What kind of cyberpunk game would you like to play?

edited December 2013 in Story Games
If it doesn't exist, tell us what it should be like. If there already is a cyberpunk game you like, tell us why it works for you. I've probably talked about this stuff before, but screw it, I still want to yak about my favorite flavor of sci-fi.

It seems there are roughly two types of cyberpunk games on the market: one type is about tactical cyber-dungeons (the trad games), the other type about noirish character relationships (Remember Tomorrow, Technoir). The tactical type appeals to me in its first-person immersionism and slow tempo: you are actually there in the graffiti-covered tube station, holding that smartlinked MGX laser-spammer in your chromed hand. But then we'll get to the boring stuff: where are you actually standing, by the trashcan or next to the rails? Is your smartlink +1 or +2? What is your rate of fire?

The noirish type, especially Remember Tomorrow, appeals to me in its lightness and freedom, but is more about who's screwing who than sights and sounds, time and place.
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  • I'm intrigiued. Given that Cyberpunk as a literary genre is nearly thirty years old and that some of the movie versions of it (Johnnie Mnemonic comes to mind) are hillariously wrong, what is the modern appeal of this?

    When I first played Cyberpunk, twenty years or so ago, the players seemed to be getting into the angst of a dystopian world. The trouble was that all they horrible future stuff didn't hold a candle to what was going on in real life back then. I worked in mental health back then and heard a saw real meanness. I like the idea of tech but can't make myself believe the dystopian part. So I know the genre isn't for me. Heck! My party chucked me out of the helicopter for being too inhuman and I didn't have any tech gear at all - I was just corporate, real corporate.

    Shadowrun remains a very popular game so I know something is going on here. As an outsider who doesn't get it, what is the aesthetic appear. Is it similar to the Apocalypse World setting appeal?

    Chris Engle

  • My ideal cyberpunk game would be about existential uncertainty in a world riven of the comforting lies of modernity. So basically the same as the literary genre.

    From my viewpoint the urban warfare stuff and the unique snowflake superpowers that cyberpunk games are filled with are ultimately irrelevant noise caused by the cultural context of traditional roleplaying; when all you can do is adventure games, your cyberpunk game is an adventure game as well. It's the same treatment rpgs give to all literary genres, they're reduced to little more than sets of interchangeable props.

    Although there is no specific game that focuses on this thing I want, in practice this isn't much of a hurdle for me; we played a cyberpunk campaign with the Solar System last year, for example, and it worked just fine in exploring this type of fiction. I am not currently sufficiently obsessed to push for a genre-specific game, a suitable generic system does the job just fine.

    Also, this last summer we played a lengthy playtest campaign of Tuomas Kortelainen's new game "Subsection M3", which is basically Bladerunner without the trademark; I found it very satisfying as a cyberpunk game because of how the game is structured to take GM-provided future shock insanity and turn it into an organic experience of a futuristic megalopolis. We had a magnificent time as I ripped off one Philip K. Dick novel after another for content. It's the closest that a rpg has ever gotten to feeling like Transmetropolitan comics, which is already a pretty remarkable thing. Even there, though, the magic is in the players (the GM particularly) more than in the game: I'm just a cyberpunk person, so give me an opportunity to barf forth about postmodern feudal wage-slavery, and off we go. Not that Subsection isn't an excellent game - I fully expect it to be the greatest Finnish rpg ever, should Tuomas get off his ass and publish already.
  • edited December 2013
    I'm intrigiued. Given that Cyberpunk as a literary genre is nearly thirty years old and that some of the movie versions of it (Johnnie Mnemonic comes to mind) are hillariously wrong, what is the modern appeal of this?

    When I first played Cyberpunk, twenty years or so ago, the players seemed to be getting into the angst of a dystopian world. The trouble was that all they horrible future stuff didn't hold a candle to what was going on in real life back then. I worked in mental health back then and heard a saw real meanness. I like the idea of tech but can't make myself believe the dystopian part. So I know the genre isn't for me. Heck! My party chucked me out of the helicopter for being too inhuman and I didn't have any tech gear at all - I was just corporate, real corporate.

    Shadowrun remains a very popular game so I know something is going on here. As an outsider who doesn't get it, what is the aesthetic appear. Is it similar to the Apocalypse World setting appeal?

    Chris Engle


    Cyberpunk is a clever mix of elements: hardboiled crime fiction, sci-fi, counterculture, espionage, later action. It's the ultimate urban survivor fantasy, where you have to nagivate in different circles of society to earn your living. On the whole, I don't think the aesthetic appeal of genres in general is necessarily tied to any obvious elements, people enjoy the rich and varied tradition in them. In that sense, cyberpunk's age only adds to its appeal: now there's nostalgy for 80s and 90s cyberpunk.

    Keep in mind that Cyberpunk 2020 is its own beast, even if it has been influential. I don't feel it is representative of the genre in a way Blade Runner and Neuromancer are: it's pretty much a cybered-up D&D with some broader cultural elements that don't quite seem to gel in practice.
  • From this ole thread:

    "I wanted a game about the ambulance teams, fuck everything else. Shit, I still want that game. Maybe with lego-made hover-bulances and city-scapes, med evac-ing asshole rock-stars who are O.D.ing in the middle of a domestic and/or corporate CEO's who are being targeted for a high end assassination when they punch their insurance card."
  • edited December 2013
    It seems there are roughly two types of cyberpunk games on the market: one type is about tactical cyber-dungeons (the trad games), the other type about noirish character relationships (Remember Tomorrow, Technoir).
    Why choose? :)
    I found my ideal cyberpunk mix of vivid fiction (smells, colours, places, graffiti, etc) and tactical challange (we have to plan an extraction!) and character/setting exploration (feelings, relationships, cynicism) in this game here.
    The original setting is a sort of post-apocalypse with very cyberpunk and dream/nightmare/un-reality vibes ... but it actually can be played in any setting just by saying it at the table.
    Here is an actual play were me and my girlfriend played a rigger and a cybered warrior trying to steal files from a high security lab in a futuristic version of Granada.
    (this AP is old, the game was much improved in the intervening time)

