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The Data Heist

A Solo Tabletop Roleplaying Adventure Set in the Cyberpunk World of Glitch City.

By Tom BakerPublished 5 months ago 13 min read
2
AI-Generated Artwork

Note: I'll be posting a version of this story without the game mechanics, a revised and expanded version of the prose sections here.

"They tell me, and they are usually spot-on about these things, that you're one of the best in the business. A steady cyberwall climber can jockey any program, ride the elevator up to the MAGI, and jack into any space, no matter how tight. But to crush this particular ice cube you're gonna have to get into ZetaCorp and work up close and personal with DOC, that's their "AI in the Sky." DOC sees all, DOC knows all, or so they say. And it's no cakewalk, babe. You can't get in there on a smile and your good looks. This won't be a birthday party."

Setting:

"Glitch City," A gritty cyberpunk cityscape filled with towering skyscrapers, flickering neon lights, and perpetual rain.

Background:

In the sprawling metropolis of Glitch City, corruption runs as deep and as black as an abscessed tooth. , and the divide between the elite and the destitute is stark. You, a lone hacker named Sypher, receive a cryptic message from an old friend, Razer. Razer, an ex-police officer, has the goods on a high-level corporate conspiracy that could send the otherwise lovely and tranquil Glitch City into a living nightmare. And YOU, baby, got to "jack in" to the ZetaCorp Mainframe, download that info, and expose the plot. The message is clear: meet at midnight at The Nexus, a popular arcade in the heart of the Red District.

Characters:

Cypher (Player Character): A skilled hacker with a dark past and a knack for staying off the grid.

  • Agility * 1
  • Intellect * 2
  • Resilience * 1
  • Street Smarts * 2

Razer (Non-Player Character): A grizzled ex-cop with a passion for justice and a tendency to bend the rules.

  • Agility * 2
  • Intellect * 1
  • Resilience * 1
  • Street Smarts * 2

Corporate Security (Corpsec) (Non-Player Characters):

  • Agility * 2
  • Intellect *1
  • Resilience * 2
  • Street Smarts *1
  • Weapons * Taser rifles, stun grenades, truncheons (close range). Body armor ( +2 protection.)
  • Attributes (You have six points to use. No attribute can have a higher score than 3.):

    • Agility * 1
    • Intellect * 2
    • Resilience * 1
    • Street Smarts * 2

    Each attribute becomes the modifier for a 1d6 roll. Example. You roll against Resilience and roll a 3 on a 1d6, denoting Failure, but (the modifier is a prompt letting you know that while you failed, mostly there is another circumstance to consider). You add the +1 modifier for Resilience and get 4. Not wildly successful, but enough to make your action work.

    Success Table (1d6)

  • 1. Badly failed
  • 2. Failure
  • 3. Failure, but
  • 4. Success
  • 5. Success, and
  • 6. Wildly Successful
  • Oracle Table

    As you begin each little "scene," ask the Oracle below a closed (Yes/No) question, such as "Is there anything harmful in this area? Do I encounter anyone strange?" You can ask the Oracle if something is close or far away, or if the corpsec are located in front of you, or behind you. You'll either get a solid yes or no, or a modified yes or no. Then write down whatever this reply prompts, based on your interpretation. Your imagination will "fill in the blanks."

    • 1. Emphatically no!
    • 2. No
    • 3. No, however
    • 4. Yes
    • 5. Yes, and also...
    • 6. Most emphatically yes!

    Combat!

    AI-Generated Artwork

    Roll 3d6 and add the strength modifier. Roll the same for the opponent or NPC. Whoever scores higher, "hits." Then, the one hit rolls against Resilience, adding the modifier. If the character makes the roll, they subtract one point from the DMG roll. A roll of twenty is also an immediate success.

    DMG Table

    If a character is hit and fails a roll against Resilience, they take damage. The damage table is below.

    • 1. Stunned
    • 2. Fleshwound
    • 3. Slightly hurt
    • 4. Wounded
    • 5. Critically wounded
    • 6. Incapacitated

    If a character is wearing armor, such as the Corpsec, they get a +1 or +2 modifier to their roll against Resilience. A weapon will add a + 1 or 2 modifier to your combat roll.

