Neon Black - Cyberpunk Forged in the Dark

Version 5.0, the Capitalism Sucks update, is now live on Neon Black’s page.

Engage in Capitalism to buy corporate products, Reach Out to your friends to get favours, and Reset when you’re off the clock instead of indulging in vices.

The complete change log can be found here.

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Apologizes, maybe not the most correct place to ask this but did you run Neon Black last year at SHUX? I ask as I’ve been looking out for a Forged in the Dark Cyberpunk game and then remembered I played one at SHUX and this looks very familiar.

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I did! I’ll also be running it this year at SHUX as well.

That’s good I found the right one then, i’ll go have a look at your ichio site in a bit. I’d love to have a game of it again this year but we can’t make SHUX this year.

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The latest version of Neon Black will be at SHUX 2019 in Vancouver this October!

If you’re going to be there drop on by and say hello, or sign up to participate in a 2 hour-ish one shot!

Sign up is live on the SHUX forums.

Update 5.1 is live on Neon Black’s page!

This update changes some small things, and adds two new downtime mechanics. Credit Burn, where players suffer harm when they hoard too much money, and Burn Credit, a downtime activity that allows character to give money to other factions of Prime City.

Check out the full change list here.

Also a little while ago I added Community Copies to Neon Black and forgot to mention it here. If money is an issue for you for any reason and you want a copy of Neon Black, you can now get one for free.

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I have been following along with your announcements on this game. I have been working through a few obstacles on my hack, Five Aces. It is mostly to see how these matters play out at the table. My question to you is how you have handled the playtesting aspect of this design? Do you have the advantage of a home group that will play with your designs and give feedback? Or do you look to demonstrations at conventions and game stores? Personally, I have been fortunate to call on a small group of people who play my game and give feedback. However, this has led me to a lack in amounts of people while get solid feedback from my players.

I would love to read your thoughts on this and share more of my design methods. Talk to you later.

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Hey! Thanks for following along.

I test my games with a group who meets weekly, and by running the game at local conventions. When I test the games I pay attention to rules that confuse players, and rules or parts of the game’s text that don’t evoke the theme of the game, and then I try to fix that in the next version of the game. I also look for characters, places, or bits of lore that the players come up with that I like and incorporate that into the game, with their permission.

I wouldn’t worry too much about having a lot of players to test your game, just as long as you are playing it between versions and not just designing by yourself. Like John Harper says, play and iterate.


Excellent. That’s a very good reply on the elements to collect from playtesting. I have used similar points to help work through the feedback. I ask a few questions that find if a rule works, if a theme is explored, or if the players understand how the PCs work inside the game.

I have mined the groups that I have played with for the ideas that they want to explore. In this, the version that I have pulled together so far has been the ideas and creative energy of those playtesters. This has brought me to the point of ready to share it with the community.

So, I appreciate this community has provided by allowing designers to discuss the details for games that can be fun for everyone. If you ever want to discuss further on the details, let me know. Thanks.

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There has been another update to Neon Black!

Version 5.2 adds a new playbook, the Operator, who addresses challenges with technical skill and mayhem. They are a getaway driver and hardware designer all rolled into one.

There’s also been some changes to heat/wanted levels and how entanglements are generated, as well as additional faction clocks and an increase in payout for jobs.

See the full devlog here.

The next update will be arriving shortly and will include another new playbook and more minor changes to the rules.

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Yet another update! Version 5.3 includes the Star playbook, a charismatic artist who overcomes challenges with their art. This update also includes new factions and a few minor mechanical changes.

See the full devlog here.

Version 6.0 - HAUNTing

This version includes Neon Black’s first special character playbook, Human Amalgamate United into Neuro-Telepresences, or HAUNTs. There’s also new factions, several updates for the Technology chapter, and slightly different rules for recovery.

See the full list of updates and changes here.

I’m really happy with the core rules now so I suspect we won’t see many large changes there in the immediate future. I’m starting a new campaign soon using the playbooks that haven’t seen as much testing, so there may be some balance changes coming up.

As for what I have planned for the next version I want to add a chapter on player principles & practices and a timeline of events. Also going to need more cool cyberpunk drugs, hardware, and software.


