Hard wired Island Design

I want to talk a little bit about some design I’m pretty chuffed about, even three years after the fact. Specifically, this has to do with adapting one IP into another with an homage of sorts. It also had to be retooled a bit so it didn’t retread the same ground. (Thus becoming plagiarism.) I had 300 words to adapt a plot device from a cyberpunk anime… into a TTRPG extra for GMs. (Also cyberpunk.)

In the broad-strokes, it’s similar to the SYBIL System found in Psycho Pass: read someone’s mental state, ascribe a number and a guideline to it, and the coppers will deal with it.

Within the nitty-gritty… the themes are wildly different. For the anime, it was government controlled and operated. It was social conformity enforced to borderline fascism. It also explored how ill equipped police were to actually handle mental illness, and the point of individuality.

The TTRPG dealt with corporations and unfettered capitalism. So, firstly, the mechanism changed: it was run by “volunteers,” (not really…) from different backgrounds (usually within law/order) and it was the unholy bastard of security, tech and private health.

The themes had to change. They had to discuss corporate intrusion into people’s lives, manufactured consent, and the tradeoff between personal liberties and perceived security. All in 300-ish words. And a gang of cyberpunk slickers had to be able to beat this thing somehow. Here’s how that happened:

  1. Design flaws in the system: Sometimes, the system worked as intended. Litigate, gumshoes and cop brains had bad results for players. Other times… tricksters, anarchists and psychologists will work to the players’ favour. Sometimes, even to harming the cops.
  2. Two clear methods of attack: The players could attack the corporates directly, or sabotage the transport vehicle while the mind-hive was in transit. Both were head-on options, but feasible. It is up to the GM on how much of a challenge this is.
  3. Implicit goals: If the gang was not good at combat, the players could take social options instead. The three corps are in an alliance: talk to the right people, and one could ditch the others. Since all three need to stay, the legal stuff is void and the threat is neutralised

How the players approach this device of privacy invasion is up to them. The themes can be taken as part of a greater whole, or just as a filler episode in a campaign.

The intention of all of this — the message I want to impart on the players — is that direct action is the only way to stop a beast like this.

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