Dancing with Bullets Under a Neon Sky (2021)

Dancing with Bullets Under a Neon Sky (2021? Folks, please, put copyright dates in your very nice books! For posterity!) is a slim 64-pages, but contains a frankly astonishing distillation of the cyberpunk genre. 

The underlying system uses the Black Hack, but Chance Phillips has tinkered quite a bit. The big one is introducing a dice chain to replace hit points (get hit, fail a check, your to-hit die goes from a D8 to a D6) — this is super novel and dangerous (it seems likely for a single failure to lead to a death spiral). I kind of love it — WFRP 4E uses this massive system and tokens and stuff to try to simulate the momentum of battle, but here’s this simple, elegant mechanical depiction of the same thing.

Anyway, I digress. About a quarter of the book is character generation, another quarter is rules for gameplay (“what can I steal?” is a whole chapter). An implied setting emerges from the combo of this material and your preconceptions about the cyberpunk genre — again, the word I think of to describe this is elegant. There isn’t room to waste on endless lore prose, to Phillips outsources most of the creative work to the reader’s brain and the best part is you don’t even realize you’re doing it. But I bet if you read this book, you can get a rip roaring cyberpunk game to the table in about twenty minutes. The back half of the book is just random table after glorious random table. If the rules give you the big outline, the tables give you the raw material to start filling in the details.

The book is gorgeous too. I am a sucker for Dirk Detweiler Leichty’s art and it is particularly suited for cyberpunk. That metallic foil and high gloss on the cover is also extremely Good.

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