So Many Cyberpunk Games

Voros

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Is it just me or did we go from just a few cyberpunk games, CP2020, Gurps, Shadowrun if you consider its mashup sufficiently cyberpunk, to a huge number now?

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Cryptomancer, The Veil, Retropunk, The Sprawl, CP Red, the 5e cyberpunk game whose name escapes me, Crystalpunk for 5e, is there a BitD game too (yes there is, Hack the Planet)? and more.

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Which of the more recent games have people tried out and what are your experiences with them? The Sprawl seems tightly designed, The Veil is intriguing but I have trouble wrapping my noggin around its distinct ruleset, Retropunk may be the ticket for me with its stated influences like White Hack.

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I liked CP2020's very deadly combat but like most cyberpunk games hacking seemed half-assed. It is strange to me how important the net and hacking is in a lot of cyberpunk but it continues to get short shrift in most rpgs.

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Cryptomancer remains the best game I've encountered in that regard but it is set in a fantasy cyberpunk mashup setting, I wonder about importing its mechanics into a purely sf setting? Perhaps we need a purely Hacker focused rpg.

How is CP Red? Does it simplify chargen? I liked chargen in CP2020 but it took a long while and PCs could die so easily I felt it should have had quicker character creation.

Have they done anything to make hacking actually worthwhile?
 
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Nobby-W

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Is it just me or did we go from just a few cyberpunk games, CP2020, Gurps, Shadowrun if you consider its mashup sufficiently cyberpunk, to a huge number now?

Chronomancer, The Veil, Retropunk, The Sprawl, CP Red, the 5e cyberpunk game whose name escapes me, Crystalpunk for 5e, is there a BitD game too (yes there is, Hack the Planet)? and more.

Which of the more recent games have people tried out and what are your experiences with them? The Sprawl seems tightly designed, The Veil is intriguing but I have trouble wrapping my noggin around its distinct ruleset, Retropunk may be the ticket for me with its stated influences like White Hack.

I liked CP2020's very deadly combat but like most cyberpunk games hacking seemed half-assed. It is strange to me how important the net and hacking is in a lot of cyberpunk but it continues to get short shrift in most rpgs.

Chronomancer remains the best game I've encountered in that regard but it is set in a fantasy cyberpunk mashup setting, I wonder about importing its mechanics into a purely sf setting? Perhaps we need a purely Hacker focused rpg.

How is CP Red? Does it simplify chargen? I liked chargen in CP2020 but it took a long while and PCs could die so easily I felt it should have had quicker character creation.

Have they done anything to make hacking actually worthwhile?
I thought the hacking in the original CP2013 and 2020 wasn't bad - quite reminiscent of Gibson style cyberspace with a bit of D&D mashed into it.

The way I used to make it work was to have the runner poking around the targets security as the rest of the party were trying to break into it - imagine something like the Max Headroom pilot. Research in cyberspace I tended to keep short and to-the-point in order to not have the rest of the party sitting on their hands.
 

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Cyberpunk Red has also modernized hacking; rigs are basically translucent VR helmets that allow hackers to do their work in real time. And interact with technology right around them.
 

TJS

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Serious question. Is hacking really even necessary for a Cyberpunk game?

I know it was important to the literary genre (somewhat), but it feels fairly incidental to the rpg genre which is all about carrying out physical infiltrations.
 

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It think it's part of the zeitgeist. The increasing role of technology in everyday lives, the power of the big corporations, the increasing chasm between the very rich and the rest of us, these things are on a lot of people's minds.

Or it might just be one of those things. There was a long spell that the only superhero games in print were only Mutants & Masterminds and some legacy game, now we are spoilt for choice.

I know that when I set out to make my own cyberpunk Fudge hack, Cyberblues City, it was partly because of the above mentioned zeitgeits thing, and partly because I could not find a rule-light, non-angsty cyberpunk game at the time. Writing it was somewhat cathartic. Playing it, less so. Somehow, even when going for a more humourous, satyrical approach, real world angst creeps in from the sides. I think that's the secret of Shadowrun. It's just so totally bonkers, it retains that pure escapism quality.
 

