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All,

Two of my players last week expressed interest in doing a cyberpunk game.  We probably will not start for several months but I wonder what cyberpunk setting I should buy?  One player suggested picking up CyberPunk 2020 and the other suggested picking up Corporation, what do you guys recommend? I plan to use Revolution D100 for rules.

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It depends on your preferred flavour of the game. If you lean towards science fantasy, with magic as a part of the setting, you could take a look at Shadowrun. I do not like its system, but you intend to use Revolution D100 anyway, and Shadowrun has the advantage that it offers a very well developed setting. However, if you dislike the idea of magic and mythical creatures in a cyberpunk setting, Shadowrun would be a rather bad choice.

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Not sure I have an opinion at this point.  I played Shadowrun extensively back in the early nineties... Do you think Shadowrun has the best setting material overall?

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20 minutes ago, rsanford said:

Do you think Shadowrun has the best setting material overall?

I am fairly certain that Shadowrun has by far the most setting material of all the cyberpunk games I know, but whether one considers it the best material is of course a matter of taste.

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I ran a long term CP2020 campaign, mixed with elements of Shadowrun, a sort of Shadowpunk, if you will. I dropped the magic but kept some of the corporations and the background from the Seattle Sourcebook.

For BRP, I'd go with CP2020, as all you really need is the core rulebook: there's enough background and scenario nuggets in there to get you started. All you need to do is advance the timeline twenty years or so (as 2020 is only 4 years away!).

TBH, I've been thinking of converting CP2020 for a while now. I have other irons in the fire at the moment but thoughts are bubbling away already! I'll happily collaborate if you're interested.

Colin

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8 hours ago, ColinBrett said:

I ran a long term CP2020 campaign, mixed with elements of Shadowrun, a sort of Shadowpunk, if you will. I dropped the magic but kept some of the corporations and the background from the Seattle Sourcebook.

For BRP, I'd go with CP2020, as all you really need is the core rulebook: there's enough background and scenario nuggets in there to get you started. All you need to do is advance the timeline twenty years or so (as 2020 is only 4 years away!).

TBH, I've been thinking of converting CP2020 for a while now. I have other irons in the fire at the moment but thoughts are bubbling away already! I'll happily collaborate if you're interested.

Colin

Thanks Collin I will remember that. Btw - I love your Stormbringer adventures

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On 7/23/2016 at 6:31 PM, ColinBrett said:

For BRP, I'd go with CP2020, as all you really need is the core rulebook: there's enough background and scenario nuggets in there to get you started. All you need to do is advance the timeline twenty years or so (as 2020 is only 4 years away!).

Cyberpunk 2020 is probably the purest of the cyberpunk bunch. I played it a bit (Shadowrun too) You might also like to take a look at Cyberspace by I.C.E. which was a Rolemaster variant.

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IIRC, Gibson was very upset with the Shadowrun take.  He did not like adding in fantasy races and magic.  I think that is really the thing for most people.  Do you want to have Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Native American tribes, Dragons, and spell casters?  If not, then CP2020 is that game you want. 

In general, I prefer CP2020 setting to Shadowrun.  CP2020, however, is a bit dated in terms of the setting given how old it is.  CP v3 was poorly received.  The world is likely a more plausible from 2016 as a starting point than CP2020 is, but it isn't one people find appealing.  It gets into nanotech and bioengineering.  Shadowrun has managed to keep the core setting essentially the same, but has updated it to try to keep it futuristic so that is a plus.

With CP2020, you get a pure version of 1980's Cyberpunk.  While outdated, I do find the setting more enjoyable. 

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6 hours ago, steamcraft said:

IIRC, Gibson was very upset with the Shadowrun take.  He did not like adding in fantasy races and magic.  I think that is really the thing for most people.  Do you want to have Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Native American tribes, Dragons, and spell casters?  If not, then CP2020 is that game you want. 

With CP2020, you get a pure version of 1980's Cyberpunk.  While outdated, I do find the setting more enjoyable. 

I did not know about this but I find it very amusing. Certainly Gibson is credited with the invention of cyberpunk, but he never claimed to own it. I'm surprised he is concerned about RPGs at all. Seems he hates elves the most.

From http://www.williamgibsonbooks.com/archive/2003_05_01_archive.asp by William Gibson May 2003

Quote

SHADOWRUN: GAG ME WITH A SPOON

No relationship. No permission. Nothing. Nary a word exchanged, ever. 

Except that the admixture of cyberspace and, spare me, *elves*, has always been more than I could bear to think about.

