CYBER//PUNK, a Lasers & Feelings Hack (Looking for Feedback)

DBBDBB
edited March 2018 in Directed Promotion
image

Hello!

I put together a cyberpunk-themed hack of Lasers & Feelings that I’d like to share here, called CYBER//PUNK.

The game is designed to run a Bladerunner/Ghost in the Shell/Neuromancer/Deus Ex style adventure. Like the original, it’s a one-page, zero-prep RPG, with fully randomizable mix-and-match options for characters, game scenarios, locations, and NPCs. You have two stats – Cyber for tech & rationality, and Punk for intuition & recklesness.

So far I’ve run it three times, each succesful, and did a round of tweaks & improvements each time. But I’m still looking for further feedback & critiques.

I’ve created a mini-site for the game at cyberpunk-rpg.com, with some promo copy, the rules, and a link to a soundtrack playlist. The rules pdf itself is available here.

As I said, any feedback or critiques would be deeply appreciated. Or, if you print and run the game yourself, I’d love to hear how it went! Thanks!
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Comments

  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    I think the cyber Vs punk thing works very well with the lasers and feelings concept! Good work!

    I'm not finished reading, but my initial thoughts was that the squared background should align with the letters. Now I sometimes have a hard time reading it. And it took me two glances to see that the zero was actually a zero.

    Also, is it the idea that it should be folded (as shown on the back)? In that case you'll be folding in the middle of the text on page 1. And that might lead to the text disappearing. I would prefer it to be two columns in that case (so that you fold between the columns).

    Keep up the good work!
  • Fantastic concept!
  • The 3-columns-in-the-front vs 2-columns-in-the-cover thing is triggering my OCD too... ;-)
  • Very nice.
    It's not one page though, it's one sheet (or folio).
  • A wonderful L+F hack! I really like it.

    Watch the font on random tables. White headers are better readable. Some values are in white and unreadable.

    Nice cyber vs punk - great idea!
  • Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I really appreciate your taking the time to look over the game.

    I keep going back and forth on the grid. It feels like it adds something thematically, and it’s aligned with the column grid and the table grid, but it can’t align with the internal lettering grid or the game text no longer fits. Should I just drop it altogether, for the sake of legibility?

    @APM – What do you think about a slash through the zero? Would that help the read?

    @emarsk – Very good point about calling it a one-sheet – I’ll change this in the site copy.

    @BeePeeGee – Could you clarify what you mean about the white headers vs white values in the tables?
  • APMAPM
    edited March 2018
    DBB said:

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone! I really appreciate your taking the time to look over the game.

    I keep going back and forth on the grid. It feels like it adds something thematically, and it’s aligned with the column grid and the table grid, but it can’t align with the internal lettering grid or the game text no longer fits. Should I just drop it altogether, for the sake of legibility?

    @APM – What do you think about a slash through the zero? Would that help the read?

    I think the best solution is to make all those numbers the same hue. The thing that's confusing me is that the zero's grey hue is the same as the grid. If all numbers had a darker hue there would be no problem regarding the zero.

    Also if you intend to align the text with the grid you should probably start over from scratch making a new document making sure the spacing between lines are equal and all that. Or maybe just make all text into boxes that you can manually align.

    But I also think you could just skip the grid. Readability is paramount. :)

    Also, have you tried having it in portrait orientation instead of horizontal? Maybe that solves the space problem.
  • I'm thinking the grid goes away in the next version – that seems like the simplest solution.

    I feel strongly about the 3-column portrait layout as a visual tieback to the original Lasers and Feelings page format. The problem isn't moving around the text boxes or adjusting the line spacing, it's just that doing that opens up too much space between text lines and would push the content onto another page (I also feel strongly that players should not have to flip the sheet during play).

