Dec 14 2019
So, to further illustrate exactly why Apocalypse World has never worked for me, here’s an actual play log, to demonstrate just how hard I’ve tried to make it work.
TL;DR – As written the game constantly and consistently gets in the way of the story, of immersion, of improvisation, which – to me – is essential for good games.
The scattered nature of the rules, the many exceptions and Moves, at least as written, make the game heavier on book-flipping and reference than even conventional games like D&D.
You frequently run into situations where the results of dice rolls should shape the narrative, but can’t. In the situation with the rats, for example, there was someone controlling them, but there was no mechanism or means to make a ‘notice check’ to see if they were there. Things as simple as an athletics check, a perception check – vital in games – are utterly absent which really throws a spanner in the works.
The system is also not granular enough for decent character development or more equipment or situations to make much difference, unlike – say – Cypher, which also puts every roll in the hands of the players, but pulls it off without the same sorts of problems.
The idea behind the central mechanic is fine, and how it can drive the action and choices, there’s just no depth there and the execution completely fails to cash in on the promise.
Look, the full set-up isn’t important, since this is just an example session. In brief, however, it’s a future scenario in a flooded, hot, swampy London. Think Mad Max with boats, but not Waterworld. People are living in the half-flooded ruins and stringing platforms and bridges between them. Disease is rampant, people scavenge – even fifty years later – and find things beneath the waters.The game centres around a hardhold in an old, brutalist, concrete housing bloc from the 1970s and their acts of scavenging to keep their hardhold going.
Lane – The chief of the Hardhold, an athletic woman who dresses in urban sports gear and body armour, an old gasmask etc. She leads from the front, with a gang of miscreants in her wake. It’s a savage, decadent existence.
Haus – Pilots a tug, it’s a brute of a little boat and able to tug enormous weights, but it’s slow. He’s well armed.
The Hook and the Game
GM: “It’s been a hard winter, and a wet spring. The flood waters have risen, flooding another floor of the Hardhold and cramming more people into the upper floors. Summer has come in with a vengeance, turning the air soupy, the stink from the shit-pools is especially vile. With that heat has come the skeeters, horseflies and along with them… disease. Unless you get some decent medicine, and soon, the disease will gut the Hardhold and make people lose faith in your leadership. Already they’re killing anyone who shows sign of the disease, sacrificing them to Father Thames to call for his mercy.”
Lane: “OK, so the Hardhold survives by doing all sorts of things, including scavenging, and it has the perk of a bustling market. I rolled 13 before play started, to see how much extra barter I’ve got, and that makes 4 personal barter for today. Can we check the market to see if there’s any of the pills we need, or a herbal remedy or anything?”
[This is trouble. My plot hook relies on them needing to get rare and hard to find medicines. If I just allow them to barter for it, the whole adventure idea is borked. If I don’t, I’m violating the Hardholder’s character and Hardhold concepts. You can choose to ignore the Barter Move, but since I didn’t establish that before play, it’s going to be a violation. Even if I make the cost of the medicine absurd, Lane can just have sex with Haus over and over and over again to produce free and endless barter (until and unless Haus leaves). Still, maybe they’ll fail and it won’t be a problem].
GM: “You can go down to the half-flooded pontoons and piers and ask some of the scumrunners, divers and scavs if you like. They stink worse than anywhere else, and everyone has their face covered with old gas masks, alcohol-soaked bandanas and other breathing apparatus.”
Haus: “We can split up to cover more people, and I’m a scavenger myself, they might be a bit more open with me. I roll Hx +3 to help, I only get a 7, exposing myself to a downside, damn.”
GM: “Hump, a scav you owe barter to, is prowling the piers with his gang of mutants. If you can’t pay, you’d better stay clear.”
Haus: “I’ll keep out of the piers and stand guard on the stairs then, trying to look busy.”
Lane: “Bartering is based on Sharp, so I get ten.”
[What do I do here? They’ve already got a ten, but should they have a bonus for their Hardhold having a thriving market? Is that a tag? What do tags do? Can I add bonuses or penalties to their rolls? Nothing in the main book, only in the appendix and online the discussion seems to be anti, even in Dungeon World which is a bit more ‘traditional’. Uh oh, they’re looking at me flipping madly through the book and typing things in, and this is a simple thing to understand in most games. The commentary at the end says +/- one or two, the help/interfere actions suggest the same thing, but without any skills or anything this renders the choices you make for your characters virtually meaningless as – by standard – you only really get +/- one to two, three at the outside. That means the outcome of anything is, essentially, random! What a load of old shite… bugger, better make a ruling. I was hoping they’d fail so I didn’t have to override them and invalidate their character choices.]
GM: “It doesn’t seem like anyone has access to the pills that you need, but there is a diver who claims they know where you can find it. If you’ll barter her some lead. (That’s three barter in game speak).”
Lane: “Well I can cover that from my stash then. I do the deal, unless I can argue them down?”
GM: “Nah, three is the price, you got a ten so it’s not going to get any better.”
GM: “Meatcalf, the diver, is an odd duck. Greyish skin, knife-shaved hair, water – and snot – constantly drips from her nose. The water isn’t exactly clean in the city, even fifty years after the floods came. Her raft is covered in recovered solar cells and posts a small wind turbine on its mast. Her baskets are full of old bits of electronics, most inoperable, and there’s a smell of stinking plastic as she melts down old circuit boards for the precious metals.”
GM (As Meatcalf): “Hello Lane, what can I do for you – cough – ? Gold, copper, a working calculator perhaps?”
Lane: “You know why I’m here ‘Calf. I’m looking for something to help my people who are sick. Something to bring down the fever so they can survive, even maybe some antibiotics. I hear you know where we can get some.”
GM (As Meatcalf): “I do, I do – cough – but it’ll cost you plenty. That shit’s precious. You’ll have to get it yourself, but I know where you can. You give me that lead I want, I’ll give you the information.”
Lane: “OK, I’ll have the lead loaded on Meatcalf’s raft, but make sure a few of the guys are around in case she tries to run.”
GM: “She doesn’t, she scrawls you a map on a piece of bleached wood with an ancient marker-pen. You recognise the landmarks and you know where it is.
GM (As Meatcalf): “It’s a farmy-cyst, where the olds kept their medicines. Only it’s not on any of the old maps. Must have been changed-a-fresh when the end came. Shelves and shelves.”
Lane: “So why didn’t you take any?”
GM (As Meatcalf): “I like the – cough – ‘tronics. Not the medicines.”
Lane: “I’ll take the map and join up with Haus.”
Haus: “Do I know anything about the area on the map, being a scavenger and everything?”
[Oh dear. There isn’t anything like a knowledge roll, to make. No moves seem appropriate and the state of the city will be in constant flux as different factions fight, so it’s not appropriate to just give or withhold the information. ‘Read the Sitch’ sounds like the right thing, but isn’t, it’s for reading people. The general guideline is ‘if it’s not a move, just do it, but that doesn’t seem appropriate. After thoroughly flipping back and forth through the book, there’s fuck all guidance in here and any time you do try to look anything up you’re looking for something really specific, a ‘move’. I’d improvise and just ask for a Sharp roll, but the point in examining a system is to play it by the book].
GM (Pulling shit out of his arse): “Nothing current. Front lines and arenas shift so often that you’re learning afresh every time you head out there.”
Lane: “We’d better get going then. I’ll leave the gang to keep order and protect the Hardhold. If word has gotten out about the sickness, we might come under attack.”
Haus: “Off to the tug then.”
GM: “This is the first time we’ve done anything to do with your ship, so why don’t you tell us about it?”
[This will give me a little more time to think].
Haus: “It’s an old pre-apocalypse tug, with some heavy modifications and makeshift repairs. She’s a brute, and rides low in the water, but she’s powerful and tough. The only problem she has, is that she guzzles biodiesel like it’s going out of fashion. There’s some makeshift armour hung around the outside and the cabin, and a powerful winch with a variety of hooks and cables. Her name’s painted on the side, ‘Unnatural Disaster’.”
Lane: “There’s no time to waste, so let’s get going. I’ll sit on top of the cabin and keep watch, you steer and navigate.”
