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Hard Wired Island
A downloadable tabletop RPG
Humanity has spread to space. GRAND CROSS is a space station orbiting Earth, a high-tech city, and a gateway to the stars. But in this distant future, it's in crisis...
HARD WIRED ISLAND is a retrofuture cyberpunk TTRPG, inspired by 90s anime. This 400-page PDF includes:
- An easy-to-learn system where social actions and problem-solving skills are at least as important as hacking and getting into fights.
- A shorter player reference document for quick rule access.
- An alternate 2020 setting in an O'Neill cylinder near Earth.
- Descriptions of the many areas of Grand Cross, from the busy downtown Voyager Ward to the high-tech parkland of Mariposa to the Agriculture Ring that feeds the station.
- Seven Occupations, including the Fixer, the Hacker, and the Influencer, along with a plethora of character options.
- Over 100 detailed NPC descriptions, from corporate heavyweights to android crime lords to just regular citizens of an Earth-orbit city.
- A flexible mission prep system that allows characters to adapt their plans on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
- A wealth system that tracks the financial burdens placed on you by the capitalist system you live in.
- A cybernetics system that doesn't dehumanize you for installing augments.
- A lot of great art from a lot of great artists.
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(Character sheets are provided for free below. Fillable versions by Colin Chapman.)
When we say HARD WIRED ISLAND is cyberpunk, here's what that means to us.
Capitalism? No thanks. Good cyberpunk is anti-capitalist. It's about how technology without ethics can make social inequality worse. The wealthy use it to cement their power and perpetuate the status quo, while marginalized communities are kept that way. The PCs want to use it to break the current system. They work against their enemies, not for them.
Cyberpunk should be relevant. It is a study of where our society could go in the coming years. The issues faced by people in a cyberpunk setting should have some relevance to issues faced by the audience, even if they're not the same. Retro future, present problems.
Cybernetics are not inherently good or bad. Like most tech, what matters is how it's used. In Hard Wired Island, the problem is that cybernetics often serves the needs of capital rather than people; Any alienating or dysphoric effects come from being reshaped into some corporation's property. There is no mechanic that suggests wearing a prosthetic makes you less human, or prone to mental illness; instead, the tradeoff of augments is adding to your financial burdens.
Cyberpunk is not just an aesthetic. Cyberpunk shouldn't just be about the neon-lit adventures of a group of trenchcoat futurists as they amass wealth and power through violence. Hard Wired Island is about a group of marginalized people using technology to try to change the status quo.
Many perspectives. Good cyberpunk examines how technology and power intersect in many different communities. As an orbital space station, the city of Grand Cross can and should include perspectives from all over the world. The setting includes cyborgs and androids, but they're not stand-ins for minorities; they have their own identities and issues, which can change depending on how they intersect with other things.
HARD WIRED ISLAND's system uses six-sided dice.
- The system includes rules and unique actions for Social situations, Stealth, Hacking, and Conflict.
- Each character has one or more Occupations, which define how your character solves problems: the Fixer, the Hacker, the Influencer, the Operator, the Soldier, the Street Fighter, and the Thief. Each has its own unique abilities.
- Instead of wealth, characters track their Burden, which represents how comfortably they can live on Grand Cross. Between missions, characters can suffer an Economic Shock that affects how well they can perform; higher Burdens risk more frequent Shocks.
- Before missions, characters create a pool of points called Prep which can be spent later on items, flashbacks, and other bonuses. This flexible system allows characters to adapt and change their plans on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
- Characters can install cybernetic Augments to improve themselves, at the cost of increasing their Burden. (Cosmetic and medical Augments are free, so if you just want to have cat ears or a cyber-arm without any bonuses, go for it!) You can even replace your body with a full-body prosthetic.
- Further rules allow characters to grow and call on a Community of side characters during play, or make a little extra side-cash with a Gig Work App.
In order to download this tabletop RPG you must purchase it at or above the minimum price of $30 USD. You will get access to the following files:
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I aplaud the ethos of this game, 'cyberpunk' has largely become all style and no substance, so yey! However I don't understand why sticking bits of metal in your head and making you prone to viruses shouldn't lead to running the risk of brain damage or psycho-neurological issues? Seems to me that is a risk that would be run, and downplayed by the corps trying to sell this stuff, to the people in the world.
The game's brain augments already say that many users will suffer side-effects in the long run. There aren't any specific mechanics for it because there are only a few of them (it's not something we wanted to focus on), and it would be difficult to do without running into that whole "cybernetics make you mentally ill" trope, which we're specifically trying to avoid.
Is there a semi-official forum to post rules questions?
1) The NPC "Tall Steve" is mentioned in two places: Page 37 where is he as a Cool Defense of 9, and Page 48 where as a simple opponent, he has a defense of 7 (and all defenses should the same, Level + 5). Which is correct?
2) On page 48, it says, Tall Steve is a simple opponent (p. 332): but simple opponents are described on page 322 (simple typo).
3) On page 49, Tiger Shark makes a Cool Save against the Distract action with a total of 15 vs. 13, but then has to make another Cool Save in the very next paragraph. Can someone explain this to me? And then, the green box at shows a Distrct action and a Quick save (15 vs. 13) rather than a Cool Save. What gives?
Is there any kind of NPC quick sheet for making extras? I tried looking through the book but didn't have much luck (maybe I'm just looking in the wrong place).
GM'd our first game last week and have another planned for this Thursday! It was my first time GMing anything and some of the players' first times with TTRPGs in general. I'm happy it went well. That being said, I have some concerns with the Overthree encounter in the Terabyte Boys one-shot, as well as with character creation.
