GURPS Superpunk

The Dark Future in Four-Color

The dark future dystopia of cyberpunk has lent itself to being blended with many other genres, from the fantasy magic of Shadowrun to the creeping eldrich horror ofCthulupunk. Genre combinations seem to thrive on contrast between two vastly different worlds colliding and melding to create a world that works. One of the potentially strangest combinations is when cyberpunk meets the four-color world of comic book super-heroes. This article presents just such a world.


A lot of the history of the Superpunk world is different from our own, sometimes radically different. The world is also a very good example of the fact that the victors write the history. Much of the history leading up to the present-day world is rather obscure and should remain that way for a while to provide gamemasters with a few mysteries.

The 20th Century was a shining time when the Age of Heroes began and probably ended. Stories are still told about how there were many men and women with powers far beyond those of their fellow humans, who used their abilities in the cause of truth and justice. They fought other supers bent on the destruction and domination of others and triumphed. They are legends, like the gods of the ancient past. And like all gods, they eventually came to their Ragnarok.

Sometime near the end of the 20th Century or the beginning of the 21st, no one is quite sure, came the Dark Times. Something happened to the heroes of the world. They faced a final crisis that even their amazing powers could not overcome. Perhaps a villain’s master scheme finally came to a successful conclusion. Perhaps some cosmic disaster attacked the Earth. No one knows. What is known is that Earth’s superheroes and many of its villains disappeared, killed or taken away. In the aftermath of the Dark Times, the world suffered years of chaos, starvation, plague and conflict. Governments rose and fell and the frightened people were more concerned with survival over history.

Eventually, humanity persevered and emerged from the chaos of the Dark Time into a more stable world. Order was restored by the multinational corporations that had been the prime survivors of the conflicts. They shored up and assisted weak and crippled governments in providing for the people and in exchange took hold of the reigns of power. A world as dark as any imagined by a would be world conqueror had come about and there were no more heroes left to prevent it.

Superhumans still exist, but none of them have the kind of legendary power associated with the heroes of the past. Some blame the thinning of the metahuman gene pool while others talk about the fading of the flame of hope and faith that people once placed in those costumed heroes to protect and save them. A great many supers work for the corps or the government, using their powers to maintain order. Others become criminals or businessmen, mercenaries or even vigilantes trying to resurrect some of the spirit of heroes of old.

The World

Gamemasters looking to develop a Superpunk campaign can create a whole new campaign world or make use of an existing campaign world and simply modify it to account for the Age of Heroes and the events that led to its downfall as described above. Superhero campaigns can be advanced into a Superpunk era by projecting them 50 to 100 years into the future and cyberpunk campaign worlds can be modified by adding some additional background to them to account for the presence of metahumans and super-powers.

For example, the GURPS Cyberworld setting can be made into a Superpunk campaign fairly easily by assuming that it was once a world not unlike the IST world described in GURPS Supers, with metahuman heroes and villains. Perhaps the Tolliver’s Disease epidemic that occurred in the late 20th and early 21st Century had a devastating effect on metahumans in particular, attacking and killing them mercilessly. The greater concentration of meta-genes the victim had the more likely they were to succumb the disease and die. This undermined the United Nation’s IST program to such an extent that their plans for world peace and government cooperation began to crumble. The events that followed like the Grand Slam brought the power of the U.N. crashing down.

When the Provisional Government took power in the United States, the hammer fell on superhumans in addition to other sub-cultures, and supers are genetically tested for and required to register with the government and the NERCC. The Pro-Gov has plenty of their own “pet” supers that they use for espionage and black ops. So do the korps and most of the organized crime factions. Some few supers escape detection and become vigilantes, rebels or mercenaries.

The TD plague could have been genetically engineered. Part of a plot to destroy the IST and cripple the U.N. or it could have been accidental or even the natural result of rampantly mutating Seeder genes out of control. The Provisional Government and the conquest of the United States might also be the result of some villainous plot or the work of more mundane forces. Perhaps a super-villain or two have gone underground and are now the forces behind Pro-Gov and the NERCC.

The presence of supers has provided the technological advancements to make things like bionics and the net a reality, and the technology in this world might be even more advanced than the original Cyberworld, perhaps “mature” Tech Level 8 on its way to TL9.

Gamemasters can find several different sources of inspiration for Superpunk worlds in the Source Material listing at the end of this article.


Power and prejudice

Super abilities are something of a mixed blessing in the 21st Century. For some people, supers evoke memories of the legendary heroes of the past, shining examples of all that was good in humanity. For others those memories are bitter and they recall only those who abused their power and how the heroes of the world failed to save it in its hour of need. Supers who display their powers openly will be the subject of awe and respect or envy and prejudice (usually both). Few people react blandly upon meeting a super.

Masks and code-names

In memory of the Age of Heroes, many supers still maintain the tradition of wearing costumes and masks and having colorful code names. Sometimes this is strictly for show and PR, other times it is necessary for a vigilante or criminal super to protect their identity from the authorities. Code-names have become sort of nicknames that supers acquire based on their powers, that they use as a street handle or sometimes a stage or professional name.


Psionic abilities are among the most common of super-powers, and many researchers believe that psi is the basis for virtually all powers that do involve physical mutations (and even some that do). The existence of psionic abilities since the Age of Heroes and the Establishment’s considerable paranoia over telepathy has led to the development of some low-level psionic technology (see below).


21st Century scholars speculate the “magic” as it was known in the Age of Heroes was nothing more than misunderstood psionic ability cloaked in mysticism. The various magical incantations and spells were simply the means by which some psionic supers focused their concentration. This has lead to the “magic is dead” school of thought that says that not only doesn’t magic exist, it never did. Rumors from the streets and dark corners of the globe suggest that magic may still exist but that something happened during the dark times that changed or eliminated the wielders of the power. These rumors range from magic-users leaving Earth for another, more hospitable, dimension to underground groups of mages biding their time and waiting to unleash their hordes of magical creatures on an unsuspecting world.

The Role of Supers

Supers in this world take up all of the roles you expect to find in a cyberpunk setting: Special Ops (for the government, organized crime and the corps), Mercenaries, Rebels, Criminals, Vigilantes and Celebrities of all kinds.


The Superpunk world has all of the normal cyberpunk levels of technology (Tech Level 8 in GURPS). There is cyberware and advanced personal weapons and body armor. This technology can make heavily cybered characters an even match for many supers.


The cyberware described in GURPS Cyberpunk is available. Full cyborg replacement bodies are still in the experimental stage, but bionic limb and organ replacements have been around for years, along with neural interfaces and similar equipment. Characters are required to pay character points for cybernetics, but there is no Unusual Background cost associated with them because they are common technology.

The Net

The Net has become a fully realized virtual reality with environmental interfaces through neural links. All of the world’s telecommunications are routed through a massive and complex communications grid. Gamemasters can consult the systems from GURPS Cyberpunk for handling netruns and computer hacking on the Net. Some supers with the Cyberpsi ability exist and can become fearsome hackers with even a small measure of power and skill.

Rumor on the street speaks of the existence of a pirate BBS known as HeroNet, which functions as a clearing house of data on supers and matters concerning them, especially any information that may have survived about the Age of Heroes. The BBS moves around a great deal to avoid being closed down by the authorities, but skilled or connected characters can track it down and access its stores of information for clues about little-known super abilities or bits of near-legendary information about the supers of the past.


The existence of psionic supers has led to the development of some psi-tech, mostly to defend against hostile psis. Psionic detectors can be used to detect if a person has psi abilities, psi-shielding helmets (in common use by government and corporate troops) and various psionic dampening fields and impeders. Generally, all of the TL8 psionic technology from GURPS Psionics is available.


Point Totals

Superpunk characters are built on 250 points. This allows for the creation of a moderately powerful super or a very capable cybered or “off the rack” normal. This does not include the 30 point Unusual Background cost for being a super. Supers are in many ways more common (albeit weaker than they were in the Age of Heroes) due to mutagens in the environment and similar factors bringing metahuman abilities into expression. This brings the base points for Superpunk characters to 280 plus up to 60 points in Disadvantages.

Note that very competent super-normal characters can be built on 280 points and that the possession of cyberware or other TL8 equipment does not require an Unusual Background unless the equipment is experimental or especially unusual.

Power Limitations

The disaster that ended the Age of Heroes caused a “thinning-out” of the metahuman genes. The supers of the Superpunk world are not as powerful as their predecessors and have some limits on their abilities. Enhanced attributes are fairly common, but Enhanced Strength cannot exceed 30 and other attributes cannot exceed 25. Psionic abilities are limited to Power 10, except for Teleportation, which may go up to Power 15. Powers other than psi are generally limited to Power 6 for damaging powers and Power 12 for non-combat abilities.

Magic does actually still exist, but mages have become very rare. There is a 50 point Unusual Background cost to purchase Magical Aptitude. The world is at a level of Normal Mana, with High and Low Mana at a few places and times. Magery and spells are purchased from GURPS Magic. Note that learning magic can be a very catch-as-catch-can process and that magical abilities are often not affected by normal super-powered or psionic resistance, they can catch people by surprise if they think the mage is “just” a super.


Golden Age

The player characters travel back in time with the aid of an ancient gadget from the Age of Heroes or perhaps with the help of a new super with time travel powers. They go back to attempt to prevent the fall of the Age of Heroes and stop their world from coming about. Will they succeed? If they do, will they be trapped in a world that is not their own? Superpunk character would have an interesting time trying to fit into a world of four-color supers who are more powerful than they are and governed by a stricter moral code.

The Cosmic Super

Rumors have hit the streets about a new super who has only recently discovered her powers. The stories say that she is incredibly powerful, on par with some of the heroes from distant past. Stories of her exploits are rapidly attracting the attention of the government and the corporations, all of whom want to secure her for themselves, or eliminate her as a possible threat. Can the player characters help her escape and use her powers to fight for change?

Aliens Have Landed

One of their number lived among us for many years (as a hero or perhaps villain of the Age of Heroes), now they’ve come to find out what became of their brother, only to find he is long dead and the primitive world he was living on is developing at an alarming rate. Any number of comic-book alien races would take an interest in a Superpunk world. Some might wish to contain and help tame such a place while others might see it as ripe for conquest. Who knows? Perhaps the disaster that ended the Age of Heroes was just the prelude for a long-term alien invasion plan. For example, a collapse of Earth civilization could have some interesting effects on the Earth-Meeranon alliance fromGURPS IST.

This scenario could rapidly turn a Superpunk campaign into an outer-space science fiction adventure as well!

The Villain Awakens

A powerful super-villain from the Age of Heroes had the forethought to protect himself from the disaster that led to the Superpunk era, perhaps he even engineered it to eliminate all of his foes and leave a world ripe for conquest. The villain awakens from cryogenic sleep in his hidden lair and begins taking stock of the world and making new plans for conquest. The most powerful heroes of the last Age only barely defeated his plans. What can this new crop of weakling supers do to stop him? Fight dirty, that’s what.

Hell Night

On Halloween night there are strange sightings and incidents all over the Sprawl. Rumors are buzzing about a new underground cult that claims to have real mages among its leadership. They are planning a massive ritual that will summon a powerful demon and his horde from the netherhells on All Hallows Eve. The cult might just be a cover from some bizarre scam or a front for a group of psionic supers but it might also be for real, in which case it’s going to be a real hot time in the old town tonight.

Other Games

In addition to GURPS, a Superpunk campaign could be set up in any major super-hero game system, notably Champions by Hero Games. Brave gamemasters could also liven up a cyberpunk campaign by “revealing” the hidden history of the Age of Heroes and adding in super-powers or creating a Superpunk campaign with an event that leads to the creation of supers in the game world, such as a biotech experiment gone wrong or genetic tampering by alien or even an AI.


The following source material can give gamemasters some inspiration for characters and adventures in a Superpunk setting.

