CAPERS Cyberpunk RPG: Craig Campbell on the Capstone to the CAPERS RPGs

CAPERS, the award winning TTRPG that spans the Prohibition Era through a Buck Rogers pulp style future, has a new setting and ruleset coming to Kickstarter: CAPERS Cyberpunk RPG. I’m a fan of CAPERS, going so far as reviewing CAPERS and talking to Craig about his other projects (here and here). So, I was eager to talk about this project with Craig.

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EGG EMBRY (EGG): Since this is a campaign that comes with some degree of finality, let’s start at the beginning of CAPERS. For those that don’t know, what is CAPERS?
: CAPERS is a tabletop roleplaying game about superpowered gangsters in the Roaring Twenties. You’re out to make your fortune, take down your adversaries, keep ahead of the law, and live that lavish (romanticized in the movies) 1920s lifestyle. It came out of wanting to create a supers game, but wanting to set it in a specific era. There came a point in developing CAPERS that I realized I wasn’t REALLY creating a supers game. I was creating a gangster game, where you happen to have superpowers. And that has informed a lot of what came later.

EGG: Between CAPERS and CAPERS Cyberpunk, what other settings/sourcebooks have you created? What did they bring to this universe?
: There have been three primary sourcebooks, CAPERS Noir, CAPERS Covert, and CAPERS Offworld. Each brings new powers and character options, plus tools for GMs, and also an alternative setting. Noir advances the CAPERS universe to the 1940s and makes the game a crime noir mystery game with investigation rules and elements of horror. Covert jumps it to the 1960s and centers the game on James Bond style superspies and supervillains with superpowers (and gadgets). Offworld is an alternate 1920s version where space travel exists and it’s cops and robbers in space, with superpowers, alien worlds and species, rocket ships, and ray guns. There’s also CAPERS Pirates, which is a smaller PDF that gives superpowers to seafaring ne-er-do-wells during the golden age of piracy. Each of these progresses the core game in its own unique way, but they’re all ultimately a variation of cops and robbers with superpowers.

EGG: That brings us to your latest Kickstarter, the last major CAPERS book. What is CAPERS Cyberpunk?
: CAPERS Cyberpunk takes the CAPERS universe to an alternate present day, where superpowered people, supersmarts, supertech, etc. have brought about the rise of the megacorps. With much of the world’s populace under the thumb of a dozen super-corporations (and many governments, law enforcement agencies, and superpowered people in league with them), it’s up to those outlaw supers, ones that live on the edges and in the shadows, to change the world and take down the megacorps.

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EGG: There is nothing more anti-establishment punk than walking away when you’re on-top. Still, why are you publishing this “bookend” to the CAPERS TTRPG universe?
: It’s a “bookend” in that it’s a full game with all the rules and a larger setting, much like CAPERS was. The other supplements could provide just what was different from CAPERS, but Cyberpunk needed its own full treatment. There may be more CAPERS material in the future, but such supplements would likely build on CAPERS Cyberpunk in the way that previous supplements built from the original game. Given that there’s a “world story” that is built into the previous products, it felt right for there to be a destination for all that world building. CAPERS Cyberpunk is that destination.

EGG: That’s interesting. Are there any rule updates akin to CAPERS second edition?
: Nope, no changes to the core rules. There are, however, things that expand the rules into 6-10 level and rules for cybertech.

EGG: The original CAPERS is set in a super-powered Prohibition Era. It uses a great card mechanic. What can you share about your system?
: When playing CAPERS Cyberpunk, each player (and the GM) uses their own deck of standard, poker-style playing cards (52 suit cards plus 2 jokers) to determine if a character succeeds at difficult tasks. The pip value of the card you flip (2, 3, and so on, up to ace high) determines success versus failure. The card’s suit determines the DEGREE of success or failure, starting at clubs (the worst) and going alphabetically upward to spades (the best). You’ll be able to flip multiple cards based on your character’s capability. You might flip the king of clubs, certainly a success with a king, but just barely a success with clubs. Do you settle for barely successful or flip another card, hoping for a better result? Each flip is a gamble, risking failure.

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EGG: Beth Varni is back for this book, correct? For those that don’t know Beth’s contribution, how has she contributed to CAPERS?
: Beth has been instrumental in realizing the CAPERS universe. She’s the artist of every illustration in all the previous products, plus in several accessories. And she’s back for CAPERS Cyberpunk. Her comic book style has evolved and she’s discovered and incorporated all sorts of new details in various supplements as we progressed through those initial CAPERS books. With CAPERS Cyberpunk, we collaborated on a concepting phase first, to establish what the modern day might look like if filled with cybertech and cool vehicles and electronics, but also linked to the past. The illustrations for this new game mix the tech fun of a somewhat futuristic world with a very particular look for the world of the elite and the world of those oppressed by the elite. All with superpowers thrown on top.

EGG: Who else is working on this project with you?
: Coyote Crow is doing the editing. This is her biggest project yet for NerdBurger Games. She’s been great and wrangling my words into better structure and providing suggestions about things I’ve missed or messed up. Anita Wiebe is doing the graphic design, picking up cues from Owen StGelais, who did the previous products. Anita has created some really dynamic graphics that compliment Beth’s artwork nicely. Ryan Hennesy did the map of New York City and it is gorgeous, with the look of something you might find online, but filled with color.

EGG: Let’s switch gears to Gen Con. Nerdburger Games had a table at the con. What can you report back in terms of exposure, games run, and sales?
: NerdBurger Games had its own booth in 2023, for the first time ever (having been in the Indie Game Developer Network’s booth for several years previously). Gen Con was a rousing success. Sales were up. Our GMs ran 26 game events across multiple different games. There were a great many people who specifically sought the booth out this year, which was incredibly gratifying and kept me going through a very busy, tiring convention. I had a team of eight people with me (booth help and GMs) and they were spectacular. NerdBurger Games wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t have a presence like that at Gen Con without its supporters and fans. So, thank you to everyone who helped make all of this happen.

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EGG: Beyond CAPERS Cyberpunk, what else are you working on? Any Zine Quest 2024 plans?
: Part of me wants to see how CAPERS Cyberpunk does on Kickstarter and make a determination on what supplements might be worth pursuing. But I’m also tinkering with a game about waking up from hypersleep to discover a threat on the ship and a smaller game about folks in a fantasy world that would require me to write a bunch of poetry, along with a few others. I expect to pin down plans more specifically around October of this year.

EGG: Thanks for talking with me. Where can fans find out more about CAPERS?
: The company website is NerdBurgerGames. You can find the games on DriveThruRPG (though nicer versions of CAPERS, Good Strong Hands, and Code Warriors are available at my website’s store). There’s all sorts of info about all the CAPERS stuff at both those websites.

CAPERS Cyberpunk RPG from Nerdburger Games
  • “A Super-Powered RPG of Cyberpunks Fighting the Megacorps”
Egg Embry participates in the OneBookShelf Affiliate Program, Noble Knight Games’ Affiliate Program, and is an Amazon Associate. These programs provide advertising fees by linking to DriveThruRPG, Noble Knight Games, and Amazon.

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