I was a fool. I was a complete fool.

posted by hyphz Original SA post

I am aware that there are some folks who say that I am "brokebrained" when it comes to RPGs and especially to running them. I admit, I can't always wholly deny that, either. So I'm going to grit my teeth and return to the scene of the crime. Because the game that broke me wasn't Blades In The Dark. It wasn't even Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. No. It was Shadowrun Fourth / Twentieth Anniversary Edition. (Yes, the name's already a mess.)

So, after my group got tired of 5th Edition D&D, Shadowrun seemed like a good one to try. It could offer sandbox-style city settings with meaningful interfaction politics for the social types, exciting gun fights and lots of gear porn for the murderhoboes, lots of interacting systems to create player niches that interlock with each other, a decent number of sample adventures, and it's been going for 20 years, how bad can it be?

I was a fool. I was a complete fool.

After a few sessions of my head in my hands at gunfights ending in one shot, tedious sieges and abandoned encounters, frantic flipping through the rulebook for even simple cases, combat rules requiring everything specified down to the metre when the PCs can literally go anywhere, people with wired reflexes being unable to run from cover to cover without inexplicably stopping in the middle, corporate executives using cyberware and commlinks that could be hacked by a child, sample adventure characters with guns they couldn't use, the permanent threat of police or corporate authorities who are too weak to actually threaten the PCs except by GM fiat force majeure, and a goddamn undercover infiltrator with no skill in Deception, and a bunch of Shadowrun grognards on the Dumpshock forums telling me that everything I was doing was wrong; I threw up my hands and gave in, and it put me off RPGing itself for several months.

I didn't know, but I was witnessing the start of the rot. That and WAR, the famously bad supplement which included corps bringing the Matrix to the jungle by strapping satellite uplinks to jaguars. The rot went on with Court of Shadows, the supplement that jumped the shark on a hot-rodded racing camel, and Shadowrun Anarchy, the storygame-style Shadowrun written by someone who had literally no idea what story games are except that they're "light on rules" and therefore made one by just deleting a bunch of rules.

And, now, finally, the foundation has cracked.

I'm not going to say that Sixth World (aka Sixth Edition, but called Sixth World.. for no particular reason other than possibly to piss off the developers of the Dungeon World hack for Cyberpunk which is also called Sixth World) is bad. I haven't the experience of those Dumpshock grognards. What I can say is that they also don't like this one, that several Shadowrun podcasts have abandoned it, and even the current maintainer of Chummer, an excellent character generation tool for Shadowrun which must have taken months of work and dutiful effort to keep up-to-date, wrote that "there are enough vagaries and conflicting rules that I want nothing to do with it".

I'm not going to worry about the setting. It's Shadowrun. You're a bunch of guys and gals who are so hard up and downtrodden that they sell themselves to anonymous corporate bidders to do dangerous and illegal work that will probably have them killed, but inexplicably are the most talented and powerful people in the world, and doing this makes them incredibly cool people and gives them enough wealth to buy a small country. Beh.

So, it's traditional that we start with character generation, which is a kind of awkward place to start on this system, but what the heck. First of all, we're asked to think about our character's history and how they feel about the darker side of the streets - partly because it can include stuff which might upset players, so this allows some boundaries to be established. Good start. Our first step in the system, though, is to take the five character priorities - Metatype, Attributes, Skills, Magic and Wealth - and rate them in order. The higher an area is rated, the more points or other stuff you get to spend. Here's the table so you can follow along at home.

There are eight attributes: Body, Agility, Reaction, Strength, Willpower, Logic, Intuition, and Charisma. There are also four "special attributes": Edge, Magic, Resonance, and Essence. The system is based on a dice pool of Stat + Skill, so you add your stat to your skill and that's the number of dice (d6s) you roll, with a 5-6 being a success; if you get more than half of your dice showing 1's, that's a "glitch". Most skills have a "primary" Stat that they're usually combined with, and a "secondary" stat that can be used in certain unusual conditions.

Body determines your number of hit points - sorry, "Physical Condition Monitor Boxes" - and is also used to resist damage. It's also used for some unusual cases like working out how much you can carry or fighting in grapples.

Agility, as you've probably guessed, is the go-to stat for all the physical skills, including all the combat skills. It can also affect how fast you move.

Reaction and Intuition I'm putting together, because they're together 90% of the time in the book; they're added to calculate your defence pool against most attacks, and your initiative. Outside of that, Reaction is used for a few cases of dodging area effects and for piloting vehicles; Intuition is used for sensing motives, recalling information, and is the secondary stat for most of the mental skills.

Strength is used in a few cases where Body is also used, and calculates your unarmed combat damage, but doesn't resist damage. Meh.

Willpower determines the number of non-lethal HP.. "Stun Condition Monitor Boxes", you have; is used for some rolls related to sensing motive and keeping cool, resists some statuses, and resists magic.

Logic is the go-to stat for most of the mental skills. It's also used when setting explosives (ok) and when firing a gun from a vehicle (huh?). Apparently Logic’s needed to work out the angles and geometry of firing a gun from a vehicle, which I could buy if it referred to artillery, but it’s actually just an obvious fudge so that players who want to play riggers don’t get screwed by multiple attribute dependency.

Charisma is, well, charisma. It's the go-to stat for the social skills, and is also used for some forms of spell casting.

Essence is the stat that every cyberpunk RPG but no cyberpunk story has that determines how much cyberware you're allowed to install. Installing cyberware lowers your Essence, and it can't go to 0; lower essence also makes it harder for allies to heal you, and also makes you more vulnerable to certain forms of attack (I admit I find it kinda hilarious that a character with a bunch of cyberware is more vulnerable to being killed by vampires because they have less blood left, but I gotta admit it makes perfect sense) The only problem with Essence is that there are no rules, whatsoever, for what your starting Essence score is. Fan boards will tell you that it is 6, but that's the only place you'll find out.

Magic and Resonance are special stats that are only used by mages and technomancers respectively, and that represent the strength of their powers in those fields.

Edge is...

Well, ok. Imagine that somebody jumped on Fate Points in a dark alley and force-fed them whiskey until they were barely able to stand, and you've got an idea of how Edge works. We'll go into this more later, but essentially, any time something plays into your strengths, or you play into someone else's weaknesses, you get a point of Edge. Then, you spend the points of Edge to get boosts on your rolls or take special actions. This is intended to replace a whole bunch of more complex mechanics from previous editions. For example, armor and weapons don't have damage reductions, clip sizes, rates of fire, and so on any more; they just have Attack and Defense ratings (AR and DR) which are compared to work out Edge.

So for example: Joe Average (Body 2 Reaction 2 Intuition 2) is naturally nervous for his safety in firefights, so he puts on Full Body Armor (+5 DR), a Helmet (+1 DR) and a Riot Shield (+1 DR). Joe's Defense Rating is his Body plus his Armor, so it's 9. Andy Asshole (Agility 2 Firearms 4) shoots him with the cheapest gun in the game, a 3D-printed Streetline Special (Attack Rating 8). This does not mean that he rolls his Attack Rating! Oh, no. He rolls Agility + Firearms, 6 dice, and gets 4 successes. Joe, likewise, doesn't roll his Defense Rating. He rolls Reaction+Intuition, 4 dice, and gets 1 success. Andy has more successes, so Andy has hit. Joe therefore takes damage equal to the base damage of the Streetline Special (2) plus Andy's net successes (3). He rolls his Body to resist the damage, and gets 1 success which subtracts 1 point of damage. Joe takes 4 damage to his Physical Condition Monitor and now has only 5 points left, and since he took more damage than his Body, he is knocked prone too. He looks confusedly down at his unscatched armor and frantically hides beneath his riot shield.

At that point, Andy's buddy Smasher (Agility 2 Close Combat 3) charges at Joe with a 15 nuyen motorbike chain. The chain has AR 5 at close range. Joe's DR is more than 4 greater than that, so Joe gains a point of Edge!.. and that is all that AR and DR do. Smasher rolls Agility+Close Combat, 3 successes. Joe rolls Perception+Intuition again for defence but loses 2 dice for being prone and 1 for being wounded, and gets no successes. 1 point of Edge allows you to reroll any dice in a confrontation, and Joe does have at least enough sense to know that dice roll failures more often than successes, so he spends his point of Edge to reroll one of Smasher's successes. He rolls a 6, which is still a success, so Andy is taking 5 damage including Smasher's margin of 3 and the base damage from the motorbike chain, which is 2. He rolls his Body to resist the damage - the number of dice rolled for that isn't reduced by wounds - and gets no successes. Fortunately, a bike chain does Stun damage, so Joe is not knocked unconscious because having just been shot makes no difference to his ability to handle being hit with the chain. Still, he got to use a point of Edge! It didn't do anything, but.. Edge! Yay!

Then Joe's GM reads the small print and realizes that Full Body Armor actually comes with a helmet, so he can't wear both. Joe's DR should have been 8, which will not get him an Edge bonus against a bike chain or indeed any weapon in the game except an unarmed punch from a person with 2's in Reaction and Strength. Andy and Smasher promptly loot the 3200 nuyen armor and shield while Joe throws his character sheet across the room. Andy heads off to buy Smasher a lollipop. Sorry, did I not mention he was a 5-year old boy? Body 1 Strength 1. No, that doesn't change his ability to injure someone by hitting a riot shield with a bike chain, why would it?

