“Style Over Substance.” The first rule of being cyberpunk.
Game still courtesy of CD Projekt Red.
We know you’re out there. Maybe you were brought in by the anticipation of Cyberpunk 2077 and wanted to see what all the hype was about for the game that started it all. Or maybe you played a while ago and want to pick up your dice again. Maybe you’re just ready for a change from d20s to something a little more gritty and lethal.
So, you’re ready to chip in, chrome up, and step into the Friday Night Firefight. Only, you’re not sure where to start. Sure, its obvious you need the Cyberpunk 2020 rulebook but what else? There’s a lot of books available on our webstore and even more for sale over at DriveThruRPG. What does a player need to play the game and immerse themselves in the world? What does a GM need to present a convincing vision of the Dark Future?
Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. Here’s the top books from three of the best Cyberpunk GMs out there, as well as some insight on other great books from the legion of cyberpunks who have played over the years.
“Attitude is Everything.” The second rule of being cyberpunk.
Matt Jordan, Cyberpunk Chronicles Coordinator
Matt’s in the middle of organizing Cyberpunk Chronicles, our upcoming living campaign. While Chronicles will be using the upcoming Cyberpunk Red rules, he’s immersed himself in a backstock of 2020 books to get prepare. Here’s the ones he thinks are particularly important for potential Chronicles players to be aware of.
Firestorm: Shockwave and Firestorm: Stormfront provide insight into the Fourth Corporate War, which rocks the Cyberpunk world and changes it forever. Knowing the lore from these two books will help you understand just what sort of planet you’re going to find in Cyberpunk Red and Cyberpunk Chronicles.
Land of the Free and Home of the Brave helped shaped Chronicles as well. Matt didn’t want to tell a standard city story. Instead, he wanted Chronicles to look into what it means to rebuild middle America. After all, the world of Cyberpunk is already hell. The Fourth Corporate War just made it more so.
Blackhand’s Street Weapons, 2020 provided crucial details Matt needed to make even the smallest aspects of the world come alive. After all, its one thing to say the biker gang you just came across is armed with combat shotguns. Its another to say they’re armed with Arasaka Rapid Assault Shot 12 shotguns. Where did these guys get military grade hardware? That’s a question a group of settlers looking for protection and safety might want to answer before moving on.
Corporation Report helped add even more flavor to the world. Sure, the Fourth Corporate War decimated a number of corps, but that doesn’t mean the pieces aren’t still out there, ruling their own little kingdoms. Right now, Corporation Report 2020 Volume 3 is available but we’re working to make the others available, too!
Jay Libby, Veteran Gamemaster and Cyberpunk v3 Writer/Artist
Jay Libby’s no stranger to gaming. He runs his own company, Dilly Green Bean Games and he’s become known for running Cyberpunk 2020 at conventions and Free RPG Day events. He didn’t start off as a Cyberpunk 2020 GM, though. In his own words, he “… hadn’t actually run or played the game until a few years back at TotalCon. Mike was running late so I borrowed a Cyberpunk 2020 core book off of a fan and made an adventure up off the cuff… that was the moment I found myself sucked into Cyberpunk..”
Cyberpunk 2020 has everything you need to play. It is user friendly and the chapters are easy to bookmark. Netrunning is a wee bit complicated (most people homebrew netrunning). Other than that, you can lock and load for some seriously awesome gaming.
Night City is a must. While the core book has the meat, you really will want the Night City sourcebook. It breaks down the whole city and offers data on gangs (with stats). For my Gen Con 50 sessions, this book was GOLD.
Blackhand’s Street Weapons 2020. Some people might disagree with my #3, but damn dude. GUNS! ROCKETS! GRENADES! LASERS! Yeah, no game is complete without some serious hardware to feck up someone’s day. As a teen I probably would have slept with this book under my pillow. If you want variety…this is a MUST HAVE.
Chrome Compilation ½. While there are two books here, this is another must have. Why limit yourself to the library of tech in the core book? If you are looking for full cyberframes, these are essential. Add to that more vehicles and weapons, it’s a love fest of lost humanity.
