Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Hacker Concepts 2

Part 2 of this series explores the upper reaches of the netrunner community. There seem to be a lot of commandos, cyber-soldiers and people who sit in bunkers murdering people from a distance for profit or power in this list. On the other hand, it also has some of the roles criminal hackers aspire to.

Interface 5

31. Legacy Hacker

The information age is decades old and built on the wreckage of obsolete and lost systems. As much a techie as a netrunner, the legacy hacker knows how to identify ancient systems, how to rescue the information they contain and how to break their forgotten and arcane security protocols.

32. Info Broker

The world runs on information, and Info Brokers make their living hoarding it. They compile the secrets of the world, assess their worth, and sell them on. That requires skill - or the money to buy skill - but then, once you've acquired it, money is no object. You just need to be ready to defend yourself from those who'd prefer some things remain hidden.

33. Commando

When the state sends in special forces, hackers accompany them into the combat zone. The army may not attract the best netrunners but with their optimised training and top of the line equipment, the commando units are something to be feared.

34. Cybersoldier

Drawn from elite "signals" regiments and dedicated electronic warfare outfits, the states and corporations of the world maintain units of hackers to enforce their will on foreign powers. These soldiers have blurred the line between peace and war with their probing raids and some fear that these might be the fools who finally trigger the next world war.

35. DRM Breaker

It's one thing to steal files. Its another to do so without being caught by the increasingly ferocious DRM systems. Activist groups and criminals alike pay for the services of dedicated, high paid programmers who find ways to free the files. It's an extremely dangerous job and one likely to end with a long spell in prison, but a necessary one.

36. Shoemaker

It isn't enough to simply fake a SIN to get a new identity. One has to create an entire electronic identity and insert it seamlessly into the world. This is what the Shoemaker does, at enormous cost.

37. Drone Rigger

Elite drone riggers are similar to security spiders in many ways, but considerably more dedicated to the netrunning aspect of their role. While military teleoperators sit in bunkers with dedicated cybersoldiers to defend them, many mercenary riggers will operate close to the action. An unmarked van in a sidestreet might be the C&C centre for entire fleets of surveillance and attack drones during a corporate war or revolutionary uprising, and the rigger coordinates it all.

38. Cryptographer

Secrecy is obsolete, or so many claim. The Cypherpunk sets out to disprove this. Quantum computing, reactive DRM and hidden networks are all part of her arsenal. Whether she works for a data haven or corporation her services will be valued, if only for their increasing scarcity. 

39. Industrial Agent

Industrial espionage is more about sleight of hand and careful information gathering than flashy stunts, like any espionage. The agent combines social savoir-faire with a focused skill set in order to cultivate contacts, locate and recruit targets for extraction, and steal information for the zaibatsus who trained him.

40. 4th Generation Insurgent

Modern "technological super-empowerment" has brought a huge range of new options to the insurgent warrior. Systems - power, transport, communications - can all be disrupted at great cost to opposition economies. Modern 3d printers can equip armies with powerful weapons derived from open source or stolen plans. Intelligence gathering systems can match those of the enemy. Lightweight drones and automortars have vastly increased the effective firepower of the neighbourhood armies. Tactics can be derived from dozens of different groups in dozens of different conflicts and shared and tested across the world. 

And if the Urban-Reconnaissance teams find you, then death - whether delivered by signal-guided RPG or an air strike - will likely be instant. If they don't take you alive. Pray they don't take you alive...

Monday, 14 July 2014

Hacker Concepts

A few years ago VFTE forumite, graphic and martial artist Interrupt wrote a set of workable, modern netrunning rules called Run.Net which allowed me to actually contemplate running a netrunning game in Cyberpunk 2020.

Run.Net's skill system allowed characters to optimise in different areas of hacking. In doing so, it allowed a character with a low Interface skill to become very effective in her chosen role if she distributed her points properly. The Revolt City game I discussed a couple of months ago was one of the first playtests; in that game the average character had an Interface skill of 2 or 3 (in Cyberpunk 2020 skills are rated between 1 and 10, with 4 being "experienced" and 10 being "inhuman genius")

That experience opened my eyes to the full potential variety of the hacker archetype. It also inspired me to write a list of Netrunner character archetypes across the entire spectrum of the Interface skill, which I've reposted here (after a minor typo clean-up). It feels almost offensive that the Netrunner role has never been afforded the variety that the Solo/Street Samurai concept gets, in a genre that defined and was defined by hackers. While this list has a dozen criminal types ready to fill out the dingy bars and dank darknet forums scattered throughout your campaign world, it also focuses on the opposition - particularly the low level mooks and spooks that PC hackers test themselves against on the way up.

