Cyberpunk2020 cover

The cover of Cyberpunk 2020 2nd edition

Cyberpunk 2020 is a cyberpunk role-playing game written by Mike Pondsmith and published by R. Talsorian Games.


This game is based on the works of William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, and other authors of the "Mirrorshades group". What makes this game different from the novels, is the way it depicts an early 21st century from a 1980s perspective, and a general down-play drug abuse. There are flamboyant 80s elements relating to glam rock, the idea of "style over substance", and art inspired by Hajime Sorayama and Patrick Nagel. Another element that is far removed from the novels are rules for humanity loss. Humanity loss is a game-balancing rule, that lowers one's Empathy score (an attribute that measures a character's sanity, emotional well-being, and relating emotionally with others) as the character gets fitted with cybernetics. When this score gets too low, the character becomes more and more neurotic, irrational, and prone to random violence. This rule is used to keep the players from going overboard with the cybernetics.

This game was first published in 1988, and the more popular second edition was published in 1990, so there are some things in the setting that did not hold up to age. It did not accunt for the fall of the Soviet Union, as Russia is still a communistic state (this was chnged to "Neo-Soviet" state). It also did not account for the Information Age, as "The Net" is based on a more global version of the local computer networks from the '80s, and is mostly used by a culture of elite computer-users. In the other hand, it did successfully predict the widespread use of cellphones and use of laptop computers, but not as fancy as the ones used today.


Taking place in the second decade of the 21st century (2013 - 2020), after a wide-spread social-economical collapse and a period of martial law, the United States government gave a veritable carte blanche - even the elimination of anti-trust laws - to several large corporations in a desperate attempt at economic recovery. In this world, megacorporations control government and lives. Being an employee means being handled. They are provided housing in "safe-communities", but at the cost of privacy. To an employee, there is no greater fear then termination, as it would mean eviction and becoming blackballed from the industry. Many who do ether become homeless, or nomadic vagabonds. The politics amongst corporate management is vary cutthroat Machiavellian, as abject greed and a complete lack of moral fiber had resulted in a culture of corruption.

Many intercity neighborhoods have become so overtaken by local gangs, they become lawless war-zones. These "no-man's-lands" thrive one black market trade and mercenaries.

The Net is a global network of personal computers and large mainframes. While governments and megacorporations network information to each other, its the Netrunners who steals it.

The Megacorporations includes:

  • Arasaka is a huge Japanese zaibatsu, megalomaniacal CEO obsessed with making Japan into a superpower. (likely based on the WW2 Arisaka)
  • Biotechnica is an Italian biotechnology, pharmacology, and cybernetics firm.
  • Euro Business Machines (EBM) is an information technology corporation (an obvious nod towards IBM).
  • Infocomp is a commercial think-tank and information repository.
  • Kendachi is a Japanese armament company.
  • Merril, Asukaga & Finch is a financial analysts firm - quite probably an allusion to Merrill Lynch.
  • Microtech is a computer and electronics manufacturer.
  • Militech is an American arms and mercenary contractor.
  • Mitsubishi-Sugo is a major transportation manufacturer.
  • Network News 54 is an American broadcasting company.
  • Orbital Air is an African corporation with a monopoly on space transportation.
  • Petrochem is an energy company.
  • SovOil is a neo-Soviet oil giant, controlling a vast percentage of the petrochemicals market.
  • Trauma Team International is a private medical firm also dealing in medical insurance, prepaid disaster relief, prepaid CSAR, etc.
  • World News Service is a worldwide news conglomerate, similar to the Associated Press.
  • WorldSat Communications Network is a satellite communications giant.
  • Zetatech is a computer, cyberdeck, robotics, and cybernetics manufacturing company.

This game provides a wide range of archetypes to choose from. Among then are:

  • Cops can range from Private Detectives, to Bet Cops, to Government Agents.
  • Corporates are the Armani-wearing corporate mega-yuppies you see in the Robocop movies.
  • Fixers are the well-connected fencers, smugglers, and information brokers who apply their trade on the black market - like Lenny Nero from the movie Strange Days.
  • Media can range from desperate, attention-loving sensationalists and demagogues, but the playable ones are usually the creditable and outspoken voice in a world of corporate-owned straw-man media.
  • Netrunners are the types of savvy computer hackers you would find in the movie Hackers, but with cybernetic interface systems. They roam the Net, looking for systems to hack and information to sell.
  • Nomads were once corporate wage-slaves, who got fired and blackballed from employment, and now they roam the highways as Gypsies and motor-gangs from out of a Mad Max movie.
  • Rockerboys are rebellious rockers who use music and revolt to fight authority. They are a lot like '80s punk rockers who look down on "sellouts" as the ultimate traitors.
  • Solos are hired hit-men, bodyguards, and mercenaries - a lot like Jayne Cobb from Firefly.
  • Techies range from technicians, to cybernetic specialists. They are usually underground techies, who do "off-the-record" work.

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