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Tabletop Game / Cyberpunk

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The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Futurenote 

"Got the chips and enhancements
Got the Attitude right-
Got the Metal beneath my skin-
I'm chippin' in..."
— Johnny Silverhand

Cyberpunk is a tabletop roleplaying game created by Mike Pondsmith and published by R. Talsorian Games. The game, as the title might indicate, is based heavily on the Cyberpunk genre, to the point where William Gibson is often referred to as "Saint Willie" in sourcebooks.

Set in 2013 / 2020 / 2027 / 2032 / 2045, the players are mercenaries, criminals, and vagabonds in the street culture of the time. Society has broken down, the government is ineffectual, and anything resembling a good life must be obtained by doing dirty work for one of the mega-corps that control the world. It's common to modify one's body with cybernetic augmentations, whether it's designer eyes, replacement limbs, or combat-ready military gear, but stacking up too much "cyberware" causes a person to go insane with "cyber-psychosis". The game's lore revolves around the fictional Night City in California, but GMs are encouraged to set campaigns in their hometown to make the future seem strange yet familiar.

The first edition, retroactively titled Cyberpunk 2013, was published in 1988. Cyberpunk 2020 was released in 1990 and gained much more success. The non-canon Gaiden Game Cybergeneration, centered around kids with strange superpowers, came out in 1993. Cyberpunk V3.0 was published in 2005 and took the setting into more Post-Cyberpunk & transhumanist themes, but received heavy criticism and has been declared non-canon. The most recent edition, Cyberpunk Red, was published in 2020 and seems to have gotten the series back on track with good reception, releasing not only traditional paid splatbooks but also free monthly "DLC" PDFs that add new and reworked content & mechanics.

As the games are a very deliberate, self-aware attempt to capture the feel of the then-burgeoning cyberpunk genre, it can be comfortably assumed that any trope from that particular genre that isn't mentioned will fit neatly in this game. Supplement books allow you to play in specific author's 'verses, such as George Alec Effinger's Marîd Audran.

A videogame set in the Cyberpunk setting was created by CD Projekt RED, known as Cyberpunk 2077 and appropriately released in 2020. An anime by Studio TRIGGER in collaboration with CDPR, called Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, was released in 2022. For the franchise as a whole, see here.

Cyberpunk contains the following tropes:

