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GM Tips; Cyberpunk space world


freelyx
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So I'll start this with the prerequisite obligatory statement;

 

I've been away for some time and am looking to bounce ideas and thoughts off of other GM sorts to help me build a better mousetrap.  FYI I tend to be long-winded and explanatory, so either be ready for that or if this isn't for you... thanks for reading this far and goodbye.

 

 

I run a 5th edition Hero game every Saturday up at a local game shop in Stafford TX called Golems Cate Gaming and Geekdom.  It's currently a four hour game from 2 PM till 6.  I started it at the request of another player GM who wanted to know more about Hero Games and how to play.  He is an experienced player and GM from several other systems who was expanding his horizons and I was happy to help after the great game of Vampire he had run for me and some other friends.

 

So my new realm is a world of politics, trade, and danger set in a noir cyberpunk setting in space.  They started their characters as "heroic" with 75 points and an additional 75 disadvantages.  I explained that if they chose to be human, they could boost themselves with cyber technology abilities and powers, which in my world was how humans tried to level the playing field when they encountered aliens who were more than we soft pink squishies could deal with on the regular.

 

I've as a GM become quite fond of using OneNote to organize my game worlds and develop as the players explore.  This helps me work on the fly in a creative table full of out of the box thinking players, some of whom enjoy the ROLE PLAY aspect of our games as much or maybe more than I.

 

How I run my games.  I develop a few interesting NPC's with problems they require help with, pick a cool setting to start the characters off in, and set up several strings of domino's that the players will run into.  I have either created conflict when they pick a direction using the old writer's tools here;

  1. Character vs himself
  2. character vs environment
  3. character vs antagonist

Sometimes several of these domino traps get enacted at once, and the players have to think fast to survive.  I as a GM only have to come up with the NPC's, the settings, and sometimes write up a villain or seven for them to encounter along the way.  Because of the sandbox way I build my OneNote, I can be ready pretty easily for almost any decision they as players make.

 

Villain motivation is... PARAMOUNT

 

Breaking the world build idea into parts, think of the nouns your players will come into contact with, attach a verb, and add adjectives for flavor & season to taste.

 

People, place, or thing

is doing

describe with at least three of the five senses

Ensure the descriptions use words and visuals related to the setting you chose to place them in.

Watch players and dice roll's set behind the scene actions into play, and keep in mind the motivations of your villain(s)

 

So there are the easy bits for me.  I have the latest version of Hero-Designer and have been using it to help my newer players who were drug into this game, to flesh out their visions of who their characters are based on the world setting I put them in.  Taking inspiration from Bladerunner, Altered Carbon, Babylon 5, Deep Space 9, and Titan A.E. I've built my base settings.  I also have sprinkled in some anime movies such as Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and used a liberal application of Star Wars based on the characters my players have brought in.

 

Their first mission was to help my NPC Rogen (wealthy businessman they were already working for) out of a tight legal issue he got tangled up in, wherein one of his freighters had picked up some gases from a gas giant in the Andromeda sector and accidentally kidnapped three members of an alien energy life form race when they did.  All his assets were frozen and he was arrested.  His butler and personal assistant Spencer was able to use some liquid resources to procure an old beat to crap and back freighter, find and liberate the three energy lifeforms from Andromeda gas giant, get them into containers and then Rogen met the players at the docking bay where they were returning from a "deep space run" for his company.  The authorities locked down the ship in bay and were taking the cargo into evidence, Rogen explained is predicament to the players and said "If you could meet Spencer and return the life forms to the gas giant, then explain our mistake to the rulers there and get them to drop the charges, I will be able to pay you for this DSR & will let you keep the ship Spencer has that the authorities have no hold on.  If you can't get this done quickly, however, I'll go to jail, Spencer will pull the rights to the ship, and you won't get paid for anything because I'll be broke..."

 

So they've gotten it all partly done, they now have an envoy of the race who will return with them to the drift city Annex 09, where Rogen is being charged and held.  They've met a few ambassadors, stolen and conned a few folks, been chased across three sectors of space by a militant group hunting one of their crew, and taken on a few folks along the way with complications of their own to deal with.  The game is fun, fast-paced and growing quickly.  I've built the space station called "The Sanctified Gardens" where ambassadors of the various empires, kingdoms, and governments come together like united nations in space, to try and diplomatically work out issues of war, trade, and legal incursions in an area called "The Globe."  The player who has taken the title of ships captain is their face.  He does most of the trade and negotiations.  Another player is their techno spy.  She acquires knowledge and information, hacks into security areas, updates software and tech where she can, and tries to stay out of trouble ... mostly.  They have a bounty hunter, a mechanic, a soldier in armor, and a brick/gunslinger aboard as well, and I have a new player that may join soon who is trying to develop more of a detective-investigator sort.  

