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Player clusters

In the two previous posts, I have looked at some issues with common cyberpunk settings and worked a bit on a streamlined hacking system.

Looking at this system, I said that there was to competing tracks: the attacker pushing to reach his goal and the target noticing and then locating him. Looking at the details I think I can extract a third track: the amount of trails left by the attacker.

While the two first tracks are scoped for the current hacking attempt, this third one is tied to the player. The probability of being identified is linked to all traces left over all hacking attempt. It is similar to the "heat" system in Blades in the Dark: a value describing at the same how much other faction want your head and how likely they are to get it.


Let's generalize the heat system and see where it leads us. Any cyberpunk character values his anonymity and may generate heat after all. The anonymity of one player is strongly tied to the anonymity of the rest of the team. If one player is caught, the other are in great danger. Same with external contacts.

How would a cyberpunk rebel community be organized? They need to coordinate around common goals. But they also need to limit their relations to avoid corporations to unravel the whole organization at once. They cannot rely on a centralized hierarchy either for similar reasons.

The only option left is a loosely tied network with some clusters. In a cluster everyone knows everyone. Outside contacts are known to one member and relations are very carefully planned with each side planning its own escape independently.

Being connected to a cluster means sharing a lot of things: audio, video, etc. This aligns with the way player act at the table. They may discuss at length anything happening to anyone. Since the players are constantly connected they may split as much as they want. All of this reminds me of something.

A Sens8 connection

Sens8 is a weird big budget series about trans and/or mutant people fighting against a big corporation. The resistance is organized exactly as described above but the connection is something magic based on a mutation. It has a lot of cyberpunk tropes but with a x-men twist and a modern non dystopian context. You should watch it.

One nice aspect of the show is that as the connection between two members of a cluster grows stronger those member start sharing more and more things: emotions, abilities, etc.

This idea is genius and fits very well in a cyberpunk ttrpg. Lets go all in with it!

All players start with a base bond level with each other. This base level allows them to talk and exchange data. The bond level is a number that grows under certain circumstances. When it grows stronger, the players share more stuff.

  • At level two a player may efficiently guide his partner in some difficult task. Mechanically this could be implemented by giving a bonus to a skill check.
  • At the highest level both players can play both characters. They are effectively the same consciousness sharing two bodies.
  • When one character is caught or receive heat, the other characters receive heat based on their bond level

I feel this mechanics needs some more details but I believe this is an interesting system that complements both the theme and the game.

As discussed previously, anonymity is important for the character well-being. A group always leaves more trails than an individual. Since the connection between player is not impacted with distance, players should stay apart from one another as much as possible.

I am stealing Sens8 again by pulling the archipelago metaphor. From an external point players are just a bunch of regular people minding their own business. Their coordinated action may only be noticed if you are actively looking at all of them with the correct perspective in mind. Like an archipelago they look like scattered tiny islands but down under they are a highly cohesive entity.