Cyberpunk 2020 is an easy game to play for a small group – even 2 players – unlike a D&D group that falls apart without a minimum quorum. The modern setting of Cyberpunk lends itself well to short games, two to four sessions, rather than the months-long epic of fantasy. And I cannot overemphasize the crucial importance of regular meetings to build a larger group.
Cyberpunk works on a D10 system similar to the D20 of D&D. Roll D10, add skills ability points and add modifiers against a Difficulty Class number, which is an arbitrary number assigned by the DM. The DM is called the Games Master. I would describe the game mechanic as the same pretty girl only wearing a different dress with fewer accessories.
Cyberpunk 2020 was first published in 1990. Same as D&D, it uses a class system and 3D6 to roll Ability Scores, but D10 for all else. The setting is current and follows the thematic Sprawl Trilogy of early Cyberpunk literature originated by William Ford Gibson in his 1984 novel Neuromancer and later encapsulated in the film he wrote, Johnny Mnemonic. The setting is easy to understand because you can read it in today’s headlines: American/European financial collapse, a one world order of corporate feudal lords, the global social unrest, the terrorism and anti-terrorism corporate terror games (read: blood for oil), the technological breakthroughs happening throughout society from Twitter to iPads to personal GPS in mobile phones to space tourism and the conversion of the international space station into a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) hotel offering corporate clients a box at the opera – and the freedom from whatever remains of Terran law for corporations like Monsanto to experiment…
This was fantastic stuff when it was written in the 1980s long before Facebook profiles and cell phones became common among school children in 2012. The conspiracy theories in 1980 were largely restricted to the assassination of JFK, but conspiracies today include the outrageous alien control of the Bilderberg Group to Obama’s birth certificate. The world has globally warmed up to the themes and darker setting of Cyberpunk 2020 as well as the nuttier notions of a Sarah Palin for president.
The Internet can be highly interactive in Cyberpunk 2020, and some technology is a little further advanced than what’s commonly available. There are cars that are electric and some that can fly, but the majority are still powered by internal combustion engines despite the end of oil. The rich or connected can have bionic or cybernetic implant enhancements from the best and trendiest clinics, while “ripper” Docs work to enhance the less affluent from parts stolen off the dead for practice and profit. People still Google for information but hackers steal information using homemade computer decks and modified smart phones to actually enter the Net with their consciousness, giving them the speed they need to hack past advanced security wards but leaving them open to deadly I.C.E.
For Cyberpunk 2020 hackers, The Internet is a Tron experience akin to the fantasy of D&D.
The game has 10 Player Class Types:
1. Rockerboys – the musicians, modeled on punk rockers
2. Solos – the ex-soldier muscle types
3. Netrunners – the hackers
4. Techie – the mechanics
5. Med Tech – the healers
6. Media – the celebrities
7. Cops – the police
8. Corporates – the wage slaves
9. Fixers – the suppliers
10. Nomads – the homeless gypsies who band together in families
It is really just a matter of imagining yourself in one of these 10 roles and wanting to role-play in a modern setting that is very close to the real world. Expect lots of action.