"Welcome to the Chombatta Red Years"
I'll start by telling you that I'm not just going to talk about what's inside this jumpstart kit by Cyberpunk Red. I think it is quite useless to remake an aseptic list that you can already find on the Need Games website, which took care of the translation of the famous RPG by R. Talsorian Games. And I think it is also quite useless to spoil the surprise, especially for those unfamiliar with the game or the world of Cyberpunk, to discover for yourself the immense possibilities that such a product offers. What I want to talk to you about, however, is how Cyberpunk red perfectly show your idea of cyberpunk and how this is reflected in the games you are going to play.
Between megacities ...
The world of Cyberpunk is a world where appearance matters more than substance. Always. And this is immediately reflected in two characteristic elements of any self-respecting RPG: the setting and the characterization of the character.
Mini-Nuke: Among other things, the pivotal event of the bomb is also present in Cyberpunk 2077. At the same time I am playing the CDPR title and I must say that I was impressed by the thing. I knew about the inspiration, of course, but it still left me with a good feeling.
Let's start with the setting. Cyberpunk Red ranks temporally after the events of the 4th Corporate War. Precisely after the explosion of a mini-nuke in Night City in 2023. From here we take a leap of about twenty years, perfectly described in the manual dedicated to the setting that you find in the jumpstart Kit, and we land in 2045, the years of those who were born and raised in these famous Red Years (hence the reference to the word "Red" in the title). A cyberpunk a little different than the one described by Gibson and different at the same time from the predecessor of Cyberpunk Red, or Cyberpunk 2020.
The dystopia and technological growth remained, absolutely. We are still in an ultra-technological future based on constant change of the body and the prevarication of each other. But compared to the world of Cyberpunk 2020 where Megacorps (large and powerful companies with large capital) dominated internationally, the world of Cyberpunk Red sees the collapse of most of these corporations, in favor of: closures between states, a possible new world war and Night City as the only poly-cultural megalopolis.
Cyberpunk Red is a slightly different cyberpunk than Gibson's
Megacorp: Megacorps are not so distant from our world. Large companies like Google or Amazon are easily assimilated to megacorporations. Small additional note, Gibson called these realities with the name of Zaibatsu. In my opinion, a more beautiful and violent term than the one they adopted in Cyberpunk.
Trying to make very brief references to history, the Arasaka, a Japanese corporation also established on American soil, was hit by that famous mini-nuke and was expelled forever, by the then president of the United States, from American soil, with the exception of Night City. In addition, Militech, a rival company of Arasaka during the 4th Corporate War, joined the state becoming in effect one of the defense weapons in the hands of the president of the United States. In turn, all nations made this move, entrenching themselves within their geo-political boundaries and pointing to their neighbor as their enemy. Megacorps suffered the closure of borders and became even more aggressive and greedy.
It goes without saying that the setting is decidedly more violent, nihilistic and gore than what it used to be (and it was already a lot of stuff). Setting that, thanks to the descriptions of the Jumpstart Kit and the infinite possibilities of fantasy, is enriched with new places, boundless Mad Max deserts, which unfold outside the great megalopolises, and previously slightly more marginal figures such as the Fixers, who become the lords of megacities and the mercenaries who live there. In such a situation, survival is the only thing that matters, especially if we are so close to a war between states, a possible new corporate war and the gap between rich and poor getting wider.
… It is cool
Rebellion: Hey! But Holygamerz has a rebellion too! In Cyberpunk sauce too. Why don't you drop by? Find the link here. Go up.
Ok the Megacorps, ok the technological revolution, but we're also talking about punk here. Punk is not just rebellion and screams into a microphone, but also being cool at the right moments. Style is very important in a cyberpunk world: appearance over substance. In the manual dedicated to the regulation of the Jumpstart Kit, there is a beautiful section dedicated to the fusion between Cyber and Punk, since, in fact, it is a fundamental element in the game. This section explains how each social class has its own unique style and how body modification is essential if you want to keep up with the times (if you have Eurodollars of course).
This is really one of the things that makes me love Cyberpunk Red the most. I love creating unique characters and the body, the clothing and above all the eyes are for me the mirror of the emotions that one feels inside and therefore also of the character who then goes on to interpret. I mean, I can play a Corporative and ask a neo Andy Warhol to make me some eyes with his signature on it. It is the extreme pole of unbridled consumerism and fashion. There is really no limit to the imagination, and this thing drives me crazy. Seriously.
The simplicity of the rules ...
Master: especially for the master, very clear rules are useful both to keep track of the various evolutions of the story, and to direct the players and follow them during the interpretation or the fight.