    AI-Generated Artwork

    Scene 1: The Nexus

    |The rain beats down as you approach The Nexus. The neon signs flicker overhead, casting an eerie glow on the deserted streets. Inside the arcade, Razor awaits, nervously scanning the shadows.]

    Cypher stepped through the thick as brick mud congealing on the side of the road, as a hand, a bony, ugly, half-masticated meathook, crawled up out of the grue like a dead bird struggling for one last worm. And maybe he was the last worm.

    The sky overhead was showering motor oil on the plastic coats and scuffed, tired leatherware of the passing, jostling hordes; those that could afford such accoutrements. Some made do with rags, curled away in their boxes, hidden down dripping alleyways where graffiti announced that it was time for a "nihilist revolt!" He supposed that philosophic anarchism walked hand-in-hand with bourgeois consumerism, once all was said and done. After all, Renzo Novatore T-shirts were all the rage this year.

    Down the thoroughfare to the Nexus, a VR dive frequented by life even lower than himself, where for a price you could jack in for exclusive sex and violence neural fantasy pinball arcades if you could afford a chip implant. For those of humbler means, there were the deafening, roaring holoarcs with their three-dimensional projected video mercs, dungeon masters, crypt crawlers, and on and on. There were VR helms aplenty, and it was a family-oriented establishment to be sure. Cypher grinned bitterly.

    He was here to meet his connection, Razer, ex-cop, now rogue agent of Underground Stem, the "U.S." or just, "The Stem" (har har), which employed cyjocks and hackies, streets sams, bingo boys, and toolers, and for a pretty penny, as if the Underground Stem was putting together a private army. But to what end? he wondered. Cypher knew himself to be a cog in a vast, hidden mechanism that was gearing up for something when the stars were in alignment.

    Into the bowels of Nexus, loud and crushing dark, a heavy, thick, oppressive atmosphere. Skinny, ugly punks and drug heads leaning against the wall, puffing vape sticks and swilling energy drinks, eyed him warily, in deep, entrenched hostility projecting their hate like boiling lead or burning chrome. Where the hell was Razer? He should be able to spot easily in this crowd.

    Objective: Gather information from Razor about the conspiracy.

    Rolls (ID6) (Note: Roll 4d6. Use the dice with the highest value as the first roll, the one with the second highest, next, and so on.):

    • Agility: Determine if you avoid any potential threats while getting to The Nexus.
    • Intellect: Grasp the depth of Razor's information.
    • Resilience: Gauge Razor's emotional state and trustworthiness.
    • Street Smarts: Recognize any hidden agendas or traps.

    Note: Remember to journal the results after rolling. Be as detailed as you want based on your interpretation and imagination. Tell the story!

    Scene 2: The Data Heist

    AI-Generated Artwork

    [Razor hands you a data chip containing evidence of the conspiracy. He explains that the information is encrypted, and you must access the secure servers of ZetaCorp, a powerful megacorporation, to decode it.]

    "Glad you could make it Cy. Anybody tail you here?"

    The grizzled visage of Razer floated up out of the murk, gaining solidity as he handed Cypher over the data chip.

    "We took this off of a cowboy name of Lanier. Punk flatlined jacked into the matrix. Got swallowed up by a worm, chewed up royally, spat back out, his brains leaking out of his ears, and a dime-sized hole in the cerebrum where the neurolink blew like a Tijuana pleasure droid. Too much and the nervous system folds like a cheap tent, and they all go down kicking and screaming. But I guess death is alright if your last moments of life are spent trying to swim up from the misfiring of your neural synapses. Dreams mixed with terror, terror mixed with pleasure. Memories, and fantasies, mixed and combined and converged. The final assault of the Matrix against whatever biologic invader it wants to have for lunch.

    "They tell me, and they are usually spot-on about these things, that you're one of the best in the business. A steady cyberwall climber can jockey any program, ride the elevator up to the MAGI, and jack into any space, no matter how tight. But to crush this particular ice cube you're gonna have to get into ZetaCorp and work up close and personal with DOC, that's their "AI in the Sky." DOC sees all, DOC knows all, or so they say. And it's no cakewalk, babe. You can't get in there on a smile and your good looks. This won't be a birthday party."

