Hard Wired Island is a cyberpunk tabletop RPG with a retrofuture aesthetic, inspired by 90s media like Ghost in the Shell, Policenauts, Bubblegum Crisis, and Cowboy Bebop.
It's set on Grand Cross, a space station in crisis. Corporations are corrupting it into an authoritarian monument to greed. Long-time residents are being pushed out of their neighbourhoods as the wealthy expand their territory. In the shadows cast by the corporations lurk criminal gangs, hate groups, and rogue robots.
Whether you're engaging in street activism, getting dragged into corporate schemes, or fighting the corporations and their minions directly, your goal is to steer the station towards a better future before it's too late.
This campaign will fund a fully-illustrated book for Hard Wired Island, available through itch.io and DriveThruRPG, along with a soundtrack of background music for use during play.
In the distant future of 2020, mankind has settled space.
A meteorite struck Earth's northern hemisphere in 1996. The Impact caused widespread environmental damage the world has yet to fully recover from, but it supercharged public interest in space exploration. Around the world, new political unions that formed to fix the damage of the Impact poured money into space programs.
The result is Grand Cross, an O'Neill cylinder in the Earth-Moon L5 point.
Grand Cross is a cosmopolitan gateway to the stars, a launching point for missions to Mars and beyond, and a beacon of hope for its people. But behind the scenes, a war is being waged for its soul.
An alliance of space-based corporations known as the Offworld Cartel has moved in. They sell space exploration as a shared dream they strive for with everyone else, but their true aim is control of Grand Cross and, through it, the future of space settlement. As their influence spreads, so does inequality and crime.
The Cartel has convinced the current US-backed government to sell off many of the systems that keep Grand Cross running, and now it's slowly falling apart. Behind the scenes, they have even more underhanded schemes running in secret. If the next station election goes their way, they'll be on their way to becoming the landlords of human space.
The player characters are Grand Cross citizens, trying to live their everyday lives while fighting for the station's future. They can be street activists, investigative reporters and other professionals, gig economy workers who run errands and hunt bounties to get by, or just here to fight the criminals, corrupt cops, hate groups, and alien androids the Cartel uses as proxies to do their dirty work.
Each player character is part of a community which wants to make Grand Cross better. Communities range from PC-sized groups like neighbourhood watches and rock bands to larger organisations and broad, loose movements. Your community helps decide the sort of allies and obstacles you'll encounter in the story. They get to help describe how their community works, letting them add elements to the story while getting them invested.
If the Cartel gets their way, Grand Cross as you know it will end as unchecked greed bleeds your community dry. But if you fight, you might be able to save it.
Here's what we mean when we talk about cyberpunk:
Capitalism? No thanks. Good cyberpunk is anti-capitalist. It's about how technology without ethics can make social inequality worse. The wealthy use it to cement their power and perpetuate the status quo, while marginalized communities are kept that way. The PCs want to use it to break the current system. They work against their enemies, not for them.
Cyberpunk should be relevant. It is a study of where our society could go in the coming years. The issues faced by people in a cyberpunk setting should have some relevance to issues faced by the audience, even if they're not the same. Retro future, present problems.
Cybernetics are not inherently good or bad. Like most tech, what matters is how it's used. In Hard Wired Island the problem is that cybernetics often serves the needs of capital rather than people. Any alienating or dysphoric effects come from being reshaped into some corporation's property. There is no mechanic that suggests cybernetics make you tainted; instead, the tradeoff of cyberware is adding to your financial burdens.
Cyberpunk is not just an aesthetic. The core concept is not "cool future!". It shouldn't just be about the neon-lit adventures of some trenchcoat futurists as they crime their way into wealth and power. Hard Wired Island is about a group of marginalized people using technology to try to change the status quo.
Many perspectives. Good cyberpunk examines how technology and power intersect in many different communities. Being a cyborg doesn't make you a stand-in for minorities in general, it's just another axis to your identity. Hard Wired Island examines the everyday communities of Grand Cross and how its issues impact their lives; as a space station in Earth orbit, Grand Cross can include perspectives from all over the world.
Hard Wired Island uses a mix of old-school and new-school mechanics. Our aim is to produce a system that feels like it was made in the 90s but updated for modern play.
- A d6-based system where social interactions are at least as important as hacking a network or getting into fights.
- You can take actions to Prep for missions, giving the group a pool of points that can be spent later on items, flashbacks, and other bonuses. This flexible system allows characters to adapt and change the plan on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
- A wealth system that mostly tracks the financial Burdens inflicted on you by a capitalist system. As the station's fortunes rise and fall, so do yours.
- Burdens can leave you vulnerable to economic shock, but sticking together and supporting your more vulnerable members can help you survive. If you succeed, you may even be able to pay off some of your Burdens!
