Ghosts of Dark Futures Past….

So, despite all of the D&D 4E, and the years of playing World of Darkness in various flavors, I still think in the end my favorite genre for not just gaming, but anything, would have to be Cyberpunk. Okay, I actually enjoy Steampunk on an equal level. Maybe I’m just a fan of speculative realities, alternate time lines and “out dated” scifi. Whatever the case, William Gibson and Neil Stephenson are amongst the literary gods to me.

My first official entry into RPG’s wasn’t even D&D, it was Shadowrun.  My first visit into GURPS was GURPS Cyberpunk. I owned that before I even owned the GURPS rules, using their “Lite” rules to go along with it.

As much of a fan of the genre as I was, it wasn’t until earlier this decade (I believe around 05 or so) that I finally picked up a copy of Cyberpunk 2020.  All my life, it seemed like an elusive gaming system that I’ve heard many praise but knew of nobody who actually played it.  I hounded a friend of mine to loan me the 10 bucks to buy it used at a bookstore in the city, and I was in love. It took some time to appreciate it; I was spoiled by many many editions of Shadowrun. It felt outdated, as it was obviously from a different era long before the Internet really took off.

I ran a couple short sessions of it, never really diving into the game hardcore. It involved one of my Vampire buddies rolling a Netrunner name “Neomancer” in very tongue in-cheek form. Later on another friend joined in with a clone of Henry Rollins’ character in the Johnny Mnemonic movie. I think all that ended up happening was they had a shoot out with some guys over some drugs, and broke into Henry’s chop-shop to steal his equipment back from his now ex-boss.

Coming Back Around

I would say I’ve recently been bitten by the Cyberpunk bug again; but in all honesty it’s never really left me.  But it has been hard for me to find a game and a system to really dive back into. You’ll notice to the right under Projects is my “Mirrorshades Project”. It was my attempt to create a streamlined Cyberpunk-themed mod for the NWoD system. I enjoyed it, but it was written during a two-year dry spell we had with no gaming going on. I may pick it back up sometime soon….

I also considered running Shadowrun, but at the moment I’m cursed with owning the Fourth Edition, and all of my library is 2nd Edition. I liked the new SR overall in terms of the new mechanics and the new Matrix….the new Magic System and the dramatic changes to the settings, however, combined with a lack of backwards compatability has left me a tad sour. Also, not really in the mood for more elves and spells. We got enough of that stuff in D&D at the moment.

So, after a night of watching The Running Man and talking about “old school” 80’s sci fi, which eventually lead to my rants about things Cyber, we brought up CP2020. It was decided we’d give it another go.  In essence, it just seems right. Unlike Shadowrun, it’s not always about doing illegal espionage jobs for big corporations. It seemed more “street level” friendly. Also seemed to work better with smaller groups.  So over the weekend, we rolled up some characters and gave it another go.

The Characters of Bayside 2020

I made a fictional city for an old Vampire: The Masquerade chronicle I ran years ago (one of my longest campaigns)

Cover Art for Cyberpunk 2020 by R. Talsorian Games
Cover Art for Cyberpunk 2020 by R. Talsorian Games

and decided to use that as the premise for our “dark future” game.  Figured it was something familiar enough for the players while still giving me creative liberties. The players rolled up their characters, and thanks to the Lifepaths charts we came up with backstories for how everyone knew eachother.

Johnny Pain is your stereotypical anti-heroic, bitter and brooding cop. His career, while successful, is littered with many mishaps and betrayals from his own friends, partners and co-workers on the Force. His most recent problem involved his bitter rival and ex-girlfriend, Meruna Ferenczy of Ferenczy Corp (a major Pharmaceutical Company), who pulled a few strings to convince his partner to set him up as a loose cannon in the media.

Two years ago, while in a high speed chase with an arms smuggler, a small girl was pushed out into the street and struck by his police car. His partner caught the whole thing on video, and instead of handing it to internal affairs sold it to Network 54 for prime time news.  He wound up being a scape goat for all of the Bayside PD’s problems, and his boss requested he took a couple years off to let the media forget him. Meanwhile, his partner has become the new PR Spokesman for Ferenczy Corp’s Bayside Division.