PolarBlues

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Serious question. Is hacking really even necessary for a Cyberpunk game?

I know it was important to the literary genre (somewhat), but it feels fairly incidental to the rpg genre which is all about carrying out physical infiltrations.
Yes, but there is no reason why you have to do the whole Snowcrash/Futurama/Tron thing. You can just do it like any other skill.
 

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Cyberpunk Red has also modernized hacking; rigs are basically translucent VR helmets that allow hackers to do their work in real time. And interact with technology right around them.
Shadowrun 5 already had this concept, but the actual hacking rules was as painfully slow and complex as ever.

Are CP red rules more practical/simpler/faster?
 

Picaroon Jack

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Is it just me or did we go from just a few cyberpunk games, CP2020, Gurps, Shadowrun if you consider its mashup sufficiently cyberpunk, to a huge number now?

Cryptomancer, The Veil, Retropunk, The Sprawl, CP Red, the 5e cyberpunk game whose name escapes me, Crystalpunk for 5e, is there a BitD game too (yes there is, Hack the Planet)? and more.

Which of the more recent games have people tried out and what are your experiences with them? The Sprawl seems tightly designed, The Veil is intriguing but I have trouble wrapping my noggin around its distinct ruleset, Retropunk may be the ticket for me with its stated influences like White Hack.

I liked CP2020's very deadly combat but like most cyberpunk games hacking seemed half-assed. It is strange to me how important the net and hacking is in a lot of cyberpunk but it continues to get short shrift in most rpgs.

Cryptomancer remains the best game I've encountered in that regard but it is set in a fantasy cyberpunk mashup setting, I wonder about importing its mechanics into a purely sf setting? Perhaps we need a purely Hacker focused rpg.

How is CP Red? Does it simplify chargen? I liked chargen in CP2020 but it took a long while and PCs could die so easily I felt it should have had quicker character creation.

Have they done anything to make hacking actually worthwhile?
The Sprawl was my first PbtA game and I loved it. The fire fights were dangerous and it seems like the party were wounded all the time. At the end of the main plot line, they went against a full conversion borg and it was a tough fight. She was posing as the concerned mother of a journalist friend of the group and they did not she was a fake or a borg. My favorite quote was from the fixer who said, "Why is Barbara so MAD??" after she kept tracking them down Terminator style to kill them.

@Lessa has posted some pretty cool Shadowrun/Sprawl mash ups.
 

Voros

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Serious question. Is hacking really even necessary for a Cyberpunk game?

I know it was important to the literary genre (somewhat), but it feels fairly incidental to the rpg genre which is all about carrying out physical infiltrations.
That's a fun way to play, largely derived from Shadowrun rather than cyberpunk as a genre I think, but I find the idea of exploring the impact of high-tech on consciousness and society more engaging than another reskin of D&D-style play.

I think one of the flaws of a lot of games in the 80s was approaching every setting and genre through that D&D lens instead of doing something really different.

That's what made something like CoC so refreshing.

CP2020 on the other hand unlike Shadowrun certainly didn't play like D&D and has its virtues but the feel is closer to comic books rather than the classic cyberpunk novels, of which Gibson is just one among many imo.
 

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The Sprawl was my first PbtA game and I loved it. The fire fights were dangerous and it seems like the party were wounded all the time. At the end of the main plot line, they went against a full conversion borg and it was a tough fight. She was posing as the concerned mother of a journalist friend of the group and they did not she was a fake or a borg. My favorite quote was from the fixer who said, "Why is Barbara so MAD??" after she kept tracking them down Terminator style to kill them.

@Lessa has posted some pretty cool Shadowrun/Sprawl mash ups.
Glad it was of use! My group like the Sprawl too. We found it's hacking rules simple to use. But I understand it may be too simple for more purist fans.

