Saturday, 5 December 2020

Franchise Familiariser: Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2077 is a few days away from hitting shelves and will almost certainly become the biggest video game of 2020 when it launches. Eight years in development, the game will allow players to create a character of their own design and then live a life of crime in the late 21st Century metropolis of Night City, California. But did you know that the game is merely the latest part of a franchise which is more than thirty years old? If you don’t know your rockerboys from your Arasaka corporate suits from your netrunners, a franchise familiariser may be helpful. 

The Basics

Cyberpunk is a science fiction franchise created by writer and games designer Mike Pondsmith, originally published by his company, R. Talsorian Games, in 1988. Pondsmith named the game after the science fiction subgenre of the same name, which in turn was named after a 1983 short story written by Bruce Bethke. This story was actually published somewhat late in the development of the genre, as several previous works had been important in establishing the genre, particularly Philip K. Dick’s 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and John Brunner’s 1975 book The Shockwave Rider, as well as the 1982 movie Blade Runner, loosely based on Dick’s novel.

Pondsmith and his fellow designers have cited Walter Jon Williams’ 1986 novel Hardwired as being extremely influential on the design of the game, along with Dick and Blade Runner (William Gibson’s 1984 novel Neuromancer, often arguably cited as cyberpunk’s codifying moment, was not read until later in the game’s development).

To make it clearer that the reader is not speaking about the short story or genre, it’s common for fans to refer to Cyberpunk by one of its edition subtitles: Cyberpunk 2013, Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk v3.0 or Cyberpunk Red.

Each of the four editions of the game is set in a different decade and reflects the passage of time in the Cyberpunk universe. The original Cyberpunk (1988), now almost always referred to as Cyberpunk 2013, is set in that year and depicts a near-future dystopia where corporations have become as powerful as governments and fight one another for supremacy and where takeovers are more literally hostile than you might expect. The game is predominantly set in Night City, a custom-designed and built metropolis on the coast of Morro Bay, California, roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and sees players taking on roles such as mercenaries, corporate players, police officers and netrunners, as hackers are known in this world.

Cyberpunk 2020 is the second and most popular and well-known iteration of the game, to the point that “Cyberpunk 2020” is often used to refer to the entire franchise. It was originally published in 1990 and remained continuously in print for fifteen years, accumulating a vast array of supporting supplements and adventures. The game’s rule system, Interlock, was highly praised for being customisable and allowing players to much finely adjust their character’s development through skills rather than being tied into much broader levels (the approach favoured by the medium’s heavyweight game, Dungeons and Dragons, for which Pondsmith had worked on some sourcebooks). The setting was also praised for its attitude and punk ethos.

After experimenting with a spin-off project revolving around young characters who get superhero-like powers from technology, CyberGeneration, the game returned properly in 2005 with Cyberpunk v3.0. The game switched to the Fuzion system, advanced the timeline to the mid-2030s and also adopted a transhuman approach, with much more sophisticated SF ideas such as humans downloading their consciousness into robotic bodies and thus becoming immortal. The setting also dropped some of the aesthetics of the original setting, Pondsmith reasoning that fashion and styles would move on. However, despite some praise for trying to move past cyberpunk clichés and explore more advanced ideas, the game had some negative feedback for exactly the same reason, as well as the change in rules.

Cyberpunk Red (2020) tacitly omits v3.0 from the canon and instead serves as a direct sequel to Cyberpunk 2020, with the timeline now advanced to the 2040s but the old cyberpunk styles and ideas are still very much around. The newest edition of the game also acts as a prequel to Cyberpunk 2077 (the tabletop game and the video game developed in tandem), with Pondsmith confirming that a Cyberpunk 2077 sourcebook updating the Cyberpunk Red timeline and rules to 2077 will follow.

As well as the tabletop roleplaying game and the imminent video game, the franchise consists of six tie-in novels, the first edition of the popular Netrunner collectible card game and the Cyberpunk: Arasaka Plot mobile game. 


The Canon

The Cyberpunk canon is relatively small, containing almost solely of the tabletop roleplaying game and a small number of other items.