- Rules for Cybernetics that don't dehumanize you for installing augments (but can increase your Burden).
- Your PCs can be regular people, cyborgs, or even Androids.
If you'd like a closer look at the game, we've prepared a preview HERE!
This preview contains an overview of the Grand Cross setting, along with basic mechanics. These are the ideas we want to develop into a full game book with your help.
The main thing this campaign funds will be art and layout, to make the book look as beautiful as possible. We'll commission artists to bring Grand Cross and its characters to life, and we'll pay them properly. Jay Iles will lay everything out, to make sure we end up with a good-looking book.
You'll also be paying for music. neon shudder will create a cyberpunk soundtrack that you can use as background music for your campaign. Put this on while you play to truly immerse yourself in Grand Cross!
You'll also be paying for words. Some of it will go to the main writers, Freyja and Paul, for their time working on the game. The rest will go towards hiring freelancers and consultants to expand the Grand Cross setting and bring a wider range of perspectives to the project. Freelance pay will be 15¢ a word.
Hard Wired Island PDF
The main backer reward is the final, full-colour PDF of Hard Wired Island, at a lower cost than retail. The PDF will be available via DriveThruRPG and itch.io after release; backers who use those sites will get a code to add the game to their libraries.
The PDF will come with a fifteen minute soundtrack of cyberpunk background music. The soundtrack will be released as soon as it's ready via Bandcamp, and backers will receive a download code for the album.
Hard Wired Island Print
The print version of the game will be available in softcover via DriveThruRPG's Print On Demand service. If the campaign funds, we'll order a copy for every print backer. Shipping will be collected via BackerKit after the campaign, but we will cover printing costs.
However, if we reach the first stretch goal we'll arrange for our own offset print run. In this case, all print backers will receive a hardcover copy instead.
We also have these high-level tiers for backers who really want to support us:
At this level, we'll include a behind-the-scenes PDF that talks about our design philosophy, production process, and inspirations. It will also include sketches.
The final version will include a set of random tables for generating NPCs, scenes in the city, factions, and so on. At this level, you'll get to add a name and a short description for a character in one of these tables. You can insert yourself or a character you made up. We reserve the right to refuse anything inappropriate, but other than that you can go wild.
The final version will also include pregenerated characters. At this level, we'll let you create one of these characters. This includes a full-colour portrait and stats. It's a higher-level version of the Name reward.
If we go over our target, we'll put any extra money into improving the game. There are no plans to announce expansion books, merch, or any other peripherals; just what you funded, but more.
Stretch goal amounts are listed in AUD and approximate USD.
$27,500 (approx. US$19,000) — Print Run
Before this stretch goal, printing will be handled via DriveThruRPG. At this goal, we'll fund a proper hardcover print run of Hard Wired Island of the game and ship it ourselves. Shipping will be collected after the campaign through BackerKit.
$30,000 (approx. US$20,780) — More Words
At this level, we'll expand the Grand Cross setting with new sections for locations, NPCs, politics and culture, and other narrative tools. We'll hire more freelancers to help with this, starting at 15¢ (USD) a word.
$32,600 (approx. US$22,580) — More Music
At this level, we'll commission more tracks for the Hard Wired Island soundtrack.
$36,000 (approx. US$25,000) — Bonus Pay
At this level, we'll increase the pay of everybody working on this project. (This includes anyone hired for stretch goal content.)
$42,000 (approx. US$29,000) — More Art
At this level, we'll increase the art budget so we can afford more big city pieces and cool layout designs.
$45,000 (approx. US$31,100) — More Words: 2nd Gig
At this level, we'll expand the number of writers and consultants we recruit and bring an even wider range of perspectives to the Grand Cross setting.
(You can find most of us on our Discord!)
Jay Iles is the head of UFO Press. She was the lead designer on Legacy, and her other past works include Rhapsody of Blood, Harder They Fall, and Transmission Burst. Jay is creating Hard Wired Island's look and layout, and lending her expertise to other parts of the project.
Music will be commissioned from neon shudder.
Risks and challenges
Everyone involved in this project has experience delivering Kickstarters. We know that unexpected problems and the vagaries of capitalism often delay KS projects. With that in mind, here's what we're doing to mitigate that:
• Keeping things simple. No stretch goal expansion packs, no merch. Printing will be through DriveThruRPG's reliableprint-on-demand system unless we get extra funding for a print run.
• Extra hands. We've hired multiple artists and will hire more down the line. Writing and production duties are split between multiple people. By sharing the workload, we should be able to recover from problems as quickly as possible.
• Budgeting. Keeping things simple helps here - the fewer things we're doing at once, the fewer unexpected budget problems we can have. Most of the stretch goal funds will go into expanding the budget.
If problems do occur, we'll do our best to work around them and keep you updated every step of the way.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)