Probably Gonna Make Everything One Damage

Whenever I'm faced with a powerful amount of stress, I tend to start stressing and fussing over things that neither need it nor matter. Really just start poking at things that work fine enough. Anyway, that led to this: 

I'm Probably Gonna Make Everything One Damage

One thing that always struck me as odd during play was the fact that you have to roll under to succeed in an attack, but then roll over to "succeed" in damage. Tradition, probably. But what to do? Convert to Roll Over like a normal person? God, no. Gross. Other ideas involve: 

  1. Subtraction This clearly won't work. I can hardly get players to add. Having them work out something like "7-1d6" every other roll would really grind things to a halt. 
  2. Damage Array While I still like the idea, it seems like a step in the wrong direction. Also, it would generate a bunch of work. Though, as I write this, I realize so would...
  3. Making Everything One Damage One of the design philosophies behind the original GLoG was making things more simple, namely in reducing rolls. From two rolls to one, from one to none. This one largely gets ignored (from what I've seen), but here's a place to actually do that. 
An attack roll is basically just two rolls to determine one value: the amount of damage you do. Ranging from "none" to "max" it's a tradition that held on and hasn't, from what I've seen (not that I've really looked), been challenged. 

But it's also two rolls for one result. I like rolling the dice as much as anyone, but in holding with the simplification design principle, them rolls gotta get squished together. I suppose I could go the Into the Odd route and make all attacks automatically hit, thus making every character's turn automatic damage to someone. That seems too far to me, however. 

Basically, I've got the notion in my head that every attack is some form of gambit and should come with a risk. One that should pay off immediately. If you're gonna stand out in the open and/or foolishly fight fair, you should run the risk of failure (Attack roll), but receive a significant payout immediately (1 damage). 

Alright, but why 1 damage?

That value is coming from 2 seconds of intoxicated math applied to averages. Allow me to reproduce my hard to read scrawling:

Given 4d4 as the dice used to generate Constitution, and therefore HP, the average of the roll is 10 HP. 
Light weapons did roughly 1d6 of damage, making the "average" 3.5 damage.
Medium weapons did 1d8 for 4.5 damage "average."
Heavy weapons came in a 1d10 for 5.5 

With these values, to take a 10 HP "average" character down to zero, light weapons would require roughly 3 hits, as would medium weapons. Heavy weapons came in for only 2 hits. These hit amounts look good to me. Perfectly fine. Armor is important for a reason. 

In moving the damage range down to 1, HP will also need to be adjusted. Namely instead of the noble 4d4, the value becomes (4d4)/4, which drags the range down to 1 to 4, usually 2. Modified by templates and augments, this also seems fine. Don't get shot. 

 On one hand, while this will speed up combat and standardize weapon damage (let's be honest, I was obviously making the damage values up out of thin air. And I clearly had favorites.), it also means I'm gonna have to rewrite the gear list to make them stand out via special qualities. Which I probably should have been doing anyway. Also rewrite the combat section, damage section, augment section...

But it seems worth it. It feels better to me. When the time arises, I'll have to do a one shot to test it out. Might take a minute, but I should definitely do a play test before the rewrite. For once. 

Also, it seems like someone has done this before, but I can't place it. I'm sure that won't cause problems. 


Bubble Head

 I ain't got time to make it pretty, but I've got time to force it up on you. Hell, I'm still on phone, so I don't know how big that image is gonna be. 

Bubble Head

Some poor bastard who's had a parasitic prototype of a military grade cyber augment forced upon him by some unknown party (Vitulus Aureus lab technicians) and some how made his way back into the general public. His actions and consciousness might not be his. 

The gimmick here would have been (players never met Vitulus Aureus "representatives") to teach the players to shoot the glowing red spot that was the Drone Control Unit on the figure's head. Rough, but not impossible, if they didn't get it. Quick and rather easy if they did. Which would have been good, because the system would have turned up on robotic tanks later. 


Huh, okay, yeah. That was not the best time to be gone. 

There are questions, naturally. I will see if I can address them. 

When addressing puzzles, players typically have three options:
  1. Fuck Around and Find Out
  2. Use Knowledge
  3. Run Away

This methodology can apply for component enemies, though with more aggressive results as the "puzzle" will not want to be interacted with or will be trying to interact with the players in a less than friendly manner. 

While usage of a Component enemy is relatively the same as a normal creature deployment, a small amount of effort must be engaged in by the game master/game designer. Namely, as the GM would describe a puzzle in detail, so too must they offer greater detail to the players than "bandit in leather armor." Communication is key here. Care must be taken to ensure that every non-secret piece of the puzzle is provided. Likewise, when the PC attacks or otherwise interacts, the GM should ask "how are you attacking and what are you targeting"?

"The frail, lithe figure stands his ground, though his eyes are ever distant. Upon the top of his head, lording over the figure, a cybernetic sensor array glares, unblinking, forever judging. A heavy shield composed of polycarbonate fullerene drifts quietly on micro fusion monojets tucked within its carapace, lurking hungrily around the figure as though a dog preparing to defend its master."

Here the description has noted the three main pieces: the meat body (just sort of there), the DCU (above the meat body, and suggested to be separate from), and the shield drone (circling the meat body). 

So what are the potential ways the players interact with it? Let's look:

Fucking Around and Find Out
The answer is not always on the character sheet, nor is it always in the GM notes. 

What if we shoot it?
Probably the opening move. The shield intercepts and the attack is absorbed.

What if we shoot it again?
Honestly, you might get lucky and do enough damage to the shield to break it, leaving the Meat Body defenseless.

What about an area attack? 
Probably gets through the Shield's protection. You're attacking an Area, not the Meat Body (pedantic). Also the shield can't really stop gas, can it? EMPs might also screw the system up.  
What if we break the monojets of the shield?
Hey! Now you're thinking. Damaging the jets probably slows the shield down, offering a "x in 6" chance of the attack getting through, where x is the number of monojets destroyed. 
What if we shoot the sensor array on top? 
It's not part of the Meat Body, so is unprotected. Then the Shield stops receiving information and the Meat Body is unprotected. 

What if we shoot the gun? 
Technically not part of the Meat Body and unprotected. It probably breaks. 

Using Knowledge
You HAVE been leaving lore around the dungeon, right? 

