Prior to late 2020, the Combat Zone in Night City was nothing more than a ghetto with its often changing borders defined by Gang Territories and economic statistics.   The neighborhoods and housing projects contained with in were originally built to house both the construction crews who worked tirelessly to build the city, as well as the disenfranchised that were forced out of their homes.  As the city grew at unrivaled pace, most anyone who could afford it moved locations more convenient to the work.  As more and more people were pushed out, and more and more and more people were fleeing rural homes for the cities, the Housing projects were soon overwhelmed and the neighborhoods devolved year by year into a den of crime and neglect. 


(Marston before the walls went up)

As gangs began staking claim on every corner of the city and violent incidents and drug wars raged, the police and security corporations began a short lived but unprecedented period of co-operation.  For the months leading up to Carnival, police, Arasaka, Militech, and Lazarus began a campaign to push the gangs out of the North East area of Night City where most of the corporate interests lay.  The groups would report to each other on all gang related activity. If one group witnessed something but was unable to take action it would immediately report it to the others. 


Draconic and unconstitutional laws were being passed allowing for the seizure and sale of any property related to gang activity, the police relentlessly harassed anyone wearing gang colors.  Arrests were made by the score, and property was seized left and right.  Apartment Building owners were pressured to evict suspected gang affiliates, some were bribed by corporations, and others were threatened with arrest and seizure.  The properties that were seized were sold for pennies to corporations.  In 6 months the worst of the gangs had been pushed out of Northern Night City and into its slums to the south. 

Slaughterhouse and Maelstrom survived by moving south, their size and strength allowing them to take over territories in the newly built housing projects, although both gangs were severely restructured.  Other gangs like the Wild Things were destroyed in the process, their members either in prison, dead, recruited into other gangs outside the corporate sector, or in hiding.   The push continued across the city, as the majority of the most violent gangs were condensed into a smaller and smaller area, city hall was working on a final solution to the problem.  The loosely defined and now overflowing “Combat Zone” had its official borders drawn up and the area was walled off.  The walls were erected initially under the auspices of building a new elevated train line.  Tracks were even laid… when the support structure was in place the sides were walled off with steel plates and the entire thing was filled with concrete before anyone realized what was happening.  A large percentage of the workforce that built the wall would find themselves trapped behind it.  The Combat Zone is officially called Marsten, and extends from the Marsten Housing Project complex in the East roughly 2 miles west to Truman Street.  Once the area was walled off and secure, city hall put its final solution into play, an event known infamously as Carnival.



Carnival was a misguided and disastrous attempt to rid Night City once and for all of its most violent and wanted criminals, and to clean up the Combat Zone of the worst of the lot.  For 1 week in late 2020, the government declared the Combat Zone a free for all, posting bounties of every known criminal in Night City, and letting bounty hunters from all over the country loose into the walled off and sealed Zone.  The atrocities, destruction, and violence of that week, had never been seen on American soil before, and to make matters worse the media was not only televising live footage 24 hours a day from remote operated blimps but they even sent in their own bounty teams.  The public backlash from the event was swift and far reaching.  Every public official who signed off on the plan was swept from office, many were charged, and the mayor was sentenced to 30 years in a supermax prison.  The governor committed suicide.

When the dust settled, it was decided that the walls would stay up and the checkpoints at the entrances would occasionally be enforced.  Getting in to the Combat Zone is rarely a problem, but getting out can often require an ID check, sometimes a vehicle search.



If forcing all of the most violent gangs into one small area wasn’t bad enough, instead of eliminating the gang problems, all Carnival accomplished was to cull the weak gangs from the herd and make the strong even stronger.

It is often rumored that several of the organized crime families, particularly the Mafia, Yakuza, and Triads, were instrumental behind the scenes of the entire process, using the situation to not only eliminate their less disciplined competition, but to gain political and corporate connections that would serve them well.  It is even rumored that the Governors decisions were directly ordered by the Mafia, and that his suicide was actually murder, over fear he would inform to the police and media the truth behind the situation.  But that is all speculation.


What is certain, is that in the three years since the Combat Zone was sealed, the gangs inside have undergone radical changes.  There is a constant fight over territory and resources.  The two largest gangs in the Zone are Slaughterhouse and Stomp Street.