Cyberpunk (aka Cyberpunk 2013, Cyberpunk 1st Edition)
Cyberpunk (1988) • Hardwired (1989) • Near Orbit (1989) • Rockerboy (1989) • Solo of Fortune (1989)

Cyberpunk 2020 (aka Cyberpunk 2nd Edition)
Sourcebooks: Cyberpunk 2020 (1990, rev. 1991 and 1993) • Chromebook (1991) • Corporation Report 2020, Vol. 1 (1991) • Eurosource (1991) • Night City Guide (1991) • Chromebook 2 (1992) • Corporation Report 2020, Vol. 2 (1992) • Corporation Report 2020, Vol. 3 (1992) • Home of the Brave (1992) • Protect & Serve (1992) • When Gravity Falls (1992) • Deep Space (1993) • Maximum Metal (1993) • Rache Bartmoss’s Guide to the Net (1993) • Wildside (1993) • CyberGeneration: The Final Battle for the Future (1993) • CyberGeneration: Eco Front (1993) • CyberGeneration: Media Front (1993) • CyberGeneration: Virtual Front (1994) • Chromebook 3 (1994) • Listen Up, You Primitve Screwheads!!!! (1994) • Blackhand’s Street Weapons 2020 (1994) • Neo Tribes (1994) • Pacific Rim Sourcebook (1994) • Rough Guide to the UK (1994) • Solo of Fortune 2 (1994) • Edgerunners, Inc. (1995) • Eurosource Plus (1995) • CyberGeneration: The Time for Change is Now (1995) • Live & Direct (1996) • Rache Bartmoss’ Brainware Blowout (1996)

Adventures: When the Chips are Down (1990) • Tales from the Forlorn Hope (1992) • Eurotour (1993) • CyberGeneration: Bastille Day (1993) • Land of the Free (1994) • Firestorm: Stormfront – The Fourth Corporate War, Book 1 (1997) • Firestorm: Shockwave – The Fourth Corporate War, Book 2 (1997)

Atlas Game Adventures: The Arasaka Brainworm (1991) • All Fall Down (1992) • Chasing the Dragon (1992) • The Chrome Berets (1992) • Night City Stories (1992) • The Osiris Chip (1992) • The Bonin Horse (1993) • Streetfighting (1993) • Thicker Than Blood (1993) • Cabin Fever (1994) • Greenwar (1994) • Northwest Passage (1995)

Ianus Games Adventures: Media Junkie I – Take One (1993) • Media Junkie II – Final Cut (1993) • King of the Concrete Jungle (1994) • Premature Burial (1994) • Remember Me (1994) • Sub-Attica (1994)

Ianus Games Night’s Edge Sourcebooks: Night’s Edge (1992) • Necrology I: Of Death, Life and Afterwards (1992) • Grimm’s Cybertales (1993) • Necrology II: And Now I Lay Me Down (1993) • Survival of the Fittest (1993) • Dark Metropolis (1994) • Home Front (1994) • Necrology III: Immortality (1993) • Playground (1994) • Bloodlust (1995) • Crashpoint (1995)

Firestorm Games Sourcebooks: CyberGeneration: Generation Gap (2000) • CyberGeneration: Researching Medicine (2003) • CyberGeneration: Mile High Dragon (2009)

Cyberpunk v3.0 (aka Cyberpunk 3rd Edition)
Sourcebooks: Cyberpunk v3.0 (2005) • Gangbook (2007) • AltCult Insider 1: Beyond the Edge (2008)

Cyberpunk Red (aka Cyberpunk 4th Edition)
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit (2020) • Cyberpunk Red: The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future (2020)

Other Books
The World of Cyberpunk 2077 (2020)

Video Games
Cyberpunk: Arasaka Plot (2007) • Cyberpunk 2077 (2020) • Cyberpunk 2077: Multiplayer Edition (2021)


The history of Cyberpunk deviated from our own around the year 1990. In this year, several powerful corporations formed from the merging of older businesses and became the first megacorporations, companies whose resources, political clout and money eclipsed that of many nations. Gaining unfettered access to natural resources such as oil and water, the megacorporations became immensely rich, litigious and even violent, employing mercenaries to commit increasingly brazen acts of espionage and even warfare on their behalf.

The world looked to the United States for leadership and to help fight the power of the corporations, but America had its own problems. Poor political and economic choices made during the collapse of the Soviet Union had seen NATO dissolved and the United States’ economy overtaken by that of the European Union in short order. The Great Crash of 1994 saw the US economy collapse. One in four Americans became homeless, widespread rioting saw entire cities engulfed in flames and crime became rampant.

