Cyberpunk Creator Mike Pondsmith on Cyberpunk 2077 and Cyberpunk Red

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most highly-anticipated games in the world and has been for the last couple of years. Knowing this, developers CD Projekt Red went all-out to showcase the game and announce its release date at E3 2019. Not only did they titillate fans with a closer look at the huge world of Cyberpunk 2077 and give it an April 2020 release date, but they also brought on actor Keanu Reeves to announce his role in the game.

Unfortunately, as will always be the case with a major release in entertainment now that social media is such a prominent part of our lives, a loud minority voiced some criticisms of Cyberpunk 2077, notably labelling it as racist and transphobic. Some of this discontent has been aimed at the creator of the Cyberpunk universe, Mike Pondsmith, who made the Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing games. Pondsmith is well-known by the tabletop and video gaming community and doesn’t shy away when someone has an issue with his creations.

Mike Pondsmith: Legend in tabletop and now video gaming

Despite his major credits coming from the tabletop gaming industry, Mike Pondsmith started his career as a graphic designer in the video game industry. But due to there being very few jobs available in the video game industry in the 1980s, Pondsmith decided to turn to his hobby of playing pen and paper games and create his own titles, the first of which was called Mekton and was based on Japanese manga books.

Mekton was a success, and so Pondsmith decided to found R. Talsorian Games in 1985, which led to the re-release of Mekton as well as new creations in the following years like Teenagers from Outer Space, Mekton II, Cyberpunk, Castle Falkenstein, and Dream Park. Of course, the most famous of these creations now is Cyberpunk, which was originally released as a tabletop RPG in 1988 with the long form title of Cyberpunk The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future, and was set in 2013. Cyberpunk 2020 followed in 1990 as a handbook with updated gameplay mechanics and story arcs. Later, CyberGeneration offered an alternate timeline for the Cyberpunk universe in 1993, followed by the 2005 release of Cyberpunk v3.0.

In 2012, CD Projekt Red, hot on the heels of the 2011 release of their novel adaptation video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, announced that they would be working with Mike Pondsmith on creating a Cyberpunk video game. This announcement was joined by another which informed pen and paper fans of the franchise that a new tabletop RPG was coming along with the video game, with Pondsmith creating the pen and paper game as well as being very involved in the world creation and mechanics of Cyberpunk 2077.

One of the reasons why Mike Pondsmith is such a beloved figure in pen and paper gaming, and now video gaming, is because he’s very active at game conventions and in the gaming communities. Of course, Pondsmith’s games earn him the fan base, but he never fails to give interesting and insightful interviews or comments on topics relating to his created universes – which fans adore.

Cyberpunk 2077 causing a bit of a stir

Pondsmith has stated many times that it has been a collaborative effort between himself and CD Projekt Red, describing it as them babysitting Cyberpunk for a while, and then him babysitting, trading back and forth making sure that nothing goes wrong. He also cites in the above-linked source an occasion where he didn’t deem the gun design to be Cyberpunk, and so he sat down with the creators, explained how it should be, and they accepted the ideas and worked to correct the design.

Cyberpunk 2077 is set in the dystopian future of Mike Pondsmith’s setting of Night City in the Free State of California. A feature of the setting is robotic enhancements, lawlessness, and greedy corporations which rule the city, state, and country. In the gameplay footage shown of Cyberpunk 2077, a loud minority focussed on a poster showing a transgender person, calling the image transphobic, as well as an early conflict that some deem to be racist.

Cyberpunk 2077 announcement image, via Twitter
Credit: DualShockers, via Twitter

The most vocal major outlet which has set its sights on discrediting the game is RockPaperShotgun, which has doubled down on accusing the game and the creator of its source material as being racist. While the articles making the accusations still stand, the founder has since deleted their criticisms of Pondsmith from Twitter. Being the creator of the universe and having collaborated on the video game, Pondsmith was quick to quash these claims.

Addressing the issues via Reddit, Pondsmith: verified that he’s been heavily involved in the video game; clarified why the clan ‘Animals’ donned such a name while being mostly comprised of black people; praised the game adaptation of his ‘Voodoo Boys’. Lastly, Pondsmith slated the accusers, asking them who they thought they were to tell him if his creation was done correctly. As you would expect, the response earned a lot of virtual praise from fans of his work and those who are excited for Cyberpunk 2077.

Next for Cyberpunk tabletop games

Cyberpunk 2077 will arrive in April 2020, so if you want to experience the Cyberpunk universe in its true form first, R. Talsorian Games will be releasing the new tabletop RPG entitled Cyberpunk Red on 1 August 2019. Mike Pondsmith was already working on Cyberpunk Red by the time CD Projekt Red came knocking, making the ‘Red’ part of the name a mere coincidence, but the two game designers have worked closely together to tie the timelines. The original Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk Red, and Cyberpunk 2077 all follow the same timeline in that order, so Red will work as a great way to integrate newcomers to the universe.

Cyberpunk Red, which has the long form title of Cyberpunk: The Time of the Red, comes from Pondsmith’s idea that the skies above the cities have turned pitch red due to the fires and explosions that were taking place in California, Washington, and elsewhere. For five years after the corporate war takes place and bombs are dropped, the sky is bright red in the morning, but then this begins to settle. Red is to be a way for Pondsmith’s universe to reset things and bring in a new phase which eventually leads to the neon-lit environment of Cyberpunk 2077.

Video gamers all over the world are looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s the fans of Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop role-playing creations which stand to enjoy the next nine months the most. Not only do they get to experience Pondsmith’s universe in video game form, but they also get a long-awaited new edition to the pen and paper game.

