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 were 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.

This is a repost of some actual play reflections that I already posted on Adept Play and La Locanda dei GDR in January 2023. I hope it can act as an example of what an actual play post looks like. Feel free to comment and ask questions.

7 Appreciations

Nice! That’s a great insight there about the potential inspiration for the Pool (what a groundbreaking game!).

I’m curious how prep works for this game. Was there a module, adventure, random tables, GM improvisation, or what?

It’s quite striking that the players were able to a) start up a romantic relationship and b) feel sorry for the villain in the end. I think that shows a very particular kind of openness to play and vulnerability (in this case, a willingness to really commit to the fictional material and let it impact you emotionally). That makes for some of my favourite gaming moments, too, every time. I felt that here in this writeup!

3 Appreciations

Man, you have great questions. Fundamentally, I prepped like a B/X dungeon, with numbered rooms and such, sprinkling in some of the random tables that are offered for mission generation in Cy_BORG. In play it ended up feeling quite different from a dungeon—although always the same type of challenge for the players, they had to step on up and problem solve—and I ascribe that to the “non-dungeony” nature of the situation.

Alright, it might take a while but I’ll dig up the prep. I don’t have a lot of time for it now, however.

1 Appreciation

I didn’t forget about this thread! Here are some pictures of the prepped material that I had. Unfortunately, there’s some water damage on the non-laminated ones, as the last time I played this someone got a little bit too excited and spilled liquids on the sheets.

To start with, I grabbed two sheets out of the Location Pad that I received together with Cy_Borg, and noted various details on them. I also decided in advance what each room was and what it contained. I numbered all the rooms and I printed an empty version of the map with only the numbers, then laminated it and provided dry-erase markers for players to draw on.
The character sheets were also pregenerated and laminated.

As you can see, it’s pretty much a standard “dungeon” prep, like you would find in a B/X dungeon, just slightly less detailed because these were notes for myself and a lot of stuff I just remembered.

In practice this ended up playing very differently than a standard dungeon. I think the reason is that by the nature of the setting and situation, Cy_Borg gives players a lot of wonky abilities that really allow them to get the upper hand with some creative usage. Therefore, while the guards in the studio are really strong and definitely not beatable in a straight fight, most groups I played this with ended up finding some creative way to use their equipment and special skills to do the heist and exfiltrate the info.

Very bold, and far off from the cautious explorative play that you often see in B/X. I love it!

2 Appreciations

Wow, that’s quite stunning! I love this.

1 Appreciation