REWIRED Diary: Why We’re Here, Where We’ve Been.

Version .12 of REWIRED is a huge milestone for me on the project. It’s a fleshed out skeleton of the system I’ve been wanting to run for a while. It’s the expanded ideas from WYRED, some loose ideas we had floating around when discussing a “WYRM-SF” project that never really got tackled (in part to real life goings on,) feedback from players who wanted a little bit more than what WYRED offered in 2 booklets, and even some concepts I brewed up previous in a cyberpunk hack for another published gaming system entirely.

Why We’re Here.

Let’s rewind to the very beginning.  Talk to most role-playing game enthusiasts, and when you ask them what game they started with you’ll often get the name of the “world’s most popular fantasy game.” They may have started with different iterations of it, be it a particular edition or heart-breaker clone. While I was exposed to it, my first real entry into the hobby was a different game with Elves and Mages in it. This one also involved computer hackers, cyber samurai and took place in a near-future Seattle. Yes, I’m talking about Shadowrun, of which I will always be a fan and will devote too much of my disposable income to.

I’d also begin picking up other titles over the course of my youth….GURPS Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk 2020, Ex Machina (for BESM), and to this day the number of various cyberpunk-flavored RPG’s I’ve acquired in PDF and print grossly outnumbers my collection of D&D books. These games, of course, were the gateways that exposed me to novels like Snow Crash, Neuromancer,  Holy Fire and a crap ton of inspired comics, anime and movies at an impressionable age.

So long story short….I’m a pretty big fan of Cyberpunk, especially in my RPGs.  But damn if it’s not a tough genre to game for complete newcomers! I grew up and live in a small college town in Texas, known for its agriculture. A lot of times, when folks around here are exposed to anything cyberpunk, it’s because I (or my older brother or one of his friends) introduced them to it. And the bulk of the games I listed above aren’t the most newcomer friendly, no matter how much they try to streamline the process: Outdated scifi from the 80’s and 90’s, using terminology and pathologies long extinct in modern tech jargon. Huge skills lists, entire catalogs of weapons and cybernetics, bloated game mechanics…it’s overwhelming to the first timers, as well as the GMs trying to run them!  You get into the overly detailed and complex combat systems; in concept they sound simple, but in execution it never fails we have scenarios that bog down the game play with GM’s having to look stuff up and players proposing absurd rules like rolling for every round fired from a light machine gun. 

This is where my journey began: to set out to brew up what I now refer to as “Quick and Dirty” rules where the character creation, the combat, and the rules referencing flies at a pace to keep up with the genre’s gritty, cut-throat feel.

 

Where We’ve Been

The first stop in this journey was actually, of all things, a homebrew modification for the New World of Darkness rules set.  After taking a hiatus from Shadowrun in my early twenties, I got involved with a group of friends to regularly play Vampire and other spin-off titles.  After NWoD came out, I think I found myself enjoying the core mortal game book the most and started bashing together game crossovers and alternatives with its mechanics. We had a few good games with it, but it was still a bit complex to teach and had some nagging flaw issues that I never resolved. I eventually lost steam for it after WW put out their own Mirrors: Bleeding Edge, which I had a lot of mixed feelings on (and continue to this day to.)

The spark would later return to me after I fell in love with the WyRM system, starting with Warrior, Rogue & Mage and then again with Resolute, Adventurer & Genius. The later in particular really struck a chord with me, being that it was fast-action pulp, with an expanded skill system to WR&M and streamlined into a single-roll system for combat. Also, these titles were my introduction to Creative Commons licensing, which floored me with the beautiful simplicity of sharing and remixing.  It was a refreshing change in pace from the legal jargon of OGL, and the (at the time) restrictive nature of the White Wolf “Dark Pack” fan guidelines.