Slaughterhouse now controls the Marsten Projects, and much of the two blocks to the east.  They are in near constant conflict with Stomp Street, who claim the blocks along the length of Stompanato Street as well as the Kramer Projects, essentially controlling the dividing line of the Combat Zone.  The South East is controlled by Maelstrom, while the rest is held by smaller gangs who are holding out against their larger rivals and each other for as long as they can.  The most notable of these small gangs are the predominantly asian Yellow Moon Society, the Netrunner gang the Digital Renegades, a youth gang calling itself the Orphans, a martial arts based gang calling itself Bushido, an all female gang calling themselves The Furies.



Electricity and water are provided across the Zone illegally by the Digital Renegades, other than that the citizens of the Zone enjoy few of the comforts Night City has to offer.  Normal police do not enter the Zone, Swat and C-Swat will, but only in groups of 20 or more, and always fully armored and armed, with air support.  The only emergency response you will see in the Zone is from Trauma Team or its competitor Militech Rescue, and even then only if payments are up to date.  Firefighters don’t enter for any reason, ever.  They used to, until they tried putting out a tenement fire that had been set by a gang, and were slaughtered to the man while trying to put out the blaze.


Navigating the Zone is difficult, as most of the street signs have long been removed, often serving as weapons or armor.  Newcomers to the Zone, or temporary visitors would be well advised to find a guide.  Among the things it is of dire importance to learn immediately are recognizing gang territories and what the proper show of respect is. 


Food is brought in to the Zone by nomads to the scattered restaurants and grocers.  The nomads who do this pay tithe to the gangs whose territories they cross, but still tend to come through heavily armed and armored.


There are a few places in the Zone known to be neutral ground.  Joe Devils Pawn shop, Club Crossroads, the Wiggling Pig Grocery, a few solo bars, Marsten Mall, and scattered ripperdocs being the most well known.


Most of the buildings in the Zone are in disrepair, and in some places there are just burned out husks and toppled highrises.  Most of the streets are small and crowded, and dark at night, as street lights are frequently shot out.  Some Zone citizens will take it upon themselves to replace or repair street lights, but it is usually a temporary measure at best.  There are also frequent construction projects being undertaken by the residents, most don’t get very far or are focused on keeping buildings upright that would have been condemned long ago if inspectors from the city ever dared to enter. 



Living in the Combat Zone is rough if you are a healthy male, if you are a female or a child, it can be a nightmare.  The police generally only enter when trying to find someone who has caused trouble outside the Zone walls, inside the walls theft, assault, rape, and murder are rampant, and the only punishment is meted out by the inhabitants themselves.  The media will often paint the Zone as being populated by nothing but gangs, criminals on the run, and psychos, this is not the truth.  The majority of people who live in the Zone are just everyday folks in a near inescapable prison of poverty and despair.  The worst part is, they can look over the wall and see the wonders of Night City spread out before them.  For every Punk rocker who screamed about Anarchy, this is as close as you will ever come to finding it.  The Combat Zone is extremely overpopulated and home to every vice and crime you can imagine, from bootleg videos to terrorism.