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     All Editions 
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: The original tabletop game took place in 2013, the second and most well known version takes place in 2020, which both seemed to be quite far away back in 1988 & 1990 when they were written. To avoid zeerust with the videogame adaptation that was released in the real world year 2020, things were fast-forwarded the year to 2077. Alongside the video game adaption, the new tabletop version simply known as Cyberpunk RED was announced and released, taking place during the period of 2035 to 2049 known in universe as the Time of the Red. Red is meant to give context to 2077 as well as explain developments in the universe and update technology with inventions made in our world between the early 90s and 2020 to not become zeerust on that front.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Monoswords, which, as their name suggests, are Sharpened to a Single Atom. In 2077 they're joined by the Mantis blades & Thermal Katana, both of which can dismember with ease.
  • After the End: The Collapse is a localized version of this for the United States, resulting in the deaths of over a hundred million people as well as the disintegration of the United States into feuding city-states. This is brought about by plague, civil war, and the collapse of infrastructure. By Cyberpunk Red the United States has somewhat gotten back on its feet, albeit in a vastly diminished state.
  • Alcohol Is Gasoline: Justified example: because of energy crisis issues, many vehicles in the setting utilize a blend of high-powered alcohol named CHOOH-2 as fuel.
  • Alternate History: Courtesy of a late 80s/early 90s vision of the future. Notable features include the Soviet Union never falling, Japan as a perpetual economic superpower, moon colonies by 1997, and the Divided States of America.
  • Arbitrary Augmentation Limit: Cybernetic augmentations decrease a character's Humanity score, running the risk of "Cyber-Psychosis", though unlike other games, it is possible to restore lost humanity (usually through expensive and long-term therapy, which neatly averts There Are No Therapists. If you're too far gone, however, the therapy comes with the drawback of disabling your augmentations or outright removing them).
  • Armor Is Useless: Averted. Body armor is a necessity to survive even a weak holdout pistol without a lengthy trip to a hospital/medtech, even if AP bullets reduce its effectiveness.
  • Artificial Limbs: All over the place and often used to replace lost limbs, though cloned (or possibly stolen) limbs may also be used. The prosthetics are also presented somewhat more realistically than usual, with the guide correctly noting that a pair of cyber-arms would not give you Super-Strength, as just because your arms are strong, doesn't mean your spine is.
  • Ax-Crazy: Cyber Psychos are humans that have gone completely batshit crazy and now shoot up anything in sight with their ridiculous hardware. The Psycho Squads dedicated to capturing them are often made up of cops and reformed criminals who are very nearly cyberpsychotic themselves. The fluff explains that making yourself more than human makes it less possible to understand humans: if you have an augmentation that improves your reaction time, everyone else seems to be completely slow and painfully dull, and you have to adjust to it (the augmentation in question has one of the biggest possible hits to Humanity when installed): cyber-psychosis is the manifestation of the belief that these meatbags are just in your way, for whatever reason. The Player Characters can become this as well when their Empathy (or EMP) stat drops too low. Such as
  • Badass Preacher: Father Kevin of the Holy Angels Catholic Church is a military veteran who enforces his church as a Truce Zone for people to talk out disputes. Also an option if you choose a church focused Rockerboy hybrid with either Solo or Nomad.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Biotech, which are enhancements based around biology rather than technology, often using nanomachines, which has the handy benefit of minimizing humanity loss. These can range from antibodies and nanosurgeons that speed up your healing processes to custom organs that replace your original ones, often with bonus features (Want an appendix that lets you process dietary fiber for nutrients? Or how about lungs with improved oxygen capacity?). This is taken up to eleven in the Eurosource sourcebooks, as Europeans disapprove of cybernetics, so cyberware is either well hidden or replaced with biotech and also genetic engineering, which isn't readily available elsewhere.
  • Biotech Is Better: Downplayed. The only real upshot of bioware over cyberware is partially side-stepping Cybernetics Eat Your Soul, since having polymers and metal woven through your flesh and bones by nanosurgeons is less mentally taxing than having your arms lopped off and replaced with mechanical substitutes. Though, some of the biotech option are still rather practical. (Have a gland implanted that secretes non-toxic antifreeze making you immune to frostbite; get a bunch of nanoids injected that style your hair, brush your teeth, and clear up your acne for you; have the left and right sides of your brain routed together so you become naturally ambidextrous. The list goes on.)
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: In several different varieties, from Molly Millions-style finger razors, to Adam Jensen-esque arm swords, to a knuckle-deploying blade trio subtly named "Wolvers".
  • Character Class: Unlike Shadowrun, Cyberpunk characters have dedicated classes, the main difference between them being their unique skill and different stat priorities:
    • Rockerboys are both underground musicians and political agitators, using their music or rhetoric to challenge corporate authority and rile up people. They can commandeer crowds with their Charismatic Leadership.
    • Solos are guns/swords for hire, selling their combat skills and cyberware-enhanced bodies to the highest bidder, no questions asked. They can strike first in battle with their Combat Sense.
    • Netrunners are hackers who enjoy cracking online countermeasures and facing other hackers, while making cash in the process. They can use the Menu while browsing the Net to perform their hacks.
    • Techies are tinkerers and builders who make a living by fixing items or, in the case of Medtechies, people. They can use their Jury Rig or Medical Tech to patch up things or people. In Red split into two distinct Roles with Techs focusing solely on fabrication and repair of mechanical devices while Medtechs focus on medical related technology and including ability to save and revive an otherwise dying character without a trauma team membership.
    • Medias are investigative journalists set out to reveal the corporations' dirty laundry and show it to the world, consequences be damned. Their Credibility makes their stories more popular towards the common folk and the powers that be.
    • Cops / Lawman are, well, beat cops and detectives who try their best to uphold the law and protect citizens from gang violence and cyberpsychos. Their Authority makes them extra intimidating for criminals of all kinds. Expanded in Red to Lawman , in order include the private security of corporations and security contractors hired by private individuals, they also now use Backup to call in companion chharacters that will fight on their side.
    • Corporates are executives who juggle between climbing the company ladder and work on more or less legal "department projects". The corporation's assets can be requisitioned for their use with their Resources. Renamed in Red to Exec with slight rework more focus on corporate mobility and team building (literally you can have a team under you of companions).
    • Fixers are the go-to people to get in touch with people in the underbelly of society, arrange for a bit of smuggling or both. With Streetdeal, they can learn what's the word on the streets or be the word.
    • Nomads are wanderers who live on the roads in what's left outside of the cities, part scavengers, part traders and part bandits. Like Corporates above, they can use their Family resources to help them. In Red, slightly reworked to focus more on the vehicles your Family has with one expansion sourcebook giving them Moto Access which allows a character with Nomad ranks to be able to access any combination of vehicles equal to rank via their family.
  • The City Narrows: "Combat Zones," run-down, crime-ridden districts that exist in every major urban sprawl, where gangs hold sway and the cops only enter in force (if at all). Overlaps with Gateless Ghetto in some cities, where the areas are walled off and the inhabitants are left to their own devices.
  • City on the Water: Raft-Cities, also known as The Drift Nations, are floating communities that exist off the coasts of many cities and islands. These range from ramshackle settlements put together by Nomads out of everythin from old watercraft to abandoned oil rigs, to picturesque cities built as havens for the super wealthy.
  • Corporate Warfare: The Fourth Corporate War between two of the biggest companies in the world, Arasaka and Militech, is a major background event. This results in the end of Cyberpunk 2020 and the beginning of V3 and later Cyberpunk Red. Earlier on there were others, starting with the one between Petrochem and SovOil.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: All over the setting with special mentions going to Saburo Arasaka, CEO of the corporation of the same name, and Colin Powers who works for IEC.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The European Community according to the EurosourcePlus splatbook. If you're poor you can get free housing, food, healthcare, entertainment, and more but among other problems food is just good enough to support your body, healthcare is practiced by Medicine students will all that entails, and you're fed with EU-sourced propaganda about how great is life there (which is not very far away from the truth given the sorry state of Eastern Europe).
