Reboot the Future @Grogmeet 2021

This weekend I escaped the house to attend Grogmeet, a gaming convention held by the Grognard Files podcast in my FLGS Fanboy3. It was the first time I’ve face to face game in almost two years! Overall the event was full of happy and enthusiastic gamers, and I didn’t get to talk to everyone I knew because I was always busy chatting with folk. It was an uplifting experience.

On Saturday afternoon, I got to run Brain Dead at the Shopping Mall. This game was my first playtest of this adventure – which is an Early Bird Backer reward. Also, I had an eye on how the extra bits I’ve bolted on the Liminal engine performed. I’ve run Reboot the Future before, but that was a good year ago, and there’s been some tweaking since then.

During a comfort break, the table with character sheets strewn everywhere.

What was immensely pleasurable straight away was that all the players were backers of the game. It was also slightly intimidating. Would they be impressed by my game which is still a bit rough around the edges? Big sigh of relief that they all took to it . and once I had explained the setup and how the characters worked, they quickly owned their characters and drove the action relentlessly 🙂

The setup came in three pieces.

The Setting: New Oldham is a colony world. Originally a desert world, that was terraformed quickly twenty years ago into an industrial workhouse. Then ten years ago, the cooperation that had an iron grip on it, Imperial Sterling INC, quickly withdrew all their staff and operations in response to the Galactic War and the resulting economic downturn. Many parts of the colony have been reclaimed by the desert, including Paradise Heights, a low-level corporate executive housing estate on the edge of New Oldham City. Imperial Sterling and its black-clad security guards have returned in the last couple of years and are busy reopening their operations. Still, Paradise Heights remains closed for the time being.

The Gang. This unit is the character’s organisation and has a background, goals, assets and premade adventure hooks. It’s almost a character in its own right. If you are familiar with Liminal’s crew, it’s the same setup but modified for the cyberpunk genre. Our Gang was the Stainless Steel Providers MC; an outlaw motorcycle gang made up of cyborg-veteran’s of Imperial Sterlings 5th Mechanised Recon Regiment. There’s a stretch goal on the Kickstarter that every backer will get a copy of this Gang if we reach it.

The Job. The hook for the players, the situation as presented by their contacts, the opportunity to make their money, boost their reputation, get them valuable information or all three at once. This job was a tip-off from an anonymous poster on the local cyberpunk bulletin board about a highly valued hoover bike that the poster had tracked down to a stylish vehicle dealership within Paradise Height’s onsite shopping mall, The Palace of Dreams.

The way the job was presented, it was very much a self-starter. It was up to the cyberpunk to investigate and recon before tackling the adventure itself, or as I call it in Reboot the Future, the Conspiracy. And the players sprang immediately into action. Not only was the gang’s cyberhacker, Lady Killer as played by pookie, straight on the case, and bringing in the deep-intel about Paradise Heights, the rest of the gang very quickly moved on that intel, did recon (which involved cleaver use of their gang’s assets), and quickly plan was formulated and acted. Of course, there were complications, this is cyberpunk, after all, but the players worked as a unit, as befitted their ex-military backgrounds and the set up of their Motorcycle Club, and brought the game to a more than satisfying conclusion.

Everybody said how much they enjoyed themselves and had a great time myself, came away with lots of ideas to polish the final game and a better idea of what the adventure write-up should contain.

Big thanks to the players, Robin, Andrew, Jim and pookie.

Reboot the Future, The Art

I’ve said a lot about this game in previous posts, the text, the words etc., but a good chunk of the book is the art.

There’s Dan Barker’s front cover.

Dan Barker’s cover for the standard edition of Reboot the Future

This illustration is the cover of the Standard edition. When we fund, I’ll commission him to do a cover for the Limited edition (which Systems Architects and higher are getting). Believe it or not, the standard cover was done very quickly, and Dan is fired up to do the limited edition cover with more time to do it.

Then there is Jeshields black and white art, which will adorn the inside pages. Here are some samples.

If the first stretch goal funds, More Art, I’ll be asking Dan and Jes for more pieces for the book.

I feel blessed to work with both artists. I love good illustrative art, and both artists capture the dynamics of cyberpunk perfectly.

