Explosive mission seeds for Technoir

May 18, 2022

In Technoir ("a high-tech, hard-boiled roleplaying game", as their tagline says), stories start from a "mission seed", a graph of three randomly-generated interconnected nodes. The graph is then progressively expanded while playing the game, further clues being generated by player actions.

Graph nodes fall into six categories: connections, events, factions, locations, objects, and threats. Since the starting seed is randomly generated, it may not be obvious how to get things moving. I created the following oracle in order to provide an initial spark of motivation.

Technoir oracle of needs

In order to sketch out the relationships between the leads on your plot map, roll d6 and refer to the following oracle. (If the relationship doesn't make sense, choose something yourself or skip the oracle entirely.)

  1. needs (requires for continued existence)
  2. threatens (constitutes threat to existence)
  3. desires (lusts after, obsesses over, nerds out about)
  4. hates (despises, snubs)
  5. protects (holds power over, and is drained by it)
  6. owns (holds power over, and exploits it)

The oracle does not specify direction: if you roll "protects" for a relationship between Omar Ong and Lotus Jones, it might be either Omar who protects Lotus, or Lotus who protects Omar.

Will things change?

Someone once told me that people go to a fortuneteller with questions that ultimately always come down to: "Will things change?" (although the answer they hope to hear isn't always "yes"; compare: "I'm jobless, will this change?" to "I'm in a happy relationship, will this change?")

A strong desire for change makes for a compelling motivation in a story. Since Technoir is ultimately about humans, I selected the options in the oracle to reflect three powerful human instincts: survival, infatuation, and power, multiplied by the direction of change (odd: not having and wanting, even: having and not wanting).

Needs of groups, things, and events

Half of the lead categories cover non-human elements: objects, locations, and events. If the relationship between the leads doesn't make sense, feel free to substitute some of the elements with "the current/former/future owner/employee/inhabitant/instigator of (the lead)".

Factions and Threats are groups. If a person "desires" a group, perhaps they want to be hired by the group, or want to impress important members of the group.


Let's take the Atlanta Arcology Transmission. I rolled three leads:

  • Phoenix Records, a major label of urban entertainment (faction)
  • Lotus Jones, Upcoming Interface Singer/Dancer (connection)
  • Explosives, a stash taken from a nearby military base (object)

Then, I rolled on the needs oracle and happened to get the same need twice:

  • Phoenix Records threatens Lotus Jones (or Lotus Jones threatens Phoenix Records)
  • Phoenix Records owns Explosives (or Explosives own Phoenix Records)
  • Lotus Jones owns Explosives (or Explosives own Lotus Jones)

A records label wants to force a singer into an exclusive contract, but where do explosives come in? We can reframe Explosives as "the person with access to Explosives", and remember that "own" means hold power over and oppress someone.

Lotus Jones and Phoenix Records are engaged in a tug-of-war over someone - a soldier or an administrator - from a military base. Lotus is pressuring them to swipe some explosives to stage an underground show that she's financing out of her own pocket. Phoenix Records are attempting to sabotage the show, bankrupting Lotus to force her into an exploitative contract. The military shmuck is getting desperate, stuck between the rock and a hard place. The show is tonight.

The situation is ready to... explode.

Tags: hack rpg technoir