Cyberpunk v3.0 by Kayn Slamdyke
Where do I start...Original SA post What do you mean I need a USB cable for my wireless printer/scanner!? Oh. I see. It's [Wireless Printer]/[Scanner]... Oh fuck it. I have a smartphone. It takes photos, right?
Cyberpunk v3.0 ::: Part 1: Where do I start...
Pictured: One of these things is 90% of the other. One of these things glows radioactive green
No seriously. Where? I mean, it seems to be standard that you go through a book you want to vivisect for this thread from cover to cover, but I don't think you CAN with Cyberpunk 3.0. Rules are hidden in a non-linear fashion. Character Creation, for instance, is considered an Advanced rule, and starts 152 pages in. But Basic character templates are cut out for you at page 60. This is after a few pages of intertwined crunch and fluff explaining the vital parts of the setting, but still sixty pages or so before the setting information starts on page 120 or so. The simple-roll-dice-or-so combat rules are between these, but the real ones I remember are somewhere buried at the back (the ones that kept Cyberpunk lethal) and GAH my fucking god look at this and tell me this is something you want to see from an RPG book
A shiny cybernetic arm to the one who tells me what the hell is pictured here
You see the problem here?
Man it hurts though. I really want to like Cyberpunk v3. There's plenty salvageable here but... well...
Maybe I should start with what this book is, other than second-hand purchased from a now closed-down shop the entire length of the country away.
Cyberpunk is not the best selling or the most fondly regarded ruleset for a Cyberpunk system (that prize goes to Shadowrun, with a setting that William Gibson despises and a system that I swear gets more Byzantinian every time I glance towards it). But it has a following. And R.Talsorian are what appears to be a genuinely pleasant little vanity press company. The normal stuff Mike Pondsmith and his team of two or so people sold in the 80's to 90's were quaint little anime games like Mekton Zeta or Teenagers from Outer Space. But Cyberpunk was their big draw. Gibson-esque cybermancy, street samurai, megacorporations, supercops with robots. The whole shebang. A fusion of all the stuff that, well, was iconic 80's near future Sci-Fi.
Of course since then, the 90's happened and all of gaming died in a titanic explosion and Magic: The Gathering purchases , and if your company wasn't shilling those cards or decent collectables of their own (SJG, GW and WW I'm looking at you!) you apparently collapsed into selling terrible modules to an ever thinning audience before you went out of business. RTalsorian looked like it had all but collapsed too, but considering it was Mike Pondsmith's pet project and he had a steady job at Microsoft, it wasn't too much of a problem. He could release books he wanted whenever he had time.
Radioactive Green is the easiest colour to read on. If all the lights in my dark future dwelling suddenly went out. Or I was reading it with sunglasses on. Actually... that explains why every bit of reading material glows in Deus Ex: Human Revolution...
Fifteen years after Cyberpunk 2020 was out (and eight after Cybergeneration), Cyberpunk v3.0 launches. And you'll forgive me if I don't focus all the blame directly on Pondsmith alone here. Here's a comparison of the Credits for Cyberpunk 2020 and Cyberpunk 3.
Cyberpunk 3.0 on the left, 22.214.171.124. on the right. Take a shot every time you see Mike Pondsmith's name
Wait. Did you see that on the Cyberpunk v3.0 page? Yes. In the preface, before the contents, before the Foreword, we have a Quick Links Index. This might be useful seeing as there is no actual index and the contents pages require a bloody microfiche to read them.
Where are rules for cyberoptics? I think I'll be needing them
Going to bypass the Foreword for now for reasons to be explained later. But let's get into the start of the fluff.
Cyberpunk sorta hit a branch in our world's time line around 1980. The Soviet Union was still going, proper chrome plated replacement limbs were ready by 1990. It's all so laughable now to look back and think "Wow. We were going to be literally surfing the Internet in VR rigs and blowing people up with guns that pop out of our arms". This changes later, but this is the base we're working from. For now. For about a page or so anyway
There's two pages explaining the old setting for Cyberpunk, breifly covering things like how there were once Megacorporations like Arasaka Security who ran the world almost free of government control, and how twice the major corporations came to blows in massive near apocalyptic battles. This runs alongside a sidebar that explains roughly, from the point of view of one of the Signature Characters, what the lay of the world is today. It skims. A lot. Because it's going to spell it all out in more detail on the next pages. It's all ignorable.
