Get a dystopian future full of cybernetics and corporations in just four pages with Wired Neon Cities!
Let’s talk about minimalism. No wait, come back–I promise this is still about games… and also look there’s a bunch of cool cyborgs and explosions and stuff!
But we’ve mentioned minimalist design before–people make One Page Dungeons all the time. There’s even a contest for it. There’s even a minimalist Dungeon Crawl, Dyson’s Delve. Wired Neon Cities, though, is a minimalist game in its entirety. That means that in just four pages (five if you count the cover), you get everything you need to run a game. Rules, lore, classes, art, even a character sheet are all present and accounted for. Everything just gets boiled down to the barest essentials.
It makes you stop and consider what’s really important to both the game and the genre. What do you need to make a roleplaying game, and moreover, what do you need to make it cyberpunk? Let’s dive in and take a look.
It’s amazing what goes when you only have four (five if you count the cover page, featured above) pages to get the rules out. They waste no time with “what is roleplaying” if you’re shopping around on DriveThruRPG and delving into weird minimalist rpgs, odds are pretty good you know what an RPG is, and what a campaign is and how to run adventures, etc.
So none of that’s present. Instead it starts right off with exactly what you need to know.
Wired Neon Cities is a minimalist cyberpunk roleplaying game set in an 80’s style future for 3+ players.
Right away you know tone, theme, how many people you’ll need and the like. That 80’s style future is important–it sets up the expectation here. There’s a sliding scale of cyberpunk, running from Pink Mohawks to Mirrorshades and Wired Neon Cities is going to skew towards one end of that spectrum. But once they get that out of the way, it’s onto the rules.
These are, as you might expect, a fairly simple affair. It’s a four stat system featuring Brawn, Nimble, Mind, and Person which are all fairly self-explanatory. Brawn for melee and brawny type thigns, Nimble for ranged and agile type things, Mind for science and smarts, Person for talking to people good. You get an array of stats from 5+ to 3+ which ties into the base mechanic of roll a d6, meet or beat your relevant stat’s target number. Exceptionally tough rolls might provide a -1 or -2 to the test.
There are six classes:
Cyberblade – The toughest of the classes, able to make an extra melee attack per 2 levels.
Hacker – Exactly what it says on the tin. These guys are hackers, they can reroll hacking rolls (see below).
Gunner – The ranged counterpart to the Cyberblade, these guys aren’t as tough, but gain an extra ranged attack.
Mechanic – Repair stuff and more importantly build drones. There are two kinds of drones, spy drones and gun drones. They spy on or shoot at things and last 7 or 4 hours before needing to be recharged.
Doc – Heal your friends with special surgical actions.
Face – Like the hacker but for people. Reroll Person tests.
And that’s it. You’ve basically got the system right there. Combat is super streamlined, but has all the parts and depth of a good combat system. There’s an initiative, characters get 2 actions per round, movement rules, status effects–all in less text than there is in this article. And that’s counting the second page of rules which features all the specialized combat actions like Bull Rush or Parry. There’s a surprising amount of complexity you can glean from this simple system.
Wired Neon cities tries to cast a broad swath of “here’s what our version of Cyberpunk looks like.” And I think it does it well. Where the game really shines is with its Lore. Since they have such limited space, everything kind of pulls double duty here. There aren’t just generic enemies, you have cyberninjas, electro kiddies, and ravagers who all fulfill different kinds of enemy roles. The equipment they have feels very cyberpunk, with all the standard stuff you’d expect–a neural interface, eye projectors, everything you need to put Mona Lisa into Overdrive.
But on top of all that they’ve also provided a setting in which to have your cyberpunk adventures. It’s fast and broad, leaning very heavily on established tropes–but it’s meant to show you how you can use the game to generate your stories and adventures.
Reading the game will take you into the world of Glow City which is a “100-mile neon-drenched metropolis of huge megacorporations and tech squalor.” And Glow City is connected via the GLOWNET which is what Hackers hack when they hack. Glow City is basically by three megacorps, Pink Cat, Zing!, and Pineapple. They provide the three things important to any cyberpunk city, food, tech, and entertainment.
Seriously I’m impressed at how much flavor they were able to pack into just a few paragraphs. They’ve really got a handle on the city–it’s broken up into different quarters. There’s a rich district, a poor district, etc., all the standard things, but they all have a unique flavor to them. So you get things like the Sushi Quarter which as I read their description basically put me in mind of the Chinatown scene out of Blade Runner.
And then there are the gangs. I’m already competing with the game for length, so I’ll only describe one here, but they’re all amazing:
The Livewires: A gang identified by their bright yellow jackets and colourful mohawks, the Livewires are the biggest gang in the Hive. Most members are fit out with thermal vision and night vision,making them the rulers of the night.
Anyway, this game is a ton of fun. And for ~$1.50 it’s a great quick and dirty RPG you can put together with your friends, but it’s also a great tool for really looking at what makes cyberpunk. That’s what these games do–they capture the barest essence of a thing and present it to you. And seeing how other people do it is a great way to add texture to your own endeavours.
Watch out for Cyberninjas though. Seriously.