Haus: “Yes m’aam. Right, I’ll top of the tank, start her up, cast off and follow the map as best I can.”
GM: “OK, give me a moment.”
[If they got lost that could be interesting, but it should only happen if they fail at navigation. There’s no such Move and again this falls afoul of the ‘if it’s not a Move, just do it’ rule. So the only way I can have them get lost, or not, is to choose. If I arbitrarily decide to make them get lost that’s a dick move, and puts the onus for that onto me rather than the dice. If I don’t, I’m making things easier on them than they should be. Once again the game’s lack of adaptability or – ironically – room for improvisation lets me down. Rules, typically, allow me to introduce potential problems or threats and allow characters to avoid them if they’ve invested in that area. They help build the game organically. This doesn’t let me do that. I’d rather not be a dick, so they can navigate there no problem].
GM: “It takes about an hour of chugging through the waterways of the drowned city to get there. You see a few others out and about, scavvers hooting at you to stay away from their claims, hunters from the blood clains – though they give you a wide berth. Seems like the news about the disease has spread and they’re unwilling to catch it. Finally you reach what seems to be the right coordinates. The water is fairly still here, though it is thick and dirty with a slowly disintegrating mulch and the rotting plastic of the time-before. The place you want should be beneath the four buildings here that stab out of the mire, a crossroads of the before-time.”
Haus: “Do we notice anything out of the ordinary? Want to be safe before we dive down.”
[Well shit. Is there an awareness type move? A notice-hidden-things type move? If I’m pitting their alertness against an enemy’s ability to be stealthy what the shit am I supposed to do here? Enemies don’t even have stats exactly, even less so than in something like Numenera. So I can’t even pro-actively roll for the bad guys to see if they succeed on being sneaky – and there are bad guys here. Again, I’m forced to make a choice in which neither player competence nor bad-guy ability play a roll. Acting Under Fire comes close, especially from the examples, but not really. I have to be a dick and impose it, whatever way I decide to go, and that tends to lead me to play nice, since it’s all on me and not emergent from the dice].
GM: “Uh, well, it’s been occupied at some point. That seems for certain. There’s still some remnants of old rope bridges between the four buildings – or at least the ropes. The thickness of the muck suggests a fair few people were here fairly recently. There’s no real sign of any people now though, though there is a fair amount of junk on the roofs and an old windmill is still turning at the corner of one of the buildings. Otherwise, all you can see are a few rats, sitting and grooming themselves on the flotsam and jetsam.”
Haus: “Alright, I’ll chug us on in, slow and careful, bump the tug up against one of the buildings to help hold us in place and drop anchor. Gauge the depth.”
Lane: “And I’ll stand watch still, but if we’re coming to a stop I’ll stand up.”
GM: OK, so…
[Still no way to handle stealth or alertness that makes sense in this situation, Read Sitch isn’t appropriate, again I don’t want to be a dick and Lane is standing watch, but ugh. Just ugh.]
GM: …As the tug comes to a halt there is a sudden rushing sound, almost like water, from the building you’re anchored to. Lane sees sudden movement from within one of the empty holes that used to be windows and then realises, in horror, that it is a tidal wave of rats. Huge ones. They gush out of the opening like a firehose has been connected to your nightmares. They’re huge, sleek, well fed, mutated or bred to be enormous and squealing with malevolent glee. What do you do?
[Enemies don’t get much in the way of stats, so there’s not a great deal to differentiate one enemy from another. These rat-dudes exist in great numbers though, even though individually they don’t pose much threat. All I really get to control is armour and harm. So let’s go base harm 0, base armour 1 (hits are only really going to take out individual rats and leave the swarm relatively untouched). This makes the enemies rather statistically flavourless].
Haus: “Fuck, I’ll dive for the ship’s motor and move us off. We’re anchored, but they’ll have to swim in order to reach us. I know rats can swim, but they won’t be able to just rush out of the building on to us.”
Lane: “I’ll stomp the shit out of any rats that make it to the tug with my boots.”
GM: “Alright, let me just figure this out…”
[Is Haus acting under fire? Are they helping Lane by increasing the distance, or hindering the rats? Why is helping or hindering dependent on your personal relationship, rather than what’s being done? Lane is obviously Going Aggro, and the ratswarm is clearly attacking, doing potential harm. That harm, from the rats, is going to be base 0, +3 Harm for size difference, 1 Armour, +3 Armour for size of the swarm. Oof. For rats, or anything else for that matter? I’m going to have to fiddle something here. First things first though. Let’s call it helping].
GM: “Uh, OK, so you’re trying to help Lane, essentially, by stemming the rate at which the rats can attack. So make an Hx roll.”
Haus: “I only get 8… wait, do I add the tug’s power here?”
GM: “One sec… yes, I think so.”
Haus: “Ten then.”
GM: “Alright, so that’s enough. The tug starts pulling away, though you’re still anchored for now, you’ve only got the play left on the chain. Lane, roll for Going Aggro.”
Lane: OK, with Haus’ bonus that’s… still only 7.
GM: “Wait… I think it’s Seize by Force, though that’s really counter-intuitive. Same result?”
Lane: “Same result.”
GM: “OK, choose two of the combat options.”
Lane: “I will ‘take little harm’ and ‘inflict terrible harm’.”
GM: “Stompy boots and going all out will give you one damage, terrible harm raises that to two. You’re stamping and mushing rats underfoot, but for every one you crush, two more leap onto the deck or swim up to the side. They swarm up your legs, biting at you, tearing your clothes and squirming inside. You take… three harm, minus one for armour, minus another one for ‘take little harm’. So one harm, roll that, 2d6+1.”
GM: “In your desperation to scramble the rats off you and to stamp them to death, you lose your footing on the blood and guts and tumble off the tug into the water with a splash. Well. More of a splat really.”
GM: “Arse indeed. So the rats continue to pour out of the building, splashing into the murk, squirming through the water, scrambling up the side of the tug to bite and devour in a furry wave. What do you do?”
Lane: “I swim for my life towards the building, maybe I can get inside.”
Haus: “I drag my shotgun from its holster and unload a blast of shot into the biggest knot of rats.”
[I guess swimming away is an Act Under Fire, though it doesn’t seem appropriate, but nothing does and the ‘only a Move is a Move’ rule gets in the way once again. Haus is ‘Seizing by Force’ I suppose, but that’s really badly named].
GM: “Lane, Act Under Fire, Haus, Seize by Force.”
[I’m supposed to offer a worse outcome, a hard bargain or an ugly choice here, but it’s hard to see what that might be here. Harm? It’s not an explicit outcome of an Act Under Fire, but it’s implied in the examples. So she takes harm, but gets into the building I guess.]
GM: “The rats are crawling all over you, biting, squirming, it’s almost like you’re swimming through a sea of rats, rather than the water. Take three harm, minus your armour, that’s two harm. Roll for it.”
Lane: “Ugh, fourteen.”
[Balls. This wasn’t meant to be remotely this tough. Lane is getting really fucked over by this rat swarm].
GM: “You manage to scramble into the building, covered in bites. The room is on a slope and half full of stagnant water, but the rats aren’t following you in, they’re looping back towards the tug.”
Haus: “I add the power for the tug, right, since I’m on it?”
Haus: “Eleven. Booyah. So that’s three options. Can I put all three into damage?”
[There’s nothing that says you can and nothing that says you can’t. It would let me get them out of the trouble they’re in, but if I let him do that it sets a dangerous precedent for later on in the game, though maybe I can find some justification not to let them later on].
GM: “Sure, I guess. It’s a spread weapon and they’re lots of little creatures.”
Haus: “So that’s six damage.”
GM: “Minus their armour, is five. You blast your sawn-off into the wave of rats that’s cresting the tug, shattering many of their tiny bodies and clearing the deck of most of them. With another cartridge still in the chamber you’re able to advance down the deck and blast the window hole they’re scrambling out from, that seems to stem the tide, with the ones that are left scattering in all directions and squirming back into the building.”
[Bugger, I forget the size difference, but what the shit, let’s just get it done].
