Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit Review

I was fortunate enough to be one of the lucky few that was able to get their hands on a copy of R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit before release. I've been pouring over all of the PDFs and I think I am able to give a coherent review of the contents of this kit. I wasn't able to actually get a game in with these rules but I think I can give a educated guess of how things will work.

Included in this set of PDFs is a couple reference sheets, some maps, pregen character sheets, some standees and most importantly, the world and rule book. I'm going to focus on the rule book in this review but I'll also touch on the world book a bit at the end. I'll start by going chapter by chapter.

There isn't much to this chapter at all, at least for returning players from Cyberpunk 2020. It is a really good primer however for people who are new to the Cyberpunk universe. They have also included a page full with street slang, some of which made me chuckle.

Chapter 2 is the meat of the rules for players. It discusses classes, stats, skills and lightly touches on role abilities. A couple changes have happened with stats. Attractiveness has been removed and Reflex has been split to also include Dexterity. In this jumpstart kit they have not included any Medias, Lawmen, or Execs. What are Lawmen and Execs? Well they are the new titles for Cops and Corporates respectively.

This chapter I believe is the shortest of all of them. The only thing this chapter covers are lifepaths. In this there are things for both the player and the GM. If you have played Cyberpunk before this chapter will be very familiar. If you have not this is basically the chapter you can use to flesh out your character. Personally I never use Lifepaths, but for new players this can be an easy way to develop your character and give them a real personality.

This is what you play Cyberpunk for. This is all the cybernetics in the Jumpstart Kit. This is the barebones of what will be available in the full game. You are shown a handful of cybernetics and are given a lot of flavor text about the world. In this kit they do not cover cyberpsychosis but they do mention that it will be fully explored in the core rulebook.

Getting it done. This chapter is entirely about how movement and actions work. They go over Difficulty Values (DV) and how LUCK can help you out in a pinch. Without delving to much into combat, (which comes up shortly) they discuss many of the actions you can take in a combat turn.

This entire section goes over how Netrunning works in the time of the RED. I won't go on any more than I already have in a previous post. You can check that out here. Without getting into details, this new system is fantastic. Netrunners function somewhat like a magic user in D&D and other fantasy games. Your cyberdeck acts as your grimoire except instead of spells you have programs.

Netrunners can no longer just sit at home while the group goes out because the NET has been ravaged and they must physically jack into local networks. They have "meat" actions in the real world and then "net" actions in the net, obviously. Having a Netrunner has become an essential part of a team. If you are going into a raid, would you go in without a healer? I don't think so. The Netrunner functions somewhat like that being able to take over nodes to control turrets, elevators and many other things.

Thursday Night Throwdown. This is what everyone is looking forward to. Combat is always a major part of any RPG and Cyberpunk has always had a great system. Again I have a much more in depth discussion of how the new combat mechanics work, but I will try and touch on it a bit here.

The two major changes to combat in this kit is wound states and limb damage. Rather than having light, serious, critical and mortal wounds that have simplified it. They have also done away with limb damage just to make the system much smoother. Although you can still aim for the head with a penalty to hit.

Something that I didn't see included in this section was cover. In Cyberpunk 2020 you could hide behind cover and it would give you an added Stopping Power (SP). They did however add a pretty cool mechanic called "reputation". You can have a negative or positive reputation which can either get you out of trouble, or land you in deeper trouble than when you began.

So that is the end of the core rulebook. The other important book included is the World Book. This is probably going to be one of the things that people who are looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 will look forward to the most. This book details the entire world and what has happened to the universe. The World Book helps bridge the gap between 2020 and 2077.

I wish I could give you guys more details but that is something that is under lock and key right now. But I will say that the name RED definitely fits and actually has an in universe meaning. The beauty of this book is all the cool little hooks that it gives GM's to create adventures. Something I shared on twitter was the inclusion of a Biotechnica created Sasquatch! This one paragraph gave me so many ideas for a fun one shot adventure.

So how is the art? I was probably one of the most critical people of the art that we were shown early on. Now art is completely subjective so my opinion on this may differ wildly from yours. I love the old school black and white artwork of 2020. That artwork screams PUNK. It goes against these full color spreads on glossy paper. To me that artwork epitomized Cyberpunk. This new art feels a little corporate but it has definitely grown on me and I completely understand why they have gone this route.

My favorite piece from the Rule Book. Dead Netrunner.

