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I've owned a copy of the 2nd edition of Cyberpunk (Cyberpunk 2020) for years now but never had the ability or gumption to run a game (same for gurps). Lately though I've been playing and DMing a lot of D&D and I feel that my skills are high enough that I can finally run a CP2020 game. My issue is that the sourcebook itself is clunky in its description of rules and there doesn't seem to be any sort of guide lines for creating fights and challenges that are appropriate for the PCs (mechanically speaking). I know about LUYPS! (Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads!) and I've read it, but most of the advice in there seems to be story and tone advice (which I don't need being a huge cyberpunk fan already). I'd appreciate any other resources (official and unofficial) that anyone could suggest for me to latch onto to help get this campaign going.

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D&D is unique (and weird) in having "mechanically appropriate" guidelines. It's a paradigm that is alien to most game designs. Most games—especially ones that predate D&D3—are built on the paradigm that players must learn to recognise opposition that is mechanically too much, and mitigate it somehow by non-mechanical means (avoiding, gathering overwhelming advantage, fighting unfair, etc.). As a corrolary, GMs are expected to learn by the example of published adventures, or the rough lessons of experience. As such, most non-WotC D&D games that you ever read will entirely lack such guidance. –  SevenSidedDie Jun 1 '12 at 22:00
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I agree with SevenSidedDie, CP2020 expects the GM to know enough about his player characters, and the story he wants to tell to tailor the encounters correctly. This is the old skool style of gaming, us dinosaurs used. Even D&D only recently started leveling encounters. –  SteveED Jun 2 '12 at 2:52
    
@SteveED Hey, hey, even the 1st-edition DMG listed both how many experience points a murdered monster was worth and on what dungeon level the monster usually appeared. Both of those are helpful guides beyond many systems' guess-and-hope or rename-the-PCs methods for determining appropriate opposition. –  Hey I Can Chan Mar 27 at 13:54
    
@HeyICanChan That's only dungeons, and was a very rough guide at best with a lot of suggestions for variation/violation. In the wilderness, a typical random encounter roll can range from a pair of rats to an army of orcs on the march. AD&D GMs still very much need to understand the world they are controlling in direct terms, not at a remove via an abstracted challenge metric. –  SevenSidedDie Mar 27 at 15:51
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3 Answers 3

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I've run CP2020 many a time (Usually Trauma Team games) The CP2020 book isn't as nicely edited as it could be it's true; then again it's far better than something that WW usually produce!

The system itself is very simple, but what I'd recommend for a new campaign in the system is:

  • As mentioned there is no real balance system for cyberpunk, you play it by ear and by experience of the game; the only real comparison you have is the special ability levels, but gear and circumstances can completely wipe this away. Armour is the major balance factor in combat; metalgear and suchlike will really give whichever side has it a major advantage. Similarly with weapons, assault rifles really skew the balance in whoever has them's favour, but this sort of gear should be heavily restricted, it's paramilitary after all - you shouldn't wander into starbucks with a Ronin Light Assault over your back or the cops are going to be there very quickly!
  • Run a combat first, really, get the players some generic characters as a test run and playout a simple shootout, the combat mechanics flow well when you understand them but they are irksome and it's best to get all that unfamiliarity out of the way immediately so when a real firefight happens in the campaign it will flow nicely rather than stuttering.
  • Balancing fights is principally about numbers, weapons and armour; look at the players armour levels (if any!) and balance what their enemies have against this; if the players are wearing heavy armour jackets and flak pants (which in any police patrolled area is likely to get them stopped!) then firing pistols that do 2d6 damage at them isn't going to do anything!
  • Cyberpunk should not be a fight-based encounter system; fights are very, very dangerous and healing is slow. Players should be thinking how to avoid shooting anything rather than opening up with their Uzi's at every opportunity.
  • For the first games stick to the stock CP2020 book for gear and equipment, there are a large number of suppliments that can really make things annoying or "what does that do" or unbalanced until you understand how your flavour of CP will work.
  • Keep it low-tech and money lite to start off of; there are dozens of things characters can buy at the start that can turn themselves into unstoppable monsters, be careful with this or it'll soon spiral out of control before you understand the system.
  • Keep netrunners as NPCs. No, really, yes it's an integral part of the world but they will slow things down and split the party up; certainly for the first few games until the whole world has settled down and you're finding your GM feet this will save your sanity and stop all the other players getting very bored during netruns.
  • Print yourself out a combat cheatsheet or GM screen, it'll save you looking everything up all the time in the crazy organisation of the Friday night firefight rules section.
  • Finally, combat in CP2020 is very dangerous; without armour players can get blown away by a saturday night special if it hits them in the head, players will need to be smart and use cover (there's a mantra for cyberpunk if I ever heard one) rather than running in all guns blazing.

