On the Sector Turn

It's very simple.

There are many important things cybertechtronically enhanced secret agents need to do:  Buy illegal tanks with railguns. "Convince" the guy down at the bowling alley that he works for you. Bust up your opponents' resources.

Sector turns are a very straightforward presentation of that. They are a limited time between operations (adventures) where characters have a number of actions to accomplish goals. 

A sector is a hex, an adventureable space.  And it has sites! Like a cliff view. But this is cyberpunk, so the sites are like "The main dark rainy street" and "The seedy bar." These sites are just the sights. They don't mechanically affect play—They are the sets a television show would build for a season. 

A place where interactions take place. Just places.


Sectors also have resources. What is a resource? 

It's something that makes you cash on the barrelhead.

If you own a car factory, not only is any vehicle you buy discounted, but gets you thousands or even tens of thousands of monies every sector turn.

How do you do this? Every resource has boxes. You can take action to damage or control those boxes, using brute force, espionage, magic, or even the law, you can take over resources during the sector turn.

You color in all the boxes to get control of the resource. I like coloring in boxes. It's super compelling. Even more so when it matters.

But. Oh my goodness, this is so fucking intense. 

The actions the characters take during sector turns are diegetic, right? If you use your brand's muscle to go over there and beat the shit out of people till you own the place, it happens in the game.

Maybe that doesn't sound amazing to you. 

But think about it. The actions taken during the sector turn, inform the fictional reality.
Which responds by creating operations to address the changes. 

If you go to a resource during an operation and blow it to rubble using missiles, the resource in the sector is damaged.

If you're taking something over, the people who owned it before are probably going to notice.

From the playtest,

One of the players realized they could significantly increase their profits from the salvage yard if they took over the commons, evicted the people who live in the low-income housing and bulldozed it to the ground and built condos.

Do you see it yet? 

It is amazing in play. People are really really excited about the game. They can't wait to do the next operation, because that leads to their next sector turn, which will lead to their next operation. . .. They are advancing the narrative without any "remember a trashcan*". 

This is very concrete, and there is non-trivial discussion about how to leverage the resources in play. I have heard wild suggestions. It's a good time.

Before anyone loses their shit, they are not doing those evil things. This is not "Landlord" the game. It's "Destabilize the system and build it correctly" the game.

But it's just so tempting to use your sector turn to go around using a persuedertron to brainwash people to support your brand.

Buy Me!
Every asset in the game comes with an ability that can change the rules of the sector turn, in extremely novel and interesting ways. Since they are random pulls from a pool of about 100, each playtest group is developing organically throughout the adventure!

It is a great time. 

YMMV. Check it out. You can look at the whole thing in preview, and it's in print.

 * From the Bill and Ted movie, when they realize they can just come back after they win and do anything they need to do. Every time they get into trouble, they say, "Remember a trash can," and their future selves drop a trash can on the guy's head. In heist games like Blades in the Dark and Leverage, it's a technique to obviate having to create a working system of  planning a heist ahead of time. Sinless, on the other hand, is about the players making a plan, and giving the Agonarch (Game master) the tools needed to allow the players to do that. When running a game, listening to the players plan was always my favorite part, and here I made a way to do that while respecting agency.

Hack & Slash 

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Sinless in print

 So, Sinless is in print

That's not all. 

You get assets, and you can use them to do things. Like Morgana.

You're smart. You have seen an action movie. Someone knows an explosive guy, and then Jean Reno walks on, and the pyrotechnics guy has some explosion go off at 1/200th the actual speed—This is that.

Each asset provides an ability for both the sector phase (downtime) and operations (the adventures). You don't actually have to pay them; you just have to own the relevant infrastructure in a sector to support them. There's not really any upkeep that isn't gameplay. 

An Example Sector.
You could use this exact sheet.

You get 1 or 2 at character creation, and every Sector phase, you get 3 random new ones that are available for hire. 

And like, Holy shit guys. They are actual people that exist within the framework of play. It's great! 

Be friends with one, and reduce their upkeep. Shoot one you don't like in the head! (I mean, or not. That's *astoundingly* violent.)

