Monday 13 May 2024

GANGS OF TITAN CITY: Solo experiment, session zero

As part of my continuing effort to squeeze in some tabletop action wherever I can, I've been hosting a weekly, open-table, no strings drop-in sandbox every Friday lunchtime (whenever life permits). Occasionally the stars align, and we get a short but sweet hour of exploratory roleplay: you can read all the play reports at this link right here.

Sometimes, things don't go to plan: to show my commitment (and scratch that RPG itch), I've decided to start a solo-game of GANGS OF TITAN CITY. I backed the Kickstarter nearly 2 years ago (have a look at my review of the quickstart here), yet the odds of me getting it to the table any time soon remain relatively slim. For this and other reasons, it was an obvious choice.

A stylised, almost woodcut inspired image of an ogre-sized being in orangey browns, blasting into the top corners of the frame, behind them a pink white inferno burns
The alternative cover to GotC, by Rollin Kunz

You can order a copy of this excellent game here

Doing things by hand

For my own satisfaction, I'm going to be doing a lot of the procedures by hand, recording the outcomes in a non-dedicated notebook. I'll be using the free character and sector sheets available on SoulMuppets webstore, and posting photographs of that material here. Where relevant, ALtText will be added to those images for accessibility reasons.

I'm also going to avoid going into too much explanation of the game's background lore and concept, as readers can explore that for themselves using the free quickstart of the game (a very comprehensive game in and of itself) or my review which I've already linked above.


My aim was to cleave close to the source material, to experience the game as intended. But I drew from the following sources for additional inspiration:

  • 80s Warhammer 40K and Confrontation (the original iteration of the Necromunda RPG)
  • Salute of the Jugger (if you know, you know)
  • Mad Max (especially the aesthetics of Fury Road and Beyond Thunderdome)
  • Total Recall (specifically the weirder elements of the 1990 version)
  • The Wire (seminal depiction of gang life and factionalism on both sides of the law)
  • Banshee (probably the cheesiest TV show I have ever watched from beginning to end, but absolutely the inspiration for my hardcore gang of elite thieves)

Gang Creation

GoTC is a very well structured game, reflected elegantly in the books layout and organisation. There's a step-by-step procedure for every element of the game, and it walks players through those procedures in a very logical and rational way. Yet despite the excellent reasons it gives for the GM to design the sectors and factions first I decided to go set up my gang and its core crew and then building the world around them.

This gang would be known as Smiler's People (I'd been looking at John Le Carre's wikipedia page earlier in the week),  a gang of Operatives specialising in theft and burglary. I picked the following 3 XP prompts:
  • Implicate another party for their actions
  • Exploit their foe’s weaknesses
  • Leave no trace
Alternate identities immediately leapt out at me as the first of the gang's aspects: they would be outlaws on the run from a larger, more powerful criminal faction to whom they were once affiliated, as well as the city's enforcers (and possibly the PSI-Squad...). The remaining options didn't quite grab me the same way, but I settled on incomplete database, with a view to having a look at that option later.

Rennia Ren, a local arcology administrator, would be a contact for the group. I wanted them to have an ally in a relatively normal pat of Titan Society, possibly based around a relationship with one of the gang from their pre-crime days. Wavelength  would be there arch-rivals, the criminal syndicate from whom they had separated. I pictured this group as very powerful corporate espionage group with fingers in many pies, but currently not active in this part of Titan City... for now...

The gang's advancement was forgers and fakers: I knew that at least two of the crew would be out-and-out fighting types, so I wanted to build in some thief abilities at gang level, to make it available to the whole squad. This gang were capable and ruthless, but very keen to keep things on the downlow.

