This article originally appeared in Pyramid #15
by Hunter Johnson
Author's Note: The Chrome Berets is also the title of one of Atlas Games' supplements for R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk 188.8.131.52. The author wishes to thank Atlas Games for coining such an appropriate title. GMs who want additional material to adapt to a field agent campaign in GURPS Cyberworld should consider The Chrome Berets. Page References: B = GURPS Basic, Third Edition. C = GURPS Cyberpunk. CW = GURPS Cyberworld. HT = GURPS High-Tech, Second Edition. SO = GURPS Special Ops. V = GURPS Vehicles.
Playing high-tech low-life in the One-and-Twenty may have lost some of its luster since you started your GURPS Cyberpunk. campaign. Many players may need a break from playing the amoral underdogs that often populate cyberpunk campaigns. Maybe they want to play amoral heavy favorites! The NERCC field agent may be the character type for them. Part spy, part special operative, loaded with authority and neat-o arms and gizmos, the field agent has a lot to offer. For a one-shot adventure between the normal free-lancer campaign sessions, character creation can be very simple. Take the NERCC Field Agent character from the sidebar on p. CW38, choose the exact Patron from the various regional commanders or commissioners, 20 points of disadvantages, Area Knowledge specialization, two foreign languages, 30 points of cyberwear, and (at the GM's discretion) whatever equipment you feel like carrying.
For players (or GMs) who want to develop their own characters from scratch, here are some guidelines: 200-point characters, 40 points of disads. All attributes should be 10 or better, and HT should be 13 or better (as per p. SO46). If a player wants an attribute lower than the suggested minimum, count it against the disadvantage limit. All agents must take Extremely Hazardous Duty (to NERCC) for -20 points; this does not count against the 40-point limit. All agents also get Legal Enforcement Powers at the 15-point level and a Patron (NERCC Official) at no cost. Many physical disadvantages should not be allowed; use your judgment or the list from p. SO49.
The industrious GM could make up a table of skill minimums for NERCC Field Agents (possibly separating them into Weapons, Comm, Demo, Medical, and Intelligence agents as well) following the examples in pp. SO64-75. The expeditious GM could say that any skill at level 13+ in the Field Agent sidebar must be purchased at no less than skill level 12. Equipment for use on missions is supplied by NERCC.
Once you get your characters fleshed out, you'll need an adventure. If you've been playing one of the more "standard" flavors of campaign in CW = GURPS Cyberworld. and the characters have been fairly successful, one of the first adventures might be for the NERCC agents to stop the latest escapade of their former characters' team! This can also mean extra fun for the GM, who gets a chance to play all the fully fleshed-out characters that the players have spent so much time on. One drawback would be the players' in-depth knowledge of their adversaries' abilities; the GM needs to structure the adventure so that the old team doesn't expect to pull any fast ones on the agents. Perhaps the team knows that NERCC already has detailed files on each of them.
Simple adventures can be used at the beginning of a campaign to get the players accustomed to their characters' abilities. Sending the NERCC team up against the AlSOF (pp. CW40-41) in Alaska or the Echerevista Guerrillas (p. CW42) in Cuba can provide plenty of learning experiences. It would also give the characters a change of scenery if they've been hanging out in the US mainland. (Yeah, the NERCC field agent is supposed to be focused on domestic security. That still leaves a lot of room for interpretation.)
Adventure seed: NERCC has had agents infiltrated in AlSOF almost since its inception. Now Ken Shikliak, the most senior of these agents, has failed to make his last three reports. NERCC has just received information that Shikliak is hospitalized, and under armed guard! Fearing the worst, NERCC sends the PCs to retrieve Shikliak if possible, and eliminate him if not. In fact, Shikliak is in the hospital, but he is not under guard, and AlSOF has no inkling of his extracurricular activities. The best thing for NERCC would be for the PCs to beat a hasty exit after making sure that the sudden arrival of a group of NERCC field agents hasn't jeopardized Shikliak's cover.
Adventure seed: The Echerevista Guerrillas have invaded Louisiana! They have set up camp somewhere in the bayou, and are threatening to put a sharp crimp in this year's Mardi Gras praz'navoon'yeh (which is rapidly approaching, of course). They claim to have a nuclear device; they only have a conventional bomb, but it would be devastating nonetheless. They have demanded that the US relinquish its base in Guantanamo, and they have already put the local populace in a state of panic with several guerilla raids for supplies and low-level political assassinations. The PCs are sent to put a stop to their activities by any means necessary.
Adventure seed: One of the players is off-duty and enjoying a meal in a bolshy C-1 restaurant atop a skyscraper, probably accompanied by a good-looking member of the appropriate sex. Far below, a street opnullo has just been fried by the building's automatic defenses as he tried to crack crows through the ATM at street level. The tekniki that supplied him with the rig he was trying to use put a little spin on the program, however. It has placed the building in Resistance mode, and the building will treat all occupants as possible threats. The PC needs to bring the tower back under control (without putting it in Eliminate mode, where all occupants are treated as definite threats), possibly bringing in his fellow agents if contact is possible. To make decisions more interesting, another diner happens to be a higher-up in the Federal government (maybe even a Cabinet member or President Hammond himself, depending on how powerful a potential contact the GM would like to supply). The PC may be forced to choose between the safety of his date and the safety of the official. As a NERCC field agent, this should be no contest . . .
If these adventures prove enjoyable by the players and the GM, the GM could start introducing the PCs to NPCs and locations that the players are familiar with from their previous campaign, and see how they react now that they're on the other side. A debugging note: if one or two of the players don't like playing the stormtroopers but the rest are having a great time, it might be possible to re-introduce the old character(s). This will require some ingenuity on the part of the GM, particularly if the original character had any kind of loathing for authority figures (which I have found unusually common!). Taking a cue from 48 Hours, the old PC could run afoul of NERCC for some minor grievance and turn out to be potentially useful in a grander scenario. Opportunities for backstabbing will be plentiful, so proceed with caution . . .
Article publication date: October 1, 1995
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