By this time the National Security Agency, CIA, FBI and DEA had unified into an organisation known as the “Gang of Four” and brought about the Great Crash through its inept politicking. In 1996 the organisation arranged the assassination of both the President and Vice-President, hoping to assume control during the chaos, but the Secretary of Defense, Jonathan Seward, instead declared martial law, suspended the Constitution and appointed a “temporary” government with military support.

In 1997, the “Mideast Meltdown” took place. Iran and Iraq resumed their war, but now both sides were equipped with former Soviet nuclear missiles which had somehow been acquired from Russia. The resulting nuclear exchange saw both countries destroyed, along with Libya, Chad and the United Arab Emirates, whilst parts of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia also sustained massive damage. The Gang of Four became aware of the missing nukes shortly before the conflict and pulled their assets out of the region, keeping that information to themselves. US military intelligence and allied countries sustained massive losses to their forces stationed in the Middle East.

The war saw the world oil supply more than halved, triggering further economic and political instability across the globe. This was the beginning of the Collapse, the period when all the old certainties were washed away. The World Bank and the stock exchanges ceased to exist. Pensions, savings and investments simply vanished. Millions found themselves unable to afford food or basic provisions. The drought of 1998 saw the Midwest farm belt disintegrate. A massive earthquake which maxed out the Richter scale also hit Los Angeles, seeing a third of the city disappear under the ocean and millions more inhabitants displaced.

In 2000, fires lasting months engulfed the north-western United States, destroying much of the farmland which had managed to survive so far. The Wasting Plague struck the US and EU, killing hundreds of thousands of citizens. In 2002 President Seward was assassinated by operatives working for the Gang of Four; the following year the Gang itself was destroyed from within and without when the CIA defected to join forces with the US military.

In 2004, the First Corporate War was fought between military forces and mercenaries employed by Orbital Air, Euro Business Machines and several other megacorps. The following year one of these corporations, Mantoga, Inc. ordered the assassination of President Henry Jacobi when they decided his policies were not to their liking; in response the US government destroyed the company in a military strike.

As the chaos grew worse and the federal government proved incapable of responding, the United States began to fragment. The Republic of Texas seceded in 1999, followed by Alaska in 2000, California in 2002, Nevada in 2003 and Utah in 2014. In 2012 California further splintered into two distinct entities, the Free State of Northern California and the Free State of Southern California.

The Second Corporate War erupted in 2008, with oil giants SovOil and Petrochem clashing following the collapse of a potentially lucrative corporate deal. From small beginnings, by 2010 the war had engulfed numerous Pacific Rim nations, killed thousands and left vast swathes of the western Pacific polluted, not to mention more than three-quarters of the resources and assets of both companies destroyed.

By 2020 the Collapse had effectively ended, but the cost was staggeringly high. The United States had lost the ability to feed itself, and with food imports to the continent crippled by problems elsewhere in the world (not to mention several trade embargoes placed on America as punishment for the behaviour of the Gang of Four and its failure to avert the Mideast Meltdown), vast swathes of the population simply starved. Many more were killed in riots, looting and the effective collapse of law and order. The only reason the United States didn’t disintegrate completely was because many of the poorer states required the assistance of the federal government to reassert control.

The generally accepted figure is that 100 million Americans – almost one in three of the population - died during the twenty years of the Collapse. A minimum of 50 million more lost their homes in the confluence of disasters that devastated the Midwest. These disasters caused unimaginable losses, but they also saw the formation of a new kind of society: the Nomads. These tight-knit family groups took to the road, travelling around the continent in search of what work they could find and to defend themselves against the raiders and marauders who had started cropping up in the Badlands (despite the best efforts of both the US government and the five Free States to stamp them out).

The chaos of the early 21st Century still had one last catastrophe to let unfold: the Fourth Corporate War. This conflict erupted in 2021 when the CINO and OTEC corporations clashed for control of the assets of the collapsing IHAG megacorp. The two corporations failed to make much headway against one another, so brought in the big guns: OTEC hired Militech, the giant American security technology firm, whilst CINO hired Arasaka Corporation, out of Japan.

