Saturday, March 17, 2007


I didn't take Latin in high school but I think the above means "Love of game-cities". If not, I welcome correction.

Yesterday we went to Greenwood and hit up the Half-Price Books. I passed on the $20.00 copy of Ex Machina and went for something a little older:

R. Talsorian's Night City sourcebook for Cyberpunk Although it's good stuff for sure, CP 2020 isn't really my best choice for cyberpunk gaming. However, I couldn't pass up this little nugget of joy for five bucks and change, especially since it still had the color poster-map. Snag!

I've only skimmed it so far, but I find it pleasant and probably really useful (what I will henceforth term "The Thomas Factor"). It details hundreds of locations in Night City, gives an overview of how the city works, groups locations by type on a recurring map and gives a random encounter chart and interesting NPCs for each section of the city. Neat! The tone is chatty and informal, and it has a lot of flavor without being drenched in it.

Looking at it on the drive home got me to thinking about the other city-themed gamebooks that I own, and especially about how much I like that sort of thing: visitor's guides to places that don't exist.

The Edge is another one of those favorites. Much of Over The Edge, Jonathan Tweet's charmingly surreal 1992 game, is given over to describing the city and its people. It's a bizarre, cosmopolitan town on a semi-secret mediterranean island called Al Amarja, and it has everything from ex-CIA guys and mad scientists to mutants, aliens and zombies. It paints a colorful picture of a weird and multi-cultural society, and it does it by breaking the city down into manageable chunks. This book, too, gives random encounter charts for each "barrio" or neighborhood, although OTE's charts are more clever than Night City's. Reading it truly gives the sense of a balmy, weird metropolis on an island somewere. Strangely, I have never run this game.

San Angelo: City of Heroes, by the way, ROCKED. Do you like comics? Here, I'll let this guy say it for me:

"I keep getting requests for an Astro City RPG; we're not planning to do one - but I think any Astro City fans who want such a game should at least try out San Angelo. It's an intricate, involving, well-realized gaming world, and the emphasis on the reality of the surroundings and the humanity of the characters may make it just what they're looking for."

-- Kurt Busiek, creator of Astro City
Busiek nailed it -- this city feels real. It feels alive. It has a history, it has a future. You can really, truly tell that people live there, and furthermore, that your PCs can show up and make a difference. It needs a bigger map, but it's still aces.

I.C.E.'s Cyberspace was my cyberpunk game of choice Back In The Day, and while the default setting was ostensibly San Francisco, this little gem was published as an alternate stomping ground. It focuses not on Chicago itself but on the New Edison corp.'s Chicago Arcology, a self-contained city-within-a-city built around a shopping mall. It has its own gangs, its own neightborhoods (kind of), its own mass transit, its own secrets. Night City has one of these, too, but Chicago Arcology is all about its own microcosm.

Plus, it every few pages or so, the book gives you little news-fax headlines to peruse -- they range from the factual and serious to the satirical and ridiculous, capturing that "MediaBreak" feel that RoboCop made so tasty.

White Wolf's The Chaos Factor supplement for Mage: The Ascension attempted to detail Mexico City as a game setting and bored me.

Were I enterprising, I'd write one of these of my own -- maybe a city guide to Ranseur City, chief metropolis of my Traveller subsector's capital, with its corporate starship construction offices and media production facilities and robot-controlled air/raft taxis and its extensive computer networks and neat antigrav restaurants.

But I'm not an enterprising sort.

Plus, who besides me would use it?