It's a Jumpstart Kit, so many of the things that will later be present in the complete Cyberpunk Red manual are, of course, absent. This, however, absolutely does not preclude the possibility of fully enjoying the experience. Indeed, the manual sometimes takes things for granted, but otherwise it is perfect to start even for those who have never played an RPG in their life. And I'll tell you more, the manual unites narration explaining the rules, which, in my opinion, is the best way to make the reader identify with what is probably the most boring moment of the whole adventure: memorizing and understanding all the possible variables. In short, the choice to put a few quotes here and there, give examples and divide into highly evocative sub-chapters, was a good move, useful to convey the cyberpunk soul of the title.
Another very important thing is the simplification of the rules in combat. Compared to Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk Red focuses on strategy, where its predecessor focused on fidelity in the management of the paraphernalia and the complexity of the shootings. So yes simpler weapons to use, but focus above all on the preparation before the battle and on team management (which usually serves as a cover for the netrunner) and the tools available. All this, in my opinion, perfectly reflects what we have said up to now: technology is now within everyone's reach and increasingly smart, life is no longer in the balance because you have more powerful weapons than others, but because a single mistake could lead to a new war and the death of millions of people.
Cyberpunk Red's rules are simple and perfect for novices
… And what is missing
Cyberpsychosis: Curious how this fundamental mechanic is also missing in Cyberpunk 2077… Who knows that with the release of the manual it will not be added also in the title of CDPR.
We come to the painful notes. Because everything is beautiful, but some choices made me turn up my nose a bit. As I wrote above, it is a Jumpstart Kit, therefore a fast product and immediate use. Missing classes, enemies and abilities I can absolutely accept, after all it is better to leave and understand a few things but well, than to embark with a bunch of complex stuff. But I would have put cyberpsychosis. For those who do not know what it is, cyberpsychosis is a pathology that manifests itself in the world of Cyberpunk 2020 in all those subjects who have undergone many changes to their body. The continuous assembly and disassembly drives people crazy and makes them feel like a set of modular parts and no longer like an individual.
A very strong social criticism, which becomes fundamental game mechanics in the RPG. Although it is mentioned in this Jumpstart Kit, it is not present and the pre-made characters are built, as per the statements inside the manual, not to suffer this negative status. This does not apply to the adventure NPCs, who can go crazy instead. It's a complex mechanic, I understand, but I would have wanted it. Especially in a situation so unstable that it undermines the mental resistances of the population. I'm a little temperamental, I know. We will see how it will be inserted in the future.
Between Netrunning ...
Netrunner: In Cyberpunk 2077 the figure of the netrunner is not well managed. It is a shame, because it is fundamental in the game economy, both in the CDPR title and in Cyberpunk Red. As well as being crazy cool.
When we think of cyberpunk we think of the internet and cyberpace. After all, Gibson created it precisely by imagining this concrete reality beyond the screen. Well, if you have read this far, you will have understood that too Netrunning will be slightly different. In the world of Cyberpunk 2020 the NET is a global network that flows through all the streets of the world. Practically connecting from home you could travel in this space made of codes and interact with those who lived and inhabited this parallel reality: cyberspace. Well, this before the 4th Corporate War and the advent of the Red Years. From then on, the network was closed behind a Blackwall and placed under the control of NetWatch. The whole story is well explained in the manual which has a section dedicated to Netrunning.
What I want to focus on is how it has changed. Practically after the closure, more compact networks were created with more restricted access possibilities. So the role of the Netrunner became very complicated. Now, in fact, he is forced to get closer to 6 meters from an Access Point in order to access the network, risking his life much more than when he worked from home. This meant that the vision of Cyberspace was no longer linked to the retinas, but was instead intended for a viewer capable of viewing cyberspace, but also not making the user completely blind.
I would say that the Netrunner perfectly closes the open circle at the beginning: everyone is in danger, including hackers. Screens are no longer a protection in this world so fragmented due to a war, but rather, those who are netrunners need trusted people to cover them during the hacking sections. Big risks and maybe big benefits.
… And conclusions
In conclusion, the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit is a must have for those who want to try their hand at a cyberpunk-themed RPG. The translation is really good and I am very happy that it is not a literal translation but an adaptation, because it gives more value in my opinion to the product. Of course, some things have been left in English, such as Meatspace, the real world as opposed to Cyberspace, Cyberspace. I understand the difficulty of course and at this point I would have also left Cyberspace as Cyberspace, since mixed language is an everyday reality now. However they are trifles.
Here I told you about the digital version which is € 29,99 on the Need Games website, but you can also take the physical version also including the themed dice and bases for the cardboard with the characters. Among other things, everything looks very very beautiful and Christmas is also approaching.
I would think about it and enjoy these "red days" with the absolutely cyberpunk Christmas.