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Cyberpunk Red, tabletop RPG and prequel to Cyberpunk 2077, out in November

The boxed starter set went on sale in 2019

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Image: Sebastian Szmyd/R. Talsorian Games

The Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing game, the inspiration for Cyberpunk 2077, will launch a new version alongside the highly anticipated video game. The core rulebook, titled Cyberpunk Red, will go live as a $30 downloadable PDF on or around Nov. 14. Physical books should hit store shelves around Nov. 19 at $60. The announcement was made Friday on the publisher’s website.

The original Cyberpunk tabletop universe was created by Mike Pondsmith, and first published in 1988. Its most popular iteration, Cyberpunk 2020, helped to inspired CD Projekt to make the video game. Working hand-in-hand with Pondsmith, together the Polish team and the U.S.-based game designer pushed the lore of that universe forward 57 years. Along the way, Pondsmith and the team at R. Talsorian also developed Cyberpunk Red as a prequel set in 2045.

Fans got a hefty preview of the prequel last year. The Cyberpunk Red: Jumpstart Kit was released at the Gen Con tabletop gaming convention in 2019. The boxed starter set is on sale now. At its core is a slim rulebook and a brief set of adventures, but also an elaborate World Book. From our review:

Rather than a single point of departure — common to universes like Fallout or BattleTech — the 51-page softcover document tells the story of a society falling into chaos by degrees. Inside is a detailed timeline cataloguing the steady rise of groundbreaking technologies. It tells the tale of wayward governments serially incapable of protecting their own citizens, then dives into the near-apocalyptic events known as the 4th Corporate War.

Imagine World War III brought about by the likes of Amazon and Lockheed Martin, and you’ve only begun to scratch the surface.

According to the publisher, Cyberpunk Red will more fully flesh out the world outlined in the Jumpstart Kit, while giving more detail on gunfights, melee action, and Netrunning — the in-universe term for hacking. The 456-page book includes at least 143 new pieces of art. Writers and designers include Mike Pondsmith, James Hutt, Cody Pondsmith, Jay Parker, J Gray, David Ackerman, and Jaye Kovach.

Below is a full rundown of what’s inside, section-by-section, as listed in today’s announcement. More information is promised over the next few Fridays.

