Genefunk 2090 – An Interview with James Armstrong (CRISPR Monkey Studios)

When I ran the What RPG Kickstarters Excite Creators? column, Genefunk 2090 was a regular recommendation (here, here, here, and here). As such, when Genefunk 2090, a sci-fi setting using a variation of the Dungeons & Dragons 5e ruleset, came out, I was glad to take with James Armstrong of CRISPR Monkey Studios about the project.

EGG EMBRY (EGG): What’s the pitch for your project? 

JAMES ARMSTRONG (JA): Biopunk 5e! There’s been an open niche for biopunk RPGs, especially near-future ones, and I wanted to address that, and see where I could take it. Eclipse Phase has some of the elements I wanted to capture, but it’s more far-future sci-fi. I wanted something not too far around the corner. Endogenous DNA computers, genetic enhancement, mind-hacking, transgenic beasts, and anything else I could think of!

EGG: What system are you using, and why is it the right one for this game? JA: I’m using the 5e ruleset because it is a combat and skill-check based system, which suits the playstyle of a group of biopunk mercenaries well. I also chose that system because I want the game to be accessible to a widest possible group of people: you can enter GeneFunk 2090 ready to play if you have experience with D&D.

EGG: What makes the setting for GeneFunk 2090 different than other sci-fi RPGs? JA: The heavy lean into biopunk elements, and having brain-computers as a ubiquitous feature!

I love biology, and the implications genetic engineering.  I actually have an M.Sc. in molecular biology, partially because I was interested in understanding the science behind genetic modification. It’s now apparent that a great deal of human enhancement will be at the genetic level, not necessarily grafted-on chrome arms and robot bodies. I want to show how the world might look if that genetic enhancement started before birth, and how biologically specializing humans might affect society.  An informal genetic caste system that emerges from a global market economy.

I also baked in brain-computers as a feature all characters get, not just as an option for hackers. When you look around and see complete market saturation of smart phones, it’s a fair assumption that brain-computers will be equally prolific once they become normalized. This opened the door for really digging into mind-hacking as a core feature, a sci-fi basis for psychic awareness with hep from psychic reading online experts. You can choose to play as someone without a brain-computer, but you lose a lot of abilities to gain the benefit of being immune to mind-hacks.

EGG: Tell me about some of the MVPs on your creative team? JA: For art, William Liberto, Dean Spencer, and Enmanuel Martinez Lima did most of the heavy lifting!  The core InDesign expertise was courtesy of Simeon Cogswell, and the editing by J Boone Dryden. Each of these people really elevated the final book!

EGG: What other projects have you worked on? 

JA: This is my first one! 🙂 Unless you mean it more broadly, then sequencing and mapping the mitochondrial genome of the bed bug would count. 🙂 I may have included an Easter egg of this in the book somewhere, hahaha.


EGG: What’s after GeneFunk 2090? 

JA: I’ll be doing a setting book for this world, Shadows of Korea, which is set to be completed in March of 2020. It will be a sandbox book, outlining major NPCs, factions, and locations (with battle maps) in Korea, primarily centered in the city of Busan. Players can look forward to more genetic enhancements, cybernetic upgrades, genomes, class archetypes, hacks, and other mechanical goodies as well!

EGG: Where can fans learn more about you and your project? 

JA: The DriveThruRPG page, Kickstarter page, or check out this preview PDF:


NOTE: This article includes affiliate links to DriveThruRPG. As a DriveThruRPG Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases.

About Egg Embry

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. NOTE: Articles may includes affiliate links. As a DriveThruRPG Affiliate/Amazon Associate/Humble Partner I earn from qualifying purchases.
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