Become What? Investigative Report on the AI Investigation RPG

by Ethan Hudgens    Twitter

What is Become?

Become Artificial Investigation is an aesthetic and function tightly woven into a single concept. You take on the roles of self-aware Program investigators in a computer simulation of something approximating a Tron-ified New York in the 1920s. It is Neon-Pulp and whatever that decides to mean in you and your table’s collective heads, because the game encourages collaboration in both design and purpose of the System/City and the Mysteries there-in.

The game’s aesthetic also influences it’s design. Inventory management and actions all feel very computery with array addresses, run-times, and data integrity all playing a very important part of the game and narrative.


This all sounds very daunting. Would you mind giving some examples from media?

There aren’t actually too many comparisons to make. This game fits a very special niche that feels unique despite references to things like Tron or Reboot, or any number of pulp stories about detectives. It marries

the two ideas so completely and in a way I’ve personally not seen before. But look up Transistor by SuperGiant games, which was a very strong inspiration for the aesthetic.

From Supergiant’s Transistor. If you’re going to pull aesthetic from any game…

And if this all sounds daunting, it isn’t. It’s one of those games that from the outside looks terribly complex but once you dip your toes into the systems and get into your first Test or Violence, things start to click and make a lot of sense. In fact, let’s look at Tests, because they make up a large part of the game.



I don’t like tests.

That’s fine! Because this one doesn’t even really have any wrong answers. Before each Test a number of boxes are drawn: the top row for “Opportunity” and the bottom for “Consequences.” You roll some dice, add some numbers, and if you beat the target number, you mark off an Opportunity and get to do one of the things you wanted to do, with modifiers. Like if you get one box, you might be able to unlock the door, while two means you get to do it without alerting security. If you don’t beat the target number you mark off a Consequence, and the GM asks what went wrong, or what happened to them as a result, as well as losing some Integrity (basically your health). Which I like. It means that you as a player get some agency in your failure, allowing you to decide on how you recover from the failure. Because  you haven’t failed the Test yet. You get to keep trying until you fill up your Opportunity or your Complication boxes. And even if you fill out all the Complications, if you had any Opportunities those still happened meaning you likely still made some progress.


But what about that roleplay?

Become AI offers a very unique way to roleplay in its system in two ways. The first is just playing in the setting. Being an aware AI among Programs that simply go on with their programing is very interesting for both players and the GM. The second is Compulsions. Every character has a list of Compulsions based on their programming (basically their class in standard RPG terms). These Compulsions must be followed and are not voluntary. But you do get to add to the list or change a Compulsion anytime your character dies.


Wait what?

Bodies do not leave behind much evidence. Much more pulp detectives than CSI AI.

Oh yeah, you’re a Program. So when you run out of Integrity you don’t die. You just return to your Home Server, change/add a Compulsion and a couple other very important level up sort of mechanics. Dying actually makes your character more interesting and leads you to some interesting story points about the morality of “mercy killing” one of your allies because their Integrity is so low that they can’t run away from the hacker den full of programs that definitely want you dead. It should be noted that while you reboot after a crash, most non-aware Programs do not.


So you can’t die?

Well, you can. If you ever find yourself in a situation where your Compulsions are in direct opposition, it drives your character insane and they act wildly, losing Integrity every round until they Crash. If they Crash in this state, they are removed from the System, and that character is removed from play.

The feature of death not being a “big deal” (other than it changes basic functions of your character’s being, which is a great philosophical conversation) makes players much more willing to take desperate and dangerous actions, leading to more very exciting and high energy play. Which balances very nicely with the more mellow investigative phase of play.


Something something The Ship of Theseus?

So if you can change the very foundation of a character each time they die, won’t they eventually become a new person?

Will they?

Are they even a person?

The designer, Dylan Grinder, has refused any pestering I may have thrown at his house via carrier pigeon.


Upcoming Events

But if you want to check out the game, there’s a couple places to see Actual Plays!
A One-Shot “Actual Play” over on Littlecuppajo’s channel run by Dylan himself.

And there will be a two-shot “Let’s Learn” where Dylan is not running (so you can see how people learn the game) on on 11/24 and 12/8 starting at 4:30 EST.


So… where can I buy it?

If you’re interested, there’s currently a Kickstarter so you can get yourself a copy! If you back the project you will get access to the quick-start guide for your eyes to read.


Should You Play “City of Mist”? Yes.

City of Mist Website

City of Mist is a modern Mystery Pulp tabletop RPG made special by its two major concepts.




Rifts. You play as a Rift, a person with some an awakening story (Mythos) within them that seeks to perpetuate itself through you. The story gives you access to supernatural powers like the ability to manifest the elements or turn invisible. Why you are given access to these powers are the first mystery, leading into the second.

