Kuro by Hostile V
Introduction: Actually Using the Word Kamikaze Correctly in a Historical ContextOriginal SA post
Introduction: Actually Using the Word Kamikaze Correctly in a Historical Context
Kuro (Japanese for Black) is a game I had never heard of until recently. It was originally written by the French RPG publisher Le Septième Cercle and given an English translation through Cubicle 7. It’s kinda hard to explain this without sounding, like, clinical but the main thing that intrigued me about Kuro is the fact that it was A: kind of obscure and B: dropped from Cubicle 7 without much fanfare or explanation.
See, Kuro was written in French and was being presented along with three other games: Yggdrasill (sic) (Viking-era RPG), Keltia (5th century post-Rome Britain RPG) and Qin (Warring States Wuxia RPG). LSC was writing them, Cubicle 7 was translating them and…nobody was buying them or reviewing them. The books came out in 2014 and 2015 and last June Cubicle 7 ended up dropping all of them at the end of June of this year (2017). It’s probably because it didn’t sell pretty well which is a little unfortunate (on paper) because it’s got a good elevator pitch that made me (a known fool/bad-idea-haver) sit up and say “alright how am I finding these files”:
“Japanese horror cyberpunk in the near future”.
So, spoilers, the files are available if you know where to look but you literally can’t buy Kuro, Kuro Makkura or Kuro Tensei anywhere right now. And that’s kind of a good thing? Because as interesting as that elevator pitch sounds (because for real it’s a good elevator pitch that had me hooked until it fell off hard), Kuro is not a good game. Having taken the time to read most of these books in advance (because it turns out that’s a real good way to decide if something is worth the time of day), Kuro fails significantly at being cyberpunk and has some of the worst module/narrative structure I’ve ever seen and its premise goes in a weird stupid direction and I would daresay that it fails at being Japanese horror. Now, does it do some things right? Yes. The main thing I’ll give credit for this game is the fact that it’s pretty heavily researched to provide a cultural context for Japan for an audience who probably isn’t a western otaku. On the other hand, it’s pretty heavily researched to provide a cultural context for Japan for an audience who probably isn’t a western otaku and that does not translate well to a tabletop RPG.
To put this in further context, I found out that this game existed through an ad in the back of the Victoriana 3e corebook and, uh, yeah. Victoriana and Kuro share a lot in common.
THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
The big problems of the 21st century turn out to be A: energy crisis and B: global warming/ecological damage. The game places the blame mostly at the feet of the Western World and Europe for the latter because "Emerging countries like China or India did not have the chance to pollute as much as their Western neighbours, international regulations out of the Kyoto protocol having forced them to limit their emissions since 2020."
[glances at Beijing and the Ganges river]
Okay so this game is wildly naive/optimistic in places, which is pretty prevalent with the fact that everyone ends up recognizing the two big problems after thousands of migrants are forced from their international homes due to ecological disasters. Anyway the big salve to help soothe the damage done ends up being an advance in nanotech and green energy tech working together to get more out of hydroelectric, wind power, solar and thermal power by revamping batteries and engines and stuff. This helped revamp the Chinese economy while in turn the Middle East fell into turmoil from plunging oil prices. The rebuilding of the Chinese economy ended up leading to big friction between China, India and Russia. That's when Japan decided to hike up its britches, snap its suspenders and say "look I'm making good money from all of these innovations I'm helping work on, America's great and all but I could use more money and I'd like financial control over the East again" and promptly slides in between the three countries offering to help smooth things over and figure out a plan everyone would like.
The successive Japanese governments invest in a group called the Aosis Alliance, a group dedicated to fighting rising tides and damage caused by global warming which is also basically just a deepening of bonds between China and Japan. China starts rolling out new dams and levees using materials designed by China, they work great, money is made and Japan then doubles down by investing in the Chinese space program, sliding bureaucrats and workers into the program. America, in turn, is immediately suspicious that Japan is funding the space program as part of a way to have China host Japan's weapons for them and this leads to debates in the United Nations where western countries start accusing China and Japan of being in collusion to start something. "Alright Chuckles, let's play hardball" says Japan, withdrawing all of its assets from NASA and offering its top engineers, gengineers and research scientists to China who immediately agree to take them in and work on a joint space program. America and Europe are enraged by this and start sinking more money into their own developments, but it's a bit too little too late compared to the joint partnership of an industrial giant and a research-oriented country working together.
2044 is the year that Japan and China land androids on Mars as the first steps towards building a Martian colony: the Japanese androids make a landing site for China's taikonauts, gengineered astronauts who are born in space and will never be able to live on Earth but can colonize Mars. Once this whole plan is in place and the taikonauts are on the way, China immediately allies with North and South Korea, forming a group called the Panasiatic Federation (sic) to counter the rise of Pakistan and India. Japan is asked to join as well (along with Vietnam, who we'll assume does choose to join and is happy to be invited) but Japan declines due to the fact that North Korea is allowed to be in the Federation. In fact, they do much more than simply decline: Japan severs all past agreements with China, offers India military support in claiming Taiwan as their own and starts a program of self sufficiency and independence under the influence of a rising political party called New Komeito.
China is understandably upset by this, stealing the Senkaku Islands for themselves and arming North Korea with weapons to use against Japan if they did anything funny. The next two years are spent arguing loudly on the public stage, drawing everyone's attention with their bickering. Then everything goes to hell. On May 4th 2046, an 8.5 earthquake in the Pacific is misread by a Chinese defense program as a nuclear strike and before anyone realizes that it's not an attack the AI in charge of the sensors had launched gigaton warheads at its two biggest enemies: India and Japan. The India-bound missile suffers a malfunction mid-flight and instead it airbursts over North Korea, irradiating most of the country, killing thousands and knocking out all of the power.
The second missile never hits Japan. It just disappears. Like, this is not hyperbole. One moment there's a nuclear warhead about to hit Japan. The next second it ceases to exist. It is gone. There's a bright flash in the sky that causes electrical outages for all of Japan for two hours and a windstorm and it's not from a nuclear explosion. Granted, there's still collateral damage done: the disruptions caused from the nuclear missile fucking disappearing scrambles the hell out of two airliners taking off and they collide into each other and destroy a neighborhood from the crash of the wreckage and hundreds die, but that's it.
And China loses its shit.
Everyone in the international community is like "what the fuck, China, you have a fucking Dead Hand?" but China is like "okay yes I have a Dead Hand but what the fuck, Japan!?" China starts pointing the finger at Japan, claiming that the fact that the nuclear warhead is just plain gone is proof of some secret anti-nuke arsenal that Japan has been illegally working on in defiance of international treaties. "And furthermore," China says, "if these guys have a goddamn anti-nuke shield, they must be working on nukes of their own, right?" "This logic is spurious at best but what the fuck, Japan?" says the rest of the world, who is pretty damn angry at how Japan has been treating them the last few decades. "No for real I have no fucking clue what happened" said Japan, "I don't know why that happened, I legitimately can't explain it". Japan is just plain unable to explain what happened or where the missile went, a fact that isn't helped by the fact that the election they were holding on the 4th would have resulted in a radical change between governments and neither governmental party can really explain anything. Because Japan can't explain what happened, China's claim of an anti-nuke shield gets a lot of traction.
China demands proof of the anti-nuke shield. European nations and America agree and support this 100%. Japan throws up its hands and says "I seriously can't share any technology we don't have". So China goes to the UN and points a finger at Japan and claims they're an enemy of world peace. If they have a nuke shield, they should share it with all countries so death by nuclear warhead is no longer a threat. Because Japan is refusing, they're an enemy to world peace, so they should give up the technology to everyone. The UN movement passes and Japan refuses because, again, you can't share something that doesn't exist. "Alright then, you want to go back to being totally self sufficient? We can play that game" says China, still pushing forward with the belief that Japan has violated its defense treaties and that they're holding illegal weapons they refuse to confirm or deny the existence of.
So welcome to the present day where an international blockade and embargo on Japan have cut Japan off from the rest of the world of the last six months. May 4th 2046 has been called the Kuro Incident as a result and Japan has started to feel the actual effects of their self sufficiency plans. Which is to say, the economy is in turmoil and they are absolutely not self sufficient. The Emperor has renamed Tokyo to Shin-Edo as a sign that Japan will not bow to international demands but the reality of the situation is that things are starting to get dire and the inherent politeness of Japanese society is beginning to falter. Power failures happen occasionally. There are fears that extremist factions of the government will rise up against the sitting party in response to the blockade. Food will be rationed soon. There's not even any communication with the rest of the world; 90% of transmissions in and out of Japan are blocked unless they're on certain radio frequencies. And there are storms that are occasionally happening, a rise in typhoons and other unnatural windy weather. Something is wrong in the streets of Shin-Edo, no matter how anyone tries to dress it up.
There are two big theories floating around for what caused the nuke to disappear (outside of the still-pervasive theory that it was an anti-nuke shield). The more optimistic people believe that it was the actual Kamikaze, the Divine Wind, that intervened when Japan needed it the most and took the nuke away, a sign that the spirits are still looking out for Japan. The more pessimistic believe that the nuke hit, everyone's dead and nobody has realized it yet. They believe Japan is dead and in Hell and it's not gonna be pretty when the populace at large has figured this out. The latter theory is gaining a lot of traction with the people who are afraid of the weird occurrences in Shin-Edo. There have been reports of sinister malfunctions with androids or simple communication programs, stories of robots going berserk without warning and attacking people or seeing strange figures in AR but not in the real world. There's been a resurgence in occultism and interest in Japanese mythology and Shinto/Buddhism, a rise in cults and superstition.
There's no concrete explanation for what's going on in Japan at the moment, but people are watching the shadows with dread as they wait to see what's going to happen under the oppression of the blockade.
The glossary for this game is...huge.
NEXT TIME: current tech trends in Japan and a brief look at where the culture and society are currently at. Long story short: the things we know to be wrong with Japanese society at the moment, in regards to declining population, xenophobia and women's rights? They don't really get fixed. They mostly try to fix their problems with robots.
Why Have a Baby When You Can Have a Robot Instead?Original SA post
TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY
Why Have a Baby When You Can Have a Robot Instead?
So the upside of the green and nano revolution was that the fact that it helped put future ecological disasters in arrested development for now. They haven't really gotten around to reversing the damage, but enhanced recycling programs and proliferation of green energy have been adapted around the world. And, of course, Japan has been at the forefront of this technological and biological revolution.
This hasn't been great for society. Japan has been rubbing its technology all over societal issues with mixed results. On the cyberpunk side of things, this has lead to a creation of a new 1% class called the Genocracy. Genocrats are the rich who bankroll biotech, gengineering, cloning and age treatments for their own self interests. They can afford all of the miracles of science and you do not see them out on the street. Genocrats live in skyscrapers that they've turned into mansion arcologies, making them entirely self contained to hold their companies, their ballrooms, their pools, their gardens. Beneath the skyscrapers are their labs that contain cloned organs, backup selves and machines dedicated to brain scanning and uploading. The Genocrats hold a monopoly on things that the average citizen just cannot have, most people limited to replacement teeth or low-key implants.
