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Balancetown: Putting the Red in Cyberpunk Red (We Mean Blood)

Listen up, you Primitive Screwheads!

Today, James Hutt, mayor of Balance Town, wants to share with us his deep and abiding love for descriptive gore and game mechanics.

First, though, our art director, Jaye Kovach, asked us to unveil a new piece of gorgeousness that will grace the pages of Cyberpunk Red courtesy of Neil Branquinho. We call it Sapphire Town.


Now, onto the blood and guts!

Hello, Cyberpunk fans!

James Hutt here.

Let’s talk lethality in Cyberpunk Red.

Let me start off by saying that I love the lethality of Cyberpunk. I think it is totally core to the experience. We’ve been working hard to maintain that lethality going forward into Cyberpunk Red.

In the Jumpstart Kit, we streamlined the combat system. One big change we made was moving from a health track to HP. You know, Hit Points. Everybody does. But there’s a problem with just using HP. It is too impersonal. Too clinical. Too static. People begin to feel like health bars. We hear you loud and clear. Without our Wound State system, this would be even worse. But even with it, combat in the Jumpstart Kit was still missing that certain blood-spattered, head exploding je na sais quoi from the original.

In the Cyberpunk Red core rulebook, we’re introducing the keystone of lethality: Critical Injuries. When you cause one, you’ll get to roll 2d6 on a Critical Injury table (which one depends on if you aimed for body or head) and inflict that Injury on your victim. The tables are weighted on a curve so that common injuries are more likely than horrible ones (like dismemberments)!

Fans of The Witcher TRPG will recognize the general concept. In Cyberpunk Red we’ve reimagined it to work with the sort of injuries commonly caused by the weapons of the Dark Future, and tweaked the mechanics, but the concept of using the system to transform health from just pools of points into narrative-driven, wince-inducing information that adds flair and description to combat remains the same.

Let’s talk about three of these Critical injuries.

Lost Eye

One of my favorites on the Head Critical Injury table. Without depth perception, ranged attacks become more difficult.

If the lost eye was a cybereye – then you’ve also lost the ability to access any of its functions. Goodbye telescopic vision!

Collapsed Lung

A collapsed lung will stop you from being able to move very far on your turn since gasping for oxygen and running tend to be incompatible activities. In Cyberpunk Red, having less movement is quite dangerous. Sitting ducks tend to get shot with a lot worse than birdshot in Night City. (It’s off topic, but here’s your confirmation for incendiary shotgun shells for the Cyberpunk Red core book.)

Broken Jaw

A broken jaw will make skills that involve speech very difficult. It’s also extremely painful. Seriously, ask anyone who’s taken a hit so hard it smashed their mandible.

One of the best parts about Critical Injuries is how they interact with Wound States.

For example, if you’re in the Mortally Wounded State, you’ll always receive an additional Critical Injury whenever you take damage! The majority of Critical Injuries also increase the difficulties of Death Saves!

This also eliminates the problem of people with high BODY surviving a little too long (I’m being charitable) on death’s door, which pops up in the Jumpstart Kit. Essentially, while your victim is desperately trying to cling onto life, each additional blow you deal causes bits of them to fly off, making them die faster. And if they don’t die? They’re that much more messed up!

The long-term ramifications of Critical Injuries can be nasty but won’t transform your session of Cyberpunk Red into a game of ER the RPG. Many Critical Injuries (though not all!) can be quick-fixed to reduce their impact for the rest of the day. You’ll still want to get that looked at after the job’s done, though!

By the way, while the skills for a quick-fix aren’t exclusive to Medtechs, they’re the only ones who can deal with the very worst Critical Injuries. But it is too soon to reveal the Medtech Role Ability. We want to do that in its complete context. Let’s just say Surgery is far from all they can do. In fact, it’s only one of the things they can specialize in!

So that’s how Cyberpunk Red does lethality: by making it physical, personal, and giving you the tools to make injuries a story instead of a number, all while keeping the system fast and violent.

I’m really looking forward to hearing the stories that come out of your sessions.

Much Love,

James Hutt

Game Designer and Mayor of Balanced Town

R.Talsorian Games

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