EDIT: lol that Barbara story is crazy XD
 

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Net running or hacking is basically magic. Unlock doors, shut down defence systems, make shit explode, possess robots... etc
So, it works like a skill check or spell casting of sorts? If so, that would be great in my book.
 

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That's a fun way to play, largely derived from Shadowrun rather than cyberpunk as a genre I think, but I find the idea of exploring the impact of high-tech on consciousness and society more engaging than another reskin of D&D-style play.

I think one of the flaws of a lot of games in the 80s was approaching every setting and genre through that D&D lens instead of doing something really different.

That's what made something like CoC so refreshing.

CP2020 on the other hand unlike Shadowrun certainly didn't play like D&D and has its virtues but the feel is closer to comic books rather than the classic cyberpunk novels, of which Gibson is just one among many imo.
Well yes. But most of the cyberpunk games I've seen give pride of place to their big gun collections and combat enhancements and provide no support whatsoever to structing games in any other way.
 

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So, it works like a skill check or spell casting of sorts? If so, that would be great in my book.
Not... exactly. From my quick read, you still have to navigate a system’s floors, doors, traps and defense monsters. They're like a secondary dungeon that overlaps the real world. While your friends are having a gun fight agaisnt security guards, the hacker might be avoiding digital “traps” and fighting a digital “demon” creature. When you succeed, you can control reality to a degree (technology-wise). Control cameras, drones, vehicles, doors, elevators etc...
 

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The Veil should be my perfect cyberpunk game, but its writing and presentation is such a mess it just misses the mark. I hope that someone like Magpie or UFO Press do a cyberpunk RPG at some stage.
 

Voros

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Not... exactly. From my quick read, you still have to navigate a system’s floors, doors, traps and defense monsters. They're like a secondary dungeon that overlaps the real world. While your friends are having a gun fight agaisnt security guards, the hacker might be avoiding digital “traps” and fighting a digital “demon” creature. When you succeed, you can control reality to a degree (technology-wise). Control cameras, drones, vehicles, doors, elevators etc...
That's pretty much how it worked in CP2020 no? It's been a while since I read CP2020.

Sounds like Cryptomancer is still the champ in my books for treatment of hacking but as the name suggests that's because hacking is central to its theme and play.
 

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That's pretty much how it worked in CP2020 no? It's been a while since I read CP2020.

Sounds like Cryptomancer is still the champ in my books for treatment of hacking but as the name suggests that's because hacking is central to its theme and play.
I don’t really know how it works in 2020, but the writers explained the difference with the past: the hacker is physically standing with the party. Like Deus Ex PC games, you can hack stuff right there in an alleyway, a mall parking lot, in a hotel lobby while cowering from gunfire.

edit: hackers wear “Virtuality Goggles” that overlays their visual reality with Cyberspace.
 

Voros

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The Veil should be my perfect cyberpunk game, but its writing and presentation is such a mess it just misses the mark. I hope that someone like Magpie or UFO Press do a cyberpunk RPG at some stage.
So it wasn't just me, I couldn't tell if it was just the difficulty of a groking a new system, the writing or what.

I got The Veil 2020 and while it could still be presented better, bullet points are desperately needed, because it is the World of Dungeons version of The Veil (i.e. stripped down and simple) I feel I understood it better than from the main book.
 

Voros

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I don’t really know how it works in 2020, but the writers explained the difference with the past: the hacker is physically standing with the party. Like Deus Ex PC games, you can hack stuff right there in an alleyway, a mall parking lot, in a hotel lobby while cowering from gunfire.

edit: hackers wear “Virtuality Goggles” that overlays their visual reality with Cyberspace.
Yeah if I recall right one of the issues with hacking in CP2020 is that it was an entire mini-game that seperated the hacker from the rest of the group so I guess that is how they are trying to address it.
 

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So it wasn't just me, I couldn't tell if it was just the difficulty of a groking a new system, the writing or what.
I think its just Fraser Simmons's style. I found Worlds in Peril to good in theory but similarly lost in confused writing and presentation. Its why I skipped Hack the Planet too.

