In the harsh world of 2020, stress is a major problem and many people crack under the strain of everyday life. However, there is also a desensitization which acts as a counter-balance to lessen the impact of these increasingly stressful events. As the media floods us with images of horror and destruction, we become more accustomed to these events. The violent nature of life in 2020 serves to lessen the impact of some stressful events. Nevertheless, the world of Cyberpunk is still a very taxing place; one can never get used to being shot at.
This is not to say that people are any more stable than before or without emotion. Indeed, the constant strain of combat or living in an "urban battleground" can shake anyone's sanity. The standard Cyberpunk character deals with circumstances and events beyond the scope of typical contemporary experience, and suffers a much higher risk of cracking. Therefore only the most stable of characters will last for long in the harsh world of Cyberpunk.
The Stress Factor is a measure of the amount of stress a character is currently under. Stressful events will increase the character's Stress Factor, sometimes gradually, other times very quickly. This measures how well a character will react to those circumstances Cyberpunk characters find themselves in.
As the amount of pressure the character is under increases, the Stress Factor rises; when it gets too high, the character cracks. The worst case scenario is a person who cracks and goes over the edge. A character's COOL determines the amount of Stress Points the character can take before reaching new Stress Levels, as shown on the Stress Table. When a character exceeds the Stress Points for a level, they reach the next level and are subject to its full effects.
Example : a character with a COOL of 6 and 4 Stress Points (StP), would be Normal, but three more StP would make him Anxious, and he would now get a -1 penalty on all further COOL checks.
Note that these are not permanent modifiers, and change as the character's current Stress Level changes. Characters with a low COOL will not deal with stress well. Round down when dividing. These penalties will not take a stat below 2.
These are the effects of the different Stress Levels.
- Fresh : the character is stress-free and perfectly calm. An unnatural state because it is so rare. It gives a +1 bonus to COOL checks due to the extremely calm state of mind.
- Normal : the character has normal stresses and concerns, which is most common for Cyberpunkers to have. As we must all deal with stress in our lives, this is considered the normal mental state.
- Anxious : the character is a little more stressed out than usual, making COOL checks with -1 penalty due to already being a little more mentally "fried" than usual. The character will tend to be a little overcautious and be either very tired (1 -5 on D10) or very hyper, (6-10 on D10). The character develops Insomnia. Note that for most Cyberpunkers, this is actually the normal state of being.
- Stressed : the character is quite stressed by extreme circumstances and will suffer a -2 penalty on all COOL checks. The character will be jumpy and have a poor short-term memory, generally with only enough concentration for one task. A -1 penalty is given to all INT tasks, Addiction checks will be at -2 to resist and the character develops Insomnia (-2 penalty to Insomnia checks).
- Tense : if the character gets worse, he begins to crack under the pressure. He suffers a -3 penalty to all COOL checks and will begin to act in a bizarre manner, focusing on one task and performing it at the exclusion of all else, including loved ones. Characters under torture will begin revealing information if promised release. A -2 penalty is given to all INT tasks, Addiction checks will be at -4 to resist and the character develops Insomnia (-2 penalty to Insomnia checks).
- Cracked : the character has been pushed past normal limits and has gone over the edge. He suffers a -5 penalty to COOL checks. A -3 penalty is given to all INT tasks, Addiction checks will be at -6 to resist and the character develops Insomnia (-2 penalty to Insomnia checks). The character must also roll 1D10 on the Over The Edge table to determine what his reaction is to this incredible strain. The difficulty levels of curing them through therapy are listed after the descriptions.
StP Level Effects COOL /2 Fresh +1 on all COOL checks COOL Normal None COOL x2 Anxious -1 on all COOL checks; Insomnia COOL x3 Tense -2 on all COOL checks; -1 on all INT tasks; Insomnia (-2); Addiction checks at -2 COOL x4 Stressed -3 on all COOL checks, -2 on all INT tasks; Insomnia (-4); Addiction checks at -4 COOL x5 Cracked -5 on all COOL checks; -3 on all INT tasks; Insomnia (-6); Addiction checks at -6;Roll on Over the Edge Table
Over the Edge Table
- 1 (homicidal) : the character becomes murderous and will seek to kill the perceived source of the stress (perhaps blaming someone unrelated). He will also be violent toward anyone who stands in his way. After the source of the stress has been eliminated, roll 1D10 again on this table, ignoring rolls of 1 for the character's next reaction. However, if the character ever goes Over the Edge again, he will automatically become Homicidal. Diff: 20.
