How to play the Hacky Sack Trial

I created this Hacky Sack Trial to play, as a follow-up to 1-2-3-4 I Declare A Mecha War, in a solitaire let’s play video which you can watch on my video channel. This is a micro scenario of three Moments for use in the Warp Shell setting of Index Card RPG Core. Here’s how you can play this Trial. You will need Runehammer Games’ Index Card RPG Core and may also want Index Card RPG Vol 3.

Hacky Sack

You’ve gotten stuck and cannot proceed on your overall mission. You have determined there is specific information you need to resolve your issue that is stored on a particular network. Finding that information will require accessing that network, travelling the network as virtual copies of yourself, locating and reading a particular file. You must go all hacky and sack it.

Setup: Create a character or characters in Warp Shell. Overcome all three Obstacles. If you are killed while connected to the network, make a CON check or die IRL. Optionally, if you are killed online, you are disconnected and incapacitated IRL for 1d6 ROUNDS, leaving you unable to move or take actions, vulnerable to whatever is happening around you, including being attacked or killed again IRL, you St00pid N00b!

Screech-Warble-Warble: Target 10. Heroes must find and use a physical network access point, then decide who all will enter the network and who, if any, will stay behind to physically protect the vulnerable hackers while they are virtually travelling. This takes an action at the physical access point and moves the hero to the I/O node on the network map. Optionally, connecting to the network might require a 1 HEART challenge for each hero going virtual, and connecting may be something that can only be done one at a time, requiring the first heroes on the network to enter alone.

Hacky Sack: Target 11. Heroes enter a network at the physical I/O node. They must find a STR node where a particular file must be found, a Perception check. They must use the Read action to determine the contents of the file, a 1 HEART challenge. While the heroes are engaged in these activities, a TIMER counts down to when enemy Ice program spawn at a network ACC node, where they will explore the network seeking intruders to attack using Delete actions, or specialized programs if they have them.

In my example run, the heroes were also held captive within a lab, behind a locked door. The heroes had the secondary, necessary task to enter the IOT node which controlled the door lock, and succeed at a 1 HEART challenge to Update the lock, to set it to unlocked.

+++ATH0: Target 12. Heroes must leave the network, and return to their IRL bodies. This takes an action at the I/O node on the network map, and move the hero back to their actual map location. Optionally, disconnecting from the network might require a 1 HEART challenge for each hero leaving the virtual map, and disconnecting may be something that can only be done one at a time, requiring the last heroes on the network to stay behind, holding the flank, increasingly alone.

Hey! Wait! Don't pick up the ph{#`%${%&`+'${`%&NO WARP SHELL

Conclusion: You have succeeded in finding the file you sought, and now have the information you needed. Not only did the file solve your showstopper issues, it also contained the location and access code for a lonely Warp Shell awaiting worthy passengers at the nearby spaceport, which may also contain 1d4 chests of Warp Shell loot in its hold. Optionally, if you’ve already got access to your own Warp Shell, you instead find the location of a shipment of 1d6 chests of Warp Shell loot that has become lost in a forgotten storage unit at the starport.

Type of Nodes:

These are the node types I used for this Trial.

CPU is a machine on the network. Could be represented by a d20 placed on the map.
HUB is an interconnect, or empty room. Could be represented by a d12.
I/O is a physical, direct access port, where players or rival hackers can enter the map. Could be a d10.
ACC is a system access node, a virtual or network point of entry for units coming from a larger outside map. Could be d8.
IOT is a device, an Internet of things, connected to the network, like a door or camera control point. Could be a d6.
STR is a storage location, where files can be found. Could be a d4.

There are six node types, so one could simply roll a d6 to determine a new node to place, if one wanted to randomly create a network. Interconnections between nodes could be represented on the map by toothpicks, paper clips, bobby pins, or soever. One might also use Looney Labs Pyramids for nodes and interconnections, which would be cool. Here’s a representation of the map from my video using dice and pennies for the map on a tabletop (though as I look at the image, I’ve accidentally swapped suggested die for some nodes. Oops!).

For the purpose of moving, the current Node a character is at on the map is CLOSE. Any Node directly connected is NEAR. Nodes connected to NEAR Nodes are FAR. Visibility from a Node includes each NEAR node. Movement to a NEAR Node allows for an Action. Movement in a Dash to a FAR Node precludes an Action. In all other aspects, Nodes act as discrete rooms, about which normal, physical room-like moves and actions can be taken.

