This is Audio EXP for the 31st of October 2020, and the title of this episode is ‘Cyberpunk Halloween’.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #68]
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Do you think we’re heading to a cyberpunk future?
I suppose to answer that question, we should first define what we mean by cyberpunk. The Oxford Dictionary says it’s a sci-fi subgenre featuring a lawless future and an oppressive society dominated by technology.
Well, who am I to disagree with the Oxford Dictionary but I never saw lawlessness as a crucial part of cyberpunk. I might also argue that a lawless and oppressive society is skirting close to being an oxymoron. It would depend on what was causing the oppression, but with the Oxford definition, the pressure couldn’t come from law enforcers.
I always saw great inequality as a part of cyberpunk. The super-rich elite lives in luxury and everyone else struggles on as much in the thrall of technology as they are the masters of it.
Cyberpunk is in the news, of course, with Cyberpunk 2077 delayed again. I get why people are frustrated but let’s not be oppressive robber barons ourselves, let’s give the programmers the chance to breathe and make the game the best it can be. I read that the developer had been getting death threats. How stupid.
I don’t think consumer anger is an element of cyberpunk, but, hey, perhaps it’s a symptom of culture on the track to hitting a cyberpunk breaking point.
In June, Geek Native had some cyberpunk battle mats to give away. I did the usual thing of running a survey competition and asked do you think we’re heading to a cyberpunk future.
Some non-geeks found the competition and answered that they didn’t know what cyberpunk was. It’s a head-scratcher, isn’t it, but perhaps they were trying to win on behalf of a family member or friend who they remember talking about cyberpunk.
Of the rest; yes. Geek Native’s readers now think we’re heading to a cyberpunk future and nearly 20% of them thought we’d get there in just 20 years.
Over 30% thought we’d hit real-life cyberpunk in 50 years and that contrasts to a mere 15% who didn’t think we would end up in a cyberpunk dystopia.
I can’t see the future, but I hope to live for, at least, another 20 years, maybe 50, and so I’ll get to find out if one group of people got that cyberpunk prediction right.
There’s certainly a lot going on in the cyberpunk space in tabletop games. Cyberpunk 2077 is delayed but the tabletop prequel, Cyberpunk Red is not. The huge 400+ page book is due out in November.
There are other options. Carbon 2185 a D&D 5e-powered cyberpunk game is back on Kickstarter, after only 18 months or so, for a new and expanded edition and a sourcebook called Terminal Overdrive.
You have about two weeks to join that project.
Nightpath Publishing’s Entromancy setting, another cyberpunk world powered by 5e, also has a new supplement out called The Orichite Age – Struct.
Entromancy has a much lower profile than Carbon 2185 has, but I think it’s worth checking out, especially for gaming groups with a bit of experience.
Catalyst Game Labs also has two new Shadowrun products coming out in November. One is a plot book called Slip Streams which could re-write Shadowrun while the other, Gun Rack, is a deck of cards for weapon rules references.
An unexpected cyberpunk-ish book comes from Handiwork Games. They’ve already released the a|state 2 primer Nicely, Done as a free to download PDF but due to fan demand, you can now order it as a print-on-demand from DriveThruRPG. You’ll need Blades in the Dark or a similar game to play it, though.
Lastly, in this little list of cyberpunk RPGs that happen to be in the news this week, there’s the BYTE roleplaying game. BYTE is a modular RPG in which the worldbuilder adds or removes rulesets as required and therefore you can absolutely use it to power a cyberpunk game of your own creation.
It’s not quite cyberpunk, but the anime Obsolete is in the news this week. It’s more of mecha series, but as the name implies, it certainly addresses the impact of technology on society.
And it’s free to watch on YouTube. Season 2 just got a trailer, and season 1 is short but entertaining. The link in the show notes will take you to the transcript and an embed of episode 1.
Anime is all over the news this week, with Netflix making several announcements and reports growing that Sony is about to buy Crunchyroll for $1bn. At least, they’ve paid enough to negotiate for the platform which tends to mean a genuine interest.
The news of the $1bn deal has surprised some people, but long time Audio EXP listeners will have been forwarned. In Audio EXP: #57 – Outside RPGs we talked about the initial wave of rumours and concluded it made sense.
Crunchyroll is owned by Otter Media, who are owned by WarnerMedia, who is owned by AT&T and they have debts of $150bn.
Back then, we put the price tag on Crunchyroll at about $1bn or $1.5bn and suggested Sony, who own Funimation an Aniplex, as a potential buyer.
If Sony wins, then, sorry to say; I expect some consolidations of platforms to save costs.
Hopefully, any such consolidation won’t mean a reduction in options for viewers or qualities of shows. There is still Netflix and Amazon to compete with.
Crunchyroll has invested heavily in originals and the next one to watch out for is an American production from Sofia Alexander called Onyx Equinox. It’s an Aztec versus humanity destroying blood gods story, and the latest trailer is darker than I expected.
I say “darker than expected” because Sofia Alexander may still be best known for her role as a Powerpuff Girl illustrator.
If there’s a file called “Unexpected TV news” to go through this weekend, then Crunchyroll and Onyx Equinox aren’t the biggest stories in it. No, that honour goes to Hasbro.
On the toy maker’s earnings call, the Chairman and CEO, Brian Goldner revealed that the company is working on several different approaches for a Dungeons & Dragons TV series.
To be honest, I thought that story was going to be more significant for Geek Native this week. It’s kinda chugged along. I regret not putting the word “new” in the title of the article. If you search for D&D TV series then, of course, you the old series.