Oh, and the tools. 

We're making a mission generator. And character creator. 

The open sandbox nature of the campaigns means that it has to be easy for Agonarch (Gamemaster, you get the idea) to make a 'volume' of these for a living world. It answers all the questions characters will ask, simplifying, prepping, and running games. 

Don't get the wrong idea. "Volume," in this case, is probably 4 to start, and a new one every week or two. But a pushbutton tool that organizes your sectors for you? This sounds complicated, but, uh, the reality is it's mechanized random tables, along with a simple interface to store the information. 

We're not inventing the wheel here—we all know too many "Eye in the, is it sky? Pie?" Like, clearly before refined sugar was pumped into every food, the pie must have been a more significant cultural touchstone. 

The point is, at dinner, my eyes are the right size. 

It's working now. We're making it work better. So this is a real thing that's happening.

Now that the book is in print and people are starting campaigns, we are playtesting the starter adventure "Billionaire Bounty." It is about an extradimensional invasion that causes a city in the Midwest, near a great lake, to become sealed off from the outside world. You have to hunt, help, rob, or bully a dozen billionaires who would rather be somewhere else. 

. . .

It is, of course, structured like B1, in search of the unknown. In the sense that not only is it a great campaign starter, it's also a tool to explain how to manage the particulars of setup and play in Sinless. We'll be kickstarting that in a few weeks, closer to the completion of the asset cards.

Oh, I can show you pictures of it in people's happy hands!

This is not my hand.

I would write longer, but this is as long as people will read! More soon. It's not like there's an actual paywall if you're interested. The whole book is on preview.

You can ask questions, get errata, or chat on the official forum:  https://forum.sinlessrpg.com/index.php

Get your own copy:  https://preview.drivethrurpg.com/en/product/472142/Sinless

Hack & Slash 

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On Dice and Mechanics


So, obviously a D&D clone uses a d20 right?

We know there are certain expectations for certain types of games. Cyberpunk uses a d6/d10 system with edge case weirdness. Shadowrun uses giant pools of d6's.  Blades in the dark, old savage worlds, d6. 

But there are problems with those systems. For me; I mean, knock yourself out. 

Cyberpunk uses exploding dice which create weird dead zones in success chances. This is not a big deal. Shadowrun had this cycle of design, where huge pools always succeed -> add limits -> limits are dull ->add edge, and now you're using hero points. Which again, ok, fine.

I mean, they are fine. But I felt memories of when I enjoyed d6's. Original Shadowrun picking up a ton of dice. Song of Blades and Heroes where every choice is a tactical risk. Warhammer 40k, when saving on a 2+. 

I'm not a statistician. I had too many semesters of calculus at 6:30 in the morning in a basement to want to love number play-doh. I'm not afraid of math. But, you know, it's not particularly intuitive for me. I wasn't setting out to create some radical new design. I wanted something understandable, scalable, and most of all fun. I wanted it to work during play.

The normal process of seeing Sinless
and then opening and reading Sinless.
This system was playtested and iterated. I started with the idea of attribute 'pools' that drain during combat. When you use a die from your pool, you lose access until the next round. You also used these pools to defend. Reasonably quickly it got wonky. So we condensed the pools to four, four types of attacks, four types of defenses. Pools built from attributes.

Understandable: I ran a lot of 3e Shadowrun. I have an A4 sized page that is separated into three sections: All of the target number combat modifiers, all of the target number matrix modifiers, and all the target number magic modifiers. In tiny-teensy print. Front and back. It's in a box right now, but I'll gladly take pictures next time I run across it. 

So variable target numbers are right out. 

Gear is a huge, part of the fun is the shopping! Cyberpunk character creation is a shopping spree for gamers. It's fun!

I wanted gear to be involved in the core of play. This would be twofold: mitigating the mechanical importance of gear to the game, and involving gear in the core mechanic.

Players roll a number of dice equal to their skill plus the relevant gear feature.

