Girl Genius RPG Musings

One of my players (Hi, Ian!) got super excited that I was thinking of kit-bashing Girl Genius into Cyberpunk2020, even before he’s seen the system. (Too be fair, I haven’t done much with CP2020 yet…) So this is a rambly, musing article about thought I have about the system. This is a cheap article, but Wednesday’s next week comes with a PDF of the fruits of my labor. So get hype on that, I suppose.

Who is the Girl Genius?

GG is a webcomic by Phil and Kaja Foglio. It is very, very good. To tell you how good, the first 3 years the Hugo Awards had a category for webcomics, they won. They declined the nomination in the fourth year.

It’s a world ruled by mad science. Think kinda Steampunk, but turn down the Gritty, and turn up the Zany. it’s a fun world where the main characters, as heroic as they may be, occasionally slide into less-than-good. But that’s just the way the world works, you know?

I mentioned mad science. That’s the cool part of the setting. A subset of the population has the Spark, meaning that sometimes they go crazy and invent killer machines. In an ideal, Marvel/DC world, these Sparks would be super villains and they and their projects would be contained and detained.

Here, there be monsters. And a few of them are in charge.

RPG thoughts

I did do some searching for a game before. Not for the mad science, but Girl Genius in general. There had been rumors of a Steve Jackson Game a long time ago, but nothing came of it. It’s a big name for a gap. So let’s see what we can do to fill it.

I’ve been idly thinking about a GGRPG for a while now. The comic is fun, the action amazing, the world deep, and the plots look like they could fit on almost any table. But I do notice some issues. And CP2020 looks like it could handle some of it.

Asymetrical

Sharing the spotlight is difficult in any RPG. Sometimes that just due to the players, where one is having all the clever ideas, and the others just sit and watch. And that’s in games where the game is fairly equal to everyone! I can’t think of a way to play that and have Sparks feel like sparks.

So Sparks are going to be able to do some cool stuff. NEED to be able to do some cool stuff. Which is why when I saw the massive chapter on Netrunning, which only 1/9th of the character classes get to participate in, I realized this system might be able to do it.

I want sparks to be all about making stuff. In the comic, they’re always like. “I made a death ray!” Or “I built a monster!” and I want that to be a thing. Of course, things don’t always go right so I want there to be some risk involved. I have some ideas of how to do it, some notes scribbled down.

So, in addition to needed a robust mad science crafting smorgasbord, I’m going to need some good rules for minions. Sparks can create NPC monsters, which is cool and scary. They can also make things for other people. That means everyone in the party will have some interesting toys. They might not use them, but they’ll have access.

How long do inventions last, anyway? We’ve seen a few guns explode, but there were some items that were only used once and then they were gone. Don’t know what I think about that. Having materials is going to be a big part of the science, as well as being good at a suite of sciences. Sparks might make Skill buy interesting by making a swath of things good and useful.

Non-Sparks

While a lot of thought has to go into making Sparks cool, figuring out how to make non-sparks on their level is tricky. I have a total of 7 “classes” for the game. Spark, Monster, Construct, Clank, Hero, Spy, Warrior. Probably should alphabetize those. I can’t really think of anything else. Sailor, maybe? was thinking that would be Warrior, but I guess there is enough vehicles.

Monsters are scary. This is people wanting to play Jaegers. Maybe the bears or the sparkhounds? Not sure yet. These are a step above Constructs because they’re flesh and blood and choose what they do. Constructs are created creatures, but they still have shortcuts holding them together, and they are probably following some orders given to them. They have a purpose they were created to fulfill and they’re drawn to that purpose. Clanks, of course, are the 3rd non-human Archtype. These were built for specific purpose. And while they can be clever and deep, do they really have mechanical souls? They also get fixed instead of healed, but that should be simple in CP2020.

What is a Hero? I mean, I know what a hero is, we have a handful of examples in the comics, but what do they really do? Each ‘class’ of CP2020 provides a unique skill and I’m not sure what Hero would get. Something to assist in escape or saving throws? How does fall damage work in CP?

Spy is an odd class. I wanna play a smoke knight. Its the most crazy fun I’ve seen in a character. But is Wooster really on par? what’s the skill? Is the swap out just Sleight of Hand?

Friday Night Firefight

One of the big draws to CP2 is the combat system. Personally, I don’t see it yet, but whatev. The problem is that FNF is designed as a lethal combat system (supposedly), but GG is not a lethal combat universe. I think only three named characters have died in the whole comic and all of those happened before the party got to Mechanicsburg. (2 circus people and one noble) Lars may have been a PC, it’s had to tell.

So, basically, GG has some serious plot armor. It’s even stronger than Star Wars. Not that the characters don’t get hit, but they don’t die. Like the Zola fight in Castle Hetrodyne. That was crazy.

So I think I might have to scrap FNF and replace it with a thing of my own. Which will be… simpler. That wouldn’t be hard.

World View

When I ponder games based on a series, I’m always super leery about settings. Like in star wars, the best time to play is probably during the rebellion, or maybe Post-Endor, when the empire is fragmenting into various imperial warlord domains. Anyway, the point is, I’m not putting you at the battle of Yavin, and you’re not going to fight Luke skywalker or his dad, because either you can’t kill them due to plot, which removes player agency, or you can kill then and suddenly the world isn’t canon, which means the world isn’t predictable and you can’t make good choices. So either way, unless its only a brief cameo, playing during famous NPC timelines is a trap.

However, in this case, the best time is now. Mechanicsburg frozen, a new master in Paris, and all of the main characters under the English seas for their second day in the Queen’s Realm. SO that’ll be a bit, I’m sure. That gives us the rest of Europa to play with, make stuff up in, and probably destroy without having to think of the main story. So that’s fun.

Skraz

I think this is an idea worth pursuing. Sure, there is work to be done, but its not a LONG list:

  • Develop system for inventing
  • Develop system for monster making
  • Figure out new list of skills
  • Creatue new classes (with unique skills)
  • Redesign combat
  • Build the setting
  • Play.

Not bad at all, no?

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