I’m a simple man – Netflix’s Edgerunners has rekindled my interest in the Cyberpunk aesthetic (though I’ve loved and revisited it many times already over the last decade). Here are a few byte-sized ideas I put together for running something Cyberpunky in Into The Odd, Electric Bastionland, Cairn and similar games.
Image: Cyborg Yakuza self-tuning by Sviatoslav Gerasimchuk
More Hit Protection Through APEX
In Block, Dodge, Parry, player characters gain more HP through dedicated training. I figured that for a human-augmentation type setting, it’d make more sense as a form of cybernetic enhancement. The cost is still similar; in BDP, it’s a matter of finding trainers, paying them and investing time. In this cyberpunk version, it’s a matter of finding the upgrade, paying to have it installed, and perhaps recovering from the surgery.
The Activated Performance EXponentiator, or APEX, is a crowning achievement in human combat augmentation.
It serves as an operating system of sorts, indexing, monitoring, and optimizing all the user’s natural- and augmented defensive capabilities, and micro-managing these assets during combat situations.
This results in what is essentially an upgraded survival instinct.
APEX constantly performs micro-adjustments to the user’s positioning, stance and behavior, combining extensive ballistic statistics with whatever augmentations the user possesses.
This means that a user might perform quick dodges, angle their body armor or armored limbs in such a way as to deflect incoming fire, use their speed-enhancing augmentations for a high-intensity burst of speeds to dodge probable ballistic trajectories or even use melee weapons such as swords to deflect bullets.
Simply put: You can get robotic arms, high-fidelity digital eyes, leg springs and shoulder blades installed, but it’s just a loose collection of trinkets without APEX tying it all together.
APEX is available in 4 levels:
- Mk. I adds 3 HP.
- MK. II adds 6 HP.
- MK. III adds 9 HP.
- MK. IV adds 12 HP.
Obviously, the higher marks should be far more costly. Assuming a PC starts with 1d6 HP, this still keeps their max HP within the 18 HP boundary.
The basic idea is that we take all the cool things players could do with augmentations in combat (dodge bullets with superhuman reflexes, deflect them with your chrome-plated forearm etc.) and simply abstract that into HP.
Players should be encouraged to narrate how their APEX system allows them to not die to that hail of gunfire (and just take some HP damage instead). I picture it a bit like how in Cyberpunk 2077, some enemies can dodge regular gunfire in a blur of motion – seems like a textbook definition of “Hit Protection” to me.
This is inspired by quickhacks such as seen in the world of Cyberpunk, but also the subtle and instant hacks performed in Ghost in the Shell.
Any upgraded/enhanced individual or system possesses a Personal Operating System which allows you to wirelessly interact with your environment, send and receive messages, and aids in combat performance and hacking.
Whether in an individual or embedded system, the POS can be hacked.
Roll under or equal to your WIL, but above the target’s Firewall + Hack Difficulty.
- Consumer grade Firewall: 1
- Professional grade Firewall: 2
- Military-grade Firewall: 3
Hacks & Difficulty
- Glitch: 1. Stunned for 1 combat round.
- Freak: 2. Individuals will try to flee until they pass a WIL Save. Systems are shut down until they pass a WIL Save.
- Cloak: 2. Become imperceivable to the target until you do something that cannot be ignored.
- Format IFF: 3. Flag all individuals and systems as hostile until they pass a WIL Save.
- Disable: 4. Instantly fries the system or individual.
Batou is facing a corporate assassin. He wants to cloak himself to their optics to escape. Batou has a WIL of 13 and the assassin as a military-grade firewall. Batou will need to roll equal or under 13, but above (Firewall 3, Cloak 2) 5.
Failing a Hack
When you fail a Hack, lose Hack Difficulty in WIL.
Disabling your POS
You can disable your POS (going ‘flight mode’, essentially) as an Action on your turn. It makes you invulnerable to hacks, but has you rolling damage and Saves with Disadvantage.
Hacking as Dungeon Crawling
An idea I’ve seen around before, but I think it’d be interesting to represent hacking as an old-school dungeon crawl. It’s not hard to imagine the engineers of the rain-slicked future using fantasy imagery to codify the Net, being nerds and all.
This idea is the least formed, and hence at the bottom of the post. It could be cool to represent the Net in a completely different style compared to the regular game, for instance.
Into The Odd‘s ruleslite approach would make it easy to create a secondary PC as an Avatar, representing their presence in the Net.
They would dive deep into FANTASY (Fortress Against aNTAganostic SYstems) databases, using stats such as
- STR – System inTegRity: Leveraging your code for brute-force processing.
- DEX – Digital EXploitation: Using rapid processing speed to outmaneuver and rush.
- WIL – WIreless Leveraging: Your capability of maintaining your personality matrices and solving logic calculations.
- HP – Hack Protection: Redundant code that protects your STR.
Like I said, the roughest idea of the bunch.
I hope some of these ideas are useful!