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Differences between Cyberpunk 2013 and Cyberpunk 2020

Started by jburneko, April 08, 2010, 07:07:58 PM

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So, I feel like this should be a legitimate Forge question but I'm uncertain how to ground it in AP.  So I'll ask my question then share some experiences and maybe we can figure out how to marry the two.

What I want to know is are there any significant differences between the 1st (Cyberpunk 2013) and 2nd (Cyberpunk 2020) editions that would make it worth while to track down the 1st edition?  The 2nd edition is available in .pdf form on sites like RPG now.

I ask because I've been wanting to take a second more "mature" look at the game.  I first encountered the game at a convention when I was about 14 or so.  The scenario was setup such that it was a mission/team based game that suddenly turned into an every man for himself PvP game in the second half.  Basically what happened was we were told that we were after some McGuffin (I don't even remember what it was) but the GM took each of us outside the room one by one for a short private chat in which he told each of us what our character's private secret agenda for the McGuffin was.  In the end my character died when another PC through a grenade in my car and it blew up.  I thought that was really cool.  And I thought the first act team/second act PvP element was really clever.

This made me want to take a closer look at the game.  I think 2020 was already out at the time but for whatever reason I wanted the earlier box set with the three little booklets in it and that's what I got.  I really had NO IDEA how to play the game AT ALL.  Things I remember:

I was really fascinated by the Empathy mechanic and how you lost Empathy by taking on more cyberware.  I was very enamored with the idea of cyber-psychosis.  I think I began my very first game with an almost Terminator like cyber-crazed monster smashing his way out of the psych ward at a hospital.

The life path stuff was interesting and a source of endless discussion about character ownership with my friends.

I was really surprised at how deadly the combat was.  I remember my players were driving somewhere and I had a biker gang attempt to carjack them.  One guy put a chainsaw through the roof and basically instantly killed one of the PCs..... oops.

The third thing I remember is really liking the "dungeon crawl" aspect of computer hacking and the way you could have different flavored representations of the virtual world.  I remember wanting to figure out how to set whole story lines just in there.  I also remember kind of being obsessed with "bigger is better" and creating vast labyrinthine computer networks much like a 100 room dungeon in D&D.  Looking back that seems really foolish and today I would be happy with just one or two little "rooms" for some neat hacking surrealism.

So yeah, that's my experience.  So, is 2020 that different from the 1st edition?


Eero Tuovinen

I've never seen the first edition, and am also interested in this question because I think that Cyberpunk 2020 is a very, very fine game. Out of all the games we played through my teenage years I'd say that Cyberpunk got us the farthest in many ways.

Did the first edition have those character classes? Each character gets a class like Cop or Rocker or Journalist or Decker or Drifter whatever. That's my absolutely favourite part of 2020, seldom has there been a game that basically takes a bunch of dramatic settings, distills each into a character class and tells you to play it. For me, both originally and especially in retrospect, Cyberpunk is a game in which the character class you choose drives the campaign to such a degree that any GM-provided mission pales next to it; we didn't really do the expected team-based mission thing with this game simply because that didn't make any sense with these flavourful character classes, you know? It would have been like putting Dr. House and Vic Mackey and Spider Jerusalem into a team and telling them to go steal some corporation shit - why ever would those people, who each have their own lives and concerns and an entire genre of stories to star in go do a mission for hard cash, instead? Thinking about it now, the character classes were certainly a source of both inspiration and consternation; the game worked best for us when we had one strong character personage in whose case we allowed the genre expectations related to that character's world to reign fully, while everybody else would be diminished into sidekicks who basically tagged along because that's what you did at that time in gaming - no technology for non-party-based play, I might say.

(In hindsight it seems pretty obvious to me that the designer's intent in the game was not that we would take those character classes seriously. Being a journalist would mean that the character was a journalist once upon a time perhaps, and still has those contacts, but now he's supposed to be an unemployed street punk hungry for money and willing to jump through whatever hoops the GM provides with his friends, who just happen to be from all walks of life themselves, but similarly stranded. We just didn't have the context to understand that, so instead rockers rocked, drifters drifted, deckers decked and solos - well, Solos of course did the jump-through-hoops thing, because that's their job.)

Aside from that you list elements that are all familiar to me from the second edition. Doesn't sound like the game changed radically on the way from the first to second edition.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.


In 2013, the character's Skills were mostly determined by the random-roll Lifepath; in 2020, they were mostly determined by the character's Career.  This seemed to be a big deal.  I don't remember very well, since I only played once in 2013 and a few sessions in 2020.

Darcy Burgess

Hi Jesse,

2013 is probably my second-most played game, right after 2020.

Some folks have touched on some major differences: the skill points, the lethality of 2013 (holy crap, yes!) the netrunning (2013's dungeon-crawl netrunning had much quicker in handling time, and could be executed in parallel with meat-world actions pretty effectively).

