Welcome back to System Hack! Now that the real timeline has caught up with Cyberpunk 2020, it’s time to start pinning the Cyberpunk Chimera down. We have attributes and skills, we have ideas about a combat system, and there’s some hacking, some cyberware, and even some meta-mechanics. What don’t we have yet? Oh. Right. Characters.
Welcome to the first Kickstarter Wonk for 2020! Although January is often a thin month for RPG Kickstarters, with designers suffering the same holiday hangovers as the rest of us, this January, January of 2020, is likely to be the worst one so far. This isn’t random, not at all. Last year, Kickstarter threw an event called Zinequest, where game designers were encouraged to put out zine-sized games and RPG supplements in a recognition of the legacy of RPG zines from the 70s and 80s. This was wildly successful, and inspired Kickstarter to throw Zinequest 2. When is Zinequest 2? Next month. What are all the game designers doing? Getting ready for that. How many campaigns does that leave me? Very few.
On New Year’s Day, 2010, the RPG hobby wasn’t feeling very lively. Dungeons and Dragons was plodding along with Fourth Edition, though a lot of players had abandoned it for Pathfinder, or, as your friends called it, “D&D 3.75e”. The New World of Darkness was out, but you were having trouble finding the new part. Shadowrun 20th Anniversary came out…but that was just Fourth Edition from 2005 with errata. Though things weren’t looking so hot, there was some interesting stuff going on. This new website Kickstarter had been causing a stir in tech news, and more and more of the games you’ve been looking for had been made available in PDF. Something’s going to change, you think.
In 1994, Richard Night had a vision for a new modern city. By 2009, that vision had gone awry, and what was supposed to be an urban utopia became an urban hellhole. As Bes Isis once said, “Nobody leaves Night City. Except in a body bag.”
On Christmas Eve, 2019, four enterprising RPG bloggers found themselves at a strange conjunction of parallel dimensions. Whether it was their campaign worlds, their characters, or Aaron’s insistence on reviewing Fate of Cthulhu while writing a time travel game, no one could say. Nonetheless, when they stepped through the strange, neon-colored portals that appeared in their respective homes, Seamus, Aaron, Aki, and Jason could not be less prepared for what lay on the other side.
Sent back in time, you must save humanity from its enslavement by a godlike overlord. You must
protect John Connor stop Cthulhu! …wait. What? We’ve talked about kitchen sink games before, and this mashup definitely edges towards that territory even while sitting firmly in Lovecraft’s Mythos. If you’ve seen one too many investigator go over the brink, spent one too many hours in a briefing room with Delta Green or can’t seem to get all of these Laundry Files out of your inbox, here’s another angle on Lovecraftian Mythos: Time Travel. That’s right, it’s time to go 30 years in the past to 2020 and help change the Fate of Cthulhu.
Every successful RPG must have a strong setting or a strong ruleset. When Fantasy Flight Games hit it out of the park with their trio of Star Wars RPGs, they clearly had a strong setting. As it turned out, though, the system was pretty solid too; the Narrative Dice System had been patched to tone down the excesses of WFRP 3e, resulting in a game that was a good balance between robust and quick, and added a good amount of narrative flair and interesting in-game decisions. It was so good that people were able to overlook the expensive proprietary dice. From Star Wars came Genesys, a generic RPG which truly begs the question of whether the Narrative Dice System can succeed on mechanics alone.
Tis the season to be Wonky! December is not always a very busy month for Kickstarter, it’s more important to deliver and sell near the holidays than it is to fundraise, so in some ways this is an off-cycle time for creators who are trying to kick off projects. As such, there are only eight projects in this month’s line-up. That said, we do have a holiday miracle in store, and in just a couple days eight projects will turn into nine! Thanks to a creator who I am a particular fan of, we have access to a project preview that should turn into an honest-to-goodness campaign just a few days after this article’s publication date. While we’re waiting for that, though, the rest of the projects in this article are all quite promising and worthy of your attention.
Welcome back to System Hack! Over the last few months I’ve been slowly but surely building out elements of a Cyberpunk game, inspired by but not really based on Cyberpunk 2020. At this point, we get into the weeds. Until now, the articles published so far have all dealt with simulationist aspects of the game. That is to say, when a character in the game wants to do something, what happens? At this point, we’re going to pivot away from the characters and focus instead on the players.
Welcome to another Review In-Depth! Here I explore and attempt to critique a game using not just a reading or even a mere one-shot, but rather a full short campaign of play. While reading may tell you about rules and ease of use, and a one-shot may demonstrate game balance and fun factor, it takes several sessions to really tease out how well a game accomplishes its stated goals. And because rules aren’t everything, I cast an equally critical eye to the content of the story the group ended up telling.
Today’s game tells a sadly real story about the gap that exists between enthusiasm and actually finding time to play something. Cannibal Halfling’s first breakout article was written in March of 2017, about four months after the site was founded, and it was about two Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) Cyberpunk games, The Veil and The Sprawl. This recent campaign was the first time I successfully ran The Veil, in fact the first time I successfully played it at all…it was over two years after I first read it.
There’s a wide world of RPGs out there. In that world, Dungeons and Dragons represents a small sliver of the gameplay experiences and stories that are possible, but a disproportionately large slice of the games that are actually played. It’s from this juxtaposition that comes the frequent and often irksome question “how do I hack D&D to play [insert genre]?” However, when you mix D&D mechanics with a designer who has actually played other games and given thought to how the mechanics must change, you can get something rather good. Carbon 2185 has taken 5th Edition D&D mechanics, given them a solid restoration to work better in the Cyberpunk genre, and then added some bolt-on systems which take inspiration from the best of sci-fi roleplaying.