Revisiting Cybernetics in the Cypher System

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A little over two years ago I set out to start running a Shadowrun RPG game using the Cypher System rules instead of the Shadowrun Rule Set. I had two options that I could see in regard to Cypher system and how I was going to have to handle cybernetics.

1. I could treat all Cybernetics as flavor, thus having no in-game impact on the overall way that the Cypher system was run. This would allow my players to have as little or as much cybernetics as they desire, accomplishing the feel of the setting with no extra workload.

2. I could come up with a few simple options based on examples already set forward in the Cypher System and find a common ground between the two settings that would allow for cybernetics to stand out in the game yet remain simple and very flexible.

I had come to the realization that if I was going to run a faithful conversion in Cypher I was going to have to make some modifications. As I said in my previous blog the easiest answer would just make cybernetics in the cypher system Artifacts. On the surface, this would appear to be an easy fix. Yet as a solution, it posed its own problems. First, in Shadowrun and other Cyberpunk settings, Cybernetics are commonplace. Artifacts are not commonplace,

In the Cypher System

“Artifacts are considered to be more powerful than equipment and can’t simply be purchased.”

Second I did not feel 100% comfortable with the idea of allowing most of the table to begin the game with one or more artifacts, this felt unbalanced. Additionally to further complicate the idea of simply hand-waving cybernetics and treating them as Artifacts is Depletion. So artifacts were out.

So the first version of cyberware was born.

The first version of cyberware came in three flavors.

  • Simple (Simple cybernetics that can only accomplish minor things in game)
    A player was limited to 3 of this type of Cybernetic
  • Standard (Things that can only have a minor effect on game)
    A max of 2 Standard Cybernetic could be taken
  • Major (These provide “Boosts” At the time of the writing I did not know of “Power Shifts”)
    Players could only have one of these items.

About Limits:

My reason for limits largely remains the same as it was when I wrote the first blog. Shadowrun has a system of essence, wherein the body can only hold so much cyberware. This system also maintains game balance. So, for this reason, limits make perfect sense to port it over into the Cypher System. Thus keeping to the spirit of Shadowrun as well as preventing players from power purchasing their way into an unbalanced game.

There were a few exceptions if a player had enough money to afford the best gear available they could double these limits. Also, desperate players who were willing to take the risk on shoddy gear could save on money and purchase “Gutterwear” This gear comes with the cost of doubling its limit base cost as well as the risk of “Depletion” Borrowed straight from the Artifact section.

There was always to be one other exception to this rule that I never mentioned in the first blog.

Artifacts

As Cybernetics were not intended to be Artifacts I also wanted to have the opportunity to award players with Prototype, Custom or Personalised cybernetics and not be hindered later in-game by a player already having reached their limit count. So cybernetic Artifacts do not count against a players limit.

Updates and Changes

As our group sat down to start up a Cypher System Shadowrun game for the first time since I wrote the first blogs we could see there were some changes that needed to be made to dial the feel of cybernetics a bit more.

The first round of cybernetics had been organized around two key factors.

  1. The level of a modification to the body it would take to install the cybernetic gear
  2. It’s in-game effect that provides

My flaw here was that I was vague on #2, as it needed to be further defined to better represent cybernetics in the game as a whole. So, in some regard cybernetics went back to the drawing board. The new categories make far more sense as well as set the foundation for easily defined placement of cybernetics in the future.

This brought about the first change we discussed, adding a 4th cybernetic category. The newly defined categories look like the following:

 

Cypher System Cybernetics

Simple Cybernetics

Any cybernetic enhancement that is cosmetic and had no effect on the game in regard to dice rolls.
Examples: Internal Watches, Implanted Cell Phones, Shifting Tattoos
Limit: No Limit to this type of cyber implant
Character Creation Costs: Inexpensive During Character Creation.
In Game Cost: Moderately Priced in Game

 

Minor Cybernetics

Any Cybernetic Enhancement that mimics or provide skills, or assist in the completion of a skill. In short any implanted gear that would allow the player to make a Trained/Specialised check. Combat and Defense Skills are not included at this level this Cybernetic Enhancement.
(Note: Cyber Enhancement benefits still must adhere to the two-step reduction limit for tasks)
Examples: Skill Slot Jacks, Climbing Spurs, Grappling Launcher