Another big difference was that 2013's Solos' Combat Sense added to all of the Solos' combat rolls.  To hit.  To dodge.  Ew.  2013 Solos were seriously in a league of their own.

Oh yeah, in 2013 you could dodge gunfire, just like dodging a sword.

Those are the biggies.
Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.

Ron Edwards

My play-experience is solely with the first edition, which we didn't call "2013" at the time, only "Cyberpunk." I think it's worth describing it physically, too. For a game which billed itself as the leading conceptual edge in setting and vision of play at the time (and not a totally vain claim either), it was presented in a radically retro package: three extremely low-tech black stapled pamphlets in a black box. The toner smeared off the covers of the booklets if you rubbed them too hard. My copy is from the first print run which not only had some significant errata, but lacked the errata insert.

I've talked with people on and off over the years about later versions of the game and can provide the generalizations they've told me, or that we arrived at through comparison.

1. There was only the barest implication that characters would be a mercenary team working for a corporate employer. The most significant corporation in the setting, Arasaka, was posed almost exclusively as an enemy for player-characters. One nod toward "the party" was the suggestion that the players be on the same Trauma Team squad, basically a small flying M*A*S*H unit that was supposed to land in some kind of open confrontation like a gang war and try to help the downed people while killing the ones still standing. The merc-team idea gets floated here and there in the setting book, but the most consistently stated or implied "way to play" was that the characters were nonconformists, punk not only in look but in attitude, who would consistently combat the oppressive corporations and conformist society ... albeit being themselves wholly committed to fashion, profit, and technology, absent any critical reflection about that.

My God, even writing that and trying to recapture its ethos as we perceived it at the time ... I feel so eighties all of a sudden. Anyway. My point is that the idea of the characters as a "group" was consistently assumed, but what that group was in in-setting terms was not consistently presented, and certainly not in practical terms of how to arrive at that status either before or during play. If you weren't attentive to that (even if in the most simple sense of having the same NPC trying to kill everyone), then the colorful and content-backed backgrounds would be at odds with the planned "adventure for the group."

A lot of the supplements I have, including a set of canned short scenarios, presented a different working assumption, the basic Traveller notion, and Shadowrun too, that the group is a freelance team of mercs working for corporate or government powers. Somehow, in those scenarios, they were also supposed to be sort-of moral voices in the story too, which is probably why their employers were so consistently fixated on killing them about two-thirds of the way through each one.

2. The Empathy rules for cybertech were stringent. Characters had to beware loading up too heavily, because only a few points lost led to radically limited behavior constraints. My understanding of 2020 is that characters could sport a lot more implants and limb replacements and skill-chips and stuff like that. In the first version of the game, two solid bits of cyberware were about as far as you could practically go.

3. The Lifepaths produced very neurotic, soap-opera ridden characters, delightfully so if that's what you were looking for. And my play-partners and I definitely were. I tentatively speculate that the later editions lifepaths were somewhat less emotionally grubby, but I have not compared them directly. I could well be wrong about that.

Other comments

Eero, your post reads like you were channeling your 14-year-old self! Are you really so enthralled by character classes? You wrote,
Quote... seldom has there been a game that basically takes a bunch of dramatic settings, distills each into a character class and tells you to play it.
Um ... one of those games was called "Dungeons & Dragons." At least for those of us who read the Fafhrd & Mouser stories before encountering role-playing, what you're describing is exactly what "Assassin" or "Thief" or "Magic-User" did, or really any of the character classes except "Cleric." 

Less critically, you make a good point which reveals that we have three working-models for playing Cyberpunk which I suspect were never really worked out in the text, rather than the two I was thinking of.

- the implied malcontent, rebellious model, which the game text implies would produce a short story along the lines of Johnny Mnemonic or Burning Chrome; how you actually did that in terms of prepping play was spotty at best
- the ragtag band of strapped, but spunky teammates from diverse backgrounds, looking for money and adventure or thrown together through common adversity, which I think of as the practical default model of play in the first game, at least via omission of any other useful options that respected the backgrounds
- the Shadowrun model of the crack freelance mercs dealing with complicated missions and untrustworthy employers *; the textual Trauma Team suggestion seems to fit this model as well; both of these seem to downplay the diverse backgrounds

* I'm using Shadowrun here for reference only, not making any claim at all about whether the model originated with it (it didn't) or had a specific directional influence on later Cyberpunk publishing, which I don't know, yea or nay.