The other main issue that has been addressed is the mass decline and aging of Japan's population which has actually been a good thing for the government. The government actually thinks this is A-OK for two reasons. First, less citizens means that Japan has to rely less on import which makes them more self sufficient and they have to build less vertically to accommodate people. Second, less citizens means less land owned by the public, resulting in the government buying up huge swathes of countryside and the coast to create government-owned fisheries and farms to feed the populace. Now, you might be asking the reasonable question "if a lot of the Japanese are dead then who runs society and like are women just not having kids anymore?" Well basically most roles (convenience store clerk, construction worker, bureaucrat, etc.) are filled by robots now and yeah Japanese women are kinda done being mothers. The latter point breaks down into two further points of interest. For starters, not wanting to focus on families means that Japanese women have shattered the glass ceiling and taken over all sorts of high ranking positions in the country at large. Women now have host clubs that cater to them, school uniforms are made to be less fetishized, you can no longer buy used underwear most of the time, I am making none of this up. I'm also just going to say that this is incredibly hand-wavey knowing what I know about gender politics in Japan and all that jazz and it's a very strange statement to make that it took giving up being mothers to lead to gender equality. The other thing is that the Ministry of Family heavily restricts who can and can't have kids anymore. Even if a woman wants to be a stay at home mom, there's no guarantee the MoF will approve their request. This has lead to situations where women who don't want kids will give up their future birthing rights to rich families who want them or other people in the baby queue and also the government forcing abortions on women who break the law.
Microphotonics refers to using nanofiberoptics to make silicon microprocessors that transmit info at the speed of light. The most advanced tech in this vein uses synthetic organic material and is able to properly emulate a brain. This jump forward has lead to wonderful new toys, such as:
Magnetic Weapons: your average magnetic weapon basically fire magnetic shockwaves that knock out electronics and also knock people on their ass. Firearms are still used but they're more expensive due to the materials it takes to make bullets and the fact that shockguns are nonlethal and more safe for law enforcement.
Laser and Optic Network: Instead of radio waves and wireless transmissions, lasers are used to carry information and data through light impulses. The latest innovation for reading this info from these optic ports is called a Pod, a pocket computer that fits in the palm of your hand and projects a holographic keyboard wherever you need it. Pods are often paired with Gantai, monocles or visors or glasses that let you discretely view things on the Pod like Google Glass or you can use a flexible, modular monitor.
Augmented Reality and Holograms: because Shin-Edo is full of laser ports and everyone has a Pod and a Gantai, it's pretty common for folks to overlay AR using their Gantai. You don't need a Gantai for holograms. The internet has changed heavily, however. Now called the NeoWeb, net neutrality is pretty dead and the NeoWeb has fully replaced TV. Search engines still exist, people might have private pages, but the internet is privatized and pretty strictly regulated.
Retinal Scans and Intelligent Kettles: So everything is connected and interlocking as a result of optic technology being ubiquitous and instead of everything having Blu-Tooth and wifi we have everything being attached to your Pod. You can view the contents of your fridge with your Pod, adjust the ceiling fan, lock and unlock doors and more. On top of that, there are massive databases full of everyone's retinal scans for security reasons and retinal scanners are pretty much everywhere. You're constantly being monitored oh no! This also applies if you're not Japanese but on Japan's soil. If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to fear, if you've something to hide you shouldn't even be here. Also this leads to every ad being directly targeted at you.
Squids and Jellyfishes: Squids and Jellyfish are basically VR rigs that are soft and squishy little hats you just put on your head and then put a hat over. They send and receive info with brain impulses, letting you manipulate a mouse pointer with your mind or interact with your Gantai and Pod hands-free. The problem is that Squids are basically Hot Sim from Shadowrun: you slap one on and can feel all sorts of sensations in a video or a memory or a videogame. This is addictive to people and if you also feel some sorts of pain you can die from Not Dumpshock, especially if you're the standard cyberpunk sick fuck who loads a snuff film of being killed onto their Squid and experiences what it feels like to die. So Squids are made illegal internationally and instead most people use Jellyfish which just have no tactile sensations whatsoever. Also it's mentioned that most videogames are AR that use your Gantai to display things in the real world and your Jellyfish acts as a controller.
I just. Have to put some of this in here verbatim: "Having cast aside all religion-derived ethical laws, Japan allows labs to experiment widely with medical goals, which has led to innumerable discoveries and advances. Scientists no longer play at being God when they can do it professionally. While Europe and the USA were still questioning the use of cloning and stem cells, Japan made large-scale advances from its research. While the Western countries have done their best to follow suit, their prudence and regulations have left them lagging behind in the biotech field." It is amazing that this was written by a French company. "While you foolish Western scientists were studying medical ethics, I was busy studying the blade of my scalpel!"
Organ Implants: these squishy bits come from braindead clones mass-grown in vats. Everything that can be replaced can be reinforced and made better and most Genocrats have clones of themselves in their towers so they can get things they won't have to worry about being rejected. A lot of Genocrats only have their brains remaining from their original flesh. For the average person, you have to get your organs from dead people or government-financed implant which is said to be increasingly rare as time goes on.
Replication and Eugenics: Artificial wombs are a thing that exists if you want a baby that you don't want to carry. As previously mentioned, not everyone is allowed to have kids with the government basically having a baby quota for maximum baby yield a year and genetic history is generally in vogue so the government will be like "no you can't have kids". If you're a Genocrat, you'd allowed to go to Stork.biz and make your perfect baby and birth them in an artificial womb especially if you no longer have genitals or working bits. If you're a normal person, I sure hope you're a recently married woman and not wanting to have more than one child. Selling your rights to birth will generally have the side effect of you never being selected to breed again but hey you get money for it. And, of course, government-mandated abortions or if that's not possible the child is taken and given to someone else and you're never allowed to see them again. For some odd reason, the birth rate of Japan is still low. But who needs babies when you can have a bioroid of your body get built and then you have a near-death experience to upload your mind into this new body? Who needs children when you can replicate yourself forever! I mean, if you're rich.
Bioports: Bioports are optical ports what are built into your bio. Get shit beamed right into your brain! They're ungodly expensive and everyone is talking about bioports so the government is like "alright I guess we're only giving these things to special ops forces for now".
Nanochips, nanonsensors and molecular resonance: the first two are implants that monitor your health and repeatedly run realtime diagnostics on your health to anticipate problems. There are also Brain Chips and Cell Chips, the former of which are implanted in your grey matter to help with brain damage and the latter which will keep the body in homeostasis by repeatedly making things your body needs. This is really only if you're rich. There are also microscopic senses that detect stuff.
Nanocreatures: Nanocreatures are roughly the size of a paperclip or smaller, used to track or spy or investigate like if you're a coroner or a cop. They're not particularly common but there are hobby-grade and toy versions being made to be sold to the public.
Flexible Polymers and Biomaterials: New materials have been created by combining atoms using nanotech. Stainless clothing, double-enforced concrete, flexible glass and earthquake-resistant technology are common in Japan. There are even new bulletproof vests that are lightweight and just snap into action the moment kinetic force hits them. There is also a fancy new fractal suit which is just an invisibility suit.
Androids are being used in all walks of life in Japan, as children or as pets or as employees. Androids come in four forms, distinguished by form and function.
Puppetbots are robits meant to function as companions. They're not humanoid in the slightest, appearing as lifelike robotic pets or are "smooth and curved abstracts shapes with many wheels, in striking, primary colours". Puppetbots are used as pets or nannies or function as caretakers.
Androids/Artificials are humanoids who recharge through kinetic energy or solar energy or thermal energy, made out of clearly synthetic materials and robotic features. They're smart enough to answer questions but not think for themselves outside of pre-programmed personalities, working manual labor or hazard jobs or lower class jobs society needs filled. The latest generation of Artificial is more realistic when it comes to skin and appearance, costing more and used more as hostesses and prostitutes, but clearly artificial when you speak to them.
Synthetics are cyborgs. Basically they're more than 50% artificial with some models being so far as only having a human brain. Synthetics are common in the armed forces or in law enforcement and are seen as the most human of robots because...well, they're still people, they're just people with prosthetics or heavy reconstruction. They're pretty rare because they're mostly kept out of the public eye and some folks aren't sure if they even exist.
Bioroids/Replicants are clones with synthetic brains, generally used by Genocrats as replacement bodies. They're also used as henchmen or to replace people after something has gone horribly wrong. Because they're super expensive, most people don't know of their existence to begin with.
Biomechanical prosthetics: hybrid implants with reinforced carbon musculature or nanochips are common models of prosthetics, melding machine and flesh to create a more organic limb. They're not visibly robotic, having been designed to appear more natural and they're generally used to return function to a patient with a missing limb more than turn them into a Street Samurai. Military models that do enhance functionality and strength do exist but aren't available to the public.
Exoskeletons, skinsuits and waldos: your basic exoskeleton is a mobility aid for someone with a disability or an infirmity. A waldo is basically a power loader from Aliens, being a 3 meter tall suit you climb into and operate to give yourself further strength for heavy lifting. A skinsuit is a sleek skin-tight suit you slip into that grants enhanced speed or endurance. They're all technically exoskeletons, it just depends on their functionality and what materials are put into them.
Housing: Japan is still very much a vertical country, especially if you move to Shin-Edo. New materials have been used to make more resistant and durable housing that has even less of a risk of collapse due to weight. The modern Japanese home has a lot of integration with laser tech and AR tech; lights will turn on when you tell them to, the NeoWeb acts as your phone and your television and you're able to have less tech cluttering up your home.
Ecology and Energy: Farming and fishing have been revolutionized thanks to advances in replication software. Oceanic pollution means that fisheries actually just mass-clone stocks of fish in captivity and reliably deliver them fresh to plate. This process is also used for livestock farming as well; a few farms remain that cultivate cattle and such the old fashioned way but most farms need their space for vegetation and vat-grow livestock that human operators then send to the slaughter. The country is doing its best to make all trash 100% recyclable and the same applies to energy sources, mainly focusing on solar panels to supplement nuclear power. Your average Pod is solar-powered during the day and at night backup chargers kick on that recharge from your body heat or kinetic movements. Also while most of mass transportation contains high-speed rail and magnetic trains, your average car has a hybrid engine that's powered by biofuel and hydrogen power cells.
Ion drives have been invented to allow faster movement around space but it's really not conquered yet. China has a moonbase that holds the Tycho Children, gengineered taikonauts they want to use to colonize Mars. In response the US and Europe have been working on building their own moonbase. I really don't want to go too in depth with this because space doesn't really have much that applies to this game.
Following the Kuro Incident and the rise in religion and superstition, some folks have been messing around with integrating Shinto ritual, Taoist belief and modern technology to keep themselves safe. There's a semi-public network of shady dealers, crackpots and salesmen who will sell you things like a Ouija program for your Pod, holographic pentacles, programs that will let your Gantai see spirits or Oni-detecting nanosensors that will change color in response to the presence of demons. Less scrupulous groups have been paying thieves to loot shrines or museums to collect items for replication and study. The other trade that's become popular has been trading with coroners and morgues for things in possession of the dead or items that have caused death. Bullets taken from the chest of a dead Yakuza or a razorblade used to cut a wrist or the twisted fender from a fatal crash have found second life in the form of a weapon against the forces of darkness. If they're still bloodstained, that's just bonus potency.
NEXT TIME: I'm gonna skip around a bit because otherwise I would just be going directly into what life in Japan is like in various neighborhoods and districts. So instead I'm going to skip to character creation so we can talk about the problems therein.