    Anyway, I appreciate your comments and the detailed level of thought you're bringing. Very kind of you!
  • Yes, for headers, black on grey is barely readable (You are, former, turned, but they, the team..., enemies).
    In the second team table, option 5 is white on white. Actually, 4-6 are white and should probably be black font color.
  • For me this feels more like a modern, over-the-top version of Cyberpunk 2020 than an emulation of the fairly somber and serious inspirations you mention. Now it feels like it's sort of in the shadow of CP2020, while not having the relatively deep setting of the original.

    The mechanics feel like this game lives and dies with the GM, but I'm not a big fan of GMs in general. It'd be cool if the mechanics would actually limit the GM or the players in some creative way.

    That's just my take, of course, and I'm super-critical with cyberpunk games.
  • DBB said:

    I'm thinking the grid goes away in the next version – that seems like the simplest solution.

    I feel strongly about the 3-column portrait layout as a visual tieback to the original Lasers and Feelings page format. The problem isn't moving around the text boxes or adjusting the line spacing, it's just that doing that opens up too much space between text lines and would push the content onto another page (I also feel strongly that players should not have to flip the sheet during play).

    Anyway, I appreciate your comments and the detailed level of thought you're bringing. Very kind of you!

    Right, I'm just throwing ideas out there :) btw, I would try to put all the GM stuff on page 2. That would make sense logically but I understand that the aesthetics are important as well!
  • Enjoyed reading this one quite a bit—I’ve been a fan of cyberpunk gaming since the original CP 2013 from R. Talsorian. Yours is one of the best for single-session play I’ve seen.

    Well done,
  • Very cool. Makes me want to play it. Now that you've pointed it out with cyber/punk, I'm thinking good thoughts about other "/punk" settings: steampunk, diesel punk, and the like. Mechanically identical, but each with its own flavortext and table entries. Very useful concept!
  • Hi there. Dropping in for the first time in awhile to say hi to my bro @DBB ! I actually ran Cyber/Punk with him playing a weeks ago, when our regular GM was out of town. One thing no one has mentioned yet, but that I think is absolutely brilliant: the random scene generation tables. Being able to draw on those things if you need to is very helpful for those moments when you don't have an immediate idea.

    @Upstart : I don't think you're wrong about this game being pretty dependent on the GM's skill. But I have to say, I feel like that's more of a critique of the L&F paradigm in general, no?

    Tone-wise, the game probably does tend to mostly produce things that are closer to Snow Crash than Neuromancer. Whether or not that's a problem is not for me to say.
  • I'd totally missed the scene generator on the back...

    Nice! Adds a LOT to a no-prep game. (I feel like there might be a better way to do this - I like dynamic scenes more than backdrops, for instance - but the idea is wonderful.)
  • Hey @Deliverator! Glad to see you on the thread :) For anyone reading, this guy knocked it out of the park running a session of this a few weeks back.

    @Upstart – All fair points! I guess I should have said this is designed for lighthearted versions of Blade Runner, Neuromancer, etc. I forget how easy it is to lose track of tone when you're focused on content. Snow Crash is a decent reference point.

    @lachlan – Oh man, YES. I have a longstanding love of steampunk, so that would be a fantastic follow-up to this. The gears, as it were, are already spinning...

    @BeePeeGee – Hrm, I wonder if we're running into a display issue with the pdf. The table headers are supposed to be white on a dark (75% black) grey, and all the entries are black on white or light (10%) grey. Does the pdf look like this PNG image?

    Again, thanks to everyone for the feedback & kind words! Much appreciated!
  • @Paul_T , are you suggesting that the generator throw out things in progress? Little mini-situations to jumpstart the big one when you have need for more momentum? It's not a bad idea. Honestly, I think there's room for both, now that @DBB is going onto the backside of the page.
  • Yes, something like that.

