Are you jumping on the Cyberpunk 2077 bandwagon now that the game’s playable? Have you been enjoying Cyberpunk: Edgerunners and want that ultra-violent action at your next tabletop roleplaying game? Well, we’ve got a solution for you, and it doesn’t involve countless hours trying to bend, spindle, and mutilate Dungeons & Dragons into a useful shape! In fact, we’ve got TEN solutions for you! As a cautionary note, we’re avoiding systems which are derived from existing properties such as Altered Carbon or Alien: The Roleplaying Game.
1. Cyberpunk RED
Seriously, if you have been playing Cyberpunk 2077 or you’ve been watching Edgerunners on a loop, this should be the first system any tabletop gamer should be grabbing instead of trying to fiddle D&D into a workable form. Yes, it’s a different system. That’s the whole point! It may be a little scary, but you’ll pick it up quickly, especially with the “Easy Mode” rules which R. Talsorian Games put out recently. Granted, some elements are not the same as you’d find in the game, but the setting is the original source. If you’re a fan of the anime series and the video game, you have absolutely no reason not to pick this one up and make it your primary system for anything relating to Night City. Stop tormenting the d20s, choom.
2. Savage Worlds
As a generic system with a focus on “fast, fun, and furious” play, this one is probably more amenable to people looking to homebrew their own cyberpunk settings. But even then, there are third-party settings such as Interface Zero which can provide players with good starting points to build off of in terms of places and equipment, including cybernetics. And Pinnacle Entertainment puts out a lot of content on its own, so there’s no shortage of stuff to work with.
The system itself is kinda thick, but remarkably easy to pick up, which is what one should expect from a “Generic Universal Role Playing System.” Because it’s generic, you can create your own neon-lit rain-slicked dystopia, or you can pick up the “worldbook” supplement that quite literally made the U.S. Secret Service look stupid: GURPS Cyberpunk. Yes, back in 1990 (before the Internet was a thing) the Secret Service raided Steve Jackson Games, believing that a roleplaying game supplement was “a handbook for computer crime.” You can read the history here. Frankly, if that’s not cyberpunk as hell on its own merits, there’s just no satisfying you.
4. BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth)
Another generic system, falling somewhere between Savage Worlds and GURPS for crunchiness and flexibility. BESM definitely leans towards a more anime-type style, so if you’re just dead set on trying to recreate Edgerunners without picking up Cyberpunk RED, this is probably your next-best option. And there’s already cyberpunk-themed content for the system, so your homebrew efforts can hit the ground running.
5. Mutants & Masterminds
If you absolutely, positively, and without question need to use a d20-based system to get your cyberpunk fix, Mutants & Masterminds will probably be the one most useful to your efforts. While it derives from an earlier version of the d20 system (which then mutated into its own “True20” system), and relies on a point-buy system for comic book superhero powers, the fine-tuning one can make with the system ensures a highly bespoke cyberpunk experience. Just be ready to do lots of math and maybe gin up a spreadsheet or two to mark out your implants.
Famously despised by William Gibson and bastardized by FASA Studio before being done right by Harebrained Schemes, Shadowrun is the sort of system that works best if you just cannot resist mixing magic peanut butter in your cyberpunk chocolate. Set in a world where magic violently came back in 2012, along with a large number of humans turning into orcs or elves, Shadowrun takes a lot of the cyberpunk tropes and remixes them with urban fantasy and a touch of cosmic horror on top of it. If you enjoyed the movie Bright, you’ll almost certainly be able to recreate the tone with Shadowrun.
7. Cypher System
Another generic system, but pretty easy to use and build up your own cyberpunk settings with. Monte Cook has been around a long time, and the Cypher System should be instantly understandable to anybody who’s played Numenera or The Strange. Its lack of hard-and-fast classes may throw off some players coming from Dungeons & Dragons, but the flexibility of the system should allow a lot of wild characters and energetic storylines.
If Shadowrun has a dash of cosmic horror in it, CthulhuTech uses it as the base. Set in a world under alien invasion, with futuristic technologies ranging from cybernetic prosthetics to giant mecha piloted by minions of The Great Old Ones, CthulhuTech leans harder into the action than it does the horror. But there’s something in equal parts disturbing and comforting about the idea of megacorporations doing terrible things and having a wildly different notion of “shareholder value” to justify them.
9. HERO System
If GURPS isn’t quite crunchy enough for you, there’s always HERO System. Much like GURPS, it relies on a point-buy system for attributes and abilities. Much like Mutants & Masterminds, its focus seems to be aligned more closely with superhero-style adventures (the Champions/Dark Champions series of supplements are probably the biggest number available). But if you’re wanting to get super-detailed and technical in your character creation, HERO System will probably take care of your needs quite nicely.
Oh look, another d20-centered OGL derivative system! Actually, this one harkens back to the first iteration of the Open Gaming License which covered the 3rd Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. But for all of that, it takes a lot less effort to tweak, mainly because there’s so much high-tech stuffed into it already. You’ll have to hunt around for a copy, but if you can find it, Spycraft might serve you well.
Think you’ve got enough to stop trying to beat Dungeons & Dragons into a cyberpunk shape? Was there a system we missed you think is better? Let us know in the comments, chooms!