Cybergeneration, R.Talsorian Games. A nanotech virus gives the youth of the cyberpunk world superhuman powers to fight the evil corporate state.

Dark Champions, Hero Games. Champions supplement for vigilante super-heroes on the mean streets of the city. Good source material for a near-future campaign in general.

F.R.E.E.Lancers, TSR, Inc. A long out-of-print supplement for the Top Secret/SI game that featured a dark-future with “metabiles,” super-humans working as mercenaries. More recently resurrected in a novel of the same name by Mel Odom.

Marvel 2099 Comics, Marvel Comics. The future of the Marvel Universe in a cyberpunkish sort of world, with new versions of many favorite characters. The Spider-Man, X-Men, Doom and X-Nation titles are especially inspirational for a SuperPunk game.

Underground, Mayfair Games. A weird combination of a dark dystopic future and genetically engineered war vets with super powers who think they’re really comic book characters.

Watchmen, DC Comics. Alan Moore’s classic dark-present comic book about how badly the presence of real superheroes could mess up our world.

Wild Cards, George R.R. Martin’s anthology series of super-humans created from exposure to an alien genetic virus. Releasing the Wild Card plague (through alien intervention or nanotechnology) on your cyberpunk campaign could lead to some very strange and interesting results, as could taking the Wilds Cards universe presented in the books and advancing it to the year 2030 or so. Some of the characters from the books (like the immortal Golden Boy) would still be alive and kicking!

The Uncanny X-Men, Marvel Comics. Especially useful are the “Days of Future Past” and “Age of Apocalypse” storylines, about an alternate dark-futures where mutants are hunted criminals.

Adventures in Slumberland

The Freedom League virtual reality simulation developed by Dr. Rudolph Bushmiller for the genetic boosting program is both the greatest success and the greatest failure of modern technology. While “slumberland” (as it has been nicknamed by technicians) serves to prevent the most severe psychoses associated with genetic enhancement, it has also led to a sub-culture of super-powered veterans with some bizarre beliefs about the nature of the world. The “comic book” reality of Slumberland seems permanently imprinted on their consciousness and that may be one of the deciding factors in the existence of groups like the Underground.

Slumberland works by immersing the modification subject in a virtual reality modeled on the “four color” world of comic book superheroes. While in this virtual experience, the subject is better able to deal with the reality of possessing paranormal powers in a setting where they are not very unusual. This provides a “cushion” for the subject’s psyche, allowing them to accept the existence of their new abilities and learn to use them in a non-threatening environment. When they are removed from the VR, the subjects retain some of this “cushioning” from their experience in Slumberland, allowing them to better adjust to their new enhancements.

Getting Ready

The preparation for the VR experience is one that is carefully undertaken to maximize the effects of the program. The advance planning can take several weeks or even months in and of itself to ensure that the results are under optimal conditions. Of course, there have been occasions where time or budget constraints forced the pre-planning stage to be accelerated and conditions have been less than ideal.

First, a complex and detailed psychological profile of the subject is compiled, to determine the optimum settings for the scenario. There is a battery of questions and psych tests, where technicians gather as much relevant data on the subject as possible. Subject’s are encouraged to be as truthful as possible on these tests, to ensure that the VR simulation will be correctly programmed. The corporation is generally not held liable for any omissions or incorrect information provided by the subject (such as the case of Up the Wall, an unfortunate vet who lied about his terror of spiders before undergoing genetic modifications that gave him clinging ability and other spider-like powers). The subject also has a comprehensive physical exam and is prepared for the mutagenic changes that will take place while they are in the vat.

One of the most important parts of the preparatory stage is to ensure that the subject will accept and believe the virtual experience as much as possible and that their suspension of disbelief with be enough for the VR to do its work. What exactly subjects are told in advance is carefully planned out. Originally, the subjects were told as little as possible about Slumberland, to increase their credulity and increase the impact of the “reality” of the experience. Currently it is impossible, of course, for the subject to know nothing of what will happen of the procedure, rumor being what it is, so instead they are told as much as possible about the nature of the Slumberland experience. Memory drugs and other techniques allow the subject’s memories of the real world to be suppressed or “fogged out” during the experience.

Using information gathered from the preliminary tests, the subject’s Slumberland experience is programmed into the virtual reality. Because the VR programming is so complex, an extensive computer library of templates and standard scenarios has evolved that can be mixed and matched to create different custom programs to suit virtually any subject with a very small margin for error (generally less than 5-10%). Technicians makes small modifications to the scenario based on the subject’s psychological screening, along with any special modifications requested by the company based on the subject’s need for psychological modification in certain areas and their planned duty assignments.

One novel approach taken by Disposable Heroes, Inc. is a Slumberland program where the subject believes they have been “accidentally” transferred into a parallel universe where comic book super-heroes are real. There they gain superhuman powers and become costumed heroes in their own right. This scenario has worked very well in increasing the believability of the VR experience, while allowing the subject’s normal memories and experiences to remain intact. However, it has led to subjects who so fervently believe that this “alternate” world exists that they have seriously or fatally injured themselves in vain attempts to return there and escape the normal world.

Doctor 451, a case study:

Brad Raymond, a veteran of conflicts in South America, was modified by Allied Mayhem. Comprehensive psycho-physical profiles were compiled on Raymond and analyzed by AM technicians in preparation for modification. The study indicated an above-norm interest in pyrotechnics and latent pyromania. The physical evidence suggested the potential for alpha-wave alterations, so Raymond was considered suitable for pyrotic enhancements that would allow him to channel his pyromania in a useful direction.

Supporting Cast

The profile information gathered on the subject allows technicians to program the specifics of the Slumberland scenario, including all of the various “supporting characters” that will exist in it. Generally, the subject is given a small group of opponents, known as the “Rogues Gallery” by Slumberland programmers. These characters are comic-book style villains that embody the kind of qualities that the subject is intended to fight against. They typically are anti-social elements and dangerous would-be dictators with plots to do harm to society and the things the subject cares about. Rogues galleries are sometimes programmed with the likenesses of real individuals, such as for the veterans who were modified for action in Paraguay experiencing conflicts with a likeness of the country’s then-dictator in Slumberland where he was a dangerous super-criminal and terrorist. Generally, the opposition in Slumberland is made up of amalgamations and archetypes of real individuals rather than accurate simulations.

Along with the opponents the subject is intended to fight, there are also other characters. Every scenario presents a “companion” character for the subject, usually known as “the squeeze.” Female companions are nicked named “Lois” and male companions are often referred to as “Trevor.” The companion character is tailored to the subject’s interests and preferences and provides them with a tangible person to protect and help when they are threatened by the forces of evil. Companion characters serve as objects and goals for the subject during many adventure scenarios and can help to reinforce the effects of the experience on the subject once the scenario is over through repetition and the companion’s obvious gratitude for the subject’s actions.

Generally the primary companion character will be a romantic object for the subject. There may also be additional companion characters that represent father/mother figures, siblings and other friends and loved ones to the subject. This can be useful for additional reinforcement, but generally the cast of companion characters is kept to a reasonable minimum so that they do not become distracting to the subject. The importance of the subject’s duty over even the value of any companions is regularly stressed with conversations and scenes of how the subject cannot give up their life of crusading and heroism, even for the love and affection of their companion.

Cast Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

For supporting characters in Raymond’s scenario, a companion named “April Newman” was designed based on several different people from the subject’s background. April’s design included information from Raymond psychological background. She was made a secretary to a highly-influential corporate vice-president who was designed to be a friendly father/uncle figure for Raymond, April’s own father having “died” in the fiery explosion that gave Raymond his powers. This created a strong respect for authority and the corporate structure as well as a sense of obligation and mutual experience on the part of Raymond towards April.

For 451’s Rogues Gallery, administrators wanted to stress both anti-social/rebel elements as well as the need to deal with large numbers of opposing troops on occasion. The main antagonist, Mister Meurte, is outlined as a scientist formerly employed by the company April works for. He rebelled against his rightful employers and stole some of their technology to become a criminal terrorist. He also desires revenge against April for spurning his advances when they worked together, making him an immediate threat to Raymond’s happiness. Mr. Meurte employs a large number of faceless “goons” to carry out his bidding, opponents that Raymond can destroy in droves with fairly little concern about their welfare. Because 451 is being modified for action in the South American Zone that Allied has contracts with, Meurte is made Hispanic so that Raymond will begin to associate with the idea of having an Hispanic enemy/nemesis, improving his performance in the field.

Secret Origins

Once all of the preliminary testing is done and the virtual environment has been programmed, the subject is immersed into the bio-support tank for what will be months of genetic modification and virtual reality. Generally the subject is sedated before being placed in the bio-tank. They go to sleep in bed and when they wake up, the world is a very different place.

The Slumberland experience begins when the subject’s mind is “locked out” of most of their conscious memories of the real world, through datalock techniques similar to those used to secure bio-drives, supplemented with drugs fed intravenously through the bio-tank. They are then fed the basics of the Slumberland VR in a compressed-feed upload that allows a lifetime of new memories to be fed to the subject in only a month or so, bringing them up to what the technicians call “the Origin Point.” These basic memories provide the foundation for the subject’s experience in Slumberland and help to “orient” them with the basic rules of the world around them.

The “origin point” is where the virtual reality programming truly begins. This is where the subject experiences a comic-book style adventure where they first acquire their strange and unusual powers, beyond those of mortal men, based on the template of the subject’s genetic enhancements. A variety of origins have been experimented with by various corporations over the years: genetic mutation, alien intervention, and magical alteration.

Generally, it has been determined that the “radiation accident” origin model is the most effective. In this situation, the subject suffers some kind of unusual or unique “accident” such as exposure to exotic radiation or chemicals, that causes them to change and gain their superhuman abilities. This model is most ideal because it allows the subject to start out “normal” and go to being superhuman with a definite identifiable cause. Other origins like the subject “discovering” he or she is actually a genetic mutant seem to be less satisfying to the subject’s need for a “cause” for their new abilities.

Case Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

The origin scenario that evolved placed Raymond in the heart of a fiery explosion that poured flaming chemicals over him. The burning sensation from the flames was quickly replaced in the VR with a stimulation of Raymond’s endorphin-producing glands to provide a pleasurable feeling from the fire. The chemicals absorbed into Raymond’s skin and he became able to cause objects to burst into flames at will, shaping and controlling the resulting fires with mental commands. He is also highly resistant to fire and the simulation will allow him to overcome any latent fears about contact with open flames.

The subject’s origin is followed by months of simulated “adventures” designed to allow the subject to adapt to different aspects of using their genetic abilities and to allow them to be tested safely during development. The scripted adventures also serve as a form of mental conditioning that primes the subject for service in combat or whatever other area they are destined for. Some of the classic adventures include: “patrolling” the City on the lookout for crimes and stopping them in progress, being called upon by the police or government to solve a baffling series of crimes (improving respect for authority), natural disasters, rampaging monsters (often vaguely similar to out of control boosters) and super-villains attempting to capture and/or destroy the subjects (improving resistance to interrogation and reinforcing the desire to avoid capture by the enemy).


The most recent innovation to the Slumberland system is the interconnection of the different VR systems used to train subjects to allow them to interact with each other. While this has placed certain demands on “continuity” to ensure that the experiences of all of the subjects involved match up correctly, it has had tremendous benefits. The inclusion of multiple subjects strongly reinforces the “reality” of the Slumberland experience because the additional subjects are able to provide some “real” human contact and a certain random factor in social interaction that is difficult to simulate.

Subjects in Slumberland are encouraged to join or form “super-teams” where the subjects all work together against common enemies and for common goals. This provides an ideal social-bonding experience that will allow the subjects to work better as a unit in the field. It encourages feelings of team-work, cooperation and camaraderie.

