14:31 APRIL 7 2030

JUNE 21 2030


Most of the following slang phrases comprise the lingua franca of the street samurai, or anyone involved in industrial espionage in any way.


Or "synthetic"; a human who has undergone retrogenic adaptation or other biological modification.


Biological alterations (such as retrogenics).

Black Clinic

An illegal medical centre performing unlicensed treatments, implants or operations on those desperate enough or rich enough to pay. Often Yakuza owned.


Illegal electronics, from jammers to bugs to card-lock decryptors.


A middleman, dealer or street "fixer"; moves in the world of Yakuza deals and shadowy zaibatsau missions.

Console Cowboy

A hacker.


People in ZAIBATSU living in that shadowy area where technology meets society. Retrofitters and innovators using data and technology on the street. Punks, samurai, terrorists, computer musicians, fringe video producers, hackers.


The global computer network of the future encompassing every system, network and telecom link on the planet. Accessed by using dermal 'trodes stuck on the temples that puts the user "in there" amongst a 3D virtual universe.


In ZAIBATSU, a cyborg is a human-shaped electro-mechanical robot. Also called an android.

Deck Jockey

A hacker.


Killed. Also retired, zapped, greased, wasted.


Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics. The defensive security software in a computer system. "Icebreakers" are anti-Ice programs used in hacking. "Black Ice" is software designed to damage the hacker's brain.


This term describes logging on and logging off of cyberspace, a procedure requiring the use of dermal electrodes temporarily stuck to the temples.


A common mix of spoken Japanese and English.


A computer user trying to break in to a defended computer system for profit or fun.


The Network; cyberspace.


The Matrix is another term for cyberspace.


Slang term for any street fighter, bodyguard, samurai or enforcer. Also called solo, killer, razor-boy, joeboy.


An illegal human clone without memory implants; often highly modified and in some way "superhuman".


A freelance street samurai, hiring out as a hitman, bodyguard or spy for the zaibatsu.


A replicant.

Software Jockey

A hacker.

Street Samurai

An industrial espionage agent loyal to one company. Familiar with weapons, burgalry and terrorism. A freelance street samurai is a "Ronin".


Japlish for a 'salary-man'. A zaibatsu employee, especially one in management. Also called a corporate, corp or just "suit". Loyal and faceless.


A human with retrogenic adaptations. All street samurai will be synthetics.


Or "Yak". The Japanese mafia; very powerful and overshadowing other crime syndicates. Also a member of this.


One of the vast Japanese transnational companies.


ZAIBATSU is a violent, high-tech and pessimistic view of the future. It is a dystopia, dark and full of fear. But it isn't my invention; rather that of countless science-fiction authors - in particular the cyberpunks. Writers like William Gibson & Bruce Sterling virtually created the genre, others built on it. This game takes Gibson's famous debut novel "Neuromancer" as its basic premise. ZAIBATSU is corporate war in near-future Tokyo, it pulls elements from many other works and is something of itself. Like the future it depicts, the game is a hybrid, streaked with inspiration, a workable whole made up of diverse and ill-matched origins.

Players and referees are invited to explore the following works for inspiration, atmosphere and a good time. Each cyberpunk has his own list, mine is orientated towards ZAIBATSU and the Japanese elements in the game. But remember, find plots, characters, events and ideas where you can. In true cyberpunk fashion, adapt to survive, never stand still and use what you find.


APA Publications Cityguide: Tokyo

Len Cacutt Combat

Hugo Cornwall The Industrial Espionage Handbook

Fodor's Japan 98

Terry Gander Guerrila Warfare Weapons

William Gibson Neuromancer, Count Zero, Mona Lisa Overdrive, Burning Chrome, Virtual Light

Lonely Planet Japan

David Miller & Gerard Ridefort Weapons of the Elite Forces

Bruce Sterling The Artificial Kid, Mirrorshades: The Cyberpunk Anthology (editor), Islands in the Net

Alvin Toffler Future Shock, The Third Wave, Power Shift

Walter John Williams Hardwired, Voice of the Whirlwind


Musical taste varies widely, but I consider the following dark and malevolent music perfectly sums up the futuristic urban nightmare of Tokyo - 2030. It is part of the 'industrial' genre which uses harsh distorted lyrics combined with bass-heavy pounding melodies, cut with samples and effects taken from all the best cyberpunk movies. This music includes: Cabaret Voltaire, Cubanate, Die Krupps, Front 242, Frontline Assembly, Hard Corp, KMFDM, Nine Inch Nails, Nitzer Ebb, Revolting Cocks, Sisters of Mercy and Skinny Puppy. Also try less intensive music such as Jean Michel Jarre, and soundtracks to movies such as Black Rain, Bladerunner, Akira and Terminator 2.


A complete listing of movies that have some cyberpunk influence would be absolutely vast! There is plenty out there and the reader has doubtless seen most of it anyway (just a few examples would include Fifth Element, The Matrix, the Aliens and Terminator movies, Johny Mnemonic and Total Recall. The best movies to watch for inspiration may well be Japanese anime (also called manga in the UK) such as AD Police, Akira, Battle Angel Alita, Bubblegum Crisis, Geno Cyber, and Cyber City: Oedo 808. Also highly recommended are several key movies which had a direct effect on the creation of ZAIBATSU. They are: Bladerunner, Black Rain (Bladerunner Japan-style), Crying Freeman (cool manga-to-screen martial arts and gunplay), Tron (for cyberspace weirdness, not a place to visit, a place to live!), Aeon Flux, and every modern-day Hong Kong martial arts and gunplay movies ever made!


