It was only thanks to your close friend's warning that you could avoid the assault on your apartment. Gang Enforcers are everywhere, but you haven't been noticed yet, thanks to your thermoptic camoflouge. Your objective: reach Jabril’s skyrise before dawn, and put a round between his eyes. One way or another, this ends today.
Game: Digital Shades (https://simpleroleplaying.wordpress.com/downloads-2/
Digital Shades is a freely available rules-light cyberpunk RPG where you roll a D6 to determine the outcome of the action. 1 is a critical failure, while 6 is a critical success, with the numbers in between being appropriately less drastic degrees of success or failure. You distribute points between several different skills. The more points you have, the more dice you roll when you take that action, taking the best result.
Character: 0rion Competencies: (distribute 9 points. 1 point=1 dice).
Military – 2 points
Shadow – 2 points
Runner – 2 points
Back Alley – 1
Hacker – 1
Vehicles – 1 Upgrades (choose 3):
X-ray vision (self explanatory)
Enhanced movement: +1 to runner rolls
Optical Camoflouage: +1 to shadow rolls
Digital Shades also comes with a 2 page world-building tool/mission generator. You a rule a d6 to determine how far the setting is on the spectrum between two extremes. The higher the number, the more to the right end of the spectrum the setting is. Setting:
Authority: Corporations - Government – 5
Freedom: Dictatorship – Democracy – 4
Ecology: Catastrophe – Eco-utopia 3
Crime: Gangs – Mafia – 1
Law enforcement: Private security – public security – 1
Robot rights: citizen – banned - 6
Social unrest: yearly – daily – 6
Technology: Cybernetics – biotech – 2
Science – religion – 1
Arms control: Guns allowed – guns banned - 4
Economy: Heavy Industry – commerce - 4
Economy: Poverty – wealthy - 6
There’s a little ambiguity in some of these rolls, (very high standard of living, but also widespread unrest? And tilted strongly towards government power over corporate power, but also private security?) But I think I can interpret them by saying the city in question is a sort of failed state, a nominally-socialist-democracy that is in fact dominated by a small oligarchy who live in relative wealth, probably making much of their money off of illegal black market activity. The sort of society where everyone breaks the law, but only the ones without connections are actually punished for breaking it. This all seems appropriately cyber-punky, and certainly has plenty of real-world parallels.
I haven’t figured out the exact scenario, but the prompt inspired me to imagine that someone had been sent to kill me, by someone whom I had a history with. I decide to use the NPC emulator to gin up a nemesis: http://une.danconley.net/
Chronicle the Government
Goal: Understand Enemies
Wants to discuss: This hostile NPC speaks of judgment regarding campaign.
It’s starting to come together. This nemesis is a politician, and, I think, a former war-hero who is using his war-hero status to advance his political career. The “defiant shopkeeper” I think implies that he is also involved in commerce in some capacity. Perhaps the black market? And I suspect that our relationship may have to do with a shared military past.
I will be using the Mythic GM emulator to create scenes and answer Yes/no questions about the setting. For those who don’t know, Mythic GME is a tool which allows you to ask “yes/no” questions about the game-world and provides “interruptions” which redirect the scenario in new directions. A full explanation of how it works is beyond the scope of this adventure, but that’s the important thing to understand. https://www.pbegames.com/mythic/
First things first. I have to get out of this apartment. Do I have a back door I can escape form? 50/50 – no. I visualize the scenario as me having gotten out of my apartment in time to avoid the attack, but still being stuck inside the building. There’s no easily accessed back door, so I’ll have to go out the front. I think that I’m in the hallway, and that if I can get to the elevator, I can take it to the ground floor. Are Jabrils forces guarding the elevator? Somewhat likely – no.
I go to the elevator and take it to the ground floor. Are there any more thugs on the ground? – unlikely (I imagine that this is a very large apartment complex, and that most of the thugs are near my room rather than milling about in the lobby) – yes.
