Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Campaign Pitch - Cyberpunk 2020: Something Rotten

The poster for the movie that inspired this
If you couldn't already tell by my profile picture, I'm a fan of Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa.  There are, however many of his films that I have yet to watch.  Among these is the film The Bad Sleep Well.  I was scrolling through a site I use for movie recommendations, when this one came up.  The blurb described it as "A combination of Hamlet with Film Noir tropes, set in the corporate world of post-war Japan."  Many know Kurosawa for his samurai films like Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress (which would later inspire Star Wars: A New Hope).  What many don't know is also made many films set during modern times (well as modern as the period he was living in at the time).  The Bad Sleep Well in particular was meant to be something of a critique of post-war corporate politicking.  It isn't Kurosawa's first time mixing Japanese culture with Shakespeare either.  He also did it first in Throne of Blood (1957) and later Ran (1985).  Both of which are based on MacBeth and King Lear respectively.

Alright I've got my film fanboying out of the way.  So what does this have to do with Cyberpunk?  Quite a lot actually.  It has been a while since I ran a cyberpunk game.  (My player got a little tired of playing dark horses and wanted to play a more heroic character.  Which I felt was incredibly out of place in cyberpunk.  So we've started a superhero campaign using Mutants and Masterminds instead).  So when I suddenly got inspired by this movie's blurb I decided to run with it.

One of the many arcologies that the company
owns all over the world.
The pitch goes something like this.  The player is a son/daughter of a corporate official who was killed in a recent corporate purge.  The corporation of course has shifted the blame towards a rival.  The player's character of course the knows the truth.  Or at least learns it at the outset of the campaign.  (A mysterious recording or document delivered anonymously to the player makes a great stand-in.  For the ghost that visits Hamlet).  Of course the corporation has stuck the character in a minor management position within the company.  Since they need to make it look like they're taking care of their own, after such a tragic loss.  (Again they're sticking with the story that it was a rival corporation).  With the truth as an impetus, the idea is for the character to use their position within the company to take revenge upon those that killed their family.  What better revenge than destroying the company from inside?  It will of course be incredibly dangerous.  Discovery of the player's role in sabotaging the company's enterprises will bring a traitor's death.  Not even medieval nations were as cruel in their punishment of treason.  (An idea that had crossed my mind.  Is having a sadistic head of security, who loves to make trophies out of traitors.  One idea was that he removes their brains and replaces them robot CPUs, turning them into the loyal servants they failed to be in life.  If you have a better suggestion, leave it in the comments.  I'd love to see what you come up with).  Also bringing down a corporation is no small feat, especially a large international one like this one.  If I didn't do my own world-building in my campaigns, Arasaka would be a perfect candidate.  It would require a lot of plotting and double-dealing on the part of the player.  It would also definitely be more of a globe-trotting campaign than I usually run.  (The idea of the having a session in Tokyo one week, then one in Dubai the next and then another still in Manhattan.  Is just too tempting to me).  In comparison I usually run campaigns that are more street-punk in nature.  Usually being confined to a small district of a sprawl.

Ideally this would be a solo campaign.  Best run with a player that's willing to be given a pre-generated character and then run with them.  Then again it could also be used for a group of four or five players as well.  One of whom plays the young executive out for revenge.  While the others play various members of his entourage.  Such as his bodyguard/head of security, his personal physician (a Medtech of some description), a Media consultant, a personal Fixer and perhaps a Netrunner to dig up more dirt on his rivals.  For such a campaign I'd probably consult this article by Richard Balmer over at his blog Vircades Project.  Of course such a game would require a lot of maturity on the part of the players.  To follow the lead of one player, of course I don't mean that they would be mindless henchmen to the Corporate player.  They could just as easily betray the central character.  Which would lead to an interest final arc of burning the candle at both ends.  Thematically a very cyberpunk concept.

Your family gave everything in the service of the company and they were
more than happy to take it from you.  Only problem is they took too much.
Like carrion birds they have grown fat off of your misery.  Now it's time
for this dog to have his day.  There will be a reckoning.  You'll take
everything they've built and bring it crashing down on their heads.
Something interesting I've noticed about this entire concept overall is this.  It goes against a lot of the principles that I've previously established in my style of GMing.  When I run Cyberpunk 2020 I generally don't go in with a fixed concept for a campaign in mind.  Letting the characters' Lifepaths decide what kind of campaign it going to be.  It also involves creating the characters that the player/s would play.  Something I don't typically do since I feel that character creation is one of the personal freedoms that is intrinsic to Tabletop RPGs.  It's just that I liked the idea of this story so much, that there were parts of it that emerged in defiance to my usual style.  Which I think creatively as a GM is a great thing.  You always have to be discovering new things about your style of gaming.  It needs to constantly evolve from game to game, in order to maintain an interesting variety.  Anyways I feel like I've rambled on long enough.  If you liked this post be sure to share, +1, comment and follow.  Until next time have a good day and may you roll many crits.            