I've just been ignoring it for years, and hope to continue to.

and this one (1998), from I site I couldn't access:

Quote

Gibson: To the extent that there was a Cyberpunk movement-and there wasn't, really, but to the extent that there was, the five or six people who I knew in 1981 who were doing this stuff and had a radical aesthetic agenda, at least in terms of that pop-art form of science fiction, [and] one of the things that we were really conscious of was appropriation. Appropriation as a post-modern aesthetic and entrepreneurial strategy. So we were doing it too. We were happily and gloriously lifting all sorts of flavours and colours from all over popular culture and putting it together to our own ends. So when I see things like ShadowRun, the only negative thing I feel about it is that initial extreme revulsion at seeing my literary DNA mixed with elves. Somewhere somebody's sitting and saying 'I've got it! We're gonna do William Gibson and Tolkien!' Over my dead body! But I don't have to bear any aesthetic responsibility for it. I've never earned a nickel, but I wouldn't sue them. It's a fair cop. I'm sure there are people who could sue me, if they were so inclined, for messing with their stuff. So it's just kind of amusing.

 

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It is the second quote that I have seen most often.  Mike Pondsmith had talked with cybperunk authors, in particular Gibson about doing a Cyberpunk RPG.  It wasn't a licensing thing or anything, just about how he was going to do it and using the author's works as primary source material for building the world and the game.  Then at some point Gibson found out about Shadowrun.    He felt it was essentially Cyberpunk 2020 mixed with fantasy, which to him meant taking his world and adding elves to it. I think it is a combination of the lack of originality and then bastardizing his work.  Of course one can ponder if the original Shadowrun really was just copying his version of cyberpunk and adding elves and magic to it. 

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Cyberpunk evolved into another sub-genre of Sci-Fi, (just like Space Opera, Hard SciFi, Dieselpunk, or Planetary Romance). I guess Gibson just knew that he couldn't own an entire sub genre. No more than Tolkien Estates could own High Fantasy, or Poe could own American Gothic.

Shadowrun is really a great setting, but yes of course the concept is essentially a fantasy-cyberpunk pastiche. However the current range of products by Catalyst is quite impressive, and it wins hands down for having the most resources.

Edited by Mankcam
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The thing is I love the setting of Cyberspace, CP 2020 and Shadowrun...each has their own "angle" on the cyberpunk genre.  Cyberspace is, IMO a much better game, with a robust set of rules, and a fully developed world that needs no additional material.  I liken it to a Delorean, an ambitious game with great staying power, that just sort of died before its' time.  CP2020 is a classic, but it really shows it's age...like an old musclecar...strong, but not really in it's prime anymore, like the 1968 Charger.  Shadowrun is like the new 2016 Corvette...constantly updated, with more and more stuff added on to it, but still, it's convoluted rules sets and still somewhat cryptic combat pacing makes it out of the reach of many gamers...but the aesthetic still can't really be matched.

-STS

 

edit: sorry for being so pretentious....

edit 2: no, I'm not...

Edited by sladethesniper

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Yes Cyberspace was ICE so essientially a more steamlined version of Rolemaster, a few less tables etc more like HARP Fantasy in mechanics.

I did quite like it, the mechanics seemed more suited to the genre than Rolemaster being suited to fantasy.

From a playability perspective it may be one of the best options. Although it is a little dated in places, but it is very William Gibson 

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Personaly I would use River of Heaven, and design my own Cybersprawl setting, perhaps using some pdf resources from Cyberspace if I needed further information.

Or just use Cyberspace as is.

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I actually really like how ICE combined % skills and a level/class system into a pretty efficient hybrid system.  It makes a nice "bridge" for a lot of different games systems that use D100 mechanics and class/level mechanics.

-STS

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ICE were good in regards to their skill allocation process, and the version of 'classes' allowed for a lot of variety. 

I found all the table referencing during gameplay to be very cumbersome, and this is why I never GM'd many ICE games. However I have played as a PC in quite a few ICE campaigns over the years.

Cyberspace was better than Rolemaster, as there were less tables to reference, but still quite clunky by todays standards.

Despite such, I consider ICE's systrm a much better system than any of the versions of D&D ( including D&D 5E).

I think the main strength for me is that the content is usually great in the ICE books, including the Cyberspace books.

I prefer the BRP Family as a skill system, but would also happily play ICE Cyberspace. Its a pity that ICE / Guild Companion have not revamped it.