  • The front of the book has the sort of stuff you’d expect at the front of the book: Cast and Crew credits, legalese, the Table of Contents, and an Introduction by Maximum Mike Pondsmith.
  • There are three pieces of fiction in Cyberpunk RED and the first is a classic: Never Fade Away. It felt fitting to begin, as they say, at the beginning with the story that set the tone for the entire world.
  • View from the Edge serves as an introduction to Cyberpunk and to TRPGs in general. It wraps up with a list of Streetslang.
  • Next up is Soul and the New Machine, where we introduce the 10 Roles in Cyberpunk RED: Rockerboys, Solos, Netrunners, Techs, Medtechs, Medias, Execs, Lawmen, Fixers, and Nomads. We also introduce the three methods of Character Generation available in the game: Streetrat (a template system similar to what was had in the Cyberpunk RED Jumpstart Kit); Edgerunner (a fast and dirty template customization system); and the Complete Package (you spends your points, you make your choices, and nothing’s locked to Roles except the Role Ability and a section of the Lifepath).
  • Of course, no Interlock game would be complete without a Lifepath system and that’s where Tales from the Street comes into play. Next Friday we’ll be showing this baby off in more detail but, for now, we’ll say there’s two sections: your general Lifepath, where you generate a background for your Character, and a Role-Based Lifepath, where you get to find out if your Netrunner has a partner, what sort of venues your Rockerboy plays, and where your Tech gets their spare parts!
  • In Fitted for the Future we get to the meat of Character Generation: STATS, Skills, Weapons, Armor, Gear, Fashion, Lifestyle, Housing, and how you get them all. What about cyberware? So glad you asked!
  • Since cyberware forms one of the key components of Cyberpunk, it gets a separate chapter: Putting the Cyber into the Punk. We lay down a foundation about what cyberware is, then move onto the main event, the cyberware itself! There’s just about a hundred different pieces of cyber available and we’ve made sure it is clear when you need one piece of cyberware (say a Neural Link) in order to get another piece (say Kerenzikov Speedware). And yep, the “Running Out of Cash?” option is still available. Your soul, choomba. Up to you to determine how much it is worth.
  • Reaching page 121, we get to The Fall of the Towers, the story of how a certain Rockerboy bit the big one. Our second fiction piece.
  • Next, you’ll find Getting it Done aka “how the game works”. Here’s where we discuss Skill Checks, Difficulty Values, and go into more detail with each individual Skill, lay out rules for “multiclassing”, and give specifics about Role Abilities. In case you missed it in an earlier devlog, here’s the skinny on Role Abilities:
  • Rockerboys get Charismatic Impact (the higher they rise, the more they can get out of their fans as individuals, small groups, and large crowds)
  • Solos have Combat Awareness (this ain’t no flat bonus. You get a pool of points to spend on various options to customize your fighting style)
  • Netrunners have Interface (the ability to Netrun and basic actions they can perform without the aid of a program while in a NET Architecture)
  • Techs have it good thanks to Maker. Fix stuff. Upgrade stuff. Fabricate stuff. Invent stuff. With this they truly are the “enchanters” of Cyberpunk.
  • As for Medtechs, Medicine gives them a big boost. Not only can they heal Critical Injuries no one else can, they can also make some pretty nifty drugs and they can keep people alive (and immobile) with cryotech.
  • Medias have Credibility, which lets them find rumors and leads and then use them and their investigations to craft stories that can cause major changes in a City’s landscape.
  • The Exec gets Teamwork. Not only does their Corp give them free clothes and housing, and Trauma Team coverage (at higher Ranks) but Execs also get underlings to boss around! Need a Bodyguard? Driver? Netrunner? You can get one to be on your “team”. But be careful, if you push them too far they’ll lose Loyalty and walk.
  • Lawmen can call in Backup when in dangerous situations. The higher your Rank, the better the response team will be.
  • Operator is the Fixer Role Ability. With it they have a spread of contacts, an ability to source goods, and bonus to haggling on prices, and an ability to blend in with different cultures (complete with bonus Language Skills).
  • And then there’s the Nomad Ability of Moto. Nomads are good with vehicles and get bonuses to drive/pilot them and to repair them. Plus, they can “sign out” and upgrade vehicles from their family/pack motorpool. A Nomad with Moto 3, for example, can have 3 stock vehicles, 2 vehicles (one of which has an upgrade), or 1 vehicle (with two upgrades). Land, sea, and air vehicles are available.
  • We follow up with Friday Night Firefight. I.e. how to bring (or take) the pain. Movement. Melee Combat. Ranged Combat. Explosives. Autofire. Martial Arts. Fire. Electricity. Radiation. Cover. Human Shields. Armor. Critical Injuries. Death Saves. Vehicle Combat. Faceoffs. There’s a lot covered here but the rules are a faster and more furious upgrade from the Cyberpunk 2020 version.