Exploring the RPG World of Midgard

In 2011, Kobold Press set out on an epic quest to bring the world of Midgard to life, a world which originates from Dungeons & Dragons designer Wolfgang Bauer’s campaign. In 2016, Kobold Press returned to Midgard to bring it to 5th Edition, expanding the world with richer lore.

With many adventures and expansions backed through Kickstarter, it’s clear that the following for this deep, intriguing, and dark world is very strong. In a space that’s still dominated by big names like Dungeons & Dragons, many players have found that the Midgard Campaign Setting delivers something very different but in a format that is not only easy to get to grips with but also incredibly detailed and well-made.

The dark world of the Midgard Campaign Setting

Using your cunning, weaponry, and spells, the heroes of these adventures are tasked with fighting against the unruly darkness rising in all directions of this realm. Giants prepare for the end of the realm, vampire princes look to expand their dominion, goblins grow increasingly restless, and the World Serpent has begun to stir, creating a world of uncertainty and danger where only the light of hope and magic can shine in the darkness.

Rather than its setting being within the British Isles or France, as many fantasy role-playing games do, Midgard draws its inspiration from Eastern and Central Europe, Scandinavia, and areas of the Mediterranean through myths and folklore. The Midgard Campaign Setting immerses players in its setting, utilising folklore, mythology, and historical events to inspire the fantasy world. But it also takes you far beyond that of what our world has already scribed, introducing complete novelties and new intrigues to forge the Midgard landscape. The RPG is defined, however, by how far it delves into the darkness of the mythology and folklore from which it draws.

Midgard explores the lesser-seen side of serfdom, its crippling effects on serfs, and then further exhibits its horrors by making the landlords vampires that are true to Eastern European lore. These vampires aren’t your run of the mill sometimes scary, sometimes erotic beings that have been brought into modern pop-culture: this game shows the true extent to the terrors of having vampire overlords, which includes elements of implicit sexual violence. Slavery is also commonplace, but no less awful, in Midgard, as is the use of blood sacrifices, demonic worship, and dark rituals.

You can explore the Northlands where the giants are going to war to trigger the beginning of the end. To the west, goblins have been forced out of their ruins and scurry like a feral a plague onto the pilgrims of the Seven Cities while corrupt cultists make the wastelands their home. Elsewhere, the Glittering King’s demonic ships battle with the Dragon Empire for the Ruby Sea, a war of backstabbing, deceit, and skullduggery for succession is brewing among the elves, and the god Nethus has returned to raid the seas of Midgard. While the Dragon Empire begins to divide, vampire princes set out to conquer more land, bringing terror on the provinces which they seek to make their own.

Despite the many dark forces at work in the world, nothing is black and white, and there isn’t a clear-cut notion of good versus evil, which adds an extra layer of realism to the choices and quests in the high-fantasy setting.

The Midgard Campaign Setting is massive, finely tuned, and presents a unique and dark world that is as immersive as it is thought-provoking. Everything is so well designed that you can’t help but want to explore the whole realm and be the hero in the many struggles taking place across Midgard.

The Classic Japanese RPG we want to be Translated into English

Having performed a fair amount of forum, chat room, social media, blog, and comment section scrolling to find another great new tabletop role-playing game to delve into, something that was quite noticeable across the internet is that people would like to see Sword World RPG translated into English.

There are many posts headlined with something along the lines of: will Sword World RPG ever be printed in English? Having been first published in 1989, Sword World RPG has been around for 30 years and has been able to create quite a lot of buzz in its native Japan as well as further west despite very few western players being able to play the game.

A lot of the desire comes from wanting to try out a Japanese tabletop role-playing game because the nation is a hotbed for creative and exciting adventures in gaming, comics, and anime. Then, when you look at the sales figures of the original games – over 10 million copies of related books sold – and the fact that publishers Fujimi Shobo released a 2.0 in 2008, it’s quite surprising that it hasn’t been translated to English for what you would assume is a larger potential audience.

Sword World

The universe of Sword World became so popular that it spawned an official range of role-playing video games. It started with Sword World PC in 1992, followed by Sword World SFC and Sword World SFC 2 for the SNES console over the next couple of years. A year after its tabletop launch in 2008, Sword World 2.0 came to the Nintendo DS in the form of a visual novel adventure game that tries to encapsulate the essence of playing the game in its original tabletop form.

It seems as though there was a concerted effort to translate Sword World’s rulebooks and other related publications, but the movement appears to have gone cold at some point last year. However, many pages were able to be translated and posted online during this project, which can be found on the Sword World Wiki.

Sword World RPG uses a 2d6 System, which is also used in Scrapped Princess RPG and Dragon Half RPG. In the original edition of Sword World RPG, you select your ginou which has a specific set of skills based on its class, forming a kind of hybrid class-skill system for characters. Players can choose between a thief, fighter, sage, bard, shaman, priest, or sorcerer with the major races being grassrunner (halfling), half-elf, elf, dwarf, and human. The game mostly takes place on the continent of Alecrast, but Lodoss Island and Crystania are also included in the Sword World setting of Forcelia. The world is said to be high-fantasy and heavily influenced by games like Dungeons & Dragons. In Sword World 2.0, there are 15 classes and eight races to chose from with the campaign setting being the new realm of Raxia.

Hopefully, Sword World RPG gets an English language release at some point down the line because a hugely popular Japanese tabletop role-playing game would certainly garner interest among English-speaking players. If not, lets hope for a japanese rpg slot game similiar to Dungeon Immortal Evil.