Monday, 6 November 2017

Gaming Classic Literature: Long John Silver for Poison'd

The system I will be using.
One of my favourite characters in all of literature is Long John Silver.  The grand-daddy of all fictional pirates.  If Robert Louis Stevenson hadn't written Treasure Island without Silver as the villain.  I doubt that pirates like Jack Sparrow would ever have been put to screen.  So much of what we think of when we think of pirates is owed to Long John.  So to honour him I decided to stat him up in Vincent Baker's Poison'd.  Now this game by the creator of Apocalypse World and Dogs in the Vineyard has an air of controversy around it.  Largely due to an unfortunate incident, (the specifics of which you can find in this 1d4chan article about the game).  Despite that I like Poison'd, I find it to be the perfect mix of story-telling with brutal Pirate action.  Which I think works great for creating the villain of Treasure Island.  So without further ado, let's jump right into it.

1. Choosing Silver's Position

The book tells us that Silver served aboard the ship Walrus with the infamous Captain Flint.  Where Silver was Flint's quartermaster, meaning he was pretty much in charge of the ship's day to day running of the ship.  When it wasn't in combat.  Which makes sense since Silver is shown to be incredibly intelligent and forward-thinking, compared to his fellow pirates.  While most of Flint's old crew seems to have wasted all of their money on rum and women.  Reducing themselves to beggars, forcing them to take part in Silver's plan to go in search of Flint's treasure.  Silver has set himself up quite a nice for himself, running a Tavern known as the Spyglass and having saved his plunder in a bank in Bristol.  Making him a perfect candidate for the position.  The only reason I didn't make Silver a Cook is because in Poison'd the assumption is that the ship's cook poisoned the captain of the ship.  Forcing the characters to deal with the aftermath.  

2. Choosing Silver's Sins

Poison'd requires that the player choose a number of Sins that the character has committed.  Now the list isn't exactly in line with the actions of the characters in Stevenson's book.  Since it was written in the Victorian era of 1883, when what you could publish on paper was a lot more restricted in terms of content.  While Poison'd is written more for a modern adult audience.  It took some thinking but I was eventually able to come up with a list of Sins that fit Silver.  Murder and robbery were a must given his profession, I took both twice.  Since he appears to be incredibly unrepentant about the whole thing.  Since he plans the Mutiny aboard the Hispaniola, something tells me that this isn't his first rodeo.  The only other Sins that were fit with Silver's character Adultery and Blasphemy.  Didn't seem to fit, given that he is shown to be something of a pious man.  Admonishing his fellow pirates when they cut out a page of the Bible to make a Blackspot for him.  When they decide that he's no longer fit to be Captain.  Adultery didn't seem to fit either since Long John is married.  (A fact that is often left out of film adaptations of the book).  To an ex-slave by the name of Rebecca Silver, he trusts to close his bank account and sell his tavern.  After he leaves Bristol in search of Flint's treasure.  This leaves us with a total of Devil 5 and Soul 3.  This tells us that Silver is incredibly brave in the face of danger.  Yet can't stand to endure punishment or torture.  Which I believe is in keeping with his character in the book.  

3. What has Silver Suffered?
My primary reference for constructing his character
based on how he's described in the book.

Very little is known about Silver's past.  All we know is that he is a man of some education (when compared to his fellows) and that he's served with famous pirates such as Edward England and Captain Flint.  Chances are before he was a quartermaster he rose through the ranks as an ordinary seaman.  His going to sea might not have been of his own free will.  Many sailors of the era, including those that served aboard Navy, merchant and Pirate ships, were impressed.  Kidnapped from the streets of a local port and forced into service by a pressgang.  Under any of these commands he would have suffered beatings and lashings as punishment.  He has also suffered mutilation in the form of his missing left leg.  Which he claims to have lost in a broadside in service to the Royal Navy.  While I imagine the him losing it in service of King and Country is a load of BS, I do believe the part about losing it in a broadside.  If your going to lie about something you might as well include some true-ish details.  Finally Silver has suffered damnation at the hands of one Tom.  A crew member who told Silver he would go to the devil, after Silver's compatriots murdered Tom's friend Allan.  All this while Long John was trying to convince Tom to join in the mutiny against Captain Smollett.  This brings Silver's Brutality score up to 5, he's suffered quite a bit in his lifetime.  One could make the argument for adding Imprisonment to the list bringing Silver's Brutality up to 6.  That is if you counted being Marooned as being the same as being Imprisoned.  Since being Marooned is not an option for something your character could have suffered in the past.  Silver claimed to have served with the Pirate Captain Edward England, who was later mutinied against and marooned along with a few men who stood by his side.  Supposedly there was a one-legged maroonee who in one theory served as inspiration to the character of Silver.

