been described, even in the form of a written note for an upcoming game somewhere, it has become part of the game world. It should not be revoked or retroactively changed unless a player's well-being calls for such a change.

//Safety tools? Use whatever safety tools your group is comfortable with. If you're not familiar with any, I suggest using the X-card [Link]. Be aware that tools like the X-card do not replace being mindful of each other.//

Act as your character in the game world. Make decisions like where to go, who to talk to and what to say. If you feel that more description is necessary for your action, describe more first or ask someone else to do it. Anyone may act as their character at any time. Follow up on actions with more description. Things behave like you'd expect them to in the real world.

//Judgement? In the end, the group has to decide about particular outcomes, about what works and what doesn't. Flip a coin or roll some dice if you want to.//

A special kind of non-trivial follow-up is a reaction. In d e s e r t, a reaction requires you to engage the game mechanics before proceeding with further description. There are two types:

Building reactions. To an extent, buildings and more generally surroundings in d e s e r t are aware of the characters and their actions due to artificial intelligence analysing data from various security systems. A limited set of verbs like 'display' or 'tag' allows them to react to what they perceive a character doing. They aren't self-aware, though and as such mere tools of corporate control.

Personal reactions. What people say and do, how they behave towards a character, depends on general attitudes expressed through adjectives like 'angry' or 'affectionate'. Importantly, those who hold power and privilege in the city have a vested interest in rendering the behaviour of individuals as neat, manageable and predictable as they can. A controlled environment streamlines the reactions of the people you encounter there.  

As far as the frequency of reactions is concerned, there must be at least one building reaction per section or district entered. There is no such requirement on personal reactions.

Act as your character: Starting a game.

You always start at a building, in front of it, usually, and just about to go inside. Review the building sheet with the other players and think about why you are there. Some options are offered below to pick or roll, but you should feel encouraged to come up with an approach of your own. Good approaches should work with a wide variety of buildings. This will make it easier for the other players to create buildings for you without having to tailor them to your specific held character. An approach ideally points at a game mechanic or two. It shouldn't define a character though and instead be something that anyone, no matter their job or residence or any other detail from character creation, can do.

//Held character? Every player has exactly one held character. Other characters that show up in buildings and across the city are unheld. Players can switch them out for their held character at will.//

(cw) Note that the approaches presented below involve issues of consent, privacy, exploitation, violence and emotional distress. They aim at some of the ambiguities near future urban life might bring about. If anyone in your group is uncomfortable with one or more of these options, please do not use them in your game.

1 Sponsorbaby. What you do: Promote a brand and bend buildings towards it by changing the building identity to the promoted brand and raising the building's control value to 6. Control is raised via blue control tokens as described in the rules below. To change the building identity, you need the personal reaction of at least one inhabitant to come up [brand] in the draw. To be able to do this, you have received or should receive a [brand] synthetic bodypart. You may pick or roll on the respective looks table in the character creation chapter. As a sponsorbaby, this grants you an automatic [brand] token in all personal reaction draws. Try to push up the number of these tokens in the draw to increase probability for the [brand] reaction you want. You may employ any number of advertising strategies to achieve this.

2 Rental. What you do: Someone has asked you to show up at the building as someone else. Pick or roll a single contact type from the basic set plus an attitude. That is the role you're supposed to play here. State the personal reaction you're going for with the person you're meeting. If you show up, you're automatically granted one token of the stated attitude in all draws with this person. Try to push up the number of these tokens in the draw to increase probability for the personal reaction you're aiming for. If you're overdoing it, put 'obsessive' tokens in the draw. If you break character, put 'pleading' tokens in the draw.

3 Walk-in. What you do: You break into places to record memory logs there, either for wide publication or a limited group of people. Get into a building or building section you don't have access to and create a memory log as per the rules below.

4 Sun. What you do: Show up. Underground and house parties are everywhere, most buildings have some sections that can be repurposed for a party at the right time, often illegally. You want yourself as a personal reaction, you want people to shout your 'name'.

