Romance, Drugs & Loud Fun

Two weeks ago I set up a one-session game of CY_BORG in my local gaming cafe in Helsinki, with mostly inexperienced players.

This is a game of cyberpunk jobbers based on Mörk Borg. My opinion is that CY_BORG is mostly style over substance, its biggest quality being its coffee-table-worthy presentation, but I chose it because it was inspiring people at the cafe to play, and I liked this page where I could roll a random drug with a d12 — more on that later. I figured, due to the obvious similarities to Moldvay D&D, that whatever CY_BORG was lacking I could fill in with knowledge from that system, and that was mostly the case.

The situation/scenario was this: the randomly generated crew, deep in debt, took a job to steal the screenplay out of holo-movie director Kenny Machida’s mind palace, a special offline VR implant to store essential info. The angle was an abandoned warehouse turned into a soundstage on the edge of town, used by the production company to save money. Now, Machida was essentially a composite of various hollywood sleazebags with perversion turned up to eleven. The guy was contemptible — spent half his day watching VR porn while the rest of the crew worked. We also had an abusive prima donna lead actress, a jock male lead, a nerdy camera operator, a greedy producer, exploited stagehands, and a vapid publicist.

I love playing with new players, they’re so genuine and … undamaged. We started by playing through the joint-casing, as each character used their skills to gain information about the warehouse. Bang! One of the female players decided her character was going to try the seduction angle with the publicist lady. I decided that I would roll myself for “luck” (I think I got this idea of luck rolls from Into the Odd, it’s not in CY_BORG) to see if this NPC was even attracted to the player’s character — it seemed a bit problematic to me to solve it with a persuasion roll. I rolled a d6 and got a 5, so the game was on.

This moment felt like out of Trollbabe — she almost claimed the character for herself throughout the mission. She started trying to manipulate her into helping them, but as I had the publicist open up and complain about her shitty pervert of a boss, this struck a chord with the player and she decided her character was in it for real. We organically Veiled a bit of the dating, for the best in my opinion — don’t want people I just met to get the wrong message — but essentially they became a thing.

With passes from the publicist, the group infiltrated the studio as fake fans and used some of their pregenerated inventory to create a distraction and sneak up to Machida’s office while he was in his … full-body haptic VR suit, which required more Veiling. Then I rolled on my favourite table — the Drug table! Yes, Machida was on something, and he was gonna react accordingly, but I decided in advance I would roll that d12 during play. I don’t know exactly why it excites me so much to roll on the Drug table, but goddamn, I like it. This was one of the funnest moments for me –I had no idea how the guy would react.

Anyways, they first decided to violently intimidate the guy, and that having failed, to kidnap him. We fumbled sometimes with mechanics, resolution, or what was going on, but they were listening and learning and we got better at it over the course of the session. As we were exfiltrating they got the hang of the fact that bullets aren’t to be fucked with, and avoided guards — except for one, which had to be killed to get through. A short combat later and some lucky rolls for the hacker tError app, they got rid of her — one of the new players got so excited that he did an impromptu narration when he finally offed her, and … yeah this was a Monologue of Victory without the Pool. I get where James V. West got the idea.

Back at the hideout, the torture started. These players were pretty metal, I must admit — we had to Veil much less than I expected. I think they thought he deserved it. However, I had a last reveal — the job was commissioned by the production company to feed the director’s scripts into an AI so he would become redundant and could be killed. The group got the scripts in the end, but took pity on the guy and gave him some money from their payout to rebuild his face and body and save himself.

We wrap it up, and as we leave the bar we start getting some looks, and messages later on Discord — what the hell were you guys playing over there? — well apparently we were having so much fun working through the chaos that we were screaming and jumping and having plenty of loud fun. People asked me later if I can run things again. I’m remembering this as some of the most fun I’ve had in weeks.

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7 responses to “Romance, Drugs & Loud Fun”

    • He was on “Bullseye”, a focus drug — the book gives very vague descriptions — which I interpreted as similar to high-end stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines.

      The euphoria and numbness to pain caused by it was part of the reason for physical intimidation not being very effective.

      Also … I didn’t mention it in the post, but when playing coked-up Machida I pulled out my best Quentin Tarantino impression :). I’m not sure if the other players noticed.

    • As for how he did respond, he was … unimpressed with their attempt. I’m paraphrasing, but along these lines.

      “Why would I ever give you the screenplay, okay? It’s the only thing keeping these motherfuckers from getting rid — fuck, that TINGLES. Just kill me right fucking now, alright? It doesn’t make a difference to me!”

      It’s difficult to relay in text how entertaining this conversation was for me.

  1. A note on physical instrumentation:

    I laminated the pre-rolled character sheets and location map, and brought dry-erase markers with me at the café. I highly recommend this for two reasons:

    – In a café setting it’s very easy to get character sheets stained or crumpled.
    – The pregen characters and map are now washable and re-usable if I ever want to play this one-shot again.

    This method was recommended to me by Daniele di Rubbo at TPK 2022 in Milan, and I feel stupid not to have thought of it before.

    Also, I made two maps of the location. One with only numbers and a vague layout of the rooms — I gave this map out at the beginning explaining that it was from their fixer.

    The other map, which I kept for myself, had full information and the same numbers, so I could cross-reference.

    Since I forgot to bring tokens, we improvised some meeples by using the differently colored marker caps, so we could easily spot where everyone was.

    This really helped reduce the “Where am I again?” effect and allowed play to run smoothly even through some rather chaotic circumstances.

    • Didn’t really have to reference it during play, but the “how to build a dungeon” section of BX was especially informative, plus basic procedures of how the play conversation is shaped.

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