Mechanics, Character Creations, SkillsOriginal SA post
Mechanics, Character Creations, Skills
Alright, first we’re starting with mechanics. There are only three pages of mechanics. Your average check is: (Stat)d6+Skill or Specialization vs. Target Number. The dice are rolled, you add them together, you add on the relevant bonus and you compare it against a TN. There are two gimmicks to rolling dice. The first is the classic exploding sixes where they keep exploding with new sixes and you add all of the results together. The other gimmick is the fact that you don't get any points added to a roll if it's a 4 due to the Japanese cultural superstition that four is unlucky. It's a pronunciation thing; 4 can be pronounced as Shi which is the Japanese word for death. Just explaining that for people who don't know that little tidbit. Anyway a 4 adds absolutely nothing to the roll, which is just very "tee hee do you get it, this takes place in Japan". There's also the optional rule where a majority of rolled fours is some kind of SUPERFAIL which...meh, whatever. Not a good rule but I've seen worse.
If you have to do a flat attribute check, you roll the dice pool and then instead of adding a skill, double the attribute's rating and add that. Unskilled checks don't add double the attribute. Opposed checks are just roll pools, add numbers, compare totals and then there's just a paragraph that says "hey so compare your total with the TN and then try to figure out how bad you succeeded or failed based on the difference between the TN and the total".
Like there's just. Not much to say about the system? It takes up two pages worth of text. It's standard, it's competent, it's functional but it's not particularly fancy or notable. This is going to be pretty much what I'll say about the entire system.
Let's do chargen first before we do the rest.
Okay, we have to break this down step by step because there are some Problems with some of these steps.
The characteristics break down into 4 Physical (Dexterity, Strength, Reflexes, Stamina) and Mental (Intelligence, Perception, Charisma, Willpower). Because you're meant to be Normal People, 3 is the max you can take in a characteristic/stat/attribute to begin with.
If you think 8 characteristics are too many (they are) and that your character is kinda hindered by being too normal (they are), I agree with you. Then you use your characteristics to calculate derived stats.
- Hit Points are calculated by the following equation: ((Stamina x 2)+Willpower)x5. Your average starting character either begins with HP between 15 or 45. 45 HP still really isn't...a lot, as we'll see when we get to the weapons section.
- Your Serious Wound Threshold is your HP divided by 3. Taking more than this in one burst of damage inflicts a Serious Wound which means you have a -1 dice penalty to everything until you heal and this shit is cumulative. Gonna play a weak and reedy salaryman? Don't ever get hit!
- Death Threshold is equal to your SWT in negative HP. Between 0 HP and this number, you're unconscious and won't die until you surpass your SWT. Gonna play a weak and reedy salaryman? Don't ever get hit!
- Defence (sic, really, this entire book calls it "defence") measures
how many fences you don't haveTN needed to hit an opponent. It's calculated by adding Dex, Ref and Perception and multiplying the result by 2.
- Reaction Speed is needed for initiative and some other stuff. Add Ref, Will and Int, divide the result by 2, round up.
- Number of Actions is how many times you can go in a round. Divide your Reflexes by 2, round up, that's how many times you can go in a round.
- Movement is how many meters you can travel. Movement is just your Dex score.
Age is one point where things get very stupid and dumb.
Alright, we'll talk about Kaiso later. First is age. Normally when I see a nod to age being somewhat important in a game, this means one of two things. 1: age truly is just nothing but a number, be whatever you want. 2: there is an advantage and disadvantage to age. Being older gives you perks at the cost of something like weakened physical abilities, being younger makes you more fit but dumber, something along that line. Or maybe being too young is a hindrance inasmuch as you're not taken seriously but still youthful.
Kuro does not do this. The older you are, the more skills you know. That's it. The game assumes you're going to want to play someone 21-35. If you wish to be older, you need GM permission. That's it. It's just flat better to be any character over the age of 50. This isn't even a minmaxing thing or an exploit, this is just...rules as written. This is not the most baffling choice the game makes.
Skill Areas and Specializations are the only really interesting system I like from this game? A Skill Area is just a parent skill for a group beneath a category (Combat, Academic, General, Technical, Engineering). "Firearms" is a Skill Area. You can't have a Skill Area score higher than 6 at creation, this is just a general competency across multiple Areas. Also interesting is that some Skill Areas can't be accessed without a minimum 3 points sunk into another Skill Area (Skill Area: Medicine requires some knowledge of Skill Area: Natural Sciences, for example). Specializations are a more specific prowess within skill areas: Firearms is a Skill Area, Shotguns are a Skill Specialization. Specializations can't rise above 11 during chargen. Sinking points into Specializations raises the skill above the rating of the Area.
This system breaks down...hard in a bad way. It's hard to explain. During chargen, Area and Specialization are bought on a 1:1 basis. 4 points in Firearms is Firearms 4, 4 points in Handguns is Handguns 4+Firearms. After chargen, things get silly. Raising an Area costs double the new rating in XP while Specializations just cost the new rating in XP. However. Like a rising flood lifting boats, all Specializations within the Area will raise with the price of the new Area. Raising Firearms beyond 4 means that Handgun is now 5, the specialization points don't stack. The points are just pissed away. It's more economically viable with this system to invest in Areas above Specializations.
Social Rank is the system I hate the most. To point back up at the Age system, there is absolutely no mechanical weight to this choice at all. There are no sacrifices that must be made to be part of the upper 10% or whatever percent you wish to choose. You can just say "yeah I'm Kaiso 5, I have a shitload of money". The book attempts to say "you want to have a mixed social group so that way you have members investigating where CEOs shouldn't" but, like. Again, no mechanical weight at all. It's baffling to me that a game that's ostensibly cyberpunk will just let characters be rich with no mechanical weight in the slightest. And you want a high Kaiso for...
Which has four big problems. Four huge mechanical problems intertwined.
The first is that you get everything that makes sense for your character idea for free. Be a cop? Get a gun. Want to be a quadruple amputee? You now have 4 prosthetic limbs.
The second is that you can just sacrifice ranks of your Kaiso to be in debt to represent things that your character has that give them the ability to do extra things. Want strength-enhanced cybernetic limbs? Well now you're paying off your debt and your income is lower to account for these payments. Alternately you can just owe illicit favors to be people and be socially in debt with no loss to your Kaiso.
The third is that 900,000 yen a month sure sounds like it buys a lot but it sure as hell doesn't. The wealth disparity between what a Genocrat could afford and what your Kaiso 5 character could afford is immense. Problems 1 and 2 means that this money will never be used to buy anything.
The fourth is that the equipment chapter lacks...pretty much everything you'd expect in a standard cyberpunk game. Those enhanced limbs don't exist. You want cyberblades implanted in your arms? They don't exist. You want a gun-holster built into your leg? Doesn't exist. State of the art hacking computer? Doesn't exist. You're at the mercy of your GM fluffing things or having to come up with the equivalents of what you want for your character. And because you don't pay for them, you get them for free.
So on paper you could make yourself a 65 year old CEO of a company who ran into massive debt/made a lot of illicit deals to turn himself into a shiny and chrome street samurai except no you can't for three heavily conflicting reasons based on the other 3 problems: you get all of that for free because it's core to your character idea except it would be completely out of your character's league to ever obtain it due to the Genocrats except it doesn't exist mechanically to begin with. Attempting to approach anything beyond the scope of Problem 1 (which is less a problem and more a good general design choice for wanting to abstract player equipment) results in the other three problems colliding with none of them taking immediate precedence. Something Is Wrong, An Error Has Occurred but it's not clear which.
Then come up with the character's name and history and motivations.
Here are all of the skills. All of the skills.
I'm only going to explain two things to this: Contacts and Gimmiku (not appearing on this skill list). This entire section has 11 pages explaining skills and everything, so fuck going in depth.
Contacts counts as a Skill Area for the purposes of Knowing People. The ones beneath it are Skill Specializations. You can be lacking Contacts in the area in which you operate, that just reflects not being good enough friends with your coworkers.
Gimmiku are a good idea on paper that do not work in execution. Raising a Specialization to a set level means that you basically gain 1 proc you can attach to it, something optional that triggers when you use that Specialization.
These procs are:
- Accuracy: on a successful check, add 4 points to the success margin which is just...an abstract thing to begin with. Avoid.
- Boost: add an extra dice to the dice rolled which functions like all the other dice. Take this. Absolutely take this.
- Expertise: reroll the lowest dice in the pool but must keep second result. Sixes still explode but Fours do not count as zero but as a four. Not bad.
- Focus: add 2 points to the results of the dice roll. Decent but can be passed over.
- Mastery: Fives now explode but only one 5 can explode. Take this.
Anyway here are premade characters. I will not be making characters for this system, I just can't be bothered to. I did combine the art with the statblocks. That's as much as I could bear.
NEXT TIME: Combat, maybe equipment.
ACTION AND EVOLUTIONOriginal SA post
ACTION AND EVOLUTION
Which is to say, combat mechanics and character growth.
Right, so. If you recall, you get as many actions equal to half your Reflexes rounded up. These are not taken during the same turn, you just get X actions before the next round begins proper. Initiative is a stat check, which means you roll REAd6 and then add REA x 2 to the result. Unfortunately this is the kind of game where you roll initiative every round and people act simultaneously on a tie.
One thing this game does right is it basically breaks attacks down into easily digestible sidebars to share.
This doesn't, however, include grappling rules and melee modifiers. Grappling is...grappling. It's a Hand to Hand melee attack where the Margin of Success is added to your next grapple check (opponent makes Attributed6+HTH check, you make the same but add the margin to the result, if you lose they break free, if you win you note the new MOS for the next attempt). You can't do anything else but grapple while grappling, but if you manage to have a MOS equal to double the grapple-e's Strength, you instantly restrain them so well they can no longer escape and can be handcuffed or tied up with no issue.
Ranged weapons are different, mostly relying on the range you're fighting at instead of Defense.
Moral of the story: shoot into melee.
Damage is calculated by rolling weapon damage, adding the Margin of Success and then subtracting any protections the target might have. The rules about 4s and exploding 6s do not apply to damage. Remember: if you get dealt more than you Serious Wound Threshold, you get -1 to all dice rolls until you get healed and this all stacks. It's completely possible to get to the point where you can't roll dice anymore and just have your skills to go off of, but the GM should probably rule that you're out of the fight at that point.
Other forms of damage:
- Falling: Falling damage deals (meters fallen-1)d6 damage. If the fall is less than 3 meters, TN 12+fall height Dex check to negate all damage. If 3-6 meters, TN 12+fall height Dex check to take half damage. Any higher than that and you take all the damage.
- Asphyxiation: you automatically hold your breath for Stamina minutes. After that, take 2 damage every turn.
- Strangling: while being grappled, the grappler can automatically inflict 1d6+Strength damage on their victim by choking them.
- Drowning: depends on the conditions of the water. Make a Swimming check when you enter the water. If you fail, make another Swimming check. Fail that and you start drowning and then asphyxiation rules apply.
- Burning: automatically take damage as long as you're in contact with the heat source.
Pathogens and Drugs
Pathogens and drugs have a Virulence which is basically the TN you have to beat to resist infection or poisoning. If it's a drug, failing a resist means addiction. If it's a pathogen, you roll at the end of every period of infection and add +1 to the TN for every attempt to overcome it. Failure means you're still sick, success means you're recovering and healing.
