Starting my Cyberpunk RED Campaign

Starting my Cyberpunk RED Campaign

Mar 20, 2024    

My monthly RPG friends picked Cyberpunk from among three campaign pitches earlier this year and we’ve just held the first session. Outside of one-shots, it has been a hot minute since I’ve played an RPG that wasn’t in the epic-fantasy genre so this is going to take some adjustment. A few big things:

I went for RED instead of PbtA

While I find a lot of Powered by the Apocalypse inspiring I ended up going with Cyberpunk RED. I loved many of the concepts in Hack the Planet (A Blades in the Dark mod) and am incorporating them into the world-building and potentially house rules. Reading all the books available to me, I decided I wanted a more fully fleshed-out equipment and cyberware system that just didn’t exist outside of Cyberpunk RED to my satisfaction. I want to run a Blades game at some point … Sitting down for a weekend to try to reverse engineer the method of play from the abstract descriptions of the mechanics was too much for me. I didn’t have the emotional energy.

hack the planet art
Hack the Planet really is a fantastic take on Cyberpunk everyone should check out

Diving into AI Art, and avoiding tired AI themes

With no battle mats and no minis, I want there to be plenty of visual references to aid play. I’m continuing to use Open AI’s DALL·E 3 utilizing a saved “GPT” to quickly generate art with a semi-consistent art style based on the extra prompt instructions baked into my “Cyberpunk Sketch” saved GPT. Will we grow tired of this, will the novelty wear off? Only one way to find out.

ai art the party
AI depictions of the characters, 4/5 made by me using the actual bio text the players sent

On the other hand, one thing many voiced during our session zero is that after a whole year of hearing about Large Language Models, we didn’t want to have a Cyberpunk story that dwelled on AI and whether or not an AI is real or sentient. With AI and computers everywhere in the setting that’s going to be an interesting challenge.

Every session game starts with a heist

Following the pacing ideas in Blades in the Dark, every session will start with a heist, score, or other operation - and it will start immediately. We won’t have a planning session, but instead each character will get one gather information type roll before we dive right in. I’m hoping to give each player a single ‘mid-heist’ retcon opportunity similar to Blades but without introducing another stress economy stacked on top of the existing economies of RED.

ai art
The first heist location, a swank apartment in Neo Macao - made by DALL·E 3

Switching fully back to theater of the mind

I never played RPGs with minis or a grid until D&D 4th edition - and I loved 4th edition. I’m going to use this game as a chance to try to rebuild my theater of the mind skills as a GM and try to keep things dynamic and creative. After listening to discussions about Daggerheart RPG, I’m tempted to ditch initiative and do other things to try to make the game more dynamic and engaging.

We have a Screen Built into the Table

When it’s available, I’m running in the semi-private back room of the friendly local gaming store which has added a TV built into the table. While I may get fancier, so far I just have a Google Slides deck of reference images I can flick through, an initiative and combat tracking spreadsheet, and an OBS scene to layout multiple copies of the slides facing the players so they don’t have to look at the reference images upside down.

players around the table
My players around the table, now with a TV in the table

Drawing inspiration from my favorite Sci-Fi stories

I plan to steal liberally from all my favorite cyberpunk and science fiction movies, TV, comics, and books. My plan is to not always explain what’s going on. My players are very smart and will figure most things out, but even though I’m not using a GM screen I’m going to have to be disciplined about not engaging in meta-table talk. My post-game write-ups are going to have a section called “Just the Facts” where I leave notes on what they directly observed, recovered as a physical clue, or heard second-hand so that I don’t reveal anything from how I describe it after the fact.

Running from the scene
Well that was somewhat unexpected

It’s already got some momentum

Hopefully, things stay light on prep, the momentum builds, and we get a good 10+ game campaign out of Cyberpunk RED.

As a start-of-campaign gift, the group got the cheapest mirror shades available on the internet:

The Gaming Group
Faces blurred, they are edge-runners now, gotta stay one step ahead of the algorithm