The Veil on $20 a Day

This post and replies to it will be me summarizing my reading of The Veil’s core rulebook.

The basics

  • What’s the elevator pitch of this game? Interrogate your concept of cyberpunk by exploring the society and tech you collectively create
  • Pages 1-35 are “here’s how to play PBTA”, but well written
  • Page 36 introduces us to Advantage/Disadvantage (3d6, take the two highest/lowest dice), which we remember from Fellowship

The world

  • You’re here to make change, but you gotta live in the world you want to change
  • You’re constantly immersed in a mixed-reality, physical/digital environment: this is “the Veil” or “the digiscape”
  • Players are expected to BYOC - Bring Your Own Cyberpunk - and figure out some of the specifics of how the world works, this isn’t Night City


  • Your core attributes are States, these six labels found on the emotion wheel (Sad, Mad, Scared, Peaceful, Powerful, Joyful)
  • A ton of moves will just say “roll” and you figure out how you’re feeling at the moment and you add that State
  • Each State has an associated track that fills up when you use it - the more you do stuff with a given feeling, the more intense and dominant that feeling becomes
  • There’s a move called Alleviate that triggers when you hit the cap on a State, and you either slowly bleed it off or roll at a penalty

Basic Moves

  • There’s two sets of moves: the typical stuff (Risk, Distract, etc.) you’d expect in a game like this, and moves around Obligation, or those social bonds you build with others - sort of mutually agreed Influence
  • The basic moves: Risk, Probe, Lift the Veil (for AW fans, this is Open Your Brain), Analyze, Sway, Divert, Ultimatum, Neutralize, and Help/Hinder (again based on States, not some Bond/Hx score, thank god)
  • The Obligation moves: String, Lean On, Refute, Leverage, Strategize, Link
  • There’s an optional duel mechanic with its own move

Other Shit

  • Gear has tags, feels pretty familiar from AW
  • Cybernetics is a thing, with tags
  • Cred is your money, works as you’d expect
  • Harm as you’d expect from AW, with the addition of Humanity Harm (emotional damage) and Stun Harm

Playbooks are next

Playbooks are listed here, along with my commentary.

General note: some of the playbooks have a strong mystical vibe. This isn’t to say there’s a “magician” playbook or that magic as such is real (unless the group decides that’s a thing, if you want a Shadowrun-style game), only that they give off a unique vibe. Also, a lot of the playbooks can fill a lot of the traditional cyberpunk niches. There’s no one “enforcer” playbook for example.

THE APPARATUS: Is a synthetic being struggling to find their place in the world and unravel the mystery of their own existence. They think and feel, but are different from people because they are purely and completely cybernetic and without a human mind—a completely new form of life.

The Newborn. You play an AI or other synthetic being.

THE ARCHITECT: Is more a part of the digital world than reality. They have lots of power within that realm but with that power comes a great deal of attention.

You’re a Matrix hacker or an Inception dream-thief. You’re the decker/netrunner.

THE ATTACHED: Only feels at home with their own, unique object. They are never alone and must balance their own needs with that of their object. The object is something they have designed themselves and is unique to the setting.

You hang out with someone or something else special to you. One of you has a pet.

THE CATABOLIST: Believes that humanity, and by extension they themselves, must integrate with technology to further their own purpose.

Hipster Cyborg. You can only fit cybertech you work on yourself, but you’re good at it.

THE DYING: Has an incurable disease that is killing them. The upside is that the disease also gives them incredible abilities to separate them from the denizens of the future.

The Doomed.

THE EMPATH: Does more than just feel; to them, emotions are a tangible force they can see, absorb, and manipulate.

The Emotion Cleric. You’re the healer, but you can do scary things too.

THE EXECUTIVE: Is beholden to their corporation’s board. They operate from within a system most protagonists are trying to free themselves from.

The Man who’s not trying to keep everyone else down for a change.

THE HONED: Keeps themselves at peak health and is 100% organic. They believe that cybernetic enhancements are not only not required in order to be strong, but that it’s also holding humanity back.

Vegan Street Samurai. Play this if you want to be Henry Rollins.

THE HONORBOUND: They define Obligation. They believe the system needs balance and control, and that they play an integral role upholding it.

Worf. You want to make the Obligation basic moves a lot.

THE ONOMASTIC: Is the last of an order that was hunted to extinction because of the true knowledge they are said to possess. The Onomastic also has an artifact called a Cybertome, and are hunted relentlessly because of it.