Such super-teams will usually develop common adversaries and problems they need to overcome. This can be scripted in advance for groups of subjects that are intended to work together as a team or develop from the progress of the Slumberland simulation over the course of enhancement process.

Case Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

After a few adventures with his newfound powers fighting the forces of Evil, 451 ends up meets several other people with super-abilities when they band together to fight Mister Meurte’s plot to poison a city’s water supply with his insidious mind-control drug. Following the events of their adventure together, the group decides to stick together for the greater protection of the City. They choose to call themselves the Lucky Seven at the suggestion of their wealthy patron (and Supporting Character) Mr. Brant of SilverCorp. In no time at all, the Lucky Seven have set up their secret headquarters in the City and are well on their way to becoming the premier force of good against the dark and dangerous underworld.

Alternative PERPS

As described in the Underground Player’s Handbook, different organizations are experimenting with variations on the Slumberland VR theme to produce different “post-enhancement reconditioning paradigms” (PERPS) in an effort to minimalize some of the side-effects of the Freedom League VR (notably a tendency towards “superheroic” behavior after enhancement). The existence of these other VR programs to deal with metagenic feedback is nothing more than a rumor for the most part and they may not exist at all or in very different forms from the ones described here.

Abduction!: In this PERP the subject is abducted or experimented upon by extraterrestrials. The program takes advantage of information retrieved from the alien pod in combination with decades of compiled abduction stories to create a classic abduction/alteration scenario. The subject believes that their modifications have been carried out by advanced alien science (which is at least partly true). Unfortunately, this PERP does not seem overly effective, as subjects often become extremely paranoid, developing a “the truth is out there” complex about alien conspiracies to take over Earth and infect humans with their bio-technology through corporate agents. Generally, it is not the preferred origin option.

Gift of the Gods: This PERP can often be very effective for subjects that come from a highly religious/spiritual background. In this scenario, the subject is chosen by a god or gods to receive special powers that will be used to carry out divine purposes on Earth. This has ranged from the Judeo-Christian God granting miraculous gifts like “the Strength of Samson” to His followers to the Loa of Voodoo or even the Greek gods gifting special abilities to the subject. The subject’s faith in the divine image provides the rationale needed for their unusual abilities.

While this technique has proven very effective in controlling metagenic feedback syndrome, it often leads to a fanatical devotion to certain religious principles that can make the subject irrational regarding certain things. It also creates a loyalty to a “higher power” beyond that of the corporation or government the subject serves which can lead to a conflict of interests.

The Master Race: Used by the Neo-Deutch in their modification program, the Master Race scenario makes use of a great deal of Aryan propaganda and mythology about the Germans as the Master Race that is destined to overcome all others. It frames the subject’s modifications as advancements of the Race for the glory of the Fatherland. It tends to create boosted subjects that are racist and is not as effective in protecting them from metagenic feedback syndrome, so they are often sociopathic or dangerously deranged.

The Secret Masters: The secret masters are a hidden group of Illuminati of some kind or another. They may be a secret cabal of magicians, Tibetan monks, ninjas or other power group that has concealed themselves from humankind throughout history. In this scenario the Secret Masters take the subject into their care to some hidden fortress or stronghold where the subject is trained in their “esoteric arts.” The subject emerges with powers and abilities beyond those of other people along with a carefully constructed code in the use of their new abilities.

The Secret Masters PERP has been effective in developing belief and obedience in subjects. They are more willing to take orders without question if they believe these commands come from their hidden teachers. The side-effects of the program can lead to paranoia and conspiracy complexes, however. It can also lead subjects to believe that they are “above” the authority of anyone other than their secret masters.

Strange Visitor: This experimental scenario “reveals” to the subject that she is not human at all, but is in fact a “strange visitor from another planet,” an alien with powers and abilities outside of the human norm, but normal for her. This usually involves some kind of disaster scenario where the subject is one of the last of a dying or dead race. Unfortunately, the Strange Visitor scenario tends to stretch the subject’s credulity somewhat thin unless they have a strong desire to be considered part of a “special” group outside of normal humanity. It can also lead to disassociation from “humans” and a lack of respect for human authority and social conventions.

Totem: In this scenario, the subject undergoes a VR simulation of a mythical shamanic initiation. Traditionally, the subject travels to an “Otherworld” inhabited my mythical archetypes and spirits who teach the subject certain mystical secrets and grant him special powers. The subject then goes on a journey through this world that culminates in his body being broken down or torn apart and then reconstructed by spirits or other creatures that place additional “pieces” or organs within the shaman’s reconstructed form that grant him special powers. This is an effective boosting program for primitivists.

Hanging up the Mask

The process of bringing the subject out of the Slumberland experience usually takes a couple of weeks. It involves slowly re-introducing the subject’s awareness of normal reality, and will often involve a guide or helper trained in counseling to interact with the subject in VR and guide them back to reality. Many subjects react violently when the truth of their virtual experience is exposed, so councilors must be very well trained and usually get combat pay for the work (such as the councilor who was seriously injured while treating Doctor 451, who tried to use his pyrotic powers to prove that she wasn’t actually real).

It is important that the subject understands the nature of the virtual experience and what has happened as much as possible, but the valuable conditioning “cushion” provided by the Slumberland experience should be kept intact to allow the subject to deal with their genetic modifications as well as possible. This is a delicate balance, and can often be difficult to maintain. Some subjects still slip entirely into their own fantasy worlds and cannot be recovered while others become violently deranged when the truth is exposed to them.

The ideal subject accepts the truth after a fairly short re-orientation period and is able to begin training for their assigned duties. The fantasies of Slumberland are all but forgotten, but the deep unconscious conditioning that allows them to make use of their genetic enhancements is still in place and protecting them from the worst effects of metagenic feedback syndrome. Many of these subjects find themselves disillusioned after their experience in Slumberland and prefer to avoid any references or reminders of it thereafter. This can make them cynical and less social, but generally serves them well in the field.

Some subjects cannot be entirely extracted from virtual reality. Their experience in Slumberland has had such a strong affect on them that they have lost the ability to tell fantasy from reality. A great many of these subjects become convinced that their experience in the Freedom League VR was real and that they are in fact the costumed heroes they were made out to be. This proves to be a comfortable fantasy for many modification subjects when compared to the harsh realities of everyday life. These people continue to act out their comic book fantasies in the real world, using their enhancements (both real and perceived) as if they were still in VR. This has led to some disastrous consequences when veterans have attempted to apply “comic book physics” to real world situations, even more so when they attempt to apply comic book social or psychological ideas to real-world people.

Finally, in some rare cases, extraction from the cushion of the Slumberland VR actually triggers metagenic feedback syndrome in some subjects. These individuals become dangerous deranged and require considerable treatment and counseling before they can be deployed in the field (assuming they are ever fit to be deployed at all). These are the failures of the Slumberland program, but they are few and far between because of the rigorous screening and testing programs.

Case Study, Doctor 451 (cont.):

The removal of Raymond from Slumberland took place some fourteen months after his immersion in the support tank for his enhancement. The process began with a councilor being introduced into the VR storyline as a Supporting Character, then introducing herself to Raymond during an adventure. She slowly worked with Raymond to bring him to an awareness of certain facets of the Freedom League world while also working to re-awaken memories of the real world as neuro-stimulants and chemical neutralizers were fed into his system to prepare Raymond for his awakening.

Like most subjects, Raymond initially denied the reality of the councilor’s statements and believed that it was part of some plot to take over or alter his mind. Continual patience and additional evidence began to convince Raymond of the truth of what he was hearing. Although the councilor recommended an additional four weeks of preparatory therapy, Raymond was disconnected from the VR because of unexpected scheduling delays in his genetic enhancements that put him behind schedule.


While subjects of Slumberland are re-integrated back into normal society as much as possible, there are still numerous aftereffects of the VR that linger for years after the experience. Some of these side-effects come from the way in which the experience allows the subject to deal with their new enhancements. The subject retains certain aspects of the “comic book” reality of Slumberland in their personality, often making them seem quite deranged according to “normal” standards. There have been some attempts to vary the ‘genre’ of the Slumberland experience according to different comic-book sources to provide some kind of common-ground that will leave fewer side-effects. So far, the different VR’s seem only to produce different, but no less disconcerting, side-effects (such as the VR programs used in other nations where comic books are not a well-known medium).

The Slumberland Campaign

A very interesting variation for an Underground campaign is the “Slumberland Kick-Off.” The gamemaster informs the players about a super-hero campaign, and outlines the basics of a super-hero game world. The players create characters using the gamemaster’s guidelines for powers and abilities. The gamemaster leads the characters through their origin stories and meeting the other characters to form a super-team. The team has several adventures fighting villains and protecting the innocent from harm. They become well known and beloved super-heroes of their community.

Then the gamemaster reveals the truth. The world that the characters thought was real is actually Slumberland. The characters are subjects undergoing genetic modification for one of the major corporations and they are about to be taken out of Slumberland and de-briefed and re-oriented for their first mission for the company. A councilor is assigned to the characters after they are taken out of VR and the GM can play out debriefing the boggled characters and readjusting them to “normal” life before sending them out into the killing fields of the Middle East, Asia or South America to bust heads for their parent corporation. This kind of campaign can form an interesting prelude to an Underground campaign that takes place after the characters have all mustered out (or gone AWOL) from their units and been reunited by circumstance later in their lives.

Super-Powers (Slumberland Only)

If the gamemaster desires, the following new Enhancements can be used in the context of the Slumberland VR. These enhancements are impossible according to modern science, but they do simulate some of the abilities that characters will encounter (and perhaps even possess) in the virtual world of the Freedom League. Characters that possess one or more of these abilities in Slumberland might suffer from the delusion that they still possess them in the real world and act accordingly, trying to walk through walls or see through solid objects, for example.

These abilities have a listed Base Cost and Potency, but no Max or Stress because they don’t really exist and can’t be used outside of the Slumberland VR. The gamemaster may wish to allocate characters additional “dream points” to allow them to purchase some of these more fantastic powers or simply give them out for free and let the players have fun with them in VR until they get hit with the problems of the real world.

Energy Bolt (Base Cost: 5, Potency: 2): This power allows the character to fire bolts of energy from her hands, eyes, etc. The bolt has a damage value equal to its Unit Rating and uses the character’s DEX for the to-hit Challenge.

Energy Field (Base Cost: 10, Potency: 3): Energy Field surrounds the character’s body with a protective field of energy that allows the character to add their Unit Rating to their RES rating for Penetration in combat.

Magic (Base Cost: 30, Potency: 4): This very potent ability allows the character to mimic the following enhancements: Energy Bolt, Energy Field, Flight and Illusion.

Morphing (Base Cost: 20, Potency: 3): The subject can alter her shape at will into any other life form. The Units of the power can be added to any attribute to simulate the effects of the shape-change (such as adding to STR and RES for changing into a bear).

Phantom (Base Cost: 15, Potency: 3): The subject can pass through solid matter by making a Phantom Challenge against the RES of the material. The units of Phantom also add to RES for resisting Penetration in combat.

Stretch (Base Cost: 5, Potency: 1): The character can stretch his body a number of units of distance equal to the Units of the power.

Teleport (Base Cost: 20, Potency: 3): The character can move instantly a number of Units distance equal to the Units of the power without crossing the intervening space.

X-Ray Vision (Base Cost: 10, Potency: 1): The character can see through solid objects by making a Challenge against the RES of the object. There is one material that the character cannot see through.

Note that some or all of these powers might also be used as alternative models of existing enhancements a character has been given. For example, a character with the Chitin enhancement might believe in Slumberland that their power is a protective force field. A character with certain alpha wave enhancements might play the role of a “master magician” character in Slumberland and so forth. The GM and players should feel free to play around with the “special effects” assigned to a characters enhancements in Slumberland to give them a little variety and a “hero” identity that might be quite different from their actual enhancement program.

