Biopunk 2040

The normal approach I take when playing my own custom rules is that I translate another game’s rules for the express purpose of either simplifying it or because there was something I could use from the game.

So far, I’ve done this with three games: Scalemail, which was a simplification of Chainmail, Yurei World, which was my attempt at extending After School Curse Club, and lastly Winter’s Duty, which was an expansion of the original game Winter.

However, the game I’m playing today, 2040, was a game I made as part of a game jam and not out of a desire to clone and change up a previous game. It was a sort of challenge that I ended up achieving at and I feel like a good test of the game will work.

One of the charms for the 24XX system is that you can easily generate a character and story at random. In this case, it’ll take a lot of die rolls. But first, allow me to sell you the setting:

The year is 2040. Mankind discovered a means to artificially extend their lives with man-made organs known as Augments. However, with this came the need to monetise and soon, companies made it so that the Augments are on a “pay-per-month” basis and that missing out on a payment will get the organs repossessed, regardless of if they were keeping the person alive.

If you find this familiar, that’s because I based the premise off of Repo Men and Repo! The Genetic Opera, which both involved artificial organs that would get repossessed. The difference is that with this setting, players take the role of people who either went without Augments or actively refused to pay for them. In other words, they’re out of the system and are free agents, which ties into 24XX’s “job of the week” style gameplay, though there is the backdoor for a campaign about taking down the system should the GM decide to expand upon that.

For now, though, a simple one-shot “get this quest done” session will do just fine. My character is Augless. This means that he has no Augment. He’s also a Ludder, which simply means he not only works hard, but gets his way around by making forgeries. Both of these skills are ranked at D8, but I also get up to three more D8 skills or, if I should choose so, a D10 and D8 skill or even a D12 skill. I’ll stick to three D8 skills for the time being. These would be Investigation, Tracking, and Historics. He also gets a pen that lets him alter text.

As for who he is and why he’s doing what he does, he goes by the code name of Persona and that he wants to have the life he always wanted, even being driven to kill should the chance arise. As for his mission, he gets one from Cid. While Cid is a Repoman, he has a faulty Aug and knowing it would fail one day and he’d be forced to essentially renegotiate his contract to live, sympathizes with the Augless.

He wants us to go to Lab 13, the place where the first Augs were made, and take out the company that gave him his faulty aug, which he believes was done on purpose to make him loyal. There is a twist that will come into play later, but for now, let us begin with gearing up. With a Smartphone and two credits, I purchase some shades and a coat to help hide myself.

So, our first scene is our character trying to find Lab 13 to begin with, as the Lab is hidden and top secret. He’s going to roll Historics to recall if there were any old texts that hinted to its existence and location. The 24XX system runs on a simple “roll dice for results” mechanic, where any result of 5+ is a success, 3-4 is a setback, and 1-2 is a failure. The higher your skill dice, the better you are at said skill, naturally.

[Roll: 8]

And he manages to recall a place where the lab was allegedly. I’ll roll up another location to see where this is.

[Location Roll: 17]

It’s at Silicon U. Alright, we’ll head there, ending the scene with us still in control of the situation. Chaos goes down to 4.

[Scene Roll: 2]

Random event time!

  • Event Focus: 18, NPC Action
  • Cid or the corporation?: 58, the corporation
  • Event Meaning: 81 & 60: Excitement Misfortune

Ooooh, it just so happened that the corporation had not only bought out Silicon U, but also shut it down. There are several demolition men ready to take down the buildings, presumably burying whatever evidence is at Lab 13. Hmm… I may need to sneak in then. Given how I have no skill in Stealth, I’ll assume it’s a d6.

[Roll: 6]

I manage to slip past some people who were carrying TNT to detonate the building that my character entered. We end the scene with a +2 to turmoil, but as we were still in control of the situation, Chaos is reduced by one, resulting in 3.

[Scene Roll: 7]

No scene change. Think I’ll use the Random Location Crafter from the Mythic Magazine for this.

[Q: How does the structure look? A: Busy]

So, a lot of people are there. Whatever this company has in Lab 13, they definitely don’t want any witnesses. So, I’ll have to stealth a lot.