Lamar Frum is also pretty familliar with the dirty dealings of Meruna.  His family had moved to America, and in particular to Bayside, from Vanuatu hoping to find the American Dream. Instead, they found the Nightmare as they wound up finding fierce opposition from the Eastern European immigrants who tried to push out the Pacific Islanders from their jobs.  Lamar’s grand parents found themselves in a direct feud with the Bratoviches, a Romanian mobster family.  In the end, Lamar’s family was driven to poverty and by the time he was born, his parents were already homeless.

Refusing to suffer and striving to keep his family, especially his siblings, happy in life, Lamar wound up running with a Nomad Pack of other Pacific Islanders and would eventually become the Head of Household for the Bayside Family of “Kavapac”.  This Nomad family lives along California’s various beaches in a sort of communal “beach bum” gang. This lifestyle has lead to Lamar meeting lots of interesting people from all walks of life, particularly at Kavapac’s renown beach parties. One of these people was a young, rebelious corp woman by the name of Meruna. Her father was chairman of Ferenczy Corp-Bayside. What he didn’t realize until later was that she was also the grand daughter to Dracos Bradovich.

At first he tried to believe that surely not all of her family could be like Dracos; but soon he realized that Meruna was nothing but a spoiled corp girl who embodied all the selfishness and greed his family warned of her bloodline. He ended up breaking off their relationship and returning to his life amongst his pack. Meruna, however, has never let go of the fact that the only man to ever dump her was an ungrateful beach bum. Despite having risen to rank in the family Corporation, Meruna makes it a frequent passtime to send her goons to harass Kavapac settlements. Recently, she has also began petitioning the Bayside City Council to outlaw all “worthless members of society” from loitering on the beaches. She has accused Kavapac directly of  “vandalising” corporate property, and has used that as her excuse to send boats of armed guards to open fire at the beaches at night.

Lamar and Jonny have both become acquaintances through a mutual friend, Kool. Kool was a childhood friend of Johnny; a much poorer child, he always grew up in the back alleys and the playgrounds looking up to Johnny as the older brother he never had.  They spent a good part of their later youth seperated, and had lost contact until recently during Johnny’s two year break from the force. While Johnny was schooling to become a cop, Kool had taken to dealing on the streets. Despite his ghetto background and lack of formal education, Kool has had a relatively easy life, citing his only major problem growing up was the time he owed someone $300. He learned from that experience, however, that sometimes you can accomplish a lot when the money is owed to you.

Spending most of his life hanging out with his older sisters, Kool became not just a dealer but a full blown Fixer, and has many connections in the town. He dealt with Kavapac as their go-to guy to dump off any scrapped goods from firefights, and in exchange generally supplies them with food and necessities. Meanwhile, he has also become Johnny’s connection to the Street, while Johnny has become Kool’s “inside man” for the Bayside PD.

Just Another Saturday Night

First session consisted of Johnny having to use his Cop Authority to talk down a Ferenczy Corp hit squad from massacaring a Kavapac beach party, followed up by the three guys taking on a contract to protect a woman who had evidence that the man released from Jail cleared of being “The Bayside Stalker” was in fact him. She hired them for two days work: to escort her during the negotiations between two rival news networks, and then to protect her until the criminal was captured after broadcast.

I took the scenario from the “Screamsheets” adventure hooks in the back of the CP2020 book, and added a little bit to it.  I had Network 54, upset that they lost the bid, not only tip off  The Bayside Stalker that she was the one who sold their rivals the photos, but offered to send in a hit squad to assist in handling her hired guards. The trade off was then Network 54 would’ve been “First on the Scene”.

Of course, that wasn’t how it ended up happening. A nasty gun fight broke out as the lights were cut off, and in the end the Stalker and the Hitsquad were down for the count. Kool to a shot in the face, but managed to live. One of the members of Kavapac took a fatal headshot, but the Trauma Team was able to get there in time to keep him alive by a thread.

After discovering a Network 54 ID card on one of the bodies, the team realized the Network had come for a story. Johnny got the hell out, and now the Precinct has decided to keep the investigation off the records and to deliver a false report to the public in order to prevent Network 54 from finding out they knew about their involvement. Lamar is now alarmed that the Network will retaliate for his pack killing their employees, and Kool is in the hospital recovering from a gunshot to the face.

This is going to be some good, fast and dirty stuff.