23 November, 2015

The FUBAR rewrite - Equipment and Nouns

FUBAR was always cyberpunk at it's heart, it was about downtrodden scoundrels who've been kicked to the curb, and their stories as they regain their vengeance amidst mysteriosu corporations and conspiracies in a world that vaguely reflects our own. It was a reimagining of cyberpunk based on the notion that the cyberpunk time period is basically the time when we are living now (the second decade of the 21st century). Now it's more cyber-noir, but the's still a lot of cyber-punk going on in the core setting of the game. The shift is subtle, there's now more a sense of overwhelming ennui, the characters know that they've made choices in the past and those choices have led them to these points, but the is an overwhelming feeling that they ween't completely responsible for the actions that brought them here. Maybe they were blackmailed, maybe they were manipulated by femme fatales, suave gamblers, or dirty enforcers of powers better left unspoken. There are cults in this setting, just as much as there are shadowy corporations. Everything is left vague enough that players can do with them what they will, but detailed enough to provide a meaty bait and hook.

That brings me to equipment and the strange macguffins that drive stories like these.

A few recent conversations in various places recently have focused on granularity. One mentioned the granularity of skills... Should they be open and nebulous concepts vaguely determined through attribute rolls (and how many attributes are there anyway)?... Should a game go down the path where every type of action is defined by a specific skill, and sub-skill? Is "shooting" good enough, do you need a separate skill to fire an AK-47 versus an M-16? I've seen games go down both routes, but FUBAR tends toward the vague. "Shoot" is a skill, but a character might be known for firing rifles and thus have a beneficial relationship come into effect when firing one... They might even have a close relationship with "AK-47s" which is revealed during the course of play as their background in among Afghanistani freedom fighters is revealed.

I've seen similar conversations about various other aspects of play, including one person ask if there were any "cyberpunk games without equipment porn". Cyberpunk 2020 was known for its "Chromebooks" filled with cyberware and gadgetry. Shadowrun did similar things. Ghost/Echo, the spiritual ancestor of FUBAR, did the exact opposite...no real equipment at all.

Generally in FUBAR, things follow the narrative conventions of getting more detailed as they become more important to the story. Unless an ally has a specific name, they simply count as a mook, and add an advantage benefit. Once they have a name, an ally has a specific skill that they might provide more than just a simple bonus to. If they become important enough they might even get a full write-up as per a starting character, with bonuses and flaws of their own.

I'm basically imagining equipment to follow the same progression. If it's just a gun, it just adds the single trait equipment bonus when it's used. If it's designated a specific type, then you might get to choose a bonus and a penalty for the item... A situation where the item provides an extra bonus, and a situation where the bonus is cancelled altogether. If it's a "Callahan Full Bore Autolock", and it has been designated "Vera", then the character obviously has a relationship to this specific gun.

So, the idea with equipment will be to give some general traits that typically apply to them, thus making them more useful in some ways, but less useful in others. As the items gain significance, they gain traits both positive and negative. The same guns from the same batch, by the same manufacturer might have different traits depending on how they've been treated, and how the are being used. Keeping the traits loose allows players to have a bit more control.

The macguffins generated at the start of play are automatically important to the story, they'll start with a bonus trait or two, and a matching number of penalty traits. 

This whole system works the same for places visited, nefarious groups encountered, and basically everything else in the game.

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