- 2 (catatonia) : characters with catatonia withdraw completely into themselves. No outside stimuli, including being injured, will awaken them. The characters are still alive, but will not move, speak or react. There is a 1 in 10 chance every week that they will come out of it. If an extreme attempt is made (i.e. continuous contact with the characters), the check may be made every two days, but only as long as those measures are maintained. Diff: 30.
- 3 (suicidal tendencies) : characters with suicidal tendencies will seek to end their lives in any possible way, as soon as possible. Every activity will be centered on suicide. They will be prone to taking extreme risks with their lives. Diff: 20.
- 4-5 (schizophrenia) : the character loses all touch with reality. The character's torturers become trees, or he may believe himself to be free, and carry on as he might at home. The character might think he's a bird, or that his room is the throne room of the king of Spain. Reality is no longer the character's reality. Diff: 25.
- 6-7 (severe agoraphobia) : the character fears everything. Home is the only safe place. Strangers are all murderers; outside there is only pain and torture. The character will require a COOL check at -4 to even go outside his home, even then not going too far. Diff: 30.
- 8 (hallucinations) : the character begins to see, hear, and feel things that aren't there. However, in every other way, they will appear normal. The particular hallucinations will depend on the stress involved, and note that hallucinations are usually metaphors. For example, a character who was hunted and shot might see snipers on rooftops and, when stressed, all of a sudden think he has been shot. This will continue until cured. Diff: 20.
- 9 (overload amnesia) : characters with overload amnesia have forgotten everything about their previous life as a counter-measure against the rising stress. The character's Stress Points return to normal, but 2 out of every 10 skills will be forgotten and the character will not be able to remember anything about the previous life. If someone forces them to remember, they regain all the Stress Points to go Over The Edge again and roll 1D10 on this table again. If cured by a therapist, then this does not happen. Diff: 25.
- 10 (multiple personalities) : the character separates into multiple personalities. Generate 1D6 different mental stats and psychological profiles, excluding the main one. Some will be murderers, others timid and shy. Use your imagination. They switch whenever a new stress is introduced. Diff: 40.
Gaining Stress Points
There are two types of Stress Points : Straight and Fright. Straight Stress Points are taken immediately and automatically. Generally these are due to living conditions, life events, situational stresses, etc. They are randomized to reflect different people's reactions to different situations. Fright Stress Points are due to some temporary, disturbing event. Characters make Fright Checks to determine the amount, if any, StP are gained.
Straight Stress Points
There are many forms of Straight Stress Points. They are the daily hassles of life and events which can strain one's sanity. Here are some examples of Straight Stress circumstances and events with their Stress Point amounts. Note that these are merely guidelines and should be modified as desired to suit the situation. For example, a character who did not care much for their lover might only have half the Stress Points from the Events, whereas an executive whose life was the corporation might suffer double from being hunted by it.
Whenever Straight Stress applies, roll for the exact amount and add those points to the character's StP. When it is lost, subtract it. The GM should feel free to determine Straight Stress Points for other events using the following guidelines :
* Note that all deaths of people close to the character are at least Unsettling.
Environment Amount Living in suburb 1 Living on the move 1D6 Living downtown core 1D6/3 Living in hostile environment (space, combat zone) 2D6 Occupational Amount Stressful Occupation 1D6/2 Hazardous Occupation 2D6 Very Hazardous Occupation 3D6 Events Amount Loved one injured/ill 1D6/2 Fighting in relationship 1D6/2 Relationship breaks up 1D6 Loved one killed/dies 2D6 Spouse dies 3D6 Situational Amount Hunted by gang 1D6/2 Hunted by corporation 1D6 Hunted by the law 2D6 Hunted by mega-corp/FBI/CIA 3D6 Straight Stress Point Guidelines Minor Nuisance 1 Nuisance 1D6/3 Major Nuisance 1D6/2 Annoyonce 1D6 Unsettling * 2D6 Very Disturbing 3D6 Life Shattering 4D6
Example : an ex-lover who is tracking a character down would be Annoying, unless they were armed and had made previous attempts on the character's life, in which case it would be Unsettling.
Fright Stress Points
Fright Stress points are due almost exclusively to particular unsettling circumstances that the character encounters. Being ambushed or fired upon, killing a person, being tortured, etc. These all require a COOL check to be made against the Fright Difficulty.
