My youngest son has only recently turned nine but I find that conversations with him often spark game ideas that I’d otherwise not have. This is the second one (the other a HEX game idea I haven’t posted but will do soon) and it came from a mixture of watching my eldest play Assassin’s Creed, a conversation with my youngest and to a large degree a late night video that Samwise Seven posted on YouTube a while back (he also runs a blog that’s worth checking out).
So Samwise posted an idea of a game where players needed to explore different game worlds but as the same characters and where each of those game worlds would be run in a different system (watch the video, it’s a better explanation than that single sentence).
So the idea my boys and I kicked about was to run a cyberpunk game (possibly Shadowrun but it doesn’t have to be) in which the players need to break into a building in order to get certain information from a corporation’s system. The twist is that in order to gain access to this information they first need to get other information from several different VR worlds within the same system. When the characters log into each world you run it using a different roleplaying system and each of the player characters then has to roleplay a different subcharacter in each world.
For example your main hacker in the cyberpunk game (for obvious reasons he’d need to be on site to carry out the hack) in the first game world finds himself as a rogue in a Pathfinder or 5th ed game while the merc who helped him gain access is the barbarian or fighter. Having either got the information from that world they then jack back out (into the cyberpunk world) and then head into the next game world where they find themselves on the plains of Mars in a Savage Worlds Space 1889 game, or a Cthulhu horror game, or a 1930s/1800s pulp game run in Ubiquity, etc, etc.
The thing that most interests me in this is the idea that a good group would have to roleplay their cyberpunk characters playing various other characters. In a roleplaying group who love immersive play this should spark some really unique opportunities and challenges. If you wanted to add another twist, or shake things up a bit more then have the hacker become the barbarian and the merc become the cleric or the rogue. Suddenly they not only have to cope with different worlds but also different types of abilities and roles. Will the barbarian be wading into battle yelling to the halfling for advice?
I also like the idea that different game mechanics would give the different worlds very different feels and help to make at least some of the VR worlds seem truly alien. In one you’re rolling d20 to attack and trying to hit an AC and the next you’re rolling d10 for your shooting and a d6 wild dice, seeing if any explode and calculating whether you’re four above the target number. When the orcs attack you don’t have to roll to see if you’re still shaken you just wade in until your hitpoints drop too far where against the Martian raiders you can’t do anything because you’re cowering with fear.
Depending on how complex you want to make things you don’t have to keep the journey through worlds linear (world A then world B then world C). There is no reason why having got into the city run by paladins the group don’t need to get information from the ancient Martian tomb (in another world) in order to gain access to the palace, the information on the whereabouts of said Martian tomb only being available to them once they’ve carried out some task within said city for the Paladins. Having to switch from one world to another and then back would up the complexity for the players and GM alike but would make the whole experience completely unique.
The other twist that I thought would be interesting (but would require a lot of work) would be to have the worlds interact in some ways. Have some NPCs who appear in more than one world (maybe a security system of some kind as in Tad Williams Otherland books). Needing to keep one step ahead of something that is tracking you through the different worlds would be interesting. Maybe the object of the exercise is to bring something in the system to conciousness so that it can escape from the captivity it’s in, maybe each world contains a part of an AI’s conciousness and the players have to break the walls between them. Yes I’m thinking Neuromancer and yes maybe it’s part of that AI that kicked off the whole mission in the first place.
You’d probably need to do something with VR time running faster than real time unless you make the location an underground bunker in the middle of nowhere that the characters can camp out in for weeks on end. That kind of stuff needs a little bit of thought but you could use all kinds of technobabble to get past it. I think trying to track time in a complicated Inception way would just be a step too far but if you’re feeling up to the ultimate task then why not go for it.
Like many ideas I have I don’t think I’m up to running the game yet (I’ve been back playing a little more than a year at the moment) but I don’t want to loose the idea. If anyone decides it sounds interesting and gives it a try I’d love to hear how you get on.