    Other stuff I play when I don't crave "cyberpunk" per se, but other specific stuff... more character exploration I can find in a cyber-themed Apocalypse World... more personal drama I can find in the very BladeRunner-y Beyond the Mirror (by Tazio Bettin), more plot development I can find in a cyber-themed Prime Time Adventures, etc... if I really have to I can even go as far as a cyber-themed Fate Core game (cool game, but I'm not a big fan :P )
  • The tactical type appeals to me in its first-person immersionism and slow tempo: you are actually there in the graffiti-covered tube station, holding that smartlinked MGX laser-spammer in your chromed hand. But then we'll get to the boring stuff: where are you actually standing, by the trashcan or next to the rails? Is your smartlink +1 or +2? What is your rate of fire?

    The noirish type, especially Remember Tomorrow, appeals to me in its lightness and freedom, but is more about who's screwing who than sights and sounds, time and place.
    I feel exactly same way!

    I also think that CP2020 and SR in the 80s were already a bit outdated as 'cyberpunk' games. Now in 2013 the genre only works for me as something extremely posthuman (but I dont really want to play that) or as a retrofuturistic game with the vibe of 80s ('in the dark future of 199x'). I'm cool with the adventure game but only without the 90s obsession of crap, and with more storygamey cleverness. But how to do that?
  • In defense of Shadowrun... it started as a Cyberpunk2020 with Elves... but in its 5 editions it evolved in a very different, independent and much updated beast.
    Ignoring the rules, 100% Traditional, the setting always kept the pace with real-world new tech: already from 3rd Edition the world of SR was completely wireless, completely immersed in Augmented Reality, and launched the concept of Personal Area Network.
    2nd Edition already had a very scientific and unique view on magic, and concepts such as magical pollution.
    It also was always a very "human" setting, talking about racism and politics... in my opinion in a much more relevant way that CP2020 ever did.

    Yep, I'm a fan, guilty as charged XD
  • Settingwise, I think there are three tracks, rather than two. Retro-future (which I like… dusting off your old copy of Cyberpunk 2020 or GURPS Cyberworld or something, or create something similar to it but from our modern perspective), posthuman (like Eclipse Phase), or, perhaps my favorite, “Cyberpunk 2014”. Present day, viewed through a cyberpunk lens. We live in a future with tablets, smartphones, rfid, urbanization, the current global economy, drone strikes, Obama, Snowden, China, South Korea, Debian, cross-site-scripting, Anonymous, memes, neo-fascism, bagel foreheads… the list goes on. Just take everything that exists now but didn’t exist in 1980 and shine a light on it.

    Pattern Recognition is what now, over ten years old? Still looove that book.

    Cyberpunk as a whole is one of my favorite genres and I would gladly play in any of these three setting tracks.

    Gamewise, I’m interested in the “cyber-dungeon” but I want a hefty dose of both the styles you outline in the OP.
    Cyberpunk games I’ve looked at lately have included: GURPS CthulhuPunk, several editions of Cyberpunk (including 3.0—great game, crappy fonts and art), Remember Tomorrow, Polychrome and (the one I actually prepped the most for) making a homebrew cyber punk setting using Fate Core and CrimeWorld from Worlds in Shadow for the rules (boxes and scores make excellent, simple “cyber-dungeons” and marks make great cyber intrigue play) and pulling heavily from donjon.bin.sh’s random generators for cyberish details (along with what the table would provide).

    I’m so stoked for CrimeWorld, I want to bring it to the table… need to find a group!


  • edited December 2013
    Hmmm... I think I'd like to play an RPG based on the computer game Deus Ex. Oh, and bagel heads? Freaky.
  • I wouldn't consider myself an expert on the genre, but I thoroughly enjoyed Always/Never/Now as a cyberpunk offering.

    It's a Lady Blackbird hack with fantastic pregenerated characters so there's quite a spirit of adventure to the whole thing and you're encouraged to do the heist-style, "here's a preparation I made earlier" thing wherever it's appropriate. That being said, the enemies are definitely not without teeth and there's enough detail given on them and their plans that you can really get into the gritty tactical stuff if that's what you like, without getting to the point where you need grids and minis to keep track of it all.

    The plot as written is a one-and-done, but without any singificant additions to what was in the GM PDF, one group I ran it for got 50 hours of play out of it and will be continuing in a sequel. I've also rather inelegantly condensed it down to a 3 hour oneshot, which might have gone better if I hadn't expected it to be a 4 hour timeslot. One thing to flag though, the game does require a fair bit of GM prep which is proportionate to a longer game but probably out of whack if you're just looking for a 4 hour convention game.
  • I love literary cyberpunk. It showed new ways to organize society along retribalist lines. It confronted the effects of technology head-on (being in the machine for 80s, being in the data for 00s).

    Unfortunately, cyberpunk in games has almost always been about the action. Can you blame them? Action sells games. Action can sell stories, too, but not every story needs action. So why not a game (not for market) that focuses on the rest of life? To do this, I'll have to update Metropole Luxury Coffin (available at 1km1kt) to account for different types of tribes (not just fashion tribes). That will have to wait until I get finished schoolwork in a few months.
  • To do this, I'll have to update Metropole Luxury Coffin (available at 1km1kt) to account for different types of tribes (not just fashion tribes). That will have to wait until I get finished schoolwork in a few months.
    That would be awesome.
  • I just leafed through Technoir and the AW hack The Sprawl and realized how nice they actually are. The settings are close enough to classic adventure cyberpunk and the rules seem to be ok, there are just far too many of them.

