The gates of Hell opened after world-renowned metal band Death Agent ritually sacrificed Ronald Reagan on stage in 1986, ultimately resulting in the creation of the demon-infested Pentagram City. This is how the currently crowdfunding tabletop RPG Cybermetal 2012 sets stage and tone for its demon-infested, weirdo world.
Created by Adam Vass of World Champ Game Co. (Babes in the Woods, Necronautilus, Campfire), Cybermetal 2012 leans heavily into an aesthetic of gnashing maws, twisted forms and jagged colours. The world of Pentagram City is a fundamentally broken one that still manages to hold the capacity for life and culture, of a sort.
Ruled by the demons the ritual unleashed, the city is cut off from the rest of the world, and its one law is “do what thou wilt”. But resistance clings to the dark corners and jagged edges - a lo-fi cyberpunk awakening among the underclasses that plans to use the drugs, technology and ritualistic power of their oppressor to fuel something bigger and better.
Players of Cyberpunk 2012 will not be at the center of this revolution. Those are not the kinds of stories this game was built to tell. Instead, they will be gutterpunks and burnouts barely clinging to life one day at a time but still doing everything in their power to get by. As Vass writes on the description page: “ You’re an 8-track tape, good for a couple of plays before your broken shell is tossed under the wheels of confusion like worthless trash. You won’t climb the ranks of this city, but you will do what you can to make life better for yourself and other citizens while avoiding the Fuckers out there who want to rip your soul from your body and upload it to the hardwired web.”
The mechanical foundation of the game is fairly simple and will be familiar to those who have played Mothership and Blades in the Dark. Any action that falls outside the ordinary relies on a 100-sided die (often called a d-percentile, or d100) where players want to roll below the appropriate skill threshold. An accompanying ten-sided die rolls each for damage and Fallout - how the situation worsens or improves for the crew.
Player characters can be humans, demons, the animalistic Vermin or the hollowed-out Husks. Hardware installed in and on the body will augment abilities, while the Operating System determines that character’s role (think class in other RPGs). Optional and swappable software further augments these baseline capabilities, providing access to advanced combat moves, social manoeuvres and otherwise unavailable contract work.
Cybermetal 2012 calls itself a “sandbox RPG”, unchaining groups within Pentagram City with no agenda beyond the one they feel compelled to pursue. Players can attempt to destroy or usurp the Powers That Be, or they can record themselves pulling stunts, doing drugs and playing music. Those interested in tasting the game can grab Y2K, a freely available demo for one gamemaster and one player that acts as an introduction to both the setting and rules.
Vass has decided to use Gamefound to crowdfund Cybermetal 2012 and is one of only a few other RPGs to take advantage of the Kickstarter alternative - Down We Go being the other notable project. The platform usually hosts board games, especially big ones full of miniatures, but might become home to more tabletop creators in the wake of Kickstarter’s recent reveal that the company would pursue blockchain technology research, which led to many disavowing its future use.
Cybermetal 2012’s Gamefound campaign runs until February 5th and is currently about halfway to its funding goal. Backers can secure a physical copy for $40 (£29), which also comes with a digital copy redeemable on Itch.io. Vass estimates fulfillment will begin in June of this year.