When discussing themes and styles for newTribes (our cyberpunk game), one of the themes I love is single-use products – a truly disposable future. In the classic CyberPunk 2020 RPG this is well represented by the polymer one-shots (cheap plastic handguns that are thrown out after use instead of reloaded). However, very few players will use these crappy guns, no matter how cheap they are – they are best used as a way to arm NPCs in a manner that allows them to be a threat, but that doesn’t give the players anything to salvage.
However, for newTribes, I want a more disposable feel. Since so many games revolve around combat, most of the suggestions we went through were weapon and armour related – but here they are:
The benefit of this model is that we deal with a world where most weapons are single-use. This gives people a lot of opportunity to use different weapons and then toss them after using them. The first downside is that it will feel distinctly “Cyberpunk 2020” because it was the first game that really introduced these weapons. Secondly, the military would be looking for more durable equipment (most likely), and that would drive players to look for the same weapons, thus avoiding the use of the one-shot guns.
An offshoot of this idea that I’m still considering, however, is to make for potent ammunition that players will REALLY want to use that also beats the crap out of the gun it is fired from – so after a few fights, you would have to toss the gun because of the abuse from the ammo. This has the advantage of feeling like Ghost In The Shell (“HV ammo in a machine pistol!?”) as well as tearing apart just about any gun, no matter how good it is.
Make Guns Cheap
Well, actually, leave the price of firearms the same (roughly what it is in the modern world – with handguns available for under $200), but make some other essential hardware for the game quite expensive (like cyberware). Basically, take the price-lines from CyberPunk, and increase the cost of cybernetics five or ten-fold. This makes it so cyberware is a big investment and isn’t disposable, but makes standard tech goodies (handguns, portable computers, body armor, etc), cheap and thus seemingly disposable in the eyes of the players.
NRA Wonderland with CSI Forensics
Make the main game setting a true NRA Wonderland, where anyone can own and carry a weapon (even an automatic weapon), but where the level of forensics science is so high that you can take it for granted that if you kill someone with a weapon, the police will have the weapon on file and will be watching for it. Throw in random police checkpoints and players will be buying guns exclusively on the black market (so they can’t be traced to them), and will throw them out as soon as they shoot someone (or at least toss them before the next police checkpoint). To keep up verisimilitude, just have the police scan firearms nonchalantly at checkpoints with a scanner that cross-references the global firearms database for weapons that have been used committing a crime. Further, give access to this same technology to the players, so they feel somewhat confident buying firearms on the black market.
We came up with two options to make armour disposable, both revolving around specialty ammunition. Nanosized tracking electronics can be built into standard bullets used by corpgoons. Sure, when the bullets hit body armour it is likely that the bullet is too deformed to still be readable, but you can assume that 10% to 30% of bullets would still having working tracking in them, embedded into your body armour. So after a gunfight meeting with corpsec, the first reaction should be to shuck your armour. To make this even more likely, introduce an ammo that slowly dissolves the standard armour types – not fast enough to make a difference in combat (like acid paintballs in CyberPunk 2020), but enough that the armour will be swiss cheese soon after the fight is over. This will again discourage players from using the ammo (since it provides no real combat bonus), but would certainly make armour disposable after being shot.
By advancing the tech curve rapidly, players will often find themselves owning equipment that is horribly out of date and ineffective. Because the primary theme of newTribes is alienation and futureshock, we already have a rapidly advancing tech curve that is designed so that when it advances, one field of technology suffers from penalties in game unless it is updated. By attaching these game rules to the rapidly advancing tech curve in newTribes, players will find themselves in the position of wanting to replace their gear on a regular basis anyways, because their treasured state-of-the-art equipment will rapidly become old crap as the tech curve advances.