Militech and Arasaka were two of the largest companies on Earth and had been rivals for many years, often losing contracts and commissions to one another. As a result, the clash was initially civil and business-like, with clear rules of engagement, but soon turned personal and bitter. The two corporations employed resources greater than most nations, and used these to strike at one another closer and closer to home. A Militech assault on Arasaka’s corporate headquarters in Tokyo which left part of the city burning saw a swift retaliatory strike on Washington, DC. Yokohama, Chicago and Night City also saw fighting between the two sides. Forces from both corporations found themselves fighting in neutral territory, in Rio de Janeiro, and freed from the need to minimise civilian casualties on homeland soil, unleashed their full resources against one another, which left the city burned to the ground, hundreds of thousands dead and millions displaced.

The world was horrified, and the Japanese and US governments intervened to try and restrain both companies. The US effectively nationalised Militech and Japan tried to do the same to Arasaka, but failed. They did shut down Arasaka’s overseas operations and forced the company to limit its activities to the Japanese home islands for the next decade, most of which was spent in a bitter three-way internecine struggle for power between different wings of the company.

The Fourth Corporate War ended in 2023 when persons unknown detonated a small nuclear device in Arasaka’s Corporate Headquarters in Night City, the last overseas bastion of Arasaka’s once invulnerable power. The so-called Atlantis Group – rumoured to comprise such legendary mercs and figures as Morgan Blackhand, Rogue and Johnny Silverhand – was reportedly involved but nothing ever proven. Morgan and Johnny disappeared during the operation and Rogue effectively retired.

The loss of its North American headquarters saw Arasaka withdraw from the fighting and sue for peace. On paper Militech had emerged victorious, but in reality it was as broken and crippled as Arasaka, both companies having sustained staggering financial and material losses.

The immediate aftermath of the war was a hard time, with national governments passing sweeping laws to restrain the powers of the corporations. The Internet, now called the Old Net, had effectively collapsed as autonomous AIs, rogue programs and self-aware combat systems ran amok through the old code. NetWatch, a net-police organisation based out London, was forced to erect the Blackwall, a virtual wall around the entire Old Net, to safeguard the new, local networks from infiltration from the rogue programs, with variable success. Rumours continue to speak of NetWatch actually working alongside super-AIs of the Old Net (who only desire seclusion) to ensure the Blackwall’s survival.

With weather systems becoming more stable in the mid-2020s, the United States and other countries were able to begin a slow process of rebuilding. Several major US cities abandoned in the Collapse were re-occupied and rebuilt. Corporations, trying to evade the new restrictions on their power, eagerly helped governments as they reconstructed their shattered economies. Arasaka spent the better part of two decades engaged in a fierce internal corporate war which finally ended with the company unified. It began rebuilding trust in Japan and across Asia, soon reclaiming its former position of dominance.

In the New United States, as it had become known, the federal government attempted to bring the rebellious states to heel by starving them of resources needed to recover. However, this merely made them more stubborn. The Free States of North and South California rebuilt themselves without federal assistance, with Night City quickly re-establishing itself as a major economic hub on the Pacific coast. Its city centre was rebuilt, and industrial zones quickly prospered. The US government quickly realised it had made a mistake by allowing a free port to exist on the American mainland, allowing overseas goods to enter the continent. Smuggling became a flourishing enterprise.

In 2069, the NUS government launched a military strike on the rogue free states, promising to bring them under Washington’s control quickly. Predictably, this proved harder than it looked. Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Montana, Arizona, Nevada and Northern California formed a loose-knit alliance and fought back. Washington, Oregon and Idaho managed to secure neutrality in the conflict in return for concessions to the NUS government, whilst Southern California joined the war on the NUSA’s side.

By early 2070, an NUS division had advanced into the suburbs of Night City. Councilman Lucius Rhyne, realising his city was about to fall, signed a treaty of alliance and cooperation with Arasaka Corporation, including allowing them to re-open their North American corporate headquarters in the city (rebuilt on the site of their destroyed former HQ). Within a few days, an Arasaka supercarrier had arrived in Coronado Bay and Arasaka security division troops welcomed into the city. The NUS forces, backed by Militech, briefly considered forcing the issue but with memories (or graphic documentaries) of the Fourth Corporate War’s carnage still fresh in government circles, the US government chose to withdraw.

The resulting treaty guaranteed the autonomy of the Free States in a structure more akin to the old European Union, with the Free States participating in trade as full partners of the NUSA but still subject to their own laws. As part of the treaty, Night City became an internationally-recognised city-state, separate even from the Free State of Northern California.

Night City opened its corporate restrictions to embrace the corporations more fully than it had ever done before, guaranteeing its prosperity and economic independence…at the cost of bowing before the corporations as it had never done before.

