This is day three of the 10 Days of Blogging challenge I’m doing with my wife. I wrote a FATE setting with my play group last week, and I’m pretty proud of what we all managed to come up with, so it’s below. I’m still new to the system but I love how the campaign creation mode gives you the means to build world and story in one; all told, it’s a gorgeous ruleset and it’s available for free so if you care even a tiny bit about RPGs you should download FATE immediately.

This is THE PANOPTINOMICON. It draws inspiration from Remember Me, Watch_Dogs, Cthulhu, Cyberpunk, Mage: The Ascension, and The Laundry

Welcome to Neo-Babylon, Associate. The year is 2074 and we are wired for the Apocalypse.

You are part of a cadre of datapunks, high-end users that can subvert the web of information that overlays Neo Babylon for their own ends. Maybe you just tweak your AR persona to look a little better, or you have a way of talking to security systems that pops them open at your approach; maybe you’ve gone full Technomancer, and you can fry people’s brains and burn their bodies by overloading their implanted chips, create illusions by hijacking optic inputs, and control the world around you with a thought.

You are being hunted because you know too much. CEO of Terramax, Dr Gideon White, is putting the finishing touches to the Omegabrain, the largest single source of data the world has ever seen coupled with the most advanced tools to search and cross-reference it. But Dr White isn’t interested in money; Dr White seeks to use all that data to punch a hole between worlds. Dr White wants to summon the world’s first extra-dimensional entity. You have seen the strands of magic in the cloud; the patterns in the circuitry, the secret names of streets, the unknowable and alien heartbeat of the city.

And so you are striving against the system – against the hierarchical head of Heimdahl enterprises, Senator Patricia Heimdahl, against the constant surveillance, against the corrupt police and their untouchable Captain “Stainless” Steele, against the actions of a world that seeks to control you. Maybe you know precisely what you’re doing, or maybe you can just feel at the edges of the chaos at the heart of the data web that something is wrong, and you have to fix it through immediate, disruptive action.

You call yourself a Freedom Fighter. The media call you an Anarchy Addict, and say that you have a disease that must be cured. There are other Addicts on your side, at least nominally – The Blind Men, a hacker/subversion collective (lead by the One-Eyed Man) who run Blind Spot clubs where the cameras no longer function. The Chen Boys (lead by Kendra Chen) who rebel against the security of a controlled life with a strict diet of survivalist ultraviolent murder. The under-funded unofficial Governmental Computer Oversight Committee, who struggle in the shadows to fight for cyber-justice through funding unsavoury assets.

These are your people: killer bureaucrats. Digital necromancer ID thieves. Rogue data-nodes of the Omegabrain. Drug-fuelled doomsday prophet graffiti artists. Bleeding-edge scandal journos. Walking ghosts, severed from the machine. Trust them. With them, you’re gonna save the world, one banner ad at a time.


Cybermancy (New Skill)

Cybermancy is an intuitive, near-instantaneous method of interacting with the connected world; while other skills use cybermantic tweaks, Cybermancy lets you use it as a separate entity rather than just a means to an end through a different trait.

Permissions: One aspect indicating that you’ve been implanted with technology needed to wield full cybermancy (Omegabrain Node, Agent of the Blind Men, Get This Thing Out Of My Head)

Cost: Ranks in the Lore skill, 1 Extra for the Cybermancy upgrade.

Overcome: On the rare occasions where the supernal world is bleeding into the material realm, Cybermancy can be used to discern information on data-rituals and/or perform those rituals yourself.

Create an Advantage: Cybermancy can often be used to manipulate the environment around the character or directly affect people’s brains via inputs, so advantages like Suddenly Pitch Black or Broken Glass Everywhere are as suitable as Overloaded Visual Input or Instant Parkour Route Map.

Attack: Cybermancy can be used to directly attack wired users and droids by overloading their implants, causing them physical harm. This functions similarly to Shoot. Targets can resist with Will.

Defend: Cybermancy can be used to defend against other Cybermantic attacks in place of Will.

