#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – Enosh Square

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Enosh Square

Ramshackle buildings of wood dominate the space of the square, skeletal and blackened, ripe for demolition and rebuilding even before the dead rose. It is like a hangover from the early half of the century, before the great fires turned people to the favour of stone and brick. It is a choked tangle of alleys, loose cobbles and filth-strangled gutters. Even if you were amongst the rotting dead, you do not think you would choose this place to spend your days. The rookeries that were once crowded with workers are now home to true rooks and crows, that put up a squawing clatter at sight of you, which brings a returning moan from the dead.

The Shambles

The whole of the square is dominated by the great wooden buildings that once housed the destitute and the poor. They are crumbling, broken and rotting wood littering the streets, the oiled paper windows of most of these verminous rookeries have long fallen away, admitting the elements to the interior and washing the detritis of people’s lives out into the gutter. A pair of rusted scissors here, a faggot of twigs there, a crudely carved doll with a mop of soggy wool for her hair, tugged by a rat along the dirty cobbles.

Rome House

Two floors high, this house seems to be amongst the smallest dwellings here, though it is squat and broad – like a trunk or crate. At some point the wood was whitewashed, but this is now stained brown and grey and peeling away in great flakes that flutter in the slightest breeze. The door hangs open, mouldering wicker and rotting scraps of leather scattered down the bowing wooden steps.

A simple hall, with steps running up one side to the upper floor, drives through the house from one end to the other. Four doors mark it, two sets of two opposite each other down its length. All their doors open. Black mould climbs the walls and the floorboards creak ominously, soft, damp and pliable under your feet.

The woodden steps are on the brink of collapse, anyone entering by the steps at the front or rear of the house must make a Dexterity Save against a DC of 10 or have them splinter and break, suffering 1d4 piercing damage.

The floorboards throughout the building are also rotten, and will give way under heavy weight or vigorous action one time out of six (Roll 1d6, it collapses under the people fighting or very heavy individuals, with a 3/6 chance of breaking through the floor below as well, suffering 1d4 damage for each floor – since the sodden wood breaks their fall).

Ground Floor: Reception

This room seems to have been a place for taking off and leaving one’s outer clothing, and the muck of hard work. The floor is board, but it could be mistaken for a dirt floor, so caked in the mix of plaster, paint and mud. A half dozen pairs of shoes – curling from damp and flowering with blue mould – are lined up in front of two wooden benches, and there are hooks on the walls as well, hanging with smocks and tunics. A rusty iron heating stove stands in the middle of the room, the dirt around it stained orange and red.

Loot:

  • [ ]One day’s worth of coal.
  • [ ] None of the clothing or leather is recoverable, lost to mould and rot.

Ground Floor: Parlour

The wet wooden door is hanging off its hinges and crawling with woodlice. Past it you see a simple room, clean but soaking floorboards, two tables – a card table and a larger, square table set with bowls and spoons of wood. The parchment windows are long torn away and the damp has dissolved the deck of cards on the table into wet, swollen pieces. They’re only recognisible from the disembodied heads of the paper royalty.

A stone-lined fireplace hasn’t protected its ashes from being washed out into the room – a thin grey muck that stretches halfway across the room. The firewood teems with insects, like the door, broken down into wet splinters.

Loot:

  • Inside the bend of the flue is a missing brick, wherein is stashed a small bag of 5 silver pieces and 9 copper coins. A tiny key also nestles amongst the coins.

Ground Floor: Room 1 (Force the door DC10)

The next door is open but a crack, the wood has swollen with the damp, tight into the frame, though it was already open, giving plenty or purchase. A nest of twigs is tangled against the door, fragments and pieces of wickerwork.

Once you make your way inside there isn’t that much to see. A small bench with rusted tools, bundles of wet wicker, a few unfinished baskets. It seems that the person who lived here – sleeping on a rotten pallet of straw and blankets – used it as their workshop as well as their living space. Many of the people here may have been doing the same.