5 Esper. What you do: You convince people to allow you to create memory logs featuring them. You need them to consent to the creation of a memory log like this as per the rules below. If they agree, you proceed to access these memory logs at a memory club to find out this person's attitudes towards their basic set of contacts and sell or pass on the information to third parties. See the rules for memory clubs in the Appendix.

6 Agitator. What you do: You incite violence. Change the building identity to 'violent' and raise the control value to 6. Control is raised via blue control tokens as described below. To change the building identity, you need the personal reaction of at least one inhabitant to come up 'violent' in the draw. In your inventory, you carry a weapon to do this. As an agitator, this grants you an automatic 'violent' token in all personal reaction draws. Try to push up the number of these tokens in the draw to increase probability for the 'violent' reaction you want.]

Example: My starter building is a wiekhaus in a type 2 entertainment district. I rolled 'sponsorbaby' for my approach and since one of my attitudes is the 'CZ' brand, I assume they're the sponsor. I roll 'lips' for my sponsored implant and since my net access is listed as 'implant', I assume the lips serve that function as well. Maybe with some contact lenses for the visual element. I'm Sam, parent and from a type 2 district. Also 'cynical' towards my closest contact, 'authoritative' towards friends and family. Heavy. Be that as it may, with a control value of 1 and as a sort of organizational hub, the wiekhaus seems like a valuable target for my sponsorbabying. And the building identity is 'intimate' so that kinda fits the lips i got from CZ.  

Describe the game world: Starting a game.

Assuming you already have a building, take its building sheet and let it guide your description. How does the building look from the outside? Does form follow function? How can the building or different sections of it be accessed - point out elevators, staircases, doors and hallways. How do you tell the sections from each other? Moving inside, what's the interior like? What do characters see, hear, smell, feel here?  In what way does the building identity manifest?  Is the section bustling with activity or deserted and lonely? If it's an old-fashioned place, maybe have an unheld character show up to welcome the held character or shoo them away. In case of a district, use the district notes to inspire your description.

Example: It's humid out, a rainy evening, the remains of the old city wall cast a shadow over the wiek's unkempt garden. No one is here. There's hardly any light coming from the house. If it weren't for the reflection off a thermal imager in a corner, this *waves hands around* could be hundreds of years ago.

Act as your character: Playing

As your character, say what you say and do. You can use 1st or 3rd person - whatever you prefer. Depending on where you are, though, a district or building section will require you to say certain things about your character. Whichever security category on the player screen has a blue control token on it (or in the respective section) requires such a statement. The answer might absolutely be 'nothing.'

Tracking requires you to say where you go.

Access requires you to say who you are.

Network requires you to say what you interact with.

Audio requires you to say what you say.

Video requires you to say what you do.

Neuro requires you to say what you feel.

//Player screen: The player screen is available in-world as well. It's a free public app the city is forced to provide due to transparency and data protection laws. So all characters have access to the security layout of buildings and city districts too.//

If you're required to say something and you don't want to, you can bypass security. Instead of making the required statement, say how you disable, trick or get past the respective security system(s) and replace the blue control token with a red bypass token. Whether this works or not is up to the group to decide. Otherwise you're free to say whatever you like in whatever category or stay silent.

Example: Sam is leaning against an ancient garden wall arch, their illuminated raincoat throws dancing lights on the bricks. The CZ lips glow in green. ~ Everything here's in a slight haze ~ I'll wait until someone shows up. Ostentatiously. ~ So, no bypass? ~ Nah. 

//Turns? As a group, figure out how to best balance between description and action as well as between the different held characters. Try strict turn-taking or just switch character and location when it feels right.//     

Describe the game world: Play

First, update the player screen to the current district or building section. For a district, use the 'square' column. Put a blue control token in each of the categories indicated by the district type. Put an orange free token in each of the remaining categories.