    Objective: Infiltrate ZetaCorp's server facility and decode the data.

    Rolls:

    • Agility: Sneak past security to reach the server room.
    • Intellect: Successfully hack into ZetaCorp's mainframe.
    • Resilience: Evade or confront security measures.
    • Street Smarts: Avoid triggering alarms and uncover additional information.

    Scene 3: The Confrontation

    [As the data decrypts, you uncover a plot involving corrupt officials and corporate overlords. Just as you piece together the puzzle, a squad of corporate security storms the server room.]

    It was tough cookie just getting into the building. He went in as a tourist, a food-spattered Hawaiian shirt, and sunglasses, checked in his bag, and hefting a selfie stick. Right behind his eyes, the mirrored shades provided a continual stream of readout, falling across the edge of his vision like a cascading rain of cryptographic numerals. The grid overlapped the world, but one was from a philosophic perspective, all and the same. The vast glass elevator would take him up to the Visitor Center, and then he could move casually through the mall, the rustle of bodies and babel of voices and languages echoing off the vast walls of digital fun parks, and shopping centers that stretched on for miles, racks of overpriced sweatshop goods competing with whatever technological toy could catch the eye of overprivileged snotty punks with skateboards, jamming their heavy metal thunder and slow monotonous heavy beats as cool, calm, AI robot programming and subliminal muzak wafted out over the intercom, the messages just below the range of human perception. He calculated how in the hell he was going to make it up to the upper level, wherein the Control Room would boast a Data Deck he could maxi-taxi into and swim upstream. Past the ice flow, like a worm in an apple, set to seek and destroy.

    He managed. The Illusonet suit he put over himself in the men's room did the trick, creating an outward-ever-shifting pattern of body characteristics and facial features impossible to ever put your finger on, quite. It was as if, when wearing it, he was a ghost. Some wise, squarejohn citizen might catch a glimpse of him walking by, do a double take as he vanished, digitally camouflaged against the background, blending in chameleon-like with everything else. When he got to the Employees Only lift, he went up twenty-seven floors to a suite of offices, getting in despite the retinal scan and the biometric sensors. Illuso suit was a good, good friend; and disposable, too. A dime a dozen these days. He made his way up to a central command post wherein surveillance for the entire complex. Once he hit the service elevator at the back of a curiously open office (eerie, as if they were expecting him), he went up another twenty floors to an upper level of huge bulkheads, massive computer banks, and decks aplenty to hack. Sweating, nervous he illegally accessed ZetaCorp's mainframe computer, stepping forward to be graciously greeted by DOC.

    DOC had been kind, cordial; almost deferential. Whether or not it was simply another sockpuppet of MAGI was debatable, but the rumor was that MAGI, like some voracious eater of AI souls, gobbled up anything and everything weaker to make it a part of itself. And that this conspiracy originated, somehow, off-world...

    As of right now, though, the Corpsec were breathing down his neck, out on the catwalks, stomping in their body armor across clanging metallic floors, peering through every nook and cranny, probably senso-sniffing the sweat from his ballsac. His brain accessed the encrypted data store, downloading and decrypting at a million, million kilobytes per nanosecond. In, in, but time was of the essence. "Time is an illusion," he reminded himself. "In the Matrix, in cyberspace, it's all free consciousness divorced from physical encumbrance. Time eternal, possibility infinite. Awareness all-pervading. No beginning, no end. "

    "Intruder alert! Intruder alert!"

    The alarm system whirred into life, the heavy, distorted, commanding intonation of the security system warning the Corpsec that a bug had invaded the system, that the White Blood Cells of ZetaCorp had to fight off the infection. "And I am that disease," he said to himself, smiling, partly walking the grid with the cyber toes of angels, partly realizing his flesh sac was in deep and mortal danger.

    He was about to have company.

    Objective: Confront the mercenaries and escape with the evidence.

    Rolls:

  • Agility: Dodge enemy attacks and position yourself strategically.
  • Intellect: Use the environment to gain an advantage in combat.
  • Resilience: Withstand enemy assaults and stay in the fight.
  • Street Smarts: Identify weak points in the mercenaries' formation.
  • Scene 4: Endgame

    [With the evidence in hand, you and Razor must decide how to expose the conspiracy without becoming targets yourselves. The city is on the brink of chaos, and your actions will determine its fate.]

