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Hard Wired Island

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2021 Freeplay Awards Finalist — Excellence in Narrative and Non-Digital Game Award

THE YEAR IS 2020

Humanity has spread to space. GRAND CROSS is a space station orbiting Earth, a high-tech city, and a gateway to the stars. But in this distant future, it's in crisis...

HARD WIRED ISLAND is a retrofuture cyberpunk TTRPG, inspired by 90s anime. This 400-page PDF includes:

  • An easy-to-learn system where social actions and problem-solving skills are at least as important as hacking and getting into fights.
  • A shorter player reference document for quick rule access.
  • An alternate 2020 setting in an O'Neill cylinder near Earth.
  • Descriptions of the many areas of Grand Cross, from the busy downtown Voyager Ward to the high-tech parkland of Mariposa to the Agriculture Ring that feeds the station.
  • Seven Occupations, including the Fixer, the Hacker, and the Influencer, along with a plethora of character options.
  • Over 100 detailed NPC descriptions, from corporate heavyweights to android crime lords to just regular citizens of an Earth-orbit city.
  • A flexible mission prep system that allows characters to adapt their plans on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
  • A wealth system that tracks the financial burdens placed on you by the capitalist system you live in.
  • A cybernetics system that doesn't dehumanize you for installing augments.
  • A lot of great art from a lot of great artists.
(Character sheets are available for free here.)

View from the space station interior

Cyberpunk

When we say HARD WIRED ISLAND is cyberpunk, here's what that means to us.

  • Capitalism? No thanks. Good cyberpunk is anti-capitalist. It's about how technology without ethics can make social inequality worse. The wealthy use it to cement their power and perpetuate the status quo, while marginalized communities are kept that way. The PCs want to use it to break the current system. They work against their enemies, not for them.
  • Cyberpunk should be relevant. It is a study of where our society could go in the coming years. The issues faced by people in a cyberpunk setting should have some relevance to issues faced by the audience, even if they're not the same. Retro future, present problems.
  • Cybernetics are not inherently good or bad. Like most tech, what matters is how it's used. In Hard Wired Island, the problem is that cybernetics often serves the needs of capital rather than people; Any alienating or dysphoric effects come from being reshaped into some corporation's property. There is no mechanic that suggests wearing a prosthetic makes you less human, or prone to mental illness; instead, the tradeoff of augments is adding to your financial burdens.
  • Cyberpunk is not just an aesthetic. Cyberpunk shouldn't just be about the neon-lit adventures of a group of trenchcoat futurists as they amass wealth and power through violence. Hard Wired Island is about a group of marginalized people using technology to try to change the status quo.
  • Many perspectives. Good cyberpunk examines how technology and power intersect in many different communities. As an orbital space station, the city of Grand Cross can and should include perspectives from all over the world. The setting includes cyborgs and androids, but they're not stand-ins for minorities; they have their own identities and issues, which can change depending on how they intersect with other things.
Cyborg sample PC

System

HARD WIRED ISLAND's system uses six-sided dice.

  • The system includes rules and unique actions for Social situations, Stealth, Hacking, and Conflict.
  • Each character has one or more Occupations, which define how your character solves problems: the Fixer, the Hacker, the Influencer, the Operator, the Soldier, the Street Fighter, and the Thief. Each has its own unique abilities.
  • Instead of wealth, characters track their Burden, which represents how comfortably they can live on Grand Cross. Between missions, characters can suffer an Economic Shock that affects how well they can perform; higher Burdens risk more frequent Shocks.
  • Before missions, characters create a pool of points called Prep which can be spent later on items, flashbacks, and other bonuses. This flexible system allows characters to adapt and change their plans on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
  • Characters can install cybernetic Augments to improve themselves, at the cost of increasing their Burden. (Cosmetic and medical Augments are free, so if you just want to have cat ears or a cyber-arm without any bonuses, go for it!) You can even replace your body with a full-body prosthetic.
  • Further rules allow characters to grow and call on a Community of side characters during play, or make a little extra side-cash with a Gig Work App.

More Hard Wired Island

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Reviews (16)
Discussions (33)
Customer avatar
Stacie W September 12, 2023 7:11 am UTC
PURCHASER
Seems this book is out of print. It's no longer on Studio 2 Publishing website in print so will this get a PoD option now?
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Customer avatar
Paul M September 14, 2023 4:24 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
We're planning to launch another HWI-related crowdfunding campaign soon with a reprint as a stretch goal, so it depends on how that goes. We're not planning to do PoD in the meantime, mostly because of print costs (Premium colour would cost more than a Studio 2 copy just to print.)
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Customer avatar
Stacie W September 18, 2023 11:06 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Thanks for the reply.

Those asking for Print on Demand don't care about price. And it's unfair for publishers who have the opportunity to provide options to customers that missed out on a very small print run from a Kickstarter to basically tell us that we're screwed because you guys refuse to give us an option that a lot of people would be grateful to have.
Customer avatar
Carlyle K August 23, 2023 7:52 pm UTC
I'm about to be playing this game with a group and I love it so far. I'm wondering if there is a fillable PDF character sheet. I have difficulties writing and it would be nice to have. Thanks in advance.
Also, as a user of a wearable robotic device that helps with my disability, I appreciate the game's approach to disability and the fact that I can make a character with similar gadgets.
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Customer avatar
Paul M August 24, 2023 3:08 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
There's a fillable sheet! I've put the sheets up here: https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/450528/Hard-Wired-Island-Character-Sheets
Customer avatar
Stephen C E March 22, 2023 4:56 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I love this game. As a rule, I love my cyberpunk as an unabashed alt.history, ignoring modern trends. This is totally my jam. I also love the fact that it's also a setting that is ready for the players to change it - it's not about doing the corporation's dirty work (though I suppose that is a possible campaign), but enacting the change you want or need before the powder-keg erupts.