Type 1 Tracking
Type 2 Tracking + Access
Type 3 Tracking + Access + Network
Type 4 Tracking + Access + Network + Audio
Type 5 Tracking + Access + Network + Audio + Video
Type 6 Tracking + Access + Network + Audio + Video + Neuro

Use the numbered columns for sections. Every checked box under that section on the building sheet indicates a blue control token in the respective security category. Therefore, a single category may hold multiple blue control tokens. Put an orange free token in each of the remaining categories.

Once the screen is set up, start playing. The character acts. You describe what happens. Unheld characters may show up at any time. Improvise or use the character creation tools to come up with details and guidance for playing them.  

At any time you or any other player may ask for a reaction to be determined. This reaction will be to a single held character's actions. You don't need a reason to ask for a reaction draw but here are some pointers for when to ask:

- something has changed about the situation.
- an unheld character is encountered for the first time.
- the held character is doing something startling that could be expected to provoke a reaction.
- the held character is trying to achieve a specific outcome.
- time has passed.

If it's a building (or district) reaction - remember, at least one is required per district or section a character moves through - assemble a container (a bag or small box) to draw tokens from. There are always exactly 6 tokens in a draw. The player screen indicates the kinds of tokens going into the draw. Start with the blue control tokens and put one token in the bag for each category that has any. Importantly, this applies to districts and sections, so even with multiple blue control tokens in a single category, still only one token goes into the bag.

If the required statements haven't been made yet, remind the player of the held character in question to do so now. At this point, write their statements down in a security log. Then ask any hacker in the game whether they want to change anything about this security log. The hacker chooses to either strike out a previous statement and replace the blue control token with a red bypass one or change the statement itself and leave the respective blue control token in.

//Memory logs? Whenever a security log has been compiled, ask the held character in question whether they want to keep it as a memory log and if yes, whether to publish the memory log or limit access to certain people. Public and limited memory logs require written consent from any other characters, held and unheld, that show up in the log. Record your choices on the respective log sheet.//

Where a bypass (by the held character themselves and, or a hacker) has replaced a blue token, the red bypass token goes into the bag instead. If there are blue control and red bypass tokens in the same category, a blue control token will stay in the bag and no red bypass token will go in because a redundant security system picked up what the bypassed system should have. The bypass is useless.

Now you're left with two other kinds of tokens. If the held character's player has said something - anything - that matches one or more remaining security categories, the ones with orange free tokens on them, put an orange free token in the bag for each. The character revealed and did more than they were required to. If they didn't and stayed silent on a security category, put a transparent blank token in the draw to represent the silence and inaction in that category. An easier way to think about this would be to just fill up the bag to 6 tokens with transparent blanks after having put in blues, reds and oranges.

Draw a random token from the container to determine the reaction.

If a blue control token comes up

...raise the control value of the building or district by 1 up to a maximum of 6. There are three positive and three negative building or district reactions at your disposal now. They are assigned to the numbers 1 to 3 and 4 to 6, respectively. Decide whether the AI reacts positively or negatively to what it perceives through its security systems as per the security log. Then pick a reaction in order, so positive or negative 1 first. If another blue control token comes up in the building or district before that character moves to the next building or district, pick number 2 and finally escalate to number 3 if a third blue control token comes up. Describe the effect. Does 'display' mean an ad or historical context on a building? Is there an audio equivalent if there's no screen or method of AR available? Who does the AI 'call'? Which of the character's electronic systems does it 'disable'?

If a red bypass token comes up

...nothing happens. There is no building reaction.

If an orange free token comes up

...lower the control value of the building or district by 1 down to a minimum of 0. Randomly roll a six-sided die to determine the building or district reaction. Describe the effect as indicated above.

If a transparent blank token comes up

...nothing happens. There is no building reaction.

