Soul and the New Machine



The announcement of a new Cyberpunk 2020 video game came as a shock to me, not just because like most everyone I’d assumed that particular RPG was dead, but also because I’d been working on a personal homebrew reboot of the game for over a year. In a perfect illustration of why the future is never a linear extrapolation of the present, the Cyberpunk RPG line languished in obscurity under Talsorian Inc. for over a decade, until the sudden announcement by CD Projekt RED, the hugely popular developer studio behind The Witcher series of games, that they were building Cyberpunk 2077. The original Cyberpunk 2020/2013 never received the video game treatment even at the height of its popularity, and its magical twin Shadowrun had only one small video game produced for the SNES back in the early 1990s, so seeing a major studio tackle a game that had been essentially dead for 15 years not only made my day, it blew my feeble powers of prediction out of the water.

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The Endless City

The future is mega-urban.

Chinese hypercities of tens of millions of inhabitants, such as the newly-proposed Guangzhou megalopolis (aka Pearl River Delta/Zhusanjiao/Golden Delta) or the Bohai economic rim, will contain 40, 50 or 60m people each, roughly comparable to the present-day population of France or the UK. China, India and the rest of the developing world are urbanizing at a tremendous rate, achieving urbanization rates of 60-70 percent in some prefectures within 1 or 2 decades, accelerating a process that took 2 centuries in Europe and 50 years in North America.

Playing a cyberpunk game like Deux Ex: Human Revoltuion one could see the multi-level megacity of Heng Sha and immediately think of the exploding conurbations of the new China – hypercities such as BoHai Ring City and Guangzhou accreting within the polluted industrial Sinosphere like pearls inside a shell.

The UN Habitat State of the World’s Cities 2011 report indicates that Africa is currently leading the urbanization race, with China, India and Brazil close behind. With some of the largest and fastest growing populations in the world, African cities will become gigantic hives, half middle-class and half slum, a boon and a bane to national governments on the continent. Warfare, too, will have to adapt to grinding condo-to-condo infantry battles rather than the classic open-field tank battles of previous world wars. Today military operations in urban terrain (MOUT) doctrine dominates mechanized infantry and heavy armor operations manuals, and the days of long-range strike planning in the Fulda Gap are long gone.

Urban operations in Chinese cities in a hypothetical war between China and the USA could be ugly beyond belief; civilian casualties could top 90% of all casualties and simply by shooting an assault rifle a soldier could accidentally end up committing war crimes  in places as densely populated as these. In the face of intransigent urban insurgents dominating fighting operations would modern warfare one day return to the bomb-it-into-rubble doctrine of the Second World War again?

For a more civilian perspective on China’s lightspeed urban transformation, check out the China Urban Dev Blog.

Rifts Book Popularity

I ran two polls on the Forums of the Megaverse recently asking opinions about the popularity and ownership of Rifts books. The first question asked “Which Rifts Earth Setting Books do you own? (choose as many as you like, including those you have thoroughly read at some point even if you subsequently sold the book)”  The results can be seen below (click for larger image):

which rifts books do people own?

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Rebuilding Rifts 5 – Kingdoms of North America

Now that we’ve got the chopping block out of the way, let’s add some more detail to the new kingdoms of Rifts Nightfall. The design goals are numerous: we’re trying to maintain the look-and-feel of the game by preserving iconic Rifts locations such as Chi-Town and the Magic Zone, but at the same time we’re trying to denude the number of civilized human locations to introduce more danger and instability into the world. The list below adds a lot of places, though not many of them are hospitable to humans or even human life. We’re not trying to recreate the desolate wasteland of Fallout here but North America could use a little more variety in its locations. Mystery, devastation, horror and alien landscapes are what we’re aiming for.

New Locations:

  • The Wasteland is a vast, generally dry series of irradiated deserts, crumbling ruins and scorched wilderlands which includes most of the Great Plains (Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, etc.), Nevada, Colorado, Utah and parts of the West and East Coast, especially around metropolitan areas that suffered the brunt of the nuclear war. The Great Cataclysm is much closer in time now and its effects are still very visible.
  • The Were Forests – were-tribes of shapeshifters, werebears, werewolves, werefoxes, etc. roam these hunting domains which encompass large chunks of Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York state and New England. They have formed a number of savage confederations, among them the Leaf Country and Six Nations Confederacies. Read more

Rebuilding Rifts 4 – The Chopping Block

As previously mentioned Rifts Nightfall will focus on the Dark Ages in North America, but it won’t necessarily reduce everything to a barren wasteland nor will it follow the original continuity. The power and scale of the Coalition States may be too much in 109 PA, but that doesn’t mean smaller kingdoms – some of them even stranger than what is imagined in the original Rifts game – wouldn’t exist in the wild. I didn’t just want to slim Rifts down to a knives-and-horses survival game. Rifts is an exotic post-apoc world and I want to maintain the sense of strangeness one gets from alien invaders, gated demons, bizarre magical societies, recovered Golden Age mecha and other weirdness. Rifts Nightfall both subtracts things (the Coalition States as an empire, the Federation of Magic, the Pecos Empire) and adds new locations, usually in the form of small towns and cities with unique characteristics that make for good roleplaying opportunities. This will be an alternate Rifts world, where key NPCs or factions may make anachronistic appearances and familiar places may take on a completely different shape.

Places Removed or Changed:

  • Manistique Empirium – removed because it was redundant with Ishpeming, nothing unique, area too crowded with countries already
  • The Coalition States – slimmed down, population 1/10th of that listed, independent city-states which are in communication with each other and may cooperate sometimes, but not a unified police state. Read more