See this is why the book is being a problem. I can see what was being aimed for though - it's trying to give me a brief rundown of the information, and then will fill in the gaps later. But it fails on two accounts. The first is by giving us choice quotes like this in attempting to ground us in the setting...
...Driftbunnies with packs of mutant animals, smelly Rollers crusin' in giant tank-cities, and the occasional Parker stompin' on someone with a frackin' robot. It's getting to where an honest Solo doesn't know who needs killin' anymore. Welcome to fraggin 203X
Technoshock: When technology outstrip[s people's ability to comprehend or fit it into their lives. Suddenly, people freak out. They get emotional; violent. Families shatter; relationships tear apart. People feel helpless in the face of the universe
... so it utterly fails there by giving us a heated, close and personal account of the world without helping ease us into it. Which is fine. I can roll with that, even if half this information will be carpet bombed and paved over with different information later. My first game was V:tM - I'm used to being told one thing and then having it be told later in the book that it's a lie... that's fine. No. It starts to fail now because, by and large, the book recycles from the last edition.
Oh I don't just mean system. That's forgiveable. No. At the end of this intro there is the following...
Cyberpunk v3.0 posted:
As a Cyberpunk, you grab technology by the throat and hang on. You're not afraid to check out the newest in "enhancements", cybertech and bioengineering. You've got interfaces crawling all over your body, weapons in your arm, lasers in your eyes, biochip programs in your brain...
Because more than anything, Cyberpunk is an attitude. You wear the coolest clothes, use the most advanced tech, know the right people, make the new trends. You plan your crimes in the most select clubs and bars; your enemies are Corporate armies, cyborg bike gangs, power armoured assassins, computer wired hackerheads, and sometimes the rival Altcult down the Street. Your weapons are nerve, streetsmarts, bravado, and the Minami 10 smartgun on your hip.
Are you ready now? Of course you are. You can't wait.
Now you're Cyberpunk
Cyberpunk 126.96.36.199 posted:
As a cyberpunk you grab technology by the throat and hang on. You're not afraid to check out the newest in "enhancements", cybertech and bioengineering. You've got interfaces crawling all over your body, weapons in your arm, lasers in your eyes, biochip programs in your brain...
Cyberpunk is also an attitude. You wear the most "in" clothes, know the right people, and follow the right crowds. You plan your crimes in the most select clubs and bars; your enemies are Corporate armies, cyborg bike gangs, power armoured assassins and computer wired Netheads. Your weapons are nerve, streetsmarts, bravado, and the Minami 10 smartgun on your hip.
Are you ready now? Of course you are. You can't wait.
Now you're Cyberpunk
Oh expect this to come up a LOT during these rants. See. I get it. I get that Mike was pretty much working by himself on this. In the foreword he has this to say
Mike Pondsmith posted:
So what's the deal here?
Glad you asked. When I started out working on 3rd Edition back 5 years ago, I thought-- "Yeah I'll write the whole thing over! Start from Zero! New start! Throw it ALL OUT!"
But a lot can change in five years. One of the things that can change is that you realise that not everyone has PLAYED Cyberpunk ...
So I realized that I was going to have to repeat a bunch of stuff that was Basic Cyberpunk 101 . So don't be surprised if you see some familiar passages and ideas showing up in parts of this new Edition. Maybe YOU'VE seen it all before, but there's a whole new generation of punkers (like my son) who haven't been exposed to what passes as my sense of humor. Sometimes the original way is still the best way to say something
More than anything, reviewing and ranting on Cyberpunk v3.0 is going to end up coming back to the decisions Mike made while writing it (on his own as shown above with the credits). And while I can't hold it against him to want to have a grounding for a new era of players, it's difficult to defend outright copying and pasting between editions and adding a token new feature or adding "or the rival Altcult" and expecting it to fly.
