Neon Black - Cyberpunk Forged in the Dark


(Michael Elliott) #1

Neon Black (working title) is my cyberpunk FitD hack where you play poor punks in the near future trying to save carve out a space for themselves in a city state controlled by 3 major corporations.

The year is 21XX. Climate change has ravaged Earth. The remains of humanity live in a handful of isolated city-states controlled by the Megacorps, huge all-encompassing corporations that operate with no oversight and wield unprecedented wealth and power. Neon Black takes place in Prime City, the first and most powerful city state in the world and home to millions.

The ultra rich have are digitizing their consciousness, colonizing the solar system, and radically augmenting their bodies. Every piece of technology is connected to the 'Net, a digital world full of near-sentient programs and a retreat for those trying to survive in Prime City.

  • Factions are divided into 4 types: the three megacorps (Ziggurat, Ishram Entertainment, and Storm-Ex) and the Underground of criminal syndicates, gangs, and co-ops that resist and compete with corporate control.

  • There are currently 6 character playbooks: Hacker, Hustler, Muscle, Splicer, Suit, and Synth. There is currently just one crew playbook: Punks.

  • There’s downtime actions for getting new cyberware, a heat system tied to each faction rather than the crew, and an emphasis on gaining wealth to increase in tier and get new items.

I’m struggling to think of other crew playbooks that make sense given my game’s politics but I think I might just stick with the one. In the past I’ve had Mercs (bounty hunters), Sliders (Inception style crew who mess with people’s minds), and the Start-Up (making a product to compete with the corporations, basically Halt and Catch Fire). Through playtesting I’ve noticed that these stray a bit too close to emulating corporate & capitalist structure or just ammoral murder so I’m putting them on the back burner for now.

Currently the game is in alpha, though I think the latest I’m working on should take me to beta where the big changes are more or less done and I just need to fiddle with the fiction and fine tune the rules. Recently I’ve been trying to focus on the fact that the character start poor and trying to balance that with playbooks that feel fun and depict capable characters.

You can get the latest version of Neon Black here.

Follow along with development on my patreon or on twitter

I’ll be hosting a few play test sessions of the latest version (4.1) at Terminal City Tabletop Convention in Vancouver. Hoping to have 4.1 available soon.

I know I’m not the only person working on a cyberpunk hack in this system. I’m curious what things in your hack make the game cyberpunk and what you’d want to see in a cyberpunk FitD game? It feels like cyberpunk is becoming part of the zeitgeist again, and I’m hoping to show how good it is at empowering the poor and vilifying the rich.


(Jacob Segal) #2

Hey, I’m working on a semi-cyberbunk game myself.

I also have a heavy theme of fighting corporate overlords. For crew types, I thought about the various ways to stick it to the man:

  • Demagogues/Rabble Rousers (making noise, promoting your own ideas, displaying corporate greed to the public)
  • Smugglers (working outside the corporate zeitgeist)
  • Vigilantes (fighting the good fight regardless of whether the corporate-bought police care)
  • Thieves (I split them into digital hackers and hijackers, taking the corporate wealth and distributing it)

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having only one crew playbook, if you want your game to have a more focused theme.

I also have mechanics for cyberware, and a bunch of playbook abilities that address dealing with cyber security and cybertech (hovercars, etc.). My game focuses heavily on Turf, so the kinds of Turf available will also hit home the cyberpunk themes, though I haven’t gotten to that part of development yet. And of course, the actions you choose help make things feel cyberpunkish, just like “attune” makes Blades feel ghosty.


#3

I love “demagogues” as a crew type!

In NY modern/near future hack I have wolves(mercs), scoundrels, and throttle hoppers (for the fast and furious junkies).

@jacobalso how do you treat cyberware? Mine basically works as gear.


(Jacob Segal) #4

Mine works more like crafting in Blades. Because my game is about biker gangs too, I call them Hacks, and split them into three categories: Bike Hacks, BioHacks, and CyberHacks. I use the Blades example of having the GM and player ask each other questions, then rolling tier to determine quality. CyberHacks, which are programs and interfaces, are more like rituals that need to be re-scrambled during downtime.


#5

Sounds great. Looking forward to seeing it.


(Michael Elliott) #6

Awesome. Excited to hear about other cyberpunk hacks in the works. I like your solution to cyberware.

The way I’ve incorporated cyberware in Neon Black is similar to how it is in The Sprawl. The character needs access to a surgeon and some cyberware (each gotten through jobs, contacts, or acquiring an asset) then they do a special downtime activity called Get Chromed. You roll the contact’s tier, or if another character is installing it their Tinker ability. The result determines if there are any complications or harm accrued when the cyberware is installed.

The cyberware itself does two things mechanically. When a character gets cyberware installed, they get a 4th dot in an action or attribute, which is the only way you can get those in Neon Black.

Neon%20Black%20Actions

They also get an additional special ability determined by the kind of cyberware they get. For example if they get a Lie Detector, they get a 4th attribute dot in Clout and get the special ability to know whenever someone is lying.


(Jacob Segal) #7

That’s really clever! That’s a good way to handle it.


