13 October, 2012

Book Layouts - 3 : Cyberpunk 2020


Cyberpunk 2020
256 pages
Page 00 – Title Splash Page
Page 0 – Credits
Page 1 – Contents
Page 2 – Roles Splash Page (Section 1)
Pages 3 to 5 – Overview of the Setting and the Roles
Pages 6 to 23 – Two pages each on the games roles (classes)
Page 24 – Characters Splash Page (Section 2)
Pages 25 to 29 – Character Generation (including a double sided full page character sheet on pages 27-28)
Page 30 – Quick method of character generation for GMs to rapidly create NPCs
Page 31 – Four-to-a-page character sheets for GM use with NPCs
Page 32 – Lifepath Splash Page (Section 3)
Page 33 – Lifepath Preamble
Pages 34 to 39 – A series of flowcharts used for describing the events in a characters life before play
Page 40 – Tasks and Skills Splash Page (Section 4)
Pages 41 to 43 – Descriptions of the base mechanisms and how skills work
Page 44 – A list of skills categorised by Role
Page 45 – Master skill list (categorised by relevant attribute)
Pages 46 to most of 53 – Detailed listing of the skills and what they do
The rest of 53 through to 55 – Experience system for improving skills, creating new skills and a system for reputation (I don’t remember seeing the reputation system before this analysis, and certainly never saw it in use)
Page 56 – Weapons, Armour, Gear Splash Page (Section 5)
Page 57 to the top of 58 – Overview of items in the setting
Bottom of 58 – Standard income for roles based on their specific skill
Page 59 – Are you employed? And some simple encumbrance rules
Page 60 – How weapon statistics work
Page 61 – Table of weapons
Pages 62 to 66 – Weapon statistics and images
Page 67 – Body Armour
Page 68 – Table of other equipment
Pages 69 to 71 – Descriptions of other equipment
Page 72 – Cyberware Half Splash Page (Section 6)
Other half of page 72 to 75 – Effects of cyberware on fashion, society and soul
Pages 76 to 79 – Table of cyberware
Pages 80 to half of 93 – Descriptions of cyberware
The rest of page 93 to 94 – Ways to earn extra money to pay for cyberware
Page 95 – Combat Splash Page (Section 7)
Pages 96 to 112 – Description of combat mechanisms (including plenty of tables, varying bold or italic text and an illustration showing how cover works)
Page 113 – Modifications to combat due to vehicles
Page 114 – Medical Splash Page (Section 8)
Pages 115 to most of 120 – Healing (including chances of death after combat, as well as surgery)
The rest of 120 and 121 – Cosmetic surgery
Page 122 – Drugs (Section 9 – no splash page) through to page 125
Page 126 – Netrunning Splash Page (Section 10)
Page 127 to 131 – Overview of the Net
Pages 132 to 134 – Equpment used to access the Net
Pages 135 to 136 – Double sided equipment sheet for Net interface devices (Two devices per side, for four total)
Pages 137 to most of 141 – Programs to implant into your net access device
The rest of 141 to 145 – Specifics on accessing the net (broken by a listing of the programs from 137-141, this time taking one-and-a-half pages)
Pages 146 to 148 – Maps of the Net
Pages 149 to half of 151 – Continued specifics on Net access
The rest of 151 to 153 – Combat in the Net
Pages 154 to 166 – Designing data fortresses to raid in the Net (including plenty of maps, illustrations, and information reference sheets for GMs to use during play)
Pages 167 to 174 – Designing new programs and virtual realities
Page 175 – Background Splash Page (Section 11)
Pages 176 to 179 – Timeline of the Cyberpunk “Future”and history of the setting
Pages 180 to 183 – Continued history of the setting and further background information
Pages 184 to 185 – Illustrations of common devices and items in the setting
Pages 186 to 189 – Running Cyberpunk (Section 12) No Splash Page
Pages 190 to 203 – Sample Game (Section 13) No Splash Page
Page 204 – Megcorporations Splash Page (Section 14)
Pages 205 to 214 – Descriptions of the dark corporate world
Pages 215 – Night City Splash Page (Section 15)
Pages 216 to 231 – Description of the default setting for Cyberpunk (including maps and random encounter tables)
Page 232 – A description of screamsheets (story impetus handouts)
Pages 233 to 250 – Sample screamsheets and adventure ideas
Pages 251 to 254 – A compilation of the character sheets scattered through the book.
(Note that the numbering starting with 00 and 0 to complete the 256 pages)
 