I have not yet brainstormed how to represent the wider outside network, whatever one calls it: Internet, Matrix, Cyberspace, Aethyr, or soever. Maybe I’ll do another Trial in future to explore that! One thing that occurred to me was using something like cards Steve Jackson Games Illuminati to create a large map of bizarre organizational networks to attack and play around in, but that’s probably not specifically an ideal theme for Warp Shell. Probably cooler to keep it more abstract, like another chance to use Looney Labs Pyramids. Optionally, one might consider this part, the travelling between maps, as something similar to how a Warp Shell travels from place to place, simply by showing up, folding the locations together, without bothering with the intervening path.

Types of Actions:

There are four basic actions one can take on things on the network.

Create makes something from scratch, like crafting or summoning.
Read reveals the contents of something, like perception or deciphering.
Update makes a change to something, like persuasion or intimidation.
Delete removes something, like attacking.

In this example, I really only used Read and Update, to reveal the contents of the file the heroes found, which contained their Giant Mecha instruction manual and a bonus bit about how to find their new Warp Shell and to unlock the lab door. If the heroes had encountered the Ice spawned, they could have attempted to Update the Ice’s programming to “persuade” or “charm” it to stop attacking, or to target another Ice program, and so on. The heroes might have attempted to Delete the Ice, essentially an “attack” using their weapon or magic programs, their skills or loot. The heroes may also have attempted to Create a firewall or an ally program, based on some kind of magic or skill they possess, which would cast or summon something IRL similar.

Various upgrades and programs, and class or bio-form bonuses or disadvantages might apply to various basic actions. I didn’t explore what that might have looked like, but perhaps there would be some kind of permissions that were required. For example, perhaps a Lock file would have to be Deleted before a target file could be Updated. Or, perhaps, a permissions bit must be Updated before any Create actions could be taking in a particular Node on the network. I didn’t explore these ideas in the example run, but it could lead to interesting or puzzling complications for players.

Class or Bio-Form:

I didn’t use these, but I brainstormed a few class/bio-forms purely from the world of this scenario.

Programmers, whose leader type is Lead, has +2 create, +1 update, -1 read, -2 delete bonuses.
Users, whose leader type is Manager, has +2 read, +1 delete, -1 create, -2 update bonuses.
Data Entry, whose leader type is Analyst, has +2 update, +1 read, -1 delete, -2 create bonuses.
Admin, whose leader type is Superuser, has +2 delete, +1 create, -1 update, -2 read bonuses.

I don’t know what “leader type” means. Perhaps a leader type, a kind of Boss version of each type, would have +1 added to each of their natural actions. For example, a Lead would have +3 create, +2 update, 0 read, -1 delete bonuses to each action type, respectively.

Ice:

IC, or “Ice”, are Intrusion Countermeasures, or programs that are on the network to destroy hackers, like the heroes. In order to implement an Ice, just take any enemy from Core and remove the vowels, converted toupper(), then add an “.EXE” at the end of its name. Everything else functions as it would otherwise, but provide colourful narration to make the effects of actions have a “cyber” twist.

In the example, I used the Goblin from Core, renamed as an Ice GBLN.EXE program running on the network. In the example, I had a threat timer that spawned Ice at the ACC, network access point. Ice could be stationed or mobile, just as any monster would be. Additionally, I improvised that Ice can see activity in any adjacent node on the local network, for the purposes of going aggro, raising an alarm, or soever.

In my example run, all enemy Ice that spawned were GBLN.EXE, essentially identical to Goblins from Core, but a virtual “program” version. I also had BR_WRM.EXE (Bore Worm), BRN_HRR.EXE (Brain Horror), CRRDR.EXE (Corroder), and FLMS.EXE (Flimes; oh gods, not Flimes! Please, anything but Flimes! Send me to Detroit!) Ice held in reserve as other possible monsters to spawn, but didn’t end up using them.

IRL Tactics

One element possible, that I didn’t explore, is that the character were not being guarded IRL while they were jacked in. This could be an important aspect of play, which would necessarily “split the party” and allow various hijinks to ensue. In the first and third Moments of this Trial, the party might have to deal with various IRL confrontations before, during, or after the events occurring in the middle, online, Moment.

Also, IRL characters might have particular technological “decks” they must use to jack in, which could have advantages and disadvantages. In the example, I allowed the Mecha to have built-in means of connecting, or at least the Mecha Zurin had appropriate cables and dongles on his meditation chain. But, getting connected could require several IRL steps, a HEART challenge, and/or a kind of puzzle player must confront, especially for unfamiliar, or even literally alien to them, technology.

Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow

Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow by Brandish Gilhelm is the first book by the creator of Index Card RPG and host of the Drunken & Dungeons channel on YouTube.

This was a good, short story. There’s a unique narrative voice and a compelling swords and sorcery adventure. It’s worthy on its own merits, and does not require any knowledge of ICRPG, even though the setting Alfheim is used as a world in the game. The narrative feels deeper and more engaging than the short length would suggest, and it’s actually pretty darned epic.

However, I cannot recommend the ebook edition on Kindle as it is in awful shape from poor conversion. I made 358 highlights as I painfully read through this, and the vast majority of those were about sometimes egregious formatting errors. There were a few other errors, and a couple regular highlights, in the mix, but the formatting issues are overwhelming. So, pick up the print edition, or wait for the electronic text to get updated at some point.

Because of the sheer number of highlights about formatting issues and only having made a handful of non-issue highlights, I’m not making any of them public; but I did send them all to the author directly. (If I hadn’t been making notes to send to the author, I would have given up reading halfway through.) So, I hope a future update will make this good story possible to read for those buying the electronic version.

Originally posted on my personal blog at Mud and Horn, Sword and Sparrow

Numenera 2: Discovery and Destiny

This morning Monte Cook Games launched the crowdfunding effort for Numenera 2, two new rule books, and, what I thought sounded like guided play, but turns out now sounds like, a set of backer challenges that contribute to the development of The Trilling Shard sourcebook. It sounds like the second rule book will help address some of the feeling I had that there wasn’t a lot of space in the massive world building of Numenera for players to feel welcome with open space and ways to tell their own stories, instead of writing their piece within the confines set out by a series bible. Could be pretty cool!

Discover the Ninth World, then fulfill your destiny to lift it from an age of darkness. Two new corebooks for Numenera.

Through this Kickstarter we’re going to replace the existing corebook with two new corebooks. The first is called Numenera Discovery and the second Numenera Destiny.

Numenera Discovery will be a book that covers familiar territory; it is basically a revision of the original Numenera corebook. Next summer, we will allow the original corebook to go out of print, and Numenera Discovery will take its place. In Numenera Discovery, you’ll get some revisions to make things clearer and more fun, and to increase the options available to players. Nanos, Jacks, and Glaives will get an overhaul. Many foci and some of the descriptors might see some reworking. You’ll have more options, clearer rules, and perhaps a bit of expansion to the regions of the Steadfast and the Beyond that are covered in the existing corebook.

As excited as we are about Numenera Discovery, we may be even more excited about Numenera Destiny. This title will enable characters to truly become a part of the setting—to help shape the future of the Ninth World. The people of the Ninth World are locked in a medieval-like state, a world of struggle and danger and often suffering in the shadow of the prior worlds’ wonders. Numenera Destiny allows you to build adventures and campaigns in which players don’t just explore the wonders of the past—they utilize them to help lift the Ninth World out of darkness.

Over the course of this Kickstarter campaign, we’re going to track the development of Ellomyr and hopefully watch as it grows and flourishes. But it will only do so if brave and capable individuals such as yourself help the people there overcome dangers and deal with challenges. As threats or needs arise, you, the backers, will help the community face these challenges. The more you participate in the campaign, the more easily the challenges will be overcome and the more Ellomyr will thrive and grow as a community.

Shipwreckers!

The Colour of Terrible Crystal

Vince Clarke’s VeryRecords has announced Odd Order (and Hermetic Library) Anthology Artist Alka’s newest album The Colour of Terrible Crystal due out in October!

VeryRecords are delighted to announce details of their third album release, ‘The Colour of Terrible Crystal’ by US artist Alka, which will be released on October 13th 2017.

Via email from Alka:

VeryRecords Announces Alka’s The Colour of Terrible Crystal Album

Thrilled to be working with an absolute legend of an electronic music producer – Vince Clarke – on alka’s 3rd full-length release – Out Friday the 13th this October 2017! From founding Depeche Mode, to Yaz, to Assembly, to Erasure, to his almost countless remix credits… there isn’t much more to say.

The album title was inspired by a quote from Hermetic Library Fellow Peter Lamborn Wilson’s Angel:

“… and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. They move through the firmament which is the colour of a ‘terrible crystal’, and around a throne like sapphire, on which sits Metatron, suffused in the radiance of the rainbow.”