Design Diary #3 – Stories and Worldbuilding

Welcome back, everyone! Francesco Rugerfred Sedda here with our third Design Diary entry (you can read the first one here and the second on here!). This time, we delve into storytelling and worldbuilding in the world of Cyberpunk.

To adapt an open-world videogame inspired by a tabletop role-playing game into a board game, we knew that telling and exploring stories was important for this game. The main question we needed to ask was, “How do we convey the vibrant nuances of Night City to the players?” A board game was not going to be a sandbox game nor easily replicate a world of such a large scale. Due to the nature of a board game and the scope of the project, we wanted to avoid a thick book where players would need to stop playing just to read walls of text. This would definitely break the pacing of gang wars going on. “Quests” didn’t make much sense either from a board game perspective. Quests and missions were for Edgerunner mercenaries, not for players who manage gangs. Considering all this, we ended up with two solutions to bring the Night City experience to players in an immediate way.

The premise of our first idea was simple. Someone needs something in the city and the first gang who does it gains Street Cred and a little extra in return. We called this concept Opportunities: Back-alley business deals gangs encounter and fulfill around the city. Also, since they’re essentially underground black-market deals, they shouldn’t be straightforward. These Opportunities often come with extra requests and conditions that the gangs will also need to satisfy before completing the deal.

You wanna hijack a transport of Militech Smart Guns? You better have control of the District the convey is passing through. You wanna sell those Corp Augmentations? Better control a Data Fortress with a ‘runner to keep an eye out for NetWatch while securing the transaction. Opportunities allow us to convey the demands of a living, breathing and ever-changing city, creating emerging competition between gangs, directly and indirectly, over them.

The larger, overarching concept we wanted to bring to the table were Stories. These represent bigger forces and events that take place in Night City that even the Gangs can’t ignore. Corporations in Night City are so powerful that every decision they make creates ripples of change through the streets. Maybe Militech’s pitch of “keeping the streets more secure” is just a thinly-veiled attempt to bring in their specialized security teams to run the streets. The underground’s not gonna take this lying down, so you know things are about to get real when hostile Gangs bond together to take down a large, scheming corp.

Players decide as a group which Story they want for each game session. Each Story is plug n play, composing of a deck of Act cards and their special components. Players learn the starting point of the plot through the intro card, then set up the Act cards, along with any special rules and components. Each Act evolves, containing different paths with specific triggers. When an Act concludes, the next branching path is revealed, giving context as to how the players have affected the story, changing gameplay as the session progresses. Each decision pushes the plot in its own direction, branching based on the players’ actions.

Suppose Arasaka lost a previous asset and one of the gangs finds it. Will they keep it for themselves or return it to Arasaka as a reward? How does Arasaka react to either situation? What about the other gangs? Are they going to steal the asset? Or maybe even rat out to Arasaka which Gang stole from them? Do you really want to face the wrath of Arasaka?

Stories also have unique epilogue rules and conditions that end the game. Some may reward gangs that satisfy certain requirements or perform special feats with huge Street Cred, while others may not be nice and cause all gangs to lose against a larger foe. Each story appeals to different types of players; some are straightforward and deal with direct confrontation, while others may involve espionage and shady dealings. Each story can be replayed multiple times. Even if a player knows how things may turn out, there will alwaysbe unexplored branches with new experiences each time they play.

Players will get to experience Night City through these main concepts: Opportunities and Stories. We believe these two elements, combined with choice the Gangs in play, will bring a unique experience to the table every time you play Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City.

And there you have it. Thanks for reading. Be sure to stay tuned for more as Cyberpunk 2077: Gangs of Night City gets closer to hitting your tabletops.

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