Thursday, July 9, 2020

My First Impressions of Cyberpunk 2020

I finished playing through my first ever module of Cyberpunk2020 tonight.

My edgerunner was a Techie cyborg named Cal Vera who was a member of a nomad clan. I say was because one day they put him down like robocop. But, like robocop, Cal survived and his soul became ever chained to a corporation. Cal was fine with that as long as they kept modding him the fuck out with the cybernetics that he needed to get revenge on his former family.

My companions were a Solo named Wynston and a Nomad named James.

The session started with this koolkat approaching us in the club, telling us someone called his cell asking for us. Whoever was on the other line had perfect English—too perfect. But he had a job for us and we accepted with hesitation.

We asked around the club just in case we were walking into a trap but we learned nothing. Without any leads we headed to the rendezvous, some warehouse down by the docks. 

There we met Wilbur, an old edgerunner apparently hired for the same job we were, and there we watched as our mysterious employer revealed himself and a hand cannon that quickly took Wilbur's head off. We shrugged our shoulders and followed our employer. That's life in Night City: you make mistakes; you suffer the consequences.

Our employer took us to the real rendezvous point, a different warehouse, where his boss gave us the details. We were to track down a courier named Wells Fargo and bring him in. That's it. It was a simple tag and bag with a 12,000 eddies payout. We had to say yes.

Our employer gave us what little information they had, a list of this Fargo fella's associates: a corporate agent named Caitlin, some ice junkie named Mistushiko, and an assassin named Lorenzo. We had nothing on the latter two but we had Caitlin's address and we decided to try talking to her.

What followed was a noir-style city crawl as we drove from place to place in Jame's beat up Toyo-Chrysler Omega collecting clues that led to more clues that led to more clues. Eventually we put the picture together.

This Wells Fargo guy—who lost his head in a trash heap of a club in the combat zone—was trying to smuggle some kind of genetic data mule into Night City. The mule was actually a horse—a white stallion to be exact. It also turned out that Mistushiko and Lorenzo were in on it. The former was never a problem, considering she lost her head in a Rock Museum near the Elvis display. Lorenzo though would prove to be one hell of a headache.

All of our sleuthing lead us to the Night City Customs Dock where we saw Lorenzo and company unload the stallion onto a box truck. The truck took off and Lorenzo followed in a sportscar. James realized we were in for a showdown and called in a few favors from his nomad family. What followed was a grueling, exhausting fight on the highway.

No matter what we did our weapons just bounced off of Lorenzo's skinweave as he gunned us down. James and Wynston crashed and burned and Cal never saw them alive again. Afterwards Cal managed to get control of the truck with Lorenzo in hot pursuit. His hold out submachine gun just bounced right off the cyborg assassin and his ripper did jack shit. Lady luck was on Cal's side, however, as he found a hand cannon loaded with armor piercing rounds in the glove-box of the truck. With Lorenzo hanging off the side of the truck, Cal put the barrel to the assassin's head and pulled the trigger. That's when Lorenzo lost his head on the highway.

After clearing the scene and pulling to the side of the road, Cal and the two nomads that survived checked on the goods, but not before gunning down one last goon. The stallion was beat up and injured but he'd live. It was the data that he carried that was valuable anyway.

Heading back to the warehouse, Cal dropped off the horse and took his 12,000 eddies.

6 months later, Cal stood outside some seedy bar in El Paso. He kicked down the door and saw his old family sitting there. "Hey familia! Remember me!" he said as he unfolded his cybernetic arms, revealing two mini-guns, James and Wynston each engraved on their sides. "Mi muchachos would like to have a word with you!" And that's where Cal's story ended—in a blaze of bullets and glory.

-

I want to make one thing clear. This entire scenario was awesome. I had a blast playing a discount terminator with a revenge plot and a death wish and the other players' characters added so much style to the experience. Digging through Night City was amazing as the place is part warzone, part metropolis, and part gated corporate community.

