Having reviewed some of my group’s gaming experiences over the last year, I’ve seen a trend with regards to how we view our in-character experiences. Specifically, our group is remarkably self-aware with regards to our characters, and their tendencies to be self-serving, amoral, and even sadistic. I’ve had some players say, either to me or to my friend Mike who is GMing our current game, that we’ve just been playing Cyberpunk too much.
As a piece of background, my group, formed while we were all students at Carnegie Mellon about 7 years ago, has played a lot of games across many settings, including but not limited to ones that could be called Cyberpunk. And while the Cyberpunk milieu includes a degree of nihilism that encourages violence (and ignoring the consequences thereof), I wouldn’t say that the setting alone does it for us. Moreover, some of the actions taken are indeed much more about our sick minds than something permitted in the setting. To wit:
- An entire Shadowrun session devoted to an elaborate (and sick) revenge plot
- Having a secret patron in a Cyberpunk campaign revealed to be a megalomaniacal AI…after which the players choose to side with the AI
- Zombifying two innocent corporate employees, and using them to commit an act of terrorism
- Multiple betrayals and backstabs, including characters who were police officers deep undercover, and retribution via throwing a traitorous character out of a helicopter
I’d argue that these actions, despite some of the setting dress that enabled them, are not unique to Cyberpunk. What I’m trying to figure out is twofold: what about our party leads us to these actions, and also how common it is in other gaming groups. I’ve heard plenty of stories about “evil” campaigns in Dungeons and Dragons, or intraparty violence, but our group (including myself) seems to take the amoral role on with gusto. And that brings me back to the original consideration: is this an artifact of the setting, not because of technology or weaponry available, but because of the nihilistic attitude engendered in the metaplots of both Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun? If I write and run my planned fantasy campaign, will I be able to evoke a different moral attitude because the setting has a different moral attitude? It’s an interesting question.