 

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Personally, I think many of the tropes of Cyberpunk evolved from A Clockwork Orange. One can also cite things like Cronenberg's Videodrome. Bladerunner is also sometimes referred to as the definitive cyberpunk movie, but of course it's based on Phillip K Dick's novel from the 60s. The Matrix was apparently referenced in a 1970s episode of Doctor Who. Judge Dredd had been around in 2000AD comics since 1977.

I'm not arguing that Gibson's work was not influential, but he's more of a nexus point of different influences coming together - which then inspired a genre fad to follow.

 

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The Blade Runner movie was from the 1982.  Gibson was actually worried about that when it came out because he thought people would think he was copying that world's look.  However, the look is because of the director.  The film is very different than the short story it is based on.  The concepts in the Matrix may have existed before, but not in cyberpunk form.  I don't consider Judge Dredd to be cyberpunk. 

This isn't to say that people are not influenced by other people.  Often people are pulling together concepts from different areas and then merging them together.  It then becomes something greater than the sum of its parts.  Further, people look for a definitive example of something to serve as the model.  Gibson's work did that, and then others followed.  It is possible that one of those other writers would have put out a book even without Gibson. 

In fact, the lack of having something definitive to point to can create problems.  IBM forecast that steampunk would be a 20+ year trend.  While I can see elements of steampunk design in many different media, there is really nothing that screams steampunk.  Steampunk, to an extent, it on its way out.  It was at its peak and now has retreated.  It likely will not be coming back.  The reason it did not take off as much as IBM had forcasted is because other than a general aesthetic, there is nothing definitive to crystallize and serve as a defining media.  There is no TV show or move that has come out in the past few years to point to.  While there is steampunk 'music' the only steampunk thing about it is their look - and not even all of them.  Book publishers have used the term steampunk to refer to a wide variety of different books, making it difficult to define by example. 

So steampunk has a slap a gear on it and call it streampunk definition.  That wasn't enough. 

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10 hours ago, steamcraft said:

The Blade Runner movie was from the 1982.  Gibson was actually worried about that when it came out because he thought people would think he was copying that world's look.  However, the look is because of the director.  The film is very different than the short story it is based on.  The concepts in the Matrix may have existed before, but not in cyberpunk form.  I don't consider Judge Dredd to be cyberpunk. 

Why do you not consider Judge Dredd to be cyberpunk? Pretty much all the tropes - high tech, low life - are the same, it's just the comic strip is a bit more, well, comic-strip like. You'll note that Ridley Scott worked in close consultation with Phillip K. Dick on the Bladerunner film before he died shortly after. In interviews, Dick said that this was precisely the image he had in mind. The film is different in plot to the book, but the dystopian imagery isn't. The concepts of the Matrix were largely dictated by the technology of the time. Cronenberg's Videodrome made satire about the 'video nasty' phenomena of the time, but he was still exploring the nature of neural pathways in his own way. 

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I think cyberpunk tends to be conflated with any near-future dystopian science fiction, which is misleading. To my mind the cyberspace aspect is a defining element, which is not present in Blade Runner (although it was, to some extent, central to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Judge Dredd, Akira, or the like. It's also the aspect most difficult to capture in a tabletop RPG, where at best you tended to get a situation where adventures wer split into real-world and cyberspace elements, with each of the characters taking part in one but not the other.

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18 hours ago, TrippyHippy said:

Personally, I think many of the tropes of Cyberpunk evolved from A Clockwork Orange. One can also cite things like Cronenberg's Videodrome. Bladerunner is also sometimes referred to as the definitive cyberpunk movie, but of course it's based on Phillip K Dick's novel from the 60s. The Matrix was apparently referenced in a 1970s episode of Doctor Who. Judge Dredd had been around in 2000AD comics since 1977.

I'm not arguing that Gibson's work was not influential, but he's more of a nexus point of different influences coming together - which then inspired a genre fad to follow.

 

 

12 hours ago, steamcraft said:

The Blade Runner movie was from the 1982.  Gibson was actually worried about that when it came out because he thought people would think he was copying that world's look.  However, the look is because of the director. 

Interestingly, when William Gibson and Ridley Scott met, they talked about how they were both largely drawing visual inspiration from Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal) Magazine, particularly Moebius' work. 

It should be mentioned that the short stories "Johnny Mnemonic" and "Burning Chrome" by GIbson were written before him seeing Blade Runner. "Johnny Mnemonic" came out a year earlier, and "Burning Chrome" was published earlier in the month that "Blade Runner" was released. Both stories are set in the same world as Neuromancer and even feature some of the same characters. They are truly cyberpunk. Cyber-enhanced assassins, cyberspace runs, its all there. 