This is an ongoing theme with Edge. For example, if Andy had attempted to set Joe on fire, and Joe had the Elemental Resistance: Fire quality, then Joe would have gained a point of Edge, and then burned. That said, Andy would have had a hard time setting Joe on fire, because even though using a flamethrower is given as an example of combat in the book, there is no flamethrower in the Gear list and even shooting him with a missile launcher or high-explosive grenade would not have sent him on fire. (On the other hand, shooting a distress flare at him might have.)

So. Anyway. Your Edge stat is the number of points of Edge you get at the start of a game session, and the number you can carry over between encounters. Which.. doesn't really count for a whole lot, as we'll see.

"Metatype" - that's Shadowrun's flavour of race, ancestry or species - determines the caps on your attributes. It might also provide some number of built-in Qualities, which are usually bought with the other character generation currency, Karma. The most common attribute cap is 6, but every metatype has at least some variation. However, your metatype only sets the cap on an attribute; it doesn't actually give you points in that attribute. To allow for that, there's the number after the choice of metatype in the metatype column, which is your adjustment points. These are spent to increase your Special attributes, and to buy up those regular attributes which have increased caps due to your metatype.

The entire text of the description of the Attributes column is:


As described on p. 37, attributes fall into three different groups: Physical, Mental, and Special. All metahuman characters have a rank in each of their Physical and Mental attributes, but some may not have ranks in the Special attributes. Baseline attributes range start at 1 and can go up to 6. That range is modified by metatype and/ or chosen qualities. The Metatype Attributes table provides the ranges of the attributes for each metatype and the particular qualities certain metatypes gain as a free bonus. Descriptions of qualities start on p. 70. If player characters ever have a Physical or Mental attribute adjusted to 0 through magic or some other effect, they collapse, as either their body or mind has lost some critical functioning. They are nonfunctional until at least 1 rank is restored in that attribute. During character creation, only one attribute may be at the maximum for the selected metatype.

You will notice that there is absolutely no statement in this section about what attribute points actually mean. Is it 1 for 1 rank? Who knows. Probably. Also, did you know that you can't spend your Attribute points on Special Attributes - you have to spend your Adjustment Points on them? I had to get that from the Shadowrun Reddit because it's never mentioned in the book.

Humans have 6's across the board, except they can go to 7 in Edge. Since Edge is a Special Attribute, only Adjustment Points can be spent on it, so a human with metatype rank D or E cannot actually take advantage of their only bonus. Humans are the only race which is limited by having their only metatype bonus be to a Special Attribute. They have no special qualities and no compensation for such. Humans suck. Don't play them.

Dwarves can go to Body 7, Strength 8, and Willpower 7, but only Reaction 5. This makes them a bit of an awkward tradeoff, as they're losing points in defence and initiative to increase damage absorption. They gain Toxin Resistance (which, if you've been paying attention, means that you get a point of Edge when you're poisoned) and Thermographic Vision, a total of 20 Karma worth of Racial Qualities.

Elves can go to Agility 7 and Charisma 8, and gain Low-Light Vision (6 Karma), but they have no disadvantage at all. Given the value of Agility in all the combat skills, there's no reason to be a Human and not an Elf. Oh, hang on, apparently non-humans are discriminated against sometimes so it might be a bit tricky.. oh, wait, Charisma 8. Carry on.

Orks can go to 8 Body and Strength, but only 5 Charisma. They get Low-Light Vision (6 Karma), and "Built Tough" (4 Karma), which gives extra hit points.

Trolls can go to 9 Body (!), 9 Strength, but only 5 Agility and Charisma. They get Thermographic Vision as well, plus "Dermal Deposits" which increase the value of unarmed attacks and "gain 1 level of natural Armor" (there is no statement anywhere about what a "level of armor" is), plus 2 levels of Built Tough for a whopping 23 inbuilt Karma. As you've probably guessed, one point off most of your shooting is a relatively low tradeoff for being able to just ignore most damage that comes your way, especially in a world where armor doesn't do anything. We like trolls, apparently.

Also on the topic of attributes, notice the Magic or Resonance column. If you choose E, you can't be a mage or technomancer. If you choose D, you can be one. But because both apply to Special attributes, this interlocks with the Metatype column; and in fact, you never want your Magic to be ranked higher than your Metatype, because if they are then swapping them trades 1 point of Magic/Resonance per rank for more than 1 adjustment point per rank, which you can then put into Magic/Resonance. I've tabled it out, and literally any time you have Magic higher than Metatype, swapping gives you potentially the same magic score but more adjustment points.

Now, how about skills? There are 19 skills: Astral, Athletics, Biotech, Close Combat, Con, Conjuring, Cracking, Electronics, Engineering, Exotic Weapons, Firearms, Influence, Outdoors, Perception, Piloting, Sorcery, Stealth, and Tasking. Astral, Enchanting, Tasking, Conjuring, and Sorcery are all specific to magical characters, so we're left with 14 skills. Skills are limited to rank 6 at character generation, but can rise to 9 in play - unless you take the Aptitude advantage, which raises the limit by 1 rank in both contexts.

There's one more bit of background to this: a bit about levelling up. The currency used for levelling up is Karma (and there's no explanation for this rather curious choice of name), and it's awarded based purely on milestones and GM fiat, with the recommendation being 2-5 Karma per standard game session. You spend Karma on increasing your numbers and buying advantages and special modifiers for some character types, and you get 50 Karma during character generation. To raise a skill or attribute by one point costs Karma equal to 5 times the current value.

This simple fact should cause alarm bells to start to ring. This means that if you leave a skill at 5 instead of 6 in character generation, it'll cost you 30 in-game Karma to get that skill to 6, or on average 10 sessions. In the meantime, the guy across the table has raised 3 skills (or more likely, attributes) from 1 to 2, or 2 from 2 to 3. In other words, you're potentially hugely rewarded for aggressive minmaxing at character generation. This is especially the case if you're thinking of hitting the highest skill levels in play. If you want a skill at 7, you'll really want to take the Aptitude at character generation for 12 Karma and then spend one of your skill points on it, as opposed to spending the whopping 47 Karma for Aptitude plus the seventh point during play.

Now, take a look at the Attributes and Skills columns of the priority chart. You'll notice that on every row, the Skills value is the same as the Attributes value plus 8. That means that apart from the base kicker of 8 skill points, the balance between these rows is trading attribute points for skill points 1:1. This is an incredibly bad deal, given that attributes and skills have the same net effect on dice pools, but attributes apply to multiple skills and are used for calculating other values too. So unless you're doing some very bizarre and very precisely focused build, any time Skills is higher than Attributes, swapping will make your character better. I guess the only case where it might not is if you’re focussing very intensely on the skills associated with a certain Attribute. But since everyone’s going to be getting Reaction and Intuition, that’s probably not a great choice.

But we have plenty else to work out. In particular, that Wealth attribute and the effect of magic on your attributes. Which I'm going to have to leave till later because my head is already hurting. Let's just think about how having 450,000 nuyen means you could live the high-but-not-1% life for just about 3 years, in which time there'd presumably be other opportunities to make money..

The Original Plan Was Too Confusing

posted by hyphz Original SA post

2: The Original Plan Was Too Confusing

My original idea here was to go through some magic and gear related things in order to explain the width of character generation. But since people already found the previous post confusing (I've edited it since), and covering those things would require bringing in a whole bunch of other subsystems at once, I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to try to close out character generation with a few holes left behind.

So, let's look at some Skills! As mentioned before there are 19 skills, but five of them are particular to characters with certain supernatural powers, leaving 14 general ones. You can get up to 9 ranks in a skill, or 10 if you take a Quality (basically an Advantage) letting you have the extra one; and at character generation, you can only buy up to 6 or 7 ranks, and only one skill can be at the maximum. Skills tend to cost the same to advance as attributes, which is a bizarre decision since they both hame the same effect on rolls, but Attributes apply to multiple skills. (This is still an improvement over some of the previous editions where you could buy a skill all the way up to the system cap at character generation. Hey, your newly created runner is as good as anyone in the world can ever be with a gun! No way it's going to be daft if every random bar is prepared for that walking in.)

Well, ok, we think you can get 10 ranks in a skill. The summary chapter says you can only get 9. It also says that if you have cyberware or something that augments a skill, the "increase can never be more than +4", but not if the increase can break the 9 cap.

One thing we didn't mention is Specializations. You can spend one of your skill points to apply a Specialization to a skill, which gives you a +2 bonus when using a particular application of that skill. It's not clear if the skill caps apply to these or not, but this seems to be a nice way to potentially get +9 in Your Big Thing right out of the gate.

Let's also clarify the dice system. You determine a dice pool, usually by adding an Attribute and a Skill but not always, and roll that many d6. You're trying to get 5 and 6's, which are successes, or "hits". To succeed, you need a number of hits equal to the Threshold, which is set by the system or GM. Any extra successes are "net hits". If more than half of the dice come up 1, that's a "glitch", and bad stuff can happen; if that happens when you also got no hits, that's a "critical glitch", and really bad stuff can happen.

So, skills. Athletics is, well, an RPG athletics skill. There's a few sample uses. To climb, you test Athletics + Strength against Threshold 3 and climb 1 metre in any direction (including down) for each net hit. A-ha. Here's our first problem. Remember "net" hits are those above what you needed to succeed, so if you get exactly 3 successes, you succeed at climbing 0 metres. Also, nothing says how long this takes, so what the difference is between climbing 3 metres in one test and making 3 climbing tests isn't clear (I suppose you might fall on a glitch, but it doesn't say that). The designer has ignored those issues, but has inserted this paragraph which shows some wonderful designer pique:


If a player is equipped with climbing gear (p. 279), they get a point of Edge when starting their climb. They do not keep gaining Edge each turn of the climb. If they attempt to pile up Edge by starting a climb, then jumping off, then starting a “new climb” on the same surface, you are allowed to give them a stern talking to and point them to the Preventing Edge Abuse section (p. 45).

