Hello everyone! I've been mulling over a cyberpunk setting for a while, and after filling about half a notebook with notes and drawings (...well, more doodles) and pieces of writings, I thought I'd try turning it into an RP. You'll find some of the important information below!
This will be taking place in what, geographically at least, used to be the United States. Generations of economic and social decay have left the landscape in a state where there is a sharp line between those who are part of "the system," and those who are not. The great cities of North America are still the major population centers, but they function now largely as city-states, with their own rules (though they tend to call them "company policy"), police forces, you name it. The city centers gleam with bright, tall skyscrapers, each one more fantastic than its neighbors, and tend to be populated by people who live, work, and exist more or less as they always have. They have mortgages, they have jobs, and kids; they play by the rules and keep their heads down. The companies that make up these bright business districts engage in public and private corporate brinksmanship, and occasionally the fall of one of these titans will put double-digit populations of the city out of work - or sometimes, even onto the streets. The people here accept that - consciously or otherwise - as the literal cost of living.
Outside, below and to virtually every side of the clean skyscrapers, the bright streets, and the suited executives lay the ruins of what had once been the cites' hinterlands. Suburbs lay broken and decaying, apartment buildings gently succumb to the elements, streets crack and even the old office towers not claimed by the Corporations slowly crumble. Here are the ones who are outside the system - the poor, the runaways, the damaged and the forgotten. The Corporations have no sense of public welfare; they are under no obligation to provide employment, or social services, or anything that isn't within their own self-interest, and those who can't, or won't, play into their system live in the ruins of the old world. The water usually runs - nobody had been bothered to turn it off, after all - and the electricity is often reliable thanks to unauthorized taps to the City's electrical grids. Still, it's not an easy life - often one of theft, or barter, or promises and lies. Some even hire themselves as deniable labour, or muscle, to the city-dwellers, knowing full well that they will never be welcomed into that comparative safety.
Still, society continues. Communities, some as large as towns, others just a handful of families, have sprung up in the Ruins; groups of people working for survival and perhaps safety in numbers. Banditry is common, but just as common are groups of thieves working to peel a living from the City's affluence, stealing technology, building materials, vehicles, or even foodstuffs and medicine. An entire underground economy and society exists among these forgotten people, one that is completely ignored by the Corporations…provided it doesn't inconvenience them unduly. In general, this stark distinction persists through the Cities - the people who live in the Ruins more or less ignore what's going on in the City (except to know where the best places to skim off the top are), and the Corporate interests find the Ruins-dwellers too inconvenient to get rid of, and not irritating enough to acknowledge.
The cities do not quite operate as islands unto themselves - resources have to be moved around, as do people and cargo. The Old World's extensive road system, however, is dangerous and has not been maintained for decades, thanks to the general decline of central governments as functional social organs. Instead, various Corporations have constructed, and operate, huge train networks to connect the surviving Cities, rising above the shattered roadways of the past. These trains are fantastically expensive to maintain, and fare prices are accordingly high. Stowing away on them is generally punished by being thrown off the train - which, at the time, is typically moving hundreds of miles an hour.
While the central governments generally no longer have the will, funding, or staff to maintain the huge infrastructures that once made their countries great, they do still exist. In the US, what is left of the Federal government still commands a large portion of the public consciousness - a veneer of democracy over the functional corporate oligarchy. People still do care who the President is, even if the office no longer holds any real power. The Interstate system has not been maintained for decades, and gangs of bandits have built small empires preying on those who, unable to pay for the Corporations' train systems, choose to brave the broken and uneven pavement. Some even say that the bandits are Corporate-funded - after all, it makes more people pay for their transit.
In general terms, consider the technology level to be around that of Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Many companies produce advanced cybernetic augmentations, both for medical intervention and for military applications, and their use is fairly common, even as elective surgery. Black market clinics exist for those unwilling or unable to pay for services in the City proper, some of which may actually report better success rates than the Corporate-sanctioned ones. In general, technology in the Ruins will be more salvaged, more cobbled-together, and somewhat less elegant than what can be found in the City, though many of the functions may be similar. The limbs tend to be powered by biocompatible power cell systems, fueled by the owner's metabolism. Prostheses that are substantially stronger, faster, or otherwise "superhuman" tend to be powered by implanted or external power cells, which can be recharged over time or sometimes outright swapped out. The most expensive and complex augmentations can recreate the full catalogue of human senses as well - heat, cold, touch, pain, and even body temperature. Less sophisticated units sacrifice some or all of these for increasingly basic functionality.