Although I had played various cyberpunk roleplaying games previously, none had more impact on ZAIBATSU more than Cyberpunk by R.Talsorian Games. The style of the game totally revolutionized science-fiction roleplaying and created an entire new genre of gaming of which ZAIBATSU is a part. Other games which have in some way influenced the design process are Paranoia, from West End Games, Avalon Hill's Land of Ninja, and the excellent Feng Shui game from Daedalus. Only one computer game has influenced ZAIBATSU: Syndicate by Bullfrog Games, a game which inspired the corporate killers approach and the mission-by-mission climb up the corporate ladder gaining enhancements as one progresses.

The Nissan van pulled to a stop on the deserted fifth level of the multistorey. Amano, the driver, sat waiting. In the back Bosatsu stretched, "I appreciate what you've told me Kiroshi, you know we're the only people you can trust". He pulled out his Yeheyuans from a pocket and glanced over his shoulder, "Hey, Amano, you don't want us smoking in your van do you?". A shake of the head, "no way bro". Bosatsu pushed open the back doors, saw the long expanse of desolate darkly-lit ferroconcrete. "After you". As Kiroshi clambered out of the Nissan and turned to take one of the cigarrettes, Bosatsu fired a five-round burst of 10mm shells into his body. In a discordant ballet of death Kiroshi flinched and jumped, and in an agony of finality smacked soldily onto the oily concrete. Pulling the doors closed Bosatsu shouted over to his driver, "Amano, get us the hell out of here".


Most role-playing games go into considerable detail concerning how to referee, how to play, how to run non-player characters or create a realistic campaign. But practical advice can be just as useful. For what it's worth, this is my practical advice for running ZAIBATSU.


Firstly, check out you players or potential players. Are they into the genre, have they read the books, seen the movies, looked over the manga? If yes, you're job is simplified. Explain to them that ZAIBATSU is just like being inside that story, that world, and that it can be just as exciting. For players who have not read or seen that much, no problem. Everyone has seen the Hollywood action movies of Stallone, Schwarzenegger and Willis. Tell your potential players that ZAIBATSU is a game that lets you do all those cool and amazing things. But it is set in Japan in the very near future.


When you play you want everyone to have the same picture in their head as you do. Hopefully this is something like the dark, haunting cityscape of Bladerunner. To enhance this mood you can stick up appropriate movie posters (or maps of Tokyo!) where you plan to role-play, put on appropriate music or even watch a film or two together as a group. I always find the addition of prawn crackers and few bottles of Kirin beer (or sake) especially popular (if you can get them!). My 'Zaibatsu Suicide Squad' have even (at their own instigation!) come 'dressed as their characters', complete with trench coats, leather jackets, mirrorshades, replica guns & water pistols and computer deck with earphone dermal connections! Cool! If it gets everyone interested, involved and in the right mind-set - then use it! The writers of the game NOIR suggested playing a video in the background with the sound down, this might work for ZAIBATSU too if the film is very visual. Perhaps Bladerunner, Black Rain, or Rising Sun, something low on action (which will catch the eye of your players) and high on sweeping visuals and talking.

Low lights are a real must, especially special feature lights, perhaps red bulbs, fairy lights or lava lamps. All turn the mundane room into 'something else'. The use of incense sticks can further enhance this feeling.


I find that three or four players are my realistic limit. Any more and the game resembles a war movie with a huge squad of armed guys strutting their stuff around Tokyo being absolutely bad-asses. Plus the logistical headache of trying to keep five, six or more people active and interested diminishes the more people you have playing. Stick to small numbers if you can. If you have plenty of potential players, why not split them into two groups, either two teams working for the same zaibatsu, or teams working for rival zaibatsu? Each mission could be run in reaction to what the previous team did last week. This makes for a very 'interactive' campaign.


From long experience, I have learned that a photocopied stack of character sheets is invaluable. Someone (especially in ZAIBATSU) always dies early on and the player will want to create a new character. If that happens, get him to roll a contact for that character as normal, and then ask him to create that contact as well. This means he knows him inside out and keeps him active while you continue to referee the game.

Have at least a pencil for each player (rubber-tipped if possible), a rubber, spare sheets of note-paper and (if possible) a clipboard each. These are invaluable items. Of course you will need at least two six sided dice, but two per player is preferred. Remember to have playing cards on hand for the cyberspace rules. Take out the Jokers and mix two packs together if that is possible. This gives more variation and makes guessing the next card that little more difficult.

Keep a diary of your game's events. You might think you can remember it all, but if you are still playing three years later, you will find those early notes not only useful but damn entertaining to read. Ahh ... the nostalgia!

Keep notes of anyone or anything (a club, bar or company) you make up during the game, and transfer these notes to some central notebook if you can. Players love to see people or things they've encountered crop up again at a later date. Plus your world is growing and expanding. Never forget these people and organizations, try and reuse what has already been encountered rather than constantly pouring a deluge of new and confusing organizations and personalities onto your players. Less is more. Keep it simple and centred. Some sort of central notebook (or loose-leaf file) is a useful asset. Within it you can keep character sheets when not in use, old character sheets, upcoming missions, details of future campaigns, ideas, and details of locations and personalities (try either subject or A-Z dividers for this). Resist the temptation to create new weapons, drugs and equipment. Let the players learn the limitations of what's available, let them struggle to use what they have in new and interesting ways. If at all possible concentrate that creative urge into developing new missions, street personalities, situations, locations for scenes and ways to 'bring back-in' old characters and locations. Always strive to build on what has gone before. If a character was arrested, then have the next mission break him out. Keep things connected.

For seating, I prefer the lounge to the kitchen table. Tables are useful, but lack that essential atmosphere. It really is up to the referee involved. At any rate, I hope that you enjoy reading, refereeing and playing ZAIBATSU as much as both my many players and I have. It is very difficult now to see reports or TV documentaries about Japan and Tokyo in particular without thinking about the extraordinary exploits that both my players and I have had there over the years!