The CabbageCorp crew has gotten themselves into some trouble in 2045. But they’ve also gotten some nice payoffs. After William Squires made a troubling, cryptic speech at the Future of the Midwest conference in Hydropolis, the team knew they needed to get in gear and figure out what was going on. They also had some real estate transactions to resolve. So when Mason, Philly, Relay, Jacob, TK, Doctor Kong, and Bubbles had to renovate a warehouse, what were they going to do?
More importantly, what was I, their GM, going to do? While Cyberpunk Red has a few options for stationary equipment, the Night City lifestyle isn’t really about property ownership. Giving the party options for their newly acquired warehouse that they actually cared about would require a combination of creativity, player input, and yes, a bit of a System Hack.
As you might recall, the CabbageCorp team finagled their way into some choice real estate by taking the deeds from the apartment of formerly alive Russian mobster Vlad, and then convincing Vlad’s proxy Igor to let them keep the deeds by tipping the mob to some sweet insider trading. The team had actually met Vlad in the warehouse before, as said mobster was using it to store all the materiel for his Edgerunner weapons rental service. Now, though, the warehouse was empty, and in addition to having no weapons, also had no plumbing or electricity. It would require some work, but was also a blank canvas. A blank canvas for what, well that was up to the team.
The timing for this sudden detour to The Sims: Dark Future Loft Life may seem odd given that the campaign just dropped a big, apocalyptic reveal, but it had to do with the downtime house rule I had set up earlier. Given that a) nobody seemed to want to take any downtime ever and b) I couldn’t actually account for all the time the team was spending while keeping events happening at a reasonable pace, I set up a house rule that each ingame ‘month’ was five sessions, and at the end of the fifth session the team would get a free week of downtime to account for all the things their characters had been doing while not on screen. It just so happened that the downtime phase for the ingame ‘month’ that ended with Squires’ cryptic announcement was the first downtime phase where the team had the warehouse in their possession and the wherewithal to do something with it.
The real estate idea was hatched after Mason’s player tried to get Igor to let the team keep the warehouse. I wasn’t expecting the deeds to be more than a MacGuffin, but when it was suggested, the party latched onto it and I went with it. The players had been making more than enough money to pay their rent but not enough to buy property, so this seemed like a bargain. And while maybe it was for what they got, the hack I came up with for the warehouse had one purpose and one purpose only: get rid of the party’s money.
This isn’t to say I thought my players had earned too much money at this point; although Cyberpunk is a game where the characters are supposed to stay hungry, I have always had trouble saying no to high-risk, high-reward missions and large outlays of cash. There’s also the fact that, once your players get to a certain skill level, even petty crime can be pretty lucrative. As a result, the CabbageCorp team had some pretty tall stacks of cash at this point, and I wanted to nip that in the bud. In an earlier campaign, my group hatched the ‘Escape to Space’ gambit, which demonstrated the risks of letting player characters have too much money, even without guns, armor, and vehicles to spend it on. The GM of this game had put together a pretty slick MacGuffin: The last viable coca plants on Earth. Needless to say, every law enforcement and intelligence agency on the planet wanted them, and the party, a group of expat lowlifes living in Manila, were about to get very uncomfortable holding onto them. As the campaign started to accelerate, and our GM had also been relatively loose with the eddies, one of the players snarked that we should just rent a space shuttle and leave the planet instead of following the plot to our deaths. I did the math. Our party had enough money to fly to Johannesburg, get on an Orbital Air shuttle, make our way to Crystal Palace, and sell the Highriders the ur-Cocaine instead of fighting CIA and Interpol proxies in the streets of Manila via following the plot hook. Assuming we had enough leftover for a few bribes (we did) and we could make it to the airport fast enough (we could), the campaign would effectively be over. Our GM just looked at us dumbstruck. Now, we ended up deciding to continue the campaign and not leave the GM with the bag, but the lesson in the dangers of liquidity was one I never forgot.
To the CabbageCorp team I handed a price sheet. There was tons of stuff on it that one could imagine putting in a warehouse: workshops, medbays, private apartments for every teammate, a bar, you name it. My pricing, while not necessarily fully mathed out against Cyberpunk Red standards (though I did the best I could), had one important feature: there was no mathematical way to afford everything the team wanted. They had to pick and choose in order to stay under budget. It worked seriously well. The group spent a week discussing in Discord and, when I was unable to make a session, they signed on anyway to hash out the final warehouse plan. After much debate, the team moved out of their Biotechnica corporate digs into much nicer apartments located above a bar they christened The Crash Landing. In the back were some medical facilities and a drug lab, which meant that TK and Doctor Kong could peddle their ripperdoc services from a stationary location. The team wasn’t able to go for all of the obvious mechanical boons, but the result made sense from a trade-off (and architectural) standpoint, and now CabbageCorp had a home base.
We’ve talked about home bases before, Seamus wrote a whole article about the concept a few years back. Having a home base gives the party something to care about and somewhere to congregate. It also gives you, the GM, a place where NPCs can drop by, knowing that someone in the party is likely to be there. As far as mechanics go, while some games like those based on the Year Zero Engine provide pretty solid ground from which to build up an HQ, a notional home base can be used in pretty much any game. Cyberpunk Red doesn’t have the best variety of stationary goodies to buy, but there are a few key purchases, like giving the team the ability to build their own net architecture to handle security and other functions. I actually opted to handwave that, instead giving the team a few options for security based on the net architecture costs. I did, though, base some of the costs on what was available in the book for real estate, though in the end the team likely got a bit of a bargain compared to buying all their own apartments. And I had to give the option of a bar, just because.
A lot of the ‘rules’ for providing stationary facilities in your home base are going to be extrapolating from costs in your system of choice. You want the base to be an attractive enough option that the party will use the facilities, but not so attractive that it will keep them from adventuring. Of course, in many games the base can be part of the plot in a big way, so there’s nothing stopping you from running the occasional murder mystery or dinner party if that’s what you want to do. Also, as Seamus mentions in his earlier article, you can get a lot of mileage out of threatening the base, especially after the players are attached to it. Just don’t do it so often that the players come to regret their decision.
Whether the group is stationary or mobile factors into the considerations for setting up a home base, and this often makes Cyberpunk, a game which focuses on a single city for its default conceit, a good candidate for some base-building rules. Do remember, though, how such a base fits into the implied setting of the city. Out in the cornfields of Hydropolis, space is much more plentiful than it would be in Night City. Similarly, the ‘corps are usually the ones owning all the real estate, so while CabbageCorp was able to swipe some deeds from under the nose of the Russian Mob, your Cyberpunks might have a tougher time. That said, a squat can be a really interesting home base, and for a more gutterpunk campaign the motivation to not have to pay rent could be a huge consideration that basically writes itself. Even as I write this, a squatter/Reclaimer campaign is forming in my head. While many ingame home bases, including The Crash Landing, are driven by some mechanical bennies, it’s always going to be the ingame considerations that make the warehouse a home.
While CabbageCorp is making renovations, Squires’ plan is going into action. Is he really going to destroy the world? How can the team go toe-to-toe with the reclusive scientist? And why did they name their bar The Crash Landing anyway? Does it have something to do with the helicopter on the roof? Whose is that? Everyone’s favorite neo-corporate Kansans are asking new questions way faster than they’re answering old ones, and now the clock is ticking to find out what the founders of Jayhawk are actually doing. Join us next time when we get back into the action with a new Adventure Log!
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