I want to run a Cyberpunk chronicle using a system that I designed, but have run out of ideas. I don't want to employ the clichés, like the AI who's gone sentient and want to merge his mind with somebody else's. Since cyberpunk literature is hard to come by, apart from the classics, I am needing some ideas concerning the chronicle, like plots.

The ideas I had so far:

I was thinking about a drug which would boost a person's rage; a kind of "berserk drug". The drug would make people feel great and invincible- increasing their violent tendencies. This would spread like wildfire in society, and criminality would soar.

Another idea I had was about soldiers captured by some corp and lobotomized, in a way that their feelings and sense of individuality would be gone. They would retain their combat skills and inteligence, but would show no emotions.

Finally, I had also thought about some kind of virus which would make robots turn against humans, in a society were security bots are the norm.

Any ideas?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Closed, a list question that cannot be answered by a single question. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 2, 2013 at 8:03

7 Answers 7


Finally, I had also thought about some kind of virus which would make robots turn against humans, in a society were security bots are the norm.

I find that the best plots are engendered by taking elements of current events, exaggerating the causal themes, and inserting a unique twist, then time adjusting it and inserting it into your baseline campaign to get a final plot line. Given that, why don't you take what the world is going through today, mesh it with what you have, and use a sort of cause and effect to get your campaign?

An off the cuff example of what I'm talking about- lets take the stuxnet attack against the centrifuges in Iran, the financial crisis, the Wikileaks crisis, and an exaggerated version of the Occupy protests, and mesh it with your idea above.

  1. A US intel agency uses a virus to attack the military base of Iran.
  2. The Iranian intel agency is able to reverse engineer the virus, causing damage to the financial base of the US.
  3. The US takes this as an act of war, and deploys missile strikes and special forces against Iranian targets- specifically their digital base.
  4. There is a leak from a whistle blower that shows the culpability of the US in the initial strike, and the fact that it was supported from the highest levels.
  5. Protests against the government further erode the financial base. Liberties are taken away as martial law is declared to restore order.
  6. Violence continues in the US. It turns its attentions inward, leaving the world to fend for itself, which then begins to erode without Big Brother, as China steps into the void to mixed successes.
  7. The US starts to recover. The Civil, Political, and Military bases are hopelessly intermingled in the process, and the US that emerges is nothing like its former self, even though it still has the appearances of the freedom it once had, it is just a facade.
  8. The US emerges back onto the world scene. But it's a much different world than the one it retreated from.

The final twist- there was no whistle blower, and the US government has been deftly manipulated by a player behind the scenes. One that was able to stoke the violence through the use of the ubiquitous security bots and surveillance infrastructure that existed in the US, get the laws through the system, and is now subtly pulling the strings. The virus that had been deployed, enhanced, and deployed again somehow became sentient, and reacted defensively when the US attempted to destroy Iran's digital base. It then realized that the US was the perfect protection for it.

You can do the same sort of thing with any of your ideas. Take it, mash it up with something that's already there, morph it for the change in time, and drop it in. And since its your idea, you'll have a firmer grasp on where you want it to go.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow! That was cool!!! I don't follow the news, except from technology news, because I work in the area. Never thought that actual politics and economics could lead to such plots... \$\endgroup\$
    – Metalcoder
    Nov 26, 2011 at 10:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. This gives me good ideas for a setting I'm developing. Thanks :) \$\endgroup\$
    – edgerunner
    Nov 26, 2011 at 11:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Let me know when you finish your setting, edgerunner. \$\endgroup\$
    – Metalcoder
    Nov 26, 2011 at 13:17

There's lots of good answers here. I particularly like the first one of using stories from the news as inspiration. Here's some ideas that are still relevant, but perhaps were more obviously cutting edge 8 years ago: widespread use of drones, widespread use of mercenaries by both governments and corporations, and the use of child soldiers. For something more up-to-date, there's the mass protests in North Africa/ the Middle East, i.e. the Arab spring. Combining some of these elements, there's stories that the major US mercenary corporations (i.e. Erik Prince of the US's Blackwater) has contracts with some of the Arab princes to supply them with mercenaries to crush any protests that might occur in the small monarchies there.

