CyberTex at North Texas RPG Con

Just a quick note. I ran a session at North Texas RPG Con today, based on the first three CyberTex sessions. I’d never run at a Con before, and was actually a bit nervous. Turned out I had four really good players. Outgoing, fun, great people, who really got into the roleplaying and were frankly quite awesome. So Sasha, Sara, Dom, and Mike – thank you for a great first con GMing experience. Hope to see y’all again sometime soon.

This was the only GURPS session at the con. I was glad I did this.

CyberTex Episode 4.1

May 5, 2067. It’s been a year since the PCs saw each other. A year since collecting their money from the Pinky. A year since they encountered the cult. A year since things got weird.

It’s 9pm in CyberTex — Downtown Dallas. The sprawl of the DFW domes has gone transparent tonight, revealing a clear sky and stars beyond. A few satellites move overhead, noticed by few, most of them long dead. Despite the clear sky above the dome, the streets of Dallas are foggy (as usual). There’s a mist in the air, and it’s 85 degrees F. Typically weird.

Inuyama finds himself at a sushi bar. In another part of town, Hawk and Max sit, in the middle of an open, abandoned floor of an office building, facing each other across a table, their eyes, closed, ‘trodes on their head, jacked into the shared hallucination of cyberspace. Joe has been MIA for almost a year.

The 25K Inuyama made from his last job has taken some financial load off his back. For the last few months he’s been working as a bodyguard for a SimStim star, Rose Mexicali, who normally resides in DFW when not working. However, at the moment Rose is working on a shoot in El Grande, so Inuyama is unoccupied. Though he typically avoids Japanese crowds due to his reputation and history, a new sushi bar has opened in Downtown Dallas, Yoshihara’s House o’ Sushi, and he is unable to control his Gluttony — he is there. The sushi is the real thing – aquarium grown delicacies – expensive, and he’s blown through nearly his whole last paycheck. 

The place is nice. High quality decor and furnishings, quiet Japanese music. A throwback to the times before the domes – before the wars – when there was not a monitor on every wall. Not a dive at all. Lots of rich people hanging out, eating, drinking. Inyama sits at the bar, a large plate of various kinds of sushi in front of him. The sushi chef working in front of him appears unaugmented. As he sits quietly eating and enjoying some real saki, he watches the man’s hands skillfully prepare food.

Among the crowd Inuyama notices two young men in dark suits. Perfectly attired. Their body language marks them as yakuza, not usually seen in the Texas Megaregion. One of them sits next to Inuyama at the bar. Staring straight ahead, he quietly speaks. “Inuyama-San. I am Hiroto. Thank you for the many enjoyable fights. On behalf of the owners, we welcome you.” Inuyama notices an earpiece in the mans right ear. Someone else is listening. Clearly, Inuyama’s reputation is still a thing. He thanks the man. “Many would love to see you return to your true calling, but not in the sterile confines of tradition. While tradition must be honored, without change there can be no progress. Wouldn’t you agree?” says the yakuza.  “That depends on what the change entails,” responds Inuyama, who asks what is being proposed. The man, who introduces himself as Hiroto, and explains that that is a unique fighting league in Houston. “There is a weekly event in the Houston region. You may not be aware. It is not known to the general public. Should you be interested, I can assure you that your needs would be met.”

Meanwhile, in a gutted and abandoned floor of an old office building, Max and Hawk face each other across a plain folding table, only vaguely aware of their surroundings. Trodes on their heads, both are jacked into cyberspace decks. Max has been studying the occult for the last year, and Hawk has recently begun training him in basic cyberspace deck use. 

In their minds eyes, they float above a world of glowing geometric figures spreading out on an apparently infinite 3-dimensional plane. Directly below them is is the mental representation of Dallas, a consensual hallucination representing the data and energy of the megacity. Hawk is familiar with the basic data structures of the DFW grid. The Aztec Pyramid -like structure of the Hernandez Engineering data banks, the white cubes of various financial institutions (all protected by powerful ICE), the garish glowing towers of the entertainment industry.  The entire city is represented in some way. Not an exact geometric representation, but a data representation. Lots of data or power shows up BIG in cyberspace. But no matter how small, everything has data. Everything is there.

