<+james> Hi, I’m James Armstrong, a carbon based life form who’s spent far too much money and time in school, so naturally, I eventually became a teacher. 😀 Degrees in philosophy, education, biology, and M.Sc in molecular bio, haha. I love spicy food and sci fi! My game is GeneFunk 2090, a biopunk RPG and setting made using the D&D 5E open gaming license.
<+james> I made GeneFunk 2090 to address what I saw as a gap in cyberpunk and other nearfuture games that have very little biology! So I really wanted to bring in genetic engineering, especially in how it could affect society and the human condition, so lots of transhuman elements. 🙂
<+james> The characters are in a cadre, a lean start-up corporation that specializes in investigation, intelligence, protection, and violence. To keep their hands clean, the syndicates often outsource this kind of work to smaller outfits, like yours. Your cadre’s skillset is in high demand in this intrigue filled world, being sought after by megacorporations, nation-
<+james> states, and crime syndicates. You take contracts as you see fit, navigating the shadows of corporate espionage and savagery with competence and panache. Discreet. Elite. Disposable. That’s the gist of it!
<~Dan> Sorry, having some technical difficulties there.
<+james> No worries!
<~Dan> Thanks, james! The floor is open to questions!
<~Dan> How advanced is genetic manipulation in this setting?
<+GenoFoxx> and are there anyplaces that outlaw it?
<+james> Very! 😀 Though not as far deep as Eclipse Phase, another scifi game with biopunk elements. I have biotechnology permeating throughout every aspect of the setting, right down to each character’s body.
<+james> There are hundreds of different transgenic human genomes, each designed for a particular job, so an informal social caste system emerges, where transgenic humans are obviously favored in the jobs they are designed for.
<+james> There are places that either outlaw the production of transgenic humans, or even transgenic humans themselves
<~Dan> Are they designed from birth, or can genetic enhancements be added?
<+james> China, Japan, Korea, pretty much all of South America, and Russia are the hotbeds of human transgenic production.
<+james> North America and Europe have laws against production of transgenic humans, but have very liberal immigration policies, so they are simply engineered elsewhere, and can easily arrive with a greencard since they have an obvious utility. 🙂
<+james> They are desiged from birth! AND genetic enhancements can be added later in life. 🙂 There are 4 basic categories of birth genomes:
<+james> 1) Engineered. The aforementioned “job in mind” type genome, think of Don Draper pitching each genome in terms of utility
<+james> Batches are either comissioned by state agencies, corporations, or even individual parents looking to give their child a competitive edge.
<+james> 2) Optimized. Think “Gattaca” movie.
<+james> They are the elite, since they are wholly
<+james> “natural”, with no transgenes, no “foreign” DNA, merely selection of the optimal egg and sperm. It COULD have happened randomly, but it didn’t. 🙂
<+james> 3) Mutts. The natural offspring of Transgenic Engineered parents, like a Engineered soldier and miner having a baby. These genomes suffer from the most discrimination, since they often look strange, have wondrous and dangerous abilities, BUT, they can’t be put into a box, which makes them a problem for society.
<+james> They are mosty under 30, represent a strong punk counterculture, and society just doesn’t know what to do with them.
<+james> 4) umodified. Like you and me! But, to balance power levels, the subtypes offer other advantages, like extra starting equipment, a bonus level, or various “plot armor” type features. 🙂
<~Dan> What sorts of abilities do Mutts have that are so impressive?
<+james> What I did when creating them was apply every possible weird adaptation I came across in the animal/plant/fungi kingdoms, and put it as a option for transhumans. 🙂
<+james> So, spinnerets allow for silk spinning, gecko type skin allows for wall crawling, bombadier beetle chemical glands allow for fire breath, venomous tails, 4-arms, chitonous tough plates…
<+james> There are over 50 different genetic enhancements the Mutt can have, which are determined randomly. 🙂
<+james> pheremones, quills, acute olfaction
<~Dan> Why do these show up in Mutts specifically? Couldn’t an Engineered be made to have spinnerets, for example?
<~Dan> (wb, huxleycat!)
<+james> I actually took a cue from Marvel’s Ultimate Power Book, from the old FASERIP game as inspiration, since I remember character creation was so much fun. 🙂
<~Dan> An excellent source. 🙂
<+james> Absoultely! It’s just that the Mutts get them randomly during character creation. For example, the Engineered Canary genome is a genetically engineered miner, so it is strong, tough, bioluminescent, smells like rust, metabolizes poisons like a champ, etc.
