Alternate Character Generation System for Cyberpunk 2020

by Gary Astleford (ocelot@connectnet.com)

SUMMARY

The following information details an alternate character creation process designed for use with Cyberpunk 2020. It incorporates new rules for buying skills, creating older characters, an advantage and disadvantage system, and a new way to figure out starting funds. Character roles are not used. This will allow responsible players more flexibility with character creation.

Any part of this system can be adapted for GMs and players who wish to keep using the regular CP2020 system roles. The elimination of roles is not an essential part of this system, although it is an important step, and the rest of this variation will assume that they are not in use. Feel free to use whichever parts you feel comfortable with.

ATTRIBUTES

Attributes are generated in any of the methods listed in the CP2020 rulebook. In my case, I roll 6D10+30, and distribute the points. No attribute may be greater than 10 or lower than 2.

LIFEPATH

A character's lifepath can be generated in any way the player or GM sees fit. I have included my own lifepath charts. I generally use these charts before skill points are assigned, since certain results may affect which skills I take. Usually, I offer the lifepath to players as an option, since some of the entries can be quite permanent, like the occasional "Disaster Strikes!" result, and a few players are uncomfortable with the uncertainty involved. Another option is to let players roll on the chart as many or as few times as they want, within the guidlines of the character's age. It helps if they state how many rolls they will make. The GM should enforce the player's decision.

SKILLS

In CP2020, characters receive 40 SP's to be distributed among 10 Career skills and the total of their INT+REF to be spent on Pick-Up Skills.

In this modified system, characters still receive the base 40 SP's, but they do not have to spend these skills on a "Career Package," since there are no Roles. Points can be spent on any skill desired. Pick-Up Skill Points are granted depending on age (in lieu of INT+REF=Pick-Up SP's), and since older characters should be far more experienced than younger ones, the number of Pick-Up SP's increases with age. Pick-Up SP's can also be spent on any skill.

Here's how it works :

        AGE     SP's Per Year     TSPs (added to a base of 40)

        16           3                  3   
        17           3                  6
        18           3                  9
        19           3                  12
        20           2                  14
        21           2                  16
        22           2                  18
        23           2                  20
        24           1                  21
        25           1                  22
        26           1                  23
        27           1                  24
        28           1                  25
For every year after 28, add one more SP to the running Total Skill Points (TSP's). It's that easy.

For instance, a 25-year old character in CP2020 with a REF+INT total of 12 will recieve 12 pick-up skill points, in addition to his 40-point career package. In this version, the same character will have a lump sum of 62 skill points, which can be spent on any skill in the master list. This may seem like a large increase, but it allows players to tailor their characters to their own design, as opposed to using stock career skills which can limit character individuality. Note that a younger character has much fewer points to spend on skills than his older counterparts. A sixteen year-old weeflerunner will be much less experienced, and this reflects on his whopping 43 Skill Points.

This grants a great deal of freedom in the skill choices a player must make, allowing them to create monster characters with skills of 8 or more. This should be discouraged, since this defeats the purpose of building a unique character who will stand out from the rest of the pack as an individual. I prefer to restrict players to a skill level ceiling of 6, which is an impressive skill level in and of itself. I consider characters with skill levels of 7 or higher to be masters in their chosen fields, and as such, they should be few and far between.

IT'S NOT THE YEARS, IT'S THE MILEAGE

Characters older than 28 are by no means young any more, and the reflexes, stamina, and speed they possessed at age 21 might feel a bit rusty, chipped, and worn. Starting at age 30, the player picks either REF, MA, or BOD, and rolls 1d10. If the result is equal to or lower than the UNMODIFIED stat (no bonuses for cyberware, drugs, etc.), the character loses 1 point in it. The lower the stat becomes, the harder it will be to lose points in it. This occurs again every two years until age 40. After that, roll every one year until age 55. After 55, roll twice a year. A player cannot roll against the same stat twice consecutively. If any stat reaches 1, the character is crippled. If it dips down to 0, he dies.