    Also, I read a bit of this old Cyberpunk 2020 GM bible Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads. The writers have beautiful visions about different cyberpunk campaigns, and they criticize very sharply the amoral killers armed to teeth -style of playing that apparently dominated 2020 campaigns of the time. However, they don't seem to draw the conclusion that the system itself in its focus on combat, tech and increasing challenge level naturally pushed the game to that direction. Young male players were probably also a big factor, but still. It's easy to see in hindsight that these writers were very ambitious with their gaming and hungry for story stuff that just wasn't supported by the game very well.

    Direct quotes: "Romance is important in Cinema Verite (sic) only as it relates to a story. Romance here is not as much a necessity as a luxury. We're not talking about idealistic romance either, this is reality."

    "A single light bulb hanging on bare wire, over a desk that has grooves for the tired detective's shoes. The single chair screams like a lost child, and he waits."

    "These campaigns resolve their conflicts in other ways, with betrayal, humiliation, battles of will and complex schemes taking the place of headshots and hand grenades."
    My ideal cyberpunk game would be about existential uncertainty in a world riven of the comforting lies of modernity. So basically the same as the literary genre.

    From my viewpoint the urban warfare stuff and the unique snowflake superpowers that cyberpunk games are filled with are ultimately irrelevant noise caused by the cultural context of traditional roleplaying; when all you can do is adventure games, your cyberpunk game is an adventure game as well. It's the same treatment rpgs give to all literary genres, they're reduced to little more than sets of interchangeable props.
    I guess I'm shallow, but I'm actually fine with the adventure game concept. I mean, the dirty urban tech-adventure thing is what got me interested in the genre originally, Neuromancer was practically a thriller with out-there elements. I'm fine with deeper readings, but I still want my adventure stuff.

    I don't need the detailed urban warfare or other bookkeeping-intensive trad trappings, though.

  • It's not about shallow or deep at all - and I'm merely countering on this point because this seems to be a sad yet wide-spread impression, that thematic drama games are somehow "deeper" than adventure games. Utterly untrue, at least in the sense I'd understand these adjectives.

    I do admit that I tend towards "deep" games (it's a natural consequence of being heavy into this hobby), but the reason for why I'd right now opt for a thematic Cyberpunk game over a tactical adventure game isn't that the former is necessarily deeper; rather, it's because I cannot currently imagine how an interesting and deep adventure game in the futuristic urban milieu would go. I can imagine this for other settings; for example, I've been rocking the D&D "start poor and work your way into high nobility" setting lately, and it suits well for adventure play.

    I guess the key issue for me is ultimately that I don't find the sociology of urban warfare in the cyberpunk setting entirely convincing when combined with D&D-like snowflake adventurer troupes. It's just too tidy and pat in e.g. Shadowrun that it just so happens that all things that are worthwhile to do in the city have apparently for some reason been subcontracted to utterly unreliable, inconsistently trained crews of PC-like fuckwits; it's a setting where for some unexplained reason the central tenets of modernity no longer hold, and the day is not won by discipline, bureaucracy, consistently replaceable professionals, and indifferent corporate morality. (I understand that Shadowrun is supposed to be a genre-mixing exercise, so this isn't so much a criticism of its approach as an example of how insipid this stuff is when you take away the romantic fantasy context - other cyberpunk games don't have this excuse.) This lack of credibility makes it difficult for me to take the adventure cyberpunk entirely seriously, it starts looking like it's just a superhero fantasy with quirky color. This is what I meant when I said that adventure cyberpunk tends to treat the entire genre as little except a bunch of props; the actual activity could be exactly the same in any other setting, nothing would change. Basically, this sort of game wants to be D&D, and at least in the case of Cyberpunk 2020 this is pretty clearly due to lack of imagination; they're doing D&D in there because they don't dare or can't imagine how to set up the game otherwise.

    I suppose that I could see a worthwhile cyberpunk (or urban dystopian scifi, to be less specific) adventure game if one were to build it from the ground up, without reference to the traditional structure of adventuring parties, niche specialization, GM-provided missions, and all that other jazz. For example, something like Mobsters would retain the essential creative agenda while breaking out of the adventuring party sociology sufficiently to help me retain my suspension of disbelief. It'd be easy to step out of the "adventure game" box altogether by attempting something like this, of course.

    All this reminds me of a cyberpunk game well worthy of name-dropping in this conversation: MSG is one of the best cyberpunk roleplaying games that I've ever seen, on par with e.g. Remember Tomorrow. Unfortunately difficult to get your hands on it, though. It's technically an adventure game in the sense that there is a party and missions, but it dodges the happy-go-lucky street warrior troupe meme by having all the PCs be suits in the service of a megacorp, which does a lot to ground the adventuring socially.
  • I guess the key issue for me is ultimately that I don't find the sociology of urban warfare in the cyberpunk setting entirely convincing when combined with D&D-like snowflake adventurer troupes. It's just too tidy and pat in e.g. Shadowrun that it just so happens that all things that are worthwhile to do in the city have apparently for some reason been subcontracted to utterly unreliable, inconsistently trained crews of PC-like fuckwits; it's a setting where for some unexplained reason the central tenets of modernity no longer hold, and the day is not won by discipline, bureaucracy, consistently replaceable professionals, and indifferent corporate morality.
    I never viewed cyberpunk this totalitarian, rather I always saw it more romantic rebel stuff, even if it has a near-nihilistic melancholy vibe. The heroes of Neuromancer certainly weren't corporate drones, I don't think there's a single normal person in the book. Cyberpunk doesn't seem to have middle class at all, only hyper-rich and urban destitute. No boring suburbs either, only concrete jungles with thriving market scenes. How much more romantic can you get? Tight adventuring parties of friends go a bit against all that tasty teen-angsty alienation, but I think one can make it work.
    It's not about shallow or deep at all - and I'm merely countering on this point because this seems to be a sad yet wide-spread impression, that thematic drama games are somehow "deeper" than adventure games. Utterly untrue, at least in the sense I'd understand these adjectives.
    I meant shallow in a sense that I'm much more intrigued by the style and aesthetics of cyberpunk than what it says about eg. modernism or society.