<+james> The Transgenic Engineered genomes are known quantities, they abilities are shaped by the job they were created for.
* ~Dan nods
<+james> There are also around 30 different genetic flaws (which Engineered genomes have as known quantities, but Mutts have to roll randomly).
<~Dan> Gotcha. That’s cool.
<~Dan> So in this game, do genomes function as the equivalent of races in D&D?
<+james> Yes! With one exception: they are much more powerful. I played around with keeping transgenic engineered genomes as the same power level as D&D races, but it didn’t feel right. The transgenic genomes abilities are explicitly more powerful. Not X-Men level by any stretch, but every GeneFunk 2090 character starts with about 2 extra levels worth of power baked
<+james> into their genome
<+james> And of course the variety of genomes is much higher, the core book as over 15, with rules for custom made Engineered genomes, and hundreds of others exist in the world in ever fractalling subcultures
<~Dan> Very cool. Lots of flexibility there, I see.
<~Dan> (Howdy, GrimmgardTodd!)
<+GrimmgardTodd> (Good to be here! You know I like to catch new game projects!)
<+james> For sure, I had hours of fun with my friends and my brother growing up just making characters using Marvel’s Ultimate Power Book, and I wanted to capture that feeling in GeneFunk 2090 character creation. 🙂
<~Dan> (Oh, I should make introductions! james, meet GrimmgardTodd and Nick_Zachariasen, authors of Grimmgard and METAL WORLD, respectively. 🙂 )
<+james> Hi guys, glad to have some peeps here. 🙂
<~Dan> Actually, would you like to link the folks to your KS?
<+james> (Link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crisprmonkey/genefunk-2090)https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/crisprmonkey/genefunk-2090
<+james> Yay! Got another backer since we started, hahaha
<+Nick_Zachariasen> Ha. CRISPRmonkey. I like that.
<~Dan> Congrats on funding so quickly, by the way!
<+james> Thanks. 😀 I worked in a molecular parasitology lab for a few years, but CRISPRtick didn’t sounds as nice. 🙂
<~Dan> Did you always have D&D 5e planned as the system when creating GeneFunk?
<+james> I started this in 2001, so no, hahahaha
<~Dan> My goodness! What had you originally planned on using, then?
<+james> I’ve had versions of it in 3e, 4e, my own system, and 5e, but honestly once I started putting it into 5e, it fit reeeeeaaal nice
<+james> So it gave me a huge drive to finish it and completely flesh it out in 5e mechanics
<~Dan> Well, that’s good to know. I hate to see settings shoehorned into systems that are a poor fit.
<+james> Yeah, the 4e fit wasn’t as nice, but I had a near complete version of that done as well, up to level 20
<~Dan> Can you tell us a bit about the classes you offer?
<+james> But honestly, it’s really shining in 5e, and I’m very happy with it. Sure!
<+james> The class that is most thematically unique is the Biohacker class! It revolves entirely around manipulating life, either buffing, harming, or healing. There are 3 archetypes: The Protean Grinder, Dr. Frankenstein, and the Cytomancer.
<+james> The Protean Grinder is obsessed with making themselves the ultimate lifeform, and use their own body as a test subject, and as they progress from level 1 to 20 they add more and more genetic enhancements along the way.
<+james> Dr. Frankenstein applies this same mentality, biohacking, to their transgenic pet.
<+james> So they take a dog, monkey, lizard, or other small beast and as they level up, their pet becomes more strange, genetically enhanced, and really far out there. If you’ve seen Sonnie’s Edge in Love, Death, and Robots, that could be considered a Dr. Frankenstein in fiction. 🙂
<+james> The Cytomancer specializes in manipualtion of life at a cellular level, so insane levels of debuffing, flesh melting, and tissue repair using their biohacks.
<+james> The other classes are Crook, Gunfighter, Hardcase, Codehacker, Engineer, Suit, and Samurai
<+james> I’ll wait before expounding on each of them, or I’ll be monologuing too much, hahahah
<~Dan> No, go ahead! You’ve got me curious. 🙂
<+james> The Crook is roughly a modern Rogue analogue, with Dealer, Hitman, and Robber archetypes. Sneak attack and being a skill monkey remains the same, but a lot of the other abilities are different, particularly with the Dealer archetype.
