Thursday, September 10, 2015

Five or So Questions with Jacob Wood on Psi-punk: Worlds Edge Arena!


Today I have an interview with Jacob Wood about his Kickstarter, Psi-punk: World's Edge Arena!


Tell me about Psi-punk: Worlds Edge Arena. What excites you about it?

World's Edge Arena is the second sourcebook for Psi-punk, a Fudge-compatible cyberpunk RPG. It introduces players to the city of punta Arenas, Chile, where characters compete in a televised bloodsport known as the World's Edge Arena.

Players form teams and face two qualifying rounds against psychicly-controlled, cybernetically-enhanced predators such as wolves, eagles, bears, and komodo dragons. If they survive the qualifiers, they enter a single elimination tournament against seven other teams and battle for fame and fortune. Also, just to keep things interesting, the layout and terrain of the Arena shifts and changes between matches so every fight is new and exciting.

World's Edge Arena is televised globally and has a huge fan base. Players can tap into their excitement and approval by means of a Fan favor mechanic which gives them an edge in combat.

The huge success of the Arena draws thousands of people to the formerly-small city. An influx of outside wealth and culture has created a rift between old traditions and new customs. The setting explores what it's like for people who live in the town and the conflicts that arise because of its sudden population explosion.

To me, the most exciting thing about the book is that it gives both plaayers and GMs a lot of hooks to really get invested in the setting. It would be simple to play an entire campaign set in and around the area--there's downtime between matches at the Arena, and there's plenty to do around town. For groups who are fond of combat, the Arena itself offers a lot of diversity. For those who like to mix in intrigue and traditional cyberpunk-style street running, it offers a lot of that too.



How does the Fan Favor mechanic work, and what do you think it puts into the game?


Fan Favor is pretty simple: do something awesome and you gain Favor, do something shameful and you lose it. The book has a chart with a few examples of ways to gain and lose Favor. For example:

Incapacitate or kill a wounded opponent: +1 Favor
Incapacitate or kill an uninjured opponent: +2
Victory against overwhelming odds: +2
Heal a creature during combat: -1
Execute an incapacitated opponent: -2

Fan Favor is accumulated on a team level, so everyone contributes to the team's pool. Anyone may spend some of their team's favor to do something cool, such as:

Add +1 to a roll: -1 Favor
Re-roll and take the better result: -2 Favor
Force an opponent to re-roll and take the worse result: -3 Favor

Favor rolls over between matches, and GMs are welcome to start opposing teams with some Favor of their own. From my experience running Psi-punk, re-rolling dice in Fudge has the potential to alter the course of a conflict and makes for some pretty exciting gameplay. The mechanic also gives a trackable meta-game element which players can use to get an idea of just how great they're doing--it's like unlocking achievements or levelling up, but without any pre-set goals.



Tell me about the creatures in your bestiary - which ones are the scariest?
The Arena has a sizable bestiary filled with augmented predators. During matches, these animals are controlled by humans with the mind control power, so they think and reason like expert strategists but have all of the natural (and cybernetically-enhanced) abilities of a normal creature. The beasts are clone, so there's a near-infinite supply of them, and they represent the largest and fiercest animals of their species.

A couple of my favorite examples are:

Coyotes augmented with sonarkinesis so they can unleash a howl that literally damages their opponents.
Black panthers with the ability to dim the lighting near them, which gives them an even greater stealth advantage.
Wolves with a frost breath attack capable of freezing multiple opponents.
Komodo dragons... because they're komodo dragons.



How do you emulate the changing layout and terrain?

One of the key aspects of the Psi-punk setting is technology built on emulating psionic powers. This tech is known as magic, and magic devices can perform a huge variety of tricks based on what they're programmed to do.

The World's Edge Arena is built with a device capable of using a power known as control animate to terraform the arena's terrain. As a televised broadcast, the Arena is set up like a season of a TV show. Each season has one terrain theme--jungle, desert, tundra, mountains, grasslands, etc.--and every episode (that is, every fight) takes place in that one terrain. It influences the types of beasts from the bestiary who will fight during that season and has a huge impact on how the human warriors interact with their environment.
To keep things from getting stale or from someone gaining the upper hand by studying the environment, the arena changes shape between episodes. During one match a player may have discovered a helpful cave to hide in or a particularly large tree to climb, but when they get to their next match they'll need to explore all over again.

The specifics about how things change are intentionally left vague so the GM and players can decide on that themselves. I'm a really big fan of players being able to ask questions like "Is there a tree I can climb to get a height advantage?" and the GM can make that call. it creates an environment where the players get to have a say in what's happening around them.



In creating the game and prepping it for backers, what is the coolest experience you've had?

While running the game at a local convention for a group of people new to Psi-punk, I got to see how different people and different personalities interact with the setting and the mechanics. In particular, there was one character who was a skilled hacker but was a total coward when it comes to physical combat. Instead of the player spending all of his time running and hiding and generally not feeling like he belonged in a combat arena, he tapped into his hacker skills to generate Fan Favor for his team.

Every Arena match is televised and even people in the live audience watch the matches on enormous view screens. This player hacked the camera feeds to close in on all of the cool things his teammates were doing to ensure the audience saw the best and most favorable footage. He also hacked the feeds to try to counteract the team's blunders.

The approach struck me as a really creative way to get a non-combat character involved with the fight in a way that could help his team, and I incorporated that tactic in the rules to make sure I called it out as a viable option.


Thanks Jacob! Make sure to check out the Kickstarter, running now!




This post was supported by the community on patreon.com/briecs.