#8

I have mine (disposable Heroes) posted I’m the hacks forum here. I need to clean things up and get another iteration out soon.

I use cyberware as gear. Most gives potency to an action, with one free “push yourself” in specific areas. You get a healing bonus (1 less segment) if you have no cyber.

A few other twists are included. Skill wires / personality mods that play with action rating distribution and xp triggers, a veteran spec ability that allows for hijacking someone (like a ghosts possession) and drugs with an addiction clock…

Finally, I use a special action (replacing Attune) to provide a way to include expert backgrounds, psionics, and (possibly) transhuman and transgenetic characters. - it works similar to special actions in Band of Blades, but not tied to a specific playbook. Initial play Testing for expertise and psionics worked well.


(Michael Elliott) #9

That’s a clever way to handle Attune. That damn action was one of the first hurdles I had in designing Neon Black. Leaving it out created an uneven number of actions per attribute and I couldn’t figure out how to rearrange them or replace Attune so that it all evened out. Eventually I just collapsed some of the actions and ended up with 9 that I liked. The cyberware action dot also helped make the attribute dice even so you still get 4.

Didn’t think of psionics but I’m really curious to see how that works out.


(Michael Elliott) #10

In the latest iteration I’m working on I’ve gone back to the 3 crew types I’ve had for most of the game:

  • Punks: Stealing from corporations and sabotaging their assets.
  • Hunters: Chasing bounties and solving problems.
  • Start-Up: Creating something new and competing with other factions to sell it.

All based more or less on how they make money working with/against corporations. Hunters used to be Mercs, but I’m focusing more on extraction and investigating crimes so the crew isn’t tempted to be as blood-thirsty. Start-Up could still end up being a bit corporate/capitalistic but I think the playbook should highlight the risks and difficult questions you ask when you want to sell something and make it big.

My hack is pretty light on turf. Instead crews can acquire a handful of assets like people, side businesses like vice dens, and contacts and resources on the 'Net. They’re like crew upgrades but more powerful, and when the crew acquires too much heat with a faction they can just burn one of the crew’s assets in retaliation.

Really curious to see your hack!


#11

I really like the option of burning assets for retaliation.


(Michael Elliott) #12

One of the things that has stuck with me since I first started making this game was this card from the Android: Netrunner card game (which is one of the major touchstones for Neon Black).

Scorched%20Earth

I love the idea that if you fuck too much with a corporation, they don’t send the cops, they don’t sue you, they just burn your house down. It illustrates really well that the corporations are above the law, that the world is their kingdom and the player characters are just serfs.

This entanglement basically replaces the Wanted Level 4: Warship entanglement from Scum & Villainy. Neon black uses the same wanted level/entanglements system, and in many ways is more of a hack of S&V than it is Bitd these days.


#13

Attune was the trick. One of the most important piece of advice that I came across was that if your design makes anything too powerful, what will be the point of using the other actions or abilities. So, I turned Attune into Interface and created cyber-projection called the Digital Domain. Here the Programs that run the world can take form and interact with anyone that uses Interface to enter. This helps the Hacker playbook use Programs for any purpose, but Programs can have a mind of their own.


#14

Interface is great – I ditched attune and replaced it with a special action similar to Band of Blades.


(Michael Elliott) #15

Proof of life!

I’ve been slowly plugging away at the next version of Neon Black. I’m hoping to have something finished by the end of this month.

It occurred to me that the publicly available version is pretty distant from what I’m working on now, so I wanted to tease some updated crew and character playbooks to give a sense of what the game looks like now and help motivate me to keep going. Below you will find the Hacker, previously known as the Click:


(Michael Elliott) #16

Next up is one of my favourites: The Suit. Every crew needs a good corporate shill.


(Michael Elliott) #17

Neon Black is now available on itch.io!

Version 4.1 includes new and revised character playbooks: Hacker, Hustler, Rank, Splicer, Suit, and Synth.

New crew and revised crew playbooks: Hunters, Punks, and Start-Up.

A unique cyberpunk setting: Prime City, a corpo city state located anywhere in the world. Prime City has 36 factions, city districts, notable places and NPCs, everything you need to run a full campaign.


#18

I finally got around to getting Neon Black and I like it. In addition to “ordinary” cyberpunk there’s potential for Mad Max and Alien/Expanse elements as well, which I think is neat.

Apologies if I missed it, but if you gain cyberwear for a particular action or attribute can you install more cyberwear for that same action/attribute? For example, can someone with Cyber Eyes also install Cyber Ears? I guess I’m leaning toward saying “yes,” with the proviso that you get only one extra action rank no matter how many cyberware pieces for the action have been installed. However, I’d say a PC can get all of the abilities granted by their cyberware. Just wondering if that was your thought as well!


(Michael Elliott) #19

Thanks for the kind words!

To answer your question: yes you’ve got it right. You can have as much cyberware as you like with all the special abilities that entails, but you only get the additional rating in an action/attribute once.

I’ll be sure to clarify that in future revisions.


#20

This is sweet! Any chance I could get my mitts on this to run it?