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Hard Wired Island

Hard Wired Island


2021 Freeplay Awards Finalist — Excellence in Narrative and Non-Digital Game Award


Humanity has spread to space. GRAND CROSS is a space station orbiting Earth, a high-tech city, and a gateway to the stars. But in this distant future, it's in crisis...

HARD WIRED ISLAND is a retrofuture cyberpunk TTRPG, inspired by 90s anime. This 400-page PDF includes:

  • An easy-to-learn system where social actions and problem-solving skills are at least as important as hacking and getting into fights.
  • A shorter player reference document for quick rule access.
  • An alternate 2020 setting in an O'Neill cylinder near Earth.
  • Descriptions of the many areas of Grand Cross, from the busy downtown Voyager Ward to the high-tech parkland of Mariposa to the Agriculture Ring that feeds the station.
  • Seven Occupations, including the Fixer, the Hacker, and the Influencer, along with a plethora of character options.
  • Over 100 detailed NPC descriptions, from corporate heavyweights to android crime lords to just regular citizens of an Earth-orbit city.
  • A flexible mission prep system that allows characters to adapt their plans on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
  • A wealth system that tracks the financial burdens placed on you by the capitalist system you live in.
  • A cybernetics system that doesn't dehumanize you for installing augments.
  • A lot of great art from a lot of great artists.
(For a preview of the game, see the Hard Wired Island Kickstarter Preview.)

View from the space station interior


When we say HARD WIRED ISLAND is cyberpunk, here's what that means to us.

  • Capitalism? No thanks. Good cyberpunk is anti-capitalist. It's about how technology without ethics can make social inequality worse. The wealthy use it to cement their power and perpetuate the status quo, while marginalized communities are kept that way. The PCs want to use it to break the current system. They work against their enemies, not for them.
  • Cyberpunk should be relevant. It is a study of where our society could go in the coming years. The issues faced by people in a cyberpunk setting should have some relevance to issues faced by the audience, even if they're not the same. Retro future, present problems.
  • Cybernetics are not inherently good or bad. Like most tech, what matters is how it's used. In Hard Wired Island, the problem is that cybernetics often serves the needs of capital rather than people; Any alienating or dysphoric effects come from being reshaped into some corporation's property. There is no mechanic that suggests wearing a prosthetic makes you less human, or prone to mental illness; instead, the tradeoff of augments is adding to your financial burdens.
  • Cyberpunk is not just an aesthetic. Cyberpunk shouldn't just be about the neon-lit adventures of a group of trenchcoat futurists as they amass wealth and power through violence. Hard Wired Island is about a group of marginalized people using technology to try to change the status quo.
  • Many perspectives. Good cyberpunk examines how technology and power intersect in many different communities. As an orbital space station, the city of Grand Cross can and should include perspectives from all over the world. The setting includes cyborgs and androids, but they're not stand-ins for minorities; they have their own identities and issues, which can change depending on how they intersect with other things.
Cyborg sample PC


HARD WIRED ISLAND's system uses six-sided dice.

  • The system includes rules and unique actions for Social situations, Stealth, Hacking, and Conflict.
  • Each character has one or more Occupations, which define how your character solves problems: the Fixer, the Hacker, the Influencer, the Operator, the Soldier, the Street Fighter, and the Thief. Each has its own unique abilities.
  • Instead of wealth, characters track their Burden, which represents how comfortably they can live on Grand Cross. Between missions, characters can suffer an Economic Shock that affects how well they can perform; higher Burdens risk more frequent Shocks.
  • Before missions, characters create a pool of points called Prep which can be spent later on items, flashbacks, and other bonuses. This flexible system allows characters to adapt and change their plans on the fly without wasting their earlier efforts.
  • Characters can install cybernetic Augments to improve themselves, at the cost of increasing their Burden. (Cosmetic and medical Augments are free, so if you just want to have cat ears or a cyber-arm without any bonuses, go for it!) You can even replace your body with a full-body prosthetic.
  • Further rules allow characters to grow and call on a Community of side characters during play, or make a little extra side-cash with a Gig Work App.
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Reviews (16)
Discussions (28)
Customer avatar
Greg H May 28, 2022 7:14 am UTC
Looks interesting and comprehensive but judging by the description, there's some forced political views in this game, too?
Customer avatar
Kai T May 28, 2022 4:45 pm UTC
Actually it's not so noticeable once you crack open the book. I definitely wouldn't let other people dissuade you here.
Customer avatar
Paul M May 31, 2022 2:21 pm UTC
Hi Greg! Nothing forced here, it's all genuine. If you're interested, you can always check out the Kickstarter preview linked in the description—the rules have evolved a little since the KS but it should give you a general idea of what we're going for.
Customer avatar
Ingo H April 19, 2022 12:23 pm UTC
As Cowboy Bebop is one big inspiration, I wonder if Hardwire Island has rules for space/spaceships/space combat?
Customer avatar
Paul M April 22, 2022 8:38 am UTC
Hard Wired Island takes place entirely inside an O'Neill cylinder, so there's no space rules. The parts of Cowboy Bebop that resonated with me were the urban parts, where people live in cool sci-fi space cities but they're still ordinary people with everyday problems; that's the sort of thing Hard Wired Island explores.
Customer avatar
Scott N October 02, 2021 6:27 pm UTC
C'Mon Man 400 pages and no damn POD option, that's freaking stupid no sale here!
Customer avatar
Amber C September 04, 2021 3:05 pm UTC
Does this require a GM? Would this be fairly easy to adapt to solo play with an oracle such as Mythic?
Customer avatar
Paul M April 22, 2022 8:47 am UTC
Hey Amber! Sorry about the delay—I was sure I replied to this already but I guess not.