We shall hear more about that section later on, too. Oh, and of course, it's apparently abusive to suggest that climbing gear might help you with the entire climb, not just the first few metres, but hey. Did you know that Joe Average has only a 10% chance of being able to climb anything, even a surface with foot- and handholds? The handholds drop the Threshold to 2, but because of the net hits rule Joe still needs 3 hits to get anywhere, and that's not too likely on 4d6.

Escaping from restraints or grapples is Agility + Athletics vs a test based on the difficulty of what's restraining you, with the lowest being 2 for rope - so Joe Average has a 40% chance of escaping from rope bonds. So much for any budding cyberdominatrices. Actually, the binder could make it almost impossible for him to escape from the rope by watching him, since this gives a +1 to the Threshold, even though the text says nothing about hiding the fact you are escaping. I guess stage escapologists are kinda screwed.

Swimming has a base speed of 3 metres per combat round, which is 3 seconds. This means that anyone can swim the 200 metre freestyle in 200 seconds or 3.3 minutes, which is sufficient to meet the speed swimming qualification for being an RNLI lifeguard. You can speed up with Athletics + Agility 2, to add half the net hits to your movement speed. But because swimming is tiring, the threshold increases by 1 every 15 minutes.. so apparently it's not tiring if you're only going 3 metres per round, so you're not even sweating after your lifeguard exam. Running isn't mentioned here; if you spend a combat round running you go a base of 15 metres, which means anyone can do the 100m in 20 seconds, above average but not unreasonable. It's increased by the total net hits on Athletics + Agility vs Threshold 0 - every success counts - which makes much more sense.

Athletics is also used for throwing grenades, but the ridiculousness of that won't be looked into until we get to the details of the combat system.

Biotech is used with logic to understand and fix biotech devices, install cyberware, and the big one - healing people. To give someone first aid is Biotech + Logic versus a threshold of 5 minus Essence; so having cyberware installed makes it harder to heal you, even though the same skill represents knowledge of cyberware. This heals 1 stun damage per net hit or 1 physical per two net hits; so as before, with an exact success, you succeed at healing no damage. That said, to do this you need a first aid kit and there's none mentioned anywhere in the Gear chapter, so you probably can't actually do this. If you have a medkit, which is a more involved portable hospital, you can take longer to heal them to heal 1 damage of either type per net hit. You also get a free +1 to the healing roll if your medkit is connected to the Internet, because apparently by this point in the future Google is an intrinsic part of the medicine process.

Close Combat is used with Agility for maiming people with melee weapons. We already saw how this works - you roll more successes than they do on Reaction + Intuition, and then you deal the base damage of the weapon plus your net hits. You might have also noticed that as soon as you pick up a weapon, your Strength ceases to matter to anything to do with close combat.

Con is rolled against Intuition + Willpower to pretend to be someone you're not. Oddly, Acting is listed as a possible speciality, because those scumbags in movies are conning the entire audience. Performance is also listed as a different possible speciality, because apparently performing and acting are different. Ugh.

Cracking and Electronics are the two skills related to the Matrix - ie, the Internet. The division between these is really awkward, though: Cracking is used for illegal tasks, and Electronics for legal ones. So you can be a good enough programmer to write your own, legal, operating systems from scratch yet still be completely baffled if you had to write a virus. Let's not get into the issue of what happens if you're a corp agent or a cop who has legal authorisation to hack.

Engineering is mostly used for building and fixing vehicles and other machines; with Logic for making full repairs, and with Intuition for juryrigging. It's also awkwardly used for picking locks (with Agility), and - especially awkwardly - with Logic for firing vehicle weapons. As I mentioned previously, this is an obvious fudge so that players who want to create drone riggers - that is, characters who specialise in building and flying drones - aren't crippled by having to have Logic+Engineering to rig the drones and then Agility in order to hit anything with their weapons.

Exotic Weapons can only be used with a specialization and is the kludge for making you spend specific skill points to use certain weapons. It works the same as all the other combat skills. Ditto, Firearms which is the general skill for shooting people.

Influence is used with Charisma or Logic to make more honest arguments. It's also used for teaching new skills to other characters. This requires at least 4 ranks in a skill, but beyond that, being better at the skill being taught doesn't change anything compared to how good you are at teaching.

Outdoors is the classic RPG Survival skill, except it works outside in city areas too. So someone who's good at finding their way around New York is also good at foraging for food in the jungle.

Perception is Perception. You know how Perception works in RPGs. There is a slightly odd rule that you can take a Specialization in a particular type of perception (like "visual"), but you can also take one in an environment, so you're better at detecting anything in a city.

Piloting is used with Reaction to fly vehicles, because Drone Riggers aren't getting off that easily.

There's also a few special tests which aren't associated with skills. Composure (Willpower + Charisma) is used to keep your cool in stressful situations. There are absolutely no rules for when a PC makes a Composure test or how hard it is.

Judge Intentions is used to "get a read" on a target you've recently met. It's Willpower + Intuition, which is also the opposing roll for Con, so is that the same one as this? Dunno, mate.

Memory (Logic + Intuition) is used for, well, remembering things.

And finally, Willpower + Body is rolled to get a temporary increase to your carrying capacity, which is normally set by your Strength; your Strength squared times 10 kilograms. Naturally, the Gear chapter doesn't tell you how much anything weighs. The NPCs chapter does tell you how much certain monsters weigh, so if you want to bench press a Barghest this is a useful one to note.

There also the special skills, but we'll get onto them when we deal with the subsystems they work with. That leaves us with only Qualities to deal with, which are Advantages and Disadvantages because this game never got its head out of the 90s. We'll get onto those next time.

Taking multiple looks at someone because you have better vision than them

posted by hyphz Original SA post

3: Taking multiple looks at someone because you have better vision than them

Qualities! Yes, every old style 90s point-buy game had to have Advantages and Disadvantages in there somewhere, and they've kept them into Sixth World. They're bought at character generation; you can take up to six qualities, and they can't net cost more than 20 Karma, but you can "top up" with your 50 free Karma if you want to. I think. Well, ok, the text actually says


You can't select more than six total qualities at character creation, and the net bonus Karma cannot be more than 20.

We are never told what "Bonus Karma" means, so I'm assuming it means the total Karma cost of the qualities, but it could mean total Karma awarded by negative qualities as well, in which case you presumably get six positives for free? Uh.. look, just thank god I never have to play this. You can buy Qualities in play, but they cost double if you do that (thus putting even more pressure on players to front-load their character at character generation time). Negative qualities give you points back, and can't be voluntarily taken during play.

Let's do the positives first. They tend to sort nicely into groups.

Analytical Mind, Catlike, Double-Jointed, Elemental Resistance, Gearhead, Guts, Hardening, Home Ground, Juryrigger, Photographic Memory, Resistance To Pathogens, Spirit Affinity, Toughness and Toxin Resistance all have roughly the same effect; they give you a point of Edge when you attempt to do certain things. Unfortunately, they do have terribly confusing wording. Most of them give you Edge "when..." doing something. Some of those add the caveat "If you do not use the Edge on the test, it goes away." But also, some of them give you Edge "on..." certain tests. Does that mean it goes away afterwards, or not? My assumption would be that it did go away.. except that all of those also have the text "Refer to the Preventing Edge Abuse section" after them, which wouldn't apply if the Edge only applied for that one roll.

Actually, let's mention that section on Preventing Edge Abuse. It basically says that PCs shouldn't be allowed to take actions just to gain Edge, such as deliberately climbing surfaces and then falling down to get Edge points from Catfall, or similar. Thing is, in a system where Edge is used for so much of the modelling, it's not always as obvious as this. For example, someone who uses Memory to think about tactics in previous fights in order to gain an Edge from Analytical Mind. They're not really doing anything.. and their motivation for doing it will be purely to gain the Edge point.. but only because that's all the system has to model the benefit of doing so. Is this reasonable or not?

Also, here's the examples given:


For example, players might attempt to aim their weapon at an innocent passerby to stack up on the Edge they might gain from targeting such a person, or they might try to take multiple looks at something that isn’t a real opponent when they have better vision than them in an effort to stack up extra Edge.

There are actions for Take Aim and Observe In Detail, but neither of them actually grant Edge. There is a rule that that if you're fighting in an area where visibility gives one side an advantage, then the side with the advantage gets a point of Edge, once. Yes, this means that if two ordinary humans are fighting in a pitch black room, it makes absolutely no difference, since neither has an advantage. It also means that if you have night vision and you turn off the lights in order to fight the other guy who doesn't, that's borderline Edge abuse, because after all you did it just to get Edge, right? Ugh.

(No, let's not even get into the question of how characters in the game world perceive having or not having Edge..)

Ambidextrous removes the penalty which normally says you can't gain or lose Edge when attacking with an off-hand weapon. However, this isn't as useful as it sounds, because it only applies when you're only attacking with an off-hand weapon (because your primary hand has been chopped off, for example); if you're using two weapons, the rules that apply are completely different and don't take account of which weapon is in which hand.

Aptitude we've already mentioned; it lets you raise your skills by one rank higher than the standard cap.