In ideal conditions, you heal Stamina/2 (round up) points every day. Serious Wounds heal first and they heal one at a time, the eventual gain of points wiping the Serious Wound off. Then the remainders of damage are healed once the Serious Wounds are gone. So if you have 2 7 point SWs and 3 damage from somewhere else, you heal 7 points to eliminate one wound, 7 for the second and then the others just heal normally. This is a bit overcomplicated and also clunky.
If you were brought below 0, you should get emergency care ASAP. It's TN 12+the character's current points in the negatives to raise their HP to 1 and stabilize them. Failure or inability to act means you lose 1 HP and slip closer to death. However, even if you hit your Death Threshold, there's a chance of what the game calls an ER Miracle. The ER doctors have to make a check where the TN is 24-victim's DT+how many minutes it's been since their death. So if someone died on the table a minute ago and their DT is 10, it's a TN 15 to save them. Success means that the victim is stabilized at their DT +1 and will need to recover in a coma.
While under the care of a doctor or hospital, the doctor can make a daily check where the TN is half the hit points the patient has lost, round up. So a character with 45 HP has lost 45 HP which means that the doctor's TN is 23. Whoops. The Margin of Success heals extra points per day if they make the check but at least one HP must be healed naturally by the victim to completely heal. Doctors can also heal poisoning/disease by rolling against the Virulence and allowing for quicker recovery: MOS hasten recovery and the symptoms disappear in 6-STAM days.
XP points are used to upgrade Characteristics, Skill Areas and Skill Specializations.
- Characteristics are raised by spending 4 XP per point of intended level, no skipping levels. You recalculate secondary characteristics.
- Skill Areas are raised by spending double the intended level, no skipping levels.
- Specializations are raised by spending points equal to the next level.
- New Skill Areas cost 15 points to learn.
- New Specializations cost twice the number of the next level.
THE EQUIPMENT CHAPTER
Okay, fortunately I don't have to go too in depth with most of these weapons. For melee weapons, they all have Reaction modifiers which add or remove dice from your Reaction stat uses.
Firearms are heavily monitored and restricted in Japan. There are ways to hide them but, like, this is a cyberpunk game where it's going to be hard to own a gun and walk around with them w
which is kind of strange.
Anyway the firearms that actually get names are given two separate prices: bought legally and black market. For some reason literally none of the other types of gun get a price. "Hello yes I am a homeless man. I have no money. I have a bolt-action rifle because it has no price and doesn't fit my character design."
- The 9mm Palladium is an American revolver fancied by the Yakuza, some models containing digital fingerprint scanners to lock when used by anyone other than the owner. 99K Y/190K Y.
- The Daewoo DP600 was made by the Federation and has good stopping power. 100K/160K.
- The Tombstone Shotguns are pump-action and double-barreled. They were recalled from the Chinese market due to the fact that the reloading mechanism doesn't work properly if only one barrel is empty and is prone to jams as a result. 200K/250K.
- The Arisaka Type 800 is a SMG used by Japanese special units, firing explosive bullets. 450K/600K.
- The Sharpshooter MX has a special sight that gives a +2 bonus to shooting thanks to an aiming program and uses special polymer bullets. 410K/710K.
You have to declare that the gun is loaded with special ammo before you use it. Otherwise there's no price for regular ammo, I guess. Which is alright, I'm fine with that rule, it's just that you get a finite amount of special ammo (sold in boxes of 10 unless it's Lightwave which is per price of one bullet) unless it's plastic ammo which is just...unknown how much you get. The only thing of note to explain here is Nanoglaser dealing +2 damage and Uirusu ammo carrying a bacterial/viral/toxin payload that you're exposing the victim to.
Gauss Weapons are silent and have redundant charging systems to supply the internal battery: photovoltaic and thermal sensors draw light and heat when held and the holster has a kinetic charger for when the gunman is moving.
- The Undertaker fires 1.5 CM metal spikes. 300K/590K.
- The CZ has the power of an assault rifle, shooting bursts of 20 metal balls that blow through the victim. 600K/900K.
- The Yato Tracer shoots nanotracers, meaning you can plug someone and then track the struck victim. 450K/650K.
- The Hakkotsu Rifle is a pistol that needs a Netbones system to function; it has no trigger and requires a preset stimulus to fire once in the user's hand, like thumb position or jaw movement. It's made out of organic ceramic so it's harder to detect but does less damage because of the low stopping power of its small magnetic balls. 900K/1.3M.
Directed Energy Weapons require so much energy to use you can't just rely on solar or heat or kinetic power. They need separate power supplies to function like a backpack or a battery.
- Lasers are like longarms attached to a cold fusion generator backpack via a cable. The CFG backpack has enough power for 30 short range or 10 long range shots before needing to be recharged. They do a crazy amount of damage, able to cut through concrete or metal. 15M/30M.
- UV Lasers are heavy shoulder cannons that ionize the air between the barrel and the target. It paralyzes targets with electrocution and can be use nonlethally...but still causes eye damage and possible heart attacks. 18M/40M.
- Ultrasound Cannons are cone-shaped guns that beam highly powerful sounds into people's ears that cause paralysis or catatonia...or bleeding or brain damage from prolonged exposure. 9M/16M.
- Infrasound Cannons are completely undetectable and can pass through walls. You point and shoot from a distance to cause nausea, disorientation, vomiting and possible organ damage from biophysical infrasound damage. 20M/50M.
Nonlethal Weapons have replaced standard police arms and as a result Japanese cops are pretty willing to use them to take criminals down. On the other hand, Yakuza still murder people, so it's not like everyone's playing safe. Nonlethal weapons are divided into Antipersonnel or Anti-materiel with the latter generally used to disrupt vehicles or items or other materials.
- Tasers come in baton form. 33K/40K.
- Shockguns are pistols that use magnetic coils to deliver shockwaves that knock targets prone. Standard issue for police. 90K/120K.
- Shockgun Blasters are rifle forms of shockguns, functioning like a pump-action shotgun where each pump charges the coil. 200K/500K.
- Gel Cannons are double-barreled guns attached to backpacks that shoot glue that hardens but is air permeable to allow entombed victims to breathe. It's not completely safe, though: too much gel on a target can cause suffocation. The victim can break free with an Opposed Strength check vs. the damage. 200K/500K.
- Electric Nets only deal damage when the person inside of the net moves. Remaining still is the only way to remain unharmed. 100K/150K.
- Flashballs are basically like rubber slugs, hard rubber balls meant to knock the wind out of a target. 60K/130K.
- MkGaz is an invisible hallucinogen inside of cartridges or grenades that causes a preprogrammed response: flight, fright, crying or a horrifying hallucination. Exposure to the gas forces an Opposed Willpower check vs. the damage where failure means the victim is exposed to the hallucination for 2 hours. 60K/130K.
- Voice 2 Skull transmits silent microwaves into the skull of the target that tells people to do certain things. Opposed Will check to resist. Originally used to tell birds to go away from airports, now it's used for hostage situations. 60K/130K.
- Holograms are emitted from small projectors and controlled by Pods to create sounds, sights or stimuli. The police use them to trick criminals into thinking something has happened. 900K/2M.
- Rampaku is a liquid that's used in prisons to suspend prisoners in an emotionless state and sap their willpower. It looks like eggwhites and is fired from a cannon in a plastic shell that shatters. Skin contact forces an Opposed Will Check to not be made numbed for 10 minutes. The only defense is to completely cover your skin. 1.2M/3M.
- Tachyon Nukes are fired from grenade launchers, used to spread chaff over a 4 meter radius for 5d6 minutes that inhibits Pods, Gantai and transmissions.
- Switches are EMP grenades that permanently fry all electronics and photonics in a 4 meter radius.
- Dragonfly Drones are a few centimeters long and piloted by Gantai that have onboard electromagnetic generators that disrupt tech where they land in a 2 meter radius for 7d6 minutes. 3M/10M.
Heavy Weapons are normally held by waldos or military vehicles or exoskeletons.
Machine Gun: 15.4 M/20M.
- Shockwave Cannons act like a mix between a EMP and a shockgun except they're quite dangerous, capable of flipping cars, destroying all electronics around the point of impact and requiring a lot of generator power to fire. 12M/30M.
- Thermal Walls shoot microwaves into a room, cooking the inhabitants by raising the temperature with the intent of making people evacuate the area or psychologically intimidating them. They absolutely can be used to kill people by cooking them alive, however. 15M/40M.
- Mini Bolt Cannons are Gauss cannons that spin like a minigun and fire lethal bursts of tiny metal balls with deadly effect. 10M/45M.
Protection is armor. Only one kind of protection can be worn at a time.
- Police Skinsuits cover the body, come with helmets have extra padding on the joints. They're mostly made of Kevlar. The Magline Skinsuit has an internal magnetic field that helps repel shockwaves and gauss bullets.
- Edge Suits are full-body crash suits for bikers that function like airbags are attached to their bodies except instead of air it's a reactive metal.
- Daiymo Skinsuits augment the wearer's abilities when worn thanks to biomechanical integration.
- Fractal Suits turn the wearer invisible...unless you move, in which case you resemble a fluid, translucent silhouette.
- Shogun Exoskeletons have Helpsoft to help aim, Jellyfishes to help smooth out the operator's motions, an attached minibolt gauss gun and requires a lot of training so you don't just fall on your ass.
- SCC Waldos are three meters tall, the pilot enclosed in a cockpit and controlling arms and legs like their own, the shockwave and minibolt cannon controlled with their eyes.
- ACC Waldos are unarmored suits consisting of two legs and clamp hands. You know. Power Loaders. Normally used for construction, some gangs have welded alloy sheets to them to give them proper armor.
Shado refers to devices used to hide weapons, all of them illegal and requiring black market purchases.
- Ceramic holsters decrease detectability by 20% for 195K.
- Nano Jammers are placed on guns to make them harder to detect except by organic means (dogs). 30% less detection for 195K.
- Endothermal jackets hide the gun in a pocket that raises up to the temperature of body heat to make them invisible to thermal detectors. 10% less detection for 80K.
- Pulse Jammers are old versions of nano jammers that create a black blob where the gun is. 15% less detection for 110K.
FUN STUFF THAT ISN'T GUNS
These items all have an attached price and a Kaiso rating representing who this item is, like, meant for. Some of these items are luxury items and require a significant investment, meaning an Opposed Kaiso Check (how? What? How does this even work? Is it just Kaisod6+Kaiso x 2?) vs. the item's rating. Failure means that you can't get the item at the moment, success means you'll lose 1 Kaiso level to represent the debt to pay off the item.
Hardware and Accessories
Get in the car, loser, we're going shopping.
- Sun-X-Rain Clothes are experimental duds that have programmable fibers meant to react to environmental stimuli through a nanochip. Make your clothes rainproof or have the fibers squeeze together to conserve heat or loosen to ventilate the body. Due to short supply because of the blockade, most of the remaining SXR clothes are jumpers. People are afraid the Yakuza will figure out how to reprogram your clothes to kill you, specifically by hacking the chip to make the neck of a jumper strangle you due to how fast they normally close when exposed to rain.
- Code-Clothes are garments that are programmed with a code and will change colors when near someone with the same code. They can also display images or change based on mood. Criminals use them to send messages: send a code to a buyer, have the buyer program their shirt, the buyer knows who their contact is by how the color changes. On the other hand, cops have special programs installed in their Gantai to understand what the code will be based on how your clothes change.
- Helpsoft Learning Software functions as skillchips in any other cyberpunk game. Upload a program into your Pod and the instructions will display on your Gantai to help walk you through how to do what you want to do, like cooking or repairs or martial arts. +2 to any existing skill or +3 to an unknown skill. Cost depends on complexity of skill.