Just in the realm of guns, that's some great design space. Guns with similar accuracies can vary the other features an—oh, got excited there for a second. Did you know I'm a game designer?

So let's talk about the scope of the mechanics. We don't want something that caps out. I like to run and design games that can last for 100+ sessions. I want solid feeling of advancement without it growing out of control. 

So the player gets to distribute both their expertise and money across the desired features.

They roll dice versus a static target number, more successes is more good.

About that target number though.

Stable Targets

Look, I ran Shadowrun for a decade. It was a lot of work. So I took every step possible to reduce the work on the Agonarch (the person running the game) in Sinless.

Operations are organized into tiers. Veteran runs have a target number of 4+. Professional runs have better trained opponents and more expensive  security measures with a target number of 5+, and Prime runs have military security and the highest levels of response and training for a difficulty of 6+. 

This caused more than one person pause during development. But keep in mind

we're developing a game. If you can suspend your disbelief about the uplifts, magic particle, spirits, and cybertechtronics, but "things are harder when opponent is more powerful" is the straw, then I got nothing for you.

Look at how it works for the Agonarch. It decouples length and opposition from difficulty. Players don't have to slow down to recalculate target numbers. Agonarchs can use the same statistic block and the opponent will be challenging to the players. And it works remarkable well with rolling between 1-XX d6's to accomplish a task. 

Your average uplifted bear mercenary after character creation should get 1ish successes on a prime run on a roll with 8 or 9 dice, or 4ish on a veteran run. (I did a bunch of math, but we don't need to get too far into that now).

That's for the things they do. You know the Punching guy is going to take Cybertechtronic Combat at 6, the Shooting are going to take Firearms 6, hackers will have Computer: Hacking at 6. You want them to be competent. 

But you don't get tested on only the things you do well on an operation. 

Characters improve by spending experience to boost attributes to increase pool sizes, and increase skills up to 6.

Once you reach certain kismet (experience) thresholds (10/20) they can select boons. Boons like, Raise a skill from 6 to 7. Or raise a skill from 7 to 8. Or gain pool resilience.

Oh, right, let's talk about the pools.

Going for a Swim

What I really like about Song and Blades of Heroes is that you decide your relative power and risk. Each unit has an activation threshold. You can roll between 1 to 3 dice, and if you have 2 failures on a roll your turn ends. Look at that decision tree! Do I roll three dice and activate my easy to activate unit and risk a turn end, or do I make some 1 die rolls to activate some non important units. 

So the same pools the characters use during combat to attack are the same pools they use to defend. They spend as many dice from their pools as they wish up to the limit of their skill ranking + gear. 

This is an engaging decision: how far will I extend myself? what are the relevant threats to my pools? Can we focus certain types of attacks to drain prime opponent pools? How many dice can I penalize an opponent with my actions? It creates a constant variable player controlled risk/reward mechanic in combat.

E.g. You can charge to allow you to spend Brawn pool dice to add additional distance to a double move, which allows you to neutralize their firearms advantage if you get within range of the opposition. This is the same resource that allows you to soak damage. 

There are not many modifiers, but you can get bonus and penalty dice rather than numbers, leading to contests over  battlefield resources (Cover, network access nodes, and ley lines).

The combat cadence is similar to Warhammer 40k. Attacks hit, successes are added to weapon damage, target chooses to dodge and soak. Resolution is quick.

Pool resilience are dice that never get exhausted from the pool. This tiered system of acquiring mutually exclusive rewards at these at thresholds and certain mutually exclusive choices during character creation means we avoid the GURPS problem of point based character improvement all ultimately converging at high enough power levels. 

Certain effects and tech can grant rerolls, and mechanically there's a rock/paper/scissors going on between magic/electronic/physical attacks and targets and their respective pools/vulnerabilities.

Beyond the fight 

That just creates a bunch of interesting choices in combat, but that's not all. 

The game contains a series of frameworks that provide a structure for the players to gather information and plan out a heist in whatever way they wish. 

There's a reason Leverage and Blades in the Dark use 'flashbacks' to handle jobs. That is entirely too narrative for me. The joy is sitting there watching the players plan the operation for 3 hours. I didn't want to address the problem by ignoring it.