4. Choosing Silver's Ambitions

Choosing Long John's ambitions is a simple matter, he's nothing if not ambitious.  The problem is that most of his ambitions aren't covered by the Poison'd rule system.  This presented something of a problem, because Ambition is the stat that covers deception and cunning.  Something that Silver has in spades, since he's able to make himself well-liked among the officers of the Hispaniola.  Despite the fact that he's planning to lead a mutiny against them upon reaching the island.  I did however manage to finagle a list of ambitions that resembles his ambitions.  First off he wants to be Captain, he's spent his life following the orders of various Captains and obviously wants to be one himself.  Otherwise why go to the trouble of leading the mutiny on the Hispaniola.  He also wishes to own land, the closest thing to owning a tavern I could find in the ruleset.  He wants to spit in the eye of the devil, to never have to pay for his lifetime of wicked deeds.  Finally Silver wants to be regarded highly by society.  That's why he goes after Flint's treasure to set himself up as a wealthy man.  It's his defining characteristic, everything he does in the book is in pursuit of being thought of highly by others.  Even the way he refers to himself as a "gentleman of fortune" is an obvious attempt to add an air of legitimacy, to what he does for a living.  Altogether it brings his Ambition up to 4, not as high as some of his others.  But a respectable score nonetheless.   

5. Choosing Silver's Armaments

Every pirate created under Poison'd comes equipped with a wicked long knife, a cutlass and a flintlock pistol.  So it's safe to assume that Long John Silver will be equipped with these as well.  The rules instruct the player to pick at most two more weapons.  While they can choose to not take anymore.  I don't think I've ever met a role-player that'd ever turn down extra weaponry though.  Silver is described as a tall man.  Israel "Another Step Mr. Hands and I'll blow your brains out" Hands says of him "A lion's nothing alongside of Long John!  I seen him grapple four and knock their heads together - him unarmed." he's obviously a capable unarmed fighter.  So combining that and his height, I decided to give him "Not a weapon, but your pirate's a great hulking brute with with fists like big stones."  I also decided to give him a brace of pistols since in some versions of the story he kills Tom with a pair of pistols.  Rather than throwing his crutch, breaking Tom's back and then slitting his throat with a knife.  This is also where I marked down that he was missing most of his left leg.  Altogether this brings his Profile stat up to 3.  It's not the maximum, but he could certainly hold his own in a fight.

My preferred screen portrayal of Silver, by Charlton Heston.
In the made-for-TV movie Treasure Island.  To his left is
Jim Hawkins as played by a young Christian Bale.
Long John "Barbecue" Silver, quartermaster
Sins: Murder x2, mutiny, robbery x2
Devil: 5
Soul: 3
Suffered: Beating, damnation, impressment, lashing, mutilation
Brutality: 5
Ambitions: to be captain, to own land, to spit in the eye of the devil, to be regarded highly by society.
Ambition: 4
Brinksmanship: 5
I go armed with knife, cutlass, a brace of pistols and I'm a hulking brute with fists like stones.  I am missing a leg, lost in a broadside.
Profile: 3

So there you have Silver's full stats.  Overall I'm quite happy with how he turned out.  It was a little harder to work with the Poison'd ruleset than I had initially thought it would be.  Long John Silver is pretty tame for a pirate as far as the rules are concerned.  I doubt he'd last long among the type of pirates you can create in Poison'd.  Which kind of works since near the end of the story his band of mutinous treasure-hunters in turn mutiny against him.  It might not be long before he'd end up on the wrong end of a sword or pistol.  If he didn't end up getting hung by some magistrate.  As always be sure to let me know what you think in the comments below.  +1, reshare and follow for more from me.  As always have a good day and may the dice be ever in your favour.      

Friday, 3 November 2017

One-Shots I'll Probably Never Run - 1950s New Mexico

I've had an original Xbox for some years now.  A hand-me-down from my Aunt and Uncle, which I didn't really get into playing until the early years of High School.  The one game that I played relentlessly?  The third-person shooter parody of 1950s UFO films, Destroy All Humans.  It recently struck me that it'd be a good idea to run a one-shot for Call of Cthulhu, set during the 1950s.  Using the reference material found in the Atomic-Age Cthulhu.  So without further delay let's dive right into it.
The game that largely inspired this post.