Example: You actually wait there for a while until someone appears from the house. I say we do the building reaction for the garden section now. The player screen has a single blue token in Tracking here. ~ I guess I've answered that (say where you go): I stay put. But since I said I'm making a show of my loitering that's probably an orange token? ~ Yeah, 1 blue, 1 orange, 4 blanks in the bag. Please draw. ~ *draws* blue, nice. That's +1 control. ~ Phh. Sellout. Well, building reaction for the blue's 'display' so you're hit with an ad ~ *shakes head* I am the ad, don't they know ~ *moves over to gaming shelf* I remember an Infotainment table in Augmented Reality, let's use that. 7 and 8, the ad's for 'personal defense' in a 'cheap' marketing style - someone here is offering courses. 

Held characters may specifically seek out other characters, arrange meetings and so on. Maybe, describing the game world, you already have a specific encounter in mind. Or a player wants to talk to some person merely described in passing. In all cases, create the character (if you haven't already) and decide where the meeting takes place. But moving through buildings or districts, there is a possibility of random encounters as well. Importantly, an encounter doesn't mean just brushing past someone or spotting them from a distance, it presumes some out of the ordinary occurance or an opportunity for personal interaction. Someone requires or offers assistance, wants to talk about a current news item or tries to convince you of their political party.

In a district, roll for a random encounter once per day. If the district type (1-6) or lower comes up on a six-sided die, an encounter takes place. Create a character and think about why the encounter is taking place, what needs, interests and attitudes might be involved.

In a building, you consult the building's encounter table instead. Roll a six-sided die for a random encounter whenever you move to a new section until an encounter has taken place in the building. If the given time of day (daytime, evening, past midnight) fits, have the respective encounter. If a wrong time comes up, no encounter takes place and you roll again in the next section.     

Players decide freely how characters, held or unheld, react to each other whether as part of describing the world or in acting as their character. They may base this upon a character's attitude towards a specific (or general type of) contact, but don't have to. If someone calls for a personal reaction draw, a game mechanical process similar to a building reaction is triggered.

Assemble a container (a bag or small box) to draw tokens from. There are always exactly 6 tokens in a draw. As opposed to a building reaction and its predefined token types, in a personal reaction any kind of attitude or (un)expected behaviour can be arbitrarily assigned to tokens. A red token might symbolize an 'angry' reaction, a blue token a 'hopeful' one or the other way round. Usually, the first attitude assigned to a token should be the building (or district) identity. After that, if you haven't already, roll up attitudes for the character's basic set of contacts as per the character creation rules. Determine which would fit the given interaction and assign a token. More than one may be relevant to the situation. Finally, think about attitudes and reactions that would be likely due to what was said, the setting of the interaction or any other circumstance that might give a clue as to character behaviour. Assign them to tokens.

Which of the tokens created like this go into a personal reaction draw is decided between all players. There are two important rules for this. One, every draw must consist of exactly 6 tokens. Two, the control value of a building (or district) determines how many of those 6 tokens have to be of a single type. Generally, this should be the token type representing building (or district) identity, but it doesn't have to be. This also means that at a control value of 6, no draw is necessary because the outcome will be obvious.       

Draw a random token from the container to determine the reaction.

Example: A man shows up. Walks up the stone steps from the wiekhaus cellar. You recognize him from the ad. Flowerprint jacket, long hair. ~ I want a reaction roll. And because I'm still ostentatious, like some strange green vine clinging to the archway, I want a second 'CZ' token in addition to the one I get from the lips implant. ~ Seems reasonable, so we're at 2 'intimate' tokens because of the new control value of 2 and the building identity. 2 green 'CZ' tokens. And I'll add two for this person's 'authoritative' attitude towards people. And *draws from bag* 'intimate' it is. ~ Uh, ok ~ He walks up to you through the garden and says "I'm Timur. Can I stand next to you for a while?" ~ "You can" ~ And he does ~ After about 20 minutes or so, I take a deep breath, push myself away from the wall, turn and face him directly. "May I go up there" I ask, pointing at the wall extruding the old facade of the wiekhaus. ~ "You may" ~ And I do. But before I want another reaction since he has to note the CZ lips now with me in front of him like this. ~ So 2 blue tokens and since you're clearly pushing for it, 3 green 'CZ' ones plus the 1 'authoritative.' ~ Hah. It's the green CZ one. That means I get to change the building Identity to 'CZ'. ~ So before you walk off towards the house, Timur points at your lips and asks: What colour is that? ~ I just smile.