SPECIAL ABILITIES

As for special abilities, there are none. I wanted to steer clear of a class-based system, and since special abilities are based on roles, most of them have been removed from this version of Cyberpunk. These include Authority, Charismatic Leadership, Combat Sense, Credibility, Family, Jury Rig, Resources, and Streetdeal, as well as the lesser ones which have been included in other supplements. However, I have kept two special abilities: Interface and Medtech. There are no other skills to replace them. The closest thing to Medtech is First Aid, and it's just not potent enough. I've placed it under the Tech skills...anyone can buy it by putting points into it. Interface was also an important skill, since nothing else covers that aspect of the genre. Anyone can jack into the 'Net with the proper training. Interface merely represents the skill that one wields there. As with Medtech, Interface can be bought by anyone willing to spend the points. It's been placed under the Intelligence skills, by the way. Some special abilities are availiable to any character in the form of certain advantages which can be bought during character creation. Note that these advantages aren't as powerful as the Special Abilities they represent.

MONEY & EQUIPMENT

How do you figure out how much money a character starts off with now, since there are no special abilities to gauge the price of his services? Take the character's INT and LUCK scores and add them together. Divide by 2, and multiply the result by 1000. This is the amount of euro the character has in savings, to buy weapons and cyberware with, etc. It generally gives those players who tend to have characters with low scores in INT and LUCK something to think about. For example, you have a character with an INT of 7 and a Luck of 4. His total starting moneys will equal 5500 euro (7+4/2=5.5x1000=5500).

There is one more money option...I allow players to spend AP's to buy EQUIPMENT money. In other words, if a player wants more money to juggle, he/she can "buy" it by taking a point off of an attribute. For each point they "spend", they get $1000 in equipment, cyberware, etc. What they don't spend, they LOSE. I allow for a maximum of 10 points to be spent. This tends to result in a character who is better equipped, but less powerful attribute-wise, which can be a good trade in some cases. As a case in point, you wanted your character in the previous example to own a fairly nice car, as opposed to a Honda Metrocar or a New American Motors Crowder. You know that 5500 bucks isn't going to cut it, so you drop your MA and BOD by two points each, gaining 4000 euro more to spend. This leaves you with a clean 9500 to sink into the car of your dreams.

ATTRIBUTE SAVES

Attribute Saves are rolls made against attributes in circumstances that do not dictate a skill roll. Saves are made by choosing the appropriate attribute, and rolling 1D10 equal to or below the stat's total. If the roll is higher, it has failed. Difficulties for rolls may vary, and that is reflected in the following chart. These modifiers are subtracted from the attribute in question.
                DIFFICULTY              MODIFIER
                Easy                    : +2
                Average                 : +0
                Difficult               : -2
                Very Difficult          : -4
                Near Impossible         : -6
                Impossible              : -8

ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES

Advantages and Disadvantages are bought using SKILL POINTS (SPs) during character creation. Buying an Advantage will cost you skill points, while buying a Disadvantage will GIVE you skill points. GMs may wish to limit the amount of points that characters spend on Dis/Advantages to balance play.

I have found that limiting players to 10 points of disadvantages keeps them from going comepletely crazy, as is wont to happen in one-shot games where players aren't usually worried about the long-term effects that certain disads will cause them.

Some disadvantages can, if allowed by the GM, be "bought off" using IPs. The cost for buying off a disadvantage is the point cost times 10. For example, buying off the Cowardice disadvantage would cost 40 IPs (4 x 10 = 40). The GM should not allow players to buy off disads without making them work at it, though. Buying off any mental disadvantage may take weeks of psychological therapy which is both time consuming and costly, while replacing a character's missing legs will require either cloned organics, or cybernetic replacements. You be the judge, and don't let them get away with ANYTHING. Advantages cannot normally be bought after character creation unless an act of God permits it.

AN EXAMPLE OF A CHARACTER

Below, you will find a sample character, the first made with standard CP2020 rules, and the second with the modifications. Note that this character does not have a lifepath. We'll call him "Leon".

Leon grew up in a neighborhood that was once clean and upstanding, but had in years recent to his birth begun to decline into lower-end housing. His father worked as a manager at a local grocery store, and his mother sold real estate for Century 22 Realtors. As he grew up, he was constantly picked on and bullied because he was short and pudgy. Being the youngest and smallest of three boys didn't help.