Limit: Four Implants of this type
Character Creation Costs: Moderately Priced
In Game Cost: Expensive

 

Moderate Cybernetics

These are by design Cybernetic Enhancements that provide an Assets to the Player. These Cybernetics often come in the form of Weapon or Equipment implants. But can be any range of Cybernetic equipment upgrade that could provide the player with an Asset.(Note: Cyber Enhancement benefits still must adhere to the two-step reduction limit for Assets)
Examples: Cyber Arm Blade, Cybergun, Hydraulic Jacks, Subdermal Motors

Limit: Three Implants
Character Creation Costs: Expensive
In Game Cost: Very Expensive

 

Major Cybernetics

Major Cybernetics are so powerful that they provide players with Power Shifts. Cybernetics of this level require major surgeries and a huge amount of money. These cybernetics bestow superhuman levels of ability. In some rare cases, these cybernetic can also mimic powers.
Examples: Subdermal Platting & Bone Lacing, Wired Reflexes, Muscle replacement

Limit Two Major Implants
Character Creation Costs: Very Expensive
In Game Cost: Exorbitant


Alpha and Gutterwear

As far as Alpha and Gutterwear are concerned I have chosen to retain the same rules that I had blogged in the past and they are as follows.

To represent Gutterwear and Alphawear it turned out to be a very simple fix. If a player wishes Alphawear gear they must pay the next step up in cost for the item. This treats the cybernetic as half of the cost towards their cybernetics limit. If they purchased Gutterwear they may cut the cost of the cybernetic by one level but the item now has a Depletion of 1 in 20. Any Depleted cybernetics must be repaired before they can be used again. Repair Tasks are based on the level of the cybernetic. Simple=3 Average=5 Major=7

Synthicide RPG Review

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When robots are Gods, killing humans is fair game.

Civilization collapsed long ago in the wake of mutant warfare. Survivors toil beneath the bootheel of their privileged Synthetic overlords. The Tharnaxist Church, a corrupt machine cult, suffocates the Galaxy with their tyrannical dogma. Yet you and your friends make a name for yourselves as sharpers, lowly space criminals contracting with gangs and mega-corporations alike.

What Synthicide brings to your game table:

  • A dark, hostile sci-fi setting where humans are worthless and money is everything
  • A galaxy of noir adventure and high technology
  • Debuts the ACTIONS Rule Codex (ARC), an attribute-based rule-set designed for imaginative role-play and full-throttle combat
  • Automated Game Master (GM) tools to quickly build NPCs, traps, and mission ideas – all on-demand
  • A Plot Twist system with surprises for players and gamemasters alike
  • Optional rules to up the grittiness and depth of the game, including Faction Heat, Mental Trauma, and Shock Damage

By: Will Power Games Page Count: 216 Price: $22.00 DTRPG

A few months back I was contacted by the creator of Synthicide the RPG, it was a pleasure and an honor to be asked if I would like to not only review Synthicide the RPG but have the creator himself run a few games for me on Roll20 as well! I more than happily accepted as I’m not one to ever turn down the opportunity to game.

Then life, the universe, threats of hurricanes and robot God’s did everything that they could to intervene. Sadly that game never happened despite both of our efforts. Having a  game with the creator or not I am still going to get this game reviewed. So here we go!

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Setting

Synthicide is set in the Milky Way galaxy but far in the future. History, for the most part, has been completely forgotten as mankind was nearly wiped out by a virus. Much of history and technology is now controlled by a machine cult church called the Tharnaxist Church. The church, for the most part, leaves humanity to their own devices unless they harm machine or destroy machine intelligence. This is a crime known as Synthicide, when you do it you are sure to end up with a price on your head, but it can also make you rich.

Key Players:

Players play sharpers, freelance spacefaring starship owners just trying to earn enough money for their next meal and enough fuel to keep them in the black. Food, fuel, and supplies are all expensive. The only thing cheap Synthicide is life,  players must make the hard choices to survive.

Synthetics are constructed machines commissioned by the church. They fulfill contracts for the church and they are effectively Immortal. Synthetics are highly intelligent and for the most part look down on the human species.

