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Cyberpunk is a cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game written by Mike Pondsmith and published by R. Talsorian Games in 1988. A popular second edition, Cyberpunk 2020, was published in 1990, and a number of further editions have been published.
The cover of Cyberpunk 2020 2nd edition
|Publisher(s)||R. Talsorian Games|
|Publication date||1988 (Cyberpunk 2013)|
1990 (Cyberpunk 2020)
2005 (Cyberpunk V3.0)
|Genre(s)||Science fiction role-playing game, Cyberpunk|
Cyberpunk (1st edition)Edit
Cyberpunk was designed by Mike Pondsmith as an attempt to replicate the gritty realism of the cyberpunk science fiction novels of William Gibson and Walter Jon Williams. In particular, Willams' novel Hardwired was an inspiration, and Williams helped playtest the game. The game was published in 1988 by R. Talsorian Games. The game components of the boxed set consist of a 44-page Handbook, a 38-page Sourcebook, a 20-page Combat Book, 4 pages of game aids and two ten-sided dice.
A number of rules supplements were subsequently published in 1989:
- Rockerboy (sourcebook for the Rockerboy character class)
- Solo of Fortune (sourcebook for the Solo character class)
- Hardwired, based on the Walter Jon Williams novel
- Near Orbit: Space Supplement, with rules for space travel
The game is set in a dystopian world in the year 2013. The global superpowers have collapsed, leaving world power in the hands of large Corporations that fight amongst themselves for dominance. Food blights have caused disastrous famines, and the Middle East is a radioactive desert. "Technoshock" is a widespread psychosis, as many people are unable to cope with synthetic muscle tissue, organic circuits and designer drugs. With the lack of government and police, casual violence is endemic.
Players take on the roles of stylish Cyberpunks who live by three rules:
- Style over substance.
- Attitude is everything.
- Live on the edge.
The first step in character creation is to choose a role:
|Cop||Maximum lawmen on mean 21st century streets||Authority|
|Corporate||Slick business raiders and multi-millionaires looking for any way to move up the corporate ladder||Resources|
|Fixer||Deal makers, smugglers, organizers, and information brokers||Streetdeal|
|Media||Newsmen and reporters who go to the wall for the truth||Credibility|
|Netrunner||Cybernetic computer hackers||Interface|
|Nomad||Road warriors and gypsies who roam the highways||Family|
|Rockerboy||Rebel rockers who use music and revolt to fight authority||Charismatic Leadership|
|Solo||Hired assassins, bodyguards, killers, and soldiers with implanted cybernetic muscle and upgrades||Combat Sense|
|Techie||Renegade mechanics.||Jury Rig|
Players use a "point-buy" system to buy attributes, then uses a Lifepath Section to determine skills and personal background, including past loves and present-day motivations. Each character starts with a certain amount of money, and can use it to buy cybernetic implants to upgrade personal abilities.
Combat uses a 3-phase resolution each turn, and is generally quick and lethal. There are also rules for cybernetic hacking, called Netrunning. When characters "jack in", they can interpret the Net in several different ways, including as a classic Dungeons & Dragons maze, or perhaps as a star-filled galaxy.
In 1990, R. Talsorian Games released the second edition of the game, titled Cyberpunk 2020, which featured updated rules for combat, Netrunning, and character generation. The game's timeline was also retconned to accommodate the German reunification in 1990. It was released as a boxed set that contained a 222-page softcover book, and a 24-page reference guide and adventure.
R. Talsorian Games released two revised versions: Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.00 (1992), and Cyberpunk 2020 version 2.01 (1993).
A total of 28 rules supplements and sourcebooks, and 6 adventures were also published by R. Talsorian Games between 1993 and 1996. In addition, Atlas Games published twelve adventures under license between 1991 and 1993.
Six novels set in the Cyberpunk 2020 world were also published between 1993 and 1994.
Dream Pod 9 released Night's Edge in 1992, taking the Cyberpunk 2020 setting and adding a horror theme, including vampires and werewolves. Dream Pod 9 published 10 other supplements and adventures in this setting between 1992 and 1995.
Cyberpunk 2020 is set in the same world as the original edition, but the time has been moved forward seven years, from 2013 to 2020. Although the game referee can set the game anywhere in this world, the default setting is the fictional Night City, a city of five million people on the west coast of the United States located between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The basic rules system of Cyberpunk 2020 are called the Interlock System and work in a similar fashion to first edition rules, being skill-based rather than level-based; for successful play, players are awarded points to be spent on improving their characters' skill sets.