I had the good fortune to get some time talking to Gibson and Sterling when they were on a signing tour for The Difference Engine. There was a huge snowstorm, and I was one of the only people that showed up at the bookstore for a signing. Gibson was very forthcoming about his influences. One big influence I haven't seen mentioned here is Alfred Bester. Bester's novels aren't cyberpunk, but you can easily see how GIbson was influenced by them. 

The one that he really emphasized was Thomas Pynchon. At eighteen, I hadn't even heard of him at the time. Fortunately, we were talking in a bookstore, so I was able grab a copies of <i>Gravity's Rainbow</i> and <i>The Crying of Lot 49</i>. I struggled with them at first, but once I got into them, they both became favorites of mine. 

Interestingly, Gibson was completely uninterested in Philip K. Dick. I can believe it. Though they touch on similar themes at times, they are very different writers. 

As for Blade Runner, aside from its look, I don't really consider it to be cyberpunk. The book was closer to being cyberpunk, yet it wasn't either. While Blade Runner is a great movie, once you get past the look of it, it's a very traditional science-fiction story. There isn't much to the story that wasn't already addressed in the the 1920 play RUR, which gave us the term "robot". The book is a lot more complex. 

12 hours ago, steamcraft said:

 

The film is very different than the short story it is based on.  The concepts in the Matrix may have existed before, but not in cyberpunk form.

Well, there is is that whole part in Neuronmancer where Case is trapped in a false virtual world by an AI. :)

12 hours ago, steamcraft said:

 

This isn't to say that people are not influenced by other people.  Often people are pulling together concepts from different areas and then merging them together.  It then becomes something greater than the sum of its parts.  Further, people look for a definitive example of something to serve as the model.  Gibson's work did that, and then others followed.  It is possible that one of those other writers would have put out a book even without Gibson. 

In fact, the lack of having something definitive to point to can create problems.  IBM forecast that steampunk would be a 20+ year trend.  While I can see elements of steampunk design in many different media, there is really nothing that screams steampunk.  Steampunk, to an extent, it on its way out.  It was at its peak and now has retreated.  It likely will not be coming back.  The reason it did not take off as much as IBM had forcasted is because other than a general aesthetic, there is nothing definitive to crystallize and serve as a defining media.  There is no TV show or move that has come out in the past few years to point to.  While there is steampunk 'music' the only steampunk thing about it is their look - and not even all of them.  Book publishers have used the term steampunk to refer to a wide variety of different books, making it difficult to define by example. 

So steampunk has a slap a gear on it and call it streampunk definition.  That wasn't enough. 

 

1 hour ago, TrippyHippy said:

Why do you not consider Judge Dredd to be cyberpunk? Pretty much all the tropes - high tech, low life - are the same, it's just the comic strip is a bit more, well, comic-strip like. You'll note that Ridley Scott worked in close consultation with Phillip K. Dick on the Bladerunner film before he died shortly after. In interviews, Dick said that this was precisely the image he had in mind. The film is different in plot to the book, but the dystopian imagery isn't. The concepts of the Matrix were largely dictated by the technology of the time. Cronenberg's Videodrome made satire about the 'video nasty' phenomena of the time, but he was still exploring the nature of neural pathways in his own way. 

 

1 hour ago, Vile said:

I think cyberpunk tends to be conflated with any near-future dystopian science fiction, which is misleading. To my mind the cyberspace aspect is a defining element, which is not present in Blade Runner (although it was, to some extent, central to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?), Judge Dredd, Akira, or the like. It's also the aspect most difficult to capture in a tabletop RPG, where at best you tended to get a situation where adventures wer split into real-world and cyberspace elements, with each of the characters taking part in one but not the other.

One thing that makes cyberpunk hard to define is the line some fans have put up between cyberpunk and transhumanist science fiction, which is a division that the original cyberpunk authors seem to have ignored. Sterling's early cyberpunk work included the Shaper/Mechanist stories, where mankind has split between factions evolving themselves by either cybernetic or genetic engineering. 

On the whole, the authors that were labeled as cyberpunk early on had a less limited view of what cyberpunk was than gamers did later on. Most gamers I have met have never really read much in the way of stories by Gibson, Sterling or John Shirley. They are working purely from RPGs that came later. Of course, an RPG needs to more specific to model a particular setting rather than a whole literary movement. 

But, none of this is really helpful to rsanford, so let me get back to the point. Think CP2020 is probably a good choice. I owned the original edition just called Cyberpunk, which was set in 2013. It's on the over-the-top end of the cyberpunk genre, but that isn't a bad thing at all for an RPG. I also like the various GURPS Cyberpunk books as well. They had a very good grasp of the genre. They also have the notoriety of causing the Secret Service to raid Steve Jackson Games. 