    If a scene prompt has room to introduce some Situation the players can choose to interact with (or not), I find it more useful to me as a random tool. (Presumably I'm using it because I'm blanking, right?)
  • Question about the helping rules (first page, upper right): when someone's helping you, they add 1d6 to your roll, yeah? This seems like it's intended to only actually help on Punk tests (where you want to roll your number or over), and would be working against your Cyber tests (where you want to roll your number or under). Is this intentional?
  • No, he means, you roll an additional 1d6, not that 1d6 is literally added to your result. We've gone back and forth on the exact wording of Helping several times!
  • Snow Crash sounds more like it, yeah. I haven't played Lasers & Feelings.
  • I know this kind of breaks the one sheet format, but consider separating the player and GM sections so that they are on different sides. At the table, this would allow you to set the player side stuff in front of players while keeping the gm information in front of the GM. Which would make it a two page game...
  • The display issue was a problem with my PDF viewer, with others it looks fine, thanks!
  • @BeePeeGee Phew! Okay. I was getting worried for a bit there.

    @Casubon Totally a good suggestion – @APM mentioned this as well. Definitely something I want to trying playing around with in the future.

    @Paul_T I like this Situation idea and I want to probe it more. What sorts of things would you be looking for, as a GM? Are we talking about possible obstacles that complicate the players' original mission? Ongoing situations they stumble into? Puzzles? Action setpieces? My initial goal with these was quick answers to player questions (Who's our contact in this building? Where do we go to deliver the package?) but you're talking about something that leans more towards GM questions, yeah?

    @Marc_Majcher So, the helping rules are, in my opinion, easily the weakest part of this game. I didn't like the original helping rules in L&F, but I just cannot find a good, simple way to explain the tweaked ones I used for this. The idea is: When one player wants to help another player, both players roll the same check against each of their individual numbers. The acting player rolls as normal, with whatever bonus dice the GM is willing to award. The helping player only rolls 1 die. Each player compares each of their die results to their number and declares how many of their dice successfully rolled over their number for Punk checks and under for Cyber checks. Then, all of those successes are pooled together and count as successes for the acting player.

    For example, Glitch (a Cyber character, with 5) wants to persuade a bouncer to let her into a club, and DotCom (a Punk character, with 2) helps her by fast-talking the guy from the other side. She has to roll a Punk check to do this, and she gets to roll a second die because the bouncer likes her haircut (a favorable situation). So she rolls 2 dice and gets a 3 (1 failure) and a 6 (1 success). Normally this would be a mixed success – she succeeds but there's a cost. However, DotCom rolls 1 die against his own number and gets a 3, which is a success for him. Now his 1 success is added to her 1 success a 1 failure, for a total of 2 successes (which is a straight success for the check). The bouncer accepts what the two characters are saying and lets them in.

    So... who can help me explain this in like, two short sentences?
  • If you want to help someone who’s rolling, say how you try to help them and make a 1d6 roll against your own number. Add your result to theirs.
    If you want to help someone who's rolling, say how you try to help them and make a 1d6 roll against your own number. If you succeed, your teammate adds 1 success their their result.

    That's clear to me at least...
  • DBBDBB
    edited March 2018
    uolmir said:

    If you want to help someone who’s rolling, say how you try to help them and make a 1d6 roll against your own number. Add your result to theirs.

    If you want to help someone who's rolling, say how you try to help them and make a 1d6 roll against your own number. If you succeed, your teammate adds 1 success their their result.

    That's clear to me at least...

    So that’s almost verbatim what I had in a previous version, but folks thought it was weird that the rule talked about the “number of successes” when the earlier rolling rules talked about “how many dice succeed”. Thoughts?
  • I feel like the operative word should be "degree of success," not "number of successes," perhaps? Like, 1 die over / under = partial success, 2 dice over / under = full success, 3 dice over / under = critical success. Partial, Full, and Critical aren't different numbers of successes—that's the source of the confusion. But they are different degrees of success.
  • I certainly won't argue strongly if others find "number of successes" to be confusing. To me it's a stock phrase in dice pool games. Moreover, the rules document itself has large font 0 -> 1 -> 2 -> 3 marching alongside the outcomes from rolling. If anything, maybe the problem is that these large font numbers are used elsewhere as section indicators and here as true numerals.
  • That’s a perfectly fair point!

