Hack Points

One of Chronica Feudalis‘s first ever fans, Nathan Frund, emailed me the other day. He had been following my posts about Technoir and was curious about how easy it was to hack it. Nathan knows his hacking: his blog (Platonic Solid) features the first fantasy hacks for the Chronica system.[1]

I told Nathan about some key areas where Technoir was really easy to hack. In our discussion, Nathan called these “hack points.” So I’m stealing the term from him.

Being hackable has been part of Technoir‘s design from the start. Here are a few examples of easy ways to modify the game:

Hack Point 1: Training Programs

Training Programs are a protagonist creation tool. They’re pretty much just like mentors in Chronica. All you have to do to make new ones is come up with which three Verbs they teach and give three example Adjectives that could be associated with them. By coming up with your own Training Programs you can easily reshape what kind of characters your players can make. It’s pretty trivial to add and delete programs from the list or come up with an original Training Programs list of your own.

Hack Point 2: Objects

Objects are the high-tech gear that characters use. As far as game stats go, they are a collection of tags. So, to make a new Object, you just come up with a name for it and write out the tags (one or two words each) that describe its capabilities. The cost of the Object is simply equal to the number of tags it has. With a few Objects, you can completely redefine the technology level in your futuristic world and introduce nanotech, spaceflight, laser blasters, androids, or other desired technological advancements just by writing out a few words.

Hack Point 3: Transmissions

Transmissions probably take the most effort to customize, but I think they are most rewarding. Transmissions contain 36 plot nodes that are specific to a particular city. They are the primary setting tool in Technoir. You can modify an existing Transmission to meet your needs or you could write up a new one on your own. Either to define your own city within the Technoir world or to totally reshape the game. Transmissions could work for cities on other planets, or generational starships.

Each of the three could be modified lightly to leave your mark on the game or the world. Or they could be modified heavily to bend the system to other purposes. Add Objects like Viper, Raptor, and Raider and create a Transmission called Battlestar and you have space-faring drama. Add some Training Programs like sheriff and bandit with a small frontier town Transmission, along with culling the Objects list, and you can have yourself a wild-west shootout.

And to make the process even easier, there is something I am considering. Technoir will have a free, downloadable Player’s Guide. This will contain character creation rules—along with a list of Training Programs and Objects—as well as a quick overview of the system. The various Transmissions will also be freely downloadable. What I am considering is making both documents available through Creative Commons. This way you’ll be able to take existing Player’s Guides and Transmissions, modify them, and share them with others. I’m also considering making the InDesign files for these documents available (and maybe some less-pretty .doc versions) to make modification more accessible.

  1. [1] Nathan also has some intersting thoughts on using Agile software development techniques for game design purposes.
  1. I can’t wait to get my mitts on the game. I think the explicit hack points help make the design intent really obvious. As a game tinkerer and designer that is perpetually short of time I really appreciate that.

    Also, I recently posted up the second Agile Game Design article: I Think I Kanban

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