Astral Chameleon ties into the magic system. Essentially, when you do magic on something, you leave behind an "astral signature", which experienced mages can recognize. This gives other people "-2 on tests" (presumably -2 dice? Normally this would be a threshold modifier, but then -2 would make it easier) to recognize your astral signature. This would be good if there were actually any rules for tests to recognize someone's astral signature. There's rules for seeing that a signature is present, but not for identifying whose it is.

Blandness means you're so normal that people have trouble remembering you, and "the threshold on tests to notice if you are following or observing them is increased by 1" (of course that would be an opposed test, which technically means it doesn't have a threshold, but given the mess so far we can forgive that). If you get anything that makes you no longer be bland, you lose this quality, making it a terrible deal.

Built Tough gives you extra hit points. Whadya want?

Dermal Deposits means you have calciferous deposits growing on or through your flesh, which gives you "1 level of natural Armor". There is nothing about "levels of Armor" anywhere in the book, and only one mention of "natural Armor" in a side paragraph in the NPCs section. What it means is that it gives you +1 Defense Rating, which is about as much use as a chocolate fireguard, as we saw before. It also adds a whole +1 to your unarmed damage.

But it also triggers another problem. See, these calciferous deposits.. well, what are they? Are you a mutant of some kind? If you're a mutant, does that come across in DNA tests? Remember, having cyberware makes you harder to heal even by the same surgeons who install and maintain cyberware, but apparently having a bizarre mutation doesn't? It's even more confusing if you remember you can buy this in play.

Exceptional is Aptitude for Attributes. It increases the maximum cap for stat by one point per level.

First Impression is another one that gives you Edge - in this case, when you first meet someone - but it also means this meeting ignores your Reputation and Heat ratings, which as you would probably guess are measures of your tendency to cause mayhem and have it noticed by the authorities. While Heat is never a good thing, Reputation can be positive, so you can be so good at making a first impression that the person you're talking to completely forgets you're a national hero.

Focused Concentration lets you "sustain multiple spells without penalty". This is a rather strange one, since the concentration penalty they're talking about is -2 to all your dice pools per spell.. for doing anything while sustaining any number of spells - it doesn't have to be multiple. So does one level of this mean you can keep one spell up at no penalty, or does it mean that two spells would give the same penalty as one? Who knows.

High Pain Tolerance reduces the dice pool penalties for being wounded, which are normally -1 to all pools for every 3 HP or nonlethal HP you've lost, by 1 point. Cool.

Human-Looking lets a non-human metatype look human at first glance, and gives them a bonus to hide their metatype. It costs 8 karma which is more than balanced out by the free bonuses you get for not being human, so this is just screwing humans even further.

Indomitable is another Edge one, but instead of giving Edge points, it "lowers the cost of Edge Boosts by 1 on tests involving Willpower". We'll go through all the Edge Boosts when we meet the combat system, but we'll stop briefly to mention that the book says that Edge Actions can't have their cost reduced to 0, but no such rule about Edge Boosts.

Long Reach: when you're using a melee weapon, your Close range (which is the only one you can use melee weapons in) is 5 metres instead of 3. Note that it does say when using a weapon, so unarmed strikes don't count. Also note that it doesn't matter for reach purposes whether the actual weapon is a Swiss Army knife or a polearm. (What? Yes, there are polearms. There aren't 10 different kinds, mind you.)

Low-Light Vision: you can see in any light level other than total darkness. The flavor text explicitly says that this can be due to "an implanted increase of rod cells or an augmentation", but it doesn't cost Essence.

Magic Resistance is yet another one that gives you Edge when someone casts a spell on you, except it also screws you over by subtracting 2 from your Essence for the purpose of being healed by magic.

Mentor Spirit means that you've connected with a powerful spirit that helps you do magic - although awkwardly the fact that you have to have magic to take this Quality isn't listed in the text, and in fact the mentor spirits have bonuses that are specifically available to people without magic, so god knows. Guess what they do? If you said they give you Edge, well, A for effort, but no; they lower the cost of Edge Boosts, same way as Indomitable. They also give you a unique disadvantage. Oh, go on then:

Bear boosts resisting damage and Healing spells but gives you a chance to, when you or an ally is injured, not heal them but instead go berserk attacking them.
Cat boosts Athletics, Stealth, and Illusion spells but you have to make a test at the start of combat to be allowed to actually incapacitate your target before it deals Physical damage to you. Let's hope you somehow magically know when your attack would incapacitate them.
Coyote boosts Con and Manipulation spells but you have to make a test to avoid pulling tricks and pranks even if it's to the disadvantage of your friends. You will get shot by your own team. Next.
Dog boosts Outdoors and Detection spells but has to make a test to leave anyone behind or betray their buddies. Since most players play their PCs like this anyway, I can't see a lot of disadvantage here.
Dragon Slayer.. huh? Anyway, it's the mythic hero archetype. Boosts Influence and Combat spells, but gives a -1 to all actions if you ever break a promise, until you make good on it. I hope nothing's happened like, say, the person you made the promise to being killed.
Eagle boosts Perception and Air Summoning spells and gives you a mild allergy to "pollutants". We shall explore allergies further down.
Fire Bringer boosts Engineering or Enchanting, and Manipulation spells, and means you have to roll to avoid honouring someone's sincere request for help. Again, probably what most PCs do anyway. Hope you don't get asked to help two people who want opposite things!
Mountain boosts Outdoors and Counterspelling, but has to make a roll to.. abandon a planned course of action no matter how badly things are going. Have you ever read the CLUE files? It's a (probably 90% false) set of Shadowrun player horror stories, and this seems to be making an excuse for more.
Rat boosts Stealth and Enchanting spells but has to make a roll to not flee combat whenever it starts. Rat is an asshole. You will get shot by your own team and dumped next to the Coyote guy. Next.
Sea boosts Con and Illusion spells and you have to roll to avoid pursuing vices when they're available, which in most cities they always are.
Shark boosts Close Combat and Combat spells and has the same berserk rule as Bear except it actually makes sense for them.
Snake gives you two free Knowledge skills and boosts Detection spells, but you have to roll to avoid pursuing secrets. Yay, you rolled high and didn't take the plot hook!
Thunderbird boosts Influence and Air Summoning and has to roll to avoid "responding to an insult in kind". So.. with another insult? Never knew that majestic storm birds were known for zingers.
Wise Warrior boosts Influence and Combat spells and gives -1 to all dice pools if you act dishonourably. Wise Warrior owns a trenchcoat and a katana.
Wolf boosts Counterspelling and Combat spells and has to roll to retreat from a fight.

.. Oh, and the text also says "if you fail to keep aligned with one of these tenets, you lose your connection and all associated bonuses" but there aren't actually any "tenets" clearly listed in the Mentor Spirit sections other than the fluff introductions of the spirits. Does this mean to say that you can ignore the Disadvantage, but at the cost of losing the mentor? Huh.

Quick Healer doubles your natural healing rate.

Thermographic Vision means you can see heat sources in total darkness, but apparently not less than total darkness, so if there's only dim light then you're kinda stuck.

Will To Live increases the amount of damage you can take over your HP total before permadeath. It gives twice as many effective HP as Built Tough.. oh, but look, it's also twice the price. So there's pretty much no reason to take this over that.

And that's the positives. Now we have the negatives; aka, excuses for gaining Karma points.

AR Vertigo, Bad Rep, Distinctive Style, Honorbound, Loss of Confidence, Prejudice, Scorched, Simsense Vertigo, Social Stress, Uncouth, Uneducated, Unsteady Hands and Weak Immune System are all the evil twins of the positive qualities that give you Edge points: they prevent you spending or gaining Edge points in certain situations. Sometimes you get a roll to not be affected.

Addiction: if you don't get a hit of whatever-it-is at certain regular intervals, you go into withdrawal and can't gain or spend Edge and take a steadily increasing penalty to everything. No, you never get better by going cold turkey, and if you don't take Addiction out of the gate, there are no rules for getting addicted to any drug.

Allergy: you're allergic to something. The bonus depends on how allergic you are (in terms of a universal dice pool penalty) and how common the allergen is. For some reason it appears to be a tradition that the sample characters in Shadowrun have ridiculous allergies; for example, almost all the sample characters in Fourth Edition were allergic to gold. Sixth Edition also continues with that, giving us a combat magician and a technomancer both allergic to grass, a decker allergic to dairy, a weapon specialist allergic to strawberries, and this charming lady:

The street shaman, who they chose to be represented by this art, is allergic to insect stings. I mean, you couldn't make it up. (And no, it's not a nice bit of irony for someone who can control insects to be allergic to them, because she can't control regular insects. What you're seeing there is Summoning Spirits of Beasts, which lets you summon animals of any kind. So she could choose the type of animal she got, and she chose the one she's allergic to.)

Astral Beacon ruins any attempts you make at being stealthy in the astral plane or avoiding magic tracking.

Bad Luck screws you completely by making 2's on your dice count towards glitches on your dice, but fortunately you can't critical glitch unless half of your dice were 1's.

Combat Paralysis knocks your initiative in half and makes you act last in the first round of combat. And no, you can't get around this by messing with Delay actions, because there is no Delay action; so if you happen to get freak rolls and everyone goes before the guy who was going to kick open the door, you have to sit there like lemons for the entire round while the people behind the door shoot your buddy.

Dependants means you have to give up a certain proportion of all income to people you look after.