What about the writing? It's Mike Pondsmith. If you love the writing in Cyberpunk 2020 than you will love this. He has a very informal way of writing that is so inviting and begs to be read especially the World Book. He has so many ideas and interesting bits abound.

I do have one issue with this kit. It's probably not a big deal to most people but it wouldn't feel right to me if I didn't mention this. There are several pages from these books that are completely lifted from previous books. Not just Cyberpunk 2020 but also Cyberpunk v. 3.

On the left, Cyberpunk Red. On the right, Cyberpunk 2020.
At first I was a little drawn back about this and unless you are a super fan like me who continuously reads through the books you probably wouldn't even notice. The good thing is that it is just flavor text, and good flavor text at that. If it's not broke, why fix it?

 Something else that I was surprised by was the absence of character creation. But the more I thought about this the more I realized this is truly a Jumpstart Kit. This isn't a basic rules set. Everything here is meant to get you playing one shots and getting a feel of some of the basic mechanics. This is simply meant to be a taste of what is in store for the core rulebook.

My final thoughts are that I absolutely love these rules. They are so streamlined and simple to follow that someone who has never even played a tabletop RPG could dive right in. This is also perfect for someone who is looking for more lore and is simply waiting for Cyberpunk 2077. You could have no interest in actually playing the tabletop game and still really enjoy the World Book (Although I highly suggest you do play, its a lot of fun).

The PDF set will be available on August 1st through DriveThruRPG and the physical version will be on sale at Gen Con. Shortly after you will be able to pick it up from the official R. Talsorian store.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading my stuff here and following me on Twitter. Huge shout out to J Gray, the media ambassador of R. Talsorian. I have been in this business for a long time and J is one of the most responsive and active media people I have dealt with. I also have to give props to JonJonTheWise who I spoke with about the rules and how they would work in an actual game. Obviously I have to thank Mike Pondsmith for creating this Cyberpunk universe because without him we wouldn't have any of this.

Akira Live Action Film on Hold

Today the live action Akira film has hit yet another road bump. Variety reports that the project is being put on hold while director Taika Waititi is directing Thor: Love and Thunder. Waititi is probably best known for his fantastic work on Thor: Ragnarok.

Filming was set to begin later this fall. He had been sitting down with several Japanese actors to cast for the lead but apparently has had no luck so far. Variety believes this may have meant that there were some creative differences as well.

Of course this isn't the first time this film has hit a wall. This project goes back to 2012 seven years ago but was cut back because of budget concerns. Akira was scheduled to open on May 21st, 2021 but that obviously looks like it will not happen.

Hopefully Waititi is able to wrap up filming on Thor and can jump right back into Akira. I'm not sure how I feel about the live action adaptation but I'm definitely willing to give it a shot.

Reality's Edge Coming From Osprey Games

For a few years I played the Warhammer Fantasy tabletop skirmish game. I've always wanted to get back into the hobby but none of the settings have really grabbed me enough to put that amount of money back into the games. Today Osprey Games announced a game that might just draw me back in that takes place in a cyberpunk dystopian future, Reality's Edge.

Reality's Edge will be a 28mm wargame in which you play a Showrunner, a powerful mercenary who leads a team of trusted operatives and disposable freelancers. This will be a campaign game, which means you will save your progress and advancement. Which means you can get better equipment and of course, chrome.

Below is a list of features that the game touted in a recent blog post.
Crew Diversity. Your Showrunner can hire numerous types of operatives, though only two of each, who bring unique skills to the crew. Sprawl ronin are deadly combatants with the ability to react before their opponents can go, while infiltrators stalk the shadows hunting targets of opportunity. Other exciting options include console cowboys, cyborgs, street docs, and more to give your unique crew lots of potential.

Shiny Chrome. A true cyberpunk game, Reality’s Edge features advanced weaponry, drones, robotics, artificial intelligence, and cybernetics. In a world infatuated with technology, there is nothing machines cannot improve. 

Cyberspace. Not just an afterthought or bolted on, Reality’s Edge hacking rules are pivotal to game play. Showrunners are accompanied onto the battlefield by their shadowbacker’s avatar. The avatars hunt virtual space looking for targets while countering your opponent’s avatar. Should they wish, your Showrunner can be accompanied by console cowboys; combat hackers who interface with local technology. Hacking allows you to breach network nodes, break enemy technology, and gain control of drones and robots. With over 20 different hacking apps in the game, your hackers have lots to do.

