John Kahane (jkahane) wrote,
John Kahane
jkahane

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About the a|state Roleplaying Game

As noted in previous posts, the Friday night gaming group spent last evening engaging in character creation for the a|state RPG. It occurs to me that before I get into the post about the game session last night, a bit of an overview about the game might be appropriate, as the game is somewhat obscure in the rpg field these days.

Anyway, a|state is/was the first creation of Malcolm Craig and the folks at Contested Ground Studios, and it is a solid effort in the gaming field. Inspired by the works of China Miéville, Tanith Lee, Jeff VanderMeer, Charles Dickens (of course!) and a host of others, a|state presents the stories of normal and sometimes extraordinary people who live in a world that might be described as "bad ass".

The following material is taken off the webpage that I once had about the game, and is quite insightful about the game.


Nearly one thousand years ago, as far as anyone can tell, an event took place. Why and how this event happened remains unknown. But it happened, and since then, things have been different in The City. Philosophers, scientists, and poets agree that the The City once had a name. In the present it is simply called The City, for there is nowhere else other than the blasted Outlands.

The event came to be known as The Shift, a change in reality so great that the very fabric of The City was changed forever. Places and people were altered, new beings sprang, fully formed, into existence. One fact that is known is that almost immediately after The Shift, The City was subjected to a rain of fire known as The Bombardment. Infernos fell from the sky and laid waste to whole tracts of land. More important than the destruction of the physical was the destruction of knowledge that The Bombardment caused. Datacores were wiped, libraries reduced to ashes and the memories of the survivors scarred. No remnant of life before The Shift and The Bombardment remains; only a few structures of vast size and strength remain to remind the inhabitants of the past. For centuries people have lived in limbo, the only history that of the past hundred decades.

Rumours circulate that The Outlands were once fertile and green, but now they are a blasted land of desert and rock. The City is a place of dark alleys, ponderous architecture and stinking canals. In the century following these two cataclysmic events, the survivors sought to band together and make some sort of life for themselves. Not only did they have to deal with a lack of technology, they had to deal with the creatures which became know as the Simils, the Ubel, the Drache and the Lugners. The struggles of the first century gave rise to organisations which still exist today. The eight macrocorps all grew from the ashes, each with their own unique story of war, decimation and survival.

Over the coming centuries, The City and its inhabitants would reach a twisted equilibrium with their situation. Society grew and expanded, the population stuttered, fell and then grew. Sciences and technologies were rediscovered, yet even today, many live in poverty and primitive conditions. The rediscovered technologies were harnessed by those who had the power and influence to utilise them. The macrocorps became bastions of knowledge, hoarding their precious discoveries to themselves, only to find them ripped away by unceasing war and the more subtle influences of espionage and treachery.

Now, centuries later, The City is a study in contrasts. The majority of the population live in tenements and towers built of brick, stone and concrete. Their dwellings are lit by gas piped in from huge rubbish heaps, their clothes made from crude fibres and their property that of a society barely reaching the industrial age. In the domains of the macrocorps, things are very different. The corporate citizens have access to the finest food, to unlimited power and light, to shining vehicles and well made clothes. Their soldier who guard them ward off rioters armed with black powder sparklock weapons, the soldiers themselves carrying sleek gauss rifles and compact lasers.

In the slums of Mire End, Dreamingspires and Fogwarren, life is a daily toil, making enough to get by as best you can. The middle classes fear the slums, envisioning them encroaching upon their own moderately comfortable lives. In the corporate bastions of Luminosity Tower, Konkret and The Forbidden City, the corporates look down upon the teeming millions, their workforce and their potential doom.

Through the backstreets and alleys, Ubel stalk, ripping and tearing those who come too close, leaving only a cooling corpse as an echo of their passing. Simils made of iron and brass, surmounted with a human head, clank their way through the streets or lay down their existences in the hell of the Contested Grounds. Lugner spread rumour, fear and suspicion through their whispers and fleeting dreams.

Some seek to stand up to the despair and hopelessness. Lostfinders search and investigate for little or no reward while Stringers piece together fragments of information to feed into the hungry newswires and memory cores of the Dataflow. The Provosts of the Three Canals try to enforce some form of law and order in a chaotic society, holding on to the belief that there is the one place in The City where life is that little bit better. Others believe that the forces which prevent anyone leaving this place are corroding, that soon they will be able to leave this place for a better life among the stars.

The clouds will one-day part. And then, the people of The City will once again have that rarest and most precious of commodities: hope.

So, what type of characters can you find in The City and in the world of a/state ? a|state is a gothic horror science fiction roleplaying game (some might even call it "Dickens-punk") that is set in a huge city, appropriately called The City, that allows players to take part in the everyday struggle for survival in an environment with no exit, dealing with day-to-day life
while at the same time possibly taking on roles that will alter and change the political, social, and cultural landscape of The City as they know it. The characters players can create and roleplay are limited only by their imaginations. Character types in The City include, but are not limited to:

Lostfinders, investigators and detective types driven by the desire to help others to find things, people, or items, and who do this selfless job for little or no pay.

Ghostfighters, enigmatic men and women who specialise in knife fighting and the arts of stealth.

Stringers, reporters and investigative journalists from all levels of society, who are on the scene and report the news to the masses. Conniving and always seeking to get to the top.

Scientists, while inquisitive for the most part, often have hidden agendas of their own, and while many are found at Longshore University, some work for the macrocorps.

Business executives from the macrocorps are all very much ambitious, but may play a different style of game depending on who they work for and what they seek.

Canal Mudlarks, who work The City's varied and widely divergent canals, have various occupations that can run the gamut of the down-and-out, the cargo barge owner, or a small passenger boat, but many of them trawl the depths of the canals seeking, always seeking the way out of their miserable existence.

So, if this game world and environment appeal to you...

Welcome to The City...

You will never forget The City. But it will certainly forget you...


What makes a|state so interesting is that this rpg deals with a city. Not just any city, but *The* City. Cities are fascinating urban environments where, as the proverbial says goes, "There are a thousand stories told in the naked city" (or something like that). When taken in the game context, and adding the Dickensian flavour to the game, a|state is truly something special.

Hope that others come to see this game, and how unique it is. And the fact that it reflects our own modern, urbane existence through a mirror, darkly.

That said, that should give you a good idea of what the game is about when I post up about the Friday night character creation session.
Tags: a|state rpg, friday gaming group, gaming hut, personal, rpg, rpg hut
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