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Cyberpunk Genre RPGs

LordEntrails

Explorer
So, I've always been fascinated by the genre and am looking to get involved in or start up an RPG game, but I'm not sure what system I should look into.

What I'm looking for;
  • An aesthetic & setting like the book Neuromancer, the movie Johnny Mnemonic, etc. Part of this means no elves, no magic, but the possibility of psionics, aliens or other races is ok.
  • A balanced game, where character selection matters, but players don't have to worry about making choices that are going to make their characters obsolete/useless. I'm not into optimization, so every character should be playable without spending loads of time figuring out mechanical advantages.
  • Something where a group of 4-6 players can all be engaged at the same time (I'm a bit concerned with the little 2020 reading I've done that many times the characters will be split up doing different things.)
  • Available adventures. Since I'm new, I want a basis for how to setup and run adventures, Sure I'll end up modifying things, but good starting examples are important. Other resources,such as gear books and maps, etc are important too.

From the research I've done, I've found the following rule systems, but don't know anything about them and how good/bad or how they might fit into what I'm looking for.
Feedback/opinions appreciated!
  • Cyberpunk RPG (aka Cyperpunk 2013, published 1988)
  • Cyberpunk 2020 (published 1990)
  • Cyberpunk V3 (published 2005)
  • GURPS Cyberpunk (published 1990, 3e GURPS)
  • Shadowrun (5 editions...) I'd probably pull out the magic and elves portions, but...? And then which edition?
  • Traveler - Does this even count or it it really just sci-fi? If so, what edition and/or options?
  • Corporation RPG (2006 by Brutal Games)
 

innerdude

Adventurer
May I highly, highly recommend the Interface Zero campaign setting for Savage Worlds?

The Interface Zero 2.0 campaign book is one of my favorite RPG sourcebooks of all time. It's seriously brilliant in every way.

The other thing you might want to look at is Genesys + the Android Netrunner sourcebook, Shadow of the Beanstalk​.
 
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Gradine

Archivist
If you're not opposed to PbtA games, I'd highly recommend The Veil. I've also heard good things about The Sprawl; from what I've heard, The Sprawl is the more traditional, mission-based Cyberpunk while The Veil is definitely leans harder into the weirder, more philosophical stuff about self and identity and the like.

Edit: Just read a comment that compared The Sprawl to Gibson, so that might be up your alley.
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
May I highly, highly recommend the Interface Zero campaign setting for Savage Worlds?

The Interface Zero 2.0 campaign book is one of my favorite RPG sourcebooks of all time. It's seriously brilliant in every way.

The other thing you might want to look at is Genesys + the Android Netrunner sourcebook, Shadow of the Beanstalk​.
Absolutely! I'll add those to my list to consider :)

If you're not opposed to PbtA games, I'd highly recommend The Veil. I've also heard good things about The Sprawl; from what I've heard, The Sprawl is the more traditional, mission-based Cyberpunk while The Veil is definitely leans harder into the weirder, more philosophical stuff about self and identity and the like.

Edit: Just read a comment that compared The Sprawl to Gibson, so that might be up your alley.
Never played PbtA, so I'm open to the idea. Anything you can comment on about the system?

I saw another reference to The Sprawl, but the link was bad (wikipedia). Do you know if its still around or have a link for it?

Gibson? That's new to me...
 

Gradine

Archivist
Never played PbtA, so I'm open to the idea. Anything you can comment on about the system?
Not a ton of mechanical crunch. Only players roll dice, which is 2d6. DMs get to use "Moves" based on consequences brought about by rolls. The Veil is about transhumanism and identity; "stats" are emotional states which are regularly shifting. The Sprawl is mission-based cyberpunk, more traditional in its conception of stats and playbooks. Everything revolves around performing merc jobs in a fairly classic cyberpunk setting.

I saw another reference to The Sprawl, but the link was bad (wikipedia). Do you know if its still around or have a link for it?
Sure, here's The Veil and here's The Sprawl.

Gibson? That's new to me...
William Gibson? Wrote Neuromancer?
 