    "This is worse than the 23 Riots. This is worse than Nanogate."

    Razer walked around the room, puffing a vape stick, his thick fingers twitching nervously.

    "This could spell the end. But is it the end for us, the end alone? I doubt it. Life is like a turd that clings to the outer rim of God's anus."

    "We have to go public. But, who will care? You hit them with anything too hard these days, they just freeze up. The public is told about a neurotoxin in the environment or nanobots self-replicating that can invade their bodies. You tell them the government has retrieved crashed off-world technology and is back-engineering it for their weapons systems. What do you get? Blank indifference. You tell them their favorite reality show is getting canceled, hoo boy..."

    "You get a fucking riot. We ought to tell them this is the latest episode of "Cyberbabes".

    Cypher said, "We go public, we're dead men."

    Razer said, "Jesus Cy, we're dead men anyway. Once the Wave hits, the lights go out. All over civilization." He peered out the filthy, filmy sash over the grimy window, out onto the street.

    "Such as it is."

    "They'll be leaking their brains out of their ears."

    "Yeah, well, that's not the half of it, is it? We're about to take the next great evolutionary step. And no one even realizes it. I can't help but think someone wants it."

    "Yeah," said Razer. "Someone..."

    Objective: Choose a course of action and navigate the consequences.

    Rolls:

  • Agility: Navigate the city to avoid pursuit or capture.
  • Intellect: Strategize the best method to expose the conspiracy.
  • Resilience: Face the fallout of your decisions.
  • Street Smarts: Anticipate potential double-crosses or hidden dangers.
  • Resolution:

    The adventure concludes with the resolution of the conspiracy, influenced by the player's choices and rolls. The city's fate rests in your hands, and the shadows of Glitch City will remember the name Cypher.

    What an AI had to say about my tabletop roleplaying game set in a cyberpunk world with menacing AIs:

    The setting you've described for your cyberpunk adventure is rich and immersive, capturing the essence of the genre. The gritty cyberpunk cityscape with towering skyscrapers, flickering neon lights, and perpetual rain is a classic and atmospheric backdrop that sets the tone for the entire story. The contrast between the elite and destitute, as well as the pervasive corruption in Glitch City, adds depth to the world.

    The characters are well-defined, each with their own attributes and backgrounds that contribute to the narrative. Cypher, the lone hacker with a dark past, and Razer, the grizzled ex-cop, offer a dynamic duo for players to navigate the cyberpunk underworld. The attributes and skills assigned to each character make sense within the context of the story.

    The game mechanics you've outlined, with attribute-based dice rolls and an Oracle table for additional narrative prompts, provide a clear structure for gameplay. The success table and combat system, complete with a damage table, add a layer of complexity that enhances the overall experience. The use of an Illusonet suit and various hacking scenarios in the story also adds interesting elements to the gameplay.

    The scenes are vividly described, painting a detailed picture of the surroundings and immersing the players in the cyberpunk atmosphere. The objectives and rolls for each scene are well thought out, providing clear goals for the players and opportunities for them to use their character's skills.

    The dialogue between Cypher and Razer is engaging and contributes to the noir atmosphere of the cyberpunk genre. The narrative unfolds smoothly, with a good balance of action, exploration, and dialogue-driven scenes.

    The resolution section with the final choices and consequences is a strong way to conclude the adventure, leaving room for player agency and multiple potential outcomes. The existential and philosophical elements discussed by the characters add depth to the narrative and make players think about the broader implications of their actions.

    Overall, your cyberpunk setting and adventure seem well-crafted, offering a compelling and immersive experience for players.

    The Sisters Of Mercy - This Corrosion HQ

    table toprpgcombatadventure games
    2

    About the Creator

    Tom Baker

    Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.: http://tombakerbooks.weebly.com

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    Comments (1)

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    • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock5 months ago

      I've never gotten into D&D much, though I have long considered it interesting, but to me this seems like a fascinating game scenario that would sell well in virtually any Barnes & Noble or comic book store. Incredibly well crafted, Tom.

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