This time, we put our intrepid RNGer through the rigors of Cyberpunk 2020…
That’s right friends, the RNGer is back, and badder than ever.
Only this time, we’re moving from swords and sorcery to glitz and glam and chrome, because after walking through the neon jungle that is Night City, we’re putting our intrepid RNGer through the paces of Cyberpunk 2020’s “Tales from the Street” Lifepath system. Hold on to your butts and we’ll see how life…uhhh…finds a way in this system.
Definitely too busy thinking about whether or not I could, instead of whether or not I should…
One thing to keep in mind as we dive in, is that it’s important to figure out the connective tissue of these life events. Especially in Cyberpunk where they give you just barely enough detail to form wild speculation about what actually happened. So as we roll up this character’s life, we’ll be trying to find ways to add texture and context to the wounds left by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
That said, Cyberpunk 2020’s character creation is hands down some of the most fun you can have building a character. If you want to cheat and have all this stuff done automatically for you, you can try this handy automated lifepath generator, but if you’re anything like me, you want to be able to stare down the die that’s come up ‘1’ for the third time in a row.
Oh sure, NOW you don’t come up a 1.
Whatever the means, I encourage you to play along at home. If you don’t have the books, you can find them on the web. I know DriveThruRPG has a bunch of those sweet bookmarked and put together well .pdfs available for $10.50 (or you can print on demand an analog copy, which is really tempting right now).
Now then, on to the rolling!
Step 1: Who Am I
First things first, we need to figure out what kind of character we’re gonna play. Now there are nine classes in Cyberpunk and it’s a system that loves it’s d10s–so we’ll be rolling the Bastard Sword of Fate to see what kind of class we end up with, rerolling if we get max damage, obviously (because choice is a lie).
We get… a 3. So it looks like we’ll be a Netrunner.
Hey, GM, you’re cool running a separate adventure just for me in the middle of everyone else’s game, right?
At the very least, we can only go uphill from here, right? Hmm. We’ll need a name. Something cool like from one of those movies where Hollywood pretends they know how computers work. How about… H4xx0r K3v1n. Yeah. That sounds about right.
Step 2: The Most Important Step
Alright. So, now that we’ve got a half-formed blank slate, waiting for life to happen to him, let’s go ahead and dive right into the character creation. What I love about Cyberpunk 2020 is that you can tell where its priorities are right out of the gate. The first thing it’s asking us to do (because it’s obviously the most important part of this game) is to figure out what we look like and what our personal style is. This is absolutely the right attitude to have. I mean, the section is technically titled Origins & Personal Style, but the first thing they hit you with is personal style.
Now we load three bolts into the trusty Heavy Crossbow of Destiny and take aim…
We get 6, 4, and 7. So H4xx0r K3v1n has a taste for high fashion clothing, wild and “all over” hair (I’m choosing to assume they mean hair that just goes all over the place, and not all over like, back hair etc.), and our personal affectation is long fingernails. As a reminder, here’s what High Fashion looks like in the world of CP2020.
Yeah that sounds about right. See-thru pants all the way.
Now let’s figure out where we’re from…
…5 So H4xx0r K3v1n is a Pacific Islander. Now, as a quick aside, you can get sourcebooks that let you go more specific into these ethnicities. There are some for just about every section of the world, and they add a lot of depth to the game, but, for right now we’re just using the baseline CP2020 Lifepath system.
Step 3: Family Matters
This is where the system gets a little bit more complex. Here’s where Cyberpunk’s idea of a “flowchart of complications” starts to come into play. Let’s see if we get Batmanned!
We start with our family ranking: 7. Crime Lord. SWEET! Oh man. Okay that’s gonna be some juicy stuff to dig into. Next up we check on our Parents…
…7. SOMETHING HAPPENED. Oh man, this is it, we could be Batmanned guys, we could be–oh I rolled a 7. We were left with relatives for safekeeping. So, not Batman. But maybe this was the family’s way of trying to keep H4xx0r K3v1n out of the family business? We’ll figure that out in a sec. We go now to Family Status where our options are either everything is okay or FAMILY TRAGEDY YOUR FAMILY IS DYING OR GONNA LOSE EVERYTHING.
Aaaand we got a 3. So welcome to Troubletown USA. Population, 1–which is, incidentally, what we rolled on the tragedy table, so it looks like our family lost everything because of BETRAYAL. Oh man, things are heating up and we aren’t even a real boy yet! Childhood Environment time: 3. So H4xx0r K3v1n spent Childhood in a Nomad Pack moving from town to town, which, when you think about it, makes a ton of sense. After being betrayed in some gangster movie fashion, no doubt the only way to stay safe was to stay mobile! One last thing and then we’re on to inviting personal tragedy to our doorstep: figuring out if we have any siblings. Which, this is like the one place where it gets ridiculous, because families could be HUGE in Cyberpunk 2020. Odds are good you’re going to have siblings, and odds are even better that it’s going to be well past the norm.
I mean, he *is* always on the lookout for the future ex-Mrs. Malcolm…
In H4xx0r K3v1n’s case, it’s 7 siblings: four older siblings (2 bros, 2 sises) who either dislike or outright hate him, two younger siblings (bro and sis) who like or hero worship him, and a twin brother who is carefully neutral. So what I’m taking away from this part of the background is this: H4xx0r K3v1n was born to a family of gangsters–I’m guessing they were big fish in a small pond who wanted to keep K3v out of danger. Now his younger siblings are fairly positive, and his older siblings are all against him, so maybe that’s because Kevin (as he would’ve been known back then) and the younger siblings got to avoid most of the danger and the drama of being in a crime family. Probably didn’t have to have responsibilities–Kevin was placed with relatives for safekeeping, so maybe there was hardship among the older siblings as the family was betrayed! Man. We already could jump into the game and throw the GM all kinds of hooks to use on us…but wait, there’s more!
