I’m working on a Cyberpunk game, probably using the Genesys system. So rather than the usual ‘NeoTokyo’ or ‘Night City’, I thought it’d be fun to set it in jolly old England, and focus on my hometown.
Disclaimer: I’ve mixed real science and local politics with fiction. While I’ve tried to stick to plausible events – e.g. Scottish independence, rising sea levels – I’ve also gone for the dark and gritty feel of typical cyberpunk. I don’t really think Manchester will become a communist enclave, or that little prince George will seize power and become a brutal dictator; but it makes for a more fun setting.
The world of 2077 isn’t so different from our own, technology has moved on in a fairly predicable manner. Massive corporations own everything, AI makes our lives easier and harder, surveillance rules our lives, fossil fuels are all but eradicated. However there are 2 major technologies that have affected the world:
Human Genetic Modification
Even in 2021 genetic modification is not new – insulin is produced by GM bacteria since 1982, and food crops and animals have been modified for almost 2 decades. While human GM is still in its infancy, the first GM humans were born in November 2018, to scientific and public condemnation.
By the late 2020’s human GM is fairly routine. Obviously it is first used medically to treat diseases like cistric fibrosis or haemophilia, but while you’re editing genes why stop there? In 2028 the first ‘designer’ baby was born: supposedly edited to fix a faulty gene, the baby was also designed to be taller, stronger, healthier, and with the hair and skin colour her parents chose.
Now the floodgates opened, and wealthy parents all over the world were ‘improving’ their children. In an single generation the gap between rich and poor became an impossible gulf, as the GM children were now immune to many diseases, lived longer, and towards the end of the 2040’s were being developed with almost superhuman abilities.
Around this time however gene-hacking took off. While proper medical GM was still beyond the means of most, amateurs with the right kit could splice themselves with animal DNA, or even entirely man-made alternatives. After the first murder in which the attacker used a biological mantis-shrimp arm-cannon, the practice was outlawed, but by then it was too late.
By 2077 it is common to see humans with cat eyes, digitigrade legs, or other G-Mods, although not by those in mainstream society. Children of G-Mod parents are now being born, sometimes with tragic results, but sometimes where the modifications have mixed creating something beyond human…
In the early 2060’s new technologies like carbon nanostructures and programmable silicon were developed, and allowed for incredible new materials. Flexible, deformable, with incredible strength, and able to transmit electrical signals and information, the new ‘Cyber’ materials revolutionised the gap between man and machine.
Initially used for building materials, allowing for structures beyond anything built before. The first Space Elevator (or ‘Beanstalk’ as it came to be known) was built in 2062, allowing the full exploitation of space and colonisation of the moon.
In the mid 2060’s tech firms were experimenting with the materials for body interfaces and limb replacement. It was immediately clear that is was possible to produce body parts that were better (although depending on one’s definition of ‘better’) than the human standard.
By 2077 cybernetics are commonplace: many workers may have a replacement limb to better carry out their physical work, cutting-edge software developers (and hackers) need a direct link into their brain, and there is a thriving black market in cybernetic weapons. The wealthy may hide their well-crafted and subtle enhancements, while those who work the street prefer to show off their ‘chrome’.
Since the great web blackout of 2061, the internet is fractured, and not as open and ubiquitous as you might imagine. The majority is safe enough for social media and entertainment, but the corporations maintain their own secure networks, fortified with layers of ICE. Runners attempting to extract paydata from one of these networks often need to access a physical hardline for any chance of success.
There were several instances of above-human AIs created, but international outcry almost immediately caused them to be banned. As you might imagine, the ban has been circumvented and ignored over the years, although several high-profile ‘incidents’ keeps most organisations cautious enough that AIs haven’t taken over. Tightly constrained human-intellect droids are fairly commonplace however.
Nuclear fusion is finally here, and with it came all the promises of cheap, clean energy. Fossil fuels have been almost entirely phased out, but the climate was already irrevocably changed, and the Earth still chokes on humanities waste. Thankfully, the human population is in overall decline, and small ‘re-wilding’ projects have been successful.
England’s Future History
The whole world has been changed between now and 2077, and England is a small island nation with an ever-shrinking influence in the world, no longer part of the European Union or even the United Kingdom.
Britain left the EU in 2020. In 2022 Scotland voted for independence. While the UK continued its slow descent into authoritarianism, Scotland attempted the ‘Nordic Model’ of liberal socialism. The border in Ireland reignited the troubles, and a Welsh independence movement was gaining mainstream attention. England was losing its hold on the UK, and the Northern counties of England were realising they had more in common with Scotland than London. The stirrings of the Northern Cession began in the late 2030’s.
