We don’t know what year it is, we don’t know what is in the water, we don’t know if we’re human, or what human even is anymore. The corps know all that shit. They wiped everything when the change happened. Now we’re here in the concrete under the neon, trying to eke out a life between the enchanted dire rats and the sentinel killdroids sent to deal with the enchanted dire rats. Some of us are tapping into our nature, learning about our spirits and the ether that seems to pervade the world now. Some of us are gearing up, modifying our bodies and cracking through the web. None of us, though, none of us, are taking this shit lying down. The marble floors of their holodeck parlours and atmocontrolled meeting rooms are gonna run with blood, we don’t care what colour.
There exist three levels of reality:
Some people have developed skills in the mastery of one or both of the Digital and Spiritual planes. Sometimes this may be as simple as casting a spell or running a program, other times they may enter the other level of reality, move through it, and manipulate it directly, affecting the physical world in unusual ways.
Establish among yourselves where you're playing it might be a real city in the cyberpunk future, it might be a new or made up one. What part of the world is it in? Make sure everyone feels confident playing in the fictional space you're using. Then work out what community your characters are all a part of? What crowded neighbourhood, parish, slum, or scrip-town are you all languishing in?
Each of you besides the GM gets one character to play at a time. Your characters are punks, castoffs and miscreants in this dirty magical metropolis. Work out your stats and stuff, but also work out who you are in this world and how you're connected to the other player characters and why the fuck you’re running against the megaliths of capitalist technocracy instead of donning a suit like all the other wage slaves. Where did you come from? How did you end up in this community? What is your role here?
When you try to do a tough thing, roll a percentile plus any other applicable dice.
If you roll above your mastery threshold for the appropriate stat the roll is a success, you achieve what you set out to do.
If you roll between your mastery threshold and your competency threshold, the roll is a tilt. You don't outright fail, you get at least part of what you want but the GM also makes a move, which might moderate your success.
If you roll under both your thresholds, that’s a shame, the roll is a failure and the GM makes a move.
Each character has three stats: MIND, BODY, SOUL
For each stat roll 3d20+10 to generate your competency threshold.
Then add another 3d20 to your competency threshold to generate your mastery threshold.
After you have generated your thresholds for all three stats you may choose to reroll the thresholds for one stat. Any time you roll a stat with a mastery over 100, immediately reroll it.
If your mastery threshold for either MIND or SOUL drops below the competency threshold for both of the other stats during play, you’re lost either to the ethereal or digital.
Your resilience in each stat starts at 100. If it drops below your mastery threshold your successes with that stat become tilts and your tilts become failures. If it drops below your competency threshold, you're dead.
Assign 10 d10s amongst the following skills (Investigation, Diligence, Digital Work, Violence, Sneaking, Endurance, Capability, Socialising, Confidence, Mystical Work)
When something says “Roll X” such as “Roll Diligence” or “Roll Sneaking” it means roll a percentile and add any d10s you have for that skill (if you don’t have any, that’s fine) plus any other dice you might have from other advantages and then compare it to the thresholds for that skill’s stat, whether that’s MIND for Diligence or BODY for Sneaking. Sometimes you might get asked to just roll for a stat, such as “Roll SOUL” in which case you don’t get to add any of your skill dice.
Your ability to find, notice, and put clues together. Sometimes you might just want to tell the GM “I take a look around”, roll Investigation to ask up to three questions from the following list:
How put together are you? Do you leave a trail? Is your mind palace kept clean and well organised? When someone tries to come after you, how ready are you for them? Roll Diligence any time you’re trying to avoid intellectual or digital trouble.
For each d10 you have in Digital Work, pick one digital action:
And one digital sphere which you have control over:
When you enter the digital and manipulate the mechanical, choose which combination of your digital actions and digital spheres you’re using (at least one of each) to achieve your goal and roll Digital Work.
Increasing the localised entropy of people, places, or things. Sometimes it’s with guns, sometimes it’s with yourself. Usually, you do this when you want something to stop doing something, such as being in your way, or living. Roll Violence when you want to break something.
