Hacking Runs for Fun and Profit

A key element of modern games is often the heist, caper, or in the case of cyberpunk-esque games, the „run“. The common part here is that the target is usually a complicated and large system, full of people, computers, security systems and other components.

In movies and books, we follow the crew through their preparations and then see them pull off the perfect caper, where each element more or less seamlessly enables the next part, until it all comes together in a showdown and ends with the heroes walking (or running?) off with their ill-gotten gains.

There are quite a lot of attempts to map this into game mechanics, and here is my own one:

It introduces two concepts:

  • the network map of the entity that is to be robbed
  • failure cascades

Lets start with the network map. It could look something like this:

The goal is to escape with the loot from the vault. Except that as long as there is someone or something to call reinforcements, things will go bad. And if the vault door isn’t opened, they can’t get to their loot in the first place.

Researching this network is the usual preparation phase for the players, where they can dig for information, ask around, bribe people, steal floorplans, and so on. It might even be that you, as the DM, don’t even have the network map prepared but you create it with your players as you play along.

In the end, the map shows the possible choke points that need to be taken out, as well as the objectives that need to be met. Either directly, or indirectly. 

And that is where the second core idea comes into play: Cascades. I’m stealing those from the boardgame hit Pandemic. Disease occurrences are marked by adding little cubes to a city. Whenever there are three or more cubes of the same type in one city, there is a virulent outbreak. That means that every neighbouring city also receives a cube. If that tips them over the 2‑cube-is-safe limit, there is an outbreak too.

Let’s apply the same idea here, but with a lower limit: If there are two incidents at one place, it triggers the cascade. So if Joe the Guard does not get his coffee from the Cantina AND the toilet is clogged, he’ll fail at his job (calling the reinforcments in case he sees anything). And that means that the „Reinforcements“ node gets its first little cube. 

A similar effect could be achieved by simply taking Joe out (kidnapping, poisoning or bribery for example), but that might not always be possible — and it won’t create a cube at Reinforcements.

So, the planning and execution phase means that the crew selects points in the network, take them out and hopefully create cascades that take out adjacent points for them.

This isn’t playtested, but I think it should be fun to run things this way!

Return to Hypogea

It has been a while. So long that I couldn’t even find my stack of characters and had to roll up a new one.

But yesterday, I returned to Hypogea, the karst under the valley of fire. Joining the Clockwise Observatory as Alpascal, a short, stocky first-year student of the School of Artificers with an everful crock of shit.

This was a very happy reunion, even though I didn’t know any of the other players yet. Still, Alpascal was quickly welcomed by his peers, and the backstory involving Alpascal, a frog, and the chimerists love spell ended up happily for me, as the chimerist now has to care for the five pollywog-creatures. (Who are adorable, but Alpascal isn’t ready to be a father yet, and Fred the frog needs the help,)

The group made its way to the sickle marsh, looking for the lone savant that imprisoned a few errant students into some gem. They swam, stomped, rafted and walked on the way, met water vipers, cephalopod patrols and other assorted creatures and during the whole time never stopped punning.

Really, the punning, it was bad. So bad. All the time. All the punning.

Can’t wait until next time!

RPGs in Beirut

And no, we’re not talking about war. We’re talking warGAMING and roleplaying games.

I was in town for Bread & Net, and when we were walking the city on sunday, we came across a game store: Multiverse. And frankly, this place is awesome:

It is mostly board games though

The staff is actually pretty knowledgeable and full of hustle. They know their games, have several painting stations for the table top gamers in the cellar, host regular wargaming and MtG tournaments, you can rent tables and play a wide variety of board games (sorted in terms of complexity, so you can easily grab something easy for the family from the shelf), and then they told me they also have a dedicated D&D room.

What?! I need to see this!“

Behind a door labelled „Emergency Exit“, I then first was greeted with this…

yeah, this thing is a bit cheap looking, but A for effort!

And then there was a foreboding doorway..

Let’s light this up…

oooh, this looks promising!

You can see the D&D library. Plus a bunch of self-printed PDFs, downloaded from online stores.

yeah, I was pretty amazed.
really, I like this.
I could get used to this.. All the space for the savvy GM.
looking at all the nifty stuff on the walls.
but wait, what is THIS?
need monsters for your campaign? We got you covered!
a bunch of custom lasercut 3D signage all over the place.

They even get you in touch with GMs that can run games for you, if you find yourself in Beirut without a group. Really, this place is magical and apparently thriving too!

So, when in Beirut, go to Multiverse!

Reisen im Rollenspiel

Dies ist ein Beitrag zum Thema dieses Monats im Karneval der Rollenspielblogs: Reisen.

Timberwere wirft im Eingangsbeitrag die Theorie auf, dass Reisen ja meist nur Mittel zum Zweck ist um den nächsten Schauplatz einzuleiten. Ich versuche hier mal, Methoden und Ansätze vorzustellen, die Reisen zum zentralen Ding machen.

Dazu ein paar Annahmen und Behauptungen vorweg:

  1. Das Spannende an einer Reise sind die neuen Eindrücke, die man sammelt. „Wenn einer eine Reise macht, dann kann er was erleben“.
  2. Gleichzeitig ist es langweilig, wenn diese Eindrücke nur nacheinander beschrieben werden — die Erlebnisse müssen also interaktiv sein.

Erlebnisse während einer Reise lassen sich grob in zwei Kategorien unterteilen:

  1. Begegnungen am Wegesrand — dies sind Dinge und Personen die den eigenen Weg kreuzen oder an denen man vorbei reist. Sie sind so interessant, oder wichtig, dass man sie sich anschaut und mit ihnen interagiert bevor man weiterreist. Das kann ein Überfall, ein Zwischenstopp um Proviant aufzufrischen, oder einfach nur eine Nacht im Gasthaus sein.
  2. Interaktionen innerhalb der Reisegruppe — wenn man z.B. auf einem Schiff unterwegs ist, bildet dieses während der Reise einen geschlossenen Raum voller Personen und Dinge.

Bei beiden Varianten können die Ereignisse im Grunde völlig losgelöst von der Reise stattfinden. Ob zum Beispiel ein Mord in einem Gasthaus, auf einem Schloß oder auf einem Schiff stattfindet ist doch im Grunde egal — es ist und bleibt ein Whodunnit-Murder-Mystery. Das ist auf gleichzeitig frustrierend und praktisch. 

Frustrierend, weil es dadurch so gut wie keine puren „Reise“-Abenteuer gibt, sie sind alle Derivate von anderen Formen. Praktisch insofern, das man sich hemmungslos an anderen Materialien und Ideen bedienen kann. Es gilt nur, den Rahmen so anzupassen, dass das Geschehen in die geplante Reise passt.

Also, plündert das Regal, die nächste Reise wird sicher nicht langweilig!