During his youth, he spent most of his time alone. For his eleventh birthday, his parents bought him an early-model cybermodem -- clunky and slow -- but Leon didn't care. He was free to explore a world where his physical weaknesses weren't part of the equation. However, he soon learned that he wasn't able to compete in Netspace, either. He didn't think fast enough, and his parents were too poor to help him upgrade his modem, which was quickly becoming obsolete.

He began to work on strengthening himself, girding for the storm of high school, where the bullies were even bigger, and stabbings in the cafeteria were a constant danger. As he worked out, first with simple calisthenics and later in the high school's decaying weight room, he felt his muscles growing. A small, shy, weak little boy had been replaced by a strong, confident, energetic young man.

After graduation, Leon sought work in the security industry. He was hired by a company called Arasaka, and utilizing his past experience with netrunning and computers, they trained him has an electronic security specialist.

Version 1 (CP2020)                              Version 2 (Modified CP2020))

Name : Leon                                     Name : Leon
Character Points : 58                           Character Points : 58
Age : 24                                        Age : 24
Role : Solo                                     Occupation : Computer Security Specialist
Starting Money : 2000                           Starting Money : 6000
INT : 6                                         INT : 6
REF : 6                                         REF : 6
TECH : 8                                        TECH : 8
COOL : 5                                        COOL : 5
ATTR : 7                                        ATTR : 7
LUCK : 6                                        LUCK : 6
MA : 5                                          MA : 5
BODY : 8                                        BODY : 8
EMP : 7                                         EMP : 7
Run : 15m/turn                                  Run : 15m/turn
Leap : 3.75 m.                                  Leap : 3.75 m.
Lift : 80kg.                                    Lift : 80kg.

SKILLS -                                        SKILLS -
Athletics +5                                    Athletics +5
Awareness/Notice +4                             Awareness/Notice +4
Handgun +5                                      Handgun +4
Brawling +4                                     Brawling +4
Melee +3                                        Melee +3
Rifle +4                                        Rifle +3
Programming +2                                  Programming +2
System Knowledge +2                             System Knowledge +4
Electronics +2                                  Electronics +3
Electronic Security +2                          Electronic Security +5
Library Search +2                               Library Search +4
Cyberdeck Design +2                             Cyberdeck Design +2
Submachine Gun +3                               Strength Feat +4
Weaponsmith +3                                  Streetwise +3
Stealth +5                                      Persuasion/Fast Talk +4
Combat Sense +4                                 Interface +3

                                                ADVANTAGES -
                                                Combat Sense +2 (4 SP Cost)
                                                DISADVANTAGES -
                                                None
If you compare Leon V1 to Leon V2, you'll see several slight differences. By reading Leon's history, you see that I wanted a character with a decent amount of knowledge in computers and netrunning, but I didn't want a full-blown netrunner. His skills had to reflect on his desire to be strong and in control of his body (ie, high athletics and, in V2, strength feat), but they also had to include his knowledge of netrunning and cyberspace particulars (interface, system knowledge, etc.).

Using the stock system, I found it difficult to encompass all the qualities that I wanted in Leon. The solo career package gave him plenty of combat-related skills, but little to no technical skills (where his real talents are). His REF+INT are only equal to 12, so the computer- and technical-related skills required by his concept had to be kept at fairly low levels. Since I was unable to spread his base 40 points among more than ten fixed skills, I found myself lumping them into skills (ie, weaponsmith, submachinegun, and stealth) that I didn't really see Leon needing to reflect on his history.

Without the restriction of character roles in V2, I had no trouble trying to decide which would suit my needs better, a solo or a netrunner. I could pick and choose the skills I needed to make Leon an individual (as opposed to just another solo with a couple of pick-up skills). Not only that, but by gaining pick-up skills on the basis of age as opposed to his REF+INT total, Leon is wiser and more experienced than some seventeen year-old with abnormally high attributes and the attitude to back them up.

On to Advantages.

On to Disadvantages.

On to the Lifepath Chart.

On to the All-Purpose Friend, Enemy, & Contact Chart.