Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Campaign Pitch - Cyberpunk 2020: Something Rotten

The poster for the movie that inspired this
If you couldn't already tell by my profile picture, I'm a fan of Japanese film-maker Akira Kurosawa.  There are, however many of his films that I have yet to watch.  Among these is the film The Bad Sleep Well.  I was scrolling through a site I use for movie recommendations, when this one came up.  The blurb described it as "A combination of Hamlet with Film Noir tropes, set in the corporate world of post-war Japan."  Many know Kurosawa for his samurai films like Yojimbo, Sanjuro, Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress (which would later inspire Star Wars: A New Hope).  What many don't know is also made many films set during modern times (well as modern as the period he was living in at the time).  The Bad Sleep Well in particular was meant to be something of a critique of post-war corporate politicking.  It isn't Kurosawa's first time mixing Japanese culture with Shakespeare either.  He also did it first in Throne of Blood (1957) and later Ran (1985).  Both of which are based on MacBeth and King Lear respectively.

Alright I've got my film fanboying out of the way.  So what does this have to do with Cyberpunk?  Quite a lot actually.  It has been a while since I ran a cyberpunk game.  (My player got a little tired of playing dark horses and wanted to play a more heroic character.  Which I felt was incredibly out of place in cyberpunk.  So we've started a superhero campaign using Mutants and Masterminds instead).  So when I suddenly got inspired by this movie's blurb I decided to run with it.

One of the many arcologies that the company
owns all over the world.
The pitch goes something like this.  The player is a son/daughter of a corporate official who was killed in a recent corporate purge.  The corporation of course has shifted the blame towards a rival.  The player's character of course the knows the truth.  Or at least learns it at the outset of the campaign.  (A mysterious recording or document delivered anonymously to the player makes a great stand-in.  For the ghost that visits Hamlet).  Of course the corporation has stuck the character in a minor management position within the company.  Since they need to make it look like they're taking care of their own, after such a tragic loss.  (Again they're sticking with the story that it was a rival corporation).  With the truth as an impetus, the idea is for the character to use their position within the company to take revenge upon those that killed their family.  What better revenge than destroying the company from inside?  It will of course be incredibly dangerous.  Discovery of the player's role in sabotaging the company's enterprises will bring a traitor's death.  Not even medieval nations were as cruel in their punishment of treason.  (An idea that had crossed my mind.  Is having a sadistic head of security, who loves to make trophies out of traitors.  One idea was that he removes their brains and replaces them robot CPUs, turning them into the loyal servants they failed to be in life.  If you have a better suggestion, leave it in the comments.  I'd love to see what you come up with).  Also bringing down a corporation is no small feat, especially a large international one like this one.  If I didn't do my own world-building in my campaigns, Arasaka would be a perfect candidate.  It would require a lot of plotting and double-dealing on the part of the player.  It would also definitely be more of a globe-trotting campaign than I usually run.  (The idea of the having a session in Tokyo one week, then one in Dubai the next and then another still in Manhattan.  Is just too tempting to me).  In comparison I usually run campaigns that are more street-punk in nature.  Usually being confined to a small district of a sprawl.

Ideally this would be a solo campaign.  Best run with a player that's willing to be given a pre-generated character and then run with them.  Then again it could also be used for a group of four or five players as well.  One of whom plays the young executive out for revenge.  While the others play various members of his entourage.  Such as his bodyguard/head of security, his personal physician (a Medtech of some description), a Media consultant, a personal Fixer and perhaps a Netrunner to dig up more dirt on his rivals.  For such a campaign I'd probably consult this article by Richard Balmer over at his blog Vircades Project.  Of course such a game would require a lot of maturity on the part of the players.  To follow the lead of one player, of course I don't mean that they would be mindless henchmen to the Corporate player.  They could just as easily betray the central character.  Which would lead to an interest final arc of burning the candle at both ends.  Thematically a very cyberpunk concept.

Your family gave everything in the service of the company and they were
more than happy to take it from you.  Only problem is they took too much.
Like carrion birds they have grown fat off of your misery.  Now it's time
for this dog to have his day.  There will be a reckoning.  You'll take
everything they've built and bring it crashing down on their heads.
Something interesting I've noticed about this entire concept overall is this.  It goes against a lot of the principles that I've previously established in my style of GMing.  When I run Cyberpunk 2020 I generally don't go in with a fixed concept for a campaign in mind.  Letting the characters' Lifepaths decide what kind of campaign it going to be.  It also involves creating the characters that the player/s would play.  Something I don't typically do since I feel that character creation is one of the personal freedoms that is intrinsic to Tabletop RPGs.  It's just that I liked the idea of this story so much, that there were parts of it that emerged in defiance to my usual style.  Which I think creatively as a GM is a great thing.  You always have to be discovering new things about your style of gaming.  It needs to constantly evolve from game to game, in order to maintain an interesting variety.  Anyways I feel like I've rambled on long enough.  If you liked this post be sure to share, +1, comment and follow.  Until next time have a good day and may you roll many crits.