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«The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish The Sprawl Alpha Version An Apocalypse World Hack by Hamish Cameron. Contact details at the end. “The ...»

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The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish@ardens.org

The Sprawl

Alpha Version

An Apocalypse World Hack by Hamish Cameron.

Contact details at the end.

“The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

Neuromancer, William Gibson.

The Sprawl is a game of mission-based action in a gritty neon-and-chrome Cyberpunk future. You

are the extended assets of vast multinational corporations, operating in the criminal underground, and performing the tasks that those multinationals can’t do, or can’t be seen to, do. Deniable, professional, and ultimately disposable.

The future. Dark. Dirty. Dangerous. Over it all, the megacorps. “Zaibatsus”, some call them. Vast multinational corporations that control the flow of money, information, goods, and people.

Governments hover on their doorsteps beginning for scraps. Hydrophilic lubricious polymers and automated cleaners keep their arcologies shining amidst grey-brown cities. The blood of the city keeps the money flowing.

Technology keeps changing, shifting, mutating; adapt or die. There’s a sticky film of information smeared over everything, a networked datasphere in service to the megacorps. Buy this. Obey that.

Buy some more.

You’re loners, punks and criminals, marginalised by society through birth, choice or violence.

Parasites, living symbiotic existences in the shadows cast by the arcologies, feeding from the scraps the corps dangle and scampering to the shadows to avoid their dismissive, destructive, shooings.

See, the corps aren’t satisfied with having it all. They want more, and the only way they can get it is by eating their own. For the megacorporations, espionage, theft, kidnapping, and murder are just tools in the briefcase of success. For you, those are rungs on the slippery ladder to success. Play your cards right and you’ll be set: reputation, money, credibility. Whatever you want. Freedom. But one false step and they’ll take away everything. You’ll be replaced by the next mouthy punk with too much raw talent and bloody ambition and not enough smarts. Tread carefully.

The corps don’t need you. They need people like you. And there’s plenty more punks like you out there in the Sprawl.

This game contains adult themes and adult language.

1/66 The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish@ardens.org Table of Contents The Sprawl

Chapter 1:

Playing in The Sprawl

Chapter 2:

Making a Character:

Chapter 3:


Basic Playbooks










Chapter 4:

Basic Moves

Chapter 5:

Special Moves

Chapter 6:


Cyberware List

Chapter 7:


Chapter 7:




Chapter 8:

The Matrix:

Matrix Constructs


Moves in the Matrix

Chapter 9:

Running The Sprawl


Always Say



Chapter 10:


Structure of a Mission:

Get the Job

2/66 The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish@ardens.org Legwork

The Mission

Getting Paid


Lie low or fight back?

Chapter 11:

The First Session

Appendix 1: Names




Appendix 2: Playtesters

3/66 The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish@ardens.org

Chapter 1:

Playing in The Sprawl So you want to play with the big boys? Hit the heavy bag? Get some cred? Read on...

The Sprawl is a roleplaying game for 3-5 players. Most of you will play badass cyberpunk protagonists, but one of you will be the Master of Ceremonies (MC for short). Playing the game is like a conversation among the people at the table and the MC is the facilitator. If there’s some doubt about who’s turn it is to speak, or what you’re supposed to be talking about, the MC is the one who decides. Oh yeah, and the MC? They control everything else. Your contacts, your enemies, the corporations, the hit squads the corporations send to mess up your contacts, the team of pros who come to shoot up your team, and the blind cyber-assassin who loops the monofilament wire around your neck while you’re standing at the urinal.

There are a few things you’ll need to play The Sprawl:

Two regular six-sided dice.

• A copy of each of the playbooks.

• A copy of a the Mission sheet and the MC moves.

• A few other copies of various gear sheets for reference.

• The Sprawl is Powered by the Apocalypse, which means it uses Vincent Baker’s excellent Apocalypse World system as a foundation. If you’re not familiar with Apocalypse World, I can’t recommend it enough. If you are familiar with Apocalypse World or its various published hacks, much of this first chapter will be familiar. Nevertheless, you will notice some small differences, changes and additions.

Rolling Dice There are two core mechanics in The Sprawl. Just about everything else works from these foundations. The first is the dice.

When you do something in The Sprawl that has a chance of failure, you take two regular six-sided dice, roll them and add them together, then add that something, usually a number between -1 and +2. If your total is more than 10 (a hit), you get what you wanted. That’s called a hit. If your total is between 7 and 9, you mostly get what you wanted; maybe you only got most of what you wanted;

maybe you got what you wanted but something went wrong as well. That’s called a weak hit.

Now, if you rolled less than six, that’s a miss. Maybe you’ll get what you want anyway, but it’ll have strings attached. The MC will make a move.

Making Moves The second core mechanic is the idea of “moves”. A move is some action that triggers a decision or

–  –  –

uncertainty. The Killer tries to shoot the the corp security guard in the face? That’s a move. The Hacker tries to crack open a secure system? That’s a move. The MC blows out the apron on the Driver’s hover-limo? That’s a move.

As a player, a move happens when you say you’re doing something that corresponds to the fictional trigger on the move. So, lets say you’re the Hunter and you’re narrating how you’re across the street

from an apartment building scoping out the security. There’s a move for that:

Check it out (Edge) When you closely study a person, place or situation, roll+Edge. On a 10+, ask the MC 3 questions from the list below that your examination could answer. On a 7-9 ask 1.

Take +1 forward when acting on the answers.

• What does ______ want?

• How is ______ vulnerable to me?

• What is my best way in/way out/way past.

• What should I be on the lookout for?

