the cyberpunk 2020 economy

I’ve been re-reading a lot of old CP2020 sourcebooks. It’s sort of a bizarre game. The rules are really complicated, in my opinion, and the setting is the most obvious parts of Gibsonian cyberpunk turned up to eleven.

As I’m going through the equipment sourcebooks, I’m finding a lot of prices that seem really hard to believe. For example, the CP2020 core rulebook gives the monthly salary of a corporate administrative assistant at 1,000 eurodollars per month. I think we can safely say that this is net and gross, since presumably there are few to no taxes post-Collapse. So, twelve thousand bucks annually. A personal computer costs a thousand eurobucks, give or take. So, it costs one tenth of one’s salary for a year. That’s not outrageous – or at least it wasn’t in the eighties when the game was written.

A pair of cybernetic eyes cost about the same. Yow! Heck, having your entire skeleton replaced with one that almost certainly doubles strength only costs ten thousand. Having your entire body reworked so that you look like an insect (complete with chitinous skin and bugeyes) will cost you about thirty-five thousand bucks. Having your entire body (more or less) replaced with a super-human robotic chassis that can bend steel and has an integrated welding torch to repair the damage he’s caused? Well, that will cost about fifty grand.

So, it costs a little over four year’s wages. That’s not a lot more than many people pay for a house. What else costs 50,000 eb? A (flying) family minivan, “priced to sell.” A military-grade full-body replacement costs about a hundred grand. That’s half the price of a two-person luxury (flying) car.

A can of sports drink is eight eurodollars. If we say that our hypothetical corporate secretary’s 10,000 eb is equivalent to $30,000, then that’s a $24 can of Gatorade.

A stylish outfit costs about 3,000 eb. I can’t find much else about other day-to-day expenses. How much is a loaf of bread, or an average outfit from an outlet? How much is a cab ride?

It seems like the economy is based on what the players should be allowed to have: it’s cool if they get a whole lot of cyber and some badass guns, but letting them have an attack chopper is way beyond the pale. (Attack choppers seem to start around two million eurobucks.) It would be way cooler if the economy were developed based on the game world, and the game was then adapted to cope with things that would logically be available to the PCs (and other characters).

Designing a fairly coherent economy is hard, though. I’m not really happy with the one I’ve constructed in my game, so far, but I think it’s at least better than CP2020’s. Maybe after I finish the economy and equipment docs, it will be more coherent and comprehensible. Until then, at least I know how much a loaf of bread costs.

Written on January 1, 2007
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