Sunday, 11 September 2016

Cyberpunk 2020 PreGens: Corporates

Once upon a time I scrawled up some pre-generated Solos and Rockers for Cyberpunk 2020. You might remember, although at this point I doubt it!

This week's year's character role is the Corporate. Presenting the Company Man, the Dogged Investigator and the Ambitious Courtier.

As usual, this post is rounded out with some contacts. ALSO: a D20 table to explain why you failed your Resources roll!

These characters were generated using the basic rules in the Cyberpunk 2020 Corebook, with no detail from the sourcebooks. 

1. Every character has 60 Attribute Points and 60 Skill Points (40 career skills and 20 pick-up skills).

2. I haven't rolled for Humanity Loss or on the Lifepath tables (let the players do that!).

3. I've given everybody a (fairly) balanced array of equipment and cyberware based on the "Quick and Dirty" character creation guidelines.


Another strange, campaign defining role. 

The Corporate is a vital part of the cyberpunk milieu and yet surprisingly hard to fit into a CP2020 campaign. Part of this is simply a matter of tone - an explicitly corporate character seems far more in keeping with latter-period Shadowrun's amoral economic warrior ethos than Cyberpunk, whose characters often tend towards gutter-survivalism or pretensions of rebellion. CP2020's Corporates are also presented as 1980s Wall Street issue bastards, which serves to alienate them from the other roles. 

There are a few sympathetic Corporate characters in the literary genre - Islands in the Net's Laura Webster probably fits the role, as does Landon Kettlewell in Makers. Neither is a Wall Street issue bastard. Another example is Julia Evans in the Greg Mandel Trilogy, a character who is absolutely a 1980s-style besuited monster presented positively, because Peter Hamilton's Mindstar world is a uniquely middle-English Tory fantasy.

As usual, I've created three pre-generated characters. They've all been designed to fit in with a group of 'runners, one way or another.

THE COMPANY MAN: AKA Mr Johnson. The company official sent along to co-ordinate the action, select the targets, or ensure the team gets impregnated by xenomorphs.

THE DOGGED INVESTIGATOR: the employee who learnt too much to sleep at night. The whistleblower who risks exile or worse to expose wrongdoing inside the Company.

...and the THE AMBITIOUS COURTIER: the rising executive, prepared to scheme and spy and shoot her way to the top.

Below these three characters are the usual array of contacts and antagonists, and a D20 table you didn't know you needed.

For Laura Webster, use the Investigator. For a "heroic entrepreneur," mess around with the Ambitious Courtier (or frankly, use a Fixer or a Tech). For everybody else, read on...

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The Original Panzerboys

Back when I first read Cyberpunk 2020's Hardwired sourcebook my attention caught on one of the few paragraphs actually devoted to Panzerboys, the hi-tech hover-tank jockey smugglers who dominate Walter Jon William's original novel of the same name. Cowboy and his ilk might have been weirdly absent from the CP2020 book devoted to his own world, but his influence can be felt across cyberpunk RPG settings - what are the odds that Shadowrun's Native American Nations were conceived to give Hardwired-aping T-Bird smugglers suitable borders to scream across?

Anyway. In the book, Walter Jon Williams claims

"The new smugglers are called "panzerboys", after 20th century butter smugglers who ran armored cars across the Dutch-Belgian border in the face of Belgian tariffs on Dutch dairy products. (I'm not making this up, you know.)"

I'm sure you aren't, science-fiction-writer-posing-with-fake-cyberhands-on-back-of-an-RPG-sourcebook!

For years I failed to find any corroborating evidence for this claim, because my google-fu is weak and I don't speak Dutch. However, this has now changed:

THANK YOU, December 16th 1962 edition of the Chicago Sunday Tribune! 

According to the August 24th 1966 edition of the Tuscaloosa News, these bullet proof panzer wagons simply hurtled through border posts at high speed, dropping caltrops to hinder pursuit vehicles. 

I couldn't find any pictures of Dutch butter smuggling panzers. However, I could find pictures of contemporary German border smugglers operating near Aachen, mere miles aways... below the jump:

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

The problem with the cyberpunk genre...

