So for any of you looking at this review and then jumping over to my ‘Oh the Games’ page you will see something that appears to be a discrepancy… at least for a little while. Originally I posted that I started playing Cyberpunk in 1987, and I would have sworn that was right but everything in the copies I have and even on the Wiki page for Cyberpunk it calls out 1988. R Talsorian put out Mekton II and Teenagers from Outer Space (TFOS) in 1987, and maybe I was just over loaded with R Talis goodies and put the wrong date in. Sorry about that to Mike and the guys over at R Talsorian. I was not a play tester or anything along those lines and bought my first copy from a book store that sold a lot of RPGs, so 1987 was not really possible.
Just in case the post was a while ago to our modern instant gratification mindsets, here is a recap of what I will review.
– Fluff (the material that gives everything flavor, background, story, developed NPC’s and no not that marshmallow stuff some people put on sandwiches… looking at you lass, yes you)
– Crunch (the rules, now this one will be tricky because sometimes hard rules are good and sometimes easy makes things good)
– Mod (how easy can I break the rules, add house rules, or power game. Mod can be good or bad depending on how you play and what you like to play with)
– Fun (in spite of it all just how fun is this game and this setting)
So let me start out by saying that when I first saw the Cyberpunk box in the book store I was intrigued. I mean here is this big black game box with red letters on it calling out ‘Cyberpunk’. At the time I barely knew what the genre was, but the added note about it being a role-playing game of the ‘dark future’ made me want to check it out more. The box was really light in my hands, and I thought this could not be everything, but the notation on the back saying it was recommended for 16 and over, and the sleek looking gal with the big freakin handgun on the back sold me.
So lets get into the review topics…
Fluff – The original edition of the Cyberpunk roleplaying game did not have all the fluff that the game would come to be known with in the still popular 2020 edition. However never let it be said that the original edition did not set the pace. One of the three books in the original box ‘Welcome to Night City : A Sourcebook for 2013’ is mostly fluff. Sure it has a brief intro adventure, but the main point of the book is to give you strange little details about the place these stories start out in, Night City. Add in the half page corporate briefs, blurbs about the NPCs (Non Player Characters for the uninitiated, and yes you can Google it) gives you a feeling for how dark the world can be.
‘The View From the Edge : The Cyberpunk Handbook’ is what most consider to be the main rule book of the box, but when you take note of the flavor text articles talking about everything from sex to mass drivers that could be targeting your home town and they are in corp control, you know its getting dark and you can really get behind the idea that yeah, this world is not like the one we hoped to get to in the future.
The art seems a little weak but it was better than the stuff R Talsorian had put into Mekton II and that first run of TFOS (sorry guys but there is a reason you did not recycle all of the art on later editions in those games)
Overall Fluff Score – 3 – It got me, but it could have been so much more.
Crunch – So when it comes to rules there are two of the three books in the box we need to pay attention to ‘The View From the Edge : The Cyberpunk Handbook’, and ‘Friday Night Firefight’ (FNFF). In ‘The View…’ you get the basic rules for just about everything. Except combat, and for that they refer you to FNFF. Now then I have to say the basic rules in the game caught my attention. I had been playing games from TSR and Palladium with derived values (a score in one place gets you a certain bonus in another, but never a direct one to one exchange) and games like Paranoia where some things just did not add up (I am still sure that was done on purpose to help the game live up to the title), but here, you have a stat (an intrinsic part of the character you create) and it adds to a value in their skills. The R Talis team had done something similar with Mekton and with TFOS, but this was not a cartoon setting, it was dark and harsh, and simple. I was only going to need a d10 and a d6 (two dice for the once again uninitiated). There are only a few stats, and they encouraged adding to the skill list right in the rule book.(Page 17 if you doubt me). There are no classes in the game (like the level based games) but there are Roles. Each Role has a special ability that gives it a bonus in certain situations. But that does not mean you cannot study other skills. Again simple, but it allows a depth to character generation other systems seem to miss out on. Next big part in ‘The View…’ is the background generator. They say it is optional in every game that R Talis publishes, but oh the elements of cool it can add to your background to find out that your grade school sweet heart was bankrolled to kill your parents and drive you into the wasteland because someone took offense to your activities. Since the background work has bonus’ and penalties associated with it, there is a good mix of fluff in with this crunch.
The other book to look at is FNFF. Plain and simple, this combat system is lethal. If you have played Twilight 2000, take out all the detailed information about making the shot, but keep a lot of the stuff about making the hit. If you have played some of the Rolemaster games it is almost like getting a critical hit every time you hit. You live short and brutal lives if you get into a firefight in this game. The mechanics are fairly fast and simple. Just enough detail to make sure you want to try and resolve things by thinking first if you can, and to be sure you have cleaned your guns religiously if you have not.
Overall Crunch Score – 4 – Simple to use, but still keeping detail.
Mod – Ok this is going to be one of the shortest review comments I can make. You can mod the crap out of this system without even blinking.
Adding skills, add a stat so that you can add something like psionics or magic to the game (See Mekton Zeta Plus for ideas on that) or how about adapting it to other game engines (Cyber Fang as published in White Wolf magazine mixed this system with the World of Darkness without missing a beat, and the Fuzion system resulted from R Talis and Hero games playing together to come up with a meeting of the minds). Yeah you can mod it, and it looses very little if anything if you do.
Overall Mod Score – 5 – You can mod it all to hell and back and it still makes sense.
Fun – Ok this is where the rubber hits the road. Just how fun is this game. By itself right out of the box, it is great for a few game sessions unless you are really into the dystopian cyberpunk settings this game so well emulates. If you start using the additional books, and some of the licensed settings like ‘When Gravity Fails’ or if you take a look at some of the story elements they tried to build from the 2020 game published years later, you can get an epic story about a fight for the future going. If you are looking for a base system to make a hard core game with, you have it right here.
Don’t take this the wrong way because the original Cyberpunk game is one of my all time favorites. I use the system they have created as a baseline when I am making game engines, and the characters they introduced became icons of my gaming world. But since the review is about the box set itself. The fun just does not last on its own. It is awesome, and it is fun, just not as fun as I would have hoped.
Overall Fun Score – 3 – Oh yeah I come back to it from time to time, but it is not on the very top of the list.
Total Score 15 / 20
I do recommend this game for a lot of reasons. One the FNFF in this version is actually a little smoother than the Cyberpunk 2020 version, Personal opinion anyway. And it is easy to Mod (actually did a Cthulhu Punk setting by adding a Sanity Stat and mythos skills… but that is another story). If you like the Cyberpunk Genre there are a lot of settings out there, in a lot of game engines, but I think this one, and its 2020 brother really catch the feel better than most, and give you good value for what you will spend.
End of review 1… gimme the dice, I gotta see if I can hack this puppy. No not that puppy, oh jeeze what kinda sicko are you…ewwwwwwwwwwww….