Just from my experience with the various systems here are my 2 cents

1) Cyberpunk RPG - Skip this one, 2020 does everything this version does, but better, classes, combat, etc.
2) Somewhat balanced, if you want the party to stick together you'll want to focus on a specific area and minimize hacking, 2020 is better then cyberpunk RPG since you can use the Netrunner abilities in combat. Lots of supplements (horror, near earth orbit, Hardwired just to name a few). The supplements are also individuated enough that you can really focus on a specific area and avoid party splitting. 2020 had a ton of support in its day so finding adventures is really easy. If I where to do a pure Cyberpunk campaign I would consider playing this again. One supplement for GMs, "Listen up You Primitive Screwheads" is a great tool for GMing any Cyberpunk campaign, available as a POD on drivethrough RPG. Additionally, 2020 had decent 3rd Party support that you can get fairly cheap.
3) No clue, if its backwards compatible with 2020, thumbs up, but very little support material, would probably give it a pass.
4) Aesthetic is good, if you go this route you'll want CyberWorld, only one published adventure though (includes 3 adventures I only remember one being very good), and sometimes party cohesion can be a problem if you use hacking. Combat can be slow, if you're not already familiar with GURPS there's a larger learning curve. Because it is GURPS you can have Psionics, Magic, Aliens, Martial Arts, etc. Vehicle construction is a PITA, but it isn't a huge part of the game.
5) Shadowrun is perfect for aesthetic, but the magic and Elves and whatnot actually enhance as opposed to hinder. I prefer 3rd Edition, but 5th is really tight. I would recommend playing Shadowrun Returns (I think its like 5 bucks on Steam) to give you an idea for the Campaign world and how the elements fit together. If you want to cut out the Magic, would not recommend sticking with Shadowrun, since modifying the supplemental material requires removing the magic and supernatural elements generally at the core of the adventure.
6) Skip Traveller, The current Mongoose version is the best, but hacking/computer rules are almost non-existent, tons of adventures but 90 percent are take the Scout Ship to your Mom's house and deliver groceries and avoid the ancient alien monster on the way. There was a version (Traveller Next Generation or something) was a little more in the C-Punk aesthetic with Computer Viruses and what not, but not a great system. Traveller 2300 might be a good choice, I think they even have a Cyberpunk type supplement, but would recommend Shadowrun or R. Talsorian over Traveller.
7) No clue.

Hope this helps, I really felt that R. Talsorian Cyberpunk 2020 nailed the elements of Cyberpunk and used a lot of the tropes of the genre successfully going so far as to make supplemental material based on the books. Similarly I think Shadowrun has as well even with the Magic elements, which sort of adds to the aesthetic (e.g. The Troll Bouncer is a serious menace and could exist in a regular C-Punk campaign as a genetic anomaly.) They borrow heavily from the jargon William Gibson created in his early novels and short stories.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I’ll just say that if you’re contemplating GURPS, any toolkit system you feel comfy using should work as well- especially if you have a strong idea for how you want your campaign to run.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
Similarly I think Shadowrun has as well even with the Magic elements, which sort of adds to the aesthetic (e.g. The Troll Bouncer is a serious menace and could exist in a regular C-Punk campaign as a genetic anomaly.) They borrow heavily from the jargon William Gibson created in his early novels and short stories.
Genetic anomaly, black ops super soldier AWOL/reject/merc...

Just do some Clarkian reskinning of the magic as experimental tech, and you’re golden. Even the dragons could be biotech gone wild.
 
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LordEntrails

Explorer
Just from my experience with the various systems here are my 2 cents...

Hope this helps, ....
Excellent. Absolutely helps and the type of input I was hoping for.

Really helps me narrow it to 2020 or SR 3 or 5. I'll have to read some setting materials to see if I'm comfortable with the races and magic in SR.

I also have to say the C-Punk 2077 that is coming out next year might be well timed for me.
 

Len

Prodigal Member
Really helps me narrow it to 2020 or SR 3 or 5. I'll have to read some setting materials to see if I'm comfortable with the races and magic in SR.
You can definitely have Shadowrun without the elves & magic, as long as you're not running adventures that require those elements. My group played a Shadowrun / XCOM campaign that started out with no metahumans (although they came in later via alien shenannigans).
 

LordEntrails

Explorer
I'll specifically add Shadowrun: Anarchy. My group liked it considerably better than Shadowrun 5E.
Ooh? What's this Anarchy you speak of?
(Google...) Ah, a rules-lite narrative based version.

Did you like SR:A better because of the setting or the narration basis or was SR5E too crunchy or...?
 

LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
Cyberpunk is a clear example about how the sci-fi get old very bad. Today new generations miss a lot of current technology what doesn't appear in older works.

Cyberpunk isn't only about the bad use of the technology, but about the society and how we could go to a dystopian, but today people are changed their ideas about the true causes of this dystopia, and the great difference between Detroit in the Robocop movies and from the real life.

In the RPGs the "neopunk" is going to be replaced by the transhumanism, with the digital immortality and mind transfer, and that changes the gameplay very much. "Cyberpunk 2020" is going to be killed by Eclipse Phase, the game where the crunch is the wet dream of munchkins but this doesn't avoid an all-party-killed game.

