RPG Showcase: First look at Cyberpunk2020

It seems like every month or so, the showcase needs to have a session with a serious talk about what we’re doing in the future. Two weeks ago, we decided to try Cyberpunk 2020, in preparation for some game or somesuch. Cyberpunk is not a genre I’m fluent in, but I’ll give anything a go if I don’t have a reason not to! (and my players wanting to is a reason to run a game if I’ve ever heard one!)

Choosing a system

“Which version of Cyberpunk?” is possibly the most annoying RPG questions I’ve had to research. The answer is not straighforeward. So here is a straight forewarned summation:

  • Cyberpunk 2013 is the old version, 1e
  • Cyberpunk 2020 is the popular version that 77 is based on
  • Cyberpunk 203X is the ugly stepchild, that is not cannon to the series. According to the author, no less.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 is the pretty vidya game by CD Project Red that is coming out sometime soonish. It is based on the CP2020 world.
  • Cyberpunk ‘Red’ is an RPG tie-in to CP2077. It has a stupid to search, because “Cyberpunk + Red” brings up 2077. This RPG is slated to come out at the tail end of 2019, having been pushed back a time or two already.


So CP2020 is what we’re going to play. And it is a… mess. Lore and mechanics are woven together and the book as a lot of “This is why you do this in the world” as opposed to “This is how you do this in the game.” It sounds cool, but it is really hard to figure out how you actually play the game. I’m working on it. The party is running with a sacrificial crew (not that they entirely know that) so we can learn the rules before we actually try to tell a story.

All that being said, I like it. It doesn’t feel rules heavy, even though it kinda sorta is. It feels flexible and invisible. Its really easy to be in the world, instead of at the table. For me at least. So that gets a thumbs up from me.

Rules?

Cyberpunk 2020 is a Skill buy game. Specifically, it is Stat+Skill system. And that’s the main core rule. Try to do anything, its 1d10+Stat+Skill. The rest of the system are more like… procedures. You do a few checks against various things in a certain order. The problem is that there’s no one path. There is a different procedure for melee attacks and ranged attacks. I have no idea if you can throw a knife yet and PLEASE don’t throw a grenade or use a shotgun until I’ve had time to research.

The combat seems to be mostly guns, and, depending on what you’re trying to do with the gun, there are different procedures for that too. All of it is overwhelming when you’re starting out.

You thought THAT was complicated??

Netrunning. I’ve been warned away from it as a GM, because of complicatedness and unbalanced gameplay. The gameplay balance I feel I can handle. That’s a GM’s job and if the number of split parties I’ve juggled is any indication, I’m not going to have a problem with it. The trick is to make other peoples turns interesting, possibly moreso than yours. Spend time where people have interest and give everyone as much spotlight as they need.

However, Netrunning has one big flaw: I haven’t a friggin clue as to what’s going on and how to adjucate it. It is a separate game that crosses over a few stats. Which is really really cool, actually, from a game design perspective. It’s an interesting solution to the “How do we do this?” question. Unfortunately, I have to learn that other game at the same time as learning CP2020, which is a double burden. And, oh, hey, remember when I mentioned this book was horrible for learning games in? Yeah, same goes for this section.  

Many kinds of games

One of the problem with RPGs is that you have to know who the party is before you can write a story about it. One of the things D&D does is limit the motivations and potential approaches of players. We say D&D has infinite possibilities, but can you rent a helicopter and repel out of it onto the bad guy’s penthouse? Maybe in some D&D, but that is a strategy that is not only possible in Cyberpunk2020, but is easy. If you have the money.

I’ve had problems with my Showcase group being “mercenary” enough. They’ve been more goodie-two shoes than loot hungry. Maybe CP2020 can break them of that. There’s a handful of motivations, all of which are well and good, but you have to know the party’s motivation to be able to run a convincing game. (That’s a problem I have with AL, ATM. No cash rewards for adventures written for cash rewards.)

Normally, this kind of issue is resolved in a session zero or a game pitch or a briefing document. I decided not to issue one of these (although we had something similar to a session zero for character building, but it didn’t set up the plot as characters in CP2020 can take a loooong time to build.), but instead, I ran a Session Point Five. That means at the table, I listened to one character’s description and motivations and story (I had invited that player to be the center of the story before hand, so it wasn’t completely cold.). Then, I invited the other characters to be part of that story, and once everyone was tied together, I ran an encounter or two.

It’s harrying, to run an encounter from scratch, no doubt about it. But isn’t that what practice is for, skraz? (I just started reading the book Outliers which is where the 10,000 hours of practice became popular. I’m going to be doing the math soon and see what I’m at for DMing)

I ran into a snag when I had two guys come through the door with guns that ended up not mattering. See, I’m really used to having a Monster manual and that’s not a thing in CP2020. So I had to make up some fish bait on the spot and they died horribly, albiet by the rules. (I think.)

The same kind of issues

I have a problem GMing that surfaced again in Cyberpunk2020, and I realize its going to be really prevelant here. I’m going to have to learn to deal with it, which is probably a good thing long overdue. My issue is in descriptions. I used words like “Elevator,” “Office,” “Desk,” and “Cop” as if everyone knew exactly what I meant.

Sure, I should have a bit of leniency because I was improving my dungeon, but I’ve had this problem for a while. I can describe things, I can make fantastical things, but I’m really bad at conveying that fantasy. I use the word “goblin” and expect my players to fill in the blanks, but there’s players out there who have no idea what I mean when I say goblin. (DNDGreenText: “What’s a Goblin?“)

In CP2020, I need to have everything pick up that cool cyberpunk shine. It has to become part of my banter, part of my job to explain all the ins and outs of how cool and messed up this world is. So it’s probably good training.

Zarks

I like the look of this game. I like the feel of this game. It’s annoying how long it will take me to learn, and I might have to break netrunning down so it’s part of the same system. But I’m excited to run it for a while. I also think it might be a good system for a Girl Genius RPG, so I might try to wrap my head around that for a bit. But there will be some fun times coming, you better believe it!

This was available a day early on my Patreon

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