What the Cyberpunk 2020 RPG Can Tell Us About Cyberpunk 2077

The folks at Rock, Paper, Shotgun checked out the Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG in order to try and figure out what we can expect to see in the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 by CD Projekt RED. The feature outlines the setting and the role-playing system of the tabletop game that can easily provide a solid foundation for the digital sequel. Here's an excerpt:

Cyberpunk 2077 is wisely going back to 2020 for inspiration. The most popular edition, it was detailed in a 250-page rulebook, over 30 supplements, two novels, and a card game. That’s a lot of source material, a solid base for launching wild speculations about the video game from. So let’s do that – while discussing what made Cyberpunk 2020 interesting in the first place.

Its designers, foremost among them Mike Pondsmith, based their game on first-wave cyberpunk, the original 1980s stories by William Gibson and co. That means mirrorshades and leather jackets, but more importantly a cynical view of how we’ll cope with technological advances. Computers get better and our lives get worse, to grossly simplify the themes of an entire genre.

In the Cyberpunk 2020 timeline this technoshock is so extreme it brings on full socio-economic collapse, the future arriving so fast that mass psychosis comes with it. Megacorporations provide a neo-feudal alternative to an incomprehensible social order, but some reject this, embracing their status as disposable chrome outcasts. They look back to the 80s to look forwards, creating a revolutionary movement inspired by cyberpunk fiction.

This isn’t like a zombie movie where no one says “zombie”. Its heroes are called cyberpunks, or sometimes Edgerunners, and it’s both cringey and wonderful. I hope CD Projekt keep this – it adds humanising lightness to an otherwise dark setting. Characters are aware they’re in a world resembling genre fiction. They use “Gibson” as slang for someone who predicts the future, and call the man himself “Saint Willie”.

Cyberpunks are defined by Roles. Techies and Medtechies specialise in repair and surgery, while Nomads are vehicle specialists and road warriors. Rockerboys/Rockergirls are guitar-wielding bards who convince their audiences to start riots. Netrunners are hackers, but saddled with such complex rules hardly anybody played them. Solos are cybered-up soldiers and assassins modeled after samurai (much more popular with players). Medias are truth-telling reporters with cameras bolted to their heads. Fixers are streetwise dealmakers with criminal connections. All those Roles suit an anti-authoritarian game about sticking it to the man, but Cop and Corporate were both playable Roles as well.