Right from the beginning, I'd imagined the gang operating out of a backwater bar, fronted by a paternal mentor figure like Butchie in the Wire or Sugar Bates in Banshee (incidentally, Sugar was played by Frank Faison, who also portrayed Commissioner Ervin Burrell in the Wire), but this concept adjusted slightly in response to the following prompts:
  • Where is it in the city? What is it near?
    - it's at a crossroads between a hydro-farm and a mass of hab-units, but, weirdly, with plenty of... corn fields? 
  • How did you acquire this Hideout? Who owned it before you?
    - during their Wavelength days, some of the gang had assumed false identities and done side gigs  for bar owner, war vet and fence Blind Willy Latif. He'd double-crossed the gang out of a big payment, not realising that decision would come back to haunt him years later when they took over his own bar...
The claim for this hideout would be cooked books: the gang are using the bar to launder their criminal earnings, but it's doing pretty well as a business in its own right and they're taking a pretty healthy cut. Willy stays on as the bar's face, and so far he's enduring the arrangement in good humour... but beneath it all he wants his bar back and "Smiler's People" out of his life for good.

Finally, the gang has a trio of HAZARDS representing the initial problems they might face. These sit on THE DANGER TABLE, one of the very cool automated narrative engines for the game. One comes from the gang's rival, one from the gang's hideout, and one from the gang's archetype...
  1. What are Wavelength scheming? How will it the gang? 
    Smiler's People left their former employer with a valuable asset: a psionicist! They're pissed with Smiler and co for leaving and want blood, but more than anything they want their psion back.
  2. Who did they take their hideout from? WIll they try to get it back?
    The gang all underestimate Blind Willy. The bar may still bear his name, and he's still it's face... and yeah, turnover's never been better... but quietly he's biding his time until he gets it back. He has no idea who Smiler's People used to work for, but if he did he'd turn them over in a trice
  3. I picked the following from the operative archetype: Your Own Secrets: it may only be a hairline fracture, but what lurking issue is poised to bring you significant difficulty down the road?
    It's a big one, but none of the gang realise that one of their number was actually the lover of Wavelength boss, Sujo... he's going to be mad when he finds out that his ex betrayed him for another deserter....
But who is the mysterious psion? Who is the gutter who once dated the leader of a massive, Titan-spanning crime syndicate? How in god's name di they end up at a dive bar in the Green Sector in the first place?

Gutter Creation

Gutters are GotC's PCs: the core of the gang. I decided on four members to begin, with a pretty firm character concept in my head for each. It was a matter of finding the right class to match that concept.

Smiler/Bug/Eagle Owl
Overwhelm 1 Exploit 1 Resolve 2 Calculate 0 Dominate 0 Appeal -1

The gang's de facto leader is the bruiser known locally as Smiler. Not usually the biggest man in any given room, he makes up for it with tolerance for pain, his martial arts expertise and absolute ruthlessness. He's still bitter about the years he spent first in the army and then in the service of Sujo, and would love nothing better than to bring the whole organisation (wavelength) down. He and Carmen were lovers for a while (behind Sujo's back) but they're currently on a break.

  • Class: Bruiser
  • XP prompts: tactics (he loves to outwit his foes), bloodshed (but at his worst, he loves a brutal scrap), over indulgence (he self medicates his trauma with alcohol and violence)
  • Aspects: grim demeanour, gang tattoos
  • Personality: Ferocious yet not reckless, haunted
  • Specialisms: martial arts, high speed driving
  • Contact: Armiger 18-beta, robot gun fabricator
  • Rival: Scorgio, local capo with the Lead Legion
  • Advancements: power through pain 

Image of character sheet corresponding to preceding character, Smiler. Taken outdoors, phone shadow on bottom edge
Character sheet for Smiler aka. Eagle-Owl


Tark (Tarquin)/Madame Villette/Chickenhawk
Overwhelm 0 Exploit 2 Resolve 0 Calculate 1 Dominate -1 Appeal 1

The attractive, gender-fluid thief has an interesting sideline as a performance artist, combining elements of drag with chanson and physical theatre. It was Tarquin who first found Blind Willy's bar, and late helped set up the cabaret night. Tarquin would love to say goodbye to the life of crime for good, but in their heart they know they'll never be truly free while Wavelength know they're still at large. 