* Were there rules about genetic engineering for "transgenic" humanoids in Cyberpunk 2020? Have you thought about the impact if we find the secret of eternal youth and the retirement by old wouldn't be necessary? To find a new job would be harder for just linceced, and the ascend in the company when the boss always will be there but if he want to create his own new businessmen.

* Shadowrun has got a better future because it adds fantasy, and this allows a "softer" style and more options for new adventures and plots.

* In the speculative fiction megacorporations can be antagonist factions, but if we abuse this cliché, then the settings become boring. We need different types of villains. And for God's love! I don't want that type of crazy characters like Dolph Lugren's one in the movie of Johnny Mnemonic. They are really annoying. When was the last time of a villain like Cuervo Jones in "Escape from L.A".

* Have you thought about stories set in arcologies (mega skyscrapers) as micro-states with their own laws and sovereignty (in the former region of a now failed state), created and controlled by megacorporations?
 

Bagpuss

Explorer
* Were there rules about genetic engineering for "transgenic" humanoids in Cyberpunk 2020? Have you thought about the impact if we find the secret of eternal youth and the retirement by old wouldn't be necessary? To find a new job would be harder for just linceced, and the ascend in the company when the boss always will be there but if he want to create his own new businessmen.
Biotechnology was in some of the later Chrome books, same as in Shadowrun. But transhuman was mainly about going to full conversion 'borgs, brain-in-a-box type thing. The in scenario "Never fade away", in Cyberpunk 2013, Alt Cunningham, a netrunner and girlfriend of Johnny Silverhand, invented the Soul Killer virus that could create a digital version of somebodies mind. It was used on herself and she became the A.I. "Alt" which featured significantly in setting (a poster of her was on a wall in the original announcement movie trailer for Cyberpunk 2077).
 
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LuisCarlos17f

Registered User
If digital immortality and mind transfer are canon in Cyberpunk, this could open some doors for new stories. For example a penal colony, controlled by a micro-state (really a mega-corporation whose CEO are former politicians enjoying their revolving doors) where the prisoners has suffered a manipulation of their memories. Really they are innocent political prisoners, but they believe they are true criminals with blood in their hands. Somebody is blackmailed by a crime he didn't committed because it only was a virtual simulation in the space... or the memories are from a surrogate, a remote-control android leaded by other person, the true criminal. Do you remember the movies "Criminal" with Kevin Costner or "Self/less" with Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley?

In Cyberpunk 2077 the ectogenesis would be possible, but this isn't the best place to talk about this matter.
 

Ilya Bossov

Villager
As a person who has written my own PbtA hack for Shadowrun, I'll go ahead and recommend Shadowrun 3rd edition. It was the last "good one", arguably.

Although, Shadowrun in general is a bad fit for your needs. You're looking at cyberpunk themes with no magic, and Shadowrun's approach to vehicles and hacking is notoriously clunky.

Every Shadowrun game is house ruled. Prove me wrong. :)
 

Xaelvaen

Explorer
Did you like SR:A better because of the setting or the narration basis or was SR5E too crunchy or...?
Both, to be honest. We really loved the tinkering that came from 4th and 5th edition; upgrading guns, weapons, cars, etc. However, Anarchy still allows that with more player agency. It's not quite so hard and meticulous to do all the fiddling about. It also includes mechanics specifically -for- more narrative play, letting players alter the narrative in unique and interesting ways.

I'll openly admit, with all Shadowrun products, you have to thoroughly read the book because the layout is pretty bad. But between the rules of SR: Anarchy and the lore and flavor of Shadowrun, it really placed us in the setting.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
As a person who has written my own PbtA hack for Shadowrun, I'll go ahead and recommend Shadowrun 3rd edition. It was the last "good one", arguably.
I have played a lot of Shadowrun in my day. And I'd say.. go either 2nd edition or 5th. Do not bother with 3 or 4. If you want a bit of retro-future - what the past thought future technology would be like, go with 2nd. If you want a game that does a nod to understanding wireless technology, go with 5th, but be ready for people to be so paranoid that they won't use the technology in question, because it makes them too vulnerable.

In general, don't play Shadowrun unless you are okay with 2 rounds of combat taking an hour or more. I'd also say that while you *can* use Shadowrun without its magical elements, that's kind of like going to Friendly's, but not getting ice cream. The magical elements are what make the system worth putting up with, IMHO. And removing the magic basically means you can't use most of the setting, or any of the published adventures...

At the moment, I'm thinking of doing a Savage Worlds port of Shadowrun, largely because the Shadowrun setting is top notch, but the system is a burden.
 

Dannyalcatraz

Moderator
Staff member
I can’t tell you how many campaigns I’ve designed and run in one system- usually HERO- but that was based in a setting from another game.
 

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