Seth and I frequently talk about fairycake, the very core of your Worldbuilding on which all other things tilt. This can be a specific Worldbuilding concept or it could be a theme or tone you want to convey. With cyberpunk we’re really looking at a few things that can be found in the name of the genre itself. Here we’ll expand on them a bit as well as dig into some common tropes.
Much of what we focused on was the punk aesthetic. This doesn’t need to be tight jeans, neon highlights and liberty spikes, though all of those things are pretty BA, it has more to do with subverting society and societal norms, living on the fringes. Which means we need some contrast from the society they are rebelling against. It pays, in Worldbuilding, to take a look at common tropes of a genre and then ask the inverse of that question. Your contrasting culture needs to have a few qualities:
- Competency – the authorities must be, at least, somewhat competent in order to pose a credible threat for your protagonists, they must also be capable of building a society that most folks can live comfortably within. So this means that while there is disorder at the fringes there are some spaces where order appears to prevail and the sense of malevolent surveillance that is so common to the genre is not a problem for the people that live there.
- Cybernetic Philosophical Demons – an interesting thing about cyberpunk is that it seems like the protagonists are rarely trying to explicitly tear down a system but rather eschewing that heroic quest in favor of answering deeper questions about our humanity in the face of technology that can subvert that. The greater society around which the story is based needs to highlight these technological/philosophical problems.
- Dystopian – It needs to be clear to your audience that this governing body is non-ideal. It could be related to indifference to the poverty of many, straight up jack-booted authoritarianism. Alternatively it could relate to philosophical problems like in the Matrix where the vast majority of people are unaware and might, like Cypher, actually be content living in it. In any case there must be something the audience can see that points to it being ‘wrong’ in some way.
This is a good start to your journey of worldbuilding for this unique genre. It’s always a blast putting those initial struts together and establishing the core of your world and the aesthetics you want to create.
Stay tuned for more writing from the WorldCraft Club as we explore worldbuilding and the crafting of fictional settings to inspire your creativity.
James wrote this! James is a host on the Worldcraft Club Podcast. He loves tabletop rpgs, running and drinking too much coffee. He lives with his wife and young son somewhere in Central Pennsylvania.
We’re happy to host guest blogs on here whenever we can, it gives James a break and let’s other people contribute their ideas. Let us know if you have a worldbuilding concept or strategy to get off your chest, we’d love to hear it.