Actual play

In the late 1980s, my friends Sonia and Ed and I played the Space version of Rolemaster, adapting in technology and various thematic content from sources like Neuromancer and Blade Runner. My character was a tough Mexican guy named Rico, with venom sacs built into his foreams that exuded drugs and poisons from his fingertips. I spoke OK Spanish and traveled around in Central America back then, so was really into the look & feel. Ed basically tried to kill us with some corporate-political NPC guy and then engineered a path of clues to a fight in an abandoned office building or apartment block or something, where we blew the guy up.

But then Cyberpunk was published, and I started running it as much as possible, combining players from the two Champions games I was in (one as GM, one not). Ed made up a bearded Rocker with a broad English accent and a crucifixion tattoo on his always-bare chest. Geez, I just flashed back on some player dialogue. Ed's character had just survived a desperate fight of some kind in a bathroom, where he then took a piss. "Did you wash your hands first?" asked Ken, another player. Ed said no. "Then you have blood on your dick." Ed replied, I thought quite brilliantly, in-accent, "Wouldn't be the first time." You didn't get this dialogue in D&D and Champions play without disrupting play, or at least I didn't. Sonia played a Solo hot babe with cyber-type vampire teeth, which again was before all kinds of Goth Vampire Gaming obsessions became widespread and hence was pretty cool. (Also, Sonia had special SF-intellectual cachet having read Neuromancer ages and ages before any of the rest of us had heard of it.) Ran played Malcolm (the only character name I remember), a Media punked-out rogue reporter type, who had the same monowire slice-your-head gadget as the heavy in Johnny Mnemonic, except that it was his middle finger. Ran took the new LARPer ideas relatively seriously and wore his mirrorshades, black jacket, and fingerless gloves at every play session. Ken played a Fixer, very ganged-up and mobbed-up with a lot of complicated romantic baggage, and he made the character especially effective by playing him with a mild, even slightly wimpy voice in front of some good rolls and consequential actions.

I really want to emphasize how down & dirty these characters felt to us. This was perhaps my first game where every single person in the room came to play, for this very game and system, for this very setting, for this particular combination of people, in that Ed and Sonia on one hand trusted me to have brought similarly-minded people from "the other group," and Ken and Ran did likewise. We knew from the start that nailing our characters and the genre was our immediate aesthetic goal, or rather pathway, toward making stuff happen in a sense beyond simply "observing an adventure from the inside."

I learned a lot from running the game. First, since I totally threw out the "team" notion, I did something I'd thought about but never tried before, which was to begin by having all the characters wake up in the back of a van with bags over their heads. I was influenced in this by the famous fourth adventure in the AD&D Slave Lords series, "In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords," where all these pretty-tough mid-level characters begin naked and almost spell-less in the bottom of a dungeon. My point was not to disadvantage the characters so the players couldn't refuse an upcoming offer of employment. Instead, I said to myself, they're in the shit, and I have some foes and a lot of back-story, but I really really do not have any planned notion for how they're going to get out of their immediate crisis, or for what they'll do next. I think it may have been my first major GMing leap without a plot-oriented safety net.

Second, I dug deeply into each character's back-story for nearly every component of the scenario, using almost every NPC in the histories and generally not having hardly anything in the scenario except for them, meaning the player-characters. I'd done similar things with Champions, but here I dialed down my intended plot a bit more than usual. The first news is good, in that it worked. But I also discovered that there's a hard limit to how much linking-in a viable story can stand. If every player-character related NPC is used, and if every NPC is one of them, then play begins to feel too tight, too contrived. I learned this when Ken groaned aloud and threw a sock at me when he found that the crucial link in the information chain they were investigating was

Third, I tried to avoid the climactic fight showdown, and if I remember correctly, the climax was actually a musical performance/assault sent out over satellite, raw rock passion pitted against advertising glitz and disinformation. Although some kind of personal violence was involved too, to be sure, although I can't recall what.

Playing the first version of Cyberpunk was liberating, although not free of some problems and older habits in my case. It played an enormous role in designing Sorcerer, which I began to do within the next few months. Hold up that box of booklets, the first edition of Over the Edge, and the very old original Wizard from 1978, and you are looking at Sorcerer's system-lineage. (Add the original Stormbringer and some notions from The Whispering Vault and Zero for other influences, too.)

Best, Ron

P.S. Editing this in: All references to the story Johnny Mnemonic in this post are specifically to the short story by William Gibson, nothing to do whatsoever to the movie of the same name.

Eero Tuovinen

Quote from: Ron Edwards on April 13, 2010, 06:46:11 PM
Eero, your post reads like you were channeling your 14-year-old self! Are you really so enthralled by character classes? You wrote,
Quote... seldom has there been a game that basically takes a bunch of dramatic settings, distills each into a character class and tells you to play it.
Um ... one of those games was called "Dungeons & Dragons." At least for those of us who read the Fafhrd & Mouser stories before encountering role-playing, what you're describing is exactly what "Assassin" or "Thief" or "Magic-User" did, or really any of the character classes except "Cleric." 