The problem in those old games was I had to do all the work to set the parameters and scope.  Well, the frameworks do that for you. They are descriptive, not prescriptive. They are tool, not a directive. There is information about the target site. Players have a limited opportunity to gather information from their assets and skills, and then can use that information while they plan. The process is explicit, their use manifold, and most importantly, fun in play. 

That's not the only way frameworks are used: how to handle character infiltration before/without triggering a fight, Information about how to price contracts the players sign to do operations, how to neutrally arbitrate the players getting targeted by opponents for kidnapping or capture, an entire exciting method of resolving car chases, bricolage to upgrade the van to make a plan come together and more!

Memento Mori

Is it perfect? Almost certainly not. I'm sure someone will rapidly find Sinless's Peasant Rail Gun, but it meets all my criteria. It's fast in play, encourages tactical as well as strategic thinking, and is rich in design space and character growth and development potential. It's also pretty stable, easy for people to understand what their chances are, and the mechanic can be extended to resolve situations that aren't covered by the rules. (You got a lotta nice pools over there buddy. Shame if something would happen to those. Yeah, a real shame.)

I wasn't setting out to reinvent the wheel. I'm not claiming anything in this mechanical system is particularly novel. You get two actions and a reflex action on your turn, for crying out loud. It's pretty straightforward stuff. But it's fun as hell. 

People think it's pretty cool! 

Hack & Slash 

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On the Walmart Peeper Toucher and the arrival of Cyberpunk


I watched a video where a Walmart peeper toucher was chased through the store and shot with an electric gun. The body-cam showed the officer take the Walmart peeper toucher to the police station jail cell inside the Walmart.

Inside the municipal police station cell located inside Walmart ("save money, live better"), the subject refused to identify himself. He was forcibly restrained and has his face scanned, after which he was identified and charged.

I watched this body-cam footage last Tuesday.

Cyberpunk isn't about the future any more.

So how the hell do you write a cyberpunk game in the age of cyberpunk?

Cyberpunk in the age of Cyberpunk

First, I looked at the history of using 1d6 in board games, tabletop games, and wargames. I looked at the ones that worked, and took lessons from the problems of the ones that didn't. 

I then developed a simple, scalable, core mechanic that creates lots of interesting choices in play. I'll be sure to talk about that, the math, the design, and more in the coming days. But you can't make a good game if you don't have a solid foundation.

Next, I wanted to make a game I wanted to play. Chrome & Sorcery games have (and continue to have) a very traditional "Narrative Driven" Mid-90's Storytelling style. Adventures contain characters watching key players perform important actions while they follow a relatively linear and strict plot. The setting and presentation allow gamemasters to run games that tell 'stories' by funneling characters through missions.

Now, it's not that I don't like narratives. It's that I like them to be emergent, not dictated. I want to find out the story when running a game, and let dice tell stories. 

So very explicitly, Sinless is a different 'style' of game with a familiar form.

I like base builders and tactical combat, and must have spent about, I dunno 4,000 hours playing chaos wars on my Powerbook 420c. Taking over a city, building up a base, and carving out sections of a map as a tactical role-playing game works for me. 

So we developed and expanded this gameplay loop. 

Sinless is a very focused game.

The core rules contain only the information (and world-building) you need to complete and repeat this loop in the year 2090. 

You are sitting down to play a game with your friends, I wanted there to be an explicit game there.

But mr. game designer, you just made a beep-boop computer board game.

Yeah, I was here for 4e, man. I've been working and thinking about this stuff for almost 40 years now. 

The game explicitly provide players agency to affect situations while their (mechanical) resources are under threat. This is really engaging for my playtest group. It creates emergent characters, drama, motivations. 

In acquiring operations, they cannot help but be aware that if they are delivering guns somewhere, someone is going to use those guns. They are always being placed in situations where they have to decide to do something, even if that something is delivering the guns and getting paid. 

