As a roleplaying game, the Syndicate can be used for one-shot scenarios as well as for long-time campaigns. This chapter concentrates mainly on campaign ideas, and ideas and examples for independent or campaign scenarios.
This chapter also has some tips and information for game masters on how to handle various situations in the game, including guidelines on how to handle free-flow combat system.
The generic problem of high-technology campaigns (and games) is to make them realistic but still playable. When all kind of high-tech systems are available it becomes very hard to do any illegal activities so common in normal near-future roleplaying games. How to realistically fight someone with so advanced systems like corporations do have? This is the basic problem that threatens the entire gaming world.
There are various solutions to this problem:
These problems also give some restrictions to campaign settings which should be taken into account when planning the campaign.
This is the traditional Syndicate campaign. It gives the greatest number of selections and choices to the players, but can have some problems, mainly with motivation and work.
For a campaign like this, all player characters usually have agent background option, to reflect the backup from the organization they work for.
For apparent reasons, most characters should have corporate project disadvantage. Most of the campaign detailed previously can include corporate projects, but their motivation is a bit different.
When playing a campaign like this, 20cp maybe a bit too much, and GM should check out a bit what he is giving to players. On the other hand, most of the characters should have Local Knowledge background. Extra limitations can be given to choice of initial equipment and any augmentations and corporate influence must be double-checked with gamemaster.
This is not an ideal campaign for Syndicate. I recommend using some external guide for rural adventures, like Taiga.
The characters are not the center of the world, and even when they are strong, there are always stronger ones: do not mess with the Big Ones. Most organizations should have dozens of armed guards, and bigger ones can have attack helicopters, armed hitmen and cyber killers at their disposal. Make scenarios dangerous, tasking but still possible. And success does not always mean blowing up the entire opposition.
When arming up the opposition, it is a good idea to think for a moment, how would a certified law agency set up things. They would most probably have a PGS and a homer (tracking bug) in each of their guns, so characters must do some engineering before using those guns. And gun ballistics firing patters are stored into their data banks, so if you ever use that gun, it can be tracked down.
And when talking about the computer systems, we do not recommend using Hollywood stylish 'a 5 year old kid can guess the password' system, but instead closed and sealed systems within corporate system, requiring a real expert to do the job, usually with some confidental data obtained via stealing or spying. And now, there is not usually a central computer which can be used to control everything from elevators to lightning and temperature.
Also remember that corporations might have access to local telephone systems and they can locate any GTS which is on-line. Or control some satellite and use it to take quite accurate pictures.
So, any un-noticed missions are a bit problematic. Uusually a man inside (a mole) is needed, power cut off or some other very drastic measures are needed to avoid security systems. Or perhaps the mission happens somewhere no normal technology networks are available.
If and when the characters assault a corporate station, remember that corporate stealth combat helicopters or vectored thrusters arrive in 5-15 minutes, depending on location. So, be quick or be dead. And you better have some ways to conceal your identity, beforehand or afterwards.
And if, or better yet, when the characters fail, do not let them get away too easily. They must have hidden their tracks very well, or must do much work afterwards. And if they do not, waste them. Otherwise our world isn't very logical if it is easy to get away with almost anything.
Here is a selection of sample opposition of the dark future. Any secondary, free or professional non-fighting skills are left out, they can be invented when needed to.
Showoff, drug addiction and/or violent
Showoff, drug addiction and/or violent
As violent conflicts are a common phenomenon of the modern world, a short glimpse to the equipment carried by the various security groups is in place. For typical police and guard work, a pistol (10mm for sufficient stopping power) and/or shotgun is in place. For special uses, SMGs or even assault rifles are used. Body armor is common but is often a question of funding, and thus standard kevlar is usually adequate. Other equipment usually consists of some kind of communication tool like headset radio and taser/stunner system. Guards usually also have some kind of locator system integrated to their clothing and PGS is standard issue.
However, when the troops are used for various more threatening conflict situations, they are usually equipped with backup weapons to handle possible renegade robots or heavily armored opposition (augmentations are still so rare that they are not taken into account in normal cases). Typical backup weapons are grenade guns or shotguns with sabot ammunition or possibly even 20mm cannons. Some well equipped units can have pulse grenades and usually at least one squad member is expert security systems hacker.
