Role-playing games in the nineties had taken a dark turn, horror and the cyberpunk style were becoming all the rage in our game groups. Some, like ours characters that inhabited these worlds, their stars shone brightly but faded far too quickly. And for some, they would carve a special place on your gaming shelf, a place that maybe passed over, but you know it is always there, waiting.
Now, in 1993, a game stalked onto the scene, a game of constant rain, one of style and horror, where society is split between truth and deception, conflict and political subversion, television and insanity. A place where the different get noticed, and the truly original survive. Where guns kill but so does the truth, that game? SLA Industries.
But what was it that made this game a fan favourite? Well it was not the cyberpunk element, the people on Mort (that’s the planets name) had moved beyond replacing body parts with metal bits and grafting skin weaves, that was a fashion that had died out long ago, and the poor souls that bought into that dream could now be found in Rust Alley, begging.
Then it must have been the guns and armour that could hit the streets with? Again, for us no.
So what was it? In a world where the common masses are fixated by the violence on their TVs, and the only way to progress is to get noticed, which is not that easy when the world is full genetically enhanced and bred soldiers, (Stormers) alien races (Shaktar, Wraith Raiders) some that can even harness a power called the Ebb (Ebons and Brain Wasters) and crazy humans that enter into a drug fuelled frenzy for combat (Frothers) and lets not mention the truly bizarre things that are Necanthropes.
So how do we get noticed? When the media idolise serial killers, where contract killers roam the streets, and where someone is always watching? Easy my friend, STYLE.
As Operatives (or Slops as the general citizens like to call them) are the ones that given time may indeed get noticed. They are the “heroes” of the game, sent to do such tasks that need doing, whether it is tracking down an illegal soft company (rivals to the powers that be, and on Mort that is Mr Slayer) tracking down missing persons, protection detail, or even such glamorous tasks as sewer clearing, (and in them sewers are some mighty big pigs that have a hankering for human flesh) And these are the people that get watched. Operatives have taken the first step into a larger world, a world of fame, fortune, and even these first, and sometimes faltering steps are watched, because you never know where the next media star will rise.
Starting Operatives, how well I remember the looks on their faces as they arrive at Slayers Crib, (think crazy office where they have to pick up their tasks, which are nicely called BPN’s) only to find that the waiting time for even the simplest of tasks is about three hours! The joy they suddenly get when pinned down in a firefight, and they remember that they can order the local Shiver Units (police) to help them out. The look of utter horror when they have to patrol into the Cannibal Sectors. Or the uncomfortable looks when they tell a young mother that her daughter has been kidnapped by the Skin Trade, and there is nothing they can do to get her back. Or the confusion when a media team bundles past the Operatives (who are attempting to take out a crazed Frother who is hacking up a local Shiver unit) because there is a rumour that Hallowe’en Jack is nearby and has just claimed another victim!
Remember its all about style, so not only do you need to be good, you need to look good! Yes a sniper shot to the head may put that Frother down, but the people watching at home would rather seen our Ops take him on in a messy hand to hand fight! No one every said getting anywhere would be easy on Mort, but that’s the price you pay!
SLA Industries is a fantastic RPG, and with work continuing on a miniatures skirmish game (yes I have seen the figures, and yes they are even sexier than you think) and another edition of the rulebook coming out, the future is looking bright (well as bright as it ever gets on Mort) but I do have a concern, will the rules be changed? It worked well all those years ago, but what about now?
I guess time will tell, and remember, someone is always watching…