I never really cared for Shadowrun. I only bought books for it during first edition, then gave up on it. It's built tightly around the concept of freelance teams doing dirty work for corporations. At the end of each job, their corporate patron screws them over. The book actually said to always do this, and every adventure I bought for it adhered to this model. 

A larger problem I had with it was that mixing magic and cyberpunk seemed like a colossal case of not getting it. Magic in Shadowrun involves the Astral Plane, and is kind of a parallel the Matrix, Shadowrun's version of cyberspace.  

My issue here is that, going back to Gibson, he was clearly already playing with magical symbolism. He called his first novel Neuromancer. The rogue AI's in the sprawl series act like voodoo loa at times. There is a feeling of spiritual yearning attached to characters interaction with technology. Rather than explore the technology as magic vibe, they throw them both in the same setting, completely undermining the almost mystical feel of technology in cyberpunk. In cyberpunk, cyberware and cyberspace are a way the people in a dingy world try and aspire to existing on a higher place. It's like a kind of magic. In Shadowrun, cyberware inhibits your ability to use magic. 

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To me, "cyberpunk" = cyber + punk

cyber -- the (esteric/specialized) computer-oriented / networked / InfoSec realm of conflict -- whether e-"combat" or e-"scouting" or e-"problem-solving" or e-(any other "conflict" that (in a RPG) might require a roll-for-success) ...  Most-often, "cyberpunk" includes some sort of man/machine interface... cyberlimbs, MarvelWolverine-style claws, etc; and/or direct neural feed for direct experience of Cyberspace / Matrix / etc.  But IMHO the direct physical/neural components aren't actually fundamental requirements of the genre:  so long as a substantive amount of the conflict includes "cyber-conflict" done largely by esoteric expertise -- it is... well, cyber.

punk -- the disaffected / has-been / marginalized / criminalized / etc, in a world of normal / good-citizen / mainstream culture.  If the focus ain't on the "punk" (whether steampunk, cyberpunk, magi-punk, or whatever) then its not "punk".  So (for example) in a steam-powered Victoriana / Zeppelins & parasols-and-swordcanes game, I'd go with "steamtech" not "steampunk" since there ain't much "punk" going on ...

But that's MY working definition of cyberpunk...

I'd go back to the players who are asking for a cyberpunk game -- what is it THEY want?  What makes it "Cyberpunk" to them?  Which elements are must-have, want-to-have, acceptable, prefer-not-but-willing, and must-not-have elements?  Is there a specific book or movie they find inspiring?  If so, I'd use that media as your primary reference, rather than any gaming resource!

 

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5 hours ago, g33k said:

To me, "cyberpunk" = cyber + punk

cyber -- the (esteric/specialized) computer-oriented / networked / InfoSec realm of conflict -- whether e-"combat" or e-"scouting" or e-"problem-solving" or e-(any other "conflict" that (in a RPG) might require a roll-for-success) ...  Most-often, "cyberpunk" includes some sort of man/machine interface... cyberlimbs, MarvelWolverine-style claws, etc; and/or direct neural feed for direct experience of Cyberspace / Matrix / etc.  But IMHO the direct physical/neural components aren't actually fundamental requirements of the genre:  so long as a substantive amount of the conflict includes "cyber-conflict" done largely by esoteric expertise -- it is... well, cyber.

punk -- the disaffected / has-been / marginalized / criminalized / etc, in a world of normal / good-citizen / mainstream culture.  If the focus ain't on the "punk" (whether steampunk, cyberpunk, magi-punk, or whatever) then its not "punk".  So (for example) in a steam-powered Victoriana / Zeppelins & parasols-and-swordcanes game, I'd go with "steamtech" not "steampunk" since there ain't much "punk" going on ...

But that's MY working definition of cyberpunk...

I'd go back to the players who are asking for a cyberpunk game -- what is it THEY want?  What makes it "Cyberpunk" to them?  Which elements are must-have, want-to-have, acceptable, prefer-not-but-willing, and must-not-have elements?  Is there a specific book or movie they find inspiring?  If so, I'd use that media as your primary reference, rather than any gaming resource!

 

Thanks G33k!

Actually I did that but got differing answers. They all agree there should be no magic or elves, but two want cybernetics like cyberpunk 2020 while the others are thinking something more akin to Bladerunner with bio-enhancements. I am not sure there is a setting out there that does both... As a matter of fact I can't think of a Bladerunner type game at all.

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