Lane: “When I think it’s safe I’ll climb around the outside of the building back to the tug.”
GM: “Rats or not, this does seem to be the right spot. You still need to get down there and find the drugs you need.”
Haus: “I think we’re best of you go down and I keep watch. I know how the ship works, I’ve got the gun. I stand the best chance against any other attacks or problems.”
Lane: “And the settlement will respect me more if I’m the one that gets them what they need. Alright, I’ll strip down, take a rope and bag in one hand, and if Haus has a torch I’ll use that in the other.”
Haus: “Do I have a torch?”
GM: “Uh, sure, makes sense to have one, even if it’s old and battered. You have an old wind-up electric torch with a cluster-LED bulb, most of which still work.”
Haus: “I’ll crank it to build a charge and hand it to Lane.”
Lane: “Alright, here goes. I’ll dive in and swim down, using the light to try and figure where this pharmacy is.”
[Bugger, another thing for which there are no rules. Generic athletics is so fundamental to most games that it’s conspicuous by its absence in this game. Just letting her do it (the rules as written) seems inappropriate. The closest thing is, perhaps, ‘Act Under Fire’, the ‘fire’ being the hazards of operating underwater, but again that just doesn’t really seem to be right. It’ll do].
GM: “Make an Act Under Fire roll then.”
Lane: “Seven. Shit.”
[Ah crap, now I have to come up with one of those worse results, hard bargains or ugly choices. It still really doesn’t adequately work here, but what can I do…]
GM: “In the gloom you spot the filthy remnants of the cross shape the old ones used to mark such places, but against all odds the windows are intact and the door locked. You’re running out of breath, the only thing you really have to hand to break the window is the torch, but it’ll likely break. Still, without it, you’ll have to surface and waste more time and risk another descent.”
Lane: “I’ll smash the window.”
GM: “The torch light flickers out after the third hit, but the ancient glass finally gives way. You can barely see but you scramble around in the dark, feeling for the shapes of pill bottles. Finally, with your lungs burning you break the surface with a few handfuls of plastic bottles, though the labels have long soaked away and disintegrated.”
Lane: “Once we get back we can try and make sure of what’s what. Can I dive back down a few more times to gather more?”
[Another problem. There’s no generic intelligence ability and you need a Savvyhead to have a Move that seems appropriate, and that rolls on Weird, which doesn’t seem right. Problem for another time].
GM: “Sure, but without a light you waste a lot of time finding your way and grabbing what you can. You’ve got quite a bit though.”
Haus: “Let’s head home.”
[This is more trouble than it’s worth, it would go much smoother to do a similar game using Interlok or something better suited, where things would work properly and improvisation would come easier].
Dec 2 2019
A ‘side quest’ for Tales of Gor, Inn on the Borderland places you in contested ground between two cities at war. You are about to get caught up in matters of intrigue, honour, survival and coin. Can you survive?
This book also contains a handful of errata and rules for creating and running settlements.
Ta Sardar Gor!
Nov 25 2019
Full launch Tuesday.
Narrative Attack is a podcast, hosted by Rachel Haywire (futurist, writer, artist, musician and presidential candidate), alongside James ‘Grim’ Desborough (author, publisher, videographer, analogue game designer and cynical old gothabilly).
Together they’ll be offering interviews and commentary on modern culture, politics, technology and esoterica, with a cynical and jaundiced eye.
Nov 23 2019
9d10, re-roll rolls of 2 or less and assign as desired. Minimum total 70 pts. Reroll lowest score and add on until you get over 75.
EG: Dana is rolling up what she hopes will be a Cyberninja.
She rolls: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 8, 9
Immediately, she needs two re-rolls, which score 9 and 6.
That gives her an array of: 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 8, 8, 9, 9.
That’s still only a total score of 58, she needs to gain another 15 total points.
Re-rolling the lowest score each time until it hits 70 continues until the array is: 6, 6, 6, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 10, which is bang on 70.
Roll as per normal, but potentially try to tie it to the background timeline.
Ignore the normal rules and treat everything as pickup skills. So you get 40+Int+Ref (before modifications and cybernetics) to spend where you like. Your Role skill cannot be higher than +5 and no other skill higher than +8 (so you have room to grow).
Netrunning will mostly be more like ‘real’ hacking, to do with prep and programs so it doesn’t drag down on the spot play, though on the spot hacking using field effects will also be an option.
Roles & Special Skills:
- Alt Media (Replaces Media): Credibility: Allows you to expose stories and use your reputation to convince people. Also adds half its score to your Persuasion and Interview skills, rounding down.
- Cop: Authority (Half round down adds to Intimidate and Interrogate, can be rolled by itself to exercise authority as an official agent of law/security).
- Corporate: Resources, this allows you to either draw on the parent company’s resources, or your own investments and holdings during a game. Government administrators are created using the Corporate model, but handle governmental resources.
- Covert Operative: Combat Sneak adds half its level to Stealth, Hide/Evade, Awareness and Initiative.
- Fixer: Streetdeal grants you free reputation equal to your skill level, as a wheeler and dealer, and adds as a bonus to your Streetwise rolls. You know people, everywhere, and can get just about anything.
- Grinder: Your Transhuman skill reduces the Humanity loss of installing Cyberware by its value, for each item.
- Influencer (Replaces Rockerboy): Influence allows you to reach a large audience via your social media presence and to directly influence smaller numbers of people to action. See Influencer table below.
- Investigator: The Research special ability grants half its level, rounding down, to Library Search and Shadow/Track.
- Medical Tech: Medtech allows you to perform highly trained feats of medicine, such as surgery. You can also add half of your Medtech skill (rounding down) to a single area of medical expertise such as Pediatrics, ENT, Oncology etc.
- Neotribe (Replaces Nomad): Neotribes are looser, transnational associations of people built on interests and common experiences. Communities, with stronger bonds. You can roll your ‘Family’ to gain aid or make local contacts from members of your ‘tribe’. Street gang members can be simulated with this role.
- Netrunner: Interface represents your intuitive grasp and specialist knowledge of modern computing. You add half your Interface skill, rounding down, when engaged in Programming, Electronic Security and System Knowledge rolls.
- Runner: Parkour is adds half its bonus to Athletics and Hide/Evade rolls.
- Scavenger: With a Scrounge check you can figure out where to find junked, lost, but otherwise usable and valuable materials. You will still have to go get them, however. Unlike Streetwise or Streetdeal, what you turn up is free for the taking – at least monetarily.
- Solo: Combat Sense (adds to Initiative).
- Solo: Combat Sense, bonus to Awareness and Initiative.
- Spy: Chameleon grants you one foolproof cover identity at level 1, another at level 5 and another at level 10. It also adds half its level as a bonus to Disguise and Persuasion/Fast talk rolls.
- Techie: As well as the ability to jury rig apparatus (for 1d6 turns of operation) you can also add your Jury Rig skill as a bonus to one area of technical expertise of your choice (engineering, science etc).
- THOT: Your Vamp skill allows you to encourage an audience to part with their money by using your sexuality, or their fetishes. Rolling this skill lets you tap people for money, make them take risks, send gifts to you and otherwise be led around by their libido.
- Transient: These are more akin to the traditional Nomads and are members of biker gangs, displaced peoples, Roma caravans, traveller convoys etc. Basic Transients can use family, to represent their connections and contacts. Sub-classes calculate their Kith score according to Neotribes P38. Subclasses include Warriors (Warpath adds half round-down to Melee, Initiative and Awareness), Outriders (Recon adds half its level to Awarneess and Hide/Evade) and Shaman (Counsel, Works as a half-strength version of Credibility and Charismatic Leadership).
- Transporter: Vehicle Zen is added as a bonus to vehicular skills.
Influence Level/Followers/Direct Influence
You start with a base of €6,000 derived from your Special Ability (Limited to a starting value of 5).
Choose a second skill upon which you have earned your more legitimate income on top (other skills are capped at 8).
Skill Level/Starting Cash Bonus
Big Ticket Items
If you have an essential, big-ticket item integral to your character concept, you can have a single item, vehicle or other asset with a value of no more than €50,000, but it technically, really, is on loan from a criminal, intelligence, corporate or other group who demand favours etc in exchange until you pay it off.