Hi Michael,

I’m curious how the 9 actions vs 12 has worked out for you, both in play and from a PC power level and advancement perspective. Less actions means higher scores in those actions and faster gain since you have less less actions to distribute advances to.

Hello again!

I haven’t noticed a substantial difference from other FitD games that maintain 12 actions. I think the need for cyber ware for a 4th Action or Attribute dot helps there.

Also with so much focus on money to advance in tier and acquire playbook items, players tend to invest more in special abilities to give themselves an edge.

However this might shift in the late game, where I haven’t done as much testing.

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Update! Get your update here!

The latest version of Neon Black (v6.1) is now live on itch.

This one contains a lot of changes to downtime actions, for example:

  • Recovery: I think I have finally landed on some rules for recovering harm that I like. I wanted recovery to be faster than it is in Blades, but I also wanted a system that let harm linger so folks could get XP for struggling with it or to highlight a particularly memorable encounter. Now, you assemble a pool as is typical, either a PC’s Tinker action rating or the crew’s tier and remove harm based on the results (1-3: Remove all level 1 harm, 4/5: Move all harm down 1 level, 6: Move all harm down 2 levels, CRIT: Remove all harm). This fixes the biggest issue I have with recovery in other version of Blades, where even if you roll well that isn’t a guarantee that you recover any harm. This is also reflective in the tech level of Neon Black, high tech is available so when you get good treatment or pay for the good drugs you should be rewarded.
  • Crafting: I’ve made crafting a bit easier in this version. You still use your crew’s tier as a base but now the rolls break down thusly (1-3: tier, 4/5: tier+1, 6: tier+2, CRIT: tier+3). This helps to reinforce one of the central themes in the game: capitalism sucks, find alternatives. Crafting is hard to do without a significant investment of money at the start of the game, so raising the possible quality of what you can get will hopefully make this downtime action feel less like a credit drain.

I have also eliminated stash from the game. All funds are just cred now. Instead of rows of stash giving you new playbook items or advancing the crew’s tier, you get those whenever you gill a new row of 10 cred. Stash never really felt right in Neon Black. If almost every transaction is digital, there’s little fictional or mechanical difference between money you have on you right now, and money you have in the bank. I think this will help players get new playbook items faster, as well as increase in tier faster, and force the question of when the character’s want to end this life of freelancing.


Update: Version 6.2 - Notoriety and Digital Playbooks

'Sup cyberpunks.

Today’s update includes lots of different changes. Lots of player and crew special abilities have been modified and reworded. Wanted Levels are now Notoriety, since that felt like it fit the them a bit more, as well as the possible repercussions in the entanglement table. There’s also a new timeline of events to help players situate themselves in the default world of Neon Black. Welcome to the year 2199!

There are also new digital playbooks! Neon Black has strayed far away enough from Blades that the Roll20 sheets weren’t really cutting it, and I saw what other creators were doing with Google Sheets so I made some playbooks for everyone to use on the 'Net.

Feel free to copy and modify for use in your own game of Neon Black.

The full changelist for v6.2 can be found here.

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Update: Version 6.3 - Text Complete

This is a very special update so I’m basically just going to say here what I said on the page:

With this updated (v6.3) Neon Black is now text complete. What does that mean? Well as of right now, there are no major updates or missing pieces in Neon Black. Everything I want in the rules is present and accounted for. There may be fixes and updates in the future but as of right now everything that I’ve ever had on the to-do list to add to the game is completed. Does this mean the game is finished? No. I would like to hire people to work on my game to make it better: artists, graphic designers, sensitivity readers, etc. but all of those services are outside of my budget. Now I can pitch the game to publishers and see if they will carry me the rest of the way. If not, I may kickstart this game myself. We’ll see.

To help get me there if it comes to it, Neon Black will be increased in price on June 1st from $10 to $15 to reflect it’s increased size and near final state. $15 for over 67,000 words still seems like a deal to me.

I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who has commented, bought the game, given me feedback, or even acknowledged that myself or this game existed. I would not have gotten here without you.

The full list of changes can be found on the devlog.


Hey cyberpunks,

So the last time I updated the game I was confident that Neon Black was in it’s final stages and would be receiving no more major updates going forward. I recently sent the Neon Black manuscript to my first choice of publisher and received some really great detailed feedback. The feedback centered on two points:

  1. This game does not build on or significantly change anything in the core blades experience.
  2. The principles of the game “Capitalism sucks, community rules, etc.” are, by and large, not reinforced mechanically in the game’s rules.

