The world of Cyberpunk diverges in 1989 from our own timeline. The 1990s are a time of military overreach, extensive corruption, climate chaos and economic collapse in the United States as well as the rest of the world. the rest of the world. The 2000s saw plagues, massive droughts and military coups rock the world.
By the year 2020, corporations had become governing entities unto themselves, with their own security forces capable of taking on any national army. Ravaged by economic woes and infrastructure collapse, The United States of America is a hollow entity, with various Free States, including the split-up Northern and Southern California, paying only lip service to the Federal Government. The Eurozone has become a corporate-fascist state, while the Eurodollar has become the de facto world currency. The Soviet Union has reformed and become an important ally of Europe. The United Kingdom claws itself out of martial law, after putting down separatist rebels.
Along with the decay of state power and the chaos of climate change came immense technological leaps. Cybernetics had become common-place, and the dream of making the Net into a shared virtual space had mostly been realized. Orbital cities rode across the sky, while the gap between the wealthy and the rest became wider than ever.
This is the world that was presented in Cyberpunk and its second edition Cyberpunk 2020. We recommend you read Cyberpunk 2020’s The Night City Guide for information on this period and what led up to it.
The 4th Corporate War shook the economic and political foundations of the world in 2022. Starting as a minor conflict between aquatech firms over a defunct rival, it escalated when the Japanese zaibatsu megacorp Arasaka and their major American rival Militech stepped into the fray. The shadow war quickly turned hot, as edgerunners, strike teams and netrunners were deployed in pitched battles between these two rivals.
The disruption to global trade and commerce was immense. Killsats destroyed communication infrastructures and orbital platforms. Netrunners turned systems against each other. Weaponized Artificial Intelligences along with the horrendous Soulripper virus laid waste to the Net. The conflict came to a halt when a fateful mission in Night City’s Corporate Center ended with a suitcase nuke detonation within the city, leveling several square blocks of the city’s crown jewel of corporate power.
In the last 14 years, the world has not quite recovered. Megacorporations are no longer the dominant power in the world, but rather compete with national governments in a deadly detente. The Net, once a colorful VR realm for netrunners, is not what it used to be. Most megacorporations air-gap their systems off the Net, and what has been rebuilt is under secured private hands. Full immersive systems are now the exception, not the rule; and netrunners have had to relearn those touch-typing skills as they re-earn the title ‘keyboard commandos’.
There is not starvation but there is not plenty. Manufacturing is slowly recovering, but the disruptions to supply lines and manufacturing are not healed. Fresh food and new technology is a rarity more than ever, available to the well-connected or the well-funded. Vast street markets and dealers in recovered technology find a booming business as people keep what they have running with spare parts and Frankenstein-like composite technology.
Among the struggle, new avenues are exploding. The media monoliths have collapsed, and it is the age of the independent creator, the gonzo journalist, the self-made rockstar, as media looks for cheap and effective ways to fill up bandwidth for an entertainment-hungry public. Dealers and fixers of all sorts, along with underground exchanges, are huge sources of revenue.
The world is mending. Slowly. And opportunities and dangers abound.