Picking up where the last essay ended, we’ve moved past the initial portion of the Lifepath setup, the character generation options available within R. Talsorian Games’ Cyberpunk Red. This essay covers the next portion, which fills in the family and upbringing your character experienced before becoming an Edgerunner. Given that this game is a Cyberpunk/dystopian future, there aren’t a lot of sunshine and rainbows for character creation. This is a boon to both players and gamemasters who like to devote energy toward building roleplaying opportunities.
The first part I’ll cover in this essay involves your Original Family Background, where you and your family came from. This isn’t so much where or how you grew up, which is covered by another Lifepath option. This option covers what kind of family structure or situation you started out in as a child. On the one hand your family could have been Corporate Executives, meaning you were born into wealth and privilege before it all came tumbling down. Conversely your family could have been the Urban Homeless, living on the streets and having to scrounge for even the basic means of subsistence. This also plays into the early education your character received. The child of Corporate Managers or Technicians likely had a strong education that mixed traditional and corporate instruction. Someone who’s Family Background involved Nomads or Gangers probably spent time homeschooling or learning from living day-to-day on the streets.
The next step in the process is to choose your Environment, which could be completely opposite of your Family Background. For example, you could have rolled or chosen Corporate Executives for your Family Background and then rolled or picked that your Environment was a decayed, formerly upscale neighborhood that is preyed upon by boostergangs (street gangs that are hopped up on cyber augmentations and/or drugs). From a story-building perspective, this could be a way to establish how your character grew up and the surroundings they put themselves or found themselves in. Between Family Background and Environment, you may want to pick ones that match or let the dice decide.
To round out the family portion of the Lifepath, you have the Family Crisis. This is a dystopian future setting, so there’s going to be a tragic event that occurs at some point in your character’s life. And it’s more than likely there will be multiple tragedies. All of these are melodramatic and that’s part of the fun of them. The Crisis events range from your family losing everything due to betrayal to your family owes a debt that now falls on you to repay. If you prefer your roleplaying characters to be orphans, there’s an option for your family was killed and you were the lone survivor. For me as both a player and gamemaster, this Lifepath option provides the best chance to develop a potential story for the character, particularly if I’m running the game. The Crisis is the start of your descent into being an Edgerunner, someone who survives on the fringes of society.
At this stage of the Lifepath, you’ve got a pretty good backstory to build on and fill in the gaps, which is all that you can ask for in a game system. Bear in mind that these are just suggestions but they are good ones and can take some of the legwork out of the process of developing a character. Once you’ve completed this portion of the Lifepath, the next section involves seeing if your character starts off with any Friends and Enemies. For this option, you take a ten-sided die and roll it, then subtract seven from the number rolled. This means that you need to roll an eight, a nine, or a ten in order to start off with Friends or Enemies, so its entirely possible that you won’t start off with either. Don’t worry, though. This is Cyberpunk. You’re going to picks up friends and enemies aplenty during your game sessions.
The bonds that you share with these people are varied, from being former lovers to someone who acted as a surrogate parent. By picking up these Friends and Enemies, your character is grounded in this alternate reality, giving them someone they have a connection with (whether it’s positive or negative doesn’t matter). In the case of Enemies, you also get to roll to see how they’ll react if you ever encounter each other in game (which any good gamemaster should ensure happens at some point). The tact your Enemies take could be as simple as they try to avoid you or they set out to murder you.
One additional feature is the Tragic Love Affairs. Like rolling for Friends and Enemies, you take a ten-side die, roll it, and subtract seven from the total. There’s a chance you won’t roll anything but if you do pick up a love affair that went wrong, it can add more depth to your character’s personal story, potentially leading to interesting opportunities for a gamemaster to craft a story that focuses on your character’s past.
The final section of the Lifepath involves your character’s Life Goals and their Role-specific Lifepath options. Life Goals can be as simple as acquiring power and influence to hunting down those that have wronged you and making them pay for it. One of the issues with most role-playing games is finding the motivation for the character to put themselves in often life-threatening situations. In Cyberpunk Red, that’s part of the ethos of the system: live fast, die young, and if you left behind a pretty corpse, you weren’t doing it right.
The Role-based Lifepaths help to flesh out what kind of situations or scenarios your character is starting off in. If you’re playing a Rockerboy, are you a musician or a street artist? Are you a solo act or do you work with a group? If you’re playing an Exec, what kind of Corporation do you work for and how shady are they? These are just additional flavors that help flesh out who and what your character does when they aren’t trying to score jobs to pay the rent and get some decent food.
Ultimately, when building a character for any role-playing game, it’s up to you as a player to decide how much you want to invest in this fictional alter-ego. Personally, the fun of systems like Dungeons & Dragons, Cyberpunk Red, and Warhammer Fantasy is getting to live out ideas that you aren’t able to pursue in real life. With Cyberpunk Red, you’re placing your character in a bad, alternate future where life is cheap and the cost of living through another day might mean selling your soul to the highest bidder. The Lifepath system isn’t fool-proof but it gives players and gamemasters a chance to develop who these “people” are, where they came from, and what they want, which is the basis for every story that’s ever been conceived.
Until next time, choombas.