Friday, December 18, 2009

Cyberpunk F#

Last night I ran a sequel to the old Cyberpunk "MOC" campaign, using F# instead of the clunky old rules for CP2020. I really like F#, it scores highly in the flexibility, elegance, and collaborative story-telling arenas.

Tone and Themes:
The setting aspects were:
  • "Dark Comedy" would be the prevailing theme.
  • Cold, harsh world where life ain't fair, the rich abuse the poor, and cybernetics is cheap and dirty.
  • The PCs are crazy enough, or desperate enough, to join a gang that indulges in random mayhem.
It was a lot of fun, but didn't quite capture the feeling of the old campaign. I think that is because the GM doesn't have any real fangs in F#. The GM can give out negative aspects as a form of damage, but the rules strongly encourage only doing that once per session per PC, and you really can't kill off a PC at all. There's no fear of death, which for many settings is actually a good thing, but probably isn't in keeping with the tone of Cyberpunk. In the old campaign, when the big fight broke out at the end, the PCs would have run and probably scattered - heroism in CP2020 gets you killed. Instead, the PCs stood toe-to-toe with the badguys, and there was nothing I could do to really make them sweat. They had fun, and got to be courageous, so perhaps I shouldn't complain.

Plot, such as there was:
Despite that tonal difference, the game was a lot of fun. The PCs were loser punks in a bizarre little gang that gets together for random mayhem rolled up on Morton's List. The List told them that this week's adventure would be to commit a major act of vandalism in another gang's territory. There were hijinks (involving the night city transit authority officers) on the bus-ride into enemy territory, a dead body in the park-and-ride, and then a big gang-vs-gang conflict at the soup kitchen.

The enemy gang was the Kennedy's Posergang. They faced off against cybernetically-enhanced duplicates of JFK, RFK, MLK, Jackie O (in pink), old Teddy Kennedy and Mayor Quimby. Okay, Quimby I probably never would have done in straight-up CP2020, but the improvisational nature of these light systems just takes me over the edge.

JFK had retractable head armor that (once deployed) was described as dinged up and chipped such that you could tell people liked to play Oswald on him. He was the gang leader, and eventually unleashed a very anime-style attack, where he shouted "CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS!" and launched a dozen micro-missiles. Jackie O had souped up Cyberlegs and did a ballerina attack. The "Vote Quimby" sash had a built-in monowire. Teddy's weight problem was actually enhanced Skin Weave. Etc. Governor Connolly was driving the get-away convertible. It was pretty stupid, but quite enjoyable at the time.

Character Sheets:
F# gives PCs 6 Aspects, which I've found is probably more than you need. Most PCs end up with some that overlap, and since Aspects don't stack, there's not much benefit to be gained with it. I tried to mitigate this a bit, by restricting the Aspects into categories to encourage diversity on each PC. It also let me ensure all the PCs were properly CyberPunk. The blank character sheet looked something like this:

+2This space left blank for the player to fill in. Useful piece of cyberware, cool gadget, or bio-implant.
+2This space left blank for the player to fill in. Bizarre useless cyberware, or just something that defines the look of your character.
+1This space left blank for the player to fill in. What type of hoodlum, criminal, ganger or loser are you?
+1This space left blank for the player to fill in. Other background element or character backstory
+1This space left blank for the player to fill in. Catch phrase
+1This space left blank for the player to fill in. Your choice, this can be anything.

Most characters had one major piece of cybergear, some managed to squeak a second out of the bizarre / fashion category, and everyone had the option of using the last category for one more major tech bit if they wanted.


Hunty said...

I'm glad you're getting more use out of F#!

I liked your feedback, but unfortunately I've been overwhelmed with too many other projects (and the baby!) to implement any of it.

You're more than welcome to tweak it however you want, though! I must admit that I didn't write it to be super-balanced (mostly because I just don't have enough tabletop RPG experience to make it super-balanced), I primarily wrote it to streamline various aspects of fudge and fate.

r_b_bergstrom said...

For games where PC death is meant to be rare (or even non-existent), F# works wonderfully. My goofy Fiend Folio F# game was awesome, for example.

It's just not a perfect fit for "life is cold and harsh and short" kind of games, which, incidentally, is what Cyberpunk is all about. I wanted to try it, though, because of my eternal quest to convert the CP2020 setting to a system that a person can actually learn in less than 10 sessions. Not a good match, but worth a single evenings efforts, just the same.