In 2077 the world is in a perilous state, with the power of corporations once again running unchecked, greater technological advancement making wondrous things possible but often only for those who can afford them, and rampant inequality leading to a breeding ground for resentment, division and paranoia. It is a perfect time and place for the ambitious, the corrupt and the fast-thinking.


The world in 2077 is both familiar and unfamiliar. Many of the old nation states endure, if in new forms or with new name or different borders. Many of the great cities survive, if a bit battered and worse for wear. Kids still go to school (or learn at home via mass home education programs), parents still work, grifters still grift and thieves still steal. TV shows, movies and video games are still massively popular pastimes, although often now directly transmitted via implants and augments straight into a person’s visual cortex.

The greatest threat facing the world is climate change. Ironically, this problem was (somewhat) moderated in the early 21st Century, with the Collapse and the Fourth Corporate War causing the world population to drop by hundreds of millions, reversing population explosion trends in poorer countries and leading to a drop in mass consumer demand. With the MidEast Meltdown making many oil sources inaccessible, the world had to move much more quickly to renewable power, solar energy, wind turbines and geothermal energy than expected. However, the impact of rampant fossil fuel usage in the 20th and early 21st centuries continues to be felt.

The Maldives have vanished under the waves, one-third of the Netherlands are now under the North Sea and parts of Los Angeles and Night City have had to be evacuated due to flooding. The Caribbean has been devastated by repeated onslaughts by superhurricanes. Haiti was evacuated and abandoned in 2062 in one of the most desperate diasporas of the modern era, and surrounding nations struggled to cope with the mass influx for refugees. Desertification is gaining pace in Australia, Africa and parts of North America, threatening the agricultural belt that has been struggling to rebuild over the last sixty years or so.

With parts of the world becoming too hostile to survive in, technology has been embraced as a solution. Vertical cities (not far off the old arcology concept) and immense farms under artificial domes have been built to help fix these problems. But they are not open to all, and often their output is only a fraction of what is needed to help the entire global population. In other areas technology has proven a curse, such as people increasingly replacing their body parts and triggering cyberpsychosis (sometimes manifesting as uncontrollable violence) and existential crises.

Some have looked to the stars for salvation. Orbital habitats have been constructed and permanent colonies established on the Moon and Mars, with some exploration and exploitation of the asteroid belt taking place. However, these endeavours have been limited by sheer cost, technical difficulties and the fact these colonies are still technologically dependent on Earth to survive. Humanity cannot run away from its problems by going into space. The future of the species will be decided here.

Night City

Night City is an autonomous free city-state located on the west coast of North America, approximately halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles on Del Coronado Bay, formerly the town of Morro Bay. In 1994, entrepreneur Richard Night bought up the entire area, introduced a colossal amount of fill to widen the area and began building up the city with massive corporate sponsorship, not to mention relaxed tax laws that encouraged major corporations to construct offices and even their US headquarters in the city.

By 2013 the city had already eclipsed San Francisco in size and importance, and was well on the way to matching Los Angeles. By 2020 Night City was arguably the most important and exciting city on the continent, “The City on the Edge of Tomorrow,” a bridge between Asia and North America and a centre for technological innovation. The Fourth Corporate War ended that boom period, with the detonation of a tactical nuke in Arasaka Towers (and the resulting emergency evacuation of the entire city centre to avoid the fallout) rather abruptly tarnishing Night City’s image for the following two generations.

The Metal Wars of 2069-70 saw Night City initiate a rapprochement with Arasaka as a way of securing its (arguably nominal) independence, and regaining some of its former lost profile and lustre. In 2077 Night City has a population of just under 7 million, acts as the North American continental headquarters of Arasaka Corporation and is the most populous city in either of the Californias. It is also riven by crime, corruption (corporate and government) and gang warfare, and has been given a new, less flattering name: “The Worst Place to Live in America.”

