Cinematic Roleplaying

When cinematic Edges are in use, this is an explicitly cinematic game.

To add to the fun, we are using auto-compelling failures: if you roll a –3 or –4, have fun narrating your failure and get a Fate point.

Stress and Conditions

Characters have three stress tracks: physical (bolstered by Bod), mental (bolstered by Focus), and wealth (bolstered by Scrounge); and the usual minor, moderate, and severe consequences. Player characters can use extreme consequences; a missing limb can either be anything from a moderate consequence (Yay! Perfect excuse to get a cyberarm! or I’mma pay some karma to a Free Spirit with the Possession and Regeneration powers to grow it back ASAP) to an extreme one, given the state of Shadowrun medicine; choose how you want the story of it to work.

Stress operates according to Fate Condensed rules. If Edges bring Bod, Focus, or Scrounge over the usual thresholds, the extra stress and consequences only apply with that Edge. e.g.: extra wealth stress boxes and consequences from adding Magic to Scrounge only apply when a working calls for a boost from reagents.

Buying things is usually resolved as an attack that inflicts wealth stress and is defended with Scrounge.

There are also conditions to make this more like Shadowrun:

When you use consequences to absorb stress from spellcasting, they are physical, such as Nosebleed and Lichtenberg bruises. Wealth does not usually create regular consequences, though Big Vinnie Is Coming To Collect can be an interesting Serious consequence!

Weapons and Armor

For weapons and armor, we are using a variant of Red and Blue Dice. Red dice act as normal, with each + doing an extra shift of stress; blue dice absorb a shift of stress with each -.

if you are using an online dice roller that does not let you roll dice of different colors, simply read from the left (so with a roll of 0+-+, a Red-1 weapon does no extra stress, Red-2 or Red-3 does 1 extra stress, and Red-4 does 2 extra stress).

Weapons usually follow this pattern:

A highly concealable weapon like a boot knife, sap, brass knuckles, handrazors, or hold-out pistol. Machine pistols are less concealable, but they can perform burst fire.
A moderately concealable weapon like a shortsword, baton, cyberspur, or heavy pistol. Submachine guns are less concealable, but they are capable of burst fire and full auto.
An attention-getting weapon like a katana, quarterstaff, rifle, or shotgun. Keep that stashed in a duffel bag while you’re walking down the street unless you’re in a dangerous neighborhood, or people will start calling the authorities. Light machine guns are less concealable, but they fire full auto.
A great big weapon like a combat axe, tetsubo, combat chainsaw, assault rifle, or heavy machine gun. Common folk seeing such things will call the authorities while they’re leaving the area.

If you see a + on a damage specification, that means it does automatic extra stress. This is normally seen on very large and dangerous critters.

Armor follows a similar pattern:

Subtle body armor that can be worn as underwear. No one will notice.
Obvious, commonplace body armor like a lined coat. Only swanky places will even look at you funny for wearing it. It can be uncomfortable on hot days. There are expensive, swanky pieces like armored tuxedos that provide this level of protection.
Security-grade body armor. As long it looks like you have the right uniform to be wearing it on duty, people won’t be too bothered, but it does make socializing difficult. +1 difficulty to Sneak unless otherwise noted.
Blatant, military-grade body armor. Anyone wearing it on the street better be backed up by a declaration of public emergency to avoid a freakout. +2 difficulty to Sneak unless otherwise noted.

Example: Terry the Troll is out for his evening promenade, showing off his Zoé Armored Leisure Suit (Blue-1); since he has the Troll stunt, he gets a blue die from his dermal armor for a total of Blue-2. Gary Ganger takes exception to someone being so fashionable on his turf and shoots at Terry with a heavy pistol (Red-2) and the dice come up +-+- for a net 0, giving Gary his basic skill of Fair (2) Hit + Fair (2) Street = 4; because one red die came up +, if he hits, he will do one extra stress. Terry dodges with -0+0 for a net 0, adding to his Fair (2) Move + Average (1) Street = 3. Since one of his blue dice came up -, he will absorb one point of stress with his armor, so Gary only does one net stress. Terry picks the bullet out of the armor cloth, looks Gary in the eye, and says I hope you used vitamin-enriched ammunition today, ’cos you’re gonna eat this.

Sometimes, you need a little extra to represent the unreasonable degree of firepower your character is toting. For that, you can take the stunt:

Hard Hitting: you have three extra red and blue dice to apply to your gear, as long as you have a good narrative explanation for it. It applies to all your gear (as long as you had time to source or modify it); if you have an extra red die for your weapons and two for your dermal plating, all your weapons are presumed upgraded that much.

Sniper rifles, heavy machine guns, assault cannons, APDS ammunition, dikoted blades, monomolecular-edged blades, electrified batons, wielding a weapon in each hand, fancy martial arts attacks, great-thewed strikes, Narcoject tranquilizer guns, using shock gloves with empty-hand maneuvers, squirt weapons firing skin contact tranquilizers, and we made a bigger version for orks and trolls can all be represented with extra red dice.

Expensive body armor can pass for stylish clothing. Chrome like Dermal Plating or Orthoskin and an adept’s Mystic Armor can all stack with worn armor.

This stunt can be taken twice if you need a lot of red and blue dice to spread around.