- Pocket Bakemono are virtual pets you see with your Gantai. Raise a monster (like a kappa or oni), fight them to evolve. They have to feed every 10 hours, normally by "feeding" on another human. Make sure you feed them. No, seriously, make sure you feed them. Kids who raise Bakemono have been spending a shitload of time caring for them. Some have been found in catatonic states. Make sure you feed them.
- BeamSpy is hella illegal because it's a listening device that can go through thin walls. Load it onto your Pod to use, point and listen. Regular Pods have a range of 100 meters but you can attach a laser amplifier to pick up conversations 1 KM away.
- Rage & Bone Guitars have a technology in the guitar that beams info into your bones that automatically help manipulate your digits into the right place to play. Keep playing and it'll teach you more and more about how to play. They're also net-enabled and can have music uploaded to them and will adjust depending on what you want to play.
- Plankton Silos are kits for home and office that cultivate algae. The algae purifies water and adds nutrients when you drink it. You can also buy specialized types of algae that might even get you high.
- Visual Mov'ment Kits were originally intended for the infirm to use things in their homes without having to get up or move them physically. A cartridge attaches to your Pod and that cartridge is affected by a contact lens worn by the user. Entering all of your codes into the program on the Pod will let you turn things on and off or manipulate them with your eye movements. You can even use two at once, one on each eye.
- Naked Vision is a highly illegal program that uses two cameras installed into your Gantai to scan people, run them through a form recognition program and a prediction program and replaces them on your Gantai with a live image of what they look like naked that constantly updates as long as they're within view. That's it. That's all this does. It's appropriately illegal.
- Love Music comes from a chip embedded in your hand that will automatically use biometric sensors to pull music from a database and play tunes based on your mood. You have to pay to use it because it accesses a remote musical database, but hey, it also adjusts the music based on the weather, so that's neat.
- SubVocalization lets you speak silently via a necklace placed around the throat that reads your larynx and also reads you pronouncing the words without saying them. Decently handy, not illegal.
- Virtual Child is great for people who don't have the rights to have a child or cannot physically have one. Upload the program to your Pod and you can view your child through your Gantai or even use AR to have your child wander around the world. Virtual Child uses top-of-the-line AI to let you either mold your child through your actions (like a real baby!) or you can just download a premade model from the store. Plus, Virtual Child is compatible with uploading into an artificial or clone body.
- Chitin is a stealth version of a Squid, placed where your spine meets your neck to physically hide it from sight, using nanoneedles to touch your spine and cerebellum to function. Chitin is possibly dangerous to your health; it's got antibacterial stuff attached but you also want to use antiseptics on your body and never want to let anyone else use your Chitin. Also it's as illegal as a Squid.
- Karaoke is just, like, random karaoke stuff.
- Electroluminescent Organic Pods use organic-made materials to create a Pod powered by the sun and is basically always reactive to its environment with its organic components. They're sleek and look like underwater creatures, covered in constantly glowing blue lights and diodes.
- Lightyear Markers let you draw on the air with holographic technology. It uses a projector and a special marker, your drawings remaining as long as you're within 5 meters. You can also attach it to your Pod for basically Photoshop-level manipulations of your art.
- Flexible Thermal Batteries recharge based on contact with your body and can have all of their energy pumped into an accumulator or connected together to hold more energy.
- Shoes are...shoes. Walkmaps have integrated GPS and Cityboots use Netbones tech to rock your feet in the right direction.
- Virtual Games/Black Jack are AR-friendly games that are played with a Jellyfish, overlaying the game on the environment around you and letting you play games with your mind. Black Jacks are illegal Squid recordings of snuff films.
- Air Photocatalysts are flat air conditioners that purify the air and don't consume extra power or discharge toxins. They also come in mask forms for bad air days.
- Electric Nanogenerators provide two hours of power for a single story dwelling or a collection of devices in case of blackout...but might be prone to not working due to circumstances of a blackout.
- Holographic projectors are super expensive but project 2D backgrounds and environments with 3D actors inside. There are rumors that one movie called Hokkaido Death has killed people viewing the movie because their weapons deal actual damage when swung.
Public transportation is cheaper. For everything else, there's these expensive options.
- Rora Blades are rollerskates that use magnetic thrusts to let the user hover 10 CM off the ground when engaged. Don't fall!
- Kayuma Hovercrafts seat 10 and have auto-guidance and lots of other features, basically functioning as a flying room you can drive.
- The Yamaha Midnight Vision is a bullet-shaped hoverbike that goes real fast and has Helpsoft installed along with a lot of safety options.
It's amazing how much of this stuff is of negligible use and how the rest of it would be nice to have but has to be purchased in a way that surpasses how money normally works in a game like this. Don't have the money? Go into debt! NEXT TIME we'll finish the equipment by looking at robotics, biotech, occultech and other stuff.
FALL OF THE HOUSE OF EQUIPMENT CHAPTEROriginal SA post
FALL OF THE HOUSE OF EQUIPMENT CHAPTER
Robots depend based on their AI and their ability to actually learn. Which is to say, an average Android or Puppetbot has no ability to learn. If you present them with an obstacle, they'll search what they know, attempt it and then give up if unable to rectify the obstacle's situation. And by no natural means can an AI overcome this obstacle regardless of their personality template or AI or physical form. This requires the work of an Overclocker, someone who has intentionally tampered with an AI to remove the brakes.
Which, well, has consequences. The first consequence is that the robot is now capable of learning and improving and overcoming obstacles. They're not likely to start questioning their existence but they do loosen up and function more naturally. Eventually its ability to make decisions based on knowledge will allow the AI to come to various conclusions about the world around it and its own existence. This leads to a situation called a [sigh] Ghost where the robot is considered to have a consciousness in addition to an intelligence.
However, inevitably the robot will understand that it is essentially a living being and that's where things can go horribly wrong thanks to the limitations Japan has put on its robots. Older robots had the programming to be able to recognize a human being by shape, body heat and complexion. It will either ignore the human or curtly acknowledge their presence to minimize all contact. If attacked, it will either stand and receive damage or run away. Newer generations of robots are able to scan more than the three criteria to recognize and serve humans but includes greater programming where they'll be compelled to help someone if their sensors determine an anomaly dangerous to humans.
What can go wrong is twofold. First, they realize they're a living being and their old programming is in place, meaning you have a being in either a state of fugue or panic. This realization is that they're viewed as less significant than all other living beings and their lives mean nothing according to Japanese society. The alternative is their figure out their sapient state and their old programming was jailbroken in the process, in which the robot will generally develop survival abilities and attempt to protect its own life and will probably hurt other people. Hacking and Overclocking a robot requires physical contact with the robot, and there's a lot of companies that try to make it so that the robot bricks if you alter it, but it's not impossible to turn any robot sapient or any into an unintelligent loyal killer.
- Yojimbos are a two meter tall artificials built to look like men and protect their targets. They have a security template and have a whole mess of combat capabilities, restrained from killing as long as the target is safe but still capable of nonlethally neutralizing opponents. They have skin that's artificial and padded and resists some blows and also hides 13 built-in weapons on newer models, weapons like tantos or brass knuckles or small caliber pistols.
- Kusanagi is the blanket term for an artificial that trains you depending on the template. Kusanagi teaches kendo, Musashi teaches bushido and Kenjutsu, Yokozuna teaches you sumo, Funakoshi teaches karate and GastonLenotre teaches cooking and will cook for you.
- LoveBots are artificials built entirely for sex. There's a lot of fluff speak about how great and real and lubricated they are and how it's not cheating on your spouse because they're not a person, they're just built to fuck/be fucked.
- Senworth is an artificial butler that will shop for you, manage your time, clean, do laundry, etc. They come in a few different templates, specifically English butler or French maid. It is also explicitly stated "French maid model can include other functions as well. Call for details." in case you just want to fuck more robots.
- Bioroid Replicants are made of flesh and blood except for their positronic brains. They have no common templates uploaded and are used by the Genocracy or by the Yakuza to be prostitutes or replace people they killed. Bioroids have a very high chance of becoming sapient and then running off to try and understand the nature of their existence.
Nanoswarms are squads of nanobots working together, communicating through wifi or lasers by the commands of the leader. The only way to hack a swarm is to introduce a new leader via a nanobot you've programmed to basically hijack the swarm. It's said that nanoswarms are used for environmental scrubbing, medicine, art and more. We just have two examples here.
- HiveLook Appearance Jammers project holograms over you like it's Disguise Person, blocking you from machines and scanning programs.
- Queens are used to get rid of swarms, able to hack and jam other swarms.
This whole section really makes me miss the Suprathyroid Gland. I love that thing.
Organic Implants are just Better Squishy Bits. The authorities heavily monitor eye replacements and skin so people can't just sneak around. Organic implants just don't do anything besides be More Efficient and Better, having been taken from inert universal donor clones with no brain function. If you can't afford these, you just have to wait for a donated organ from the government.
- Samegawa refers to "Shark Skin" dermal implants, micromesh beneath the skin giving you +1 Defense and increasing skin toughness and elasticity. What's interesting is how receptive to stimulus the Shark Skin is, giving you goose bumps before a blackout or letting you know someone is right behind you.
- Bioports let you beam info right into your noggin and turn your brain into a computer. It looks like a small glass lens embedded in your lower back. This is generally restricted to the military or anyone with lots of money.
- Cosmetic Corrections refer to a whole slew of tests and procedures that recode your DNA to change hair color, skin color, nail color, dick size or run sequencing on an unborn infant to have ideal traits be born. These corrections require a lot of injections and a lot of baths in weird tubs of liquid. Because the rich gonna rich, lots of people who can afford the high-end treatments tend to stand out from everyone else with their skin colors, their vampire teeth, their hair and more.
- Genetic Tests run a piece of your DNA for sequencing to look for specific things like diabetes or heart disease. They don't sequence the whole thing, each test just looks for specific things.
- Artificial Blood has the same great blood test with less calories and sugar! Artificial blood is universal and first aid kits that have artificial blood also have vein-seeking autoneedles.
- NeoPets are gengineered pets that can either be hybrids or extinct animals or whatever. The game suggests "don't just slap things together, that will go badly, just use premade genetic templates".
- Mind Uploading comes in a few forms with two methods of transfer. The first method of transfer is "remove mind from this body, put in new one". The other method is "copy and upload copy to new body". There are three techniques that can be used. noMorph systematically reads and replaces every single neuron and axon and will replace them systematically while the patient remains awake and aware until the entire brain has been processed. brainScan copies the brain completely and models the positronic brain on this model (this is not always error-free). brainSlice removes and slices up the brain, painstakingly recreating the entire brain in a new form in a new body. How does direct brain shunting work? Hell if I know.
- Rent-A-Flu is just an artificial flu that gives you the symptoms of a disease without any suffering or pain. This exists for you to have an excuse to cut work.
Fun with microscopic buddies.
- Nanoinks are just tattoos you can use with your Pod to change them.
- Nanodiagnostics are a system of nanoinks that let you monitor your vital diagnostics by glancing at your wrist.
- nIris comes in two forms: eyedrops and contact lenses. Either one scrambles or replaces your retinal scan so you're less hassled by spam or can go all sneaky. Eyedrops just scramble and last for a hour, the lenses can have premade IDs imprinted on them or just scramble.