Do they notice me as I leave the elevator? It’s a little hard to say. On the one hand, I have Optical Camouflage. On the other hand, the text of the game certainly doesn’t seem to imply that the mod grants straight-up invisibility. Plus, an empty elevator would raise suspicion; I imagine that if I were a criminal enforcer in this world and I saw an apparently empty elevator appear on the ground floor of the building I was raiding, my first thought would be “he’s wearing optic camouflage!”. I settle on “Likely” – yes. [On reading back through this, I realized I should probably have made a “Shadow” roll, but it was too late to go back. Generally speaking, if I realize I misinterpreted something after the fact, I just go with it
I imagine that my with my camo engaged, I appear as a sort of ripple in the air, not unlike the predator in the classic film of the same name. They can see me well enough to target me, at least.
How many are there? 1d4 = 3
Is there anything I can take cover behind in the lobby? 50/50 – yes – I dive behind some artificially shrubbery in a little ceramic island. Per the rules, I can act first in combat so long as I’m not surprised. I think I’ve been alert for any danger, so we’ll assume that I get to act first. I’m going to take a shot at the nearest thug, using my military stat: 2d6 = 2, 6.
6 is a critical hit. The rules are vague about statting enemies, so I’m just going to say that the 6 lets me kill one of the thugs straight out. I’ll need all the help I can get to get out of here anyway.
Is there an emergency exit to my rear? 50/50 – yes. Great. I’m going to make a dive out the window, using my runner stat: 2d6 = 5, 5. I make out the window. That went better than expected.
Now that I’m in the street, I need to lose my pursuers. I duck down a nearby alleyway. Am I quick enough to lose them? Very unlikely – I think the thugs are probably hot on my tail – extreme no – in fact, one of them heads me off as I run down the alleyway. I’m caught between the two of them (there were two in the lobby, and I killed one), and I’m surprised enough that one of them gets off a shot before I can. I’ll assume they have one point apiece in weapons and rolls a single d6 = 5. He makes the shot.
If I’m interpreting the rules correctly, I have to make a Tough Bastard roll to see if the shot is fatal. I didn’t actually put any points in Tough Bastard, so I think I have to roll a d6 and subtract 2 (the rule for making a roll for which you don’t have a proficiency). As it happens, I make a 6 – I’m still on my feet.
Nowhere to run, since I’m trapped in the alley – at least, I don’t think so. Perhaps there’s a basement window I can dive through? Yes.
Well, that makes things easier. Now that I’m inside a building, I think it should be significantly easier to get away. Buildings have lots of corners and winding, intersecting pathways; even if they follow me in to the basement, it should be easy to put a lot of twists and turns between me and them. I make my way to the building door. Do I get away? – very likely – no.
Goddammit. They’re persistent. As I near the door, I hear footsteps behind me, in hot pursuit. I decide to press myself against the wall and try to kill them as they come around the corner. Shooting: 2d6 = 4, 4. A successful shot.
At this point, I need to decide just how successful I was. Perhaps they split up as they were chasing me through the building. Are they together? 50/50 – no. Excellent. As one of them rounds the corner, I shoot him in the side of the head. Again, I’m going to call this a straightforward success, both because I don’t want to get too caught up in fine-grained combat and because I think I’ll have enough trouble getting to the end of this one-shot in one piece as it is. I shoot him again and he falls to the ground.
Before I leave, I decide to see if I can extract some intelligence from his corpse. Does he have a communications device that links him in to the rest of his gang? Very likely – this is a cyberpunk setting, after all – yes. I’ve only got one point in hacker, but I decide its worth a try. Remember, if I roll badly, this could backfire on me. The nature of the ruleset more or less means there’s no such thing as a risk-free action.
I roll a 1 – an extreme failure triggering a “backlash”. Off hand, I can think of two possible backlashes: a) alert the rest of the gang to my location and b) I trigger a defensive mechanism which injures me. I could use the dice to decide, but I don’t want to just roll straight into another chase sequence, so I’m going to assume the answer is B and make a “Tough Bastard” roll. I roll a 5 – the RNG has been pretty forgiving with me when it comes to these rolls, particularly given that I didn’t actually put any points into Tough Bastard. I guess I should have anticipated from the prompt that this would be a combat-heavy run.
