There’s one question we get more than any other when it comes to the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit.
How will Netrunning change? What will it be like?
Thanks to the hard work of our team (Mike, Cody, and James) we have an answer for you!
The State of the NET
Towards the end of the 4th Corporate War, Rache Bartmoss released RABIDS, nasty, self-replicating attack Programs which turned the NET into a giant minefield impossible to navigate. As a result, when someone in the world of Cyberpunk Red refers to the NET, they don’t mean the vast, virtual cyberspace of time’s past. Instead they’re talking about a series of individual network, device, and server islands floating in a vast Meat Space sea. To work their magic, Netrunners now have to physically travel through that Meat Space sea and stud directly into one of those digital islands. Netrunners can’t just stay home and run an entire mission from the comfort of their couch. They’ve got to go in with the team if they want to get the job done.
Netrunners still have Cyberdecks: specialized computers that allow for neural/digital interface but they also have some new toys.
Virtuality goggles project the imagery of the NET over a Netrunner’s view of the real world. Being on site means a Netrunner needs to be more aware of Meat Space. They can’t afford to be deaf, dumb, and blind to the real world like the Netrunners of old. With Virtuality goggles, a Netrunner can see what they’re doing in the NET without sacrificing the ability to notice a guard sneaking up on them and take a shot if the need arises.
Bodyweight suits offer physical protection and are designed specifically for Netrunners, with slots for stowing Cyberdecks and interface cable support ergonomics. More advanced models have life support capabilities, including drug injectors in case you flatline and piss bags so you don’t need to get up in the middle of dealing with an enemy Netrunner.
Cyberdecks and Programs
Each Cyberdeck has certain base level functions automatically built in. That means you don’t need to install specific Programs in order to do things like crack a password, attack a Hellhound, or take control of a camera. They also have slots, allowing a Netrunner to slide in immense, AI-driven Programs (one Program per slot) that boost their abilities, defend against attacks, or make enhanced attacks against enemies. Only one instance of a Program can be slotted into a Cyberdeck at a time and each Program can only be run once per combat round.
Black ICE is the bad stuff. Autonomous Programs which want to fry people’s brains. The good news? They aren’t an automatic death sentence and can be avoided or battled against. Plus, they aren’t only for the bad guys. Netrunners can slot Black ICE into their Cyberdecks and send them after enemies. Black ICE takes up two slots in a Cyberdeck.
Enough with the Fluff!
aka Is Netrunning Fixed?
A common complaint about Netrunning in Cyberpunk 2020 was how long it took. It was practically its own game! Mike, James, and Cody kept that in mind as they worked on the rules for the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit!
Networks/servers/systems are no longer vast dungeons full of obstacles, each of which must be defeated in a complex subgame of Netrunner vs. machine. Instead of dungeons mazes, NET spaces are now divided into floors. Each floor contains a single obstacle or virtual object. Floors must be traversed from top to bottom and back. To get to the file on floor three you must first pass through floors one and two. To return to floor one, you must first travel through floor two. Obstacles must be dealt with before moving onto another floor. Objects can usually be interacted with or left alone as the Netrunner desires.
Meat Actions vs. NET Actions
During a combat round, a Netrunner can take either one Meat Action in the real world or a number of NET Actions in cyberspace as determined by their Interface level. It is important to note the Netrunner still gets their real-world Movement Action even if they don’t take their Meat Action. So long as the Netrunner doesn’t move their physical body out of range of the network, they can walk or run about and continue to navigate its virtual landscape.
Likewise, virtually moving from one floor to another in the NET is free and can be done as many times as a Netrunner likes, so long as they don’t run into an obstacle.
Let’s See it in Action
The following is a breakdown of three combat rounds using the rules for the Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit. In it, Redeye has jacked into an office building network while her friends search for Meat Space loot and fight off a trio of security guards.
Redeye has three NET Actions per combat round thanks to her Interface level. Like everyone else, she rolls Initiative and everything she does takes place during the combat. In her case, she takes her turn after Racer the Nomad but before Grease the Fixer.
Racer takes a shot at the guards to encourage them to stay where they are.
The guards return fire but miss Racer.
Meanwhile, Redeye is on floor 1 of the network, where she encounters a Password. She uses her first NET Action to crack the Password and her second NET Action to use her Cyberdeck’s Pathfinder function to map out the system, giving her a better idea of what’s ahead. Each of these are simple checks versus a target number and not in depth minigames of their own. Redeye notices there’s a Hellhound Black ICE skulking around on floor 2, so she uses her third NET Action to activate her Speedy Gonzalvez Program, giving her a speed boost. She knows the Hellhound will attack as soon as she hits floor 2, so she wants to be ready.
Grease ransacks an executive’s desk, looking for physical treasures.
Racer continues to trade fire with the guards but one of them charges forward and knocks her down.
Redeye notices Racer go down thanks to her Virtuality goggles. She decides to forgo her NET Actions and takes a Meat Action instead, using the pistol she’s already got drawn to fire at the charging guard and wound him.
Grease pauses his own search and begins shooting at the two guards in the hallway to discourage any further heroic actions on their part.
From the floor, Racer shoots the guard who charged, dropping him.
One of the remaining guards returns fire, clipping Racer and drawing blood. The other radios in for backup.
Seeing the Meat space situation is in hand, Redeye switches her attention back to the NET and travels to floor 2, which does not take an Action. An opposed check is made to see if the Hellhound or Redeye acts first. Redeye loses despite her boost from the Speedy Gonzalvez Program and the Hellhound makes a successful attack. Redeye takes 10 points of damage, directly to her brain (which isn’t armored). Each attack in the NET is resolved as a single opposed check and damage isn’t modified based on location. Just because the brain is in the head doesn’t mean it counts as a headshot. The Hellhound, being Black ICE, is placed at the top of the Initiate queue ahead of Redeye, her team, and the guards.
Redeye can now take her three NET Actions. She uses the first to attack the Hellhound with her Banhammer Program. The Hellhound is damaged. Since Programs can’t be used more than once per round, she uses her second NET Action to finish the Hellhound off with her Cyberdeck’s built in Zap function. She then moves onto level 3 (again, not an Action) and uses her last NET Action to break through the Password there. Next round, she can move to level 4 and retrieve the files they came for.
Grease returns to his search and pockets a small box of data shards he’s located.
And that’s that! While a Netrunner’s player may make a few more rolls than the other people at the table during their turn, everything resolves quickly and the action moves on to the next person in the Initiative queue. As a result, Netrunning in Cyberpunk has been transformed from its own minigame to just part of the flow of a mission. It is still a tactical system, deep enough to feel like something unique and special and not just “roll once to see if you get the file” but it is no longer a long slog which turns Netrunner actions into “everyone else go get some pizza” time.
Thanks for joining us! We’ll be back with more Kitbashing before the August 1st release. Until then, stay safe on the street!