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Cyberpunk Red (I didn't know it was out!)


Ultimately, you're making the same mistake people have made since time immemorial (or at least since the creation of D&D) about Wisdom. It's taking the name of the stat and imparting too much meaning to it. Just like having a high Wisdom doesn't really mean the character is wiser about making their life choices, Empathy doesn't determine whether the ability to relate to other people is used for good or evil. High Empathy mostly means that you get people, all the better to truly relate to them and feel their pain or manipulate them. Your choice.
Although I interpret Humanity this way, I've got to admit Ruin Explorer makes a valid point. And let's keep this between us because I don't want him to get a big head thinking he's making valid points here. But in Red, as Humanity drops, "they [characters] may become sociopathic, withdrawn, disassociated, or even homicidal." I know they say "may" here, but Ruin Explorer is right that there's a connection between Humanity and how a person treats others.

I don't think you could climb the corporate ladder in Red's world and remain truly human, and I do mean you'd have difficulty understanding people. You'd be so distant from mainstream humanity's experience that you would genuinely have difficulty understanding and relating to people.
I think the rules are designed to handle more street level characters and probably fall apart when modeling folks like Arasaka Saburo. But in my experience, most executives are pretty darn good with people and aren't prone to major social disorders. That's not always the case though. Elizabeth Holmes of Therenos seemed pretty good with people but then you have Martin Shkreli who had the must punchable face in the world.

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I finished making my first character who is a Korean Solo with spiky hair (thank you, Life Path). I used Method #2, Fast and Dirty, to come up with my character's statistics and started with a 5 Empathy which is now a 1 after purchasing some cyberware. And, man, I really don't have much in the way of cyberware. I lost 17 points of Humanity for my stupid Muscle & Bone Lace implant. Muscle and Bone Lace cost 1d6/2 Humanity in 2020 but it's a whopping 4d6 in Red.

But making a character got me thinking. I'm worried about how I might have to fit a Solo, Rockerboy, Exec, Nomad, Media, and Fixer into the same group. I admit, I cannot recall anyone ever playing a Rockerboy in 2020. Not a single time.


So straight from R. Talsorian Games' mouth, you sell goods at full retail price. Or at 20% less than full retail price assuming the other Fixer is better than yours. It could be that I don't have a full appreciation for how rare vehicles are in the setting.

But in my experience, most executives are pretty darn good with people and aren't prone to major social disorders.
Sure, but in real life they're not routinely ordering cover-ups of mass-killings or malfunctions that killed thousands or sending corporate kill squads to kill people or having enemy corporate kill squads arrive to kill them and so on. When I look at the execs that have been involved in that kind of thing IRL (who are particularly common in petrochemicals and chemicals in general - as well as mining - that's who tends to get involved with mass killing and so on), they do skew considerably towards the sociopathic end of the scale. You also have your Elon Musks and Steve Jobses and so on, who definitely had significant social uh... issues... and do/did not act like normal people.

If I look at the multi-billion-dollar firm I work at, because of my odd role I sometimes interact with extremely senior people (and did at my previous firm though that was less than half a billion turnover), and it's all over the place - some of the most senior people are extremely personable, some are... eccentric...

But we're talking a massive exaggeration of that and massive stresses these guys won't be facing, and opportunities to screw yourself up that we don't have in the real world. IRL, if you don't speak a language, you get a translator or whatever, there's a limit to what you can do. In Cyberpunk, you can have a hole put into your skull and wires put into your brain so you can slot chips which override your brain so you can understand, which is a bit more extreme. IRL, fashion might mean buying from a specific designer, and you might need to work to keep in shape to wear it. In Cyberpunk, it might mean chopping off your arm or leg so you can have a cyberlimb by THE designer of the year. And so on.

People crack under the stress IRL, and go to crazy lengths to try and get some sanity - and IRL, you can step away from a corporation for a year, have a sabbatical, and at the high end, your job will still be there. In Cyberpunk? Hah, unless you're Saburo Arasaka, no chance. Even for people close to him in stature it's a big risk. So the opportunity to destress is way less.

And with a larger number of smaller corporations, you're going to have a lot more competition, which is good for business for the players, but is going to further boot stress into the stratosphere for the corporate executives. Sheesh, becoming an edgerunner might actually lower the stress you're under.

(As an aside, Cyberpunk 2077's Corporate start does a kind of great/amazing job of showing how high-pressure/terrifying that environment would be - I was genuinely impressed. It's kind of the shortest and least-involved start but also I think the most intense.)

I'm kind of talking myself into running Red now, I just need a system. I looked at Savage Worlds Adventure Edition (SWADE), which I've heard of people using, but oof, the official Sprawlrunner supplement is hopeless, 17 pages on magic (...in a cyberpunk setting book... I mean I know Shadowrun is a thing but like 6 of those pages are just over-long stats for elementals), 5 pages on cyberware. SWADE's priorities are messed-up there, like severely messed-up. Maybe Interface 3.0 would be better but I'm loathe to buy it given Sprawlrunner was so bad. Also I'm not sure SWADE is that much easier to run than Cyberpunk Red itself. I kind of think if I backported Friday Night Firefight into Red that might be better than that. Of course I'd much rather use a PtbA/BitD or Resistance-based game or something (maybe FATE but I love the idea and then the practice always rubs me the wrong way), but The Sprawl isn't the right tool for the job (it's cool but lacks the specificity to make it sing). Hmmm. One thing Red has going for it is I guarantee I could get my players to go for it.
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Maybe Interface 3.0 would be better but I'm loathe to buy it given Sprawlrunner was so bad.
I don't have any opinion on Sprawlrunner but I'm playing in an Interface Zero campaign and it's pretty good. They go a little gonzo with the different races (Androids, Bioroid, Human 2.0, etc., etc.) but overall it's not bad. Of course they're on Interface 3.0 now and I haven't given that one a looksie yet. I think Sprawlrunner was specifically meant to evoke Shadowrun which would explain all the magic.

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