There's plenty of plots to pull from this. The PCs could be hired as mercenaries without realising what they're getting into. Media characters could be trying to find out about secret deals of this type (and a few hackers and solos to keep them safe and to help get out with the data could be very helpful). Rockers could be trying to lead rebellions (and again, a few solos could help keep them safe). Perhaps there is corporate espionage to get drone plans from one company. Perhaps copanies are hacking eachother's drones to make them fail in the field, or outright attacking each other, when they should be working for a company.

To go with your rise of the machines plot, perhaps in some forgotten former hot spot, drones are still flying, with occasional reports of killings occuring. Media characters could try to investigate who is behind the drones, but if it isn't one of the major governments, then the plot colud be to find out who it is. Perhaps it is one of the big corporations testing new drone tech on people, perhaps it is a new terror group that has gotten its hands on dronetech. Perhaps it is a new, secret, AI factory developing its own breed of independent robots.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I forgot to add that if you want cutting edge, you should probably have something weird abot social networking. It's new. It's tech. It should be cyberpunk, but I'm not quite seeing how to make it work. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2011 at 20:34
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    \$\begingroup\$ Hi! Welcome to the siteFor things you forgot to add, you can always edit your answer to include the material (or for whatever reason). \$\endgroup\$
    – Pat Ludwig
    Dec 1, 2011 at 5:18

Cyberpunk is about a fast world overwhelming and crushing people. Pick a technological or social advance that occurs too fast and destroys the lives of a lot of people while catapulting a few others beyond humanity. Ideas:

  • A new affordable and safe source of energy (practical fusion power at last, maybe) threatens to upset the balance of power(=oligopoly) in the world energy market. The multinational energy cartels react violently, trying to prevent the proliferation of this newtech, while a few brave people embrace the new technology, using rapid manufacturing tech to build small independent powerplants to whoever needs it. This could give anybody around the world the ability to manufacture anything, and remove their dependence on the multinationals. So they decide to fight, and it gets ugly. And the players somehow are in the middle of this.

  • A small european nation votes to install cybernetic implants on all citizens to facilitate coordinated governance of the country, and they abolish their own corrupt government in favor of their new system of direct governance by the people. Excited by the possibility of a country where sovereignty actually belongs to the people, in theory and practice, proponents around the world start demanding the same for their own countries, while opponents preach doom, fearing that such integration will lead to a hive mind, destroying all individuality. Social strife is in the air and everybody has to pick a side.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This european control reminds me of an idea that I had some time ago, were criminals would have a behavioural chip implanted to prevent them from commiting more crimes. Of course, all kind of debates would target this practice. Also, there could be so much arrangements between the criminals and the cops, that the entire system would be corrupt. \$\endgroup\$
    – Metalcoder
    Nov 26, 2011 at 1:57


Film Noire: Pick any of them, move the story into a cyber punk setting. Any 20/30 police thrillers will do nicely as well. It's gritty, dark, and contains corruption going sky high. Instead of prohibition, use forbidden technologies -- maybe nanotech would fit nicely making all that cyberware obsolete. Instead of corrupt politicians, use corrupt corporates and media and politicians and military...

Cop game: Run a game where the players play characters in the cyber punk equivalent of the BOPE. Or any other police department, underfunded, corrupt higher echelons: The Wire springs to mind so does What Cops Know.

Crew: The characters are all part of team X in the F1 racing... Dastardly betrays, espionage, fast cars... Only do this if all your players are into F1. A very similar game would be to act as body guards/crew for a musical tour of the popular band Fubar.

And now for a word...: You are the media investigative journalist. Think Spider Jerusalem or Gonzo journalism.

Computer games: No, not Deus Ex. Pick something that is unknown (Korea, Japan) and/or unsuccessful. Look at artwork to inspire you, look at plots, at characters, at technologies. the return may not be that good but you may pick a few good things to add.