    Definitely going to have to think on this one some more...
  • DBB, have you playtested this any more since last you wrote about it last?
  • We playtested the current action an it was great!
  • This looks like a really, really neat package!

    I don't quite understand the special insight mechanic, though. Could you give an example (with numbers) and explain the reasoning for this mechanic?
  • Whoops, sorry! I forgot to check this for a bit. Will answer some direct questions.

    DBB, have you playtested this any more since last you wrote about it last?

    @Jeff_Slater – I have not! I’ve moved on to some other stuff, but I’d like to return to this, maybe do a reskin in another genre...
    hamnacb said:

    We playtested the current action an it was great!

    @hamnacb Yes!! Glad to hear it went well and you enjoyed. Any notes/comments or house rules you implemented to make things go smoother? (Honestly just a summary of the game would be fun for me.)

    @Johann – Thank you! The insight mechanic is lifted directly from Lasers & Feelings, and (as I understand it) is a kind of critical success that rewards the player with information. So, you’ve picked a number from 2-5 at the top of the game, and you’re trying to roll (on a d6) your number or below (for cyber-themed actions) or your number or above (for punk-themed actions). If any of your dice come up with your exact number, that’s when the insight mechanic kicks in. At this point, you get to ask the GM a question and they must answer honestly, giving you more or special information about your situation.

    An example in practice: You’re playing a savvy former cop turned hacker, with a number of 5, and your team’s is trying to break into a luxury high-rise. You decide to use the lobby WiFi as a tunnel to hack the robotic doorman so you can walk right in the front door. The GM asks you for a Cyber roll, as this covers tech stuff like hacking. You start with one die, and the GM awards you a second one for having the right skills (you’re a hacker, after all). You roll the 2d6 and one comes up 3 and the other comes up 5. Because both are at or under your character number of 5, you’ve succeeded! And because you rolled your exact number, you now get to ask the GM a question.

    “Hey, so, who would our target be most likely to allow into their penthouse?” You ask. “I want to make the security bot think we’re that person.”

    “Oh,” says the GM, “If you pretended to be the delivery person for their wine subscription service...”

    And that’s how it works.

    The reasoning behind it is more or less the same as the reasoning behind getting a critical hit on a natural 20 in d20 games – it’s just a fun way to reward players when the dice line up a certain way. And the information drops keep the story flowing along nicely.
  • @DBB there was a tall stand alone building like in The Raid or Dredd run by criminals. They had to infiltrate and steal an indigo kid or something. I dont really remember the details!
  • Sounds great, though! That’s exactly the sort of scenario I’d want a group to run.
  • edited August 2018
    If the +1d6 is confusing folks just say "add a die."

    I would imagine it like this;

    When you do something risky, roll at least 1d6 to find out how it goes. The GM determines how many dice is appropriate, based on your character and the situation. They may Add a die for a favorable situation, and/or Add a die if you’ve got the right skills/equipment. Roll your dice and compare each die result to your number.

    As for helping say;

    HELPING:
    If you want to help someone who’s rolling, say how you're trying to help them. Roll as normal, but add your results to theirs.
  • DBBDBB
    edited August 2018
    That’s a good solution, I think. Make the language plainer.
  • This looks really neat; I missed it the first time through.

    I'd actually eliminate the "Helping" section completely. Under "Rolling the Dice", just put:

    Roll +1d for a favorable situation. Roll +1d if you've got the right skills/equipment. Roll +1d if someone in the team is helping you -- they have to describe how they can help.

    So the helping person isn't doing the rolling, and it's against your number instead of theirs. You lose something, but it's a lot easier to explain. As in the current system, it's GM's choice how many people can pile on to do this. I'd limit to one except in really special circumstances.

