Montag, 25. Januar 2021

Minimalist hacking mechanic

Choose your mode. You can either falsify (say...) or gather (ask...) data across a range of sensors:

(tracking) where you/they are.
(access) who you/they are.
(network) what you/they interact with.
(audio) what you/they say.
(video) what you/they do.
(neuro) what you/they feel.

Pick a scale:
1 subsystem
2 building
3 street        
4 section
5 block
6 district

Pick the data:
1 tracking
2 access
3 network
4 audio
5 video
6 neural

Pick the timeframe:
1 seconds
2 minutes
3 hours
4 days
5 weeks
6 months

Roll above the highest number picked on a d6 to stay unnoticed.

Record your hack somewhere. Add up the numbers picked and roll as many d6. Add the sum of this roll to your notoriety.

The base selling price per person is [data]€/24 h. Find a buyer. Scales 1-5 usually involve the data of hundreds of people, thousands in a district.

Reroll all of your recorded hacks every session. Once a reroll fails, there starts to be fallout.

Montag, 18. Januar 2021

desert v1.4 (pdf)

More mechanical changes and setting information. Improved layout.

"desert is a roleplaying game about ordinary people stuck in a near
future city. Inside this booklet you will find:

• City-building tools. Create authentic districts from elements of the
past, present and future, map city blocks and generate individual

• Mechanics for sensor technologies that make and remake
characters. Use them to earn money or execute dice-stack hacks
against them.

• Smart robots called dolls. Maintain them for the good of the
people or corporations.

• A terrorist group called desert ready to tear down the city. Resist
them or join."



Montag, 4. Januar 2021

Minimalist building generator

A slightly different version of my building functions generator from a year ago (

desert example of play part 2 - Actual Play

The session begins with Filip's morning at home. The date is early January, a sunday. Since future weather is weird, I'm pulling a weather report from a random location. 18-21°C.

Being respectful towards my still asleep flatmate, I try not to make too much noise while getting up. I decide to fetch some breakfast on the way to my assignment. 5 tickets in 324651.*

Because I forgot to roll up the building Filip's apartment is in - I just have the superblock - I do that now. A roll of horizontal 6 and vertical 4 locates the building on the plan. 

Filip is on the third floor of a six-story prewar building roughly looking like this

house people
house people
house people
house people
house people
connect people with machines

The store on the ground floor is selling hearing aids. The sensor layout is 2 5 5 for base:acc, work:vid, stor:vid. The streets surrounding the city block are marked (special) for an eduspace stacked with neuro sensors. Regular history classes take place there. Not on a sunday, though.

I grab my bag and tablet and head out. There's a (life) section just across the tram line. After a mint tea and something to eat, Filip gets on a bus to the assigned district.

Closest to the bus stop is assigned doll V. Filip enters the office high-rise and takes the stairwell up to the 16th floor. People seem to have been using the elevator just fine, but the boxy slipdoll can't get out anymore and has given up. I declare temporary (maintenance), asking the system to send up a paperdoll. When it arrives, I've already flipped the slipdoll on its side and carry it out with the paperdoll's help. I finish up by declaring the elevator off-limits until it can be fixed.

With only the information of where doll III vanished and when, Filip tries his luck with the local acc sensors. With just one active sensor the chance of squeezing out information on who took it is 1-in-6. A rolled 2 isn't enough. Filip decides to pick up IV next in case it's the same one. Turns out it is. I enter my dolltech ID giving me access to nearby (storage) to put the wreck in for pickup.

Next up is I. The tenants have taped the floatdoll to a hallway wall. The tape says FIX! As they see Filip arrive on video (no privacy for blocktechs), tall, in his overall that says CITY on it, their door opens. A man - I roll up a random character - in an expensive suit, 'belligerent' towards his community (neighbours in this case) but 'loyal' towards people in general thanks Filip for attending to the problem. "Can you look up who f... messes with the doll?" "It's my job" "We're grateful then" ... "No one did. I'm assigning it to another floor." "OK".

The paperdoll at II is Filips final assignment. His dolltech ID gives him access to the building. The young people are indeed very embarassed. "We would have called an inflatable to send it away ourselves." "I have to check on it first" "Of course, it's right in the kitchen. We must've put too much on, we're so sorry." "Don't worry". The doll just fell over and switched to safe standby. Filip reactivates it and sends it to maintenance.

A this point I decide to introduce the district - a montage I could've done earlier, on Filip's way here or while at work. "Tall buildings look at Filip from their many windows as he walks past them in the wintry sun. The facades appear worn, but expensive apartments are shown in clear CZ ads. Looking out of the bus window, trees are soon replaced by dense buildings on the way back into the city." I check off the purple district's 'forest edge location' and 'housing blocks...'.**

Back home, I enter the building with my personal ID. I ignore the message from my former boss that has arrived by now and have a beer-drinking, boardgame-playing afternoon with Jo.

* This AP doesn't make use of the superblock profile. In the future, it might be used to generate random encounters with people who for example try to convince the blocktechs to get involved and help change something about the way a superblock allocates its resources.

