Welcome back to The Independents, your source for reviews of out-of-the-box tabletop roleplaying games. The small outfits, the crazy geniuses, the little projects, the ‘Indie’ creators who are simply out to make a name for themselves and a game people can enjoy. Here at The Independents we aim to highlight some of these games, for a change of pace and a new (and great) experience!
The Tendril Access Processor, generally shortened to TAP and called Interface Zero by its creators, has allowed the people of the world to plug their brains right into the net, creating a new era of inter-connectivity complete with all-new dangers. The human genome has been molded and tweaked, leading to the creation of enhanced humans, vat-grown simulacra, and animal hybrids. Technology has allowed others to enhance themselves with augmentations, while at the same time creating full androids that can, with the right spark, think for themselves. National borders have collapsed or shifted, and the corporations have risen to power. The year is 2090. Good luck. You’ll need it.
Interface Zero 2.0 is, as the numeral might suggest, the second edition of a cyberpunk game from Gun Metal Games. There are, in addition to the core book, several ‘setting’ books that focus on a particular city or region from the overall setting. Of particular note is that the creator has been seen to comment that the city/region books from the first edition are perfectly viable from a fluff perspective, always a nice perk for a GM looking for more material. The entire game is based off of the Savage Worlds system from the Pinnacle Entertainment Group, so you’ll ideally want a copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe along with your IZ2.0 book in order to play. This is the first time The Independents has dealt with a licensed Savage Worlds game, so let’s start off by looking at some mechanics.
Everything you have in IZ2.0 is based off of dice. The five stats (Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength, and Vigor) start off at d4, and then you have 5 points to add to them. A point makes the die go up one size, d4 to d6 to d8 to d10 to d12. Then you have skill points (usually 15 of them), which work the same way: putting your first point into a skill gives a d4, with larger dice for more points, but the skill dice cap at the relevant stat. Someone with Agility d8, for instance, can only get Shooting to d8 until they upgrade Agility further.
Beyond that you have Edges and Hindrances (compare GURPS’s Advantages/Disadvantages and Shadowrun’s Good/Bad Qualities). Edges have all sorts of varied benefits. Hindrances are obviously bad, but there’s a little bit of nuance to them. You can have one Major Hindrance and two Minor Hindrances. A Major one can get you an Edge or a point to put into a stat. A Minor one can get you another skill point, or you can combine both Minors to get another Edge. From there, spend whatever resources you get from the level of play the GM chooses, and you’re good to go.
How does it play on the table? Simple. Whether you’re rolling against a static goal number or an opponent’s roll, you’re tossing two dice onto the table: your relevant Stat or Skill die, and a Wild Die which is usually a d6. You pick one and compare it to the goal/opposing roll (if you max out a die then you get to roll it again and add the results), and that’s that. An interesting quirk is how you ‘roll’ initiative. Everyone, players and opponents, draw a card from a normal deck of cards. Aces are high, and you go down the list. Ties are broken by suite, and the Joker can choose to go whenever he wants followed by the deck being reshuffled. I found this to be a pretty dynamic and fast-moving way of handling initiative, personally, and it was actually a lot of fun just seeing who had managed to handle the shifting firefight faster every round.
Now, a lot of what I’ve mentioned so far comes hand-in-hand with Interface Zero being a Savage Worlds game. If you’re interested in a rules-light, fast-paced game that let’s you hit hard and hits you back just the same, you might have already heard enough. But what about the parts that make Interface Zero unique? What makes it stand out from other cyberpunk games on the market? If you’ve gotten your fare share of the genre elsewhere, what makes this game worth adding to the shelf?
Well, no small bit of it does have to do with how rules-lite the system is when compared with other games. I’ve played cyberpunk roleplaying games in Cyberpunk 2020, GURPS, and Shadowrun 4th and 5th Editions. I had oodles of fun in all of them, but there’s no denying that all three/four systems have their issues. 2020 shows its age, GURPS is definitely a case of having so many options it can be hard to choose any, and Shadowrun has literally had me rolling a basket of d6s. Again, all really fun games! But there are those who just don’t like a game that takes as much work (and dice), so in the interest of getting games on more tables it just makes sense to have a simpler alternative available.
