Beat the Band

“We all know the standard tropes of stories, with the hero being, as Dennis Leary sings in his song Asshole:

These are the sort of heroes we see,” Drraagh says and slowly moves to pick up a book from a shelf. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. “These stories have been around forever, where the hero goes off to face some big bad evil, prove themselves a hero and come back home. Taran the assistant pig keeper, Luke the farm boy from a desert planet, the single Hobbit who must escort the ring to Mount Doom… These are all the chosen hero who is generally just somebody who is living their lives before some grand adventure calls. But, what if it isn’t all about grand adventure? There are other types of stories that you can tell. Let me use the Cyberpunk genre as an example, specifically the CP2020 game.”

“In the game,” Drraagh says as he sets the book on his desk and pulls out a small handheld screen, “There are various classes that are available to choose from, and all are useful in their own way depending on how the storyteller plays the game.  Each role has a special ability which gives a character a unique edge.” He quickly fills out a chart on the screen with details.

Role Description Special Ability
Cop Maximum lawmen on mean 21st century streets  Authority
Corporate Slick business raiders and multi-millionaires Resources
Fixer Deal makers, smugglers, organizers, and information brokers Streetdeal
Media Newsmen and reporters who go to the wall for the truth Credibility
Netrunner Cybernetic computer hackers Interface
Nomad Road warriors and gypsies who roam the highways Family
Rockerboy Rebel rockers who use music and revolt to fight authority Charismatic Leadership
Solo Hired assassins, bodyguards, killers, soldiers Combat Sense
Techie Renegade mechanics. Jury Rig
Med-Tech Street doctors Med-Tech

“And if you are going to try and tell me that you can’t tell a story about a bunch of Rockerboys in a  band and make it interesting or about Media characters hunting for the truth or a bunch of players playing cops.. Well then I would like to refer you to the movies and TV as there are all sorts of examples of those stories in there all the time. There was a web series Amanda Hades about a hacker, a media and a techie who worked together to get their message out about the various things the corporations were doing and hiding from people. Or the Knights of the dinner Table did a decent parody of a band fighting for supremacy in a post apoc world. There’s always the favorite digital talking head, Max Headroom and the stories of news that his tv series and movie did. So, there are lots of types of stories you can consider, you just need to think of some of the main elements.”

“First, you need to remember that fighting is not the only way to get solutions done.  There are books like Live and Direct, Wildside, and others detailing ways to play and run for those classes, but part of the point is information. The game is where information is power, rather than the weapon. Media could leak a story about something the corporations are doing and that would hurt them really bad, as opposed to fighting some thugs and the like. A Rockerboy could use various stories to drive people to revolt against the system, to fight the powers that be, to think differently and open their minds. There’s all sorts of ways to be the ‘hero the city needs’ while still bending or breaking the laws. You’re fighting against an oppressive system, but you don’t need to always be literally fighting. Car chases, stealth events, negotiations and the occasional shootout or slug fest can make the game more interesting because you are getting people to think.”

Drraagh stretches out and chuckles. “It can be hard to get players to think, so sometimes it is a matter of giving them situations where they need to realize just how small they are. I remember in Final Fantasy 7, there was little opposition standing between you and getting directly to the head honco in Shinra. Sure, there were some enemies to fight and minigames to solve, but it wasn’t like breaking into a real facility, most of it was a cakewalk when you think of what sort of security a place like that would have but didn’t really fit the game style. What there would have been if they were aiming for something more realistic was a lot more like sneaking around the building, avoiding security cameras and guards and the like, sort of turning it into a Metal Gear style game. Also, while there are all sorts of guards the corporation can send out, they can use their money and contacts to screw over the players in other ways as well. Final Fantasy 7 has a group of freedom fighters seeking to stop the Mako reactors destroying the planet, but the corporation could use its abilities to label them as ‘Terrorists seeking to destroy your way of life’ and so forth, making it really frightening. Make them the top news story on every channel, in every paper, have everyone out looking for them and it won’t be anywhere they could hide. It’s all about having them realize that no matter how much they keep fighting, they are only going to deplete their resources because they are essentially fighting a mountain with a spoon, they may chip away at the surface, but they’ll never get at the core that way.”

Drraagh chuckles a little more and nods, “So, how do you combat a hydra? How do you fight an entity that has its fingers into every organization and is so entrenched into the infrastructure that they essentially are that infrastructure? They control the news, so trying to reveal some conspiracy is going to be spiked so hard, they control the cops, so trying to get them arrested for committing crimes is going to be impossible, they are essentially the government in this genre, so there is not really much of anything in the city they cannot have a say over.” A pause as he raises his hands over his head and stands there imposing, “When we think of Cthulhu, we understand the mythos is of this Elder God from outside reality that we don’t quite understand how they can exist. In the books, mortals were so insignificant to Cthulhu as ants are to us, that our only solace was to hope that we not be noticed. It’s the same with trying to confront a corporation in a physical battle, since they have all the cards in this battle. It’s like playing Monopoly and only owning one property or fighting in a game of Risk when your opponent controls 90% of the board, or Chess and all you have is a King and a Pawn. The Player’s goal doesn’t become winning the battle so much as survival, delaying tactics, confront and evade, guerrilla tactics. If your players will not think about that sort of style, then you need to introduce a character who will help train them in it. for example,  In Guerrilla Warfare you try to use your weaknesses as strengths, explains Brill in Enemy of the State, saying

Well, if they’re big and you’re small, then you’re mobile and they’re slow. You’re hidden and they’re exposed. You only fight battles you know you can win. That’s the way the Vietcong did it. You capture their weapons and you use them against them the next time.

To win when it comes to fighting a corporation, you are either aiming to solve a goal like to deal with fixing issues in your small area of the city, such as bringing back clean food and water or getting a specific corrupt official fired or things on a small scale, or you’re going to be playing a seriously long game where every move you do is planned out well ahead, such as “Okay, so we do this job for their opponent in this field and by also shorting their stock we will get more operating funds, which we then use to supply us with the resources we need to get access to their mainframe and cause the next release of their product to fail. Once we do that, we can then buy up as much stock as we can get our hands on, and then do that favor for the old guy in the suit to get him to vote our way at the shareholder’s meeting to put a no-confidence vote in for the current CEO. That’ll cause a shambles in the company and have their opponents circling to pick it off piece by piece.’ It’s a chess game where your moves need to be pre-planned as surgical strikes, these are the boardroom battles, the back-alley deals, these are the times where progress is  made with words and plans, not fists and bullets. You can do the same in any game, like look at things like Game of Thrones for the political maneuvering that can be done in a fantasy setting. Replace corporation with kingdom, and a lot of the same ideas of this article still work too. Just that information is only limited to the small kingdom in question, since they haven’t made it to the information age yet.”

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