The World of Shadow

How it came to be

The Storyteller games from White Wolf describe an alternate “gothic punk” world were creatures of the night are engaged in their own secret struggles right under the very noses of the mortals they co-exist with. They all maintain their own veil of secrecy of one kind or another, existing in the shadows of the night, just out of sight.

In the world of Shadowrun the forces of magic have stepped out of the mists of legend and into the neon of the city lights. The Awkened are no longer hidden… or are they?

The World of Shadow starts out much like the story presented by White Wolf. The mad forces of Order, embodied by the Technocracy, work to smother the power of magic and wonder in the world, entrapping everything in their cold, crystaline vision. The power of Corruption, of the Wyrm, twists the plans of these utopians and threatens to brings about the destruction of all that live.

In the early years of the 21st Century, it appeared that these forces were about to achieve their final victory. Powerful corporations backed by the Technocracy and influenced by the power of the Wyrm grew to eclipse national governments. The Seretech Decision of 1999 gave them extraterritorial rights and powers that allowed them to expand unchecked. The Pogrom of the Technocracy began to ruthlessly root out renegade mages and execute them and the Garou were losing their battle against the coming Apocalypse.

A reprive came from an unexpected source. A group of Marauders, acting in concert, were sowing the seeds of the return of the mythic age of magic and chaos. They instructed their acolytes and acted with cooperation previously unknown among their kind until the time was right.

On December 24, 2011, a time of power fortold in prophecy, the Marauder’s acted. In an incredible display of magick that consumed its wielders, the paradox-immune mages sundered the Technocracy’s carefully built gauntlet like tissue and sent the power of magick flooding across the world. Dragons appeared in the skies and mythic beasts in the land and sea. Humanity felt the call of magic once again. The Awakening had come.

The World of Darkness gave way to a World of Shadow. The forces of the light gained a ray of hope, a foothold on the slippery slope. The shadows are dark, but there is a chance that the meeting of man, machine, and magic can offer hope.

The Kindred

The Vampires have benefited from the Awakening by a slight loosening of the Masquerade. The kine are now aware that vampires exist, but they do not know how long they have lived among us or how much influence they truly wield.

Powerful Kindred have infiltrated all of the major corporations. Several of them are actually totally Kindred controlled, such as Haven Industries. The Masquerade is still ruthlessly enforced to protect their deepest secrets from the kine.

The Tremere have taken advantage of the Awakening to allow them to practice many of their magics in the open, although their more esoteric blood magics are still hidden from mortal eyes.

The Garou

The tribes of the Changing Folk have gained new hope from the Awakening. Garou forces reclaimed the Amazon Basin in their greatest victory against the forces of the Wyrm. The government of Amazonia is secretly controlled by a council of Garou and their magical allies. The Garou are also strongly influencial in the Native American Nations, especially the Wendigo and the Uktena. Wendigo Garou often agitate behind the scenes for the Ghost Dance to continue and drive the non-natives forever from the shores of the Americas, but the other tribes have held them in check.

Some of the Garou have taken to guerilla warfare in the depths of the sprawls: dark strongholds of the Wyrm. The Glass Walkers have become masterful deckers and shadowrunners, as have the Bone Gnawers. The Shadow Lords are influencial with many megacorporations, often fighting secret struggles with the Vampires and Mages who control them.


The Technocracy has been struck a powerful blow by the Awakening, but they have by no means surrendered their grip on Reality. The plan has simply changed. The Technomancers have altered the reality they seek to impose upon the masses to include the hedge magic permitted by the Awakening.

They continue along with their program, controlling the major corporations and working to make magic just another part of “ordinary” reality: a cold science with no passion or wonder left in it. They have even begun experimenting with bizzare meldings of science and sorcery like cybermancy.

Most magicians of the Sixth World use hedge magic, unaware of the larger nature of reality and True Magick. The more outlandish forces of magick are still suppressed by Reality and still summon the forces of Paradox to punish offenders. Tossing a fireball invokes little paradox, but re-shaping space and time is still an affort to the will of the Technomancers.

The Dreamspeakers are strongly involved in the government of the Native American Nations and have been encouraging the revival of shamanic traditions around the world. The Verbena are tied to Amazonia and have allied with the Garou. The Order of Hermes is behind the revival of the hermetic tradition and looks forward to re-establishing the power they once had in the Mythic Age.

The Virtual Adepts have come into their own with the creation of the Matrix. When a Adept/Iteration X war crashed the worldwide telecomm system in 2029, a truce was established that allowed for the creation of the Matrix, the mundane shadow of the Digital Web, increasing the Web’s influence all over the world and becoming a new battleground for the forces of the Awakened.

The Nephandi still lurk in the shadows and hope to bring about their day when their demonic masters will be able to enter the Earth’s dimension en masse. They have already taken control of the Aztechnology corporation with their vampire and bane allies and are using the Aztec blood rituals to speed the time of their masters’ arrival.

The Restless Dead

The existance of wraiths is a debated topic among scholars in the Sixth World. Some of the Awakened know of the restless dead and respect their powers and influence. The Technomancers and their allies work to maintain the belief that appearances of wraiths are no more than “astral echoes” with no real substance.

The heirarchy of the Shadowlands has also been altered by the weakening of the Shroud that accompanied the Awakenings. Wraiths can have greater effect on the mortal world and many of them have become more involved in the affairs of the Quick using their various Arcanos powers. A Wraith subculture known as “nomads” has developed, based on skinridding and taking over various mortal bodies to experience the joys of life again, at least for a brief time.

The Faerie

With the Awakening, the gates of Faerie are open once again, sort of.

Before 2011, the forces of Banality all but overcame the Changelings. The progress of the Technocracy’s program brought on the endless Winter that faerie seers and soothsayers had predicted. Most of the fae fell into forgetting their Dreaming natures and became mundanes.

The Awakening brought about the new Spring that some had hoped would follow the Banal Winter. Changelings and faeries cast off their mortal guise once again and assumed their true forms. But all was not well with the fair folk.

The long winter had robbed most of the faerie of the knowledge of the Dreaming. When they awoke again to their true natures, their memories did not. The vast majority of changelings in the world are ignorant of their origins and have taken on a modern conception of themselves as “metahumans” perhaps mutations of the human form.

Some of the few elite changelings still remember their true selves. They have established nations where their brethern can be safe and the power of Glamor can be protected against the tide of Banality that is rising again. The Elven Nations of Tir Tairngire and Tir na n’Og are mortal enemies of the banality of the Technocracy as well as the blood-soaked madness of the Nephandi and their puppets in Aztlan. The High Princes and true faerie of those nations have been forced to act covertly against their enemies, because the crushing force of banal disbelief destroys the delicate structure of their glamors.

Now between the Awakened Light and the Stygian Darkness is a World of Shadow. In that twilight realm dwell those forgotten by the rigid corporate world, the last hope of change and freedom, the Shadowrunners…

No Jack City

Cyberpunk without the Cyber

Cyberpunk started out as a literary genre in science fiction, known variously as “the Movement” and “the Mirrorshades Group.” It took a hip, post-modern look at science fiction and combined the futuristic vision of sci-fi with the in-your-face aesthetic of punk music to create a dark future where “the street finds its own uses for things” and technology changed far more than the kind of gun you carried or the kind of car you drove.

In seminal works like Neuromancer, cyberpunk looked at the impact of rapid technological change on human society and the individual with ideas like cyberspace, designer drugs, genetic engineering and, many a gamer’s favorite, cyberware. Cyberpunk gave technology the potential to alter humanity in strange and radical ways that had not been considered before.

The “high-tech, low-life” cyberpunk genre has been fertile ground for role-playing, producing many popular RPGs such as R.Talsorian’s Cyberpunk, GURPS Cyberpunk from Steve Jackson Games, and FASA’s popular cyberpunk/fantasy fusion Shadowrun. Cyberpunk games have also appeared from numerous other game companies, some of which have more recently fallen by the wayside, like GDW’s Dark Conspiracy, or Mayfair’s Underground.

One consistent feature of most cyberpunk games is a long list of cybernetic and bionic modifications that player characters can acquire, some of which fill entire sourcebooks with “cyber-toys” for the up-and-coming street samurai or razorboy. The proliferation of cyberware in some cyberpunk games is so great that there are rules for characters to completely replace their human bodies, with the exception of the brain and central nervous system (and I hear they’ve got somebody working on that one). Characters become more machine than human, armed with weapons that would make the Terminator green with envy.

In some games, this approach works fine, and “borgs” and other heavily-cybered characters don’t pose a problem. Other groups might prefer to take a “cyber-lite” approach to their cyberpunk games. As it so happens, most of the characters in cyberpunk fiction actually have very little cyberware compared with the average player character from a cyberpunk RPG. In Neuromancer, Case the console cowboy had only his cyberdeck and some plugs in his liver to keep him from abusing drugs. Molly, the razorgirl from Neuromancer and other stories by Gibson, had cybereyes, razor claws and some chipware and she was considered pretty cybered-up for the Sprawl!

Some gaming groups might even decide to eliminate cyberware from their games entirely, or allow only a very limited selection of cyber. Is it possible to play cyberpunk without any cyberware? As the source-fiction of the genre shows, it’s very possible. Cyberpunk is about the impact of technology on humanity and the dramatic struggle of characters against the larger forces in their lives, both of which can be done without giving characters access to all kinds of bionic implants. Cybernetics is certainly not the only technology with the potential to transform human society, and powerful forces can act against characters in almost any dramatic campaign setting.

Described below are some possible variations on the cyberpunk setting that feature little if any actual “cyberware.” The settings do all contain forces that transform the lives of people living in them and provide something for player characters to struggle against in their own stories. Some offer alternative modifications and special abilities in place of cyberware while some force the player characters to rely on other resources. They are by no means the only options, and interested players and gamemasters are invited to explore some of the source fiction and games mentioned in this article for variations of their own.

Just Human

It is possible to run a cyberpunk campaign with no artificial implants or enhancements of any kind, where the player characters are “just human” living in a dark future world of high technology. Implants simply might not exist or they might be too expensive or experimental for the street, reserved only for the truly rich and powerful (in other words: the player characters’ enemies). Characters must rely on their skills and natural abilities to survive in such a setting and it makes the characters more than simply lists of equipment.

The movie Bladerunner, considered a quintessential cyberpunk film by many, features a world like this. The protagonist Deckard is a normal human with no special abilities, simply a lot of experience in his career of “retiring” rogue androids. The same is true of the main character of Mick Farren’s novel Vickers, where the main character is a “corpse” or paid corporate assassin who has no artificial enhancements or abilities apart from his own skills. There are many other examples of cyberpunk fiction where the main characters do not have access to any artificial enhancements.

A cyberpunk campaign where the characters are just human takes on a strong film-noir feel of a small group of individuals surviving on their wits and skill in a dark and harsh world. Player characters may still have extraordinary levels of skill and ability-they are the main characters, after all-but without the near-superhuman abilities bestowed by cyberware, the game tends to take on a grittier and more realistic tone.

Gamemasters running this type of cyberpunk game have the challenge of making it interesting and keeping all of the player characters from looking the same. Without any additional “toys” like cyber, many of the characters will tend to have the same skills and abilities. Just like other modern RPGs, such as espionage role-playing, the importance of designing the player characters as a group comes to the fore. Characters should compliment each others’ skills and abilities and give each character a role in the group or else you will end up with a team of loner detectives all dressed in black.


One new genre of sci-fi calls itself “ribofunk” and it focuses less on the hard chrome and hard punk attitude of cyberpunk. Ribofunk’s influences are biotechnology, wet and organic, and funk music, hot and hip. The genre focuses on how advancements in biotechnology will affect human life and culture in the future and suggests that we will modify ourselves more through genetics, enzymes and chemicals than with implants and metal. Where cyberpunk follows the credo “metal is better than meat,” ribofunk turns it around and claims the opposite.

A ribofunk campaign presents many similarities but also many differences from a cyberpunk game. Some RPGs like Underground, Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun already include some ribofunk elements to them that can be brought out by gamemasters looking to emphasize the theme.

A ribofunk setting works much like a cyberpunk game, with different modifications available to the player characters. These modifications are not based on adding machinery to the body, but by modifying the human body in different ways through genetics, biochemistry and biological grafts. The “exotics” from Cyberpunk 2020, people who have had their bodies biologically altered to become cat-people, dog-people or lizard- or even shark-people are one possibility for a ribofunk campaign, allowing players to even have “elf” and “ork” player characters in an otherwise un-magical world if they so desire. The bioware offered in Shadowrun and even the “booster” modifications from Underground offer similar biological alterations of the human form.

Some of the other possibilities for ribofunk include different biological adaptations based on animal templates or modifications of existing human abilities such as cat-like eyes to see in the dark, retractable bone claws, re-engineered skeletal system for greater lifting strength, altered glands to produce adrenaline or pain-killing hormones at will and so forth. TSR’s Kromosome setting for their defunct Amazing Engine system includes a fair list of different biological modifications, as do many cyberpunk games.

Paul DiTillo’s short fiction, particularly the collection entitled Ribofunk, provide some excellent ideas for a ribofunk campaign setting. Bruce Stirling’s Shaper/Mechanist stories, such as Schismatrix, show a split in human society between the Mechanists, cyberpunks who alter themselves with machinery, and the Shapers, who use biotechnology, genetic engineering and other “wet” technology to improve the human form. The setting would make an excellent basis for a campaign.


Related to ribofunk is the idea that our knowledge of genetics and biochemistry will allow us to alter our bodies, our abilities and even our moods and memories with drugs and other chemicals virtually at will. Philip K. Dick has characters in his “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (the basis for the movie Bladerunner) setting their “mood dials” in the morning for their desired moods for their day. Cyberpunk 2020 has fairly extensive rules for drugs and biochemicals, as does GURPS Cyberpunk. The gamemaster can also take a look at the “Juicers” from Palladium’s Rifts for an example of how to augment a person with drugs.

With artificial adrenaline to boost strength and speed, beta-endorphins to kill pain and induce euphoria, drugs to alter moods, anabolic steroids to increase muscle growth, “smart drugs” to improve intelligence and memory and numerous other designer chemicals to provide different experiences and modifications to the human body from the recreational to the practical, a campaign can provide many of the same “enhancements” available from cyberware in the form of drugs or biochemicals. Some exotic biochemicals might even induce permanent changes or even open the doors of perception to give the user paranormal abilities like psionic powers (see “psiberpunk,” below).

Some role-players will find a setting where heavy drug-use is the norm objectionable while others will find it an interesting challenge. It is possible that there are many serious long- and short-term side effects and disadvantages to using certain chemicals (just as there is today) or it might be that many, if not all, of the biochemicals in a Juicer future are perfectly safe, provided you follow the instructions on the label, that is…

Virtual Reality

Along the lines of expanding the mind, an interesting cyberpunk campaign can be had where the major advances in technology are in the realm of computers and virtual reality (VR). From an all-netrunner setting with no other kind of bionics to a full-blow “virtuality” game.

Vernor Vinge’s classic story True Names features a developed virtual world that characters could adventure in, as does Gibson with his cyberspace matrix in Neuromancer and other sprawl novels. Neil Stephenson’s Snow Crash also provides an interested virtual world in the form of the Metaverse. The player characters in a virtual reality setting could all be deckers or netrunners who work to hack into protected databases and make off with valuable information. The Netrunner card-game from Wizards of the Coast provides many ideas for running a scenario involving just netrunner characters and R.Talsorian’s latest netrunning supplement for Cyberpunk 2020 (Rache Bartmoss’ Brainware Blowout) even includes material on using the card-game for netruns in the role-playing game.

A VR setting could develop into a world where different VR games are a staple of modern life and the player characters are some of the best players around, such as in R.Talsorian’s Dream Park RPG, based on the sci-fi novels of Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. The players can play characters who are themselves playing different characters in a VR role-playing game of the future! In such a campaign, each player would have a “core” character who in turn plays different virtual characters who might all have different abilities depending on the setting for that particular virtual game. Such a setting allows a gamemaster to run many different kinds of games in different genres while keeping some continuity to the campaign outside of “the Game” and possibly even working plotlines that take place in both the real and virtual worlds.

Virtual reality can also begin to “spill over” into the real world as the all-encompassing Internet grows more and more pervasive and includes all forms of communication; from television to advertising to telephones. This setting is called “virtuality” in R.Talsorian’s CyberGeneration and shows up in other fictional settings.

In virtuality, VR implants or receptors are so common everyone is a part of the virtual experience of the Net! VR and the real world begin to blend, as portrayed in Walter John Williams’ novel Aristoi or R. Talsorian’s CyberGeneration setting. VR images and ICE become like “spirits” that people can interact with on the street or in their home or office and “net wizards” might really have the ability to fling electron spells at people who can pick up their VR transmissions or summon “net daemons” to do their bidding.


Anime (also known as “Japanamation”) is a genre of cartoons produced in Japan and generally set in a futuristic world full of super-robots, battle-suits and other technology and featuring a characters who are usually cute girls with an attitude or young men looking to prove themselves.

An anime-style campaign, such as R. Talsorian’s Bubblegum Crisis RPG, takes place in a cyberpunk-ish setting like Neo-Tokyo, but the player characters do not have cyberware or other implants. Instead, they make use of high-technology such as battle-suits, blasters and other gear to fight powerful opponents who might themselves have cybernetic implants or even be powerful androids like the Boomers from Bubblegum Crisis. Other anime games like R.Talsorian’s Mekton or Dream Pod Nine’s Heavy Gear, tend to focus more on the “mecha” genre of anime that features giant battling robots, which tends to stray pretty far from the cyberpunk genre, although games could explore an interesting fusion of the two.

An anime campaign can be dark and gritty like other cyberpunk games, but many anime stories and settings feature more super-heroic action and fast-paced fight scenes like a martial-arts action movie. Some anime is even downright silly, such as Project A-ko or Ranma 1/2, which turn some of the ideas of the anime genre on their ear and can provide some hilarious inspiration for role-playing games (including the Project A-ko Role-playing Game).


Steampunk uses fantastical technology in a Victorian-era setting, such as R.Talsorian’s Castle Falkenstein, Pinnacle Entertainment’s Deadlands or GDW now-defunct Space: 1889. The first two games also include magic and magical creatures as part of their setting while Space:1889 relies purely on technology and the Victorian exploration of space.

In steampunk, the cyberpunk theme of the effects of technological advancement on humanity still apply, and so might the sprawling cities filled with crime and corruption and the greedy corporations grasping for profit. But the technology doesn’t generally support implants because it is too clunky and baroque, covered with polished brass fittings and knobs and hissing steam. The characters are generally self-reliant and the technology forms part of the background and perhaps the equipment of the player characters, but does not alter them considerably, unless the gamemaster is interested in adding things like clockwork prosthetics and other “cyberware” options to the game.

A steampunk game can focus on many of the same issues that a regular cyberpunk game would, only with the added twist of a setting practically alien to most modern gamers. Gibson and Stirling’s novel The Difference Engine, presents an excellent view of a steampunk world in which the computer revolution comes almost a century early. K.W. Jeter’s Infernal Engines, is also a good resource for steampunk games, as are the role-playing games mentioned above, particularly the Steam Age and Comme Il Faut sourcebooks for Castle Falkenstein.


An extension of the ribofunk concept is a cyberpunk world where characters have true super-human powers. Many comic books have presented a near-future superhero setting like Judge Dredd, American Flagg, Marvel 2099 and the Watchmen. TSR’s F.R.E.E.Lancers supplements, out of print but the basis for a new series of novels by Mel Odom, are also a good example of a near-future world where “metabiles” take the place of most of the cybered “street samurai” of cyberpunk games.

Imagine taking the Wild Cards shared-fiction setting , where many people on Earth have been mutated and given super powers by an alien virus, advancing its history fifty years into the 21st century and seeing what happens. R.Talsorian’s CyberGeneration takes a similar route when a mysterious nanotechnology known as “the Carbon Plague” is released that kills adults but mutates children to give them super-human powers.

Mayfair Games’ Underworld RPG takes the unique approach of super-powered “comic book” characters in a dark and cyberpunk-ish world. Alien biotechnology salvaged from a crashed scout ship in the hands of the United States government becomes the basis for “boosting” combat soldiers to give them super-humans powers ranging from super-strength to pyrokinesis, invisibility and natural body-armor.

These soldiers are then trained in a virtual reality world where they believe themselves to be actual super-heroes and learn to use their powers. This naturally causes some conflicts (some comical, others tragic) when the super-soldiers then try and apply some of the mortality and “physics” that they learned in their virtual experiences to the real world.

A particularly cruel gamemaster could kick off a superpunk campaign by setting up a normal four-color superhero game and slowly over time having the player characters notice certain inconsistencies in their world as it becomes stranger and stranger, only to meet up with a man who tells them that he is from the “real world” and that the characters are living in a computer-generated fantasy. The wires are disconnected and the player characters awaken to discover they are soldiers in the employ of some government or corporation and that they have been given super-powers similar to those possessed by their “comic book” counterparts. Now they’re expected to use those powers-not for Truth and Justice-but to fight in some bush war in South America in the name of the employers they’ve signed a lifetime contract with.

A superpunk setting can be a backdrop for more conventional super-hero role-playing using a game such as Champions (especially their “Dark Champions” supplement) or it can take a more realistic look at super-humans in a dark future, considering the impact of near-godlike beings on our world, as in many comic-series such as Kingdom Come or those mentioned above or using low-powered supers with some abilities similar to those of the cybered-up rebels and punks of a regular cyberpunk setting.


Parapsychology is becoming a more respectable science and many scientists admit to the possibility of undreamed-of abilities lurking in the human mind. A psiberpunk campaign focuses on the frontiers of the mind being expended, perhaps through drugs or virtual reality technology mentioned above or maybe by new ideas, philosophies or evolutionary mutations resulting from our modern, technological age.

If ordinary people develop paranormal mental abilities and society needs to find ways to deal with them; the cyberpunk theme of how changes in technology bring about changes in humanity. This can lead to a totalitarian normals vs. psis setting such as the out-of-print PsiWorld by FGU or the “Phoenix Project” from Steve Jackson Games GURPS Psionics sourcebook. Such settings also abound in science-fiction, like Marvel Comics’ X-Men or A.E. VanVogt’s novel Slan about normals vs. a new race of psis. Joan Vinge’s novels Psion and particularly it’s sequel Catspaw, involve a psionic character in a world of cyberpunk technology who even learns to telepathically interface with the Net!

“Psionics” might also arise from cybernetic or biological implant technology, creating some kind of “mechanical telepathy” or the like through telecommunications. David Gerrold’s “War Against the Chtorr” series of novels (adapted for gaming in GURPS War Against the Chtorr) features a cadre of “telepaths” created by brain implants that allow them to transmit their thoughts as electromagnetic signals over the world satellite network, allowing them to read the mind of anyone with an implant and even switch bodies with them! R.Talsorian’s CyberGeneration has “scanners” able to use their nano-altered central nervous system to pick up the electrical impulses of other brains, letting them read thoughts and emotions and even produce powerful “neural shocks” as a means of attack.

The kind of psionic resources available to player characters and their power-level can affect the feel of a psiberpunk game. At the low-level with only “ESP” abilities like telepathy or clairvoyance available, the player characters are otherwise normal humans and are forced to use subtlety and caution, since they are no more invulnerable to bullets than anyone else. In a setting where powerful psychokinetic abilities like telekinesis or pyrokinesis are allowed, along with higher powered telepathic abilities, psis become more like mages from Shadowrun or the super-humans from a superpunk setting, able to take out most normals at will.

An interesting psiberpunk game can be set up where the player characters start out in one genre, such a “just human” campaign or a normal cyberpunk setting and slowly begin to discover they are not “just human,” that they can do strange things and that there are other people out there who can do them to, who want the player characters to join them… or else.

Groups can also have fun with a psiberpunk game where the psis are the bad guys and none of the player characters have psionic abilities. Perhaps the development of psi always drives people insane, forcing the normals to hunt down psis before they can do any harm. Or perhaps the normals simply hate and fear psis and the player characters will have to eventually decide about the rightness of their actions. More interesting still if the regular exposure to hunted psis awakens latent abilities in the player characters and the hunters become the hunted…


The last, and perhaps most outlandish, option for a non-cyber cyberpunk campaign is to replace the technology with magic. “zauberpunk” focuses on a setting where enhancements are actually enchantments. Perhaps there was an “awakening” (a la Shadowrun) and technology stopped working, forcing people to learn magic in order to survive. Perhaps the game doesn’t take place on Earth at all, but on a fantasy world with a hard edge and a cyberpunk attitude. Instead of cyberware, characters use magical tattoos, ritual scarification, implanted talismans and the like to gain their power. Some of the blood magic from FASA’s Earthdawn game has this kind of punk edge to it.

Take a cyberpunk world and put a magical spin on things. Instead of the Net, there is a magical “astral plane” or “otherworld” that certain wizards (hackers) can project themselves into in order to obtain knowledge and power, overcoming guardian spirits (ICE programs) and other wizards in order to do so. The most powerful of these wizards make up important guilds (corporations) that control the flow of information and magical power to the general populace and are the real power behind the weak and puppet king (government). The agents of the guilds have blood runes, enchanted metal limbs and amulets (cyberware) that give them the ability to enforce the guilds’ wills and some guilds even have golems or undead (robots or cyber-zombies) at their command.

The general populace lives in fear and ignorance of the powerful guilds, going quietly about their daily lives in sprawling, overcrowded cities built around the centers of the wizards’ power. They waste the little leisure time they have watching magical illusions (television or VR) or downing the latest alchemical formula intended to bring happiness (drugs/chemicals). Youth gangs roam the streets, made up of the bored and privileged children of the wizardly elite out for some fun or the desperate and feral children of the streets, seeking only to survive.

But there are some rogue wizards who abandon the guild structure for their own purposes. Either they wish to pursue some field of study that is forbidden by the guilds, sell their services for profit outside of the restrictive guild structure or become in other illegal activities. These rogues, like cyberpunk hackers or street techies, steal secrets and power from the guilds. They also provide enchantments and amulets to their allies and those able to pay, creating the “street samurai” of the world who are “sell-swords” for hire to the highest bidder. Throw in some other characters with some magical knacks and perhaps a fantasy creature or two (what if one of the guilds is run by a dragon, for example?) and you have an interesting party of characters for a magical zauberpunk game.

Technology in a zauberpunk setting might not be entirely absent. FASA’s Shadowrun blends both magic and technology in the same setting and a zauberpunk campaign could do the same, adding in technology that is inferior, equal or even superior to the power of magic (although superior technology tends to limit the effectiveness and flavor of a zauberpunk setting). Imagine combining a steam-punk game with zauberpunk magic and attitude to create a new spin on a setting like Castle Falkenstein or Deadlands.

Alternately, technology could be highly suspect in a zauberpunk game with those who believe in such things as using moldy bread (penicillin) to treat illness treated as charlatans, especially when a good magical healer is available (for a price). Ruling magical guilds might ruthlessly suppress any technological development that could threaten their supremacy or, worse yet, provide the mundane populace with power to equal theirs. Player characters could be part of a faction that wants to let certain technological information out that could benefit the world and overthrow the wizard overlords.

But will technology prove the answer to their world’s problems or more of a problem than it solves? That’s a good question for starting a cyberpunk campaign.


The cosm of Maya was a world virtually identical to Earth. Maya was a world where religious beliefs and conflicts were stronger than Earth; the wars between differing religions and sects were a serious issue, resulting in a limited nuclear exchange in the Middle East between Isreal and her enemies, and in Asia between India and Pakistan.

The cosm’s story begins with a woman named Arani Desai in the late 20th century. Born to a wealthy family in India, Ms. Desai suffered from severe birth defects due to radiation. She possesses a brilliant scientific mind, however, and earned several advanced degrees, particularly in the area of computer science, despite her disabilities.

Desai developed a technique for interfacing computer systems with the human brain, leading to the development of the virtual experience (VX) computer web. The breakthrough earned her a Nobel prize and a position with the world’s largest computer technology corporation. Desai’s technology lead to many other breakthroughs. One of her discoveries provided a method for “beaming” information directly into the human brain without a direct physical connection. The virtual world of the Web left cyberspace and merged with the physical world. Virtual sensory information can overlay and mix with real sensory data, expanding the bounds of human reality.

Powerful virtual and cyber-technology created a peaceful, wealthy, world society. Advanced communications led to increased understanding among the world’s people. Over time, the people of Maya learned that primitive religious and spiritual beliefs were destructive. Religion was cast aside and abdoned in favor of a new humanism and belief in human achievement. With the power of the Web and cybertechnology, humanity began transforming Maya into a paradise. Biotechnology allowed Arani Desai to have a daughter, Mahakali Desai, who inheirited her mother’s genius.

Research into space travel by the powerful Nirvana Corporation discovered a means of reaching parallel worlds. The first world the Mayans discovered was primitive and warlike, torn by the same conflicts that once plagued Maya. Led by Nirvana CEO Desai, the Mayans took it upon themselves to bring the benefits of their experience to the new world.

With their superior technology, it was a simple matter for them to show other worlds the light, expanding the influence of the Web. So was Nirvana-2 established. As they discovered other worlds, the Mayans continued to expand their philosophy and help the native inhabitants. Nirvana-8 was established only a few years ago. Dimensional bridges connecting the worlds allow for unprecedented levels or trade and commerce, along with the exchange of ideas.

It was only a few years ago that people began to discover the truth. Inter-cosm travel led to the creation of stormers on Maya and the worlds they invaded, and some of these stormers saw through the illusion. The Web was more than just a means of communication, it created the illusion of a perfect world, complete with sublimination control of the population. It covered the existence of robots and cyborgs working behind the scenes, and the fact that the worlds “helped” by the Mayans were actually being conquered and drained of their possibilities, reducing them to the same carefully controlled environment. The spiritual traditions of the cosm still existed, but people were cut off from the power of faith, living in a sterile, “perfect” world of illusion.

Those few who saw through Maya’s mask were considered delusional, arrested and committed when they were caught. Some escaped, forming an underground to fight against Arani Desai, who still lived, her mind transfered into the perfect clone body of her “daughter.” The rebels discovered that the power of the Web could be used to their advantage. Some of those who saw through the illusion can manipulate the Web in spectacular ways, shaping the illusion to serve their needs and not those of the Mahakali. The rebels also learned how to get back in touch with the spiritual power of their cosm, using it to aid their cause. Now plans are underway for Maya to “aid” a new cosm, Nirvana-9, and the rebels intend to see that this world, called “Earth,” does not fall as the others have before it.

The Axioms

Magic: 0

Maya is a magic-dead cosm. All forms of spellcasting are impossible there. Rebels believe the Magic axiom was once higher, but that Kalkin lowered it to further the Mahakali’s plans. Additionally, the cosm’s extremely low Magic axiom tends to make the natives of the cosm somewhat more credulous and likely to believe what their senses tell them. “Gut feelings” and “hunches” are less common among the people of the cosm. (See the Law of Deception for more information.)

Social: 22

Maya’s social axiom is slightly higher than that of Earth. Their cosm has a peaceful, worldwide government (albeit artificially enhanced through mind control). The tremendously enhanced communications provided by the Web permit Mayan society to function smoothly and efficiently, like the well-oiled machine that it is.

Spirit: 12

Despite its highly advanced technology, Maya is still a place of spiritual power. Ancient traditions of faith and spiritual practice can grant enlightenment to the faithful. However, the vast majority of people in the cosm are completely unaware of the spiritual power available to them. Their faith lies in illusion, not reality.

Tech: 26

Maya is a cosm with powerful technology. Neural interface technology is particularly advanced, the basis for the Web and its related technologies. Cybertechnology is also fairly common and advanced. Energy weapons are the standard for both lethal and non-lethal weaponry and armor is based on advanced ceramic-laminate composites. Various types of chemical slugthrowers are also common. Many “weapons” exist solely in the Web, using neural technology to affect the minds of people.

World Laws

The Law of Deception

This world law states that it is easier to decieve people in Maya, provided you work within the rules of the illusion. All skill use related to deception gains a bonus of +3, and the success level of any attempt to penetrate deception is reduced by one. Minimal success becomes a failure. This applies only so long as the character provides some plausible lie or deception that fits within the world-view of the inhabitants.

The Law of Normality

On the other hand, the Law of Normality punishes those that violate Maya’s facade. Those who do not “fit in” tend to stand out. Those attempting to track or otherwise detect “outsiders” in Maya gain a +3 bonus to do so, unless the outsiders take grain pains to conceal themselves. The authorities are very efficient at dealing with any “threats” to the safety and security of their realm, and ordinary citizens are happy to report strange happenings to the authorities immediately via the Web.

The High Lord: The Mahakali

Arani Desai was a woman cheated by fate. She was born with a brilliant mind, but a weak and twisted body, caused by pointless war and religious conflict. Through sheer force of will and determination she made herself a success, but it wasn’t enough. She placed her hope in miracles and prayer to heal her body, but nothing did.

Eventually Arani found her way to a secret cult, the Cult of the goddess Kali. She prayed for deliverance and her prayers were finally answered. The members of the cult told Arani that her appearance was fortold to them, that she was destined to become an avatar of the goddess of destruction, the Mahakali, to herald the ending of the world, the Kali Yuga. They also gave her a gift, the avatar of destruction, an obsidian statue called Kalkin.

Arani arranged for the creation of the body she should have possessed, cloned from her cells and engineered to be perfect. She then transfered her own mind into her “daughter’s” body. Currently, Mahakali Desai is the CEO of Nirvana Corporation, the largest and most powerful company on Maya, custodian of the Web and secret ruler of the world. She is served by the fanatical members of the Cult of Kali the Destroyer.

The Darkness Device: Kalkin

Mahakali’s darkness device takes the form of an obsidian idol of Kalkin, the final avatar of Vishnu, who in Hindu mythology is the herald of the end of the world. Kalkin worked with Arani Desai and taught her all she needed to become High Lord of Maya, and it told her that she could eventually become the true avatar of the Nameless One, the great destroyer, known as the Torg.

Cool Stuff

The Web

The Web is the key to Mahakali’s power. It is a broadcast computer network maintained by a system of signal boosters and processors. These are buried in the ground approximately 300 miles apart. In truth, the “processor nodes” of the Web are also the High Lord’s stelae. Because of this, no one else has been able to crack the secret of Nirvana’s technology.

Within the area bounded by the stelae exists a virtual experience projected into the minds of all people. Publicly, this VX “overlay” only enhances life; people can program images to appear, read virtual books and newspapers that use no paper or ink, create virtual toys and entertainments, experience multi-sensory “movies,” and so forth. In truth, the VX illusion also serves to cover up some of the true nature of the cosm and the realm. Robots and cyborgs operate behind the scenes, invisible or concealed by illusions of normalcy. The VX broadcast also contains subliminals that make the population compliant and willing to agree with the High Lord’s demands. For example, no one thinks it odd that all of their world’s religions were dismantled in a matter of less than a decade. It seemed like the reasonable thing to do, and religious leaders saw the light (with some help from the Web) or else become criminals and outcasts.

Some people can learn to influence the Web with their thoughts and the power of spirit. This allows them to manipulate the illusion in various ways. Rebels and agents of the High Lord use the Web to disguise themselves, become invisible, and even create virtual weapons that can do harm simply through the power of their victim’s belief in their reality. People can also create “avatars” in the Web, mobile programs that have no physical existence but can still interact with the virtual and computer elements of the Web, a kind of “virtual astral projection.”


Cyberware exists in Nirvana-9 and Maya, although it is not in common use. Military and security personnel often have cybernetic enhancements, and there is a cyberware black market among rebels and outcasts, but most citizens of the cosm have cyberware only to repair injuries or defects (many of which are already dealt with using advanced biotech).

However, the High Lord’s agents make extensive use of cyberware. The Mahakali’s dreaded Assassins are cyber-enhanced members of the Cult of Kali, fanatics that worship the High Lord as the avatar of their dread goddess. They are shadows in the Web, unseen by normal people, and responsible for many mysterious disappearances and similar happenings.

The High Lord also uses robots and cyborgs, from tiny spy drones to massive combat cyborgs. Captured rebels and criminals are often brainwiped and made into cyborgs to turn against their former associates. Nirvana’s gospog are near-mindless cyborg killing machines.


Nirvana-9 is still a place of spiritual power. Many rebels call it Prana (a Sanskrit word meaning “breath”), but it is known by many names. The vast majority of people in the cosm are unaware of this power, the Web blinds them to its existence, which is just as the High Lord wants it. Those who have seen through the illusion can reconnect with the power of spirit and use it.

In game terms, this means that miracles are possible in Nirvana-9, but community-based miracles are difficult (since spiritual communities are so small). The high Social and Spirit axioms also allow mystic martial arts disciplines to exist in the cosm: the assassin art of the Thugee is one, rebels practice many others. These essentially follow the martial arts rules from the Nippon Tech sourcebook.

Eternity Street

Eternity Street is a strange and unassuming avenue that that is one of the great mysteries of the cosmverse. The street is itself a sort of “pocket realm” similar to the many other such realms that exist in close proximity to Earth such as the GodNet or the Land Below.

The entierty of the Eternity Street realm consists of a single, straight, two lane street lined with shops, businesses and homes. The exact length of Eternity Street is difficult to determine as distances seem somewhat distorted there but it seems quite possible that the street may run on forever in either direction. Most of the street’s inhabitants are aware of its nature and many are from cosms other than Earth. It is unknown if Eternity Street has any “native” inhabitants.

The street exhibits an ability similar to the Gate power that allows it to move, “pushing aside” local streets to insert inself into the area. Thus, Eternity Street can be a back alley in Rio de Jenero, a quaint throughfare in Paris or even an unusual avenue in the Donglin Megaplex. The street can apparently move anywhere in the cosmverse, but it appears to “obrit” around Earth due to the tremendous possibility nexi there. Eternity Street’s movements thus far appear to be totally random.

In fact, the street itself does not move at all, but the natural gateway that allows access onto Eternity Street does shift it’s posistion, both through the cosmverse and relative to the street itself, thus the location of the “corner” of Eternity Street often varies.

The nature of the street’s reality is most unusual, since it appears that individuals from all cosms can function normally there with no chance of disconnecting or transforming. The realm’s axioms are unknown, only the following world laws:

The Law of Co-Existence: Each individual on Eternity Street is effectively surrounded by a perpetual reality bubble of her own reality at no cost in possibilities. The person may function normally on the street as if she were in her home reality. This ability functions for ords as well as stormers.

Since characters are effectively in a pure zone of their own reality, any contradiction is automatically a four-case.

The Law of Peace: Any action which causes direct harm to another being or to Eternity Street itself is a four-case contradiction. Character’s who disconnect by violating this world law cannot reconnect while on Eternity Street. Ords on Eternity Street are incapable of violence.


The following are some of the buildings and shops to be found along Eternity Street. Some appear always in the same place while others seem to shift around, apparently at random and always while no one is looking.

Burrows, Inc.: E-Street’s resident construction firm. The Burrows are a clan of dwarves who emigrated from Asyle many years ago and set up a warren on the street. They offered their services to the local residents and soon became quite successful at renovating and rebuilding the many structures of the street.

Doctor Wye’s: Home and office of Doctor Elias Wye, M.D., general practioner. Dr.Wye is the all-around physician for Eternity Street. An eccentric Core Earther, Wye is a crusty old country doctor who refuses to retire from practice as long as he can still move. He has lived on Eternity Street as long as anyone can recall and he knows how to treat everything from humans to Edienos to broken cyberware to werewolf bites. His fees are reasonable and customers will always get his bill, no matter where they are.

The Eternity Street Post Office: A small, clean and efficently run post office that has the strange ability to send and receive mail anywhere in the cosmverse (provided that it’s properly addressed, of course. “What is the ZIP+4 code for Takta Ker anyway?”). How this is acomplished is a mystery which the office’s three employees have not devulged.

The Eternity Street Public Libray: A large Gothic structure complete with gargoyles and high, vaulted windows. The reference section is extensive. The catalog is available in hardcopy and computer access, both terminal and VX. While it may take the staff (including the Orrorshian reference librarian and the Kadandran desk clerk) a while to find something, they will find it, whatever it may be.

The Eternity Street Superette: Favorite stop for those midnight munchies. Any kind of munchie from any cosm you like. Need oil for your hoverbike? Aisle 3. A twinkie? Ammo? Chewing gum? Got it. The proprietor is an Edeinos transformed over to Core Earth axioms. He works constantly and is usually dragged-out tired and fairly cranky.

The Happy Gun Shoppe: A nice, pleasant, friendly gun store. No security, no anti-theft devices. Nothing but the latest in firearms laid out on decorative doilies in glass display cases. Also a wide selection of second-hand firearms. If you can find it in the Hachiman Arms Catalong, you can find it here. The shop is run by Miss Pricilla, a matronly grandmother type who target shoots and crochets her famous gun- and ammo-cozies in her spare time.

Hope House: A lone structure in an otherwise empty lot on the Street. Here the lonely and lost of the cosmverse are welcomed and nobody is turned away. The house is managed by a woman named Gwendolyn. Lady Gwen caries for all who come to her house and has never turned away a soul in need. She longs for the day when her services will no longer be needed and the mission can be closed down for good.

The Infinitarian Cosmversal Church: A small white building with high windows that is almost totally empty on the inside, with some limited furnature that can be rearranged easily. The church caters to all denominations (from a dozen different cosms) and services of one kind or another are held daily.

The Infinity Agency: The offices and living space belonging to Eternity Street’s resident group of Storm Knights. Formerly a used car dealership, the building sports a great deal of floor space, as well as a fully equiped garage that Dhare Nexus, the team’s realm runner, uses to store and maintain their vehicles. The Agency acts as a combination private detective/ mercenary organization, hiring out to do all manner of troubleshooting regarding the Possibility Wars.

The Ourobaros: A local tavern whose name is a play on the legendary serpent swallowing its tail that symbolises infinity. Also known as the “Bar at the End of the Cosmverse,” the Ourobaros is a gathering place for both the inhabitants and visitors to Eternity Street and has the strangest clientel of any bar around.

The Realm Runner Cafe: “Where the elite meet after handing the High Lords a defeat.” Very hip, modern decor establishment catering mostly to Storm Knights and especially realm runners. Much like the aviator clubs in WWI France on Core Earth, where realm runners on all sides meet to eat, drink and tell wild tales of their latest adventures.

The River and Green: A pleasant, upscale tavern and resturant done in a somewhat rustic style, with an open, airy atmosphere. The proprietor, “Sir” Larry Lawin, is an entrepeneur and adventurer from Earth who fell in love with the establishment the moment he saw it and gave most of his fortune to the previous owner to buy it.

Swords and Tequila: A bar where only the toughest enter. The bar mixes the most unpleasant elements of Aylish and Cyberpapal society. One is as likely to meet and Elven swordsman with slashers and tendon replacement as a Jaz fighter with a Storm Gun of Giant Slaying. There is a brawl going on about half of the time, but nobody pulls out the heavy hardware for them. Lanx Wickedhaft is the owner and bartender. He is a magic-using cybertroll. He has no problems with his place getting busted up from time to time as he knows several spells that allow him to repair everything. The bar serves hard liquor and the juke box plays only heavy metal. Tuesday is ladies night. The Law of Peace is slightly “bent” in the confines of the bar; brawling doesn’t create a contradiction, only violence intended to kill or cause permanent injury.

Time’s End: A comic book and game shop with a huge selection of back issues and out of print games. The Five Realms role-playing game does quite well here.

Wu Ling’s Curio Emporium: A small, cramped shop that is always squeezed between two larger buildings. Wu Ling is from Marketplace and is well known as a master trader and salesman. His shop contains curiosities and trinkets from all over the cosmverse and he can acquire nearly anything a customer might desire, for the right price.


Shekkie the Cabbie: Shekkie runs the only cab on Eternity Street. Just go over to the curb and yell “taxi!” and boom! there he is. Shekkie will drive people anywhere they want to go on the street or in the town the street is currently “located” in. He seems to know every street and place in the cosmverse like the back of his hand and never asks for directions. If there are roads, Shekkie can get you there, and at a speed that will make you hold on for dear life.

The Kid: A young teenager who skateboards up and down the sidewalks of the Street. Nobody knows where he lives or what his real name is, so they all refer to him as “kid.” The Kid thinks that E-Street is the next closest thing to Heaven: a infinity of sidewalk to skate on, no cops to hassel you for it, and plenty of nice folks.

Old Maggie: A bag lady who lives on the Street. She wandered on one day and hasn’t left since. She refuses to give up her “lifestyle” despite offers from some of the street’s residents to help. She trundles up and down the street with a grocery cart, collecting interesting things and chatting with everyone who offers an interested ear. Maggie has a lot of experience with life on the streets and knows a lot of things, including all of the latest gossip. She often hints that she’s quite a bit older than she looks.

Jim Morrisson “the Lizard King”: “Jim” is an Edeinos who transformed over to Core Earth axioms. He and his cousin (Elvis) became fascinated with rock and roll music and set to learning all about it. Jim wandered into the Ourobaros and liked it enough to stick around. He and the E-Street Band play at the bar and live in a building nearby. When the opportunity arises, they sometimes play impromptu concerts in places where the street connects. The E-Street Band includes a cybered rocker (bass), an Aylish mage (guitar), a Dwarf drummer and young keyboard player who is a runaway from a wealthy family on Marketplace.

Wu Ling: The mysterious Wu Ling is originally from Marketplace. He has been on Eternity Street as long as most people can remember, running his small curio shop. Although he drives a hard bargain, Wu Ling never cheats his customers and always provides quality merchandise. He has a penchant for speaking in inscrutable, fortune cookie phrases.

Elias Wye, M.D.: The crotchety Dr.Wye is Eternity Street’s resident physician. He can treat nearly any medical ailment in the cosmverse, and has just about seen them all. He doesn’t much approve of cyberware, but keeps his opinions pretty much to himself. He always complains about having to fix up someone who got hurt by doing something stupid (such as combat) when he could be helping people “who really need it.”

“Sir” Larry Lawin: Owner and proprietor of the River and Green tavern/resturant. Sir Larry is a former Earth adventurer and self-made millionaire who traded away all he had when he wandered onto Eternity Street and into the River and Green and fell in love with the place so much that he offered nearly his whole fortune to the previous owner to buy it.

Father Michael “Mick” Kramer: Father Kramer is the pastor of the Infinitarian Cosmversal Church. He is a Gaean who went into holy orders after a wayward youth, but found himself doubting the validity of the Book of Power and at odds with his more conservative superiors. During a “sabbatical of contemplation” Father Mick wandered onto Eternity Street and spent an enjoyable few weeks there. Suprised that there was no church to minister to the spiritual needs of the community, he decided to establish one and invited people of all faiths to worship there and exchange ideas.

Kaer Daralon

According to the records of the Kaer kept in the Hall of Time, Daralon was a prosperous town nestled in a mountain valley in the Theran province of Barsaive. It subsisted mostly on farming the valley area and selling some of the famed Daralon ironwork and pottery worked from clay taken from the riverbanks. The inhabitants of the town paid their tithes to the Theran Overgovenor and their dues for the Rites of Protection and Passage that have allowed them to survive the Scourge.

Kaer Daralon was built over the course of three generations in the mountain caves above the valley. Much of the work was done by the master Elf elementalist and builder Dianuus. The natural caverns were expanded and strengthened by elemental magic, all laid out in accordance with the Theran plan. When the early signs of the Scourge came to the Daralon valley, the people entered the kaer and the wards were sealed to wait out the Long Night.

That was 498 years ago. It is now the fifteen hundred and sixth year since the founding of the Kingdom of Throal. More than fifteen generations have lived and died in the confines of the kaer, waiting and watching the elemental clock designed by Eternal Thera to tell when the time of the Scourge would be over. Fifty years ago, the sphere of True Earth stopped its descent towards the bowl of True Water.

This unexpected development has resulted in considerable debate and discussion among the leaders of the kaer, but thus far they have erred on the side of caution. The Therans predicted that the Scourge would last as long as another century, but there is a growing belief in the kaer that something terrible has happened and that the Scourge will never end. Some of the people have begun to despair that the end will never come and there is an edge of madness to life in Kaer Daralon.

The people of the kaer remain hidden deep in the earth, watching, waiting and hoping for some sign that the Long Night has ended.

The History of the Kaer

Kaer Daralon was created by the people of the town of Daralon and the inhabitants of its surrounding farms and villages. The kaer was designed to hold all of the inhabitants of the mountain valley where the town stood. This included a village of T’skrang from the nearby river as well as several Troll clans from the high mountains. Members of six different races dwell in the kaer, so there was some friction at first. Minor incidents of violence and conflict arose and were harshly delt with by the kaer’s ruling council.

In the final days before the closing of the kaer, a party of adventurers arrived in Daralon. They claimed to be fleeing from horrors they had encountered in the foothills of the Caucavic Mountains. The elders of Daralon took this as a sign of the time to seal the kaer. The party of adepts took shelter there as well.

One of the adepts who settled in the kaer was the Ork swordmaster Kilas Tarn. Ill at ease with a life of confinement, Tarn began a school to pass on his discipline to others. He married a woman of Daralon and his line carried on the tradition for generations.

Some two hundred years ago, there was an outbreak of plague in the kaer that nearly doomed all of the inhabitants. Dianuus the Master-Builder, himself stricken with the plague, use his magic to cause a rockslide that buried the access tunnel to the most plague-ridden portion of the kaer. This halted spread of the plague and saved the rest of the kaer.

Dianuus and some of the other adepts of the kaer were lost in the tragedy, along with their accumulated wisdom. Some people claim-though not too loudly-that faint noises can sometimes be heard from behind the rockfall that closed off the plague tunnels and that there are ghosts or worse that still haunt those halls.

The ravages of the plague and the pressures of life within the kaer began to diminish the population of the community. So the loss of a section of the kaer did not prove overly taxing.

About fifty years ago the Council of Tweleve appointed a small group of adepts to exit the kaer and explore outside. Among them was Grella Tarn, swordswoman and descendant of Kilas Tarn, wielder of his legendary sword Truefang. The party departed throught the Guardian Gate and it was sealed behind them. They never returned. Since then, the Council and their successors has been reluctant to allow any more such expeditions.

Life in the Kaer

Life in Kaer Daralon is very routine and has been for as long as any can recall. Food is carefully rationed out morning, noon and night, usually meals of magically grown vegetables and similar staples with the occasional special celebration calling for meat or baked goods made from the kaer’s carefully protects supply of animals and grains. During the day the kaer’s adults work the lattice farms that provide food, tend to the small herds of sheep or cave lizards in their pens or provide repairs or craft work for the kaer. In the evening troubadours and storytellers read from the Book of Tomorrow and tell tales of the outside world while illusionists entertain and enlighten with their images of the world of the ancestors before the Scourge.

Kaer Daralon is ruled by the Council of Twelve, the wisest and most capable chosen from among the people. The Council represents the Twelve Passions that are venerated in the kaer. Although the Council members are not always Questors, many of them are, and they are chosen to represent their Passion’s purview on the Council. The Council makes laws, metes out justice and administers the kaer. Slavery is the typical punishment for any crime that does not merit death. Death sentences have become increasingly rare.

The other major factions of the kaer include the Swords of Daralon (usually simply known as the Swords) and the Adept’s Lodge. The Swords are a warrior sect that serves as the guardians, police and military. They generally keep the peace in the kaer and are the only people allowed to carry weapons with them routinely.

The Adept’s Lodge is made up of the kaer’s surviving adept traditions, who pass on their teachings to suitable students in anticipations of the end of the Long Night. Some Disciplines have died out or were never really represented among those in the kaer. Other disciplines, like the Scout and Beastmaster, have survived in little more than a ceremonial role, since the environments intended for them are limited in the kaer. There is some resentment by kaer residents against practioners of disciplines that are looked upon as “useless” since they don’t contribute to the survival of the community.

The Structure of the Kaer

Kaer Daralon is laid out like most kaers built under the Theran plan. There is a large central cavern, lit by a massive light quartz embedded in the roof. This cavern contains the central buildings of the kaer: the Hall of Time, the Adept’s Lodge, Council Chambers, the Temple of the Passions and the Garrison of the Swords as well as other administrative buildings. The central chambers also houses Crafter’s Row, a long row of tents and open kiosks were the people trade their humble arts and crafts. (As much to prove they are free of taint as for any love of art.)

The outer edges of the great cavern and several other caves are taken up by the lattice farms, high frameworks where the produce that feeds the kaer is grown, aided by elemental magic and the blessings of the Passions.

In the center of the cavern is a fantastic statue of the passion Garlen, sculpted from rosy living crystal by Dianuus the Builder. Radiating out from the central plaza are six narrow roads. Five are named for the True Elements and lead to the living quarters for the people. Each road leaves the plaza under a sculpted arch made from the appropriate true element and the “central square” of each living space holds a fantastic sculpture of that element made by the master-builder himself. The Fire Caves were sealed during the plague by Dianuus are have been lost for some two hundred years, but the other areas have been more than enough for the kaer’s population. The Fire Arch went out the same day is now little more than a monument of blackened coal.

The sixth road leads to a pair of orichalcum gates between two statues of fierce warriors known as the Guardian Gate. This gate leads into a maze of traps and deadfalls to the surface and the sealed entrance of the kaer.

Beneath the central cavern are deeper tunnels and caves. These were intended for population growth in the kaer, but the population has been shrinking so these areas are abandoned and left alone. Few go there save for members of the Swords or the Adept’s Lodge on some strange errand or another. Kaer-lore has it that these dark tunnels sometimes serve as meeting places for strange gatherings or other doings best hidden from the rest of the people.

The People of Daralon

Most of the population of kaer Daralon is Dwarf and Human. There are some Elves and Orks as well. Trolls and T’Skrang are the most rare and have been the worst hit by the kaer’s declining population, the T’Skrang especially so. There are only thirty-six T’Skrang remaining in the kaer-all that is left of an extended clan-and they fear that they may well die out in another few generations.

There were some Windlings in Kaer Daralon, but they died two centuries ago during the plague, only the oldest Elves still remember them.

Obsidimen are nothing more than a legend to the inhabitants of the kaer. They are mentioned in the Book of Tomorrow, but none have dwelled in Daralon, so no one in the kaer has ever seen one.

Current population of Kaer Daralon is about 3,000 Name-givers. The kaer was constructed for nearly twice that number, but the population has slowly declined over the centuries and some of the lower caverns and tunnels of the kaer have been abandoned, along with the loss of the Fire Caves. Strange subterranian creatures have sometimes been spotted in the lower tunnels and they are normally considered off-limits to the kaer’s inhabitants. There is some concern over the declining population, and some doomsayers claim that the kaer will die out before the Scourge is over.

Individuals of Note

Doria kel’Ar, human female, Questor of Garlen, Counciler and former High Sword of Daralon. Counciler Doria was once acknowledged as the most skilled warrior in Daralon with the office of High Sword, leader of the Swords of Daralon. That was many years ago and she has since retired from the ways of combat: at least with a blade. She has taken up the ways of Garlen and is still known as a tenacious “she-bear” by her opponents on the Council of Twelve. She is wise, comforting , strong-willed and well loved by the people of the kaer.

Pelgar, dwarf male, Archmage and Counciler. The archmage Pelgar is an elderly dwarf who came to his office nearly twenty years ago. He is a wizard of no small skill and oversees the activities of Daralon’s magicians, mostly to the maintenance of the kaer and the investigation of the conditions outside though so far with little success. A crotchety curmudgeon of a dwarf, he is the terror of magical apprentices-and no few adults-in the kaer.

Mabon Rus, human male, Questor of Erendis, Counciler. Counciler Mabon is a follower of Erendis, the Passion of Order and Governance, which makes him well suited for his duties on the council of Twelve. His wisdom in matters of administration is heeded by his peers and he is well known for keeping live in the kaer running smoothly. Mabon is fair but firm, with a strong reputation as a disciplinarian among the children of the kaer.

Meer’resh t’Lassor, female t’skrang, Counciler. Counciler Meer’resh is the female head of the surviving T’skrang clan in Kaer Daralon. She is fairly young for her role, the old matriarch of the clan having passed only two years ago. She is considered level-headed compared to some of her bretheren, who clammor increasingly for action from the Council. Her brother, Sethek, has also done little to aid her cause.

Netzach Kol, ork male, Master of Memory, Keeper of the Book of Tomorrow and Scholar. Netzach is nearing the age of fifty, ancient for an Ork. He credits his long life to this love of knowledge and claims that he won’t die until he knows all there is to know. He lovingly tends to the kaer’s precious stores of books, scrolls and other heirlooms in the Hall of Time. He knows all of the lore and history of Daralon and can often be found telling stories to children in the Plaza in the evenings.

Onara Stonebones, troll female, Warrior, High Sword. Captain Stonebones is the High Sword, commander of the Swords of Daralon warrior order and at skilled fighter herself. The troll warrior stands a head-and-a-helf taller than even the tallest human males of the kaer and wields her massive stone broadsword like it was a toy. Her booming laugh and good cheer make her a welcome companion and a popular leader. Onara claims that she does not involve herself in politics, concerning herself only with keeping the peace.

Sethek t’Lassor, male t’skrang, Nethermancer. The mysterious Sethek is an albino T’skrang with white scaly skin and reddish eyes. Considered an omen by his clan mother at his birth of the dying of the T’skrang within the kaer, Sethek has always had a morbid fascination with death. This, naturally, led him to become a nethermancer, which has caused the people to shun him all the more. This seems to be to the t’skrang’s liking and he contents himself with his solitary magical research, working with the kaer’s other magicians when needed but keeping mostly to himself.

Vonna Firehair, female elf, Questor of Astendar, Counciler. Counciler Vonna is in many ways the soul of social life in Kaer Daralon. As the most devoted follower of Astendar in the kaer, she is involved in all matters of art and beauty in an effort to bring cheer into the lives of the people. Some say that she is something of a busybody but most are enchanted by her wit and charm. Firehair is well known for the namesake hair of reddish-gold locks. She has been pursued by many suitors in the kaer and has taken many lovers, but has not chosen a mate. She claims to not want to be tied down at this early stage in her life, since she is not yet a century old, making her fairly young for an elf.