Honestly, I haven't had enough experience in solo play to speak with certainty on this. It has a bunch of random tables, but personally if I wanted to adapt it to solo play I'd add a few more about events and the like. I'm working on further Hard Wired Island content, so I can look into what else would facilitate solo play and see what I can do (though this would take a while, obviously).
Customer avatar
Amber C April 24, 2022 8:40 pm UTC
I would be very into that!
Customer avatar
Neil S June 28, 2021 5:13 am UTC
Customer avatar
Lunar V July 10, 2021 6:40 pm UTC
The authors are currently working on a Print run for kickstarter backers, so once that's done there should be physical editions available.
Customer avatar
George K August 05, 2021 5:45 pm UTC
Wow so we aren't getting an option for ages then it sounds like. :(
Customer avatar
Paul M April 22, 2022 8:48 am UTC
Not sure whether I can link it directly here, but print copies are currently available through Studio 2 Publishing. If you're still interested, look them up (or see if any game stores/conventions in your area stock from Studio 2!)
Customer avatar
Conor F June 18, 2021 5:40 pm UTC
Quick question about the setting: Why are the "Cixin" and "Amal" wards named as they are? I am assuming that they are meant to be named after sci-fi authors Liu Cixin and Amal El-Mohtar (my apologies if either assumption is wrong), so why are the Wards using the given names of these people instead of their surnames, as with the "Turing" and "Adams" wards?
Customer avatar
Paul M June 24, 2021 3:35 am UTC
I wasn't thinking of Amal El-Mohtar, just the word Amal! Cixin was pitched by a consultant on the grounds that Liu is an extremely common name.
Customer avatar
Adam L June 09, 2021 6:00 pm UTC
Could you explain what changed in the update today? I don't see an update log anywhere, so I'm curious.
Customer avatar
Paul M June 10, 2021 3:15 am UTC
Not much compared to the last one! Simple opponents can now Boost their attack rolls if they roll a critical, if the GM wants to make them especially tough. The rest is just general fixes. -Hopefully- this'll be the last one.
Customer avatar
Colin C June 03, 2021 9:58 pm UTC
So much for all the naysayers and their, "It's too expensive/it won't sell, etc." rubbish. It has sold well over 1000 copies in PDF since it went up according to Ettin on Discord (which is a big number for such a small press indie item), is still in the Top 10 on DTRPG, and both of those facts are after it had also already successfully Kickstarted too. And no, those 1000+ copies are not including the Kickstarter backer PDFs, they're actually extra copies sold since. The success is well deserved and while it's not going to make anyone rich, creators definitely deserve to be fairly recompensed.
Customer avatar
Toni K May 16, 2021 10:27 pm UTC
Looks awesome, I would love to have the book as a hardcover
Customer avatar
Joshua C May 12, 2021 7:25 am UTC
Here's an interesting overview/review:
Customer avatar
Federico S May 12, 2021 3:03 am UTC
Hello guys! First of all i love the art!

Second of all.Is there any chance that the book will be translate to other language,say..spanish?
Customer avatar
Gary A May 10, 2021 10:34 pm UTC
Any update on where/when we can buy this in hardcopy?
Customer avatar
Julian P May 06, 2021 1:48 pm UTC
Thanks for adding the fillable character sheet, those are nice to have for any game, I think. That said, I noticed a problem: The fields for the "Cool" and "Clever" skills are somehow linked, so that if you fill in one, the other automatically has the same value filled in. This doesn't make sense, since you are supposed to assign different values to all 4 skills at character creation (if I'm not mistaken). Both fields are named "Ability Skill_Row_1" (this is what BOTH fields display when I hover the mouse over them). Maybe this has something to do with it?
Customer avatar
John W May 09, 2021 7:00 am UTC
Can confirm that this is not specific to Julian
Customer avatar
Colin C May 10, 2021 8:09 am UTC
That's an error on my part creating the fields. Updating now.
Customer avatar
Jeff M May 06, 2021 8:14 am UTC
Hey guys, at first I thought Grand Cross was inspired by Gundam, after reading the inspirations and sources : yup it s definitely from Policenauts (''Like in my anime'' Otacon at Black Moses)
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File Last Updated:
August 03, 2022
This title was added to our catalog on April 22, 2021.
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