Note on Cyberpsychosis and Therapy
Cybertherapists are expensive specialists and a weekly one-hour session will set you back at least €200. In a month of sessions (€800) you can regain one point of Humanity, but NOT Empathy. Empathy can only be recovered by a combination of removing cybernetics and therapy.
EG: Tony’s Empathy drops from 6 to 5, following the installation of a new cyberarm. His current Humanity is 52. After seven months of therapy his Humanity is back up to 59, but he can gain no further benefit from Therapy, nor regain his lost point of Empathy.
Characters reduced to 2 Empathy manifest mental illness and tics – you can decide what, you know your character’s mental fracture points. At Empathy 1 that illness becomes full blown. At 0 it becomes a full blown and permanent derangement. This is separate to any other mental illnesses your character might suffer from. Losing additional points of Empathy stacks on more insanity until you decide to retire the character.
Wounds, Damage and Armour
We’ll start out by trying the Wounds/Threshold system from the Red jumpstart kit, which is kind of like 4e’s Health/Bloodied/Down system. It’s not really any less abstract than wound levels, and a bit easier on the bookkeeping.
It does also mean that armour SP is ‘compressed’ however. Armour SPs convert roughly like so…
Original SP/New SP
Nov 21 2019
I’m running a Cyberpunk 2020 game for my regular group next year, the appeal of ‘2020 in 2020’ was too strong.
My game will be set in an alternative, cyberpunky version of the real world, more like an alternate timeline, with certain technology being 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years ahead of now.
I’ve justified this by removing a few setbacks for the space industry and having a second ‘leap’ in technology, similar to that enjoyed by piggybacking off the Nazis, with a piggybacking off the USSR’s unethical experimentation after their collapse. Add a little dystopian corporate statehood, and you’re away to the races.
Some of what I create for this game will likely end up forming a ‘retroclone’ Cyberpunk rules set, that I primarily want to use for a Steampunk setting.
- The Soviet Union begins its economic restructuring (Perestroika).
- Lee-Teng-Hui becomes president of China.
- The US government narrowly approves almost fifty million dollars in aid for Nicaraguan Contras, opening up a more ‘upfront’ involvement of the US in the South American front of the Cold War.
- The Soviet Union begins to collapse and withdraws from Afghanistan.
- Three members of the Provisional IRA are shot dead in Gibraltar. While the UK government and the SAS were implicated in the shooting, the culprits are never found or charged. Loyalist paramilitaries attack the funeral of the three men and the PIRA later attack and kill two UK soldiers in retribution. The Troubles continue, even into 2020 and Northern Ireland never gets devolved power.
- The Iraqi government launches a chemical attack on Halabja.
- Mass protests begin to take place in Soviet satellite states.
- The USS Samuel B Roberts hits an Iranian mine while monitoring the Iran/Iraq war. Retaliation from the USA takes the form of a week of airstrikes against Iranian oil platforms and naval vessels. The Iran/Iraq War ends by August.
- Wembley Stadium holds a concert in celebration of Nelson Mandela’s 70th birthday. The Apartheid regime has him at this time.
- James Hansen testifies that Global Warming has begun. It spirals out of control far faster than anyone anticipated. By 2020 sea levels have risen 1 metre and the global temperature has risen by 2.5 degrees centigrade.
- The Morris Worm – the first Internet computer worm virus – infects the internet, starting from MIT. The potential power of this technology is immediately understood.
- George W Bush succeeds Reagan and immediately begins bolstering US Intelligence service power and reach.
- The Stealth Bomber is unveiled, starting a rush in other militaries to match or defeat the technology.
- The USSR Shuttle ‘Buran’ undergoes a crewless test flight.
- A cyclone in Bangladesh leaves five million people homeless and thousands dead, foretelling climate effects to come. Bangladesh will become a case-in-point for climate devastation and genocide.
- Pan Am Flight 103 explodes over Lockerbie, Libyan state terrorists are considered responsible.
- The UN signs a convention against drug trafficking.
- TAT-8, the first transatlantic fibreoptic cable is laid. High-speed data traffic across the world is now possible.
- Tim Berners-Lee discusses the World Wide Web at CERN.
- As the Soviet Union begins to collapse, the Russian Mafia and the Oligarchs begin to rise. There is also a sudden and abrupt ‘brain drain’ of former soviet scientists, and their research, into the west. Much as with Project Paperclip, a lot of this research is unethical but powerful, and the USSR never had the funds or resources to exploit it fully. Wealthier countries gain a great deal of ground on the back of the USSR’s human experimentation.
- The Hubble Space Telescope launches.
- Tensions with Libya continue to rise, with the US Navy shooting down two Libyan M-23s.
- Emperor Hirohito dies, and Akihito takes his place. Japan enters the Heisei era.
- Thirty-Five European nations meet and agree on strengthening human rights and east-west trade.
- Left-Wing partisans take over an Argentinian base near Buenos Aires.
- Satellite Television proper, Sky, takes off in Europe.
- The publication of The Satanic Verses leads to a life-threatening fatwah against the author, Salman Rushdie.
- The Berne Convention on copyright globally impinges upon public domain rights.
- Twelve European nations come together to ban the use of CFCs. The ozone layer will, in later years, begin to repair itself until China’s boom leads to another increase in the use of CFCs.
- The announcement of Cold Fusion is made but turns out to be a hoax. The excitement generated, however, leads to increased interest in Fusion as a technology.
- The Exxon-Valdez oil spill takes place.
- The Conservative government introduces the Poll Tax in the UK, but mass protest, disobedience and rioting leads to its withdrawal and the removal from power of Margaret Thatcher.
- The Tiananmen Square protests are ruthlessly shut down.
- The Hillsborough Disaster takes place, killing around 100 football fans. The newspapers and government lay the blame firmly at the feet of the fans.
- Genetic modification of adult human beings is trialled, officially, for the first time via gene-tagging. Progress in this area is suspiciously rapid, which may be down to the influx of Soviet scientists and research.
- The first McDonalds in the Soviet Union opens.
- The USA sends thousands of troops into Panama to protect US civilians and interests there.
- British police arrest hundreds of people celebrating the solstice at Stonehenge.
- Colombia’s cartels declare war on their government.
- The first commercial dial-up internet service launches in the USA.
- The Berlin Wall falls.
- The South African military dismantles its nuclear weapons, though some question remains on their final fate, with Israel being a potential recipient.
- A Gamma-Ray observation satellite is launched.
- Space Shuttle Endeavour launches for the first time.
- The US intervention in Panama becomes a full-scale invasion to depose Noriega.
- In its dying spasms, the USSR occupies Azerbaijan and killed over 100 protestors.
- The first McDonalds opens in China.
- The ANC is legalised, and Nelson Mandela is freed.
- German Reunification is announced.
- Voyager sends the Pale Blue Dot image.
- Steve Jackson Games is raided by the police because of their Cyberpunk game supplement, directly prompting the formation of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- The Nintendo World Championships are held, kickstarting E-Sports.
- Iraq invades Kuwait, and the First Gulf War begins. Coalition wounded lead to significant innovations in prosthetics.
- REL COM is formed in the USSR, and the USSR joins the Internet.
- The first commercial digital camera goes on sale.
- The first web-page is published.
- The first Spacelab launch takes place.
- Global Warming monitoring satellites are launched.
- Russia launches its second spaceplane, Samum, on a crewed flight.
- PIRA mortars No. 10 downing street.
- Iraq withdraws from Kuwait. The US leverages its liberation of Kuwait into extensive corporate entanglement with Kuwait’s oil production and mercenary protection via PMCs.
- The Rodney King video is released.
- Germany regains full independence.
- A software bug takes out the phone system in DC, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
- Apartheid Ends, sanctions are lifted against South Africa.
- The first website is created.
- The USSR officially, finally, dissolves.
- In a shock result, David Duke – former Grand Wizard of the KKK – is elected governor of Louisiana. Unrest and tensions in the US over the Rodney King revelations and attempted cover-up are blamed for creating a reaction. This election only worsens things.