Deep Space. If you ever wanted to game in Alien or in space with Blade Runner, Deep Space is a cool book to own. Every time I sit down to write an adventure or generate PCs for people’s games, this book sits next to me. Probably because I’m dying to run an Alien game using it. Deep Space puts you out in the cold, away from Earth and in the middle of the (CENSORED).
Mike Pondsmith aka “Oh, my GOD, his VOICE!”
Mike Pondsmith shouldn’t need an introduction. He’s the man who made Cyberpunk 2020 possible. Without his big brain, his unwavering foresight, and his intense attitude, this game (and everything which came after) wouldn’t exist. Want to know what Maximum Mike himself thinks are the essentials? Here’s his list. According to him, if you have these books and the core rulebook, you’re golden.
Blackhand’s Street Weapons 2020. All the weapons in one handy place! Because eventually, someone in the group’s gonna want to know where they can get their hands on a grenade launcher. When that happens, this is the book you’ll need.
Chromebooks. There’s four of them, put together in two compilations. They’re not only a great way to get new gear but also to learn about the corps and the consumerism which runs through every aspect of the Cyberpunk world. These things are designed to look like catalogs, so you can hand them right to your players if you want.
Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads!!!! Not only a great guide to how to run a Cyberpunk game but an excellent guide to GMing all around.
Night City. It’s the core book for the Cyberpunk world. All the attitude, all the neon, all the smog, its all right in here. Its available in PDF and we’re working on getting it back into print, too.
“Live on the Edge.” The third rule of being cyberpunk.
Concept art courtesy of CD Projekt Red.
The Cyberpunks Chime In
Matt, Jay, and Mike are all approaching their choices as professionals, picking the books that let them run the game with style. Sometimes, though, it can be good to hear from the players and GMs out in the mean streets. We asked the veterans of Cyberpunk what they thought and were especially interested in the books most choombas might not think of. Here’s what they had to say.
Boss_Angler: “Home of the Brave provides readers with a comprehensive look at day-to-day life… Education, Work, Income, Religion, Housing, Government. Ever wonder how Nomads came to be? Or what instigated the “Rocker” movement? Home of the Brave answers these questions and takes an in-depth look at all corners of CP2020 America. It gives a comprehensive insight to the military complex and provides an entirely new Life Path generator for characters with a military background. The amount of content in this book is unbelievable and will surely take your game to the next level, outside of Night City.”
ImperatorIndicus: “Home of the Brave, without even a shadow of a doubt! A lot of people play Cyberpunk but only think about the events and universe in terms of what goes on in Night City, but there’s a lot of equally fascinating stuff happening all over America. It’s great for GMs in that it can shed some light on the history of Northern California and the United States in this universe. For players, it’s a great tool when designing characters since it allows them to take a look at the variety of cultures and subcultures that exist throughout 2020 and make more interesting backstories and lifepaths. Seriously! My current party has a rockerboy who’s a super-evangelical Baptist minister from Alabama with a checkered and sinful past who’s come to Night City with nothing but his bible and his SMG to redeem himself by spreading the Word of God in this new Sodom and Gomorrah. I don’t think that such an outside the box character would have been made had my friend not perused my copy of Home of the Brave, and that’s just one of various possibilities.”
Kash_Register_MWO: “Solo of Fortune, though dated, is a great look into the merc culture of cyberpunk, IMO.”
smishNelson: “Protect and Serve for me. There is a quote from one of the fictional cops that goes something like: ‘It’s 1030 in the zone, I’m alone, I’m cold. I’ve had two cups of coffee for breakfast and I’ve only been shot at twice. I love being a cop.’
I think it shows off a bit more of the dangerous side of cyberpunk from the perspective of the police. Like I know the world of 2020 is a dangerous place, but typically you see it from the perspective of the gangs or corps, where violence is second nature, but when you see it through through the eyes of a cop, who’d probably be safer in Afghanistan than night city, it just makes you realize just how messed up the world is.”