The Veil 2020 looks interesting, but I am not looking for a stripped down cyberpunk game.
 

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Yeah if I recall right one of the issues with hacking in CP2020 is that it was an entire mini-game that seperated the hacker from the rest of the group so I guess that is how they are trying to address it.
Yeah, it seems really interesting. Security systems are very elaborate with all kinds of traps: lasers, lethal nanotechnology, robotic gun turrets, flying drones... in the physical world. On top of that are cyberspace monsters only the hacker is aware of. In another RPG, it would be like extra goons in the dungeon who are only perceivable (and lethal) to hackers.

So hackers are like DnD rogues (detecting and disarming traps) as well as a cleric (turning cyberspace “demons”). Pretty nifty
 

Brock Savage

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Net running or hacking is basically magic. Unlock doors, shut down defence systems, make shit explode, possess robots... etc
Yeah man plus you can double down on the "netrunner as cyber-mage" trope with "ghosts in the net", dark dangerous unexplored regions of the net, and the quest to add rare, esoteric and powerful software to their "spell book". No supernatural elements needed.
 

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For the record, I settled on Cyberpunk because... it seems to be the oldest of the genre (that I was aware of). Like Call of Cthulhu, D&D or Traveller. All those other games mentioned in the OP are likely just as fine for handling the genre. My only other exposure was Interface Zero for Savage Worlds, which was great, but like I said, I wanted something different for this genre.
 

Brock Savage

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For the record, I settled on Cyberpunk because... it seems to be the oldest of the genre (that I was aware of). Like Call of Cthulhu, D&D or Traveller. All those other games mentioned in the OP are likely just as fine for handling the genre. My only other exposure was Interface Zero for Savage Worlds, which was great, but like I said, I wanted something different for this genre.
Same here. I like Savage Worlds but something was missing from Interface Zero. Like, not granular enough?
 

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SW wouldn't be my pick for cyberpunk. The thing that makes SW awesome is how well it does two-fisted action and pulp, but that isn't what I'm looking for in a cyberpunk game (although I can see it doing a fine game for someone with different CP tastes I suppose). Some other good titles in the genre are Corporation, Technoir, and a recent favorite read of mine, Sigmata. There's another game that I read that seemed very cool but the title is escaping me, but you share skills between PCs between neural interface, with some pretty neat rules around how that works.

CP explores themes of ominpresent technology, alienation, isolation, colonisation of the human body, and rampant corporate fuckery (just to pick some). So for one, I can see why it's having a moment in the sun, those things being very au courant, but I can also see lots of design space to focus in on one of those themes, or to subvert a theme, or whatever. I really like having a range of games to pick from.

Edit - I'm pretty sure the title that was escaping me was Headspace
 
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Necrozius

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The other thing Cyberpunk Red added into the genre is post-apocalyptic landscapes. Just like in Blade Runner 2049, the spaces outside of the cities are blasted zones, with Road Warrior-style vehicle gangs and plenty of ruins to explore.

So if you get bored with neon cities, go out into the wastes!
 

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SW wouldn't be my pick for cyberpunk. The thing that makes SW awesome is how well it does two-fisted action and pulp, but that isn't what I'm looking for in a cyberpunk game (although I can it doing a fine game for someone with different CP tastes I suppose). Some other good titles in the genre are Corporation, Technoir, and a recent favorite read of mine, Sigmata. There's another game that I read that seemed very cool but the title is escaping me, but you share skills between PCs between neural interface, with some pretty neat rules around how that works.

CP explores themes of ominpresent technology, alienation, isolation, colonisation of the human body, and rampant corporate fuckery (just to pick some). So for one, I can see why it's having a moment in the sun, those things being very au courant, but I can also see lots of design space to focus in on one of those themes, or to subvert a theme, or whatever. I really like having a range of games to pick from.