  • Crapsack World: A cyberpunk hallmark. Life is cheap, corporations run everything, and violence is a fact of everyday life.
  • Creator Cameo: The cover art of Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads! Polish edition, itself a touched-up version of one of black-and-white illustrations, depicts a man very similar to the game's creator, Mike Pondsmith.
  • Cross Cultural Kerfuffle: Occasionally, young nomads will go off and live in "static" society, trying to get a new handle on a foreign culture and try to figure out what is so great about some places that millions of people are willing to spend their entire lives there. They are inevitably approached by young, rebellious statics who see being a nomad as the ultimate form of rebellion and (at least claim to) dream of running off and joining a nomad pack. These relationships almost always end in tears, as the statics realize that nomads in general are rule-abiding and collectivist, and the nomads they have met are the nomad equivalent of rich kids on a gap year in Europe.
  • Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: The game was the Trope Codifier for this idea, but also explored the reasons and ramifications far more than alter imitators.
    • Each item you install comes with a cost to your humanity. It's not hard to skirt that restriction, and some degree of augmentation is absolutely necessary to compete, but too much of it and you go Ax-Crazy and turn you into a "Cyber Psycho". This is typically guaranteed to end in a showdown with heavily armed, very paranoid cops (several of whom may be on the edge of aug-induced craziness themselves, if they weren't Cyber Psychos themselves before they became cops [Which is also very likely]). The good news, however, is that humanity lost can be regained by shelling out cash for therapy (which is mandatory for Full Conversion Borgs).
      • One sourcebook for 2020 gave optional additional rules that cyberpsychosis can actually land a character somewhere in a wide spectrum of severe mental health problems. It also provided an explanation that the popular image of cyberpsychos being violent maniacs would still hold, as naturally someone whose cyberpsychosis manifests in a catatonic state isn't going to make news the way someone does who goes on a killing spree because they suspect anyone and everyone might be an agent of "them".
    • This is downplayed if you have your Cyberware installed in a Scandinavian cyber clinic. Due to specialist therapies, you roll humanity loss twice, and take the value of the second away from the first, with the possible result of no humanity loss at all. Although this is costly, as to get access to these clinics, as well as having to be in Scandinavia, it takes one day per maximum humanity loss, at a cost of 1000 eurobucks per day plus operation costs, and to even get into the clinic requires a six month wait (which can be reduced by 1D6 months by paying an extra 10%). And illegal cyberware isn't available.
    • Similar to the above are therapy programs which can potentially be associated with any cyberware, and available much more widely. The downsides are (aside from cost) that they can only mitigate humanity loss up to 50%, and they are realistically intensive and long-term. At worst (and best) you will be spending several months at a facility you are not allowed to leave.
    • One of the major selling points or bioware is actively side-stepping this as much as possible. That muscle and bone lace may not make you as strong as cyberlimbs will, nor will that nanooptical reconstruction surgery give you as good of sight as a cybereye, but they are still your limbs and your eyes, which means you'll be less likely to disassociate from humanity and thus less likely to go on a killing spree.
    • Some of the ramifications are related to how those toys often require maintenance. It is quite helpful to have under the skin some sort of Kevlar until you awake one morning, find you're sweating black -such thing decomposing- and have to eat a nanoid supplement in order to stop that.
    • Cyberpunk Red built on the concept as its original version could come off as somewhat ableist due to modern understandings of prosthetics and the like. The humanity loss is not just from getting the chrome but when that chrome is meant to go beyond the flesh it's replacing. In a practical sense, this means that you can replace that arm that got shot off last job with a medical-grade cyberarm without any humanity loss, just that it'll function exactly like the flesh-and-blood one some poor sap's probably had to clean up. But if you go installing a concealed weapon into that cyberarm, that's when the humanity loss kicks in as you're going beyond what a "baseline" human body is capable of. Likewise you could start with medical-grade 'ware to replace limbs your character was born lacking entirely with no cost in humanity or starting cash (all but one of the edgerunners in the Black Dog short story at the end of the RED corebook were born with absent body parts that were replaced with cyberware).
  • Cyberpunk: It's even in the title!
  • Cyberspace: Being heavily influenced by William Gibson's writings, this is how computer hacking works in-game.
  • Cyborg: Very easy for people to become one to some extent, and many people are already this.
  • Divided States of America: The west coast is in a loose federation, the south is a bunch of independent states, and the corporate enclaves are de facto ruled by their corps. During the late 2060s, a puppet US government controlled by Militech attempted to reconquer the old American territory, but failed and ended up galvanizing the new countries against the idea of unification even more.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Though the option for characters to use drugs is there (wouldn't be cyberpunk if it wasn't), doing so is strongly discouraged (as in the writers directly tell players that it's a very good way to kill their characters, side effects being also particularly nasty). To be fair, the game was released during the height of the Moral Guardians crusade against roleplaying games, when the idea that Dungeons & Dragons led to witchcraft and Satanism was actually taken seriously.
  • Dramatic Irony: Despite having one of the most powerful megacorporations in the world in its territory that is devoted to creating a renewed Japanese Empire, Japan is every bit as impoverished and crime ridden as Night City. According to Word of God, Mike Pondsmith notably did this to avoid Unfortunate Implications.
  • Everyone Is Armed: It's basically required for anyone who wants to survive in the Cyberpunk world. From fixers to solos, gangs to police, adults to teenagers, to even children and the elderly; everyone has something to protect themselves from someone else. The only ones who don't carry around guns are the wealthy elites and celebrities, who hire bodyguards to protect them instead.
  • Everything Is Online: Played with; while there's plenty of stuff kept off the wider 'net, Rache Bartmoss' Guide to the Net notes some things that shouldn't be online are. This includes the environmental systems of the space colonies and the ESA's lunar mass driver controls. (Rache's commentary notes that he routinely runs the ESA's security on the mass driver to make sure it's up to his standards, implying he keeps an eye on it as well.)
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The skyscrapers of the different MegaCorps and especially those of Arasaka, that are designed to look as intimidating as possible being black and usually the tallest buildings of the cities they're located on.
  • Expy:
    • The game's main setting, Night City, is fairly obviously based on San Francisco. The Night City sourcebook even spotlights Expies of other Bay Area cities, such as South San Francisco, Pacifica and Oakland.
    • Likewise Saburo Arasaka's backstory mimics in part the one of Real Life World War II Japanese ace Saburo Sakai, the former having also fought in said conflict piloting a Zero and having also to fly several hundreds miles over the ocean badly wounded before arriving to his base. His family name, Arasaka, is also inspired by Arisaka Nariakira, one of the weapon designers of Imperial Japan.
    • The splatbook series Solo Of Fortune is presented as an in-universe publication that has a similar premise and format to the infamous Soldier of Fortune military magazine, complete with a classifieds section for readers looking for security and mercenary work.
    • Euro Business Machines is clearly a stand-out for real-world IBM, up to using a similar logo.
  • Failed Future Forecast: The original setting had Japan becoming global superpower and USSR surviving up to the game's timeline while China declined into insignificant power similarly to the USA before they were treated as Alternate History.
  • Fantastic Firearms: Some guns fire using what's called "electro-thermal enhancement". A bullet has a cartridge full of water, a capacitor turns that to plasma and that fires the round. The guns hit harder but now need batteries.
  • Full-Conversion Cyborg: Adam Smasher debuted in the RPG Cyberpunk 2020, but he was one of many "full conversion" or "full 'borgs". There was the Gemini that was made to look like a human, several that looked robotic, an aircraft and the fearsome Dragoon. The Dragoon was a 7-8 foot tall killing machine barely controlled by cyberware and drugs, the only organic part was human brain that controlled it. Many "full 'borgs" opted for a Brain in a Jar system where they could swap bodies.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Downplayed. Food comes in three varieties, "kibble", "prepack" and "fresh". Kibble is described as having the appearance smell, and flavor of the dog food from which it takes its name, and only the truly destitute and desperate reduce themselves to actually eating it. "Prepack" is generally based around soy- and insect-based meat substitutes and artificially textured "vegetables", and varies in quality from "edible" to "actually quite good". "Fresh" is real food, fresh fruit and veg, naturally grown grains and real (though quite likely vat- or aquarium-grown) meat and fish. "Fresh" is a near-unattainable luxury to most of the world's population, and cooking "fresh" is an artform few people bother to master.