The church is an immensely powerful entity in the game that runs everything with an iron fist, hoards technology, and builds synthetics. They worship a machine God, their priests are ruthless. The only ones punished in the church are those that harm synthetics, no one else is ever deemed worthy.

Additionally, the world is rife with many kinds of mutants that were scattered throughout the galaxy after becoming twisted by the P virus that nearly ending all of humanity. Most of the game takes place on the edge of rim space trying to stay away from the church and make enough money to get to the next payday stay out of trouble, survive and maybe make enough money to someday retire. Overall it gives the entire game a cyberpunk in space feel it is very gritty Noir in its theme

Most of the game takes place on the edge of rim space trying to stay away from the church and make enough money to get to the next payday stay out of trouble, survive.  maybe make enough money to someday retire. Overall it gives the entire game a cyberpunk in space feel as it has a very gritty Noir vibe in the theme.

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SYSTEM

Now I must admit I’m kind of a fan of the rule system here, the game runs on what is called ARC (Action Rule Codex). Broken down into three main systems Role play Actions, Battle Actions, and Resolve & Cynicism. In the system, the only dice you’re going to need is a d10.

Skills are done up in an old-school style as players roll based on relevant attribute instead of specific skills. Complex skills that would require specialization in are called Focuses, each character has an aspect that will give them access to at a selection of Focuses. and This speeds up gameplay immensely and I personally am a fan of this. Further, I loved the fact that attributes in Synthicide are an acronym of the word “Actions” just hit me right in my sweet spot, I loved it. The attributes in Synthicide are: ACTIONS

  • Awareness
  • Combat
  • Toughness
  • Influence
  • Operation
  • Nerve
  • Speed

This old-school approach to a new system feels fresh and original as well as refreshing to see done so well.

Combat runs off battle actions and has its own table to determine what you can do in a combat round. Every player has several options of things that they can do, depending on how much speed they have in the round. This results in a flow of combat that can feel very real. Some characters will choose to take regular actions each round and stay consistent as the battle flows. Others may take a round to build up some points and move and attack at the right moment in sudden bursts of flurries of action. I find the battle action table interesting and long enough to give players a variety of things they can do and short enough that it’s not too bulky to weigh the game down or worse yet stretch combat out.

All players also have Motivations and origin stories that you can either choose or roll at random for. There is a nice selection of options and feels very cyberpunk inspired to me, I found it a nice touch.

Another very cyberpunk feeling element of Synthicide is the Bioclass. This section is very brief but it denotes how much meat over metal or metal over meat your character has. Depending on your choice it will affect your ACTION and HP.

Players as they level gain access to traits that they meet the requirements for that show their growing experience in the world. These are similar to Edges of Feats of other systems.

Add to these features in the game Psychic powers, Mutations, Cybernetics and more and you have a tremendous amount of depth that Synthicide brings to the table.

I appreciate that even though their ship section was not very deep in ship selections. I was pleased to see a few tables to give your ship some backstory and favor provided. Best off all even if oddly placed was the trade section. Providing players with options of good options to fill their holds and make a profit. I would have like to see this maybe in the GM section and slightly expanded on. Yet I can see the added benefit of it being the player’s section to motivate the players to find work on their own with the GM help.

Game Master Section

Chapter 7 is the beginning of the Game Mastering section. This first part of game prep even at only 5 pages long is a clinic on how to prepare for games. In addition to being both fantastically well thought out and explained simply is with the price of admission alone. Three pages of the five pages presented here about how to prep a game could be directly applied to any game you own.

The GM Tools portion provides you with tips on how to create NPCs and a huge list of NPCs for the GM to use as well as quick and dirty planet tools.synthicide-bg

This section wraps up with 13 Mission outlines. These outlines are excellent and each is set up in the two approach style mentioned in the Game Master section. It is awesome to see the team practice what they preached earlier in the book and provide you samples for you to see in action or use yourself.

The GM Section wraps up with a chapter on optional rules to add more crunch to your game if you want to get more in depth. The Final chapter of the book is a gazetteer of the setting, planets, timeline and established factions of the world.