Elf Poser and Ork Poser both do the same thing: you want to be a different metatype, and you're trying to fit in with them, so Elves, Orks, and Trolls get a point of Edge on Influence/Etiquette tests (!) made to fit in with you! One specific specialization? Really? This is worth the same as Gremlins below! Also, "Poser" seems a bit harsh. It's easy to make jokes about otherkin, but this is a world where those other species do exist and are sentient and have cultures, so wanting to be one seems a lot more reasonable. Oh, and it seems that no-one wants to be a Dwarf.

Glass Jaw lowers your nonlethal HP.

Gremlins, as mentioned above.. means that tech doesn't like you. Any time you use a device, you roll 2d6, and if either dice comes up 1, it goes wrong. That's 30% of the time! What a lovely disadvantage to have in a cyberpunk game. And it costs the same as being a metatype poser and making it easier for the people you like to impress you with their etiquette!

Impaired is the opposite of Exceptional; it lowers your maximum attribute cap. Which means that if you're taking any dump attributes (which you probably are), you can cash in twice - once by not putting points into them, and once again by getting Karma for lowering the maximum to reflect that you don't need to put points in them.

Incompetent is the worse opposite of Aptitude; it means you can never take ranks in a skill. You can't choose it for a skill that you can't use, so you can't be incompetent at Sorcery if you have no magical ability, but you can - say - be incompetent at piloting because the other guy's the driver.

In Debt is an odd one. Instead of giving you Karma back, it affects the ability to trade Karma for cash - which only happens at character generation; each point of Karma you trade for cash gets you 5000 nuyen instead of the normal 2000, but you owe someone that 5000 (not the extra 3000) with interest. Probably only for the desperate. Great way to screw up a one-shot game, though.

Insomnia: each day, you have to make a roll to see how well you slept; if you fail, you can't get more than 2 Edge from any source or spend more than 2 Edge on a single roll. Probably representative enough, I guess, but a bit weird.. and it also only gives 4 Karma.

Low Pain Tolerance doubles all your wound penalties.

Sensitive System doubles all Essence costs for cyberware. And tellingly.. "you cannot have this quality if you have a Magic or Resonance rating". Whyever would that be? Why, it wouldn't be because magic provides an Essence-loss free route to gaining most of the benefits of cyberware, would it?

Sinner doesn't mean you're guilty of breaking commandments, because pretty much every Shadowrunner is. It means you have a legitimate System Identification Number that actually connects to the real you and, for whatever reason, you don't want to wipe it like most do. You have to pay extra tax, and you're easier to track, giving people Edge every time they try to trace you.

And finaly, Spirit Bane means that certain types of spirit hate you, and not only do they gain edge against you but they relentlessly attack you whenever they get the chance. At least the Karma award, 12, is a bit more proportional.

Before we close character generation for the moment, there's two other little things to talk about. The first is one of the more classical examples of Shadowrun cheese and wonky design. You'll notice that one of the options for being a magic user is being an Adept. This is a mage who uses their magic entirely to power up their own body without casting any spells, sort of like the guy at the beginning of Doctor Strange. If you're an Adept, for every point of Magic you get you also get a Power Point, which you can spend on superpowers. One of these is Improved Physical Attribute which gives you a permanent passive bonus to one of the Physical attributes equal to the number of power points invested. The limit is.. well..


The maximum boost to the attribute is 1.5 times the current level or the augmented maximum, whichever is lower.

I presume that's supposed to mean the maximum boosted value of the attribute, not the maximum boost which would mean you could boost your 6 Body by 6*1.5 = 9 points up to 15. But either way, you've probably just spotted that this gives you an excuse to launder Magic or Adjustment points into Attribute points that break your metatype maximum and then never mention the fact that your PC is an Adept again. 4th Edition had a bit of designer pique about this (along the lines of "the GM should ensure you actually play the character as an Adept", but not what that actually meant) but 6th Edition just gives up.

Finally, Wealth, and Gear. I'm not going to go through all the Gear at this point; we'll have to do it as we reach the systems. At character generation, you gain a number of starting nuyen based on the priority you gave Wealth, plus any you want to trade Karma for, and can then buy equipment with it, provided it is not "illegal gear with a rating of 7 or higher".

Helpfully this does not specify which rating is referred to, but presumably it means availability rating (which, paradoxically, is actually a rarity rating - higher means harder to get). Plus, there are two definitions of illegal in the Gear chapter: generally illegal, and illegal without a license. So are the licensed ones "illegal" by the rules definition, or do you have to buy a license, or can you just buy the licensed ones freely?

Assuming the latter, there are exactly four pieces of Gear in the entire book which are illegal and have an Availability rating of 7 or higher: the Farlight Excalibur (a high-powered cyberdeck), and three versions of nerve gas. Everything else is fair game. Want a huge machine gun, a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, a brace of high-explosive grenades? No problem. The text does say that the hardest items to get are advanced experimental versions of cyberware, which have increased Availability ratings.. except that most of them aren't illegal, just licensed. So you can have an advanced military experimental sub-machine gun grafted onto your arm right out of the gate.

So. Huh. Next time we'll actually try and get onto the main body of the combat system and finally come to the uses of Edge. (Either that or try to go through the goofy sample characters, but reverse-engineering the character generation system in this game might be too much for my brain at the moment.)

Edge Lords and Edge Ladies

posted by hyphz Original SA post

4: Edge Lords and Edge Ladies

Big thanks to the forum posters who pointed out that not only is the shaman in the last post summoning the animal they're specifically allergic to, but in Shadowrunland insect spirits are hideously evil all-devouring hiveminds and summoning them is a terrible, terrible idea and something a PC should never do. And it's on the example character! Hooray.

So, time to get down to brass tacks. What's the actual system?

Well, we've pretty much already seen all the system gives you for skills. Yep, anything that's not fighting, hacking or magic is more or less just, roll Attribute + Skill and make up some threshold or other. Huh.

So. Fighting. Now, my prior experience with Shadowrun Fourth Edition didn't just put me off RPGs for a while; it put me permanently off running RPGs in any setting or similar where the gun is the dominant mode of combat. Because pretty much no game gets the modelling of guns right. Mythcreants had an excellent article on the problems, but it basically comes down to: if the rules model action-movie style fights, then the PCs quickly work out that the way to win is to ignore even the lip-service to actual tactics that action movies portray. If the rules model realistic gunfights, then the result is, well, realistic gunfights - sieges, massive terrain dependence, and cheap lives - which are no fun. But Shadowrun has had thirty years to work out how to model good gunfights. Surely it has it down by now?

Yea, that's me being a fool again.

So. First step. Initiative. Initiative is gotten by taking your Reaction and Intuition - not rolling them, just using the bare scores, which means it's even more guaranteed everyone is going to max those stats - and then adding them to a roll on your Initiative Dice. Your standard Initiative Dice is 1d6, and you can earn more by having spells cast on you, loading up with cyberware, or just taking combat drugs, up to 5d6. Initiative Dice aren't rolled for successes; they're rolled for their regular numbers and summed up.

Why this weird Initiative Dice thing? It's been mentioned on the thread, so I'll bring it up: Wired Reflexes. See, the original Shadowrun (or so I'm told) used a Feng Shui style countdown initiative system where the person with the highest Initiative acted then subtracted a number from their initiative to get the value at which they'd act next, so they could act more than once in a round. What this meant was that sufficiently high initiative combatants could finish the entire fight before anyone else got a turn, which wasn't much for anyone who wasn't combat specced. This apparently stuck sufficiently hard that Fourth Edition brought in the daft concept of "initiative passes", where everyone took a first turn in initiative order, then anyone who was sufficiently roided up got a second action, again in Initiative order. This had all kinds of daft consequences, like the movement of characters with more initiative passes being divided between those passes, so they couldn't run between two areas of cover without getting shot at by everyone who went after them on the first pass. Fifth Edition then combined these together, having both a countdown and Initiative Passes. Sixth Edition's version is comparatively sane.

When your round comes up, you get 1 Major Action and 1 Minor Action base, plus 1 extra Minor Action for every Initiative Dice you have. So at base, that's 1 Major and 2 Minor. You can trade 4 Minor Actions for 1 Major action. However, you can never start a turn with more than 5 Minor Actions, so you can only ever do at most 2 Major and 1 Minor action in a turn.

Oh, and editing time: these rules are repeated in the Combat and Game Concepts sections, but the copy in the Game Concepts section doesn't mention the 5 Minor Action limit. The Combat section contains the rules for rolling to hit, but only the Game Concepts section contains the actual list of actions in combat, for some reason. Oh, and one of the forms of cyberware that gives you Initiative Dice is Wired Reflexes, which has a rating of 1 to 4 and, for each rating point, "gives you +1 Reaction, 1 additional Initiative Die, and 1 additional Minor Action". It doesn't state if the additional Minor Action is the same as the one you got for the additional Initiative Die or not, but either way, higher levels of Wired Reflexes end up wasting a ton of minor actions by hitting the cap.

Also, as I mentioned last update, there's no "delay" or "ready" rules. There are "anytime actions", which allow you to save up your actions from your turn and use them later in the round, but they're only relatively minor things and there's no way to wait to take your main turn later in the round. (Also, you can't carry them into the next round.) Which means having a high initiative can end up being a disadvantage; for example, you can't shoot until the team hacker opens the blast doors but if you rolled higher than them on Initiative then your chance to shoot will have come and gone before the doors open. Ugh.

So, without getting into magic, here's the stuff you can do.

