View Full Version : Tower to Heaven (WIP Cyberpunk Game System)

2010-05-19, 12:31 AM
Tower to Heaven is an idea that mostly stemmed from a few basic gripes I have with D&D, and D20 in general. Don't get me wrong, D20 is a great system, but some things just grate on me. They are as follows:
1. Characters go from 1 HP to 0 and go from perfectly functional to on the ground bleeding to death.
2. Getting the drop on an enemy is mostly unimportant; surprise rounds aren't good for much and it mostly lacks rules that allow a person to dispatch and enemy instantly unless they are trained for just that.
3. Players can let their dice do the talking; Charisma-based skill checks can often override actual role-playing, especially among the people I play with.

With these in mind, Tower to Heaven is an attempt at creating a fast, fatal (fatal, not FATAL mind you) combat system and associated setting that also presents a unique game setting that varies from the usual high fantasy that so many RPGs use.

The rules for Tower to Heaven are very much in the earliest drafting stages; what I have here is essentially nothing more than my main points and a few basic ideas. The setting, however, is fairly well developed.

The game takes place inside a massive structure known as the Spire. It is a huge metallic building piercing the sky, filled with the various levels of human society and technology. Outside is a perpetual twilight world with a poisonous, thick atmosphere; the very though of venturing out of the Spire fills even the most hardened criminal with dread. And hardened criminals are numerous in the Spire; though it was originally created as a home for humanity on a new world, contact with the mother planet was lost decades ago. Now the Spire is filled with criminals and vagabonds who the Spire police, the Praetoriate, can only struggle to keep out of the affluent (comparatively) Upper Spire.

Five races will be playable in Tower to Heaven. They are as follows:


Many ordinary enough people make their homes in the Spire, simply because they have nowhere else to go. Many take up honest, or somewhat honest, jobs to make a living; many turn to crime and violence, especially in the Lower Spire. The point when a human stops being a human and becomes one of the myriad other denizens of the Spire, though, is up for debate.
-Well rounded race with no real bonuses.
-Fit in anywhere in the Spire.


Humans modified with extensive genetic and cybernetic enhancements to create “perfect” beings, angels are essentially immune to disease and aging and physically tough, fast, and strong. Descending from wealthy settlers who could afford expensive modifications, angels are the elite of the Spire. The primary disadvantage of angels is the resentment that many of the inhabitants of the Spire feel towards them; they are jealous of the angels’ artificial perfection and, in lawless zones of the Spire, actively attack and harm angels. Angel characters are usually young (comparatively) adventure-seeking youths journeying out from the safety of their homes in the Upper Spire to experience the rest of the Spire.
-Bonus to Agility and Perception.
-Not accepted by many, even attacked on site in some extreme cases
-I need another penalty for Angels to help balance them out; any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


Srapheads are humans of the Middle and Lower Spire who seek to improve their bodies through augmentation with machines. For many scrapheads, this has taken on an almost religious meaning, with elaborate rituals for discarding biological organs and replacing them with mechanized replacements. What exactly a given scraphead’s augmentations do is entirely up to that individual; it can range from built-in tools and mind augmentations to armor plating, weapon compartments and stimulant injectors. Scrapheads commonly organize in groups known as “engines,” with each staking its claim on an area of the Spire and scavenging that area of spare parts, resources and sometimes even new recruits. Many scrapheads with computer-enhanced minds are at home in the net, easily interfacing with machines and devices and manipulating them to their will.
-Bonus to Endurance
-Choice of various augmentations: computer mind (bonus to Intellect), improved or armored limbs, inbuilt tools and weapons, augmented legs, etc.


Descend too low into the depths of the Lower Spire and eventually one will enter the region known as the Deep Green; here, the massive power generators that feed vital energy into the rest of the Spire also release a strange form of radiation known as mutewave that causes little cellular damage, instead promoting a rapid and drastic modification of chromosomes. Prolonged exposure to mutewaves, especially in unborn children, causes shocking mutations. Those afflicted are referred to as demons, counterparts of the noble angels. Demons display a staggering range of mutations, many simply causing death at a young age. However, the strongest, smartest and most brutal of the demons, blessed with the most advantageous mutations, survive to become important figures in the crime rings, some even becoming somewhat respectable and living in the Lower and even Middle Spire.
-Bonus to Endurance
-Choice of various mutations with larger effects than the scraphead's augments but with associated penalties and side effects.