My only gripe about Cyberpunk2020 is that the system for doing all this cool shit is intricate. It really takes awhile to get a grip on all the different intricacies that make the system shine. I would say that Cyberpunk2020 is like D&D 3.5 in that regard. For example, Lorenzo was such a problem for our group because we were noobs that failed to realize the value of armor piercing ammunition. That's why our bullets bounced right off of him. For a less patient new player this could be a big deal breaker. But if you're the kind of player that enjoys a trial by fire and don't mind a sudden and violent end for your choomba, then I can safely say I highly recommend playing Cyberpunk2020. 

Friday, May 8, 2020

Night at the Museum

Morgrave University's museum has had the Scroll of Niath, an ancient Xen'drik artifact, on display for the past month. It's been bought by an Aundairian nobleman and is scheduled to ship out of Sharn in a week. The ogre mage Troizig wants the Scroll for Daask and he's recruiting an able, tight-lipped group of adventurers to get it.

Original map by Dyson Logos

1. The Communal Privy
Three pedestals stand against the north wall, each holding a Cleansing Stone. When touched the stones repulse dirt and bodily oils, leaving behind the fresh scent of rain. Each pedestal hides a hidden switch. When all three are pressed in the right order, the secret door to the east that leads to room 2 opens. Against the south wall are six small privies. The privies hover open air, the only solid ground being thousands of feet down into the Bowels of Sharn.


2. Perseus' Rest
Beyond the hidden door lies a barren stone room. On the floor is a giant necromantic symbol with a half-rotten human corpse splayed on top of it. Impaling each hand and foot is an iron dagger engraved with silver necromantic runes. This room is the final resting place of Perseus Kingdazer, the former curator of the museum who was sacrificed to become the museum's new security system. Now he haunts the museum at night as a ghost.

Perseus is what gives the exhibits the means to defend themselves. He can possess the exhibits and animate them to defend against would-be thieves—his favorite being the skeleton of the red dragon wyrmling. Below is a list of exhibits that Perseus can possess.
-The skeleton of the red dragon wyrmling, located at 5.
-The wax statues, located at 4.
-The skeleton of the Sword Titan, located at 6.
-The taxidermy Clawfoots, located at 6.

3. Security Desk
This simple wooden desk houses a small weapon rack, spare lanterns, and extra flasks of oil. During the day it is manned by a young human. At night it is manned by an elderly gnome.

4. Eberron Animated
A large pit dominates this exhibit. The pit is recessed five feet into the ground—with safety railings—and the floor is covered with multi-colored rocks. In three different alcoves to the east stands three different wax statues standing on large pedestals. The wax statues are white and featureless until the exhibit is activated.
To the south is a small stone podium with three stone buttons. Each button is engraved with a gnomish rune and a caption in common. The first caption says, "The Giants of Xen'drik;" the second says, "The Treaty of Thronehold;" and the last says, "The Horrors of the Last War." When a button is pressed the wax statues step off their pedestals and morph into historical figures as the multi-colored stones shape into different terrain, both related the topic associated with the pressed button. The statues will enter the pit and act out a small three minute play, re-enacting historical events.

5. The Dragon Skeleton Display
Hidden behind a large glass pane is a small library. Laying on the pedestal next to a bookstand is the skeleton of a red dragon wyrmling set in a sphinx-pose and reading a book. All of the books, except one, are mockups written in gibberish. The real book is a Manual of Flesh Golems misplaced here from the University's library.

6. Dinosaur Exhibit
This room is dominated by the skeleton of a Sword Titan that stands at the center of the room, below a large sunroof. Surrounding it are scenes of taxidermy Clawfoots chasing tribex across the Talenta Plains.

7. The Hall of Twelve Moons
This circular hallway is 30 feet wide and 120 feet long. There are 12 ten-foot long sections of the wall embedded with large glowing glass orbs. The walls rotate in sync with the 12 moons of Eberron. The hallway is trapped but the trap only activates when the pedestal in room 8 is robbed of its contents. Once that happens, the stairs will seal shut and the wall sections will begin to rotate wildly. On initiative count 20 and 10, a random beam with an effect associated with one of the moons will fire at a random creature. 