Reactions are usually immediate. They may have longer-term consequences, though. For example, the police might decide to show up at the held character's apartment after receiving information from a building AI. Or someone might develop a grudge against the held character. Anyone may at any time write a likely consequence down on an index card, adding the name of the held character it is in respect of and roughly when it will take place. These consequences will be known to the players, but not always to the held characters themselves. A hacker may do some research, though, and reveal them to a character as per the rules presented in character creation.

Act as your character: Change location

To move between building sections and districts, just state that you would like to change the section or district. This is only possible after the required building (or district) reaction has been determined for this section or district. Indicate to the other players whether you already have a specific building in mind as your next destination. Are you going home, to work, to visit a friend? Or are you just walking a district, looking for interesting places? Say how you get to where you want to go.

Example: I had a building reaction for the garden, that means I can move up upon the wall now. I walk up the old staircase. But I don't do much up there and leave the wiekhaus after a while. ~ Don't forget you need a building reaction for that section as well before you leave. ~ Oh, right, another chance to raise control, too ~ That wall actually has gait recognition installed up there for some reason, so it's 2 blue control tokens ~ sure, the wiek knows who I am now ~ ...and 4 blanks because you  were inconspicuous otherwise. And it's a blank so nothing happens. ~ I'll try to get the rest of CZ's control points here some other time then.

Describe the game world: Change location

Describe how the view changes as the held character moves towards their new destination. This is a good opportunity to switch to another held character and their location, so ask the other players about that before updating the player screen. It might also be necessary to pause and create a new building. Ask the player in question whether they have anything in mind for their character and work with them to create an interesting building. Or have an unheld character call them to some place you prepared.

Example: As Sam leaves wiek and wall behind in the haze, you see the corners of the small alley buildings trail water in some strange AR effect. It is said the memory clubs here do that as part of them marketing their out of time district. ~ Let's switch to Marin now. Thousand mirrored facades stretch in every direction...

Montag, 20. April 2020

[English] Character creation in d e s e r t - a Cyberpunk rpg.

[This is the second chapter of the game. If you use this procedure, please let me know what you think of it. There is an online generator here: and you can find a character sheet here:]


There are three types of characters you can play in d e s e r t.

- Residents
- Hackers
- Ghosts

A resident is someone who lives in the city or is staying there for a prolonged time. Most characteres in d e s e r t are residents. Choose a resident if you want to live in the city. Go through character creation as outlined below.

A hacker may or may not be a resident. Choose a hacker if you want to confound or confront the city. Go through character creation fully or in part, but instead of using a character sheet, record the results on a number of index cards, sticky notes or paper stripes. Every note must hold at least a piece of information about your character.

When playing a hacker, you may at any time contact one or more characters securely without being recorded or traced. In addition to that, you may put a token on one of your character notes at random to

...create or change a security log.

...create or change a memory log.

...change the protection status of a memory log between public and limited.

...reveal an impending consequence to a character.

After putting a token on one of your character notes like this, there will immediately be a draw to determine whether the hack is noticed by the authorities. Take the tokens currently on your character notes and put them in a draw bag, up to a maximum of 6 tokens. There is an option to reduce the number of tokens, though: You may burn one or more character notes and discard all tokens on them to stall investigations. This means that your character has to part with and never return to whatever it says on that note.

If, after making your choice, there are less than 6 tokens in the draw, fill up the bag with blanks until it contains 6 tokens (including the blank tokens). If there are 6 tokens and no blanks or only blanks in the bag, you don't need to actually make the draw, because the outcome is clear. Otherwise, randomly draw a token from the bag. If a blank comes up, the hack goes unnoticed. If a token comes up, the authorities know and will take action.