My default "assumed setting" for cyberpunk games for the last four years included (among other things) Theresa May coming to power in the UK without a real mandate, due in large part to deeply divided opposition. This seemed like the option most likely to facilitate a dystopian nightmare.

If things continue like this, her government will last another 6-8 years before collapsing in a period of game-facilitating political and social chaos.

If England goes to war with Poland in the mid-2020s over copyright issues, I hereby promise to stop imagining things.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


There are all sorts of reasons why the cyberpunk genre tends to generate complicated games, and why the most popular RPG in the genre is a byword for unnecessary, brain-smashing complexity (here's looking at you, Shadowrun!). Even Cyberpunk 2020 requires hours and hours and hours to generate characters, adding up all the finicky skill-points. What rules-lite genre games there are tend to be FATE-y things like Tech-Noir: great game, but I honestly prefer more traditional rules-systems.

Cyberpunk attracts people into technology and detailed future speculation (also people into drug literature and JG Ballard and weird intersections between fashion and art and the military industrial complex, but they're unfortunately less represented in the gaming culture...). There's a drive there towards "accurate," detailed technical simulation, with lots of dice modifiers and reliability stats and ammunition counts. I confess I like that stuff. On the other hand I hate maths and can't remember equations for shit, which ruins most cyberpunk rules systems for me. 

I've been thinking about - even drafting - D&D derived rules ideas for cyberpunk for awhile now. D&D sits at an intersection between simplicity, technical detail and fast play. That last part is less because of any inherent virtue of the rules and more because everybody knows the system. Even I know the system (I can only retain 1.5 rules systems at a time. 0.75 of those systems will always be my beloved Cyberpunk 2020. Right now the other 0.75% of my rules retention capacity is taken up with D&D 5E).

So, I was genuinely excited to hear about Mike Evans' new old school D&D hack cyberpunk game, not least because I only heard about it about a week before it came out.

Fittingly, it took several attempts to actually buy the game because my bank interpreted a £1.43 payment to DrivethruRPG as evidence my account had been hacked (exactly how many purchases do I have to make from that place in one week before it realises I'm a regular customer?).

...£1.43? Yeah. The Black Hack Cyber Hacked is a complete game including bestiary and hacking rules and the Open Game License all in 21 pages, has no art except what you see on the cover above and has been testing my assumptions about exactly how much mechanical detail you need to represent the genre all evening.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Electronic Criminal Hazards

This is the follow up to yesterday's electronic hazards table, covering all manner of electronic crimes to assail the players with as they traverse the mean city. 

This table was a lot of fun to write, and I think it shows. That said, it's tonally all over the place, ranging between inconsequential and funny to completely horrible or game changing. I'm still experimenting with all this!


1. Contactless Pickpocket: a pickpocket is scanning people's commlinks and contactless cards to extract money from their accounts. Characters with legal tender must make electronic security tests to avoid losing their personal data.

2. Personalised Trolling Drones: a local hate group has fabricated some cheap toy drones with speakers to follow the targets of their ire around and scream abuse at them. There is a 70% chance they have access to a public SIN database and are calling out the character by her (official) name.

There is a 30% chance that the drone is carrying balloons of yellow paint, skunk gas or urine to further harass their victims.

3. Gargoyle: a spook covered in surveillance gear is wondering the streets hoovering up passing data and selling it to information brokers. She will sell their locational information to a rival or record their conversations for sale on the open market.

4. Blackmailer: an electronic blackmailer is covertly monitoring the players through a variety of different means. She will target the most vulnerable player character for extortion, most likely threatening to pass their information to the paycops.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Electronic Environmental Hazards

It's been a long time!

( further comment...)

In the time I was away, my hobby time (such as it was) was mainly taken up with D&D of various sorts. In particular, my friend's Beyond the Grid campaign really opened my eyes to the uses and abuses of random encounter tables in ways I hadn't ever considered before. 

I've been experimenting.

I've wanted to do a table full of electronic hazards for a while now, covering everything from contactless pickpockets to AR vandalism to suburban geo-fencing.