- Galileo makes a close approach to an asteroid.
- Robert Maxwell – publisher and tycoon – is found dead. Long alleged to be a double or triple agent it is thought he was assassinated by the Russian intelligence services, British intelligence services, or even Mossad – whom he was alleged to be an agent of.
- Carbon nanotubes are officially discovered. By 2020 they are used in everything from composites to medical scaffolds, environmental monitoring, cancer treatment, high-tech monitoring, high-density processors and nanotechnology.
- Wars begin around the dissolution of Yugoslavia.
- The Maastricht Treaty brings the European Union into being.
- The LA Riots take place after the acquittal of the officers involved in the Rodney King beating. The riots lasted for two weeks and spread to other cities leading to a severe crackdown and worsened race relations for decades.
- Bill Clinton becomes President of the United States. The right blames Ross Perot for splitting the conservative vote by calving off the libertarian ‘modern’ right, leading to bitter recrimination and restructuring.
- The American alphabet agencies, strengthened under Bush, hide their activities beneath black budgets, becoming an unaccountable Deep State, with enormous influence.
- The US intervenes in Somalia and remains a presence to this day, despite constant terrorist attacks.
- Compact discs outsell tapes for the first time.
- The ESA Hermes Spaceplane takes flight, a smaller, more cost-effective version of the shuttle for limited applications.
- The European Single Market forms.
- IBM, failing to adapt to a rapidly changing IT market, announces losses of $5 billion.
- The Waco Siege takes place in the USA. Suspicions are relegated to conspiracy theories, and the US police and intelligence services manage to contain speculation or exposure.
- War Crimes trials begin, related to Yugoslavia.
- Jurassic Park is released, unveiling the true potential of CGI.
- Windows NT 3.1 is released.
- Mars Observer reaches Mars and sends back data.
- China performs a nuclear test, ending a global moratorium. North Korea is also now refusing inspections and has re-started its nuclear program.
- The UK privatises the railways.
- NAFTA comes into effect.
- Soyuz sets a record for days in orbit.
- Algae and bacteria-derived biofuels are developed, for the time being, this is limited to biodiesel for military vehicles. However, it has the advantage of not needing arable land, just water and green or brown waste.
- Organic/Silicon interface chips are made to work for the first time, though they are crude and inefficient and currently limited to animal experiments.
- UAVs are approved for police and security service deployment in the US, leading to early adoption of the tilt-rotor, quadcopter design for urban surveillance and pacification.
- Fred West’s house is excavated to find victims of the serial killer.
- The PRC joins the Internet.
- Apple releases the Power Macintosh.
- Linux 1.0 kernel is released.
- The Rwandan genocide begins.
- South Africa holds its first multiracial elections, and Nelson Mandela is elected president. It rejoins the Commonwealth.
- Aum Shinrikyo kills 200 with sarin gas in Japan. Further terrorist actions will follow.
- Amazon is founded.
- The US assault weapons ban comes into force though Republican control of both houses later in the year stymies any more reforms.
- The US intervenes in Haiti, eventually taking control of the island and placing it under US control – to significant public outcry. This is sold as a humanitarian mission, but US troops suffer constant attacks. They are still there in 2020.
- America Online makes the web accessible to millions.
- Mass adoption of the internet and the increasing role of economic and political blocs leads to a shift in mindset to ‘global citizens’ and ‘citizens of nowhere’ coming together regardless of geography to form ‘neotribes’ based on interest and politics.
- A cloned sheep is paraded as the first successfully cloned mammal, at least so far as the public is concerned.
- The Channel Tunnel opens.
- Polykanov stays in space for a full year on Mir.
- Barings Bank collapses.
- The Oklahoma City Bombing takes place, killing over 150 men, women and children.
- The US fully privatises the Internet.
- Sony releases the Playstation
- A Lunar probe discovers water and other resource-rich spots on the Moon.
- A new space race is on, primarily between the ESA and the USA to exploit space resources cost-effectively.
- The Dunblane Massacre takes place in the UK, leading to even more stringent firearms controls.
- The IMF loans $10 billion to Russia to empower further economic reforms.
- Ariane 5 launches successfully, helping the EU to overcome its launch operations crisis.
- A PIRA bomb in Manchester kills over 200 people.
- The first sections of the ISS go into orbit with Russian, American and European spaceplanes all contributing.
- The first Space Tourist pays to be lifted to the ailing Mir.
- As GPS satellites are replaced, they also begin carrying equipment to provide a world-wide, low-speed, ‘basic internet’, under the control of both the US government and its private industry.
- Bill Clinton and Al Gore win election for the second time and are sworn in. Ross Perot is again blamed for splitting the conservative vote, though his vote share decreased and would not have carried the popular vote this time.
- The North Hollywood Shoot-Out, where bank robbers armed with AK-47s and wearing body armour injured 17 police officers, reignites the gun debate, again.
- Clinton bans federal funds for research into human cloning, but the intelligence apparatus continues black projects by funnelling funding through state-by-state apparatus.
- President Chan uses mercenaries from the British PMC – Sandline International – to resolve the Bougainville conflict. They quashed the rebellion there using violence, but it could not save Chan’s government. It did, however, demonstrate that a well-funded, modern mercenary force could substitute for a national military.
- Heaven’s Gate mass suicide.
- The remains of 24 people are lifted into space by rocket, the first ‘space burial’.
- The Labour party takes power in the UK by a landslide.
- Deep Blue beats Gary Kasparov in a publicity stunt.
- Hong Kong returns to China from British rule.
- Princess Diana dies after being pursued by paparazzi.
- Scotland gains a devolved parliament.
- BSE is identified as CJB.
- The Prius hybrid car launches.
- Hong Kong kills 1.25 million chickens to contain bird-flu.
- The Church of Scientology creates the first, crude, true sea-stead in international waters. Dienea is, somehow, recognised by the United States and while crude and desperate to start with, progressed over time into an effective sea-bourne and independent city-state. Albeit an oppressive one. Other Seasteading projects by other groups would follow.
- Andrew Wakefield releases the irresponsible and dangerous paper that alleges a link between vaccines and autism. This significantly increases infection rates of various diseases in the coming years.
- Liquid water is discovered on Europa.
- Galaxy IV is retired from service and replaced by a successor satellite capable of handling more data.
- Pakistan is now a nuclear-armed power.
- The European Central Bank is established.
- Europol is established.
- A pipeline explosion in Nigeria kills over 1000.
- Clinton is impeached, though the process goes nowhere.
- The Eurozone fixes its currency rates.
- The first fully enclosed artificial heart is successfully implanted.
- The Euro is established.
- The Melissa Worm attacks the internet.
- Bill Gates becomes the wealthiest person in the world.
- Scottish and Welsh assemblies open. Northern Ireland is still under direct rule.
- Napster launches.
- Sega Dreamcast launches.
- China launches its Shenzhou rocket. It is derived from Soyuz technology.
- The US decides to retain control of the Panama Canal, breaking the Torrijos-Carter treaty of 1977. Protest spills over into violence, but this is suppressed by the Panamanian government, fearing US military intervention. Back-door deals are done to share some of the wealth the canal produces. The US maintains a heavy military presence, all but displacing the Panamanian government with its wealth and force, despite resistance.
- Vladimir Putin becomes president of Russia.
- The ESA sends missions to the Moon.
- NASA demonstrates a working scramjet.
- The Women on Waves project founds a seastead in international waters to provide abortion and gynaecological services to women across the globe. This supplements and supplants their small fleet of ships. The EU recognizes them.
- The USA and ESA both begin soft-landing materials and components for moon-based facilities, even though there is – as yet – no means to land people there.
- AOL purchases Time Warner
- Massive flooding hits Mozambique, killing over 1000 people.
- Playstation 2 is released.
- Microsoft is acquitted of antitrust violations, allowing it to use its might to hold down many competitors.
- The ILOVEYOU virus ravages the internet.
- The Human Genome project releases.
- The Nintendo Gamecube is released.
- 250 million gallons of coal sludge flood Martin Country Kentucky.
- The ISS is crewed for the first time.
