What sort of PCs should be playable in a cyberpunk game? I plan on doing a survey of the cyberpunk-type RPGs that I have around, but I want to ask the question before I really look into what other games have done.
One place to find an answer is to look at Cyberpunk literature and stories. You should be able to play characters like:
Case (Neuromancer) – Hacker
Molly Millions (Neuromancer/Johnnny Mnemonic) – Cyborg streetfighter
Johnnny Mnemonic (Johnnny Mnemonic) – Information courier
Edison Carter (Max Headroom) – Reporter
Max Headroom (duh) – Artificial Intelligence
Rick Rickenharp (Eclipse) – Rock star
Rick Deckard (Blade Runner) – Bounty hunter (more or less)
Marîd Audran (When Gravity Fails) – ummm… drug-addicted freelance fixer/agent
Alex Murphy (RoboCop) – Cyborg cop
Cowboy (Hardwired) – Cyborg vehicle specialist
That is a decent starting list. For now, I’m not going to get into later stuff like Snow Crash or the Matrix.
Some initial observations:
A number of these characters have some serious regrets about their pasts. Others don’t have full memories of their pasts. For many of them, the world that they come from largely defines them.
Most of these characters rely on some form of artificial aid to be effective. Some are outright cyborgs. Others rely on drugs. Some are notably “pure” in various ways – but are largely defined by how they aren’t artificial. Rickenharp, for instance, sets himself up in opposition to the world of wired music. Marîd Audran has a near-pathological fear of becoming a cyborg (and ends up as a drug addict as a result). Edison Carter has a purely artificial doppleganger that he can be be constantly held in contrast with… Deckard hunts down artificial humans who might be more human than he is.
How might this inform an RPG?