….you’ll ever need you can find here: https://matausch.wixsite.com/dospunk
Right at the outset, cyberpunk adventure games lost track.
They lost track of what really counted in the literature that spawned them: the story, the characters, the drama. Instead, we got pages upon pages of gear lists, “cyberware” lists, cyberdeck lists.
Instead of drama, action and character (which are, at least, sometimes, interchangeable in the novels), we got shopping.
Personally, I want that to be gone.
Looking at Gibson’s cyberpunk oeuvre, I count 11 cyberware technologies mentioned in his books (biosofts, dustplugs, Implanted Microprocessor Monitors, Muscle Grafts, Korsakov’s, microsofts, mirrshades, neural cut-out chips, cultivated eyes, sculpted teeth, and toothbud implants). Eleven. And dustplugs don’t really count (because they’re exactly what they sound like, dustplugs for your jacks), Korsakov’s is a mind-control technology used illegally in prisons, and neural cut-out chips are blackmarket chips used to turn human beings into “meat puppets” without will and memory.
So we’re down to eight “cyberware” technologies suitable for the heroes mentioned in ALL of Gibson’s books. And only a couple of them is mentioned by brand name.
Now let’s take a look at the original Cyberpunk rpg (“2013”), written by Mike Pondsmith. Suddenly, we get four pages filled with more than 30 cyberware options. Plus, we have six pages of ice and icebreakers (I went into some detail about them yesterday) in the rulebook. That’s what I call ‘option bloat’!
But let’s not forget my beloved Shadowrun first edition. Let me count real quick: we get seven pages full of shopping lists for equipment and “cyberware” (more than 50 options just in that book alone), plus many dozens of pages filled with walls of text explaining their function. A bookkeeper’s wet dream.
As we all know, William Gibson greenlighted the Cyberpunk game. And so did Walter Jon Williams, whose “Hardwired” novels belong to the best cyberpunk books ever written. Williams wrote the “Hardwired” supplement for Cyberpunk 2013 himself. If you look at the “equipment section” in his book, you’ll find exactly one page with sample prices for 13 categories – one of them being “cybertech”, listed with four entries. That’s all you really need.
THAT’s my cyberpunk. THAT’s my Shadowrun.
If you want to play ICE like Bill, keep the following quotes from Neuromancer in mind:
With his deck waiting, back in the loft, an Ono-Sendai Cyberspace 7. They’d left the place littered with the abstract white forms of the foam packing units, with crumpled plastic film and hundreds of tiny foam beads. The Ono-Sendai; next year’s most expensive Hosaka computer; a Sony monitor; a dozen disks of corporate-grade ice; a Braun coffee maker.
See? So my obsession with cassettepunk is pretty much spot-on. Ice on disks… how on earth can something as powerful and dangerous as ice fit on twelve disks? Simple. Here’s the reason:
“Just thinking out loud . . . How smart’s an Al, Case?”
“Depends. Some aren’t much smarter than dogs. Pets. Cost a fortune anyway. The real smart ones are as smart as the Turing heat is willing to let ’em get.”
“Look, you’re a cowboy. How come you aren’t just flat-out fascinated with those things?”
“Well,” he said, “for starts, they’re rare. Most of them are military, the bright ones, and we can’t crack the ice. That’s where ice all comes from, you know? (…)
“You got it. Corporate core data for Tessier-Ashpool S.A., and that ice is generated by their two friendly Al’s. On par with anything in the military sector, looks to me. That’s king hell ice, Case, black as the grave and slick as glass. Fry your brain soon as look at you. We get any closer now, it’ll have tracers up our ass and out both ears, be tellin’ the boys in the T-A boardroom the size of your shoes and how long your dick”
Ice is made by Artificial Intelligences. But it gets better:
Case sighed. “Well, I got a user-friendly Chinese icebreaker here, a one shot cassette. Some people in Frankfurt say it’ll cut an Al.”
Ice on cassettes. Of course. I know Godfather Gibson probably didn’t mean it that way, but that’s my selective interpretation of the source.
And ice can be brute force, or really sneaky:
“I did, once. Just an idea, back then. But that’s what ol’ Kuang’s all about. This ain’t bore and inject, it’s more like we interface with the ice so slow, the ice doesn’t feel it. The face of the Kuang logics kinda sleazes up to the target and mutates, so it gets to be exactly like the ice fabric. Then we lock on and the main programs cut in, start talking circles ’round the logics in the ice. We go Siamese twin on ’em before they even get restless.”
Another fun fact: You don’t read dozens and dozens of brand names for ice. We know Gibson loves doing that, but NOT for ice, and icebreakers. Ice is monolithic, off-the-shelf, illegal drek hot shit, and so are icebreakers.