Together, players determine how that action will look like and when it will take place. The total number of tokens in a draw can be used as a guideline on the severity and immediacy of the action. Usually, the police will try to make an arrest.   

A ghost is a remnant of a character in the city. Complete maybe one or two steps of character creation. Choose a ghost if you like fleeting characters and would rather hint at a life than live it. Record the results however you like. You start the game with a couple of tokens, a six-sided die's worth for every player in the game.

Spend a token to  

...create a security log.

When you play a ghost, this is your only way of interacting with the world. You can not take physical action as your character.

(a) Info (b) Look (c) Job (d) Residence (e) Inventory (f) Contacts (g) App

a| Provide some personal information about your character.

Decide on a name, age and gender for your character. All characters are adults.

Example: I start with a resident. Sofie, 36, Woman.

b| Here are some ideas of how your character looks like. Pick or roll from the tables as you like or come up with your own. Add some colours, maybe. Of course, this might just be one outfit of many and not suited to particular environments.

Adjective Body
1 veiny 1 hands
2 flickering 2 eyes
3 synthetic 3 face
4 [brand] 4 lips
5 smooth 5 arms
6 delicate 6 skin
--- ---
Adjective Hair
1 electronic 1 veil
2 professional 2 slickback
3 perfumed 3 pixie cut
4 cheap 4 haircut
5 [brand] 5 ponytail
6 high-maintenance 6 mane
--- ---
Adjective Clothing up
1 dripping 1 raincoat
2 [brand] 2 jacket
3 illuminated 3 hoodie
4 flowerprint 4 silk shirt
5 translucent 5 vest
6 ill-fitting 6 sweater
--- ---
Adjective Clothing down
1 foil 1 skirt
2 leather 2 pants
3 strapped 3 dress
4 wired 4 jumpsuit
5 high-vis 5 swim trunks
6 [brand] 6 culottes
--- ---
Adjective Accessoire
1 [brand] 1 waist belt
2 holographic 2 tie
3 pictogram 3 wide brim hat
4 pricetagged 4 choker
5 mismatched 5 watch
6 battered 6 shades
--- ---
Adjective Shoes
1 combat 1 boots
2 pale 2 heels
3 [brand] 3 slippers
4 custom 4 soles
5 broken 5 shoe covers
6 ultra-thin 6 shoelaces

Example: I choose to randomly determine Sofie's look. A 6 and a 5 give her 'delicate arms'. Her hairstyle is a 'perfumed pixie cut' by a 3 and a 3. Another pair of 3s indicates an illuminated hoodie which I interpret to have some kind of lighting elements interwoven in the fabric. Since a 1 and a 3 mean 'foil dress' I combine the two clothing categories and make it a hoodie style dress. She's also wearing a black 'pricetagged tie' (the tag says "Reduziert") over the shimmering foil of her dress as per a 4 and a 2. Her 'custom shoelaces' are printed with some brand in an illegible font. Overall this seems like a party outfit or something for an exalted reception.

c| All characters have work somewhere in the city. What exactly they do is up to you. It certainly doesn't have to define who your character is. Start with the table below.

1 worker
2 exec
3 creative
4 parent
5 expert
6 owner

Example: As an exec, 2, I say Sofie is a R&D director at a pharma company.

d| Housing is available to all characters in d e s e r t. Pick or roll the type of district it is in. Create the respective building if you'd like more detail to your character's residence.

Type 1 Tracking = 1 die
Type 2 Tracking + Access = 2 dice
Type 3 Tracking + Access + Network = 3 dice
Type 4 Tracking + Access + Network + Audio = 4 dice
Type 5 Tracking + Access + Network + Audio + Video = 5 dice
Type 6 Tracking + Access + Network + Audio + Video + Neuro = 6 dice

Example: Because of her well-paid job, I decide to just pick a type 5 district for her residence.

e| Every character has a basic inventory. This is where they usually store items when on the move. At the start of the game, these items should be stuff that characters could reasonably be expected to have on hand.