Below them they see what appears to be the data-form of the building where they encountered the cultists jacked into the massive cyberspace port and the cyberdogs a year ago. They see geometric forms moving around the ruined data-structure. Hawk decides to investigate. He leave Max up high, out of site, as Max’s deck has only rudimentary movement ability. Hawk activates his disguise program and moves in to observe. The geometric forms are moving about methodically, extending glowing tendrils into the shards of data that once represented the old data center. When the tendrils make contact, they slurp up the data remains. The forms are oblivious to Hawk, who makes his roll and guesses correctly that these are simply robots, harvesting that data for who knows what. He is unable to determine who or what is controlling them. 

Back at Yoshihara’s House o’ Sushi, as Inuyama and Hiroto the yakuza talk, Inuyama notices that the sushi chef suddenly stops preparing food. The man cocks his head and closes his eyes, as if listening intently. Hiroto leans in and speaks quietly with the man. Suddenly both turn to the back of the restaurant. Hiroto and the other yakuza begin drawing auto pistols, while the sushi chef pulls a sawed-off shotgun from under the counter. Three asian men in the back of the place stand up abruptly, knock over their table, and draw pistols, yelling “This is the Bamboo Circuit’s territory Yakuza scum!”  The shit hits the fan. Chaos ensues as restaurant patrons scramble and panic. Inuyama, in an amazing display of agility, dives over the sushi bar and gets cover behind the counter. Shots are fired. Inuyama draws his weapon and shoots one of the Vietnamerican gang members. Hiroto is hit but not taken out. After a brief shootout all three of the Bamboo Circuit men are dead. As Inuyama surveys the carnage his telephone pings. A message is coming in. It’s from Joe, the sniper, who he worked with last year and hasn’t seen since. “Need help – now…”

In Cyberspace, Max and Hawk debate what to do regarding the data harvesting ‘bots. They are both curious. Who would be harvesting this data? Is the cybercult reorganizing? Are things about to get weird again. The internal display in Hawk’s bionic eye flashes “Incoming message.”  They jack out of Cyberspace, and Hawk reads the message. It’s from Joe. “Need help – now.”

Luckily, Max is one of the few people who know where Joe lives. It was Max, through his contacts and knowledge of the seedier elements of the DFW world, who brought the team together last year to work for the Pinky. Inuyama contacts Max. They try to just call Joe back, but he’s gone dark. Max, Inuyama, and Hawk agree to meet at Joe’s apartment, on the 15th floor of a not-so-nice apartment tower.

When they arrive, they see bullet holes in the wall outside the door, in the hallway. The door to Joe’s apartment is cracked open. Knowing what Joe can do in a fight, they are somewhat terrified for their own lives should they make a mistake. Max makes his stealth roll and moves up to the door. Inside he can see the feet of a dead person laying on the floor. He listens. Hawk uses his enhanced parabolic hearing to listen. Nothing. No movement inside. No sound of a gun being cocked or a new magazine being popped in. Max nudges the door further open, and sees a dead cybergoth on the floor, face down. Most of the back of his head is missing. Hawk uses his eye’s bug detector and enhanced vision and see a tiny camera in the hallway. They move into the apartment. No booby traps, though they did search. The group searches the apartment. Inuyama uses a foot to roll the dead guy over. White male, leather jacket, facial tattoos, huge mohawk, chip slot on one side of his skull, cyberspace input jack on the other side. His defining feature is the bullet hole square between the eyes. Joe’s work, for sure.

There are a lot of bullet holes in the walls, The large plate glass window in the front room is shattered. Max looks out. They are 15 floors up. Two floors below, and about 10 feed out, is a mag-lev track for the elevated train. Far below on the ground are two dead cyberpunks. No sane person would try to escape by jumping down two floors on to a train. Joe almost certainly made his escape that way.

The team continues to search the apartment. They find Joes’s computer in the back room still on. The video feeds from his hallway security camera and the one in the front room are still on screen. Hawk is able to find the footage from the last hour. The hall camera shows a gang of cyberpunks coming down the hall. The interior camera shows the door being kicked in. The dead kid in the front room starts to run through, only to have his brains blown out the back of his head. More shots as punks rush into the apartment. Joe comes into view, shoots toward the window, and then runs toward the window and out of the frame. Two punks run after him. The rest run back out and down the hall.

They continue searching the apartment. Hawk finds a hidden compartment in the wall. He examines the wall for booby traps, and finding one, activates the panel. A drawer slides open containing a paper journal. Joe’s journal. The read the last couple of pages…

April 4, 2067. The nightmares continue. Feel like I’m  in hell.

April 7, 2067. Haven’t written in a few days. Finally got some sleep. The sleep of the damned, but sleep none the less. Can’t even describe what I see when I shut my eyes. Words fail.