    Other feedback:
    - I think the equipment choices are a little generic. Maybe this could be tailored a little to your "Turned..." in order to make the characters different? So you could say something like:

    Pick one of: A badass ranged weapon, a killer melee weapon, an awesome cyber augmentation, a customized tricked-out vehicle, or a prototype technical device.

    You also have: A sick cyberpunk outfit, a Net-enabled personal communication device, a credit chip that's nearly empty, and as many ordinary weapons as you want to carry.


    - I really like the "set the scene" tables. Since you're going to a second page anyway, here are two suggestions if you wanted to throw something in to make use of the extra space:

    1) A "Something Happens" table, to roll on if things seem to slow down, or if the PC's lives are too easy. Entries could include:
    - An ambush by an old enemy
    - Cops arrive at the worst possible time
    - You learn something that puts the mission in a whole new light
    - Someone you trust betrays you
    - A piece of technology does something unexpected
    - The media catches wind of what's going on

    2) A bunch of kickass cyberpunk names to choose from could really speed things up at runtime. Maybe it's just my own weak point, but I'm often hard pressed to pull a name out of a hat, and if you screw up and pick something with a bad or ridiculous connotation it can really wreck the mood.


    I was planning to run Lasers & Feelings this weekend, but I think I'll bring this one along as well and give people a choice. Looks like fun.
  • It looks awesome! I've played quite a few L&F sessions, and one or two of the hacks. I'd definitely want to try this one. Looks solid.

    I've never quite understood the insight mechanic, though, even in L&F. Do you reroll all the dice? What if you roll your number again? Do you get to ask two questions if you get two dice at exactly your number?

    I usually run it as: You get one question, reroll only the dice showing your number, and if you roll your number again, that counts as a hit. It's super inelegant to have to reroll more than once.

  • I usually run it as: You get one question, reroll only the dice showing your number, and if you roll your number again, that counts as a hit. It's super inelegant to have to reroll more than once.

    Yes, we did the same rulings!

    Its funny that noone fixed these holes in later hacks. Maybe they werent really tested at all? :)
  • The way I’ve played it, you get a question for every matching die, and then if you reroll your dice and it hits your number again you get to ask another question. And everyone rerolls all dice. Admittedly, most times this has happened the player who’s rolling is stumped and doesn’t have an additional question. People also usually don’t bother to reroll, as the matching number already counts as a success. I never saw it as a particular hole, just a quirk.

    @DaveC – I’ve gone back and forth about that helping mechanic, and ultimately decided that it’s more fun for players to roll dice. People just like excuses to roll! Really love your suggestions for a “things are going too well” table and a names list (I really like name suggestion lists in games, but didn’t do one here because I wasn’t sure I’d have the space. But I think I could squeeze a few in.) If your group decides to play this one, I’d love to hear how it goes!
  • @DBB Thanks! We ended up playing Lasers & Feelings over the weekend instead. It was my first time GMing one of the games in this series, and people were in a less serious mood, so that one felt like a better fit. I wouldn't rule out CYBER//PUNK for future sessions though.

    As a general L&F note I did find the reroll rules a little clunky too. I guess the point of the reroll is that if your question opens up a different sort of action then you might want to do a Laser thing instead of a Feeling thing, so you might not want to keep the same numbers. But in practice we found the first "Laser Feelings!" announcement was a lot of fun, and subsequent ones right afterward tended to slow things down a lot. So might limit it to just one in the future.

    The only other rough bit I found was the +1d for being "prepared". I'm not quite sure which genre bit that is supposed to be helping with. It seems to discourage seat-of-the-pants decision making in favor of being more methodical, which is kind of an odd skew toward "lasers" over "feelings". It seems like there's an opportunity to reskin that "prepared" die for different hacks.

