Another new game! 2400 just keeps getting better and better! The low-fi sci-fi future salutes you!
Resistors is a game about activist hackers struggling to survive and make a difference in a hyper-corporatized cyberpunk dystopia. I think of it as "Leverage with magic spells," except the "magic spells" are illegal computer programs. Also, you have to find paying gigs sometimes to pay to get your glitchy cyber-arm from breaking down.
So, okay, maybe not that much like Leverage. But if you could use a power fantasy about taking down corrupt cops and all-powerful plutocrats, I hope this one helps.
I struggled for several months about whether to even release this one. I already did a cyberpunk game with Inner System Blues — why bother? Well, Resistors actually has some overlap with Inner System Blues (which I'm hoping purchasers will forgive me for, since most people got Inner System Blues for free). At their heart, though, I think of them as pretty different games.
Inner System Blues unabashedly revels in the style of cyberpunk; the tables have you picking out flashy clothes and doing tropey jobs for untrustworthy clients in suits. It's meant to be a wry, self-aware take on "no ethical consumption under capitalism." You might get recognition for helping out the little guy, but the game's intentionally agnostic about trying to do good as a struggling gig worker.
Resistors is explicitly about trying to effect change. It is very much born out of my frustration with politics as usual in the United States. (I actually ended up changing some jobs to sound more fun and interesting because I decided "con politicians into passing fair redistricting" might be a little too specific to my personal interests.) Like Inner System Blues, it's also about struggling to get by, and unlike Inner System Blues, it doesn't offer even a meager mechanical incentive to help people. But the entire game is predicated on the assumption that doing good matters to your characters, and you'll make time for that stuff because that's where the real fantasy is. And just in case "things are tough and people are struggling" is too abstract, players have a constant reminder whenever they need to pay extra for cyberware just to get the version that can't be remotely shut down.
Mechanically speaking, Resistors also does a few things differently from Inner System Blues that I've been looking forward to tinkering with. Sometimes I love when games hand you a bunch of narrow skill sets that tell you a lot about a character, but that kind of breaks down when every player's character is a hacker. Building characters from much broader skills makes everything every skill increase hugely valuable to a character. And while I love leaving rules and gear vague so I can cram in a ton of evocative details and trust GMs and players to take it and run, I figured hacking would figure prominently enough in this game that I should really spell it out a bit more. The list of "programs" is basically my cyuberpunk take on a D&D-style spell list, with day-long "override keys" effectively serving as spell slots. (But you can still
cast spells use programs at a risk even without "slots" because the alternative kind of stinks, I think.)
All of that said, Inner System Blues and Resistors are pretty easily combined to expand the options for both games. If you do combine them, here's my advice:
- Characters: Consider using either the narrower skills from Inner System Blues or the broader skills from Resistors for all characters. You can use either game's character creation process to create roughly equivalent characters; "converting" an Inner System Blues character is as simple as increasing one skill from their specialty, and increasing another skill from origin. It's really, really obvious what the skills from the specialties map to, with the exception of the Psycher. You might keep Telepathy and Telekinesis as their own, separate skills, lump them together under something like "Psi," or map each to a separate Resistors skill (like Telekinesis to Grit and Telepathy to Savvy).
- Androids: If free androids aren't subject to arrest in your setting, and if you're using the broader skills of Resistors, AND your group is concerned about "balanced" characters, consider starting androids with only one skill increase instead of two. (Personally, I wouldn't worry about it, but obviously, I think about it.)
- Cyberware: Cyber-parts are only "free" at character creation if you take the kind with known health risks and corporate spyware installed. Otherwise, they cost credits just like in Inner System Blues.
- Advancement: If you use narrower skills, you may want to have players advance a skill after every job, unless you want much slower advancement. If you use broader skills and everybody advances at the end of every job, just be prepared for them to max out their characters over a pretty short arc. If you do decide to increase skills every job, and want to stretch out advancement a bit, either (a) "raise a skill to d8" only allows you to raise a narrow, Inner System Blue-style skill to d8, or (b) players only raise a skill after pro-bono jobs, not paid jobs.
- Jobs: You can use both Inner System Blues's job-finding roll with the hardship roll from Resistors, but it may be overly punishing. The assumption in Resistors is that you can line up jobs pretty easily; the tough part comes after you finish them and life gets in the way.
- Setting: Use locations, jobs, and people from both games, but wherever you place it in the world, you should probably find a better name than "New Coke City." I don't know what the hell I was thinking, but I couldn't help myself.
I look forward to hearing how your game goes. Happy hacking!
EDIT to add: Version 1.1 offers some clarifications and corrections based on early feedback. Some notable changes include:
- Androids and humans presented as "origins" like other 2400 games, with clarification about what cyberware androids get (and replacing one of their skills with either a free, all-encompassing jailbreak, or a free cyberware upgrade.
- Gear and assets lists edited a bit to make room for the new "origin" text and to more tightly reflect the kind of game this is meant to be.
- Override key cutter was renamed for clarity and moved from assets to gear because it's not really a shared resource. (It only produces 1 key a day, and they're only temporary keys. Feel free to buy longer-lasting keys for a credit apiece, but I didn't feel like we needed it on the list.)
- Cyberware list updated so everything on it makes sense for even non-organic beings, mostly by renaming things, like "overcharge" instead of "adrenal boost." (Up to you whether androids in your game are more like robots with personalities or "synthetically organic" like Blade Runner replicants.) Also replaced a few upgrades to be more consistent with upgrades in Inner System Blues (enhanced senses removed since those are associated with cyber-eyes and -ears in ISB, plus added in "playback" and "glisten" upgrades).
- Programs instructions rephrased to correct a typo.
- Hardship list added one item (gangs demand tribute) and hardship rolls changed to reflect new numbers, making it possible (but unlikely) to go multiple jobs in a row without facing hardship.
- Plain text version edited to replace characters I was concerned wouldn't be read properly by screen readers.
Thanks to everyone who offered feedback! Please let me know if you have any other questions or concerns.