Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Listen to me -- I - LOVE - CYBERPUNK.

♥♥♥♥♥ Like that.

I don't talk about it often because sometimes I take a break; I don't actually stop feeling a burning affection for the stuff, I just put a little distance between us so that we don't get tired of one another.

Here lately and from out of nowhere, my eyelids have been all fluttery for it again and I have no idea why. You may recall that, in my last post, I mentioned the abortive plans for a "Burning Chrome" movie, right? Well, I have no idea what I was thinking the day that I dug up that info, how I ended up Googling Neuromancer or even why I decided to read the Wiki entry about it. I only remember finding and reading.

I fell butt-over-teacup in love with cyberpunk pretty much sight-unseen. I was in high school, and it was about 1989 or '90 or so, and somehow I found out about it. I had seen the old Cyberpunk boxed set in at the games/comics/head shop, but knew next to dingus about it. I'm pretty sure that I'd also seen the cover of Mona Lisa Overdrive, the black one with the chrome face on it. No clue about any of it.

But one day that changed, and I've no clue about that, either.

Somehow, I got filled in -- and, suddenly, my imagination was on fire. Burning! Lighting up! Razornails! Direct neural interface! Cybernetics! Cyberspace! Smartguns! High Tech, Low Life!

MAN! I was a teenager and good lord I'd had crushes on girls, but look at this I had an honest-to-god crush on a genre.

I borrowed money from a friend, bought a copy of Neuromancer, and failed most superbly at trying to understand it.

Oh, I eventually did read it, though. Let's be frank, Gibson's prose is not 'zactly what Los Marketing Folks might call "accessible". But the fact that I was having trouble processing his book made no difference to me at all. I was delving into the worlds, the moods, the themes and the looks of cyberpunk, and I was in it for the long haul. I even developed my own setting, complete with a couple of screenplays I never dared to finish -- or, hell, to even properly start.

Strangely, I didn't buy a cyberpunk RPG for a few years -- and when I did, it wasn't the one you'd expect. No, no, no -- I went down THIS road:

Yee-up. That game clicked for me and my friends and I had a lot of fun with it. I'm not sure I'd run it again, but I still have it; it brings me joy.

So let me get to a gaming-related train of thought, here. I've had real hard time running cyberpunk stuff for a while now. I can never settle on a game system, despite all the ones I've tried, and I think it's because I'm finicky about it. You see, to me, cyberpunk as a whole is about so much more than equipment lists, shopping trips, armed assaults and guns. Sure, sure, that stuff is fun, but I discovered that I'm more into the world-building and the mood than anything else -- or, more succinctly, the immersion into what I want my cyberpunk to feel like, to be, to evoke.

A thumbnail of Rotwag!ian cyberpunk: A Duran Duran video shot on the set of Blade Runner, with a little of The Warriors and my memories of Mexico City thrown in.

That's not gameable. Not immediately, anyway.

Mood without, you know, a plot is kind of boring, especially in an RPG. Players don't want to sit around listening to me talk about how their hearts are pounding as they stand on the corner across from the record shop, on that hot Summer night, and the neon from the store reflects in the little rivers of their sweat as the girl they want the most comes sashaying down one side of the street, poured into her jeans and earring LEDs, and on the OTHER side of the avenue they spot that guy, that bastard, the one they were sent out to hit, and the promise of a cool three grand if they do it just right -- pinched there between pure desire and cheap humanity, those that heart pounding, pounding, POUNDING --


Naaaaaah. PCs wanna blow shit up! They wanna hack databases and run away from corporate security guards and generally be cybernetic Leon from The Professional. I want that, too, frankly. That's exciting to me, too.

Here's the trouble: I have a really hard time reconciling the two. Hell, I have a hard time fully expressing what I want.

Which, inevitably, causes the trampoline effect every time. I get reeeeeal excited abot cyberpunk again, try to play a game, get frustrated, and BOINNGGGG! Bounce right off.

That said, I did run a pretty successful one-on-one game with my wife last year. It was simple stuff; she played an amnesiac gun-chick who was asked by an acquaintance to rescue someone from some Russian mafiosi. It ended up being pretty exciting if small-scale, and it ended up hinging a lot on the personalities and relationships between the PC and the NPCs (I'd used them before). I used Fudge, by the way, and it worked out pretty well, but I'm still not sure. Maybe my search for a system is over but I can't see the forest for the trees.

So! Here I am, twitterpated with cyberpunk again -- and afraid I'm gonna bounce off again, back into the cycle.

What to do, what to do...?