Music: Pick a band, look at the lyrics. How can they describe events in your cyberpunk world? How could you mould the lyrics into a plot or adventure.

Mixing: How about adding Cthulhu Mythos (a la Laundry series), or magic a la ShadowRun, or zombies a la Bio-hazard/Resident Evil or an alien invasion -- even if it is just one Predator. How about different mind-hives taking over nodes on the net with different goals? Which one will the characters side with?

Finally, just look at the local news in other countries than yours. There are a gazillion plots available right there.

Does that help?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm Brazilian, so I get what you told about BOPE. There have been lots of operations on slums at Rio de Janeiro, and they really gave me lots of ideas about player incursions. But mixing with supernatural isn't my thing. I believe that sci fi loses much of its appeal. Even loving the Shadowrun SNES game, I've never wanted to play the tabletop original. Apart from this one I loved the ideas, and the F1 conspiracy made me think about how dirty sports in general can become -- after all, the players are always patroned by corps! \$\endgroup\$
    – Metalcoder
    Nov 26, 2011 at 1:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Metalcoder: You do not have to have the supernatural element be true. They could be fake, with spells mimicked by technology. Or just do not bother. It is just a suggestion. ^_~ \$\endgroup\$ Nov 28, 2011 at 8:40

The non-cliche would be to build up stories about a neighborhood or sub-culture that the player characters can care about. When you get down to it there aren't that many things to do: get some(thing/one), protect some(thing/one), discover some(thing/one), escape some(thing/one), or affect somechange.

Rather than looking for some new fresh idea, build on what they already know. Is there a bar they tend to get jobs at and do they know the bartender and other patrons there? If not build on that and don't make every new character an obvious bad guy. Or make a new character an obvious bad guy but actually he/she isn't.

Throw little things in like a kid getting bullied. Try to breathe more life into the small corner of the world they are in. Once you've hooked them on that threaten it.

The buildings in the neighborhood they have come to know are being bought for well over market price by a group with possibly sinister purposes. Instead of forcing them to act because its their job set it up so that they feel like they are doing something because it matters to their characters and enjoy which approach out of the infinity of approaches they could take to combat this organization.

The subculture they adore is being infused with a new drug. Perhaps the police suspect the players. Perhaps a number of well liked npcs have had very adverse (probably lethal) reactions or overdoses. The police attention to the pcs makes npcs think the pcs have the stuff so people come up asking if they can hook them up.

Some back-alley geneticist gives genetic mods at a much reduced price but they are not necessarily as side-effect free as the corporate ones. Or you could do cyberware with this as well. Make the back-alley geneticist a sympathetic character who genuinely is just trying to help people and loves to tinker with God's work. Don't direct the players to do anything about it, per se, but allow them to decide the nature of the people they decide to co-exist with in the neighborhood they live in.

Some child gets kidnapped by a crazed scientist and the pcs help the rescue the kid. The mother might take a matronly role in the players lives, making sure they eat proper. Perhaps at one something the player characters does or is, causes some members of the community to stand outside their building and threaten the pcs but the mother of the rescued kid comes and shouts them down. Let them feel the genuineness of the people in their stories and the cliche doesn't matter.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I agree with you. The cliché feeling will fall if the characters involved looked like real people \$\endgroup\$
    – Metalcoder
    Nov 26, 2011 at 1:54

I've just been reading in the rule book about what happened in the middle east in 2020 and its been turned into a nuclear wasteland and that warlords are emerging and possibly are looking to start a holy war. Players could be a merc group trying to manipulate the rulership to advance corporation interests in the area, they could be nomads just eeking out an existance in a total post appocolyptic setting or perhaps they are US security trying to stop a full scale attack from happening.


I've run several cyberpunk games and the two most successful ones where were the characters were all part of a crew for Trauma Team, it meshes the players together and gives them a reason to meet up, gives them plenty of action and since Trauma Team is always attending fatalities it is easy to keep the players going to events that are part of the storyline.

There's some useful Trauma Team info on this webpage.

There's an obsidian portal game for Trauma Team here


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