Remembering the post-it note on the discovered schematics complaining about how the Z-axis alignment was misaligned on the Shield orientation. 
Probably means the DCU at the top is unprotected. 

Remembering the Command word mentioned in the inner office email from the hacked system. 
Yelling it probably deactivates the system.

The game mechanics offer multiple ways of gleaning information not typically given in descriptions. 
Try using those to see if something else is available.

Remembering that one episode of Burn Notice where he used a thick wool blanket to trick a motion sensor. 
I wonder if that actually works?

Run Away

Honestly, how is this your problem? Run away and let someone else deal with it. 

Attacking a creature using it's weakness (werewolves, silver) is a stripped down form of this. Players know to use silver and/or Wolf's Bane on Werewolves because of previous Knowledge, and well known Fucking Around and Finding Out. The Werewolf's healing factor/damage reduction is simply a component of the beast, which is deactivated using the weaknesses. 

Yes, yes, it's not a terribly complicated puzzle, much like that first lock in the first dragon tomb you encounter in Skyrim, but it's there to ease you into it. More complicated examples to (possibly) come. 

As the enemy can (and should) attack your character sheet, this is similar to attacking theirs. It makes combat a bit more strategic, and certainly better than the boring "I shoot it." round after round after round. 

If it helps, "Bubble Head" can been seen as a collective name for three individual entities working together in symbiosis: 
  1. The Drone Control Unit: Programmed to protect the Meat Body, but not itself, via orders given to the Shield. Sits above the Meat Body, like a malicious hat. 
  2. Shield Drone: Only knows the world through data provided from the DCU. Only wants to protect the Meat Body. And only the Meat Body.
  3. Meat Body: His name used to be Greg and he enjoyed bird watching. Now it's Unit #136 and he enjoys carrying out the violent orders of his handlers. 
The Shield Drone does not stop attacks against the Drone Control simply because it is not the Meat Body. However, without the Drone Control it can not receive input and goes offline. 


Cyberpunk West Marches: A Follow Up

 Writing this in my phone, let's see if it actually takes. 

Hospitals suck. American hospitals more so. You'd think sitting here I'd have plenty of time to catch up on blog reading and jambling down the multitude of ideas I've got buzzing around in my diseased brainmeat but, nope, spent it worrying. Worrying and coming to terms with what a corrupt and bloated system we've got, especially when it comes to the insurance company hucksters. Americans aren't citizens of a country, we're customers. 

Wait, wait, nope, you're probably not here for that. Though I'll venomously go into it on one of the social sites, if you wish. 

I believe I owe a follow up. 


The game, before Life made the poor decision of allowing my former rock and roll lifestyle to catch up to me, took place in what the underworld mercenaries called Kill City. Not the official government name for the city, mind you, but a nickname given based on the violence commonplace in the day to day life. Also to stick with the Iggy Pop references.

The Hub of the world was Finn's: a seedy, dimly lit dive bar that served as a meeting place for mercenaries (who I almost called "Wild Boys" in sticking with the song. Good dodge on that one in hindsight) and third party fixers,  as well as neutral territory for local gangs. 

The bar itself was down a back ally, as all good bars are, between a shitty Asian fusion restaurant and the office of W. Smith, Attorney (a name I completely made up). It was a cloudy sea of nicotine heavy smoke, poor quality cyberware, and shitty tattoos. Jobs were initially offered up by a one Winston "McW00t", a burnt out hacker turned fixer that hides in the bar from his wife during the day (who herself thought he worked in a local chicken plant); and at least once by Killian, the proprietor and take-no-shit bartendress of the place. More quest givers were unlockable through certain actions, as well as other gang associated bars, however we didn't make it that far. 

Taking the jobs were two main players, each with a stable of four characters, and three other players with their own stables, that came as went as time allowed. Sessions usually had at least three folks in attendance. Though just the main two was not uncommon. This menagerie of assholes oversaw the partial destruction of a residential Fuller dome after a lover's quarrel with a husband saw the local gang (Sonic Reducers) called in to fulfill a protection contract; the Genesis of the idea that maybe the city's paramedics shouldn't be trusted; and the potential escape of a Laser Raptor from a secret and completely illegal biological research center - to name a few. 

Major landmarks and involved mega corporations were still sort of in flux at the time of indefinite pause, but included:
  • Gewalt Arms Battle Dome - Every crumbling empire eventually turns to bloodsports. This one is sponsored by an arms manufacturer. 
  • Patriot Burger Hologram - The twenty story tall hologram of a buxom blonde with impossible body proportions in an American flag bikini and welding dual assault rifles that fired into the air on the hour, which served as an advertisement for Patriot Burger fastfood restaurants, but strangely never mentioned Patriot Burger. 
  • Saint Iscariot's House of Eternal Servitude - A megachurch smack in the middle of an impoverished neighborhood, blaring religiosity over a PA system 24/7, yet never actually helping the people of said neighborhood.
  • Morningstar Laboratories - Experimental physics laboratory that probably should not have been built downtown.
  • Fission Plant - The local powerplant that was very obviously leaking toxic sludge into the surrounding area due to cost cutting on safety systems. 
  • Hodag Mart - A popular chain of bodegas around the city. Inspired by the incredible gift of artwork from Hodag (which will be included in the next PDF update, should I ever get my act together)
  • Vitulus Aureus - "People are our products"
  • Wormwood Pharmaceuticals - Pumping out strange and untested drugs for all to "enjoy." Had a multitude of illegal production sites around the city 
  • Zen Security - The privatized police force overseeing the City. Also the largest gang in town.
A bout of writer's block (my eternal foe) led to the creation of a Character Generator and Job Generator, both available on the SRD site. They ain't the end all be all, but they get the job done. 

Unfortunately, I still can't decide on a stat block format for enemies so most remain chicken scratches in a notebook. 

A "Gang Affinity" system was just the faction system from Fallout New Vegas with the serial number filed off. It (would have) affected reaction rolls of various gang members and fixers throughout the city, using the highest score amongst those present. Never got that far, however. 

I'm hoping to jam all this into a more fleshed out Setting document. Some day. 

The Take Away

Over all, it went fairly well. 