The Random Location Crafter works differently from the Location Crafter in that it’s, well, random. You do add elements here and there to a “Known” table, but for the most part, you can go about this game randomly generating a location if you don’t really have a good idea of the location.

So, we start with generating our first room: 7, 4, and 5. Our first place is expected, so it’d be a hallway. We don’t encounter anyone or anything. I’m gonna try and use the historics roll to see if my character can recall anything more about Lab 13. He hasn’t worked there and I doubt just anyone would come. However, because it’s near Silicon U, a university, I could ask if he attended it.

[Q: Did he? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 30, as it’s a base no, the Surge Count goes to 1.]

It’s a base no, so Persona has to roll at a disadvantage.

[Roll: 2]

So, this is a disaster so I suffer at full risk. So, he can’t find where he is and he ends up encountering some guards.

[Q: Are they the ‘shoot to kill’ kind? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 51, Surge makes it 53 and, as it’s still vanilla, Surge Counter goes up to 2]

Well… This is going to be a sticky situation. He doesn’t have any weapons, so he’s gonna try and run for it.

[Running Roll: 4]

So, this is a minor consequence. I’ll say that one of the guards shoots Persona in the leg. He got away, but is heavily injured. The scene ends and the situation is now out of my control, increasing it to 4.

[Scene Roll: 2]

Random Event Time.

  • Event Focus: 36, Move Towards A Thread
  • Thread Focus: 4,Cid’s Secret
  • Event Meaning: 98 & 61, Overthrow Death

[Location Roll: 6, 10, 11]

So, the next scene is taking place at a bend in the hallway, we encounter something that’s (roll) fast and reassuring, and a Super Proto-Type of an Augmented Organ. I would assume that the encounter is possibly a patch through from Cid, as hearing our client would be reassuring.

  • NPC Mood: (Peaceful) 83, Helpful
  • NPC Bearing: 2 & 1, Madness
  • NPC Focus: 98, Enemy

Alright, so Cid tells us that we just found what we were looking for, a fully mechanical brain that is said to contain about a petabyte of memory storage (for context, that’s about 1,024 terabytes and roughly 1,000,000 gigabytes). Cid tells us that this is the prototype to the standard 1 Terabyte SSD Brain and that the reason why there was a mass scale back in storage was due to its outdated form of keeping data via a Hard Disk Drive system.

To put simply, Augmented brains that are being sold today use a faster system of storing data known as a Solid State Drive which uses flash based memory as opposed to a Hard Disk Drive which uses moving parts to read and write memory. The Proto-Brain is an HDD and it was deemed a failure because the slightest movement could corrupt the data by having the needle that reads the disk scratch it.

In other words, the brain is one large record player and the disk is its memory. Persona asks Cid how he knows this and Cid reveals that he was given a sort of semi-Prototype, a hybrid of the HDD and SSD. However, because it was still part HDD, it failed over time and he ultimately decided to upload his personality into an AI program, kind of like those chatbots you see on the internet.

Cid does reassure that he’d be getting his payment, as he can wire the funds he earned as a Repoman (not that he would be needing it any time soon) to Persona’s funds. Persona accepts and decides to retrieve the Brain. I’ll say that this brain contains some vital, whistleblowing information in regards to the company. For all intents and purposes, we’ll name this company AMTel.

With this, we can end our scene with us being in control, and thus Chaos is back to 3. Our next scene will have us try to get out of Lab 13 with the cache in hand. However, because guards are still looming, Turmoil is at a 4.

[Scene Roll: 5]

No Scene Alteration. As for the location:

[Roll: 9, 11, 9]

So, the place and object are random, but our encounter is known. It’s a scientist. As for the place, it’s peaceful and primitive, and the object is threatening and prized. Okay, so this is definitely a lab, with the object being a ruby quartz eyeball. The eyeball is worth a crapton of credits (considering how 1 credit is enough to buy the items in the game, I’m gonna ball it as 100 credits) but runs the risk of blasting people.

