In our present times, technologies like AI, VR, AR, and IoT are rapidly being developed. In the future version of our world, these technologies will have advanced further than we can even dream of. One Shot RPG should incorporate these technologies into its character designs, but in a way that doesn’t undermine the element of horror.
Starting with AI
Artificial intelligence in our current day is a rapidly emerging technology, with research varying from self driving cars, stock investing, to creating art and music. In a few year’s time we’ll have to get used to the fact that many of the tasks we do and decisions we make today will be automated. We’ll slowly learn to live with and work with AI to create even cooler technology. In 200-300 years into our future, AI will be more advanced than what we’re capable of today. One Shot RPG features AI that can mimic a sapient being, and at first glance passes for a living thing. But what it cannot do is gain free will. There will be no characters or enemies that follow the AI gaining free will trope. There is AI that seems to have their own free will, but in the end they are just programming—they have no soul.
The decision to limit AI to what it was programmed for is driven by the same reason that the setting does not provide faster than light travel. Our RPG one shots are about people making morally gray decisions when it comes to fighting scummed. Introducing AI as another type of sapience would add too much bloat to the setting. Does scum affect AI beings? How and why? What are the laws around AI, what rights do they have? Has there been an AI uprising in the past? Questions like these are something I don’t want to bog players or the setting down with. The main enemy for players are the scummmed, not a potential rogue AI threat.
Internet Connected Beings
Virtual reality, augmented reality, and the Internet of things are also rapidly developing technologies. Like AI, it makes sense that these developments are widely used in this setting, and there’s already a basis for it, as the Internet is freely available. There are VR worlds and games, connected shopping experiences, virtual classrooms, spas, training missions, remote offices, and everything inbetween. What can be done in the physical world can be done through the Internet. But, One Shot RPG is not a game about corporate espionage by hacking, a simulated Earth that you can jack into to fight evil AI, or an MMORPG played through a VR headset that can cause players to fall into a coma. While a gaming group could decide that instead of fighting, all of their characters are going to spend the entire game session exploring a virtual world, that’s not the point. Advanced internet capabilities exist and are used, but they’re not the focus of the game.
One limitation I do need to set is that people are incapable of uploading entire consciousnesses to the internet. There is no living inside the Internet, a life after death on the web, or uploading yourself into a machine. The brains of sapient beings are too complicated to digitize, even so far into the future.
If an unlimited Internet is not the focus of the game, but should be used in some capacity, then what role does it play when designing the characters?
Every character in One Shot RPG has an Internet-enabled chip embedded into their brain. Located on this chip is an AI that can listen in—read the character’s thoughts—and access the web to relay information. The chip and AI can be used to send short messages to other characters—with their permission. If a character has a cognitive disability, this AI can help them overcome their disability. The AI is an extension of each individual, and it has its own personality which develops as the person matures. With an accompanying AI, no one is truly alone in the world.
The idea for the chip and the AI residing on it is a mixture of Dæmons from His Dark Materials and the Mags of Phantasy Star Online. Storywise, the chip enables the characters to always be online. In our reality, we have our phones and watches, it’s only a matter of time before our mind is connected too. Mechanically, the chip represents the gaming group and the individual player. Messaging the characters you’re adventuring with is the same as talking to the players sitting next to you. Asking your AI a question to look up on the Internet is asking the GM a question. Blurring the players and characters in this way makes the game session feel more immersive. The chip and AI also have the benefit of not needing to be explained to a new player. They don’t have to know about the two and their capabilities, they’ll already be asking players and the GM questions during play, not knowing they’re also role playing their character.
The chip is not the be-all of Internet access. It only connects—it’s the means but not the interface. The AI can respond with words in the character’s head, but if they want more advanced capabilities, such as browsing, seeing, hearing, and feeling, they’ll need peripherals. Watching or streaming video would require a visor or glasses, and earbuds to hear. Managing email, contacts, and your calendar requires a device with a screen and touch interface. These devices are linked wirelessly to the character through their chip, which acts as a media hub. The AI acts as the controller that binds everything together.
Characters are constantly connected to limitless information and are always able to communicate with their peers. Because of this, the technology runs the risk of lessening the horror feel of the setting. Horror works by preying on our fear of the unknown. Being in contact with each other, looking up information, and relaying that information to each other reduces the unknown. There has to be points in the story where communications can go down, a character’s AI can give your the wrong answer, and they’re not able to analyze what they’re seeing.
That means scum and scummed are able to affect the chip, AI, and hub setup. Imagine a character’s AI randomly saying they’re going to die soon. They try to stream video, but creepy figures appear that aren’t really there. A message from a party member is garbled. Game masters can use events like these—when they make sense—to add to the atmosphere of horror. This disruption is also undetectable (eg. it doesn’t show up on logs), which keeps scum unprovable.
Introducing the idea of everyone being connected and being accompanied by an AI is a major decision for the setting. I think that it is a logical choice and will make the setting feel unique. Because the capabilities are related to the group of people sitting at the table, the fictional technology can bring the players closer to the world.