Edit - I'm pretty sure the title that was escaping me was Headspace
That's right, I remember Headspace, it seemed pretty good to me. Clearly written too for what could be a confusing concept. So many games, so little time...

 

Voros

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Of course there were some cyberpunk zines as part of this year's Zinequest on KS but I can't locate them now because I didn't back them.
 

Picaroon Jack

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I think its just Fraser Simmons's style. I found Worlds in Peril to good in theory but similarly lost in confused writing and presentation. Its why I skipped Hack the Planet too.

The Veil 2020 looks interesting, but I am not looking for a stripped down cyberpunk game.
I'm a big fan of Worlds in Peril, but I agree that it is a slog to sort through. Plus, some key aspects my players never use (like the mechanics for drives and origins).
 

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Neon City Overdrive, is a nice game. Hacking is a check, like other skill checks with the added elements that differ called tags.

The game uses a roll of action dice, vs a roll of danger dice. Danger dice cancel action dice if they match. All actions resolve this way, including hacking, so hacking is relatively the same as any other action in the game.

Tags are basically ways you describe things A character might be quick, covered in mud, etc. A room might be on fire, dark and shadowy, and so on. It's similar to Fate aspects but they're a bit cleaner overall. Helpful ones give you more action dice, bad ones give you more danger dice.

Overall it feels like PbtA and Fate had a baby that was in some ways its narrative game that still has more traditional elements. The details of things (including tags) are important, and mean something, and are there until you can say shower mud off, or put out a fire. (Covered in mud, might make you obvious in a Corporate building, but hide you if you're on the muddy ground.)

Characters have trademarks that help define them (only one can be used at a time unless stunt points are spent, which gives an action die) Stunt points lets you do a few things with tags add +1 or -1 to something, and so on. There are still things like initiative and "hits" are basically hit points.

For people who prefer hard traditional games, it is not going to be for them. For people who like narrative games, it may not be narrative enough--feels enough for me, but I literally stand straddling the line on most game designs so I like it, it looks like it would play fast, and its heritage is pretty obvious, but the mechanics differ a lot.
 
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Baulderstone

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Serious question. Is hacking really even necessary for a Cyberpunk game?

I know it was important to the literary genre (somewhat), but it feels fairly incidental to the rpg genre which is all about carrying out physical infiltrations.
The literary genre of SF in the '80s was a lot wider than the RPG idea of cyberpunk. Literary cyberpunk was a group of like-minded authors trying to do something new in SF, rather than the collection of mandatory tropes that RPG cyberpunk is. I can't recall hacking being all that important in Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories or Effinger's When Gravity Fails, to give two examples that were considered seminal works of cyberpunk at the time. That isn't meant as a dig at cyberpunk RPGs. Just an observation. RPGs need more structure than a literary movement, especially a literary movement that was attempting to do something new.
Yes, but there is no reason why you have to do the whole Snowcrash/Futurama/Tron thing. You can just do it like any other skill.
That's been my approach over the last twenty years.

Same here. I like Savage Worlds but something was missing from Interface Zero. Like, not granular enough?
Savage Worlds isn't built for games where you are going to tinker with tech and have fine gradations of difference. If you want hackers to be able to tweak their decks in all kinds of ways, and have street samurai making subtle upgrades to their implants, it isn't going to work for you.

It's like how Savage Worlds works fine for a Star Wars-style game for the most part, but if you actually want to have constant tinkering with the Millenium Falcon to be meaningful, you need a game with more complex vehicle rules.
 

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The literary genre of SF in the '80s was a lot wider than the RPG idea of cyberpunk. Literary cyberpunk was a group of like-minded authors trying to do something new in SF, rather than the collection of mandatory tropes that RPG cyberpunk is. I can't recall hacking being all that important in Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories or Effinger's When Gravity Fails, to give two examples that were considered seminal works of cyberpunk at the time. That isn't meant as a dig at cyberpunk RPGs. Just an observation. RPGs need more structure than a literary movement, especially a literary movement that was attempting to do something new...
I agree, the inflitration/mission structure was good for cyberpunk rpgs but with the rpg subgenre being around for so long now I think we could branch out and try some new things. After all there was a When Gravity Fails supplement for CP2020 right?

