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Protect & Serve $8.00
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Protect & Serve
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Protect & Serve
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/25/2018 12:19:42

This is the law enforcement sourcebook for Cyberpunk 2020, and contains plenty of useful material whichever side of the law your party might end up on, even though the primary intention is to facilitate 'police procedural' play Cyberpunk-style. It opens with the Cop's Oath, not one actually sworn but the principles by which a good police officer should live, and some scene-setting fiction.

First up, Hitting the Streets, a section covering all you need to know to create a cop character. OK, you will need the core rulebook as well, but all the police stuff is here. It's replete with atmospheric fiction and commentary, from a snippet from an instructor at the police academy to a five-year veteran musing on how he got into law enforcement, following in the footsteps of his father... and losing his first partner only a few minutes into his first ever patrol. Character generation follows the normal path as laid out in the core rulebook until age 18, when it's assumed the character joins the police and there are appropriate lifepath events to cover however long you intend him or her to be on the job before you start play. Cop is presented as a new Role, with a starting skills package and the special ability Authority. There's one new skill, remote systems operation: basically flying drones. There are notes on ranks, pay, and basic equipment as well as the sort of commendations good cops might receive.

The next chapter, By The Book, explains in copious detail correct police procedure, beginning with how to make an arrest. Get it right or the charges won't stick, whatever evidence you think you have. Details of police equipment, departmental structure and more flesh out your cop character's working life. If you want to specialise, there's plenty on the different divisions with details on what they do and the special equipment and skills they have. Don't all home in on SWAT, you can have a lot of fun with other specialisms too... but if SWAT seems a bit tame, specialise in cyberpsychosis takedowns with MAX-TAC instead. There are notes and statistics for anxillary services such as paramedics, forensics and the coroner too, along with details of confidential informants and more. And then there's undercover work...

This is followed by a section called Good Guys and Bad Guys. This looks at governmental anti-crime forces and at organised crime, along with 'corporate cops' and corporations in general. Just as the default assumption is that characters will be cops in Night City - the NCPD - it is assumed that the national law enforcement agencies they will have to deal with are American ones. As real-world UK law enforcement, for example, has developed some similar organisations such as the National Crime Agency (established 2013) it ought not to be too difficult to make appropriate changes if your game is located elsewhere. There's loads of detail about organisation and resources, and some 'typical' agents. There's also information about HiWay Cops - who patrol the open road - and bounty hunters. There's plenty of detail on organised crime as well, with the concept of organised crime as big business (hasn't it always been) and seperate bits on the Yakuza, Mafia and Triads. Corporate crime is also explored. The list of what they might get up to sounds very like the list of things I teach my students are appropriate things to consider becoming a whistleblower about! There's a nasty twist in that nowadays corporations are entitled to claim Corporate Immunity for individuals caught in wrong-doing. They fight each other too, and are known to move against the government. Plenty of scope for adventures here, for both law enforcement campaigns and more conventional ones. This section rounds out with gangs, including notes on various different types of gangs likely to be encountered.

OK, we've met some of the criminals, now the next section - You're Busted! - lists the crimes that people in 2020 can be charged with. It also covers the legal system, and the punsihments handed out on conviction. Most of the offenses sound familiar, with the addition of things like having unlicenced cyberware and illegal netrunning. They are grouped into six priority levels with Priority One crimes being the most serious ones - mass murder, terrorism, espionage, etc. For most of these the penalty on conviction is death. High Priority crimes (priority 1 or 2) involve the loss of civil rights when accused - no right to remain silent or to consult a lawyer before being questioned about it. Trial by jury is long gone, a judge decides whether prosecution or defence has the right of it, and determines sentence if they decide to convict. There's a formula provided to help you work out if the individual before the court is guilty of what he's being accused of doing, based on the evidence provided. Insanity is not a defence, anyone claiming that is sent to a secure mental facility until cured.. and then stand trial for what they did. With a Priority One offence, they don't bother with the mental facility but proceed straight to execution. If anyone wants to play a lawyer, the necessary details for that role are provided. You'll be needing NPC ones in any case.

Then there's a section aimed at the Referee. Here there are details of running a law enforcement campaign, cop personnel files, disciplinary actions and a sample precinct house. Finally there is a section with several law-enforcement mini-scenarios to get your campaign off to a good start with smuggling, gang warfare, vehical highjacks and more to contend with.

Police procedural games can be great fun, and the Cyberpunk 2020 setting makes it appealing as there is plenty of scope for combat as well as for sleuthing. Even for a normal campaign, few parties remain on the right side of the law so it's useful to know what will be brought against them. Like The Clash they will soon be singing "I fought the law, and the law won!"

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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