Ferrard: “Neo-Tribes. Nomads in the city are a notoriously one-dimensional character archetype, combining The Driver and a Solo-lite, and never really delving into their unique and decidedly different worldview from the entire rest of the Edgerunner cadre. Neo-Tribes takes that one page of “Nomad” description and explores just why these road warriors venture into a city, what their world in the wastes is like, what a family on the move really cares about… basically, if you want to fill in the space between the cities, Neo-Tribes is invaluable.”
X40sw0n2: “Night’s Edge. Because it encourages you to make the players doubt reality. It gives you stats for if the vampires are real or just cyber-built stand ins. It keeps the PC’s questioning and searching, and allowing you to never give them a solid answer. The essence of good storytelling is an engaging story, and sometimes that involves no easy answers.In Gibson’s sprawl novels you really never figure out if the Loa are Ai, aliens, or actually loa. He keeps you guessing and never tells you. This is true Gibson class opaque storytelling.”
DrinkYourHaterade: “Near Orbit & Deep Space.They offer a very interesting perspective on the big picture of the Cyberpunk game world, make for a great campaign setting or even just an adventure arc, and a motivation for characters beyond just surviving or upgrading your cybernetics (“Just get me job that gets me a ticket off this rock Fixer “). There are some fun references to classic Cyberpunk stories buried in them too. They also do a decent job of realistic space travel etc, and can be relatively easily adapted to an Expanse-style campaign.
Cazmonter: “Cybergeneration is my favorite part of Cyberpunk. Giving kids weird as hell nanotech abilities and pitting the world against them is Cyberpunk turned to eleven.”
Dimuscul: “Rache Bartmoss Guide to the Net. Not a lot of people recommend net books as essential books, but Rache one is quite essential. It explains so many things, gives maps, stats for NPC, datafortress, decks, programs, and new rules that let you do so many things. For example, in my games, netrunners can use their mobile devices like in Watchdogs 2 to cause havoc or quick hack remotes. I used Raches Guide for that. So, while Maximum Metal lets me reproduce all the vehicles and robots I can find in current videogames/movies, Rache helps me implement the hacker tools. Some Ghost in the Shell and hacking Cyberimplants? Done. Hacking old style with terminals and keyboards? Done. Retrofitting stuff to be used as Decks? Done. Want to fight with the KGB net forces? Done. Games around the concept or Rogue AI? Done. Let’s walk on Wilderspace? Done.”
“And much more … there so much info packed up there. Of course you must like net rules to find all that useful. Which I do.”
MaineJackalope: “I’m gonna go with Home of the Brave, a map of the 2020 countryside and putting people through the surreal story of nomads or a corpo transport team, crossing borders, dealing with each states populace and law enforcement, and surviving on the road where everyone wants what you’ve got.”
Th3LastPunk: “So much love for Home of the Brave on here but I have to agree! As a new Referee it is invaluable for world building. The section on each state and what has happened to them since the Collapse adds so much depth and flavour to 2020 America. How the Collapse came to be and the impact that had on the average person, the way corporate families work, the long walk of the nomads after the SouthAm war, the rise of the Rocker movement and the birth of the booster gangs. It all paints a pretty grim picture and I love it!”
Agememnon2: “Wildside is pretty solid as well. There’s a lot of nice variant roles in there, and fleshing out Streetwise and Streetdeal is useful, as is the stuff about haggling and negotiation rules.”
Miamijuggler: Edgerunners, Inc. Great adventure ideas, character bios, and company backgrounds. I bring it to every session, even to have as a backup in case the characters go completely off-script.”
And that’s the word on the books that’ll help you play and run Cyberpunk 2020. You might note a few of them aren’t available for sale on our webstore or on DriveThruRPG. We’re working to fix that for you.
Just a reminder, we’re looking for fanart/poems/stories/renderings/other artistic creations inspired by Cyberpunk for our Saturday From the Scream Sheets. If you have something and haven’t sent it in, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll get credit and retain ownership. We just get permission to post it here for the world to see. No homebrew rules, character sheets, or adventures, please.
In the meanwhile, choombas…
Stay safe on the streets.