Dirty Jobs. The Showrunner accepts jobs from nebulous sources and it is entirely possible multiple teams have accepted the same job, which can complicate things. There are 10 scenarios the book, which means plenty of ways to get paid.   Further, before each game, players roll on the Hitch table, representing all the unique challenges of the sprawl.  From chemical pollution blocking line of site, to drug- addicted maniacs rampaging through the local sector. With so many job variables, players never have to play the same game twice.

Dark Agendas. When playing a campaign, your Showrunner is associated with a shadow backer who can provide unique access or other benefits.  You can serve the interests of a corporation, a Gov.Mil  black-ops group, a criminal syndicate, a hacktivist collective, and more.

The Sprawl. Out in the streets your crew is not alone. Independent forces are in play and your team may come up against foes who may not oppose you directly, but are still in your way. Crowds of civilians can impede your crew or provide a nice place to hide from their enemies.  But more dangerous foes include law enforcement, street punks, private security forces, and various other nasties that call the dark alleys of the Sprawl home.

Experience Counts. By playing games and earning experience points, your Showrunner and their few select employees can improve themselves and acquire better equipment.  Be careful though as you let operatives into your inner circle, their fate becomes entwined with yours and expect a bigger cut of the pie. While they will not be as good as your in-house support, freelancers are cheaper and definitely more disposable.
If this sounds like something you are interested in you can pre-order the game right now. As a bonus you won't have to wait too long because the book will be released on August 20th, 2019.

Combat in Cyberpunk Red Detailed

Again R. Talsorian has given us an update about the upcoming Cyberpunk Red. Just last week we learned how netrunning is going to work and today they detailed how combat is going to work. Some of what they revealed is only going to apply in the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit and the rest will be detailed in the core rulebook.

When shooting you will use your marksmanship skill against range to determine whether or not you hit. Unless the enemy has a reflex skill higher than 9, then you roll on an opposed check. Range will be divided into seven segments. Obviously a shotgun will do better at close range and something like a sniper rifle is better at a distance.

Autofire will be treated differently but in the Jumpstart Kit only suppression will be addressed. Suppressive fire will not do damage, but instead will cause the enemy to run into cover.

Melee combat is dealt with slightly differently. Melee combatants get two attacks that they can mix up in several different ways. You can attack twice with a knife, twice with your fists, or once with your knife and once with your fist. There are also rules that deal with grappling and slamming your opponents. All of these attacks are performed against an opposing roll.

Armor has SP (stopping power). All damage is subtracted from the SP and the rest hits your characters hit points. When you are damaged your SP is lowered by one until you reach zero. At that point your armor is broken. Melee opponents have a significant advantage against armor. Melee weapons half an opponents SP and brawling damage completely negates it.

If you are reduced to less than half of your hit points you will be severely wounded. When this happens you will incur a penalty on all your rolls. Now if you hit zero this is where it gets good. You incur an even greater penalty to all your checks except a death save. You roll your death save at the beginning of every turn. If you succeed you can take an action that turn. Every time you pass your save the next turn you receive a -1 to your death save roll. If you don't pass your roll, well you guessed it, you die. In order to pass this roll you must roll under your Body skill on a d10.

In order to regain hit points you must successfully pass a First Aid check. The lower in hit points you are the harder it is to pass the check. If your first aid check succeeds when you are at zero hit points it automatically bumps you up to one. After that, the patient recovers their Body stat in Hit Points per day spent resting.

So that is everything that we have learned about the combat system in Cyberpunk Red. It may sound a little daunting at first but once you have this system down it will be like clockwork. I'm excited to get my hands on the kit and I'm eager to see what R. Talsorian will reveal next week.

Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box Available Now

Today Game Catalyst Lab have finally made their Shadowrun The Sixth World Beginner Box available for purchase online. Awhile back I was curious of when they were going to finally release the set because "influencers" and con goers have been able to get their hands on a copy for about a month. With the full release of the rule book at Gen Con it seems a bit late to release it now.

At any rate if you aren't sure if you will like the game this would be a good primer. You can buy the physical version on their website. You can also buy the PDF at DriveThruRPG. If you decide to buy the PDF feel free to use my affiliate link.

Check out the synopsis and contents of the box below.