Reboot the Future, Deep Setting Info

This post is the last of the preview posts, which describes the five design principles I had in mind when I wrote Reboot the Future, Deep setting info you can ignore if you want

The overall theme of Reboot is that everything is information. Literally in the form that the Universe that the characters exist in is at its root pure Information. Information is the treasure that the players seek to gain power and advance their characters.

Reboot the Future works on three levels of information. In a way, these are three information Worlds that coexist with one another, feeding into each other, but to the players may appear completely exclusive. One of the setting’s great “Wow” moments should be the realisation that all three information levels are linked. If you are playing a Closed game where the Game Moderator has set up the setting in private, and the players have not realised this, make sure you don’t give the game away and let them work it out for themselves.

So here are the three levels of information.

  • Level 1: Cyberpunks are Go! This is the standard reality of the cyberpunk, dealing with day to day stuff, and perhaps seeing how the corperations or some shady crime boss is manipulating the situation. But at this level the cyberpunks resolve the matter and live with the consquences and move on.
  • Level 2: Pushing the Hidden Agenda further. Here the curtain between everyday life the deeper world of the conspiracies behind the facade, starts to twitch quite heavily. Suddenly things are not so straight forward. The characters have to make firm choices, make thier own peace with the awful truths they discover, or be prepared to dig even deeper.
  • Level 3: Everything you know is wrong. This is where the final causes of the conspiracies are revealed, hidden behind layers of disinformation. This is where things really get weird, like in the Matrix series of films. There’s also a large dash of Ufology (well the game is set in space) at this level, that some players may not take to. I had a group where I had guided them thorugh levels 1 and 2 in a short story arc, but when I suggested we move the game up to level 3, and tour the Consortium in the UFO they had just discovered, they respectfully declined and we stayed at level 2 and finished the story arc naturually shortly after.

Reboot the Future, Play the Cyberpunk You Want

This post is the fourth of five preview posts about my upcoming Cyberpunk RPG, Reboot The Future.

It’s quite important to me that my players are having fun. And a big part of this is that they get to play in a setting that they are interested in. This is set up in two ways.

  • A setting questionnaire. This quickly and effectively creates the System that the game takes part in. This can either be done by the Game Moderator solo, or more effectively with the players going round the table, to make choices about the type of powerlevel of the game, the type of homeworld that the game centres on, other bodies (satellites, moons, planets) in the system, and some important NPCs.
  • During character creation, character concepts, Drives and Styles all define not only the character, but the direction of play, and the type of situations that they get into. See the previous post about the Rules for more on this.

Because Cyberpunk is a much broader genre than it was in the 80s or 90s, its important to focus in on the things that the players find exciting.

We’re getting closer to launch. I’m anticipating I will push the button just after tea-time, 8 pm GMT this evening.

If you back during the first 24 hours, you will get a free-pdf adventure, called “Brain Dead at the Shopping Mall”. Its a Halloween-Cyberpunk cross over. Here’s the cover image by Jeshields.

Reboot the Future, Everyone’s a Cyberhacker

Today’s Reboot the Future preview post is around the point that in the game, Everyone’s a Cyberhacker. One of the things that grinds my gears when it comes to many cyberpunk game systems, is that only one person can do cyber-hacking in-game.

Sure, it is consistent with the literature, where the hero is usually a cyber-cowboy who can run the ‘net and prise open its secrets, but in-game, it leaves the rest of the party twiddling their thumbs.

So the first design decision that I made for the game was that everyone given the all-persuasive nature of computer use in the 23rd Century,could interact with the game’s virtual reality, known as the Datasphere. 

Each character at birth has an Avatar created for them by the Local Data Authority (LDA), which is their digital representation in the virtual world. For normal citizens, this lets them do a limited number of functions that the LDA authorises. Like online shopping and banking, taking online-training courses, reporting a crime to the local police etc. One of the first things that every cyberpunk does, almost as an initiation ceremony, is get their avatar hacked so the authorities can’t track them through the Data Sphere and the real-world, and they can do much more than Joe Citizen. Like open locked doors and take control of weapons turrets controlled by building security system. Artificial Intelligences control the digital systems of the Data Sphere and oppose illegal use of it. So there are rules for such interactions.