April 8, 2067. Spent the day staring at code in this damned chip. Wish I’d never taken it, but then I don’t really wish that, do I? Have no idea what I’m looking at, yet I can’t put it away. Can’t throw it out. Can’t destroy it.

April 9, 2067. Contacted on ‘net today by someone wanted to buy the chip. The thought fills me with dread. I know it’s responsible for the terror I feel, but I’m like a simstim addict. Tried to end it all today. Autopistol in my mouth. Couldn’t finish it.

May 1, 2067. Spent the last few weeks drunk in a safehouse. Only thing that seems to help. I sense a war is coming. Need to be ready, but fear my mind is dissolving. Don’t know how much longer I can go on. Sometimes I’m not sure who I am. This all started when I took the chip from that lab with the monsters. I wonder if the other guys are having the same thing? I should contact them, but they’d just think I’m mad. I was a mental case already, before all this. Best to isolate myself…safer for others…keep them safe from what’s out there.

May 5, 2067. Contacted again today. Someone wants this chip. Well fuck them, they can’t have it. Someone on my monitor – they’re coming. They found me. They’ll be very, very sorry they did.

Given the dates that Joe was apparently in his safe house, Hawk is able to use cell records and computer traces to find the location. It’s another old building. This time the floor is abandoned except for, possibly, the safe house apartment. They approach the door and knock. No answer. They listen. No sound. Nothing.  They try calling Joe again. He’s still gone dark. No answer. No ringing phone inside. Inuyama backs up and runs toward the door, using his strength, speed, and power to break it down. Booby trapped. A bomb goes off. Their ballistic clothing saves them from serious injury.

Their ears still ringing from the blast, a figure in a trench coat steps out from the clearing smoke and dust. It’s not Joe.

“I can’t believe you guys did that. I’ve been wanting to meet your boys for a long time. My name…is Kolchak.”

End of session.

CyberTex Episode 3

After close to 2 years of family illnesses and other issues in our group, we finally played game 3 last night. I had originally planned this to be a 12 game story arch, but clearly that was a bad idea. Even without delays, I think that’s just too long for what is essentially the same adventure. So in writing last night’s game up, I decided to get some closure on this chapter of the campaign.

This was our first GURPS campaign. We were, and are still, just learning the system. The ability to start with simple rules and gradually add complexity as you see fit is a great feature of GURPS. Rather than a very tactical wargame style of play, I envisioned this campaign as more driven by the story, and less about technical combat rules. GURPS lends itself to this for a number of reason, some of which I will probably forget here, but including the following:

  • Deadly. GURPS combat tends to be a bit more lethal than many systems, especially when guns are involved. If you get into too many shoot-outs, you will not last long. This seems to really force a lot more role-playing, skill use, and problem solving in the game. It also mean the GM can’t just throw together a bunch of fights and call it a game.
  • [insert other reasons here — hahah — I guess the first one pretty much covers it]

I decided when I got into this that as a GM I wanted to raise my level of storytelling, and really treat adventure design and gamemastering as an “art” in itself. I know many people already do this, but I have to admit that most of my previous gamemastering tended toward just going from one fight to another. That’s just not a lot of fun, actually, and it makes each battle less important.

In the future I want to incorporate more of the PCs backstories into the game. The guys came up with some good stuff, and it will provide lots of opportunities for fun.

OK, Game 3…

The PCs begin where they left off, at the hacking lab of Reilly. The cranial chip they took from Jake the Painter successfully hacked, they discover the schematics and location of a building downtown — Childers Tower.

They go check out the building.  It’s about midnight. Light rain, The streets are crowded. It’s a highrise residential tower, with some retail in it too. There’s train station up on the 8th floor, and it is connected to other buildings in the area by many pedestrian bridges that span the street at high levels. The sides of the building, like most in this area, are covered by advertising and neon.  Information overload on steroids. They enter the building lobby and see a few lightly armed security guards, but there are many people around and the PCs are really not noticed. Joe and Max “stealth” over the known location of the express elevator to the 40th floor. It’s disguised as a freight elevator. They have no pass card. Hawk uses his enhanced senses and notices that one of the cleaning crew appears to have an access card. They tell the janitor that someone has puked in one of the common areas — a more secluded one. When he goes to clean it up, Inuyama grapples him and quickly chokes him out – unconscious – not dead. They hide him in a storage crate, get in the elevator, and go up.

