[19:31] <+ChadDubya> Hi All! I’m Chad. I computer at things! I also make games!
[19:31] <+ChadDubya> I wrote Cryptomancer, but tonight I’m talking about my new game.
[19:31] <+ChadDubya> “SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists”
[19:32] <+ChadDubya> “SIGMATA: This Signal Kills Fascists” is a cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game about ethical insurgency against a fascist regime, taking place in a dystopian vision of 1980’s America.
[19:32] <+ChadDubya> Players assume the role of Receivers, the superheroic vanguard of the Resistance, who possess incredible powers when in range of FM radio towers emitting a mysterious number sequence called “The Signal.”
[19:32] <+ChadDubya> When the Signal is up, Receivers lead the charge against battalions of Regime infantry and armor or serve as the People’s Shield, protecting mass demonstrations from the brutality of a militarized police force and neo-Nazi hooligans.
[19:32] <+ChadDubya> When the Signal is down, however, Receivers are mere mortals, desperately fleeing from a powerful state that senses their weakness.
[19:33] <+ChadDubya> It’s called the Sigmata, a Signal-induced stigmata, because it is a both a blessing and a curse. At least when you’re marked by the state, you can’t sit on the sidelines anymore.
[19:33] <+ChadDubya> You can check it out here: (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2089483951/sigmata-this-signal-kills-fascists)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2089483951/sigmata-this-signal-kills-fascists
[19:33] <~Dan> (Howdy, JamesGillen!)
[19:33] <+ChadDubya> And oggle the pretty art.
[19:33] <+JamesGillen> Hi
[19:33] <+ChadDubya> But that’s it. Open for questions!
[19:35] <~Dan> Thanks, ChadDubya! The floor is open to questions!
[19:35] <+xyphoid> how alt-history is this? like, where’s the point of divergence?
[19:35] <+ChadDubya> Divergence starts around 1960.
[19:36] <+ChadDubya> McCarthy, instead of being censored, becomes president, running on a pretty extreme anti-soviet, anti-immigrant, anti-everybody campaign.
[19:36] <+ChadDubya> Add 26 years later, and you have Sigmata.
[19:37] <+ChadDubya> The technology, pop culture, fashion, and jingoism of the 80s is very faithful.
[19:37] <+Mordrid> Is this a custom ruleset or based on an existing system?
[19:37] <+ChadDubya> (Radio-powered cybernetic revolutionaries excluded)
[19:38] <+ChadDubya> Custom ruleset. An evolution of the Cryptomancer core mechanic, but it takes a ton of Cryptomancer’s traditional mechanics (HP, Initiative, etc.) and replaces it for more story-based play.
[19:38] <+Cable_Street> I have a two part question: what are ethics? And, do words have meaning?
[19:38] <+ChadDubya> LOL.
[19:39] <+ChadDubya> So, what Cable Street is referring to is the proposed “insurgency” model that the Resistance of the game is sticking to.
[19:39] <+ChadDubya> The Resistance has rules of engagement and proper conduct.
[19:40] <+ChadDubya> In a gamer-centric sense, it’s a control to ensure sessions don’t devolve into borderline pornographic violence.
[19:40] <+ChadDubya> In a strategic context, having ethical rules of engagement helps a resistance win. Because they aren’t abusing the very people they claim to represent.
[19:41] <+ChadDubya> and Yes, Cable_Street, words have meaning. 😛
[19:41] <+Cable_Street> Prove it XD
[19:42] <+ChadDubya> I’m sure I could dig up a Wikipedia article for you.
[19:42] <+ChadDubya> Watch the video, it’s awesomee.
[19:43] <~Dan> What sorts of powers do the PCs have?
[19:43] <+ChadDubya> They got a whole slew of things, Dan. I almost don’t know where to start.
[19:43] <+ChadDubya> Except I lied, I totally do.
[19:44] <+ChadDubya> We’ll start with what are called Subroutines, which are amazing powers that the Receivers have.
[19:44] <+ChadDubya> There are subroutines in the game that are akin to what we’ve come to expect from the superhero genre
[19:44] <+ChadDubya> Super strength, super speed, ability to predict the future, etc.
[19:45] <+ChadDubya> But there are a ton of subroutines that manipulate the technology of the 1980’s
[19:45] <+ChadDubya> Specifically, I mean television, radio, and the telephony network
[19:45] <~Dan> So you can be kind and rewind without a VCR?
