Author Topic: Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack  (Read 9040 times)

wordman

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Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack
« on: September 02, 2010, 06:42:45 PM »
While more of a glimmer in my eye at this point, I've been thinking a bit about a Shadowrun/AW hack.

Goal #1: The hack will be about playing in the setting of Shadowrun, not so much about shadowrunning. (Hence the name "Sixth World", and not "Apocalypserun" or something.) Consider a film like Strange Days. Though it is often considered to be inspiration fodder for Shadowrun, it really doesn't have much to do with shadowrunning. Far from "augmented hard-asses breaking the law for the highest bidder", it's a drug dealer, a chauffeur, a PI, a groupie and a media mogul caught up in circumstances and scrapping to make it out alive.

Actually, if you look at a list of films meant to inspire Shadowrun campaigns, you'll find that most of them are honestly not that Shadowrun-like, but instead deal with more or less "normal" people in a future world, usually with complicated relationships and motives, pulled into more than they can handle. Shadowrun isn't really set up to deal with stories like this, but Apocalypse World is. Sixth World will be about finding out what happens in these kind of stories, wrapped in the rich setting of the sixth world.

One way to think about it is to consider your average group of Shadowrun characters. Now pull one of each of these characters' contacts into a situation as PCs (maybe with one or more runners as NPCs, or not), and that would be a Sixth World game.

As a result, the character "classes" in Sixth World will not be the standard Shadowrun archetypes, but more pedestrian things (e.g. "joygirl", "wageslave", or something like that). Getting these right will be crucial to making the game work, so advice along those lines would be welcome.

Goal #2: One of the things that interests me about the sixth world is that there are several types of "reality" at work at the same time (e.g. the VR world of the Matrix, astral space). One of the vexing things about Shadowrun is that it doesn't really handle these other realities smoothly. I think that Apocalypse World might be able to, and I'd like to try it in this hack. Again, advice on this subject most welcome.

I'm assuming that part of the differentiation between classes will be how effective they can be in these various "spheres" of experience. My initial thoughts turn towards having Weird actions be limited to working only in one of these spaces at a time, with actions selected such that a given character will be great in one sphere, passable in another and completely useless at others. I'm interested in four of these spheres, in particular: real space, the matrix, astral space, the zeitgeist.

The latter takes some explanation: this is a realm of abstract notions that influence reality, such as fashion, internet memes, swings in "common wisdom" or "popular opinion". This is where notions of fame, reputation, corporate "health" and so on dwell. And this realm can be manipulated. Just as some characters might be "good in the Matrix", one or more types will excel a navigating and manipulating this "rumorspace" to their advantage.

Goal #3: More of a design note, really... if this ever turns into anything, that "thing" will likely work by references to the originals, not by complete reproduction. That is, the text will say "go buy and Apocalypse World and some Shadowrun setting books. The rest of the text will assume you've read them." The GM section might be like "see that AW section on MC advice? Follow it, but here is how you tweak it to run the Sixth World", and so on.

Goal #4 might be unnecessary and irrelevant, but I've found myself pondering the question "Is the sixth world post-apocalyptic?" Clearly, this need not matter to making an AW hack, but I have this weird suspicion that it might matter to this one, and need to figure it out. Shadowrun does have some "mini-apocalypses" in it, of course, like the Crash or the two waves of VITAS killing a quarter of the world. Then there is goblinization and the Awakening and so on. Does it matter? If it does, I suspect that it matters because of scarcity. Shadowrun games tend not to be about scarcity, but the sixth world has some interesting takes on scarcity in the books. As an example, nutrition is not all that scarce, but food kind of is. That is, you can survive on soy-based swill and AmberGel, but real fruit and meat are hard to get. GIven the Resource Rush in the history, you can assume the peak has come and gone for oil and probably some other resources, such as water. How does this matter to the hack. Maybe I'm just obsessing, but it seems important. Put another way, part of the advice in AW involves scarcity, but how much of that can be leveraged in the Sixth World?

Anyway, as you can see, I'm sort of just moon gazing as this point. Please advise.
« Last Edit: September 02, 2010, 06:49:32 PM by wordman »

Bret

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Re: Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack
« Reply #1 on: September 02, 2010, 07:28:39 PM »
Fundamental Scarcity: Nuyen :p
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Jeff Russell

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Re: Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2010, 01:48:10 PM »
While more of a glimmer in my eye at this point, I've been thinking a bit about a Shadowrun/AW hack.

Goal #2: One of the things that interests me about the sixth world is that there are several types of "reality" at work at the same time (e.g. the VR world of the Matrix, astral space). One of the vexing things about Shadowrun is that it doesn't really handle these other realities smoothly. I think that Apocalypse World might be able to, and I'd like to try it in this hack. Again, advice on this subject most welcome.

I'm assuming that part of the differentiation between classes will be how effective they can be in these various "spheres" of experience. My initial thoughts turn towards having Weird actions be limited to working only in one of these spaces at a time, with actions selected such that a given character will be great in one sphere, passable in another and completely useless at others. I'm interested in four of these spheres, in particular: real space, the matrix, astral space, the zeitgeist.