A fundamental problem I see before me is that, well, people think just because something is ten years old it's not ever going to be played again. That people are incapable of locating the old copies of the books and playing those again. No. This is a fallacy. This thinking is what leads to half the posts in grognards.txt. The idea that a game stops being worth playing just because a new model was released with a higher number, or the idea that this should be the perceived norm.
Just because there's a 4th Edition of a game does not mean you instantly have to burn the Advanced Edition you have sitting in your loft. Just because something decides to nuke the setting and Awaken, it doesn't mean you have to ignore the hell out of Ascending. The previous work doesn't stop existing. If you want to reference it, reference it. Don't copy and paste from it wholesale and use the reason "Sometimes the original way is still the best way to say something".
I realise that it's difficult to locate a lot of out of print books, but I'm sure after a few hours on eBay you'll be able to locate a copy. Or at worst, do another limited run of it. I wouldn't mind showing more people Cyberpunk 188.8.131.52. and giving people new copies is the way to do it.
I'm sure you could argue that a revision needs the outright copy and pasting between editions (say, from D&D3 to 3.5, or any given edition of GURPS), and yeah, hands up that's fine. But there are fundamental differences between Cyberpunk 2 and 3 that literally and figuratively nuke everything old readers of the setting know and love to the ground, and copying and pasting just can't help.
Nine pages in. I'm nine pages in and I've collapsed into ranting already. Going to go drop some more steel cages on half orc wrestlers now...
Next Time: Mickey Mouse gets a Giant Robot, The World is Rewritten by Fox And Friends, Wikipedia and Lolcats and Kayn gets a USB cord for his Wireless Printer/Scanner
Addendum: Hell didn't notice that before. "Corpore Metal is a term drawn from the Paranoia line of role-playing games...". Greg Costikyan being one of the writers of Teenagers from Outer Space and all, I guess him and Mike kept pretty close ties.
The Rest of Chapter 1Original SA post Cyberpunk v3.0 ::: Part 2: The Rest of Chapter 1
Ken had a mid-life crisis and bought himself a Harley. Then went through his infamous Edward Scissorhands phase...
Oh yes. I have a scanner. So that means I get to show off the notoriously bad Cyberpunk v3 artwork. Someone mentioned it was done in Poser. I for one still believe that a lot of the pictures were accomplished purely by dressing Action Man and Barbie Dolls up and throwing doctored photos of them into the Colorise filter in Photoshop.
Let's go through the core of the fluff for Cyberpunk v3 shall we?
First though, we're going to address something about the book's glaring issues with it's layout. Of the next 21 pages of this book that make up the remainder of it's first chapter, TWENTY of them have sideboxes. Five of them are the timeline for the setting which can be forgiven. Twelve of them, however, are FULL PAGE sideboxes, and two of THOSE have sideboxes within them. Sideboxes within Sideboxes.
The "main body" of the text for these pages explains the concepts of the setting, and the sideboxes try to fill in the details. Which would work, if the sideboxes didn't end up appearing before the terms are first.
Oh, and the sideboxes are black text on neon green. The timeline is written in 6pt Impact font too. I have destroyed my eyes trying to read this thing.
The Fourth Corporate War
The setting then. The entry for 2021 is about two and a half sideboxes long, and because of what follows, that is where we will start, ignoring the rest of the timeline that comes before it (because it's copy and pasted from Cyberpunk 2020).
In the year 2021 the fourth Corporate War takes place. Originally it's between two no-name companies fighting over buying out another company, but they call in Private Security firms to handle the dispute for them. Eventually, it ends up being between the zaibatsu Arasaka Security (who were always used as the Baddies in Cyberpunk 2020) and Militech Industries . Arasaka's strength of arms is described as...
equal in military might to all of Nazi Germany at it's height
... and Militech is eventually nationalised by the US Government when Arasaka detonates a nuclear device in the middle of Night City, the default Western Seaboard city for Cyberpunk 2020, killing half a million people. It's later revealed that the nuke was a self-destruct device accidentally set off by Cyberpunk 2020's signature characters Johnny Silverhand and Morgan Blackhand when they were sabotaging the company's secure database.