The combat system is called "Friday Night Firefight". The 3-phase combat rules of first edition have been discarded in favor of a simpler system. However, like first edition combat rules, "Friday Night Firefight" still emphasizes lethality. Unlike other role-playing systems where characters amass higher hit points as they progress, allowing them to survive higher amounts of combat damage, the amount of damage a character can sustain in Cyberpunk 2020 does not increase as the character develops.
Cybergeneration was published in 1993 as an alternate world to Cyberpunk 2020, where a nanotech virus epidemic has resulted in a subgroup of teenagers with unusual, superhuman skills. The first version of Cybergeneration required the Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook, but a second version became a standalone game.
In 2005, R. Talsorian Games published a third edition titled Cyberpunk v3.0, set in the 2030s, following a fourth Corporate War. The rules are expanded to include "AltCults", a society of full-body cyborgs that can switch their brains into a variety of purpose-built body frames. Characters are now known as "Edgerunners".
From 2007-2008, two sourcebooks were published to accompany this edition.
Collectible card gamesEdit
Two different, independent collectible card games have been licensed and produced based on the Cyberpunk setting. The first, called Netrunner, was designed by Richard Garfield, and released by Wizards of the Coast in 1996 (the game has since been re-released as Android: Netrunner but is no longer associated with the fictional Cyberpunk universe). The second was called Cyberpunk CCG, released in 2003, designed by Peter Wacks and published by Social Games.
In the September 1989 edition of Dragon (Issue 149), Jim Bambra liked the production values of the original edition, but found many typos in the various books as well as a missing encounter table. Bambra found the setting "does a superb job of capturing the flavor and atmosphere of a disturbingly plausible and realistic future. The development and presentation of the Net is stunning and can be used as a basis for countless numbers of adventures. No other game has succeeded in portraying computer hacking in such a vibrant and absorbing way." He concluded that this was not for everyone: "Gamers brought up on heroic-fantasy or shiny science-fiction games may find the gritty realism of the Cyberpunk game not to their liking... To decide if this is the game for you, read a few of the Cyberpunk style novels. If you like them, don’t waste any time — rush out and buy the Cyberpunk game. Welcome to life on the edge."
In the September 1992 edition of Dragon (Issue 185), Allen Varney found Cyberpunk 2020 just as stylish as its first-edition predecessor, but he found even more typos in this edition than in the first edition. Varney liked the new streamlined combat system, but criticized the duality of modern combat, where "Unarmored characters become pools of blood in 10 seconds of combat, but those in flak armor can shrug off submachine-gun fire." Varney also felt that the Netrunning system was much improved, calling the rules system "elegant and original." Varney thought the second edition's biggest flaw was lack of an index, but he also criticized the dichotomy of a system where "you can break into Eurobank and embezzle five million bucks, but you better pay your phone bill on time or you’re in big trouble." He accused the game of being "in the curious position of advocating rebellion, but only in socially acceptable ways." Nonetheless, Varney concluded that "The Cyberpunk game’s second edition surpasses its first edition on every count. With its smooth action, 'pure' cyberpunk atmosphere, easily accessible setting, and medium-low complexity, this game tops my list as the field's best route to dark near-future adventure." 
In a 1996 reader poll undertaken by Arcane magazine to determine the 50 most popular roleplaying games of all time, Cyberpunk was ranked 10th. Editor Paul Pettengale commented: "Cyberpunk was the first of the 'straight' cyberpunk RPGs, and is still the best. The difference between cyberpunk and other sci-fi is a matter of style and attitude. Everything about the Cyberpunk game, from the background to the rules system, is designed to create this vital atmosphere. Cyberpunk is set in an unforgiving world where betrayal and double-crosses are common, trust is hard to find and paranoia is a useful survival trait."
- Bambra, Jim (September 1989). "Roleplaying Reviews". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (149): 85–86.
- Varney, Allen (September 1992). "Roleplaying Reviews II". Dragon. TSR, Inc. (185): 83–84.
- Hall, Charlie (2019-06-24). "Cyberpunk 2077 prequel, a tabletop RPG starter kit, will be out this August". Polygon. Retrieved 2019-07-20.
- "Cyberpunk: The Arasaka's Plot for J2ME (2007)". MobyGames. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- "CD Projekt Red Group Summer Conference 2012". Retrieved 10 August 2012.
- Hood, Vic; Leger, Henry St; Gaming, Emma Boyle 2019-06-18T17:26:57Z. "Cyberpunk 2077: release date, trailer and news". TechRadar. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- Machkovech, Sam (9 June 2019). "Cyberpunk 2077's April 2020 release date confirmed by, uh, Keanu Reeves". Ars Technica. Retrieved 18 June 2019.
- Pettengale, Paul (Christmas 1996). "Arcane Presents the Top 50 Roleplaying Games 1996". Arcane. Future Publishing (14): 25–35.