Thinking about a new cyberpunk-like RPG

For years I have a tabletop-role playing game in my mind that is roughly placed in the Cyberpunk-genre I want to develop. It’s WIP-name is Menschmaschinen (Humanmachines).

Recently I started thinking about it again. With the Apocalypse Engine there came several new Cyberpunk-like games up but not one is really satisfying me. The Sprawl is too much like CP2020 but has not enough cyberware, The Veil is a bit weird and uses emotions for attributes and Headspace is cool but definitely not what I have in my mind. Soon (hopefully) there will be a kickstarter for Sigmata which seems to be rather cool. But this also means that it will take some time until it will be released.

So, back to the drawing board. I have a general idea of the setting in my head but I am not sure what type of game to play with it. The game is set in the not so far future. There is a private elite that has at least as much power as nation states – be it the super rich or corporations. Most people are only gears in the machine. Maybe there are people who rebel against the system and try to leave it. That might create a parallel society like it is described in Walkaway by Cory Doctorow.

I am not sure if there is uploading – as in uploading the brain. Because I am not sure if the implications. Or maybe it is available but only in the lab like in the Nexus-trilogy of Ramez Naam. I am also not sure at what level artificial intelligences are. Are they only expert-systems or real intelligence beings. How powerful are they and how much can they learn?

I want to have Appleseed-like exo-skeletons because they are awesome. The question is again how available are they and can players acquire them. If it evolves around a group of police-wo/men then it is more probable than if it evolves around of people who left the system.

How available is cyberware? Is it easy to acquire and to implant or huge surgeries? Is it cool to have it? Cool enough to amputate your arm and replace it by a robot-arm? Is there technology available to improve the flesh without amputating it or heavy surgery? Maybe nanites that will regenerate you or strengthen your muscles?

Assuming I am extrapolating from today I see mass surveillance as a big part of the game. But the game should already describe ways to circumvent it. Otherwise players spend probably too much time with this part. What do people think about it? Is it good or not? Is there a lot of voluntary surveillance because people are still using some central private infrastructure or did they move back away to some decentralized infrastructure? Is this maybe one of the differences between people in the system and people outside of it?

What about hacking? There should definitely be hacking available to the players. But how to realize it mechanically? A mini-game in its own? Kind of like the dungeon crawl from CP2020 or is it possible to integrate it better into the main game. More social engineering, more automatisms?

What about 3D-printing? How affordable is it? How endurable are the products? What can you print? Only parts? Whole machines? Can you print food? Do they have essentially replicators? What resources are needed for it?

Coming to resources: what is the state of climate change? What are the power sources? Do we have fusion plants? Are we going complete as Sci-Fi with something like cold fusion? Or are we still struggling with old fossil energies and maybe even some blown up nuclear plants?

So many questions to think about and I didn’t list all I have. In the end is the question what game do I want to play? I could imagine the crime-fighting police group. Or a game about the people who left the system searching for resources and a way to rebel. Maybe two settings? One is playing the police-forces embedded in the system who solve crime and will regularly arrest people outside of the system because they are terrorists. And the other way be more Shadowrun-like. People outside of the system who try to make their living by doing anything. Or even rebel-campaigns where the big picture is to dismantling the system.

It is hard. I have to think more about it. My plans are to do some posts about possible mechanics in the next weeks, so subscribe to the blog if you are interested in following what will develop. I am not sure yet if something will come out of this but if it does, it will be Creative Commons-licensed and will be shareable.

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