Anyhow, per the rules, a 3 can be transformed into a 4 (“just made it”) by accepting a dire complication. (I actually see now that the 4 I got for my last Tough Bastard roll should also have entailed a complication, but I missed it at the time. At any event, there were already enough complications for me in that scene). I decide that my shooting arm has been burned by the defensive mechanism. Until I heal I will only shoot with one die.
At this point, I need to get off the street and get patched up. Is there a back-alley, black market doctor nearby? Very likely – cyberpunk settings are filled with these types, and I picture this as a densely packed metropolis where it shouldn’t be far – Yes.
I’m going to create a new scene using Mythic. Before I do, I’ll set the Chaos factor to 6, up from 5, since my character is definitely not in control of the situation. Result: the scene proceeds normally.
I find myself at the office of an illegal street doctor, one whose discretion is more to be relied on than her medical skill. Beggars can’t be choosers however; I have no desire to interact with the official system, particularly if my nemesis is a member of the local political machine
Before I go up to knock on the door, I scan the street for any sign of danger. There’s a possibility, albeit a small one, that my adversaries have anticipated this move and are waiting in ambush for me. Do I see anything suspicious or out of place? Unlikely – extreme no. The place appears almost totally deserted, abandoned. It may be that the doctor in question works out of an empty building on the outskirts of town.
I knock on the door and present myself to the sawbones. Can she restore my shooting arm? Somewhat likely – no. Apparently the defensive system in the communications implant is just too good. It’s fused my nerves beyond repair at any but the most expensive hospitals – well beyond what she’s is capable of.
I think over my next move. I had someone who gave me advance warning of the attack, someone in my nemesis’ organization. Can I contact them? 50/50 – my informant might very well have gone to ground in an effort to stay out of the spotlight. Extreme no – I suspect my informant is actually dead at this point.
I’m starting to run out of options here. Frankly, I’m a little tempted to hop the first train out of this town, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of the prompt.
I decide my best bet is to go to Jibril’s skyrise and conduct some surveillance. Since he’s a big shot, I’m going to assume it’s a publicly known location; I don’t have to look for it or anything. I could roll to see if his goons catch up with me on the way, but again, I want to bring this story arc to some kind of resolution and I’m running out of pages. I’m going to create a new scene, at Jibril’s skyrise. I’ll live the chaos factor at 6; things didn’t get worse for my character in this scene, but also didn’t get any better. Result: the scene proceeds normally.
I observe Jibrils building from a café across the street. Are there a lot of people going in and out? Or is it on lockdown? I’ll roll a d4, interpreting low results as the former, and high results as the latter. 4. It’s on lockdown.
What if I can lure Jibril out himself? Call him up and express my desire for a meeting, threating to reveal whatever I know about him if he doesn’t comply. I seem to know something about him he doesn’t want to become public knowledge, at least he seems to think so (this is my assumption about the reason he wants to kill me in the first place. If I really wanted, I could put some more randomization into this, but I like the idea and I’m going to go with it.) In fact, because this is supposed to be a more story driven one-shot, and a not a full-length sandbox campaign, I’m just going to put my fingers on the scale in my capacity as GM, and ensure that the story comes to some kind of climax.
I call him up and tell him that I, and the secrets I represent, will go away for a small consideration and a guarantee of my personal security. I tell him I have evidence of his misconduct in the war – what really happened on the mission that made him a hero. He’ll know it’s a trick of course. But he’ll also realize its his best chance to kill me.
I don’t want to meet him in the open air, since I suspect he’ll probably have access to airborne strike drones and the like. No, I want to get him under a roof somewhere. The earlier “extreme no” result when I asked if there was anyone outside the doctors office gave me the idea that parts of the city are effectively abandoned, a product of the city’s relentless social decay. I want him to meet me in one of those abandoned structures, away from air support. The terrain can act as an equalizer between us.
Is there a city-wide sewer system that I can potentially use as an exfil from the meeting location? Somewhat likely – yes. Does the abandoned building have any kind of surveillance system I can bring back online? Unlikely – no. I assume I don’t have access to any additional tools or equipment beyond what’s on my person.