Guilty as charged, I have to admit. In the defense of the 14-year old, the literary cachet of Cyberpunk was rather more serious for me at the time than most of what other games we played had to offer. I was deep into classic scifi (Heinlein, whatnot) at the time, as well as the fresh Cyberpunk stuff; I had full understanding of the dramatic issues faced by a journalist in the cyberpunk setting, for example, which made the character class have specific, intriguing implications of the sort of content the game would have when played through the lense of that class. I still think that D&D is relatively weak juice compared to that, as the literary background is subsumed by the dungeon thing rather heavily - playing the game won't be any different no matter what class you pick, as they're all intended to go into the dungeon instead of doing the sort of interesting shit you'd expect of their type in a fantasy story. (In case anybody can suggest a strongly classed fantasy game where playing a cleric means that your game will be about missionary work, I'm all ears.) Call of Cthulhu, another game we played a lot at the time, had the same feature D&D has: while the character classes are seemingly different, they don't actually overcome the preset theme of the game; no matter which you pick for your character, you're going to be running after Deep Ones anyway. For us Cyberpunk did not read like this at all, although I do admit that I probably should dig up the old books and look at them with fresh eyes to see if it was just a local peculiarity that made us take those character classes so literally as story engines.

That bit about the different Empathy rules is interesting. I remember that in the 2020 version the Empathy rules were a relatively dead letter for us in that they only came up for the characters who intentionally skirted the borders of sanity. You had to work on making your character a monster to get there, really. This was probably just fine for us, I should note - cybernetics and human identity were not a very important part of the game for many characters, play was more about looking cool and having '80s-style action movie adventures; I often say that we "invented anime" on our own in our Cyberpunk play, which resembled Akira more than anything else a couple of years before anything like that was even available in Finland. This had plenty to do with my GMing method of the time, which was basically to transpose plots from classic scifi novels into Cyberpunk and Paranoia adventures.
Blogging at Game Design is about Structure.
Publishing Zombie Cinema and Solar System at Arkenstone Publishing.

Ron Edwards

Hey Eero,

That's exactly what friends who'd played both told me: that the first game was gritty Blade Runner and Neuromancer, and the second was anime action. I can also attest to a widespread gamer reaction to the lethality in Friday Night Firefight, and the book's extremely blunt verbiage about that.

Jesse, I'm hoping these last couple posts are helpful to you. Let me know.

Does anyone know about the publishing sequence of the versions of Cyberpunk and the versions of Shadowrun, say from 1985 (the year R. Talsorian was founded) through 1994? I know that the first Cyberpunk is dated 1988 and the first Shadowrun is dated 1989, but "year published" is a thin variable and doesn't always match to actual release into either unofficial or official channels of commerce and use.

Best, Ron


This is EXTREMELY helpful and pretty much confirms my fear that I may have to go through the trouble of tracking down those three little black booklets.  The sad things is that I'm pretty sure I still own them but damn if I can find 'em.

It sounds like you guys actually had a lot stronger "impulse" understanding of how to play based on your actual exposure to the source material.  Ron is often talking about people who learned about fantasy via D&D rather than the actual source.  That's pretty much me and probably doubly so for Cyberpunk because at least I'd read the Hobbit and some Greek Mythology where as I don't even think I *saw* a copy of Neuromancer until my early 20s.  I kind of, for whatever, reason expected RPGs to be like mathematical Cliffnotes for genres.

As a result my short-lived and failed attempts to actually play the game didn't work so well as described in my original post.  At the time I was just drawn to those cool pictures and weird objects and stuff like the 1930s skin you could put on your virtual world.... and then had no idea what to do with any of that.


Gregor Hutton

Ho, boy. I played a hell of a lot of Cyberpunk, mostly under blue lightbulbs in my last year at high school (the effect on your colour perception when exposed to "white" light afterwards is thrilling and weird).

At the time I thought the changes to Cyberpunk when it became 2020 made the game poorer. I probably still think the same way, much as I ran a metric tonne of 2020 (since that was the book that everyone then had and there was a large group of GMs and players for it then).