**I've been reluctant to put anything like genre-rules into the game, but v1.31 will have a mechanic where you create this kind of travel montage, stringing together descriptive elements established for the districts during Prep. It's also a way to pace a game of desert, should you want to, because a character who has checked off every aspect of at least one district exits play. 

Samstag, 2. Januar 2021

desert example of play part 1 - Prep

 To start a session of desert I need...

  • two districts.
  • two superblocks within.
  • a character.
  • their daily assignments.
  • a personal issue that comes up today.


For both districts I draw from real-world examples I know. Each one requires a six bullet points description.

maroon district

  • Cobblestone streets and alleys.
  • An old tram line.
  • Musty restaurants and expensive boutiques.
  • Tourists.
  • Trinket shops off main street.
  • Academe.

The district die comes up ⚂. I randomly determine the bullet point descriptions to be advanced into a near future. Rolling for the particular advancements I get [brand] x2 and mediated experience(s). I roll for which [brand].

maroon district (⚂)

  • Cobblestone streets and alleys.
  • An old tram line.
  • Musty restaurants and expensive boutiques.
  • Tourists > CZ tours.
  • Trinket shops off main street >> CZ, they're just flickering display windows without any actual retail space.
  • Academe.

The six digit superblock profile is randomly determined to be in the order 624153. Besides indicating resource allocation, it identifies the 300m x 300m superblock on the district map.

I record the number on a new blocksheet as well. 3d6 for the sensor layout come up 5 1 6 and I enter base:tra, work:vid, spec:neu accordingly.

For the architecture I pick prewar attached from my example and randomly add minimalist.

I finish the sheet with a plan. The individual city blocks are marked with their section but don't have buildings drawn in yet.

My second district will be...

purple district (⚁)

  • - Forest edge location.
  • - Housing blocks and attempts to make them less monotone > CZ appartments.
  • - Marginalised citizens > The district is now known for its Zero Lucy! climbers, a dolltech-demo.
  • - Many bus stops.
  • - Pneumatic refuse collection.
  • - A lone, glinting office tower.

And the sheet for superblock 324651.


Name Filip Červený
Age 53
Gender Man
Look professional hair, delicate arms, foil overall, bright shoelaces, holographic glasses
Contacts person (respectful), friends (calm), family (caustic), community (CZ), network (passive), ... people (sweet)
Gear bag, tablet
Likes to talk about nature

The person Filip is respectful towards is his flatmate Jo. His family are his parents and an older brother.


I'm deciding to use 324651 for Filip's blocktech assignments. Since purple district has 2x [brand] in its description, tickets are at -2 with an additional -2 for the (mtnc) sections. (transit) and (storage) amount to +5, so rolling a 4 it's 5 tickets total to be rolled up as assignments.

I inside, stuck floatdoll
7th floor, house people (base:vid, life:neu)
A floatdoll keeps unlocking and entering a specific apartment. It then gets stuck there. The gruff tenants suspect someone is trolling them. No one is, though.

II inside, crashed paperdoll

6th floor, house people (base:tra, transit:acc)
A young couple is moving into an apartment. One of the building's paperdolls has crashed while setting up their kitchen. They're quite embarassed.

III outside, stolen eyedoll
A traffic eyedoll got net-gunned from an empty office. The person responsible was actually after the expensive cameras within and is trying to cover it up as vandalism.

IV outside, vandalised eyedoll
The missing doll from III has turned up here, mangled and sprayed. If analysed it got transplanted with a cheap camera. The original is missing.

V inside, stuck slipdoll
16th floor, connect stuff with organizations (base:tra, mtnc:aud)
Malfunctioning elevator doors don't fully open anymore and have trapped a slipdoll.


The personal issue is determined to stem from Filip's passive attitude towards his professional contacts. A former boss in marketing is mildly angry at him for not taking up on a job offer they sent. They've written another message to complain. 

Continuing this with part 2 - Actual Play...

Donnerstag, 31. Dezember 2020

Zeig, wie Dein System funktioniert!

Die Idee aus dem Tanelorn, Systeme an einem identischen Spielbeispiel aufzulösen (,117590.0.html), finde ich witzig. Ich habe zwar länger nichts auf Deutsch zu desert geschrieben, aber ich nehme das zum Anlass.

Die SCs Simon und Clemens entdecken den NSC Nathan in einer Menschenmenge auf dem Markt [Initiative/Wahrnehmung], und verfolgen ihn, um ihn festzunehmen [Verfolgen].
Simon: Was für Sensoren haben wir?
Clemens: Video im ganzen Block.
Simon: Dann mache ich mit zwei Fingern ein Fenster und rufe mir die Kameras auf.
Martina: Personen sind wie immer ausgeblendet. Bis auf die, die das Freigabesymbol tragen, siehst du nur Umrisse.
Simon: Ich kann einen davon Nathan zuordnen. Wir wissen ja immerhin, wo er gerade eben noch war. Da fange ich an.