The English government responded with force. Northern Ireland was under almost-constant martial law, welsh nationalists were rounded up as terrorists, and organisations promoting northern cession were harassed, some leaders even suffering unfortunate ‘accidents’.
Then in 2043, someone nuked Cheltnam.
The 10Kton weapon, with GCHQ as its obvious target, killed nearly 100,000, with the fallout rendering a great stripe of England uninhabitable. No-one has ever taken responsibility for the attack, but it lit the fuse of Britain’s civil war.
The military, with King George VII as their figurehead, blamed the attack on the government’s weak handling of “domestic terrorists”, and in a bloodless coup dissolved parliament and installed the King as leader of the ‘interim’ government. Everyone from independence politicians and militia members, to labour organisers, and religious leaders were rounded up and arrested, disappeared off to a still-unknown fate.
In the face of this military rule, England divided. While there was fighting and uprising in all regions, the south was mostly pro-monarchy, while the north pro-independence. Yorkshire was the first to declare full independence and sought the support of Scotland, who chose to remain neutral. The 2050 global economic collapse (caused by a worldwide net blackout) almost bankrupted Scotland, and it was barely functioning itself. The county was then crushed by the English military, with only the cities of Sheffield, Leeds and Bradford holding out somewhat intact.
Public opinion shifted against the crown in the face of the destruction, and with fighting also in Northern Ireland, Wales and smaller uprisings in the South, the military was stretched too thin, and pulled back to hold onto the ‘heart’ of England. The cities that remained in the North were now free to self-govern, for better or worse.
2077: A Nation Divided
England is ruled by Queen Margaret, known affectionately (or not) by most citizens as New Maggie. Parliament has been reformed, and elections are held, but the prime minister answers to the Queen. And the Queen answers to the megacorps that keep her in power.
The old city of Nottingham, now simply of part of the East Midlands Megacity (EMMC), now sits at the northern edge of England (although the government still claims the North as part of England). The EMMC covers all of Nottingham and Leicester, and used to include Derby, until an event in 2071 wiped out that city. There is official record of what happened, and apparently no survivors, the city to the east is now simply the DEZ (Derby Exclusion Zone), guarded by high chain fences and guards with automatic weapons. Although anyone brave enough to approach the area cannot fail to notice that the largest guns are directed towards the DEZ…
The rest of England is fairly unremarkable. London is a sprawling megacity, not quite rivalling those now at the base of the space elevator ‘Beanstalks’, but easily containing the bulk of England’s population. The fallout region from the Cheltenham nuclear attack still persists, and is a little pocket of anarchy in the English dictatorship. A Welsh independence group now occupy most of rural Wales, but until they spread further the English government seems content to leave them be.
To the immediate north of EMMC lie the ‘free city’ of Sheffield, a place without any government, where everything can be acquired for the right price. North of that is Leeds, now an independent city-state, while Bradford has declared itself the Yorkshire Caliphate, accepting muslim refugees from the South.
Most of the Lincolnshire coast is now underwater, and even areas inland are intermittently flooded by tidal surges. Most of the county, and Yorkshire to the north is simply a wasteland, with gangs ruling over ruined towns, fighting each other, and making occasional raids south.
While Lincoln is technically the most Northern city in England now, it is so beset by raiders from what remains of old Lincolnshire that it is little more than a military base, something too embarrassing for the crown to give up. Stoke is the most southerly independent city (and apparently untroubled by the English), now calling itself ‘Nine Angles’ after the quasi-religious white-supremacist group who rule there.
Manchester became the Mancunian People’s Collective (MPC), a communist enclave that has spread to include most of the Northwest. Probably the most powerful force in the North, it is engaged in a propaganda war with England, which may soon come to a head. Between the MPC and Sheffield the New Luddites have settled the peaks, rejecting technology and living as farmers in small family or village groups. The region to the north of the MPC also try to live alongside nature, and are governed by druids, but by contrast have embraced genetic modification in all its forms. Calling themselves Awen’s Children, they are a loose collection of tribes and communes, many barely recognisable as human anymore.
Finally the Northeast is a collection of tiny kingdoms, churning and turning over too rapidly to warrant mapping. This is where the corporations wage their proxy wars, and where experimental weapons are tested.