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Street Rats

PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2016 11:20 pm
by kylesgames
Street Rats is my game of cyberpunk "intrigue". I'm considering dropping that description, as it's vestigial: there is Deus Ex style conspiracy stuff going on, but it's focusing more on the action and feel. We had a decent playtest tonight, even.

The core mechanic of the game is a single d20, with margins of success/failure determining the degree to which actions succeed/fail (duh). It's got rapid play, single die resolution, and so far it's been a hit with the ladies*. There's a lifepath-esque character creation system, with lots of flexibility. It takes somewhere around fifteen to thirty minutes for character creation with a novice, and I can do it a little bit quicker than fifteen if I'm having a good day.

The system itself falls somewhere between the d20 system (d20 with higher rolls being better), Twilight 2000 (a lot of the combat systems are loosely inspired by T2k), and Shadowrun (Margins function pretty similarly to Successes/Glitches). It's slower than base d20, but faster than Shadowrun as a general rule. The game definitely has a normal->heroic trend, but unlike in Shadowrun there don't seem to be immortality cues; people become dangerous quickly, but are not likely to become impervious to damage: getting hit with a rocket or a railgun will ruin any character's day, even augmented combat monsters. Big guns are balanced by a size system that makes them both difficult to conceal and hard to carry, and legality and availability are major concerns to most characters who want big-ticket weapons.

The main place I indulge my desire for complexity is the combat system; there are somewhere in the area of 60 firearms (or will be once the game is complete, at least) in the main rulebook, with rules for automatic, rapid, and single shot firing, as well as special rules for energy weapons with pulsed or beam operation. The end result is that there are a lot of weapons that feel distinct from each other: firearms also respect caliber restrictions, meaning that ammunition and magazines may be compatible between firearms (or might not be), and most weapons of the same caliber have similar performance. Once weapon modifications are in, the game will be very diverse. Some of this comes from the fact that the last big project I worked on prior to Street Rats was the unofficial An Ultimate's Guide to Combat for Eclipse Phase.

One of the focuses of the system is raw speed, and this is shown off in most mechanics. Hacking is intentionally designed to be fast; it takes place in the same time as combat, and involves simple single rolls, so it doesn't fall victim to the fate of Shadowrun's bulky hacking that was a dungeon crawl in and of itself. Vehicles, chases, and social skills are also simplified so that most interactions take place using one roll or rolls each turn, keeping the action fluid in combat. Characters who get multiple actions in each turn don't do a lot of bookkeeping: they can't take two actions in a row (unless they're taking them after everyone else), which keeps them moderately balanced, but they don't have to track initiative numbers or things like that like in Shadowrun.

The setting falls in a niche between post-cyberpunk and traditional cyberpunk. Deus Ex is a major inspiration, as is Eclipse Phase and a selection of classic cyberpunk. Street Rats is set in 2098, in a post-WWIII future. Players take on the role of Rats, individuals who slip through the cracks of universal surveillance and identification databases and who are often used as deniable assets by corporations, governments, or wealthy individuals. Combine this with large swaths of wasteland for a little road warrior action and nascent post/transhumanity, and it's a recipe for some hectic adventures.

Right now it's in Alpha (2.1, with 2.2 coming on Thursday), but it's about 70% feature complete, and some of the missing features are things most people won't notice (space travel, for instance).

You can find Street Rats over on DriveThruRPG, and it has a Trello and its own forum.

*Technically, we have a chronic lack of paired X chromosomes at the playtests, so this has never been tested. I am not responsible for taser or pepper spray related incidents related to the use of Street Rats.

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 2:20 am
by Evil Scientist
I wrote up a few thoughts, but then the forum logged me out and I lost it :( I'll try to replicate it.

1. Obviously, when I saw that this is a cyberpunk game called "Street Rats", my first association was

Image

:mrgreen:

2. Now, onto the criticism. Impressive work, Kyle! Good job, really! Even by just skimming the book I got the feeling that it is a book, an almost complete game, with coherent text and lots of stuff to it. I can imagine, that with fitting illustrations this will be quite a sight!

Of course, getting into it demands time and attention.