WYRED was born of this. Originally the first concept draft was titled something like “Solo, Face & Hacker” — but then I saw Mark Meredith at Dice Monkey working on a project titled “Pointman, Hacker & Thief” (which, sadly, appears to have gone to the ether…) and decided to break the mold on naming schemes. The name itself was an homage to the WyRM Rules System that it used for the core mechanics.

Interestingly enough, some of the earlier drafts of WYRED were pushing 40-60 pages. Our 6th draft even converted to a d12 system, which worked but was ultimately scrapped in favor of the d6 mechanics for various reasons. But around the time of the later drafts, we (being myself, my buddy Matt Bryant who became part of the game development, and our play group) discovered a title I picked up on a whim: Weird West.  This was my first venture into PocketMod style gaming; and while it was a bit minimalistic for my tastes I immediately saw the advantages of tiny booklets to print out and give to players.

The final iterations of WYRED got trimmed down to two PocketMod booklets:  One for rules, one for augmentations and equipment. For the most part, the final versions received positive feedback from folks looking for “rules lite” cyberpunk game play, and the decision to go PocketMod was equally praised. I even got fairly positive feedback on 4chan’s /TG/ boards a few times — only complaint I really saw was over a lack of setting.  Though it’s no indie blockbuster, to this day I still get the occasional emails and PM’s from players who’ve discovered it and inform me of their successful game nights with it.

Spin-Offs & Stagnation

WYRED took ideas from other WyRM games, tweaked them and ran wild. From there, it was cool seeing how others would continue to take our little gaming project and continue to adapt it into their own. My favorite reports came from a player who was using it for a Steampunk setting. We adapted the rules for running other properties at our tables — I ran a WYRED adventure on Old Republic Coruscant, while one of Matt’s friends ran us through an amazing TRON one-shot. Probably the coolest off shoot from all of these variant setting ideas was Matt’s “Star WYRED” which ultimately became MAIN SEQUENCE.

It was becoming apparent how flexible the WyRM system could be taken, and we began to explore future projects to expand it. At the time, I had taken some opinion polls and had received a large margin of feedback from players stating that they were interested in alternate setting booklets and rules over expanded cyberpunk stuff. We began kicking around all sorts of brainstorms on things like mutations, magic systems, alternate period settings and what not. Eventually, we were even tapped by Michael Wolf (creator of Warrior, Rogue & Mage and the WyRM system) to work on “WYRM-SF,” a complete science fiction rules set for the system.

We shot out the door with all sorts of concepts we wanted to play with: expanding the “tags” system we’ve been kicking around, varying scales of game play (from regional/planet play to entire solar system/galaxy games) to even all sorts of different types of powers and options. There was a lot of potential there….and probably still is, but the truth is: Reality is a bitch. Matt had moved on to Oklahoma to work full time at a pretty important job, I had been returning to college and getting over a breakup from a long-term relationship. For a while, I took a complete hiatus from gaming for some more “real time.” I was also working on my actual writing, having started another blog for poetry and beginning to work on fiction submissions. Eventually, my old gaming blog was hacked, and I ended up merging my writing blog with my domain name. All said, I just simply lost steam for a while.

Relighting the Fire

Inevitably, I’d get back into the gamer swing of things. And with that, I’d begin to tinker with some new ideas. Some of these ideas came from one of my current room mates, who’ve brought up points about thinks like dice mechanics using bell curves, keeping things tactical while also simplified, and degrees of realism in RPG mechanics. After a while of bouncing these ideas back and forth, as well as revisiting some of my old favorite RPG systems, we ended up drafting around Christmas break what became the REWIRED “Rough Sketch.”  Now, as you may see, I’m back in the throes of building up a game that I really want to play. REWIRED has a hell of a foundation of inspiration behind it. And I’m hoping the direction I’m taking with it will be appreciated by other gamers. If not, no big deal — I’m already getting good feedback and support from the folks at my game table.

 

In the next REWIRED Diary, I’m going to talk about the direction I’ve taken with the new system, and where I want to go with it.

 

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