Sentient AI programs designed originally by the first settlers to aid in organizational and logistical tasks are referred to as sprites. Sprites primarily operate in the net, but all are present in a physical capacity in some way or another; the more wealthy, powerful and influential reside in hidden, guarded memory cores. This, however, requires large amounts of resources to maintain; purchasing the power necessary to run a mainframe computer off the Deep Green generators and their owners can be expensive and even dangerous. Roving sprites, the less wealthy of these electronic organisms, circumvent this through use a bizarre method of parasitic transplantation to control organic bodies, inhabiting the corpses of dead inhabitants of the Spire and taking over their destroyed nervous systems. The exact processes of this transplantation are unknown to many, but bodies used are almost always in decent condition, and are preserved and freshened to prevent a noxious odor and further decay. At a distance, it is impossible to tell a sprite from another member of its host species, but on closer examination their jerky movements, pale skin and cold, shrunken skin becomes obvious.
-Bonus to Intellect and Endurance.
-Penalty to Agility and Power.
-Increased resistance to bleeding and nearly immune to pain.

So far, I have five classes. Suggestions for new classes are more than welcome. The ones I have now are:


Whether trained in the vicious maelstrom of fighting that constantly wracks the Lower Spire and the Deep Green or the academies of the Praetoriate, individuals trained in the arts of combat are everywhere in the Spire. Though pistols, knives and other small, concealable weapons are the most common, many employ rifles, swords, lasers and even heavier weapons and equipment. Warriors are adept at dealing high amounts of damage with high accuracy using any weapons available.
Balanced combat.
-Pistols, carbines, rifles, melee, explosives, heavy weapons, unarmed.


Brutal specialists in close-quarters fighting, vanguards commonly employ pistols, shotguns and a wide variety of melee weapons, including their own bodies. This specialization in fast-paced, lethal combat makes vanguards capable of both tying up longer-ranged fighters in melee brawls and also gives them a high capacity for ignoring pain and injury.
Close-range combat.
Pistols, carbines, melee, explosives, unarmed.
Bonuses to pain, bleeding and injury resistance.


Some fighters specialize in fast, lethal strikes rather than all-out combat, preferring stealth and the element of surprise to superior firepower or durability. These deadly agents are often employed as spies, assassins and saboteurs, usually using pistols and knives but also using explosives of all types to destroy machines and structures.
Stealth combat, some technical skills.
Pistols, melee, explosives.


Rather than training in weapons and the arts of combat, technicians train in operating, repairing, and disabling machinery and electronics. They work with all sorts of tools and devices as well as vehicles and other sorts of heavy machinery. Another useful talent of technicians is their capacity for handling larger weapons.
Technical skills, support combat.
Pistols, carbines, melee, explosives, heavy weapons.


Brainwaves are trained in the use of specialized implants which allow their personality to detach from their physical body and exist as a net presence. Sprites excel in this capacity, as their personality is already a separate entity from their physical body. Brainwaves can use this net-self to enter electronic devices, including the electro-chemical device inside every human: the brain, their namesake. Though most are incapable of anything other than basic manipulation of urges and emotions, some can compel poor souls to obey their every whim.
Electronics and manipulation skills.
Pistols, melee.

Keeping with my established number here, there are five statistics that define a character's basic traits:


Endurance (En) represents an individual’s capacity to endure pain, bleeding, and the elements. Characters with high Endurance are capable of taking heavy wounds before collapsing, remaining active for long periods of time without rest, food or water and surviving exposure to hazardous chemicals such as poisons or radiation.


Power (Po) represents an individual’s pure physical strength. It affects how much a character can lift, throw and carry, as well as their damage with melee weapons and unarmed attacks.


Agility (Ag) represents an individual’s quickness, dexterity and mobility. It affects a characters movement speed as well as their reflexes and dodging abilities. It is used to attack with melee weapons and pistols.


Perception (Pe) represents an individual’s senses and intuition, including all the five major senses. It is used to detect what is going on near a character and on attack roles with carbines, rifles and heavy weapons.


Intellect (In) is an individual’s capacity for analytical thinking and skills requiring concentration and memorization. It is used for technical and electronic skills as well as defending against intrusion by net-personas.

Combat is by far the roughest aspect of the system so far. Essentially all I have are basic ideas. They are as follows:

There will be no HP value. Injury is instead represented as wounds on various parts of the body, with effects varying on the location and severity of the wound. These will include stat penalties (to be decided when I determine what stat scores will be like) and bleeding, pain and dazing effects.
Bleeding will slowly drain a character, resulting in eventual death. Bleeding is still a very WIP concept so far and the only idea I have so far is that various levels of bleeding subtract a certain amount of Blood Points from a stockpile whose size depends on a character's Endurance.
Pain will force a character to pass Endurance-based saves or lose actions during their turn. Dazing is essentially the same but caused by head wounds and proximity to explosions and the like.