Don’t want to be noticed, caught, shot, punched or anything else like that? Sneaking. Roll Sneaking when you want to be too fast, too quiet, or too nimble for them to spot you or stop you.
Sometimes you gotta run fast, jump high, swim deep, or get shot by just a bunch of bullets, it’s just the way it is.
Roll Endurance when you’re doing the thing and sucking it up.
For each d10 you have in Capability, pick a biological or cybernetic capability for your character:
When you use any of your capabilities to aid your in your task, add all your Capability d10s to the roll.
How well do you know yourself? Do you know what you want? What you’re afraid of? Who are your friends and who are your enemies? What your place in the world is right now?
Roll Confidence any time you’re trying to avoid emotional, social, or mystical trouble.
For each d10 you have in Mystical Work, pick one mystical action:
And one mystical sphere which you control over:
When you enter the spiritual and manipulate the mystical, choose which combination of your mystical actions and mystical spheres you’re using (at least one of each) to achieve your goal and roll Mystical Work.
Your character might have one or more hard limits, such as PTSD, a scarred aura, or a missing limb.
Any time your hard limit stops you doing something or makes a task harder by removing a d10 from your roll, gain a tension.
Don't trivialize your fucking hard limits. They're optional. You can choose to not have any. Sure you’re bulky and don't like cilantro and don’t know how to swim but unless those are things that are actually messing with you on the regular maybe hold off? We want a way to show how disability impacts our characters as real people in the world, and in doing that it’s important to respect the experience of those that deal with these issues in our own world.
Describe your character’s appearance and demeanour.
Are they three feet tall, or eight? What colour is their skin? Is their hair dark or light? Curly or straight? Are their ears small or large? Pointy or round? What parts of them are cybernetic, if any? Do they have tusks or fangs? What colour and shape are their eyes? Are they elegant or clumsy? Warm or cold? Muscular or lithe? How do they dress?
Also what's their name and what are their pronouns?
If you roll to avoid damage to your mind, body, or soul and the roll is a failure, your resilience in that stat is reduced by your margin of failure.
When another player is making a roll and you have d10s in the skill they are using, you can explain how you help to give them a bonus d10 on their roll.
When you fail a roll someone was helping you out with, gain a tension.
If you roll over your competency threshold but under your mastery threshold on any roll, you can invite another player to have their character fuck things up for you, if they do, gain a tension.
When another player is making a roll, you can spend a tension and explain how you help with one of your skills, even if it's not the same as your check, and add all your d10s in that skill to their roll in addition to any other bonuses such as the one received for helping with a matching skill.
Remember that when you're helping out with tension to show how you're dealing with that. Are you forgiving someone? Are they more important to you than the slight? Or are you aiding someone ‘cause they weren't the one that pissed you off?
You can also spend a tension to remove a dice of your choice from another player’s roll if you specifically want to fuck things up for them for whatever reason.
If a bunch of you all have to contend with the same challenge, like sneaking past a camera, or swimming across a river, everyone rolls. If your roll is a tilt, you manage the thing. If it’s a success you manage and you can help a buddy out, turning one of the group's failures into a tilt. Otherwise, failures are failures and the GM makes a move.
At the start of play each session, everyone with no tension gets in a disagreement, resolve it quickly for now and everyone involved gets 1d4 tension straight off the bat.
Among you, work out who the fuck your crew is, why you all run together, where you come from, and what you're aiming for. Again, the GM should be asking questions.
Your crew has three stats REP, CASH, HEAT
You start out with 3d20 in each of those and then you add or remove dice from those pools when you describe your Home. Once you’ve done that you roll each pool to find your initial value for each stat. These initial values are also the maximum values.
Choose one or more to describe your crew hideout:
At any time you can establish that you have a piece of gear or help from a contact. Work out what you want to have, describe it, and choose what size dice it has (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20) and then pay half the max value of that dice (eg 6 for a d12) in CASH for gear or REP for help. Any time you use that gear or help from then on out, you can re-use that dice.
CASH can be used to buy basically anything you can touch and hold, including programs in the digital or spells in the ethereal, but it can’t get you the specific instance of any given thing. If you want the key that opens the guard house or the name of the dragonlord’s cybermistress, you’ll need to get someone to help you out.