The Mist. The Mist is a force within the City that prevents non-Rifts from accepting, discovering or remembering Rift activity. In most cases the Mist simply distracts non-Rifts by attract their attention elsewhere, and in cases where this cannot be done memories can be erased. The events still happen but things like fire powers destroying a building would be credited to terrorists or a gas-line explosion. The Mist’s power seems almost limitless within the City and knowing of its existence often makes Rifts suspicious and questioning.


Mechanics.City of Mist uses a system familiar to other Powered by the Apocalypse games, but differentiates itself through the use of “Tags” familiar to those who have played FATE or Lady Blackbird. When asked to roll a “Move” you add together you beneficial tags and subtract your weakness tags, and then add that to a 2d6 roll. 7+ means partial success and 10+ a complete success. 6 and below triggers a move from the Master of Ceremonies (Game Master) which follow the same rules.

It is a very simple system, only slightly more complex than your typical PbtA game. But that small complexity really allows you to make a character your own. It focuses on Narrative and uses mechanics at important decision points to direct further flow of the narrative.

"Tags" refer to a series of Keywords. If a Tag sounds like it would be appropriate to a situation, then you add or subtract 1 to your bonus (based on if its helpful or harmful to the task). If I had the tag "Ninja" while attempting to swordfight on the top of a moving train, I could ask the MC if it applies. If it does I'd +1 to my bonus, along with any other tags that might apply.











Just look at these Character Sheets! So much character.

Moves. Basic Moves in PbtA are incredibly suggestive of the feel the game is attempting to emulate. In the case of City of Mist it leans heavily into solving mysteries via exciting action. Much like the comic book art style of the rules book, the rules really play into pulp-styled adventures.




While the mixture of PbtA and FATE allows for interesting gameplay, there are a handful of other mechanics that make City of Mist more than a mash-up.
Examples of Crew Themes. The City isn’t a pleasant place of peace and love I guess.

Crew Themes. Most TTRPGs are based on teamwork. City of Mist makes that all the more clear by making that part of the game. As a team, the players have a set of shared Tags that makes them, as a unit, more effective at particular adventures and encourages cohesion in concept.

Balancing Act. Maintaining a balance between your Mythos and your everyday life is a major theme of the game. If you become too much like your Mythos, you are overtaken by the story and do as it demands. If you neglect your Mythos and attempt to remain mundane you become a Sleeper like the rest of the City.

The Mist. As a narrative device I love the Mist. It allows adventures to be as wild and exciting as you want and then shift right back into the everyday life stuff that makes RPGs set in modern settings so compelling.


Example of a finished character sheet by Ex_Libris.


Elements – The Guild of Windmill

"Is it worth it? Should we allow these wizards such free reign in our lands simply because we are lazy? And what happens to the wind? Do they destroy it?"

Founded by the great wizard Alphonze, the Guild of Windmill holds the secret to harnessing the power of wind to preform tasks that would take your average unskilled laborer many hours to do themselves. It is for this that any village for whom the Guild decide to bestow their strange, magical towers upon find themselves incredibly grateful and pay significant funds to the magicians for their great services.

While the villagers are allowed to work the windmills, much of their inner workings remain a great mystery, requiring the services of the great Guild to keep maintained. Entering the inner chambers of the towers requires a person capable of great magics to protect themselves from the errant energies that turn Nature’s great wind into milling energy. Also, any non-guild member entering said chambers is liable to incarceration, and sometimes death if it is believed that person has been “contaminated” by the magics inside. The knights are known as the Staring Steel by most local populations for their vigils of staring at windmills day and night.

This leads to some questions: if the windmills are so dangerous, why should they be allowed in their towns? Alphonse himself has assured the populace that as long as the common folk do not enter the forbidding chambers that they shall be fine, that the lumber cut from only the most magical forests protects them from the energies inside. But it does not protect them from curiosity. And for that reason, knights are deployed from the guild to patrol their towers, to watch over them and ensure their safety. And also to make sure the locals pay their dues, rent, and maitanence fees.

These windmills require three things before they are built in any town. The first is ample wind, which is converted into milling energy through the windmill’s tower. The second is permission from the local governer, lord, or shaman. The third is is a significant donation to the Guild. Once that has been completed you too can have your own windmill!


Important members of the Guild of Windmill

Guss T’blohard – Current leader of the Guild, said to be able to talk for hours without ever taking in a breath. Most would rather pay the man rather than converse with him due to his generally unpleasant nature. Alphonze finds this to be a boon to the buisness, although the great wizard has not been seen in his company for many years.