You can tell these were written a few years ago. A modern list would have included more ideas about underground banking and would perhaps have been less disparaging about the capabilities of government hackers. In addition, this list could stand to have a few more law enforcement concepts in general (just to cover Ghost in the Shell...). I'll save that for another another list!

Hopefully, the archetypes below will provide some neat character concepts for PCs and NPCs, whether describing their current profession or former gigs. Without further ado:

Interface 1

1. Pixel Stained Technopeasant

Just occasionally, the wage slaves pick up some technical skills along the way. This guy might be an IT consultant or he might be proficient in installing the latest version of Norton or he might know just enough to get himself into serious trouble (like the writer of this blog, really). 

2. Locust

A few pirated skill chips, some basic l33t "skills" and a lot of teenage attitude (easy to find) is all Anonymous or the street gangs need to create a swarm of angry locusts, tearing their way through the net for the Lulz...

3. AR Janitor

...and when those pricks mess with the Augmented Reality adverts, they never think about the guy who has to go clean it up...

4. Morality Rep

"Now. Downloading pornography is immoral. Downloading music is a crime. We don't allow either in school, and if we look on your computer and find any evidence of indecent behaviour, you are going to be expelled. Do you understand, sonny?"

Friday, 11 July 2014

A Twilight 2000 retrospective

Twilight 2000 is a game that I don't think I could ever play the way it was written. I simply can't keep the rules in my head, frankly. But it holds a place in my gaming heart simply because of the atmosphere, like nothing else I've ever read.

For those who haven't encountered it before, Twilight 2000 is a (very, very) 1980s RPG set in the closing stages of World War III. The nuclear exchanges happened three years ago, but the war didn't end. Days before the campaign begins, the last major American force-in-being in Europe launched a final offensive into Poland; it failed, and now the team are trapped behind enemy lines in a disintegrating world of marauders, ex-military bandits, Warsaw Pact survivors and worse.

Twilight 2000 is a post apocalyptic game, but it has very little in common with Gamma World or Atomic Highway or my personal favourite Other Dust. There are no mutants, no muscle cars (unless you count Humvees), no monsters that aren't human. In fact, you can't really call it post apocalyptic. The apocalypse is ongoing; it's present apocalyptic. When I first encountered the game I was put off by the procedural setting generation and the procedural encounter systems - now, after exposure to OSR, they fascinate me. 

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

10 Villainous Oceanpunk Factions

Picture from Brian Wood's The Massive, just about my favourite ongoing comic

Lately I've been building sandboxes: it's been far too long since I've run Cyberpunk 2020 and both me and some old friends are jonesing for it. Worldbuilding has always been one of my favourite parts of the hobby, and I'm always exploring new methodologies for creating a diverse and "alive" gaming environment. I'll probably have to write about them sometime!

The book which has held my attention lately has been the astonishing Darkness Visible espionage supplement for Stars Without Number. I'm a huge fan of what Sine Nomine publishing does, in just about any format and genre - Kevin Crawford's work has been a huge inspiration for what I've tried to do with this blog. Right now I'm especially besotted by the "maltech cult" generator in Darkness Visible - replace "cult" with "corporation" and it's been a perfect cyberpunk tool.

I really like the format SWN uses to provide sample factions, providing a brief paragraph and then brief hooks below - friends to help the party fight the faction, enemies to bedevil them when they launch their war, complications and things and places to centre the story. It's just the right level of detail for my purposes. I really like them as a framework to inspire the imagination.

One of my players has expressed a desire to head out to sea, so I've put some ideas together for expanding that world. It isn't a setting I've thought much about, except half my favourite sourcebooks seem to be set there: CP2020: Stormfront, Shadowrun's Cyberpirates, Blue Planet's Fluid Mechanics... even Transhuman Space's Under Pressure. It's an evocative environment which really takes the PCs out of their depths... zing. I want privateers, salvagers, radar seeking missiles, rusted ship wrecks, re-purposed military ships. I want to cover the big themes of oceanic stories in science fiction: environmental politics, claustrophobia, offshore freedom and strange underwater discoveries in the last Earthly frontier.

Presented below is the result of my faction brainstorming. Rather than just writing them out in a long list, I thought I'd experiment with the SWN faction format. Next time I do this I'll probably use Cyberpunk V3's "metacharacter" idea, and after that a completely different methodology...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Archetypal Adventures: the Medtech

The Medtech is a classic cyberpunk role which presents a number of difficulties for the players and GMs who deal with them. I didn't want to talkabout those problems in this post, but five abortive attempts at writing this introduction have proved I can't do that.

If you want to skip the stuff about theory and go straight to the adventure hooks and the "10 Medical Emergencies" table, scroll down below the jump!