Dicebreaker picked up the story afterwards, which will help spread the news, but I think we’re all waiting to see how committed Hasbro are and what they’re proposing.
Do you trust them to do D&D justice on the small screen?
Heck, there’s a D&D movie coming, and I sense that there are some concerns the company might struggle to bring the franchise to life on the big screen.
We should talk about Critical Role, right? Here’s a company that absolutely has made D&D work on the small screen. Although, oddly, the fact that they have both characters and their own personalities to work with is a bonus. People both enjoy the stories Critical Role tell and the sense of closeness with the voice actors and the community.
Critical Role’s own show is an animation that’ll be out via Amazon Prime.
They have other plans too. I’m sure they plan on taking over the world and making it a better place. One of the steps in that masterplan is Darrington Press.
This week, Critical Role announced they’ve set up their own tabletop publishing company. They’ll be making roleplaying games and board games.
So, they worked with Green Ronin for one book, then Wizards of the Coast for one before setting up a publishing vehicle of their own. Quick learners, aren’t they!
Darrington Press isn’t the only new potentially powerful new publisher that introduced itself this week. Warchief Gaming is another, and it comes to us via two successful and well connected Blizzard Entertainment execs.
Chris Metzen was a creative visionary at the company that brought us World of Warcraft, Starcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.
Metzen and Mike Gilmartin have not told us much about their plans at all, except they’re in the mood for worldbuilding again and they like both D&D and RIFTS.
I suspect we’ll get a skirmish game from the pair first, but that’s only based on Warchief Gaming’s origin as a wargaming club.
Okay, so that’s some big news from big names. Let’s flip it. Every month Geek Native tries to shine a light on smaller creators, designers and indie studios. In October it was a publisher called WrightWerx in that spotlight.
I talked to the founder and only member of WrightWerx, Jonathan Wright and chatted giant monsters.
WrightWerx makes the Mecha vs Kaiju game.
If you’re a fan of Monte Cook’s Cypher System, then there’s some good news. As of a few days ago; Mecha vs Kaiju is one of you. You can buy that version from DriveThruRPG.
The Fate and even True20 versions are still available.
I also asked Jonathan if he thought we’d see Mecha in our lifetime. No. Sorry. They’re just too impractical. Had I had my crystal ball and known this week would contain so much cyberpunk news then I would have asked him whether we would see a cyberpunk future. Opportunity missed.
It’s a new month tomorrow, which means we’ll find out who’s won the poll for November and start a new one. If you’re a Geek Native patron, then you can vote.
If you’re a Geek Native patron or are one before the 7th, then there’s a free dice bag in the post for you. It’s a thank you for supporting the site and helping with the RPG Publisher Spotlight.
So, new poll tomorrow, but for today we’ve got Halloween, and that’s meant for a busy news week with lots of one-shots and freebies being made available. I’ll touch on just a few shortly.
First, though, I want to explain why every day for the last 12 days Geek Native has posted a mask. Well, The 12 Masks of Halloween is a tradition on the site that goes back over 10 years now. That means there are more than 120 mask discoveries.
2020, has it had to, ended with a medieval plague doctor mask.
Other Halloween news on the site worthy of squeezing in here, I think, is the American Mythology horror comics bundle at Fanatical. Firstly, that’s a reminder you can get digital comics at Fanatical but, secondly, getting 5 horror stories for one squid today is an excellent tonic if you’re stuck inside alone.
If you would prefer to spend no money at all then Pinnacle Entertainment the RPG publisher can help. The Savage Worlds Test Drive Rules are a new free download, and they contain some Deadlands adventure material. So, if you’re looking to learn Savage Worlds and explore the weird west this or next weekend, that feels like a sensible download to check out.
Sticking with tabletop games and money for a bit, there’s the news that Wizards of the Coast’s monthly virtual tabletop games will cost a few bucks to play but that DMs keep the money.
There’s been no shortage of debates around professional DMs and hobby. Hobby and professional being contrasting terms but this partnership between Wizards of the Coast and Baldman Games should put all that to bed. Professional GMs are part of D&D now.
In fact, virtual tabletops seem to be healthier than some traditional face-to-face games. Here in the UK, Europe’s largest gaming club the RP Haven has turned to GoFundMe to continue. Their venues are closed due to pandemic restrictions.
Consider donating a few quid if you can. At the time of writing, the RP Haven crossed the half-way line on day one but now need to find £1,000 more without the fanfare of being brand new news.
That said, it’s not all good news for virtual tabletops. The Roll20 challenger, Astral Tabletop had a wobble this week with an insecure database. No money details where lost but email addresses were exposed to the public web.
A company that is working in the virtual tabletop space is Fandom. They own D&D Beyond and already provide Twitch overlays. They also own Cortex and are working on a virtual marketplace for it. The news this week, though, is in the physical space in that they’ve teamed up with Atlas Games for physical fulfilment. In other words, Atlas Games are putting Cortex Prime in gaming stores for them.
Or, if you want, you can go fully virtual with virtual reality. The Polish computer game studio Carbon announced Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Tempestfall this week. So, if you want, you will be able to become a Stormcast Eternal trying to assess the threat in the aftermath of the Necroquake.
Lastly, because it’s Halloween, Charles Dunwoody has kicked off a new column and/or extension to his worldbuilding articles with Mythos World; Rules, Adventures, and Setting as he tackles learning Call of Cthulhu and building a campaign for it.
And on that note, let’s call it a wrap. Keep safe and stay out of melee range. See you next week.
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