    Some ideas about what to use instead of "prepared" for that +1d:
    - If it's critical to the plot
    - If it's in the part of the show after the last commercial break
    - If you're willing to risk something major (much like the Insight die in Cthulhu Dark)
    - If you can narrate a quick flashback about a similar situation
    - If you're directly making use of a piece of information someone else learned from a "Laser Feelings" question

    You wouldn't enable all of these. You'd pick a rule and use it for that game, to try to steer toward the sort of behavior you want.
  • Agreed. I didn't much care for "prepared" either. Too ambiguous, in my opinion – I found that players were repeatedly confused by when it applied. I changed it to "+1d for a favorable situation", which is basically designed to allow the GM a discretionary bonus if the players have done something cool/interesting/clever. I do like your alternate ideas, though! The flashback in particular has some very cool possibilities.

    Now that you've brought it up, I'm actually considering eliminating the reroll altogether. You just succeed, get information if you want it, and move on.
  • Here's an idea: If you roll your number exactly, you can EITHER ask a question and the GM has to give an honest answer, OR you can count it as a success. That way you avoid the "Um, I dunno, what's his favourite color?" questions, since people only ask when there's something they really want to know, and you also introduce some meaningful choice, which is always fun.

    I'd want to combine this with replacing the "prepared" with "if you're building off information from a "true cyberpunk" question (I'd also want to rename this. I get the parallel with "laser feelings", but it feels a bit forced). That way, you get a tendency of failed rolls building up information and giving rise to later successful rolls, which is a satisfying dynamic.

    I like the other suggestions for replacing the "prepared" thing, too, though in my experience "narrate a quick flashback for +1" gets really old really fast, as people will milk it to the max with uninspired and irrelevant flashbacks just to get the bonus.
  • Oh, I really like that! Forcing the player to choose between success and information could create some really interesting situations. I definitely want to try this out in play and see what happens.

  • I'd want to combine this with replacing the "prepared" with "if you're building off information from a "true cyberpunk" question (I'd also want to rename this. I get the parallel with "laser feelings", but it feels a bit forced). That way, you get a tendency of failed rolls building up information and giving rise to later successful rolls, which is a satisfying dynamic.

    This is my instinct here, too. Make the questions really count.

    However, I have a hunch somehow that choosing insight or success will feel a little disappointing. (Maybe not, though; I'd have to try it.)

    I think it would actually work well with the rules as written:

    You roll laser feelings, you ask a question. Now what do you do? The same thing again, or something else? Act on the answer and you'll get a bonus die.

    It leads smoothly from roll to roll that way.

    Another possibility is kind of in the middle:

    On a laser feelings roll, you don't NECESSARILY fail, but the GM gets a beat to say or do something - like an MC move a la Apocalypse World.

    That might be to change the situation, an unexpected interruption, a shift in the battle, and so forth.

    Sometimes that might be failure, sometimes not - depending on what the GM does with that little moment.

    I like that. It's more like a tie: the GM got to add something to the situation or complicate it... but the player got to learn something and now has a bonus for going forward. That sounds like fun for everyone to me.



  • To clarify, I only meant that you get to choose between a question or success for that particular die. So if you roll one success and one insight, you can choose to succeed without issues, or to succeed with complications, but get to ask the GM a question.
  • Oh, that's definitely more interesting! Hmmm.
  • Yeah, this is very interesting! What about actually framing it in the written rules as “spending” the die?

    Because you’re rolling a pool of, potentially, up to 3 dice. So maybe it says, okay, if you roll your exact number, that’s a Cyberpunk die. You can spend your Cyberpunk die to get another success (pushing from a success-with-complications to a plain success or a plain success to a success-with-benefits) OR you can trade it to the GM for a truthful answer to a single question. Presumably few people will do that if they’re rolling 1d6, but they might spend the die for info if they’re rolling 2 or 3d6. And maybe framing it in the economic language of “spending” would make people feel more like they’re gaining something rather than giving something up.
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