I agree with this feedback. Right now Neon Black, as I see it, wants to address the evils of the rich, corporations, and capitalism, but paints the characters as grimdark scoundrels seeking their own ways to gain wealth. I would much rather this game be about stealing from the rich to help disenfranchised and marginalized people in the player characters’ community. This will require a lot of work on my part, and the next version of the game will look substantially different than the current version. I’m continuing to test the game as I make changes, but I want to be confident in a new framework before releasing anything here, so it may be a while before you see a new version of Neon Black.

As always, thanks to everyone who has supported me and the game. Couldn’t have gotten here without you.


Hello Hackers,

I heard there was going to be a cool new cyberpunk RPG out today? One about stealing from the rich, building up a community, and a non essentialist view of humanity? No? Oh well.

How about a new update for Neon Black instead! You can download the latest version here, and I’ve copied the devlog for 7.0 below for your viewing pleasure. Thanks to everyone for their kind words, encouragement, and for providing feedback.

I’ve spent most of 2020 revising this game and all those playtest notes and edits are finally out in the wild with Neon Black 7.0. This update carries some pretty substantial changes from the previous version but here are some of the biggest:

  • New and revised character playbooks. Characters now have a max of 3 action ratings and 4 attribute ratings. This changed because I found most players didn’t feel incentivized to bother with cyberware to get an edge, so now you can only get 2 action ratings in any one action before needing to get chrome or take other risks. Players also now have the option to be employed or not, influencing what they can accomplish during downtime (and what they can steal from their corporate jobs).
  • Character milestones. Milestones replace special abilities. I wanted each character to have narrative justifications for their abilities and feats baked into the mechanics. So now in order to get these powerful milestones, you need to accomplish a certain story beat. For example, the Decker playbook has this milestone: “ADMINISTRATIVE PRIVILEDGES: You’ve successfully infiltrated a tier V faction’s network. When you successfully Hack a target, you also gain access to one connected network, target, or subsystem.” You get mechanical benefits and narrative permissions not by gaining XP, but by accomplishing things in the fiction.
  • Community playbooks replace crew playbooks. This is a pretty big and needed change. The last iteration of Neon Black was too focused on the personal accumulation of wealth. You needed money to gain more playbook items, and for certain downtime actions, and the crew only flourished if the players hoarded their wealth. Now Neon Black is about addressing the needs of the community that the characters are part of. The more you steal from the rich and help your friends, the more your community thrives.
  • Luck. In this version luck replaces stress. It works the same way, but instead of gaining ticks of stress, you start with luck already marked on your character sheet, and need to spend it to assist, push yourself, etc. The only way to gain luck is through CRITs and the engagement roll.
  • Calamities. When your luck runs out, your character suffers a calamity. This is a special kind of consequence that cannot be resisted and makes the current score and their lives much more difficult. Players select from 4 types of calamities, including additional heat and plot twists.
  • Conditions. These replace harm. Conditions cover a lot more ground than harm, including broken or faulty cyberware, awkward social situations, sudden fame or infamy, and loss of specific resources. You only have 3 places to mark conditions, and if you run out of space you suffer a calamity.
  • Bonds. Characters start with 2 bonds with other PCs. These are relationships or beliefs that help players define their characters, and can change over time. Bonds also determine who you can assist as a teamwork action, and how many dice you give when you do so.

There’s also changes to downtime actions, XP, and more. I’m so happy to finally get this version out the door, and more changes are coming in the future. But for now please enjoy this latest release of Neon Black.

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Version 7.3 of Neon Black is now out and has a handful of changes. Nothing too significant:

  • Added a dedication to the front of the text
  • Modified the Tech’s Pyrokinetics milestone
  • Modified the Synth’s Network Intelligence milestone
  • Added various examples of game mechanics (scores, downtime actions, etc.)
  • Added flavour text
  • Modified community relationships
  • Edited text throughout

This will be the last update for a while until I figure out ​publishing for Neon Black. I want this to be a physical book one day, but it’s gonna take a lot of work to get there, especially if I can’t get a publisher to help me out :stuck_out_tongue:

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