Today I tell you the story of Johnny Ace. It's a cautionary tale going waaaay back to the early 1990s and the second-ever Cyberpunk 2020 game run by yours truly. Every new Cyberpunk player at my table hears this story their first session, so that they understand what kind of game they're playing.
In my first-ever game, the three PCs were an unstoppable wrecking crew. I wanted to challenge them. So the Viking-themed drugrunners they were fighting brought in an ace -- Johnny Ace. He was an NPC Solo (the game's best combat class) built with regular PC rules. And I rolled him up with the best Cyberpunk rolls I've ever made in my life. He was an Olympic athlete, a genius, a man whose core humanity was so deep that he could have ridiculous amounts of cyberware without any risk of cyberpsychosis. No cheating on my part; he was just that good. And during the climactic firefight (there was always a climactic firefight in those days) he was going to round a corner and teach the PCs the meaning of fear...
The firefight starts. Our PCs are pushing back the Viking gang. Some kind of signal is given, and around the corner comes the infamous hired gun Johnny Ace, bristling with weapons and moving at top speed to plow through the surprised PCs. Initiative is rolled. One PC beats Johnny. A gun is aimed, fired, the bullet hits Johnny in the head, plows through his top-quality armor, drops him dead on the spot. No way to escape it. The best Cyberpunk character I ever committed to paper, and he didn't survive long enough to take a single action.
"That," I tell my new Cyberpunk players, "is what can happen to you in this game. You have been warned."
Some sentences just show up, demanding to be written. Sentences like my first response to Untimately's question #2:
"2. How are death and dying handled? -- Rarely. If your character dies, either you wanted it or you're an idiot. Trust me; you'll have plenty of other losses along the way."
My second question #11 gets at the same thing. There are some contexts where the specter of sudden death is part of the fun, like Cyberpunk or Call Of Cthulhu. It creates certain expectations that player and GM alike can do neat stuff with. But I think it's a bad default for RPGs in general. My Mattifesto series got into this at some length. Apparently I also shoot from the hip on it. For most games, I think, instant unearned death is not-fun, that mysterious substance that reduces the amount of fun available. Other bad things are fine, but your PC is someone you presumably wanted to play. The GM, who controls all other things in the game world, should let you have that PC until you're tired of it.
Sadly for Johnny Ace, I don't extend that security blanket to Cyberpunk. And he was an NPC anyway. Rest in pieces, Johnny.