Arriving on the 40th floor, guns drawn and expecting action, they find themselves in a long corridor apparently spanning much of the length of the building. Leaning against the wall, arms crossed casually, is a young man dressed like a futuristic cowboy, a gun on each hip, and cowboy hat tipped down. Remaining casual, he looks up and says “Mr. Childers has been expecting you.” The PCs notice a red reflection from one of his eyes. “Not very friendly to come up here with your guns drawn, friends. Y’all can put ’em away and follow me.” The PCs, realizing they are in no danger, comply. As the cowboy turns around they notice a hole the back of his hat allowing a cybernetic eye implant to keep an eye on them.

The cowboy leads them into a large room. Three walls are “monolith black”, with monitors at various points around the room. On each side of the room is an additional guard — a woman on one side dressed as a classic cyberpunk razor girl, and a burly man in fatigue pants, a Kevlar vest. Both are armed. Both look confident and relaxed, just like the cowboy.

“Here they are Mr. Childers.”

Behind the fourth wall — a wide and tall glass window — is the withered form of Lester Childers. He floats in a tube of nutrient fluids, tubes and wires protruding from his body, connected to machines above and below that maintain his bodily functions.

The PCs greet Childers and inquire about Dr. Salazar. Childers sounds like the actor Strother Martin. Childers says that Salazar once worked for him, trying to grow him a new cybernetically enhanced body to replace is failing natural body, but when Salazar got too involved in some “pervert shit” he fired him, and has not seen him since. He allows the PCs to search the lab. Hawk gets the woman’s phone number. She says “Nice eye”, to which he replies “I have an eye for beauty” (reference to his cybernetic eye). In the lab, they see 4 “grow tubes”, which containing a living, but mindless and misshapen human body, the failed attempts to create a new body for Childers. They discover an unusual computing system, that uses DNA to encode information into a living data matrix. Searching the rest of the lab, they find flyers of various occult oriented events — mostly bands — playing around town. Finally, amongst the many scientifically labeled vials of compounds, is a small jar of green goo labeled “R’leyh”. After much discussion, Hawk hacks into the computer and enters the word. A slot opens with a receptacle and a message appears on-screen that says “insert media”. He pours a bit of the goo into the slot, and an address appears on-screen. It matches the address of one of the clubs on a band flyer.

A little research reveals that the clubs is in the old Deep Ellum area of Dallas. It is called “the Hunger”. It’s a CyberGoth club. They go there and enter the club. It is shoulder to shoulder with people. The band plays Bauhaus’s “Bela Lugosi’s Dead”. Lots of flashing lights. People jacked into cyberspace terminals, tripping out to the music. Joe goes to a spot with good visibility on the balcony. The rest of the team begins to look around. Eventually, Hawk notices several people in the club that look much like the cult members the team has encountered. Same kind of clothing and facial tattoos. He sees via IR vision that there are two people in what is probably an office behind the bar. He counts 5 cult members in the club, and texts the info to the rest of the group. Joe sneaks down from the balcony, and quietly garrotes the cultist near the stage, drawing no attention in the crowd of stoned goths.

A person comes out of the office. Inuyama intentionally bumps into him. The man gets a good look at his face. He continues to a table with two cultists and leans down to speak to them. Hawk successfully using his parabolic hearing to listen in. He moves through the crowd. “That big guy is one of the ones the Master wants us to find”. The man begins to return to the office. Hawk notices that now the office is devoid of human heat signatures. The two cultists start moving toward Inuyama. Hawk taps one on the shoulder with his cybernetic hand, injecting a knock-out poison. He drops. By this time Joe is moving toward the bard and office door, a bit behind the others. He is able to see that the remaining cultist, having seen his companion drop, begins to pull a gun. Joe quickdraws and uses his gunslinger skill, blasting the cultist in the back of the head.

The place goes wild. Screaming and panicking goths in a fire-trap club. The PCs take advantage of the confusion to enter the office, in which they find a hidden stairwell down. They go down the stairs and find themselves in an occult library/shrine. There is a cyberspace portal station in the middle of the floor. The walls are covered with occult art. On the many monitors is a constant stream of video imagery — primitive occult ritual, scenes of human disaster and atrocities from history There is a door a the other side of the room, with a cyberspace jack next to it and an intercom panel. Hawk jacks in and successfully hacks the door opening it. In doing so, his mind is taken through cyberspace corridors he didn’t know existed, and feels his sanity slipping away. He makes a save vs. Will and retains his identity.

Click to see image in all its Lovecraftian glory!

