Friday, May 10, 2013

Flashback Friday: Cybergeneration

I was an enormous Cyberpunk fan in the late 80s and early 90s. I bought the original boxed set when it first came out and by the time the Cyberpunk 2020 line was finished I had every book, including ones published by third parties. The only game I have more memories of playing is Mekton.

So when Cybergeneration came out, it was an automatic buy for me. It wasn't an automatic love affair. Kids? Nanotech powers? Strange names for skills like "Lil Angel"?  Cheesy "yogangs"?. The Cybergeneration types were really awesome, the premise was cool, and I liked the stripped down system. A lot of the artwork was done by Alex Racine, an artist who was one of my favorites out of the R. Talsorian Games stable. I just didn't know what to do with it at first. I ran a couple of games and the system worked well, although the games fizzled out for various reasons. I did wind up buying the supplements because they had a lot of good information in them.

 Cybergeneration uses a simplified Interlock system. The base stats are the same but are capped at 8, as are skills. Like I mentioned, the skills list has been rewritten to better represent youth skills. Multiple "Edgerunner " skills are combined into one, such as Streetfighting covering pretty much all combat skills. Other examples include "Get a Clue" and "Blend". Overall the characters have fewer points than their CP2020 counterparts to represent the character's youth. The dice mechanics are the same as Interlock (1d10 + Stat + Skill), but the combat system is simplified and streamlined. In a clever move, the yogang skills have their level halved when going up against an adult.

It also had Akira hanging out with Ke$ha
The premise of the game is that in 2025, a nanotech virus called The Carbon Plague was unleashed. If it infects an adult, that adult dies. If it infects a kid, most likely nothing will happen but. In a small percentage of children, they are changed into one of the "Evolved". By 2027 the  government has rebooted itself with the backing of the most powerful megacorps and reasserted some semblance of order. For the most part, the streets are a lot safer than 7 years before, but it's at the expense of being completely beholden to the corporate machine.  The Edgerunners of CP2020 have retired, been killed or driven underground - the corporations won, in essence.

The Carbon Plague gives the kids an array of nanotech-driven abilities, divided into five types:
  • Tinmen: They are able to reshape their limbs T-1000 style.
  • Wizards: Basically Netrunners that can use their brains instead of a cyberdeck.
  • Alchemists: They can create objects and destroy them.
  • Scanners: They can manipulate nervous systems, both theirs and others'.
  • Bolters: They can use electrical ranged attacks.
Of course, the Incorporated States of America wants to get its hands on these kids. The book uses a guided introductory scenario to set up the PCs becoming infected, escaping the government forces that come and look for them, then going underground and finding the resistance. The setup works reasonably well, although I wasn't 100% fond of the way the mix of in-character and out-of-character information was presented (it was a bit too "busy" and fragmented). The old iconic CP2020 characters - Alt, Johnny Silverhand, Morgan Blackhand, Rache Bartmoss - are provided as leaders of the resistance and give a nice "lived in" touch to the setting. The presence of Arasaka just rounds out the reunion.

The game lends itself well to "MIB" or Matrix-type scenarios, with black-suited agents wearing sunglasses trying to chase down kids using "adult" tactics, only to be shown up and mocked when the kids use "kid tactics". In fact, the book drives the point home that the kids of this new generation don't solve problems the way their parents did. Violence is not best response, firearms are much harder to get, and other solutions are encouraged. In the chapter "Running Cybergeneration" there are even two sections in the book that talk about giving alternate solutions to problems: "Firepower Never Solves the Problem" and "It's Not All Guns, Guns, Guns." The chapter is rounded out with a "plotpath" chart, which was kind of a hybrid between the old Lifepath in CP2020 and the Beat chart in the Dreampark rpg.

While I bought the three RTG supplements (EcoFront, MediaFront and VirtualFront) I got out of the game before any of the Firestorm Ink books came out (I only had a vague notion that Cybergeneration 2nd edition or Generation Gap even existed). I might need to hunt those down.

Similar to Tribe 8, Cybergeneration tried to go in a slightly different direction using the same old systems that were grounded in design patterns of the late 1980s. There just wasn't any support for the kinds of things the characters were encouraged to do - non-violent solutions, social repercussions, acting on ideals and trying to build long-term goals. A game doesn't need to have explicit support for these things, but it really helps. So, hopefully no one will be too surprised if I say that I think a Fate Core conversion would be really great for Cybergeneration. I'm not sure when I'll do such a thing (I still have like five games to read), but it's a very real possibility.