The Digital Fifth Estate – Medias in Cyberpunk Red

Cyberpunk Red Core Rulebook. Available on Amazon

Finding the truth is one thing. Getting the truth out there for the masses without getting flatlined is another. And getting people to pay attention and believe it is something else entirely. The Media Role in Cyberpunk Red puts a player in the middle of the action as the “intrepid reporter” trying to find dirt on anything or anyone. In the Dark Future of Cyberpunk where the Megacorporations still wield considerable political and military might, sometimes it’s just a single voice that can cause the greatest amount of change.

The Media Role is something entirely unique to this system and there isn’t a class I can think of that comes close to it. Bards in Dungeons and Dragons may be somewhat analogous but not really, except as NPCs (Non-Player Characters) that a Gamemaster can use to provide exposition to their players. In Cyberpunk Red, Medias can be bloggers, reporters, anyone with access to the Data Pool (the collective Net of a given city). The Role Ability for Medias is called Credibility and it has a similar build to the Rockerboy’s Charismatic Impact, which I’ve covered in a previous essay.

Media character in Cyberpunk Red. Source

Credibility, from a mechanics standpoint, gives the Referee (or Gamemaster) tools to introduce new story threads and campaign options to the players through the Media character. Depending on what is rolled (and if it’s a passive search or active search, which is determined by if the search is done during down time or actual gameplay), a Media can get access to Rumors. These range from Vague Rumors with little information attached to them to Detailed Rumors, which have a significant amount of information that a Media can potentially dig up and publish. However, R. Talsorian Games does add provisos to this part of the ability, stating that Rumors are often untrue or not the full story, which is where the Media player has to do the legwork to figure out what is and isn’t true. They also mention that Rumors can be dangerous threads to pull on. In a setting like Night City, where corruption and graft are commonplace, investigating a Rumor that has ties to powerful individuals can be a death sentence for the characters.

Thompson, a Media character, from Cyberpunk 2077. Source

The other portion of the Credibility Role Ability is when it comes to Publishing Stories and Scoops, which covers a wide array of traits. Access/Sources covers who a Media character can reasonably get in touch with for interviews or access to information pertaining to their story. Audience involves how many people the Media’s stories would reach out to. And last but not least is Believability, which is how well that story goes over with the audience. As a Media’s Credibility Rank increases, they gain access to better sources, a larger audience, and better chances for that audience to believe the stories being published.

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From a gameplay standpoint, Media characters can make an excellent addition to the party, particularly because like the Rockerboy and Exec, they can serve as the “face” for the group for social interactions. The base build for a Media character includes Skills like Deduction, Lip Reading, and decent starting levels for Persuasion and Human Perception (reading people’s body language). Media’s aren’t really built for combat but they are capable of holding their own, provided they have sufficient back-up. If there is a Media in the party group, they would fit in well with a Solo and a Netrunner, since Media characters will tend to get into dangerous situations and also will need to be able to data mine locations to get the dirt they need for a story.

Trace, a Media character. Art by Adrian Marc. Source

The Credibility Role Ability could be seen as game-breaking by some Gamemasters but I disagree. With careful use of the Rumors generator, a Gamemaster can seed story threads through nearly every game session. These threads may not be focused on immediately by the Media and the other characters but they can always be revisited during down-time activities. Also, given what Medias tend to focus on, you can easily create antagonists for the party as a whole to deal with, specifically within law enforcement or the mega-corporations.

And who doesn’t want to play the intrepid reporter that puts their neck on the line to take down the bad guys.

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