The stable of characters was a hit, and allowed for the smaller player base to adapt to the job at hand. With the system being fairly lethal and character creation being quick, generating a new character and selecting one from a stockpile is rather comparable. I should consider this and explore the idea deeper when I've more space in my Thought Cabinet. 

The Stable did make the Gang Affinity system a pain in the ass. Or would have - it didn't have enough time to fully develop, but I got enough to see the data I'd have to keep track of would pile up. Solutions for this would either be a program to keep track of the data for me and present it at relevant times or, more likely, give delta templates like "Loved by [Gang Name]" after certain thresholds are met, biddable to adjust reaction checks made by that gang. 

I also believe I need to adjust the XP system for when a Stable is used. Despite having applied vague numbers to it, I'm still a bastard who assigns XP along the lines of "feels about right." Through out TTRPGs the XP system is one of the most varied and, honestly, was never a high priority to me. If I'm gonna move forward with Stable play (a weird phrase I hope to never repeat) something more akin to popcorn leveling will be needed, though even that has never set right with me. I'd also have to adjust that one Face ability. 

I need to figure out how to adapt my famous "Bring the GM a beer" mechanics to the domain of online play. 

The largest take away was one I'm still trying to fit sensible words to, rather than the knowing nods and vague grunts I currently have applied to the notion. I'll start at the beginning and try to word salad into something useful:

The original idea was to follow a West Marches style of play. That being based around a large unexplored hex map where characters went out and explored, having to prepare and account for the unexpected hardships of overland travel. 

This made sense for West Marches.

It was a fantasy based setting and that genre (from my experience) tends to be long winded about even the most trivial of details. Tolkien, for instance, wanks off for twenty pages about rivers with no names, miles that stretch on into forever, and every singing chipmunk in between, then tries to retcon the details through another 30 pages in the next book, prattling on about a king that's been dead for ages. In short, the mystery is in the physical world.

It doesn't entirely make sense for cyberpunk.

The world of cyberpunk is, typically, close to our world, just with robot parts jammed into people. They have, at the very least, the conveniences we take for granted taken for even more granted. Especially travel: Hiro casual makes his way from Las Angeles to British Columbia in a matter of hours; both Sta-Hi and Case make it into orbit with ticket fare; Cowboy crosses the Midwest in comparatively little effort. They cross the world, sure, but there is no mystery in the physical world. The mystery lies in the social/technical world. 

I'm probably using the wrong words, but also I'm poorly educated. 

As cyberpunk is close to our world, we know what's there. While we don't know places like "Ungoliant's Liar" or "Great Gates", we know places like "Midwest" and "Low Orbit" and can picture these places with a general accuracy. The mystery then is from the advanced technology, for what it is, juxtaposed against a crumbled dystopian society fueled by the fascist systems of ultracorporatism as a reflection of our own modern problems. 
You know, the basic premise to the cyberpunk genre. Well, that and Toronto's drug scene circa 1967.


Also, I'm not sure if you're aware of it or not, cities are big and crowded. Even with a hex representing a single block that's still a huge amount of detail to pack in, where as a forest hex can easily be one encounter per six miles. Though, mind you, I do live in a backwoods forest town where everything is wooded and familiar while being terrified of the big city lights and sounds and buildings over two stories tall. 

Anyway, all that blathering to say that the exact map is less important, thus knocking it out of the "West March" play style. Perhaps the map should have been less representative of a physical city and more of a meta-map of interlocking conspiracies and secret plots. Something to chew on while I've nothing better to do.

In Closing

I need a stiff drink. Hell, I'd settle for a PBR and a pack of Mavericks found in an abandoned parking lot.


How I got into D&D

Growing up a teenager in the early 80’s came with a lot of freedoms that would be described as “negligence” these days. Taking my father’s old Gremlin for a drive Friday night, leaving a note saying I’ll be back Sunday, and just disappearing for a few days. No location tracking, no cell phone constantly going off. Maps instead of GPS. Carton of smokes and a case of beer from my brother’s  more questionable friend. 

Trouble was, the radio was busted, leaving me often with the entertainment selection of: the wind and chain smoking. I’m not complaining (entirely), as it was freeing and an excellent way to clear one’s head. Still, after hours of driving, one can only listen just their thoughts for so long. Thankfully, nature back in the 80’s had a way of providing exactly what you need when times get tough: Hitchhikers. 

Nowadays, yes, hitchhiking has gotten a bad rap, largely due to all the lead poisoned boomers and their rotten, violent tendencies. Back then, however, picking up hitchhikers was still a fairly common and neighborly thing to do for folk. They got a ride, you got some stories, shared some beer; it was a win-win for all involved. 

That’s how, in the summer of 1984, in the backroads somewhere North of Las Angeles county, I came to learn what the hell Dungeons and Dragons was. Running low on smokes, and in desperate need of company, that’s when I found him; a somewhat portly fellow with thinning, long brown hair, dressed in some gaudy sweater and an armful of books and paper scraps. The poor bastard was walking (stumbling really) down the road, a wake of paper sheets trailing behind him, and seemed to give no indication he was losing things. 

I slid the Gremlin to a clunking halt beside him, and rolled down the passenger window, but before I could ask if he needed a lift, I was met with a grunt of a belch and cascade of books and loose leaf notebook paper coming into the window, nearly smashing my unsuspecting face in the process. Confused by the demons grinning back at me on the covers of the books, and at least one with a centaur trying to bash the brains out of a flying Gozer terror dog, I hefted this lump sum of esoteric mysteries and gently tossed them into the backseat, next to the beer. Meanwhile, the figure reached into the car, through the window, in order to open the door. No attempt on the outside handle was made, the beast went directly for the interior. A war against spatial reality played out as the figure attempted to open the door while physically existing within the space needed to open it. It was a conflict in which there were no real winners. Casualties on either side were far too great to justify the spoils won. Evidently an armistice had been reached for shortly after the man crashed down into the passenger seat. 

“Ah, a paladin of the road, I see?” he slurred at me in a midwestern accent. He stunk of whiskey and grass; the wild look in his eyes and the dry blood just under his nose hinted at far more decadent delights than I had interest in. He spotted my map in the dashboard and quickly picked it up for investigation. 

“Heh, yeah, man…” I awkwardly agreed, having never heard the word ‘paladin’ before. Pulling the tab on a Pabst to offer my new passenger, I instead gave him grunts of protest as he began to pull strips of paper from my map. He waved a hand dismissively at my cursing and soon produced a fairly large size bag of grass from his pockets, spilling a number of small rubber dinosaur figures in the process, and eventually produced marijuana cigarettes from the strips of map. 

“My fare, coachman.” He said matter of factly, handing one over to me. I accepted it with a nod, still not knowing what the hell he was talking about, but determining it to be a fair price for the destruction of the map, and moments later we were back on the road. 

Side note: God damn do I miss car cigarette lighters. It was always right there when I needed to find it, unlike a lighter or box of matches, which always seemed to go missing exactly whenever I attempted to look for it.

Shortly, the exchange of smoke and drink between guest and host was complete. Ancient customs from a more civilized time had been fulfilled. As long as both of our fates involved that car, no harm could be brought upon one of us from the other, lest the gods grow angry and smite the oath breaker. 

We made pleasantries and small talk, the verbal equivalent of dogs sniffing each other’s asses, getting a sense of one another before the Deeper conversation could begin. He introduced himself as something pronounced along the lines of “Zhee-gax” which sounded strange as way of a name to my anglican ears, but I’ve never been one to deny someone their identity. Also, I was rather high. 

I questioned him, and he spoke, of the assortment of books and papers we had stashed behind us, the occasional stray breeze from the windows catching in the loose leaf, sending it fluttering around the backseat as if a bird trapped in a place it definitely knows it should not be. Apparently, that ragged assortment of books in the back was a form of game, and the advanced version at that. He dropped words like “THAC0” and “Oerth” which at the time I had no context for, all while gesturing like a madman, as though possessed by Asmodeus himself. 

“And so, as these characters of noble men and heroes, the players set out to explore lost dungeons, fight monsters, and return with the riches they find with it.” He concluded one leg of his monologue while dropping his sixth empty Blue Ribbon out the window. 

“Isn’t that, you know…it all sounds rather imperialistic, when put like that.” I asked, flicking my cigarette ash to the wind. 

“Imperialistic?” He responded in what was mostly a growl. He stared at me, eyes burning behind his wire framed glasses, hateful contempt bearing down from his balding brow. The only sounds were that of the roaring wind passing, and what was likely to be the loose fender rattling in an attempt to break up the tense silence. Like the sands of a dune, something in the conversation had shifted below my feet. Was this irascible Midwesterner truly that short of fuse? Or had something more grim befallen the environment within the Gremlin. I took note of my full can of beer, preparing to grab it on the occasion my guest needed assaulting in order to get his mood back on track. But did he even know about the pact made, through sharing of libations? Did he know of the gods’ revenge? And would they blame me or him, should the need arise for an altercation? Was I doomed from the start?

Thank God I was atheist. 

“Uh, hey, man,” I stumbled over my words, trying to draw this cheese headed savage back into the realm of decency. “You, uh, never mentioned where you were headed. When am I taking you?” 

“Where am I going?” He snapped, before catching himself. A deep breath later, he spoke through clenched teeth, “I’m on my way. To kill a man. A one David Rizzle, to be more precise.”

NAturally, this caught my interest. It wasn’t going to be me, after all. 

“Oh? He, uh, he take your woman, or something?” A line I had heard in a movie. 

“Did he take my - What? No. Nothing like that. Besides, out here in Hollywood I can get a replacement like that.” He attempted a snap, but his intoxicated fingers failed to make the proper connection. The third attempt produced a passable result. “Just don’t tell my wife, eh?” He cackled, amused with himself. His anger had dropped noticeably, though my concern had been replaced with annoyance. “He was one of my players back in Wisconsin. ‘Apparently’ he has ‘issues’ with my monsters.”

“Your monsters?…Oh, right, the little dudes the characters fight.” I flicked an ash from the smoldering cigarette. 

“Little dudes? LITTLE. DUDES?” His tone of voice brought renewed interest into the bludgeoning plan. With a grunt he leaned over, and began rummaging around the floor of the passenger seat. Casting a McDonald’s Styrofoam container out the window he began to babbling in grunts and drooling groans. “This isn’t some little dude. This is an owlbear!” 

“GAH.” I cleverly retorted as he thrusted a tiny plastic figure into my face, knocking the cherry free from my cigarette. “AH” I continued, attempting to swat the burning ball of ash away from my crotch. “Fuckfuckfuck” the monolog continued as I swerved the car back onto the blacktop. 

“A god damn owlbear!” he sneered, apparently unphazed by the last few moments. His diseased mind was locked on to the deranged point he was attempting to make. Righting the car’s trajectory, I finally took note of the figure. It was a pitiful thing, made of common plastic poured into a mold someone had clearly determined ‘close enough.’ It was clearly the hate child of a horned up H.R. Pufnstuf and a taxidermized bear, which had been force fed acid during the ill conceived gestation. Truly awful.

“Truly awful.” I pointed out, beginning to light a new cigarette. It was growing tedious keeping an eye on him and an eye on the road. 

“AWFUL HE SAYS” He screeched, casting the tiny figure out the window, casting it to the literal wind. “Alicanto! Is that fucking awful?” He held up some bird-like creature he had picked off the floor. Before I could speak, he had sent it through the window. “Rust Monster! Mosquitillos! Are THEY fucking awful?” Before I had a chance to even observe the figurines, he had sent them to seek their fortunes elsewhere on that lonely California road. The amount of spittle behind each word grew with every item out the window. 

“What on God’s fucked earth are you playing at, you god-damned loon? Absolute nut job. I hope that Rizzle finds you first. Plunges a damn piece of steel right into that fucked heart of yours.” I confess, I may have been on the verge of panic at this point. Not thinking, I flicked ash inside the car. Did it even matter at this point? I’ll clean the car later, I vowed, now though I’d need to be vigilant for anything this raving maniac was capable of. 

"Oh, he can try!" The beast of a man in my passenger seat bent over, rummaging for yet another figure. I eyed him, contemplating if I was flexible enough to open his door, kick him out, and still remain in control of the vehicle. A moment of clarity told me 'no.' The grass was playing on a childhood of action movies. Bludgeoning would have to be the answer. A guttural sound of victory, blended with a belch, drew me back to the moment, "HA! There it is! THIS is the rhinoxid!"

