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Paradigm Key Notes Assumptions
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Key Notes
Following are a collection of important considerations that affect the mood and tone of a MetaCyber campaign.
The underlying premise of the MetaCyber setting is that all or most of the PCs are Runners, hired for their special skills which often revolve around the ability to do violence effectively. In a semi-anarchic environment, Runners are the equivalent of Ronin or Gunslingers; armed killers in a might makes right world. A certain amount of swagger is fairly typical, and street cred is a professional criteria. Runners are often tough, mean, and dangerous, or at least present an exterior of being so. Perceived weakness invites danger.
With a collection of rugged individualists in the form of Runners, it can be difficult to provide a motivation for them to team up together in the interests of catering to the RPG format. It is essential that the GM semi-constantly provide such motivation by illustrating in game that there is Strength in Numbers. Whether it be to be able to contract bigger jobs with fat payoffs, gain better skill set coverage to make missions easier, to share resources and information with, to have someone willing to go into a hot situation to medi-vac a teammate, or just to watch each others backs in a dangerous world, it is much safer to have one or more buddies. This is a crucial concept for fostering the idea of a Runner team.
Runners make their living doing covert missions on behalf of hidden employers, typically called "Runs". Depending on the focus of the campaign, the planning and execution of Runs might be very strategically and tactically oriented for more dramatic relevance, or things can be much more loose and plotted like an action adventure movie with things kind of just flowing from one scene to the next in a reactive fashion, or in yet another style Runs can be background elements that are largely assumed to be routine with the focus of play being on all the stuff in between, dealing with reprisals, and the rare Run that just goes wrong.
The more typical action-adventure and strat/tact dramatic styles tend to be more episodic; several weeks or months might pass in between significant events One game session might be the execution of a Run, and the next the start of another Run months later, with the time in between being "blue-booked" or off-screened with quick wrap session or between sessions. This can lend a feeling of impersonalization to the setting which can contribute to the general tone of the game.
However, there is also plenty of room for more traditional detailed continuity if a group's playstyle prefers such. The one downside to this though is that unless a group just avoids doing Runs for long stretches of time, there can be a tendency for groups to end up doing Runs back to back to back in a short period of in-game time which can strain the limits of the genre.
The MetaCyber setting is a violent place. Killing attacks are the norm, with some very dangerous hardware floating around. Failed encounters will usually end in death in most circumstances. However, there are also technological options for health care and cybernetic replacement of lost/damaged body parts which can offset serious injury to some extent.
Also, some metahumans might have Powers that provide additional protection from harm. Nevertheless, the fear of character loss is a powerful tool to heighten dramatic tension to be applied by the GM in a fashion appropriate to their group's dynamic and tolerance.
Due to the high lethality of this setting, there is a risk of a Total Party Kill (TPK). GM's should be very careful to balance encounters and err on the side of caution. It's important to remember that the GM can always escalate a threat if necessary, but it is difficult to defuse a situation that is getting out of hand without employing an obvious Deus Ex Machina. It's expected that some characters will die semi regularly, but unless the GM wants to end the game abruptly killing off a majority of the group all at once is rarely a good idea.
Since MetaCyber adventures tend to be more episodic, with a mission oriented focus on "jobs" or "runs", a Run gone bad is a particularly common source of TPK's. To some extent this is part of the setting; Runs are supposed to be very dangerous -- that's a cornerstone of the setting. However, this must be leavened with the reality that players can be easily frustrated by defeat and might lose interest in the game. Each GM will have to find a balance that works for their group.
In such a gun happy environment it can be tempting to players to bunny up and make slavering combat monsters with the social skills of a lawnmower. However, this style of play is not conducive to long term enjoyment or versimilitude. It is important for the GM to enforce the social elements of the setting. Social skills matter. Being hooked up and networked matters. Trade skills, particularly techie ones, matter. Knowledge is power and power always matters.
The borg'd out super street ronin packing a small arsenal with every point sunk in "KILLIN STUFF" can't make a Fixer trust them enough to contract them, barter with suppliers to get good prices on their gear, rely on a pulled favor to save their bacon when things go bad, info broker for fame and fortune, or hack their way into a security grid to turn off the cameras on a facility they need to hit but can't be seen hitting.
While there are metahuman powers and cybertech available, neither provide open checks. Some degree of "cinematic realism" should still be observed to maintain the scope of the setting. Additionally, Magic and spirituality is right out; MetaCyber is essentially a sci fi setting with a focus on technology and human evolution (the idea being that meta powers are a form of evolutionary adaptation).
A generally good rule to observe in all cases, it is especially important that a GM be careful to hold the opposition to the same general limitations on power level that the heroes labor under, or else this setting can become really frustrating really fast. It is occassionally allowable for a group of villains to gain access or develop a new super tech and have an edge briefly, but it should be normal for this new tech to get assimilated or replicated and become more widely available in the vast majoirty of cases. Similarly, antagonistic metahumans should be held to the same basic limitations on meta powers as PC's, though they obviously might be more powerful individually.
This being a hybrid concept, there arent any clearcut examples of source material available, but there are close parallels. The most obvious match is the Shadowrun RPG setting which mixes fantasy magic and races with cyberpunk concepts, and many ideas can easily be ported from that game by GM's that wish to do so. Cyberpunk, dystopian, and noir literary and cinematic sources can serve as general inspirations for the worldview and technological aspects of the setting.
Some elements of the (discontinued) Valiant Universe of comics, particularly characters such as The Eternal Warrior, Bloodshot, the Armorines, HARD Corps, Secret Weapons, and the various Harbingers provide excellent parallels for the general power level and scope of metahuman and supertech abilities in the setting. The WILD CARDS series of novels, particularly the earlier ones, provide a good example for metahumans living and interacting in a world where they are by far in the minority and not necessarily accepted.