There’s also the bits that make it, from a mechanical standpoint, cyberpunk. In particular I’d love to highlight the cybernetics aspect. Those who chose to Meet the Party for Shadowrun 5E noted that it probably took a long time to make each character (it did) and a big part of that was the purchasing of augmentations. Rather than breaking out the calculator to manage prices and using decimal points to decide how many augments I could have before going insane IZ2.0 was blissfully simple. Each implant or augment costs a certain amount of Strain. You can spend an amount of Strain equal to your Vigor stat (if you have Vigor d8 that means you have 8 Strain to spend). Each augment costs a set monetary amount per Strain you spend to get it, 5,000 per Strain for the basic Streetware variety. Boom, that’s it.
Between the basic Savage Worlds simplicity and how regular the cyberware costs were, I had my first IZ2.0 character built inside maybe 40 minutes, wherein I didn’t have a book of my own and was passing books around a table with eight other savages. So, yes, there will be a Meet the Party: Interface Zero 2.0 and it will not have me feeling like I’m taking biofeedback damage.
So, mechanically cyberpunk? Check. What about the narrative side of things? Oh yes. This is definitely no technological utopia, here. Interface Zero has its own background story that your campaign will be built off of. It’s not something lovingly cribbed from the pages of Gibson; it is definitely its own unique creature. The USA and many other nations have fallen, yes, but not just into the grasp of the corporations. The world has splintered into a new generation of nations, free cities, ruins choked by the rising sea levels, and war-torn no-man-zones. It has a complex, thriving political structure that your characters in the shadows must always be mindful of. Public opinion and religion wrestles with the genetic improvement of humanity, the hybridization that gives humans animal features, and the rights and sentience of self-aware androids and the short-lived simulacra. Many non-standard-human characters might find themselves shunned or even persecuted depending on where in the world they live. The wheel of evolution has kept turning of its own accord, with psychic powers emerging among the populace and causing fear and suspicion. Every character has an occupation that gives them a place in the world, but not so much money that they can stay out of the shadows. And, while they might not be your only problem by a long shot, the corporations are always looking for some extra profit.
During that first session our party found ourselves hired by a client whose movie-star simulacra model had been stolen, template and all, and the security company originally hired to retrieve the model had apparently been double-dealing and was providing security for the thief. We had to get a DNA sample of the model to prove that it had been stolen and then further prove that the security goons had violated the contract. So there we were: two arrogant Human 2.0s (a bounty hunter and a hacker), a shrink with psychic powers, an information broker who still wore her habit and claimed to be the Mother Superior of the Streets, an android bodyguard built to look like the unassuming companion of Japanese salarymen, and my own honey-badger-hybrid bartender who was particularly upset that the security goons hadn’t been tipping their barkeeps. We plied the locals for intel, wheeled and dealed and hacked our way in to the target location, and when things (inevitably) went sideways, we smash-and-grabbed our way out of there before things turned deadly for us. It was fast and fun, and a great return to the cyberpunk genre for a group that had been away for a good while.
You can find the Interface Zero 2.0 core rulebook in PDF format for $20.00 and print for $50.99 at the Gun Metal Games shop, along with a number of supplements which are in the $6-10 range. Savage Worlds Deluxe can be found here in PDF and print for $9.99. All of the above can also be found on DriveThruRPG. If you want to plug into a cyberpunk game with a unique spin on the genre and quick and simple rules, then give IZ2.0 a try.
Whether you’re a bog-standard human, grown in a vat, tweaked on the genetic level or with after-market add-ons, a machine with human questions, or have a little a little beast in you, it’s a savage world out there omae. If you’re not smart, fast, and vicious then you’re not going to make ends meet. Or survive, for that matter. Hope luck’s on your side.
Originally posted 7/30/15 on the Mad Adventurers Society!