I select a building with lots of cover and concealment, and many possible routes, to minimize the chance of being surrounded by my nemesis’ enforcers. I do my best to rig up a series of improvised security measures – tripwires, greased ball bearings and the like – throughout the building, to alert me to anyone sneaking up on me and hinder their movements. I take up a position behind some rubble, watching the front door, the one I have told him to enter by.
Being inside has its advantages and disadvantages. It shields me from observation, but it also prevents me from knowing what the enemy is doing. I know he won’t come alone, that they’ll be out there in the dark, probing my perimeter, but I’ll only be able to guess at their exact position.
When he shows up, he doesn’t even bother to conceal his cybernetic body armor beneath a coat (I’ve given him the “durability” mod, which provides +1 to Tough Bastard rolls). He’s got a bodyguard on either side, not bothering to pretend to come alone either. At least that’s two I can see.
We banter a little of old times, in cool noir fashion. Then he demands the memory chip from the mission recorder, the evidence that he thinks I have that can bring his little empire crashing down. Instead, I shoot him, praying my one good hand still holds.
My prayers are answered, and I roll a 6. I decide to make a “Tough Bastard” roll for my enemy. For simplicity sake, we’ll assume he has 1 point in “Tough Bastard”. If he makes the roll, he still lives. If not, he dies.
My nemesis makes it with a 3 – but with his Durability mod, that’s a 4. He’s still on his feet, and suitably enraged. I’m a gunfight now that I’m not equipped to fight. His guards are moving to flank me on either side, and I can hear others moving through the building to close in on my position. I head for the exit, the small door leading to the sewers that can take me far from this building and indeed, out of this city. This could be either a Shadow or Runner roll, but since I have two points in each, it doesn’t really matter. 4 – I make it to sewer, but one is hot on my tail as I drop down through the manhole. I take a shot at him – 1. My weapon has jammed, and is now useless.
He takes a shot at me – 2 – and misses!. I flee further into the sewer, my adversaries howls of rage still ringing in my ears. Later that day, I stow away on a robo-freighter, heading for…somewhere? Anywhere. I don’t care. As long as it’s far from here…
Well, that was a grim little misadventure. Indeed, I think I was lucky to make it out alive. Obviously, with as streamlined a system as Digital Shades, there’s a lot of judgement calls to be made about consequences of failure, enemy strength, etc. Still, there were plenty of close calls, even if I could have chosen to be a little more rigorous about combat. Hopefully this has shown that you don’t need an elaborate rule system or a complex set of tools to craft a reasonably exciting and unpredictable RPG experience. All you really need is a willingness to go where the dice take you.
I love Minecraft, and I love my oculus rift, but as things currently stand neither Minecraft: Bedrock VR edition nor the mod Vivecraft for Java make it am immersive experience. Immersion is when a few hours after a mining session I'm still jumpy when I hear any kind of hissing. The opposite is when I have to take breaks every five minutes to deal with clunky interfaces and can barely care about monsters or lighting when switching items is a chore.
The changes I'm going to suggest will be incredibly difficult to program, and probably require a long development cycle with an engine rework, but I truly beleive that whether Microsoft or an ambitious modding project takes them on, Minecraft will become truly, amazingly enjoyable to play in VR.
Change 1: Use the strengths of motion controls. Stop trying to pretend we're still using a gamepad or M&KB and just rebinding the functions.
Part A: Inventory and GUIs.
In Minecraft VR as it currently exists, opening your inventory A; freezes the world around you and completely removes depth perception, which is pretty jarring, and B; works just like in vanilla except you have to use a laser pointer instead of a mouse. This is shaky and annoying and organizing chests and crafting are both about as enjoyable as trying to swat a wasp with a twelve-foot flyswatter.