The reader is overwhelmed. I really like how the GM section addresses this problem. Maybe a similar approach could be used in the players' section as well? E.g. a few paragraphs describing the function of various elements (backgrounds, origins).

I like the idea of game styles, but I couldn't find a concise description of the three different modes. The description of the styles is in the GM section, but the technicalities (e.g. points for chargen) are sprinkled all over the book. Don't forget to add a table, summarizing this! Or place it somewhere even somebody with the attention span of a biker mice from Mars can find it :mrgreen:

The character creation definitely needs cleaning up.

The GAU/AAU stuff is a bit chaotic, especially that it's sprinkled straight away with extra information and clauses, see p. 56, for example, where there are long, overly complex sentences:
"During character creation, GAU and AAU may not be exchanged, all AAU (but not GAU) must be spent, and AAU is used to purchase gear and augmentations, with a value equal to $500 per point (augmentations purchased during character creation have a total AAU cost equal to both the AAU required for the augmentation and the AAU cost in currency for the augmentation)."

This may just be a pet peeve ;-) but I don't like the abbreviations GAU and AAU - they are too similar visually, and I can't "pronounce" them (maybe it's less of a problem for a native speaker? But still). How does a GM go on explaining the rules to a new player, aiding him with character creation?

Final thing: more tables, more indices, more summaries! I'm sure you will add them later on, but I just want to stress their importance for this type of games!

3. Overall, this is a very "1990s game", I find it similar not only to Shadowrun, but also to RIFTS and maybe SLA... Even Fallout. I don't know how it compares to Eclipse Phase, though.

Now, do I see people ditching Shadowrun/Cyberpunk 2000/etc. to try Street Rats instead? That's a tough question. Basically you are fighting the megacorps of cyberpunk RPing :roll: :lol: I see potential here. Personally, I'd stress the niche aspects of the game: instead of trying to include all kinds of stuff, go for the "underdog" feeling, punks not dead. You open the game with this sentiment, but (mind, I've only skimmed the text!) then this atmosphere gets sort of lost between the descriptions of history (a history of the RULING classes and the elites!), weapon lists, vehicle rules...

Down with the megacorps, describe the unsung heroes of the underground instead!! Give me Ferals with claws and names!

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2016 2:34 pm
by kylesgames
Evil Scientist wrote:I wrote up a few thoughts, but then the forum logged me out and I lost it :( I'll try to replicate it.

1. Obviously, when I saw that this is a cyberpunk game called "Street Rats", my first association was

Image

:mrgreen:

2. Now, onto the criticism. Impressive work, Kyle! Good job, really! Even by just skimming the book I got the feeling that it is a book, an almost complete game, with coherent text and lots of stuff to it. I can imagine, that with fitting illustrations this will be quite a sight!

Of course, getting into it demands time and attention.

The reader is overwhelmed. I really like how the GM section addresses this problem. Maybe a similar approach could be used in the players' section as well? E.g. a few paragraphs describing the function of various elements (backgrounds, origins).

I like the idea of game styles, but I couldn't find a concise description of the three different modes. The description of the styles is in the GM section, but the technicalities (e.g. points for chargen) are sprinkled all over the book. Don't forget to add a table, summarizing this! Or place it somewhere even somebody with the attention span of a biker mice from Mars can find it :mrgreen:

The character creation definitely needs cleaning up.

The GAU/AAU stuff is a bit chaotic, especially that it's sprinkled straight away with extra information and clauses, see p. 56, for example, where there are long, overly complex sentences:
"During character creation, GAU and AAU may not be exchanged, all AAU (but not GAU) must be spent, and AAU is used to purchase gear and augmentations, with a value equal to $500 per point (augmentations purchased during character creation have a total AAU cost equal to both the AAU required for the augmentation and the AAU cost in currency for the augmentation)."

This may just be a pet peeve ;-) but I don't like the abbreviations GAU and AAU - they are too similar visually, and I can't "pronounce" them (maybe it's less of a problem for a native speaker? But still). How does a GM go on explaining the rules to a new player, aiding him with character creation?

Final thing: more tables, more indices, more summaries! I'm sure you will add them later on, but I just want to stress their importance for this type of games!