We already saw the basics of attacking, too. You make your attack roll, which is Agility + Firearms or Close Combat. Your opponent makes their defence roll of Reflexes + Intuition or whatever else they have if they chose a defensive action. You compare your Attack Rating and Defence Rating (which is not the result of your roll, it's a trait of your weapon and/or armor), and if one is 4 or more greater than the other, the one with the advantage gets a point of Edge. One point. Did I mention, by the way, that no matter how you gain it you can never gain more than 2 points of Edge in a single combat round? So being a walking tank isn't going to do you that much good.

Once you have the Edge, you get to use it on the roll. And so, drum roll, the stuff you can do with Edge! You can only do one of these per turn, but you can use them repeatedly.

Once you've done that, if the attacker got more hits than the defender they hit, and they add the Net Hits of the roll to the Base Damage of the weapon in order to calculate the damage done. This creates a bit of a problem. Most weapon base damages are quite small, but if you minmax heavily the net hits on an attack can dwarf them. In Fifth Edition, there was a rule that limited the maximum number of net hits you could carry over based on the weapon you were using, but apparently everyone hated it and Sixth Edition has dropped it, so a sufficiently Agile/skilled character can just peg anyone between the eyes with a light pistol.

Now, we have to deal with multiple attacks, and this is so confusing I'm just going to have to do this bit by bit. There's a "multiple attacks" minor action which says: "A character can attack more than one opponent, assuming ammunition, reach and enemy placement allow it. Split your dice pool evenly among all targets, or if you are using two different forms of attack, use half the dice pool for each rounded down. This attack must be used in conjunction with an Attack Major Action."

So. If you want to hit two people with a sword, say, you can just do it with a minor action if you're prepared to split your pool in half. It's not clear if you divide the pool after the roll or before, but OK, this isn't bad.

But now we have to worry about guns. Guns have four possible firing modes. Single Shot mode says "you fire a single bullet". So, is that a single bullet with my attack action, but the minor action pulls the trigger more than once? No idea. Next. Semi Auto: "you fire two rounds rapidly with two trigger pulls", for +1 damage and -2 attack rating. So is that with one action, or with the multiple attack action? Don't know. And the vast majority of firearms in the game are listed as having the Semi Auto mode, but not the Single Shot mode (although just in case you thought it was common sense that any Semi-Auto firearm could fire one shot at a time, there's one gun which does explicitly have both). So can you not just choose to pull the trigger twice? Or can you do that, but only be aiming at one target?

Burst Fire. You can either shoot a narrow burst for -4 AR and +2 damage, or shoot a wide burst and split the dice pool between two targets. We don't find out if this splitting the dice pool is the same splitting the dice pool as with the Multiple Attack minor action or if it's a separate way of getting the same result. Finally, Full Auto "allows multiple attacks without using the Multiple Attack minor action"; you split your dice pool among any valid targets in range, but there's a side comment that in this case, you can "attack a single target with a series of small die pools" (there is no reason to ever do that, except one we'll come to..) But it lowers the Attack Rating by 6. So does using the multiple attack minor action to split your pool not give you the AR penalties, or.. well, god knows.

But what makes this much worse is probably the most infamous confusion in the 6th Edition rules. See, as well as modifying rolls by spending Edge, you can also take Edge Actions, which are modified actions that cost edge and also require certain combinations of other actions to be taken at the time. One of these is called Anticipation, it costs 4 edge, and it reads "when performing this multiple attack, roll your full dice pool for each target."

So, Mr. GM, I have an FN P93 Praetor SMG. It has a 50 round clip and all firing modes except Single Shot. I want to take the Anticipation Edge action with the Multiple Attacks minor action. Note that the text of Multiple Attacks says "assuming ammunition, range, and enemy placement allow it"; it does not say anything about Fire Mode. Since I don't have to split my dice pool, can I shoot 50 people? Or, perhaps I could use it on Full Auto. Anticipation requires me to use the Multiple Attacks minor action; Full Auto says it allows me to use multiple attacks without using a Multiple Attack action, but it doesn't say I can't decide to take that action if I want to, so can I take Full Auto with Anticipation and shoot one guy with my dice pool 50 times? Bleugh. Look, nobody knows. Just leave it.

While we're on the topic: let's have the rest of the Edge actions.

So. How about the weapons? They're rated by a base damage level and type, their attack ratings at different range bands, and price. With only those three values, can we say "redundancy"? I mean, we could copy and paste all the rating tables here, but it wouldn't be really any fun. There's plenty of mismatches, like how a polearm is 10 nuyen cheaper than a combat knife but has the same rating and deals 1 more damage, and a club is 10 nuyen cheaper than a Sap and identical but for 1 extra damage. Presumably this is on the grounds that the club and the polearm are more difficult to hide, because there's rules for weapon concealability.. but although there's rules for making concealment rolls, no weapon actually gets given a concealment rating, it's all made up by the GM.

Also, we need to meet the wonderful world of the Wireless Bonus. See, Shadowrun Fourth Edition really, really wanted to make sure the hacker had something to do during combat by letting them hack the opponent's cyberware and gear, but because hacking was way too easy for the setting, the result was that every PC group suddenly became luddites en masse and shut down all wireless functionality on all their weapons. So from Fifth Edition onwards, they decided to add a bonus to gear that provides a power-up if you leave the wireless functionality, and the Matrix connection, on your weapons switched on.

Many of these bonuses are ridiculous.

Again, we won't go through them all. But probably the most cringe-inducing is that if you leave the Wi-Fi connection on your taser or shock gloves on, it recharges wirelessly over the Internet. Yes, let's just beam some electricity over the Matrix to them, what could go wrong? Most of the slightly more sensible ones relate to taking less actions to do certain things with the equipment as a result of being able to send a wireless signal to activate them instead of pressing a button (although oddly the equipment doesn't require you to actually have any personal networking equipment, so I guess you can just activate it over Wi-fi with your mind}. Some others are:

One last thing to deal with just before I admit I'm really too tired to be writing tonight. Chucking grenades at people! If you throw a grenade, you make your Agility + Athletics test as normal, but instead of being compared to defence, the raw hits determine how far the grenade scatters. The scatter is calculated based on taking the net hits on the roll, adding or subtracting a range band modifier, then subtracting the result from a raw 2d6. You then roll another 2d6 to see which direction the scatter takes place in, out of 11 possibilities. Yes, there's arrows in all different directions, not just 45 degree or 90 degree directions. What, you thought you were going to play this on a grid? No, of course not! You're going to be breaking out the tape measures for this baby!

So. Yea. Ballistic weapons are a bloody nightmare in any system and this is no exception. Literally the first character one of my players tried to make in Fourth Edition was a grenade specialist and the first action that he took was to blow himself up with a bad scatter roll. There's no rules for rolling grenades down terrain, for how they're blocked by cover above the target, for how terrain lie affects scatter (yes, your grenade can scatter up a flight of stairs), and so on. It's not quite as ridiculous as Fourth Edition where the scatter modifiers were ludicrously high, but it's still incredibly risky, and there's a nice 1/18 chance of the grenade scattering back towards the thrower.

Oh, also, grenades don't have any Attack Rating, so you can't get Edge by using them.. or by defending against them!

Right, my head hurts. That's enough for now. Next step? Chrome under the skin. And writing about it, too.

Oh, wait! Bonus! People have asked who wrote this. Well, no, it's not Jason Hardy who was the traditional Shadowrun author after Fourth. The credits list, with a bit of research, is:

Brooke Chang, Kevin Czarnecki, Jeff Halket, Dylan Stangel, and Alexander Kadar; all authors from Fifth Edition supplements.
Michael Messmer, author of.. um, two sample adventures.
O.C. Presley, another Fifth Edition author but also the only author involved linked with Shadowrun Anarchy.
Scott Schletz, an old-school type who's written much earlier supplements too and worked on the Fifth Edition core, but he also worked on Court of Shadows so meh.
Robert Volbrecht, who has no prior credits.

Got the metal beneath my skin, still rippin' off

posted by hyphz Original SA post

5: Got the metal beneath my skin, still rippin' off

Gear porn! Absolutely mandatory, standard part of any cyberpunk game. Silly numbers of weapon modifications and cybernetic replacements are pretty much mandatory for the genre. By which we mean they existed in sci-fi and military stories long before cyberpunk was even a thing, actual cyberpunk stories originally largely used technology symbolically rather than literally and they are only in the RPGs as a bandaid to replace magic items as a money-based character progression system.

Still. Ok. Gear section. As we've already mentioned, gear has a cost in nuyen, an availability rating for how hard it is to get, and a legality status - legal, illegal, or legal only with a license. A fake license - because you sure as heck aren't going to get a real one - costs 200-1200 nuyen depending on how hard it is to identify as fake (but not based on what it's a license for), and you need a fake SIN as well for it to be bound to, which is between 2500-15000. There's a section on concealing gear, but no gear actually has any concealability rating; there's just a list of examples for the GM, which is tricky because the gear is sci-fi and lacks real world references, so you have to guess from the fluff if an item is meant to be "palm size", "slim palm size", or "palmable".

Also, dwarves have to pay 10% extra for fitted gear because they're a weird size, and trolls pay a full 10% extra on everything because they're so big and unwieldy. If a dwarf or troll uses unadapted gear, they get -2 dice on all actions involving that gear.. so they're 100% cool to walk around in ill-fitting armor because there are no "actions" involving it.

