It wouldn’t be a science-fiction setting without someone who works with the machines that make every day life possible or even bearable. This is where the Tech Role from Cyberpunk Red comes into play. Mechanics and inventors, Techs can serve as excellent background NPCs (non-player characters) that a Gamemaster can bring in as needed. But if you have one in the game group, your party of players has the potential to overcome any number of issues that can be thrown at them during the course of a session.
With the previous Roles I’ve covered from Cyberpunk Red, the emphasis was on what the Role is capable of within a given game session. Techs, on the other hand, are the first Role that can have just as much of an impact between game sessions as they can during a game session. The reason for that is the Maker Role Ability that Techs have access to. From a gamemaster standpoint, this ability could wreck a campaign, particularly when it comes to the Inventor skill that is made available.
The Maker Role Ability is similar in build to the Solo’s Combat Awareness in so much as it gives the Tech player points that can be used to increase ranks in specific abilities. Unlike the Solo’s more situational abilities, points in the Maker ability are broken down into four abilities. The breakdown works like this: For each Rank (or level) in the Maker ability, the tech has 2 points they can use to increase the proficiency with one of four abilities: Field Expertise, Upgrade Expertise, Fabrication Expertise, or Invention Expertise (which are also referred to as Ranks, so it can get a little confusing).
Field Expertise is the most useful ability during game sessions, since it allows the Tech to jury-rig machines and to give them boost to skill checks related to machines and technology (such as Electronics/Security Tech, Weaponstech, the various VehicleTechs, etc.) Upgrade Expertise, Fabrication Expertise, and Invention Expertise are all abilities that will come into play during down time activities (the things players want to do in between game sessions or before getting into the meat of a given session). Upgrade Expertise is exactly what is says on the tin: it grants the Tech player the ability to perform upgrades to everything from cyberware to weapons to vehicles. Fabrication Expertise allows the Tech player to build something that already exists in the game, such as a cyberware modification or a firearm (provided they have access to the materials and the time to make it).
The last one is the one that can cause the most headaches for gamemasters: Invention Expertise. With this ability, Techs can attempt to create a piece of technology that is new or unique. The section in the book covering this being an in-depth conversation between the Gamemaster and the Tech player. Players of tabletop RPGs love to be inventive and as a GM, I honestly find that inventiveness to be infectious. No Gamemaster that I’ve played for wants to tell their player a flat No but keeping a level of game balance is necessary, both from a practical point of running the game and from a storytelling element as well. The book even encourages GMs to retroactively update or change the way an invention works within the rules to facilitate balance between the player’s desire for something unique and cool and something that doesn’t completely break the game.
From a party and gameplay perspective, Techs in a given party are extremely useful, since they are able to work on machines that have broken down, security systems that are physically in place, or deactivating automated defenses that the netrunner can’t get access to. They are also complimentary to the other player roles in some potentially fascinating ways. If the Solo in the party needs to upgrade their guns or cyberware, the Tech can do it for them. If the Netrunner needs assistance with building a customized cyberdeck, the Tech can do it. If you have a Fixer or an Exec that wants to impress their peers and maybe corner the market on a new invention, it’s the Tech that would build the prototype and fabricate it. While combat isn’t a Tech’s main forte, they can hold their own, particularly since a smart Tech player will have taken the time to upgrade their own equipment to give them a better chance at survival.
Given that the setting of Cyberpunk Red is a time of scarcity, Techs are the characters that will keep the party going when they can’t get enough materials to maintain their weapons and armor. A Tech during the Time of the Red is the person the party should turn to when its time to figure out a solution to the seemingly impossible job they’ve taken on. When there’s not enough to go around, the Tech is the one in the party that will make the most of what the party has.