I can't think of a cyberpunk rpg that comes close to the dense, intense world created by Jack Womack for instance in books like Terraplane and Random Acts of Violence. Kadrey, Jeter and Calder also ran with that Womack intensity and satire right into the borderland between sf and horror (Jeter is a hell of a horror writer too) which is an interesting hybrid I don't think we've seen in rpgs yet, unless one counts some of the wilder Over the Edge scenarios.

Winninger's Underground is actually closer to it than any cyberpunk rpg I've yet encountered.

I don't mean that as a criticism of previous games, more a recognition that there are byways in the genre to still explore.
 
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TJS

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Really if you want something that deals with cyberpunk literary themes you probably want something that hews closer structurally to Noir and mystery rather than the violent infiltrations of Shadowrun and Cyberpunk.

Someone on the street dies as a result of a piece of inexplicable technology and the cops have been bought off so it falls to a random collection of street people to start digging and unwind a conspiracy that takes in powerful forces.

It's not that you can't do this in the existing cyberpunk systems, but the world they build and the shiny gun lists and cyberware and the like are a distraction.
 

Voros

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Really if you want something that deals with cyberpunk literary themes you probably want something that hews closer structurally to Noir and mystery rather than the violent infiltrations of Shadowrun and Cyberpunk.

Someone on the street dies as a result of a piece of inexplicable technology and the cops have been bought off so it falls to a random collection of street people to start digging and unwind a conspiracy that takes in powerful forces.

It's not that you can't do this in the existing cyberpunk systems, but the world they build and the shiny gun lists and cyberware and the like are a distraction.
For sure, I agree that noir and I'd add the paranoid American thrillers of the 70s as huge touchstones for When Gravity Fails and Sterling's Heavy Weather.

I wonder what the approach in the CP Gravity Fails supplement is like? I think I had it in pdf once but I'm unsure it is legit available.
 

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For sure, I agree that noir and I'd add the paranoid American thrillers of the 70s as huge touchstones for When Gravity Fails and Sterling's Heavy Weather.

I wonder what the approach in the CP Gravity Fails supplement is like? I think I had it in pdf once but I'm unsure it is legit available.
I owned it back in the day, but my memory is hazy. All I remember is that it had rules for Moddies and Daddies. For those that are unfamiliar with the book, and you are missing out, they are chips you plug into your brain. Daddies are add-ons that give you skills. Moddies are personality modifiers that let you act like someone else, and may or may not come with the requisite skills. An example is a legal James Bond Moddie is going to let you act suave like James Bond, while an illegal version will also function like a Daddy and make you an expert killer.
 

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The literary genre of SF in the '80s was a lot wider than the RPG idea of cyberpunk. Literary cyberpunk was a group of like-minded authors trying to do something new in SF, rather than the collection of mandatory tropes that RPG cyberpunk is. I can't recall hacking being all that important in Bruce Sterling's Shaper/Mechanist stories or Effinger's When Gravity Fails, to give two examples that were considered seminal works of cyberpunk at the time. That isn't meant as a dig at cyberpunk RPGs. Just an observation. RPGs need more structure than a literary movement, especially a literary movement that was attempting to do something new.
This is where my issues 'cyberpunk' RPGs stem from. They are aping - most of the time in a very surface level way and with what is becoming an increasingly grating and hackneyed aesthetic sensibility - the conventions of the other cyberpunk RPGs, with little understanding of what cyberpunk was (or might have been). I mean, the diversity of stories in Sterling's classic Mirrorshades anthology makes it clear that CP was never just about the net, near future urban landscapes, and guns. TBH, I think that the only RPG that does 'classic' cyberpunk well is Gregor Hutton's Remember Tomorrow.

TL: DR?: Old man shakes fist at cloud
 
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