Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Project Edgerunner: First Glance

An old friend of mine and I have been slowly working on a cyberpunk game engine (tentatively called Edgerunner) following our initial disappointment with Cyberpunk Red (which, in our estimation, oversimplified rather than improved an otherwise good combat system). It began as a house rules document, fixing CPRED in ways aligning with our preferences and priorities, but as we thought more and more about the various subsystems, it became clear that a complete overhaul would be necessary.

The goal of the system is straightforward: a fairly realistic, simulation-first approach to combat and technology; traditional GM and player responsibilities; no fate points or bennies; reasonably realistic outcomes (whether in or out of combat); a fairly accurate representation of character capabilities (i.e. a separation of raw talent, knowledge, and practical expertise). Ideally, the system should be able to handle most modern eras of history and speculative sci-fi. As for the default setting, we have a couple of assumptions that are a mixture of genre conventions (corporations overshadowing the state, the economical divide between the rich/corpos and the poor/punks) and our own estimations regarding a possible future.

Here are some of the features of the system as it stands now:

  • 2d10 + modifiers vs. Target Number as general resolution mechanic for that sweet bell curve
  • 2-second combat rounds; this makes combat rounds long enough for several things to occur but also short enough to allow quick reactions
  • stance is something that must be tracked (standing, crouching, and prone) with appropriate modifiers to movement, attacks, and defence
  • after much deliberation, we opted not to use hit location tables (as the chances of hitting a particular body part are subject to many factors, and we didn't want to go the silhouette route like Aces & Eights)
  • melee combat is almost entirely maneouvre-based and handled by opposed rolls
  • grabbing is handled like all other maneouvres, and it makes it harder for the grabbed target to do anything other than melee maneouvres specifically against the grabber
  • rules for choking, shoving, tackling, disarming, and dragging
  • ranged attacks are against a distance-based TN usually modified by cover (none, partial, or full), stance, and running
  • a single attack roll and the recursive application of the weapon's recoil stat determines the number of bullets hitting in case of autofire
  • actions can be prepared to a specific trigger ("I'm gonna shoot the first bloke who exits through that door over there" or "I'll start running as soon as I hear Jim drawing the corpos' fire"); a prepared action can be changed only in case of being attacked
  • damage die type is weapon-based; two dice are rolled on a normal success (+1 die per each 5 above TN)
  • armour reduces damage by its current Defense; the amount of damage absorbed reduces current Defense (subject to the armour's Durability)
  • hit points are a factor of Physique (a primary stat); taking 5+ or 10+ damage from one source cause bleeding or heavy bleeding

It's a pretty lethal system that encourages smart tactics and teamwork. It's pretty crunchy, which means it starts fairly slow but picks up nicely as the players get accustomed to the rules. Our latest internal playtest scenario involved 3 player characters versus 13 gang members in and around an abandoned warehouse (on a 48 by 48 grid) — in 4 hours and 45 minutes of riveting firefighting, two player characters fell (and were promptly replaced by backup characters) in a blaze of glory (or foolishness, depending on whom you're talking to), three gang members escaped, and the boss was apprehended for further questioning — the rest were killed viciously. All in all, a night of fun cyberpunk skirmishing.

We have only begun working on a skill system proper (after much, much headache and discussion) and the cyberware subsystem, and there's even more to do. Expect sporadic updates on the process with more details on both the system and the default setting.