 

Their ship is an archaic tech with new computers and software jerry-rigged together.  It has a few hyperdrive engines, but they were tough to get them all working together at first.  Every now and then behind the screen, I roll on a random table of malfunctions that they have had to deal with as they go.  Life support suits, a translator device to let them speak to the energy life forms, trying to slip past the militia group called "The Savage Angels" and other opportunities and inconveniences I've thrown in along the way.

 

What behind the scenes antagonist can you guys think of that might have been pulling these strings?  I have ways of linking that into my game pretty quickly too.  Today's game will be the beginning of their return trip with the envoy and all the blowback from other things they did on the way out to the Andromeda gas giant.

 

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1 hour ago, freelyx said:

What behind the scenes antagonist can you guys think of that might have been pulling these strings?  I have ways of linking that into my game pretty quickly too.  Today's game will be the beginning of their return trip with the envoy and all the blowback from other things they did on the way out to the Andromeda gas giant.

 

Maybe Rogen was being set up? The energy beings were planted where they were specifically to get Rogen in trouble and allow Entity X to take control of his operation. Naturally, X will try to prevent the misunderstanding from being cleared up. OTOH, once the mission is completed, X will ignore the PCs (from his perspective, they're just hired muscle).

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You have basically four avenues of ideas to explore

 

1) someone is after Rogen

2) Spencer is deliberately screwing over the boss

3) The aliens who were "accidentally kidnapped" weren't kidnapped accidentally at all but wanted to be there

4) Rogen is guilty

 

1) someone is after Rogen - almost all motives come down to sex or money

ex-wife

ex-business partner

business rival

romantic rival

relative or friend of someone Rogen squished along the way to power

vigilante who couldn't figure out another way to bring Rogen down other than to set him up

 

 

2) Spencer is deliberately screwing over the boss. (One a side note, was that really the best craft Spencer could have procured?)

Rogen screwed Spencer's wife

Rogen has been underpaying/under-appreciating Spencer

Spencer is a lunatic

Spencer thinks he can take over the Rogen's whole business

Specer has been embezzling but he's in so deep that getting rid of the boss is his only way out.

 

 

3) The aliens who were "accidentally kidnapped" weren't kidnapped accidentally at all

The aliens needed transportation and stowed away. Maybe criminals or political refugees. Maybe working a business or political deal. Maybe they assassinated someone (slowly) and got a free trip home: how much radiation can they emit anyway?

The aliens' plans were unknowingly foiled by Rogen so they want revenge on him

The aliens wanted to see human technology up close. Maybe the ship malfunctions were due to the aliens experimenting with controlling ship systems. Prelude to invasion or maybe they just fiddled with whatever defense systems or commerce systems they found along their round trip. Seems like they might be great spies for their own civilization or for another.

The aliens wanted to examine another solar system up close to find a gas giant or two to quietly colonize.

Were there only three aliens kidnapped or might there have been more and one was deliberately left behind? Is anyone completely sure the envoy is coming alone and doesn't have an invisible friend?

 

4) Rogen is guilty

Rogen kidnapped the aliens to examine them and try to find an easy way to exterminate their race.

Rogen got some kind of ransom on the side which was worth the legal troubles he's in.

The aliens themselves are a valuable resource which could be enslaved to power devices or ships cheaply. Or perhaps leave a residue behind which is useful. Or their energies can transmute matter when they're agitated: how much of the most valuable substance in your universe could three of them transmute in their few days/weeks of captivity? And what is the most wild thing that substance could possibly do?

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21 hours ago, IndianaJoe3 said:

 

Maybe Rogen was being set up? The energy beings were planted where they were specifically to get Rogen in trouble and allow Entity X to take control of his operation. Naturally, X will try to prevent the misunderstanding from being cleared up. OTOH, once the mission is completed, X will ignore the PCs (from his perspective, they're just hired muscle).

 

I like this idea a lot.  I think Rogen might have many other enemies out there in the stars that would love to see him fall.  Who could "X" be though?  I have an idea, but I'd like to get something from other GM's, my players have been in my games for some time and have grown comfortable with my story and game decisions, so if I take this one out of my hands and let another person develope the story for my antagonist, it might be more of a surprise to them.  I often play off the directions they seem to be pointed in and build the next logical obstacle for them to try and get through, around, over, or under.  If I let others build an obstacle and have them run into it ... SURPRISE MUTHA FRAGGERS, you didn't see that coming!

