One of the more noticeable trends in modern pen-and-paper games is the move away from gigantic skill lists. Many are often redundant, obsolete or so specific, a more general skill would be a better pick. Cyberpunk 2020, the tabletop RPG upon which CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077 is based, has over 80 skills. Eight-zero. So, when "Personal Grooming" and "Play Instrument" are mixed in with "Submachinegun" and "Pilot", one has to wonder: what skills will CD Projekt Red dispense with to keep 2077's gameplay nice and streamlined?
Now, there's a strong possibility that CD Projekt Red will start from scratch, devising its own list of skills based on those from the original RPG. Or it might do something entirely different.
This article assumes a dimension where, having gone entirely insane, the developers attempt to stuff the skills verbatim into the game. Which, of course, would never happen. But for the sake of comedy (and me not ending this article after the next full stop), let's pretend they did.
Disbelief suitably suspended?
Before we dive into the general skill list, let's take a look at the role-specific ones. In the pen-and-paper version, each of the nine roles has a unique skill that separates it from the rest.
For example, the Solo's "Combat Sense" allows a character to almost always react first in a fight, which is quite strong in a game with very deadly, very automatic weapons.
From what we know so far, 2077 will have eight roles. Now, 2020 really has ten roles, if you split out Techie / Medtechie. Let's assume the video game will stick these together like the rulebook does and CD Projekt hasn't invented its own roles. This means we have to cull just one:
- Authority (Cop)
- Charismatic Leadership (Rocker)
- Combat Sense (Solo)
- Credibility (Media)
- Family (Nomad)
- Interface (Netrunner)
- Jury Rig (Techie) / Medical Tech (Medtechie)
- Resources (Corp)
- Streetdeal (Fixer)
Of these, I'd say the Corp, Rocker and Media are ripe for exclusion, though an argument could be made for the Netrunner, depending on the direction CD Projekt Red goes in relation to the 'net.
It's honestly hard to pick, but Armalite 44 to my head, I'd drop the Rocker, mainly because "Charismatic Leadership" is a glorified social skill. That doesn't mean it couldn't be reworked for the video game, but on the surface, a lot of the Rocker's role-playing flavour is lost in the conversion to a video game.
The Polish game studio tweeted earlier today that its upcoming sci-fi game would be 'nothing less than' The Witcher 3. The statement was aimed at quelling fears Cyberpunk 2077 might include microtransactions after studio CEO Adam Kicinski said 'there will be a certain online element related to Cyberpunk' in an interview earlier in the week.
We're almost ready to tackle the general skill list. First, a primer on 2020's resolution mechanics.
The way skill checks work in 2020 is straightforward: roll a ten-sided die, add the relevant attribute and skill (both of which max out at ten) to get your total. Beat 15 and you're golden (usually), though harder tasks may demand a 20 or 25 to pass.
The makers of The Witcher say thieves have stolen design documents for their next game, Cyberpunk 2077. And those thieves demanded a ransom — that the developers say they won't pay.
To make things easier, the skills are grouped by their associated attribute. Here are the ones related directly to skill rolls:
- Attractiveness (ATTR)
- Body Type (BODY)
- Cool (COOL)
- Empathy (EMP)
- Intelligence (INT)
- Reflexes (REF)
- Technical Ability (TECH)
There are a couple of others, but they're not relevant for our purposes.
All good? Excellent. Here are all the skills you probably* won't see in Cyberpunk 2077.
Attractiveness (ATTR) skills
Everyone, absolutely everyone, enjoys doing a skill check to make sure their makeup is perfect and their beard is trimmed.
Did I say "enjoys"? I meant "why did I waste my precious Improvement Points on this garbage skill?". I know that doesn't fit if you go back and drop it into the first sentence, but I don't care.
Wardrobe & Style
If you have zero points in this skill (almost all tabletop characters do), it means you rock up to all your important meetings naked or, at the very least, wearing a modest sock / pavlova.
I can't see a world where CD Projekt Red selects this for a premium place in the game, lest it's forced to model and texture said modest sock / pavlova.
Skills the make the cut: None!
Body Type (BODY) skills
From the rulebook: "The user of this skill has practised the art of bending bars, crushing objects, ripping phone books apart and other useful parlour tricks." Hey, I totally remember that time in Mass Effect 2 where Commander Shepard had to rip that phone book in half to save Earth.
This is a sentence no one has said, ever.
You're going to be red in the face when everyone else just takes the ferry. Or a helicopter. Or a spaceship. But you go ahead a swim to the drop-point. We'll wait.
Skills the make the cut: Endurance, though I wouldn't be surprised if it's wrapped into some general Body Type check.
Cool (COOL) skills
So. You could take Oratory and talk the pants off of your Book Club. Or — and stay with me here — you could take one of the more useful talking skill under Empathy. Unless your party hasn't filled the Winston Churchill slot. Oratory's great for that.
