Cyberpunk Red: Easy Mode – An Introduction to the Dark Future

Cyberpunk Red Easy Mode

An Introduction to the Dark Future

Author: Mike Pondsmith, James Hutt, Cody Pondsmith, J Gray, and David Ackerman
Publisher:  R. Talsorian Games
Page Count: 48
Available Formats: PDF
PDF (DTRPG) – Free

Stepping into a new roleplaying game can be tricky. Hefty-intimidating rulebooks with pages of dense copy can be overwhelming to newcomers. Starter and introductory sets alleviate these concerns, as well as Quick-start guides. Cyberpunk Red Easy Mode is a quick-start guide produced as one of R. Talsorain’s contributions to Free RPG Day 2022; it introduces the world of Cyberpunk Red and its system. Inside it contains abridged rules taken from the main rule book with some further editing for brevity and a short introductory mission. It provides just enough to play through the included mission but is not a substitute for the core book.

Like most popular titles, the Free RPG Day hard copies went very quickly. I was not quick enough, but thankfully, R. Talsoiran has released a free PDF version for download. This review covers the PDF version only.

Cyberpunk Red Easy Mode begins with a rapid introduction to the game and the three rules every Cyberpunk should live by.

Style over substance
Attitude is Everything
 Live on the Edge

It quickly transitions into the history of the setting, beginning with the Fall of America up to the present-day 2045. The copy is a direct pickup from the core book minus the timeline section, where some events were omitted because of space constraints. It is easy to place the two publications side by side and see the differences.

Not all of it is an immediate pickup. A compact write-up on Night City with a quick breakdown of neighborhoods with a keyed map of their locations is new. Each of the twenty sites has a very brief description, usually only one sentence, but it is enough to give you an idea of the area. Eleven Neocorps & Megacorps, eight street gangs, and a selected list of street slang are provided from the core book. Their descriptions are equally brief.

The following section outlines the basics of the game, starting with statistics and skills. Only 41 of the 66 skills found in the core book are present. Each one was carefully selected for this publication. The briefest of descriptions are provided. The game mechanics are the same as the core book, with some associated tables reconfigured; missing columns. A very excellent, brief, and compact list of actions a character can perform in a round is a beautiful addition. The Starter Set nor the core book contains a condensed and concise list like this. The information falls all onto one page. It makes for a great table aid for new players and gamemasters.

I was surprised that Thursday Night Throwdown, a simplified ruleset for combat, was not used for the combat rules. Instead, there is an abridged version of Friday Night Firefight. Most of this section is a condensed version found in the core book, with some of it getting reconfigured for space. It is mainly the essential elements needed for running combat, just enough for the introductory mission.

Cyberpunk Red Easy Mode does not include character generation rules but does include Lifepath. There are pre-generated characters without backgrounds for the included mission. Gamemasters can guide players through the Lifepath tables, the same as found in the core book, with slightly modified results for some. A bonus table, “Tragic Love Affair,” was added to the Lifepath. The table comes from Cyberpunk 2020 Lifepath, making it the first and only appearance in Cyberpunk Red.

To aid players in understanding the many fields on their character sheet, a new “Reading Your Character Sheet” page diagraming the different elements of a character sheet breaks down all the numbers and terms.

The publication ends with the short introductory mission, “Getting Paid – A First Job For Cyberpunk Red.” The players are part of a crew of Edgerunners who just completed a task at the docks. They receive a call from their fixer about their payment. He needs to change the location of their payment pickup, and he won’t say why. He assures the group that everything is alright, but the tone of his voice speaks differently. If the Edgerunners want to get paid, they will have to rendezvous with their fixer at the new location, no matter what their gut tells them.

The mission is brief but was designed as an introduction to Cyberpunk Red for Gamemasters to run on Free RPG Day. The mission structure is laid out for new Gamemasters with skills and their check values embedded with each encounter. Several assumed guided outcomes for the mission’s climax are provided. The mission is simple, and the players will likely not deviate too far from these outcomes. Depending on how the mission goes, the Edgerunners will receive the payment for the original mission and may also earn something unique that will elevate their status or careers.

Final Thought

Cyberpunk Red Easy Mode is a quick and accessible introduction to Cyberpunk Red and its system. Available as a free downloadable PDF from DrivethrRPG and on R. Talsorian’s website. A physical copy may be purchased from a third-party retailer. On top of its rundown of the setting and system mechanics, a short mission with pre-generated characters and terrain is provided. There are two pieces of terrain, a street, and a warehouse. The terrain is found in the center of the book. A good placement for the physical booklet but an odd arrangement for the PDF.

As an accessible introduction to the system, it works very well. It gives the reader just enough to educate them on the system and setting to help propel them into purchasing the Starter set or the Core rule book. On its own, it doesn’t have much usefulness past the included mission. Some condensed sections are helpful, but as most of the publication is a direct pickup of the main rule book, acquiring a physical copy is only warranted for die-hard collectors who must own everything produced for the game.

Cyberpunk Red Easy Mode was a great advertising promotion for R. Talsorian for Free RPG Day. As a standalone publication, it can entice new Gamemasters without any upfront costs. Those who already own game materials for the system may find it less appealing.

~Stephen Pennisi

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