Despair, The Inspiring of – in the dark world of Cyberpunk 2020
by Jonathan Bastow (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A lot of you out there may be trying to exert an attitude of vague helplessness over your players and are wondering how to do it. I can’t give you anything perfect, but I have found a few things that help.
- Kill people. It doesn’t have to be PC’s either. In my cybergen. campaign there are a number of NPCs that serve as backup PCs and as local color. In one particularly unlucky episode I had two of them killed by bad rolls. The players all realised that had they rolled a ‘1’ on their dodge, they too would be hamburger. Kill people who help the PCs. Have them deliver their helpful tip, and then be found floating face gone in the local canal-equivalent. Then have the news report they died in an aerodyne accident. A good way to handle player death is to keep a small group of NPCs interacting with the characters. When some-one’s PC is killed have them immediately drop into one of the NPCs bodies. This allows you to keep continuity, but make sure they don’t try to turn their new character into their old.
- Emphasize the apathy of the general populace, let the characters uncover some horrible act, only to find that after it has been raged about for a few days, it’s back to business as usual, forgotten by the average, brainwashed beaver. No one should care. It’s up to the PCs to make people care, by jamming it in their faces, rubbing their noses in it until they can’t escape the stench.
- Steal things. This is mentioned in the CP book, but I feel it needs a bit of elaboration, mostly on what not to steal. If the players are trying to be a pirate radio crew, don’t steal the radio. If they are trying to be long range cargo haulers, don’t steal the truck (or aero, or whatever). It’s when the players are stockpiling faceless things, that’s when to clean them out. Don’t steal their role-playing hooks, the things they use to define their characters with. They will respond with “role-playing doesn’t work, Joe, hand me my FN-FAL, I’m gonna go back to blowing the crap out of things”.
- Emphasize the totalitarian nature of the police. They should be able to get away with anything and be better armed than the players at all times. Enforce the feel that going to the police is only a good idea if you have more money than the person you are going to rat on. The police should have no second thoughts about shooting some one in cold blood if they don’t feel like taking them down to the station for further questioning.
- Balkanize your city heavily. The haves and the have-nots should be kept seperate. You should have to pass through customs to get to the good side of town. In the corporate center it should be safe to walk the streets, while in the slums it should be unsafe at any time. Police in the corp zone should look friendly and helpful, while in the slums they should wander around in chrome-visored PA, in groups of three or more, carrying weapons that look like they could kill every living thing, and it is only apathy that stops them. Splitting the city with a river works well.
- Random insanity should be the order of the day. Have crazies wander up to your players and shout things at them. Have them be randomly attacked. Many things should happen that have no bearing on the adventure. Just because they are fighting corp X, it doesn’t mean that every ‘ganger attack is because corp X gave some ‘gangers some dope and told them to plaster some folks who looked like this. Most of the time it should just be wrong place, wrong time.
- Emphasize the nature of the city. If any of you have seen pictures of the slums of New York, you know how bad things can get. All the buildings should be boarded up, decaying and smelling of urine. The people should move like rats, keeping to the edges and out of the light. The sky should always be gray and dead. There should be so much trash in the streets that it is hard to tell side-walk from road. The only plants should be weeds growing through cracks in the cement. Children should be seen hunting and eating rats for food.
That’s all I can think of for now. Feel free to add anything that works well for you.
Jonathan “The universe is a big place and, whatever happens, you will not be missed…” -WH40K manual