"What?" I pressed down on the accelerator before looking over. Maybe I could crash the fucker out. No. There would be Questions. And possibly Paperwork. I eased up and examined the tiny figurine before me. It took me a moment to truly behold and understand what I was presented with. Appearing to be a reptile, perhaps a dinosaur, it held the sensibilities of a dog; its sleek reptilian body carrying the extra weight of domestication. A horn protruded from the end of the beast’s snout, threatening to perform a lobotomy should the poor thing trip. It grinned at me, a knowing smile bifurcated far too far into the beast’s skull, suggesting it knew my secret and was prepared to expose it should I not be prepared to keep it happy. That part may have been the drugs. The paint job, on the other hand, was performed by someone who clearly had more important interests elsewhere at the time. Single dots of paint made up for eyes, yet placed clearly off the mark of the molded plastic eye sockets. The paint had either faded quickly or never set to begin with. The overall effect being something dragged from a gritter, left handed path Flintstone’s cartoon shown in a reality where methaqualone polluted the water supply. A stared at this monstrosity, the road a forgotten memory. “What the damn hell do you think you’re showing me?” 

Damn, I actually found a picture of the thing

“A rhinoxid! Can’t you listen? This will be the end to that bastard Rizzle, believe you me. See that horn right there? It’s able to gore you with it and, if it’s got room for charging, it’ll affect you with fall damage too. This paper holds all the stats. Here, just read it!” He pulled a piece of paper from this breast pocket and shoved it at me.

“I’m driving, you dumb bastard.” A technical truth. He jammed the folded paper into the dash shelf. 

“Yes, well, this is sure to stop his complaining…” He muttered, trailing off into incomprehension. He seemed crestfallen. We drove in blessed silence for a moment. 

“Not a lot of women play this game, do they?” I ventured a guess. Somehow it just seemed right. The degenerate in the passenger seat was proving to be the sort to shun mixed company. Or possibly any company. 

“Oh, no. Obviously not. It’s their brains, you see. They don’t get the same pleasure out of it as you or I would. It’s basic biological determinism.” 

Well. That was it. Herr “zhee-gax” had just won himself a bludgeoning. In fact, I had a Blue Ribbon I was prepared to pin on him. My hand wrapped around the can fully convinced now of the assault, only for the can to crush within it. Empty. Muttering multiple damnations to the Lord, I gave the empty soldier a noble burial at road and reached to grab his replacement, only to be met with the sudden intense pain that comes with the act of grabbing an active fire. A string of anathematizations later, accompanied by a choir of loud screaming, I brought the Gremlin to a skidding halt; sliding uncontrollably down the pull off lane for several yards. 

Coughing and dragging ourselves from the car quickly filling with smoke, we regrouped and stood on the far side of the ditch to survey the scene. I coughed again and lit a cigarette to clear my panicking mind. What was in there burning? I stepped forward and pressed my face against the glass, which had grown unbearably reflective in the afternoon sun. Oh, of course it fucking was. Why wouldn’t it be anything else?

“Hey, buddy,” I growled and whistled, “Your goddamn books and papers are on fire in there.” 

“Aw, jeez, oh, yeah. I tend to spill a lot of grease on them.” He looked up from the rhinoxid figure and shrugged, casually accepting the fate of the burning books. He grunted and turned to the woods, calling back as he faded from view, “Alright then, good luck. I’ve got to take a piss.” 

More bloody oaths of vengeance made the world a slightly darker place as I crawled back into the car, attempting to find a way to put out the fire. Ultimately, it took the usage of my last six beers and the remainder of my patience. Still swearing, I pulled the sopping wet mess of burnt paper pulp from the backseat and threw it, disgusted, to the ground. This son of a bitch had been nothing but trouble since he opened the door. The beer was gone, smokes were running low. Wet nylon upholstery, masquerading as denim, was forever stained, serving as a harbinger for things to come. There would be Questions. I would not have Answers. 

A grunt echoed from the woods. 

I checked my watch. It had been the worst 45 minutes any civilized person had been forced to endure. Fuck this. I was severing our Fate, gods be damned. Surely this had been a breach of Host rights. I paused to hurl final insults at the woods, only to determine the dumb bastard wouldn’t register anything I threw at him. Inconsiderate sonofabitch wouldn’t even give me that. 

Still cursing, I shifted the Gremlin into gear and sped off without glancing back. I’d have to determine a reasonable excuse for the destruction and, quite frankly, I already knew I wasn’t going to have one. 

Edit: Some of you have been wondering what was on the paper tucked into the dashboard shelf. I scanned it years ago before destroying the original in a cleansing ritual. Over the years, I’ve only been able to find a few pieces by Omro, but a rare few ever seem related. 

Frequency: Rare
No. Appearing: 1-2
Armor Class: 6
Move: 12”
Hit Dice: 9
% in Lair: nil 
Treasure Type: nil
No. of Attacks: 1
Damage/Attack: 2-8
Special Attacks: Tackle
Special Defense: nil
Magic Resistance: Standard
Intelligence: Animal
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L 
Psionic Ability: nil
Attack/Defense Modes: Nil 

Rhinoxids are overly aggressive omnivores, popular among desert kingdoms as guard dogs in royal palaces, often trained from birth to follow the orders of one master. Due to their cold blooded nature, they are more active during the day, but are rousable at night. If not allowed to freely roam the castle grounds, they will often be found in the kennels. 

The horn of a rhinoxid does 2-8 hit points of damage, and the beasts have 9 hit bice. A running rhinoxid, however, adds fall damage equal to the distance it was able to charge before attacking the target. 


Cyberpunk West Marches

 I’m currently hankering to run another game. Trouble is, the usual group has spread across this desolate planet and our lives have filled with frivolous troubles of day to day life, meaning real life meetups ain’t gonna work out, and weekly online play will be sporadic at best. I’ve heard, through vague passings on the internet, that a “West March” style play might be suitable. At this point in time I actually know very little about the style of play other than it involves multiple groups striking out in the same world. 

An internet search for “cyberpunk west march” provides very little in the way of results, other than “I’m going to run one” posts on reddit (which seem to be infected with trojans. Typical reddit garbage.) Looks like I’ve gotta start from scratch. Which means I’m going to have to start from scratch. 

