Psi-Punk: A New Cyberpunk Game, or is It?

A couple of weeks ago, I was at Con on the Cob and saw this game—Psi-Punk—and I was quite intrigued. Psi-Punk was a name I’d been tossing around in my head for years. So, immediately, all sorts of images came to mind about what this game could be. I didn’t have a chance to pick up the game, but promised myself I’d check it out sooner rather than later. So, when the chance to review the game came across, I jumped at it.


The Fudge System Lives

Years ago, surfing around online, I came across the Fudge system. It wasn’t long after that when I saw Fate and I was even a back for Fate Core. Admittedly, it’s been some time since I’ve seen Fudge, so seeing that Psi-Punk was a Fudge game was a bit of a surprise to me. The cool thing being that I—and many others—already have familiarity with the rules system. There’s several tweaks made throughout, like have three main attributes and each of those having two secondary attributes. By default, Psi-Punk ranges its abilities from Abysmal (-3) to Astonishing (+7). Of course, as always, you can modify the ladder, but this serves as an immediate indication of how Psi-Punk differs from other Fudge-based games, expecting more skilled or higher powered characters.

One thing I enjoy here, especially when compared to Fate is that there is a lot more to do with levelling up your character. Fate really focuses on the story and has limited leveling options when compared to the roleplaying games I am used to playing. Psi-Punk is more tradition in that respect. Without leveling, the bonuses you add to your character over time as they complete missions, overcome challenges, etc., are the sort of thing I am more accustomed to.

The Setting

When I think Psi-Punk, I think of a post-modern or even futuristic setting where psychic powers are more commonplace and have enabled a lot of things. This game, however, went a different route. Psychic abilities are a very real part of the backdrop for Psi-Punk, but they are still a bit rare. It follows a lot of the trope of cyberpunk. I got nervous when I initially saw mention of ‘magic’. After all, I already have Shadowrun. But, magic in this game is specifically technological devices that mimic psychic powers.

Psi-Punk is, in reality, a cyberpunk game with psionics added into it. That includes the megacorporations taking over for failing government, cybernetic enhancements, black bag operations running afoul of street gangs and more.

This is, admittedly, where the promise of Psi-Punk fell flat for me. I was hoping for something new and different. Instead, I found some minor tweaks and customizations made by the authors. I’m like many fans. I’ve been reading and playing cyberpunk for over 20 years now. If I wanted a new cyberpunk setting that was so similar to the others, it isn’t something I need a new book for.  Yes, they tied a generic rules system to it and did some things I probably would have done differently, but there wasn’t anything that screamed new or unique to me.

The Good and the Bad

The effort that was put forth in this production should not go unnoticed. A lot of Fate and Fudge based setting books skip over a lot of details. The creators of Psi-Punk put their time and energy into crafting a full roleplaying system and setting book. There could easily be a number of supplements off of this one book and people—especially newer players—can pick up and run with a full game from what’s within the pages of Psi-Punk. If you’re looking for stunning visuals or totally new ideas, though, this book probably isn’t for you. The layout is decent, if not great. And, while the art is certainly better than anything I could do, it isn’t what we’ve come to expect of a professionally done product these days.

The writing was good, although I was just looking for something…more. The title bear promise I fear the rest of the book doesn’t deliver. Had I read about the book previously, I would have certainly looked at it. Who isn’t looking for new ideas? I’m not sure I found any here, though.

Just because it’s not necessarily for me doesn’t mean it’s not for everyone. I tend to be pretty demanding and my tastes differ from others’.

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