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13 hours ago, archer said:

You have basically four avenues of ideas to explore

 

1) someone is after Rogen

2) Spencer is deliberately screwing over the boss

3) The aliens who were "accidentally kidnapped" weren't kidnapped accidentally at all but wanted to be there

4) Rogen is guilty

 

 

So I like where your head is at, but here are a few points;

 

  1. Rogen is sort of my amalgamation of Bruce Wayne and Han Solo.  He's got a dark past and has built himself up over many years of hard work. His type of work will obviously make him enemies out there.
  2. Spencer is my answer to Alfred.  Very loyal, to the point he would just as soon get himself killed as let Rogen get hurt.  Also unrevealed in the game is the fact that he is top of the line cybernetics, borderline android.  Spencer is smart, tough, and loyal to a fault to Rogen.  He has a life debt to Rogen, but I have not come up with the story reason this occurred yet.  I want to play it off one of the PC's backgrounds or disadvantages.  It'll come later.
  3. I like this, I could see blending it with #1 to come up with a very cool spy vs megacorporation & rich kid sort of deal.
  4. He is technically guilty, he did send the freighter out to get the gases out of the gas giant to sell on the market.  He didn't pay for the survey that is most groups and companies should and indeed are in some cases required to do before the "drilling" or gas collecting.
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If Spencer is borderline android, it occurs to me that someone might have messed with his cybernetics. For example, if he has a computer implant, he might effectively have been given a split personality during his last upgrade. So whatever difficulties have come up might be funneled through Spencer and his knowledge of Rogen's operation but are happening without Spencer's conscious knowledge.

 

Spencer could be jacked in ordering more pastrami for Rogen's sandwiches and his computer uses that opportunity to send sensitive information, or the PC's exact location, to Rogen's enemy. Or to send the PC's location directly to their Hunteds if Spencer knows enough about the PC's backgrounds.

 

But I do love the Batman-Alfred relationship going on in the story. Having an assistant that trustworthy would be a HUGE asset to someone like Rogen.

 

If you don't want Spencer directly involved in the evil and Rogen's enemy is savvy enough, he might leave clues for the PC's to find that would lead them to suspect Spencer is the bad guy. The enemy might hope the PC's will find a way to kill or neutralize Spencer which won't be traced back to him. Sounds like that'd be a huge blow to Rogen's operation and could potentially set Rogen and the PC's against each other if the PC's handle the situation badly enough...pretty much exactly what an enemy mastermind would be looking for.

 

I can see why you wouldn't want to take the story in that direction. Just letting my mind come out and play. :)

 

Are the PC's fully aware that Rogen is guilty and cut corners where he shouldn't have? I'm trying to picture whether their characters are "Shadowrunners" who are accustomed to taking jobs from a "Mr. Johnson" who is in no way clean or an upstanding citizen? Or whether they're more like the "A-Team" or the "Rebel Alliance" who are seeking their own brand of justice because the system sometimes sucks at bringing justice without some outside assistance?

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15 hours ago, archer said:

If Spencer is borderline android, it occurs to me that someone might have messed with his cybernetics. For example, if he has a computer implant, he might effectively have been given a split personality during his last upgrade. So whatever difficulties have come up might be funneled through Spencer and his knowledge of Rogen's operation but are happening without Spencer's conscious knowledge.

 

Spencer could be jacked in ordering more pastrami for Rogen's sandwiches and his computer uses that opportunity to send sensitive information, or the PC's exact location, to Rogen's enemy. Or to send the PC's location directly to their Hunteds if Spencer knows enough about the PC's backgrounds.

 

But I do love the Batman-Alfred relationship going on in the story. Having an assistant that trustworthy would be a HUGE asset to someone like Rogen.

 

If you don't want Spencer directly involved in the evil and Rogen's enemy is savvy enough, he might leave clues for the PC's to find that would lead them to suspect Spencer is the bad guy. The enemy might hope the PC's will find a way to kill or neutralize Spencer which won't be traced back to him. Sounds like that'd be a huge blow to Rogen's operation and could potentially set Rogen and the PC's against each other if the PC's handle the situation badly enough...pretty much exactly what an enemy mastermind would be looking for.

 

I can see why you wouldn't want to take the story in that direction. Just letting my mind come out and play. :)

 

Are the PC's fully aware that Rogen is guilty and cut corners where he shouldn't have? I'm trying to picture whether their characters are "Shadowrunners" who are accustomed to taking jobs from a "Mr. Johnson" who is in no way clean or an upstanding citizen? Or whether they're more like the "A-Team" or the "Rebel Alliance" who are seeking their own brand of justice because the system sometimes sucks at bringing justice without some outside assistance?

 

Ooooo, some valid points and interesting possibilities here.  Tech is something that can be hacked and Spencer, while cutting edge and well defended, would not be "perfectly" covered.  I like the idea that he is being used, although maybe rather than being controlled, he's just got some form of monitoring software installed that is reporting to "X" whatever information he gets.  They know he is trusted by Rogen and is using that information to their advantage by listening in or watching unnoticed within his system.