  • Class: Spectre
  • XP prompts: stealth (moves like a shadow), acrobatics (with performative flair), disabling security (also a pretty decent hacker)
  • Aspects: dashing good looks, leather gear
  • Personality: careful and engmatic; not manipulative (actually quite sensitive beneath it all)
  • Specialisms: security measures, climbing & scaling
  • Contact: Scabras, a street alchemist
  • Rival: The Bird's Foot, a local thief earning the reputation of folk hero- Tark is not a fan of their work 
  • Advancements: steps like shadows 
Image of character sheet corresponding to preceding character, Tark. Taken outdoors, paving flags visible around edge of image
Character sheet for Tark aka Chickenhawk

Carmen/Maria /Peregrine
Overwhelm 1 Exploit 2 Resolve 1 Calculate 0 Dominate 0 Appeal -1

Carmen is the catalyst for the gang escaping from Wavelength- she needed to get out, but most importantly, she needed to get Ezra out. She has an almost maternal instinct towards the juvenile, quite out of character for the cold-blooded sniper. Not even Smiler knows that she was Sujo's former lover. Like Tark, she's keen to start all over and forget about Wavelength for good. 

  • Class: Marksman
  • XP prompts: stealth (moves like a shadow), acrobatics (with performative flair), disabling security (also a pretty decent hacker)
  • Aspects: dashing good looks, leather gear
  • Personality: careful and enigmatic; not manipulative (actually quite sensitive beneath it all)
  • Specialisms: security measures, climbing & scaling
  • Contact: Assaran, roots-ranger
  • Rival: Trypo, hunted aberrant once wounded by Carmen
  • Advancements: dead eye 

Image of character sheet corresponding to preceding character, Carmen. Taken outdoors, phone shadow on bottom right
Character sheet for Carmen/Peregrine

Ezra/The Egg/[REDACTED]

Overwhelm -1 Exploit 1 Resolve 2 Calculate 1 Dominate 0 Appeal 0

An orphaned pion abducted by Wavelength right under the noses of Psi-Squad, Ezra spent most of his adolescence in forced servitude to wavelngth. He received the codename "Egg" from Wavelength, due to fact that he would remain back at the "nest" while the other raptors carried out their missions. It was Peregrine's sympathy for him that led to the crew fleeing Wavelength for good and assuming their current identities as the raptors. Ezra is a physically frail 17 year-old boy with a gentle character but a blistering desire for revenge against Sujo and Wavelength.

  • Class: Psionicist
  • XP prompts: display of psychic power; staying at arm's length, use something only the target could know
  • Aspects: harmonic voice (Smiler secretly hates the sound of ghostly/angelic voice), arcane tattoos (dating from his mysterious, pre PSi squad origins)
  • Personality: disconnected yet empathic; not always restrained (very rare tantrums)
  • Specialisms: mood of Titan City, unlicensed psions
  • Contact: Professor Alfian, a researcher from pre-Wavelength days at PSi-Squad, who shares a psychic bond with him
  • Rival: Agent Kolm, a renegade psi-squad operative working for wavelength to bring Ezra back
  • Advancements: PSI (read, grasp); whispers in the streets

Image of character sheet corresponding to preceding character, Ezra. Taken outdoors, phone shadow bottom right corner
Character sheet for Ezra/The Egg


Sector Creation

Mostly I just rolled these up, though I wanted the "home sector" to have an almost rural feel (rural as far as Titan City is concerned), so immediately based them in a Fringeways Green Sector, currently run by Lead Legion. I wanted two further major sectors, both Heartwards so there would be plenty of that proper, urban grit feel to the game, and two minor sectors to cover the remaining wards (Spirewise and Rootings), which I'm not planning on featuring as much in the game.

Additionally, the gang's main contact at the moment is Rennia Ren, admin of a nearby Arcology: this dictated that one of the Heartward sectors would therefore be an arcology. I set about randomly generated the claims for each sector, after piecing together the map below:

Printed out sector map sheet photographed outside on a sunny day. The sheet sits slightly high in the image and is surrounded by paving flags. A hex map comprises the main body of the sheet, with the five sectors bound in red ink. The text is in pencil and difficult to read, and is reproduced more clearly in the post below
The Sector Map, photographed outside again... it was a lovely day!

New Eden (Green Sector)

A semi-rural green sector, mostly controlled by Lead Legion aka. The Bullet Boys. The gang's hideout, Willy's bar, sits at the crossroads of a Hab block, hydro farm, and the route towards Arcology 23.

