- define the output of all the generators,
- fill in the details of the campaign setting, and
- define NPCs in detail and provide adventure hooks.
As I’ve been reading these, I’ve been interested in the choices offered by the generators, and curious about what a different adaptation of their output might be. I pondered a sci-fi setting, and came up with a near-future VR world called “The Neoverse.” I’ve used Chases hard work of coming up with names to translate his NPCs to this new world.
I can be accused of having cheated a bit… adapting “iron age” to a sci-fi setting required a bit of a step. What I landed on was defining the virtual reality that serves as the backdrop for this setting as an MMORPG set in a fantasy “iron age.” Also, I interpreted “European” as very much “Eastern European,” even “Eastern Latvia” or “far-western Russia.” So sue me.
The majority of play in this setting will take place in a virtual-reality setting. The “real world” has made wearable and implanted computers normal, and haptic rigs have become a common household fixture. These technological advances mean that there has become crossover of events from virtual to physical–and this includes crime. PCs will be members of the relatively young police department in the virtual world; specifically, of a special investigations unit that focuses on crime that crosses from VR to meatspace.
This setting could easily be run in a system like Shadowrun, but that is only if you’re not put off by the paradox of using the words “easy” and “Shadowrun” in the same sentence. I’d most like run it in a custom FATE system. There is a free FATE adaptation of Shadowrun called “Spirits of Chrome and Cyberspace (link to Google Docs version of the rules), which I have not yet had the opportunity to play, but looks promising.
Whatever system is used, however, it must be noted that meatspace humans are plain vanilla. Aside from some minor advanced abilities from wearable/implanted computers (such as “lens screens,” illegal body chemistry processors that can release adrenaline, dopamine, or other hormones, subvocal mics, etc…), there are no meatspace superpowers or magic spells to be had. In the VR, however, anything you can find in D&D (and most things you can find in Shadowrun) are fair game.
Alirians used to joke that Vorstland was where hotheaded princes in exile went to cool down before they died. The merciless tundra and constant squabbles between three historic governments of the territory made any kind of stability or progress seem impossible in the land.
Until the space race.
In the mid 970s, nearly a millennia after the fall of the Alirian Empire, proud Vorstlanders watched the launch of the first manned rocket launch from a massive pier built off North Port. From this point forward, the CPV would be viewed as the technology capitol of Alirium. Of the world.
Now, for 80 years, Vosrtland lead the space race, and became known for its innovators as it developed dominance in the burgeoning fields of computing technology, then networking and social media, and most recently augmented reality and wearable/subcutaneous mobile devices. It turns out that the kinds of brains needed to make this new industry thrive didn’t mind the frozen wastelands: they just created their own virtual paradise called Neo Verdanskia (often dubbed “The Neoverse”), named in honor of a historic region to the north.
The Neoverse is the backbone of all the world’s greatest social networks and video games. Indeed, such a significant portion of the economy of the CPV is wrapped up in this digital empire that it has recently become recognized as an independent state in the Confederacy. A violent fantasy MMO based on exploration of the ruins the glory days of the Alirian Empire called Slaughterhouse Verdanskia has become the most popular game in the Neoverse, and its social component called “The Stockyards” serves as the de-facto capital for Neo Verdanskia.
Player status and reputation goes a long way in Neo Verdanskia–most of the political and commercial VIPs are high-level heroes from games of old.
As an independent state which hosts millions of visitors from literally across the world on a daily basis, the security forces of the Neoverse are critical. Initially, this was focused on simple network security, but as an Avatar’s Bill of Rights began to emerge some 15 years ago, it became clear that the Neoverse required PC cops on the streets.
Impetus for Adventure: Protect the Map
Sprawling though it is, the Neoverse has well-defined boundaries. In VR, the city has edges in three simulated dimensions, and both its physics model and security model have sought to prevent the creation of “pocket realities” created on virtual machines within the Neoverse. The enforceability of this model largely comes from the ease with which system administrators can trace most users back to their home accounts.
However, the recent boom in cloud computing has threatened this, as it has become simple for users to create nearly untraceable machines in the cloud that access the Neoverse. Furthermore, activist groups have started petitioning the government for the freedom of platform: the argument is that users have the right to bring whatever technology they want into the Neoverse, and this right should only be questioned when criminal activity is proven.
“Infinite Borders” is a hacktivist group that is pushing the limit of the game through cloud-based virtual computing to pursue their goal of breaking down the barrier between game and reality. They seem to hold an unbelievably immense amount of in-game power, as even the upper management of Neoverse Corp. can’t seem to track them or get a step ahead of them.
The default adventure style for this campaign setting is a squad of detectives investigating crimes against reality from inside the Neoverse.
Characters of Note
Welond “R4-D1:KUL” Porter (Ally: Faithful Dog): The first kid who became a millionaire in the real world by selling virtual goods, Porter (or “Radical,” as he insists his handle is pronounced) is now a lifelong exile of the Neoverse and forced to wear a tracking bracelet at all times in the real world. This is the price of being an early adopter in the field of virtual drugs–software that affects an end-user’s body chemistry through now-illegal subcutaneous computers.
Porter is the rare breed of criminal who is truly repentant for his crime. For the last decade since his exile, he’s been an exceptionally valuable criminal informant to agents of the Neoverse PD Special Investigations Unit. This is the only thing that gives him a taste of the Neoverse, as he has been permitted to watch avatars of cops on raids and provide verbal feedback, even if he can’t manifest as an avatar himself.
