So I started running a cyberpunk setting game using Ex Machina (Tri-Stat). It has to be said, I’m not a huge fan of Tri-Stat. Making up characters and powers and options and things in the system is good fun, so far as character creation goes, but in execution it all feels a little bland and Ex Machina’s way of working damage is a little intrusive and annoying. The three-stat reductionism is also more than a little annoying, even though it makes things relatively simple.
Still, the setting is the thing though and while the settings in the book (the bulk of the book) never really roused my interest they do comprise a good toolkit for putting things together of your own with examples and some statted up NPCs, guards, cybernetics and so on.
My setting is set at some point around/after the 2050s and incorporates ideas liberally lifted from Doktor Sleepless, Augmented Reality speculation, Maker/Fabber speculation and Peter F Hamilton’s earlier cyberpunk setting books (such as The Nanoflower) along with my own ideas which I’ve been developing for some time either for personal games or for Genesis Descent (which will hopefully actually get greenlit at some point).
My setting is London, some time after 2050, and it’s a London much modified by climate change (flooding) and energy starvation issues. The key points of the setting are:
- Ubiquitous Augmented Reality: Pretty much everyone is wired in with contact lenses or glasses that give an augmented overlay to the world. Your social networking is connected to your personal transponder and distributed processing and gestural detection fields surround you. Almost everyone is wired in 24/7 and has a wealth of personal data available to anyone who cares to check. Police and other groups have more advanced versions of this and can even flag people for the general public to notice. Some sentencing involves displaying special HUD info, like, say ‘Sex Offender’ over your head. Almost everyone has ‘opted in’ to a near total surveillance culture.
- Unobtrusive Enhancement: Prosthetics have reached the point where they’re equal to or better than flesh-and-blood but actually chopping off a limb to get enhanced is crazy or fetishistic. Veterans or cripples may get these fitted and end up enhanced but regular people? No. Nano and biological enhancements or hidden/cosmetic enhancements are the order of the day. Cybernetics and Bionetics are subtle and hidden. A lot of enhancements are pure software, apps and expert systems loaded into your AR suite.
- Environmentalism: Everything, everywhere is concerned with environmental impact. Buildings are covered in a living coat of algae or moss and have roof gardens. There are incentives to have window-boxes or hanging window gardens and most buildings have one or two windmills or solar power/heating arrays. Cars are almost all electric, a lot of people cycle or walk and there are new tramways, light rail and monorails (corporate owned) replacing the crumbling London Underground (much flooded and hard to maintain).
- Corporatocracy: There is still a government but it’s a toothless rump, completely in the thrall of the corporations. Global turmoil following The Great Recession replaced many governments but the money was still in the company coffers and able to corrupt whoever was elected or to fix subsequent elections. Voting, protesting, none of it makes any real difference and you can’t depose a multinational through revolt. Companies own whole zones, set their own laws and regulations and ignore what remains of the government in any case.
- Energy: Lack of sufficient investment in alternative energy sources has caused a massive shortfall. Fusion has been cracked but requires massive powerplants that are much less efficient and much more expensive and difficult to run than nuclear reactors. Nuclear has such a bad reputation hardly anyone uses it though exhausted Middle Eastern nations continue to try to develop nuclear power. The Russian Confederation is one of the last major fossil fuel exporters and that’s drying up. They’re investing heavily in space resources. Remaining oil, gas, coal and other resource areas – particularly in Antarctica – are flashpoints for diplomatic incidents.
- Space: Pretty much entirely ceded to private enterprise, save by China which continues to gain space supremacy as a nation. Two consortia, one Russian/Eastern, one Anglo/Western are trying to make profitable means to harvest Near Earth Asteroids. Mining does go on, but is hideously expensive. It provides rare earths and important metals to Earth Industries but is barely profitable and intensely competitive.
What do players do?
With government and police almost entirely irrelevant there’s little to hold companies back and, hence, a huge amount of potential for PMCs, freelance industrial espionage and so on. Players are likely criminals, social networking engineers, people off the grid or otherwise capable of ‘doing things’ for important players.