roleplaying games

The next campaign: The Sprawl

Although I’ve spent a lot of time vacillating between numerous ideas and contemplating my future desires in gaming, the fact remains that I’m about 99% likely to run a game of The Sprawl for my next campaign. While I have a strong desire to run something fantasy, I’m better off waiting so I can a) actually get my ideas to gel and b) wait for the Zweihander Kickstarter to deliver, since it looks like it might scratch a Dark Fantasy itch well. But I digress.

I decided a while back that if I were to run The Sprawl, I’d do so in a fictional future city, both to avoid imbalances in out-of-character experience (we’re online, and none of us are from the same place) but also to create more blank spaces for the players to create. Having this whitespace was one of the things that made our Apocalypse World game so good, after all. Unsurprisingly my vision of the future centers around runaway climate change, so the one future development idea that’s been both persistent in the fiction I read and just fun to chew on is that of a floating city. I’ve had a bunch of different ideas, but in terms of ones that I want to focus on I’ve boiled it down to two.

The first is a blue water arcology, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. There are two ideas here to anchor the plausibility of this scenario. First, the northern coast of Australia up to Indonesia is an undeveloped but highly plausible oil patch. Second, seasteading, the libertarian notion of building communities in international waters, could take off to the point where an independent venture to develop said oil patch becomes a reality. Money changing hands as well as the interest of the local governments in the area could make such a development a very interesting place to work.

The second, and the one I’m leaning towards, is a “restoration city” built in Long Island Sound. There are numerous scenarios between now and 2100 that could lead to the collapse of a terrestrial ice sheet, leading to between 6 and 70 meters of sea level rise in a very short period of time. 6 meters would inundate parts of Manhattan and Jersey City, while 70 meters would destroy every city on the Eastern Seaboard from Boston to Washington, DC. Sea-borne development could occur for refugee displacement, as a reaction to increasing rent and higher demand for housing, or more likely as a combination of both. There’s also going to be a sea-steading element of using oceanic development as a way to skirt restrictive zoning laws when rebuilding.

My players will have a lot of say in the form of what corporations the story centers around, but I want to make sure to design something with tons of hooks. I think the treasure-hunting aspects of a half-sunken New York City will add a nice twist from the typical Cyberpunk intrigue, along with some possibilities to really spice things up.

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