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DMing 101 – Technology Punk

Welcome back to the genre’s series, where I go in-depth on how different genres can effect the style of your games, not just the content, but the very emotions that they evoke session to session. This week, a slight challenge for myself:

DMing101

Genres – Technology Punk

Steam, cyber and diesel punk are genres spanning several media, games, fashion, film and music. Worlds of tech-punk genres tend to presume alternative or future versions of our own world that differ integrally in a few key aspects, mostly that civilization has focussed on one particular field of technology.

If you’ve ever played Civilization or a similar game, you’ve already had a lot of fun fiddling with history, and inventing nuclear fusion before the wheel. With such a range of choices, you can play around with whatever technology you like, and create a world revolving around it.

Atmosphere

The real world is different to tech punk aesthetically, but at its’ core it remains the same place we know and love. There are a lot of different routes you can take, and a lot of different genres you can mix in – everyone loves a pirate-airship after all – but here are a few basics that permeate most tech-punk settings.

  • Style: Punk began as a fashion style, an outlook and a music genre. It has spread into many different sub-genres one thing remains the same – the style. Most start from a late 19th to early 20th century fashions, others are radically different and extreme, but they all echo the technologies of the world; gears, gauges, microcomputers for example.

  • The same, but different: Though the world may look different, people are people, and many modern technologies are present in alternative forms. Politicians are still corrupt, war is an ever-present menace, today’s problems are the problems of the tech-punk world, but the solutions are likely to be different.
  • Mad Science: Whichever technology your world revolves around has gone a little berserk. Steam can achieve things that steam was never meant to, scientists get weird with biology, computers control everything from agriculture to education. While the world ticks on as normal, technology has permeated every aspect of it.

Threats

A tech-punk world offers a great breadth of options, from the very real threats of war, corporatocracy, and crime, to the outlandish realms of science let off the chain.

You needn’t use the technologies of your world as the basis of your story, so long as it remains an ever-present factor. Perhaps tanks are rolling across Europe firing powerful arcs of electricity instead of explosive shells, or a serial killer claiming victims with a new and unusual weapon. You could even retell historical moments: The cold war, with computer viruses instead of nuclear weapons; the taming of the West but with giant steam-punk tarantulas – although that’s been done.

Alternatively, stick to the theme, machines gone awry and scientists gone crazy. If your setting pivots around a single iconic item, such as a weapon or vehicle, think about its’ influence on the world, what purpose it serves, and how it could be misused. For example, in the film Total Recall, the abuse of memory-storage devices leads to the protagonist being framed for crimes he never committed.

train_city_by_jordangrimmer-d783o30

Quests

There are a vast range of options at your disposal when it comes to writing your campaigns, and you can draw your ideas from any genre, so long as you give them a sense of style. Re-imagine your themes around your chosen technology, and keep it in mind when designing characters, civilizations and villains.

No More!: A madman kidnaps people by the hundred for strange biological experiments. A megalomaniacal government controls every aspect of its people’s lives, and threaten war against the world. Crime lords support a corporation bent on monopolizing all forms of technology. A line must be drawn, but it’ll take heroes to stop the unstoppable.
Watch – Equilibrium
Play – Bioshock

Turn The Tides Of War: A squad lost in enemy territory stumble across a terrible secret. New weapons could change war for the better, or worse. A treaty must be delivered is war is to be averted altogether, and only a lunatic could deliver it in time! No one could fight a war alone, can the deeds of one band of madmen change the world?
Watch – Tron: Legacy
Read – Jingo, Terry Pratchett

Be Famous: An opportunity has arisen to be the first to accomplish the impossible, but you’re not the first to notice. You’ve a great desire to be a hero, so you’ve taken to chasing legends in your spare time. A team of brilliant minds is on the verge of an incredible discovery, but it’s threatened by competitors, or opposition to the cause. History pivots around your actions, but your choices could make you a chapter, or a footnote.
Watch – Around The World In 80 Days
Play – Borderlands…. I’m biased sure, but you know I’m right


If you’ve enjoyed this post let us know in the comments down below, or on our Facebook and Twitter (links on the right). If you’ve played a few RPs, also take a look at my own site, Quotes From The Tabletop, a place for all your favourite quotes and stories from your games.

Next week, Apocalypse Punk

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