GURPS Cyberpunk Campaign

The campaign will be set in the Twin Cities in the year 2068, at the end of our foreseeable lives.
Some of the main features of the campaign world include:

-A government that due to bankruptcy, massive privatization of its core functions and corruption, has ceased to exert any real influence on the society. The State Capital is a mass of cobwebs and laconic public servants, State Representatives go to work drunk and pass through the empty motions of making speeches to a mostly empty gallery and a few sleeping colleagues. The Governor spends his days begging corporations for money to pay his bills, and according to a recent poll, less than 10 percent of Minnesotans know who he is.
-Corporations that have filled the power vacuum of an irrelevant government. These corporations fight low intensity wars like small nations with their own armies and mercenary backups.
-Neo Feudalism: the city is divided into different walled neighborhoods, each policed by a corporation, gang, or tribe.
-Mercenary Justice: as the government has atrophied, so has the police force. Neighborhoods hire their own private security firms to police themselves. Individuals can also hire private security or Mercs to protect them or deal with enemies. The Merc firms is where I envision player characters starting off.

Main Areas of the Twin Cities:
-The Labyrinth: As the city streets became less and less safe during the 2020s, the downtown skyway system was expanded into a snaking complex tunnel system. In the part of the skyway system called Earache Alley, you will find bars, music clubs, and in general the home of the music subculture. This is not just a place to have a good time, in that as other social institutions and forms of collective identity have dissipated, some people have become more militant about their music, wandering Earache Alley with their gangs, fighting and sometimes killing those who do not share in their tastes!
-The West Bank: After the riots of 2022, the West Bank anarchists took over that side of the University Campus. Their basement chemists specialize in adrenal boosters and other combat drugs, and they also have a small robotics industry, creating homemade warbots out of found materials.
-Silicon Chinatown (SiChi): This part of lower Nicollet between 24th Street and 28th, is home to the Silicon Triads, specialists in illegal cybernetic body modifications. It should be noted that combat body modification is illegal and can result in a person not being allowed into parts of town, being arrested in some places, or killed in others. It is mainly practiced by the extreme outlaws like the Silicon Triads, and by high level corporate warriors who sign a contract of lifetime service in the corporate military. The Silicon Triads were driven out of Chicago's Red Line China Town in 2040, and have been plying their illegal trade in Minneapolis ever since, though it has gotten much less popular over time, due to the legal stigma and the tendency of would be cybernetic enhancees to opt for becoming androids.
-The Floating Market: This is a barge city located near the Broadway Bridge near the Grainbelt Brewery in North East Minneapolis, though it exists on the North West side of the river. It is an open market of gadgets, weapons, and illegal and semi legal tech with the river nomads being the main suppliers of goods.
-Skyline St Paul: This is downtown St. Paul or what is left of it. Like the Labyrinth, the streets of the downtown became too dangerous in the 2020s. People moved to the roof tops of St Paul to escape. There is danger up high too though, with gutter ninjas, spider borgs, suction men who live on the sides of the buildings, and so on.

Hard Boiled Review

Hard Boiled has got to be my favorite film of the Gun Fu genre, one which I only belatedly discovered the joys of, and mainly because of this movie.
The film starts with undercover detective played by Chow Yun Fat blowing a suspect's brains out point blank, as he pins him to the ground, then spitting his toothpick out right as the blood hits his face has got to be one of the grittiest opening sequences of all times, in league with that of Kill Bill I . The fact that the victim turns out to be an undercover cop himself (unbeknownst to Chow), only underscores the main character's uncompromising and violent approach to his job. After the beginning scene, there is not a five minute segment of the film that does not feature at least one gun battle where the combatants are firing pistols two fisted in an orgy of lead, with no thought given to the average real life clip capacity of a handgun.
Hard Boiled is not without its lighter moments though, as when Chow Yun Fat is carrying a baby out of a burning hospital, which just so happens to be a front for an arms smuggling ring, and the hero catches on fire after jumping through a flaming door. The infant saves the day, urinating on his rescuer and extinguishing the fire, after which the grateful Chow says "Thank you sir, thank you", to the baby.
My one and only regret in watching Hard Boiled was that after seeing it, no other Gun Fu could quite compare, and I am stuck watching lesser films in the vain hope of recapturing that level of excellence.

The Multi Touch Screen

Jeff Han is working on the Multi Touch Screen, a visual interface to computers, where instead of typing or mouse clicking commands, someone will reach out and grab the visual content they want to use and move it around to meet their needs.
This development is very cool. It reminds me of William Gibson’s Idoru, where the characters were described as manipulating invisible sets of controls, sitting with trodes on and waving their hands around in the air to move data around. Of course in that case, the controls were in the mind, and in this one, they will be a fairly expensive set of touch screen monitors. Still, it is an exciting departure from the old mouse and keyboard.