Beyond the door is a large room. Toward the other end is an instrument panel and a man furiously working the controls. Beyond him is a massive window, beyond which the PCs can tell is some sort of huge vault. The turns to look at the group, and in panic returns to his controls. They see that it is Salazar. Joe quickdrawns and shoots him in the ass, dropping him before he can release the 2 mini-shoggoths he has engineered to guard this lab — protoplasmic monstrosities kept alive in chambers to either side of the controls panel. The PCs rush to capture Salazar, and see the monsters behind the two windows. Looking at the control panel, they see the constantly changing image of a tentacle-faced being staring out from a cyberspace monitor. Beyond the massive window they see Salazar’s project — an almost complete but as yet mindless colossal body — 100 feet long, tentacles faced, wings, claws, slimy green flesh — floating and twitching in a massive grow tube.

Hawk successfully deactivates all life support for the abominations Salazar has created, and as the mindless creatures begin to die, the Inuyama throws Salazar over his shoulder and the team makes it way back up the stairs and out of the club. The deliver Salazar to the Pinky, who pays them in cash, and as he leaves says “Mr. Childers appreciates your hard work.”

5xp per PC.

During post game wrap up, I told the players a few things that I wanted them to discover but couldn’t quite work it all in. In game 2, Jake the Painter was set up by the cultists. The info on Childers Tower was disinformation. They were hoping the PCs would kill Childers, and stop coming after Salazar. Salazar was indeed working for Childers, but over time had become a member of the Cthulhu cult, and engineered his own kidnapping so he could disappear and work for them full time, to create a corporeal body for the cyberspace entity they know as Leviathan, but in reality Cthulhu. Also, they never discovered the identity of the “evil man” they had seen in pictures, who they thought was the cult leader. There was some additional info encoded into the DNA in the R’leyh bottle of good, but they didn’t continue hacking it. No biggie – they found the main clue.  Also, the bodies of Salazar’s monsters are still down there.

Lots of plot holes, I’m sure, but GMing a game like this ain’t easy. Honestly, we played for 5 hours, and had done everything I had planned, it would have been a 10 hour game and I’m just not practiced enough at GMing right now to pull it off. Still, everyone seemed to have fun.

CyberTex Episode 2

Prior to the game: Jeff K works on his character Max. We have discovered quite a few points unused, so Jeff buys some appropriate new skills.

We started episode 2 at the end point of episode 1 — the PCs in the basement of the old data center, with a bunch of cyber-cultist captured, among them the two women with Salazar the night he was abducted from Pearl’s Party Dome. They decide to return to Pearl’s, to collect their fee for retrieving the girls and to interrogate them.

15 - 1 (1)Morning has come to CyberTex. A light rain falls in the artificial ecosystem of DFW zone of the megacity.

Pearl is quite displeased with the girls’ activities. She pays $10,000 to the PCs, and allows them to interrogate the girls. Between Inuyama’s Intimidate skill, Joe’s threats, and Max’s Fast Talk skill, they are able to extract a little useful information from them. They find out that one of the accomplices was someone known as Jake the Painter. They reveal where Jake lives. Apparently after the abduction, Jake dropped the girls off and was to take Salazar to a safe location. They leave the girls with Pearl, who says she will “reprogram” them.

Hawk does online research into “Jake the Painter”, and succeeds in finding a little info on Jake’s art, but nothing else.

Jake the Painter lives in the Oak Lawn Arts section of Dallas, in the top floor of a 3 floor building. The team does a drive by to surveil the area. Seeing the large windows in what is apparently Jake’s flat, Joe climbs to the roof across the street to look into the apartment using the scope on his sniper rifle. He sees two people, both appear to be tripping on virtual reality sim-stim – both of their craniums jacked into a sim-stim deck. He sees lots of paintings and art materials in the room. He reports back to the rest of the group via cell.

On the ground, Inuyama uses his Breaking and Entering skill to smash down the front door. They scare the hell out of an old lady living on the first floor, but otherwise meet no opposition. They make their way to the 3rd floor, and Inuyama again breaks down the door. They find Jake and his girlfriend in the apartment, tripping out in virtual reality. Jake is dressed as a 1980s goth style. His girlfriend in a typical contemporary cyberpunk fashion. The apartment is indeed full of creepy occult style paintings. It is very “un-cyber”. Other than the sim-stim system, there are no electronics in the place. The team quickly locates Jake’s 9mm pistol before he can get to it. Jake comes off the VR and gets violent, but Inuyama easily grapples him and restrains him.  They zip-tie the girl to restrain her.

They find a chip in Jake’s cranial chip slot. They take it. They debate simply putting into Inuyama’s slot to check out it’s contents, but decide it is too dangerous.