My Thoughts

So personally the setting is well written and there is a ton of detail that you get in Synthicide. I get a very strong cyberpunk in space feel from the setting. A cyberpunk where you replace the corps with the church. Then sprinkle in a shade of Bladerunner where the Synths are worshiped instead of hunted. I find myself on the fence, I want to love it, and at the same time, I want to throw the church over my shoulder and bring in corps. Truthfully there is no reason why you could not do a little bit of homebrewing and do just that. I enjoy the “ACTIONS & Combat” system very much. Not only is it fast-paced but it feels very easy to pick up and learn.

The only thing that I did not enjoy this product was the occasional space filler that they chose to go with. From time to time they filled small portions of the book with what looked like blocks with encoded symbols and letters. This drove me nuts because for awhile I thought it was just badly rendered in the PDF and maybe actually readable it turned out it was just gibberish.

My Rating

D20 #15I will be giving Synthicide a 15 on my Runkles Rankings scale. This is a stand out gritty space setting that has an excellent cyberpunk in space vibe. It fills a nice niche for gamers and I could see myself or my group playing this game.

You can pick it up on DTRPG Here

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Cyberwear in the Cypher System

So the other day I sat down and was looking at starting up a Shadowrun style Cypher System game. There were only a few things that needed to be done to fit Shadowrun in Cypher System. The first issue was how to approach cybernetics. Now I could easily place cybernetics as artifacts in the Cypher System. This would work fine, but artifacts are intended to be more powerful than standard equipment and not for sale as they should be harder to come by than average equipment. In some cases cybernetics are very common, If not standard equipment for most of the denizens of Shadowrun this option was out.

The second issue was that the majority of cybernetics in Shadowrun are very reliable. Thus again unlike artifacts I would need to avoid depletion. So I set about making “cyberwear” pricing out a cost so that they could be purchased like any other equipment. The goal being some cybernetics were fairly cheep and easy to come by. Allowing for a large part of the setting to have some limited commonplace cyber gear.

The Last hurdle was the humanity, Gutterwear and Alphawear. Humanity and essence in Shadowrun are your built-in limits how much cybernetics your body can handle. In Shadowrun if you are not careful you can reach a point with implants where you begin to lose yourself. You begin to become too machine, this is tracked by humanity loss.

The following is what I came up with. There are three levels of cyberwear. Simple, Average and Major. Taking from the cypher limit concept I decided to limit the number of implants and enhancement’s a player could have. Thus mimicking essence and humanity of Shadowrun games that have used Cybernetics in the past.


Simple cybernetics can be purchased at an moderate cost but a player may have no more than three such implants. Standard cybernetics are expensive to buy and you may have no more than two of any type. Lastly Major cybernetics can be purchased at the cost of very expensive and you may only have one cybernetic of this type.

To represent Gutterwear and Alphawear it turned out to be a very simple fix. If a player wishes Alphawear gear they must pay the next step up in cost for the item. This treats the cybernetic as half of the cost towards their cybernetics limit. If they purchased Gutterwear they may cut the cost of the cybernetic by one level but the item now has a Depletion of 1 in 20. Any Depleted cybernetics must be repaired before they can be used again. Repair Tasks are based on the level of the cybernetic. Simple=3 Average=5 Major=7

With these three types of Cybernetics groups it lays the groundwork for creating as many more cybernetics as the players and GM can imagine. With this simple system I can move on to other setting elements that will help bring the feel of the game alive. From here I went on to make a handful of cyber gear that fit the setting. Enjoy!

 

Interface Zero 2.0: Full Metal Cyberpunk

If you love Cyberpunk and you love Savage Worlds then this is a book you need to add to your collection. And if did not get in on the ground floor of the kickstarter and maybe this little gem slipped under your radar until now. Well the book is done and its up on DriveThroughRPG.com right now on a big dollar saving sale for $20 bucks. That’s a $30 dollar mark down for 300+ page book.  Not too shabby if you want to get your punk on!
This book is the full circle effort from the previous edition. The book was a successful kickstart. Gun Metal Games used their kickstarter group and with the help of all the fans Google Plus and Facebook they carved out a stand out setting that I can’t wait to finish this post so I can get back to reading. This is Savage World Cyberpunk set in 2090, and all your favorite cyberpunk tastes are to be had. Add to it the fast paced setting of Savage Worlds and this is sure to be a fun ride.

There ya go now what are you still doing here Chumer..GO GET THIS BOOK !