Monday, November 16, 2015


So the topic came up in the Cypher System discussion boards and it got me thinking about Cyberpunk run through Cypher.

The lion's share of playing Cyberpunk in Cypher is straightforward window-dressing of the Cypher types, that ex-soldier turned corporate espionage agent is a Warrior with Stealth flavor. Many "Esoteric" abilities may be replicated through cybernetics and bio-mods. An Adept's "Onslaught" ability may be an implanted firearm in one arm, and an implanted stun-gun in the other. Fuses Flesh and Steel would represent a more heavily cyborged character, possibly obvious chrome or a near full-conversion borg. Naturally the GM has final say on the availability of any particular character option.

My posts on Firearms and Vehicles may be useful for a Cyberpunk campaign. Just sayin'...

Riggers can control a vehicle through a cyberdeck, or a dedicated control device. The level of the device determines the maximum level of the vehicle they can control through it. Drone Control requires two decks, both at least the level of the vehicle being controlled. More on Drone Controllers with the Cyberdeck descriptions.

Netrunning and Deckers:

There's a common problem in Cyberpnk games in that the guy with the Cyberdeck often ends up running solo for many turns while their computer-speed grants them multiple turns to everyone else's one. Deckers and their solo thing is usually justified by "my character acts at the speed of thought." Remind them that "Sure, but you're still thinking at the speed of meat." They might get a little more freedom in what they can squeeze in to a round, but in the end their brain still needs to process the incoming data just as it would from the body's senses, and the brain processes what to do with that data only as fast as it would if it wasn't connected to a Cyberdeck.
(It's been a while, but I believe this advice originally comes from the R. Talsorian Cyberpunk 2020 GM advice book "Listen Up You Primitive Screwheads")

In Cypher Systems GM's can exploit its inherent abstract quality, the Decker might be programming furiously, inserting logic loops, avoiding port detection, intercepting and disrupting data packets, but they still only "attack" that ICE barrier, Watchdog program, or enemy Decker once per turn in keeping with the rest of the party's actions. 

INT pool is the Decker's entire HP in cypberspace, and the pool they draw on for all of their Special Ability Programs.Intellect Edge works as normal. Being reduced to 0 INT results in the connection being severed to the net, the Decker is Stunned for one turn and Dazed the turn afterward, and the Decker cannot reconnect until he recovers at least 1 Intellect.

Black ICE, those deadly programs that can fry a person's body operate as an infectious virus in the brain. When the Decker is hit with a Black ICE attack they need to make a second Intellect Defense roll against the level of the attacking ICE. Failure indicates that the Decker has had the Program successfully copied in to their brain. Additional hits from Black ICE increase the level of the infection by 1. The Decker must continue to make Intellect Defense rolls or take damage, first against their Int, then Might and then Speed as the program makes their brain trigger the body to self destruct (usually with a fatally high fever). Once the program has successfully infected the victim Armor, even a Cyberdeck installation of Ward does not protect against Black ICE damage. Pulling the plug on the Cyberdeck only stops the Black ICE if the victim still has more than 1 point of Intellect, if the victim reaches 0 Intellect then they automatically disconnect, but the Black ICE has successfully installed itself in the victim's brain and the victim needs to continue making Intellect Defense rolls to prevent damage. Black ICE stops doing damage once the victim makes an Intellect Defense roll.  Black ICE is technically illegal, but some people and organizations consider protecting their secrets important enough to risk letting loose an infectious data-virus in their own systems.

The basic Cyberspace Avatar has only the most rudimentary functionality, no special abilities, type or descriptor modifications. Smart Deckers spend the cash to upgrade. Programming a Special Ability is a task with a difficulty equal to the tier of the ability, and takes as many weeks as the tier of that ability. Each ability that a Decker uses takes up a Program Slot on their cyberdeck. If an ability is available in multiple types, descriptors, Foci, or Flavors, use the lowest level.

A Decker Trained in Programming can develop a level 1 ability "On the Fly", this ability does not take up a Program Slot, but the difficulty using this ability is adjusted 1 step to the Decker's detriment due to it being improvised. A Decker Specialized in Programming can do this with Tier 2 abilities, at a 2-step adjustment. Being Trained or Specialized in improvising Cyberspace abilities is a separate skill, the Decker needs both skills to improvise an ability with reduced or no modifiers.