Total page count – 256
Table of Contents – Yes
Index – No (not even a quick find table, but the table of contents is very comprehensive)
Steps to create a character – An introductory overview of the classes for new players, then eleven pages of basic rules spread over two sections, followed by a separate section for skills, then equipment, and most characters will need to reference the cyberware or net sections of the book (possibly both). These are scattered throughout the book.
The way skills work – Three pages
The way combat works – Seventeen pages (sixteen for personal combat, and one for combat in vehicles)
World setting – Generally Thirty-three pages (split over four sections; two at the start, seven in the timeline/background, nine in megacorporations and fifteen in the Night City section). Plus an extra four pages generally describing the Net.
What do the characters do? – Each of the classes has a basic description of their day to day lives (and the money they earn through this), but nothing specifies whether this game is about their daily lives or the events that happen behind the scenes. Characters are preloaded with a bunch of background information and issues that might need to be resolved; I guess this is a good start.
What do the players do? – Nothing specific, not even the common “What is a roleplaying game?” section found in many games of the era.
What does the GM do? – Thirty-four pages (split over three sections: four pages on running the game, a sample game to give the GM ideas, then screamsheets as further idea prompts).

For years I had only seen fantasy games, my eyes were opened to the greater potential of RPGs when I started seeing modern and sci-fi settings creep into the hobby. I had seen “Dark Conspiracies” on the lone spinning rack of RPGs in the corner of a toy store near y home, but the first non-fantasy game I played was “TMNT and Other Strangeness”, since TMNT used basically the same system as D&D it felt like more of the same but with a fun new surface gloss. Cyberpunk was the second “sci-fi” game I played and it used a very different system.

In retrospect, Cyberpunk 2020 seems to have been one of those games that was struggling to do something more than just throw characters into a sequence of combat scenarios. It fed from the ethos of “Style over substance”, giving us numerous ways to look cool with gadgets, implants and cosmetic surgery (many of the sourcebooks took this even further), but it also started to integrate the characters into their community (through the lifepath tool). 

The two biggest chunks of the book (and most well-worn as I flick through it), are the combat section and the net section. These are obviously the sections that saw the most use when the book was mine and when it belonged to a friend before me. Not far behind them in size and usage are the character generation and cyberware sections.

Like RIFTS, and many other games of the era, it was a toolkit designed to provide you with everything necessary to run a variety of games, in this case they stretched from combat, to virtual reality infiltration, and corporate espionage. That’s basically the trinity of the cyberpunk setting, so it makes sense that the game would focus on these three. Everything else in the game is basically about looking good while you do these things (with the reputation system reflecting the fallout from missions, and the medical section reflecting the fallout from combat).

It covers the setting, it covers the way things are done, but it only barely touches on why you’d want to do things in the setting. The simple answer for the time was probably “because it’s cool, and you can look cool doing it”, we have cool weapons and cool cyberware with cool sounding names. You just want to use it somehow, and the GM just gives you excuses to do so (while offering you some money so that you can buy new cool stuff).

There’s nothing much in the way of drama or social interaction (some of the skills touch on this, and some of the lifepath results hint at ways that social complexity can be brought into the stories), but if you just want a shoot-em-up with high tech gadgets in a glass-and-steel metropolis, then why bother with all that melodrama. For the time, the combat system was pretty streamlined, roll to hit, and if you hit then roll for damage (reduce damage by armour); the combat system even manage to vaguely fit the same system as the skills.

The book was basically laid out in a coherent order. Especially with the early chapters and their splash pages on the even page count (this means the early chapters open with a two page spread with an image on the left, while the title and starting text begin on the right). This starts to get a bit more erratic toward the end of the book, arguably making the tail end of the book seem a bit rushed and not as well considered as the earlier parts of the book. As an example, the drugs section doesn’t have a splash page, and it’s not as fleshed out as many other sections of the book. If feels like an addendum to the medical section just before it (and probably should have been left as such).

All in all, I can see steps being made in the hobby at this time, there were lessons being learnt, but there was still a long way to go when it came to user friendliness in RPGs.
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