Running the Data Sphere becomes much more of a team effort that the whole gang
can participate in. Either as a quick pop in and pop out activity to open
locked doors, for example. Or a more involved attack on a hardened corporate AI
responsible for controlling data, managing accounts and real-world defences for
an illegal black project.

If that intrigues you go check out the kickstarter.

Oh another update that I’d like to share with you, is that we now have a cover courtesy of Dan Barker.

Dan Barker’s Cover.

Reboot the Future, Cyberpunk in the 23rd century

This is the second of five preview posts about Reboot the Future which is coming to Kickstarter on Monday 1st November.

This time out I’m looking at the game’s setting, Cyberpunk in the 23rd century.

Most Cyberpunk games start at some year in the near future, which amusingly for some of the older games has been and gone. So pushing the setting’s date to further out protects against that and also opens up literally whole worlds of opportunity.

The Consortium is the name of Corporate controlled known space that the game takes place in. Its made up of three types of corporate-controlled worlds, and its capitalism gone mad. Where you either earn and pay for various corporate services, or get pushed out to the slums in the Demilitarized Zones. Within this tightly controlled system of Corporate-Feudalism, they have held back technology for hundreds of years. For example faster than light travel is still science fiction, and any commercial space flight, outside vast expensive colony ships loaded with cryo-stasis tubes, is far outside the means of the general population. Who despite it being a space-age live and die on the worlds they were born on.

The Galactic War was the latest in a series of corporate wars that have taken place in human history. In the mainstream media, it’s presented as a “consumer revolt” where ungrateful anti-capitalist guerillas attacked the corporations, causing a Consortium wide recession. After withdrawing to their corporate headquarter worlds and regrouping, the Corporations heroically fought back and saved the galaxy! The unpleasant truth is that the Galactic War was an inter-corporate war, where the corporations consolidated their assets after the initial colonisation of space, bigger corporations ate up smaller rivals, and one of the four major megacorps was actually ejected from human space.

Project Darklight. Is a collection of corporate black projects run by the ruling trio of megacorporations (known as Tri-Corp). The full extent of which is hidden from the public who are led to believe that it’s some super-science that will rebuild the prosperity of the Consortium after the war.

The Reboot Movement. It started off as a rather cynical marketing campaign, in which the CEO of megacorperation Imperial Sterling INC publically said it was time to “Reboot the Future”. The cyberpunks who had grown on worlds abandoned during the Galatic War, free from crushing corporate control, made this slogan their own. They use it as a battle cry, a focus that they can take control of the way that their communities are being run. That in this period of rebooting society after the Galactic War, they can create a more positive world, economically,  environmentally and ethically, for themselves and their families.  

Reboot the Future, The Rules

This article is the first of five preview posts looking briefly behind the main selling points of Reboot the Future, Cyberpunk Roleplaying in the 23rd Century.

The Kickstarter page is now set up and if you are reading before 1st November its currently a prelaunch page where you can sign up to be notified the moment the Kickstarter launches.

Today I will expand on At its heart, it’s a straightforward rules-light Cyberpunk game.

Reboot the Future is built on Paul Mitchener’s Liminal RPG. About nine months ago, Paul kindly sent me a Liminal SRD with all the setting info and examples stripped out since I had expressed an interest in using the ruleset for my projects. Paul and I have collaborated on many projects over the years, and Liminal to my mind is a logical endpoint of the no-nonsense approach that Paul and myself share. It’s on its surface a very simple 2d6 vs Target number system. but there’s other things going on under the hood that make it a very powerful ruleset.

At the heart of Liminal, there the things that define the characters:

Concept. This is a quick summing up of what the character is all about, a pen picture. It also comes attached with suggested and required definitions which are detailed below. I completely rewrote this section to include all the standard cyberpunk roles, such as cyber hacker, Ronin, Black Marketeer etc.

Drive is what makes the character tick. It’s the goal that they are working towards in-game and nicely sums up their beliefs. You score extra experience for pursuing your drive and being able to reroll skill tests that involve the Drive.

