Trying Cyberpunk 2020 for the first time was a blast. The tabletop RPG was showing it's age of course, but it allowed me and my friends to experience a totally different RPG experience. First thing I learned though: worldbuilding for a modern world is really, really different.
The Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG, the inspiration behind the Cyberpunk game you might already be familiar with, provides a completely different experience to Dungeons and Dragons. The combat mechanics are unfair, every session is roleplay heavy and nothing is actually balanced. It's more Blade Runner, less Fast & Furious.
What makes setting the stage for this type of game harder, I think, is that the dark future of 2020 (lol) is very similar to our world in terms of "feel." Characters have office jobs, go to Not-McDonalds™ for cheap food, turn on the TV when they get home etc. Highlighting the key differences between the dystopian reality of CP2020 and our world is in the details. To this end, I made more visual handouts that give glimpses into those differences: players get the news, emails, text messages and paper reports as often as I can make them.
And if there's one thing that handouts are useful for, it's pushing advertisements in the players faces, of course! After all, advertising is the most obvious visual signifier of one of the genre's main pillar: late-capitalism’s chokehold on every aspect of life... and that's worldbuilding baby!
When I started, I tried figuring out how these ads should work. I figured out how to make them both fun to create and useful in the context of the game:
Down below, you'll find all of the ads I made for these handouts.
I give credit to ideas I’ve adapted and I've linked to the sources of the images I’ve used. I do not own the rights of these images. These are fan projects, not meant for commercial distribution.
I've tried to make images into similar sizes, to facilitate re-appropriation into your own games. The resolution between images sometimes varies.
You can download the whole lot here.
I wanted to show how ubiquitous weaponry had become in my “Americanized” version of Canada.
Yes, the "parody" aspect of this ad is the “available everywhere” part.
The gun I used to represent Militech’s most popular handgun is a 3D model created by professional concept artist Andre-Lang Huynh. The Militech logo is, of course, the one created by CD Projekt Red.
Sex House is basically Big Brother taken to the extreme. The name is ripped from that parody show from the Onion.
The Sex House is filmed all day and the feeds of the various cameras are streamed to the NET. Contestants go to find love but are strongly incentivized to have sex with other contestants. The blatant voyeurism and pornographic content are, of course, the point. Network News 54 creates constant hype around the Sex House and always has a “today in the Sex House” segment at 9 PM every day.
This one was probably the longest concept to make and it strained my amateur designer muscles to their limit. I think there are improvements to be made, but still.
ICON America is a company from the Chromebooks expansions. It is a fashion brand specialized in the Urban Flash and Edgerunner clothing styles.
Because of these characteristics, I figured that ICON America would work well as a mid-range fashion shop, kind of like a stepping stone between clothing from European haute-couture brands and stuff you find at H&M. In that way, ICON America is about looking unique and, dare I say, iconic.
My goal with this ad was to inspire players in their clothing choices.
Of course, the price is available directly on the ad, for the curious edgerunner. I used the price calculation rules published in the Chromebooks to figure out the prices of the items.
The main inspiration for the layout is from this set of designs from Zeka Design. Credits for the original pictures:
I found this image, on my journey to find inspiration and I was immediately hooked (I am NOT sorry). I instantly imagined the fish and waves being animated on the tongue, and I went "Yup, that's Synthskin".
Cyphire is a French cyberware company mentioned the Chromebooks and I chose to make it into a manufacturer of high-end fashionware. To this effect, the logo is made to look like a signature, more than a symbol.
Trauma Team International is the rich man’s ambulance service and this ad shows off their most popular selling point: their armed troopers who can rescue wounded customers in (as little as) three minutes.
The concept is not mine: The Secure/Extract/Diagnose/3 minutes thing is from an ad shown in the Cyberpunk 2077 gameplay showcase from 2018. The Trauma Team logo is also from CD Projekt Red.
My work here was adapting the concept to a print format and making the trooper into the tricolor flat design.
I wanted to create a very "normal people-centered" ad, which would not directly resonate with (or even be remotely useful to) my players.
It does still show how Alicia Poitiers, a relevant character in the current campaign, is seen by the public.
Finally, a corporation willing to do what's necessary to protect you! Not that they will do it if you get hacked. They’re just saying that they can do it.
Pro tip: The rule book says that cellphone plans are 100eb. a month. In this ad, WORLDSAT promises plans that “start at” 30 eurodollars, because they’re talking about the price of a basic landline connection. This is not a mistake, it's just a creative interpretation by WORLDSAT.
The WORLDSAT logo is based on the great work by Deviantart user zoopee, which I manually flattened so I could use it. I also built upon their design choices for this ad.
The man dying a horrible death is, of course, courtesy of CD Projekt Red.
You can download all of these ads at once here. I hope some of them will find their way into your games!
I do hope to have the opportunity to keep making ads like these and, most of all, to keep plugging these everywhere the players look.
Hope you enjoyed, choombas.