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Designed by: D. O. Sebastian
I adore a good cyberpunk setting. Blade Runner. Shadowrun. Dredd. Altered Carbon. Even The Expanse, in some ways. In fact when I began DMing and playing online sessions via Roll20, we originally started with Shadowrun (and then switched to D&D 5E because Shadowrun’s rules are super ugly).
“Investigations & Androids” smartly takes the core malleable d20 gameplay of Dungeons & Dragons and converts it into a classic cybernoir theme. It’s extremely well written and organized, focusing on the most important changes while letting the original ruleset do most of the heavy lifting.
The 80+ page rule book includes four new classes, nine new races, four new backgrounds, new or altered techpowers (spells, basically) as well as biomods, weapon augmentations, and several new maps and NPC statblocks.
I’m also reviewing “Off World Colony,” a companion adventure that utilizes all of those rules. Sadly it’s only a part one of four (as yet unreleased), but the level 1 adventure includes three chapters that perfectly blends open world exploration within a structured environment, allowing for fun choices and character building within a space-staged murder-mystery plot.
“Investigations & Androids” is well-organized and easy to digest, assuming you have experience with D&D 5e. Instead of creating new content from the ground up, much of the new rules simply build upon existing rules from the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide, such as piloting vehicles and chase sequences.
The new classes are a great example of this philosophy, with each one directly based on a fantasy class from 5e: the Blade Agent (Ranger), Combat Medic (Cleric), Code Hacker (Wizard), and Pit Fighter (Barbarian).
I was a bit disappointed to see only four classes, but they’re all fully developed out to level 20. New themes include a favored enemy for androids, Machine Learning replacing Speak with Animals, and Gunslinger instead of Archery for weapon mastery. I would’ve loved just a few more classes to provide a bit more options, especially since the inquisitive rogue (from Xanathar’s Guide to Everything) would fit the cybernoir theme perfectly.
The new races are a bit less interesting though do fit the theme. Classic cyberpunk is typically focused on humanity and AI, with no room for exotic alien races. Players can choose to play as Androids (or even play as non-aware Androids!) but the individual races are basically just dividing humanity into the various places they’re from. Hey just like our world! Mechanically the various human races feel more like subraces, however.
To round out the rules we’re given several new theme-appropriate backgrounds, such as Colonial Refugee, as well as several example battle maps, a bunch of NPC statblocks, and some printable character sheets. It’s the total package for a ruleset without being too wordy or complex. If you can play D&D 5e, you can very quickly pick up the rethemed rules and be off on your cyberpunk adventures.
Speaking of adventures, I whole-heartedly recommend the author’s tie-in adventure, “Off World Colony.” Level 1 PCs crash land into a space station after seeing one of its terminals explode. The story follows a classic Whodunit plot as the PCs track leads and investigate the Europa Orbital Station.
The story, which is unfortunately only the first part of a longer four-part campaign, is divided into three chapters.
Each chapter confines the PCs to a specific area of the station, but then giving them lots of breathing room to explore and make choices. Chapter 1, for example, is all about the hanger bay which is rapidly losing oxygen due to the crash landing. PCs can choose to battle looters, save bystanders, pilot other spacecraft, operate a loading machine, rescue a VIP, and commandeer a ship’s guns to blast apart debris.
And that’s just the first chapter!
I really like the way the adventure is structured. It makes sure to include a nice balance of combat, exploration, and role-playing.
After the explosive intro, Chapter 2 is basically all role-playing and fact-finding as PCs investigate the sabotage on the station, and probably confront over a dozen listed NPCS.
I would’ve preferred a bit less quantity and a bit more quality in this chapter, however. That many NPCs is a headache for DMs; I’d rather focus on just a few and give them more lines of dialogue and clues that PCs can divulge.
Chapter 3 opens up even more as the PCs reach the station proper. They can free roam and engage in random encounters as well as follow the storyline of three distinct factions, not unlike a Fallout or Skyrim, and I do mean that as high praise. The corporation-quests are a bit underdeveloped and mostly involve random battles but the other two feature interesting investigations and scenarios, with the EOPD police force and a mysterious anarchist techie who may or may not be an AI named Clickbait.
My only real complaint about the otherwise excellent adventure is that it ends too soon. The PCs work their way up to getting access to the next area of the station, but that’s beyond the scope of Part 1. It lacks a solid boss battle or otherwise satisfying conclusion, but I’m interested to see more of it.
If you love the D&D ruleset but wish you could expand beyond the usual high fantasy setting, I would definitely recommend “Off World Colony” and the “Investigations & Androids” rules conversion.
- Effectively and intuitively converts D&D 5e into a sci-fi, cyberpunk setting.
- Converted classes and races, along with new backgrounds, techpowers, and items.
- Rules for playing an android, including whether you know you’re an android!
- Off World Colony is a fantastic low-level adventure that checks all the right boxes for cyberpunk, as well as the core pillars of a solid RPG adventure: combat, exploration, and role-playing.
- Each chapter of the adventure has its own overarching storyline and setting
- Very little artwork.
- Only four classes have been given the total conversion treatment.
- The Off World Colony is part 1 of 4 and ends with anticlimactic To Be Continued rather than a satisfying conclusion.
The Verdict: “INvestigations & Androids” is a very effective and easy to use conversion of D&D 5e rules into a cyberpunk setting, while “Off World Colony” provides an intriguing space station mystery plot to showcase the new setting.
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