# What is the West March Campaign Style?

The name itself was taken from the setting (by Ben Robbins, 2001), located on the frontier region of civilization’s edge. These Marches (which were in the West [citation needed]) were the last unexplored region of the continent and just absolutely infested with monsters and ruins. Player characters were adventurers residing in the farthest West outpost town, who would then proceed to strive further into the dangerous wilderness in search of treasure. Ruins and dungeons dotted the extremely detailed landscape, waiting for PCs to find and loot. Some were known, others rumored, and others still completely secret. PCs could choose to go anywhere they could get to, and were the driving factor behind the plot. Rather than the GM setting the characters on rails and saying “uh, uh, you need to go to Bugbearville and kiss the bugest bear” the PCs would announce they had decided to inspect the Spider Woods and the GM would facilitate their march to doom. 

Either way, the campaign play led to characteristics associated with the play style:

  1. No regular time: The players themselves scheduled the sessions on the fly, rather than the group meeting “Every Thursday.” The GM had to be available, obviously.

  2. No regular party: Each session had different players, drawn from a larger group of around 10 to 15 people.

  3. No regular plot: As said, the PCs decided where they wanted to go and do. There was no “mysterious stranger” or a “last remaining unicorn” handing out quests as part of an overarching plot, just the overarching world responding to the chaos they cause. 

Additionally, a few other tendencies formed from the play:

  1. Session reports: Experiences were shared between every participant in the campaign, even if they weren’t present for a specific session. This allowed people to stay informed about changes in the game world and allowed any combination of players to bite at new quests and story hooks. 

  2. Shared geographical map: This provided hooks to the players and allowed for players to make notes after adventures. It was an in-character item and was potentially unreliable. 

  3. Competition was encouraged: Acting contrary to the interests and plans of another player was allowed and encouraged. Jealousy was considered to be a motivational tool to get sessions booked and games actually played. Magic items are out there and up for grabs, after all. 

Apropos of nothing, as I’m writing this, I’m realizing how well suited “His Majesty the Worm” would be to this style of play. 

# How to Adapt This?

That is the question, isn’t it? West Marches was all about the players deciding what to do and striking out to accomplish it, getting loot, returning home and repeating. Cyberpunk genre game sessions tend to be about getting a job, doing a job, getting paid, and repeating. Sometimes an overarching plot forms, sometimes not. Not exactly congruent. 

Might as well start at the beginning and see what can be hammered out. 

No regular time: The issue that caused it all, and the purpose of this long form talking-to-myself-to-figure-out-an-issue based rant. Session will take place whenever the Ducks get their ducks in a row, and also I’m not destroyed after a day of work. 

No regular party: Where the original game had around 15 players, I’m working with about 6. To skirt around this issue, each player will have a stable of 3 or 4 characters they’ll be able to draw from for missions. The idea here being if their primary character was in the field when last session ended, but every Player isn’t available to finish the mission, and play is still wanted, characters are still available. Though the option for Black Bagging* is still available. 

No overarching plot: Easy enough, though some quest giving NPCs will still be present to provide jobs to pay the characters. I’ll still need some job generators, rumor generators, a few gang hideouts, and some Corporate skyscrapers for megadungeons. Sounds like blogging fuel. 

Good, great. Check, check, and check. 

Player agency: The system I’ll be using, Some Weird Sin, will actually be handling this one. In its current incarnation (I have thoughts of changing it, slightly) the Conviction system basically establishes why a character would be foolish/desperate enough to take up the Mercenary lifestyle, and rewards them when they engage in it. I simply take those wants and goals, and sling them out into the world for the PCs to find/accomplish. A job board and rumors should spur them into investigating the world. 

Discovery: “How do you explore a modern city? Everywhere is already discovered and on a map.” Sure, sure, someone knows about it, but you don’t. Being new to a city with a fully detailed map in hand doesn’t mean you’re going to know which pizza place sells weed out back (Gnocchi’s), or which seemingly abandoned warehouse is a gang stronghold. Players will get a subway or bus line map and be kicked out the door. 

Session Reports: The XP system of the game is based on the fact the mercenary community is a bunch of bored gossips spreading rumors and stories in between jobs. One template even gets a bonus to it. Hopefully that encourages some session reports, else they’re going to forget things. As the Ducks do. If it don’t happen, it don’t happen. Perhaps a discord channel or private subreddit (gross) to keep posts in. 

## Potential Challenges

Time Keeping: Mostly seeing this as an issue in the way one job affects another ongoing job. But also, it’s the Ducks, they might not notice. 

Effort: It’s a lot of work upfront, and I am very lazy. I’m already running out of steam to finish this. 

# Closing Thoughts

It’s not a perfect pairing, but I think it’ll be close enough to work. Certainly enough to handwave through any potential issues. If the Ducks lose interest, I’ll at least have a world for pick up games. 

Things I’ll need: 

  • “Town” 

  • City map (Real? Made up?)

  • Job generator

  • Hirable mercs 

  • “Dungeon” maps. So many maps. 

Maybe it’ll work?



* Black Bagging is a tool I use for explaining why someone wasn’t at a session. Should they be unavailable, mysterious figures show up no matter where the characters are, drop a black bag over their head, and drag them off. The next session they’re kicked out of an unmarked van and left to proceed on their way as normal. It’s fun, and solves a nonproblem. 



That title'll keep people away. Anyway, in speaking of bad ideas and unfinished articles, another post that went unfinished was detailing the lost attribute "Credit Score" and the Life Style system that went along with it. Basically the idea was to abstract the money system in a way similar to the way Exalted handled it. Also there was some sort of twitter discourse going on at the time...I think about professional GMs, maybe? I don't know, but the tone was meant to be shitty about that. Whatever it was. 

Also to point out that starting with wealth is the most likely way to have wealth, credit scores are used to keep poor folk poor, the system is rigged from the start, and anyone thinking other wise should probably be eaten. 

System name references have been updated. 

Life Styles

Welcome! Thank you for showing interest in Some Weird Sin Life Style packages and options. We provide multiple options in various price ranges, allowing for a customized experience we're sure will meet your personalized needs! 

Membership prices are paid directly to the General Manager (GM) using real money. 