The main differences:
* The core rulebooks were (and I have them in front of me) "View From The Edge: The Cyberpunk Handbook" (effectively main rulebook), "Friday Night Firefight" (subtitled Interlock Man to Man & Weapons Combat System, which was the combat book) and "Welcome to Night City: A Sourcebook for 2013" (the "setting"). In 2020 that was all in one glossy colour covered book. The three books were low-fi and retro-edgy.
* FNF was lethal. F'rex: 1-2 Damage against Body Type Very Weak was a Serious Wound.13-14 and up against Very Weak was Dead. 21 up against Very Strong Body Type was Dead. You had this cross-reference chart. Oh, and multiply Head damage by 2. It was lethal and cynical. I loved it. 2020 had 40 boxes of health and everyone was a bullet blanket. Sigh.
* FNF gave the E/flbs data for weapons! .44 Magnum Pointblank & Close 971 f/lbs for 4D6 damage. A meagre (!) 608 f/lbs at Extreme range for 2D6+3. This was gun porn frothing at its finest. Think .44 Automag from the Terminator melded to RoboCop and that's where we were at. 2020 was more "universal" and "mainstream RPG like" -- I mean it's weapons tables were almost interchangeable with Call of Cthulhu, Hero and so on by then.
* FNF actions were in Phases based on Reflex. 2020 had initiative from top down. I need to scan in, or photo, my FNF combat pages just to show the annotation I put on them.
* View From The Edge: almost all 2020 Roles are there. Rockerboy/girl, Solos (Combat Sense just adds to Awareness and Athletics, NOTE there is no Initiative in FNF, so no bonus), Netrunners, Techies (Scrounge NOT Jury Rig), Medias, Cops, Corporates, Fixers, Nomads. No Medtechs.
* Skills points came solely from Lifepaths. Stuff like Higher Education that got dropped when going to 2020, right? [Roll a d10. Normal 7 or lower, Streetkid 4 or lower, Nomad brat 3 or lower. If you succeed spend 4 years in College and get +2 to 6 skills of your choice... list of skills follows]
*Cyberware. Less of it in Cyberpunk than 2020, BUT... you could get Full Body Plating in Cyberpunk (you didn't get that in 2020, well, not at first and not as well when it did appear in later supplements). You really could be RoboCop. Alan Henry, one of my players did exactly that shtick in our first game.
*Really encouraged to sell out to the "man" in Cyberpunk, so if you rejected it you knew what you were up against. It's a brilliantly cynical page about running out of cash and offering you 2k of cybernetics for joining the Military, The Mob, "Selling Out to a Corporation" and then listing the "Catch": Hostages, Blackmail, Sabotage Chipware, Monitored, Command Kill, Company Safeguard. This was in 2020 too, but buried in the rulebook. The shorter books made this stuff stick out more.
* Netrunning was more like real-life hacking, sort of. And you had an "interface" that interpreted this "dream" world. In play my netrunner players ended up with virtual worlds, and we ran them alongside the Solo. In 2020 it was all more regulated, and less edgy to me. It also took up so much more of the 2020 book explaining it.
*Drugs. Holy Christ, the drugs page was great in Cyberpunk. Really encouraged you to use them and then warned you that you were fucking yourself up, just like real life. 2020 has the same stuff but it wasn't as stark in presentation so, um, it was much more like shopping for bonuses. But the content was almost the same.
*Welcome To Night City had characters with no stats at the back with gaps for you to fill them in. I did. No metaplot then.
*Random encounters in Cyberpunk and 2020 are almost identical.

The version I have has Errata at the end of FNF and View From The Edge. My books and boxes are scuffed and well used. I have, umm, a lot of copies of 2020 in its various versions, including one mint  2020 and one mint Cyberpunk.

Gregor Hutton

Regarding publishing history... The R.Talsorian website says "since 1987" ( which says to me that's when they started writing it? I don't recall it being out there that early. The version I have is (c) 1988, but I'm sure I got my books in early-1989. Shadowrun came out after Cyberpunk but before 2020 I'm sure.

Previously R. Talsorian had done Mekton (87?), which uses Interlock and Teenagers From Outer Space (1987 too?). Those games got put to one side once Cyberpunk hit, though Mekton II and supplements like Roadstrikers tapped into the Cyberpunk market, and ultimately the 2020 stuff became more anime and less Gibson.

It is weird looking back that Shadowrun nabbed the word Matrix from Gibson, so Cyberpunk went with "Net". I remember thinking at the time that Net was lame compared to Matrix and who would take "The Net" seriously.... um, everyone these days it turns out! Shows what I know.

Ron Edwards

Now you've done it, you fuckers. Look what you made me do.

As a preamble, I was wrong about the errata; they're included in the last couple pages of the book itself. Also, I remember that the player reference sheet, also very near the back, was the only place to find the Humanity Cost of cyberware, which puzzled the hell out of me the first time I read the rules, trying to find some prominently displayed list.

I decide to make a Media character, so that's starting Credibility automatically at +2. My first rolls on the Personal Style tables inform me that he wears normal clothes and has tinted hair and weird contact lenses. He's friendly and outgoing, values a piece of jewelry (seems to fit, he's striking me as a pretty boy already), values a public figure (interesting for a Media guy), and values power (whoo!).

Well, already, I'm seeing someone who's not really the hard-core anti-establishment rebel, but maybe establishment-involved, quite likely even idealistic ... and that can be the most extreme form of disestablishmentarian of all. Cool! I'm getting some ideas for his handle, but nothing quite gels yet, at least not enough to match his hair. I leave it for inspiration to strike along the way.