[Q: Is the Scientist friendly? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 6, Surge knocking it down to 2]

No, and unexpectedly…

[Unexpectedly: 11]

I don’t get why the moments I expect to be bad end up causing things to go well for the heroes. But, it’s Limelit, so we gotta go with it.

Persona takes the eyeball before the scientist can react.

[Smarts Roll: 3]

So, while getting 3 or 4 results in a minor consequence, it also means a partial success. He doesn’t know what the eyeball does, but he does know it’s valuable and is going to threaten to destroy it unless the scientist does what he says.

[Intimidation Roll: 4]

So, he’ll definitely back away, but he’s going to inform the guards as soon as he’s out. This ends the scene with us being still in control, making Chaos 2, but turmoil going up to 6.

[Scene Roll: 0]

Scene Interrupt!

  • Event Focus: 12, NPC action
  • NPC Focus: 2, the scientist
  • Event Meaning: 96 & 48, Guide Success

So, security guards B-line to where I am, which is…

[Roll: 7, 9, 11]

The back-door exit, where we encounter a random thing that’s loud and swift… Machine guns.

The guards have machine guns. Well, time for me to run the other way.

[Running Roll: 2]

Welp. That’s it. Persona is gunned down by the security. Normally, the game would be over, but the rules say that when a character is killed, make a new one ASAP. Guess we can go with Cid. Now, using BOLD, we’ll determine how Cid manages to get involved in this.

[Roll: 9 & 6, 37, and 10]

So, we have a ravenous conclave solved by Cid’s strongest attribute. Ooooh… Ooooooooh… Okay, so, I statted up Cid to make him a Quizzer (basically a detective) with a CPU Brain, which increases his intellect (namely, gives him a D10 skill named Smarts, a D8 in Historics, and another D8 skill), so what I think happens is that he used Persona as a decoy for him to get what he really wanted out of Lab 13.

[Q: Was he lying about wanting to take down AMTel? Purpose: To Ending. A: 52, yes and Surge Factor goes up to 1]

So now the ultimate question is “what exactly was he aiming for?”. I’m going to assume he’s working on his own, since it’d make no sense if he’s working for AMTel and he’s sending someone to snoop around at the place his employer occupied.

Hmmm… I’ll roll a D8 Electronics skill to see if he was able to access the information from the brain.

[Electronics Roll: 7]

As an AI, Cid was able to get himself inside the mainframe. He needed Persona to get in so he can easily access the security grid since, as a former employee, he knows the codes. Once in, he hijacked the info for the brain and copied it over to an off-site server. I don’t think the information is going to take up a petabyte of data, so he’s able to export it over to his side.

While AMTel were busy disposing of Persona, Cid gains the leverage he needs for AMTel to give him what he wants: a new body.

With that, the job is officially over and with it, the session. When you succeed at a job, you level up one of your skills (or get a new one) and gain a d6 in credits. I increased his Electronics to 10 and gain 1 credit.

So, now I break down my thoughts on this game. It’s great for one of those ‘mission of the week’ style campaigns where, while there’s room for an overarching plot, is mostly home to stories that can be resolved in a single session then move onto the next. If anyone has seen the Mandalorian, it’s something like that.

Rule-wise, it’s quick and dirty. All the info you need to play a game is on the left side of a page and all the stuff you need to make a character is on the right. You can randomly generate missions which adds to a nice stream of content.

The system, as a whole, invites quite a lot of imagination. Because of how easily built the rules are, all you need to do is think of a setting, and then some character archetypes, names, jobs, and twists to get that ball rolling. That, or you can add new gameplay mechanics to the system and make it stand out. There are at least 65 games made with this system. Most free and some for cheap, with the most expensive game I could find being about $7.50, about $1.50 more than what the original game costs. Maybe you could find something you like among the collection I linked at the beginning.

The Random Location Crafter was a nice tool and I would definitely use it again if and when I would need to use the Location Crafter and I don’t have a lot of ideas. This was the shot in the arm that Location Crafter needed for me to go from “eh, I’ll use it like, once or twice” to “here’s a handy tool I can use just in case.” It’s definitely worth checking out. Well, bon voyage, gamers.

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