• What is my biggest threat?

The section in bold is the fictional trigger, in this case, when you closely study a person, place or situation. So when your character does that thing in the fictional game world, you the player, do what the move says afterwards. In this case, roll+Edge (one of the basic stats), then look at what the move tells you happens on a hit, a weak hit and a miss. Sometimes a move won’t tell you what happens on a miss. In that case, the MC gets to make a move.

If your character performs an action that corresponds to the fictional trigger, then you make the move. Likewise, if you want to perform the move, your character has to do the action that corresponds to the fictional trigger.

Some moves are available to everyone in The Sprawl and are used quite commonly: these are called Basic Moves (see Chapter 4). Other moves are used on in very particular circumstances: these are called Special Moves (see Chapter 5). Others are only available to certain playbooks: these are called Playbook Moves. Playbooks and the moves associated with them are described in Chapter 3).Regardless of the kind of move it is, all the rules above apply. You have to perform the action in the fiction to engage the mechanics of the move, and if you do the move in the fiction then you engage the mechanics of the move.

Terminology Some moves will grant you a bonus Forward (“take +1 forward”); in this case add one to the next move roll you make. Sometimes a move will say you take +1 forward to a particular move or type of roll (such as “take +1 forward to mix it up” or “take +1 forward when acting on the answers”).

Some moves will grant you an Ongoing bonus (“take +1 ongoing until...”); add one to each roll as long as the condition applies. This bonus may also be limited to a move or fictional situation (such as “takes +1 ongoing while you act on an assigned task” or “take +1 ongoing to fast talk”).

Other moves will grant you hold, a type of currency which you can spend later for various effects.

The move that grants you hold will also tell you what you can spend it on, so when you gain hold, note down how much you have and where it comes from. For example a Hacker who rolls her Console Cowboy move might write down “Console Cowboy, 3 hold”. Then mark it off as you use it.

5/66 The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish@ardens.org MC Moves In The Sprawl, everyone makes moves, even the MC. The MC’s moves work a little differently, though.

When a player misses a move, or when the players are waiting for something to happen, or when the fiction demands it, the MC gets to make a move. Moves can be soft and give the players a chance to avoid bad consequences, or hard and impose consequences on the players right then. It’s a continuum, but those are the end points.

A full list of MC moves can be found in Chapter 9: Running the Sprawl. Below are a few examples of MC moves. These are Corporate moves, for when a corporation is acting against the


Send a subtle message.

• Send a violent message.

• Terminate a problem.

• Throw money at a problem.

• They’re not as specific as the player moves; they’re more like guidelines for action. The MC will make a move that follows from the events of the fiction. This might involve events in the scene at hand, or it might involve events that happen behind the scenes (in particular, advancing the legwork or mission clocks and foreshadowing or revealing complications). This will all be discussed further in Chapter 9: Running the Sprawl.

Agenda and Principles How does the MC know what move they should make? They look to their Agenda and Principles for guidance. Agenda means “things that must be done” which is what these are; the golden rules of

running The Sprawl:

Make the world dirty, high-tech and excessive.

• Fill the character’s lives with action and intrigue.

• Play to find out what happens.

• There are a lot of things you can change in these rules, but if you change these, you’re playing an entirely different game.

The players just have one Agenda:

Play your characters as if they were real people.

• Principles are the specific tools you use to fulfil your Agenda. They are a set of best practices for using your Moves to achieve your Agenda. There is a complete list of the MCs principles in Chapter 9: Running the Sprawl. But back to the characters...

Playbooks Every character in The Sprawl is created using a playbook. A playbook is a set of moves and options based around a certain theme. In The Sprawl, these playbooks correspond to major cyberpunk tropes seen through the lens of mission roles. For example, Turner from William Gibsons 6/66 The Sprawl: Alpha Version hamish@ardens.org Count Zero is a Soldier and Cowboy from Walter Jon William’ Hardwired is a Driver. As your character advances, their competencies may expand beyond the confines of their initial playbook, just as Molly develops from a Killer to a Fixer over the course of William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy.

Stats Every character has six stats: Style, Edge, Cool, Mind, Meat and Synth.

Style. The character’s interpersonal skills, charisma and presence. Style is used for convincing people to give you want you want.

Edge. The character’s professionalism and street-smarts. Edge is also a measure to how well you can give the impression that you are a badass who is not to be fucked with.

Cool. The character’s ability to remain calm and focused in stressful situations.

Mind. The character’s accumulated knowledge and capability for logic and rational thinking.

Meat. The capacity of the character’s natural body to give and receive punishment.

Synth. The character’s ability to interface with and operate cybernetic technology.

Each of these stats has a rating between -1 and +2 that indicates how well the character acts in that sphere. Each of the Basic Moves and many of the Playbook Moves will tell you to roll two dice and add one of these stats (using the notation “roll+stat”). Synth works a little differently.

Characters with cybernetic enhancements often have the option of substituting Synth for one of the other stats while performing certain actions. For example, a Character with low Edge, high Synth and cybereyes may rely on their cybernetic optics and associated firmware to pick out details in a scene rather than their natural ability to read the lay of the land.

In The Sprawl, chrome and circuitry can replace any biological weakness.

Equipment There are two types of equipment in The Sprawl: cyberware and everything else. Cyberware refers to machine implants that interface within the central nervous system of the human body. Some cybernetic implants augment the body’s natural abilities (like muscle grafts or targeting suites), and others act as prosthetic replacements for limbs or organs (like cyberarms or cybereyes). You can read more about Cyberware in Chapter 6: Cyberware. For the rest of the gear you might need to

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