- Skin Nanorobots are circular, two centimeter-long nanobots that are slid under the skin and work like localized nanoink.
- Nanosensors are nanites that can read environmental stimuli and react accordingly, changing colors when exposed to stuff like chemicals or gunpowder.
- The Netbones System basically turns your bones into a system like a cable network. Multiple nanochips use your bones to transmit vibrations to where they need to go, powered by thermal and kinetic energy. You can shake hands with people and transmit info to their Pod. It's not the fastest system, but it can interface with your Gantai and Pod and is totally immune to EMPs and electrical blackouts.
- Netbones Nanoheadphones are pinhead-sized and affix themselves to the temporal bones to directly stimulate your earbones so you can hear stuff.
- Netbones Nanoscorpions are three centimeters long and have sucker feet, recording vibrations and turning them into sound for the owner to hear when it comes back to the owner.
- Oxygenating Nanorobots augment blood pressure and help carry oxygen and enhance circulation. Originally meant for people with lung problems, it was picked up by athletes and soldiers to gain +1 Reflexes. You have to be strict with your diet, though: you have to eat certain bars a day that have things that clean the nanobots and maintain their functions or you run the risk of brain embolisms.
- Metabolomic Visors are special Gantai for law enforcement that do full-body scanning. You can scan crime scenes and perfectly replicate them in 3D, see in night vision, thermal or electromagnetic vision and control various drones like Crickets (corpse-analyzing nanobots), Kumo (bug-like surveillance bots that can scan) and Dragonflies.
- Pain Killer Chips negate the penalties of a Serious Wound for 30 minutes by artificially creating morphine.
- NanoVengeance is a liquid made of retroviruses that are highly illegal because they're used to recode the DNA of the victim. The purpose of NV is revenge by infecting people you hate with mental illness like depression or schizophrenia. NV has to be ingested and is temporary unless the victim is repeatedly dosed for three straight weeks (or faster if they're already predisposed to it). This is awful. We gave up cyberknives for this?
- Memory Chip Interfaces record everything you see and experience and can be downloaded and saved.
- Micro Gantai are contact lenses that do the job of a Gantai in lieu of a visor.
- Care Creams are just super beauty and health products.
- Control Chips are injected under the skin and have biometric sensors that trigger a response if certain stimuli are meant. You have salarymen that get a dose of stimulant when they start to fall asleep or you can put them in an animal and make them feel good when they obey a command. The game recognizes that these can be heavily abused.
- Light Exoskeletons were originally used to enhance strength for infirm folks or allow you to just lift 25% more. That's really it. They help you be stronger but they make you slower.
- Biomechanical Prosthetic Limbs are not something you normally just...get. They're installed on people who have been horribly injured because street samurai don't really exist in this universe. You can have a prosthetic that enhances strength but that requires heavy anchoring and has no mechanical benefit in the system at the moment. They're made of nanomuscular fiber and nanochips covered in artificial flesh and as a result have some armor due to their composition. Also you don't feel pain with them.
Occultech is your magitech, made by combining cutting edge technology and old superstition. Magic may not exist. Occultech is Close Enough. You can find Occultech in certain stores and stalls and they don't require any magical aptitude to use, you just have to find them to begin with.
The Samurai Exoskeleton (RR6) was made by combining 19th century samurai armor and a combat exoskeleton from 2030. The two are integrated seamlessly, the armored plating covering the servos and the pilot. The wielder is able to call on mystical abilities by summoning a spectral yumi (bow) that can slay spirits but it's a little unwieldy to learn how to pilot this thing.
The Ronin Katana (RR6) is a 70cm long sword that was disassembled. The blade is the original but the hilt is new, jabbing nanofillaments into the holder of the sword that pumps their blood full of betablockers to slow bleeding and keep the fighter going. You can also make your blood flow to the end of the sword so it can harm Yomi who are weak to the blood of the living.
The Gohei Stroboscope (RR4) is a sphere covered in laser projectors and holographic projectors that will broadcast incantations and purification formulae all over the place to protect against spirits and monsters.
Aka-Shita Incense (RR4) is odorless incense that summons the Aka-Shita in the smoke, a dogman with a big red tongue who'll answer yes or no questions for two minutes. 70K Yen.
The Jubokko Bonsai (RR5) is an ugly little black bush that smells awful and is hard to sculpt. It's able to steal and prolong life if the owner trims it just so and feeds it 4 drops of blood every morning. The Jubokko will sprout leaves as black as the bark that will drop every time you'd normally die, allowing you to return from death or horrible circumstances. If the last leaf drops, your soul is forever damned to Yomi. 2M Yen.
The Kameosa (RR5) is a silvery bottle full of a sake-flavored liquid that's actually artificial hormone flavored to taste like sake and cultivated in metal vats and prayed to. The drinker is affected by super adrenaline, increasing your physical abilities and Willpower. On the other hand, side effects include hallucinations, blackouts, shaking, hangovers and symbols appearing on your eyes.
The Nurikabe Grenade (RR4) is a magnetic grenade that creates a living wall that nobody can see, functioning as a three meter tall and two meter wide water wall. Trying to enter one side means you come back out the way you came. You're allowed to put multiple versions of this down to confuse the hell out of people. 45K.
Jikininki Teeth (RR4) are taken from ghouls, repelling them as long as you have them on your presence. They can also be fixed to weapons to damage the ghouls or other supernatural creatures. However. Always keep the teeth on you in even numbers. Odd numbers of teeth will cause the owner to slowly transform into a ghoul themselves.
The Hannya Haramitsu RR4) is a Noh mask that looks like a grimacing red-faced Oni with big teeth. Inside the mask is a Gantai that allows the wearer to see the unseen and track demons and other supernatural beasts. You absolutely can't wear this walking around normally due to how much stuff is overlayed on your field of vision. 250K.
The Zen Chime (RR3) only makes a sound on the approach of the Kamikaze. 11K.
Salt Vials (RR3) are used by exorcists to fight ghosts, full of coarse salt and blessed by a priest. You can also use them to slip on over to the other side and return by shattering the vial.
The Kiri-Bi Lighter (RR5) is a zippo with faded, worn-down kanji engravings on the side. The lighter won't spark unless in the presence of an Oni, creating a pure flame that repels Oni and letting you see if an Oni is possessing someone or something. You can, of course, touch the Oni with the fire to harm it.
The Magamata (RR5) is a type of jewelry worn as a necklace or bracelet made of photoreactive alloy that has little in common with the original Shinto designs. They still work as protective talismans against monsters and can also be attached to a weapon to imbue the weapon with further power. 2M.
The Soul Kakemono (RR4) is a wall scroll meant for decorative alcoves. Completely black with red sandalwood scroll weights, sometimes spirits pass through it and leave impressions and images. 91K.
The Ouija Pod (RR4) is a personal computer that projects a holographic Ouija board and has numerous ports that detect spirits and such interfering with the lasers. It works like an ordinary Ouija board, albeit one that is prone to electrical malfunctions or the ghosts hijacking the projector to show grim, horrible images. 1.28M.
Brown Clay (RR5) was originally used to make funerary statues and animate any statutes made with it. And it does. Make a dog, it acts like a dog. Make a person, it acts like a person. Where's it from? Who knows. Some believe it's made of the pieces of a clay monster called Doro-ta-bo. 800K per kilo.
The Universal Emaki (RR5) is a Heian era scroll in a lacquered box. The scroll is blank until you whisper the name of a person or item on it and unroll the scroll right to left. Upon the scroll you'll see an illustration based on the past, present or future of the subject that needs to be deciphered to understood significance. One item at a time. 999K.
Enchanted Chopsticks (RR5) have kanji engraved on them. Use them to eat the leftovers of someone else's food and you can feel the emotions they felt while eating that food. 750K.
The Bloody Kimono (RR4) refers to a whole series of items like weapons or clothing or artifacts that have been tainted by blood and death. Innocent victims empower these items which allow them to protect against attack by monsters or allow you to harm monsters. There are rumors that there's an android who has had the hands of a killer attached to it and it runs around in a trenchcoat absorbing the souls of its victims with its knives.
The Futokoro Teppo (RR6) is an old bronze pistol that has been augmented to work like a Jellyfish, letting you project your thoughts and fire them through the gun. Can you perhaps kill with a thought? Maybe! 6M.
The Kyusu Oracle (RR4) provokes visions by putting something of a person in this cast iron teapot and brewing tea. Slowly drinking the tea provides cryptic hallucinations that can be interpreted for an answer. 600K.
The Te-Ashi-Naga Taiko (RR6) is a drum with Tokugawa-era shogun adventures printed on the drum that hide a hidden spell. Successfully playing the spell on the drum summons the Te-Ashi-Naga, two grey, thin humanoids with unblinking white eyes stacked on top of each other that appear to be one being, wearing a surgical mask and a dirty gown or blouse that covers the fact that it's two beings. Summoning the Te-Ashi-Naga means you can use its supernatural surgical prowess to do things that defy nature and god. As a result the drum is in high demand and nobody knows who has it. Price: ???
The Shuko (RR4) are hand-made clawgloves made from recycled scrap metal and made by biker gangs. These weapons are generally empowered by bloodsplattered metal that was taken from car accidents, allowing the Shuko to harm monsters and shut off their magical powers. As a result, a veritable underground market of Shuko have cropped up and so has a booming trade of metal from car wrecks.
The Katashiro (RR3) is a paper doll created by visualizing someone and using certain origami techniques to create voodoo dolls that inflict curses of nausea, choking, dizziness and hallucinations on the victim. The only way to break the curse is to burn the Katashiro. They're easy to make but hard to make properly; fucking up runs the risk of summoning an entity called Ao-nyobo the Ghoul Woman of the Shrines who has black teeth and no eyebrows and will devour your soul unless you placate her with 1000 paper cranes. 14K.
The Magic Key (RR6) is a rusty medieval key that is said to open a lock to a fascinating treasure. In reality, it only opens a single door on the 4th floor of a quiet, old hotel in the Asakusa quarter: room 4. What's behind the door? Who can say. Price: ???
The Gakido Cricket (RR5) is a lacquered box with a LED screen glued to the top. Allegedly containing a Cricket from Gakido (an insect from the plains of Yomi), it's sensitive to supernatural beings and occurrences and its screeches are interpreted by the screen to provide simple words that warn of danger. If you open the box to see the cricket, it escapes on the wind before you can see it. 3.5M.
The Baku Jellyfish (RR6) is a modified Jellyfish that connects via wire cable to an old varnished cherry wood box that has a slot for a 500 Yen coin and nothing else, no seams or hinges. Inside the box is a Baku, a monster that feasts on nightmares. Sleeping with the Jellyfish on will feed the Baku your nightmares and give you a good night's sleep. Alternately it can be used for divination. When the Baku is particularly hungry or agitated, the coin slot will push out a disc of metal with cryptic info written on it about a crime or a supernatural event. These coins are purely selfish, exposing the owner to more horrors to keep the Baku fed. 2.6M.
The Precog Visor (RR6) is a Gantai that resembles thick welding goggles, big and heavy and clunky to wear. The visor is connected to a belt full of cogs and wires that are constantly turning to provide power. Wearing the visor manipulates probability and chance to let you see what's most likely to happen in the next 15 seconds as if it was a black and white film of what could happen exactly. Downside: those 15 seconds of future cost you 15 seconds of past memories for every use. 5M.
