Thursday, July 7, 2011

I am playing the SHIT out of Cyberpunk 2020

And I'm really quite excited about it.

I only feel the need to trumpet it in this fashion because, by all appearances, NOBODY is talking about this game online. Which is a crying goddamn shame, on a few levels. But mainly because CP2020 was the second game I ever purchased (and the second game I ever ran), and I never really got a chance to run it through its paces the way I would've liked back in the day.

Beyond that, there's a pretty bad-ass iteration of the CP2020 rules available in Interlock Unlimited, a fan-created project (albeit with the official nod from Mike Pondsmith, Cyberpunk 2020 creator) that is very much in the spirit of the OSR - taking the spirit of the original, smoothing out a few kinks and bolting on a few bits where the author's campaign needed them (mainly in the form of supplements, like one for the author's Night City PD campaign, another expanding the Mad Max-style American midwest). I like a lot of the tweaks, mainly streamlining Friday Night Firefight in a few places, and blurring the class-based/skill-based line a little more (providing a pretty clean option for multiple Roles). (The layout could use some love, but that's pretty much par for the course for old CP2020 fans. ;) )

System aside, I've been a big fan of the assumed setting in the CP2020 rulebook since I first ran across it. It's got the same pitfalls as any future setting - obsolete in places as soon as it hits the press - and a few of the setting assumptions were charmingly quaint even in the 90s, especially the information tech-oriented ones - but if you can't see your way clear to either fixing or ignoring these bits in a futuristic game, you're probably better off finding a game that spoonfeeds you monthly updates (I understand White Wolf does pretty well on this model). Personally, I started monkeying with the timeline when I was 15, and half this shit hadn't come to pass, yet; there's a bit more to be done, now, but that's half the fun.

The tech anachronisms are dead-easy to fix - cellphones are cheap, cybermodems run on cellular networks (towers only available in city centers, outside the city you've still gotta jack in, and running wireless is slower so you'll take a -2 penalty to your rolls) (or something). Audio and video content is distributed via the Net like everything else. That's pretty much it. (I'm still working out exactly how useful the "dataterm in your skull" chip will be in this paradigm.) Other than that, most of it lines up with our understandings of information and tech, even 20 years after the game hit the shelves, if you're willing to sort it out.

My game is gonna be centered around Boston Metroplex (as I imagine it), although I'll keep Night City as an occasional destination (gotta work in some jet-setting here and there) (and it's a great city supplement), but the great thing about the CP2020 setting (*cough*Gibson*cough*) is that it'll do pretty much anything. Mad Max-style road raiders, got it. Street-level dirt, got it. Glittery cyberhipsters making moves in corporate circles, it does that without even trying. Hard-boiled grunts, cybered to the gills and racking up bodycounts, no prob. And so on, it's all there if you're willing to spend some time on the specifics. Or, failing that, there's a supplement for pretty much every established subgenre.

So I'm just excited as shit about this, this is a great game that's been sitting on the shelf for a few decades, waiting for me to make sweet, sweet gamer love to it and lay it down by the fire. And so on. I'm the last dude around to care what's cool or what people are playing these days, but hopefully if we keep talking about it, a few more folks will give CP2020 a try (and/or break it out of cold storage), and we can all trade tips on acing uppity players. I mean storytelling. Or whatever.



  1. I actually heard an interview with Cubicle 7 where a cleaned up version of the game was mentioned - check Yog-Sothoth radio archives for a cubicle 7 talk for details

  2. This was the 2nd or 3rd RPG I bought (it's either this or GURPS) but it's strange. I'm very nostalgic about D&D, even for editions that pre-date my introduction to the game. Cyberpunk however has almost no appeal for me anymore. And I was a huge Gibson fan at the time. The whole aesthetic doesn't do anything at all for me now. Not sure why. Just seeing the cover brought back some memories though, so thanks!

  3. This happens to be one of my favorite games of all time - I semi-regulary run a very fun CP2020/Traveller kitbash that I call "CyberTraveller" - thanks for pointing out that website. I'd given up on anyone else doing much after the Blackhammer Project dried up.


  4. It's awesome to see someone still playing the game! I had a tiny hand in the Interlock Unlimited project at and we've also run up an experimental set of hacking rules called Run.Net which have worked really well in our games and could really do with an independent playtest ;)

  5. I'd strongly recommend Deep Space

  6. This sh*t is awesome. I love Cyberpunk and Cyberpunk 2020.

  7. The anachronistic technology doesn't bother me, as I view it in the same light as the rayguns-and-rocketships aesthetic; it's not an accurate portrayal of how the future will be, but it doesn't make it any less effective a setting for games or stories.

  8. How weird...just recently I got on a nostalgic yarn for this game, and one of my Sunday group just happens to have a copy. I borrowed it from her and read through it. I'd love to run it, but that group is currently playing Shadowrun, and I don't think they'd be keen to do all cyberpunk, all the time.

    Still...CP2020 is awesome.