This table was originally a D30 table covering all of the above. By the time I finished the process, I'd realised that the environmental hazard and the human hazard tables really had different potential uses. So I've split them up into two different D20 tables. You get an extra ten entries for your nu-buck! Well, you would if you were paying a nu-buck. 

This post contains the Electronic Environmental Hazards table, covering all sorts of spam zones, wireless outages, electronic fortresses and scary advertising systems. It could be so much longer! The Electronic Criminal Hazards table is finished but will be posted in a day or two because I'm a tease like that. 

One of the reasons I separated the two tables is because I realised how much potential the environmental hazards had for really, really interfering in surveillance, chases and casing targets. I think that would be the best time to roll on this table!

Quite a lot of this post was inspired by this BLDGBLOG blog post and several books about "fortress urbanism." I really do recommend reading Mike Davis' City of Quartz for anyone developing a cyberpunk setting, and not just because it was credited in the back of William Gibson's Virtual Light.

Two final notes - my view of a city is clearly inspired by London, where you can turn a corner and be in a completely different environment. The increasing privatisation of streets and gated communities reinforces this even further, when you can enter a shopping street with different effective laws to the rest of the city.

The other thing: sometimes these events might seem inappropriate to certain parts of the city. Just remember that surveillance gear is cheap (cheap enough that I know a low income single mum who uses a camera to check on her kids when she's at work...). Acoustic gun-fire sensors might surround any church or cinema. A syndicate might have installed hidden geo-fences to confuse the police. A poor neighbourhood dominated by a pious minority is just as likely to have a morality enforcement system as a preppy gated community (and so on).


Friday, 6 February 2015

Cyberpunk 2020 PreGens: Solos

Welcome to part 2 of my Cyberpunk 2020 pre-gen project. Once again, this post will provide three pre-generated characters and a whole bunch of contact and adventure hooks to go with them. Next time we want to run a Cyberpunk 2020 game on G+ at short notice, sorting out characters won't take an hour!

Last time, we covered arguably the least popular role in the Corebook, the Rockerboy. This time, we're all about Solos. Below, you'll find the Smooth Operator, the Pointman and the Professional. All of them are hardened, effective killers. 

As before, the characters below are mostly RAW (Rules As Written), drawing skills and equipment from the Corebook alone. 

A few things that aren't RAW:

1. Rather than spend hours picking equipment and cyberware, I've given everyone a fairly balanced array of gear based on the "Quick and Dirty" character generation guide.

2. Everyone gets 20 pick-up skill points, regardless of their INT and REF scores.

Each character begins with 60 Attribute Points and 60 Skill Points (40 Career Points and 20 Pick-Up Points).

I haven't rolled the dice for Humanity Loss or the Lifepath tables. Leave that to the players! 


The Solo: Cyberpunk 2020's classic Cyber-Enhanced Murder-Bastard (CEMB), played by just about everyone at some point (admit it!). Genre examples include Molly in Neuromancer, Sarah in Hardwired and zen-inflected cyber-enhanced murder-bastard Etienne Stewart in Voice of the Whirlwind (my personal favourite). 

And then there's film. Bonus points if it was directed by Luc Besson! Nikita, Leon/The Professional, District 13...

There are a couple of good Solo films not made by Luc Besson. Ghost Dog, Way of the Samurai is superior to all of them. Even better, one of the main characters can only speak French, which means it could have been made by Luc Besson.

The less said about that bog-spawned abomination Taken, the better.

This post includes three pre-generated Solos.

The Smooth Operator is fast. Really, really fast. S/he has the Social skills to blend into any crowd, the Awareness/Notice to identify any threat, and the speedware and Combat Sense to outdraw any opponent. S/he could just as easily be a super-spy.

The Pointman takes on the jobs where the milspec tech comes out to play. A mercenary, an armoured tank, a rifleman. A Solo to fight an all-out Corporate War in those campaigns where armour and automatic weapons are the norm, not the exception.  

The Professional is an urban hitman. S/he relies on stealth to case and enter target buildings and a multitude of skills to stalk and kill targets. 

And once again, scroll to the bottom of the post for a collection of contacts and antagonists for Solo/Street Samurai style characters in any cyberpunk setting!