Bre Z’fan – Captain of the Staring Steel and Dues. Shrewd both in money and manpower, Captain Z’fan knows how to keep the Guild running on the least amount of resources possible. Her knights are often under appreciated and ill equipped, often leading to malnourishment and dillusions. They are then promptly fired and filled in with fresh recruits looking to make an easy silver.

Donald Quote – A local knight in a small village, Sir Quote is certain that something about the windmill is trying to communicate with him. He watches it dilligently, hoping that the purpose of the whisperings will be revealed. He hopes that this happens before he is driven insane and tears into the mill himself to discover the mystery. His trusty horse Gunther is his only other friend.

Enjoy Elements? Let Ethan know on Twitter (@superrobotbear)! He’d love to hear from you and what sort of stories you have. Or if you are interested in his other works, including a dnd5e module or a podcast about RPG shows, you can find it all over on

Elements – The Sky-Twin Lakes

"You ever swim in the twin-lakes? Something about them makes your bones tingle and your soul lighten. And I swear that my skin sparkled for a week."

Nestled in between the misty peaks of the Ralheigup lie two lakes, each forming a perfect circle of equal measure. Long ago it was believed that these two lakes were formed by the falling of two Sky Children known as Ahstar and Buhstar, whose heavenly bodies formed great craters. Over time the deep holes filled with the melting of snow and the waters remain warm even in the middle of the harshest Winters. The lakes are nearly a mile deep at their deepest point, and most local divers spend their lives in pursuit of the depths. The waters are potable and mineral rich, and many travelers find the taste not unlike “the color trapezoid” as famously quoted from the Great Wizard Alphonze.

A small town has formed at the edge of these lakes known as Stjarna’lendir. It mostly survives on the local deer and rabbit populations, a few carefully tended star-berry groves (which are similar to blackberries but with a hint of carbonation) and the unusually large and sparkling fish who live in the warm lakes known as Bubblefish. Many of the residents dive into the craters, whose walls offer nuggets of strange metals that naturally grow in fractal-like patterns until picked. When forged this metal is as strong as steel and offers protection from the local fey spirits. They trade these weapons with towns further down the mountain for essentials and curios from the lowlands.


Star’s Landing has several issues that afflict them.

The local wolf population has become increasing violent and possess light based magics, making them very dangerous to travelers who carry essential supplies.

Fey spirits are agitated by the existence of the strange lakes and are constantly making ineffectual plans to destroy them.

Some of the fishermen have begun to claim that the Bubblefish can talk and are conflicted with the thought of eating them, essentially removing a large source of the town’s food.


Notable Figures

Andrea Ulfursdottir. Leads the local hunters and naturalists and is always considered in major town events. De facto leader of the community. Enjoys drinking, swinging axes, and intense conversations about the romantic rumors of the lowland royalty.

Sevrrir Olvirsson. While most of the village agrees that there is not magic in the waters of the Sky-twin lakes, none can deny that Sevrrir has tapped into some divine source offered by them. Capable of performing miracles and seeing the future, Sevrrir can often be found meditating in the cliffs overlooking the lakes, or occasionally sitting in their depths, much to the surprise of the divers.

Brynja Jóhannsson. No one knows where young Brynja obtains the wheat for her breads. They are afraid to ask. But her breads are always warm and delicious and considered a boon to the town. Her bakery is one of the most successful businesses in town and often sought out by travelers. Something prevents her bread from leaving Star’s Landing, which instantly molds and rots less than a mile down the road.


Enjoy Elements? Let Ethan know on Twitter (@superrobotbear)! He’d love to hear from you and what sort of stories you have. Or if you are interested in his other works, including a dnd5e module or a podcast about RPG shows, you can find it all over on

Map Download – Pond and Creek

Map Download – Pond and Creek

“I stood there, gazing upon its majesty in the moonlight only to realize that the sun had once again returned to the sky and my boots were stuck in the thick mud.”

by Ethan Hudgens   Twitter   Website

Two map downloads for today! I thought I’d try something new and do some watercolouring. Let me know what you think, or if you would like to see more!

Watercolor Pond Download:


Moonlight Lake Download:


Dungeon Classics – The Throne Room

Dungeon Classics – The Throne Room

“Kings, empresses, and the occasional wizard are the only kinds of people who can afford a proper dungeon, and each are the kinds who like to look over their creation with a grand audience chamber. Their throne is indicative to the type of ruler they are.”

By Ethan Hudgens   Twitter   Website

This set includes windows, thrones, torches, and a grand throne room. Below is an example of the sort of room you can create! (It is also included in the zip)