Step 4: Motivation
Pretty straightforward. Now we find out, are we driven by REVENGE?!?!?? I mean, odds are decent. But this section is a little misleading. It’s more like, “what are some personal details about your character,” because you’re not just figuring out what drives you, but you’re learning what makes your character a person instead of just a collection of events.
So running through this section real quickly, we have: 8, 8, 4, 2, and 8. Points for consistency, I guess. This means that H4xx0r K3v1n is Sneaky and Deceptive, looks up to a public figure, values honesty above everything else, believes that a particular tool is his prized possession, and thinks that you can’t depend on anyone.
Man these fit together eerily well. Of course H4xx0r K3v1n would be sneaky and deceptive and not depend on anyone, his family was betrayed by an unspecified person who was almost assuredly not his twin. And in the wake of that, maybe he’s come up valuing honesty–because that’s the sort of thing that would keep that from happening. Maybe his yearning for truth in a world of lies is what led him to become H4xx0r K3v1n, digging deep into encrypted files to find the truth–just like a certain public figure–maybe an investigator or the like. And the tool he values most is the tool he uses to get at the truth, his cyberdeck.
It helps that they’re also freakin’ sweet…
Man, H4xx0r K3v1n has been through some stuff… let’s see what else, as we head into the home stretch.
Step 5: I torqued off who, exactly?
Here’s where things get dangerous. You can get disfigured, sick, shot, hunted, lose your friends, family, or anything else. Good stuff can happen too, but in general, the more chance there is of stuff happening to you, the more chance there’ll be that a good chunk of it is bad. And, rolling our 2d6+16 puts as at 25, so we have 8 rolls on the chart… hoo boy, here goes:
5, 7, 7, 10, 2, 9, 2, 5, 9
So a little of everything. Alright here goes…
First up a friend and/or enemy! I wonder which it will be: 2. OH HEY A FRIEND! Oh man. Is something finally going to go right for H4xx0r K3v1n? Let’s see what kind of Friend we made: 8. A relative. Hmm, the obvious choice here is that it’s one of our siblings. And because we rolled a 1, it’s probably our younger sister (after all, she likes us already, so it makes sense). So from this, maybe K3v1n has been on his own for a while and is just now reconnecting with family. I like it…
Next up, though, it’s time for some steamy romance novel covers, because we have a looooove affair (not with our sister, geez guys, this isn’t Game of Thrones). I really like this chart, and not just because of the incredibly 80’s sci-fi romance art that you can see up there between Alt Cunningham and Jonny Silverhand… but because “there’s more to life than just combat and bad breaks…” It’s a nice sentiment that just makes the game a little more real, for me.
Anyway, let’s see what kind of tragedy befalls us here: 6. Well, we narrowly avoided a TRAGIC LOVE AFFAIR this time, and only ended up in a Love Affair with Problems. As for the problem, we get a 10, so we’re taking a page out of the ol’ Shakespeare and falling in love with someone who has a conflicting background and family. Maybe we fell in love with a cop…or a rival criminal? At this point we’d be 18, so I’m guessing we probably fell in love with someone who makes their living covering up the truth. Probably not going to turn out well…but, with a 3 on the mutual feelings table (story of my life, right?), K3v1n and his paramour are still together as they roll into Age 19…
2. Oh hey, it worked out alright! I’m gonna say maybe H4xx0r K3v1n managed to reconcile his differences and grew a little bit as a person–but it cost him. With a 5 on the feelings table (which, let’s be honest, is a table every rpg needs) it means they hate us. Oh well. I guess that’s like life. Sometimes these things just don’t work out.
Thankfully at 20, nothing much happened. Which is probably because K3v1n laid around depressed in his apartment, eating the Cyberpunk equivalent of an entire bag of Doritos every day. I don’t judge. We’ve all been there. But sometimes you have to pick yourself right back up and head out there with your head held high–oh we’ve got big problems or big wins at 21. Wellp.
16! Oh man! I take it all back fate! This is it! The year of K3v1n! What did he go out and do?
4. Oh, okay. So he just went and took a karate class. I mean, getting to add +1 to a martial Arts skill (or getting to begin at +2, which let’s be honest, is where K3v1n is) is pretty great and all, but come on K3v, you can do better than that. Well you know what, sometimes you just gotta ease back into life. Maybe the martial arts will be good for him. I hope so, because not much else happens at 22. But when we hit 23, it’s time for another big risk…
Wellp. Ones happen, as they say. And happen they do–let’s go see what kind of hardship life has saddled us with… 8 – Hunted by the Law. Okay, this one isn’t all that surprising. I mean K3v1n is a PC, after all, this was bound to happen eventually. Anyway it’s not like it’s–oh, it’s the State Police you say? What did you DO K3v1n? What did you do?
Probably stole a whole literacola from Shenanigans…
Still, it’s not all bad. While on the run from the law, we rolled a 5 and made a friend! Specifically an old lover–so it seems like we went crawling back to our star-crossed lover. And somehow managed to convince her to shelter us, if nothing else. We’ve spent the last little while laying low… and that’s where things are as the game begins.
Phew. That one took a while–but CP2020 wants you to come with baggage. And there’s a lot for any good GM to use–and a lot for the player to be motivated about. I mean you could be wanting to figure out who betrayed you and why, or to watch out for the state police or to even just hang out with your Ex and figure out what your relationship is like. Not gonna lie, that last one sounds like it’d probably lead to the most fun around the table top.
Well I hope you enjoyed this deep dive into the Cyberpunk 2020 system.
As always, thank you for playing along at home. Feel free to share your own creation with us in the comments!