Shadows darken and deepen. They’re cast by the enormous, world-striding megacorporations that grasp for power and strangle humanity in their clutches. By 2080, most of the planet has given in—bowing and scraping before their corporate overlords; selling their souls to the almighty nuyen. The corps gotta make a trillion, no matter who dies.
But in the darkest depths, defiance flickers. Spikes, mohawks, and tattoos flash, while blades and appetites sharpen. The ignored and the marginalized refuse to be ground down. And their reactions set their destiny. They may seek to repair the world’s injustices, or build wealth to keep themselves safe, or just strike a match and watch the world burn.

Regardless of the chosen path, they stand up and survive. They’re called shadowrunners, and they risk everything …

Wrestling magical energies, channeling them into power;

Pitting their minds against the electronic void of the Matrix;

Trading flesh and blood for chrome and steel to become more than human.

Will you stand up, join them, and dare to risk it all?

Shadowrun Offerings at Gen Con Revealed

Today in an email sent out by Gen Con they revealed numerous products that Catalyst Game Labs will have on hand for the upcoming Shadowrun The Sixth World. Other than the official release of the core rulebook we will get a number of other things.

Catalyst will offer three choices for the core rulebook: a standard edition, a faux-Kevlar limited edition, and a slip-cased executive edition. Along with the rulebook, Catalyst will also have dice and Edge tokens that make gameplay easier; a deck of NPC cards to make it simple to build a wide variety of conflicts and situations; a set of Prime Runner minis for those who like to add miniature flair to their game; No Future, a sourcebook on media, sports, and other Sixth World culture with rules compatible with SR6; the Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia, a valuable reference work on the people, corps, nations, dragons, and more from this great setting; the Shadowrun, Sixth World Beginner Box Set for those looking for their first taste of Sixth World action; and a print version of the novellas featuring the characters from the box set. If all goes well, an innovative gamemaster screen will also be available.

All of this will be available at Gen Con starting on August 1st. Catalyst will be at booth 1611 and will be demoing the game throughout the Con. 

Netrunning Details for Cyberpunk Red Emerge

The most anticipated rule changes have now been revealed by R. Talsorian. Netrunning in Cyberpunk 2020 was always the most difficult part of playing the game. Some GMs wouldn't even allow people to play netrunners because the rules were simply too convoluted.

Thanks to a new blog post on the R. Talsorian site we get a complete run down of how netrunning will work. In the game Netrunners can take two different kinds of actions, a meat action and a net action. It works pretty much the way it sounds, a meat action is in the physical world and the net action obviously takes play in the net.

We are also introduced to the type of equipment a Netrunner will have. Cyberdecks, virtuality goggles and bodyweight suits. Cyberdecks are the same as they've always been. The virtuality goggles allow the netrunner to see in the "meat space" while hacking. The bodyweight suit includes a lot of things including life support, drug injectors and even a piss bag.

Black ICE is a type of program that you can slot into your cyberdeck that acts kind of like a familiar. You can send it out to attack your enemies in the net. Each cyberdeck will have a couple standard programs installed to help you on your way.

The way the net works now is a huge improvement over Cyberpunk 2020. Now you can give the objective a certain number of levels. If your players are trying to hack Arasaka for example you would probably give them 50 levels. Where as a small poser gang would maybe only have 2. I love the simplicity that this new system grants both players and the GM.

If you want to read more about the new system definitely go check out the blog post. They have an example of play that really shows this system in action. The Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit will be officially released at Gen Con on August 1st and available elsewhere shortly after.

Akira Creator Announces Series Return

At the Anime Expo in Los Angeles Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo announced that Akira will continue. Currently it is unclear what that will mean as he also said it will not be a sequel. Does that mean a remake or reboot? It is too early to tell.

With a live action Akira film coming in 2021 it shouldn't be a surprise that we will be seeing more from the series. We do know that Otomo's continuation will indeed be an anime so that should lay to rest any worries on that front.

In addition to the news of the Akira project he also announced a new film he has in the works, Orbital Era. The story takes place on a space colony under construction, and follows the lives of some young boys surviving in this peculiar environment and society as they are tossed around by fate.

An Entromancy CCG is On the Way

A long time ago I was very invested in CCGs. I played Magic: The Gathering, Shadowrun, and even the Netrunner game. That last game I mentioned is why I'm excited about today's news. The company behind the Entromancy tabletop RPG is producing their very own CCG titled Entromancy: Hacker Battles.

The game will be playable for 2-4 players in which you take the role of a hacker. It sounds like that the "spells" that you play are computer programs that are meant to breach the opponents security. I'm very interested in checking this game out. I signed up for the closed beta and you can too right here.