REP buys you the assistance of an NPC that is not currently trying to outright fuck you up. This might be a favour they did for you before you got yourself into this mess, it might be them lending you a hand with a task in the digital or ethereal, or even calling in a missile strike if that’s what’s really needed. Anything that's ephemeral or situation specific is probably purchased with assistance. Feel free to use flashbacks to establish how the help occurred.
At any time the GM can use HEAT to either create or upgrade challenges such as monsters, extra secure tech, corporate drone mages, or really big guns. For each HEAT the GM spends, the challenge gains a d10. When the players roll against that challenge the GM first rolls all of the challenge’s d10s. The result of this roll is called the Challenge Value, half of which is added to the punk’s Competency Threshold for their roll and the full amount of which is added to their Mastery Threshold. If needed the GM can buy extra challenge dice to add to existing elements in the scene as things progress.
There are three kinds of hard purchases: contacts, property, and vulnerabilities.
For every ten REP you start with, establish a contact for your crew (a fence, a crooked authority, a spirit).
Answer the following for each: What do you call them? What service do they provide? What leverage do they have over one PC? What feelings do they have toward another?
For every ten CASH you start with, establish a property for your crew (a magical artefact, a vehicle, a piece of personal gear for each member of the crew).
Answer the following for each: Where did you get it? What does it do? Why don’t you use it all the time?
For every ten HEAT you start with, establish a vulnerability for your crew (a rival, a curse, outside connections or responsibilities).
Answer the following for each: How did you get this? How does it make things harder? How do you think you can shake it?
These hard purchases are always worth 1d20 when called on and can only be purchased in this way when the crew is first created. After that you can only get rid of or gain new ones by actually doing so in the fiction. When you get new ones, answer the same questions about them.
If you're itching for trouble but aren't sure where to find it, tell the GM which contacts you're hitting for rumours and what leads you're chasing if any and roll Investigation or Socialising.
When you jump ahead , name your target or destination and your approach. Everyone describes how they get there and you all roll together as long as you have one person on point rolling Soul, one person on logistics rolling Body, and one person on cleanup rolling Mind.
On a success, you make it, no problem.
On a tilt, you're tagged. Cut to your mistake before the consequences have manifested.
On a failure, that escalated quickly. Cut to the very problematic corner you find yourself in.
When you spend a few hours doing the dirty work, resupplying, or keeping watch, restore up to 10 CASH
When you spend a few hours socialising or hanging out with crewmates or contacts, restore up to 10 REP.
When you spend a few hours tending to the needs of a recovering crewmate, spend a tension and restore 1d10 of one of their resiliences.
When you celebrate a victory with your community, reset your HEAT and gain 25 xp for each of the following questions you answer:
Experience can be spent as so:
As the GM it’s your responsibility to convey the world In Which We Live And Breathe with the players. The world is a grungy cyberpunk fantasy with dirt in the corners and acid in the rain, but it’s also often gonzo as heck. There are elves and dwarves and gnomes and goblins and ogres and cyberninjas and sentient battletanks and shamans and wizards and hackers and corporate assassins and ghosts and murderAIs and dragons. All of this somehow exists in the same place but not without friction at the edges. Show contrasts between the rich and poor and the shoreline between where those worlds meet. Litter the world with opportunities for the players to take some back from those with more. Corps are the bad guys here, the players are never gonna change the world but they can hurt the corps and carve out a space for them and their community.
Whenever the players roll below their mastery threshold on something, you will need to make a move. Say “let's see here” and then choose a move that makes sense in the fiction and helps you express the game’s themes if possible. If the players look at you to know what happens next, you also need to make a move. Making a move is just saying what happens next in the story, specific moves are just prompts to manipulate the fiction in a certain way, making things interesting and moving the story forwards. Try some of these:
Make them roll to not get hurt, physically, digitally, or spiritually, it's all the same, give them a new Hard Limit, rip their fuckin arm off, kill them. You don't go up against the corps without taking a few blows.
Let them know what's happening soon, or far away, or what will happen if they do the thing, or what will happen if they don't. Give hints and clues the size of fuckin billboards.
