In the world of Powerpunk, science and technology occupy a funny space. During the Cold War, technology was viewed as a necessary median; “the only true measuring stick for a nation’s greatness” necessity. It was a grand love affair, with the known limits of science being reestablished almost quarterly and the great nations treating scientists like rock stars. The East and West both took to collecting doctors, professors and engineers, like children collecting trading cards. Giving them larger budgets than many of them had ever dared to imagine, these scientific minds were tasked with finding and cultivating any potential advantage against the opposing bloc.
It was amidst this age of political desperation that all avenues of science, including the fringe sciences, were being treated with open minds and open wallets. This was a glorious time for scientists who started signing up with grant after grant and put real effort into experiments and inventions that they hadn’t ever thought they could complete. This was the age of “hypertech”.
Super-science tools capable of bending terrestrial and celestial energies into fuel for weapons and vehicles, bending minds, transforming the body of a person into a walking arsenal of bio-weaponry. These tools that pushed through the established limits of the scientific field and into storied fiction appeared in every field. All the while the tensions of the Cold War grew closer and closer to the brink of open conflict.
I ran my first D&D game at the age of 12. It was a pre-made adventure from a magazine and had a redemption arc for a villain who forgot they were a villain, emphasizing that compassion begets compassion and “hurt people hurt people”. I loved the idea and couldn’t wait to see it all play out around my living room table. It was a disaster. The players were all older and more experienced than I was. They convinced me to let them bring their “usual” characters from another DM’s game with all their gear and within ten minutes the game was laying in broken pieces while they cheered one another on, whooping and hollering with sadistic glee at having broken the adventure so thoroughly. I was mortified and never wanted to run another game again. I was GM for my group until I was about 32.
The near collapse of this project made this more of a priority, then there was the mental toll that our dissolving partnership inflicted, the thousand cuts of everyday responsibilities etc. I found that there was nothing in the GM tank. I figured that with time and mental recuperation things would come back to me. Twenty years of running not only D&D but a variety of other ttrpgs had shown I had a depth of ideas for story seeds and though the games rarely saw a storybook conclusion, I was sure I would be ok.
Then something happened.
I am a child of the arcade stick, raised to put my quarter on the screen, trained to detest cheese and never take chip(Damage) for granted. All of that was to explain that our combat mechanics are greatly inspired by arcade fighting games. The idea that advanced moves sacrifice something from the character in order to gain a different effect. Not being able to move for a time in order to pull off a ranged melee attack, taking more time to recover from throwing a powerful blow, the move itself having a cool down of it’s own or it using up some form of energy.
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