<+james> The Dealer can recruit underworld minions to fight along side them as they level up, like a crimeboss would. And the Robber gets a fun feature at higher levels that let’s them do a limited “deus ex machina”, where they can say “luckily I prepared for this, and …..”
<~Dan> Cool. 🙂
<+james> they can create an improvised narrative that retroactively applies, since their character would have prepared for the scenario, hahaha
<+james> The Gunfigher (like a gun focused modern fighter analogue) has 3 archetypes, the Sharpshooter (called shots anyone?), Gunslinger (cowboy type), and Soldier (armor/explosives/assault rifle abilities)
<~Dan> (Need to step away for just a sec. Please continue!)
<+james> The Hardcase is your straight up grizzled goon tank. Unarmed Fighter (loads of custom MMA themed moves for combat variety), Damage Sponge (like it sounds), and Gangster (underworld muscle).
<+james> The Codehacker can be a Puppeteer (mind control baby!), Mindrender (psychic damage), and Cracker (specialty in getting data). Right, I should mention that everyone has a supercomputer in their bloodstream!
<+james> They are called Daemons, and they’re internal supercomputers, flowing through your bloodstream, running on your nervous system, and channeling data through a nanofibre mesh that extends to every corner of the body.
<+james> So, mind hacking is a thing. 🙂
<~Dan> (back, sorry)
<+james> Any questions so far? 😀
<~Dan> Yeah… You mentioned “psychic damage”. Are we talking psionics?
<+james> Nope! Well, I suppose you could think of it as a type of psionics, but it is from doing classic cracking on someone else’s mind
<~Dan> Ah, I see. That makes sense.
<+james> Since everyone has this Daemon in their bodies, everyone is vulnerable to hacks that can affect their mental state, or even physiology, since the daemon is also an internal doctor
<+james> So higher level insidious hacks can erase or implant memories, take control of behavior (puppet hacks), or even turn the body’s immune system on itself
<~Dan> Ouch. Artificial AIDS.
<+james> Oh yeah, I was speaking about classes before as well, another one of the more thematically unique ones is the Suit: it can be a G-man, Corporate Shark, or Commander. Hahaha, yes, I really wanted to blur the line between biology and information/tech.
<+james> Really leaned into the “bio” part of the biopunk whenever possible.
<+james> The Suit is built around a core feature called “Call in a Favor”
<~Dan> How does that work?
<+james> Which can allow for all sorts of get out of jail free cards, depending on rolls, and how many uses are left in the session, hahaha. At character creation, every Suit selects their patron. It could be a governmental organization, a corporation, or a crime syndicate
<+james> When things get rough, they contact their patron to help them out
<+james> At lower levels this can be used to get out of legal trouble, put a trace on a car, get into a restricted area, etc.
<+james> At higher levels it can involve drone strikes, or even using the orbial satellite defense system (AEGIS) to reign hot death down upon enemies in the form of an orbital particle beam. 🙂
<~Dan> Wow. O.o
<+james> Depending on level, feats, etc, a suit has around 3-15 favors or so a session.
<~Dan> How much damage does an orbital particle beam do? 😀
<~Dan> I’m not sure if I own enough dice for that. 😀
<+james> 20d6 + 70 😀
<+james> Dex save for 1/2, naturally, hehehe
<+james> I kept damage on par with what a D&D spell might get at equivalent level, so that may be GeneFunk’s verison of Meteor Swarm. 🙂
Dan rolled ’20d6+70′:
+– Result: 146
<~Dan> 146 points of damage. Not too shabby.
<~Dan> Yeah, we have a dice roller in here. 🙂
<+james> Yeah, hahaha, that kind of power awaits you as a level 17 Suit or Codehacker. 🙂
<+james> At lower levels the hackers and suits can temporarily coopt one of the legion of omnipresent drones that swarm above to take a shot, or make a strafing run
<+james> They city skylines are swimming in drones, like enlarged dragonflies
<~Dan> And they’re armed?
<+james> Performing surveillance, deliveries, and whatever other purpose they might be needed for
<+james> Most aren’t, but some are, yes!
<+james> Enough so that in a city, if you have open sky above you, there is a gun/rocket that can be directed towards you if need be. Big brother is watching. 🙂
<~Dan> Are there cybernetics in this setting as well?
<+james> Oh yeah, over 60 different cybernetic upgrades are available, as well as full-body conversions.