The city has been divided into several districts, each in turn divided into several neighbourhoods or zones:
  • City Centre (Downtown, Corpo Plaza): Night City’s corporate showcase consists of massive skyscrapers, heavily-defended corporate business centres and elite restaurants.
  • Watson (Little China, Kabuko, Northside Industrial District, Arasaka Waterfront): Way back in the day Watson was one of the elite districts of the city, boasting nightclubs, skyscrapers, a state-of-the-art hospital and corporate headquarters. It’s now fallen on hard times and is a mixture of the haves and have-nots, with gangs like Maelstrom and the Tyger Claws dominating the landscape.
  • Westbrook (Japantown, North Oaks, Charter Hill): Westbrook has replaced Watson as the city’s best place to live and visit, with some excellent restaurants and safe residential zones. The area is not completely crim-free, with the Tyger Claws known to run many illicit businesses in the district alongside more legitimate enterprises.
  • Heywood (Wellsprings, Vista Del Rey, the Glen): Heywood is a district of contrasts. The areas adjacent to City Centre are safe, well-policed and high-class, whilst the streets and neighbourhoods abutting Pacifica are only marginally better than the warzone itself. This huge melting pot of classes and people gives criminal gangs like the Valentinos and 6th Street a lot of opportunities for profit and recruitment.
  • Pacifica (West Wind Estate, Coast View): Originally envisaged as a coastal resort for the people of Night City, Pacifica suffered a massive economic collapse, a loss of investment and then a series of floods that have left it a rotting hulk of a neighbourhood. Overbrimming with crime, violence and exploitation, the entire district has been sealed off from the rest of the city. Occasionally city planners voice the desire to just nuke it and start again, and are only half-joking. Multiple gangs operate in the district, but the Voodoo Boys are the dominant faction.
  • Santo Domingo (Arroyo, Rancho Coronado): This is the main suburb for the city’s exploited working class, who are packed into skyscrapers surrounding industrial estates and power plants. The ruins of the old refugee camps which once housed tens of thousands of evacuees from the nuked city centre can still be discerned.
Night City is surrounded on its landward sides by the Badlands, a large area of plains, arid deserts and, in the south, vast biotech farms which help feed the city. The Badlands are the home to Nomads, people who prefer the (very relatively) fresh air and open road to the stifling confines of the city. Unfortunately, they are also the home of the Wraiths, a criminal gang who like to prey on the isolated outlying communities. The area is also home to waste plants, chemical landfills, dumps and other unpleasant reminders of the proximity of the megacity. The remnants of the old US freeway network stretch north and south to other cities, although most intercity travel now takes place by aircraft, boat or NightCorp’s hypertrain network (which allows people to travel the 1,840 miles from Night City to Chicago in three hours). 

The Net

The Internet, known colloquially as the Net and, now, the Old Net, became the primary data-exchange system of the planet in the closing years of the 20th Century, carrying everything from international banking to TV shows to news wires. Cybercriminals using hacking to enrich themselves, intelligence organisations seeking to undermine national rivals and pirates trying to acquire things for free all made the Net a challenging environment even before the Fourth Corporate War, when combatants (or free-ranging privateers) released experimental, self-sustaining artificial intelligence code onto the servers.

The result was complete chaos, taking NetWatch, the London-based international regulatory authority, by surprise. By the time the Fourth Corporate War ended in late 2023, the Old Net had effectively become off-limits. Anyone who tried to access it would find their systems overrun with rogue code and viruses within minutes. Through a Herculean effort, NetWatch managed to erect the Blackwall, a virtual firewall around the entire Old Net, allowing local networks to resume operation without risk of intervention. Rumours persist that NetWatch was only able to achieve this by either creating new, super-intelligent AI to create and police the Blackwall (which would be illegal) or by allying with AIs within the Old Net itself.

The latter possibility has led to some believing that, given almost sixty years of further development behind the Blackwall, the AIs of the Old Net may be able to help humanity out of its current predicaments and have advocated trying to contact them. Official national government, corporate and military policy is to leave them well alone and come down hard on anyone who tries to breach the Blackwall.

What is commonly referred to as “the Net” is now a series of semi-independent hubs based around physical locations, with limited interconnectivity between them. In the advent of a major virus outbreak, each hub can be sealed off from the rest of the world in seconds, preventing problems from spreading. But within each hub, users have access to an impressive amount of information, data storage, entertainment and education services. Access to these local nets is still as it was in the old days, with cyberdecks (wireless modems, but more versatile) allowing people with the right implants to enter cyberspace and interact with its systems in a virtual environment.

One of the more recent emerging trends from the Net has been “Braindances,” which allows people to upload a memory or experience to the Net and allows others to experience these memories. So far it has been primarily used for entertainment (particularly of the carnal variety, inevitably), but its potential for use in criminal investigations is intriguing.