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#TTRPG – Wightchester Preview – Introduction

Winchester Cathedral

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Wightchester was once ‘Whitchester’. ‘Whit’ meaning ‘white’ and ‘chester’ from the Roman ‘castrum’, meaning ‘fort’. The place was once known, then, as ‘white-fort’ or ‘white castle’, the ‘white’ of its name coming from the chalk downland upon which it was built.

The town grew up around the Roman fort, with its walls being reinforced, expanded and rebuilt in the years following the retreat of the Romans and the descent into the Dark Ages. The Romans were not the first to settle in the area, though their villas and evidence of their presence remain everywhere in the city and the surrounding area – for those who know how to see.

In prehistoric times the large number of flints and the proximity to water led to several ‘mines’ being dug to extract the flint, with these unnatural caverns being re-used as burial chambers, which are occasionally stumbled upon by farmers and amateur archeologists.

These early, neolithic, structures and tribal hunting grounds eventually developed into the fortified settlements, burial mounds and standing stones that can still be seen dotting the landscape, and on from that the development of hill forts during Britain’s iron age. The remnants of these bygone ages are still turned up from time to time, usually in the form of imperishable stone arrowheads.

When the Romans came, the site of Whitchester was the site of a moderately sized set of standing stones, subsidiary to the not-too-distant Stonehenge, and a sizeable hill fort that was part of a network of defences belonging to the Belgae tribe. The Romans invaded, destroyed the temples as a demonstration of their power – using fire and water – and built their own garrison atop the hill fort of ‘Gwynbryn’ (White Hill). By the third century this fortress gained a true, stone wall and sprawled over more than one-hundred acres of land.

In medieval times the city shrank, but remained something of an urban centre, despite the decline. In the ancient chronicles it was known as ‘Caergwyn’ or ‘Gwyncaestre’ the second of which would eventually be corrupted into the form ‘Whitchester’. It was during this time (beginning in 685) that the Cathedral began to be built, though this construction was disrupted by both the Norman invasion of 1066 and the great importance being given to other Cathedrals. As such, Whitchester Cathedral ended up being constructed piecemeal, giving it a schizophrenic appearance, and wasn’t finished until 1527…

#TTRPG Giallo in RPG: The strange case of the unusual dice

Guest blogger: Miguel Ribeiro

So you want to write or run a giallo scenario? Great, there’s never enough edgy and stylish role-playing material and, in this particular case, the scarcity is even more obvious. Apart from Postmortem Studio’s editions, there’s Profondo Giallo, a sourcebook for the Spanish horror RPG Fragmentos, but it lacks an English translation. And nothing else, at least not evidently marketed as such.

The first thing to think about when trying to run an Italian horror scenario is, obviously, choosing an adequate group of players. The themes are mature, and some descriptions may be unsettling for oversensitive people. If you want to avoid trouble, choosing the right players and the right place is the first and most important step.

Giallo movies are usually led by female protagonists, but it doesn’t have to be necessarily so in a role-playing game. Unless you are planning a one-shot and continuity isn’t an issue, having female non-player characters as victims of gruesome murders or savage attacks is the best course of action. I’ve set The Sisters of the Seven Sins in a convent, allowing for the players to take the roles of nuns, but there are other options, such as Vatican authorities investigating reports of demoniacal manifestations and reporters exploring the mysterious narrative unrolling in the convent. A mixed group will allow for the use of typical tropes from both female and male led gialli, thus easing the game master’s work.

The player characters, male or female, can be either investigators or witnesses to crimes. The accidental investigator trope is recurrent in giallo movies, and it adequately fits the transition to role-playing games. Orpheum Lofts, the first giallo scenario I wrote, takes advantage of that theme. The players are supposed to be all residents of the same building and there are already connections presented among the personas, which account for the interference in investigations when something unusual happens. Of course those prepared links between characters are entirely optional. The voyeur/ witness trope can justify implicating any character in a murder mystery.

The alienation and mental illness theme, another trope which punctuates the genre, was in my mind while writing The Memorial, which takes place in a rundown hospital where bizarre things are bound to happen. While there are several doctors and nurses available to choose from, the psychiatric ward was given greater detail than elsewhere in that medical facility. Impersonating medical professionals or patients, the players encounter situations where doubts will arise about if it is a supernatural manifestation or just delusions they are facing. The alienation trope, in which the witnesses’ testimony is considered unreliable by the authorities, comes into play in such cases.

You probably noticed that I’ve chosen enclosed spaces to set myscenarios: a residential building, a hospital and a convent. That’s partly a personal preference, but it is also related to the genre’s characteristics. Unless the characters are professional investigators, being close to the plot’s mysterious occurrences is the only way to maintain their interest while keeping up suspension of disbelief. Fear and suspicion are always solid motivations.

Another of my personal preferences, one that makes perfect sense in a giallo – most likely the reason I gravitated towards that kind of horror – is having an extensive cast of non-player characters. You don’t need to detail them all, but at least put a name tag to them. As the story unfolds you’ll need victims, suspects, hypothetical witnesses and other investigators. Nosy neighbours, work colleagues, close friends or members of the family, reporters, police detectives, doctors, these are all archetypal characters from horror stories who have their placehere. The spaghetti thriller has a defining whodunit narrative structure, with some plot twists that point suspicions to different characters along the plot. The identity of the killer is only discovered at the ending, and it is never the one who was expected to be the guilty party. The trench coats, sunglasses and leather gloves have become such usual clichés for killers, but they were not just an aesthetical formula, they were also the answer to conceal the murderer’s real identity, when they had already appeared onscreen. When I run giallo scenarios, sometimes I use a trick: I don’t decide who the killer is at the beginning. I select a few suspects and the player character’s actions determine which of those the real assassin is.

Even though the social commentary doesn’t need to be transposed from film to role-playing, it’s an interesting perspective, especially if you intend to set the game in the past. Gender roles, sexuality and mental illness were the most frequent controversial themes. I’ve touched on those subjects in my own scenarios, Orpheum Lofts and The Memorial, which feature homosexual, drug addicted and paraphiliac characters. Also women of ill-repute, rapists and other abusers, paedophiles… Quite an assortment of unsavoury characters. The Sisters of the Seven Sins has an added political layer, as it is set in post-revolutionary Portugal of the mid-1970s. And before you assume I’m a right-wing Incel, stewing over my own misogynistic rage in my parent’s basement, let me assure you that’s not the case: I’m a 45 year old southern-European leftist, and a few of the most insensitive ideas in my scenarios were suggest by the unofficial first editor, my “companion” (or whatever is the politically correct way to call them). Anyway, though these subjects are dangerous to pick up right now, they could pay off if your players react in a mature way. Since I’m not a specialist in handling “sensitivity issues”, there’s an academic thesis that expands on those and other themes in a way I certainly cannot. You can find it here: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/4730.

For obvious reasons, a contemporary role-playing game is the ideal for you to use in conjunction with a genre that takes place right now, or in the recent past. Since spaghetti thriller feels a bit dated, for my own scenarios I’ve opted for the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, but that’s not a rule. Setting things in the past surely avoids the ubiquitous smartphones, laptops and tablets, which can easily ruin a horror story, but no one is stopping you from setting gialli in current days. Dario Argento revisited it in Giallo (2009), starring Adrien Brody and Emmanuelle Seigner. In spite of the name, the movie isn’t the perfect showcase, but the time period had nothing to do with that.

And while we’re addressing setting, let’s go into the game choice itself. Lovecraftian cosmic horror RPGs are probably the most common, but they aren’t really good at accommodating spaghetti thrillers. A rules-light, psychological horror game is the ideal, since the menaces are usually human in nature. Supernatural can and does appear in gialli, but it’s always discreet in nature. A psychological horror game with emphasis in drama is most likely the best option. Personally, I don’t like narrative story games, but I suppose they are a good match. For my scenarios I used Actual Fucking Monsters, since the editor and publisher, James Desborough, is also that game’s author. AFM would have been an excellent fit anyway, being rules-light and rather flexible.