1. Public Membership (Free) - As a member of the general public you get Free access to the Street lifestyle. At this level you receive 0 rubles per session and have a Credit Score of null. You have no in-character home and may only select Starting Gear from the Street lifestyle equipment packages.

2. Bronze Membership ($10) - As a Bronze member, you gain access to the Low lifestyle. At this level you'll receive 200 rubles per session, have a Credit Score of 300, start with a Capsule living space, and be able to select from the Low lifestyle equipment packages or below for your Starting Gear. 

3. Silver Membership ($20) - By becoming a Silver Member, you're guaranteed access to the Middle lifestyle. You'll received 350 rubles per session, have a Credit Score of 580, start with a Small Apartment, and be able to select from the Middle lifestyle equipment packages or below.  

4. Gold Membership ($40) - At the Gold level, you'll have access to the Upper lifestyle. Here you'll receive 500 rubles per session, have a Credit Score of 670, start with a Medium Apartment, and have access to the Upper lifestyle equipment packages or below. 

5. Platinum Membership ($80) - By purchasing the Platinum membership, you'll announce to the world that you live the Petite Bourgeois lifestyle. Here you'll receive 1000 rubles per session, have a Credit Score of 800, start with a Town Home and Personal Vehicle, and have access to the PB lifestyle equipment packages. Go on, treat yourself! 

6. Corporate CEO Membership ($160) - By choosing to become a member of the elite CEO level, you will be entering an exclusive club and will experience the all the finer options of the game: 
  • 2000 rubles per session to live out your wildest dreams
  • Credit Check rolls with be a thing of the past with Unlimited Credit
  • You'll start with an entire corporation of people at your command
  • Yacht, cars, helicopters - all yours! And the facilities to house them. 
  • Speaking of housing: Choose between a palatial estate away from the city OR an orbital paradise of your very own! 
  • Not only will you have access to all Starting Gear lists, but you'll also receive a custom piece of equipment meeting your specifications.
  • For a mere additional $50, the GM will get YOU one beer per session. 
So why not join the Corporate CEO Membership today? After all, you've earned it!  

Note from Editor: The only thing you've earned is a place against the wall, you corrupt failson. 

Credit Score

The bad ideas continue! In this incarnation, the Credit Score is essentially a stat that was used to abstract the money system, sort of like the way Exalted 2E did. Can't speak for the other versions. 

Essentially, day to day purchases using non-Ruble based currency (US Crypto-dollar; Japan's NuevoYen; all the distributed ledger ones) would be ignored and any major purposes would require a Credit Score check. Basically rolling a 1d1000 and rolling under your Credit Score. Success means you get the funding for the thing. Failure means you don't. However, unlike most stats, performing a Credit Score check lowers your Credit Score check (after the roll is resolved).  Each time you make the roll, remove 10 points. 

To regain the points, you simply have to pay 5% of the original loan amount per in-game month. After 50% of the loan has been repaid, you'll raise your score by 10 points for every additional 10% you pay off. If you miss a payment, you lose another 10 points. 

Why not in Rubles?
Because the people using illegal, and untraceable paper currency are not the kind to care about your ability to repay the loan, just that you will, or they're scrap you for parts in order to repay the difference. 

"That's a dumb system."
Yeah, it is. Why the fuck do we still use it?

But game wise, I feel like there's something here. It'll need to be polished and tinkered with, but something. I won't be using it at the moment, but something. 

Why 20XX?

With the new year, I'm starting to go back through a few pieces that never got finished for one reason or another. This one was generated during a slow period in working on Some Weird Sin, when the dystopian parts of cyberpunk were starting to weigh on me, and I used this as a distraction to drag some whimsy back into my work. My material was starting to sound more like Oddko, when what I want is more like the Epoxies

It also included a statement saying I was working on Some Weird Sin (after I just sort of stopped interacting with most communities for some reason) and explained the removal of Grizzled Cop (tl; dr: I wanted a Punisher-like, but worked my way into Dirt Harry. Also ACAB.) 

Now, mind you, this here's a fluff piece - a bit of world building. It ain't meant to be taken as gospel, and you ain't meant memorize it. Use it wholesale if you want, or as inspiration otherwise, or out right ignore it. 

Anyway, in an effort to get my head back in that "whimsical" space, I set out to reveal the greatest secret of the setting:

Why is it set in the year 20XX?

Well, a gal's gotta retain some mystery, so I'll narrowed it down to two, equally plausible reasons.

1. I can't be bothered
With no over arching metaplot, or a need to keep everything in a linear order, a solid date really isn't necessary. Set it in 2025, 1998, 2615 - Doesn't matter. Put it where ever you want. Doesn't matter. None of this matters. Time is an illusion, and in a game of pretend, doubly so. I snagged the idea of "20XX" from a Mega Man game, only to later learn it's another rpg system. Doesn't matter. 

2. No One is Entirely Sure
Well, some horologists know, but they're bound by NDAs to not reveal the truth. In the march to commodify everything, Capitalism turned against time itself. You see, at some point in the Collapse, the National Institute of Standards and Technology was in dire need of money for whatever it is they do, so they began selling the naming rights to the current years. Did they have legal authority to do this? No. Gods no. But you sling enough money around in a capitalist hellscape and it really doesn't matter. 

The first year this happened was the Year of Duke's Mayonnaise. At first people were confused, obviously, but by the Year of Depends Adult Undergarments the corporations loved the permanent advertising and bought every damn politician they could (for surprisingly cheap) and pushed through legislation to make it official US time keeping. The "small government" hucksters who love large over reaching government policies were the cheapest of all. After the "Quantum Quinquennial" - a five year advertisement for some damn super hero movie - people were overwhelmed by it all and gave in, eventually forgetting the numerical date all together. By the time NIST lost authority for, well, anything, the idea had gained enough "popularity" (political bribing) that the International Bureau of Weights and Measures continued the trend. 

"But...numerical time keeping is FAR more accurate and useable?" That is correct. And also why the corporations continue to use it for their internal documents, though mostly following their own time lines with Year Zero being the founding of the business. Or the birth of the founder if they're one of those companies. The average nobody on the street, however, doesn't know this. 

