In any gaming group, there needs to be at least one, maybe even two, characters that are there to get their hands dirty. The character that thinks Violence is the question and Yes is the answer. In the dark future laid out in Cyberpunk Red, the Solo fits that build. Cyber-augmented soldiers, mercenaries, killers-for-hire…all of the above qualify as a Solo within the urban decay and random violence of the Cyberpunk setting by R. Talsorian Games.
Just about every tabletop role-playing game I’ve encountered in my life has a Fighter-type Class or specialization. This is the role best designed for combat and not much else (unless you build it to be different, which is a valid creation method). In Cyberpunk Red, Solos are for players who want to be able to stand up to some punishment and dish out even more to the NPCs the Gamemaster develops. If you’re familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, the Solo would fill the same niche as Barbarians and Fighters, the combat-focused classes that are really useful when initiative gets rolled but not as useful in other aspects of the game.
Within the lore of Cyberpunk Red, there are a few stand-out Solos that are at the forefront of the game setting. The most noticeable thanks to their appearance in Cyberpunk 2077 is Rogue Amendiares, who was the Solo gunslinger that rode with Johnny Silverhand on a number of high-risk missions. Rogue’s not your standard Fighter type that you’d expect in a traditional fantasy role-playing game, which is why she stands out even more. Tough, resourceful, and packing enough lead to take down a small army, Rogue is a prototypical Solo for a new player to mold their character after.
On the flipside, you have Adam Smasher, the cyborg hitman for the Arasaka Corporation. One of the hazards in Cyberpunk Red is Cyberpsychosis, which is the deteriorated mental state someone can enter when they’ve lost touch with their humanity due to excessive cyber-augmentation. Adam Smasher is what happens when a person doesn’t have much humanity left in them to begin with, making the process of transitioning from a flesh-and-blood body to a cyber-body that much easier. If you have a player who just wants to drop bodies and watch the world burn, Adam Smasher is the template to go by.
From a gameplay standpoint, Solos are built to survive in combat but to also act as the tacticians of the battlefield for the other players. Mechanically, this is done through the Combat Awareness Role ability that Solos possess. For each Rank in that Role, they have points they can devote to give themselves the edge in combat, from giving them better Initiative roles, detecting threats before they become apparent, decreasing incoming damage, and a couple of other abilities. Most common selection I’ve seen in Solo builds is to use the Initiative option, since it helps ensure the Solo character gets to go before everyone else in combat. A tactically-minded player can use that to their advantage, moving themselves and their fellow gamers into optimum positions on the battlefield the Gamemaster has laid out for them.
For a Gamemaster, a Solo can be both a blessing and a curse if you have one in the party. On the one hand, you have a character that can help ensure the rest of the party doesn’t get mowed down by the bad guys you’re running. On the other hand, you’ve got a character in the party that is designed to mow down the bad guys that you’re running. For me, I find this an excellent challenge when developing potential combat scenarios. Keeping in mind what the Solo can do and what the player running the character brings to the table, you can help nudge the player in directions that can benefit the table, ensuring everyone has a good time. Combat in Cyberpunk Red is designed to be brutal and unforgiving, with character deaths a distinct possibility every time Initiative is called for. Having a Solo in the party makes things a bit easier for the players and for the Gamemaster as well.