[19:45] <+xyphoid> what are the rules of engagement – are they hardcoded into the game? (i ask because if i play this it’s gonna be because i want to argue about that kind of thing at the table)
[19:46] <+ChadDubya> I’ll just drop a few of the subroutines here:
[19:46] <+ChadDubya> Cathode Warp (Guile): this subroutine allows a Receiver to press herself against the screen of a television set, computer monitor, or arcade cabinet, transform her material form into electrical ether, travel at the speed of light, and then crawl out of the screen of any similar device in the vicinity.
[19:46] <+ChadDubya> Gremlin Uprising (Aggression): this subroutine allows a Receiver to enlist the help of nearby electrical devices to torment her enemies or help her allies, as if these inanimate objects were sentient.
[19:47] <+ChadDubya> Tarball (Guile): this subroutine allows a Receiver to touch a handheld inanimate object and transform it into a removable storage medium of her choice: floppy disk, cassette tape, or VHR cassette, and then turn it back into the original object at will.
[19:47] <+ChadDubya> Transistor Whisper (Guile): this subroutine allows a Receiver to demodulate her voice into carrier waves and emit subliminal messages from all other radios and antennas in the vicinity, imbuing her audience with powerful, unexplainable urges.
[19:47] <+ChadDubya> Liberation Frequency (Aggression): this subroutine allows a Receiver to take a deep breath and unleash a seismic roar that is not heard coming from her, but rather, emitting from the antennas and speakers of any (or every) device in the area capable of receiving radio transmissions
[19:48] <+ChadDubya> It goes on. Like, forever.
[19:49] <+ChadDubya> xyphoid, the rules of engagement are not hardcoded. There is a strategic campaign tracker that the GM influences though, based on the groups actions.
[19:50] <+ChadDubya> But there are several pages discussing rules of engagement, so there should be pretty clear consensus of what they mean at the table.
[19:51] <~Dan> What makes someone a Receiver?
[19:51] <+ChadDubya> In addition to subroutines, Receivers have something called “Blades”, which are blade servers that they can install in their torso (there is a server rack in their back). Blades are performance enhancing cybernetic modules.
[19:52] <+ChadDubya> So who experiences the Sigmata (the transformation into a Receiver) is mysterious.
[19:52] <+ChadDubya> It just happens, and it’s horrific for the person experiencing it.
[19:53] <+ChadDubya> What they know is that they’ve changed, and they got to get to the source of the Signal (probably the nearest FM radio tower emitting it) before they are hunted down by lab coats and jackboots, like a Frankenstein monster.
[19:53] <+ChadDubya> There will be other Receivers waiting for them, hopefully, to take them in and teach them how to use their powers.
[19:54] <+ChadDubya> Otherwise, they get captured, brought to a secret lab, exposed to electroshock therapy, and reprogrammed into (no spoilers, man!)
[19:54] <+Cable_Street> Nostalgia factor aside, is there a reason you went with a 1980s setting?
[19:55] <+xyphoid> what’s the connection between getting the powers and actively figting the state? is it just selfdefence by default, or are PCs people who’re already activists?
[19:56] <+ChadDubya> It’s a pretty solid connection, and I’m not going to fully spoil it. Rest assured, the Regime wants their experiment back, so if the new Receiver doesn’t want to have their mind erased and replaced, they sort of have to band together.
[19:57] <+ChadDubya> They also rely on the Signal to be something more than human, to leverage their powers.
[19:57] <+ChadDubya> And they need the Resistance to take over commercial radio towers, set up repeaters, spin up pirate radio stations, etc., to ensure the Signal keeps repeating.
[19:58] <+ChadDubya> The Regime, meanwhile, is engaging in urban and covert combat to raid pirate stations, jam towers, and kill insurgents.
[19:58] <+ChadDubya> So there is always this nasty “Children of Men” urban warfare going on in the backdrop. The Signal ebbs and flows based on how well the Receiver’s support Resistance objectives.
