What’s a Shardnet?

Re-imagining imaginary worlds with the Global Sprint

Cryptomancer, ©Chad Walker, used with permission

As part of the Mozilla Privacy Arcade project in this year’s Global Sprint, we’re inviting activists, artists, designers, educators, gamers, storytellers, and technologists of all backgrounds to invent new privacy-themed adventures for the role playing game Cryptomancer.

The big idea is to write and share adventures that empower players to champion privacy, security, and digital inclusion wherever they are in the world. When we all work together to ensure that people can choose what to share online with whom, we make the Internet a healthier place. We need people from all kinds of communities to help us understand and write for the communities they serve and the obstacles they face (#ShardnetHealth).

What’s a role playing game? A role-playing game, or RPG, is a collaborative, social, table-top storytelling game. A game-master runs the game while players improvise and act out their characters’ in-game actions and responses to the story.

You might like RPGs if you love:

  • Acting.
  • Art.
  • Gaming.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Puzzles.
  • Storytelling.
  • Teamwork.

To contribute to this project you might:

  • Invent ideas for adventures.
  • Design characters people can play.
  • Craft puzzles for players to solve.
  • Illustrate other contributor’s ideas for adventures, characters, and puzzles.
  • Share real-world stories about online safety and inclusion others can use as inspiration for adventures.

In a role-playing game, players’ successes and failures are determined by how well they play their parts and the rules that go along with the game they’re playing. Player characters (PCs) have detailed character sheets that list their attributes, powers, and belongings. Typically, RPGs use a combination of’ statistics (stats) like strength (STR) or intelligence (INT) found on a character sheet and die rolls to determine the results of players’ decisions and their characters’ actions.

Some dice you might use in a role-playing game, CC0 OpenClipart-Vectors

RPGs often have some funky dice, as well. A normal 6-sided die — like the kind that comes with most board games, is called a d6. Many games use 4, 8, 10, 12, and 20-sided die, as well, abbreviated as d4, d8, d10, d12, and d20, respectively. Specialty dice like d2, d30, and even d100 also exist.

Before playing, the game master writes an adventure for their players and creates all the non-player characters (NPCs), enemies, obstacles, and puzzles they’ll encounter. Several adventures played over a series of sessions make up a campaign. Over the course of the campaign, the game master awards players experience points they can use to strengthen their characters’ abilities, inventories, and skills.

Cryptomancer is a unique RPG that teaches online safety in a fantasy world that has its own Internet called the “Shardnet.”

What’s a Cryptomancer? Cryptomancer is an RPG in which players act as secret agents trying to prevent a shadowy organization from controlling the world through surveillance. In this world, traditional Western fantasy races and tropes all get shifted to account for the presence of the Shardnet, an Internet made of crystals. A “Cryptomancer” is someone who uses the powers of information security — like encryption — the same way a wizard might use magic in a different game.

To prevent your group of secret agents from being discovered in Cryptomancer, you have to role-play strong information security habits and keep your crystals, messages, and group safe. The game uses simple illustrations and an approachable rules set to help you act out things like basic encryption and trust-building across your in-game networks and adventures. These opportunities to role-play successful online safety habits can help players strengthen their privacy and security habits in life outside the game.

Crystals from the Shardnet, ©Chad Walker, used with permission

What’s a Shardnet? In Cryptomancer, the Shardnet is made up of two complementary systems. The Shardnet itself is a massive network that anyone can join by holding a piece, or shard, of a massive crystal that connects everyone who has a piece of it. Smaller, private networks are made up of a limited numbers of shards cut from smaller crystals found elsewhere in the world. Each crystal is like a smartphone on a different network. You can also bridge from network to network or from network to Shardnet by holding crystals from different networks in different hands.

In May and June, we’ll help aspiring authors invent new adventures for Cryptomancer as part of the Global Sprint. Throughout the month of May, we’ll make sure everyone interested in the challenge has access to a copy of Cryptomancer so they can learn the rules and begin crafting adventures for the game.

During the sprint itself, on June 1st and 2nd, 2017, contributors might begin writing new adventures or ask for feedback on works in progress. Activists and gamers might team up to write adventures that reflect real-world scenarios that need problem-solving. Artists and storytellers might help illustrate and improve others’ work. You might even adapt the Cryptomancer Challenge for an adventure set in your favorite game instead.

After the sprint, Mozilla and Cryptomancer will curate a special issue of Code and Dagger, the game’s online publication for new material, that hosts exemplary adventures contributed and owned by Global Sprint participants.

If you’re curious about RPGs, information security, storytelling, or any of the artistic and technological decisions that might go into a captivating Cryptomancer adventure,

  1. Visit the Cryptomancer Challenge repo.
  2. Sign in or create a GitHub account.
  3. Click on the “Issues” tab near the top of the page.
  4. Visit Issue #1 to introduce yourself to our community of contributors.
  5. Jump in to the conversation on any other issue that interests you.

If we can provide any more information or answer any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask! Look for another post next week about the Privacy & Security Game Jam Challenge.

Follow the Mozilla Privacy Arcade project online with @Mozlearn and #mozsprint.