Incidentally, the timeline says "a million people are killed, another million and a half die in the resulting after-effects", but the main text just says 500,000.
Arasaka Security's infamous and feared Graffiti Corps
After this, Suburo Arasaka retreats to Japan and takes it over with his secret buddies in North Korea. Just like that. Oh, and the EMPs from all the nuclear missiles that end up flying everywhere have made most of the cybernetics that people wore in 2020 worthless piles of scrap. What follows is every surviving Megacorporation and Zaibatsu enterprise in the setting allying up with one side or the other and having a good old fashioned dust up across the entire planet. The guys up in Space decide to drop rocks on people for kicks and both the US and the Japan recognise them as their own sovereign nations.
This is the image for the DataKrash's sidebox. I can therefore only assume Rache pretended to be a girl on the Internet and trolled chat rooms when he wasn't busy
During this outbreak of World War III, insane hacker Rache Bartmoss has been a busy little bee. In Cyberpunk 2020 the net was navigated like it was in every Cyberpunk movie at the time - by VR rigs strapped into little laptop computers, where every website was a virtual location and hacking took place with programs that turned into little icons of jackhammers or safecracking tools, and IC software was in the form of guard dogs. Well, Bartmoss breaks this. Apparently when the Ihara-Grubb VR algorithms went out onto the upgrade the entire Internet was undertaking to make it like this (don't ask...), he was hacking into them. Apparently he got into Ihara's computer...
...using a backdoor he'd set up on [his] computer (knowing something of Ihara's proclivities, Bartmoss had made it look like a hentai animé porn file)
What does the DataKrash do? Well it was apparently programmed to do the following three things...
1) Hide: Randomly transfer data files of the same size between computers, while keeping the original header... so the next time Suburo Arasaka opened up "Master Plan to Overthrow America", he would find a really great recipe for Aunt Mary's chocolate chip cookies instead. Meanwhile, the formula for an Arasaka mind control device would be lurking like a toad in a suburban housewives' cooking database
2) Show: DataKrash was also designed to level the playing field by locating secret data- and exposing it to others... most Megacorps kept extensive files on covert operations... DataKrash would note files with secure headers, read the file contents and drop copies of that file to every single name mentioned in the files
3) Swap: DataKrash was also programmed to substitute altered files for similar ones. For example, there were lots of old copies of the MPEG file of the Nixon resignation, right? But they all had the same basic header. So the DataKrash would seek out any video file with "Richard Nixon" in the title and in a certain number of them SUBSTITUTE a digitally altered file in it's place. The DataKrash also did this with text documents, sound files, even digitally altered blueprints.
Rache's intent was to make information totally free, by making it purely subjective. There would be no way to hoard information, or to lock it up. There would be no lock on the truth, since there would be a million versions of the truth. In a sick, twisted kind of way, it was the ultimate post-modern act of freedom.
Rache, for unrelated cybercrimes, is hunted down and killed one day in 2021. And the deadman switch for his virus which is now built into the entire interwebs is activated, spamming people's inboxes with a billion versions of truth and hacking whatever the setting's equivalent of Wikipedia is like there's no tommorow. AIs in the shape of Rache start appearing over the net, have their code mutate like extras from a Matrix movie and start taking over the entire thing like Agent Smith. Because all information is now compromised on practically every computer system on the planet, people apparently forget everything. Hell, they apparently forget what the YEAR is (which, okay getting a few days wrong here and there while a majority of the planet is engaged in World War III is understandable, but the entire YEAR?!). It happens faster than the Internet Police can handle, and soon the Internet Police find themselves having to pull the plug on the entire Internet, taking it all down.
Oh. In the meantime, Suburo Arasaka saw what was happening, and chuckled to himself like an evil mastermind. He sealed his copies of Encarta away in the vault in Night City, and prepared a Paper Eating Virus that he somehow dusted the entire world in. So with all information on the Internet about as reliable as Encyclopedia Dramatica for research purposes, and all paper products turning to mulch, Arasaka believed he would indeed have a monopoly on all the world's accurate information.
