My tabletop RPG "Fully Automated!" is now in Beta version!
For a long time I've been working on a tabletop RPG, and this week I'm transitioning it to beta version. It's still in development, but it's at a stage where I'm ready to share it with a broader audience in order to collect feedback before releasing it fully.
Exploring LA by Sean Bodley (patreon.com/seanbodley)
It's funny to look back on the path that led here. It started around 2018 when I went looking for a scifi RPG after I got tired of running homebrew Dungeons and Dragons games. I couldn't really find what I was looking for, which was just a cyberpunk story with a sense of realism and humor. I settled for the RPG Corporation but immediately dispensed with most of the in-game lore. It all felt stuck in the 80's, technologically and culturally. To their credit, there's a ton of content, and it's not bad. It's just thematically uninteresting. Immediately I tried to update it so it at least incorporated biotechnology and political science from the new millennium, and it was great. Then 2020 came and the real world had gotten far more dystopian than the game, and it ceased to be a fun escape.
But I came back to it eventually, and by then I had plenty of new inspiration to draw from. I realized that what I had no longer even fit into the definition of cyberpunk, and instead fit better into solarpunk. I also realized it was time to stop referring to the games as "Corporation", since the game wasn't even recognizably similar, and I started calling it "Fully Automated".
Now, Fully Automated is in beta edition. It's a playable game, with actual character templates and story modules. While there's a lot of work still incomplete, and I still have to learn about the process of publishing these, it's hugely satisfying to have a crude product that fulfills a need that wasn't available when I went looking for it five years ago.
This is the thing that I still find most surprising. Considering the enormous popularity of realistic, science-informed futurism in The Expanse and The Martian, and plenty of other works of fiction, it's surprising to me that an RPG that is guided by these elements isn't readily available. The culture of it falls within the same theme. The idea of rampant drug violence, gang violence, poverty, exploitation, and sheer nihilism seem irrational to me given the current trajectory we're on. There are no guarantees that the next century isn't going to be terrible, but it's certainly going to be more interesting than things as they are now, but with lasers. I happen to think that generally widespread criticism of capitalism, the maturation of automation, the growing interest in degrowth and social welfare point to the possibility of a world where things are at least a little better than they are right now.
After that, the real challenge was writing compelling action-adventure stories in such a world. If everything is so good, why are people in danger? And that's really the radical part, in my opinion: that confusion reveals how shallow our positive visions of the future are. If we can't imagine someone having a bad day in a setting, we clearly haven't really imagined that setting with any clarity. Of course people will have bad days! People still get jealous. People still get ambitious. People still get scared, and horny, and mischievous, and confused, and embarrassed and so on, no matter how far up on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs we reach.
And that's where it landed. A world full of artists and hackers and explorers and hedonists just getting themselves into trouble and trying to get one another out of it. It's a fun game, and I think the more people who try it, the more people are going to experience the sense of perspective on all of it that led me to make it. There's still a lot to do, but as of now, anyone should be able to play a complete session based on the written materials alone!