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Highrider is a term coined by the surface nations of Earth, used to describe the space-dwelling, high tech colonists of Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In return, the tasteful denomination given to surface dwelling humans is Groundsider.

Since 2022, Highriders have belonged to the orbitally inhabiting, independently governed Highrider Confederation.


Highriders are humans that were either born in space, or spend most of their working lives there. They tend to be highly intelligent and well-educated, as well as fast-reacting and level-headed. Though generally slow to anger, they can be thoroughly terrifying when upset.

The majority of Highriders are multilingual, with their grasp of the structure and features of many languages leading, over time, to the development of a Highrider dialect known as "The Word". This dialect is an orbital version of Streetslang, made up mostly of various African dialects, though also containing components of French, German and Japanese. Like other dialects in the Cyberpunk universe, the Highriders make common use of slang.[1]

Those born in space tend to exhibit a number of common traits, most also sharing genetic adaptations tailored towards improved tolerances to zero G, low air pressure and radiation. With many Highriders living in zero G, they tend to be slightly weaker than surface dwelling humans, though generally possess tremendous stamina and determination. The orbital gene pool consists mainly of African DNA, due in large part to Pan-African negotiations with the EEC aimed at building an orbital workforce for the ESA.[2]


Pervasively tribal, they incorporate rituals and rites as well as their own legends and mythology developed from original African folklore, that over time were adapted to include the influences of the adopted cultures of Asia and Europe. They are keen storytellers with an extensive catalogue of tales based on life in space, itself often referred to as "The Dark". The breadth of these tales and their associated cultural identity spans all the way from the working class to a the upper echelons of their society, classes they call "technician" and "managerial".

Highrider tribes, known to themselves as workgroups, are tight-knit units. Much like nomadic tribes, they are staunchly protective of other members of their workgroup - tension with a Highrider can often lead to an entire workgroup bearing down upon you.

Life onboard space stations and vessels is often crowded. The lack of available space leads to a few issues that are principally dealt with by social convention, for example the taboo of nudity often observed in surface societies does not exist, though a degree of dignity is expected to be afforded to those in states of undress. As might be expected, it is rude to stare. Given the inherent lack of space, they are also often lightly burdened. Trinkets and personal items close to heart are often items that bear significance in use, such as rad detectors, flasks and respirators.

The "O'Neill Wars", pinnacled by the Seven Hour War, left in their wake an atmosphere of anger and distrust that remains omnipresent in Highrider society. Often highly suspicious of strangers, Highriders give little to no quarter around stations, especially to unidentified craft.

Many Highriders are keen martial artists, employing cunning and stamina over strength as per their condition, as well as bearing great skill with knives. Most Highriders view guns as risky, especially in zero G, preferring knives as a more consistently lethal alternative.[1]


Generally, the cyberware found in orbital communities is much more subtle than that of surface society. Cyberware designed for use on the surface implicitly benefits from the protection of Earth's magnetic field, shielded from the radiation and electromagnetic effects that are common in LEO.

With surface cyberware, it's estimated the for every week spent in orbit, there is a 10% chance of a serious malfunction. For this reason, given the inherent danger of malfunctions in space, most cyberware found amongst Highriders is specially crafted shielded cyberware, produced in orbital factories. The most common adaptations found in orbit are things like shielded cyberoptics for welding, as well as radio technology and reflex or sensory boosters.

In orbit, bioware is far more common than cyberware. Research by orbital groups into the efficacy of bioware over cyberware in space gave rise to a large increase in availability of bioware in orbit, meaning it's often also cheaper to acquire in orbit than cyberware.[1]


Highriders shun the common vices of surface society. Drugs and alcohol often dull reflexes and cigarette smoke causes damage to electrical components and ventilation systems (let alone humans). In orbit, pretty much all of those lead to a much greater risk of death.

This is not to say their society is free from addiction - Highriders instead choose highs that are short lived and high impact, such as rapidly dispersing aerosols, like Nitrous Oxide. More recently, stimulants have assumed the role that depressants fulfil on Earth, encouraging social interaction in group contexts.

Highriders are most widely addicted to braindances, with an active culture for building gaming simulations and competition between groups.[1]


Over the many years spent adapting to life in space, research has yielded technological advancements that have taken spacefarers from eating freeze-dried fruit to making use of hydroponics to cultivate crops and rear small aquatic creatures. Not all food need be grown in space, but spacebound freight is often unreliable due to the unstable political theatre of the surface below. The Highrider diet consists of vegetables, seafood, algae and staples like rice and noodles.

Logistically, eating in space is difficult due to the lack of gravity. To account for this, many dishes are mixed with thick, sticky sauces designed to make most meals somewhat amorphous and stop debris from floating into ducts and electronics. These sauces draw on the Asian and African heritages of Highrider society, often strongly spiced.

Despite these advances, there remain places with no access to fresh produce, such as isolated construction projects. In such places, processed food paste tubes remain very much the only option. Most readily available processed food is packaged in microwaveable vacuum bags at factories within the Earth's orbital O'Neill stations. Interestingly, drinks also come in vacuum packaging, with a built in straw - coffee for example comes with inbuilt 'squeezable' sections for milk and sugar. The only drinks not found in orbit, except for Crystal Palace, are carbonated drinks, due to their inherent propellant capabilities in zero G.[1]


Modern Highriders maintain a central government, known as the Highrider Confederation. This government was formed as a result of the declaration of independence made in 2022 following the Seven Hour War, leading to the assumption of control of both O'Neill orbitals and Lunar cities Tycho and Copernicus.[3][4]

During The Time of the Red, the Confederation acted as a distant protector of their groundside relatives in Africa, leading indirectly to the unprecedented technological development of several major cities and African society in general. Aside from this, the Highrider Confederation deploys cautious neutrality toward all nations, corporations and conflicts.[5]


Seven Hour War

Noteworthy Highriders[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Living and working in space. (1993). In Deep Space: The Interplanetary Supplement for Cyberpunk 2020 (pp. 72–80). R. Talsorian Games.
  2. Afrofuturism and the High Frontier. (2020). In Cyberpunk RED (p. 243). R. Talsorian.
  3. The Highrider Confederation. (2020). In Cyberpunk RED (pp. 262–263). R. Talsorian.
  4. Sources disagree on the role of the Confederation with regard to former ESA habitats.
  5. Futurist Africa. (2020). In Cyberpunk RED (p. 261). R. Talsorian.