Hydro Hacker Operatives (H2O) is a game of hydropunk Robin Hoods who steal water from the rich corporations to provide it to their neighborhood. H2O is a Powered by the Apocalypse game, but like many similar games (such as Headspace) it has drifted from the core PbtA system by adding on mechanics for hydro hacking and Neighborhoods.
So here’s the short of it…we fucked up. Not you and I, but the collective “we” known as humanity. They were worried about this back in the 20th Century, and generation after generation, no one did enough. That’s the thing. Everyone thought that ecological collapse would be some catastrophic disaster, like some stupid movie, but that day never came. We thought we were saving the environment by making small, insignificant wins and patting ourselves on the back, and all the while the corporations continually screwed us. Screwed us all.
Every oil spill, every company illegally dumping waste, every pharmaceutical we dumped into the toilet kept adding up. Eventually, we just hit critical mass and we broke the whole thing. The oceans are now a mix of chemicals and oceanic prions. Groundwater became polluted as we tried to squeeze the last of the fossil fuel out of the ground, and surface water just collected pollutants. Once we hit critical mass, the availability of potable water began to drop, and drop fast. When it did, people did what you would expect: armed conflicts, water terrorism, hoarding, riots, etc. Just like the experts, who the corporations spent millions of dollars telling us to ignore, had been telling us all along. It got so bad that the government couldn’t keep things under control, and they sure as hell couldn’t figure out a solution to the problem. They became marginalized, and as they did the corporations stepped right in.
But their short-term solution backfired, as the corporations were embedded too deep. There was no way to remove them from the systems they had taken over. The government could not provide for their people without the corporations’ assistance. Eventually, this system of dependence reached its natural conclusion: mergers. When it was done, corporations and governments were indistinguishable. The government operates in name only, and everything that happens in the background is run by the corporations.
The corporations renamed themselves Authorities, and most prominent of them is the Water Authority. They control the flow of water, and they have the security to make sure the masses do not rise up to take it.
So today we have water handed down to us by the Water Authority. Most of it is recycled, or what we call green water. It’s for the most part drinkable, killing us slower than dehydration would, but occasionally there are lapses in quality control, leading to outbreaks and sickness. Sometimes something gets really fucked up at the recycling plant and the water goes red…too toxic to use for anything living.
And then there is pristine water, the blue water, the kind that our ancestors could drink freely. The corporations keep that locked away in sealed reservoirs, like the Great Lakes Reservoirs. Some of it is water that they were able to save before the water cycle went bad, and the rest they mine on Mars and Europa and ship back to Earth.
Blue water is too expensive for any regular people to afford. It’s the beverage of the rich, the same ones whose hands are on the spigot. While we test our water, making sure it’s green before we can drink it, there are people who live high in their glass towers who have water you can drink without testing. And here is the truth: they are never going to share it with the poor masses. There isn’t enough, and they don’t give a shit about us. What they choose to share, they let pass through them and into the recycling plants so that it can wind up in our taps.
Meanwhile, the Authority rations out green water to every neighborhood, and everyone has a ration card used to turn on any faucet. If you are lucky, you and your neighbors make it to the end of the month with a few drops to spare, but there are times when the system breaks, water becomes contaminated, or the Authority just shorts everyone to make sure that the suits make profit quotas for the quarter.
When that happens, we step in. We are hydropunks. We raid the corporate reservoirs, hijack their tanks, and divert that precious blue water into the dark web of the old municipal water systems, cutting deals with organized criminals to store and launder the water through their reservoirs. We go hydro hacking. There is nothing safe about it. The Authority considers hydro hacking a capital offense and won’t hesitate to make an example out of us. But when your neighbors are counting on you, when a few drops of blue water determine whether your neighborhood remains a friendly community or devolves into desperate scavengers, you can’t worry about the cost.
– “Pex” Renegade Diviner
In Hydro Hacker Operatives, the characters are a group, living in a Neighborhood, working to help the Neighborhood survive. Characters fill the roles necessary for this with playbooks:
The Characters are all based in a single Neighborhood and help to make sure that it survives and hopefully thrives. When water runs short, they acquire more water. When outside forces threaten their homes, they work to protect where they live.
There are many ways to follow the progress of Hydro Hacker Operatives…