The Virtual Reality Copout

I recently watched Harsh Realm, Chris Carter's short lived TV series about a man fighting to get out of a virtual reality simulation, while an evil dictator seeks to keep people in, and eventually to replace the real world with the fantasy one that he controls. Aside from the utterly stupid dog sidekick, it is a reasonably entertaining series. Unfortunately, Harsh Realm suffers from the drawback that so many VR movies and shows do, namely the fact that the featured virtual world is nearly identical to our own (could it be to save money?)
This fault can also be seen in the most famous VR film, The Matrix. After the robotic bug scenes of the first movie, and the acrobatic car chase flips of the second, the weakness of having villains who look exactly like a clone army of real people wearing suits becomes painfully obvious, leading me to laugh too hard to ever get through the last part of the series. As I watched the evil "Smiths" gloating about their plans in The Matrix: Revolutions, I couldn't help but think of a grade school play where a child says "Hi I'm a bush", and expects the supportive audience of family members to take him at his word.
In both The Matrix and Harsh Realm, it would have been far more compelling to offer a world like the dark dreamscape of The Cell. While the later movie took place in a psychopath's mind, it could have just as easily have been in a virtual construct. Not every film, or especially TV series, has the budget of The Cell, but those involved can easily muster the budget of Tron, and the glory of a virtual environment, is that as anyone who has been in Second Life can attest to, "virtual" doesn't have to mean realistic! A trip to Kmart, a talent search for the last surviving members of Dr. Who's fx crew, and one can have a virtual realm completely justified plot wise in its corniness by its imaginary nature.
Now the underlying story of The Matrix offers the convenient excuse for the real life look of its participants, that the simulation must look real in order to convince the human food capsules that they are really living, and the same need for verisimilitude, to create an engaging combat sim, might be offered for Harsh Realm, but in the end the show just looks cheap. My advice to the future creators of cinematic virtual environments, watch some post apocalyptic Italian film for creative cues, and then proceed directly to KMART, do not pass go.

A Belated New Years Resolution

It is the Chinese Year of the Pig . . . .
Wild packs of swine roam the land.

Rooting, destroying irrigation systems, defecating and contaminating ground water, and wreaking a wide swath of havoc that grows as new states are added to the wild hog positive zones that creep ever northward by the year.

It has been said that a pig can go feral within two weeks of escaping from a farm . . . .

It has been said that such hogs often return to free their female cohorts from confinement . . . .

It has been said that pigs are some of the smartest animals on the planet besides chimps, whales, and humans . . . .

I hereby resolve to spend 2007 catching up on my neglected reading, doing my own small part to keep the human race up to speed with this unpredictable species. I will report on these efforts here on the Internet until such time as I run out of opportunities or interest in doing so, or until I discover that the hogs have learned to surf the web.

Media Diet

Media Diet=
The active filtration and organization of media input into ones own consciousness. The regulation of media consumption in a planned or instinctive direction, with the implicit or explicit goal of programming ones own mind with the influences, ideas and imagery of the individual desire.
Physically we are what we eat, mentally we are what we read, see and hear.
My own media diet is ever changing, but currently consists of Italian Sci Fi, American futuristic tech noir, Japanese horror and anime, cyberpunk fiction, street art that I see on the ground and on the Internet, surrealism, hard rock, and antiquities (ancient media).

The Future of Traditional Media in the Mega Media Age

I have heard more than one person lament about the declining number of book readers. I am sure that publishers would concur that less volumes are being sold than in past years. This would be a sad development, and could in fact point to the barbarianization of our culture, were it not for the surge in the number of Americans going online, an activity which requires at least some reading.
I enjoy good old fashioned books, but it is possible that this medium is becoming outdated. With the ever shrinking amount of disposable time, two jobs, single parents raising kids, Congressionally approved systems of unpaid overtime, and other current realities, the leisure to read War and Peace or even the latest backbreaking Steven King tome is dwindling. Speed is the key, blurbs, blogs, and in the printed realm, magazines, are supplanting the traditional forms of written expression.
There are some that would criticize this trend. It is true that shorter works might lead to more superficiality, but this does not necessarily need to be the case. There are plenty of weighty Danielle Steele books, that do not bear the intellectual merit of a Bruce Sterling online essay, and moreover, we need to be careful not to sink into “medium snobbery“. I had a coworker who insisted that listening to books on tapes was somehow inferior to reading them, even though the content of an unabridged audiobook is exactly the same as the original. Howard Gardener, in his Theory of Multiple Intelligences, suggested that different individuals learn in different ways, and for me, listening to a book, rather than reading it, sometimes increases my focus as it makes going back to find an overlooked detail more cumbersome .
We are in the midst of a new and wonderful era, where media is more a part of peoples’ lives than ever before. We do not need to worry about the vanishing book in light of the plethora of worthy supplements we have. Books will survive, they are a very convenient and portable form of entertainment and information, but we should not fear their new brothers and sisters.

What ever happened to VR?

My friend and I were discussing recent developments in the Internet the other day, and he was of the opinion that the net had not reached the level that he and his programmer friends had envisioned back in the heyday of digital dreams, the 90s. He had wanted to get into designing “avatars” or virtual embodiments of a person to be manipulated online, like in Snow Crash, but alas the net had gone a different direction.
The direction it has seemed to go is one that had only the day before lead my girlfriend and I to agree that the Internet is only now reaching its full potential. That is, as a more user dominated, albeit lower tech playground than that predicted by my techie friend as he was coming up. The tradeoff is this, the more high sensory apparatus is moving into the computer gaming field, there probably will be home entertainment virtual reality, but on your X Box, not your PC (or Mac). At the same time, some of the hottest places on the web are user dominated, Ebay, undoubtedly the largest, a user dominated market, Flickr, a user dominated mega photo gallery, IMDb, a user enriched movie review super site, Wikipedia, a user edited encyclopedia, and the list goes on ad nauseum. So the big wigs who run these sites can sit back, sell ads and some subscriptions, and let the users do the work. Users can enjoy the new online playgrounds, marketplaces, etc. provided by this dynamic. No avatars, but I for one am very excited about the new paradigm.

# posted by DrSomneblex : 8:51 AM 0 c