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NuYork 2020

Why New York?

  I wanted to pick a town that had a little mystique and more than a little reputation. Also, I wanted to pick a city that had a certain familiarity to it (many people have heard of Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, etc...). But also I wanted to pick a town that people did not know too well (I probably would have used New Orleans or Tokyo if I had a New Yorker in my group). In fact, I have not been to New York (neither have my players - one had been there for just a few days). This entire game world is a flight of fancy (I did some research, but it is mostly made up). This gave me the freedom to really brainstorm and make a believable world that I was very familiar and comfortable with.

How did I come up with this?

  When I try to come up with events for my Cyberpunk campaign, I try to take into account five things:

1) What people think about society in the 80s and 90s. For instance, most people do not believe the government can effectively change or control any meaningful part of life. People generally believe that Multinational corporations are mindless machines that do things that make the most amount of money while costing the least amount of money. Regardless of ethics, wisdom or even common sense. When I think about what people know. I start with that and just make a caricature of it.
2) What people know about future technology. Many times people are aware of emerging technologies, but not how they will impact daily life. What I do is concentrate on technologies that most people know about and turn them into the worst-case scenario. Who would guess that cyberware would become just another fashion for instance?
3) Reality. I try to frame events and ideas of this dark future with the presence of reality. In other words, I try to think if it is possible that it could actually happen.
4) Game continuity. I try to keep all events consistent with RTG's Cyberpunk timeline. Although, if the first three factors are well met, I may look at altering the RTG timeline slightly. For instance, RTG says a nuke went off in New York, I kept the nuke, but made the bomb small enough (about the strength of he World Trade Center bomb) that people could survive and work there.
5) Relevance: even if an event meets all of this criteria, if it is not relevant, I will either save it for later or let it happen and not tell the characters. Sometimes I will use such an event for filler for the evening news or as chaff in info searches.

Why are you still using Special Abilities?

  I believe that Special Abilities "are" realistic. Many times it is hard to define what makes an old soldier or what the difference is between a Wizard programmer and the guy down the corner. But it is more than just training and experience. Let's look at the possible explanations:

1) Experience - Although on the surface this seems like the logical explanation, why does one soldier get mowed down while another lives long enough to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the war in a full parade? The person had to have something special in order to get the experience.
2) Luck - Some people are just luckier than others. While plausible on the surface, It does not explain programmers that are consistently better than their peers (nobody's luck can hold out THAT long...).
3) Training - certainly a factor, but in our soldier example, they would technically get the same training.
4) Smarts or sense - while this may or may not be true with soldiers, it does not explain why one race car driver drives better than another (or a normal driver for that matter).
5) Natural ability - The driver has better reflexes, the programmer has better INT, although this point must be conceded to some degree. it must be pointed out that most people are really good at one or two things and just passable at others (The race car driver for all his reflexes would not necessarily make a good aerobatic pilot). The obvious answer to this argument is Skill levels, but where do skill levels come from, training and experience. How is it that when two people with the same training and experience compete, one is almost always the clear superior? There must be some special ability that they possess. Not some superpower mind you, but an edge they have over other people.

What about humanity loss?

  I follow this rule to the letter for three reasons:

1) Game balance - without this rule, people would be inclined to make a character that can unbalance the system. A superman that does not need anyone's help. This character would have its offensive and defensive powers provided by cyberware and only buy skills and abilities that cannot be provided by cyberware. There has to be something you lose when you start digitizing your body...
2) Romantic notion - from old anime (e.g., Galaxy Express 999) to Star wars there has been a constant theme in story telling that to become the machine means to give up something of the man.
3) It just might be right - we don't know the effects of serious cybernetic alteration on the human psyche. For all we know this might be right on the money (other predictions were right on and furthermore people supposedly act and feel different depending on what underwear they are wearing. What effect would cyberware have?).

What about Roles?

  I have kept the notion of roles, but have been careful not to let it restrict characters too much. The first thing I have tried to do, is to define the role by it's special ability, not by its title. To me, a cop with Combat Sense fits in this model. They do not have to have a different title, just because cops have Authority and solos have Combat Sense. The only restriction is that the character has to make sense. If the role is part of my campaign and not a special ruling for a single character, The advantage a role has over other characters is in my skill packages. The character has the opportunity to learn skills outside their background path. This, to me, represents a character's fascination with the subject. The single-mindedness that a character has, that makes a programmer approach their problem in a different way after hearing a fairy tale. That, to me, is what this represents.

What is cyberpunk to me?

  This campaign is cyberpunk to me. A dark future where the best and brightest ideas for the future are perverted by power hungry individuals. I portray Corps, stars and politicians as ruthless power mongers. I avoid conspiracies though, in a chaotic future like Cyberpunk 2020, I find it hard to believe that a conspiracy would not be revealed. My inspirations are (In no particular order):

1) Bubblegum Crisis
2) Akira
3) Ronin
4) The Die Hard Series of movies
5) The Batman Franchise (Comics, Cartoons and movies)
6) Crying Freeman
7) RoboCop series of movies
8) Desperado
9) The Big Hit
10) Gross Point Blank
11) John Woo's films
12) City Hunter
13) Snow Crash
14) Little Heroes
15) Neuromancer
16) And, of course, The Master, Mike Pondsmith

  The files I used to create this web site:

    History - Bring the time lines that effect New York together

    Geography - Provide maps and highlight different parts of the city as well various landmarks

    Politics - Describe major corps and major criminal groups (Gangs and Crime Organizations)

    Daily Life - List Bars & restaurants around town as well as things that people deal with every day in New York

    Technology - Items of interest to New Yorkers

    Referee - Information about my house rules and any other referee-only information

    My Notes - What did I do and why did I do it.

    Player Handouts


    A ZIP file containing all of these files

  If you have any questions about my notes or what they mean or how to use them, e-mail me at

  Credit should go to John <> for his help with my Mars site

and Jean-Sebastien Morisset <> for giving me a home for these files

and "Karsten Voigt" <> if for doing nothing more than inspiring me to finish this work.

Browse to to get the latest version of these files.


Back to JS's Personal Home Page (not a bad CP2020 site either)

Legal Disclaimer:

CyberPunk, Cyberpunk, CP2020, and other names and marks are R. Talsorian Games. Reference to this material is in no way intended as a challenge to that copyright or any other legal rights or benefits belonging to R. Talsorian Games.

Use of other Registered or copyrighted trademarks or Service Marks is fictional and is not intended as a challenge to their rights or license to these names and marks. Nor are depictions of these corporations and companies intended as fact or even opinion of these organizations, but intended as an act of fiction for the entertainment of Role-playing Gamers.