One of the formative movies of my youth was the story of a programmer getting hijacked into an emergent AI’s dreamscape, forced to fight in a rebellion against digital constructs in service to this AI and overthrow it. That movie is, of course, TRON. It is by no means the first nor the last work of SciFi to play with Simulations or Digital Mindscapes. From the works of William Gibson to the Matrix movies and countless others, use of a simulation setting is a staple of the genre. It hasn’t been a large part of Starfinder though.
Which isn’t to say there are no rules for running a Simulation – The Mindscape rules from Attack of the Swarm – Hive of Minds by Thurston Hillman have all the basic building blocks you need to create a simulation. In addition, the Starfinder Society scenario 1-38 The Many Minds of Historia by Lyz Liddell, touches on it as well, introducing some Resolve based effects that are an interesting addition. What is left then is to decide what the aspects of the simulation are, and whether those are unique to that specific Mindscape, or universal to digital mindscapes.
Let’s look at a Gibson style Mindscape – a digital world where programs and data are given physical form and accomplished hackers can navigate with ease (but without the frankly troubling implications of sentient programs that venerate their programmer creators ala TRON). This is an Immersive Mindscape that is separate from the material plane, but able to influence and be influenced by the ‘real’ world. Its Transparency is Overt, in that anyone who enters the simulation knows they have done so (unless we are engaged in Matrix style shenanigans). Shape and size is Finite, limited by the size of the network entered, but with full Infosphere access is very nearly Infinite. As this isn’t a holodeck, I’d have the Feedback as Harmful – injury in the simulation causes psychic feedback in the real world that can wound or even kill (gotta have stakes to make the game interesting). Then we have magic, and I’d go ahead and keep it working largely as it does in the regular setting, with the caveat that some spells (like summons) are subject to GM judgement as to how they work.
Finally, let’s add some spice to this simulation. First off, when the characters enter the simulation they have everything on them that their real world counterparts do, and while using up consumables in the simulation doesn’t use them in the real world it does use them up for this instance of the simulation. 2nd, this world can be shaped by a sharp mind who knows the building blocks that created it – anyone can spend a standard action and a Resolve point to attempt a Computers check to alter the nature of the simulation, ala the following chart:
|Computers Check of DC 10||You can create the effects of any cantrip, alter the environment as a Witchwarper’s 1st level Infinite Worlds, or create any item of level 1 or lower.|
|Computers Check of DC 20||You can create the effects of any 1st level spell or lower, alter the environment as a Witchwarper’s 2nd level Infinite Worlds, or create any item of level 3 or lower.|
|Computers Check of DC 30||You can create the effects of any 2nd level spell or lower, alter the environment as a Witchwarper’s 3rd level Infinite Worlds, or create any item of level 7 or lower.|
|Computers Check of DC 40||You can create the effects of any 3rd level spell or lower, alter the environment as a Witchwarper’s 4th level Infinite Worlds, or create any item of level 11 or lower.|
|Computers Check of DC 50||You can create the effects of any 4th level spell or lower, alter the environment as a Witchwarper’s 5th level Infinite Worlds, or create any item of level 15 or lower.|
|Computers Check of DC 60||You can create the effects of any 5th level spell or lower, alter the environment as a Witchwarper’s 6th level Infinite Worlds, or create any item of level 19 or lower.|
The effects of these changes are real within the simulation, but have no effect outside of the simulation, and disappear the moment the players exit the simulation, with the exception that any effect that transferred over to the real world as a result remains (so if you killed someone in the simulation and the psychic feedback transferred back to their real world self, that happens, and so on.)
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