Having a soundtrack playing in the background is not everybody’s cup of tea; but if it doesn’t disturb you gaming sessions you should definitely try it. The musical score and sound effects are quite relevant and they will be handy to create the right atmosphere. If you decide to play a soundtrack you may want to pick something by Goblin, an Italian progressive rock band – which has frequently collaborated with Dario Argento – or any of Ennio Morricone’s horror soundtracks. There are very interesting and complete playlists for giallo and other Italian horror subgenres in Spotify and YouTube.

Something that should be remembered is that while there are similarities to slasher movies, these films are much more stylish. The vivid colours and lush décors that are a trademark of gialli aren’t easily translated to something that plays entirely inside the theatre of the mind. Since you can’t have a cinematographer helping you do your job as “director”, you must use your own words to describe them. There’s no need to go into very gory and graphical descriptions, but you should try to set the scenes with an added level of detail. And I don’t mean only the violent sequences, but also the aftermath of crime. When the characters find defiled corpses in macabre murder scenes, take some time to describe the locations and all the elements. Dario Argento would probably do the same.

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#TTRPG – Giallo: A Feast of Blood and Colour

Guest Blogger: Miguel Ribeiro

If you are a film buff or a horror aficionado chances are you’ve already come across several giallo movies. Otherwise, unless you’re Italian, it’s possible you haven’t even heard about them. Violent, sexy, stylish and deliciously kitsch, characterized by flashy décors, extreme close-ups, grandiose soundtracks and gruesome murder scenes, these are among the most “problematic” – to use an expression unfortunately associated with art and entertainment – productions in movie history. If you add black leather gloves, big knives, Mackintosh wearing killers and awful dubbing to the list of common tropes you’ll probably identify the genre, even if you do not recognize the name. Spaghetti thriller, as it is also know, hasn’t been that popular for a long time, but left its mark in mainstream horror.

The word “giallo” (plural “gialli)means “yellow” in Italian and, originally, it referred to a collection of cheap paperback crime novels, most of them translations of hardboiled and murder mystery classics – like Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen and Raymond Chandler – published by Mondadori Editore since the late 1920s, and which had garish yellow covers.

In the late 1960s the term was internationalized, thanks to its film iteration. Mario Bava, one of the most famous filmmakers who came to be associated with the genre, directed the first giallo movie, La Ragazza che Sapeva Troppo (The Girl Who Knew Too Much, 1963). Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato, Enzo G. Castellari are some of the other well-known names connected to giallo. Luchino Visconti has also been added to the category by a few critics due to the film Obsession (1943) and, if you accept that, he’s certainly the most reputable director on record to this day.

To define giallo isn’t easy. More than a genre, in the usual sense of the word in movie theory, it is a concept defined only by common tropes that includes movies which are catalogued into different categories, such as thriller, crime drama, murder-mystery, slasher and horror. Depending on who does the classification, you may even find cannibal horror and spaghetti western among the classics. Sexuality, violence, voyeurism, hallucination, dream, delusion, alienation, paranoia are the most common themes and they appear, with different degrees of relevance, in most gialli.

There is an obvious connection to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). Hitchcock was also Brian De Palma’s main influence, and De Palma directed Dressed to Kill (1980). The famous thriller starring Michael Caine combines elements taken from the Master of Suspense himself with cues from Italian horror. Quite a lot of the stylistic elements and tropes in Dressed to Kill, from voyeurism to sexuality, including psychosis, art, music – and if that isn’t enough, razor blades and black leather gloves – gave rise to an American version of giallo. It’s still a relevant work and influenced other directors, but some of the traits were lost along the way.

Another thing you may have noticed about these movies is the title: The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Blood and Black Lace, Five Dolls for an August Moon, Four Flies on Grey Velvet, Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key, The Perfume of the Lady in Black. Some of these sound like thriller titles, but none seems remotely kindred to American slasher flicks. There’s a certain lyricism about spaghetti thrillers, rather common in other Italian cinema, which seems a little odd when associated with such displays of violence. The passionate way of handling horror is amongst the finest details added to the genre by European filmmakers.