 

I also like the idea of the savvy enemy being something a little more to Rogen than just your everyday rival.  I think maybe the enemy is female, perhaps an ex-lover or relationship Rogen has long since forgotten.  An incredibly brilliant all be it jilted ex who thought she'd be the one to take Rogen out of his hedonistic lifestyle and get the eligible rich bachelor to settle down with her.  Now she's making millions behind the scenes stealing his business ideas, contacts, and getting him manipulated into hot water with his other known associates and these legal problems are really just a distraction to slow him down so she can get the leg up on his company. 

 

She can be his Lex Luthor, to smart to be directly implicated in the criminal aspects of whats going on, working behind the scenes as the puppet master to sully his reputation and build herself up as his viable replacement.  She should have decent security, maybe is linked up with one of the PC's hunting militia groups.  Then grant her lots of social and political pull.  Maybe have it be manipulative as well.  She's got dirt on people that don't want it getting out in the public... Maybe she owns a media newsgroup... Yeah, I like where this is leading.


cb318c77-29a1-4957-993d-a09302a1352d.jpg

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On 8/12/2018 at 2:18 PM, freelyx said:

 

I like this idea a lot.  I think Rogen might have many other enemies out there in the stars that would love to see him fall.  Who could "X" be though?  I have an idea, but I'd like to get something from other GM's, my players have been in my games for some time and have grown comfortable with my story and game decisions, so if I take this one out of my hands and let another person develope the story for my antagonist, it might be more of a surprise to them.  I often play off the directions they seem to be pointed in and build the next logical obstacle for them to try and get through, around, over, or under.  If I let others build an obstacle and have them run into it ... SURPRISE MUTHA FRAGGERS, you didn't see that coming!

 

I see X as being a business rival of Rogen's. His original plan was to catch Rogan doing unauthorized gas mining, and get the concession/claim for that area himself. He'd sent the aliens into that area to record Rogan's activities, without expecting them to get captured. When that happened, he tipped off the authorities anonymously and concealed his involvement in the matter. (The aliens will not be happy when they learn he abandoned them.)

 

I'd thought about the idea of X having a mole in Rogen's organization somewhere. Freelyx's idea of Spencer being wired would work well for that. 

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On 8/13/2018 at 11:01 AM, freelyx said:


cb318c77-29a1-4957-993d-a09302a1352d.jpg

 

 

On 8/13/2018 at 11:01 AM, freelyx said:

 

Ooooo, some valid points and interesting possibilities here.  Tech is something that can be hacked and Spencer, while cutting edge and well defended, would not be "perfectly" covered.  I like the idea that he is being used, although maybe rather than being controlled, he's just got some form of monitoring software installed that is reporting to "X" whatever information he gets.  They know he is trusted by Rogen and is using that information to their advantage by listening in or watching unnoticed within his system.

 

I also like the idea of the savvy enemy being something a little more to Rogen than just your everyday rival.  I think maybe the enemy is female, perhaps an ex-lover or relationship Rogen has long since forgotten.  An incredibly brilliant all be it jilted ex who thought she'd be the one to take Rogen out of his hedonistic lifestyle and get the eligible rich bachelor to settle down with her.  Now she's making millions behind the scenes stealing his business ideas, contacts, and getting him manipulated into hot water with his other known associates and these legal problems are really just a distraction to slow him down so she can get the leg up on his company. 

 

She can be his Lex Luthor, to smart to be directly implicated in the criminal aspects of whats going on, working behind the scenes as the puppet master to sully his reputation and build herself up as his viable replacement.  She should have decent security, maybe is linked up with one of the PC's hunting militia groups.  Then grant her lots of social and political pull.  Maybe have it be manipulative as well.  She's got dirt on people that don't want it getting out in the public... Maybe she owns a media newsgroup... Yeah, I like where this is leading.


cb318c77-29a1-4957-993d-a09302a1352d.jpg

 

If she's doing this cyber-manipulation on Spencer in order to gather information for a media newsgroup and her blackmail enterprises, it occurs to me that should could be planning cyber-manipulation of dozens of people. If the cybernetic upgrade that Spencer got is fairly common among accountants and advisors, she could eventually build a vast network of backdoor information.

 

Of course at that point, she would be unable to personally look at all the information and would have to depend on flunkies to do it for her. Heck, she probably would be able to personally sift through 24 hour surveillance of just Spencer.

 

I could see some surveillance-processing underling noticing that the mastermind is making millions then look at his own paycheck and decide he'd be better off using some of the information to make millions himself. The mastermind might be good enough to completely cover her tracks in stock market manipulation or blackmail schemes, but an underling going into business for himself for the first time might be clumsy enough to draw attention to himself.

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