While they do that, Hawk and Max search the rest of the room. Hawk finds a folder that looks very out of place — a folder containing a printout image of Salazar. On back of the printout is an address in Dallas.

As Joe watches all this from across the street on the roof, a Sky Car starts to land there, but turns around when the driver sees a man with a sniper rifle on the roof. Joe notes the make and model of the Sky Car.

Joe reports in via cell, and the team gathers on the street near the car, taking Jake, his chip, and his girlfriend with them. They intend to deliver them to the Pinky, at the RotGut Emporium. As they approach the car, 6 people in black hoodies pop out of alleys and doorways and attack them. They pull down their hoods, revealing each has an obvious chip slot, neural interface, and tattoo around their right eyes. They seem to be berserk. 2 go for Inuyman bare-handed. The other 4 go for the rest of the team. Joe uses his submachine gun to quickly kill 3 of them, but not before taking a few hitpoints of damage from a gun (his tactical vest saves him). Max kills one of them, and Inuyama kills one, and Hawk manages to run over the 6th with the car, killing him.  The battle lasts just a few seconds — body count 6. Joe has a flesh wound. Joe makes a successful roll to avoid going into Post Combat Shakes. Having killed all his opponents, his Blood Lust is quelled.

Because of the battle, the team is about 3 seconds late for their meeting with the Pinky. They report that while they have not yet found Salazar, they are on his trail. They have the chip from Jake the Painter, as well as cranial chips from the goons that attacked them. They need help and/or equipment to hack and analyze the chips. The Pinky refers them to a contact named Reilly.

They got to Reilly’s, the upper floor of a 10-story building. They get off the elevator to find a reinforced concrete wall with a repurposed bank vault door in the middle. They use the intercom panel next to door, and are admitted.

Inside they find a large space full of boxes of stolen goods. One side of the room is covered with mismatched monitors and TV screens displaying a variety of information. On the other side is a large hackers space, containing the equipment Hawk will need to crack the chips. Reilly sits with his back to them, behind a large wooden desk, in a leather swivel chair. On his desk is a small robotic device holding a cigar — “smoking” it. The room is full of smoke and reeks of cigar. “The Pinky told me you were on your way, aahaaa ha ha haaaaa…” he says, his back still turned. The voice and inflections sound like 20th century comedian Charles Nelson Reilly. When he turns, they see that Reilly’s jaw and lower face below his nose have been replaced by a primitive looking prosthetic, with a vocal synthesizer providing his voice. There is no working jaw or mouth. He reaches forward and puts a new cigar in his smoking device, allows it to light the new cigar, and the he takes a deep and satisfied inhale.

After being given various price-points for use of his hacking system, the team decides to pay him the full amount for his “no questions asked and no data left behind with him” service.

Hawk inserts Jake the Painter’s chip, and finds unencrypted files containing lots of information about the occult, similar to stuff they have seen in other cultists apartments. He also finds and encrypted file. He uses his hacking skill and succeeds in breaking in. He finds the schematics of a large office building in downtown Dallas — the same location indicated on back of the photo of Salazar they found in Jake’s apartment.  The schematics are very detailed, and indicate a private elevator to a 4oth floor penthouse, as well as security information.

The session ends with the PCs there at Reilly’s lab.

5 experience points awarded to each PC.

GM’s notes

  • I had one more scene prepared for today’s session, but we didn’t get to it. That’s fine – I can make it even better for the next session.
  • It is taking some time to learn how long each “scene” will take to play. This session was about 3.5 hours long. There was a lot of discussion of strategy, role playing, ideas discussed, and investigation.
  • There were some encounters I left out, as they didn’t seem to make sense given the flow of the session. They are pretty modular, and I can use them in future sessions.
  • The team is pretty good at finding clues.
  • Again, open-ended game worlds like this are a challenge to run. One very interesting planned event was blown by the actions of the PCs — good actions — but they simply made it impossible for one encounter to occur. Obviously it wasn’t critical.
  • I feel like the balance between action and investigation/roll play might need to be shifted slightly toward action. For one thing, we have some PCs with fun physical skills, and we need use them and learn the combat system a little better. I may need to run some mock combats by myself to get better with the rules.  I really need to get more proficient with the combat rules. They aren’t that difficult.

CyberTex Episode 1

1/10/2014

First session of CyberTex, a GURPS Cyberpunk campaign set in the Texas Corridor Megacity of 2065. Think Bladerunner meets William Gibson meets Gunsmoke.