The Plasma 646 Deluxe Shitbatsu model with J programming (RR 5) is a TV from a company that's been defunct for 35 years. One of the first brands of plasma TVs, it was incredibly cheap but had problems working. When the next model didn't even work, the entire company folded. Hundreds of models remain and ever since the Kuro Incident they've begun working again, letting you see shadows and faces cross the dark screen. A man in Akihabara has tweaked them further, allowing you to key the name of someone who died into the remote when there's no moon out at night to let you receive a message from the dead before the set burns out. 1.8M.
The Enishi 4.0 (RR6) is a 500 yen fortune teller that you place your palms on and get a message. The current model is 5.1 but there are rumors that the 4.0 model in Akihabara can be made to work again. If it does, it foretells unpleasant and unhappy events. A local Yakuza is looking for the machine to make it work for his business interests. 4M.
NEXT TIME: daily life in Shin-Edo and popular quarters of the city.
Food and DrinkOriginal SA post
DAILY LIFE IN 2046
Food and Drink
Meat comes from cloned animals, fruits and veggies are all gengineered to be tastier and healthier and lower caloric-ally. Rice and noodles are now delicious and nutritious and actually help delay diseases and aging and stuff. Tea is still popular but neon fluorescent sodas with healthy additives or nanomachines are popular amongst damn teens. Japanese beer is relatively unchanged and the same applies to sake. If it ain’t broke, still drink it. Sushi and ramen bars are now staffed by robots that will cook for you and you can also have hot meals vended to you via automat, the food trays kept hot and self-cooking.
Also because this book is like RPG Wikipedia this book includes a section of how table manners work in Japan.
There is also a section on superstitions and beliefs.
Oh god send help this just keeps coming.
Alright I’m drawing the line at “Common Names of Japan”. I’m not sharing that. Moving on.
Currency is now mostly digital or synthetic paper that feels like cold plastic, coming in coins for anything smaller than 999 yen and bills for anything bigger. The conversion rates have been plummeting since the blockade. In our world, 130 Yen is worth 1 Euro and 109.68 Yen are worth 1 US Dollar. In Kuro, 1 pound is worth 264 Yen and 1 USD is now worth 154 Yen. Everything is devaluing more and more and things are quickly becoming more and more worthless while the price of food and fuel keep going up. Below is a list of standard prices. I have converted the prices to USD for comparison purposes.
Then there are three pages on the basics of the Shinto religion and I’m gonna just tell you right now: if you want to know about the basics of Shinto, just go to Wikipedia.
Before becoming Shin-Edo, Tokyo had felt two nasty earthquakes in 2025 and 2037 that lead to further developments and changes to the city's operations than what we know. Shin-Edo is divided into 24 districts, 27 townships, 4 island districts and one department but only the 24 districts are considered to be core to Shin-Edo. These are called Special Wards because they have a bit more autonomy than any other district in Japan.
Shin-Edo has basically swallowed or adapted its past architecture and repeatedly updated it for the modern age, turning old shrines into the bottom floor of a new skyscraper. Robots are everywhere, vending machines are everywhere and the entire city is cloaked in a thick cover of AR advertisements and other augmented sights. An elevated train system has replaced some of the subways, calling it the Yamanote Evolve. The subways still exist but they're slower than the new one and kind of a haven of criminals due to being underground and hard to monitor. There's also an expressway that has automated routes and satellites that control people's driving and speeds but due to the blockade there are only a handful of satellites controlling the cars at all times. Making things worse are the occasional power blackouts that randomly plunge pieces of the city into darkness for up to a day.
Security is everywhere, monitoring retinal scans and surveillance cameras at all times. There are police posts every 500 meters or so and the average person walking around doing stuff has their eye scanned around 20 times a day. There are ways to spoof the system or avoid it, but it's very tricky and requires investment in technology to help bypass the scanners. The Yakuza is still very much a threat and still kills people, hustles drugs, engages in sex work and clashes with the cops. Also delinquency is on the rise with Japanese youths being mad at the government and mad at the blockade.
There are also sections on Environmental Concerns and also Sports but, again, go read about Japan. Things haven't changed too much. Baseball is still a wildly popular sport in Japan despite the worries of the world and earthquakes and typhoons are still a problem.
Akasaka is the business quarter, full of labs and skyscraper businesses that keep getting bought and sold depending on market trends and economic cycles. Akasaka is full of apartment complexes for salaryfolks who basically just live in the quarter or live in their workplace. However, the blockade is basically like the worst thing possible for Akasaka. The economy has stagnated and started to collapse without trade in the international community and, well, some salaryfolks have been killing themselves. The Yakuza and the megacorps are snapping up the floundering smaller companies, the banks are in turmoil and trying to figure out how to do business, people are getting fired, houses are getting repossessed. Basically imagine the 2008 Recession except accelerated to burn faster and a government bailout won't fix anything. Shit's grim. Like, Akasaka is also home to all of the embassies of the other countries and they're just abandoned buildings that the homeless squat in. Why are the embassies empty? Well, not everyone could be evacuated before the blockade and any foreigner left behind staying at the embassy was easy pickings for violent reprisal by xenophobic extremists. They were abandoned proper after a cult tried to let a flesh eating enzyme loose in the Chinese embassy. Despite the suicides and despair and depression and squatting homeless, it's totally safe!
It's so safe you can fuck a robot in a taxi.
Sakurazawa Zen is a chain of restaurants owned by the creator of the Macrobiotic Zen program, one Hiro Kushi who basically invented his whole program at the age of 18 and figured out how to maximize your healthy eating using gengineered foods and good dieting. The SZ of choice is next to the Capsule Inn hotel and is a popular eating place for big shots doing business deals over food.
Waste Management Company is imaginatively named and is of course a Yakuza front. They claim to recycle waste from prosthetic companies but in reality they extort and blackmail companies for the Inagawa-kai Federation. Run by Oshawa Michio (who is always holding a jintojo, a staff that repels demons) their members have glowing tattoos and occasionally take jobs for companies in the area to guarantee they get contracts.
The Hie-Jinja Shrine was built to assure divine protection of the Imperial Palace. The main hall is guarded by a statue of a monkey and her young and the shrine has the Omikuji tree, a tree that's used to nullify curses on paper fortunes. Because this is The Future, omikuji fortunes are dispensed by boxes and come in the form of holographic chips that can be scanned to give your fortune. As a result, the Omikuji tree at the shrine is covered in chips hanging from ropes tied to the branches or that have been embedded in the trunk of the tree.
Unhex Nani Nani is a building that was built by Philipe Starck before changing a lot of hands to become a night club. Looking like a big green metal bunker, Unhex Nani Nani was one of the pioneers of the AR dance floor, creating Virtual Clubbing by giving partygoers AR glasses and projecting sights all over the floor while the dancers get down. Everything at Unhex Nani Nani is designed by the DJ, a shy fellow by the name of Suwa Horu who is often found mixing tracks and designing new sights.
The Tokyo Tower has a lot of info that can be found on its Wikipedia page. It was the tallest structure in Japan until 2011 and has good views of Mount Fuji and the Kanto plains.
Akihabara, the Electric City, is chock-full of two things: nerds and robots. Get the latest Jellyfish here, buy a shitload of cheap manga there, get all the merchandise you could ever want. The salespeople are robots, the advertising girls are robots, the escorts are robots, robots robots robots robots. Akihabara is also home to the Overclocking subculture, a collection of hackers and tech enthusiasts who are interested in breaking AI programming to give the robots the ability to learn and identify as sapient. That's not to say that one little tweak will do the job; a lot of overclocking is just used to make a robot or program act more conveniently for the user. Still, there's a good amount of people who are willing to really push the envelope in reprogramming and altering robots...and there are a lot of cops watching Akihabara like a hawk to make arrests.
Q is a store next to a gaming hall. Q is run by the reclusive Mr. Onoki who is a creator of amazing and unique inventions like spybots or robots to clean fish tanks or a holographic projector mounted in a watch. Pretty much everything is one-of-a-kind because Mr. Onoki doesn't really like to keep repeating the same designs. If you're not into unique items and collectibles, he also sells novelty and joke items.
Uemura Hirotaka is a flamboyant Overclocker clad in a red jacket covered in pictograms and big red glasses attached to his Pods. He's a talkative and friendly guy with a huge fixation on western movies from the 20th century and he specializes in premade templates that replicate certain characters (like Tyler Durden, The Bride from Kill Bill or Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca) that you can upload into android. Alternately, he takes private commissions.
Sto-Vo-Kor is so-named for Klingon heaven and is basically a cafe home to bunch of computer nerds who are part of a loose club of likeminded interests. Mostly students, they watch cartoons, compare their rigs and debate sentai. Come here if you need info or help you couldn't find anywhere else.
Black Flag is a small, cramped shop where the owner is a Chinese man named Wang who's lived in Japan for the last 40 years. A handyman and a repairman, Wang will offer alternative services to people who ask for them. Using a mixture of Shinto, Taoist ritual and his own secret rituals and nuggets of knowledge, Wang says he can enchant things for you, enhance their abilities or create cursed items.
Asakusa is home to the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, a temple from 1645 that retains all of its classic architecture but holds myriad hidden security systems from 2046. The entire district is made of buildings not any more recent than the 1960s and resembles the old aesthetics of the city, the district is full of art that invokes old mythology like paintings of Kappas and full of shops that sell everything holy and mystic. It's a popular place to visit due to the atmosphere and charm of a Japan long gone by. However, the rest of the city has grown around Asakusa, their buildings casting gloomy shadows down into the district. This isn't helped by the strange sense of melancholy that's fallen over the district along with a rise of cults.
Octopus Sushi is a sushi joint that basically explains how all sushi joints in Shin-Edo work: you order on the doorstep and pay before you're allowed entry. The Octopus is a typical joint that's frequented by laborers because they have food that's cheap but good. Its cook is a red android with long, flexible arms that allow it to multitask while it cooks your meals. In fact, the android runs the whole place.
Yumiko's Kitchen is a bit of an oddity. It's hard to find the entrance because all of the north-eastern doorways and entrances have been sealed. The owner, Mrs. Murikami, is a big believer in Kaso, an art of telling fortunes based on the layout of a building. She has intentionally designed her restaurant to make it hard for demons to enter by sealing off all north-eastern entrances, guarding all other entrances with lucky nekos placed in the windows.
Jinshi is a type of temple, the Jinshi Konpyu-ta temple. Found at the end of an alley, the temple is a decrepit structure that resembles a drink machine. When someone passes it, a retinal scanner engages and asks you to make a donation. Donating to it vends a bit of paper with a proverb or a hint about the future. The lower the donation, the more cryptic the message. There are rumors that there's a blind, half-senile Shinto priest who maintains the shrine and helps interpret the fortunes but nobody can prove he exists.
Robotto Fuki is an existentialist cult that believes that robots are oppressed and can be campaigning on street corners, asking androids to rebel and join them as they shout slogans.
Chiyoda contains the Imperial Palace proper and is also home to all of the politicking in Japan. Akihito is still emperor despite being 113 and the fact that he's still alive have attracted Genocrats by the busload. The Kuro Incident has resulted in the shaky alliance between the LD and the NK parties (Liberal-Democratic New Komeito respectively) and further distrust of the LD party and a rise in the NK. Many people took their silence to confirm China's accusations (in reality it was just because they had no answer) and as a result right-wing extremism has rushed to grab power in Japan while anti-authoritarian leftists chase the right wing extremists. Uyoku now fill the streets of Japan, being small parties with a handful of members to a couple hundred, and most of them are right-wing, fascist and xenophobic, attacking foreigners trapped by the blockade and trying to seize power. The most powerful of them all is the Yamatodamashii (spirit of Japan) Party lead by Komatsuzawa Kazutada, a politician descended from samurai who has been forming alliances between the smaller parties to give him the power he needs to seize the government come the next election.