Focus: Each character has a focus. This gives them bonuses for certain attributes, and access to Talents, which are traits that only characters with that focus can have. Reboot the Future has focuses of, Commerce, Determined, Hacker, and Tough.

Skills. Liminal has a short but comprehensive skills that tend to be broad rather than narrow in scope. Hence we have Athletics that covers movement abilities rather than separate skills for Jumping, Climbing etc

Traits. Are the additional abilities and talents that the character possesses outside of their skills. Some traits add bonuses to skill tests of a certain type. Others open up whole new areas of endeavour.

Attributes: Will, measures mential fortitude and can be spent for rerolls. Endurance measures physical health. Damage and Protection is the harm that an attack inflicts and your armour aborbs, both measured in d6 plus a modfier that goes up with effectiveness.

Liminal Characters are also part of an adventuring party called a Crew. I’ve renamed this the Gang in Reboot the Future, and added some cyberpunk style assets that the gang can collectively call upon.

The game system is short and concise and mainly revolves around skill tests and challenges.

Skill Tests and Challenges. Skill tests are very straightforward roll 2d6 add an appropriate skill rating, and see if you’ve rolled higher than a Target Number, which defaults to 8 but can be adjusted by the Game Moderator. Challenges are slightly more involved procedures for Combat and Social interactions.

Areas I’ve added to character definitions.

Style, in keeping with the fashion-conscious genre aspects of cyberpunk, every character has a style that defines their visual appearance and attitude and gives a bonus up to three times a game session to any skill test where it is appropriate.

Origins and Flashbacks. Each character has an Origin, such as Archology Terminte, Spacer, Rough Neck etc. As well as a quick background of the characters upbringing for the purposes of roleplaying, they can also be invoked, up to three times per session in the form of Flashbacks that give the character insights from their past which allow them to reroll failed skill tests where appropriate

Cyberware. I’ve used the traits system to add the many types of cyberware that the game features.

Circles and Contacts. Cyberpunk literature has many examples of where a contact is quickly contacted to get the characters out of trouble, or the character’s association with various social circle. So I’ve added rules for this.

To the overall game system, I’ve added some additional rules in keeping with the Cyberpunk genre, that add to straightforward Liminal’s rules for skill tests,social and combat challenges.

Rules for interacting with Virtual Reality. This all revolves around Avatars that act as a digital version of the character in the virtual world. Opposing them are Artificial Intelligences, which guard and control the computer systems that the characters want to loot, manipulate and hack. Unlike other Cyberpunk games, where a dedicated hackiing role gets to have all the fun, while all the other characters sit there twiddling their thumbs, every cyberpunk character has an Avatar which can interact with the virtual world, and take part on data raids, seizing control of computer remotes, and engaging in combats with system AIs.

Vehicluar Mayhem. This type of challenge covers both vehicle combat and chases in one swift go.

Load Out. This chapter adds descriptions and game rules for the many bits of technology that the characters can pick up.

If this interests you, check out the Kickstarter page.

  • Reboot the Future Kickstarter page.
  • Reboot The Future, Kickstarter 1st of November

    On Monday 1st November, I’m opening a month-long Kickstarter for Reboot the Future, a cyberpunk RPG set in the 23rd Century that uses Paul Mitchener’s Liminal RPG as a rules base.

    The Kickstarter page is now set up, and the pre-launch page, where you can sign up to be notified when it launches, is live.

    What is Reboot the Future ?

    I love cyberpunk, from the first days of Cyberpunk 2013, and the genre’s heyday as the setting of various RPGs in the 90s. I stopped mentioning that I could run it either at home or at cons to play other games, such was the demand.

    By the early 2000s, I was burnt out on it as a setting, the ‘punks vs corps default, and the systems, which started off simple and rapidly descended into twiddly complexity when you start working out the effects. The computer hacking element of the game or Net running had got unbearable in the same way that low-level magic-users do in 80s versions of D&D. With the Netrunner sitting out most of the game. In contrast, the others charmed and shot their way around the adventure until it was time to hack the enemy’s computer system. When the tables were turned, and it was the time for the Netrunner to have their 15-30 minutes of fame while the rest of the party sat by twiddling their thumbs.