I was pretty happy with how this first game went. Writing the adventure as “scenes” really helps keep an open-ended game like this (unlike a classic dungeon adventure) on track. The players were very inventive. Total playing time was 4 or 5 hours, which passed very quickly, and there was less actual fighting than any game I’ve ever run. That is what I wanted — to have a story driven game in which non-combat skills were just as important as combat skills.

We have some fine-tuning to do with guidelines for cyberspace cowboy hacking kind of stuff, etc., but I found GURPS to be excellent for this kind of game.

We played this session mostly in a “theater of the mind” style, occasionally drawing very simple maps on graph paper.

I’ll post some starting facts about the CyberTex world soon. Need to edit so it doesn’t reveal stuff to my players.

Episode 1 takes place in the DFW region of the dome-enclosed megacity stretching down the old IH35 corridor.

Character starting points: 200, plus max 50 in disadvantages/quirks. Starting them somewhat high, as we are only playing once per month. Also going high-side on experience points awarded for this reason. 5 character points awarded to each PC at the end of this episode.

Cast of Characters/Players…

  • Hawk — played by William. Superintelligent former astronaut candidate, maimed in explosion and fitted out with cybernetic eye with lots of extrasensory and tech-interface functions and a bionic ear.
  • Inuyama – played by Randy. Former Sumo wrestler from Japan,  kicked out of league for cheating by use of cranial skill chip slot giving information and advantage on opponents. Sent to Texas by his benefactors to get him out of Japan. Big, very fast, and tough in hand to hand combat.
  • Joe played by Jeff L. – psychologically damaged vet from the corporate wars, Joe is an expert marksman, sniper, and gun slinger. Suffers from odd delusions and blood lust.
  • Max – Played by Jeff K. Jack of all trades tinkerer, medic, and hustler, with contacts in the criminal underworld and streetwise skills.
  • the Gamemaster — Bob (that me!)

The games begins as Max is contacted by an underworld contact and offered a lucrative contract to put together a team and rescue the kidnapped cyberneticist Tien Salazar. Max contacts three sometimes-associates (the other PCs), and they meet outside Gus’s Rotgut Emporium, a popular watering hole for rogues, scoundrels, and underworld types. Their contact is to be a man known as “the Pinky”. Upon arriving, all but Hawk go in together and find a table. Hawk remains behind, using his enhanced perception to see who in the room shows any interest in the team. Hawk does, in fact, notice a patron who seems to be following the team, and using his bionic eye’s telescopic function he can tell that the person also has a cybernetic eye. The Pinky arrives and introduces himself, but by this time Hawk has used his data uplink to text a message to Max, informing him of the spy. The spy realizes he has been spotted and makes a break for it. Hawk distracts him, while Max and Inuyama approach from behind. The sumo easily takes the guy in a bear hug, and the group remove him to a dark corner for questioning.

Inuyama succeeds with an Intimidation roll, but the guy really doesn’t know much. Just babbles about how “The Lord will soon arrive and rule the world.” Hawk uses his bionic eye’s microscopic vision to examine the spy’s own bionic eye. He is able to see that it is both an eye, a camera, and has a tiny parabolic microphone. He switch to his bug detector function, and determines that the spy’s eye has been transmitting. Using his own data uplink and hacking skill, Hawk enters CyberSpace and can determine that the eye has been transmitting to an old data center, but can’t get a location in the real world. He then makes another hacking roll and shuts the guy’s bionic eye totally down. After Max threatens the guy a bit, they run him off, seeing that they will get no more info.

Finally, they have their meeting with the Pinky, who is known as the Pinky due to bionic pinky on his left hand. The Pinky explains that Tien Salazar, a gifted cyberneticist, has been working for his employer, but disappeared last night. He was not supposed to be out on the street. He can’t be located. The Pinky’s employer wishes to remain unknown, and thus wishes to hire the PCs to recover Salazar and return him to a safe house. Payment upon recovery and return of Salazar will be $100,000. The Pinky can also offer the group support in the form a working budget, reasonable weapons, and transportation.

Finally, the Pinky reveals that Salazar is a man of disturbing tastes, and is known to frequent an establishment called Pearl’s Party Dome. He suspects that is where he went.

