The year is 2182. The dominant civilizations of the Milky Way galaxy are enjoying a period of unprecedented growth among the stars, spurred on by new discoveries as well as long-term economic and diplomatic efforts. The backbone for these efforts is provided by the Citadel Council, an interspecies galactic committee led by the asari, salarians and turians, with other species being granted associate membership contingent on their ratification of interstellar agreements, chief among them being the Citadel Conventions. While a galactic map might lead you to believe that Council space makes up most of the galaxy, the reality is that only a fraction of the Milky Way has been explored and charted. There are still countless undiscovered worlds, ripe for the picking right in the metaphorical back yard of Council space, let alone off the beaten paths of the mass relay network. This is an age of expansion, of colonization and exploitation as the major and minor species of the galaxy race to expand their spheres of economic, diplomatic and military influence. Everyone wants to seize the opportunity of a galaxy at peace, with no major conflicts looming.

If the Citadel Council is the backbone of the galaxy, the lawless region of the Terminus Systems is its beating heart. Despite standing outside the direct influence of the Council, the worlds of Terminus have something the rest of the galaxy needs: Element Zero, the rare compound required in all mass effect technology. Without a steady supply, the Council civilizations, for all their diplomatic and cultural influence, would eventually stagnate and collapse. So, despite the inherent risks of supporting inhabited worlds and trading stations in a region controlled by pirates and non-Council species, everyone wants the best piece of Terminus for themselves. Yet, governments are too slow and too distant to compete in such a region. Upon discovering this, Council species have formed official and unofficial alliances with the only life forms who can fully tap the potential of the Terminus Systems: corporations. Unrestricted by ethics and local authorities, the corporations are free to thrive. Industrial conglomerates hollow out entire moons in a matter of months, tech zaibatsus play god with methods outlawed everywhere else, private armies wage wars to keep their clients’ hands clean. All of them have the drive and resources to build their homes in places far more dangerous — and for more lucrative — than anything mere mortals could imagine.

One such place is the Hive, a metropolis built into the canyons of the planet Epho at the heart of the Terminus Systems. The Hive is a corporate playground, designed not for trade with Council space, but rather for the development of industries and secrets that intend to remain within Terminus. These secrets and positions of power are undying embers, easily sparked into conflict as conglomerates vie to devour one another. The proxies waging these private wars are called Ghosts, operators hired by the corporations for their muscle, their expertise and, ultimately, their deniability. The riches, adventure and connections promised by the Hive attract souls from all walks of life, searching for something or wishing to stay hidden. And the Hive can grant those wishes, if you can enter its depths and come out alive.

Far out on the edge of all this galactic sprawl, the Hive churns on. And she beckons to you.

The GM's preamble

Hey, Syntax here. I'm gonna use this space to describe the general concept I have for Rusting Chrome, currently planned as one or more oneshot missions with the possibility of a long-form game in the future.

The system I've crammed this thing into is Sprawl, a system based in Powered by the Apocalypse rulesets. It's fairly light on the mechanics and focuses on collaborative narrative, with the most common result of a dieroll being "you succeed, but", rather than a straight success or failure. Mechanical character progression is largely measured in broadening expertise and, to a certain extent, more tools for the players to dictate events in the environment or encounters to make things more favorable for them.

As for thematics, the game is intended as a marriage of the Mass Effect space opera setting with cyberpunk aesthetics, so things are likely going to get a bit grim a couple times along the way. Content-wise, there's going to be swearing, there's going to be mature themes, and sad endings. Not 24/7, I'd like everyone to still have fun and get laughs out of this, but that's a direction I'd like to have present.

That said, Apocalypse games have a tagline of everyone "playing to find out". It refers not only to an easy way to set table expectations, as I've done below, but also serves to remind everyone that the GM and players are both there to embark on an adventure and make a story. Consequently, a lot of things in this game aren't set in stone, and I'm very interested to hear other people's thoughts on what they'd like to see in Mass Effect, in a space opera or cyberpunk story, or in individual missions or character arcs. Which is to say, I want to play and GM this game to find out what stories you can tell me.

So, anyway, here's my idea of what you might expect going into this. Play Rusting Chrome to find out:

  • what the Mass Effect setting has to offer to classic cyberpunk stories
  • conversely, what we can discover in Mass Effect on a dive into hopefully fresh territory
  • if you can survive the machinations of entities far greater than yourself, and what you're willing to sacrifice to do so
  • Or you can just have fun playing a badass-yet-expendable tech wizard operator alien. That’s rad, too!

That's all for now. Thanks for reading, and poke me on IRC if you want to chat about this.
- Syntax

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