Want to get started in a sci-fi rpg, but don’t know where to gather inspiration from? There are plenty of options, like Star Wars and Star Trek, but if you have exhausted these avenues, what other works are there? What if you don’t want to run a space opera?
Other options may seem elusive, but don’t fear – your inspiration report is here. Here are some movies and books for your consideration whenever you are looking for some sci-fi inspiration.
The sci-fi classic, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is the inspiration of numerous movies and spin-offs all around the world. The most famous of these is Blade Runner, but also includes Ex Machina, Ghost in the Shell, and Altered Carbon.
Do Android Dream is a pulp detective novel set in 1992 (or 2021, depending on the version) after nuclear war has decimated Earth. With the rich fleeing to Mars, the remaining citizens of Earth are fighting to survive on their own. Of those citizens, bounty hunter Rick Deckard is responsible for ‘retiring’ androids, known as ‘andys’. These androids have been enslaved on Mars, and are now trying to escape from servitude. The novel follows Deckard as he realizes that there may be something more to humanity than just being human.
Do Androids Dream really emphasizes the morality in sci-fi, which is a strong place to lean into when running a game. Sci-fi is a genre that was established to make commentary on contemporary life, so feel free to add social commentary into your game, or challenging perspectives – as long as your players are on board, that is.
Considered the origins of the Cyberpunk genre, Neuromancer is a great inspiration for any Cyberpunk RED or Shadowrun games your thinking of jump-starting.
The story follows a former hacker named Case. His greatest days are behind him after he stole from his employers, leaving him unable to access the online world of the Sprawl. Now, he lives in Night City (That’s right, the Night City) trying to find away to survive. When he’s approached by a mysterious woman, things begin to change for Case as he is thrown into thick of the underworld once again.
The best part about Neuromancer is it’s tone and atmospheric nature. From the first step of the story, you are thrown into a world alien but familiar. The reader feels like anything could happen in this exciting, strange world. The story is also entrenched into high-tech net-running, showing you some crazy things someone could do as a net-runner. If one of your players is planning on playing a hacker, check this one out.
A lesser known sci-fi classic, Roadside Picnic dips into eldritch horror as well as science fiction. The story was the inspiration of the Soviet film Stalker that became a sci-fi cult classic. It is also very clear that this text was the inspiration for the video game Control, which is a wonderful time if you haven’t played it yet.
The novel tells the story of Red Schuhart who sneaks into extraplanar locations known as The Zones. These Zones are believed to be pockets created by aliens, but are otherwise unexplained. Red is a ‘Stalker’, or someone who sneaks into these Zones to smuggle strange items out. However, as things turn desperate for Red, his once careful practices going into Zones become more and more reckless.
Roadside Picnic does a great job adding the weird into sci-fi. Some may think that sci-fi needs to be logical or hard science, but this is far from the truth. Sci-fi can meld into fantastical elements. Feel free to explore these otherworldy avenues – don’t limit yourself in your creations.
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Throughout sci-fi and fantasy media, the villains have often been heralded as some of the cleverest explorations of evil in popular fiction. In Cyberpunk, we find ourselves an eerily familiar world of corporate greed, power, and corruption, and the villains follow suit. But with so many gangs and prominent figures, it can be hard to know how to play which ones, or what to do with certain factions.
Luckily for you, I have compiled the most iconic villains from the source material and categorized them in a way everyone can best understand them – as Yearbook Superlatives.
You know those right? The questions like Most Likely To Cure Cancer, or Most Likely to Get Famous, back when such dreams were thought possible instead of… well, whatever we’re living in now.
So, with this in mind, let’s dive into the world of Cyberpunk, and search through the darkest reaches of Night City to in search of pure evil…
Arasaka is the rich-preppy kid to a tee. Born from family money, Arasaka is constantly dressed to the nines. Head of the debate team, student body president, honor roll – and you better bet your bottom dollar that Arasaka is going to be giving that Valedictorian speech come graduation day. Everyone always wonders – ‘How does Arasaka do it?’
Arasaka may look like the golden child, but the trouble is that most rich kids are a seething ball of hate and fear on the inside, and will kill you and your whole family just for the thrill of it. Just to feel something again, because god damn it, having everything you could ever want leaves you needing to feel want again.
When playing Cyberpunk, cloak and dagger are the best methods when acting on the part of Arasaka. A great part of the Arasaka Corporation is that most things they do are technically legal. Arasaka can perform absolutely awful acts and get away with it by lack of association, legal technicalities, etc. Then, if the law is getting in the way, then just throw money at the issue. That usually fixes things.
This is all, of course, total fantasy. Major corporations in our world have never done any of this.
Militech is the worst of the bullies. They walk around, looking for any kind of trouble to get involved in, and then throw themselves at it with all their might and fury. Most of the time, these kids would get some form of punishment from parents or teachers, and hopefully be led down a better path.
Trouble is – what happens when the kids can beat the teachers to death, then get paid for it?
Militech is a rich person’s dream. Need private security for a public event? Militech can do it. Need something handled that is less than legal? Someone in Militech can do it – for an extra price, of course. Arasaka loves Militech because it makes all the cloak and dagger stuff so much easier.
When playing as Militech, feel free to be have fun with the power dynamics both within and outside of Militech. Perhaps some security officers are more noble than others. Others could be working just for the money, so things like ‘morals’ are secondary to their other desires. Or just go guns blazing, with an entire Militech contingent willing to jump into a situation and kill anything in their way. Just have fun with it.
To be honest, I don’t have an introduction to these guys. Bozos are just terrifying. These are people who got cybernetic surgery INTENTIONALLY TO LOOK LIKE CLOWNS. Just to be able to prank people as a gang.
Well, I guess that depends on if you consider assault, murder, and mass chaos as ‘pranks’.
The Bozo gang is best played as… just absolute chaos. Most of the members of the Bozos gang have developed some level of cyberpsychosis, thus resulting in delusions and other forms of advanced madness. Be cautious when taking this genre of villain to any kind of game – mental illness can be a triggering subject for some players – but it can be an interesting look at the concept of destruction and chaos for chaos sake.
Not unlike another clown you may know…
Know anymore Cyberpunk gangs and enemies that deserve to be in this yearbook? Leave your notable mentions down below!
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