The extremely basic combat mechanics I have mapped out only apply to hitting a target; I have yet to determine how determining the severity of an injury will work. What I have so far is this:


To make an attack, a character rolls a d20, then adds ½ (rounding down) of the related stat value to the attack. Most attacks use either Agility or Perception, though on some occasions Intellect or Power may be used. The 1/2 value I'm using now is something of a placeholder; depending on the range that stats fall into, it is subject to change. But I don't want super high modifiers on everyone's rolls, as often happens in D&D; it should be more up to chance.


A character being targeted by an attack can attempt to avoid the attack, providing they have the ability and space to move one meter in any direction. A Dodge roll is equal to d20 + ½ character’s Agility score (rounding down). If this result is higher than the attacker’s Attack roll, the attack is successfully avoided. Note that some equipment can reduce a character’s Dodge roll.

Melee Attacks

A melee attack is different from a normal attack in that it incorporates other values and rolls. One of these is the Counter roll. A normal Dodge roll is made, but if the defender wins, he can immediately roll an attack of his own, against his enemy’s normal Dodge roll. Only one attack can be Countered by any character between his turns, but making a Counter does not affect the character’s ability to attack on his own turn. A character may also make a Grab attack as his counter instead of a normal melee attack. Characters engaged in close combat with an opponent can also make several special action:

Attack of Opportunity

A character armed with a melee weapon may make a free attack against any adjacent enemy who attempts to fire a two-handed weapon or attempt any action that requires them to direct their attention away from their aggressor. They may only make one between any two of their turns.


A character can attempt to grab and hold an enemy. First, make a normal attack roll using Agility, opposed by an enemy’s Dodge roll. If this fails, the enemy may make a Counter attack as usual. If the attack hits, the attacker and defender make opposed Power-based rolls. If the attacker wins the roll, he can perform one of several actions:
Shove the enemy to the floor. The enemy falls prone and must get back up on their turn, risking an Attack of Opportunity by the enemy.
More Grab actions coming soon.

So there you have the basic, raw-bones outline of my idea. I would love any suggestions, complaints, compliments and ideas. If you'd like to contact me on Steam, my name is Squidus_III or Seventeenth Squid. Before suggesting anything, keep these basic concepts of the system in mind:
1. Wounds will affect characters beyond simply determining when they die.
2. Roleplaying will play a heavy part in this game. Charisma is not currently, and never will be, a stat. It will be up to the players, and maybe their guns, to persuade and barter with NPCs and each other.
3. Combat should be lethal and promote using clever strategies and setups rather than door-kicking and gun-blazing.

Thanks in advance to anyone who drops a comment or even just reads this.

2010-05-19, 02:42 AM
Quick question: Do characters get to increase their attack and dodge (and other skill-like) abilities?

I recommend that you use a similar system of damage to the Cyberpunk 2020 system: Everyone has the same number of wound points. Your Endurance stat deducts some damage from each wound. Every time you take damage, you make a saving throw (of some kind) to resist the pain. If you fail, you are stunned. Each round after being stunned, you make the same save to recover and get over your pain. When you take a certain number of wounds, you have penalties to your actions. These get worse as the wounds get worse.

2010-05-19, 10:41 AM
Just to start off, the 'spire' wouldn't/couldn't be that vast, unless the planet as a whole was larger. Depending on where you draw the line, it's only about 80km from the surface to 'space'. When you allow for breathing room for living accommodations and it doesn't offer much area to work with.

I kinda like the setting concept as a whole though. Brings Battle Angel and Blame! to mind. I'd just consider something more expansive, so DMs have room to design what they want and set things in motion without pushing themselves into a corner.