Then it was all blowed up and 500,000 or 1.5million people died, who knows what the number was IT'S ALL SUBJECTIVE INFORMATION RIGHT?
Eventually, what's left of the Japanese government rallies together, kicks down Shogun Arasaka's fortified compound near the end of 2022, and brings his head back to the furious United States President Elizabeth Kress.
So. With the entire US a smoking ruin, most of Japan ravaged by Civil War, and the rest of the world nuked as far as we can tell because who cares about anything that's not on the Pacific Ocean, various other calamities occur to rid the Cyberpunk world of any kind of connection Cyberpunk v3 would have to 2020.
The US Government officially relinquishes control of everything west of the Rocky Mountains, leaving the west coast and the deserts to the raiders and the nuked out survivors of Night City and other major cities exploding under nuclear weapons. People in Night City start to pick themselves up, and the cyberpunks who didn't have their arms, eyes and brains explode in the EMP blast start to form pockets of society. Fully borged up and shielded cyberpunks start to help move some of the wreckage, but eventually exile themselves into the lawless desert somewhere around Los Alamos and take over the military base there.
The nomads, who have long been a roaming band of isolated families band together for survival and start forming megaconvoys that travel between the Night City ruins and the bombed out Carbon-Plague infested hellhole that is Chicago.
Japan is struck by a typhoon. The Kanto Plains cities, having extended out onto floating artificial islands, find that half of their population is carried off to sea and the survivors have to fend for themselves. Similarily constructed zones and massively flooded areas on the west coast of North America also form insular societies and dig themselves deeper to the sea bed. A group of Japanese theme park technicians lock the gates to their mouse-idolising fun land and close the gates to all comers, trying to preserve some part, any part, of all the world's cultural heritage.
All six of these groups eventually research and develop or uncover entirely new technologies within the space of a half decade or so (HOW!?) to help them survive in their chosen environments, and eventually, all six groups, refered to as Altcults (because Cyberpunk apparently HAD Usenet amongst it's Virtual Reality stuff) have representatives of their cultures up in the reconstructed Night City.
[[A two page sidebar attempts to explain Altcults, as a concept, in detail, by explaining the concept of Memes. Because in an era where there is no one truth, a lot of philosophies and belief systems can be created, small communities form. The largest of these take on insular, slightly xenophobic qualities and become gated societies and towns all of their own, and these are termed Altcults.]]
The Internet never recovers, being mostly overrun by rabid clones of Bartmoss, but little dropboxes of storage start popping around Night City for people to store files and trade with each other, and this becomes known as the DataPool. Goodbye Virtual Reality. We never missed you.
Some of the Corporations survived the collapse of civilisation and bankruptcy (HOW?) and set up shop again as sovereign powers, without any of them protection or limits that governmental oversight had over them. While they remain antagonistic, they are nowhere near the big-bads they once were. And of course, gangs, smaller Altcults and civilians drift back to the slightly irradiated blob that is Night City, which grows to cover most of California (I'll explain that in a later post)
The Seminal Six
Out of the hundreds of possible gangs, groups and corporations that must inhabit Night City by this point in 203X, six Altcults are given as character options later in the book. This means they get little write-ups here, and apparently had marketting consultants make them kewl little logos
Edgerunners stuck close to the ruins of the cities and helped bring them back from the disaster. The closest to the original cyberpunks, they inherited the standard chrome and punk attitude feel of their predecessors, while gaining access to a new form of modular Cybernetics that requires less commitment.
Reef which formed out of the ocean engineers who had to protect themselves from pirates and ne'erdowells while surviving on the sea bed. To accomplish this, they researched limited mutagenic viruses that can be deployed over their bodies to allow them to gain animal features, bulk up on muscle mass, or grow useful appendages like gills all within the space of half a minute.