  • Futuristic Jet Injector: The jet injection technology is directly inspired by Star Trek to the point that the injection devices have the street nickname of "Bones McCoy".
  • Gaia's Lament: The world's in pretty rough shape in the near future. A good chunk of the American Midwest is undergoing desertification and the rain is more acidic than not. Meanwhile loss of the ozone layer is so serious that cities in Scandinavian countries had to be placed under plastic domes to protect people from the Sun's UV rays and trees in Europe have to be sprayed to protect them from acid rain. The world's fauna also took a major hit, thanks to the aforementioned environmental devastation and several wildlife-borne diseases that not only further reduced the population but also resulted in several human pandemics which were met with sanctioned exterminations in an attempt to stem the tide. As a result, by 2077, several previously common species of wildlife in the former United States are all but extinct.
  • Gang of Hats: Most of the gangs in Night City have a theme, from the DJs to the Juillard to the Bozos. The Bozos are a gang that's had themselves biosculpted into clowns. Those big red noses? Real. Those big floppy shoes? Their feet.
  • Hand Cannon: Pretty much every gun in the setting. The sourcebooks mention that with the enhancements everyone and their moms has, .357 Magnum is considered too anemic to be a credible self-defense round.
  • History Repeats:
    • For anyone who is knowledgeable in regards to Japanese history, then they will see very stark parallels between the Empire of Japan and the Arasaka Corporation. Both were created as a counter to Western aggression; both saw massive industrial and technological growth in a short hundred years; both became a dominate super power in the same regions of the world; and both of them started a war with America which they had little hope of winning.Japan was also completely dependent on the Arasaka Corporation for their economic stability. In V3.0, after Arasaka was destroyed, Japan fell into a total recession. Which has basically turned Japan from a relatively prosperous First World country, to a Third World one in less than a year. What makes this worse however, is that Japan has no reliable outside assistance to help rebuild their economy this time. Meaning that Japan was effectively kicked right back into the Dark Ages without any safety net.
    • The overthrow of the British government and monarchy is deliberately patterned after the Wars of the Three Kingdoms that resulted in Oliver Cromwell becoming Lord Protector before a restoration of the British Monarchy. In this case; a radical Anti-Monarchist government comes to power after overthrowing the previous state, establishes a bleak fascist state with its Lord Protector basically acting as the de-facto ruler, until the government is overthown and the Monarchy is re-established once again.
  • Hidden Backup Prince: Queen Victoria II of the UK, known in real life as Princess Beatrice, was the ninth successor to the throne before the country went under martial rule following an armed rebellion by Scotland, an opportunity used by the military rulers to assasinate the royal family. Victoria and her sister survived by being sent to the USA before things went sour.
  • Horrible Housing: Fitting the feel of the dystopic setting, the rulebook has a guide for the PCs living conditions. The poorest entries are sleeping in the street or sleeping in your car, both of which are particularly unpleasant and force rolls just to get a decent night's rest. (And the player is still likely to get robbed.) The next two steps up are a cube hotel, described as a closet with delusions of grandeur with the furniture folding out from the walls, and a shipping container converted into an apartment. Both have shared facilities, and cube hotel bathrooms are frequently occupied by gangs who demand 'protection money.'
  • Irony: The genetically engineered grain that is the foundation of CHOOH-2 production is actually not only more nutritious than nearly all other grains, but is also very tasty and makes excellent bread. However, the demand for CHOOH-2 means that no-one, not even corporate heads, can actually afford to eat itnote 
  • I Meant to Do That: Explicitly mentioned as part of the attitude edgerunners need to have: anyone can walk into a bar with a gun, but a true Cyberpunk needs to walk in with a gun and an attitude that says "don't fuck with me" to survive. Cool is a stat in this game, and represents how you handle yourself in good and bad situations.
  • Japan Takes Over the World: Played with, surprisingly enough. Many of the megacorporations are wholly or partially owned by the Japanese, but the European Union has become the dominant superpower, with euros in use as the new global currency. Played Straight in Night City as a setting where the Arasaka Corporation's grip tightens after the 4th Corporate War, until 2077 where they literally have a whole section of the city dedicated to their facilities. Though depending on the video game's ending this may shift away from them.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Averted. Combat is deadly, and every time a character takes damage, they have to determine if they succumb to shock and black out or find the willpower to keep going. The best armor in the world will only protect you so long: eventually, a shot is getting through, and if you're not ready for it with the appropriate stats and some lucky rolls, you're down and out. Even the most basic pistol can trigger shock with a single bullet.
    • Played close to straight in the Red ruleset. While there are penalties to all actions when a character loses half of their HP, an ordinary hit won't do anything other than just do damage to HP - and those are plenty enough that, especially with armor, an average character can usually take a few hits from 9mm bullets with no big problems. Though any hit that rolls two or more sixes for damage (a chance for all but the lightest melee weapons) does risk taking a body part out of commission until someone with medical training can get to it.
  • Land Down Under: Australia is very much a confused and divided country in 2020. Not only is it physically divided between the Federal Republic and the Republic of West Australia, but divided between foreign-owned investments and the slums. Feuding gangs are also divided along ethnic lines.
  • Long-Runners: Cyberpunk was first published in 1988, and the most recent edition, Cyberpunk Red, was published in 2020 (and there are still supplements coming out as of 2023).
  • Magnetic Weapons: The ESA has a mass driver on the moon which they use to "keep the peace".
  • Mechanical Muscles: "Fleshweave" cyberlimbs are disturbing prosthetics designed to look like the obviously mechanical parts are growing out of the user's natural limbs. The "full conversion" cyborg the Gemini had the entire body replaced except for the brain. The artwork was a cut-away with the metal parts made to resemble a normal human's muscles.
  • MegaCorp: Plenty; This IS Cyberpunk after all. One of (if not the) largest has to be Arasaka, who unfortunately is also quite evil. Others MegaCorp's include Militech, the International Electric Corporation, the Lazarus Group, Petrochem and SovOil.
  • Min-Maxing: A common fan criticism is that the game's "Character Role" class system (which gives certain starting skill sets and unique abilities to characters of a certain class) leads to balance issues, the most frequent being that Solos (aka: mercenaries) are the only viable character types for combat situations (thanks to their special ability which gives bonuses to their spot checks and initiative rolls), and that consequently most Solo builds end up looking very similar (high Reflex attributes & combat skills + low social skills + reflex boosting augmentations). As a result, a number of fan-made rule modifications exist that remove the Character Roles entirely and allow players to build characters from scratch, similar to Cyberpunk's chief rival, Shadowrun. However, the sourcebook explicitly states that an adventure should be less about combat and more about story, and the Referee should make everyone in an adventure feel like they are contributing. That being said, Solos are intended to be combat masters, likely cyber'd up to the gills with low humanity and a literal hair-trigger temper, so it can be argued that they're actually shoehorned into the role, rather than dominating the gameplay. It's worth noting that Solos are experts at combat and everything to do with fighting— so while they're dangerous in combat, they suck at everything else. This means that while Solos can start and finish fights, they are poor at avoiding them, pushing situations away from combat, and dealing with the (often messy) aftermath.
    • In the fluff, Morgan Blackhand argues against this trope, pointing out that while most solos believe that all they need to be able to do is push violence, and that they can just bully the nerds into dealing with the technical stuff, not knowing how your cybernetics, i.e. your body works and exactly what you've put into it is a Bad Thing, and no solo is going to intimidate anyone when that super-reflex-boosting cybernetic spine of theirs decides to seize up.