  • Claims include:
  • 3 hab blocks
  • Vice Den (run by Lead Legion)
  • 2 Hydro Farms
  • Eager hopefuls

I decided to place Lead Legion's hideout between the minor sector and this one, giving the main hideout space to another faction (details later)

Arcology 23 (Arcology)

Administered by Smiler's former lover, Rennia ren, an unlikely ally of the group. 

  • Listening Station
  • Eager hopefuls
  • stack market
  • Toll station
  • Hab block
  • Physician 

Little Titan (squeeze)

I eanticipate teh action moving to this sector later in the campaign: the only concept at the moment is density, dirt and ultraviolence.


  • Street row tithe
  • Power station
  • 2 tech shops
  • 2 hab blocks
The Eyrie (Demesne)

An emyreal outpost, possibly leisure/holiday resort for wealthy patrons looking to slu it up (in a controlled environment, of course):

  • Luxury hab unit
  • Vice den (possible casino complex)

Sector Omega 9 (Mega factory)

Home turf of the Lead Legion-or at east a launch pad for their exploits in New Eden). Provides power for New Eden.


  • 2 acid pits
  • Bullet farm
  • Power station


I put together 3 active factions and 3 factions likely to be more important later in the campaign, drawn from the gang history and hexes generated so far. It was additionally advised that of these factions, there should be one each of forceful, influential and wealthy:

Lead Legion (active, forceful) 
The immediate antagonist to the gang. They don't have the same finnesse as Smiler's People, but they have numbers and brute force, and don't like to see people moving in on their turf. I've decided they're going to have a much more religious aspect, closer to Spire's Church of the Gun. Based in Omega 9 and New Eden.

HyperCorp (active, wealthy)
An agro-pharma corp (no name at the moment), who control a hydrofarm in New Eden and also in Arcology 23. First lead from Ren will be linked to these guys: she's an environmentalist at heart who resents the exploitation of nature by this powerful corporation

Wavelength (inactive, influential)
These information traffickers and data thieves were once the bosses of Smiler's People. They're keen to punish the gang for leaving as an example to others, but they're more keen to track down Ezra, they're psionic asset. Currently off-map.

The Misshapers (active, occult)
Mutants and gene alterers who've been hiding in the wilds of New Eden, coming to the fore now that Lead Legion are flexing their muscle in this sector. Possibly allies? Difficult to deal with...

The Inks & Rings (inactive, influential)
Two street gangs in Little Titan now united and a powerful controlling force in the Heartwards sector. Not currently active in the campaign but likely to be of greater concern as the game progresses.

Lord Tokuno (inactive, legitimate)
Empyreal Agency acting on both of Lord Tokuno, based in the Empyreal Heights. Not currently active but may be important further along in the campaign,

I also set up HQs for enforcers at various points in the sector map.

Danger table

The danger table has been populated with 3 hazards emerging from gang creation:
  1. Wavelength move to locate and ultimately abduct Ezra
  2. Willy latif resolves to reclaim his bar
  3. Carmen's secret is out: all the gang know that she is Sujo's ex-lover
The rest will be filled in as the campaign progresses.


That was a great deal of fun: character and gang creation took up the entirety of the one hour I would normally reserve for the weekly Pariah sandbox. The sector and faction creation probably took about an hour, but it was at various points over the weekend so I'm not 100% accurate with that number.

As stated, the intention is to run a solo session of this next time we don't make quorum for the weekly Pariah game. At the moment I'm not imagining I'll need to use any other emulators to run the game on my own: the game (as I've interpretated it) is heavy on narrative over granularity, and I can rely on the motives of gutters and their antagonists to fill in the gaps not filled by the game's excellent narrative engines (namely the event table and the danger table).

Have to say, I am pretty excited. I may even look at squeezing a session in before next Friday...


PARIAH lunchtime sandbox play reports:

GANGS OF TITAN CITY (Quickstart) Review: 

GANGS OF TITAN CITY, hardback book from SoulMuppet:

GoTC character sheets (free)

GoTC Quickstart (free):

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