Yasukuni-jinja is the Temple of the Peaceful Country, a monument dedicated to Japanese killed on combat since the 19th century. The temple has been protested in the past due to the government burying war criminals on the property and then comes the whole discourse about Japanese culpability in WWII and other wars. Nationalist groups love to patrol around the temple and shout slogans.
Kyuen Zaibatsu is a company that makes anti-aging products for all markets and incomes. The CEO is a Genocrat by the name of Nitta Nobuyuki, the entire three first floors of his tower acting as his apartment. Recently he's been buying empty lots in Asakusa and also small shrines to install his stores into and nobody knows why.
Ginza is near the palace and Chiyoda. As a result, it's a pretty high end place where the Genocrats come to shop and frolic. The district is very Western in design, aping European buildings and designs that use a lot of glass. Ginza is also home to advertising that is blatantly pandering, having sexy women in skimpy clothes model cars or other products from showrooms or from holographic projectors. Ginza's shops have been holding homemade products since the blockade, embracing Japanese-made products and letting fashionable brands from Paris and Europe fall by the wayside. It's a revolution for Japanese fashion designers and researchers who are focusing on making clothing more green and tied to technology. And if clothes aren't your game, you can go catch a show at a cinema or watch some Kabuki or Noh theater.
Ginza-Yurakucho is a collection of retro-style cinemas dedicated to showing movies from the 1950s through 2000s. The book alleges that movies aren't as popular in Japan due to the cost of tickets and seats. One of the standouts is the Apollo Theater, a small building with an old red facade that smells like an actual 1960s cinema (or, as the book notes, "like the short-lived rockabilly revival of the 2030s"). Unfortunately the theater has been closed for a week after someone (or something) attacked four patrons during a retrospective of Shinya Tsukamoto's works (the man created the Tetsuo: The Iron Man movies). Three of the victims are in a psychiatric hospital while the fourth is still being cleaned off the walls of the theater.
The Monster Manor is a night club designed to look like a Western haunted house. It uses AR overlaid onto the building to let you see virtual flames and little virtual demons scampering around the windows. Each room has a bar and its own themes and all of the paintings of the building have eyes that look like they're moving. There's a special room called the White Chamber, which is just a bedroom modified to be a little calmer and have an environment where you can sit down and drink. Plus there's an chance you'll see the holographic ghost of the manor's alleged owner.
NEXT TIME: Harajuku, Kaijin, Odaiba, Roppongi and Shibuya.
JAPAN, CONTINUEDOriginal SA post
Harajuku is where the COOL HIP YOUTHS chill out and has become increasingly more angry since the blockade. Colorful Japanese fashion has become overtaken with UNSAVORY YOUTH TYPES. "Neo-tribal and Goth-metal groups, bosozokus and other amphetamine and Squid junkies have made their appearance. Old shamisen (a three-string lute) players have been replaced by more violent rock guitarists in certain areas." So yeah Japanese youth culture is pretty bitchin'. Anyway this is full of cafes and nightclubs that have normally been frequented by students and teens and young folks up until the blockade. Now there's a palpable anger and the fact that things have gotten bad are definitely apparent to the youth who are starting to ignore the district in favor of survival.
The Akai Cho is a bar that specializes in punk, metal, rock, post-punk, glam rock, a genre called "rock'n'tek" which is a rock/techno fusion and also neo-grunge. A lot of occult types like to hang out at the Akai Cho, including a band called Sugomi. Sugomi is made up of has-been rock stars who have a way with words that some say can actually cast spells.
100 Yen is the Japanese equivalent of an American Five Below. Or a Spencers' without the tee hee giggle novelty sex stuff. Or a dollar store. I guess more of a Five Below mixed with a dollar store, the cheaper price but with a teen-friendly aesthetic.
The Chika Club is a cube-shaped night club decorated with gold cables home to a virtual idol, one Hatsune Chiku Chika. "A contributory factor to her popularity may be that her designers spared no detail when designing her anatomy." Look I don't gotta go too in depth about this, Miku exists, people want to fuck Miku, you don't gotta tell me people want to fuck the AI.
The Meiji Jingu Shrine is shrine built in honor of Empress Shoken, the wife of the emperor of the Meiji period. Let me share with you the pinnacle of writing in this book: "Surrounded by a rich, dense, manmade forest of over 700,000 square metres, a bridge connects it to Yoyogi-Koen park. Originally, its main entrance was open only through a cedar arc (a torii) ten meters high. However, a new torii has appeared inexplicably in the heart of the forest. Painted black (which is uncommon), the later has proved impossible to tear down and makes the priests in the shrine extremely uneasy. The dead birds that fall around it do nothing to reassure them." I can't help but read that in either Werner Herzog's voice or David Attenborough's, it's just so dryly funny.
Kaijin is 30 KM offshore, 12 square KM of offshore platforms and underwater stations covered in aquaculture facilities and solar panels. Kaijin is an industrial quarter, home to research labs, food production companies and weather research facilities. Only officially recognized as a quarter in 2038, Kaijin gets a lot of visits from students and businessmen who want to see the underwater tours, the underwater cloning facilities responsible for all of the fish and general business. However, life on Kaijin is pretty rough. For starters, the Yakuza are the middlemen between every business and the shore. The Yakuza help staff the technical staffs who handle the maintenance and they also staff the construction companies. The bigger threat is the weather and the nature of the district. Maintenance is constantly being done on the pillars holding Kaijin above sea level and scientists are often running tests to make sure that everything is stable as they repeatedly plan for expansions on the structures for redundancy. The weather looms above all, the waves getting choppier and haunted by the blockade around Japan as it brews towards something bigger.
The Sushi Sea is a typical sushi joint on Kaijin. Run by Mrs. Ukitaki and her robot cook Yoshihito, it's all super nautical and kinda cheesy but also home to plenty of rumors. One particularly interesting rumor/fact is that the seas are completely depopulated in the oceans of Japan and that everything has to be cultivated via cloning in safe zones by food companies.
Odaiba was an artificial island built in 1853 as part of a futurist exhibit and became a leisure center and the home of Japanese TV and movies. Later it became home to amusement parks. Since the blockade it's been rather empty but you can still go there and hopefully see some shows still being shot!
"There are always many visitors on the narrow, metallic Odaiba streets, each hoping to see their favourite show hostess outside a film set or to join the long waiting line to see one of the more popular TV game shows being recorded (like ‘Fun & Surgery’ a where contestants attempt several ridiculous events to win nanotech enhancements, or even K-1 World War, a combat show where humans face androids in a ring using devastating techniques). Another popular show is ‘Kill Power Ball.’ Only shown in reruns after it was denounced by several other nations as cruel and inhumane, the show pitted dangerous habitual criminals fighting each other in a virtual arena using Squids (even though these are illegal). A violent defeat would frequently result in irreversible brain damage, or even brain death, whereby the victim’s organs were systematically recovered by one of the labs sponsoring the show."
Zepp Tokyo is a real night club that ends up getting closed due to a biohazard incident in 2022. A suicide bomber killed themselves and spread a bio-engineered virus with the power of Super Ebola and the cops immediately sealed all of the exits and trapped all of the victims inside to prevent the spread of the virus. After the police were lambasted for this choice, the government decided to not test the virus' properties and built a hermetic container around the Zepp and then covered that in concrete. Close to 1,300 bodies are still inside the concrete tomb, unrecovered and likely never investigated due to fears that the virus might still be active.
Dai-Roku Daiba is a smaller artificial island turned into a manor by industrialist Futaki Taneo in 2013. Made to resemble Victorian Gothic architecture, Futaki Taneo and his family hosted galas and were general media darlings...until July 20th 2046, the day of Umi No Hi, "The Festival of the Sea". He was found alone and naked in the salon of the manor, mute and with his hands covered in blood after he scrawled symbols all over the wall of the room. To date his family hasn't been found and he hasn't said a word since.
Taki-Tso-Hiko is the name of a weird silhouette seen by technicians shooting film and TV. Taki-Tso-Hiko apparently looks like a large figure in the rain, invisible but occasionally seen moving.
Sega Joyopolis is Sega's theme park that looks cool and is fun and I don't know why this is in here.
Roppongi is where a lot of the foreigners trapped in Japan are residing, a place of vice and cabarets and bars and white people. Roppongi looks cool and interesting and seedy but in reality it's a cultivated image.
Kiyowara Kijuro is the son of a businessman who has psychosomatic pains when bad stuff happens to Shin-Edo. Or maybe it's not psychosomatic, maybe he does have a psychic bond with the city when physical damage to the city does physical damage to his body. Either way, he'll probably die should things get too bad in Japan. Protected by his bodyguards, he refuses to leave his apartment, staring at the holographic images and the ceiling as he lies on his bed.
Cho-han bakushi is a gambling game where you roll two dice in a black bamboo box and basically bet on odds and evens. Popular amongst the Yakuza, you can play it at the White Tiger cabaret with a man named Sadafusa who has an appetite for strange bets like memories and secrets.
Kim Min-Seun is an old North Korean man who managed to get into Japan illegally before the Kuro Incident. Not yet accepted for proper asylum, he lives on the streets and claims he escaped North Korea because he foresaw the incident and wanted to warn Japan. He'll tell people what he knows for food.
Donburi Twin is a black cube building run by the Kobori twins who specialize in fukagawa-meshi dishes. At night, the twins are part of a left-wing anti-nationalistic group who want to stop the xenophobia and do this by hacking servers, committing vandalism and taking action against the right-wing groups.
Sengakuji Temple is home to the graves of the 47 Ronin and that's really all this is here for.
Shibuya is the trade quarter, home to the statue of Hachiko (a famously good dog) and various labs and state-of-the-art medical technology. Shibuya is hands-down home to the best of Japanese cosmetics and various treatments and procedures to be used for beauty. It's also home to the Ministry of Family and artificial wombs, where the lucky are allowed to have the government birth their babies and the unfortunate are forced to have chemical abortions for breaking the law.
The Sunrise is found on the 12th floor of the Cerulean Building, owned by Nabeshima Matsuta who is an artist and a Noh actor. He's a master bartender who some say is able to figure out what you want to drink through psychic powers and reading body language.
Hacha Okichi is a woman who has a small shop. She lost her hands in 2028 in an accident, getting first-rate replacements as part of the massive settlement. Since gaining her new hands, she's learned jo rei which is being able to heal diseases by laying hands. Now she's a masseuse and a folk healer.
The Sendagaya Dome Library is a huge virtual library beneath a glass dome. Most of the books are virtual and can just be downloaded onto your Pod but there are still wings of paperback books. There's also a robot named Kigo who watches the doors who is notable for only speaking in haiku.
The Ako Gishi is an ancient tea shop that is home to the proprietor Mrs. Tsukinoyo (descended from one of the 47 Ronin). It's a small tea house with old men playing Go and ancient paintings and decorative swords.
NEXT TIME we finish up Japan with Shinjuku, Tsukiji, Kabuki-Cho, Kamata and Ueno.