<~Dan> Does cyber come with any inherent drawbacks (beyond hackability)?
<+james> I played around with a “humanity” mechanic, but it didn’t fit well, so I ditched it! 🙂 This ain’t no Anne Rice WoD game, hahaha. The plasticity of human nature is a major theme, but I didn’t need it to be in the crunch, just the fluff. So, the only limits are the cost, the maximum # (8), and the Concentration mechanic
<+james> A variety of cyberware needs your daemon’s processing power to function, and I used the concentration mechanic for this. Just like in D&D you can only concentrate on one spell effect, same goes for certain cyberware effects. However certain classes, feats, and daemon upgrades allow you to concentrate on/run additional cyberware at once.
<+james> For example, Skillsoft can grant proficiency in a skill you aren’t proficient in as long as you’re concentraitng on it. But then you couldn’t also run your Hyper-Reflexes upgrade at the same time (without additional features).
<~Dan> Interesting approach.
<+james> Yeah, it creates an incentive to upgrade your Daemon to run additional programs/hacks/upgrades/
* ~Dan nods
<~Dan> Obviously you’ve touched on this, but can you give us some other examples of the setting’s tech level? What’s state-of-the-art in personal weaponry, for example?
<+james> For sure! Of course there are all the standard firearms you could imagine, ranging from 9mm pistols, to 13.5mm heavy machine guns! I included a recoil mechanic for firearms, as well as automatic fire properties. For melee weapons, naturally there are premium monomolecular blades. I also have higher tier weapons that include elemental effects and other
<+james> properties if they hit; think Borderlands.
<~Dan> Oh, speaking of monomolecular blades, did you ever get around to describing the Samurai class?
<+james> For instance, I have the Jötunn Storm Maul, which also applies electrical damage and a possible stun effect on a hit. Or the Drake Gas Gun (yes, it’s a Darkwing Duck reference) to launch poisons and plagues at an enemy. 🙂
<+james> No! Right, so the Samurai are trained soldiers, bodyguards and assassins produced and contracted out by Bushido, a subsidiary company of Ronin International, the world’s largest private mercenary company.
<+james> Samurai are highly prized by the rich business class as bodyguards as their training not only emphasizes combat and alertness, but also an ethic of duty being the highest priority. To die while completing your contract is the highest honor a samurai can achieve in life.
<+james> They are bound to serve their employer only by contract. The contract may be 1 day, 1 job, 1 year, or a lifetime.
<+james> Rather than archetypes, they have a feature called “Bujutsu Training”, which allows for a “make your own archetype” type path. 🙂
<+james> For example, here are some Bujutsu Training features you could select as you level up: IAIJUTSU, ITTŌJUTSU, JUJUTSU, NINJUTSU, NITŌJUTSU, and others. In each of the paths, you can progress further down them to get more specialized in them, or widen your skills and dabble in each.
<~Dan> Very nice.
<+james> Iaijutsu is all about quick draw and lethal strikes with massive damage in one attack for instance, so lots of initiative bonuses, and extra damage on one single attack
<~Dan> Going back to tech for a moment, what about transportation? Is there much space travel? And do we finally get flying cars? 🙂
<+james> There is space travel, and even some limited space tourism (on the moon), but it’s not common. In one of the adventure hooks I have (Goodbye Moonman), the characters are tasked with solving a murder of a diplomant on the lunar moonbase, but this is primarily a terrestrial game. 🙂 Flying cars yes! But only legal for emergency vehicles, so police, ambulances
<+james> and things like that. Too much drone traffic! Hahahaha
<+james> Though a Suit could call in a favor, or a hacker could easily get access to a flying car in a pinch. 🙂
<~Dan> (Howdy, Le_Squide!)
<~Dan> So based on the Dr. Frankensteins, I’m guessing that genegineered critters are fairly commonplace?
<+james> Yes! Limited only by capitalistic forces and consumer demand. 🙂
<~Dan> Does the game feature a bestiary?
<+james> For instance, nu-pets! https://i.redd.it/26ol2ex2f1a21.png)https://i.redd.it/26ol2ex2f1a21.png
<+james> It does!
<~Dan> Does that thing have oposable thumbs?
<+james> A large section for various NPCs, robots, and transgenic beasties
<+james> it sure does. A lemur-cat cross, with some nice pastel colours for the kids. 🙂
<~Dan> Heh. Awesome. 🙂
<~Dan> Robots, you say? How advanced are they?