Lt. Theg Ellison (Sage): As an author of the Avatar’s Bill of Rights and a self-professed “militant pacifist,” many in the Neoverse were surprised to see the septuagenarian enlist in the police force. Lt. Ellison has simply reflected that his age is irrelevant in the Neoverse, that he wanted a job that was borne of his efforts in human rights, and that video games are a great place to work out inner anger and feelings of violence.
Lt. Ellison oversees the half dozen units of Special Investigations which target crime that crosses from the Neoverse into physical life.
“JuliaAurelius” (Competitor: Anima): Long before the creation of the Neoverse PD, in-game crime was a very real factor for many avatars. The exceptionally secretive JuliaAurelius is an avatar with an unknown true identity due to her account being grandfathered in from a day before credit cards were required to secure an avatar. She has started the Taker’s Guild, a sort of group of bounty hunters who can be hired to resolve in-game crime. Her agents generally track suspect avatars back to their real-life counterparts (an exceptionally difficult feat for someone outside the inner circles of Neo Verdanskia Corp.) and use meatspace brute force to settle in-game disputes. Despite a sinister reputation, JuliaAurelius has a huge following among the young men who make up a disproportionate percent of the Neoverse.
Although virtually no one knows it, JuliaAurelius is an overweight Vorstlander in his mid-fifties named Craig Thacker. The money that doesn’t go to enhancing his impressive virtual rig is filtered toward the Verdanskia Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit legal and civil rights group dedicated to a very liberal interpretation of the freedoms of avatars in the Neoverse.
Captain Swala Tharsson (Superior: Trickster): Captain Tharsson is a young cop who rose to rank on several notorious sting operations, many of which have become critical to case law on Neoverse civil rights. Tharsson generally uses her personal (non-PD) account to gather information as a “concerned citizen” before luring criminals into a PvP area, killing them, and then letting her “sleeping” cop avatar make the arrest right by the spawn point.
Whatever her methods, she’s racked up more high profile arrests than nearly any other cop in the Neoverse, and has thus risen in ranks quickly. She is the direct supervisor of Lt. Ellison, and often bypasses him (and other direct reports) to influence detectives into doing things her way.
Cassius Aristus/AtavusRig (Mentor, Enemy, Antagonist: Sage/Shadow, Wounded Healer): This complicated figure is two high-profile personalities: the public creator and current President of the Neoverse, and a high-profile crime-fighting avatar with ties to the Infinite Borders group. This dual identity is currently only known by Lt. Ellison, who keeps it to himself for personal reasons (that the GM may define as appropriate to her game).
In real life, Aristus suffers from ALS. His early innovations in haptics and VR were focused on allowing him to effectively lead a company by overcoming his physical limitations with an able-bodied avatar. Aristus purports to support the more conservative Board of Directors of Neoverse Corp. and the Verdansk Senate as they seek to simultaneously put a cap on what avatars are able to do and assure them legal freedoms. He publicly encourages vigorous debate on these matters; his motive in this is using political inefficiency to buy time for Infinite Borders.
AtavusRig is generally loved by the populous at large, and loathed by the police and political establishment who consider him a terrorist. Using Aristus’ unlimited access to the Neoverse, AtavusRig fully manipulates the very codebase of the Neoverse to achieve his means. Much of the threat to the borders of the Neoverse are due to AtavusRig’s interference–actions which AtavusRig defends as bringing freedom to all people. Publicly, President Aristus condemns him.
Aristus’ need for compelling narrative is his greatest weakness. He has built several scenario generators which predict story lines for AtavusRig that will gain the greatest popular support. While Aristus could perform his work in secret by manipulating code, this would gain AtavusRig no fame: thus, his “hacking” is largely done in very showy VR demonstrations.
An Adventure Seed
Public sexual acts are on the rise in the Neoverse. Ever since the Avatar’s Bill of Rights, this is criminal activity, for the government considers the psychological harm such displays create among young or sensitive players to be a form of “crossing over” from virtual to physical space. But, no matter how many crackdowns happen, the acts continue.
No causation has yet been discovered, but there does seem to be correlation between Infinite Borders attacks and these acts of public lewdness. These attacks focus on hacking the virtual sites of large businesses (and even some government institutions) to become virtual machines capable of running code not normally allowed in the Neoverse. In the last 2 months, 5 virtual sites have been quarantined after such attacks.
The players will discover that these acts are being driven by a new illegal drug called Vextasy. The drug allows in-game sexuality on public servers to produce corresponding physical sensations (to put it delicately). Its true purpose is to allow Infinite Borders agents to perform in-game teleportation near the places where these acts happen. Such teleportation is strictly illegal, even for law enforcement, outside of designated “game zones.”
Welond Porter and JuliaAurelius simultaneously but independently wrote a hack for this code, allowing them to use the teleportation feature. Welond has brought it to Captain Tharsson, while JuliaAurelius uses it to perform more arrests–she is currently targeting the sexual deviants, which is making it difficult for law enforcement to trace the drug back to its source.
Captain Tharsson is encouraging Special Investigations to make use of Porter’s code. Lt. Ellison adamantly rejects Tharsson’s suggestions however–pointing out that they are not only illegal, but unethical. President Aristus is showing special interest in this case, even to the point of visiting Special Investigations to impress the importance of stopping this illegal teleporting by whatever means necessary. Meanwhile, his alter-ego AtavusRig is using the teleportation to assist Infinite Borders in their attacks. The police department itself is his next target.
If AtavusRig and Infinite Borders succeed, the Neoverse will become a place of a sort of intellectual natural selection: the best programmers building the best world. So much of the world economy relies on the Neoverse that, if such a feat succeeds, those who rule the Neoverse will financially rule the world. AtavusRig intends to become that ruler, just as his meatspace counterpart Aristus became president.