When attacked by gel rounds, treat all blue dice as if they rolled -.

If you manage to take the count of red or blue dice over 4, convert groups of three dice into one automatic shift of damage or protection.

Multiple Actions

Wired-up street samurai acting with blinding speed is a staple of cyberpunk. Shadowrun simulates this with initiative passes, where more-wired characters get to take actions before less-wired ones, who twiddle their thumbs until it’s time to act. Interface Zero has a more dynamic mechanic of initiative steals, where each level of acceleration allows a character to interrupt the usual flow of initiative handoff.

For this game, I’m establishing:

All of this is paid for with a stunt:

Extra Action: you have narrative permission to take extra actions in a round. For each Extra Action, you get an initiative steal, which allows you to insert an action in the initiative order. You may take this stunt multiple times, but can only use it as many times as you have relevant points of Edge. If multiple characters attempt to steal the same initiative, the one with the higher Spot+Edge skill wins... unless someone sacrifices an extra action to bid up the importance of going first.

e.g.: a decker with Hack +2, Drugs +1, Chrome +1 has spent two stunts on Extra Action, making them a force to be reckoned with in the Matrix. In a real-world firefight, they use their metabolic dashboard to provide an adrenaline surge, but because their Drugs is only +1, they only get one initiative steal.

A conjurer with no Extra Actions is one that is still learning to give succinct instructions and has to spend their entire turn making it clear to a spirit what they need to do to fulfill a service.

Spellcasters do not get into an arms race over Increased Reflexes spells because that doesn’t help them in their primary task of spellcasting. Street samurai can take a shot at someone with their wired reflexes and then pass initiative to a spellcaster... as long as someone else doesn’t steal it first!

When it comes to superhuman reflexes:

  1. Any enhancement at all requires professional licensing.
  2. Two levels of enhancement is security-grade and needs licensing from a security agency.
  3. Three levels of enhancement is military-grade and needs backing from a government, megacorporation large enough to have its own military, or registered mercenary corps.

Magical reflexes are the easiest to hide, but if you get caught on video moving at speeds in excess of your licensing, you add a fraud charge on top of all the others.

Guns and Ammunition

Tracking ammunition is boring. The important story event is running out of ammo. So we reuse some entropy from your attack roll: when using a gun in a firefight— remember that one attack roll can represent taking many shots— count the number of adjacent dice that come up -:

If you’re playing a magical gun adept with a hand-forged single action revolver who makes every bullet count, keeping track of ammo is appropriate.

In all cases, the Out of Ammo aspect is applied after your action completes.

(For other ways to model ammunition in Fate, see the Fate Codex.)

Mixing Skills

Sometimes, an action falls into an ambiguous area between skills. Ways to resolve this:

Fractal Aspects

Sometimes you want to represent something complicated, such as a rigger’s stable of customized vehicles or a traveler’s list of well-known cities. In a case like this you can write the aspect with one top-level aspect with fractal ones below it:

In any given scene, only one of the fractal elements of the aspect can apply at a time. Spend a Fate point each time you bring another fractal aspect into play in the same scene. No matter how many fractal aspects apply to a given situation, you can only spend one Fate point on the lot of them in any given roll.

The difference between this and a Duffel Bag Full of Guns is that the Bevy, by being a character aspect, has a certain amount of plot protection. Bertha might have to stay home if it’s a big plot point that you’re going through serious security screening, but otherwise they tend to be successfully smuggled.

Professional Rating

An NPC’s professional rating measures just how much punishment they’ll take before giving up.

One-Hit Kills

One hit kills, such as with a sniper rifle or a cyberspur to the back, are a staple of cyberpunk stories. To model them, we introduce the notion of virtual stress, where you roll Hit against your unsuspecting victim (probably after piling on advantages like They Never Saw It Coming and Superior Position and In My Sights) to simulate setting up that perfect shot, and it fills their stress track and consequences with virtual stress. As long as your target is unaware, you can keep piling this up until they are Taken Out, at which point it all becomes real. If something disturbs your setup, all the virtual stress and consequences vanish.

For less-important NPCs, the GM may simply call for a high Overcome instead of all this elaborate setup. If the story is all about an assassination, the heist and progress clock rules from Blades in the Dark may be a better model.

While player characters may be unaware of the sniper targeting them, the GM should inform the player whose character is currently racking up virtual stress, and the players can then start spending Fate on noticing the glint of light from the sniper’s scope or on a timely arrival creating a distraction. Instant kills of main characters do not make for a good story, but the ways they narrowly escape them do!

For a dueling situation, you can declare that the attack is social until lethal, which means that consequence slots are filled with social consequences like Dueling Scar or Publicly Shamed until the target is out of consequences; if they do not concede, they can be Taken Out lethally.

Nonlethal Combat

You can fill an opponent’s consequences with social consequences by impressing them with your combat abilities. (With the rise of the Native American Nations, counting coup has made a big comeback.) You can inflict stress by showing you could have hit someone and inflict minor consequences like Feeling Overmatched, moderate ones like That Was Too Close, serious ones like Rethinking My Career Choices. As long as you haven’t filled the consequence slot matching their professional rating, your opponent can clear such slots by performing an equivalent feat on you.

A target is just as Taken Out with a Joint Lock or Gun to the Head as they would be from being killed.