This week I’ve been design and creating dungeon tiles rollers for terrain crafting. The goal is to create a simple pattern that can be replicated around a roller to create a consistent imprint on XPS foam.
The first version was kludged together and mostly work, but the imprint was not square and the design process wasn’t elegant. The second version highlighted errors in the process which could be seen in the distortion when comparing the X & Y directions. 25mm (1 inch ) in X to 29 mm (1 1/8 inch) in the Y direction. Rescaling the size of the cylinder corrected this mistake. Finally, I just need some more patterns…
Research & References
Most research starts with a search (Duck Duck Go in this case) to find suitable images & other resources. It has been very useful having the name of the tile patterns, along with the images to use for inspiration.
Taking an idea from improv theatre leads me to four levels of success you can use in your game. To keep the action rolling for the characters.
I’m still waiting for the book, Improve for Gamers from Evil Hat, as it’s released in November. It distills a workshop series also called Improv for Gamers. The basic idea from improv can be summarised as You cannot say No. As this can stop the scene. You can get away with No but or No and. This leads to the four options listed below and how I mentally relate them to gameplay.
Yes, and. This is a critical success with it’s yes you succeed and another good thing happens.
Yes, but. This feels just like a regular success, but as a GM you throw something else in there to keep things spicy.
No, but. This is the standard, “I did not succeed” or failing, which tends to stop the action cold. However, if you describe how close they are and give a +1 to the next roll, then it keeps the story flowing. In essence, this delays success.
No, and. This is a fumble, critical failure, or similar. Here’s where The Alexandrian’s Three Clue Rule becomes critical as it can avoid the impassible roadblock. So still resolve the disaster of action and move on to the new.
Some bad examples of the four levels of success
The idea does not always work, but here are some examples.
Epic level bullshit. The critical success is great on the dice, but how does it translate into the game world. A crit feels less important when knocking out a mook with 1 HP. So as a GM, it’s worth having something flow on to give that advantage to the table. The mook’s weapon bounces into the villain, lower their defense. The ganger’s head flies across the room wedging the villains’ escape path open to enable pursuit.
Business as Usual. This is where the character tends to pass every check and lead to a lackluster session with few highs & lows as there little tension. And this is the point to spice it up with a “yes but” to complicate matters. But a word of warning is that you don’t want to just keep heaping on the complications as the session will need to move towards a resolution.
EG. The PCs are facing a hostile bard in the tavern, and the PCs deal with every social conflict the bard can throw at them. The jilted barmaid, the rowdy patrons, the song of ridicule all make for good conflict in a game session, but it should not go on forever. The bard is forced to leave by the PCs. Maybe to get more help in the form of street thugs, wizardly curses, or the town watch.
One chance only. Character’s do stupid things and while you give opportunities to succeed, or even survive. Sometimes the dice lay on the hate. So jumping from a building to grab the swinging arm of the crane on a nearby building is an example of one chance only. if they miss they are likely to plummet to their death.
If they fail, then having the +1 to another try makes little difference. But +1 to smash through the window below, grab and slide down the side of the building, or even to make the landing. All make for good narrative developments.
Oh my God No! What happens when a character fumbles SO badly that they derail the campaign? The equivalent of a magical supernova.
I’ve had this happen and I was at a complete loss of how to proceed. As Web DM and others have talked about, the only thing you can do is call a break to give you some time to think. Steal from character backstories, brainstorm some possibilities, or work with the players for ideas.
While not completely on point, once playing Crucible at Conquest, I had the privilege of watching a GM masterfully reassemble the climax of the game session into something truly special. (link)
Constantly using the simple Yes/No success idea of early roleplaying can lead to some dead ends for the story. However, by using the four levels of success, you can enhance the flow of your game. This should lead to better sessions for you and your players.
Cyberpunk 2020 initiative system favors solos with the idea of “move first kill first“. So to help balance out the turn order, to limit the number of multiple actions, and provide a chance to the others to act before the solo team laying waste to everyone.
Version 1 (the ’95 draft)
The first draft of these is from ’95 when we had a large group to test them on.
The turn is in order of initiative with the highest going first. Ties favor Combat Sense, then Reflexes.
Every character can have 1 multiple action per 10 points of initiative or part thereof. So an initiative of less than 10 will still get an action. 10+ 2 actions, 20+ 3 actions.
Characters still suffer a -3 per each additional action to every skill roll, but each an action will be resolved at the appropriate initiative count.
Once a character action is complete, their next action is 10 points down the initiative order.
A Solo & Fixer face off against 3 gangers. Their initiatives are 22 (Solo), 15 (Fixer), 16, 13, & 9 (for the Gangers).