Also, it riffs off of some of my favorite pop culture. 10/10.
Customer avatar
Gregory W December 20, 2022 6:03 am UTC
PURCHASER
A game that understands that cyberpunk is an absurdist interplay between deeply serious social critique and unabashed tech enthusiasm, both feeding on each other by positing what amazing stuff new tech could do, before turning around and coldly delivering an essay on how someone will use it to exploit others for personal gain lowering the net joy in the universe.

Also full of references I still get, so 10/10 - no notes.
Customer avatar
Thomas A December 20, 2022 5:44 am UTC
PURCHASER
A cyberpunk game that remembers that the Punk part of the cyberpunk is supposed to be doing the heavy lifting.

Better than most takes that are just Neon-Liberal or sociopathic murdered wandering the earth for the thrill of the kill and the next upgrade.
Customer avatar
GREGORY H May 28, 2022 7:14 am UTC
Looks interesting and comprehensive but judging by the description, there's some forced political views in this game, too?
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Customer avatar
Kai T May 28, 2022 4:45 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Actually it's not so noticeable once you crack open the book. I definitely wouldn't let other people dissuade you here.
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Customer avatar
Paul M May 31, 2022 2:21 pm UTC
PUBLISHER
Hi Greg! Nothing forced here, it's all genuine. If you're interested, you can always check out the Kickstarter preview linked in the description—the rules have evolved a little since the KS but it should give you a general idea of what we're going for.
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Customer avatar
October 01, 2023 1:11 am UTC
yes, but is rather minor. You ould ignore politic.
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Customer avatar
Niko C April 23, 2024 8:13 pm UTC
Cyberpunk is by its nature anti-capitalist and progressive. That's the "punk" part. I don't know the "politics" you mean, but if it's progressive anti-capitalism, that's not forced.
Customer avatar
Ingo H April 19, 2022 12:23 pm UTC
As Cowboy Bebop is one big inspiration, I wonder if Hardwire Island has rules for space/spaceships/space combat?
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Customer avatar
Paul M April 22, 2022 8:38 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Hard Wired Island takes place entirely inside an O'Neill cylinder, so there's no space rules. The parts of Cowboy Bebop that resonated with me were the urban parts, where people live in cool sci-fi space cities but they're still ordinary people with everyday problems; that's the sort of thing Hard Wired Island explores.
Customer avatar
Scott N October 02, 2021 6:27 pm UTC
C'Mon Man 400 pages and no damn POD option, that's freaking stupid no sale here!
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Customer avatar
John W March 24, 2023 6:45 pm UTC
PURCHASER
They sell printed hardbacks elsewhere.
Customer avatar
Amber C September 04, 2021 3:05 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Does this require a GM? Would this be fairly easy to adapt to solo play with an oracle such as Mythic?
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Customer avatar
Paul M April 22, 2022 8:47 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Hey Amber! Sorry about the delay—I was sure I replied to this already but I guess not.

Honestly, I haven't had enough experience in solo play to speak with certainty on this. It has a bunch of random tables, but personally if I wanted to adapt it to solo play I'd add a few more about events and the like. I'm working on further Hard Wired Island content, so I can look into what else would facilitate solo play and see what I can do (though this would take a while, obviously).
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Customer avatar
Amber C April 24, 2022 8:40 pm UTC
PURCHASER
I would be very into that!
Customer avatar
Neil S June 28, 2021 5:13 am UTC
POD
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Customer avatar
Lunar V July 10, 2021 6:40 pm UTC
The authors are currently working on a Print run for kickstarter backers, so once that's done there should be physical editions available.
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Customer avatar
George K August 05, 2021 5:45 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Wow so we aren't getting an option for ages then it sounds like. :(
Reply
Customer avatar
Paul M April 22, 2022 8:48 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Not sure whether I can link it directly here, but print copies are currently available through Studio 2 Publishing. If you're still interested, look them up (or see if any game stores/conventions in your area stock from Studio 2!)
Customer avatar
Conor F June 18, 2021 5:40 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Quick question about the setting: Why are the "Cixin" and "Amal" wards named as they are? I am assuming that they are meant to be named after sci-fi authors Liu Cixin and Amal El-Mohtar (my apologies if either assumption is wrong), so why are the Wards using the given names of these people instead of their surnames, as with the "Turing" and "Adams" wards?
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Customer avatar
Paul M June 24, 2021 3:35 am UTC
PUBLISHER
I wasn't thinking of Amal El-Mohtar, just the word Amal! Cixin was pitched by a consultant on the grounds that Liu is an extremely common name.
Customer avatar
Adam L June 09, 2021 6:00 pm UTC
PURCHASER
Could you explain what changed in the update today? I don't see an update log anywhere, so I'm curious.
Reply
Customer avatar
Paul M June 10, 2021 3:15 am UTC
PUBLISHER
Not much compared to the last one! Simple opponents can now Boost their attack rolls if they roll a critical, if the GM wants to make them especially tough. The rest is just general fixes. -Hopefully- this'll be the last one.
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Product Information
Platinum seller
Rule System(s)
Pages
400
ISBN
978-0-6451836-0-3
File Size:
91.04 MB
Format
Original electronic Click for more information
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Original electronic format
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File Last Updated:
April 24, 2023
This title was added to our catalog on April 22, 2021.
Publisher
Weird Age Games
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