We already mentioned the silliness of the wireless bonuses. We can add two items to that. First of all, there's a category of items called "throwbacks" which are pre-wireless tech and can't ever be hacked. Unfortunately, no item in the entire chapter is actually listed as a throwback except a bow, and then only "if you leave off the fancy add-ons". Again, it seems they decided this should be down to GM common sense, and then they threw common sense out the window by giving a wireless bonus to a fucking tripod. Secondly, certain weapons in the chapter are listed as coming with tripods or laser sights, and the text says that the bonus is already factored in to their attack rating, but the potential wireless bonus on that tripod or sight isn't mentioned, so are those non-Matrix ones or are they just not very good?

Anyway. I'm not going to go through all the weapons. It's a list of made-up gun names and standard gun fluff. Whatever. We'll just have a few highlights. You can get injection arrows and bolts which deliver doses of drugs or poisons, and there are a number of drugs and poisons in the book, although for some daft reason they're listed in the Combat chapter instead of the Gear chapter and their costs are in a random table in the reference tables section.

What's more interesting are the weapon accessories and modifiers. We already got the wireless equipped tripods and laser sights (and all they do is increase the Attack Rating of the weapon, they don't give a bonus to hit, so they just increase the number of targets you can gain Edge when shooting). We also get a new category of badness for this game: modifiers to undefined values! Yes, isn't it neat and not jarring at all when the GM's supposed to handwave a value but then has to apply a specific modifier to it? Let's see:

Armor. Well, ok, we've already seen. It's meh and mostly useless. You can add resistance bonuses to it which don't actually resist damage at all, they disable the status effects that are associated with certain forms of damage.

On to gadgets. These are pretty.. oh dammit they brought back the bloody Commlink. A Commlink is basically your smartphone. It does the regular smartphone stuff, can interface to Augmented Reality, and provides the base defence values for your personal wireless network and thus determines the difficulty of hacking into your personal equipment (the other determinant of which is, bizarrely, your Willpower score!). Unfortunately, just like Fourth Edition, they can't decide if Commlinks are mere client devices or if they're used for everything a computer can be used for - but there are no regular desktop or laptop computers in the gear list. Which buggers everything up because it becomes too easy to bypass any traditional cyberpunk infiltration or hacking mission by just mugging someone and stealing their phone.

If you want to hack, you'll need a Cyberdeck, which.. apparently looks like a medieval bracer and projects a keyboard onto your arm (insert joke about Deckers being used to typing one-handed here). Since their only use is hacking, they're completely illegal, so it's pretty stupid for them to project an obvious keyboard onto your arm, but hey. (Also, the sample character Decker has a "cyberdeck license" which shouldn't exist.)

If you want the full augmented reality experience, you're also going to need Trodes which provide a direct neural interface to your devices, some kind of eyeware to be able to see AR cues (you can load an image link into binoculars, contacts, glasses or even a monocle if you want to look ridiculous) and a Sim Module added to your commlink which deals with the actual projecting. It's suggested that trodes are normally made as part of a headband or hat, because being able to shut down your local hacker by shooting their hat off is hilarious. Oh, you'll also want AR Gloves to allow you to touch and hold objects perceived in AR. By the way, if your AR gloves are online (um, what use would they be if they weren't?), then they also can create a chemical analysis of any held object. That's, um, like several thousand times more sophisticated than their main function.

Electronic Paper costs 5 nuyen per sheet and is essentially a thin touchscreen that you can roll up or fold. If you actually want a Printer, that costs 25 nuyen and comes "attached to a paper supply". Um, how big a paper supply? Are you lugging around a photocopier drawer? If you want to look like a real twit, you can carry around a Satellite Link to access the Matrix in out-of-the-way places (so can things like cased ammo tracking be avoided in those places? Huh). A biometric reader can be used to lock your electronics based on your fingerprint or retina scan; a simrig lets you record your experiences for others to later play back in AR or VR; a trid projector projects an 5-metre cube image but it doesn't look real enough to fool anyone and there's no listed actual use for this; and a Subvocal Microphone lets you communicate via subvocalized speech which means that.. anyone trying to hear you can't gain or spend Edge on the Perception test. How difficult is the perception test? Well, really, why would we specify that? Also, it doesn't mention it anywhere but apparently you need a Micro-Transciever as well for anyone to actually be able to hear you.. and that comes with a Subvocal Microphone.

Ok. Let's get on to the big deal: cyberware! Well, before we get onto that, we have to deal with the ever-thorny issue of Essence. Essence is the stat that limits how much cyberware you can install. That's literally the only statement of exactly what Essence is in the game, plus the note that "the metahuman body can only contain so much 'ware before it loses the small spark that separates a living being from a machine". As we mentioned back in the first update, it doesn't even tell you what your starting Essence level is. But in spite of Essence just being presented as a cyberware limit, there's a bunch of other references to it in other contexts; losing Essence drains your magical ability, and certain supernatural monsters can drain your Essence by having an emotional connection with you (probably fear).

So, we'll skip all the arguments about technology making you less human, and the implication that actual people with prosthetic limbs are somehow less human than others, and how the two forms of vision you buy as Qualities mysteriously don't cost any essence, and how you can spend your life rigging around in a robot body without ever losing any. You can find those on the SR thread if you want to get involved. What's more important is that the actual Essence ratings of cyberware blatantly reflect that Essence is just a balancing mechanic. Having an explosive device strapped to your body is instant PTSD, but having the bad guys put one inside your head doesn't damage your human nature one bit (zero Essence cost) because it's not a power up. Skillwires, which allow a computer implanted inside your head to take over your body in order to perform a skill you don't have, essentially voluntarily making yourself a robot, cost less Essence than a plain prosthetic leg.

There's five different grades of Cyberware: second-hand, standard, Alpha, Beta, and Delta; each of them has an increased cost, is harder to get, and costs less Essence compared to the previous one. The implication that you can have your cyberarm upgraded and suddenly your lost human nature comes back is.. interesting. But to complicate matters further, while Deltaware costs less essence, more capable cyberware generally costs more Essence. So having your eyes scooped out and replaced with cameras is less disturbing to your human nature if the replacement cameras aren't very good.

So, onto the basics of cyberware. If you want your smartphone stuck in your head, that's an implanted Commlink, which doesn't give any particular advantage other than damaging you if it breaks. You can have a Cyberdeck implanted too, which also doesn't give any advantage other than hurting you even more if it breaks. What you actually want is a Cyberjack, which actually connects parts of your brain to the Matrix as well as just being an interface device, and as a result has much higher ratings than other hacking hardware, and even more oddly.. doesn't hurt you at all even if it's straight up destroyed. What the heck?

A datajack is that thing from Doctor Who where you have a plug in the back of your head you can plug equipment into. A datalock is that thing from Johnny Mnemonic where you store data in your head that even you can't read but someone else can unlock (only a 0.1 essence rating despite literally denying you access to part of your own memory), and a cortex bomb is that other thing from Johnny Mnemonic that blows your head to bits if someone triggers it. Well, actually, it deals 18 resisted damage, which means that if your Body's high enough it actually has a chance of not killing you, which could be bizarre and horrific.

An olfactory booster lets you smell emotions, traces of propellant, "the list goes on and on..".. by which we mean it gives you a bonus Edge on scent-based Perception tests and that's it. It is described as a "cybersnout" though, which is a quick laugh. A taste booster does the same for taste but without the sales pitch. And a voice modulator lets you speak with shifted pitch, copy other people's voices, which gives you an Edge on "sound-based" Con tests. By the way did we mention it also allows you to SHOUT AT ONE HUNDRED FUCKING DECIBELS THERE IS NO WAY THAT COULD BE USEFUL IN A FIGHT OH MAN THOSE CYBEREARS ARE REGRETTING YOU HAVING AN AIRCRAFT ENGINE TAKING OFF LIKE 10 METRES FROM YOU RAAA RAAA RAA

A skilljack does the classic thing where you can plug a chip into your brain and immediately know some stuff, but they only work for information or language skills unless you also have your whole body loaded with the previously mentioned skillwires that let the skill implant control your muscles.

Now, getting stuff replaced. Cybereyes will set you back between 1000 and 16000 nuyen depending on how many subsystems they can install, and will cost you between 1% and 8% of your basic humanity. They come in with a built-in image link for AR (although immediately below this the book states that adding an image link will cost 800 nuyen), and can fit low-light or thermographic vision (which, as we mentioned last time, don't do anything except give you an Edge if you're in an environment where they'd be useful and the other guy doesn't have them), a smartlink for smart guns, vision magnification (which increases attack ratings at long distances and doesn't have any clear statement of how it lets you see further) and vision enhancement which gives bonuses to visual Perception.

Funkier equipment includes a retinal duplicator, a highly illegal mod that allows you to record and duplicate someone else's retina scan (although we don't get to find out how you capture the initial scan, which could be pretty danged important) and an Ocular Drone lets you go full Inspector Gadget and pull your eyes out and fly them around. This has the slight problem that they're listed as being considered rigged drones at that point, and to fly a rigged drone you need an AR interface to it which uses either eyeware or cybereyes, neither of which you can use while your eyes are missing. No, it doesn't say you can still "just see through them" while they're out.

Cyberears have a similar cost to cybereyes, and can improve your hearing (a bonus on Perception rolls), improve your balance, limit the extent to which you're deafened (presumably helping against the guy with the voice modulator), and localise sounds. Strangely enough, some of the neater auditory gadgets - like a laser microphone to detect surface vibrations - aren't available in cyberears.