Round 1: Everyone will take their maximum amount of actions. Solo (3), Fixer (2), Gangers #1 & #2 (2 each), Ganger #3 (1 action).
The Solo will take 3 actions, the fixer 2, and the Gangers 1 each as they aren’t that skilled.
At 22 the Solo acts, shooting a Ganger #1, in the head, but misses as all actions are at -6.
At 16, Ganger #1, shoots the Fixer, doing 1 point to the Left Arm.
At 15, the Fixer shoots Ganger #2, who takes 10 points to the Torso.
At 13, Ganger #2, shoots the Solo, for 3 points to the Torso.
At 12, the Solo acts for the second time, shooting Ganger #1 again, for 10 points to the Head. <Pop>
At 9, Ganger #3 shoots the Fixer in the Right Leg for 3 points
At 5, the Fixer acts again (with the penalties), shooting Ganger #2, finishing them off.
At 2, the Solo has their final action, popping Ganger #3.
All in all our groups found the rules easy to follow and it makes for an interesting combat as the situation evolves around the characters. It works, however, it limits the style of game play to back and forth gun-play.
One of the things that I had not considered when playing Cyberpunk 2020 & Shadowrun back in the ’90s was how people live, day to day. The cyberpunk life consisted of doing jobs until you die. They may be a little lip service to the background world, but it was rare to inhabit that world in your game.
This profile of Serge Faguet provides some insight into the life of a Corporate character. The article goes into the mix of lifestyle, drugs, and technology all focused to give himself an edge. It may be a set of extreme steps to take, but it may become to the norm.
A story from Mirrorshades (or I think it was) about a medical student regularly using a drug to enhance her mental state to be able to absorb the huge quantity of information needed for med school. So taking this to its logical extreme. If drugs, cyber-technology, and any form of enhancement you can make could give you an edge. Then those technologies become required to run with the pack, or even to be in the race.
A few questions emerge from this.
So what do characters need to compete?
What enhancements are needed and the consequences that could involve?
How can you create this in a game?
Cyberpunk, Shadowrun, & Cyberspace provide useful definitions of character types, the gear they will need, and the tech they are likely to use. So while the game-systems are different, the intent behind them is the same.
Soldiers, Fighters, Gangers, Punks, Killers, Street-samurai are all examples of the Warrior Archetype. In the cyberpunk genre, it all about who shoots first kills first and enhancing those critical combat skills. Cyber-optics, neural links, and reflect boosting become the order of the day.
Facemen include Fixers, Corporates, Mr. Johnson, and Tricksters in general. The goal is to win social conflicts to get the best deal, persuade the right person, or intimidate the gangers. To this end, they will need cyberware that enhances the social encounters.
Knowledge brokers (aka Wizards) include Netrunners, Deckers, Jockeys who access the digital web to find stuff that others can not. It can also include a character with specialist knowledge, like a Tech or Ripper Doc. The cyberware will be focused on enhancing the mind and allowing access to new data sources.
While not exhaustive, this really just provides a gateway into the character’s world and the lives they could live.
The exploring the Lows
As a GM the challenge here is to balance the good with the bad. So how do you set up the consequences of cyber-enhancement? What enhancements are needed and the consequences that could involve?
The use of cyberware tends to lead to a loss of Humanity (in Cyberpunk 2020) or Essence (in Shadowrun). These are common ways of regulating a character’s actions. However, there are other GM techniques to manipulate the character’s behavior.
Peer pressure plays a part in any sort of social game. As a GM you can use NPCs reactions to your advantage.
A street punk would look for obvious enhancements, like cyberware and skin tattoos.
A sleek corporate looks for high-quality cyberware, as examples of wealth and sophistication.
A Neo-Luddite would look on any cyberware as abhorrent.
Regardless, of why NPCs react they way they do, the effect is still the same in flavoring the cyberpunk life.
Excessive drug use can lead to addition. Cyberpunk 2020 has rules for that. Not too sure if Shadowrun or Cyberspace does. Regardless of the game-system media like, there is media other there that provides some examples of the consequences. So the question now becomes how could you model the pitfalls of addiction for a character?
Starting the Cyberpunk life with Session Zero
One way to create the feeling of the world is to explore a character’s daily life during session zero. During it, you can bring in all the cyberpunk elements that you want in your game. Focusing on the particular things that are important, with the others becoming faded into the background.
To help set the foundation of the cyberpunk life, you can explore a day in the life or common experiences. Some examples that you could explore are;
Use the character’s Lifepath as a starting point for session zero.
What was a character’s first piece of cyberware?
What crime has the character committed?
Has the character ever been caught for something?
The whole goal of this for the GM is to tease out more details about the character.