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.

PRESS RELEASE: GeneFunk 2090 Kickstarter Coming Soon!


Imagine a world in the not too distant future, 2090, where technology has entirely shaped the very essence of human nature, and where fiscal interests, the international arms race, and consumerism have entirely shaped that same technology. This is the world of GeneFunk 2090.

Supercomputer in your Bloodstream

The human condition as a whole has become something somewhat different. Somewhere along the way almost every single human has been modified to have a powerful supercomputer coded directly into their DNA and physiology, one that has merged with their consciousness. In this world the internet has become as real as the physical world and hackers have become manipulators of the very stuff of the human psyche, probing and rearranging memory and mind the way a potter molds clay.

Plasticity of Genes, Form, and Human Nature

Large sections of the human population have had their genes chosen before birth to breed success, while others have had foreign DNA included to produce wholly different physical traits that were once thought inhuman. On top of all the innate genetic tweaking, individuals modify themselves through cyberware surgeries and biohacks, to the point where some are considered entirely “posthuman”.

Violent, Shallow, and Unequal

Multinational corporations have gobbled each other up, producing ever larger entities until only nine remain, each of which is a superpower bigger than most of the world’s countries. Corporate executives have the power to shatter entire governments in the name of their company’s share value and their own ambition. Gangs and organized crime saturate every urban environment. This world, bloated from overpopulation and consumer greed, has become one of the most violent eras in human history. The rich segregate themselves from the poor, and the tension caused by this wealth gap is causing the world to burst at the seams.

Virtual Immortality

Recent innovations have allowed the rich to undergo a process that maps their entire nervous system, connectome, endocrine complement, DNA and gene expression, and every other feature relevant to the human mind. This digitization of consciousness allows the world’s wealthy and powerful to essentially live forever, switching from one bioengineered shell to another as they see fit.

Cadre of Professionals

You and your allies are a cadre, a lean start-up corporation that specializes in investigation, intelligence, protection, and violence. To keep their hands clean, the syndicates often outsource this kind of work to smaller outfits, like yours. Your cadre’s skillset is in high demand in this intrigue filled world, being sought after by megacorporations, nation-states, organized crime, or wealthy individuals. As an autonomous entity, your cadre of elite agents take contracts as you see fit, navigating the shadows of corporate espionage and savagery with competence and panache.

A cyberpunk/biopunk TTRPG using 5E rules, due to hit Kickstarter on April 30th, 2019!


Promo Video:



Twitter: GeneFunk 2090 @GeneFunk2090



FREE Setting Book:



Kickstarter Preview:


Interview with @Garmbreak1, from @Midgardia:


Art Credits:

William Liberto, Dean Spencer, Enmanuel Martinez Lema, Dimas Raviandra, Trung Tin Shinji, Brad Maesa, Nate Artuz, Abel Bardalez Arica, Tony ‘MrKrane’ Carter, and Sonnaz