A cyberdeck's level determines how many Program Slots it has to execute programmed Special Abilities. If two Deckers are facing off against each other in Cyberspace, if one Decker has a Cyberdeck of a level higher than the level of the other, that Decker receives an Asset to their rolls. If the higher rated Cyberdeck is twice or more the level of the other, that Decker receives two Assets. Program Slots may run any Tier of Programmed Abilities.

Cyberdecks can slot a number of Software Cyphers up to 1/3rd their level (round up). (See Below)

The typical cyberdeck is flat plastic appliance about the size of a small notebook or a large tablet computer. Interface is typically accomplished with a headband or skullcap with electromagnetic sensing electrodes at strategic locations to pick up on electrical impusles in the brain. Some uses prefer an implanted Datajack that connects directly with a hard cable (3 XP, counts as an Asset for netrunning tasks), however using a Datajack means attacks against the Decker's Intellect also benefit from that Asset.

A Cyberdeck is able to access the local net wirelessly, in most cases this means the Decker's device is in constant contact with the Internet, though in some places with less maintained infrastructure there may be blind spots where a device may suddenly become disconnected.

Inexpensive (up to $20), Level 1, 1 Program Slot, 1 Cypher
An Inexpensive Cyberdeck is a disposable device practically designed to be thrown away to avoid being traced. Ostensibly designed for children to learn to navigate the consensual, communal illusion that is Cyberspace, in more practical terms they serve the same purpose as "Disposable Phones" for criminals.

Tier 1 and 2 Programmed Abilities are Inexpensive.

Moderately Priced ($20 to $200), Level 2, 2 Program Slots, 1 Cypher
A typical system for the non-technical household. Popular as gifts to elderly relatives so they can keep up with the grandkids, as well as backups purchased in emergencies for the Decker who gets his main Cyberdeck fried.

Tier 3 and 4 Programmed Abilities are Moderately Priced.

Expensive ($200 to $2,000), Level 3, 3 Program Slots, 1 Cypher
A typical household cyberdeck, and the one a new runner is likely to start his career with.

Tier 5 and 6 Programmed Abilities are Expensive.

Very Expensive ($2,000 to $20,000), Level 4, 4 Program Slots, 2 Cyphers
A Cyberdeck system you wold expect to find in the hands of Megacorporate security, or the cyberwarfare expert of a third-world dictatorship.

Exorbitant ($20,000 - $200,000), Level 5, 5 Program Slots, 2 Cyphers
Megacorporate Head Office's chief of security will run on a device like this.

Very Exorbitant ($200,000 - $2,000,000), Level 6, 6 Program Slots, 2 Cyphers)
Large First-world nations deny that the housing of these devices can stop bullets (they're right, it can't). They'd prefer to deny the existence of these devices at all as they're only issued to Sig/Int and Data warfare operatives attached to special operations teams.

Cyberdecks over level 6 are one-of-a-kind prototypes that the power-players will hire someone to kill for, a Cyberdeck of 9 or 10 they'd risk pulling the trigger themselves.

Cyberdeck Modifications

Stationary system: A desktop workstation version adds 1 Level to the Cyberdeck

Mainframe system: A room-sized installation adds 2 Levels to the Cyberdeck 

Drone Controller: Adds 2 to the Level of the Cyberdeck for controlling drones, but is not actually capable of allowing it's user to interface with Cyberspace. Drone controllers may be used as both or either the control unit,or the drone unit (attached to the vehicle). 

The Rigger using a Drone Control Unit is at 2-step detriment to any attempt to prevent a Cyberdeck user from hacking in to any drones controlled with a Drone Controller (the dedicated Drone Control Unit prevents the Rigger from perceiving the attacking Decker in Cyberspace). If the Rigger is using a Cyberdeck they do not suffer this penalty whether the drone is equipped with a Cyberdeck or Drone Controller.

Using Cyphers in Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is all about "Future Shock" Cyphers with esoteric abilities can be pretty easily described as some tech-gadget made by some shack-tinkerer in the Sprawl, or a prototype stolen from a Megacorp (artifacts are more likely to be the latter). As far as Software Cyphers, the genre is full of one-shot programs and backdoors that the protagonists burn once to get in to some system or another. Some might "warp space" to move the decker in to the system, others might inflict a specific damage that deletes a portion of a firewall.