    So Reboot the Future is my latest attempt to make the Cyberpunk game of my dreams. It’s based on an earlier attempt called Project Darklight, which I realised back in 2016, which used a D6 dice pool system called Wordplay, which worked ok, but wasn’t as lean as I wanted. So this time out, I’m using Paul Mitchener’s Liminal system, a 2D6 vs target number system, which is simple and accessible, yet has some very clever rulings to give it meaningful depth both in a rules sense and to support roleplaying.

    The main selling points for Reboot the Future are:

    1. At its heart its a straightforward rules light Cyberpunk game. If you want to discard the setting and make your own you still get value for money just from it. The character generation, game rules, and even the example npcs and organisations are rooted in traditional cyberpunk tropes.
    2. Cyberpunk in the 23rd century. I wanted a setting that even if the players want to play straightforward cyberpunk, that was a little bit more than the Cyberpunks vs Corperations. Dragging the setting’s time period forward into the age of fringe colonies vs core corperate worlds, and the mystery of what’s in space, has done this for me.
    3. Everyone’s a Cyberhacker. Although there is a dedicated concept for cyberhackers, everyone can interact with virual reality and do stuff there. In fact sometimes they will have to work together to overcome the Artifical Intelligences that run Virtual Reality and guard its secrets.
    4. Play the Cyberpunk you want. Using a setting questionarrie and other player centred tools, the group gets to run the version of cyberpunk you want.
    5. Deep setting info you can ignore if you want. If you like the deep occult conspiracy type of cyberpunk that the Matrix brings, with a mixed with a dash of Ufology, the game supports that. But keeping with the point above, you can easily switch that off and ignore it it, if you or your players don’t want to engage with it.

    I will expand on these five points as separate posts in the week before the Kickstarter opens.

    What is Kickstarter going to Deliver?

    The main rule book, 6-inch x 9 inches, 200-300 pages, colour hardcovers and black and white internals. Colour cover by Dan Barker, with black and white internal art by Jesheilds.

    Sample of the books internal art by Jeshields
    Mandate of Heaven, Cover by Dan Barker
    Mandate of Heaven, Cover by Dan Barker

    Three versions

    • PDF with full bookmarks and hyperlinked page references.
    • POD via drivethrurpg.com.
    • Signed and Sent. A properly printed book, with ribbons, endpapers and if they fund as a stretch goal colour plates, sent directly from me to you. Postage payable via my web store before I ship.

    ETA for the final book, April 2022, with 1st artless draft as soon as the successfully funded Kickstarter ends at the beginning of December.

    Unlike previous D101 Games, this Kickstarter, apart from a few already written adventures, will not have a long list of supplements attached to it as stretch goals. I’ve got ideas for sourcebooks, adventure campaigns for Reboot the Future aplenty, but they won’t be part of this campaign.

    Stretch goals

    I’m still figuring out the entire list of stretch goals, but here are the ones that will be in place.

    1. More art. I’ll commision more images to do some of the setting-specific pieces, and colour plates for the Signed and Sent printed version and Pdf.
    2. Liminal SRD. Working with Paul Mitchener a combination of what’s in the main Liminal rulebook, and some of the new bits I bring to the table in Reboot the Future.
    3. Operation Wolverine. This is my go-to adventure at cons to demo what the game is all about. As well as the adventure it will come with a set of six premade characters.

    There’s an Early Bird offer!

    If you are a backer within the first two days of the Kickstarter, I have a short adventure for you in pdf format that you’ll get at the end of the Kickstarter.

    • Brain Dead at the Shopping Mall. A Halloween themed adventure where the cyberpunks explore an abandoned shopping mall on the outskirts of their home city.

    Blasters and Lasers Careers

    The ram has touched the wall! I’ve started work on Blasters and Lasers, the zero edition of which is due in July.

    The first stage is working out what is different from Skyraiders of the Floating Realms, the fantasy game that uses the same D100 system.