The team parts with the Pinky, and procedes to Pearl’s Party Dome, where the scum go to have a good time. All manner of pleasures are available within. They arrive, and once again Hawk lags behind to check for anyone tailing them. He sees none. Joe strikes up a friendship with the bartender, who introduces him to the proprietor of the place, Pearl. Pearl is a double amputee transvestite in a motorized wheelchair. Chubby, with a slight five o’clock shadow under the heavy makeup, Pearl wears some kind of cybervision goggles and is flanked by 2 small hovering drones. She is also extremley intelligent. Sounds like Truman Capote. Joe explains what kind of “fun” he’s looking for, and discovers that another person was there last night looking for similar wild fun, and disappeared with two of Pearl’s girls. Pearl is pissed. She is protective of her girls, and wants them back. Joe negotiates a deal to recover them, and Pearl gives him and the team access to the room from which they disappeared. She clearly will be a good ally and resource for the PCs.

While this is happening, Hawk has hacked into the security system and is examining video of Salazar entered the place and partying. He finds time missing from the video records.

After the team searches the room and investigates, they eventually discover 2 clues. First, an unusual looking Tarot card, with an odd run on it, and images of cybernetics and circuitry. Hawk discovers that the data port in the room was used to inject a virus into the security system, producing false security data to cover up the disappearance of the scientist and two women. He also finds some hidden occult messages in the virus, similar to the “our Lord is coming to rule the world” line of the spy, and the symbol on the tarot card.

Still, the team is unable to determine how the 3 disappeared from the room. Joe and Inuyama investigate in the service area of the Party Dome, questioning employees, and discover that 4 people — 2 men and 2 women – left via the service entrance at about the time of the missing time in the security recordings. Hawk is able to patch into a security camera in the alley and get plate numbers of the group’s car. The team acquires the name and address associated with the car, which leads them to the apartment of one of the 2 missing women.

They find no one at the apartment, and break in. Inside they find a books, programs, and art of an occult/cyber-occult nature. They find a picture of Tien Salazar pinned to the wall. They find materials similar to the cyber-tarot card they found in the room at the Party Dome. Hacking into an active data port in the small apartment, Hawk is able to tell that a frequent data connection has been made to a data center from the early 2000s. He is able to determine the center’s physical location. The group assumes this is the same one the spy’s eye was transmitting to from the Rottgut Emporium. They gear up to infiltrate the data center, mainly by picking up Joe’s weapons.

They surveil the data center, a 3-story concrete building with no windows, and one door in the front. It is surrounded by taller buildings. Hawk’s IR vision detects two heat signatures up on the roof. Hawk and Joe take position on top of a 7 -story, confirming 2 guards with guns on the roof of the data center.  Inuyama and Max create a distration by throwing a bunch of Max’s firecrackers to the roof of the data center, causing the 2 guards to turn their backs. Joe quickly and efficiently kills both with deadly shots from his sniper rifle. To fast, in fact, for the guards to signal any trouble. As the data center is concrete and secure, no other guards show up.

The team quickly move to the door of the data center, and Hawk attempts to hack the door control, rolling a critical failure and setting off the alarms. It’s a large heavy metal door. Inuyama uses his great size, strength, and speed to bulldoze through the door.

With the alarm sounding, they search the building. In the basement, they discover 12 cyber-cultists all jacked into a massive spherical data device – a huge cyberspace deck. All are deep in a trance, completely zoned out. However, 3 cyber-enhanced pit bulls rush the PCs. After some manuvering in the building, the PCs kill the dogs, and return to the basement. They discover the cultists have been automatically un-jacked from the data sphere upon activation of the guard dogs, and the sphere itself has self-destructed. They do not find Tien Salazar in the building. However, they do find the two women from Pearl’s among the cultists.

The episode concludes. Next time the PCs will deal with the captive hookers. Pearl will not be happy to find that 2 of her valued employees were involved in abducting a customer, or that they are occult weirdos.

 

First Session!

Well, we had our first GURPS session on Saturday. Well, sort of.

I had the guys over to work on character concepts. As I fully expected, we spent a lot of time catching up. The guys I’m gaming with are all old highschool friends. They were not my regular gaming group, but I played some Champions with them. Anyway, a lot of catching up was needed, and it was a lot of fun.

The two guys who got there “on-time” decided on a couple of general ideas of characters. I really liked their ideas, and I think the game is going to be fun.

It was really fun seeing the interaction of these two friends as they talked about characters. I’ve known these guys for most of my life, but as I’ve said, they weren’t my main group of friends. It was incredible to see how their friendships really haven’t changed in all this time, and it was clear that they’ll have a very tight gaming “team” for GURPS, D&D, or whatever.  I’m sure it is nice to make “new” gaming friends, but it is really great to just be able to rekindle the fire that has been simmering for 30 years.