1. Overthree is a LONG fight for new players struggling to learn the mechanics. Not every group gets the chance to fight before this. My players took a stealthier option and successfully pickpocketed Quade outside the Im-X visitor center. I rewarded them with a modded prototype Multipass given to Quade by the Boys as a means to enter the auction. This means that Overthree was their first fight. For my group, the combat took over an hour.
12 health is a LOT to throw at a new group. I get that Dreamers are designed to be a Big Deal, but if I hadn't brought Diego and Olivaw to the auction, it would've dragged on for hours. Each of my players spent 5-10 minutes each turn just figuring out what to do. They're new players - they had to check the player reference for everything. I was so caught up in helping them that I completely forgot that Overthree was supposed to deal damage.
I decided to try and cut the fight length by having Overthree leave the auction site and wreak havoc elsewhere. Unfortunately, one of my more experienced TTRPG players correctly pointed out that this would be a Run Away action. This means Overthree had to roll against the number of opponents it was facing +7. That meant five players, Olivaw, Diego, and the Terabyte Boys (who moved in solid state). Even for a Dreamer, that's a lot, and it meant everyone got a free attack against it. This killed the already sluggish pacing. I had to make Overthree tear off its own tendril to hit the -1 roll threshold and go into hibernation at 1 Health to end the fight. Otherwise, it could have taken an extra half hour. (Luckily, Diego carried the fight with the gold-plated Omnidyne pistol I gave him, and the Terabyte Boys provided some good meat shields.)
2. Throwing everything in at character creation time was overwhelming for my players. I had to throw in a Session 0 just to help them make their PCs. They're struggling to figure out the purpose of all the mechanics in their sheets, and choosing assets from their Occupation AND two extra Assets was a lot. They were confused ("It says I pick two Assets, but I already got two from my Occupation,") but also wowed by the generosity ("Wow, I get two MORE Assets?!"). Is there a way to split up some of the character creation mechanics over a campaign? I'm reminded of GMTK's video on making tutorials for complex games. It's more talking about stuff like Civ or Total War, but it's still a good reference.Anyway, those are my two main gripes for now. I understand that this game is trying to lower the complexity a bit in order to not alienate new players, but there's still work to be done. (Also, if there's a Discord or subreddit for this game to share ideas with other GMs, I'd really appreciate a link.)
What's changed in the new download?
It's a little higher-res and there's a line clarifying how simple opponent health works. There might be another tweak soon!
I absolute love this game and I can't wait to play it with my group once we are all free from studies! However, I've got a couple of questions I was hoping Freyja could help me with:
First one is: do hackers have to "enter" ghost mode like entering stealth when hacking a network, or do they only roll with the hacking specialty and ghost mode is assumed, and only rolled for when having to maintain it or using Cover Your Tracks and Disable Security actions?
Second: suffering an economic shock doesn't actually increase your burden with it, right? I assumed it did at first but now I think I'm mistaken, and I'd like your confirmation on that.
That'd be it so far! I'll try to join the discord as soon as I have the time and ask for more clarifications there if needed, thanks a lot for reading and hope you guys keep selling well! :D
PS: not a rule thing, but there's a bunch of text on page 53 that is somehow "behind/inside" the artwork. You might know about it already, but if not, could be an error you'd like to fix on future updates.
First answer: Hackers are assumed to be ghosting by default and do not need to roll to enter Ghost, only for the other actions. (It felt weird to people in testing when they did.)
Second answer: Failing Economic Shock does not increase your Burden.
hope that helps!
Loving this system! I'll be starting a game soon, and I had a question. Is there a reason why stealth and hacking both have difficulty checks that start at 5? Why don't they start at 7 like other defenses? It seems like this would make it easier to keep track of, and all it would require is subtracting 2 from the security level/network level guidelines. But I'm not sure if I'm just missing something about how I should be thinking about these are different from other types of defenses.
Short answer: because they just are. Long answer: working in increments of five and adding up to ten to it on the fly is easier than calculating from 7 from a psychological game design standpoint, and security/network level is more likely to be on the fly than a dedicated NPC or character is. The math is not fundamentally different.
I can’t seem to be able to access the pdf on google drive? Any suggestions that might help?
While I love the writing in this there really needs to be a tighter editing process, there are a lot of small errors and weird choices with no other reference in the book ("negative burden" to mention one in the player reference book, or missing footnotes. this might only be a problem in the player reference version though, either way I wish there was more oversight on that editing)
On the positive side of things, the setting is cleverly written, really feels like a retrofuturist version of our present.
11dragonkid sent me and I am not disappointed. Love the vibes in this vs other cyberpunk representations.
Oh hey, the fillable character sheet (simplified) has an issue where the Cool and Clever skill tabs will always be equal to each other. Could you fix this?
Fantastic game, I'm really enjoying my readthrough so far. It wasn't clear to me how it was intended that damage boxes translate to health points for NPCs though, does the box number that would be checked for a PC = health points lost on an NPC?
Yeah, it doesn't explicitly state how damage to NPCs with health points should be handled, with only a brief mention on page 48 that Mira causes 2 points of damage by beating the opponent's defense by 3.
It does seems reasonable that the damage box number generated from an attack that beats the defense by 3+ would equal the number of health points lost by an NPC.
Easily, oh so easily, one of my favorite TTRPG book in my collection, and definitely my favorite Cyberpunk anything so far!
Any plans for a Print-on-demand book
We're doing a print run soon!
Print on Demand is cheaper for shipping here in the UK. Shipping usually costs more than the book. Not a terrible option!
Will this be purchasable here or will we need to pick it up somewhere else?
This book looks amazing and like everything I'm totally into. I can't wait to get a copy for myself.
I’m not even done reading it but your sidebar about combat is amazing and something that I feel will stick with me in other games, too. I can’t wait to read more and jack into this cool world with some friends.
Instructions unclear, heart stuck entirely in the book. 6/5 stars