[19:59] <+JamesGillen> ooh
[19:59] <+ChadDubya> Cable_Street…
[20:00] <+ChadDubya> 1980’s tech has really exciting constraints…
[20:00] <+ChadDubya> Imagine trying to organize a mass protest without Twitter or Facebook
[20:00] <+JamesGillen> hm
[20:00] <+ChadDubya> Imagine not having a phone when you are in a rural area and being stalked by neo-nazis
[20:01] <+ChadDubya> Imagine it taking 8 hours to download a file via 300 baud modem, but 10 minutes to drive a floppy disk across town
[20:01] <+ChadDubya> Imagine using a phonebook to find someone
[20:02] <+ChadDubya> So on, and so forth. The real reason behind the 80’s tech, however, was to recreate what happened in the Arab Spring in 2011, when Muburak killed the Internet.
[20:02] <+ChadDubya> The Resistance switched to HAM radio, satellite telephones, and even old dial-up modems to keep Repeating the Signal
[20:02] <+ChadDubya> It was the most cyberpunk thing ever
[20:02] <+ChadDubya> Not only did they stay connected and organized, but they used this tech to beacon out to the world community to get support
[20:03] <+ChadDubya> International pressure fell on Muburak, and even the military turned on him. Victory. It was awesome.
[20:04] <~Dan> What is the range of the Signal from a tower?
[20:05] <+ChadDubya> From a commercial FM radio tower, like in a big city, about 50 miles.
[20:05] <+ChadDubya> A pirate station, maybe 5 miles.
[20:05] <+ChadDubya> I take some shortcuts and abstractions with radio stuff, because honestly, if you aren’t a HAM operator, you don’t care.
[20:06] * ~Dan nods
[20:06] <+ChadDubya> The Regime controls all the FM radio towers, so the Resistance must either infiltrate them, take them by force, or spin up their own pirate radio stations to broadcast the Signal.
[20:06] <+ChadDubya> Of course, the Regime has many means of dealing with this.
[20:07] <+ChadDubya> They can use radio telemetry to find the pirate channel, or even change the frequency on commercial towers to jam and drown out smaller stations.
[20:07] <+ChadDubya> Of course, the Resistance can then start hopping channels, hoping to not get jammed.
[20:07] <+ChadDubya> What that means for Receivers, is that the Signal happens in short bursts, so they need to be highly effective when they have it.
[20:08] <+ChadDubya> They know that during their missions, there are probably Resistance forces fighting and dying to keep the Signal alive.
[20:09] <+Cable_Street> Superpowers aside, is combat in Sigmata fairly realistic? Or can a receiver with a fuckoff big katana face down machine gun fire?
[20:09] <~Dan> (Mind the language, please, Cable_Street. Family-friendly channel. 🙂 )
[20:09] <+Cable_Street> (sorry 🙂 )
[20:10] <~Dan> (S’okay. 🙂 )
[20:10] <+ChadDubya> Cable_Street, it’s really up to the players. What kind of story do they want to tell?
[20:11] <+ChadDubya> So Sigmata features structured scenes of Combat, Stealth, and Intrigue
[20:11] <+ChadDubya> With some freeplay as narrative glue in the middle
[20:11] <+ChadDubya> Combat (and actually the other scene types) were designed with small unit tactics in mind
[20:11] <+ChadDubya> Suppression fire, battle buddies, flanking maneuvers, etc.
[20:12] <+ChadDubya> But mechanically, players have access to 4 abstract maneuvers…
[20:12] <+ChadDubya> 1) Cautious offense, 2) Reckless offense, 3) Protect yourself, and 4) Protect your comrade
[20:12] <+ChadDubya> (and these same abstract tactics apply to scenes of stealth and intrigue, too).
[20:13] <+ChadDubya> Anyways, players are encouraged to use the abstract mechanics to tell their story.
[20:13] <+JamesGillen> How does one protect himself in Stealth?
[20:13] <+Cable_Street> So, I’m not going to be mechanically censured for going American Ninja on a bunch of stormtroopers?
[20:13] <~Dan> I don’t know, but you can protect your comrade by standing in front of him.
[20:13] <+ChadDubya> If they want to tell a straight-up gun-fetish militiacore story about guns, tracers, overwatch, bumping and bounding, they can. If they want to go F-off katana, sure.
