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.

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