<+james> There are also much larger more dangerous beasts, like bioengineered guard dogs, bears, and others
<+GenoFoxx> are there biotch vehicles? like an actual Volkswagon Beetle?
<+james> Robots are extremely advanced when programmed for a singular purpose, but general AI is still elusive, or at least elusive enough so that they are not considered fully human just yet.
<+james> There are 3 types of robots: drones (flying things, robotic dogs, etc), droids (tinman, boxy robotic looking but 2 arms and 2 legs), and anthroids (biological robots).
<+james> There is biotech integrated into cards for materials purposes, and even for solar cell purposes, but the vehicles are still manufacured in factories, not grown (though certain parts are).
<+james> Generally, unless the biotech is a modified organism (plants, pets, people, etc.), the biotech is seamlessly integrated into the product. 🙂
<+james> But dinosaurs? Bioengineered glowing dinosaurs that spit venom? Hell yeah. 🙂
<~Dan> Sounds like the scientists were so focused on whether they *could* that they didn’t stop to think if they *should*.
<+james> The reason why I wanted to leave AI and their potential moral agency away, is I wanted to focus on the ethical questions surrounding human nature from a biological perspective first and formost. Hahaha, right. 🙂
<~Dan> How do you handle AC in this game? I find that it kinda breaks down as a concept when you’re dealing with really powerful weapons.
<+james> Though I am already thinking of expandning the roll of AI, and playable robots as an expansion for a future supplement, possibly set in 2099. 🙂
<+james> I see what you mean, though with the advanced materials science, carbon nanotube fibre weaves are also pretty awesome. 🙂 But yes, I added damage reduction (DR) to capture getting crushed ribs, but not a ruptured hole through you from powerful firearms.
<+james> I know it’s an extra layer of crunch, but I like it, and it’s played well in tests
* ~Dan nods
<+james> I also backed in a fluff explanation for the “100% fully recovered from death’s door in 9 hours rest”, which always struck me as a little weird in 5e 🙂 So the native daemon in everyone’s bloodstream also acts as a minor healing factor, reparing tissues and suturing wounds. So some fluff to support the crunch there. 🙂
<~Dan> Makes sense. 🙂
<~Dan> Assuming that you use the usual 3-18 scale for normal human attributes, how much can enhancements jack them up?
<+james> Quite a bit! Like I mentioned earlier, I needed the base transgenic genomes to be objectively better than unmodified humans, so I added the rough equivalent of 4 ASI (ability score increases) to each. Some genomes can even have a +4 bonus to a starting stat, making it posible to start with a 19. A level 1 GeneFunk character is equivalent to a level 3 D&D
<+james> character in power level.
<~Dan> Wouldn’t a +4 bonus let you start with a 22?
<+james> Cybernetic enhancements can also allow characters to exceed the “20 max” rule, up to 26 in some cases (like Strength). Yes, but starting abilities are pretty much capped at 15 with the arrays. 🙂
<+james> If you’re using the 4d6 drop lowest method though, and get lucky, yes, though I reccomend arrays to keep things consistent within a party. 🙂
<~Dan> Ah, gotcha.
<~Dan> In the time remaining, is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to bring up?
<+james> So a maxed out Titan genome could get 26 Strength for sure, which is pretty much the same as a Belt of Storm Giant Strength. Tech is an obvious analogue for magic here, following the famous Arther C. Clarke quote. 🙂
<~Dan> And usual shameless plug: If you’ve enjoyed this Q&A and would like to treat me to a coffee, please feel free to do so at (Link: https://ko-fi.com/gmshoe)https://ko-fi.com/gmshoe 😀
<+james> Thanks Dan! I think I have the basics covered, if anyone is curious, please check out GeneFunk 2090 on Kickstarter, Roll20 tokens and Sheet are the next Stretch! 🙂 (Link: http://bit.ly/genefunk2090)http://bit.ly/genefunk2090
<~Dan> Thanks so much for joining us, james!
<+GenoFoxx> Do you need the basic 5e set to play?
<+james> Nope! Everything is covered in the core rule book!
<+james> Other rules in there: drugs, chases, vehicle combat, hacking (engineer, mind, code, bio), and lots more. 🙂
<~Dan> If you’ll give me just a minute here, I’ll get the log posted and link you!