Sunday, 29 April 2012

IZ: Scavengers of the Sunken City

I ran a short introductory Savage Worlds game in the Interface Zero setting, just so the group could become familiar with character creation and the basic mechanics before Rohin launched his Interface Zero Vegas campaign. I don't have a full cast list of characters, but the players were +Andrew, John, +Melysa, and Rohin.

We set the game in the semi-sunken ruins of Los Angeles, after the land to the West of the San Andreas Fault slid into the ocean. I cast L.A. as being 10 to 100 metres underwater, with ruined skyscrapers and fractured freeways poking above the surface. Several communities of scavengers, gangers, and the remnants of the LAPD had been built on the elevated land around the city basin.

There was some resistance to the system, especially from Andrew. In particular, needing to read and absorb the entire list of Edges in order to make informed choices at character creation was a big mark against the system. However, the whole point of this short game was to give people a chance to experiment and find the pitfalls so they could make more informed choices when making characters for Rohin's long-term game.

John went through a couple of iterations before deciding on an aquatic hybrid. There was also some uncertainty and confusion about the Interface Zero occupation and income system and how it related to Edges and Hindrances such as Rich or Poverty. He wanted to be a Crime Boss ($25K income) along with the Poverty Hindrance (halve income, can't hold onto cash), but this would still have meant he would be starting with more money than anyone else (mostly $5K to $10K incomes)! In the end, I decided that the Corporate and Crime Boss occupations were only available if you took the Rich Edge, and the Ganger occupation ($2K) was a representation of the Poverty Hindrance.

Speaking of money, IZ lacks a standard exchange rate with the dollars used in the Savage Worlds core rulebook, and also lacks a mundane equipment list! Due to hyperinflation, dollar values in IZ are between 2 and 10 times higher than their modern day equivalents, but it's somewhat frustrating to have to guesstimate prices for everything, especially when gear is a big part of the setting.

We opened with a fight, and I discovered how fragile Extras in Savage Worlds can be.

The group came down to their boats one day to find rival gangers looting them. The fight was brief, and none of my gangers got to fire a shot; I think one managed to crawl behind cover, but it didn't do him much good. 

The characters discovered a hyper-reality data file on one of the gangers - a map, describing the location of what appeared to be a concealed lab in one of the submerged skyscrapers in the abandoned central city. They dialled up a virtual connection, discovering that the lab seemed to contain several prototype wheeled remotes which may be collector's items. However, the HR version of the lab couldn't tell them much about the physical condition of the lab, except that the power was off. They decided to take a couple of boats and go check it out.

Using the map they quickly located the building and began trying to find a way into the sealed lab level. It turned out that it was definitely underwater now, but one of the group was an aquatic hybrid. Before they could find a way in though, they were attacked by several speedboats loaded with gangers.  A big firefight ensued, spanning the building with the lab and the one next door. They managed to snipe, outmanoeuvre, and gun down most of the gangers, but the last survivor took a boat and fled.

They finally managed to cut their way into the lab and recover the first edition remotes, but then decided to explore the upper levels of the shattered building in case there was anything else worth looting. Of course, most of the decent stuff had been stripped decades ago. They ended up disturbing a bio-horror that was nesting in the building; even as a Wild Card, it didn't last long against assault shotguns. They heard more scrabbling sounds from the next floor up, and took that as their cue to leave.

Even boatloads of Extras were little threat to the group, and the powerful weapons in Interface Zero seem to be able to chew through Wild Cards pretty well too. Playing cards worked pretty well for initiative, although as we were seated around a loungeroom rather than a table, it sometimes took more than a glance to see who was up next.

Some of the Hyper-Reality and hacking rules seemed a little vague, and I wasn't really confident in my approach. Oddly, having searched a few forums, apparently the guys at Gunmetal Games haven't fully thought through their vision of virtual reality either, as they mostly seem to say "we hadn't thought about that" and "just do whatever you like" in response to questions about The Deep. I can see a grand vision in the basic IZ hacking system, but it's a little too obscured for me to be able to see it clearly. I prefer to understand things from base principles, but it's tricky to come up with a consistent, understandable interpretation of The Deep that actually matches the rules. I also invested in the Hacking 2.0 PDF, which purports to simplify VR, but I think it takes away some of the charm.

After mostly playing the same game for a decade or so, some of the players were a bit slow on the uptake of a new system. I ended up making little summary sheets on how to make skill and damage rolls.

Up next, we made characters for Rohin's game, set in Vegas - a Free City in the country of Baja Mexico.

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