1 pockets
2 purse
3 briefcase
4 bag
5 backpack
6 suitcase

Example: The 1 for pockets indicates that Sofie's not the type for lugging stuff around. Maybe some electronics and disinfectant wipes.

f| Even if they may not have called them up for years, each character has some basic contacts. These might be individuals or a group of people. Start with the suggested set of six and add some details. Pick or roll an adjective that characterizes the character's attitude towards their contact.

... people

11 indifferent
12 supportive
13 respectful
14 [brand]
15 smug
16 enthusiastic

21 affectionate
22 loyal
23 protective
24 authoritative
25 flippant
26 dreamy

31 cynical
32 angry
33 calm
34 jovial
35 teasing
36 derisive

41 desperate
42 harsh
43 reverent
44 kind
45 loving
46 sincere

51 indignant
52 guilty
53 quiet
54 critical
55 hopeful
56 compassionate

61 belligerent
62 caustic
63 passive
64 intimate
65 sweet
66 tired

Example: Sofie's basic Contacts are Eleni, an on and off friend who she is, on a roll of 21, 'affectionate' towards. Most of her other friends are from university. She is 'passive' towards them. She isn't married and doesn't have kids. Towards her parents and grandparents her attitude is also 'affectionate'. She is involved with various film-festivals as a sponsor, but is often 'derisive' towards cineasts and probably art in general. She's also 'angry' at her professional network a lot. She is generally 'compassionate', though.

g| Characters in d e s e r t usually have unlimited access to the net. Pick or roll how they access it and also a favourite app of theirs.

1 laptop
2 tablet
3 phone
4 wearable
5 implant
6 post-device

Fav App
11 votum - a voting app for everything from petitions to national elections.
12 spot - if there's an eyedoll in the area, it spots and guides you to natural sights as small as a beetle.
13 plume - a health wearable recognizes spiraling thought and invites you to write down what you're thinking.
14 q8hp - provides contact tracing for infections and hotspot warnings.
15 can - checks food for expiry signs. It works with different systems from a simple fridge cam to edible sensors.
16 anytag - people tag where they spotted a certain animal.

21 dollview - provides random POV from publicly accessible dolls across town.
22 dollcontrol - an overcomplicated tool for doll interfacing.
23 delidoll - a little game that has you optimize various ghost kitchens for coupons.
24 grow - every help for the amateur gardener including cute avatars for your plants.
25 mood - color in places as you like. Connects to your phone, AR contacts or synthetic eyes.
26 fetch - an animal training app.

31 openstream - a post-device streaming app that deputizes local security systems.
32 persona - substitutes for you when you need to step away from a call.
33 breeze - humidity and fragrance control for apartments.
34 oversight - tags physical items for safekeeping and security.
35 crypt - blacklisted encryption app.
36 xandria - access to a wide range of digitized private libraries.

41 descent - your digital caving partner.
42 up - displays people's professional information (cv, publications, contact) in AR. 
43 cycle - expensive bike controller with professional sports credits.
44 profundum - a deep sea survival sim.
45 crinkle - a packaging design app.
46 cool - an app that gives warnings if you're being loud, aggressive or cynical.

51 metron - a close reading toolbox.
52 hiwi - an app that provides personalized bibliographies for members of an organization.
53 flow - environmental conditions optimization for servers.
54 coat - design and print custom protective layers for various dollframes.
55 kalm - a certified legal advice app.
56 aquaset - settings control for aquaria.

61 pet - a basic pet locator.
62 box - app for a big self storage company.
63 spore - an old videogame.
64 market - creates detailed maps of the local business landscape.
65 pyx - lets you design and evaluate your own puzzle boxes.
66 pad - a simple notepad.

Example: A 3 and a 36 tell me that Sofie still uses a phone and that her favourite app is 'xandria', which provides 'access to a wide range of digitized private libraries.'

Dienstag, 14. April 2020

[English] Character generator for d e s e r t.

Here's a character generator for my wip Cyberpunk game.