Neon City Overdrive is a new cyberpunk rpg put out by Nathan Russell/Peril Planet (creator of Freeform Unlimited), and is available in PDF for $8. From the sales pitch from their DTRPG Listing:
NEON CITY OVERDRIVE is a fast-playing RPG of cyberpunk action. With a focus on story and action, character creation is fast and the rules are intuitive. Create any kind of cyberpunk character you want and throw them into the action within minutes.
I am just going to preface this with my opinion up front: the game fucking rocks. It may be my all-time new favorite cyberpunk go-to. In many ways it feels like how I wanted Shadowrun: Anarchy to play out.
Would you believe there’s already two solid supplements for this game already?
SKINJOBS is the first supplement released for NCO, clocking in at 22 pages and providing extra options for reskinning. Includes more detailed rules for hopping bodies mid-game (including the risk of “transfer sicknes”). It also has a more trademarks for androids, bioroids, gene hacked humans and theoroids (read: uplifted animal bodies). If you’re wanting to add some of that tasty post-cyberpunk, post-humanism elements like Eclipse Phase or Ghost In The Shell (with a touch of the Bladerunner films) then you need to toss some extra cred Nathan’s way. You will not be disappointed.
PSIONS, as the title suggests, is all about implementing psionics into your campaign world. You get seven fields of powers — Biokinesis, Metahealing, Precognition, Pyrokinesis, Technopathy, Telekinesis and Telepathy. Each one provides an assortment of effects and associated triggers to use with them. What I love about this supplement is how it offers prompts to tailor it to taste — are these gifts the result of mutation? Evolution? Nanotech? How is society treating them? And just a heads up: there are two mini settings provided! One of them is Psiberpunk, which is your expected “psychics against The Man” setting. The other one, Grimm City, is actually a fantasy cyberpunk with elves, ogres, magical spells and ancient relics among the wired city streets.
Just So It’s Said: PSIONS can be a framework/launch pad to hack the game into Shadowrun. But it’s also a different tone and feel — this is a world where Arthurian legend and Grimm’s Fairytales never really left. There’s an implication of more whimsy, and while I’m sitting here going “THEY DID THE THING!” I’m also appreciating this different lens on the melting pot of genres.
The criticisms I have are not grievances for me, but more of a subjective awareness of others expectations. This is not Shadowrun Gun-Porn — a weapon is a weapon, and unless it has tags they all have the serve the same purpose. There’s no massive catalogs of gear with degrees of damage and special combat simulation rules. Everything moves at the rate of narration. I think the generic setting is perfect — lots of hooks, tables and broad ideas; but really the GM and the players nail down the details. Folks who want the rich lore, backstory, and setting resources of games like Shadowrun, Cyberpunk 2020 or Interface Zero will be let down.
The dice mechanic will also not be everyone’s cup of tea — I’ve heard a couple folks not thrilled with dice pool mechanics, and I get that. The rolling of two separate pools of dice will throw others off, and it might be cumbersome for some online play. That said, I feel it’s more elegant and flexible than SR6 (or SR:Anarchy for that matter), and the player facing element of it allows for good solo/GM-less play.
Neon City Overdrive is a cyberpunk game as fast as the genre. Provides lots of quick options, tables and ideas for a group to quickly assemble and get moving. If it’s not covered in the book, it’s super easy to hack. Rules lite, narrative heavy, but also high risk if you don’t keep your wits about you.
It’s my new jam. Speaking for myself, it has dethroned the others since it meshes well with my preferences for fast-paced, quick and dirty systems. Between the core and the two supplements, I can honestly recreate or borrow elements of my favorite near future dystopians and run them like a hot blade through butter.