- Al Gore narrowly wins the presidency over George Bush, with it going to a supreme court decision 5/4 in Gore’s favour. There is a massive outpouring of hatred and proliferation of conspiracy theories on the right, as well as acts of violence and terrorism, especially as Gore began to enact environmental, healthcare and gun legislation.
- Russia’s third spaceplane ‘Metel’, is launched and Russia sells off Soyuz infrastructure and parts to China as it shifts more fully to spaceplanes.
- The Russian space agency ignores the moon, instead choosing to accumulate material at the L-5 Lagrange point to construct a waystation or base there.
- Wikipedia is launched.
- A foot-and-mouth disease epidemic ravages UK livestock.
- Mir is boosted into a higher orbit and used as a test-bed for space construction and recovery techniques. The refurbished, piecemeal station is dubbed ‘Lyubov’ (love) by cosmonauts as a joke, but the name sticks. Reusable craft now, routinely, boost cast-off materials into orbit for use on these projects.
- Apple releases OSX.
- President Gore manages, narrowly, to push through tax increases to pay for ongoing greening of technology and to prepare for healthcare reform. US interventions are characterised as ‘for the good of the world’ and sold on environmental and humanitarian grounds.
- Bradford race riots in the UK.
- The FBI arrests Dmitry Skylarov for breach of the DMCA.
- After Chief Justice Roy Moore has the ten commandments installed at the judiciary building he is removed from office, the commandments are removed, and the Gore-led government enforces stricter church-state separation.
- The US government re-examines the Microsoft antitrust proceedings and pursues a weaker form of punishment.
- Terrorists strike the US on 9/11, hitting the World Trade Center, The Pentagon and the Capitol building, killing thousands. The White House remained unscathed. The effect on American psychology was enormous, with the President becoming even more symbolic and powerful. Anthrax attacks and other incidents follow this.
- President Gore addresses the nation, asking for patience and refusing to lash out. He stresses the importance of waiting to be sure of the culprits before taking any retaliatory action. This is reacted to with anger by large portions of the American populace and civil unrest, including the lynchings of many Muslims, takes place. The government, in responding to these incidents, is seen to be ‘taking the side of terrorists’.
- The PRC joins the WTO.
- The World-Sat network comes online providing basic internet availability globally.
- The Euro comes into full effect.
- Mars is globally mapped.
- The International Criminal Court is established.
- A close call on reentry of the Shuttle Columbia boosts investment in a replacement shuttle and a massive booster to take the role once taken by the Saturn V. The VentureStar was almost ready by this time, and its timeline was advanced, going into full production in a public-private partnership.
- WHO issues a warning about SARS.
- The EU begins to expand, with various nations voting to join it.
- 4Chan launches.
- The USA becomes involved in numerous shadow-wars across South America, propping up sympathetic regimes with access to resources they need.
- The ESA launches and tests next-generation cargo rockets and pods.
- Facebook launches.
- The EU brings in 10 new member states, including Poland and Hungary.
- The first European Constitution is established.
- Cloned organs are grown in-vitro, they are more expensive than cadaver harvesting, but it proves the technology. This will later be superseded by 3D printing and activating stem cells.
- Gore/Lieberman are returned to office for a second time, winning the electoral college, but not the popular vote. There is another spasm of right-wing violence and terrorism.
- Pope John Paul II dies.
- Youtube comes online.
- The Superjumbo A380 takes to the air for the first time.
- 7/7 bombings hit London.
- The Muhammed Cartoon riots hit.
- Transgenic organs, which have been in use since the late 1980s, reach a new peak as transgenic nervous tissue is used in transplants for the first time.
- SpaceX launches the Falcon 1 successfully, carrying a payload for the US government.
- The first human clones are made in South Korea. International outcry leads to restrictions and the scientists involved are poached by China.
- Direct mind-machine interface becomes proven technology but requires surgery, cybernetic implantation and anti-rejection medication. Only the hardest of the hardcore get these early implants, but the ability to intuit code and experience virtual sensorium is too much to resist for many. It requires none of the cumbersome equipment of existing VR.
- The UN creates its human rights council.
- Iran enriches uranium.
- North Korea conducts its first nuclear test.
- An oil pipeline explodes in Lagos.
- Bulgaria and Romania join the EU.
- Habitable extrasolar planets are discovered.
- European heatwave kills over a hundred people in Greece, causes over 300 wildfires and crashes their power-grid.
- The iPhone is launched.
- The Lisbon Treaty is signed in Europe.
- China establishes its own space station.
- The Pirate Bay purchases Sealand and continues its claims as being independent of the UK. While the UK resists this to start with, no violent action is taken. An accommodation has been reached following the UK’s crash out of the EU in 2019. Sealand has been bolstered, expanded and modernised with modular construction and houses an enormous solar/tidal powered server farm.
- Virtual intranets or ‘braindances’ are created to test new mind-machine interface technologies and as entertainment.
- Stock markets plunge around the world as The Great Recession begins. This is somewhat blunted by the Gore/Lieberman US government retaining more regulation. However, that same government’s spending on environmental and infrastructure projects means there is less elasticity in government for countering the impact or bailing out firms. The global economy takes a massive hit, and the US takes much of the blame.
- Iran launches a rocket. This is a crude ‘kill-sat’ which deliberately crashes into the Israeli Ofeq-1 reconnaissance satellite. The collision debris damages many orbital installations leading to their rapid replacement and upgrade and the deployment of ‘space cleaning’ technology.
- Rising food and fuel prices spark riots across the third world.
- The Large Hadron Collider fires up.
- Bitcoin is proposed.
- Barack Obama is elected, making the third Democratic presidency in a row. There is yet more protest and violence from the right, despite Obama’s win margin being significant. Even so, Obama’s presidency is a slight shift to the right, and many of his promises for further reform prove hollow.
- An entirely synthetic genome is created for the first time.
- Obama makes an address to the nation about special forces units had killed Osama Bin Ladin, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. He says there have been simultaneously precision missile attacks, drone strikes and operations against others involved in those attacks and that they have been killed. There is outrage in many of the nations that these ‘assassinations’ have taken place in, but it somewhat assuages America’s right.
- The Seasteading Institute is formed, sharing and combining seasteading technologies as well as selling and hiring out to perform engineering tasks. Their first project is to establish a ‘Clubstead’ for billionaire Peter Thiel, more follow with corporations using these micronations to conduct research and to escape regulation and taxation, declaring themselves sovereign powers. There is resistance by existing governments, but by 2020 the Trump and Johnson administrations are recognising and respecting their status.
- Bitcoin is established, and Cryptocurrency rapidly takes off.
- North Korea launches a rocket, claiming that it is carrying a satellite, it also announces a new nuclear test.
- H1N1 is gauged to be a global pandemic.
- Royal Dutch Shell engages a PMC to attack insurgents that threaten several of their holdings in Africa. A few years later they try to claim their facilities as sovereign territory, destabilizing several African governments until the UN, UK and Netherlands step in.
- Chechen rebels sabotage a supply rocket to L-5 setting back the construction efforts and killing many at the launch site. Russia smashes what remains of the rebellion and withdraws from Chechnya.
- Deepwater Horizon explodes and contaminates the Gulf of Mexico.
- The EU bails out Greece.
- A second economic crash, caused by automated systems, takes place.
- Wikileaks releases damning information about the actions of the US government around the world.
- The EU bails out Ireland.
- Citizens United rules in favour of ‘Corporate Personhood’ in the US.
- 3D printed human organs begin to be produced in small numbers. This coincides with success in cloning human stem cells.
- SpaceX rapidly churns through iterations of the Falcon rocket, succeeding in a reusable launch and return.
- The Syrian Civil War begins, driven in part by climate stress.
- Military intervention in Libya takes place to depose Ghaddafi.
- The EU bails out Portugal.
- Iceland’s most active volcano erupts, disrupting northern European air traffic.
- The Space Shuttle is now entirely replaced with VentureStar craft. Usable shuttles are sold on to burgeoning space programs in India and Africa.