[20:14] <+ChadDubya> JamesGillen, to apply the same logic, think of it this way…
[20:14] <+ChadDubya> 1) Slowly sneak up on sentry, 2) rapidly sneak up on sentry, 3) stay perfectly still or hide, and 4) make a distraction for an ally
[20:14] <+ChadDubya> Let’s apply it to a social scene
[20:15] <+ChadDubya> 1) Snoop around and see what you can find/evesdrop, 2) confront someone, getting in their face, 3) gel, play it cool, be forgettable, and 4) support your comrade in their argument, have their back, give them an alibi, etc.
[20:15] <+JamesGillen> ah
[20:16] <+ChadDubya> all of these tactics are influenced by core statics: Aggression, Guile, Judgement, and Valor
[20:16] <+ChadDubya> And it’s pretty easy to know which does which, because the character sheet lines them up nicely and says exactly what each one does.
[20:17] <~Dan> Can we see a character sheet?
[20:17] <+ChadDubya> Nope. Because it’s playtest ugly.
[20:18] <+JamesGillen> ha
[20:18] <~Dan> It’s mainly to help facilitate rules discussion.
[20:18] <+ChadDubya> I’m just kidding, let me find it…
[20:19] <+ChadDubya> how do I drop jpgs in here?
[20:19] <+Janus> you don’t
[20:19] <+Janus> you upload them to a website, then post the URL to it.
[20:19] <+ChadDubya> OH JEEZ
[20:20] <+Janus> IRC predated the web, and doesn’t support images.
[20:20] <+ChadDubya> (Link: https://i.imgur.com/6Oocmf4.jpg)https://i.imgur.com/6Oocmf4.jpg
[20:20] <+ChadDubya> Did… that… work?
[20:20] <~Dan> Yup!
[20:21] <+ChadDubya> I’ll take your word for it.
[20:21] <+Janus> works for me
[20:21] <+ChadDubya> That’s an early sheet. Again, just a playtest artifact.
[20:21] * ~Dan nods
[20:21] <~Dan> So it doesn’t look like there are any physical traits.
[20:21] <+ChadDubya> They are baked into the Processors.
[20:22] <~Dan> Example?
[20:22] <+ChadDubya> Guile is speed, agility, Valor is strong, endurance, etc.
[20:22] <~Dan> Ah, I see.
[20:22] <~Dan> How are they rated?
[20:22] <+JamesGillen> This is seeming more and more like a pre-digital Matrix
[20:23] <+ChadDubya> That’s not that far off, in some ways. Plus nazis.
[20:23] <+JamesGillen> [thumbup]
[20:23] <+Cable_Street> Instead of robots? Or can we have Nazi robots?
[20:24] <+ChadDubya> I’m totally confused by you.
[20:24] <+ChadDubya> There is an element of “I know Kung Fu” in blades.
[20:24] <+ChadDubya> They are able to pop in and out of a Receiver’s server rack.
[20:25] <+ChadDubya> So you can be like “Bro, can I borrow your Stealth Mesh mod during this mission so I can glitch out of human visible sight?”
[20:25] <+ChadDubya> “Sure, comrade.”
[20:26] <+ChadDubya> ‘If you let me borrow your mod that let’s you hypnotize people with subliminal light frequencies shooting from your eyeballs.”
[20:26] <+JamesGillen> whoo
[20:26] <~Dan> Can you describe the game’s system?
[20:26] <~Dan> In terms of the core mechanic, I mean?
[20:26] <+ChadDubya> Sure can.
[20:27] <+ChadDubya> When a scene starts, GM describes the scene and discusses threats. Bad guys, obstacles, etc.
[20:27] <+ChadDubya> The GM then uses this threats to increase everyone’s “exposure”… this stat that is basically abstract danger
[20:27] <+ChadDubya> the danger of getting caught, getting shot, getting captured, getting outed as spy, etc. depends on the scene
[20:28] <+ChadDubya> anyways, players then take turns selecting a tactic, like the ones described earlier, and making rolls.
[20:28] <+ChadDubya> Each roll is based on the stat, all of which are rated 1-5.
[20:28] <+ChadDubya> For each point, you roll a D10, plus a few D6’s to make sure you are rolling five dice every time.
[20:29] <+ChadDubya> Example, if you have Aggression 3 and you are using an Aggression tactic, you roll 3D10 + 2D6.
[20:29] <+ChadDubya> On all dice, 6+ is a success.
[20:29] <+ChadDubya> 1 is a botch.