And since the clichés are what makes the giallo movie, let’s expand on that a bit. The first true gialli were produced in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time of social turmoil and change. Sexual liberation was still associated with feminism at the time, and the eroticization of film was hanging on a thread, trying to keep balance between the expression of male desires and fetishisms and what today would be named female empowerment. In other European countries where there was a movie industry (mainly France), certain controversial themes were already being explored but, considering these are mostly Italian productions, and that Italy still was – in part due to religious constraints –, a conservative society, there was a breakthrough behind the gialli. Naked female bodies and sex aren’t the only contentious features. Homosexuality, mental illness, drug abuse and criminality are part of the issues on which Italian horror presented social commentary.

The sexploitation trope shows up in two major variants: having a female or male protagonist usually defines how the sexualisation will work in the narrative. In spaghetti thrillers the protagonists are primarily female and, while that doesn’t mean there will be no violence directed at women, at least we know for sure that, until the very end, the star will not die. Since in a female led film there are much more opportunities for eroticism other than the violent murder scenes, nudity usually abounds. There are certainly further defining traits in movies with a woman protagonist other than nakedness. As an example, the male stars commonly have the role of witness or investigator, while women are often the targets of psychotic killers. That’s not always like that, though. Sometimes the villain is a woman, as is the case of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970) and The Killer Nun (1979).

When a man leads the cast – like in Dario Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red (1975) – it is likely that he will be witness to one or more ghastly homicides. In male ledmovies, the protagonist is ordinarily a foreigner, and that’s another important trope, related to the outsider role. On the one hand, this was the chance to internationalize the genre, by hiring American, British and French movie stars, such as Karl Malden, David Hemmings, John Saxon, Donald Pleasance and Jean-Louis Trintignant. Even when the protagonist isn’t a foreigner, he is normally outside his milieu, as it happens with the journalist played by Tomas Milian in Lucio Fulci’s Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972). On the other hand, having a foreigner character helps solidify the alienation trope. There’s a cultural and linguistic barrier but, more than that, when the crime investigation starts, the authorities tend to distrust the outsider’s testimony. In female led movies, the doubts arise from their own traditionally related female weaknesses, like a tendency to overdramatize or having hysterical reactions to shocking events.

The voyeurism trope sometimes gets mixed up with the outsider one. That’s what happens in Deep Red – a seminal work by Dario Argento – in which David Hemmings plays jazz musician Marcus Dally, who witnesses a murder from afar. When the characters themselves aren’t witnesses to crimes we, the spectators, are. Every spaghetti thriller has at least a murder scene in which the audience is invited to watch a grisly homicide while it happens, from a first or third person view. The voyeuristic approach isn’t just fetishist; it is profoundly connected to the inner workings of the genre. Rarely are the characters police officers or detectives. That’s another sort of production, the poliziotteschi, influenced by gritty French and American action movies of the ‘70s (like the Dirty Harry and Death Wish series). In gialli the authorities are usually portrayed in a bad light, as corrupt, aggressive, contemptuous, incompetent and distrustful. The disdain for authority figures’ deductive ability is also part of the social commentary so frequent in Italian horror.

The already mentioned violence is ubiquitous in the genre. The crimes are commonly dreadful affairs and the murder scenes more graphic than contemporary American counterparts. Violence is increasingly sexualized, taking advantage of the social upheaval of the time. Unlike what happens in Psycho, the shower scenes in these films reveal more than they conceal. It’s quite possible gialli take the lead among the most disturbing horror and thriller productions of the same period. Perhaps it is not a disadvantage that this is a niche, or it would be more likely to be “cancelled” nowadays. Nonetheless, psychological horror is as important as violence. Unlike other Italian horror subgenres of the epoch, this one doesn’t thrive on gore.

Although special effects play a very small role, gialli rely heavily on visual impact. Lurid colours, bright neon, lush décors, impressive façades and plenty works of art, all have a part in creating the adequate mise-en-scène. The use of close-ups of objects and body parts, bizarre camera angles and disorienting framing and editing fuels the atmosphere of delirium and confusion. At the same time there’s also an obsession with luxury, present in other genres of the 1970s. Locales are carefully chosen, there’s a notorious prevalence of Art Déco architecture and house interiors are lavishly decorated. Some scenes take place in decaying buildings, but even those are rather stylish.