There's a whole section of the gameplay loop devoted to the consequences of the choices they make during operations. These consequences and their direct impact mean that their choices are meaningful. To the players. It affects their characters irrevocably going forward. 

I didn't leave people running games out of the loop. It has blown my mind after trying to run these things for twenty years, there isn't ever a simple and clear way to calculate mission payouts. That isn't a problem I'm going to hand someone who wants to run Sinless. The game provides all the tools GMs need to resolve situations that come up during the course of play. (Because I needed those tools, dig?)

People who run Chrome & Sorcery games want to make interesting choices about how to set up the game; not feel adrift, like they have to design a whole 'mission payout economy'.

And because players are running a brand, and engaging in liberating people from oppression while trying not to become oppressors themselves, there's a use for all that money. After all, there's a whole section of the game devoted to upgrading, attacking, subverting, building, and destroying resources in a city. 

And of course those resources tie into how powerful the brand is which ties into how powerful the characters are, which ties into how effective they can be.

In practice it has proven quite compelling.

How is this game Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk isn't retrofuturism and chrome and pink and purple neon. Those are the trappings because Cyberpunk as a genera was created in the 80's. Sinless, the word, as in the idea of people without a system identification number, is pure William Gibson. The city on the cover of the Sinless RPG is tuned to the color of a dead channel. Dead channels don't even exist anymore. I literally grew up- it doesn't matter.

Cyberpunk is about fucking late stage capitalism. It took the trends of the world, wall street, America, technologic advancement and posited, what's the worst it could get?

And, you know, corporations took that personally.

So like all cyberpunk it's about the intersection of technology and humanity and how that changes us. The same technology used to enslave us will be the same power that can set us free. And like all good science-fiction the world of Sinless mirrors the issues of our current world through a hypothetical future.

All in the context of an engaging gameplay loop.

If you'd like to know more, there's a 190 page preview on DTRPG.

Hack & Slash 

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On Sinless Released!

Get the PDF here on DTRPG: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/472142/Sinless

Print on DTRPG and Amazon coming shortly.

Sinless is an original human-written and human-illustrated cyber sorcery table-top role playing game.

Magic has reentered the world. Some humans have been changed by these magical energies gaining new powers and strange inhuman fae-like features. Humans share this world with Synths and Uplifts. Synths are synthetic AI in "living" forms and Uplifts are animals given intelligence, mobility, and opposable thumbs by cybertechtronics and biogenetics. 

Sinless takes place in 2090, a possible dystopian future, but not one without hope! Given enough time, ingenuity, and planning, characters can use their brand to help make a better world. Once they accumulate 1 billion Zuzu's (a secure crypto-currency controlled by the corporate court, based on the popularity of a posh dog) they will be recognized by the international corporate court and can found their own future, free of interference. 

What will your players sacrifice to achieve their goals?

Sinless was designed to be played in sessions lasting four to six hours by 4-6 human beings.

Sinless is a true cyberpunk game about the sacrifices necessary to end human enormity, not military industrial complex propaganda in a coat of retro-futuristic paint. 

On the OSR Christmas in July

Isn't it disappointing that only digital files are on sale at DTRPG?

So I've dropped the prices of print copies of my books!

Bestial Encounters Caused By Monstrous Inhabitation is now 19.99$ 9.99$ in PDF, 34.99$ 29.99$ in Hardcover, and 29.99$ 19.99$ in Softcover!

Artifices Deceptions & Dilemmas is now 19.99$ 9.99$ in PDF, 24.99$ 19.99$ in Hardcover and 19.99$ 14.99 in softcover

On Downtime and Demesnes is now 4.99$ in PDF, 19.99$ 14.99$ in Hardcover, and 14.99$ 12.99 in Softcover. (5e version too!)

I am moving next month, and paying rent twice is terrifying. So you get a deal! You get a deal! And You get a deal!

Look, they are great books with quality work from everyone involved, and at the price points for Christmas in July, you can get some Hardcovers on the cheap. 25$ for all the PDFS, or and under 50$ for all the books in print. If you were waiting now's the time.

The price drop on Bestial Encounters is permanent, but the others are just for this month!

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