The Pitch

It's 1950 in the sleepy little town of Totally-not-Roswell New Mexico.  Not much to do in this one horse town.  Except work, hang around the local diner and go to the drive-in.  Nothing exciting's happened around here since the Old West days.  

At least not until strange things start happening.  Starts out a local farmer's cattle are found cut to pieces.  A local hooligan's prized souped-up roadster is found crashed into a ditch not far from town.  With no sign of either the hooligan or the girl he was with.  Things only get stranger when a pair of FBI agents show up and start nosing around Totally-not-Roswell.  Next thing you know a bunch of Soldiers from the nearby base start camping outside of town.  Near where the occurrences have been taking place.  Claiming it's part of a "training exercise", something's not right about the whole thing.  One thing's for sure though this is the most excitement that's happened around here in decades.  Now if only someone could figure out what all the fuss was about.

Character Archetypes

A number of character types came to mind when I first thought of this idea. 
  • Western Lawman (Investigator's Companion Vol. 2): This could represent the town's small Sheriff called upon to investigate the disappearances and the cattle mutilations.  Given the location he may even still operate on horseback. 
  • Farmer/Rancher (Investigator's Companion Vol. 2): Could actually be owner of the cows that were mutilated.  Or just a rubber-necking neighbour who likes sticking his nose into other people's business more than he likes working.  
  • Reporter/Newspaper Editor (Investigator's Companion Vol. 2): Perhaps the sole employee of the one newspaper in town or an out-of-towner just passing through.  (Maybe his car broke down and he's stuck in Totally-not-Roswell until it's fixed).  He'd definitely take an interest in the strange goings-on around town.  
  • Student/Greaser/Teeny-Bopper: Bored teenager with nothing better to do.  The Student from the Investigator's Companion could represent the Nerd, or with the right hobby skills he could be a Jock trying to get a scholarship out of this one-horse town.  The Greaser from the Atomic Age sourcebook could be used to represent your local delinquent.  The Teeny-Bopper would be similar to the Flapper from the Investigator's Companion.  As both are primarily interested in the latest thing of their respective eras.  (Is it just me or is this starting to sound like an Archie comic?)  Anyone of these Occupations could be used to represent the bored teenager, who gets caught up snooping where they shouldn't. 
As an afterthought in case any of these characters served during World War Two.  I would use the rules from the Masks of Nyarlathotep Companion to represent Investigators' experience in WW1.  All you would really have to do is get rid of some choices that wouldn't logically be available during WW2. 


So there you have it a Pitch for a one-shot set during the 1950s in New Mexico.  Based largely on the UFO films of the same era.  I personally think that the setting has some potential for an exciting game of Call of Cthulhu.  Let me know what you think in the comments below, don't forget to +1, reshare and follow.  As always may the dice be ever in your favour and have a nice day.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Gaming the Movies - The 'Hood: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels

So I recently picked up a copy of Groundhoggoth Game's The 'Hood.  I've been having a fun time reading through it.  As I was going through the pages I realized something.  Quite a few of the playbooks remind me of characters from the Guy Ritchie film, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  So I thought it'd be a fun little exercise to look through the four main characters.  (It's a Guy Ritchie film there's a plethora of people that could be considered main characters.  But I'm just going to stick with the four mooks who get cheated out of their money at a card game and set off the events of the movie).  Then stat them up in the 'Hood.  Alright everyone let's Barf forth some Brittanica.
Our protagonists (I wouldn't dare call them heroes) from the left to the right.  Eddie, Bacon, Soap and Tom.
Eddie (The Borrower) 
Eddie acting as a plant and lookout while Bacon hawks stolen