3. Overall, this is a very "1990s game", I find it similar not only to Shadowrun, but also to RIFTS and maybe SLA... Even Fallout. I don't know how it compares to Eclipse Phase, though.

Now, do I see people ditching Shadowrun/Cyberpunk 2000/etc. to try Street Rats instead? That's a tough question. Basically you are fighting the megacorps of cyberpunk RPing :roll: :lol: I see potential here. Personally, I'd stress the niche aspects of the game: instead of trying to include all kinds of stuff, go for the "underdog" feeling, punks not dead. You open the game with this sentiment, but (mind, I've only skimmed the text!) then this atmosphere gets sort of lost between the descriptions of history (a history of the RULING classes and the elites!), weapon lists, vehicle rules...

Down with the megacorps, describe the unsung heroes of the underground instead!! Give me Ferals with claws and names!


1. Yeah, apparently a lot of people make that association. Sadly, I wasn't born until '92, so my exposure to 90's stuff is basically in-existent.

2. Character creation is always one of the most over-done things in Street Rats. It was the second part of the game to be created, after the combat section, and it keeps getting heavily redone. It's getting a pass before Beta that will include a glossary as well as a brief guide to the game; backgrounds and duties are going to be categorized according to their associated archetypes. One of the reasons why it gets so chaotic is that you see a lot of my more "natural" writing style (the absurd long sentences), and even sometimes my unedited notes. When I go back and edit, which has actually happened and will happen again before beta, it usually gets more legible.

3. The 1990's thing is something of an intent. I love those classic games, and probably one of the largest inspirations mechanically was Twilight 2000. The fact that the core mechanic screams old-school D&D, even if that wasn't the main intent. I've also been very heavily inspired by a line that Mike Pondsmith wrote about cyberpunk, that roughly ran along the lines of "It's not about saving the world, it's about surviving."

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2016 2:46 am
by Evil Scientist
I realized some of my comments would be about things you already know and already working on! Looking forward to the next updates!

1. Yeah, apparently a lot of people make that association. Sadly, I wasn't born until '92, so my exposure to 90's stuff is basically in-existent.

I'm not much older than you ('89), and was only exposed to Biker Mice on Mars later on, via the internet...

3. The 1990's thing is something of an intent. I love those classic games, and probably one of the largest inspirations mechanically was Twilight 2000. The fact that the core mechanic screams old-school D&D, even if that wasn't the main intent. I've also been very heavily inspired by a line that Mike Pondsmith wrote about cyberpunk, that roughly ran along the lines of "It's not about saving the world, it's about surviving."

Yeah, that's a good guideline.

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Thu Jan 21, 2016 7:26 pm
by kylesgames
New Alpha is out today.

There's a lot of unfinished stuff, but I got the inventory system (mostly) done; the character sheet doesn't have any way to track carrying capacity, and I don't know if I want to bother with it, but you can now carry bags/wear packs. This allows you to carry a lot of little items (like ammunition, grenades, and computers or weapons), even if you don't have pouches some other way.

Air to air and air to ground combat is in, which would be nice if we had aircraft. The Skyeye drone technically should use the flying rules, but it needs a revamp.

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 3:52 am
by Evil Scientist
By the way, how much playtesting have you done?

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Sat Jan 23, 2016 2:25 pm
by kylesgames
Three sessions, and I have weekly ones scheduled. The first playtest was on Alpha 1.1, I think, and was a one-shot.

The second and subsequent playtests have been Alpha 2.X, and are linking together into a campaign.

Most of the playtest sessions run about three hours; character creation tends to take players 30 minutes (which is separate from the three hour session), often due to them not wanting to commit to a certain build or having to redo something; the math/physics-focused playtester spend a hour comparing the merits and failures of two or three different builds.

My main concern about the game as it stands has to do with late game progression. Characters are powerful at character creation—the Stalwart in our last playtest took three wounds from something like twenty attacks—and I don't know how well that will translate into late game play.