Moving on to races:
As for Angels, I'd be concerned about how it would play out. On the one hand (flavorwise), it's hard to imagine that perfect, attractive and capable beings would be treated worse than Demons. On the other (more mechanical), they've got a mechanical boost with a fluff drawback. DMs will interpret that drawback differently, which means the means of balancing the class is uneven from game to game. Further drawback ideas include:
Angels simply weren't designed to operate at anything other than peak condition with sanctioned parts. They need regular maintenance from workers sanctioned by the same elite that created the Angels. In game terms, they're reliant on their creators and with technology and parts being part of the game loot system, Angels can't make use of parts that were made for anything but an Angel. All of the drawbacks of being part machine (EMP blasts), but not all of the benefits.
Angels are divided into Orders, depending on the faction and/or company that created them. Many were created for a specific task or ideology. This comes to light in a strict code of conduct that is hardcoded and brainwashed into the individual Angel. The player picks from a set of taboos: one major (ie. must not suffer a demon in your presence to live, tend to the ailing) and two minor (Must not sit facing north, must not wear, eat or use anything red). These ideologies are a big reason why many don't trust Angels. There's Orders out there that do some terrible things, like genocide. Breaking a taboo causes physical pain and runs a risk of flipping a switch and causing the Angel to become obsessive about his duty for a time.
Rogue Angels are those who break ties apart from their creators or break from the shackles of their taboos. It's not as pretty as it sounds; freeing oneself from their taboos generally involves a torturous process where the Angel is repeatedly forced to go against what it was made for and endure the obsessive psychotic break that follows, over and over. Rogue Angels are dependent on shady black market dealers for parts and while they can use parts that aren't sanctioned, there's physical side effects. The taboo-breaking process leaves them with mental disorders.
Demons - I'd consider having the player get a 2:1 ratio of mutations, where the player got to pick 2 mutations but had to roll randomly for every third one.
Race Idea - Colonists - Colonists are host to dermal nanite colonies. Cities, if you will, of nanites growing on their skin. These colonies have a general sentience (typically but not always secondary and complimentary to the host's) and manifest in an awareness bonus. The nanites can integrate technology and bring about physical changes in the host, but these changes are slow. They are intelligent as a result of their dual minds, but are extremely protective of their colonies. Losing a limb with a colony growing on it is akin to losing one's close family.
Race Idea - Synthetics - Synthetics are created by the same groups that made the Angels, but employ no technology in their design. Synthetics are essentially vat-grown individuals with extensive genetic redesigns that make them extremely specialized. A synthetic might have a frame like a gorilla or have another set of arms in the place of legs for working in ducts or engineering. Originally designed as soldiers and laborers, the brainwashing process meant to keep them docile and subservient wasn't as strong as the combination of brainwashing and programming in the Angels, and the Synthetics rebelled. They tend to live in the peripheries of society and are employed in synthetic-run guilds.

As for classes, what about:
Diabolist - Diabolists are technicians/doctors who intentionally employ high scale mutewaves on their subservients. Diabolists are a pet class, capable of rapidly mutating their cyborg/synthetic companions. A simple dog can become a gruesome hulk twice it's original size... or dissolve into a puddle of foul smelling ooze should the Diabolist push it too far.

2010-05-19, 01:29 PM
I'm not sure you quite understood the concept behind angels, though I like your ideas a lot. Angels use only biological enhancements, and these are coded into their DNA. They aren't too different from normal humans other than their perfectness, and the treatments for creating new angels are no longer in use. Angels can have children, and those children inherent the characteristics of their perfect parents; thus, the angels are simply the higher class of Spire society. Angels are far from "perfect" emotionally, though, and commonly flaunt their wealth and physical status over the other inhabitants of the Spire. They're more like a bunch of vicious aristocrats than the genetically-modified monks that your idea of taboos suggests. They usually stay in the Upper Spire, but some younger angels look for excitement head to lower parts of the Spire. Here, most people hate and resent the angels and what they represent; a wealth and physical perfection that they can never hope to attain. For humans living in the Lower Spire, though, demons are an ordinary sight, and many demons don't act too differently from humans; they've come to accept them as totally normal.

As for a limited environment, you're right; the Spire is sort of a small world. But my plan was for the PCs to actually leave the Spire at certain points to discover that earlier outcasts had built societies and civilizations outside of the Spire, opening up new game worlds. Many mission will still take place in the Spire, though.

The Diabolist idea you had is good as well, though in general I think mutewaves act much slower than a combat situation would allow; otherwise, PC missions into the Deep Green would very quickly end with everyone with ten extra arms and no brain.

2010-05-19, 02:03 PM
I'm not sure you quite understood the concept behind angels, though I like your ideas a lot. Angels use only biological enhancements, and these are coded into their DNA.

Oh? You describe angels in the first line as: "Humans modified with extensive genetic and cybernetic enhancements".

The Diabolist idea you had is good as well, though in general I think mutewaves act much slower than a combat situation would allow; otherwise, PC missions into the Deep Green would very quickly end with everyone with ten extra arms and no brain.

That's why I specified high scale mutewaves. Like, if standard mutewaves are like background noise, you could take whatever sources create that noise and weaponize them.

The initial chapter of Blame! or Noise! (Can't remember which) features something very close to this in concept.

2010-05-19, 04:05 PM
Oh I guess I did say that. Well now I feel a little silly. I think I'll try to stick with almost entirely biological enhancements because it fits better with the idea of a very clean, arrogant, advanced but still human creature that the angels are supposed to be. This of course presents again the problem of trying to balance them with the other races.

I'll think of ways a Diabolist-style class could work. If their focus was entirely on using the technology that emits the concentrated mutewaves, they might be too similar to the Technician class. It seems almost more like a prestige class or specialist than a normal character class.

I forget to mention this earlier but I very much like the idea of two chosen mutations and one randomized one. I'll work that into the system.