Neat concept! I lovelovelove the Shadowrun setting, but hatehatehate the rules (this seems to be a common experience). I will admit that I have a practically adolescent enjoyment of the actual shadowrunner schtick, but your concept here probably makes for more interesting characters than "I'm good at teh haxx0ring".

Anyhow, this may be too high concept/big picture for a game focused on normal folks, but maybe your stats could just *be* "real world", "matrix", "zeitgeist", with maybe, I dunno, a soul stat to round it out or something? Also, though, that maybe too much mechanizing the core "thing" you want to explore with the game. I haven't thought about it too hard, just trying to come up with some interesting suggestions to get the juices flowing, as it were.

Bret

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Re: Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2010, 08:16:59 PM »
Just so long as I can still play an ork with a machine and goddamn claws coming out of his hand like Wolverine with tusks, we're cool.
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wordman

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Re: Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack
« Reply #4 on: September 07, 2010, 01:45:24 PM »

Anyhow, this may be too high concept/big picture for a game focused on normal folks, but maybe your stats could just *be* "real world", "matrix", "zeitgeist", with maybe, I dunno, a soul stat to round it out or something? Also, though, that maybe too much mechanizing the core "thing" you want to explore with the game.
Neat idea, but you're right that it is too much mechanizing it. Well, maybe not so much that. Main problem, I think, is that it is a bit too limiting for players. Every class would basically boil down to a single stat in play, making the exact same kind of roll over and over, which doesn't seem that compelling.

Also, I quite like the stats in AW as they are. They fit very well into the sixth world. In fact, reading what the various stats meant was what immediately made me thing "hmm, this game could work pretty well for a Shadowrun setting". Also, since I want to "hack by reference (see goals above), I'd like to keep the stats pretty close to the original, unless there is no other choice. Could be that "Magic" is better than "Weird", but maybe not. I think the others are solid.

wordman

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Re: Sixth World, a Shadowrun(ish) hack
« Reply #5 on: September 07, 2010, 02:27:44 PM »
Thinking about classes in terms of occupation (e.g. "joy girl", "wageslave") turns out to be a mistake. It's a bit too specific, so the danger in following that train is that you wind up with tons of classes.

You also run into problems various types of augmentation. For example, in SR a physad and a samurai are quite different beasts. Does that mean "samurai" and "physad" should be different classes? Or, consider a class like "Private Investigator". In SR, you might have totally different archetypes for "Magical Investigator", "Cybered Investigator" and "Highly Skilled Investigator". Under the AW mechanics, though, there really isn't that much difference between these types.

So, scrap all that kind of thinking. Instead, focus more on narrative purpose. I was having some trouble coming up with interesting classes when thinking about professions, but once I make the jump to a more motivation-based approach, some classes became immediately obvious, so I'm on the right track, I think.

Example... consider a "wageslave" class. How do you write actions that make that class playable? Well, story-wise, wageslaves usually don't get their interesting bits from working in a cube all day. Usually, wageslaves are in a story for one of two reasons: either they are an innocent victim pulled into a sticky situation (so the story is primarily about the situation, secondarily about the character) or they lead some kind of double life, where their "not at work" time is spent doing something very un-wageslave-like (so the story is about how the two worlds collide, usually with tension about getting "found out"). So, rather than a "wageslave" class, instead focus on the interesting bit. Taking the latter case, build a class whose whole schtick is walking the line between two different worlds. Call it Gemini, or Edgewalker or something. Then, you can make a wageslave who goes clubbing in the slums as an Edgewalker, but also a corporate spy, the guy working in the mail room who sneaks upstairs to pretend to be an executive, the girl who got out of the barrens by becoming a plaything to corporate gods (but, of course, whose past keeps coming back to haunt her), the stripper "working her way through school" and so on. Such a class would probably be the "jack of all trades" sort of class, being OK in most of the spheres, but not great at any of them.

Consider a class like "Provocateur", who's all about forcing people to act, through methods both subtle and extreme. In SR, you might know such a character by the template "Metahuman Rights Activtist", "Policlub Member", "Terrorist" or even "Mercenary" or "Journalist". Provocateurs might also be corporate "ratfuckers" (temping to call the class Ratfucker, actually), maverick politicians, talk-show hosts. These guys would probably be great at very specific things in multiple spheres.

A class like Trendsetter also focuses more on purpose than occupation. Trendsetters would be masters of manipulating the zeitgiest, but not much else. These would be your high profile rockers, corporate glitterati, influential bloggers, hard-hitting investigative journalists, pop philosophers, media moguls, simsense stars, celebrity stock analysts, alpha consumers, political pundits. Might be better off calling this class Alpha.

Anyway, working along these lines leads in some obvious directions. There might be some use in the final product of an "occupation map" that suggests a couple classes for various occupations.