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  • Ryan Hart

The Basics

Setting Upload 1 | Posted by JD

Let’s get this out of the way: you’re not common criminals. You commit crimes, this is an undeniable fact of your life, but you’re not a criminal. When criminals get caught, they go to jail. They have rights, even if that right is just to live in a 10 x 10 cell so that some corporation can make 100k a year off of them. Criminals have IDs and families and proof of their existence. You might envy criminals. Criminals exist...

When you got caught, you disappeared. No rights. No work. Nothing left. Besides, you're no criminal -- being a criminal implies laws, laws imply cops, and we don’t have any of those here.

There’s no real word for what you are, but you call yourselves Stringers. Your IDENT number was wiped clean, and with it, your entire life. You don’t have a driver’s license, a passport -- you can’t have a phone number. When you were revoked, they deleted all traces of you on social media. They even erased that scanned picture of you from your hometown paper.

Your family was informed you were dead; worse, they were told you were killed. Somewhere out there in the Conspiracy, there’s a guy whose job it is to think up the worst possible story to tell your spouse and kids. They tell them the sort of things that make you flinch when they’re brought up at parties. Stuff so that even if you were dumb enough to try and tell them you’re still alive, you wouldn’t have the guts to face them.

The correct term is “technological death.”

It’s not actually you who’s dead: it’s your identity. Some of you still have money, hell, some of you are rich, but your identity is broke, homeless, and disenfranchised. You couldn’t buy a pack of gum without a fake ID. You’re still physically capable of talking to your old friends: if they didn’t know that talking to you was the quickest way to get revoked themselves. You can’t go back; that identity is gone. Dead.

The worst part about it? You did it to yourself. You were probably doing pretty well; you have to be exceptionally high up to fall down like you did. Maybe you were a suit - a director of something, maybe a VP. Maybe you were a government agent. Maybe you were an exceptional criminal. Regardless, there came a time in your life when you saw something.

What you saw varies, but you couldn’t deny you saw something. You realized that the conspiracy theorists were right, the Conspiracy does exist. And when that evidence popped up and everyone turned away, you couldn’t. You stared right at the Conspiracy and when they looked back, they deleted you.

Now, you can’t go back, so you can only go forward. The world you knew is gone. So now you have to find the Conspiracy.​

What Is Ascension?

When you’re first revoked, it’s the loneliest time in your life. It’s also the deadliest. It’s amazing the number of people in the world who would kill someone in a consequence-free environment. Corps, the government, even rich fuckers with too much free-time, they come at you hard. Most people don’t make it 48 hours. Those who do either learn how to hide, or they’re found by the Stringers.

The Stringers are the people who learned to live outside the system. Like you, they were revoked. But they learned to survive. To get fake IDs, and avoid the Panopticon. Most importantly, they’ve learned more about the Conspiracy, and something called Ascension.

Really, everything people say about the Conspiracy is hearsay and rumor, and Ascension may well be a myth. But in your old life, whether you were a prole or a wage slave, you needed to have hope of something better than your piece of shit life right now. Stringers aren’t all that different. Ascension is supposed to be an entrance into the next level. It’s when the Conspiracy takes you and makes you one of their own. Does it even exist? You don’t know, but it gives all of you a reason to go on. Something to chase after.

So while they chase Ascension, Stringers form crews, families in the purgatory that exist in between their old lives and whatever is on the other side. One of these crews found you, and took you in, and that’s how you survived. You became one of the Stringers.

The Crews of Purgatory

Stringers call their world “Purgatory”; it exists between heaven and hell (or at least you hope it does). Everyone of you left behind a life with a job and family and maybe even a decent home. In Purgatory, all you have is your crew.

A crew is part adopted family, part spec-op team. If you survived long enough after you were revoked, you probably are pretty badass at something. Former spec-ops and corporate security, hackers and programmers, thieves, con artists or just plain cunning: you had something going for you to survive that first 48 hours. Crews recruit to fill needs, because every crew has jobs to do.

These jobs come from the Messengers - “Men-In-Black” types who show up occasionally with instructions. Steal that thing. Kill that guy. Hack that system. You’re not really sure who they are, and you never know why they ask for what they do, but it’s assumed they’re from the Conspiracy. After all, who else knows who you are? While their visits are rare, they’re supposedly the only path to Ascension. Rumor has it every now and then a Messenger asks a Stringer to come with them, and they’re never heard from again. Whether they got a bullet in the head or their own black suit is a matter of conjecture.

Either way, it’s better than the third alternative. Most crews meet violent ends. Maybe one or two Stringers will Ascend. But the third option are the Lifers. The ones that got good enough that they’ll survive, but will never Ascend. The Lifers are the ones you got to worry about: they’ve been doing this too long, and it shows. The only option a Lifer really has is to start their own crew, and keep it together, maybe long enough to see someone else catch Ascension.

Some crews are loose, with each member keeping their own set of fake IDs and boltholes. Some live together and eat dinner at the dining room table every night. All of them are like a family. But didn’t some Russian guy once say something about happy families?

The Stringer’s Cant

Ascension - When a Stringer gets to join the Conspiracy (or maybe is just put out of their misery in a back room).

Ascension Game - The entire situation in which Stringers find themselves, referring to all the people who have been revoked and their activities. Also called “the Game.”

Conspiracy, The - A wide-spread cabal of corporate interests that secretly manipulate the world. They got you revoked, and now you’re probably chasing Ascension.

Crew - A group of Stringers who work together. Part found family, part heist crew, each crew develops its own culture and character. Typically 7 to 8 people.

Dead Zone - An area outside the view of the Panopticon. The Underworld Bar (the primary location of Project Ascension) is one of the most stable dead zones in New York City.

IDENT - A code assigned to people at birth that tracks every interaction they have with the Panopticon. Deleted as part of revocation.

Lifer - A older Stringer who likely missed their opportunity for Ascension, and/or their grip on reality.

Messenger - One of the “Men-In-Black” who many believe to represent the Conspiracy.

OPTISEC - One of two specialized positions on each crew. OPTISEC specialists know how to manipulate the Panopticon to keep crews out of sight of the Conspiracy.

Panopticon - A system of technological surveillance that tracks virtually every action taken in society. It ensures everyone’s IDENT code functions properly, and going outside one of the few dead zones is extremely dangerous without one.

Prole - A person born outside the system without an IDENT, they’ve lived in Purgatory their whole lives. While the term is not exclusive with Stringers, the vast majority of proles are simply trying to survive day to day in the dead zones of New York.

Purgatory - The society of people without IDENT codes who exist outside the view of the Panopticon. It includes all Stringers and many proles.

PurgatoryNet - The informal name for the collection of computer networks used in Purgatory.

Razor - A slang term for someone who has a lot of cyberware and uses it for violence.

Revoked - A process of technological death where the Conspiracy destroys a person’s entire identity. Not only the deletion of an individual’s IDENT code, but also a character assassination that makes it impossible to return to one’s family and friends. Almost all Stringers were revoked.

SAK - Semi-Autonomous Knowbot. Programs of limited artificial intelligence used by hackers and other computer savvy types to automate their work. Talking to a SAK is like talking to a very smart, very eager golden retriever.

Stringer - An individual in Purgatory with special skills, who generally joins a crew and goes on missions. Almost all Stringers were revoked because they investigated the Conspiracy, and are still chasing Ascension.

Tallyrand - One of two specialized positions on each crew. Tallyrands maintain strong ties to each other, and negotiate on behalf of their crews with their peers.


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