  • The majority of Neuromancer deals with the social logistics of adventure getting to occur in the first place, doesn't it? It's been a while since I read it last, but what I remember of it is that it's a thriller story about a couple of people getting into an adventure due to their very specific personal history and entanglements with a very unique event in the history of their world. This is pretty common in the genre of thriller novel, which has pretty high requirements of verisimilitude compared to roleplaying games: you often have to spend the majority of your book actually laying groundwork and showing the causality of why this particular person (often a single one - too complex to justify a whole crew) would even get to have an adventure in this otherwise mundane setting.

    The thing is, the above is not really adventure gaming material to my mind; once you remove all the set-up and just take it as a given that missions are going to happen, you've moved on to something a bit different. I think that a "drama game" would better reflect the sort of thing Neuromancer has going; you develop some interesting people, and then figure out how their particular nature is best reflected by a sequence of events that might very well be adventuresome in nature.

    Admittedly there are adventuresome social institutions that can be used for "adventure in a can" stories without relying on pure rpg convention to "sell" it. Private dicks of American folklore are a classic, as are police officers everywhere. It's their job to adventure, in a sense. Still, it's a bit of a stretch to generalize from this to the weird rpg adventure convention where a random assortment of variously gifted yet socially rebellious individuals get entrusted with anything important.

    Interestingly Cyberpunk 2020 makes a point with its character classes of justifying adventuring for each of them a bit: a journalist, for example, is potentially justified and interesting as a player character because it's again their job to get nosy about things. Sadly the game doesn't really deliver any answers about how you'd be supposed to tie a variety of similar societal expectations together into something that makes sense; in a word, how would you go about playing the game if you took it actually seriously that character A is holding a job as a police officer, while character B is a journalist and C is a rock star. The alternatives are basically to pre-develop a hyper-specialized campaign ("in this campaign you'll all be ambulance drivers"), or ignore the occupations and interests of the characters ("that character class is just your former job, before you became an adventurer"). (The notion of playing without an adventuring party simply isn't there yet for this game, even if it is an obvious possibility in hindsight.)
    I never viewed cyberpunk this totalitarian, rather I always saw it more romantic rebel stuff, even if it has a near-nihilistic melancholy vibe. The heroes of Neuromancer certainly weren't corporate drones, I don't think there's a single normal person in the book. Cyberpunk doesn't seem to have middle class at all, only hyper-rich and urban destitute. No boring suburbs either, only concrete jungles with thriving market scenes. How much more romantic can you get? Tight adventuring parties of friends go a bit against all that tasty teen-angsty alienation, but I think one can make it work.
    Makes sense, certainly! For me the impressive part of cyberpunk has always been the punk (although there was a time when the cyber thing was also revelatory, a long time ago as it was), meaning the social consciousness. Admittedly it makes just as much sense to read the entire thing from the viewpoint of "survivalist carneval", which seems like it's behind the most common rpg treatment of the genre. I remember vividly how Cyberpunk 2020, for example, contorts itself carefully setting-wise to provide justifications for this conveniently lawless survival playground in Night City. It's a justification for gunplay and adventure to run wild, far beyond the confines of civilized behavior. I think it's totally fair to say that this, too, is cyberpunk.
  • I'm getting ready to start a cyberpunk2020 Campaign for 2014. I think cyberpunk should have something to do with what it means to be human and how technology is changing that. I also like to include a little hard boiled detective noir. Relationships should be important, because that is part of what makes us human. I prefer my cyberpunk to be just a few years into the future or transhumance like eclipse phase. My campaign tend to include a health dose of action as that is what my player enjoy.

    Here was my initial setting idea that I gave my players:
    The game will have slightly advanced tech level, something along the lines of "Total Recall", "Minority Report" or "When Gravity Falls". American has become controlled by Corporations, and has huge difference between rich and poor maybe as in "Gattaca" or "In Time". Europe has become an Islamic Caliph a setting like in "When Gravity Falls". There will be no full cyborg conversions. The world will have some simple cybernetics limb or eye replacements. "Total recall" like memory modification, Skill and Personality Mod chips will be available. Memory play back and recording devices like in "Strange Days" or "BrainStorm" will be a common form of entertainment. There will be drugs that can effects your performance, memory, or personality like in "Limitless" or "A Scanner Darkly". Some of the themes will have to do with memory and identity.

    We will be pushing a few years into the future, and take the cool things scientist and engineers are working on make them real production. Continue the political and economic slide making things dirtier and more divide among rich and poor. These elements and more are in my thoughts: high-speed tube transport, phones and computers in your body, Online digital presence (how all legitimate money is now handled), holograms disguises, full body scanner, memory modification, performance drugs, gene doping, improved medical tech, 3D printing manufacturing, fletch guns, Small nano blades (no swords), functioning cyber limbs (but not better than well trained athlete), Cybernetic eye and ear enhancement, Heads up displays, self driving cars, elevated highways, memory recording and playback, slums like those in Munbui and Brazil.

