Edgerunner is set in the dark future, where corporations rule the world, power is the only reliable currency, and life is as cheap as dog food. This world is fast and fluid. Something big happens every week, there’s something making the headlines every second. This world is almost entirely urban. Life outside a big city is almost always unsustainable for the people of the dark future. This is a world where people do the extreme in order to transcend themselves, but end up more miserable than ever. This is a world that requires constant effort just to live a decent life.
Other than that, it is your world and you are going to create it.
I did not define the world of Edgerunner in precise terms, because building, modifying and maintaining a world is part of the game itself. The game only provides a general framework and guidelines so that you can create your own cyberpunk setting and play in it. The key here is cyberpunk. It is the name of the literary movement that tells about the inability of people to deal with changing times. This is the core concept of Edgerunner.
There are a few things to keep in mind when creating your world and story, if you want to keep it cyberpunk.
- It is the near future. We assume the 21st century but you are free to decide.
- It is our future. No alternate history or reality. No fourth reich.
- It is a dystopia. The world is dark and gritty. Hope is scarce, despair is abundant.
- It is a fast world. Things constantly change. Nothing stays the same for long.
- It is a connected world. Nobody and nothing can stay in isolation. Information travels in nanoseconds.
- It is urban. Always crowded, always active. There is little to do outside a city.
- It is this world only. No spacefaring civilization yet. Not for a long time to come. There may be a lot going on in the orbit and inner solar system, but that’s still focused on this little blue(?) dot
- It is run by corporations. There is a huge gap between the haves and the have-nots.
- Conflicts are lethal. You want to avoid real conflict as much as possible.
- Technology is everywhere. Everything is infused with technology. Technology grows exponentially and changes lives.
- Science, not fiction. The principles of the universe are not different than what we know today. Technology still depends on today’s real science. No antigravity, no teleportation or warp drives. Also no supernatural. No wizards, no vampires, no telepathy. No aliens or zombies. Especially not zombies because I really don’t like cyber-zombies.
Of course, if you want to make it interesting, you can always remember this great statement:
Any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic. — Arthur C. Clarke
The rules in Edgerunner are designed and fine tuned to facilitate creating and playing a game in such a world. Yet still, you can choose to adjust the emphasis on any of these cyberpunk principles in your game. However, the rules probably will not be able to support your game if you utterly violate any of them.
World aspects are omnipresent aspects that define the interesting points of the world. Things like technology, social structure, demographics, history, global politics and culture should be expressed in the form of world aspects. These aspects are assumed to be present and accessible in every scene and conflict throughout the game.
In the first session of a game, everybody writes a single world aspect. There are nine slots in the world sheet for aspects but you do not need to fill all of them in the beginning. You will get opportunities to define them as your story progresses. After all, this game is about a changing world and your characters' struggle to drive that change.
The nine aspect slots are numbered from +4 to -4 on the world sheet. These numbers correspond to the numbers on the disposition characteristic of factions, and represent a similar distribution of aspects, with +4 indicating a very new, unstable and radical aspect and -4 indicating a very backward aspect on the brink of obsolescence. That makes the aspect on the ±0 slot the most stable aspect of the world.
A faction is any kind of organization where people stick together for a purpose. Gangs, tribes, corporations, teams, military units or mafia families are just a few examples. Factions have their own mind and goals, so they are represented quite like a character in Edgerunner, and with a single exception, always played by the referee.
A character is a key actor, played directly by a player, and the primary means of the player in affecting the story and the world. Everyone creates a progress and a faction for the game world, but they create their characters for themselves.
Note that the referee does not have to prepare anything before a game. The referee does not even have to exist at this point. Even if a referee is chosen in advance, he should join this process as an equal and create a progress, a faction and even a character.
When determining world aspects, it is important that everyone at the table provide their input, and try to make it their own world. So everybody should propose world aspects, discuss and vote on them. You can do this as a freeform discussion but if it gets stuck, take turns in clockwise order around the table. Whoever has the next turn must propose a world aspect.
When proposing world aspects, remember rule zero. If everybody is cool with the new aspect you propose, just write it down on the world sheet, in the slot that seems appropriate.
If somebody disagrees, then it is time to treat it as a declaration. Vote on it to determine the base value, and roll to see if it becomes a real aspect. Any world aspects that were previously put in place can be used to affect this roll, either as a compel to override it before it happens, or as an invocation to push the result in the direction you prefer.
In the first session, everybody at the table must at least create one world aspect. Any more is optional at this point, as the players can still declare world aspects for empty slots any time during the game.
World creation summary
- Determine world aspects
- Create factions
- Create characters