For early access to essays like this, as well as exclusive podcasts, fiction, and poetry, support me on Patreon
When the corporations rule the world, why settle for being a street rat when you have the chance to become the elite? Then again, a good degree isn’t all that will get you to the top. You’ll have to borrow, steal, even kill to get that cushy corner office. You’ll have to collect dirt on your superiors to keep yourself in their “good graces”. And you’ll need dirt on your subordinates to keep them in their place. In the Dark Future of Cyberpunk Red, this is the moral crossroads of playing the Exec Role.
With the exception of the Fixer (which will be covered in a future essay) and the Rockerboy (covered here), the Exec Role has the most potential for being the face of the group and the one with the connections. Execs can fall under pretty much any category of player character, for moralistic newcomers trying to change the system from within to the cynical, power-worshipping megalomaniacs who want to stand atop the bodies as the head of a corporation. The truth tends to fall somewhere in between but this is the one role that has the most options for moral ambiguity in how it is played.
Execs possess their own unique Role Ability, like the other roles discussed in previous essays. Their Role is called Teamwork and it provides Execs with several interesting benefits that have a direct impact on how the game can be played. First thing to keep in mind with Exec characters is that they start off in a better place than other Roles. Each starting character begins with a given Lifestyle (the kind of food and entertainment you can afford) and Housing (the kind of home you can afford). For all of the other Roles, you start off with the Kibble Lifestyle (eating a processed food stuff that’s about as tasty as dog food) and you live in a Cargo Container (Container Forts set up to house people with individual units but shared restroom and laundry facilities). Execs, on the other hand, get a Corporate Conapt, a luxurious apartment by normal standards, completely paid for by the corporation they work for (so they don’t have to worry about rent). And you’ll start off with a Good Prepak Lifestyle (so you’re able to get good pre-packaged foods and enjoy entertainment options) but it’ll cost a pretty eurobuck to keep that up.
The Teamwork Role Ability provides some excellent perks as one increases their Rank in the ability. The above Lifestyle and Housing options are part of the first two Ranks in the ability, including Business wear attire that befits someone in the middle management area of a corporation. At higher levels, the Corporation provides an opulent home in what are known as Beavervilles (as in Leave it to Beaver): closed-off and secured residential areas where only the Corporate elite and a select few get to live in relative peace and prosperity. An additional benefit provided by the Teamwork Role Ability is Health Insurance, through the form of Trauma Team coverage. Trauma Team is one of the main mega-corporations in Cyberpunk Red, responsible for providing on-site medical assistance and the ability to get to a hospital for life-saving operations in the nick of time.
The benefit that can have the biggest impact from game session to game session, though, is the Team Member perk. Once an Exec reaches Rank 3 (and again at Ranks 5 and 9), the player gains access to an assistant. The Exec player gets to determine what kind of Team Member they pick up at each of the available increments. These can range from a Bodyguard (a private Solo that can be useful for protecting the Exec), a Covert Operative (for when the Exec doesn’t want to get their hands dirty), a Company Driver (useful for maintaining the Exec’s vehicles as well as being their wheelman), Company Netrunner (for those special assignments that have to take place in the Net), or a Company Technician (because gear and weapons don’t fix or upgrade themselves). The Assistant gained from this perk is run by the Gamemaster but they aren’t mindless slaves to the will of the Exec. Each Team Member has a Loyalty rating, which can increase and decrease based on the actions of the Exec during a given session. If the Exec treats their assistant well and rewards them handsomely, the Assistant is more likely to go the extra mile for their boss. If the Exec chooses to mistreat or belittle their Assistant, well… the Exec may have to pay Human Resources to find them a new Assistant.
From a gameplay standpoint, an Exec player can open up vastly different avenues for a Gamemaster, more so than just about any other Role except for Fixers and Nomads (who I’ll also be covering in a future essay). Execs can get access to corporate assets, help find the right people within a given company to get the information they need, or help decipher corporate documents to find the truth hidden in jargon and legalese. Since Exec characters built using the pre-generated options tend to face Social and Education Skills, they can bring different options to the table when it comes to resolving a conflict that the more martial or technical Roles can’t provide.
And the other major boon to a Gamemaster: corporate in-fighting and takeovers. This is a future where the mega-corporations still wield tremendous power and influence. And as the description of the Role states in the book:
“There are those underneath you who’d kill for a shot at your job. Literally. There are those over you who’d kill to keep you out of your jobs. Literally.R. Talsorian Games, Cyberpunk Red
The morality of playing an Exec character is something a gamer may not have encountered in previous game systems that work on more binary morality systems. There are shades of gray and pitch black that an Exec has to walk through to get the job done, which a player might not feel comfortable with. This is definitely one of the Roles that requires the player and the Gamemaster to work in concert together to figure out what is and isn’t acceptable at the gaming table. But if you’re able to find the right balance, having an Exec in the party opens up whole new vistas for storytelling in a Cyberpunk Red game.