Most gamers love a good gear book. Whether it's deciding on what to buy with all that gold getting inspiration for an entirely new character, it’s one of my favorite types of expansion books. Cyberpunk games do these exceptionally well. I spent so much time curled up with the Street Samurai Catalog and the various ChromeBooks as a kid looking at new options for my characters. The success of Cyberpunk Red meant that a line was coming. One of the first books, Black Chrome, is now here and R. Talsorian Games was happy to send me a copy to review. Does it shine in the neon-soaked night? Let’s play to find out.
The bulk of Black Chrome is structured around an in-universe app called CBK. The app connects users with the various Night Markets around the city where vendors sell all the weapons, vehicles and other gear that a team of slick Edgerunners needs to carve out a life. Most of what you would expect in the book is here but there are two notable absences. The first is netrunner gear. There’s a few bits and pieces that enhance those capabilities but anyone looking for programs and the like will have to wait until the likely upcoming netrunning book. The other are full body borg conversions. Instead, the book offers linear frames, many of which can be installed internally but also exist as Edge of Tomorrow style exoskeletons.
Designers James Hutt, Jay Parker, Turbo, J Gray, Anne Morrison, Chris Spivey, Linda Evans, and Melissa Wong strike a decent balance here between straight forward stuff like bigger guns and stylish armor with the spy gadget stuff crews love to use like explosive electrical outlets or an anime fan handgun that giggles when you reload it. My favorite pair of entries are for the latest deadly mono katana with biometric security that ignores armor, followed by the cheap replica media tie-in that looks almost exactly the same. There’s a thread of Robocop-style satire running through this book that I really enjoyed.
The book addresses one of the main concerns I had with the way gear was handled in the main book. For a game that centers on name brand weapons, everything was built to be extremely generic. There were some pieces that stood out but most of the neat elements in my Cyberpunk Red game were things that my players and I used to differentiate one cyberarm from another, such as the Sylvester Stallone estate licensing a series of Rocky themed cyberarms.. Black Chrome gives so many entries the kind of flavor you want out of these books. The main thing I missed were comments from users on each app entry. I realize this is more of a Shadowrun thing, but these snippets convey a lot of neat backstory about the world when done right.
One area where the designers really got that in-universe document feel is the setup of the PDF. When a reader touches the BUY IT NOW button the PDF snaps to the section in the back where the item’s game statistics are listed. For most of this review I felt like I was navigating an app rather than reading a book and that brought the experience to another level. While this is a full-color book with some great art that will look good on the shelf, there’s something to be said about handing a tablet over to the players to do a little shopping.
There’s more to the book than gear as well. The final chapter details Night Markets and how their economics work. These details burnish the punk feel of the game as they talk about how just because a player has the cash on hand doesn’t mean they can automatically get the gear.These cool items could just as easily be the payment for a gig. There are also six Night Markets that can be dropped into any game complete with location, map and the personalities that hang out there. I was initially upset that the space cut down on the gear in the book but the entries were flavorful and turn the shopping phase of a cyberpunk game into part of the narrative.
Black Chrome is an excellent cyberpunk gear book full of new shiny bits for players and GMs. It deserves to be on your shelf next to other classic ChromeBooks.
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