Characters used to combat (Solos, Nomads & Cops) get a +5 bonus on the combat-related checks. Similarly, those with related fields of interest get a +1 to +10 bonus in relation to their field (for example a disaster relief worker might get a +10 in reaction to a disaster hitting). Also, characters in a group of 3-19 people get a +1 bonus on all checks. If they are in a group of 20-100 people, a +2 bonus is given on all checks. Groups of over 100 people give a +4 bonus to all checks. One feels safer in a group.
Below are some sample Fright Difficulties. If the check's total equals or exceeds the Difficulty, the character can deal with the event. Otherwise, the character is frightened. Find the amount the check was failed by on the Fright table below to determine the effects.
* A cyberpsycho with weird augmentations, a scary exotic or biowork, etc.
Combat-related Diff Under Single-Shot Fire 10 Under Automatic fire 15 Light Torture 15 Outnumbered 15 Ambushed 15 Getting Hit (wounded) 15 Under Suppressive Fire 20 Being Mortally Wounded 20 Kill Someone at Distance 20 Kill Someone Face-to-Face 25 Heavy Torture 30 Extreme Torture 40 Encounter Diff Discovering a corpse 5 Witnessing torture/mutilation 10 Discovering a mutilated corpse 10 Being followed by someone 10 Seeing a beast * 15 Witness an unnatural event 15 Minor Disaster 15 Major Disaster 20 Participate in unnatural event 20 Seeing a beast kill someone * 20
- 1-2 (stunned) : the character is surprised and loses 5 points of initiative for that turn. The character takes 1D6-3 Stress Points (min. 0).
- 3-5 (surprised) : the character is surprised for 1 turn. The character takes 1D6 Stress Points.
- 6-12 (shocked) : the character is surprised, and either (1-3) Freezes for 2 turns, during which no action can be taken or (4-6) Flees, trying to run away as quickly as possible from the source of the fright for 1D6+1 Turns. The character takes 2D6 Stress Points.
- 13-18 (overwhelmed) : the character is surprised, and either (1-4) Freezes for 1D6+3 turns, during which no action can be taken and the character drops to the ground, sobbing uncontrollably, or (5-6) Flees, trying to run away as quickly as possible from the source of the fright for 1D6+3 turns. The character takes 3D6 Stress Points.
- 19+ (blown away) : the character goes Over the Edge due to the extreme stress. Roll on the Over the Edge table with 1D10. The insanity lasts for 2D10 Turns, then the character is fine again. However, he gains 4D6 Stress Points.
Any Stress Points gained are applied immediately. If the character cracks, he gains that insanity. However, Stress Points due to Fright Stress disappear 2D6 hours after the source of the fright is gone.
Example : a character with a COOL of 7 sees a cyberpsycho eating a person. This counts as seeing a beast kill someone, Diff 20. The player rolls a 5; since the character gets no bonuses, the total is 12. The check is failed by 8, and the character is surprised for 2 turns. He rolls 2D6 and gets 7, so he takes 7 Stress Points instantly. Having already had 8, he is now at 15 Stress Points. The character is now Tense.
Losing Stress Points
Stress points disappear 1D10 hours after the source of the stress is removed or after a night's sleep (min. 8 hours). If the source of the stress is ongoing, the only way to eliminate it is through therapy.
The knowledge of psychology is used whworld of Cyberpunk.en conducting therapy. The Difficulty is 20 for normal Stress Points. However, if the character has gone Over the Edge, then the difficulty listed after the applicable insanity must be made. In this case, the character's Stress Level must return to Fresh before therapy for the insanity can begin.
Every attempt for therapy requires one hour, which is the maximum amount of therapy in a 3 day period, and it cures 1D6/2 points (round up). This can cost up to 1000 eb or as low as 100 eb from trained professionals, or from a character with Psychology skill. However one cannot treat himself.
The New Age movement did one good thing for Cyberpunks, and that was to introduce meditation. Many police officers use meditation to counter the effects of extremely stressful lives. It is one way to stay sane, so many modern combat veterans learn meditation to deal with their stressful lives.
Meditation is one way for characters to help themselves. At a Difficulty of 20, the character can remove 1 ongoing Stress Point after one hour of meditation. This can only be done once per 24 hours. It is one way to stay sane, so many modern combat veterans learn meditation to deal with their stressful lives.