Damn the Man! Save the Empire! – Rockerboys in Cyberpunk Red

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If there is any Role within the Cyberpunk Red game system that epitomizes the “punk” ethos that the genre was born out of, it’s the Rockerboy. One-part artist, two-parts kerosene, and three-parts anarchist, Rockerboys (the term is used regardless of gender identity, although Rockergirl or Rocker would definitely fit a player’s preference) are the beating heart of the underground in the game’s setting. In the dystopian future where the wounded mega-corps still hold a ridiculous amount of sway, the Rockerboy is there to thumb their nose and light a few fires along the way.

From a mechanics and gameplay standpoint, the Rockerboy Role fills in a similar niche to the Bard in your classic Dungeons and Dragons party, with a few exceptions. While the Rockerboy isn’t able to directly inspire their comrades to bigger and better feats, they are able to tap into their fanbase for favors, which can become larger and potentially more game-altering as the Rockerboy’s Fame increases. Rockers also fill the niche for a public face when the group needs to meet with people who live outside the corporate bubble (and potentially inside the corporate bubble, depending on the game master). They’re not going to the best at combat (that’s the Solo’s role), nor are they going to be the most well-connected character (see Fixers and Exec’s for that). What they can be is the conduit to the streets, an avenue for the player group to find their way into the various subcultures that exist in a Cyberpunk game.

Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand, Cyberpunk 2077. Source

The name of the Role, Rockerboy, comes from a famous character within the game’s universe named Rockerboy Manson. A political activist/rock star, Manson would later be beaten to death by police officers in the United Kingdom in the backstory of the Cyberpunk universe, setting an example for how to burn bright before getting snuffed out in a big way (which fits the overall aesthetic of the game setting). The most famous Rockerboy character, though, is Johnny Silverhand, portrayed by Keanu Reeves in the videogame Cyberpunk 2077. Amoral to a good degree but always willing to fight what he thinks is the good fight, Silverhand is a prototype players can base their own creations on (both in good and negative ways).

Even though the Role is closely associated with music, that doesn’t need to be the type created by a player. Community activists, street poets, performance artists, and similar real-life examples could be used to make a Rockerboy character. The key aspect for any player to first grasp is what form of political agenda and protest the character is going to use as their vehicle. Given the ubiquity of technology in Cyberpunk Red and the easily accessible forums on the game’s version of the Web, getting the message across isn’t that difficult. It’s just a question of the message that is being sent.

Rockerboy artwork. Source

From a gamemaster’s standpoint, having a Rockerboy in the party is an easy way to generate potential conflicts, storylines, and interactions with the world the players are running through. Rockers tend to offend people without thinking through the consequences and wear causing offence as a badge of honor. Building plotlines around concerts, poetry slams, rival artists trying to increase their following, battles of the bands that go horribly sideways… all of these could be launching pads for telling in-depth stories that put the Rockerboy player right in the thick of things.

Speaking as someone who has spent the better part of twenty-plus years running tabletop role-playing games, a character like this is a blessing in disguise. They can be a disruptive element to the game (particularly if you have a disruptive player that enjoys creating chaos) but that can be a boon for a Gamemaster. Moving from one disaster to another and barely skating away from danger should be where you put this type of character. In a dark future where the gap between the powerful and the weak is blatantly maintained at the cost of the weak, getting to run with a Rockerboy character can be just the match needed to fire up the game setting and inspire the rest of the players to join in on the fun.

Cyberpunk Red Core Rulebook, available on Amazon

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