8. The Hidden Vault
In the center of this room is a tall pedestal topped with a glass case. The Scroll of Niath is inside that case. Against the other walls are shelves that can house other treasures. The Scroll is made out of brittle looking papyrus, wrapped around a bronze rod, and inscribed with ancient Elven runes. The scroll functions as a Wand of Polymorph; however, the wielder can spend an extra charge to target an extra creature, or it can spend an extra charge to target an object (as True Polymorph).

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Elsai Overview

Elsai is a small planet and the only inhabited one orbiting its star. From its spaceport—nothing more than a flattened chunk of rock used by stellar scum—Elsai resembles a drop of gasoline on water. At its center is its blue ocean, the Lonely Sea. Circling that is a green whip of fertile land where life clings to existence. Beyond that is the Red Barren Wastes, pockmarked with the junk of the civilizations of Elsai's subsector that call her their dumping grounds.

Circling the Lonely Sea are the Eight Great Cities from where the eight lich kings rule. The Great Cities survived the apocalypse unscathed but none of the minor cities were that lucky.

Elsai was a modern world rife with luxury, innovation, and decadence before its Apocalypse. Afterwards life became a struggle for survival for most. Inhabitants were forced to cave to a life of slavery under the lich king's magitocracy or risk life inside the wastes with raiders and nomads.

The setting invokes the sword and sorcery of Conan, the post-apocalyptic action of Mad Max, and the trappings of pulp sci-fi. In truth it is a galloping gonzo setting where nothing is as serious as it seems.

The lich kings are feared—and for good reason because they are quite powerful. But they are just as lost to the going-ons beyond their planet as anyone else; and, like an apathetic manager who just realized all of their crew suddenly quit, they are trying to salvage the pieces before its too late. 

In that regard, I guess you could say Elsai is both a parody and celebration of the genres it siphons inspiration from. But what do I know. I'm just along for the ride. 

by Luka Rejec

Friday, July 26, 2019

Variant: Secondary Stats

I want ability scores to be king in Variant but secondary stats will be needed to avoid too much interdependence.

Hit Points
I don't want hit points to scale in Variant. Therefore Hit Points will be determined with a simple formula of CON + Class HP, identical to how Dungeon World handles hit points. Ability scores will range anywhere from 1—18 and Class HP will range anywhere from 4—12, meaning a PC's hit points will range anywhere from 5—30.

I use a similar system in my 5e campaign, and in my experience it puts players in a daring but cautious play style—willing to charge into harms way but completely killable.

Armor Class
Known as Defense in most GLOG-likes, Armor Class will be a number ranging from 1—10 and will alter the target number (which is 20 by default) to hit you. The formula is Armor + Dex. 

Armor is comprised of light, medium, and heavy; and grant +2, +4, and +6 Armor respectively. Shields are also a thing and grant +1 Armor. A naked PC has 0 Armor.

To write down your armor class, just add 20 to that number. So a full-armored PC with maximum DEX will have an AC of 30.

Inventory
PCs have a number of inventory slots equal to STR. Item weight is tracked by slots. Small items such as jewelry weigh 0 slots, but stacks of small items can add up to multiple inventory slots. Items about the size of a medium weapon such as a longsword, quiver, scroll, and torch weigh 1 slot. Most things bigger than that weigh 2 or more slots. 

PCs can carry weight in excess of their inventory slots, but each slot in excess increases the target number for movement-based checks by 1.

Things I'm not including
Attack, Movement, Stealth, and Save will be absent from Variant. These stats always felt like necessities of GLOG's resolution system and I found myself just calling for a simple check instead of calculating the target number. 


Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Variant: Ability Scores Part II

I've done some Diet Dr. Pepper insomnia fueled thinking and I've decided to ditch the Knave-style resolution system I described earlier.