OK, on to the numbers. I choose the 30 + 6d6 option for character points, rolling a neat 30 for 60 total points. I allocate like so: Intelligence 8, Reflexes 4, Cool 8, Tech 5, Luck 10, Attract 8, Movement 4, Body 5, and Empathy 8. Notice the importance of starting Color: if I hadn't rolled such a twink in the initial Personal Style tables, I would have put more points into tough stuff like Reflexes for a more street-hitting journalist type.

I choose the Normal Childhood because I can't see this guy being either street or nomad even a little bit. That gives me Awareness +2 and I allocate 6 points for Athletics 1, General Knowledge 2, Teach 1, and Language 2.

The errata tell me that I don't have to roll on the Military or Street lifepaths if I don't want to, which is good, and I roll on Higher Education and make it. So I choose Human Perception 2, Seduction 2, Interview 2, Awareness 2, Photo & Film 2, and Compose/Write 2. Solid journalist stuff, plus a guy this cute has to know some romantic moves too.

I decide to go for another four years in Higher Education, and make my roll again. This time I choose Interview +2, General Knowledge +2, Language +2, Human Perception +2, Awareness +2, and Compose/Write +2. Basically boosting the whole professional thing into a functional realm.

I like this guy at 24 - he strikes me as young. So I don't opt even to try for another lifepath roll. I choose my pickup skills: Wardrobe & Style +2, Persuasion +2, Specific Knowledge +2, and Streetwise +2. Why Specific Knowledge isn't available from Higher Education, I do not know.

Life Events and Problems, next! He's 24, so that's 8 rolls, one for each year over 16.

1. You Get Lucky. Matches his Luck 10 very nicely. Turns out that he has powerful city connections, to the police chief. Well, now we know who the "public figure" he values most (as a person) is.

2. Disaster Strikes. More than one kind of luck out there, eh? He has a mental breakdown, resulting in a nervous disorder and -1 Reflexes (whoops - so much for hitting anyone, any time, any where). But this also matches nicely with him being basically a sensitive soul.

3. Lose a Friend (female). One of us betrayed or deserted the other, and the injured party avoids the other. I file this way for "develop later," but note as well that it could be combined with the Disaster above.

4. Make a Friend (female). A partner or co-worker. Cool, nice and straightforward. It's starting to look like women hang out with this guy a lot.

5. Romantic Involvement (finally!): a love affair with problems; one of us is insanely jealous. Probably the other person, given all the babes draped all over him and calling up with their problems and so on. Interesting, incidentally, that this rolled result does not include a roll for the partner's gender, unlike Friend and Enemy.

6. Romantic Involvement again! I instantly choose not to combine this with the first one, but rather that he has two current lovers. That works with the "jealous" part too. And heavens to Betsy, I get "a love affair with problems" again, based on one of us having a romantic rival. That sews our triangle together nicely.

7. Make an Enemy (female). It's a person I work for; one of us humiliated the other; the injured party verbally attacks when they meet. OK - do I combine this with other established NPCs or hold off? I hold off and wait.

8. Make an Enemy (male). It's an ex-lover. I bless the gods of lifepath dice. I muttered "not gay enough" at least twice so far, and at last my patience is rewarded. Metrosexuality and Glam R Us. Interestingly, the source of enmity is not romance but that we are professional rivals, and the injured party ignores the other.

He's not employed, which instantly gets hooked to the #7 event - clearly the boss lady fired him.

Moving on to my starting cash stash of $2000, I make a wish-list for cybertech. As a media guy, he has to have a phone link, an ECM scrambler, and a microrecorder. I see him very much as an interviewer, relationship-oriented investigator, not a clickety-click eyeball-camera type, so I go with a totally audio-oriented setup. I also think he needs chipware, specifically memoryware for knowledge chips - on the job, they handed him relevant chips to plug in while he worked on specific projects.

Can I afford all that? Why yes, I can. Jumping ahead a bit, I turn out to be over budget when I buy some more gear, so I cut back the Specific Knowledge chip to +1, for a total cost of $950. The Humanity Cost totals 4d6 +3, I roll a 15, for 18 Humanity in the hole. You lose Empathy for every 10 points of Humanity Cost, so I drop my Empathy to 7.

Speaking of other gear, I buy regular clothes for $75, an armored t-shirt (the jacket was too pricey so I cut it back), a cell phone (fucking $400?! this is the most expensive ordinary-use thing on the whole list! this phone better perform oral sex, man!), a portable bed and sleeping bag, a portable TV with recording device, a pocket computer, and a vinyl bag to put my toothbrush and grooming utensils in. With that last purchase, leaving me a whole $50 to my name, I arrive at said name all of a sudden: Pretty Butch Bryce. I figure he was played up on the job as the funny color man, the young guy who got to present the human interest bits. Until he got serious and stepped on some toes.