Several major corporations and megacorporations operate in and around Night City in 2077.
  • Arasaka: Founded in Tokyo in the early 20th Century, Arasaka became the world’s leading corporation in the early 21st. It owes its success to a high degree of diversity, working in banking, security, weapons tech, entertainment and biotech. Its overwhelming power was brought low in the Fourth Corporate War, in the aftermath of which its operations were restricted to Japan. However, it is currently undergoing a renaissance since it reopened its North American HQ in Night City seven years ago. It has been credited with helping ensure Night City’s independence from the NUS government, although cynics suggest that the city has merely swapped a national overlord for a corporate one.
  • Militech: The world leader in military equipment and supply, Militech is famous for its weapons tech. It “won” the Fourth Corporate War against Arasaka, albeit with crippling losses and having to be nationalised by the US government to survive. It has since regained some independence, but Militech is so closely aligned with the US government that the Department of Defence and the Militech corporate board might as well be the same thing.
  • Kang Tao: One of the world’s youngest megacorporations, founded in Taiwan in the early 21st Century and later bought out by a retired Chinese colonel, Kang Tao is now a strong up-and-comer in military technology, with out-of-the-box thinking and a nimbler corporate philosophy making it an unexpected rival to Militech. The company has been criticised for placing its unparalleled expansion ahead of safety, with its activities implicated in a chemical leak in Hangzhou that killed over 50,000 people.
  • Night Corp: A local corporation primarily concerned with running Night City’s utilities and providing infrastructure maintenance and repair, Night Corp was founded by Richard Night’s widow and still runs charitable foundations designed to help the city’s needy, particularly disadvantaged children. For a glorified public works company, Night Corp has an enigmatic reputation and investments in strange places, like orbital satellite projects.
  • Trauma Team: The ultimate in private healthcare provision and medical recovery at any cost, Trauma Team has a reputation for responding “enthusiastically” to its clients’ needs. A Trauma Team client has an implant inserted which keeps tabs on their current medical and security condition. Should a red-flag situation arise, a recovery team is sent to ensure the client’s wellbeing. More than one gang in Night City has confidently shot down a well-to-do businessman and moved in to steal his belongings, only to find themselves unexpectedly in the sights of a squad of gun-wielding sky-ambulance drivers.
  • Kendachi: A small but professional weapons tech company specialising in melee weapons and implants.
  • Kiroshi Opticals: The world leader in cyberoptic implants and scanners (a claim disputed by their European rivals, Zeiss).
  • Zetatech: A tech company specialised in chip construction and hardware, software and wetware design. Recently the have branched out into avionics, transport and drones, with a sideline in combat operations.