Instead I've opted for a Target 20-style system. The basic formula is d20 + Score ≥ 20. 

The reason I like this system instead is because it gives an average level 1 PC about a 50% chance of success. Plus it's easy for a player to grasp. If they have an average score (10) all they need to roll is double digits to succeed.

Another reason I chose this over Knave's is because I really prefer the Arnold method of rolling 4d4 for ability scores and using the divide-3-minus-3 formula for modifiers.

Also a Target 20-style system establishes that the score is for the d20 and the modifier is for everything else. 

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cars Are Still People

I wrote about vehicle stats awhile ago. While I think it was one of my better posts from that era, I take some issue with it today. So now I'm going to redo them.

Size
Vehicles have a size category ranging from 1 to 4. A vehicle's size determines its seating capacity, storage capacity, its hull points, and its fuel die.


Size CategorySeating CapacityStorage CapacityMax Fuel DieHull PointsExample
124d10d4motorcycle
2410d82d4sedan
3820d63d4van
41630d44d4bus

Ability Scores
Vehicles have the three physical ability scores: Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. (Vehicles with some kind of artificial intelligence, like KITT from Knight Rider, can have the three mental ability scores.) Generate vehicle ability scores like you would a characters.

Seating and Storage Capacity
The former is the number of normal sized creatures the vehicle can transport; the latter is the amount of stuff a vehicle can transport—represented by slots. It's possible to break both of these capacities; however, breaking one calls for a CON check during travel. On a failure, the axle breaks from the strain and the vehicle is left inoperable. Breaking both capacities gives this CON check disadvantage. 

Fuel Die
After 25 miles of driving, roll the vehicle's fuel die. If the result is an odd number, the vehicle uses up a portion of its fuel and the fuel die decreases by a step. A fuel canister can be emptied into a vehicle to increase its fuel die by one step up to its max. A fuel canister takes up two inventory slots.

Hull Points
Vehicles have hull points and 1 hull point is equivalent to 10 hit points of damage. This means that a damage roll has to be 10+ to damage a vehicle. Unlike hit points, hull points do not recover naturally and require repairs. It takes a day of work to repair 1 hull point if materials are available.

Vehicle Armor Class
Small vehicles have less coverage but are fast, while larger vehicles are slow but have more coverage. Therefore a vehicle's size category also determines its AC.

Size CategoryArmor Class
111 + DEX/4
214 + DEX/10
316
418

Generating Vehicles
To generate a vehicle on the fly:

1) Roll a d4 to determine its size category.

2) Generate its ability scores.

3) ... and that's it really!


Monday, July 15, 2019

Variant: Ability Scores

Variant is my GLOG hack. I figured I'd start with ability scores.

Arnold started the tradition of generating ability scores using d4s instead of d6s and I'd like to preserve that tradition in Variant. Instead of using GLOG's roll under system, however, I've opted for Knave's roll over system. 

Each character rolls 3d4. The lowest result is their modifier and they add 10 to that to get their score .

The math works out to PCs having a +1 or +2 most of the time with a +3 or +4 being rare. Compared to modern 4d6k3, a bonus of +1 is twice as common, a bonus of +2 is 30% more common, and a bonus of +3 and +4 is as common.

The main kind of roll related to abilities is the check. PCs make checks by rolling a d20 and adding their modifier to the roll. If they meet or beat 15, they succeed. If not, they fail. This number changes depending on what the PC is rolling. For example Attacks.

If you're not sure what that number should be, if the PC isn't opposing someone, go with 15. If it's easy, it's a 10. If it's hard, it's a 20. If the PC is opposing someone, go with their number of HD + 10. If that someone is particularly good at whatever the PC is opposed against, add 5 to that number. If they're bad at it, subtract 5.

Negative modifiers will be a thing. Just subtract 10 from the PC's score: an 8 is a -2, for example. A -10 modifier equals death.