If you’re like me, you’ve accumulated a lot of spare gaming materials as you’ve gone along, orphans from systems you may never play again. Sometimes you get some use out of this stuff by adapting it to a new modern system, but a lot of it just sits around taking up space.
Virtual Beta Testers
Setup: The players are ordinary modern-day thirtysomethings who played tabletop rpgs together in high-school. They’ve grown up and gone their separate ways, with lives and families of their own.
Hook: The guy they used to game with back in the day, Benny, contacts them out of the blue. He works for a tech company designing VR hardware, and offers them the chance to beta-test the system, shipping them the gear and instructing them in its use.
Act I: Benny acts as GM, sending them scenarios and instructing them in the game’s use. Run the players through a variety of RPG scenarios, giving them virtual characters to play, but describe them as if they were interfacing with a virtual world. Use Act I to get the players used to the idea of the separation of player, in-game player, and in-game character.
Act II: The next phase of testing involves turning off the in-game character layer. The players play using their own natural abilities, whatever they are. Let them discover that playing this way is a way to learn actual adventurer skills… not magic or anything, but real combat, vehicular, etc.
Act III: Benny reveals that the “game” is actually an advanced military training simulator, and that he broke a lot of rules testing it with the PCs, but he was having a mental breakdown and missed his friends. Now the military/bad guys/corporation are after them for Knowing Too Much. Good thing they spent act II training!
The Mechanics: Make sure to make the VR technology “realistic.” The PCs aren’t “in the game”, but wearing a helmet and interacting with a virtual landscape. Describe video-game like HUDs. Keep track of time, and make sure that they remember they have real lives and obligations.
Option: The VR gear is just a dummy. The system works through nanomachines attached to the players’ neurons, overriding their sensory input when “played.” They’re running around with advanced tech in their heads… and what if they get hacked?
Next time we’ll examine a similar scenario, though one that’s a bit more fantasy than science fiction.