And there are certainly other calendars still in use, such as the Soviet calendar. But propaganda is a hell of a drug, and the rest of the Western world thinks it's an inefficient and backwards calendar with too many breaks provided. Also the alternating 5 and 6 day weeks were weird and confusing. 

There's also Dreamspell, but it has 260 names for the days of the week. Do you want that? I've been staring at it for twenty minutes and I still can't figure it out. You're just trading one confusion for another. 

The year 20XX aligns roughly with Splurge! Ranch flavored Cola. I say "roughly" because a few companies, from time to time, have purchased/bribed a few extra weeks for special promotions. 

Notable Years

As stated, any fluff presented should only be seen as inspiration and not taken as true canon, unless you need it at your table. 

Whitewing Financial Retirement Services - Yet another Stock Market collapse wipes out most savings and retirement funds. Most companies used their bail out handouts to buy back the majority of stocks, rather than cover employee salaries. Nothing new, but another step in the slow trudge towards megacorporations.  

Concorde Mk 6: Get to Where You're Going - The Soviet Glushkov Institute of Cybernetics in Kyiv develops and successfully deploys the first human cybernetic augmentation (it was an arm), fully mimicking baseline functionality with neural interfacing and feedback. Integrated weapons and shit came later. 

The Concorde: A Year in Memory - Food shortages and over population on the West Coast (it's mostly a desert after all) lead to a hot new food like product being released onto the markets: Sophia Meat. Cheaper and quicker to grow than traditional beef and pork, this cloned human meat quickly became a culinary sensation and, thanks to a loophole in badly worded human cloning laws, is completely legal! New flavors were released within the year: Chloe, Abigail, and Christopher.  

Rothchilds Fuente Cigars - The first recorded person to remove healthy tissue purely to replace it with cybernetics specifically for a job does so around this time. They are later fired for taking too much sick leave when problems arise from infections caused by the immunosuppressant drugs, and the cybernetics were removed - it was company property after all. Unable to work, but still indebted to the company for the cost of surgery and advanced PTO time, they were soon arrested and bound in a debtor's prison, forced to make telemarketing calls about a car's extended warranty. 

 Bayer/Johnson Veterinarian Presents: Farmer's Select Horse Feed - Horses can only be referred to in the past tense now, as a "mysterious" plague wiped them out. 

 McKayes Jewelry: Get Her a Moon Diamond - A portion of the Raft (The crippled remains of an insane religion's sea organization, bound together with derelict ships that have had the unfortunate fate of being caught in nets - or simply pirated) breaks off from the main "fleet" currently colonizing and mining the Pacific Plastic Patch. This portion crashes into one of the smaller Hawaii islands and attempts to ensnare the island to the collective. Three days and copious amounts of fire later, the inhabitants manage to drive off the invaders. In response Congress shrugs at this invasion, largely because several were bought funded by the religion. 

Hynes High Hemmed Pants - It was reasoned that "Since companies are legally people, if the company was founded in America at least 35 years ago, the last 14 of which where spent headquartered in America, THEN said company can run for the office of president." Sounds bullshit, but the Conservative infested Supreme Court went all in on the idea. Naturally, the results were terrible, but President Gewalt still won a second term. 

Selkie's Seaweed Chips - Texas finally put it's money where it's mouth was and seceded again, this time taking Oklahoma along with it. Food riots began 3 weeks later, Water Wars within the month. The independent power grid collapsed during an unusually hot summer. Texas leadership responded by fleeing to Brazil. Current Texas leadership is a collection of unallied warlords. 

AcetaminophenPlus: Now with Cocaine! - Following in Texas' footsteps, but not learning any damn thing, the MidWest micronations soon start to secede, fueled by propaganda created by Farming Corporations. Farming Corporations that soon buy up large swathes of land and begin their own little kingdoms. Mall of America soon becomes a powerhouse in the region. 

HUMMER Duo: the Twin Engine SUV - Dustbowl's back, yo. In North AND South America. 

Gewalt Personal Defense: Wake up. Choose Violence - After a hacking of the San Francisco voting system, each candidate declares themselves the winner. This means San Francisco now has four self declared governments, none of which acknowledges the legitimacy of the others. No outside government agency stepped in as the nation was wracked with apathy and morbid curiosity at how the situation played out. 

All New, All Difffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffffff- A few minor political scandals, nothing newsworthy. The name was due to a typo, something falling on the keyboard of the worker filling out the official forms. By the time anyone caught it (or cared enough to notice), it was too late to change, as the forms had been submitted. "Year of the Difff" the youth tend to call it. You know how they are. 

Ride of the Canyonero - Kaiju fights become a thing and quickly become popular all around the Pacific Rim. MUCH smaller scale than what you're probably thinking. Think horse sized creatures controlled by neural interface fighting it out for YOUR entertainment. 

Papa Jim's Canned Water (Now with 17% less microplastics!) - The Conservative party in power goes mask off and makes military service a compulsory requirement for citizenship with full legal protections and services. The Liberal party (also conservative) wanted to add means testing, but offered no further resistance. Honestly, this came as a jarring surprise, as most people thought Congress shut down years ago and couldn't recall the last election they voted in.

Tsunami Joe's Synth-Tequila -  The first specimens that eventually grow into the AgroWastes are thought to have been smuggled out of a laboratory around this time. The AgroWastes: A green hell of GMO crops run rampant and out of control. Food is everywhere, but dangerous to eat as the modified crops poison and alter you. Likewise, as to be expected, the wildlife is mutated all to hell.

Skrew Korps!: The Movie - The US Congress just sort of shrugs it's collective shoulders as the West Coast declares itself annexed by Japan, taking the majority of the Tech Industry with it. Though Japan had already invested in 86% of the Industry anyway. The US primary industry is now the Military-Entertainment complex, followed closely by the Prison Industrial complex. 

Still no resolution on the San Francisco thing. 

Splurge! Ranch flavored Cola - Current year. PCs get up to some shit. Probably. 

This Is Over Complicated and No One Would Actually Use It. 

Credit scores were created in 1989. Over draft fees in 1990. If there's a way to sap money from someone, Capitalism will latch onto it like a tick and we're usually stuck with it, having to pretend like it's normal because we have to. Look at the American health insurance system. Dumb shit like this is very believable. Also, it's pretend, settle down.