Monday, 28 March 2016

Cyberwolf: The Werepunkalypse

Cyberpunk and Werewolf: The Apocalypse have a lot in common. They both speak to a certain conservative streak in modern public discourse: a distrust of technological development and economic advancement that at its extremes becomes almost misanthropic. We're ruining the planet, globalisation is disruptive and damaging, and by the way development brings inequality and mental health problems and Justin Bieber and God knows what else, so it's best not to bother. This spans the political spectrum and I certainly feel susceptible to it at times, so I offer it simply as an observation.

Cyberpunk is the political aspect of this, of course: the future is here, and it belongs to the rich. If you're not in the 1% you're in for a miserable life of drug addiction, brutish violence and the collapse of society - if you're lucky. Werewolf is the environmental: humans are basically arseholes bent on destroying the natural world. The two games are two sides of the same rather bleak and angry coin.

So why not combine the two? Werewolf's rules are terrible, but I've always thought that under its surface it has (interestingly but in a somewhat cowardly implicit fashion) suggested something that very few RPGs ever have: the PCs are terrorists. They have an aim in mind and that is to actively and aggressively defend the natural world from exploitation. And if that involves violence, so be it. This creates a sandbox game with a difference. Rather than seeking fame and fortune, the PCs are acting to preserve - searching out threats to a certain natural habitat and eliminating them with extreme prejudice. They are the white blood cells of gaia.

Cyberpunk, on the other hand, has better rules and goes the extra step in creating a setting which does the requisite caricaturing to make the ecoterrorism motif seem plausible and even necessary: in a world in which there is absolutely no restriction on corporate power and the blending together of the commercial and political elites is so total, violent activities in response feel almost justifiable.

What you would come out with is a very tight and focused game which, as well as being thematically interesting, would also provide a heck of a lot for the PCs to do (something which the oWoD books were pretty terrible at). It might even - dare I say it? - provoke some thought in the heads of the GM and players. I really quite like the idea.

12 comments:

  1. And the whole "cyber psychosis" thing that both Cyberpunk and Shadowrun did would make an awful lot more sense in the context of Werewolf's metaphysic - incorporating cyberware into yourself might give you an edge, but it's also intrinsically distancing yourself from the way Gaia crafted you and inserting the products of the Wyrm-tainted political-corporate-industrial complex directly into your body.

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    1. Good point. Alternatively, the more you spend time in wolf form, the more you shift towards madness?

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  2. "Werewolf's rules are terrible, but I've always thought that under its surface it has (interestingly but in a somewhat cowardly implicit fashion) suggested something that very few RPGs ever have: the PCs are terrorists."

    This is, by far, my favorite sentence you have ever written - both in form and content.

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    1. I like to think I'm getting better!

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  3. This idea pushes a lot of buttons for me. My first tabletop rpg was WW,and I remember reading the rulebook and Neuromancer the same month when I was 14 and the themes/ vibes kind of swirling around together in a way that I couldn't really articulate. Any ways, I'd play that shit.

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    1. They seem like very 80s/90s themes in a lot of ways, but have resurrected themselves again recently.

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  4. Isn't that more or less what WW did with Mage: the Ascension? Down to the corporate cyborg enemies and the hacker heroes? It was still pretty bad at coming up with meaningful activities for the PCs to actually do, but it was pretty explicit about them being terrorists.

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    1. I don't really remember Mage all that well. Is that really true? I thought it was like all the other WW concepts: the PCs are powerful outsiders who don't fit in with the rest of society - this time because they know how to shape reality.

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  5. From what I remember Cybergeneration was a flawed attempt at this, gifted youths in gangs with edgerunner allies vs corp oppression.

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    1. Cybergeneration sounds really awful.

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    2. In retrospect I think Cybergeneration was trying to hit the sweet spot between Cyberpunk and White Wolf, insofar as you played weird outcast outsider kids who suddenly gained superpowers and had to go on the run from The Man (just like in every White Wolf game ever), but you actually were a bunch of teenagers living in a squat someplace rather than being super-powerful members of the Monster Illuminati. The one time we actually played it, though, all we did was run around zapping corporate mercenaries with our Nanotech Superpowers.

      (I played a teenage Goth called Bobby The Goth who had some kind of electric zap power. He died after falling off a skyscraper. A good time was had by all.)

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  6. The setting of the french RPG Heavy Metal was something of a dystopian society where the PC could paly either cybernetic agents of repression of the system or membres of a seditious faction.
    The tone was rather was rather dark-huorous , thogh (think Cyberpunk meets Paranoia)

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