Saturday, April 27, 2013

Saturday Cyberpunk - The Squares Of The City - A Surreal Old School Campaign

Squares of the city.jpg
When I was in college this book was part of a book sale and I bought it for fifty cents.
Back then I was deep into the Prisoner television series and Squares was part of read while taking a train ride. This is thoroughly sociological SF, when that was still the Next Wave (originally published by Ballantine in 1965).
The  Plot According To Wiki:
It is a sociological story of urban class warfare and political intrigue, taking place in the fictional South American capital city of Vados. It explores the idea of subliminal messages as political tools, and it is notable for having the structure of the famous 1892 chess game between Wilhelm Steinitz and Mikhail Chigorin. The structure is not coincidental, and plays an important part in the story.
Plays an important part of the story? The game actually is the story. 
Brunner takes "subliminal domination" from advertising, the original fear, and explores its application to a city government  and city planning in this story. It is eerily prophetic of the future total dominance of politics by televised sound-bites, advertising, and mass persuasion. It predates the internet by an order of magnitude.
It was natural to combine it with this: 

The Hot House Chess Board
 File:Chess board.jpg
"The political atmosphere was of the hothouse kind. The least incident capable of being made to bear political fruit was being nurtured, protected from the frost [of contrary information] and fed with manure until it blossomed out of all proportion."
 John Brunner Squares of The City
What happens to a fictional South American country when its ultra modern city explodes into an orgy of violence and protests. When all of the chess pieces are put away and only the board is left standing? 

"Conformism is a slow death; anarchy is a rapid one. Between the two lies a control which [...] like a lady's corset is an advertisement  constricts and yet bestows a sense of freedom. We govern our country with a precision that would amaze you." (84-85)

The fiction Latin American country of Aguazul and more specifically to the capital city of Ciudad de Vados, a city envisioned and built by the man the city is named after--Vados. Vados lies abandoned in the jungles of Aguazul. So while riding the train and reading the book I took my copy of Cyberpunk 2020 and Over The Edge. Threw in a bit or two from Gurps Prisoner book then moved the action to an alternative 1969 -1970. 
Cover of Cyberpunk 2020

Less cyber and more punk the adventurers are hired by the "United Police States" to recover a series of cutting edge mind control technologies imported in from else where. Namely the fictional country in Over The Edge. I freely admit to liberally stealing a few Prisoner references and throwing in some South African mercenaries. There were also a bit of a pulp vein running through the adventure when they encountered a few aquatic giant South American centipedes.
Out of the six people playing four survived but it was whom they found in the South American jungle that caused the most problems.
That began the so called "
Club of Rome Quartet" campaign with the adventurers known as the "Amerikan Irregulars " .  The Amerikans roamed through  the games Cyberpunk 2020, Over The Edge, And finally were retired in Mage The Ascension. They made their way through the worlds of Stand on Zanzibar and Shock Wave Rider. I felt that Gibson was over used by the 90's and someone different was needed. 
You can read more about John Brunner Right over Here
 If your interested in the 
"Club of Rome Quartet" campaign and want to know more.Please leave me a comment.
 Part II coming up. Maybe? 


  1. I'd love to hear more about the "Club of Rome Quartet". I started a sadly brief campaign back in '99 using the (then brand new) Story Engine Universal Rules by Christian Aldridge. It mixed alien infiltration mayhem with surreal (or ridiculously hyper-real, perhaps) politics. It became a victim of social circumstance, but the old ultraviolence was cool while it lasted.

  2. Oh I remember the Story Engine Universal Rules by Christian Aldridge. I should say that I remember them fondly. "For Fairy,Queen, and Country" was/is one of my favorite games ever. I'm so sorry that you never got to pull off that campaign. It sounds like a hoot. I just got the next entry up for you in the "Club of Rome Quartet". Be warned though "And The Sheep Look Up" is pretty dark even for me. These are only pale reflection though on Brunner. Seek out the original novels they are quite eye opening.
    Thanks for the comments though and more coming soon. Thanks again reading. More coming up.


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