  • In Netrunning we deal with hacking. The majority of this section deals with NET hacking aka “plugging into cyberspace” and it works pretty much like you’ve seen in the Cyberpunk RED Jumpstart Kit only with more programs and hardware upgrades for your cyberdeck and more Black ICE to get in your way. We also go into Demons (programs designed to control real world equipment), drones, and defenses. Defenses can be anything from automated turrets to cameras to stun panels to “blood swarms” and there’s plenty of room for mechanical/electronic hacking in the form of fiddling with wires (CUT THE RED ONE!) and switching out circuit boards. In other words, physical hacking as opposed to NET hacking. The section’s capped off with information on how to build your very own “home security system”.
  • Trauma Team talks all about what happens when you get hurt. Wound States? Check. Critical Injuries and how to fix them? Check! What happens when you get the “broken arm” injury and you’ve got a cyberarm instead of a meat one? Check! Trauma Team coverage? You betcha! How to install that cybereye you just ripped out of a ganger into your own skull? Sure thing! Bodysculpting? Standard and Exotic levels! Street drugs? What’s Cyberpunk without Smash? Therapy? Complete rules! Cyberpsychosis and how it works and how to play it out? Of course!
  • Let’s move onto some heavy lore, shall we? Welcome to the Dark Future is a primer on the world of Cyberpunk up to the end of the 4th Corporate War. If you’re a long time fan of the game, don’t worry. There’s new information here. Want to know who led the Gang of Four? Or what the Wasting Plague was? That info, and more, is new to Cyberpunk RED.
  • The Time of the Red tells us about the world from the 4th Corporate War to the present day. There’s a good overview, of course, of the post-4th United States and Europe, Neo-Soviets, Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, and Asia but also the Drift Nations, Deepdowns, and Highrider Confederation. You’ll also learn quite a bit about the Neocorps making headlines in the Time of the Red: Arasaka, Biotechnica, Continental Brands, Danger Girl, Militech, Network 54, Petrochem, Rocklin Augmentics, SovOil, Trauma Team North America, Ziggurat, and Zhirafa.
  • In Welcome to Night City, we talk about the history and present day of Richard Night’s “perfect city”. We’ll look at the Night City of the past (with details to help GMs plan “treasure hunts” in the rubble if they so wish! and how Morro Bay turned into the Night City of 2020 and how the Night City of 2020 transformed into the Night City of 2045. There’ll be a tour of Night City in the Time of the Red, with details on government and services, districts (as they exist at the moment, anyway!), gangs, badasses and power players, and 43 key locations. Enough to populate your game but leaving plenty of room for your own creations.
  • Everyday Life looks at what it is like to live in 2045. We cover the law, day to day communications, weapons, transportation, news and media, clothes, food, and where you get stuff. The details on vendits are some of our favorite new bits.
  • Next is The New Street Economy. It begins with a “what is the economy like” section and moves onto Night Markets: what they are, how they work, and how you can make your own. Most of the section is the Night Market Appendix: a complete listing of every type of weapon, armor, ammunition, weapon upgrade, gear, street drug, cyberware, fashion, cyberdeck option, and service available. Some of it is listed in other parts of the book as well but we made sure it was all here so GMs have one “to go to” place to find everything a PC might buy when they go shopping. After that is info on Lifestyle (are you eating kibble every day or maybe prepak?) and Housing (squatting in a cube hotel? hanging in a cargo container? got a conapt? or maybe you’re living in your car?). We end with how you make your bread. GMs will be glad to know we give solid numbers on how much Edgerunners should get per job. There’s also the Hustle, a system that lets you put downtime to good use in order to earn eurobucks based on your Role. Maybe your Rockerboy plays a small gig, your Exec earns a Corp bonus, or your Nomad picked up a small smuggling job.
  • Of course, no TRPG would be complete without a section liked Running Cyberpunk. There’s advice for GMs here, absolutely, but also a “scenario generation” system we like to call Beat Charts to help you plan missions. You’ll also find the rules for awarding Improvement Points and advancing Character Skills and Role Abilities here. Beyond that, we’ve got 10 different “mooks and grunts” of various levels of difficulty and some Night City encounter tables to generate random events divided by time (day, night, after midnight).
  • There’s Screamsheets to give Gamemasters a number of scenarios to run until they feel up to making their own. We’ll also be making new Screamsheets available on our website in the future.
  • At the end of the book is a new piece of fiction. We’re not going to spoil the title just yet but Mike wrote this one special for Cyberpunk RED and it helps set the mood and show the world. It also stars a new group of Edgerunners. You can find out more info about this Crew, and the remarkable gamers who helped us make them, here.
  • We end the book with a 3 page Character Sheet and and Index.

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