Name: -1
Hush: +1
Brass: +1
Wise: +0
Straight: +2
Moves of Note: Scrounger
I'll be honest with you, Eddie was the hardest of the four to choose a playbook for.  The whole premise of the film is that he is two-bit crook who can hustle a few quid here or there.  But his main talent lies in cards and gambling with cards.  Yet from what we see in the movie he's not particularly good at his talent.  He's not particularly reliable, hence his Name of minus one.  He can be somewhat discreet, subtle and he's nothing if not bold (he enters a card game with notorious East-End gangster Hatchet Harry and sasses the man upon meeting him) hence his Hush and Brass of plus one.  He's not particularly smart though, he doesn't have a plan outside of climbing into a bottle.  When he loses the card game and honestly isn't aware of the fact that Harry was cheating.  Hence his Wise of plus zero (the lowest I could finagle with this particular playbook).  Otherwise he's pretty much a law-abiding citizen, other than hanging around with some unsavoury types.  I chose to make him a Borrower since  throughout the movie he seems to do nothing but leech off of his friends.  Relying on them to put together most of the hundred thousand pound stake in Hatchet Harry's card game.  He also seems to work primarily with Bacon for a source of income, a very parasitic activity.  When he's not leeching off of them he's leeching off of his father JD the owner of the local pub.  Hence why I chose the move Scrounger to reflect how JD turns his back on Eddie towards the end of the movie.

Bacon giving the best sales pitch I've ever heard to buy stolen
Bacon (The Merchant)
Name: +1
Hush: -1
Brass: +0
Wise: +2
Straight: +1
Moves of Note: Clearance Sale
When I first came up with the idea for this post, I knew Bacon was going to be The Merchant.  The opening scene of the movie has him hawking stolen jewelry on a street corner.  As he says "Handmade in Italy, hand-stolen in Steppney.  It's as long as my arm, I wish it was as long as something else."  (Apparently Jason Statham actually worked as a street vendor before making his debut with this film.  Watching this scene I can believe it).  He obviously has the credibility and the connections to get ahold of stolen merchandise.  Hence the plus one in Name.  He's not particularly subtle about selling his wares and according to the original script he got his nickname after getting arrested a lot when he was younger.  Hence his minus one to Hush.  He also appears to be the most Streetwise of the bunch, giving him a  Wise of plus two.  I went with the Clearance Sale move to reflect his street-hawking with Eddie as a lookout.  He seems more concerned with selling his stock for cash rather than hanging onto it.

Soap (The Drone)
The Knife Incident.

Name: +0
Hush: -1
Brass: +1
Wise: -1
Straight: +2
Moves of Note: Store Room, Office Supplies
Soap gets his name because he likes to keep his hands clean of anything illegal.  He's proud of his legitimate job as a Chef, so he was a natural pick for the Drone playbook.  He doesn't appear to be very well respected among the criminal community so I gave him plus zero Name.  He also isn't very subtle or good at keeping his mouth shut.  Demonstrated when he pulls out a bundle of knives in a Pub when it's decided that the lads are going to rob the neighbours.  By the same token he seems incredibly enthusiastic and determined about the whole thing.  So he gets minus one Hush and plus one Brass to reflect these characteristics.  Also due to the public display of the knives and a big fuck-off machete, as well as his distancing himself from the underworld.  He demonstrates that he's not the most streetwise of people earning him a minus one Wise.  I've gone ahead and given Soap the Store Room and Office Supplies move.  Again related to the incident where he shows up with a bundle of knives.  Now while they don't look like something you'd find in a kitchen knife-block.  It was a better choice for the character than any of the other moves.

Tom in the middle of negotiations with Nick the Greek.
Tom (The Go-Between)
Name: +2
Hush: +1
Brass: +1
Wise: +0
Straight: -1
Moves of Note: Negotiator, Fence
Tom has a lot in common with Bacon in that he sells stolen merchandise.  He's not a street vendor though and he seems to be the character most involved in illegal dealings.  Since when they decide to rob the neighbours he's the one who does the negotiating with Nick the Greek.  In order the sell the weed on to a potential buyer.  So I personally think that that makes him a Go-Between.  As the narrator says he's the entrepreneur of the group.  He's seems incredibly well-respected in the underworld (despite constant jokes about him being fat when he's in fact skinny) earning him a plus two in Name.  While he's also much more discreet than seemingly anyone else in the group.  Earning a plus one to Hush.  He also seems quite bold and determined reflected in how handles himself when Nick tries to give him the run-around.  I went with the lowest Wise there was for the Go-Between Playbook since he hangs onto the incriminating shotguns.  Instead of disposing of them, all because he wants to get back the seven-hundred quid he paid for them.  Again he's the most crooked of the bunch so he has the lowest straight.  I went with Negotiator to reflect how wonderfully he handles Nick trying to screw him over.  "Not when the price is two-hundred pounds and not when you've got Liberia's deficit in your sky-rocket."  Fence is kind of self-explanatory since that seems to be his primary job.

So there you have it, the four main protagonists from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  Statted up with playbooks from the 'Hood.  This was a fun little experiment for me.  I hope you guys enjoyed reading it.  Until next time be sure to +1, comment, follow and reshare.  Box cars all around and have a nice day.