The first thing anyone who plays a role-playing game has to ask themselves is this: What Role are you going to play? Not necessarily the Class or Job or whatever term is used to denote the character class, but how you plan to function within the game that is being run. The joy of role-playing games, particularly table-top games played with others, is that you get the chance to explore who you could be or wish to be.
In R. Talsorian Games Cyberpunk Red, the question of Roles and how you approach them is a key ingredient in how you’ll play the game. Recently, I went through a session zero with several of my oldest friends to start up a Cyberpunk Red game. Before running the session, I had spent weeks devouring the book, learning as much as I could to able to reference off the top of my head. And what I’ve found is one of the deeper role-playing mechanics that is a boon to both the game master and the players.
In Cyberpunk Red, you have Lifepaths, events and characteristics that shape who your character is. Most of these are open-ended enough that a player and game master can fill in the blanks as they play or develop it fully before the first game session. From your cultural and ethnic origins to personality traits to what fashions you like, you can build an entire fictional character from the ground up and then run with it from there. And that’s not considering the Roles (Cyberpunk Red’s version of character classes), which also have their own specific Lifepath options.
In more traditional role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or Shadowrun, there’s a mix of different “classes” that are similar without being the same. Enjoy social interactions? Then you’ll probably enjoy playing a Rockerboy or a Fixer. If you’re more into combat situations, you’ll probably end up playing a Solo. If you like the idea of wheeling and dealing or maybe being the fly in the ointment of a powerful faction, then you might end up playing an Exec or Media. The “class” option isn’t as important in this game setting as it is in others. How you decide to approach who your character is and what that Role means to them is far more important.
And that is part of the genius behind Cyberpunk Red. In a setting where life is cheap and no one really has control over their own destiny, how you choose to act and what your Role in society is becomes even more important. And that is something that translates exceptionally well to real life. We often live each day not fully in control of our destinations, dealing with the whims of bosses, companies, media, and the cares and worries that influence our basic decisions about love, relationships, and what we choose to fight for. Many people I’ve met over the years that aren’t gamers don’t quite understand the pull that role-playing games have over me and others who enjoy this hobby. For those of us who enjoy spending a few hours every so often being someone else, we can sometimes, just sometimes, find something else: we can find out who we really are and what role we want to play in our lives.