Cyber PbtA and Indie Monoculture

I backed The Veil. It’s not due out until February 2017.

I backed Headspace. It’ll be here soon I think.

I didn’t back The Sprawl but I just bought it.

Sync isn’t even a public thing yet but I’ll back it as soon as Kira’s ready.

That’s a lot of cyberpunk! Has anyone really attempted a comparison? I get the Headspace twist, having played it at Dreamation, but the others I just don’t know much about.

I still think it’s weird that there’s like … one major fantasy PbtA game, and not really much else in that space. City of Judas is there and probably deserves more attention. No space adventure sci-fi either, beyond Uncharted Worlds, which is also a fairly radical departure from doctrinal PbtA.

For as much as folks assert the monocultural dominance of PbtA games in the small press space, the games within PbtA still seem like they’re incredibly varied.

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0 thoughts on “Cyber PbtA and Indie Monoculture”

  1. I do think some of that could be explained by Dungeon World being a pretty broadly applicable “generic” fantasy game, while the cyberpunk games you’ve discussed have tighter premises? But yeah, it’s super interesting that there are so many cyberpunkish PbtA games.

  2. I really don’t like cyberpunk, but I’m buying them all because art and peer pressure and completionism and capitalist self-soothing and I like the designers.

  3. Apocalypse D&D, Dungeon World, Planarch Codex, Sundered Land, AW: Dark Ages, A Storm Eternal, and AW: Fallen Empires are all pretty different. Really looking forward to 2nd gen PBTA games, to see what happens now that there’s a broader appreciation of this design approach.

  4. They’re all cyberpunk Heartbreakers right? Like there was a wave of fantasy heartbreakers, and now people are trying to tackle cyberpunk.

    Cyberpunk, like Tolkien Fantasy, has the advantage of being a identifiable genre… or atleast cyberpunk and post-cyberpunk are pretty clear (machines eat your soul / machines free your soul). Where as with sci-fi its like… well okay is this firefly? star trek? or Dune? which can all mean very different things.

    I’ve felt the urge to dabble with cyberpunk design. Though any attempts I’ve made have all been chasing the zeitgeist that is shadowrun. (Also reskining urban shadows is harder than it looks)

    I find it heartening to see so many other designers, working on the same chestnut that I am.

  5. Personally I’m really excited about The Veil. I like the Sprawl, but I think the Veil sounds like more of my flavor of cyberpunk.

  6. The last couple of years have seen economic austerity, increased separation of socioeconomic class, advances in technology and increased uncertainty of the solidity of nation-states along with real steps forward in ways and means of creating an individual identity out of the wreckage. No wonder the last 2-3 years of design work are turning out cyberpunk games (since each leading edge of trends reflects what’s just happened in people’s lives)

  7. I ran some quick numbers based on DTRPG. Some of my categorization may be iffy…

    Mundane (8): WWWRPG, The Hood, Action Movie World, Deniable, Cartel, Spirit of 77, Bootleggers, Malandros

    Fantasy (7): Dungeon World, Dungeon Planet, Freebooters on the Frontier, The Fellowship, Epyllion, City of Judas, Fallen Empires

    Supers/Anime (6): Just Heroes, Worlds in Peril, Thrilling Powers, Magical Fury, Just A Game, Monster Force Terra

    Urban Fantasy/Horror (5): Monster of the Week, Monsterhearts, Urban Shadows, tremulus, Mythos World

    Cyberpunk (4): Headspace, The Sprawl, Cyberworld, The Veil

    Post-apoc (2): Legacy, Apocalypse World

    Wartime (2): Night Witches, MASHED

    Space (2): Uncharted Worlds, CRUSH the REBELLION

    Other (2): The Warren, Threadbare

  8. I have opinions! But I have no idea if opinions which are of “I’m more excited/less excited about this game for these reasons” is good, or whether it is too “I read a PDF, and now I have Opinions!”

  9. Cyberpunk is apparently of more interest than fantasy in a 60:40 ratio amongst indie gamers according to a poll I happened to run recently with 40ish responses.

    I think there are lots of reasons! Fantasy is seen as having been ‘done’, both by trad games and DW as a sort of all-encompasding capture of the experience. Cyberpunk fits the current world mood. Diversity fits more naturally into a ‘classic’ picture of cyberpunk than fantasy. Fantasy in our heads is a genre of adventurous epics rather than tight-knit emotional stories. And probably loads more.

  10. It’s also kind of a “right tools at the right time” thing. The cyberpunk genre is grim, and difficult choices and betrayals are often plot points. Those ideas are baked in to the mechanics of vanilla Apocalypse World while you have to do a lot of hacking to make that happen in D 20 in a comfortable and convincing way.

  11. Even in the non-DW flavor of fantasy AW you see dark fantasy, sword & sorcery, and post-apocalyptic themes. That’s partially about AW’s influence, but also zeitgeist stuff.

  12. There are interviews on my blog for The Veil and Headspace, but I missed out on The Sprawl. I intend to snag Kira for Sync when it’s ready. That may help with seeing some differences/similarities?

  13. Brie Sheldon do you have a link to your Veil interview? Or the blog itself? A (very) quick scan of your personal Plus page didn’t turn any of that up. I want to read more!

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