    The first and most obvious place to start is the Careers section. Like Skyrealms, I’m using careers as a short punchy way of detailing what skills, equipment and augmentations ( science fiction based special abilities such cyberware and psychic abilities), the characters have picked up before they became professional adventurers.

    I’m posting this, it gives an idea of the scope of the game, and what sort of characters you can play.

    Careers

    Pilot

    This career covers both the Space-Fighter Ace and the Captain of a Tramp Merchant vessel.

    Skills: Pilot, Engineer, Navigation, Ranged Combat, Trade
    Equipment: Laser sidearm, choice of Grav vehicle, Space fighter or Star Ship.
    Augmentations: Ship Link (Starship) Link, Blaster Link, Navcom

    Criminal

    Gangsters who operate out of the crowded metropolis, shady black-marketeers who lurk in the dark alleys of spaceports, or bands of bandits who prey upon travellers making their way across vast wilderness between settlements on sparsely inhabited worlds.

    Skills: Awareness, Deception, Close Combat or Ranged Combat, Influence, Streetwise
    Equipment: Blaster rifle, Vibro-knucks, Knife.
    Augmentations: Choice of Cyberarm or Cyberleg, News chip, Law Feed.

    Marine

    This career describes both ex-armed planetary forces, trained to operate out of spaceships, or corporate guards who protect corporate operations.

    Skills: Close Combat, Ranged Combat, Unarmed Combat, Awareness, Movement
    Equipment: Blaster rifle, Combat Armour, Grenades, Combat Knife
    Augmentations: Enhanced Body Type, Combat Endorphins, Mercenary Database.

    Navy Officer

    Part diplomat, part combat-ready soldier, this career covers both the upper ranks of the Imperial Fleet or the member of a command group on a respectable merchant vessel.

    Skills: Influence, Ranged Combat, Linguist, Navigation, Pilot.
    Equipment: Laser pistol, Vibro Sword, Translator
    Augmentations: Customs Database, Body sculpt, Vocal Harmoniser.

    Scout

    Characters from this career may be formal members of the planetary armed forces or a freelancer who made their living from guiding commercial and tourist parties across wild worlds. They may be attached to professional expeditions to map and explore new worlds.

    Skills: Awareness, Movement, Influence, Ranged Combat or Close Combat, Wilderness Survival
    Equipment: Long Range Sniper Laser Rifle, Hunters Knife.
    Augmentations: Farsight Optics, Internal Water-Retainer, Environmental Adapter.

    Psymurai

    An ancient order who blends hand to hand combat skills with psionics.

    Skills: Close Combat, Unarmed Combat, Movement, Psychic
    Equipment: Laser Sword, Chi-Crystal, Laser Blaster.
    Augmentations: Sensefield, Block Damage, Weapon Enhance.

    Psyker

    Individuals with enhanced psychic awareness, who either work solo as detectives and investigator, or who are part of a larger Psychic Organisation.

    Skills: Influence, Awareness, Psychic
    Equipment: Chi-Crystal, Laser Pistol, Dampening Field.
    Augmentations: Mindlink, Empathy, Sensefield.

    Music to Drive Starships to, Part 1 Classical

    The first in an occasional series where I look at the soundtracks to my sci-fi imaginings.

    Holst the Planets

    Commentary

    In the 80s, my dad had a high-spec record player on which he would listen to jazz to escape my mother’s nagging and recover from the working week. On Saturday afternoons, when he was either out in the garden or creating his latest Curry Masterpiece, I would take over the record player and listen to this on heavy rotation. It was probably the first piece of music I bonded with at age 8 (approx) and still gives me goosebumps whenever I listen to it.

    With the headphones on, I would drift off into space and go on an imaginary journey through the planets. Guided by each piece having a definite audio-theme. Favourite pieces are the more intense ones: the almost heavy metal Mars Bringer of War, the sad and mysterious Saturn Bringer of Old Age, and the triumphant and rather cheeky Uranus the Magician. But all the tracks are killer, no filler.

    Obviously, it clicked with the idea of the Gods as Planets, and if I sat down and wrote a piece of gaming material directly inspired by it, it would be a Planetary Romance with each of the planets having a people and a living avatar of the God associated with it, running about causing all sorts of fun for the players 🙂