What I find really exciting about this game is that it sounds like it will be compatible with Cyberpunk Red or any other cyberpunk tabletop. Below are some of the bullet points that they have shared about the game.

  • Competitive Card Game Mechanics. Draw cards to build and unleash devastating programs upon your opponents while gaining bit points to overcome their security protocols.
  • Customizable Gameplay. Choose from five distinct specializations and multiple objective cards for a new experience every time you play.
  • 2-4 Players. Engage in fast-paced card battles with 2-4 players where strategy is paramount to victory.
  • Custom Decks for Added Depth. Get into the action quickly with pre-made beginner decks or create your own custom decks.
  • Hacking, Reimagined. Play Entromancy: Hacker Battles as a standalone game or utilize the advanced rule system to integrate hacking into Entromancy: A Cyberpunk Fantasy RPG or your own cyberpunk and urban fantasy roleplaying games.

5 More Films to Watch in Anticipation of Cyberpunk 2077

A little over a week ago I wrote an article about five films that I felt everyone should see before Cyberpunk 2077 releases on April 16th, 2020. I would suggest checking out that article first because it includes some of the most seminal films in the cyberpunk genre. However because this genre of film is so rich, a lot of these will be equally as good.

As I did with the previous article I have one honorable mention that is a TV show.

Honorable Mention: Cowboy Bebop

I'm not a huge anime fan, but when it comes to cyberpunk they have that genre down. Cowboy Bebop is the very first anime that I enjoyed and pulled me into the possibility of liking others. If it wasn't for Cowboy Bebop I probably would have never discovered Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bubblegum Crisis, or Ghost in the Shell.

Cowboy Bebop has been often described as space opera meets noir, meets comedy, meets cyberpunk. The show follows a team of bounty hunters traveling across hyperspace bringing criminals to justice.. Plus one of the shows main characters is a corgi named Ein. Whats not to love?

5. The Matrix

I don't think I have to explain a whole lot about The Matrix because probably 90% of you have seen the movie. After the last list came out I received a couple messages that I should have included it so I am including it here. Keanu Reeves plays computer hacker Neo that discovers that the world he is living in is not what it seems.

The Matrix is a classic and if you haven't seen it already, you probably should. I wouldn't recommend the sequels though. I think the first one is good enough to stand on it's own without the convoluted sequels.

4. RoboCop

On the surface this may not strike people as being very cyberpunk. But if you know anything about Cyberpunk 2020 you will know where I am going with this. RoboCop is created by an evil megacorporation called Omni Consumer Products. They strip away most of his humanity and make him an obedient cyborg. But.. I think we all know who is going to get the last laugh.

The first two films in this franchise are fantastic. They are ultra-violent affairs that really dive into consumerism and the role of the mega corporations. I haven't seen the remake, so I can't comment on the quality of it. The original with Peter Weller is where it's at.

3. Ex Machina

This was a surprise film for me that I just watched randomly on Amazon Prime one night. Now Ex Machina might not necessarily be cyberpunk, but it definitely deals with the idea of AI and what makes someone human.

Ex Machina focuses on three characters. The first is an immensely rich man who strikes me as a kind of David Zuckerburg. He has built an AI robot that he wants to test on someone so he invites a man to come in and talk to her. The entire film consists of the two talking with one another and the drama that unfolds from that. It probably doesn't sound like an amazing film on paper, but it is masterfully done.

2. Total Recall

We all need a little Arnold Schwarzenegger in our lives. I was going to include both this and Running Man but I didn't want him to take over this list. Total Recall is a magical film that has so many memorable scenes and mind fuckery going on. I love this movie and I think it absolutely stands the test of time with some of the fantastic effects that they employed.

1. The Fifth Element

I love this movie. It's probably a crime that I didn't include it on the last list. But that goes back to what I said earlier that there are so many good cyberpunk films that it is hard to narrow it down. If you love the cyberpunk aesthetic, this is probably the most cyberpunk film you will see. Yes, some of it is probably a little cliche but it's also a lot of fun.

Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Chris Tucker, Gary Oldman, Luke Perry.. I mean the list goes on. Even if you haven't seen The Fifth Element I guarantee you are familiar with Milla's character Leeloo.

There were a lot of films I really wanted to include here but I didn't think they necessarily fit under the "cyberpunk" genre. If this gets as much love as the last one did maybe I'll go ahead and share those films as well.

As always I hope you guys enjoyed this one and if you have any suggestions feel free to let me know! I always enjoy talking film with people!