Don't we have an Endurance skill? I'm sure we have an Endurance skill. While there's nothing inherently wrong here, it's just too specific.
Skills the make the cut: Interrogation, Intimidate and Streetwise. There's an argument for combining the first two.
Empathy (EMP) skills
"The skill of eliciting interesting anecdotes from interview subject." Ah, I've always wanted to do that in an RPG set in a near-future dystopia where killer cyborgs with big guns run around half-naked. Why bother with that guff when you could be eliciting anecdotes?
"Loot". Not "lute".
Skills the make the cut: Human Perception, Leadership, Seduction, Social and Persuasion & Fast Talk. You did good Empathy.
Intelligence (INT) skills
Are we noticing a pattern here?
Education & General Knowledge
Get the hell... oh wait. So you're saying I could pour points into the above skills, or dump a bunch into this and be as useful in the majority of situations? Even then, this doesn't make the cut.
You write great poems. Like, the best. The day you can serenade a dragoon so it doesn't blow a hole in your chest, you hit me up, OK?
Too specific. For simplicity's sake, this would be rolled into First Aid or some kind of Medicine skill. It might even be dropped altogether so the Medtechie role can shine.
Expert isn't a standalone skill — the player selects a topic they want to be good at and writes it in. So, "Expert: Reaganomics". Nothing bad to say here, it's just too broad.
Normally a handy skill in a pen-and-paper game, not so much in the electronic kind.
It's cyberpunk. You can stick a calculator in your brain.
Just when you thought Mathematics was too specific — Physics!
*Deep breath*. Hahahahahahahahahahahaha.
*Deeper breath*. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.
A perfectly fine skill in isolation, but I reckon CD Projekt Red will stick with an urban setting for the video game.
Basically, the History skill but for the internet. Next!
Can we... can we move onto the REF skills please?
Skills the make the cut: Awareness/Notice, Know Language, Gamble, Hide/Evade, Chemistry, Programming, Shadow/Track and Library Search. I know, some of these are borderline. The direction of the game will have a big impact on the relevancy of stuff like Chemistry and Library Search.
Reflex (REF) skills
I had to think about this one. While it'd be cool to shoot arrows and bolts in 2077, I reckon the developers won't want to muddy the combat waters. Also, Skyrim's a thing if you want hot bow action.
We're past the point where tying jump height and movement speed to a skill is a good idea. This takes away from the cybernetic augmentation aspect of cyberpunk. Robot limbs, anyone?
Starlord might be able to dance for the fate of the universe. You? Not so much.
His man draws a railgun. Your man draws a foil. You know the rest.
You can easily pack this into Driving and save yourself a skill slot.
Operate Heavy Machinery
DM: "You enter the vehicle warehouse and see a tank, helicopter and bulletproof sedan. Which did you want to go for?"
Larry: "Is there a forklift?"
Larry: "A forklift. You know, to move-"
DM: "I know what a forklift is. Sure, there's a forklift next to-"
Larry: "I get in the forklift." *Rolls dice* "I succeed at my Operate Heavy Machinery check."
DM: "That's a skill?" *Grabs rulebook* "Well then, I guess Larry's in the forklift. Everyone else alright in the tank?"
Skills the make the cut: Brawling, Dodge & Escape, Driving, Heavy Weapons, Melee, Martial Art, Pilot, Handgun, Rifle, Submachinegun and Stealth. A lot of these will be tweaked, condensed and compacted no doubt (like all the Pilot skills).
Technical Ability (TECH) skills
You want a skill you might roll once per campaign and only because the DM took pity on you? Here ya go.
Forgery. I like it. As a skill, not a pastime. In a video game though? Let's just pretend it'll be in 2077.
Paint or Draw
Finally, a crafting skill! Sorry peeps, can't join in on the cyber heist. I've got street caricatures to draw.
Photo & Film
What's the point of being blown to smithereens if you can't capture your death in gorgeous 4K HDR?
Roll it into Medtechie and move on.
I made the loot / lute joke already, didn't I?
This is a hard one, but I'm going to say "out", simply because there are very few crafting skills in Cyberpunk as it is and the ones we do have require pencils. Pencils. But I could see it, if CD Projekt wants crafting to be a thing in 2077.
This could also just be in to help with weapon modding (a popular trend these days), but requiring a skill for it would make this a mandatory pick-up, which is bad design.
Skills the make the cut: Aero Tech, AV Tech, Gyro Tech, Basic Tech, CyberTech, Cyberdeck Design, Demolitions, Disguise, Electronics, Electronic Security, First Aid, Pick Lock and Pick Pocket. All the Tech skills would be rolled into one or two, as would cyber and electronics.
Alas, even after the cull, there's still 30-40 skills, depending on what you consolidate. I need to take a nap now, but what else do you think won't make the cut?
* I could be completely wrong.