When people think of dystopian futures, one of the most prevalent ideas comes from the Mad Max films. Devastated towns, open roads, armored vehicles, leather outfits that wouldn’t be amiss at a BDSM convention, and guns. Lots of guns. In the Dark Future of Cyberpunk Red, the Nomad Role fits that bill and then some, providing both players and gamemasters the opportunity to explore what happens when you leave the relative “safety” of the city and venture out on to the open road.
The other Roles I’ve explored in my essays are generally built to work and prosper within the “civilized” cities of the dystopian future found in R. Talsorian Game’s setting. Nomads don’t fit that mold. This isn’t to say that Nomads can’t work within a city-based campaign, however. The best way to approach it is that Nomads in a city like the primary setting of Night City are the wayward “teens” of the family. They could be there as an act of rebellion. It could be because they’re curious about how life works in the city versus out on the roads. And it could just be because the family needs money and the Nomad has skills that are quite useful to interested parties.
Nomads were born in this setting from the Collapse, a period of time in the setting’s alternate history where the American economy fell down hard and didn’t recover (think the Great Depression but ten times worse). With so many cities and towns crumbling, people began to band together for survival out on the road, forming the first Families. These Families later evolved into Packs, which then evolved into Nations. Since the Collapse and through to the Time of the Red, Nomads are the ones who control the highways and byways between cities. If it needs to be moved from one place to somewhere else, Nomads are the ones moving it.
This status quo is best exemplified with the Nomad’s Role Ability, Moto. Through their Role Ability, Nomads are able to add vehicles to the motor pool of their Family. This familiarity with vehicles means that Nomads are normally the best when it comes to driving any kind of vehicle. Family loyalty means everything to Nomads and everything that is acquired is shared amongst the Family. If a Nomad character asks for a vehicle from the Family motor pool, they can expect to get it. If they bring it back damaged or it gets destroyed, the Family expects the Nomad to compensate the Family for the loss by replacing the vehicle or paying for a replacement.
The first major perk from Moto is that a Nomad character automatically gains familiarity with vehicles, allowing them to add their Rank number in Moto to any Skill check related to driving or piloting vehicles as well as any Technical skills related to vehicle maintenance. In this way, they act in much the same way that a Tech does with the Tech’s Role Ability. When it comes to vehicles, a Nomad is the character you want acting as the driver and mechanic. If they can’t get the vehicle to run, then there’s something wrong with the vehicle.
The other major perk is that when the Rank of Moto is increased, the Nomad can either decide to add a new stock vehicle to the Family motor pool or they can add a single upgrade to an existing vehicle in the motor pool. The stock vehicles that can be obtained are as simple as groundcars or a jetski at first. Later on, as the Rank increases, the Nomad can acquire more high-end vehicles like AV-4s (flying cars) or high-performance superbikes. And the upgrades available range from adding bulletproof glass to the car to adding weapon mounts or installing upgraded engines that can make the vehicle fly.
From a gameplay standpoint, Nomads could be the odd ones out of the bunch if the rest of the party are playing city-based Roles, like Fixer or Exec. But that would be a misconception on the part of the gamemaster. Nomads give the gamemaster the option of including jobs that occur outside the city limits without having to craft an NPC specifically for that task. And with the fractious nature of Nomad politics (there’s always a potential fight brewing between Nomad Families, Packs, and Nations even without bringing in the notorious groups like Raffen Shivs), there’s no end to the available opportunities for crafting personal stories that affect the Nomad character and their group. It’s entirely possible to build a Nomad-centric campaign with one or two Nomad characters and the rest being people who have been given sanctuary with a particular Family, leaving the confines of the cities entirely for stories set out in the Badlands. And this isn’t even taking into account the Drift Nations, Nomad groups situated at sea on abandoned oil rigs and floating cities comprised of long-forgotten ships.
If you’re a gamemaster looking to add some Mad Max-inspired mayhem and glory to their game, Nomads are the best way to do it. And with Nomads, you also get to explore stories about those who have chosen to abandon “civilized” society to create a world for themselves where the only thing that matters is Family.