Cyberpunk Gaming

First off, I just want to preface this with some background. I have been a big fan of anything cyberpunk ever since I read Neuromancer in junior high. William Gibson was my crack of choice for several years. It was always the console cowboys and the descriptions of their exploits in the 'Net that grabbed my interest. Back when I played RPGs our group played Shadowrun on alternating sessions. Naturally I wanted to play a decker. I was quickly dissatisfied with the experience as the things my character was good at were glossed over to keep the mission going or the rest of the party was left waiting while my character hacked a system. I tried to remedy this when I started GMing Shadowrun, but the same problems arose. It got to the point where nobody played a decker, which I felt was a huge shame.

Fast forward to the future and my obsession with miniature wargaming. I have always been interested in a good cyberpunk game. Rezolution had interest, but a good number of the models just didn't do anything for me. But again, most of the games seem to gloss over the decking/hacking aspect. So I've been thinking on and off again about how to do a game that was about the hacking. The other day I was looking at some posts about Warmachine (another game that looks fun but the models don't do anything for me) and an idea came to me. I could use a mechanic similar to the Focus of the warcaster to represent the Decker controlling his various programs and utilities.

Essentially both sides would have an avatar, which would be the virtual representation of the decker. (BTW, I'll using the terms 'decker' and 'decking' as I prefer them to 'hacker/hacking' and don't want to constantly type console cowboy.) Depending on the size of the game or the scenario a player can control two or more avatars. The avatars would then 'rez' programs which are also miniatures on the table. In a minimalist game, that could theoretically be all the terrain needed. Say two deckers dueling in a featureless network node. Terrain would be of two types, decorative and interactive. Terrain will block movement and LOS. Interactive terrain would be representative of data contstructs like say a personnel database could be a computer, a bunch of file cabinets, or maybe digital models of the people arranged by the section they are assigned. Of course, being a virtual environment it could be anything. I've been toying with the idea of going totally 80's sci-fi art with this and having neon-edged black buildings with billboards sporting images of Max Headroom. Maybe a raid on a Japanese Megacorp would be a traditional Japanese garden. Just watch out for the attack programs that look like stuck gas pedals!

The same goes for the models, being virtual the representation of the program could be anything. Maybe your attack program is a charging viking while a defensive app would be a guard dog. A suite of linked applications could follow a similar theme.

Unfortunately this opens ups whole new possibilities to buy miniatures I never thought I'd have a use for. I foresee myself ordering some Infinity hackers in the future....

As far as how the game would work, it's mostly centered around the decker and his deck (computer). Stats for the avatar are for both him and his deck. For the decker you have Attack and Active Defense. For the deck you have Processor Rating, Memory, Storage, and Passive Defense. Attack is the decker's skill at exploiting security loopholes, finding ways to destabilize the target's data integrity, and otherwise knowing how to take out another system. Active Defense is the decker's use of things like scanning incoming data streams, monitoring system status, and other ways of actively protecting his system. Processor Rating is a relative comparison of the power of deck processors. I'm not even going to try to define what 1 PR actually is. It is sufficient to know that 1 PR is worse than 2 PR. PR is used to rez programs, maintain rezzed programs, and activate abilities for both avatars and programs to include movement. Memory is essentially RAM. It is the limit on how many programs you can have active at any time. Storage is permanent storage (think hard drive). It is the limit to the number of programs available to the decker. Passive defense is the approximation of things like firewalls, shutting down ports, etc. Another item that will be tracked is System Stability, which will be measured in 10% increments. Once a deck reaches 0% stability the deck is fried and the avatar derezzes (taken off the table).

Programs are actually more like expert systems than the applications we're familiar with. While not able to make decisions on their own, they're pretty darned close to being primitive artificial intelligences (which may be something I toy around with as an in-game element). They're essential stats will be Rez, Size, Memory Requirement, Attack, Defense, and Data Integrity. Attack and Defense are fairly self-explanatory and Data Integrity is essentially hit points. Rez will be two numbers with a '/' between them. The first is the PR requirement to start the program and the second the PR required to maintain the program in memory. Size is how much storage space is required on the deck to use the program, and Memory Requirement is how much Memory the program uses when it is active.

Both Avatars and Programs will have abilities that are activated by using PR points. Basically, everything that is done on the 'Net requires the deck's processor. This includes movement. The decker, through the Avatar, spends his PR points to perform actions, rez programs, maintain programs, and otherwise achieve his goals.

I'm still deciding on a dice mechanic. I know it'll be d10-based. I like the d10. I'm waffling between opposed rolled and rolling against a fixed number. I'm leaning towards opposed rolls though I generally don't like them. However, I do think that an opposed roll is probably the best way to represent a duel between two opposing deckers. Once I settle on a mechanic I'll be able to toss around some numbers for stats.

I'd like this to be more scenario driven rather than just thrown down on the table and go. Cyberpunk, like pulp, is story-driven. Some scenarios that come to mind at first are data raids, shutting down systems prior to your meat team mates infiltrating a facility, and a grudge match between deckers. I'm going to have to spend some time on Amazon and get the books that I borrowed from the library in my younger years. (Thank God for libraries. I would never have been able to afford all the books I read back then.) I'm sure that'll give me some more scenario ideas. Another idea I had was 'virtual games.' These would basically be video games for deckers. You could do things like racing or capture the flag. You could probably go on and on for that.

And of course, being a cyberpunk game, it has to have a cool name. Style over substance in this case.

To be honest, I don't know if I'll ever actually play this. I have a habit of coming up with things just to see whether or not I can do it. But to be honest, the idea has me amped. Been thinking about it all day. Though it hasn't damped any of my recent excitment for starship gaming. I need a clone to go to work for me so I can actually do all the gaming things I want to. Though, given my personality it would probably end up like Multiplicity rather quickly.

I'm looking forward to having Samurai-themed programs engaging a group of mecha-themed programs in some incongruous setting.

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