While a global information system - something analogous to the Internet - exists, the vast majority of it is organized, monitored, and controlled by Corporate interests. In response, unregulated, unlicensed, and in general "pirate" information systems have proliferated, especially in the Ruins, some of which are purely local, others of which piggyback on the Corporate networks, assisted by the more public-spirited hackers and inventors. Mobile devices - like smartphones on steroids - are common to the point of ubiquity, serving the purpose of communication, entertainment, and even identity systems, and take a dazzling array of forms. Naturally, mobiles in the City tend to be used as much as surveillance tools for their owners as anything else, where the mobiles carried by those in the Ruins have had their software hacked, chopped, mixed, and sautéed to be nearly unidentifiable compared to how it started.
The Cities generally get their power from practical, reliable fusion. The reactors are massive, and more than one actually makes up a substantial part of the underground areas of the huge skyscrapers in the City centers. There have been events where corporate espionage involved destabilizing a competitor's fusion plant, with disastrous consequences. The last time this happened was about 20 years ago, leaving a flaming crater where Dallas, Texas used to be.
Weapons are generally very similar to what we have now. Firearms have evolved to be sleeker, lighter and more precise, but they still are firearms. No system exists to make substantially more energetic rounds produce a less-intense recoil. Energy weapons, if such they can be called, are limited to things like Tasers and shock-sticks. Electromagnetic weapons - rail guns and the like - are limited to stationary installations and vehicles, though rumors fly about an extremely expensive, very delicate rifle-like unit being tested by one of the Corporations. Augmentations have been weaponized to a certain degree, with a variety of methods. Some have incorporated electric shocks, others extending blades or other innovations.
Vehicles are common, even in the Ruins. They tend to be some variety of electric-powered - gasoline powered vehicles are the near-exclusive preserve of wealthy collectors.
Corporate entities have swollen to become even more of the globe-girdling behemoths than they had been in years past. They control and maintain what infrastructure they choose to, which is rarely beyond that which offers direct benefit to themselves. They have few rules or regulation on their behavior, save for what they agree among themselves. In a very real way, they control their Cities. Some Cities are owned and controlled entirely by one Corporation or another, while others exist as endlessly-tilting balances of power between several.
Most are not so much dystopically evil as myopically self-interested. Some perform some basic functions that could be called social services - stabilizing some of the worst areas of the Ruins, or making sure that sewer systems stay running out in the area. The cynics could, and probably correctly, point out that this could be an attempt to avoid the cleanup costs necessary if an old high-rise fell over, or dealing with a cholera outbreak.
Where you come in
This RP is going to take the shape of a conspiracy being unravelled, one that starts in the Ruins and will spiral outward as the characters work their way through the mystery. It will start in what used to be Chicago, though the city will look rather different from the way it looks now - so don't expect to know the street map.
The story will start in the Ruins, where one of the small "micro-societies" is about to be upended. I would prefer for your characters to be part of that world, but otherwise I'm giving you a wide degree of freedom - is your character the local bartender? Someone trying to enforce something that looks like law and order? A smuggler? How about a hacker, someone stealing secrets or making the City's life that much more complicated? What about a black-market surgeon, or an inventor?The adventure will need a variety of skills, so get creative.
I do ask that your characters, if you're thinking of one, be people who can function within that society. That means no sociopathic loners, no lone-wolf assassins, no "in it for himself and nobody else" mercenaries. Your characters don't necessarily have to know one another to start with, although for the sake of brevity, the opening scene is probably going to be in a public space - perhaps not dissimilar from the old favorite of "everyone happens to be in a bar when the Plot shows up."
Right! That should just about cover it for an interest check. If I get a few folks interested, this will graduate to an OOC, with even more information - including some important NPCs, quick profiles of a few of the Corporations, and some other information. And, of course, ask questions, if you have them!
And here's a character sheet skeleton:
Name: Your name, and any nicknames if you want to include them. If you have a hacker alias, put that here too.
Age: How many candles would they put on your birthday cake? Assuming you had a cake.
Gender: There are more than two options here, but I suspect you'll probably go with one of the more common ones
Appearance: Please, please, please do not use a picture, unless you've already had something commissioned of the character you're playing. Tell me what they look like. Do they have sad eyes, an elegant cupid's-bow of a mouth, or cheekbones that could slice paper? Tell me.
Personality: Is your character the one who leads the drinking song? Are they only truly happy watching code fly by on their screen? Do they practice Zen meditation when they're not bellowing at underlings? Do they rage against the machine?
History: Where did you come from? Were you someone who was "downsized," and kicked out of your Company-owned apartment after you got your pink slip? Do you own the bar? If you're the local mechanic, how'd you get your start? This doesn't have to be incredibly long, but please give me a complete, if broad, idea of who your character is.