Author Topic: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.  (Read 4704 times)

Anarchangel

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Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« on: January 15, 2013, 09:11:08 PM »
I'm actually gearing up to use The Sprawl as a basis for a Shadowrun hack, and I'm trying to figure out how Essence and Magic would be affected by cyberware and the Synth stat.

The Sprawl did actually begin life as an AW hack of Shadowrun, until I realised that the bits I most wanted to emulate about Shadowrun were the non-magical cyberpunk elements. I did have a few thoughts though.

One important issue to consider is that Essence in SR (and Humanity in Cyberpunk) are essentially (hur-hur) game balance mechanics. As such, they're not needed in an AW hack, which is why The Sprawl doesn't replicate them in that way. What replaces them in The Sprawl is fiction-driving questions about cyberware in character generation and MC moves/principles/agenda.

It's implicit in the above statement that I'm not trying to make a point about humanity as essentially biological. The idea that we become less human as we accumulate prostheses is not what I'm going for in The Sprawl. The Sprawl is about the interaction of humanity and technology, and how that intersection changes both, rather than that kind of biological essentialism.

If you want to make such a point, or if you want to balance magic vs technology as a zero sum game then you'd want some kind of counter attribute to Synth.

I wouldn't bother with both Magic and Essence. I would probably just call it essence and then model the various fictional elements that raised or lowered Magic in SR as basic magic or playbook moves (depending on how you want to model magic in general). So there might be an Initiate advanced playbook or move tree or the like to model different fictional situations.

Essence and Synth might either always sum to 1, or perhaps the combined totals could never exceed 1. So if one is +2 the other is -1, if one is +1, the other is zero.

At the moment, there's no mechanical link between your Synth rating and the amount of cyberware you have. I would suggest something like this: Essence starts at +2 and is decreased by the addition of cyberware. One implant, Essence goes to +1 (as currently written, everyone has one piece of cyberware, so everyone would start with +1 at most); two implants, Essence is 0 (this would apply to anyone who takes the Chromed move); three implants, Essence -1 (At the moment, Killers with both cyberware moves). Beyond that, it would depend on how much cyberware you wanted to see in the game. Does it just bottom out, or is there a mechanical trigger for Cyberpsychosis? (I forget what the zero Essence state was called in SR).

I would then have Essence be the stat that powers the various magic moves, and maybe add in a basic move that drives at the heart of that zero sum game. Something like that advanced Monsterhearts move that lets you actually make a real human connection (I don't have my copy of MH to hand, sorry).

The main question you need to ask yourself is "what do I want Essence to do in the game". In an SR emulation, the answer could be as simple as "allow Magic as a counterpoint to technology by requiring a deliberate choice between the two", but the answer to that question will guide the way you consider this problem.



woodsman

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Re: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2013, 05:37:10 AM »
Great stuff! You really know how to break it down. You've put into focus all of the things I've been tinkering with in my head but just didn't have any perspective on.

I think the reason why I want to explore Shadowrun again using AW is to focus on the psychological trauma of having, in a period of less than half a century, cybertechnology AND magic becoming solid features in our world. Having said that, the loss of Essence by gaining cyberware isn't a huge deal thematically (like you become a colder, deader person or whatever), unless it's affecting a magical character since Essence is the connection to magic. That goes into the magic system of SR, where some spells target a character's Essence (i.e. a healing spell is harder to cast on a low-Essence character). For me I suppose it's a pretty mechanical feature overall.

Let me try to answer your question of what do I want Essence to do in my game.
"Essence will power the magical abilities of awakened characters and indicate the metaphysical wholeness of characters, both awakened and mundane."
So I guess three things:
power magical moves
gauge how much chrome a body can handle
indicate how susceptible to magic a body is

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I wouldn't bother with both Magic and Essence.
I was already on to this. For this type of hack, I see the moves as ways to cover the different skills from SR. So there will be conjuring, sorcery, etc moves, all based on the intrinsic power (Essence) of the character. And then Initiation will be a move that can be taken after the character takes a certain number of other advances.