  • edited January 2014
    The majority of Neuromancer deals with the social logistics of adventure getting to occur in the first place, doesn't it? It's been a while since I read it last, but what I remember of it is that it's a thriller story about a couple of people getting into an adventure due to their very specific personal history and entanglements with a very unique event in the history of their world. This is pretty common in the genre of thriller novel, which has pretty high requirements of verisimilitude compared to roleplaying games: you often have to spend the majority of your book actually laying groundwork and showing the causality of why this particular person (often a single one - too complex to justify a whole crew) would even get to have an adventure in this otherwise mundane setting.

    The thing is, the above is not really adventure gaming material to my mind; once you remove all the set-up and just take it as a given that missions are going to happen, you've moved on to something a bit different. I think that a "drama game" would better reflect the sort of thing Neuromancer has going; you develop some interesting people, and then figure out how their particular nature is best reflected by a sequence of events that might very well be adventuresome in nature.

    Admittedly there are adventuresome social institutions that can be used for "adventure in a can" stories without relying on pure rpg convention to "sell" it. Private dicks of American folklore are a classic, as are police officers everywhere. It's their job to adventure, in a sense. Still, it's a bit of a stretch to generalize from this to the weird rpg adventure convention where a random assortment of variously gifted yet socially rebellious individuals get entrusted with anything important.

    Interestingly Cyberpunk 2020 makes a point with its character classes of justifying adventuring for each of them a bit: a journalist, for example, is potentially justified and interesting as a player character because it's again their job to get nosy about things. Sadly the game doesn't really deliver any answers about how you'd be supposed to tie a variety of similar societal expectations together into something that makes sense; in a word, how would you go about playing the game if you took it actually seriously that character A is holding a job as a police officer, while character B is a journalist and C is a rock star. The alternatives are basically to pre-develop a hyper-specialized campaign ("in this campaign you'll all be ambulance drivers"), or ignore the occupations and interests of the characters ("that character class is just your former job, before you became an adventurer"). (The notion of playing without an adventuring party simply isn't there yet for this game, even if it is an obvious possibility in hindsight.)
    Can't really argue with any of that. I've never actually realized how much Neuromancer, or thrillers generally, are about the set-up. And yes, justifying adventuring parties (instead of, say, alienated individuals trapped in a Gibsonian web of intrigues) in quasi-realistic cyberpunk settings is kind of a hardball.

    Funnily enough, I'm reading a novel about the French Revolution, where "a random assortment of variously gifted yet socially rebellious individuals get entrusted with anything important" is exactly what happens!
  • If I could capture the feeling of Deus Ex in a TTRPG, that would be awesome.
  • A playable version of Eclipse Phase would do wonders. There are more efficient ways to introduce and keep balanced a lot of setting material than creating rules for every single one of them. On top of that, you actually don't need hundreds of options and cool powers to make a good game, just keep it simple and allow for players to mix a lot of simple options to attain as much complexity as they want.
  • I played CP2020 as a mission game. I think the reason was that we were D&D players and there was an expectation that you must Keep the Party Together. That meant that you were pretty limited with what you could do with a Media or Corp or the like. Oddly, the "Solo" was the LEAST "lone wolf" of the roles.
  • I threw out a summary of a cyberpunk game idea I had. Basically, it was about cyberpunks doing things while trying to deal with their baggage. The core idea of the game mechanics is that you don't make rolls to be awesome. You are awesome by default and make rolls to overcome your baggage, all the while accumulating more baggage.
  • I threw out a summary of a cyberpunk game idea I had. Basically, it was about cyberpunks doing things while trying to deal with their baggage. The core idea of the game mechanics is that you don't make rolls to be awesome. You are awesome by default and make rolls to overcome your baggage, all the while accumulating more baggage.
    wow. mind-blowing. that game "barebones" would need a dedicated thread, if you want my opinion.

  • I think there is precedent in some early cyberpunk lit for an action orientation. Take John Shirley's "City Come A'Walkin" and the "Eclipse" trilogy (not the teen vampire one). If you include other media, then the list grows even longer: Bubblegum Crisis, Nemesis, Hardware, Ghost In The Shell.

    That being said, I would love to be able to play a story like Tom Maddox's Halo. He apparently wrote an X-File episode with Gibson, btw.
  • Bruno, please start one if you're interested! I'll gladly take part.
  • I'd been thinking about cyberpunk games because it seems like a genre a lot of my friends were interested in. I may go with Always/Never/Now just because it's prefab, and I've always liked Lady Blackbird. However since I'll be dealing with people who are coming from a Monsterhearts/Apocalypse World direction, I'm worried that they'll find cyberpunk's gender assumptions off-putting, as most women in cyberpunk stories seem to end up damsels, femme fatales, or genderswapped males.

    This lead to an evening skipping around tvtropes looking for exceptions. I looked into Ghost In The Shell, which lead down a rabbit hole called "postcyberpunk." As spelled out in a 1999 essay, Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto, the genre takes the worldbuilding techniques of Cyberpunk, but it makes different assumptions about the sort of society that comes out of that kind of future. Cyberpunk protagonists are alienated outlaw loners, but postcyberpunk protagonists are well integrated into the society (rather like the characters in Ghost In The Shell). The protagonists might still fight corruption, but they do so from within the system, like cyborg samurai ombudsmen. This might address some of the disconnect Eero is feeling with how adventurer PCs might integrate into a cyberpunk setting. Perhaps a postcyberpunk setting makes more sense.