The musical score is also an important factor. It mixes several styles, from lounge music to progressive rock, there’s always great care in the soundtrack choice and the way it is intertwined with sound effects to breathe life into the whole ambiance. The esteemed Ennio Morricone authored several scores, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), Cold Eyes of Fear (1971), Cat O’ Nine Tales (1971), What Have You Done to Solange? (1972) and Spasmo (1974) among them. The progressive rock band Goblin had a prolific collaboration with director Dario Argento that encompasses Deep Red, Suspiria (1977), Phenomena (1985), Sleepless (2001) and they also recorded musical scores for other Italian horror directors like Joe D’Amato (Beyond the Darkness, 1979).

Selected giallo filmography:

Ossessione/ Obsession (1943), La ragazza che sapeva troppo/ The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963), 6 donne per l’assassino/ Blood and Black Lace (1964), Orgasmo (1969), L’uccello dalle piume di cristallo/ The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Il rosso segno della follia/ Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970), 5 bambole per la luna d’agosto/ Five Dolls for an August Moon (1970)/ Il gatto a nove code/ The Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971), 4 mosche di velluto grigio/ Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971), Una lucertola con la pelle di donna/ A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971), Cosa avete fatto a Solange?/ What Have you Done to Solange? (1972), Non si sevizia un paperino/ Don’t Torture a Duckling (1972), Il tuo vizio è una stanza chiusa e solo io ne ho la chiave/ Your Vice Is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (1972), Il profumo della signora in nero/ The Perfume of the Lady in Black (1974), Spasmo (1974), Profondo Rosso/ Deep Red (1975), Gatti rossi in un labirinto di vetro/ Eyeball (1975), Suor Homicidi/ Killer Nun (1979) Sette note in nero/ Seven Notes in Black (1977), Lo squartatore di New York/ New York Ripper (1982), Tenebrae (1982), Phenomena (1985), Morirai a mezzanotte/ You Die at Midnight (1986), Delirium (1987), Opera (1988), The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

MIGUEL’S YELLOW BASTARDS GIALLO TRILOGY OF RPG SCENARIOS IS AVAILABLE VIA POST-MORT.COM

#RPG – Giallo: The Memorial RELEASED!

A Giallo-themed horror RPG adventure context/scenario that can be used with any system, but which is presented with statistics for Actual F*cking Monsters. This scenario takes place in a run-down hospital where nothing is quite what it seems.

System agnostic, but with statistics for Actual Fucking Monsters.

HARDCOPY

PDF

#RPG – Satana Station for Machinations of the Space Princess (OSR Space Opera) Released!

Buy the PDF HERE, PoD coming soon!

A runaway space station controlled by a rogue AI.

A haven for scum, pirates, slavers and other ne’er-do-wells, squatting amidst the ruin of the fallen Urlanth Empire, right on the edge of a warzone.

100 shops, services and interesting people for your players to interact with, inspiration for hundreds of adventures and many ideas that can easily be ripped off for other space opera, heavy metal or OSR science fiction games.

#RPG – #My30dayWorld – Who is the most Renowned Hero in Your World?

basicfour

I’m not really very fond of having powerful, self-insert characters in heroic worlds or games. They tend to ‘Mary-Sue’ it up and to ride roughshod over the actions and impact of the players. Carrying things over from your home campaigns can descend into ‘in jokes’ rather easily, or become obscure and opaque to anyone who doesn’t personally know you…

See the rest at Patreon or Makersupport.

Camelot Cosmos: Dark Nights & Days of Wonder RELEASED!

Time is important to the denizens of the Camelot Cosmos. Dark Nights & Days of Wonder details the dating conventions, festivals and feasts of the Camelot Cosmos and can be used to add colour to your games.

Get it HERE (PDF, RPGNOW/Drivethru exclusive.

Complete Camelot Cosmos bundle HERE

(Player’s book, GM’s book, Hawk’s Hollow – setting/adventure – and Dark Nights & Days of Wonder).