  • Mobile City: Road Cities came around after biker gangs became extremely popular, with campers and caravans eventually being traded for this trope. The faction in-game is known as the Rolling State.
  • Neural Implanting: This is possible in the setting using brain implants and Soulkiller technology.
  • Nondescript, Nasty, Nutritious: Kibble is a mass-produced nutrient mix that satisfies most requirements for sustenance, but tends to look, smell, and taste like the dry pet food it takes its name from. As such, it's primarily eaten by those who can't afford better (which is quite a lot of people in this Crapsack World).
  • Nuke 'em: The Mideast Meltdown of 1997 resulted in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Chad and the UAE being turned into radioactive slag.
  • One Stat to Rule Them All: Reflex and Empathy. Reflex so that you can shoot first, faster, and more accurately than anyone else, and Empathy because that increases the amount of cyberware you can install which can make you great at everything else.
    • Solos have a profession skill which is added on top of reflexes for combat initiative. Combat rounds usually go "solos first, then everyone else".
  • Organ Theft: There are rules for selling organs to organ banks and there is mention of an organ lottery. Officially, you need a deceased donor card to donate organs and get a reward, but this can be faked rather easily.
  • Post-Peak Oil: Subverted. Demand for petroleum sank as CHOOH-2 replaced gasoline and diesel as the fuels of choice. However, petroleum is still a valuable raw material for producing all manner of chemicals and pharmaceuticals, and SovOil is considered a MegaCorp pretty much on the size and value of its untapped oil deposits alone.
  • Poverty Food: Kibble. Kibble is a foodstuff that takes its name from having the exact smell, taste and texture of the dog food with the same name even if Cyberpunk RED suggests it has other tastes. Kibble is nutritionally complete, and it is possible to live on it indefintely, but everything about it makes you wish you hadn't. Most people who aren't utterly destitute opt for the more palatable low-end "prepacks". They might consist of a food paste that resembles instant ramen-flavored sealing foam, but at least they aren't kibble.
  • Pocket Rocket Launcher: The game features gyrojet weaponry, and its upgraded variant, ramjet weaponry, which uses a rocket to get the projectile up to speed until the ramjet can take over, increasing its bullet speed and damage. In Cybergeneration, Gyrojet weapons have become a standard firearm alongside regular lead-spitters (the Hand Wave being that technology has finally advanced enough to iron out the weapon's inherent bugs). Two advantages the weapon has is the capacity to launch a variety of warheads (including of course high explosives) and that they are conventionally set to "fire-and-forget" mode.
  • Powered Armor: Two types in the form of ACPA and Hardsuits (Heavy armor with an exoskeleton for support.) Linear Frames are essentially unarmored powered exoskeletons that are clunky to operate without a man-machine interface port.
  • Private Military Contractors: Militech, Arasaka and a bunch of others, with the Lazarus Group even being a full-fledged private army.
  • Psycho Serum: A wide variety of ones to choose from, ranging from relatively mild ones like Slammer (temporarily increases speed and reduces intelligence) to really nasty stuff like Black Lace (turns you into a super-fast berserker and causes permanent mental damage, potentially driving you crazy.)
  • Recursive Adaptation: There will be an RPG starter box based on Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, which was based on Cyberpunk 2077, which was based on Cyberpunk.
  • Recycled In SPACE: The supplement Deep Space allows adventures to be run on the final frontier. It's a hard science fiction with almost all the technologies featured there either existing in Real Life (chemical and ionic drives) or having been researched but cancelled (nuclear propulsion), and touching issues as the effects of microgravity on the human body and the finiteness of the speed of light (read: radio communications) among others. It also mentions some elements have been simplified for game purposes.
  • Regional Redecoration: After a nuclear war in 1997, most of the Middle East was reduced to radioactive glass-like fields.
  • Reversible Roboticizing: "Fleshing out" is a possible operation, whether by Brain Uploading in a clone or grafting the brain (who was usualy conserved during the Full Body Conversion) in a human body, though it might be dangerous if the brain is rejected.
  • Roguish Romani: The Nomads are those who took to the open road after the Collapse (of U.S. society). Over time they took on a number of stereotypical Romani traits because of their situation. They are hated, feared, distrusted and misunderstood by "statics" (those who don't travel around), they're divided up into clans, and two ways they make money are criminal acts (including con games and theft) and entertaining the "statics" with carnivals. The Romani themselves are one of the major components of Nomad culture, and the other Nomads have adopted many of their ways.
  • Shout-Out:
    • There is a book of GM advice titled "Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads!", referencing a famous line from Army of Darkness.
    • Two of Petrochem's top dogs are the Australian brothers Angus Youngblood and Malcolm Youngblood.
    • The UK sourcebook is full of shout-outs. Del Boy Trotter (under his full name of Derek) is the head of the Tourist Board, for instance. And Alastair Lethbridge-Stewart is the military governor of Northern Ireland.
    • The setting of Cyberpunk, Night City, takes its name from William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy, where it's the name of the de facto foreigner's district in Chiba City, Japan, and serves as a central location in Neuromancer.
  • The Plague: The backstory mentions several examples of it, most notably a variant of AIDS transmitted through air and the known as "Wasting Plague".
  • Space People: People who were either born in or who spend most of their lives in space are referred to as "highriders." These were workers in space who live aboard space stations and gradually developed a unique shared culture, dialect customs and traditions, mostly derived from East Africa. In 2022, during the Fourth Corporate War, they declared independence from all Earthside governments and corporations as the Highrider Confederation, seizing control of all orbital stations and the two lunar colonies from the ESA. Since then, they've remained neutral toward all affairs on Earth.
  • The Sociopath: Low Empathy characters are assumed to be this or something similar. Low Humanity characters are this, either temporarily or permanently.
  • Squad Nickname: The C-SWAT,note  PSYCHE-DIV, CYBEnforcement, and MAX-TAC note  are all colloquially known as "(Cyber) Psycho Squads" as they are special police squads who capture rogue cyberpsychos and who are just barely cyberpsychotic themselves, some of whom are rehabilitated cyberpsychos.
  • Super-Reflexes: Combat in the setting is set up to be won by whoever gets to go first in a turn, due to its overwhelming lethality. As such, a number of augmentations exist to improve a character's initiative roll and you would have to be crazy not to take them.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Starting combat by delivering your character’s Catchphrase or a (potential) Pre-Mortem One-Liner under the Friday Night Firefight rules doesn’t end your round.
  • Transferable Memory: Through the use of an Alternative Reality Process (colloquially referred to as "braindancing") people can record, edit and distribute tactile experiences to others - including the sensation of death. Those who experience a braindance of death can have their own heart stop from just the visceral reaction.
  • Underwater City: These are collectively referred to as The Deepdown. Consisting of domes and facilities located on the continental shelves, these were built by various corporations and mostly engage in farming phytoplankton, fishing and undersea mining. During the chaos of the Fourth Corporate War, they severed ties with their corporate founders and cut off all contact with the surface, going so far as to build powerful cloaking devices that prevent any radar systems from finding them. The only contact they have now is through the Drift Nations that occasionally trade with them.
  • Upgrade Artifact: Skillsofts, chips with software that conveys skill in certain areas as long as they're plugged in. There's two variants: skill chips and knowledge chips. Skill chips give you a bonus as long as they're slotted, but they override any actual skill you have and have a hard cap: the best (and most expensive) chips give a +3 bonus to a skill, but if you have a +4 or higher bonus naturally, the chip forces you back down to +3 at best. Knowledge chips give you a bonus to any non-physical skill (such as special lore or important history) and do stack with your natural skill, acting more like having an encyclopedia in your head that you can access at will.
  • Utopia: New Zealand is the closest to it in the setting especially in contrast with Australia, with corporations and guns under control, environmental laws, and a welfare state.
  • Wandering Culture: The Nomads are descendants of the US citizens who chose not to reintegrate into the NUSA after the collapse of the original United States. Instead, they band together in large clans and rove the wastelands that span the space between megacities of North America in heavily-customized cars and trailers. Others went to sea and established some of the world's Raft-Cities.
  • Zeerust: Many of the elements depicted in Cyberpunk 2020 or even 2013 have yet to become reality, while others aged like milk, for example 2020 still has fax machines as a common form of communication.