    An interesting aside: my friends' interest in cyberpunk over the last year seems to have grown in reaction to all the NSA-related news stories that have been coming out. The tvtropes entry on postcyberpunk makes specific mention of the dismissal of Big Brother fears as more people got online in the 90's and early 2000's as a motivating factor in the transition from cyberpunk to postcyberpunk. It may be that renewed interest in cyberpunk is not simply nostalgia, but that the old stories feel contemporary again.

    Finally, this line, from the essay I linked to above, captures so much for me about why cyberpunk games are so hard to get right, "The best of cyberpunk conveyed huge cognitive loads about the future by depicting (in best 'show, don't tell' fashion) the interaction of its characters with the quotidian minutia of their environment." RPGs so rarely manage environmental quotidian minutia well.
  • edited January 2014
    I threw out a summary of a cyberpunk game idea I had. Basically, it was about cyberpunks doing things while trying to deal with their baggage. The core idea of the game mechanics is that you don't make rolls to be awesome. You are awesome by default and make rolls to overcome your baggage, all the while accumulating more baggage.
    I've tried to design such mechanics in the past, but I don't know if cyberpunk characters should be primarily defined by their addictions or personal problems. Some kind of self-destructiveness seems to be flavorable, in any case. Your examples practically scream Neuromancer's Case to me.
    I'd been thinking about cyberpunk games because it seems like a genre a lot of my friends were interested in. I may go with Always/Never/Now just because it's prefab, and I've always liked Lady Blackbird. However since I'll be dealing with people who are coming from a Monsterhearts/Apocalypse World direction, I'm worried that they'll find cyberpunk's gender assumptions off-putting, as most women in cyberpunk stories seem to end up damsels, femme fatales, or genderswapped males.
    Sprawl Trilogy's female characters worked for me really well. But I've seen lot of cheesecake in action-oriented cyberpunk. Sometimes the characters just look cheesecakey, but are fairly credible protagonists otherwise, like in Masamune Shirow's early work.
    This lead to an evening skipping around tvtropes looking for exceptions. I looked into Ghost In The Shell, which lead down a rabbit hole called "postcyberpunk." As spelled out in a 1999 essay, Notes Toward a Postcyberpunk Manifesto, the genre takes the worldbuilding techniques of Cyberpunk, but it makes different assumptions about the sort of society that comes out of that kind of future. Cyberpunk protagonists are alienated outlaw loners, but postcyberpunk protagonists are well integrated into the society (rather like the characters in Ghost In The Shell). The protagonists might still fight corruption, but they do so from within the system, like cyborg samurai ombudsmen. This might address some of the disconnect Eero is feeling with how adventurer PCs might integrate into a cyberpunk setting. Perhaps a postcyberpunk setting makes more sense.
    Yeah, it seems postcyberpunk is less romantic and makes more sense. I'm not sure if I've ever encountered anything postcyberpunk, though. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which was mentioned in Wikipedia, was very dystopian, actually.
    Finally, this line, from the essay I linked to above, captures so much for me about why cyberpunk games are so hard to get right, "The best of cyberpunk conveyed huge cognitive loads about the future by depicting (in best 'show, don't tell' fashion) the interaction of its characters with the quotidian minutia of their environment." RPGs so rarely manage environmental quotidian minutia well.
    I don't know if RPGs do it badly, but there isn't usually a lot of rules about the minutiae. I'd like to play in a more detail-oriented way in general, see this thread for reference: http://www.story-games.com/forums/discussion/15864/visual-details-style-and-superficial-roleplaying/p1
    I think there is precedent in some early cyberpunk lit for an action orientation. Take John Shirley's "City Come A'Walkin" and the "Eclipse" trilogy (not the teen vampire one). If you include other media, then the list grows even longer: Bubblegum Crisis, Nemesis, Hardware, Ghost In The Shell.
    Is City Come A-Walkin' really action-oriented? The original* book, sadly, hasn't been in print for decades AFAIK. I'd really like to check it out.

    Action has pretty much always played a part in cyberpunk fiction, but the element became more pronounced in the late 80's, I guess.

    *I think Shirley made changes to the new printing, which makes it pretty much useless for exploring the genre's early history.
  • "Issues" can be any conflict for the character, not just a personal problem like an addiction.
  • edited January 2014
    "Issues" can be any conflict for the character, not just a personal problem like an addiction.
    No offense, but I think in this case the cyberpunk veneer is actually pretty thin, the mechanic feels quite universal. It's a rules-light game, of course, and universal mechanics aren't necessarily a bad thing.
  • edited January 2014
    @Upstart:

    Is City-Come-A-Walkin' really action-oriented? The original* book, sadly, hasn't in print for decades AFAIK. I'd really like to check it out.

    Action has pretty much always played a part in cyberpunk fiction, but the element became more pronounced in the late 80's, I guess.

    *I think Shirley made changes to the new printing, which makes it pretty much useless for exploring the genre's early history.
    I can't remember what version I got (I got it from Amazon), but the book is pretty much about the main character fighting the mob. I think this snippet from a goodreads review sums it up:
    "It's got a hard, tough edge, depicting gritty street life with plenty of action and violence. And that's the main disconnect for me. I've never liked action-oriented stories. I've read many a compelling narrative ruined by the seemingly obligatory big action scene in the final act. Yawn. I find reading descriptions of fights the absolute opposite of exciting. To me, it's boring. And that's the problem here. Too much action.

    (To be clear, it's not that I'm squeamish, nor is the violence here extreme or gory.)

