To say I love cyberpunk would be somewhat of an understatement. I mean, how could you not? I absolutely LOVE Star Trek, but there’s something that is too clean, too utopic in Rodenberry’s vision. Then in comes cyberpunk, stating that the future will be as good and as bad as today is, it’ll just have more rain, more neon and some of the cars will have the ability to fly.
A while back, I ran a cyberpunk setting, under the Savage Worlds rule system, in the dirty, spiraling metropolis that is New Hades (www.welcometonewhades.blogspot.com) and this is where I came across the Interface Zero (IZ) setting. Published by Gun Metal Games, it has now been adapted to the Fate rule system, and this is where we pick up our story…..
1 – The Setting
Almost 40% of the book is setting. This might seem overkill, but it doesn’t feel like it. Divided both chronologically and geographically, the book does an excellent job at introducing us to the IZ world. At the start of the book, a couple of pages are dedicated to a timeline, showing what happened to our planet in the years between the present and 2090. If one then wishes a more in depth study, the latter part of the book has the mentioned huge world history/atlas section, detailing the main countries/areas/players on the world stage. Is it too much? Perhaps, but by Cthulhu, it reads like a novel, and gives you the ability to base your players anywhere in the worlds, without it feeling same-y and boring. I won’t spoil it, but environmental catastrophes, diseases killing a not-insignificant part of humanity, cybernetics, robotics, space colonies, etc, etc.
2 – Gameplay
As mentioned, it follows the Fate rule system, with everything that comes attached to it (flexibility, adaptability, etc.). It feels, however, that IZ has made a lot of effort to ‘pin things down.’ Whereas the Fate system itself is happy with letting the characters be as fantastic as you can make them, IZ seems to try to make them more centered, more focused. The Fate rules and fudge dice rolls are still there, but one gets a feeling that IZ characters are real, with real armor and real pistols and swords and real cyberware.
3 – The Characters
This is where I feel this system shines. It doesn’t allow a free for all of character identities and creation, but it gives the players a huge number of possibilities of races and backgrounds, so varied, in fact, that I’m sure the possible permutations are in the hundreds. Just on race, you can chose Android (robot), Bioroid (synthetic human, think Ash from Alien), Cyborg, Human, Human 2.0 (biologically enhanced), Hybrid (human spliced with animal DNA) and Simulacrum (synthetic human). Each will of course have their advantages and disadvantages: a Hybrid with bat DNA might see in the dark, but might be denied access to polite society. Add to these races occupations as varied as bartender or bounty hunter and you have a huge scope to play around with.
Furthermore, although it is mentioned they’re just guidelines, major and minor aspects are suggested, depending on your choices. This, I find, is the Fate system’s greatest strength but, especially for players unfamiliar with the rules, it can be a weakness. Allow me to explain.
In Fate, your character has a number of short sentences that describe him/her/it, called Aspects. You call upon these aspects during gameplay for bonuses. My character is a thief, so I invoke my aspect ‘Best thief is my neighborhood’ for a bonus to lockpicking. Now this works amazingly, but for new players it can be tough. How do you pin down a character when your scope is infinite? IZ does a great job pinning this down. It might rob a tiny bit of flexibility, but it makes character creation faster and easier.
4 – Archetypes
An inspired idea was the addition of archetypes: pre-made, almost ready to go characters, that can be copied off the page and used in a game almost immediately. I really enjoyed this, as it seemed to bridge the two types of Fate players, the ones that are happy with creating almost everything ‘bout their player from scratch, and the more casual players that only want the flexibility of the dice rolling and Aspects, and would prefer their characters to be more grounded.
5 – Rules
The Fate rules are used almost to the letter, with minor alterations. A few pages are spent describing the system in detail, so you really only need this book to start playing immediately.
I really really like it. The setting is fantastic, the rules are straightforward and straight from the Fate Core, and the characters feel real and interesting. It looks like a system that is parallel to... say, Shadowrun, as in it has the same sort of dark futuristic setting, but attempts to be smoother, faster, yet equally engaging. If you like cyberpunk and want a fast, exciting system, look no further!
Rui is a Portuguese scientist that, after ten years doing strange things in labs, decided to become a teacher. Then, two years ago, like he was bit by a radioactive D20, RPG’s came into his life, and he’s now juggling teaching, playing and GMing quite happily. He lives in the UK with his partner Joana, an ungodly number of potted plants, 4 to 5 RPG’s at various stages of completion (and across as many rule systems), and maps, cursed idols, evil necklaces, and any other props he can get his hands on. He’s been writing for HLG for a few months, and is one of the resident vloggers. He can be reached at @Atomic_RPG.
I am become death, destroyer of worlds.