I do a little more thinking and diagramming about all the NPCs. First, there's the stuff with being connected to the police chief (whom he values over all other people, including all these lovers and friends!), having suffered a debilitating trauma, and being abandoned by a friend (or maybe being forced to abandon her). I can work with that a little, a real gut-wrenching dirty crime situation and maybe with a police chief who really wants to do some good and feels bad about what happened to this cub reporter, whatever it was. The friend is still around, and he avoids her; I should probably work with that a little too.

Second, there's the current romantic triangle, with the two women, one of whom is insanely jealous and the other being annoyed about having a rival. I figure he has lots of sex and lots of arguments with both of them. The older romantic relationship is with the guy, and my take is that Bryce thinks nothing of same-sex and different-sex issues - it'd all be the same to him if the various genders of his various partners were switched or all the same or whatever.

Third, there's the professional stuff. He has this co-worker female friend, and a deeply angry enemy in the female boss. For that latter, obviously she fired him in a humiliating way when he got too serious about his job, and he's ready to rip into her verbally at any opportunity. And his other enemy, the ex-lover, is a rival Media - the interesting thing again is that it's not the romance that causes them problems, but the business, and I figure that must be a matter of ideals vs. success too.

Bryce looks 100% playable to me, although he's heinously useless in a fight, so with any luck the GM takes note and doesn't prep a SWAT team game. Since he has those police connections, it'd be great if one of the other player-characters was a cop. The co-worker friend could be a Solo rather than another Media, too.

And notice another point: in reality, punk was more than half glam. This character jacks that point up to 11, and I think he fits the genre beautifully, perfectly.

Best, Ron

P.S. Gregor, that blue-bulb/white-bulb thing is the sorriest excuse for not actually getting high on real drugs that I ever heard of.

P.P.S. I forgot to finish one of the sentences in my post above. Ken threw a sock at me when he found that an important NPC to meet next was his character's ex-girlfriend. The point was that every damned NPC so far had fit into a player-character's life-path, and he was reaching his personal, fellow-author limit on how tightly the scenario had been constructed. Oh, memory flash: the ex-girlfriend's name was "Silverfox."

Gregor Hutton

Fantastic. The first two characters that I ever GMed for in Cyberpunk were "The Deliverator" (or something) who was a Full Body Plated Solo and "The Board" a skater-punk Netrunner. Their stories in game were tied pretty much to their backgrounds and NPCs they'd made up their, rather than a "party" mentality. Later games with 2020 had much less of that it was more missions of stuff, normally against a "big bad". I think the earlier games were more personal and raw.

If you had 2020 Ron then for lifepath there might not have been much change: they renamed the "Life Events & Problems" in Cyberpunk as "Lifepath" in 2020 and did some re-ordering/changing.

They rolled in the Clothes, Hairstyle and Affectations stuff to be at the start of the Lifepath (along with a new Ethnic Origins table) as (1) Origins and Personal Style. In Cyberpunk that lived just after the Roles and "Fleshing Out Your Character", i.e. before any mechanical character creation. They changed some options too: "Battle Armor" in Cyberpunk became "High Fashion" in 2020 and "Hippie Threads" became "Bag Lady Chic", while for Affectations "Spiked Wristbands" became "Spiked Gloves".

The other stuff from pre-mechanical character generation stays in 2020, but is moved to (3) Motivations in the Lifepath. And they added "How Do You Feel About Most People?"

In 2020 they also added a whole sections missing from Cyberpunk: (2) Family Background. This has family type (called "Ranking" going from Corporate Executive through Pirate Fleet to Urban Homeless and Acrology family, then options), Parents, Family Status, Family Tragedy, Something Happened To Your Parents, Childhood Environment, Siblings. All new meat that wasn't in first edition.

All the Make a Friend/Enemy, Lose A Friend, Romantic Involvement, Disaster Strikes and You Get Lucky carried over to 2020, but they added more detail. For Enemies they added "Who's Fracked Off?" (They hate you, You hate them, Feeling's mutual) and "What Can He Throw Against You?" (Just himself, Few friends, Entire gang, Small Corp, Large Corp, Entire Government agency).

For "Disaster Strikes" they added "What Are You Gonna Do About It?" (Clear your name, Live it down, Hunt them down, Get what's yours, Save what you can).

So, I think that stuff is an improvement (well, there's more of it) on Cyberpunk, but... allocate your skills as a mass of 40 points amongst 10 skills that your Role has, so you get more min/maxing I think.