Rolling State evolved out of the nomad families, who eventually became so large they needed megastructure technology to build titanic moving cities to house themselves in. Members of the Rolling State held in good stead are injected with Adaptive Nanomachines that help patch up wounds, and also make contact with other nanomachines held within everyday items to help personalise and better optimise their equipment.
Riptide are what remains of the floating cities that drifted away from Japan. Battling against overcrowding and storms, the bioengineers from the corporations housed there turned to forcing the evolution of surrounding lifeforms to be more intelligent, useful and generally domesticated to the point that every member of the Riptide Confederacy had a few of them to help out as tools, weapons and companions
Notice that none of the altcults uses the conventional chrome and sawing off your limbs bionics business that is the norm for Cyberpunk fiction. The Edgerunners and C-Metal come closest, but even then the Edgerunners have modular piercing-and-bracers style things that uncurl in a fine lattice over existing flesh, while the C-Metal group puts their brains in jars to make entirely new artificial bodies. A lot of this is post-cyberpunk ideas. A lot of it could be considered transhumanist as well. The concept is strong and follows the idea that Cyberpunk as a genre has moved on, but a lot of the concepts either come across as freakish (C-Metal), outlandish (Riptide), or just outright alien/unbelieveable (Rip).
What happened to the old cybernetics? We'll cover that eventually...
The chapter closes with some more sidebars about some terms used in the game. Since each Altcult is it's own little insular society, major purchases within those groups require less in the form of actual cash and more of the form of contractual, mutual obligation. Scratching the back of one altcult gets you more respect, honour and obligation within that group. The game calls it " giri " because it loves it some Japanese loanwords.
Certain actions gain you giri, like doing the Altcult a favour or saving someone important's life, while certain actions cost you giri (I guess one of them would be calling their entire philosophy a hollow lie). There's a table provided for spending Giri too - getting access to an Altcult's public and communal areas past it's gated community requires Dogtags (20G) while getting the basics of the Unique Technology from that group requires somewhere in the region of 100G. So of course, this cultural understanding of shared mutual obligation, trust and respect is reduced, in all but name only, to money. Money that you can only spend in one place. Your characters are LITERALLY being paid in Desnai Dollars in this game.
It also introduces another loanword - Kulturekampf , a term originally coined by Bismarck (spelt wrong in the book). The game uses it to describe how wars are fought now between the Altcults - both physically fighting against and culturally attacking each other. Certain altcults clash with each other on a regular basis - Desnai and the Edgerunners don't get on due to the Parkologies stance on slow, controlled growth and the Edgerunner's inherent desire to see things blow up. C-Metal and the Rollers frequently clash over territory and what's expected of family members (normally the line draws at "have your brain removed"). C-Metal and Desnai also hate each other, due to Desnai finding the concept of turning people into robots "anathema" (I love seeing that word in RPGs...). Finally, Riptide and Reef regularily square off with each other, due to Reef having a pacificist, slightly communist outlook on life, and Rip being a bunch of mermen who like to hunt down big genetically mutated fish and beat things up.
This one is where the problem lies. Like any other game where your "class" or "race" or "I'm different from you in one word" is intrinsically tied to a culture or way of playing the game, you're likely to come to blows with the other players in the party who choose to play something you're at odds with. Most games tie it deep into the backstory or can ignore it safely (such as, say, Paladins adventuring alongside Rogues in D&D3.5 and below if the GM isn't especially out to make the Paladin stumble down a flight of Alignment shaped stairs), others specifically give you enough options so that even if your group hates another one of the standard player archetype groups, you all have common enough enemies so that at least you won't be initially out to gut the other like a fish (this would be any OWoD game really...).
When there are six, and really only six, radically different options that all inherently have a huge distrust and nearly-relgious-in-scope ideological differences with each other, I can't picture it working unless everyone chooses from within one or two of the groups. I'm sure it could if there was a common enough enemy or with a properly constructed group, but as presented it sounds like that a group made up of a Desnai Mechajock, a C-Metal Panzerboy and a Rolling State Scout's first session would end with two of them dead, and the other cleaning the remains off his pet giant robot.
Next Time, Chapter 2. More on the Altcult Fluff - Are There Any Rules Yet?