Roleplaying In A

Some Basic Concepts Explained

In General on February 27, 2010 at 6:00 am

A great many of my friends here and on Twitter are fantasy gamers who aren’t very familiar with this genre or with that of modern games in general. To answer some questions, here are some basic concepts explained for @deadorcs and others.

Follow me on Twitter.


There isn’t any. Well, there is but you don’t have any of it. Neither does the government, you know – that group of people who’re supposed to be your voice? None of you have any money. If you do have money, you sure don’t care about anyone else, except for worrying about how they might take your money away.

Dark Future games are very much the idea of “dirt farming” games. Game Masters should take money away from the players at every opportunity and not give much of it back. If you’re players can afford what they want, something went wrong.


Corporations do have money. Most of it actually. And what little law enforcement is left, they have that, too. And if you think corps can’t have money in an economic downturn, take a look at the bonuses still being paid to banking executives in the United States this year.

Corps sure do have money. But they’re not giving it to anyone else – like the little guy who works for them or the government. Tax laws often give corps so many loopholes that they may actually make more money during an economic recession. Dark Futures are greed completely unchecked by law.

Technological Advance

The Dark Future is very much the future and more and better tech is a big part of that flavor. Corps war with each other, and sometimes with countries, and continue to develop technology both for defensive reasons and to make more profits.

One aspect of Dark Future games is that there are orbital colonies and space is a huge tech stepladder. Corps would be interested in them for the profits they can make from rich people who want to live longer and for the research they can conduct in orbit better and easier than in a gravity well.

Law and Order

While I really want to delve into the whole Crime/Punishment issue in its own post, another big concept of Dark future games is that basic infrastructure such as civil services have broken down badly, if not completely. Think of what American health care would be like if the insurance companies made all the laws and not just influenced many of them.

This means that cops are a joke, hospitals don’t save lives – unless you have the creds, chomba – and if you’ve got enough cash, jail is not something you worry about. But then, you don’t have any cash, do you?

Combat Zones

Because of that, some cities in Cyberpunk 2020 have specifically given up on some neighborhoods entirely and just walled them off into “combat zones”. These areas are completely without civil order or services. No post service, no police, no ambulance. Gang ruled, bullets are the basic currency here and life is very, very cheap.

Broken Countries

In answer to yesterday’s comment: In my game, the United States breaks up because… well, we’re all Americans playing in my game and that’s our setting but a Game Master should break whatever country he’s setting his game in. The idea is that things have gotten so bad, greed has run away so very unchecked that the central authority can’t back up its voice with concrete power any more.

Nukes set off by terrorists, designer plagues run wild, designer plants gone wrong – if it can go wrong, in a Dark Future it will. Economics start the downward spiral but unchecked science and crime take it to the bottom.

Corporations get their very own little fiefdoms out of it. Trade embargos happen, but are ineffectual without the resources to enforce them and there’s a plot hook! Player characters need cash bad enough to run the borders. (The novel Hardwired was all about that.) A lack of federal subsidies isn’t an issue at that point, since the feds are so broke there aren’t any of those left anyhow. Mass emigration may not happen, if corps can provide people with better prospects in the new territory.

Why Did I Pick California To Be First?

Because it’s my game and I have a friend who wishes CA would go ahead and succeed already anyhow. He feels the feds are the whole reason his state is messed up. Don’t know if I agree but if you’re going to design a world, you can give presents like that 😛 I live in GA, hence the Southern Confederacy.

Why is the EU Ok? What about Canada and Mexico?

If you’re running the game set in Germany, break the EU and make the US affluent. There money is somewhere, after all. In this case, I’m sticking to canon, since I live in the US.

As for Canada and Mexico, they are either in the same straights with the same problems or else business continues as usual. Canada would also break, for the same reasons. Mexico is already broken. There are towns there now without basic water supplies, let alone so much else of what Americans take for granted.

These are the things that make the World of Corruption what it is in 2030. If you have more questions, let me know and I’ll write more about the basics behind the deadly, life-is-cheap attitudes of Cyberpunk 2020 and other Dark Future games.

Enhanced by Zemanta
  1. Viri, thank you for the explanatory post. I can see the rationale now, behind some the things that are taken for granted in this kind of campaign setting. Probably not my cup of tea (perhaps I’m too upbeat? 🙂 ), but it’s a cool setting nonetheless.

    Good luck with your campaign and keeps us posted!

  2. Ah, but that’s the joy of it. The world is an evil, nasty place and the characters are trying to save it! Well, some of them… 😛

    Thanks and I will!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: