I like Cyberpunk as a system. It’s nothing special really, standard new future stuff (Middle East glassed, corporations more powerful than most governments, poor people are buggered, and most food is artificial). If you’re inspired to role-play by films like Blade Runner, or books like anything by William Gibson, this is the system for you. The beauty of it that it’s very adaptable. I’ve ran games where the group are nomads on the run, road warriors, corporate mercs, a street level grunge band, and the most enduring, a team of homicide detectives.
I based it in Detroit, often mentioned as the murder capital of the US, especially in the game itself. I take the largest real part of the city, and divide it into precincts. This is now becoming fictional, as I have mapped out the relevant precincts to street level. So the team are responsible for solving homicides in an area where life is very cheap, and the death penalty is widespread. I have created various forms for them to fill in, arrest reports, etc, which adds to the fun and tension of it. The paperwork has to be done, and it can be really funny to read 2 different reports of the same action.
Because it’s a system I’ve ran a lot, I’ve got my background atmosphere worked out with blue light bulbs and a mix of stuff like Filter and sound effects. Maps, lists of crime categories and station phone-lists are spread about. And because of all the paperwork, the game is slow and intense. A standard role-play session can only use up an hour or two, in the game. The problem with that is when people are wounded, and need a couple of weeks to heal, that’s the end of the campaign.
One of the main themes is the rich/poor divide. The police contract for Detroit has been won purely on cost, so everything is as cheap as possible to get the job done. So, no, you don’t get full autopsies whenever you want, and your equipment is nothing special. My players have retaliated by assuming very unhelpful personas, racists, corrupt, and inept. Clearly they’re not being paid all that well, so why should they be supercops? I am not trying to make any points here, things just worked out that way.
I tend to run it in fairly short chunks, partly because the characters get shot up a lot, but mainly because it’s bloody hard work. Write 10 or so murders every week, and have enough clues etc that some can be solved. If I got really organised, I could set up computer records for them to access, but I have other stuff in my life. And once you start down that road, where do you end? So we’re all only on paper notes.
It’s worth all the effort for legendary moments like when a rookie cop is killed half an hour into his first shift, because no one mentioned you don’t go down those streets without full body armour. Or when a character shoots dead an unconscious baddie, using his main side arm. The one with the gun camera.