In Cyberpunk the order is Role, Handle, Dress/Style, Who You Value, Personality, Valued Possession, What you Value. Then character points, Lifepath for skills: Childhood (up to 16), then Street, Military, Higher Education (in 4-year terms like Traveller and GDW games), Pick-Up skills (4 at +2). Then Life Events and Problems that map to those years you were doing stuff that gave you those skills. Buying Cyberware, stuff and Running Out Of Cash.

In 2020 the order is Role (they never tell you to take a Handle even though it's on the Character Sheet...), Character Points, Lifepath, Skills (40 amongst 10 Career Skills) and Pick-Up skills (INT+REF on any that aren't Career Skills) that don't map to specific years of Lifepath, Cyberware (with no RoboCop option), Gear and Running Out of Cash.

So, it's not so different, but the origins stuff where you picked your grotty start to life and that set how successful you were at getting Street, Military or Higher Ed, was switched to pick or roll background it as just colour, and pick skills from a big pot of points, same for pick-ups. And these skills are rarely linked to the years of Lifepath (only when you get a +1 from a Sensei, etc.)

Oh, and to clarify/correct something I said earlier. Cyberpunk _did_ have Medtechies but their Special Ability was still Scround like other Techies. In 2020 Scrounge was purged and became Jury Rig and Medical Tech.

Eero Tuovinen

It's interesting that the first edition doled out skills based on the lifepath randomization. That's a big change, one that seems to be to the worse in my eyes. The 2020 system of distributing points freely caused character designs that were rather mechanically one-sided in hindsight: usually you'd just put in ten points into your class specialty (especially for Solos; insanely powerful class skill) and high points to a few other skills that'd back up the narrow specialization. After all, who wouldn't want to be the best there is at what he does, right?
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This was very much my experience, though at the time I definitely didn't think the later edition worse - the 2013 game session I participated in was 20-30 minutes of rolling up all the backstory and making a Solo with the +2, which required lowering important attributes (reflex, cool, something else) to increase, then getting aced in the first firefight.  I sat around for the rest of the session.  Contrasted to 'Goldenrod/Vlad the Impaler', my 'Rockerboy' in 2020 (I rolled up a romanian or something, saw the Mr Studd implant, and assumed in the utterly depraved future, a porn star was not much different from a rock star; sue me, I was like 14 or 15), who had the special celebrity skill at +9.  While we never, ever rolled it, it heavily contextualized all the rolled-up background relationships and all the downtime activities, when this ultra-macho thrill junkie wasn't shooting at things with his mercenary buddies and their hardholder, fixer, manager, Hannibal, whatever it was called.

The cache generated by keeping things interesting (such as it was for us) kept the character alive in what should have been deadly situations, which was, again, important at the time and in that style of (admittedly very juvenile) play.  I may see if anyone I played with remembers more details of the actual sessions.

Gregor Hutton

That's a good point about wanting to start with a higher Special Ability and being able to do that in 2020 but not Cyberpunk. It's a great lure for players, but I'm not sure it ends up with a better game.

Special Abilities only began at +2 in Cyberpunk but you could put it up to +5 if you traded points from REF, CL or INT (only) on a point-for-point basis. (Doing it with INT was mostly stupid, except for Solos since you rolled INT + Special Ability to use it.) So, you mostly were kicking around +2 to +4.

The best Solo I ever saw played in a game of Cyberpunk was called Cagney (named after Cagney & Lacey rather than JImmy!). Stephen who played Cagney only fired 31 bullets in a nine-month campaign (he kept a track of them!) and he worked up her Combat Sense from +2 to maybe +5 over those nine months, and all her other skills went up IP by IP in line with it. She was hard as nails, legit, across the board when she was at +5 Combat Sense.

Then I compare that to 2020 Solo characters that (typically) had Combat Sense +8 to start... this meant they had 32 points between 9 other core skills to start the game (...Awareness, Handgun, Brawling, Melee, Martial Arts, Rifle, Athletics, SMG, Stealth). Those skills at an average of 3.5 does not really sit well with a +8 Solo, y'know?

I think the 40 point damage track also kept any PC around long enough in 2020 to be more robust out the door. And its rather expected Trauma Team saving any character "socially" important enough (in the group of players) to be saved also helped.

Whereas in my first game of Cyberpunk one of the two characters died in the first session. He had an Average Body Type, so 5 points of damage was a Serious Wound, a further Critical Wound (only 9 points) killed him off on the Cumulative Wound chart. Ouch! He just "resurrected" the character when we played it the next week having been thrilled with our first session. So The Board became The Board II. We just started off again, writing that first week off as a "learning experience".

I learned to put the bullets into Alan's Deliverator who took Structural Damage (!) and to keep my brutal beatings on the Board to when he was in the Net using his "Mega City" interface - his "girlfriend" was his Killer IV program and she got him in trouble.