    That's not to say it's brainless. To the contrary, there are some interesting ideas here. That's the "cyber" part, which looks at the interconnectedness of our modern systems and imagines how they might progress and what might go wrong. Considering it was published in 1980, before most folks knew anything about the internet, it's prescient stuff. "


    I wouldn't say it was boring, but it definitely had a lot of fights and detailed violence. The same thing with Eclipse, which is about the New Resistance fighting the new neo-nazi religious/corporate entity known as the Second Alliance. The version I have for this one is definitely the newer one.
  • edited January 2014
    Yeah, it seems postcyberpunk is less romantic and makes more sense. I'm not sure if I've ever encountered anything postcyberpunk, though. Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, which was mentioned in Wikipedia, was very dystopian, actually.
    For another post-cyberpunk work, which I think was excellent, check out Islands In The Net. The main character is actually a corporate suit whose company is kinda hippy. She actually believes her company can make a difference in the world.

    As far as Ghost In The Shell, the SAC version feels more squeaky clean to me than the movie versions. The movie versions seem to have more pathos to them, and the characters feel more isolated to me, despite being part of the system.
  • No offense, but I think in this case the cyberpunk veneer is actually pretty thin, the mechanic feels quite universal. It's a rules-light game, of course, and universal mechanics aren't necessarily a bad thing.
    Sure, but then we're getting into the definition of cyberpunk, right? I think we all agree that a cyberpunk game has to have cyberpunk "color." Other than that, this thread is for discussion what that cyberpunk color IS and what else is needed for the "right" kind of cyberpunk game. In my case, I want it to be about character issues, and not about the "mission" or whatever.
  • I can't remember what version I got (I got it from Amazon), but the book is pretty much about the main character fighting the mob.
    It's hard to say how prescient and violent it originally was, considering we only have the revised edition available now. No idea if the revisions are minor or not. However, it seems safe to say violence has been a part of cyberpunk's DNA all along.

    (I hate everything revised on principle, unless the original version is widely available. Coppola's Apocalypse Now and The Outsiders, Walter Hill's The Warriors, Stephen King's The Stand, Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, digital recoloring in comics...I could rant about this for hours. The main problem is that the original thing is always what all the praise and impact was about, and with revisions all the cultural history is missed. And the meddling authors are invariably past their prime, unlike when they got famous. It's a bit like Shakespeare came back alive demented and stated that we're only allowed to read his Twitter version of Hamlet now. "Trust me, it's better now." )
  • edited January 2014
    Sure, but then we're getting into the definition of cyberpunk, right? I think we all agree that a cyberpunk game has to have cyberpunk "color." Other than that, this thread is for discussion what that cyberpunk color IS and what else is needed for the "right" kind of cyberpunk game. In my case, I want it to be about character issues, and not about the "mission" or whatever.
    Fair enough, your system definitely looked a bit like some of my ideas about skilled characters living on the edge with their problems.
  • It's hard to say how prescient and violent it originally was, considering we only have the revised edition available now. No idea if the revisions are minor or not. However, it seems safe to say violence has been a part of cyberpunk's DNA all along.
    I think that's true as far as it being part of the setting, but in many gibson short stories, for example, it kind of stays in the background while the the action is about character issues. I think these are kind of hard to do.
  • When I talk about "cyberpunk" for gaming, I generally draw on a bunch of media for that, e.g.:

    Classic Books:
    * everything in Burning Chrome
    * Gibson's "Sprawl" stuff (Neuromancer, etc.)
    * Stephenson's Snow Crash
    * some of Sterling's stuff

    Newer Books:
    * Morgan's "Takeshi Kovacs" series (Altered Carbon, etc.)
    * Besher's "Rim Trilogy"
    * Egan's Permutation City

    Film:
    * Philip K. Dick adaptations (Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, Terminator, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report, Total Recall, etc.)
    * The Matrix and sequels
    * Equilibrium
    * Aeon Flux


    I personally love the following themes/tropes:

    * mind as software
    * evil corporations replacing government
    * ubiquitous interconnected meganetworks
    * blurring of religion with technology, marketing
    * bricolage / postmodernism / "the street has its own uses for things"

    The question is, how much of that is color and how much should a game design systematize? I can play a game of Misspent Youth and touch on all of those themes I listed, if I'm diligent about it. There's just no mechanical support for any of it. If I play CP2020 instead, I get some mechanical support for networks, and a tease of mind-as-software. The rest is left to color. If I play Shadowrun, with its piles of splatbooks, those offer mechanical support (or at least setting grist) for tons of stuff.

    If I want a real "mind as software" game, though, so I can play Altered Carbon with my friends, I'm gonna have to write it. It'll have to address how a person adapts his mind to a new body, backups, time dilation in virtual realities, skills to detect when you're in virtual and not the real world, and so on.
  • edited January 2014
    I want a cyberpunk game that is about urban survival/rebellion -- carving out alternate communities/social groups in the scaffolding of dominant corporate mega-culture. Hacking the vending machine at the corner or phreaking the payphone at the laundromat to run stolen data so you can afford to keep paying off the security guard at the condemned warehouse where you and the rest of your childhood friends squat.

    And I want to see what the people who don't sell out to megacorporations and do carefully-planned 'runs' do for a living. Sitting in a virtual tavern waiting for a corporate avatar to offer your 'crew' a 'job' feels like such a waste of the genre, honestly.

    There's this thing in noir where the aloof protagonist gets mixed up in other people's troubles -- where they might get invested, against their better sense, but ultimately they stand apart (and above) and pass moral judgement and then it's over and they return to their passive existence. That has never seemed like a very good match with cyberpunk to me, or at least not cyberpunk roleplaying; I'd much rather see those troubles from the inside, from the point of view of the people who are having them, and who are making them for other people and themselves because there's nowhere for them to fit.
  • Hey, Daniel! I'd play that! You might have even put into words the thing I was feeling.