I’m still not entirely sold on whether Cybermancy needs to be further limited, or made more powerful, or whatever – I’m still very inexperienced with FATE. Ideally I’d love to build a spell-based system with additional levels of code that the player can unlock – and once they start getting deeper, pushing against reality as the Cthulhu mythos comes to the surface – but that’s out of my remit to balance at the moment.

Cybermantic Hacks (Stunts)

When you select or create Stunts, try and think of them as tweaks in the AR and information web that’s suspended over Neo-Babylon.

So, for a Deceive Stunt, you could be subtly tweaking your AR representation to make yourself look more like your target or to fool facial identity scanners. If you’re using a Driving stunt, you could be rapidly uploading fresh permissions to your car’s digital keyring that let it drive on clearer roads, and jamming the permissions of anyone who’s chasing you to give yourself an edge. Athletics could run off black-market AR parkour “maps” laid over the real world, designed to give urban runners the most efficient route through the city. Provoke stunts could involve an entire network of semi-automated sock-puppet bloggers who try and draw out your target with hateful opinion pieces. Lore stunts could work from a bank of simstim recordings you can download and filter at will to get first-hand information from experts.

And so on; this is all mainly flavour, though, and you’re free to have Stunts represented by exceptional ability or just narrative importance, as normal. But I like the idea of hovering text superimposed over the real world; I think it all stems from playing too many Ubisoft games.



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7 responses to “THE PANOPTINOMICON”

  1. Nick Avatar

    This is genius. What a brilliant idea for a setting; I’m really impressed, Grant! I’d love to hear about some of the sessions you have managed to run in this world. It would be great to see the characters designed for the world and how they fit into the plot!

  2. Kevin Avatar

    This is so inside my head it’s insane. I’m super eager to hear as much about this as humanly possible.

  3. grant Avatar

    Well, I can’t take all the credit; I just whacked fancy words around what the players and I came up with. I’ll type up the characters at some point in the future – sooner rather than later, bother me if I forget – to give a broader idea on the game.

    (They’re all detailed in the last paragraph, though, as a preview. The identity thief necromancer is probably my favourite – he’s stolen around 12 ID from dead people and uses them to mask his presence in the world, all the way up to using them as a sort of harlequin projection over his AR model. One of the identities – as it turns out – was a long-dead cyberterrorist rival of Mr White, and he’s run into a lot of problems thanks to that.)

    (Oh, that and a parkour courier with facial tattoos that stop her from being recognised by the camera software. And a node of the cyberbrain with fragments of the Cthuluoid spells lodged in his firmware. Basically they’re pretty rad.)

  4. Sean Smith Avatar

    This is a beautiful world concept, and I really love the motivation of White. There’s something pure in nihilistically motivated foes! It’s probably why I like Iago.

    In terms of the mis-match between CPX and Cthulhu, I really like what this allows for, and it seems a logical extension of Gibson’s loa. It slightly reminds me of an old eighties RP I found called Dark Conspiracy which is basically sci-fi/horror: a species of intergalactic friendlies accidentally opened a portal to the dark realms, corrupting their own intellect and dooming the world to a terrifying apocalypse. It feels Mad Max, and the initiative in it is brutal (think in terms of stacked turns, an initiative five get to act five times in the same turn, most PCs start around two), but the Dark Tek (so eighties!) is a really interesting fusion of the abyssal and the alien technology.

    If you’re looking to look over parallels in developing this, it might be worth tracking down a copy of this to look over as well.

  5. Daniel Eastland Avatar
    Daniel Eastland

    Only just now stumbled onto this.

    Great stuff. Did the campaign ever happen?

    Also, have you seen/read Eclipse Phase? There are some similar themes there. Might be of help.

    1. grant Avatar

      It didn’t, no – my players weren’t very enthusiastic and I didn’t push for it. Which is a shame, because it certainly had legs. Maybe I should write it up as a proper setting and just put it out there.

      1. Daniel Eastland Avatar
        Daniel Eastland

        I, for one, would enjoy seeing it.

        Thanks for sharing!

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