All that Glitters is Chrome — Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit

Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit

Author: Mike Pondsmith, David Ackerman, J Gray, James Hutt, and Cody Pondsmith
Publisher: R. Talsoian Games
Available Formats: PDF and print
PDF (DTRPG) – $15.00
Boxset – $27.95

In the hazy red skies of 2045, all that glitters is still chrome. It’s back baby. Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit is the first installment for R. Talsoian Games return into the world of Cyberpunk for tabletop RPGs. The jumpstart kit is just that, an introduction into the world of Cyberpunk in the year 2045. For this review, I will be covering the PDF only. Sadly I have not gotten my hands on the physical copy made available at GenCon this year. The jumpstart kit PDF includes seven files: a 45-page Rule Book, a 53-page World Book, Quick Reference cards in letter and tabloid formats, four tabloid-sized color maps, six characters templates, and cut-out standees. The PDFs look amazing and I can only imagine how incredible the physical copy is.

Before heading into the rules of Cyberpunk Red, let’s catch up on what has happened in the last 25 years. Looking at the World Book PDF we learn that the sky is a blood-red; a reminder of the fourth corporate war between Militech and Arasaka. The fourth corporate war blossomed shortly after the year 2020 and wreaks havoc for several years. In the aftermath corporations who once held great power find themselves with considerably less. Night City is in ruins thanks to a pocket nuke that exploded 1200 feet above the center of the city. The explosion ruined most of the housing, forcing residents to move to the suburbs. In 2045 clean up is still ongoing, but Night city will be the biggest city once again.

World Book
The World Book covers 2020 to 2045 through brief descriptions of the most important events of those 25 years. The book also goes back further to 1990 to help new initiates understand how we got here. A brief history of the United States and other major countries of the world and where they stand, aid in understanding the situation in 2045. A look at Night City in its ruined state along with its current infrastructure and the governing body gets covered in this section. Other items provided in the book are the various forms of transportation available, news outlets, fashion, markets, entertainment, and food, before heading into GM tips for running a game in the Cyberpunk world.

The next section of the World Book has a short adventure called “The Apartment”. The Esoteric Order of Roleplayer recently recorded their session through “The Apartment” so I’d suggest listening to it if you’re interested in learning more about it. Finishing up the book is a couple of Screamsheets along with scenario ideas to further your adventures.

Rule Book
Jumping in head first those that are familiar with Cyberpunk 2020 will find that Cyberpunk Red is a revised set of rules, updating and fixing concerns from past editions. The jumpstart kit only touches on a few of those new rules, combat, and netrunning; more to come with the release of the main rulebook. Even though it’s only partial, it still a positive glimpse into this new edition.

Beginning with the first section in the 45-page rule book, the PDF dives straight into explaining the genre and what to expect; style over substance, attitude is everything and living on the edge. It also features a brief timeline, a quick tabletop primer, and 2045 street slang glossary, before moving into the next section covering Cyberpunk characters.

Since this Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit is only an introductory set, there are no character generation details. The main rule book will have complete rules for character generation. Instead, players will use the Character Templates PDF to build their characters. What this section does cover are the various character roles, statistics, hit points, and skills of a character. This section also gives us a glimpse into what is to come with the main rule book, providing a brief description of various methods of character generation without any details.

The next section is Lifepath, a series of charts to flesh out the character’s backstory and life history. By rolling on the following seven charts, background, motivation, goals, friends, enemies, romance, and personality, the player’s characters will start to come to life. From these, players can create lengthy backstories and GM can interweave personal plot elements into their games to hinder or help the players.

It wouldn’t be a Cyberpunk game without cybernetics, technological body enhancements. The fourth section covers cybertechnologies, their use, and effects. It briefly touches on fashion, cyberpsychosis, various body modifications, and weapons.

The fifth section covers basic game mechanics. The mechanics use in Cyberpunk Red are the same as in 2020. Players use a d10 and add various stats and skills numbers for tasks they wish to carry out. Basic movement, actions, resolving skill roles, and using modifiers are all covered in this section. The next section is the most exciting, as it covers the new netrunning rules.

Netrunning in 2045 has become a lot more dangerous. Netrunners are no longer safe surfing the net from the comfort of their own homes. Deadly Black Ice programs fill the net, ready to fry one’s neural implant and the user with it. The netrunners of 2045 have adapted and are more hands-on now; jack-in at the source. Netrunners now take their actions along with their teammates. Netrunners have two options for actions, Meat or Net Actions. Meat action (non-movement action) happens in meatspace (real-world), while net action takes place only in the net. Each netrunner still gets its movement action. Basic rules for netrunning, their abilities, programs, and net combat, fill out this section.

Coming off the netrunning rules we have another new addition, Thursday Night Throwdown, a simplified combat system to Friday Night Firefight. Cyberpunk’s Friday Night Firefight is a nightmare for some with its intense level of detail. Thursday Night Throwdown streamlines the combat rules to keep the action moving. This section covers ranged attacks, melee combat, using your reputation to win a fight, armor, wounds, healing, and death. Death has a new mechanic called Death Saves. Once a character is out of hit points they must roll a d10 and achieve a result under their Body stat to live and act that turn. Each turn after, they are at -1 to their Death Save rolls until healed back to 1 hit point. Failing a Death Save is instant death. And with that, the rule book ends with six pre-generated characters for players to use.

Final Thoughts
It’s no secret that I’m a big Cyberpunk Fan. From my first introduction to the system in the early 90s, I’ve collected almost all the published material produced. What was once a bargain bin find, Cyberpunk material is making its way behind the counter and in locked glass-windowed cabinets. This can only mean the enthusiasm for the return of Cyberpunk is large and growing. Fans of past editions and newcomers will find cleanly designed pages filled with elements and artwork that captures the feel of the Cyberpunk world. I wish I could report on the physical material but if they look as good as the PDFs R. Talsoian Games better get ready to feed the demand that this is going to bring. Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit is just the tip of the iceberg to the new dark future to come.

~Stephen Pennisi

Follow Stephen on MeWe, or on Twitter at @DadsAngry
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