    When I conceive Verge all those years ago, I started with that cover image, with the mother doing things outside her comfort zone to recover her kidnapped daughter from forces bigger than her. That's what I want out of cyberpunk. Everyday people trying to make sense of a world that's spun out of control in every way: politically, technologically, religiously.

    You're right that a lot of the games look at the idea of Singularity and head right for the "fast swimmers" of the Darwin pool. It's extremely compelling to look at the "bottom feeders" and other survivors who have figured out just enough to lay low and feed themselves.
  • OK,
    Of all the CP games I have actually played, CP2020 was my best experience.
    For me, CP is about the dystopic existence of average citizens. CP2020 brings a sort of hierarchy of evil, with Mega-Corps at the top. Sure, there is government, gangs, military, mad scientist, organized crime, anarchists. But none of them hold a candle to the mega-corps.
    So, it creates a sort of pointless existence for average citizens. There is no way to get out from under the oppression, so why bother? Then there are the punks, they are rebelling against the norm. And that's a good thing.
    To me, cyberpunk is defined by "doing the wrong thing for the right reasons." For instance, some kind of ocean's 11 heist on a mega-corp. Its breaking many laws and its a cyberpunk setting, so someone will get hurt. But, it is for a noble cause (hopefully).

    Remember Tomorrow is the best game to come out lately, but I am still not satisfied. I am working on a nano-tech-inspired CP game, but it is still in its infancy.
    Dave M
  • See, I don't see CP2020 characters as average citizens. A lot of them are elite in some way or other. The Solo is a grizzled war veteran with honed, split-second instincts. The Media is a popular news personality. The Netrunner and Tech live on the outer frontier of technology. The Fixer is a master manipulator and touchpoint on the city Streets. These aren't people living in the 'burbs with a family or people with normal day jobs. Even if you play a Cop -- perhaps one of the most down-to-earth roles in the game -- you're probably a loner who is bucking or abusing police authority, and you're probably not showing up for many morning precinct briefings. That is, you're probably not even doing your job anymore.

    Maybe that's just how we interpreted it.
  • The PCs are the punks I mentioned. The average citizens represent the societal norms they are rebelling against, and the mega-corps establish and maintain those norms in a heavy-handed dystopic way.
    At least, that's how I see it and how I judge other cybepunk games...
    Dave M
  • I always thought Verge was cool, you don't think it is finished? Are you going to finish it?
  • For myself, I think I would like a game to, on the one hand, touch upon the noirish tropes, the isolation, cynicism, and bluesy feeling while not forgetting about the futuristic, dystopic , and punkish color. Maybe a re-skinning of A Dirty World would hit the spot.

    At the same time, I also feel like it would be extra fun to imagine myself in a gang like the ones in Akira (or in the Mirrorshades short story called '400 Boys), and participating in the mayhem, politics, etc. To the best of my knowledge, I don't think there's been any work that focuses on that besides the aforementioned '400 Boys'. The gangs are always part of the background, and even in Akira, though Tetsuo is a gang member, the story is not about the gangs.
  • Dave,

    Verge was an experiment that never quite worked. The game on the verge.legendary.org site is basically 90% finished but broken. When I can stomach it, I might pick it up and tear it apart and make a couple different games out of the good pieces.
  • I don't think there's been any work that focuses on that besides the aforementioned '400 Boys'. The gangs are always part of the background, and even in Akira, though Tetsuo is a gang member, the story is not about the gangs.
    Seems to me that Misspent Youth is pretty well-suited to this sort of story. Or at least, it aims squarely at it; I can't vouch for its mechanics/structure in terms of actually hitting the mark.

  • I can talk about Misspent Youth, as I edited it and I've played it a lot.

    Misspent Youth focuses on teenagers hanging onto that part of their youth that makes them cool. The character mechanics let players win losing conflicts by "selling out" traits to their sucky, sell-out, adult versions. You sell out "cool" and become "trendy," for example.

    The group creates the setting and characters collaboratively, then players pick actual characters to play and stat them up. It would be a simple matter to create a street gang. You could set up all the "noirish tropes, the isolation, cynicism, and bluesy feeling while not forgetting about the futuristic, dystopic , and punkish color" that your heart desires. The system has prompts to help create these things and it works very well in practice.

    The GM structure is set mechanically and it provides a sort of narrative arc and common story structure with rising tension and denouement and such. The GM never rolls dice. You can play through a fairly epic story in 4-6 hours, if you're shooting for a one-shot, or stretch it out for a more episodic thing.
  • I liked Verge, but the music terminology threw me off. I'll have to read the latest version, maybe I can help get it done (I like it when friends finish things)?
    Dave M
  • There was signal terminology, but not music terminology. If you want to take a stab at tuning the currency problems, go for it!
  • I want a cyberpunk game that is about urban survival/rebellion -- carving out alternate communities/social groups in the scaffolding of dominant corporate mega-culture. Hacking the vending machine at the corner or phreaking the payphone at the laundromat to run stolen data so you can afford to keep paying off the security guard at the condemned warehouse where you and the rest of your childhood friends squat.
    You should have a look at Fates Worse Than Death. I can't say anything much about its system, but the world-building it did for the sort of micro-cultures adopted by those who have opted out - willingly or otherwise - from orthodox society is absolutely fantastic. There are 51 gangs in the city, each articulated as a sort of "urban tribe" for what of a better description, each using or not using technology as they feel fits their way of staying alive and getting on. Excellent stuff; brief RPGnet review over here: http://www.rpg.net/reviews/archive/10/10085.phtml
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