Which brings me to a conclusion:
In my cassettepunk Shadowrun games, I won’t be using any brand names for ice, not even different kinds of ice, as both Shadowrun and Cyberpunk 2013/2020/3/Red are doing. Breaking or melting ice will be a single die roll, or, if it’s really tough, several dice rolls. The hacker/decker MUST be successful in every single roll, or the ice will do horrible things to him and/or his deck.
Time for an automated random table:
If you make it out of … in one piece and have retrieved the item you were told to, but have no idea what it does, pick one among your ranks to roll 2d6. Add +1 if you have Powers watching over you. Subtract 1 if the corporation you pissed off is small fish. Subtract 3 if it’s a Big Player. *10+, your theft simply shifts business advantage from one corporation to another. *7–9, business equilibrium is shifted as above, but the corporation is on y’all’s asses now, actively. *6–, the item is the cause of a major corporation war that’s building up slowly.
The average time for someone to draw a gun from a regular friction retention holster level 1 (meaning: the gun is held in place by the holster and can’t be drawn by anyone but the wearer of the holster; it must remain there for at least 5 seconds, even if outside force is applied from all directions) is 1.7 seconds.
…ICE patterns formed and reformed on the screen as he probed for gaps, skirted the most obvious traps, and mapped the route he’d take through Sense/Net’s ICE. It was good ICE. Wonderful ICE…
…His program had reached the fifth gate. He watched as his icebreaker strobed and shifted in front of him, only faintly aware of his hands playing across the deck, making minor adjustments. Translucent planes of color shuffled like a trick deck. Take a card, he thought, any card.
The gate blurred past. He laughed. The Sense/Net ice had accepted his entry as a routine transfer from the consortium’s Los Angeles complex. He was inside. Behind him, viral subprograms peeled off, meshing with the gate’s code fabric, ready to deflect the real Los Angeles data when it arrived.
From Neuromancer, by William Gibson.
Alright. You’ll have noticed the smiley in the headline… that said, there is no right way to emulate ICE in a cyberpunk game. But there is a way to use them literature-appropriately.
Gibson doesn’t use names for ICE. They’re a monolithic complex of intrusion countermeasure electronics. Massive on the outside, packed with things that hurt hackers and their equipment on the inside.
Icebreakers get the same treatment by Gibson. Brand names? No, of course not. This is not Amazon. Mega corps have their own wage slaves to write code for them. And hackers write or trade their own software.
So, to stay close to literature: protect systems with ICE. No names. No virtual, shared hallucination watch dogs or whatever. Just one big monolithic block. Surrounding sensible corp data like a massive wall with built-in weapons. That’s the reason Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk 2020 had ‘data fortresses’. Let’s keep that. In Gibson’s novels, once the walls of the fortress were breached, the netrunner could control the system. I’ll keep that, as well.
The NAME of the ICE is all I have. Its function isn’t predetermined. I prefer it that way because it leaves room for creativity.
About three years ago, I published a free rpg called minimald6. It was a nice little success and spawned 31 hacks. Unknowingly, what I had done was I had written an FKR game before we started the FKR movement.
Today, I’d like to FKR-ify one of my minimald6 games, Futurepunk.
So, let’s do this:
1) Creating a character:
“Roll your attributes with 1d6 (strength, dexterity, health, courage, intelligence, tech). You are level 2. A name?”
For health, I roll a 1. That’s bad. So, my character is a sickly person. But for intelligence, I roll a 6. So we have the archetypical, clichéd brainiac in a weak body.
His name is Vince Golonian, aka “Silence”.
2) I’d like to play Shadowrun, so I’m rolling a d44 and get a 14. A fixer:
Fixers (2): Pistol, knows people, ziplock filled with drugs, secret warehouse, knows how to streetdeal
Every minimald6 character starts on Level 2, so I get to pick two things from the description above:
I pick “knows people, knows how to streetdeal”.
3) Vincent is a human.
4) He starts with a “Working Stiff” wealth level: His apartment lease ends in 11 months, and he has saved 6000 Nuyen.
5) I think Vince has installed some cyberware. Let’s say 2: I roll a d66 twice and get 26 and 23:
a palm refibrilator (he had to use it on himself twice so far), and a gridcompass (internal gps system).
I like that! Of course, if Vince was a samurai or bodyguard, I would have picked cyberware that fits. It has to be dramatically appropriate.
6) And that’s it! This is Vince:
Vince Golonian, aka Silence
sickly, extremely intelligent
knows how to streetdeal
Gear: 6000 nuyen, rented apartment (11 months lease)
Cyberware: palm refibrilator, gridcompass
6) Use the Landshut rules to resolve conflicts.