[20:29] <+ChadDubya> You want to score more successes.
[20:29] <+ChadDubya> The number a player rolls determines how much control they have over the narrative outcome.
[20:30] <+ChadDubya> So if you roll 1 success, you get to say what happened, but the GM adds elements of stress or tension or danger.
[20:30] <+ChadDubya> If you roll a pile of successes, you basically own the story for your turn.
[20:30] <+ChadDubya> It goes around the table like that.
[20:30] <+ChadDubya> If any threat accumulates 10+ exposure because of player actions, they are neutralized. If any player ends a round with 10+ exposure, they are neutralized.
[20:31] <+ChadDubya> So the tactical game then, is to use tactics to increase enemy exposure, but also making sure that you are sometimes reducing your own exposure or that of your allies.
[20:31] <+ChadDubya> That’s basically Sigmata in a nutshell, mechanically.
[20:31] <+ChadDubya> It’s a very, very simple game, but it’s designed to tell some outrageous stories and require players to really coordinate and help eachother out.
[20:31] <~Dan> So in combat, do weapons even matter?
[20:32] <+ChadDubya> They can if you want them to. On the character sheet, there is something called Peripherals.
[20:32] <+ChadDubya> These are iconic or useful pieces of gear that give bonuses to whatever tactic you want.
[20:33] <+ChadDubya> So if you have a silenced SMG, it might give bonuses to both the suppression tactic (in combat) and the engage tactic (during a stealth scene).
[20:33] <+ChadDubya> Again, this is all to support whatever stories the players want to tell.
[20:34] <+ChadDubya> If they want to tell a story of vulnerable heroes hunted by the state, who periodically demonstrate amazing powers (Stranger Things), they can
[20:34] <+ChadDubya> But if they want to tell ultra-militaristic stories about firefights in an AO, they can
[20:34] <~Dan> AO?
[20:35] <+ChadDubya> oh, it’s just dumb military jargon. area of operation
[20:35] <~Dan> Ah.
[20:35] <+ChadDubya> Alright, I’m running out of time. Any other questions?
[20:36] <~Dan> Oh, need to wrap up early?
[20:36] <+JamesGillen> Or running out of notes?
[20:36] <~Dan> Does the Regime have any anachronistic supertech on its side?
[20:36] <+JamesGillen> Or Men in Black?
[20:36] <+ChadDubya> Dan, yes. I was really, really, really excited about the chemical powered shoulder-mounted lasers in Akira.
[20:37] <+ChadDubya> And given that Akira is a major influence on this work, visually and thematically, I neeeeeeded those lasers, man.
[20:37] <+ChadDubya> (lol on MiB… “Wink if you need help”)
[20:38] <+ChadDubya> There’s more surprises too, regarding what the Regime has at their disposal.
[20:38] <+ChadDubya> But I don’t want to give it all away.
[20:38] * ~Dan nods
[20:38] <+ChadDubya> Another thing about the 80s is you had to actually wait to see a thing, instead of knowing everything about it in advance 😛
[20:38] * ~Dan chuckles
[20:39] <~Dan> Is this the start of a game line?
[20:39] <+ChadDubya> That’s for the community to decide.
[20:39] <+ChadDubya> I’m a solo operation. This is my hobby, not my gig.
[20:40] * ~Dan nods
[20:40] <+ChadDubya> If the KS goes really well, and people really like the game, then yeah, let’s do this.
[20:40] <~Dan> Fair enough. 🙂
[20:41] <+ChadDubya> Cool. Well, I do have to bail. But thanks a ton, Dan! It was actually really nice to just chat about the game as a fun superhero cyberpunk campaign and not a political manifesto.
[20:41] <+ChadDubya> Don’t get me wrong, it’s both! 🙂
[20:41] <~Dan> You’re welcome, ChadDubya!
[20:42] <~Dan> Do you have a minute to wait for me to post the log and link you?
[20:42] <+ChadDubya> Totally, as long as it includes this again:
[20:42] <+ChadDubya> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2089483951/sigmata-this-signal-kills-fascists)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2089483951/sigmata-this-signal-kills-fascists
[20:42] <~Dan> Yup!
[20:43] <~Dan> Oh, and folks can support my Q&A series here: (Link: https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/)https://gmshoe.wordpress.com/the-gmshoes-tip-jar/