Ex Machina – A Whole New London

So I started running a cyberpunk setting game using Ex Machina (Tri-Stat). It has to be said, I’m not a huge fan of Tri-Stat. Making up characters and powers and options and things in the system is good fun, so far as character creation goes, but in execution it all feels a little bland and Ex Machina’s way of working damage is a little intrusive and annoying. The three-stat reductionism is also more than a little annoying, even though it makes things relatively simple.

Still, the setting is the thing though and while the settings in the book (the bulk of the book) never really roused my interest they do comprise a good toolkit for putting things together of your own with examples and some statted up NPCs, guards, cybernetics and so on.

My setting is set at some point around/after the 2050s and incorporates ideas liberally lifted from Doktor Sleepless, Augmented Reality speculation, Maker/Fabber speculation and Peter F Hamilton’s earlier cyberpunk setting books (such as The Nanoflower) along with my own ideas which I’ve been developing for some time either for personal games or for Genesis Descent (which will hopefully actually get greenlit at some point).

My setting is London, some time after 2050, and it’s a London much modified by climate change (flooding) and energy starvation issues. The key points of the setting are:

  • Ubiquitous Augmented Reality: Pretty much everyone is wired in with contact lenses or glasses that give an augmented overlay to the world. Your social networking is connected to your personal transponder and distributed processing and gestural detection fields surround you. Almost everyone is wired in 24/7 and has a wealth of personal data available to anyone who cares to check. Police and other groups have more advanced versions of this and can even flag people for the general public to notice. Some sentencing involves displaying special HUD info, like, say ‘Sex Offender’ over your head. Almost everyone has ‘opted in’ to a near total surveillance culture.
  • Unobtrusive Enhancement: Prosthetics have reached the point where they’re equal to or better than flesh-and-blood but actually chopping off a limb to get enhanced is crazy or fetishistic. Veterans or cripples may get these fitted and end up enhanced but regular people? No. Nano and biological enhancements or hidden/cosmetic enhancements are the order of the day. Cybernetics and Bionetics are subtle and hidden. A lot of enhancements are pure software, apps and expert systems loaded into your AR suite.
  • Environmentalism: Everything, everywhere is concerned with environmental impact. Buildings are covered in a living coat of algae or moss and have roof gardens. There are incentives to have window-boxes or hanging window gardens and most buildings have one or two windmills or solar power/heating arrays. Cars are almost all electric, a lot of people cycle or walk and there are new tramways, light rail and monorails (corporate owned) replacing the crumbling London Underground (much flooded and hard to maintain).
  • Corporatocracy: There is still a government but it’s a toothless rump, completely in the thrall of the corporations. Global turmoil following The Great Recession replaced many governments but the money was still in the company coffers and able to corrupt whoever was elected or to fix subsequent elections. Voting, protesting, none of it makes any real difference and you can’t depose a multinational through revolt. Companies own whole zones, set their own laws and regulations and ignore what remains of the government in any case.
  • Energy: Lack of sufficient investment in alternative energy sources has caused a massive shortfall. Fusion has been cracked but requires massive powerplants that are much less efficient and much more expensive and difficult to run than nuclear reactors. Nuclear has such a bad reputation hardly anyone uses it though exhausted Middle Eastern nations continue to try to develop nuclear power. The Russian Confederation is one of the last major fossil fuel exporters and that’s drying up. They’re investing heavily in space resources. Remaining oil, gas, coal and other resource areas – particularly in Antarctica – are flashpoints for diplomatic incidents.
  • Space: Pretty much entirely ceded to private enterprise, save by China which continues to gain space supremacy as a nation. Two consortia, one Russian/Eastern, one Anglo/Western are trying to make profitable means to harvest Near Earth Asteroids. Mining does go on, but is hideously expensive. It provides rare earths and important metals to Earth Industries but is barely profitable and intensely competitive.

What do players do?

With government and police almost entirely irrelevant there’s little to hold companies back and, hence, a huge amount of potential for PMCs, freelance industrial espionage and so on. Players are likely criminals, social networking engineers, people off the grid or otherwise capable of ‘doing things’ for important players.