Instead, generate the GUI as a physical, 3D rendered object resembling a very shallow ice cube tray the size of a desk. Each cubby is an inventory slow and contains a floaty miniature item. Let me use the grip functions to physically pick up the miniature versions of items within this GUI to examine and manipulate them. The default behavior would be that grabbing would take one item from a stack, but holding down a face button while grabbing would give you the whole stack. Holding a full stack with both hands and pulling apart like you're ripping a piece of paper would split that stack in half, the right-click function. Holding a full stack and pressing a face button would deposit a single item into an inventory slot. Physically tossing the item over the interface would throw the item, as if using the Q functionality. Crafting, furnaces, chests, all inventory GUIs would work in this way, and make the simple act of using your inventory magnety and cathartic instead of really annoying and not fun.
Part B: Item equipping and switching.
In the base game, it works almost identically to vanilla, you have a hot bar and a dominant hand. The touch controllers, however, have no scroll wheel so item switch requires several annoying clicks to get the item you want, and holding the controller naturally makes it easy to accidentally press them and switch items.
There are two ways to create a better system.
The first is to make an item wheel out of the hotbar, using a button to open it and motion controls, the joystick, or the Vive trackpad to select an item. If the hand is in the center of the wheel, the hand is empty. This is the easier solution and works just fine in games like Half Life: Alyx or From Other Suns. I think a better system would be one more similar to Robo Recall or Blade and Sorcery.
The second system would have nine slots, just like a normal hotbar, but they are physically tracked locations. You would have two over each shoulder and one on each hip, which are the fast and easy ones to access for things like tools, weapons, torches, or emergency items. The remaining five would be belt slots, which must be summoned with a button to be more visible and easy to access the right item at the right time. Selecting items would be done by using your actual hand to move to the slot and grab the item. Letting go of the grip button would snap the item back to its holster. This would leave the player with an empty hand whenever they aren't actively holding something, which would be more immersive in a VR space due to the size and more intrusive presence of the 3D tool and allow them to have an empty hand without sacrificing a hotbar slot. This will also tie directly into change 2.
(note: An alternate to the belt slots would be a small grid that you summon to your hand that you can then grab from with your other hand, sort of like holding a artist's palette and grabbing items off that, and having that in addition to the shoulder and hip holsters)
Change 2: Symmetric controls are your friend.
In normal Minecraft, you have a left hand, and a right hand. Items have different functions when left- or right-clicked with, your off-hand only able to be used for right-click functions. This needs to be changed to a symmetric, (both left and right hands act the same) and context-sensitive system.
When holding an item, the trigger needs to be the context-sensitive primary function of the item. With a tool, the trigger swings it. With a block, the trigger places it. Two buttons should only be used if an item has two different functions when clicked in two different ways. This would allow unconventional uses of dual wielding, yes, but it would be much, much more intuitive and immersive to a VR player. You could hold two types of block and choose which one you place, you could hold a sword and a pick at the same time and use both, dual wield shields if you like. This isn't possible in the base game, but in a game on a screen arbitrary differences in the ways you can use your different hands are much more natural and easier to understand. In a VR game, this breaks immersion because we're so used to using both of our physical hands in concert.
A Few Random Small Changes:
- The ability to physically throw ender pearls and potions and eggs with our actual hands instead of the premade Minecraft throw with the same amount of force and accuracy every time
- Bow and Crossbow motion control support for loading and firing, especially with alternate ammunition
- The option to toggle motion-sickness-preventing incredibly slow base walking speed, so I can still outrun mobs if I need too
- Stop pausing the game when I'm in GUI interfaces in singleplayer. While useful, in VR it becomes another immersion breaker when stuff in the background freezes
- While actively swinging pickaxes would get tiring incredibly quickly, support for swinging swords would be nice as an optional toggle
- The rotation of your hand being taken into account when placing items with multiple orientations, like stairs and observers and logs
I know this would be insanely difficult, and will probably never happen, I just wanted to rant about my dream VR port I keep fantasizing about and have since before commercial VR was even a thing. Even if just the physically interactable inventory menu was the only part that happened I'd die of happiness. This would probably be very hard to run performance-wise, but generally speaking if you own a PC and a VR headset for it, it's a fairly beefy PC, I think.