My hope is that they've hit the armor ceiling early (which I'm fine with), and then we'll see slow advancements in Toughness offset by increased accuracy (and therefore Margin) of enemies. Availability gets tweaked after each playtest, because some guns are just too powerful. For instance, the Avalon Scalpel, which got a bump up because it was available at the start of a Mohawk campaign and eats straight through a plate suit. Hardened Armor makes some laser weapons less viable, but it's not yet available to infantry in a constructive package. Perhaps a reflective armor mod to give +2 Hardened Armor against lasers is in order.

To everyone's surprise, melee combat worked out to be really strong in our last playtest. This is fine as-is, because of the other downsides of melee combat, but the Stalwart was definitely the showstopper. He hit exclusively Crippling wounds, even on some pretty hard targets.

Fatigue is one of my favorite mechanics in the system; it convinces players that they aren't immortal.

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 1:26 am
by Evil Scientist
Cool!

Maybe you can try limiting firepower not by mechanics, but by in-game factors. E.g. you might get the weapon, but ammo is limited. Getting caught with illegal weapons leads to trouble the players cannot shoot their way out of. Legality rating is already implemented into the rules, but it should apply to more than just the "shopping".

Still, of course, there is no point in including such an extensive weapon list if players don't have access to them :mrgreen:

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Sun Jan 24, 2016 6:30 pm
by kylesgames
Evil Scientist wrote:Cool!

Maybe you can try limiting firepower not by mechanics, but by in-game factors. E.g. you might get the weapon, but ammo is limited. Getting caught with illegal weapons leads to trouble the players cannot shoot their way out of. Legality rating is already implemented into the rules, but it should apply to more than just the "shopping".

Still, of course, there is no point in including such an extensive weapon list if players don't have access to them :mrgreen:


The inventory system is intentionally limiting for weapons, especially heavy weapons. If you're carrying a rocket launcher and a rifle, you're basically at maximum capacity, and heavy munitions are the size of several magazines (Size 4 missiles are equivalent to thirtyish pistol magazines, sixteen rifle box magazines, or eight drum magazines, and basically require a pack or satchel to carry). High-caliber rifles (.50 cal and up) and shotguns have limited ammunition per size, and most have small magazines (or drums, which are hard to carry many of).

Actually, legality doesn't factor into shopping except for online shopping. Legality is pretty much solely reserved for "stuff you don't want to get caught with". The fact that a lot of time is spent in the UAS, since it's my home and also has very lax firearm laws, means that people may not look too many times at someone with a gun. The last time I really took note of someone carrying a gun was someone who had a revolver in a hip holster and my thought was "darn, that's a big gun for a hip holster".

The fact that military-style rifles are legal here, with the only real restriction being on automatic weapons, means that someone walking down the street with an AR15 is still well on the legal side, unless he's converted it to something the ATF takes offense to. I mean, heck, if you pay the right taxes, you can walk around with weapons that people assume are "illegal" (like "silenced" firearms or sawn off shotguns) and be perfectly in the legal clear, which can be a little surreal.

One of the ways that Street Rats gets around this is having near-universal background checks in an instant. You can see if someone is a Rat, and Rats aren't given the benefit of assumed innocence when it comes to things with Citizen rating. Sure, you might be able to talk your way out of trouble, but if you've been talked to regarding the curious level of heat that you are packing, you probably can't just walk on in.

Body armor is something that needs to be less available. All the suits except the riot suit just got a 1-2 point availability increase to lock them out of character creation (or, at least, the roughest variants of character creation).

Part of the thing about the weapons list is to provide GMs with tools and players with dreams. Everything is GPS-chipped to prevent theft or misuse (except the stuff Rats use, which obviously has these features removed because of the fact that they're fans of theft and misuse), so player characters can't really steal weapons easily; you can dismantle the weapon, figure out where the GPS bead is, remove it, and have a working firearm, but for stuff like railguns or energy weapons that's a lot harder; you void the warranty just taking it apart, and you can fit the GPS bead inside places that need to remain sealed in the field (like, say, a vacuum tube) so long as you don't burn it out with plasma or coherent light.

Re: Street Rats

PostPosted: Mon Jan 25, 2016 7:39 am
by Rob Lang
I've not downloaded the books (as I have a backlog) but I was wondering how Street Rats is different to Cyberpunk/SLA Industries/etc.

How is this take on 90s punk going to be different?