- Occupy Wall Street protests start in the USA but fail to gain any real traction in a populace increasingly ‘tired’ of left-wing politics. It is not long before infighting destroys the movement.
- Muhammed Ghaddafi is killed.
- The EU meets and aggressively tackles the financial crisis.
- The Russian L-5 station ‘Laika’ is now complete.
- A joint ESA/Russian mission to Mars, modelled on the Mars Direct plan reaches the red planet, stays a short period and returns. It is ruinously expensive and cripples several of the astronauts due to radiation exposure, but it shows it can be done.
- The world fails to end.
- Megaupload is shut down by the FBI.
- Britannica discontinues its print edition after 246 years.
- Higgs-Boson discovered.
- Attacks against US Embassies take place worldwide.
- Barack Obama is narrowly re-elected. The violence and right-wing hysteria reach terrifying new levels.
- The Sandy Hook school shooting takes place, and further gun reforms take place. Moves begin to take place to try and amend the constitution to clarify the right to bear arms.
- North Korea conducts an underground nuclear test.
- The EU bails out Cyprus.
- Edward Snowden leaks information about the US government spying on its citizens, and globally.
- The Arab Spring leads to reform in many Middle Eastern nations, but also a great deal of unrest, civil war and migration.
- The Playstation 4 is released.
- Massive investment allows the commercial Falcon Heavy rocket to take flight.
- The first computer virus to pass the mind-machine barrier is developed and kills dozens of high-level programmers before it is contained.
- The Mindkiller virus demonstrates a means to translate more than pure information between mind and machine; the transfer of consciousness is hypothetically possible. The first ‘upload’ experiments are conducted in independent corporate territories, and the first ‘general intelligence’ AI is announced based on this research. Google’s ‘Assistant’ makes quite a splash and an effective corporate spokes-machine. Alexa, Siri and Cortana soon follow becoming pop-culture icons and taking their names from earlier ‘dumb AI’ assistants. The hardware required to host an AI is, at this point, prohibitively expensive. A moratorium on AI creation is declared while the ethics are worked out.
- Augmented reality technology hits the mainstream via Google Glass and Hololens. While take-up is small and concerns about privacy are raised, the technology eventually migrates to contact lenses, and many different companies produce them.
- An Ebola epidemic hits West Africa.
- Russia annexes Crimea.
- Nigerian Schoolgirl Crisis.
- Flint, Michigan’s water sources are contaminated.
- WHO recognizes the resurgence of Polio as a crisis.
- The Black Lives Matter movement takes off in the US and is met with violent counter protests.
- US/Cuba relations normalise.
- The first true sensorium interface is developed, providing a ‘GUI’ for the mind-machine internet, providing a universal translation of high tech concepts and intuitive interface for anyone. ‘Squids’ (rubber interface hats) and ‘trodes are rapidly developed meaning that mind-machine interface no longer relies on implants, though this is still considered to give you an ‘edge’.
- Scotland narrowly votes to leave the United Kingdom and officially becomes a separate nation by 2019, just in time to complete its own negotiations to join the EU. Scotland joins just as the UK leaves and gains significantly from a ‘brain drain’ of talent and industry from England to Scotland.
- Eurasian Economic Union forms.
- Ukrainian ceasefire announced.
- In the UK a Conservative majority government is returned.
- Chemical fires in Tianjin kill over 150 people. A similar explosion later takes place in Dongying.
- Gravity Waves are detected.
- Volkswagen alleged to have been involved in rigging diesel emissions tests.
- Liquid water discovered on Mars.
- A Zika virus outbreak is announced.
- North Korea launches a recon Satellite; this is more likely a long-range missile test.
- The Panama Papers are released, implicating many politicians and business leaders in grey financial practices.
- The UK holds a referendum and votes to leave the European Union. This causes immediate financial and political turmoil.
- Pokemon Go is released.
- Both sides in the US Presidential Elections are implicated in multiple scandals involving electoral interference and corruption.
- Hilary Clinton is elected President of the United States by the narrowest of margins. Donald Trump launches a legal challenge which results in the overturning of the election and his installation as President. Investigations are launched into vote fixing and other issues that corrupted the election.
- A consortium of corporations purchases a lagoon from French Polynesia – under severe strain from climate change – to build an anchored seastead there and claim independence. There is a small ‘gold rush’ of libertarians, corporations and billionaires buying out ‘worthless’ Micronesian and Polynesian islands as foundations for seasteads.
- Cyberterrorists perform a grotesque act of virtual terrorism, using new software to raid billions from corporations and to kill many ‘casual’ users of the net. A global net-police is formed under the UN in response, and while trodes and implants will never go away, there is a shift, for the average user, back to VR and AR goggles and haptics.
- North Korea launches a missile across the sea of Japan.
- Yemen enters a crisis, with up to 20 million people facing starvation and famine, along with war.
- The US indicates a new, more hawkish foreign policy by launching hundreds of missiles into Syria following an alleged chemical attack.
- Wannacry Ransomware attack hits computers worldwide.
- Trump purges intelligence heads and judges installed by Democrats and surrounds himself with sycophants.
- The US withdraws from its climate commitments, loosens gun restrictions to their 1980s levels, undoes medical reforms, and so on. This benefits the US economy, but the efforts to tackle climate going back to the Gor presidency are undone and US pollution and carbon skyrockets. The US undergoes a sort of ‘political whiplash’.
- The US population enters a period of ‘cold civil war’.
- Leaked documents reveal that the Chinese have succeeded in full-term human cloning since late 2005. The earliest clone experiments are now entering their teens and, to minimise scandal, the Chinese parade the clones on television.
- Russian interference and assassinations across the western world abound.
- The USA withdraws from the human rights council.
- Data Leak scandals rock social media companies.
- France erupts into protests over fuel levies.
- A terrorist drone brings down an airliner on approach to Gatwick.
- Fuel theft in Mexico leads to a pipeline explosion that kills some 200 people.
- Venezuelan elections prompt a constitutional crisis and a civil war. America enters South America to aid and install Juan Guaido, and to take control of the oil. Guaido’s government is rapidly understood to be an American puppet.
- There are more explosions in Chinese chemical plants.
- Google is fined in Europe under antitrust legislation.
- The first images of a black hole are taken.
- Julian Assange is arrested.
- The UK crashes out of the EU, tanking its economy and touching off another worldwide recession. Mass protests and counterprotests take place. An election is called, and with nationalism rising and the EU being blamed for the crisis, a far-right Conservative government seems all but inevitable.
- Huawei spyware is uncovered.
- Hong Kong erupts into protest. To begin with, this is due to extradition law, but it rapidly morphs into a pro-democracy movement and begins to spread. The PRC cracks down with extreme force on the less visible mainland. Hong Kong itself is turned into a virtual warzone.
- Disney now owns over a third of all global media.
- Naruhito takes the Japanese throne, ushering in the Reiwa era.
2020 Global Warming
The Oceans have risen by around 1m, leading to catastrophic flooding in much of the Netherlands and Northern Belgium, threatening Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp. The Netherlands has lost as much as a quarter of its total land. In Africa, Libreville is inundated, along with much of coastal Gabon and Gambia. Swathes of Southern Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam become salt-marshes. In South America, Paramaribo in Suriname is wholly consumed by water. Venice, finally, sinks beneath the waves.
In the United Kingdom, London’s flood defences are no longer fit for purpose, strained to the limit on an almost yearly basis since 2012. Ipswitch is almost always flooded in Autumn and Winter, Rendlesham forest is dying due to saltwater in the water table. Lowestoft has become a peninsula, Norwich huddles behind makeshift flood defences and Peterborough sits on the edge of a stinking marsh, full of lost towns. In the North, Hull is fighting a rearguard action against the inundation, as is Exeter, Southampton and Portsmouth.
In North America, Seattle is struggling to cope, and the San Francisco bay now extends as far east as Stockton, Tracy and Sacramento. Coastal Texas has been inundated to a catastrophic degree, as has Louisiana and Florida, with the Keys almost entirely being swallowed up. Vast amounts of money and engineering have been thrown at New Orleans, at the expense of other towns and cities such as Jacksonville, Floria, which is under a slow, creeping evacuation which is happening all along the Eastern Seaboard, as far North as New York. Washington threatens to go under, and Atlantic City is now permanently flooded.
