Saturday, January 4, 2014

Data Scan: A Cyberpunk 2020 Reading List (RPGs)

There are a ton of Cyberpunk RPGs out there, but in coming up with an initial reading list of RPG-based source material, I've identified my own priority list that I'd thought I'd share with you:

Cyberpunk 2020

Since this is the primary inspiration for the campaign setting, it makes sense that a re-read of the main Cyberpunk 2020 book would top the list.

My initial skim of the table of contents already brings out several initial impressions:

  • this thing is a compact book of cyberpunk gaming goodness -- if a bit dated for the year 2014 in some ways -- due to the amount of material in it: character creation, realworld rules, netrunning rules, equipment lists, game fiction, an overview of the Night City mini-setting, and several game scenarios all in around 240 pages;
  • in some ways, it reads like an alternate history and culture with some things ringing untrue in the modern era: the dominance of Japanese culture and economy, the weapons lists and the wired vs wireless mentality of modern technology, the 80s / 90s feel of the crime-ridden streets of New York, the absence of social media and the computer gaming in culture, and so on;
  • in other ways, it's spot on -- the dominance of media and how it shapes perception of reality and values, the power of the megacorporations and the military industrial complex, paramilitary organizations that work for either or both of the former groups, remote controlled devices, and other ominous aspects of our very wired, very digital, very multi-cultural lives.
It should be fun giving this a re-read and figuring out how to run it with some relevance so close to the year it purports to represent. It should be fun to also pick up the other books I collected for the same setting.

Blue Planet

This may be a bit of a surprising choice, but the environmental / ecological shifts caused by global climate change would result in this increase of rain and wateriness in certain areas of the world -- and Blue Planet also handles the cybernetically-enhanced dolphins and orcas very well. I also like the way that they detail the balance between the needs of various corporations (mining for valuable resources), the need to monitor and control the frontier-ish feel of an archipelago. And if I will finally do a Philippine-based cyberpunk campaign, it will prove useful to have rules about a rain-soaked tropical setting with technology that tends to get damaged by moisture.

Actually, all the hard science in the book will be pretty useful for any near water or underwater campaign. Take your pick of the various editions out for this under-exposed game.

Kazei 5

Taking a step away from hard science, towards a more anime influence, the Kazei 5 sourcebook is another good source of cyberpunk material. You have a slightly different take on cybernetics & netrunning, rules on mecha and espers, and material on genetic enhancements that will really ratchet up the power levels of any cyberpunk campaign.

Plus, it's for the HERO system which -- while near and dear to my heart -- is also just a step away from Interlock system via their forgotten child -- the FUZION system.

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