     Cyberpunk 2013/Cyberpunk 2020 
  • Action Girl: Rogue and Spider Murphy are both seasoned female Edgerunners.
  • A Lighter Shade of Black: Militech was considered this compared to Arasaka, being a corrupt and evil megacorporation but having higher ideals.
  • Big Bad: Saburo Arasaka serves as this for the setting, until he's replaced by his son, Kei.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Arasaka Corporation is the worst of the world's megacorps by a longshot with Militech being considered A Lighter Shade of Black by comparison.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Rache Bartmoss, one of the most brilliant Netrunners of the setting. Also, he's far less harmless than most examples of this trope, if he is to be believed. In Cyberpunk Red it's revealed he died in a corporate raid but in his wisdom, he had set a Dead Man's Switch that triggered the DataKrash virus to be unleashed on the whole internet two weeks after he died. It crippled 78.2% of the internet as it stood in 2022 and the world in universe never fully recovered as of 2077's opening with the Blackwall representing a barrier from the wider web and local networks in Night City.
  • Colony Drop: ESA's controlled lunar massdriver was used to lob a substantial lump of rock at Washington DC. The rock was deflected by orbital defences, and instead hit Colorado Springs (or rather "Colorado Sprung").
  • Driven to Suicide: The final fate of Kei Arasaka at the end of Firestorm: Shockwave.
  • Expy: Kissy and Roxxi are this for the Dirty Pair's Kei and Yuri.
  • Good-Guy Bar:
    • The Forlorn Hope is a base of operations for player characters as well as similar antiheroes.
    • The Atlantis also serves as a base of operations for Edgerunners.
  • Forced Euthanasia: At the end of "Never Fade Away" (a short flavor story featured in the rulebook), Johnny Silverhand finds his kidnapped girlfriend Alt apparently brain-dead and, assuming she is gone, disconnects her from Arasaka's machine that's keeping her body alive. What he doesn't know (nor bothers to find out) is that Alt's consciousness was only temporarily transferred to a nearby server, so she was just fine (if unable to voice her protest) until he decided to unplug her, which is what actually killed her. In Cyberpunk 2077, Alt is still very much pissed at him for this, even after having long Ascended to a Higher Plane of Existence as a disembodied quasi-AI.
  • Grand Finale: Firestorm: Shockwave serves as this for Cyberpunk 2020 with the assault on Arasaka Tower resulting in the death of multiple signature characters, the (presumed) destruction of the Arasaka Corporation, the death of Kei Arasaka, and the players potentially rescuing Yorinobu Arasaka from the resulting firestorm.
  • Not Quite the Right Thing: In "Never Fade Away", Johnny Silverhand accidentally kills his girlfriend, Alt Cunningham, when he disconnects her early from cyberspace.
  • Nuke 'em: The plan of Firestorm: Shockwave was to use one of these on Arasaka Tower to destroy the company forever.
  • Lighter and Softer: Cybergeneration, being a Gaiden Game, is this to Cyberpunk 2020, with more focus shifting towards younger teens and added superhero aesthetics despite it being set in post apocalyptic Zombie Apocalypse-like settings.
  • Retcon: Arasaka was originally a "small time company" compared to EBM.
  • Worlds Greatest Warrior: Morgan Blackhand and Adam Smasher compete for this role in-universe.