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Essence and Synth might either always sum to 1, or perhaps the combined totals could never exceed 1. So if one is +2 the other is -1, if one is +1, the other is zero.
I like this a lot, I was just having trouble with the balance. But then it changes what Synth means. In The Sprawl, it represents your ability to control and be at one with the chrome, right? In Shadowhack, would Synth go up when you gain cyberware? If a non-cybered character gets a piece of cyberware, his Essence goes down but does his Synth go up? And then, if he gets another, and it goes up again, does that represent not only that he has more cyberware, but that the more he has, the more he knows how to use all of it? I think I'm cool with that. It's just another sort of "wholeness" I suppose.

By the way, I love the hunted/owned/unreliable cyberware stuff you did. It makes the whole thing so much more scary and intense.

Anarchangel

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Re: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2013, 09:30:10 AM »
A fresh perspective is a wonderful thing! Some of the best parts of The Sprawl have been inspired by this sort of conversation.

Let me try to answer your question of what do I want Essence to do in my game.
"Essence will power the magical abilities of awakened characters and indicate the metaphysical wholeness of characters, both awakened and mundane."
So I guess three things:
power magical moves
gauge how much chrome a body can handle
indicate how susceptible to magic a body is

Oh yeah, Essence as a target number; I'd forgotten about that. One way you could model that is having magic resistance as an Interfere move but rolling+Essence. I'm sure there's a more elegant way though.

That sounds like a good emulation of Shadowrun to me. If you keep that in mind as you think about how you want to to work, and keep thinking back to how every rule and move you design reflects that goal, then you'll be in good shape.


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So there will be conjuring, sorcery, etc moves, all based on the intrinsic power (Essence) of the character. And then Initiation will be a move that can be taken after the character takes a certain number of other advances.

Yeah. There could also be something cool with conjuring not being a move you roll, but a set of bargains you make to get hold. Like bartering in AW.


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I like this a lot, I was just having trouble with the balance. But then it changes what Synth means. In The Sprawl, it represents your ability to control and be at one with the chrome, right? In Shadowhack, would Synth go up when you gain cyberware? If a non-cybered character gets a piece of cyberware, his Essence goes down but does his Synth go up? And then, if he gets another, and it goes up again, does that represent not only that he has more cyberware, but that the more he has, the more he knows how to use all of it? I think I'm cool with that. It's just another sort of "wholeness" I suppose.

In an earlier version of the rules, a lot of the cyberware did give Synth bonuses, so I think that was in the back of my mind.

You have Synth right. The question is, does more chrome = better at dealing with chrome? If you want that answer to be yes, make it a straight "sum to 1" equation. If you want burned out mages who are useless with tech as well, make it a "cap at 1" equation.


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By the way, I love the hunted/owned/unreliable cyberware stuff you did. It makes the whole thing so much more scary and intense.

Thanks! That's exactly what I was going for. Cyberware is cool, but lets not forget what it is and what it costs.

Mikael

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Re: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« Reply #3 on: April 16, 2014, 07:53:58 PM »
woodsman, did you ever end up playing with magic included?

woodsman

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Re: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2014, 04:33:33 AM »
I did, yes. It was a while ago now. I used the magic system from the Sixth World hack (which has been recently updated). It was just one session, so it's too early to see the interplay between tech and magic (especially because I went without using a Synth stat!). For my trial run I just used Hard, Cool, Sharp and Hot from AW and they worked great.
I've been looking at it again to do some more work and playtesting. I am in the mode of really streamlining things while keeping in some interesting details. We'll see how it goes!  I'll keep you guys posted.

Mikael

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Re: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2014, 06:13:16 AM »
Thanks for the update, sounds very interesting. I am naturally curious to see this hack you mention, but cannot seem to locate anything except an early discussion thread by Wordman. Any hints?

Anarchangel

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Re: Synth, Magic and Essence: Hacking The Sprawl for Shadowrun.
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2014, 02:38:31 AM »
I think the main thread for The Sixth World is this one on RPGnet: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?697009-Sixth-World-It-s-basically-done!

I haven't looked at it for a while, but the last version I saw was a cool re-write of Dungeon World which really captured the flavour of Shadowrun.