Sunday, April 24, 2011

Wasterunners: campaign idea

A friend of mine was jonesing for some Shadowrun. It didn't come together, but it got me thinking... What sort of Shadowrun game could I run? I don't know all the metaplot and setting, and I don't really see myself researching it. I like some of the basic ideas, though... and I was feeling a bit of a post-apocalyptic vibe... so this is what resulted:

Wasterunners: The year is 2030... but for the past thirty years, the world has been a different place.

It was Y2K that changed things. As midnight hit, the world held its breath in fearful anticipation. At the time, we thought it was a computer bug, as we saw a wave of darkness moving toward us hour by hour and time zone by time zone.

We were wrong. It was the fear itself - the mass of the populace concentrating their fear on one single thing. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy. The power went out. Computers stopped working. In cities, people began looting.

In some places, power began trickling back on in a matter of hours, but it was already too late. When the lights came back on, the world had changed. So had the people in it. Those who had turned to looting and violence had become objects of fear... and had physically transformed into twisted, monstrous forms. Those who had sheltered others had likewise transformed, gaining angelic visages so that their bodies reflected their actions. Others changed in different ways.

Something had broken. People’s shared perceptions and emotions began to have a physical effect upon the world. Memes gained a sort of magical power. Certain times and places were found that could strengthen or weaken this effect. Enclosed arcologies began to spring up in the memetic dead zones in an attempt to insulate themselves from magic.

In late 2001, a giant reptilian beast emerged from the Pacific Ocean and laid waste to the remnants of Tokyo.

In early 2002, the Godstorm hit. People’s prayers began being answered. The sick were cured. The hungry were fed. People’s enemies were struck down by lightning. Beings of various sorts appeared and wreaked vengeance upon nonbelievers and sinners. No religion had priority here. Whatever people believed in, materialized. Organized religion soon became a target. Any group larger than a small family that engaged in a religious practice together is generally considered a cult to be hunted.

The gods and beings that appeared in the Godstorm didn’t go away. They merely changed. They became (or, perhaps, always were) malleable, animistic spirits. Some shamans learned to communicate with them directly and draw off small portions of their power.

Within the dead zone arcologies, corporate interests held sway. Most world governments collapsed by the beginning of 2002. The United States became a loose confederation of states. There are 32 states, most of which are now city-states. Few of them bear much resemblance or connection to those that existed before Y2K.

Outside the arcologies are the wastelands - areas of scattered settlements, uninhabitable territory, and monster-infested regions. In the wastelands, people’s fears and legends become true. Many of the world’s large cities before Y2K were left abandoned. A few were reclaimed.

While the arcologies insulated themselves from magic, they thrived on it as well. Wasterunners are employed to retrieve artifacts or materials of use to corporate interests... and sometimes to perform other tasks as well.

Nervewire,a living optical cable that can be easily grafted to the human nervous system, is rumored to have been pulled from the ruins of a laboratory in Rochester, New York in 2013. It has been used for connecting a wide variety of cybernetic systems to living creatures. Large numbers of soldiers and security forces have been augmented cybernetically and employed in clandestine military operations over the past fifteen years.

While those who were changed in the wake of Y2K were incredibly diverse in appearance, their children tend to form identifiable psuedo-racial groups. The two largest of these are commonly referred to as elves and goblins. In more isolated communities, diversity is the norm.

Shamans pull magical power from willing spirits. Usually this involves calling a spirit to partially possess the shaman and provide some unnatural ability. Shamans can also summon spirits directly, but spirits tend to be less willing participants in such things.

Sorcerers call new spirits into being and typically enslave them. They are effectively one-person religions. They tend to be feared and reviled, but they can be very powerful.

Mages harness pure magic. Through imagination and focus, they bring certain effects into the world. Most mages can only cast a few spells (many can never pull off more than one), and it helps them when their spells have a common theme. Most shamans and sorcerers know at least the basics of magecraft, though few are very good at it.

All the basic elements of Shadowrun: shamanic magic, cyborgs, elves, and cyberpunk - all mixed up in a post-apocalyptic wasteland primed for weirdness and exploration. You can easily run a standard Shadowrun-style mission-based game here, but you can just as easily run a 'dungeon' exploration game, a political game, or something full of spiritual trippiness.

System? Shadowrun would work. I was thinking either that, Mutants and Masterminds (probably starting around PL 6), or a modded version of the old Marvel Supers game (more on that later). Really, though, there are a ton of options.

The tricky thing in this sort of game is the economics of everything. Cybernetics, weaponry, and vehicles tend to need money for improvement. Magic and learned skill tend not to - with two paths to power, you need to give some thought to balancing advancement.