Aang. Fuck with people by learning their true names, then dox them.

THE SEEKER: Strength is their Faith. Their search for the answers humanity has always searched for and their quest for Enlightenment defines them completely.

Sword Priest.

THE WAYWARD: Is someone tied to another place altogether. They use the Essence of this place to Uplift others, commune with the natural world, and bridge the gap between the unknown and the technological.

Druid. You have a quasi-mystic Homeland (which could be in your head, your heart, or on your hard drive) and you keep it running.

If I had to sum up what I’ve read, it’s if AW and Masks had a baby. There’s a solid core of emotional drivers (your States, Spike, a bunch of the specials on the playbook sheets), a bunch of playbooks that tell us what you’re about rather than what you do on the team, and so on. But there’s also some nitty-gritty on gear, harm is still serious business (please, wear armor), and it’s easy to get outgunned.

Floor is open for questions!

Let’s create a sample character. I want a pretty stock cyberpunk archetype: the “street samurai”, a mercenary who relies on cybernetics and weapons to get things done.

Several playbooks could work here. The Catabolist, the Honorbound, and the Seeker are all pretty adjacent to cyberwear and/or fighting. I’ll go with the Honorbound, to lean into a modern day equivalent of Jin Sakai, samurai/ninja hero of “Ghost of Tsushima”. We’ll go with “Jin” as a name.

For look, we’ll fill in items from each category: Binesi (an Ojibwe term), Masculine, Professional Wear, Vacant Face, Unforgiving Eyes, Efficient Body, Asian.

For jam, the Honorbound enforces Obligation - in other words, making sure everyone’s good as their word.

For states, we assign +2, +1, +1, 0, 0, and -1 as follows: Sad +2, Mad +1, Powerful +1, Scared +0, Peaceful +0, Joyful -1. He’s a rather melancholy sort.

For Beliefs, we write the following:

  • Our lives are only meaningful when lived with honor
  • You are most comfortable when you know your place in the hierarchy
  • Stern discipline is proper guidance for the uncertain

For Obligation, we decide which institute/organization the character works for. We choose the following:

  • It is a safe place where people find sanctuary. The Veil cannot penetrate there.
  • It is Mysterious.
  • Its features are Faith & Ritual, Free Flowing Water, Sanctuary & Safety, and Personal Liberty.
  • The associated friends are Block (a guardian), Epoch (a barkeep), and Cypher (a healer).
  • The circumstances that generate Obligation include: if they save your life; if you offend someone’s honor; if they employ you; when a mutual agreement is broken.
  • The penalties include: exile; punitive violence; trial by combat.
  • The obligation is important because it’s always been my family who deals with such matters

We’ll say this is the Water Temple, one of the oldest centers for cybernetic augmentation and adaption in existence. People come here not only to have their ailments treated with tech, but to address the attendant trauma they received during the event that necessitated cybernetics to begin with.

We don’t have other PCs, so can’t answer Obligation Questions.

Our starting gear is an ancient masterwork sword, unfolding daggers, fashion including 1 Armor, and 2 Cred.

Our starting cybernetics include:

  • Cyberarms built for instantaneous reactions in swordplay, with the responsive tag
  • Cybereyes designed for tracking targets, with the amplification and magnification tags

These augmentations come with the twitchy (Jin is constantly looking around, scanning like a predator for any motion) and scarred (the attachment points for his arms still show the damage he suffered losing the originals) tags. He owes an Obligation to his employer for these augmentations.

Jin starts with three moves: Honor, Bound, and one more. He chooses “The Art of the Pursuit”.

Overall, we’ve got ourselves a manhunter who finds himself at home in a hierarchy - a modern-day Samurai.

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Huh, I don’t know what I had imagined with the Veil, but this wasn’t it (and I don’t mean that in a bad way). It certainly seems interesting from this description.

Thanks for the dissection, Bill.

It’s a deep dive into cyberpunk tropes, and rewards buy in from the whole group. It doesn’t feel mechanically complex, but is aesthetically complex if that makes sense. For that reason, I don’t know if I’d recommend it to this group, unless everyone was on board


I’ll be honest, the description of the game sort of made my eyes cross (the sample build helped). :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: My cyberpunk trope knowledge is clearly more shallow than I even I thought.

That said, I’m willing to have a go if folk are positive about it.

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