Combined with increasing extremes of weather, habitability is dropping globally and annually, nearly a hundred million people are, at least temporarily, displaced by flooding.
The Polynesian islands no longer, really, exist. The first ‘climate genocide’, though America has absorbed the population of Samoa and Australia and New Zealand have accepted climate refugees from many of the other islands.
In Western Europe, the Gulf Stream has been faltering, meaning that in some years the British climate is, ironically, three degrees colder than it would otherwise be, leading to ever more bitter winters – because of Warming.
The Oceans are some 30% more acidic, bleaching coral reefs and drastically affecting even more resilient forms of sea life, ‘dead zones’ are expanding rapidly, and catches are down.
6.6m km^2 of permafrost has thawed, accelerating Warming by releasing large quantities of methane and carbon dioxide and making a great deal of arctic terrain swampy, unstable and prone to sink-holes.
Heatwaves kill tens and even hundreds of thousands globally each summer, with droughts lasting – on average – 6 months and water-scarcity hitting over half a million people globally each year, with severe drought affecting 250 million people annually.
Crop yields are down around 8% globally, and it is harder to raise livestock and to fish, putting immense pressure on food supplies, as well as water, around the globe. Increased carbon levels have, further, decreased the nutritional value of crops while – at the same time – increasing their carbohydrate content.
Animal life is in freefall. Invertebrates have lost 43% of their habitat, vertebrates have lost 26%, Plants 41%, Insects 42%, Mammals 24%, Birds 23%, Butterflies and Moths, 34%, Dragonflies and Damselflies 12%. While species from other ecological areas have moved into areas to recover from the die-back, species diversity is down, and many of these species are invasive, contributing to even greater die-back.
Climate has caused a precipitous drop in GDP by 15%, with climate damage mitigation and prevention costing a colossal $13 trillion per year. Around 0.25% of the total global energy expenditure now goes on air conditioning and heating.
Diseases run rampant, with prehistoric bacteria and virii continually emerging from the thawed permafrost, though – thus far – they lack the immunity many modern diseases have to treatment. Malaria and other insect-transmitted diseases have expanded their area of risk by over a third.
Much like in our world, the world of this alternate timeline is being torn in two directions. On the one end, there is an increased level of insular nationalism; on the other, there is the inevitable gravity of globalised trade, culture and communication. Europe has embraced a part globalist and part internationalist approach. America has become more combative, while China and India seek to undercut the developed nations in the global financial climate.
Only the very poor and the very rich eat meat. The very poor because they still raise small amounts of goats, pigs and chickens for food, the very rich because they can afford it. In the developed world, meat is an expensive, high-class commodity, fish is a middle-class commodity, and the poor can only eat fresh on occasion. Climate shifts and attempts to preserve stocks and the environment, combined with social pressure, prevent mass meat consumption.
Vat-grown meat is available but still costs about twice as much as regular meat (which costs about five times as much as its real-world 2020 prices). Even vegetables are no longer as nutritious, thanks to the higher CO2 levels in the atmosphere, which causes them to be harder to digest and to have increased levels of carbohydrates and lower levels of nutrition. Even a salad will make you fat.
Highly-processed insect protein mostly derived from crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms, pads out the diets of the poor. In this form, it is more acceptable, and affordability really convinces people to try it.
Matters are not helped by well-meaning ecological activists, who advocate against genetically modified organisms and for organic farming, which drastically lowers yields.
Eating meat is seen as, at best naughty, and at worst the equivalent of lighting a cigarette in a crowded room.
Environmentalism is still prominent in Europe. However, the USA, Russia, China, India and the UK have a policy of pursuing wealth rather than preserving the environment, hoping to spend their way out of trouble and to mitigate environmental harm with raw capital and growth. Only Europe and the Pacific Rim nations remain genuinely committed to environmentalism, greening their cities, electrifying their infrastructure and sinking a great deal of money into alternative energy research, nuclear power and fusion research.
Life expectancy is around eight years higher, thanks to advances in medical technology, but only if one is middle-class and live in a developed nation. The truly wealthy can expect to live to at least 100 while remaining physically and mentally ‘spry’, most living to at least 120 – and technology is always improving. President Trump, for example, looks more like a man in his fifties than his seventies and looks younger and fitter than he did in the year 2000.
Key Differences from Cyberpunk 2020
- There are no AVs. Ducted fans are inefficient. What there are instead are quadcopter, enclosed-blade, electrically powered VTOL craft, taxis and craft.
- Augmented Reality leapfrogged virtual reality. Just about anyone can interact with AR overlays using their contact lenses. This and flat screens are enough for most people.
- Only tech-heads and ‘netizens’ make full use of virtual sensoria, and only the truly ‘leet’ still get brain implants, though it does give them a distinct advantage it is also risky.
- Hacking is done more like it is in the real world, with preparation, dumpster diving, conning the human element and using pre-prepared programs. Netrunners can also live-hack local systems using field-effect systems in portable cyberdecks.
- Cybernetics are available, but controlled to various degrees in various countries (leading to a thriving black-market and ‘cyber tourism’. Getting a cybernetic enhancement that isn’t discrete is still seen as a weird thing to do, though replacing lost limbs or overcoming disabilities is seen as fine. Public acceptance is growing as thought leaders and influencers adopt elective cyberware.
Oct 31 2019
- Get $4 off Postmortem Studios T-shirts and apparel at Teespring with code ELVIRO.
- Get Actual Fucking Monsters for FREE at Post-Mort.com (but please sign up to our mailing list).
- Get a 25% discount on your entire order at Post-Mort.com.
All offers end midnight!
Oct 18 2019
If you like horror games and scenarios, now’s the time to pick them up. Drivethrurpg has a sale on and I make a lot of horror and horro-adjacent material so you should find something you like.
Of course you SHOULD be buying over at Post-Mort.com, but there’s no sale there, so I’ll forgive you just this once…
Oct 15 2019
NB: We’re covered at the moment, but if you already helped me out please download this for free. Otherwise, any money raised that exceeds what we need will go to charity, likely either the Zelart Scholarship fund or a no-kill cat shelter.
Games in this booklet:
- Kredya Sociyani – Can you game the social credit system and come out on top?
- One Downmanship – A race to the bottom to take control of the agenda.
- The Great Debate – How extreme are you willing to go to get votes?
- Elder, Could you tell me? – Create a religion, one annoying child’s question at a time.
- Everything is Kung Fu – Solve every problem in the world, with your fists.
I don’t really enter the 200-Word RPG Challenge but I do meet the challenge. I treat it as an exercise, on and off. This year, as once previously, I’m offering up that work for sale, but for a special reason.
My cat, Charlie, has been with me about as long as I’ve been writing games full time. He’s been my companion and my muse, he’s added structure to my day, comfort when I’ve been down, amusing antics and much-needed distractions.
He also saved my life, literally rather than figuratively. At the point of one of my suicide attempts, he interrupted me, practically tearing down the door and making sounds I’ve never heard from a cat before or since. He stopped me, and I owe him.
Before the weekend a neighbour’s dog got out and chased him up a tree. In getting down again he scratched his eye and broke his left rear leg, right behind the knee.
This has meant many vet visits already, with more to come. Medication, X-rays, and may lead to an expensive operation to repair or remove the leg. I want to give him the best possible chance to keep the leg and to survive. I owe him my life.
As such I’m raising money to help cover his vet bills and to keep the options as open as possible. He’s an old boy and likely doesn’t have too many years left, but I love him and want him as fit and comfortable as possible.
This collection of games is Pay-What-You-Want. I’m sick of begging when things like this go wrong, and I do save money as a contingency, but it has been one thing after another this year and it just isn’t doable without help.
Updates can be found on my YouTube channel, ‘PostmortemVideo’.
Oct 7 2019
Collections of fantasy and historically themed stock art for you to use in your personal and professional projects, subject to the attached license.
Note that some pieces are repeated in other collections, where they suit multiple genres. Even so, these are cheap at half the price!