So, in addition to trying to boot up the new Hollow Earth Expedition game for the group, another genre I’m thinking of hitting is the cyberpunk, or at least near future sci-fi. Originally, I was thinking something along the lines of Greg Rucka’s excellent Lazarus comic — post collapse of the world economies and polities, and the rise of several large industrial fiefdoms around the world. The other influence vying for my attention is the police procedural cyberpunk of Ghost in the Shell (and specifically Stand Alone Complex animated series.)

After talking with the players, I’m slowly solidifying the game world around another project I’m working on. The police procedural angle has morphed into a news production team working for an internet news channel. Because I want that rainy noir quality to the setting, we were looking at Seattle, Denver, or Philadelphia as the city we’d use. I know the last the best, so right now, that’s the angle. Approximate time out, maybe 20 years in the future.

So how much cyber to put in this punk? The merging of man and machine is a lot less surgical than the works of Gibson and Sterling first posited. Instead of ubiquitous prosthetics, I’m thinking a lot of wearables, perhaps ones that can be worn to use of thought to access the internet, and which would act like the “cyberbrain” of GITS — by manipulating portions of the brain the “link” might allow you to see footage superimposed, or could record from your optic or audio nerve, etc. It gets you the same results, but with the added ability to have the damage the equipment, lose it, whatever… Prosthetics and prosthetic bodies would belong to the long line of military casualties from a never-ending War on Terror that has bled the developed world dry.

With many of the countries of the world “hollowed out”, there’s a lot of corporate sponsorship of government functions, a lot of graft and open corruption by government officials who still cling to the notion they are the only “legitimate” legal actors. Government types are constantly trying to wring cash from the people, and the divide between the rich and the rest has grown dramatically, mostly due to the government selling the legal system to the megacorps. There’s no true “poverty” like you see in Africa in the US, but there’s a lot of underemployment, lack of opportunity to create businesses and innovate because the big boys want no competition. The middle class has essentially been squeezed to the point they are no longer a factor. Without that steady stream of tax dollars, and with far too strong a technocratic oligarchy to steal from, the governments simply stopped being relevant, except for their ability to generate debt and use force. There’s a constant, uneasy tension between surveillance by the government and corporations, and souveillance by the people on these organizations. I’m picturing something between the kleptocracy of Russia, the bakshish culture of the Middle East, balanced by periodic Occupy/Tea Party/BlackLives political unrest and violence.

The goal was not to do the tired “evil corporations vs. the poor masses” schtick of cyberpunk. That was tired even in 1984. I didn’t want to do the Orwellian uber-powerful government, as well for the same reasons. What I wanted was something that looks like today, but twisted and turned up to 11.

I’m still trying to dial in on whether this is the way to go, but I think it could be off to an interesting start.