     Cyberpunk V3. 0 
  • All Hail the Great God Mickey!: In V3.0, one of the Alternate Cultures or "AltCults" is the Desnai, a tribe of Humongous Mecha pilots who rule "Desnai World."
  • Alternate Continuity: Cyberpunk V3.0 has since become one of these due to the Retcon that the Fourth Corporate War did not result in the destruction of the Arasaka Corporation and rise of a more Post-Cyberpunk Transhumanism society. Instead, Cyberpunk Red is now the "official" timeline leading to Cyberpunk 2077.
  • Central Theme: The unreliability of information and the flexibility of the truth when recorded data is no longer preserved.
  • Cult: The AltCults are a bunch of weird groups that have largely replaced the megacorporations as villains.
  • Future Imperfect: The destruction of the Net by Rache Bartmoss has resulted in large amounts of disinformation spread as well as the eradication of whole swaths of human history. It is commonly taught that Nixon committed suicide on camera, for instance.
  • Gang of Hats: Gangbook reveals that Night City is now dominated by them and they range from the Daughters of Hippolyta to Reagan's Rangers.
  • Lighter and Softer: V3.0 was this to Cyberpunk 2020 because the Arasaka Corporation had been destroyed and the megacorporations as a whole were far weaker with a focus on transhumanist technology.
  • Mobile City: The Rolling State or Rollers, an evolution of the old Nomads, have developed "self-contained urban zone[s] on treads, supporting factories, trade-centers, defense bases and living modules ... [which] can amass enough firepower to obliterate a small county." They also use smaller, more traditional vehicles like motorbikes and RVs to operate in crowded or uneven terrain.
  • Post-Cyberpunk: The setting was meant to follow the destruction of the Arasaka Corporation and the recovery of the world rather than the bleaker, more cynical Cyberpunk Red and later Cyberpunk 2077.
  • Transhumanism: NuCybe is modular and removable cyberware that is dramatically less dangerous as well as more useful than traditional cyberware.

     Cyberpunk RED 
  • Ascended Extra: China and the megacorporation Kang Tao are now superpowers on the world stage.
  • Apocalypse How: The Fourth Corporate War between Militech and Arasaka together with the DataKrash destroying the NET led to a Class 1 disaster. The war destroyed the majority of shipping lanes so global supply lines became obstructed, making goods and people harder to move across the globe. Major economic crash, lawlessness and violence rose after the immediate years of the war. Night City in specific was hit with a Class 0, as the Corporate District was hit by a nuclear bomb while the rest of the city fell into anarchy until the Nomads saved the city. By Cyberpunk RED the city is still recovering from the aftermath and many parts of the city are still destroyed or affected.
  • Asshole Victim: Arasaka was revoked of all charters, its members declared terrorists, and its resources seized after the nuclear bombing of Arasaka Towers. They won't be invited back to Night City for another fifty years. It couldn't have happened to a nicer group of people.
  • Blatant Lies: Elizabeth Kress blamed Arasaka for the nuclear destruction of Night City and used it to aid in their plan to reconstitute the United States.
  • Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp": Cyberpunk RED introduces Agents, which are smartphones. This is because of the original game's Zeerust where nothing similar to a smartphone existed in the year 2020.
  • Cat Girl: Possible with biosculpting. Cyberpunk RED has "Danger Gal", an entire megacorporation of Cat Girl Private Detectives.
  • Colony Drop: Cyberpunk RED backstory mentions more lunar rocks having been lobbed that way and other strikes from orbit, Rache Bartmoss having been killed that way by Arasaka.
  • Crack Pairing: In-universe, this is what Adam Smasher and Michiko Arasaka's brief romance was considered.
  • Crossover: A free DLC was released that incorporated the characters and setting of VA 11 Hall A into the Cyberpunk setting.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Sort of for the megacorps EBM, InfoComp and IEC. Word of God states the first tried a coup in the time between both games and was wiped out of the face of Earth as a result while the second one, being dedicated to trafficking with information, was bankrupted by the DataKrash virus and the third one caught in the crossfire of the war between Arasaka and Militech and destroyed.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Elizabeth Kress is the President of the United States and determined to conquer all of its former territories by whatever means necessary.
  • Lighter and Softer: Cyberpunk Red compared to Cyberpunk 2077 despite them coming together around the same time. Cyberpunk 2077 emphasizes Night City as a Wretched Hive with no social safety net and the uncaring omnipresent power of the corporations. Cyberpunk Red highlights that the Fourth Corporate War actually ended in both Arasaka as well as Militech being weakened as well as the reconstitution of the United States. Which, compared to the Mad Max-esque post-Collapse world, was a major improvement for most citizens. The fact both are canon means that much of this progress is Doomed by Canon.
  • Mini-Game: Cyberpunk Red introduced for April Fools 2021 Elflines Online, an in-universe VR MMORPG with it's own rulebook on how to create characters and have MMO-style adventures.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Militech was nationalized by the United States but this only resulted in the two becoming indistinguishable.
  • Private Detective: Danger Gal is a corporation of Cat Girl Private Detectives operated by Michiko Arasaka, granddaughter of Saburo Arasaka.
  • Pocket Rocket Launcher: In Cyberpunk Red, mini-missile launchers are a ubiquitous heavy weapon of the setting, available both as a regular weapon and as an option for cybernetic limbs.
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: The nuclear explosion in Night City, conventional destruction from the Fourth Corporate War, orbital weapon strikes and massive wildfires sent so much debris into the atmosphere that it stained the skies an eerie red for two years. This came with sticky blood-red downpours and eventually died down to just brilliant crimson sunrises and sunsets for the next decade, all of which became the namesake for The Time of the Red.
  • Retcon: Cyberpunk Red is full of these.
    • Red removes Cyberpunk v3 and its apocalyptic setting in favor of creating a prequel to Cyberpunk 2077. However, it will reintroduce some of the technology that was previously established in Cyberpunk v3's rulebook as well as new technology from the real world that's been developed since then such as 3D printed pistols.
    • Originally, the destruction of Arasaka Tower by Morgan Blackhand, Militech, and Johnny Silverhand resulted in the destruction of the Arasaka Corporation and the end of the Fourth Corporate War. It also was reasonably well contained. Instead, the Cyberpunk Red supplements describe the FCW going on for two more years and Arasaka being weakened but eventually resurging.
    • Morgan Blackhand was originally killed in Firestorm: Shockwave, survived in the non-canon Cybergeneration set after it, and then survived for real in both Cyberpunk Red and Cyberpunk 2077.
    • Johnny Silverhand's death was also changed in Cyberpunk 2077, though this may be Unreliable Narrator.
  • Scavenger World: A Downplayed Trope example but so much wealth is leftover from the United States' glory days and Fourth Corporate War that it is entirely possible to live off of the refuse or make a fortune via salvage.
  • Stalker with a Test Tube: One if the Tales of the Red stories involves a man who kidnaps women in hopes of assembling her parts into a new woman that resembles a local television personality. He's also a (cybernetic) vampire.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Cyberpunk Red does this for the nuclear destruction of Arasaka Tower that was originally treated as a big action setpiece's ending with minimal collateral damage. In the revised timeline, a quarter of a million people die from radiation poisoning as well as follow up deaths from the blasts that result in much of Night City being rendered uninhabitable. It also permanently poisons the public against the NuUSA due to them lying about it being the work of Arasaka Corporation.
  • Urban Ruins: As a result of the aforementioned nuke, the central part of Night City, now known as the Hot Zone, is in ruins.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Elizabeth Kress' desire to rebuild the United States by any means necessary is due to what an utter pit it's become.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk RED


Second Chances

After discovering the final resting place of his body, Johnny has a heart-to-heart with V.

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