With advanced intelligent systems and new battery techologies, various robots are created for maintenance, construction and security uses. Robots are especially used where human body is unsuitable or requires a special life support system, or where remote control systems are unreliable or too small. Typical uses are cargo freighters, combat aircrafts, deep sea exploration systems and power plant maintenance systems.
Robots are also used in ground level security and military uses, and various combat robots with wheels, tracks or legs appear in combat or high security zones. These robots usually have very durable armor and heavy fire power. Some of them include remote control possibilities but some do not to prevent any hackers from controlling the robot force.
The problem with freeform combat systems is, according to most objections I have heard of, that it is not well defined, fair and equal, like same situation twice may result in different judgements. And it is completely under judgement of the GM, who decides everything, like there is no random factor in combat.
Well, partially true. But first of all, if fear of unfairness is your major concern, you won't be using the RIP system at the first place, right? And in combat there are so many factories that result are never alike, plus combatants never know the exact values of their advisory. The problem may arise when two player characters are fighting each other, but that is not a very common situation and then you can just put players to roll dice etc. like usually.
But now that you have encouraged to give a try to freeform combat, how it is done? Here are some guidelines to do it:
Combat is not fair. Nor should Syndicate combat be.
Many people in 20th century thought that all serious computer work will be done in virtual reality in near future. They were wrong.
Virtual reality is used to make things easier for humans, to abstract data things and make it possible to do various basic tasks without knowing too much about computer systems. But for real hackers it is slow, restricted and does not show everything. Think it as an advanced WWW or file browser system.
This does not mean that heavy duty computer people do not use it - they do, but not for everything. In real work, they combine virtual reality file and thread handling with old fashioned visual output. This of course depends on project they are working at, as they usually need to work on one level lower than the targeted system.
Anyway, cybersurfing it is not an adventure moving in a speed of light and thought. When executing things, human brain always loses to computer speed. When selecting new things, it loses. But human brain can adapt, learn (well, intelligent systems can, too) and is better to think out new ways to handle the situation, to improvise. Thus, the computer skill reflects the character's general knowledge about computer systems, software, hardware, networking, intelligent systems etc. - with higher skill levels the character can think out more solutions and new ideas, or faster. Then it is only a matter of thought to execute these new ideas.
So, when things start to happen, they usually happen immediately, when compared to real world. What does take time and is noticed in real world are:
And now, computer hacking should not ever take major portion of game time. The hacker just states what he tries to do, possible some dice are rolled and GM should return to him when something happens, like the action is successful or something unexpected happens. And because more sensitive corporate systems are usually sealed off or have just too tight firewalls, the hacker must physically enter the area and tap to computer therein. Or send someone to do that for him and put up a wireless modem, which then broadcasts signal which can be tracked down. But wireless modem is much slower than hardlined terminal.
Seeking data: especially this should not take any game time, just determine some time and possibly roll the dice and give results. Remember that information overflow is the real problem, and the real expert is needed to find the exact and wanted information.
Tapping optical fibers: in theory, tapping an optical fiber is very simple: just cut a small slice into it and start to listen. The original net will not even notice that. However, things in practise are not that simple because of course the corporations know that it is so simple. So fibers are behind corporate walls, hidden in underground tubes or are made of some special expensive material. Or they are put into a sealed pipe with nerve gas. Or there is a small current in the pipe and if it is broken just for a millisecond, an alarm starts. So, certain precaution is needed when trying to tap into corporate system.
Brain frying: no, there exits no black ice to fry your brain. Of course a too strong current can fry your brain. And in theory it is possible to create programs that put brains into comatose or catanotic state. However, they only work if the subject is using wetware systems to get emotional feedback from system, and hackers would only do that to get some kickbacks, but that's quite rare when hacking really dangerous systems - but if you need the extra boost you might get...
However, if a character is running wetware recordings, he is just asking for trouble unless he checks out the recording beforehand. However, not all hidden traps are noticied by checking programs. Or the wetware might be run against character when he is held captive. Such devious programs include hidden triggers like character falling into comatose when he sees too much green color, or is forced to shoot someone when he sees him. Hopefully these programs are very hard to tailor and their working percentage is even less than change for the victim to get permanent brain damage.