Get Strapped! Reviewing Black Chrome!
Earlier this year, I gave a Rank S rating to R. Talsorian Games’ new edition of Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk RED. One of my criticisms was that there wasn’t enough name brand gear in it, and that this kind of let the consumerism driven, style over substance vibe of the setting. And shortly after that? Black Chrome was announced. 170 items to survive on the fallout dusted streets of Night City. So how is this supplement, and does it stand with the bar set in Cyberpunk 2020’s Chrome Book series?
Disclosure: For the previous review, and a few in the pipe still, R. Talsorian Games provided me with digital and physical copies of their Cyberpunk RED line for review purposes. For this review, I purchased my own digital copy of Black Chrome. There was, and remains, no agreement (implied or explicit) between myself and R. Talsorian Games.
Cyberpunk 2020 introduced the Chrome Book supplement series to the game, four books that not only provided hours of shopping fun, but that also did a lot of subtle world building. These books were easily some of the most popular supplements for that edition, and remain valuable for Cyberpunk RED. So the announcement of Black Chrome was extremely well received by the fanbase, and within its first week of being electronically available on DriveThruRPG, Black Chrome hit Platinum in sales.
Glorious brand name stuff! Cyberpunk has always stressed that it’s all about style over substance, that it’s not what you‘re doing, but how you look while you do it. And Black Chrome delivers. Clothes, weapons, cyberware and more are all there and beautifully illustrated. This book goes a long way towards correcting the deficiency of defined stuff in the core book.
Layout. I’m using the 1.1 version of the pdf copy for this review, and it’s probably the best pdf I’ve used in a long time in terms of functionality. In particular, the “Buy Now” button with each entry is phenomenal. You like what you see? Hit that button and it takes you direct to its stat block’s table in the back of the book. Got your info? There’s a return button that gets you back to where you were in the book. It’s an excellent design choice and has the benefit of being able to cut down on mechanical info in the individual entries, keeping the presentation clean and making it all easy to digest in terms of information.
World building. The book does a lot of low-key world building. The night Market section is solid, and gives players and the GM alike a lot to work with. There’s also some good info on the realities of Fixers and Techs in the world, and by extension give GMs more fuel for jobs based around those roles.
There were only three things missing from this supplement that really stood out to me. The first was that there’s no full body cyber conversion stuff yet. I’m talking stuff like the Alpha Class, Gemini, or Aquarius units as seen in Cyberpunk 2020’s Chrome Book 2. This isn’t a huge thing but given the splash that Adam Smasher has made in the popular consciousness around Cyberpunk, it’s weird that this is missing. You can kind of kit bash something together, but it’s not the same.
The second thing is the continued absence of ACPA units and the associated Trooper role. ACPA was admittedly niche in Cyberpunk 2020, but it was part of the larger world and was used by everyone from high end edgerunners to Arasaka and Militech paramilitary units to regular militaries to Trauma Team in both conventional and unconventional combat, and in rescue roles. There was even a Trooper included in Solo of Fortune 2’s top list of American Solos, a guy called “Racer Chiba”. And in the post 4th Corporate War world, I can’t see the technology or utility of ACPA and Troopers becoming less, especially given their adaptability to the prevailing conditions. And while the Linear Frames cover some of this terrain, it’s not the same. It’s Iron Man 2’s Ivan Vanko as Whiplash fighting Tony Stark as Iron Man in Monaco versus the Whiplash/Iron Man/War Machine fight different. It would make sense to me to introduce them to RED in a tech book.
The last is pretty light, and it’s that I think that Black Chrome could have used more “generic” stuff, particularly for weapons and body armour. A couple of pages of just pics and brand information on weapons and body armour that conform to the standard info in the core book would have been good to see and added some more depth to the operation.
This may appear petty, but it’s the Nomad section. I’ve said before that, in my opinion, Nomads are a relic from early world building that have persisted into the modern editions of the game and have become more cumbersome to integrate as the setting expands and develops. And it’s back again with an entire section on how to keep them relevant in a game. To the point they had to have a whole new rule created for them, or rather, a new rule that considers that some vehicles can be acquired with modifications like armour already happening. I understand the tradition of Nomads in the game, but the lengths taken to explain, justify, and support them are way out of proportion to how other roles are treated.
This is a good book. A great book. There’s some weird and fun stuff in it I’m going to get into on YouTube and TikTok, but overall it’s a welcome and needed expansion and supplement for Cyberpunk RED. I give it Rank A status! There’s also some free DLC for Black Chrome available now, and while I didn’t include it in this review, it’s the same quality. So, yeah, Black Chrome! A well executed addition to the Cyberpunk RED line up that keeps the Chrome Book standard alive!