Factions of Night City 

A variety of gangs, government divisions and factions which call the city home. This is a list of the major players.
  • The NCPD: The Night City Police Department is the pretty basic police force which patrols the streets and tries to keep petty crime and violence to a minimum. Underpaid, underequipped and undermotivated, their ability to deal with more serious crimes and corporate crime is strictly limited (based on Night City’s corporate charter, corporations can investigate crimes concerning their own employees, which can result either in a whitewash or a far more lethal punishment than the NCPD can mete out), to their frustration. The NCPD has several divisions, with the Cyborg Suppression Unit or “Max-Tac” proving particularly effective in dealing with people suffering from cyberpsychosis, and heavily-augmented gang members. Max-Tac are not known for their skill in picking targets in an urban firefight, with bystanders advised to simply get out of the area ASAP.
  • NetWatch: The international crime unit which polices the Net, in particular ensuring the security of the Blackwall. NetWatch operatives often sport cutting-edge augmentations and wield lethal (and only nominally legal) Anti-Ice programmes which can kill unwary Netrunners outright. Operating without legal overwatch in North America, NetWatch gives independent Netrunners, corporate-backed hackers and criminal gangs pause.
  • Maelstrom: One of Night City’s most notorious gangs, Maelstrom go in for extreme body modification. Many of its members suffer from cyberpsychosis, or are almost in that condition. Violent and unpredictable, they are given a wide berth. They have interests in the illegal body-mod and drug scenes in the city.
  • Animals: Another violent gang, the Animals specialise in genetic engineering rather than technology to achieve their body mods. They have interests in the city’s underground fight scene, particularly no-holds-barred cage fights and grudge matches. They also smuggle and sometimes manufacture illegal steroids and designer body enhancement drugs. They are not particularly organised, but this loose structure often works to their advantage.
  • Voodoo Boys: A more enigmatic and mysterious gang operating in Pacifica, the Voodoo Boys have appointed themselves the guardians of the refugees from the Haitian evacuation. They operate primarily in cyberspace and follow an ideology that believes that humanity must ally with benign AI in order to survive. To this end, their Netrunners constantly probe the Blackwall for signs of weakness. This has made them enemies of NetWatch. Beyond that, the Boys engage in activities seemingly designed to help the poor people of Pacifica, although sometimes at the cost of engaging in criminal activity. Their image and name evoke clichés about Haitian immigrants, although it is unclear to what degree this is marketing or a genuine belief in the supernatural. Although not as immediately unreasoning or dangerous as Maelstrom and the Animals, caution should be exercised in any dealings with them.
  • 6th Street: An outgrowth of the self-appointed “citizens’ militias” that proved popular in the 20th and early 21st centuries, 6th Street was founded after the Fourth Corporate War to keep order in Night City when most of the corporate and city security and police forces were either wiped out or scattered. The gang still claims to be a militia, operated by and for the people, but it is now primarily a criminal enterprise, involved in robbery, extortion, gun-running and smuggling, as well as vehicle theft and modification. They have strong connections with the Nomad groups outside the city limits.
  • The Mox: One of the city’s newest factions, formed in 2067, the Mox or Moxies are a group of sex workers who were so angered at the constant abuse meted out on their members, that they banded together for mutual defence and security. Friends, clients and allies came to their assistance, resulting in a group dedicated to safeguarding some of Night City’s more vulnerable citizens. Although they present themselves as somewhere between a militarised union and a social movement, the Mox are generally considered a criminal enterprise, as some of the brothels and bars they run have attracted an unsavoury reputation in recent years, indicating their former good intentions may already be corrupted.
  • Tyger Claws: One of the city’s largest gangs, the Tyger Claws are based in Japantown but with tendrils of interest snaking through the city. The gang controls high-class, expensive bars and back-street dingy holes alike, and have their fingers in everything from weapons smuggling to human trafficking. The gang has a reputation for only accepting Asian members, which is not true, with people from all backgrounds welcome in the organisation’s ranks as long as they respect its code and obey its leaders. Descended from the yakuza and triads, the Tyger Claws like to present an image of reasonable amenability and honour, with violence only practiced as a last resort. In practice, this is taken very seriously by some members and completely disregarded by others (particularly the street gangs on the front lines, who have a reputation for brutal violence at the merest provocation). The gang’s upper hierarchy has close ties with Arasaka and a firm belief that although profit is preferable to war, war is sometimes unavoidable.
  • Valentinos: Possibly the largest criminal gang in the city, the Valentinos are based in the city’s Mexican or Mexican-descended neighbourhoods, although they welcome members from of all backgrounds. The gang practices Chicano culture, displaying tattoos, creating street art and celebrating Mexican holidays. The gang encourages its members to have fun together, creating tight bonds of friendship and family which police infiltrators find almost impossible to crack. The gang also has strong community ties, protecting neighbourhoods from rival gangs and independent criminals. Like the Tyger Claws, they present the appearance of honour and fair play, but in practice they also engage in activities such as prostitution, gun smuggling, illegal vehicle modifications, car theft and robbery.
  • Aldecaldos: A Nomad group formed in the early 21st Century who helped displaced refugees survive the Collapse and later assisted in the reconstruction of Mexico City, the Aldecaldos are based in the Badlands outside Night City. Divided into several small caravans and communities, they travel back and forth, getting work as farm labourers, factory workers or, sometimes, paid muscle. They have a strong interest in vehicles, which their lives depend on. As well as legal activity, they engage in smuggling, gun-running and fencing for stolen goods, particularly items too hot to stay in the city.
  • Wraiths: A Nomad criminal gang, the Wraiths are desert raiders, thieves and highway robbers. Preying on isolated travellers, weakly-defended convoys and outlying settlements, they are considered the lowest of the low. Some corporations have tried to buy off the Wraiths by employing them as caravan guards, but their tendency to disregard the contract and make off the caravan’s contents has seen this practice halted.

Thank you for reading The Wertzone. To help me provide better content, please consider contributing to my Patreon page and other funding methods, which will also get you exclusive content weeks before it goes live on my blogs.

No comments: