A Conversation with Mike Pondsmith, Creator of Cyberpunk 2020
A really interesting interview with the creator of one of favorite games, Cyberpunk 2020. Of note is that Walter Jon Williams, one of the seminal Cyberpunk authors, was a play-tester for the original CP2013 rules and that Mike had not read any Walter Gibson until doing the rule-revisions for that became CP2020.
So, this past Monday I was happy to find on my doorstep the box containing my long awaited Call of Cthulhu 7e rules – and I have to say that I find browsing and reading the rules much easier in physical form than on the PDF’s I’ve had for awhile. It also means that I’ll have to update a couple of my previous posts to be more in-line with 7e rules. (EDIT: Done and Done)
I’ve also been looking at the fact that I’ve been running my current 5e campaign for about a year-and-a-half now – and as the Age of Worms continues to threaten it would easily continue to run for many more years. That isn’t exactly a problem, but historically I’ve tend to run games/campaigns for between 1-2 years and then flipped to another game/genre to help rejuvenate myself creatively – and I’m certainly hitting that point now.
So I think that I have one solid chapter in me for the 5e campaign. The party has successfully plundered the Whispering Cairn, discovering treasures and lore of the Wind Dukes that have been long-hidden and is now preparing to investigate one of the local mines – suspecting the owner of being part of the Cult of the Ebion Triad and working towards bringing about the Age of Worms. The party can complete that and I’ll have an excellent place to leave things and even give the party some significant downtime before we pick up the campaign again.
That begs the question of what I could run next. I have a strong vote from at least one player for Call of Cthulhu though to be truthful I’d rather wait until I had Pulp Cthulhu on hand to use. I’m interested enough in what they’ve done with 7e that I think that Pulp Cthulhu might be a good substitute for my own pulp rules – or at least mesh with them well enough that they added significantly to the game (or add a better framework to manipulate).
My other two “stand-bys” are also possible – Cyberpunk 2020 and Traveller. Now I’ve run many games with a mash-up of the two, but I have been somewhat fond of the Mongoose 1e version of Traveller and have the entire SRD saved to hand out to players if need be. It is a simple game that hearkens back to Classic Traveller in many ways, and I’ve been tinkering with a non-OTU setting for a couple of years now (much of it, thankfully, not lost when my hard drive crashed). I’ve been really pondering the concept of Proto-Traveller a great deal, and somewhat consciously rejecting the OTU – while at the same time amused and amazed at how different the OTU seems to be from what everyone assumed after reading Agent of the Imperium by Mark Miller.
Cyberpunk 2020 is a very rich setting with a very easy engine. It’s theoretically hampered by the conceptual twitching provoked by the idea that it is actually set in the year 2020 – and that could be hard to sell a great many people. I think that it might work better as a “Cyberpunk 2200” set a couple of hundred years in the future, that changes the canon timeline but much of the flavor text of the game can remain the same. Perhaps a future where the solar system has been explored and settled but where there is no FTL travel so we remain stuck in orbit around Sol for all intents and purposes – though I suppose a bit of Bladerunner-inspired flavor means that the Tannhauser Gate could be a thing…
Yeah, well damn…
Last episode of Justified
That was a great episode to end a great show. I was listening to NPR today and they made the observation that it was a show about driven, intelligent, Southern, blue-collar cops up against driven, intelligent, Southern, blue-collar criminals (who were just as often fighting amongst themselves). The commentator was right, as was his observation that this is a demographic that is often portrayed as stupid and lazy – and has been since the death of the Western as a popular genre (though he didn’t quite phrase it that way).
I think it is worth noting how much the genre of cyberpunk owes to the western – not just because of “console cowboys” but because the cyberpunks are the high-tech equivalent of the blue-collar “high plains drifter.” But beyond that, I’m also noting that I’m one of the last generation of American men who grew up watching and reading westerns, even so much as the last major westerns made in my teenage years and early adulthood.
Now the closest that most younger gamers and geeks have gotten to a Western is Firefly – which certainly isn’t a bad version of a Western. It even more certainly speaks to how closely the Traveller RPG hews to Western tropes given how many parallels gamers have seen between the game and the TV show.
In any case, it has me wondering somewhat amused given how much two out of my four favorite games owe to Westerns. Heck my main NPC in Traveller is named “Quint” in conscious imitation of Louis L’Amour’s Flint (as well as, truth to be told, James Coburn’s Our Man Flint and his character Britt from The Magnificent Seven – another Western!). This is probably worth some conscious thought and re-reading/watching some westerns when I run either Traveller or Cyberpunk 2020 next.