//Dass überall im Block Videoüberwachung zur Verfügung steht, ist dem vorab zufällig bestimmten Sensorenlayout zu entnehmen. Da Simon konkret sagt, wie er die Kameras nutzt ist kein Wurf notwendig. Würde er einfach nur würfeln, wäre seine Erfolgswahrscheinlichkeit bei lediglich einem aktiven Sensor mit 1-von-6 eher gering.//
Als Nathan den Markt verlässt und der Personenverkehr dünner wird, bemerkt er die beiden und flieht. Simon ruft ihm nach, um ihn zur Aufgabe zu bewegen [Überreden/Einschüchtern], jedoch ohne Erfolg. Nathan flüchtet mit mittelgroßem Vorsprung in ein mehrstöckiges Haus [Verfolgungsjagd] und dringt in eine Wohnung im 4. Stock ein [Tür aufbrechen].
Simon: Hey, stehenbleiben!
Clemens: Er hat nicht wirklich einen Grund, oder? Er versucht jetzt von der Straße weg und in ein Gebäude zu kommen. Ich generiere das mal eben. House people, fix people, power people. Ein Medizinisches Zentrum? Basissensor ist Network.
Simon: Ist er verletzt?
Clemens: Keine Ahnung, aber wir verlieren ihn, sobald er rein geht. Kein Video mehr.
Simon: Network, hm? Tracken kann ich ihn damit zumindest nicht direkt, aber ich möchte wissen wann in den ersten paar Stockwerken mit Türen interagiert wird und das auf einen Gebäudeplan übertragen.
Martina: Wird dir entsprechend angezeigt. Von der zeitlichen Abfolge ist Nathan wahrscheinlich gerade in einen Wohnbereich im 4. Stock eingedrungen.

//Figur gegen Figur wird schlicht den Umständen entsprechend entschieden, was passiert. Für die Sensoren hat Simon eine passende Idee, so dass er wieder nicht auf den Würfelwurf zurückgreifen muss.//
Die Tür verrammelt er notdürftig mit einem schweren Möbelstück [ggf. Kraftakt]. Simon und Clemens sind zwar dicht genug hinter ihm, um die richtige Wohnung zu erkennen, müssen aber zunächst das Hindernis beiseite räumen [Kraftakt, Teamarbeit].
Clemens: Er hat irgendwas umgeworfen. Aber in einem Wohnbereich muss es paperdolls geben. Mobilisation und so.
Simon: Ich verbinde mich mit einer. Bitte einmal das Hindernis beseitigen.
Martina: Geräusche von der anderen Seite, dann ist der Weg frei.

//Um das Hindernis kommen die Figuren mit einem Roboter herum, der sich hier logischerweise befindet.//
Mittlerweile hat Nathan die Balkontür geöffnet und Anlauf genommen. Als Simon und Clemens die Wohnung betreten, rennt Nathan los, überspringt die schmale Straße und durchbricht die Balkontür einer Wohnung im zweiten Stock [Sprung, kontrollierter Sturz, ggf. Verletzung].
Simon: Verletzung ist garantiert bei so einem Sprung. Geschafft hat er es aber.
Clemens: House people, fix ideas, make organizations. Ehemaliges Bürogebäude, halb umgewandelt in Wohnungen. Basissensor Tracking und Audio auf den Fluren, in Aufzügen und Treppenhäusern et cetera. Damit ist er am Ende.

//Was in echt weh tut, tut im Spiel entsprechend weh.//
Simon springt ihm hinterher [dito], aber Clemens wagt den Sprung nicht und bricht im letzten Moment ab [Moralregel/Spielerentscheid?] In der engen Zielwohnung rennt Nathan zur Küche, wirft ein Küchenmesser nach Simon und geht mit einem zweiten auf ihn los [Fern- und Nahkampf]. Es kommt zum Ringkampf um das Messer, an dessen Ende Simon Nathan entwaffnen und festlegen kann [(Ring)Kampf].
Simon: Egal, ich springe!
Clemens: Er versucht, seinen Vorsprung zu nutzen und dich auszuschalten. Bleibt ihm ja sonst nichts.
Simon: Schafft er nicht. Verletzt sind wir ohnehin beide.
Clemens erreicht die Wohnung nach einiger Zeit auf dem regulären Weg, hilft beim Fesseln [Mechanik?] und versorgt Simons Verletzungen [Erste Hilfe].
Clemens: Sobald ich im Gebäude bin, rufe ich: "Unfall im zweiten Stock, Wohnung 14."
Martina: Das setzt ein inflatable,... ein fahrender Notfallkoffer, in Gang. Ist auf dem Weg nach oben.

Montag, 30. November 2020

desert v1.3 (pdf)

I've rewritten large parts of the game because what I had before seemed to have gotten unnecessarily complicated and vague, without solid tools to actually get playing. The core ideas are still here though, just a lot more accessible I hope. This includes offering many examples.

desert still is "a slow game about work and life in a near future city."