Games without Frontiers

Being the 14th and 15th pages of the SwanCon XV Progress Report 3. Running head on page 14 reads “And you thought you might get some sleep!”. Transcription by Anna Hepworth and Elaine Walker (because reasons). Typoes faithlessly transcribed.

Games without Frontiers

“Big Blue is Watching You”

Life is tough for the small software house in 1997. After all, when you’re up against a mega-corp like IBM, you might as well go back to fixing calculators. But your pride makes you press on … until the mega-corp shuts you down by force. Then it’s war!

In 1989, IBM, formerly known as for its conservative corporate style, began to make a move on the technological forefront of the microcomputer market, releasing advanced products in an uncharacteristically gung-ho fashion. In 1990, IBM jumped eleven places in the Fortune 500 index, and took over it’s long-term microchip supplier, intel, merging two of America’s largest long-term computer chip R&D facilities. In 1991, in a move surrounded by dark speculation, IBM bought out Microsoft, the world’s largest software production house, following the mysterious death of its founder and president, William (Bill) Gates. In a speech to the 1991 Comdex business conference, Joe Cannavino, formerly head of micro computing at IBM but not company president, explained that the “I” now stood for intel and the “M” for Microsoft, but the world knew the Big Blue “B” was all that mattered.

In 1993, with the release of its “Supermicro” PS/3 series, IBM came to completely dominate the computer industry. Having rapidly shed its own interests in Mainframe computing, IBM quickly subsumed floundering US and Japanese manufacturers and jumped to number three in the Fortune 500: the third richest company on earth. Astonishing breakthroughs flooded from the IBM labs as never before and the benefits to consumer culture were enormous.

It is now 1997 and the face of Big Blue has darkened. In the past four years, its economic interests have expanded well beyond the computing sphere, incorporating many of the Military-Industrial Complex industries left floundering since the end of the cold war with the Eastern Blok. It is now the largest and most powerful corporate entity on the planet, and it brooks no competition. During the past year, the small hardware and software development houses, filling specialist niches in a market IBM owns and formerly encouraged by the corporate megalith, have been starved of the information, technical assistance and cooperative marketing that has kept them alive.

As a member of the nu-Prometheus League, an organisation originally founded in 1988 to distribute Apple Macintosh source code to promote free exchange of ideas and now a secret net of computer hackers and innovators outside IBM, you are now sworn to discover the rents in the giant’s armour, to infiltrate IBM, uncover its secrets and break its stranglehold on the world. It’s not going to be easy.

Big Blue is Watching You will be a live-action Role Playing Game, conducted over the four days of the Con and involving anyone who cares to register. It will tend towards non-violent solutions, but the occasional Killer-rules slaying should be expected. Computer espionage, code cracking, information exchange and deep thought will be the key elements of the scenario, which will unfold in ways guaranteed to surprise even the most jaded Roleplayer. Real computers will play a role (simulating Net-terminals in the information bloated society of 1997) but computer literacy is not a requirement. We’ll be looking for people to play NPC roles too, so volunteer!

“Problems with Blue Tatoos”

Continuing the Blue theme for the gaming stream, this AD&D 2nd Edition-based Tournament will be run on a by-arrangement basis at any time during the Con.

Set in Mike Poidinger’s campaign kingdom of Imatan near the Three Princedoms, it will involve characters generated at the convention (or possibly, by arrangement with Mike, before it), using 250,000XP and rolling stats on best three of 4d6, or 2d6+6. Dual classed characters will be restricted to primary class and Druids will use the Clerical Experience Table.

The Tournament will consist of a five hour session (divided up by arrangement with the individual DM concerned) with five players, winners being determined after all groups have played (well, it’s only fair that way). It would be a good idea to get your groups together as soon as possible. Registration can be made at the Registration Desk (including preferred playing times, all names and a contact person) or with Mike before the Con. There is no fee for registration.

Look at the Program, decide amongst your players when they’d like to play (Cyberpunk Workshop times and the Guest of Honour speech prohibited and midnight gaming discouraged as the DMs will probably hate you for it), and get ready to pit your wits against the game. This Tournament will especially reward cerebral roleplayers.

Cyberpunk RPG Workshops
By Chris Stronach

So, you wanna play a Cyberpunk RPG?

Saturday Night. You prowl the streets of Perth, AD 2014, looking for some action. You’re armed and ready: two concealed knives, a .44 backup plastic in your camo’ trousers, the latest Browning 9mm with laser targeting system under your impact-proof leather jacket, a smart-linked H&K-257 SMG, a Karate skill-chip in place, a pair of RayBan Mirrorshades covering the best eyes money can buy and a really bad attitude.

You turn down an alleyway near the Wellington Conglomerate Armaments and Cybersurgery building. The hairs on the back of your neck prickle as you stride into the shadowy passage – Danger! Your vision cuts to LI, highlighting the two toughs wielding bike chains. You roll into cover behind the garbage skip, draw the H&K and bring the reticle of the sight up to the bigger one’s heart. The heat is on …

As an exclusive to SwanCon XV, we have arranged a pre-release copy of Steve Jackson Games’ GURPS Cyperpunk. Introductory sessions, including a general discussion of Dark Future Roleplaying and a short scenario, will be held in the Gaming Room on Saturday at 10:00am. A mini-tournament, with prizes for the best examples of Roleplaying, will be held in the Gaming Room at 2:00pm the same day. Membership for both these Workshops will be limited (to approximately 20 persons for the actual gaming), so register early at the Registration desk. And don’t forget your attitudes!

About australian sf-history

ASFDAP was set up in 2011 after the rediscovery by the wider SF community of an impressive hoard of Australian SF community related ephemera, fanzines and other materials in the Murdoch University basement.
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