Make their move work but not quite how they wanted. Maybe it affects way more than intended, maybe the result is kinda shitty, maybe they get the wrong target, maybe let them know what the cost is and see if they still want it.
Just make shit worse. Split the party, corner them, have them run out of time, give them ugly choices, have shit happen off screen like burgling their home or tailing them or abducting their boyfriend.
Take away their gear, cut off communications, blow up the orphanage that they care about so much, kill the guy they're supposed to protect
You can remember these with the handy acronym: FATES
When you first start playing In Which We Live And Breathe, go through character and crew creation with the other players, asking lots of open leading questions, getting details and elaborations on the choices they make, and then drop them into the world. Start with a bit of onomatopoeia (“bang!”,”thud!”,”hisssss…”) and reveal the tense spot they’re in. Some kind of situation that demands action. Put something they care about in the way of danger or put something they want within reach. Ask them questions about it: “Why are these bikers after you?” “What is supposed to be in this vault?” “Who is flying this plane?” Use the first session especially to build out the world, find threats and mysteries to explore later and get an understanding for the direction the story is heading. Ask so many questions, it’s all about getting the players to help you build a map and chart a course on it.
In Which We Live And Breathe is a game about dichotomies and our place in their middle spaces. As you run the game look for opportunities to do the following:
Keep Head and Heart present in your mind as you play. If the crew starts to prefer one approach, craft situations that require another. Push them to see how far they will go to extremes and show them the consequences.
When the players go looking for rumours and trouble, get their crew type, their vulnerabilities, their contacts and gear in front of you
And then make a move.
Most of the time that move will be advertise but not all the time, don't let them get complacent.
Hyperbole Radio Sequencing Station
Destruction of corporate property, Assault, Libel
Lone vigilante specifically targeting Hyperbole Systems. Prefers physical intrusion for systems access dealing widespread damage once inside.
Corporate Intel, Intrusion Assistance
Amtrad Systems Coal Waste Reclamation
Pilot for hire. Member of First Nations Standing, an activist group linked to terrorist acts against multiple Oceanic mining firms.
Transport, Aerial Support, Mechanical Results
Claimed by Ainu Sovereignty. Controlled by Elven organised crime.
Popular tourism destination due to lax gambling laws, traditional entertainment, and stability.
Deckrot is a magical virus that infects machines exchanging UTF encoded text, replacing characters with similar looking glyphs that replicate the incant. This often expands into core system files resulting in reduced functionality.
Were-possum, Criminal Associate
Runs a safehouse from a barge that routinely patrols between corporate waters and neutral hazard zones. Routinely engages in rituals engaging prohibited spiritual entities.
Safe House, Weird Spiritual Rituals, Scrap, Trash, Refuse, Game
Human Remains, Magical Artefact
After the Mumbai Omen was eliminated, her followers went into hiding with her twisted remains. Although reports of arcane anomalies related to the bones are trivial, they are seen as a symbol of authority amongst several posthumanist cults.
Uninsured Necromancy, Restricted Speech Use
Performs illicit ghostbindings, trapping souls of the dead into mechanical fetishes with screens & speakers at the behest of grieving loved ones.
Mechanical Fetishes, Rumours From The World Beyond, Weird Trinkets
Fraud, Theft, Corporate Espionage
Suspected of using perception jamming enchantments, they are skilled in the art of social engineering and corporate intrusion. Well known for stealing Visiglao mining deeds and treaties which they obtained by asking a clerk for them.
Corporate Documents, Very Fine Suits
Silver coins are equal to 1000 Copper coins or one thousandth of a Gold coin. It's all digital or crypto or some shit but a bunch of it gets stored on thumbdrives and stuff ‘cause it turns out you need a lot of digital storage space to hold all those ledger records. Folks on the streets just trade drives like cash cause it's quicker and the corps can't mine off your transactions. A copper coin is worth about a buck to you or me.
Non-Corporate Organisation. No current contravention of gathering statutes.
Network of facilities providing medication, equipment, medical & reproductive care, to those with objection to, or without access to, med insurance, artificial wombs, or Darwin Battery embryo selection. Funded by various religious and suspected extremist groups.