Written By Deric Bernier, (with gangs and locations created by R. Talsorian Games, Atlas Games, Interface Magazine, and Iaunus Games).  Images from Deric Bernier, R. Talsorian Games, Interface, Mad Max, The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Warriors of the 21st Century, Transmetropolitan, Afro Samurai, Mazinger, The Last Dragon, Black Belt Jones, Black Samurai, Double Dragon, Capcom, Virtua Fighter, Streetfighter, Tekken, King Of Fighters, Fatal Fury, Fist Of The North Star, Red Alert, Dead End Drive-In, Shadowrun, Reklamation, Cyborg OEDO, Metro, Borderlands, Clockwork Orange, The Hills Have Eyes, Below Zero, Fallen Earth, Deadlands: Hell On Earth, Rifts, Gurps, The Barbarians, Rage, Fallout, Weird Science, Netrunner, Cyberpunk CCG, Marvel Comics, Ultimates, Tron, Cowboy Bebop, Android, Mafia Wars, Deus Ex, DC Comics, Shazam, Cowboy Bebop, Ghost In The Shell, Appleseed, Breaker, Breaker: New Waves, Parasite Dolls, AD Police, Circuitry Man, Purge, Crimecraft, Saints Row, Grand Theft Auto, Star Wars, Crude buster, Two Crude Dudes, Road Avenger, Renegade, All Points Bulletin, C.O.P.S., Bionic Commando, Negative Burn, Wildcats, Superman, Neon Cyber, Darkminds, Megazone 23, Wolverine, X-men, The Warriors, Streets Of Fire, Class Of 1984, Class of 1999, Karate Warrior, Metal Gear, 2020 Visions, Bubblegum Crisis, Bubblegum Crash, Mortal Kombat, Crime Life, Fast And The Furious, GI Joe, Earthrise, The Club, The Suffering, Machete, Desperado, Blood In Blood Out, Mi Vida Loca, Brazil, City Of God, Crank, Falling Down, Gang City, Akira, Army Of One, NYC Mech, Brink, Set It Off, Assault On Precinct 13, Glen and Randal, Brawling Bouncers, Bitch Slap, Nemesis, Suckerpunch, Batman, Wasteland Empires, What If, Terminator, Resident Evil, Warlands, Exterminators 3000, Burning Man, Weapon Brown, Urban Warriors, Hard Boiled, Arachnophobia, Fallen Skies, Land Of The Dead, Empty Zone, Training Day, Big Trouble In Little China, Tank Girl, The New Barbarians, Gangs Of new York, Back To The Future 2, Savage Tales, Appleseed, Ride To Hell, Solar Babies, Spy Hunter, Metro 2033, Cyberspace, Road Warrior Weekend, Road War, D20 Future, D20 Apocalypse, Dethkillers, Massive Black, Twilight 2000,Adam Warren, Raben AAS, Wry1, Dmitrys, Adam Hughes, Quellion, Bordon,Timur Mutsaev,  Cellfaces, Aleksi, Francis001, Gasket,Shiramune,  Endo 74, Aaron Beck, Mohzart, Livingrope, Dingo107, Nanavuut,, Jani Hamalainen, Clement_Suave, Kishin007, Roboto_Kun, Quiros, JesserZZZ, NekoxxxNightmare, Josuhemaiz, AkaiSoul, Xadhoom, Carlos Cavalcante, Matt Bradbury, Akuma_Motarasutsumi, Bristow Bailey, Moongrape, N_Mel, Kieron Gillen, Angelero,  Likodemus, Dead Dreamer, ShelestovV, LostSoulsArt, Riq, Dave Allsop, OmeN2501, Techtonic, Raven1303, Kazroth, Unhappy_Girl, Rosien_HoH, DOQ_666, The_A_Factory, den89, ichitakaseto-d3fwrw4, SC4V3NG3R, Ricochet188, Viviane, KFoster, Superhawkins, Jager375, Shed2602, Vinicius Menezes, Juhoham, Rubin Cubiles, Bstart, Raultrevino, Johnjackman, Chiara Pasquini, Dweller, RodoxDesign, Lethorgius, Ilog, Grusborg, Chow120, Tom Baxa, Pushpinder Singh, The Elysian, Misterho, Adonihs, Jasson, AKnox, Obeythekiwi, Andree Wallin, Fuchsiart, Garang76, Spiral Dance Studio, Dingo107, Nick Egberts, Acidlullaby, Orellana, Photoport, Wyldekarde, Knightwatch, Zalas, Mothbot, Horrified Survivor, WarmGunMod, Salemburn, Avonius, Avalonfilth, Wildlifehoodoo, Raetjor, Cellar, Skam4, Grinch_7, Patc_14, Echo_x, Bqw-d4822kt, Nickykcin, Scruffyronin, Poibuts, Archipelo, Maria William, Adonhis, A. Baldasseroni, Britnerfmogul, Udoncrew, Artbytheo, Luis Royo, Richard Daborn, atomhawk, Jaime Jones, Jan Ditlev, El Pinoy, Chonastock, Other Unicorn, Joe Clucher, Jacobcharlesdietz, Tim Okamura, Ghostronix, Psychofish, Polaris Pirate, Storm X, Januszwyrzykowski, Brokenhill, Bokuman, The Vigil, Tariq12, Lazeedog, Idomuchris, Remichan, Timur Mutsaev, Joe Leder, Johan Bergstrom,, Humvee driver, Laurent, Barry Harker, and various other unknown films, anime, comics, artists, and car customizers.

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