Finally here are some links for stuff I've found useful for CP:

Mockerys cyberpunk page - first page you should look at
The Chrome page

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I'm not a huge 2020 fan (ran it a few times years ago, but I prefer Shadowrun), but a bit of google-fu turned up Datafortress 2.0.2.0. They look to have significant resources from rules, references, new source material, and active forums.

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I have stumbled upon Data Fortress in the past. They seem to have a lot of resources in terms of items, pre-gens, campaign settings, etc. but didn't seem to have any sort of condensed rules resources. I'll take a closer look again and try to post on their forums as well though. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jun 1 '12 at 19:38
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Actually, what drew my eye was the custom GM screen ... that should be a condensed ruleset ... –  goofdad Jun 1 '12 at 20:17
    
The screen is good for the rules but nothing else. lol I think I'll just OCR the whole thing and then paste it into something easier to look at. –  Joshua Aslan Smith Jun 1 '12 at 21:02
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Cyberpunk as a Gaming Genre is not Cyberpunk as a Literary Genre. The two overlap somewhat, but just as D&D and Sword & Sorcery literature only somewhat overlap, so also CP2020 and the Cyberpunk genre only somewhat overlap.

The tone advice in LUYPS is there to illustrate the differences for fans of the literary genre, as much as or more than being there to educate the new-to-the-genre.

Also note that D&D style Grinding is not normative to the CP2020 game - it's deadly, since damages are usually higher than armor values.

That said, there is no mechanical balance written in.

But since you want a system for balance...

You can obtain four key metrics, tho', from the stats:

  • Average Damage per Hit (details below)
  • Average Worn Armor (AV+BTM)
  • Average Attack base (Ref+Weapon+WpnAcc)
  • Average Defense base (Ref+Dodge)

Assuming even skills, a character hits 45% of the time (defender wins ties - see table for proof, below). Each point of difference in the attacker's favor is a 10% improvement; each in the defender's is a 10% reduction.

Average damage is found easiest by taking the minimum rolled damage (all dice rolled 1), adding the maximum damage (all rolling max) and dividing by two... or just accept that a d6 is average 3.5, and a d10 is 5.5, and total it up.

The damage you do per round is going to average equal to your rate of hits times the average damage minus their AV... with the caveat that the actual average will be higher if the AV exceeds average damage but doesn't exceeed maximum damage, as the formula says "NO!"...

So, find the average damage per hit, and take the percentage of it that would be hits...

Example: Mook M has Ref 5, Weapon Skill 2, dodge skill 2, and a weapon doing 3d6, and 4 AV. PC A has Ref 7, Skill 4 each weapon and athletics, and a weapon doing 3d6 damage, and 8 AV.
A has an 11 total for attacks, vs a 7 defense, and thus has 45+(4x10) percent chance of hit - 85%. He averages 10.5 damage per hit, less the target's AV4, for 6.5 damage per hit, and .85 x 6.5 = 5.525 damage per round. That's gonna hurt under CP2013; under 2020, it adds up pretty quick
The mook, by comparison, hits about 5% of the time, with an average ddamage of 3.5 per hit, for .175 damage per round on average.
Still, said mook is a threat. The PC should be able to handle 3-4 of them no problem... but sooner or later, one will get lucky and put the hurt in.

A final warning about balance

There's this neat thing called Synergy... when two things together perform more than the sum of those two together. Characters in combat tend to be somewhat synergistic, especially if the GM runs NPC's as a cohesive whole and is a creative tactician.


Roll Comparison:

         Attacker Roll
         1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10
D   1    D    A    A    A    A    A    A    A    A    A
e   2    D    D    A    A    A    A    A    A    A    A
f   3    D    D    D    A    A    A    A    A    A    A
e   4    D    D    D    D    A    A    A    A    A    A
n   5    D    D    D    D    D    A    A    A    A    A
d   6    D    D    D    D    D    D    A    A    A    A
e   7    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    A    A    A
r   8    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    A    A
    9    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    A
R  10    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    D    D
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