Bodyware is a general category for anything that affects your whole body. Let's get this out of the way right now: Wired Reflexes are rated 1-4 and give you +1 Reaction, 1 additional Initiative Die, and 1 additional Minor Action (as I mentioned before it's not clear if this is the same as the one you get from the Initiative Die or not). It'll cost at least 40,000 nuyen and is described as a "invasive, painful, life-changing operation", even though Rating 1 Wired Reflexes don't make all that much of a difference, and it's only by Rating 2 or 4 that you can actually take an extra Major Action, depending on how you read that text about the extra Minor Action. Simple Reaction Enhancers which only increase your Reaction score, but not your Initiative Dice, are much cheaper but they don't work with Wired Reflexes unless both of them are connected to the Matrix. Literally, both items are described as improving nervous communication speed, but they can't communicate with each other without wi-fi!

Bone Lacing and Dermal Plating have a similar relationship with regard to defence. Dermal Plating just gives you a defence rating bonus; Bone Lacing throws in Body and Unarmed Attack Rating bonuses too. They don't have to be wireless to stack. If you enjoy hiding things inside parts of your body, a Tooth Compartment, Fingertip Compartment or Smuggling Compartment will cover that, although anything that would actually fit inside a tooth compartment probably has a ridiculously high Concealability anyway. Bizarrely, an implanted Grapple Gun is considered bodyware; an Internal Air Tank will let you hold your breath for several hours, and Replacement Muscles will increase your Strength and Agility by their Rating. So, this is our first stat booster, and it lets us buy up to four points in two stats for 30,000 nuyen apiece.

Cyberlimbs have much higher essence costs, but they do have the advantage that once they're installed, you can load them up with accessories without increasing the essence cost. There's a separate cost for an obviously replaced body part and a "natural looking" one, and the natural ones also have lower capacity. You can buy stat point increases for your cyberlimbs more cheaply - 5000 nuyen per extra stat point, up to 4 - but it's pure GM fiat on when that bonus applies, and any activity which "uses the whole body" never gets bonuses from cyberlimbs, no matter how many you have. You can also buy Armor points for your cyberlimbs at the same cost, which is a very bad idea, and which doesn't have any such fiat involved because "increasing your Armor.. is part of your overall protection, which is what Defense Rating represents."

Also, there is a statement that "Strength and Agility increases have no effect when they are included in a cyberskull" which I'd be sorely tempted to house rule so that you can make that cyber-samurai who fight exclusively with headbutts.

Oddly, there's not much you can put in cyberlimbs apart from that; mostly assorted ways of carrying weapons or contraband. There is an exception for Hydraulic Jacks which need to go in both legs and help you jump.. except there are no rules anywhere else in the game for jumping. If you follow it absolutely as written, you need hydraulic jacks to jump at all, and you can leap 0.2 metres per hit on an Athletics + Strength + Hydraulic Jacks test, because your GM will love having to judge whether or not you pull up 0.2 metres short of that jump.

If you want mounted weapons, those are available, and you can implant a pistol, shotgun, SMG or grenade launcher in any of your cyberlimbs. There's no listed size limitations, so go ahead and stick a shotgun in your skull if you want. There's also some specialist weapons: a cyberjaw lets you bite people really hard, thus making the whole headbutt thing above actually look like a sensible option (it also has an AR of 2, meaning that pretty much any random person wearing clothes will gain Edge if you attempt this); a hardened limb hits harder than a regular one, and a shock limb can deal stunning electric damage. We also have to have handblades and hand razors because Neuromancer was a thing.

Finally in terms of implants, there's bioware, which is organic cyberware - which still has an Essence cost, but just a lesser one. An adrenaline pump activates on demand and boosts your physical attributes and prevents you being stunned, but as soon as it wears off, you crash and take stun damage. Bone Density Augmentation is the bioware version of Bone Lacing, but doesn't give a Body bonus and costs less Essence. Cat's eyes give you low-light vision in an organic package, and notes that "this bioware is obviously not compatible with cyberware eye replacements, but individual vision enhancements can be purchased". But there's no listed capacity limit for cat's eyes, which potentially means that they're a dirt cheap way of loading up on vision enhancements that would otherwise require rating 6 cybereyes.

Enhanced Articulation makes it easy for you to squeeze through cramped spaces, and Muscle Augmentation gives you increased Strength but isn't compatible with any cyberware that does so and annoyingly is more expensive; although it costs far less essence, if you're actually making an unarmed character for some reason, I'm not sure what you'd want to save the essence for. Muscle Toner increases your agility, but can't stack with any of the other muscleware, and Otherskin is the bioware version of Dermal Plating. Platelet Factories are, at least, actual proper damage resistance, although only 1 point of it. A suprathyroid gland boosts all your physical attributes by 1 but requires you to eat a ton of extra food, increasing your basic costs; Symbiotes speed up your healing, but you have to buy separate food for them; Synthacardium gives you an Athletics bonus; Tailored Pheromones (groan) increase your Charisma when dealing with nearby people who can smell you; and a Tracheal Filter and Toxin Extractor do the same thing, protect you from poison, except the Tracheal filter only works against inhalation toxins and is very slightly cheaper.

For really fancy custom-made bioware, you can also have a Cerebral Booster which increases your Logic, a Damage Compensator which shuts off injury modifiers for a certain number of damage boxes, a Mnemonic Enhancer which upgrades memory-related tests; a Synaptic Booster is the pared-down bioware version of Wired Reflexes, but it only acts up to level 3; a Reflex Recorder gives you +1 to a single physical skill for the ridiculous price of 14000 nuyen; a Sleep Regulator lets you sleep deeply for three hours a night and then stay aware twice as long without being affected by fatigue; and finally a Pain Editor just deletes pain from your experience, meaning that you ignore all injury modifiers and aren't aware of any harm that's been done to you unless you either use a biomonitor or spend a major action observing yourself in detail. (This is notable because it's one of only two places where the rules actually tell you to use an Observe In Detail action, the other one being spotting a camouflaged monster.)

So. Ugh, that was quite a list, wasn't it? But I hope it conveys part of the idea.. yes, there's a lot of options, but a lot of them are very limited in terms of what they actually do, and the nature of the balancing systems is kind of obvious. Next time, we'll go grep some frobs and repipe some repples with the L33T H4X0RS.

Rufus Rumblerore the talking dog who hacks

posted by hyphz Original SA post

6: Rufus Rumblerore the talking dog who hacks

Let me come clean right away on this.

I do not like cinematic hacking systems in RPGs.

They work OK in films where their use can be mixed into the plot, and in video games where they're almost always subsidiary (nobody ever asks why every single PC is Warframe is a skilled hacker). But in RPGs, cinematic hacking takes a huge part of any sci-fi or cyberpunk setting ("technology") and distils the most powerful interaction with it down to a single heavily abstracted action. It completely fails to model the opportunistic nature of hacking, thus making it far too easy, and then typically makes sure there's a PC who can't do anything else. Folks always talk about the "decker problem" of the hacker player spending a long time at the table hacking while the others can't participate, but what about the one where the hacker either takes over a ton of fundamental bits of the setting or else has nothing to do?

So, as we saw, to connect to the Matrix in Shadowrun you need quite the show. First, you need a commlink to actually make the connection. The Commlink needs a Sim module to generate AR, which requires a neural interface in the shape of trodes or an implanted jack, then you need either Cybereyes or some kind of visual modification with an Image Link to be able to see it, then you need AR Gloves to be able to manipulate stuff in the AR environment. Unfortunately, the book doesn't say anything about what happens if you don't want all of these. Does the commlink just have a touchscreen you can fall back on? Does a subvocal microphone let you talk to your commlink? The same issue comes up with the biometric scanner which implies that if you don't buy it, your commlink doesn't have a biometric scanner (unlike most real high-end smartphones at this point) so how do you unlock it? No idea.

With all of this complexity, it is time to engage in the side sport I discovered with Fourth Edition: spotting PC templates and NPCs with broken AR rigs. In fact, apparently at one point the actual writer's guidelines for Shadowrun said that an NPCs commlink "shouldn't be mentioned unless it is an important part of their character", apparently forgetting that it sets the defence rating for every Matrix connected device the character has, which in 4e was everything.

Pretty much all of the sample characters are missing something, the most common omission being a sim module, and the second most common being the AR gloves. Now, you could argue that you don't need AR gloves, but there's no clue as to how you interact without them. In the NPCs, the typical Lone Star Aatrolman has a Commlink and absolutely no connecting hardware, and the Renraku Red Samurai has no sim module and nothing to connect it to. Also, the Elite Special Forces trooper has a commlink with Device Rating 8, which doesn't exist in the gear chapter.

So. For the purpose of working in the matrix, you carry over all your mental attributes from the real you, and also get four Matrix attributes which are governed by the device you're using: Attack, Sleaze (which apparently means Matrix stealth), Data Processing (thanks for making D not stand for "defence" guys), and Firewall (which is the actual defence rating). These also have a Device Rating. In Fourth Edition, the text said that if a commlink was missing one of the four stats, then use the Device Rating as the default. Sixth Edition doesn't have that anymore, and in fact explicitly states that any missing stats are 0, so all of the NPCs in the generic NPC section - including the Elite Special Forces Trooper - have all their matrix stats at zero. Data Processing, by the way, is the maximum number of devices you can slave to the Commlink, so if anyone wants to read through all the archetypes and count how many of them have too many connected devices then be my guest.

(Actually, technically everyone does, because the section that tells you how to calculate these values starts with "If you're a decker..", leaving nothing about how to calculate them if you are not. But that's small potatoes by now.)

What the Device Rating actually does is to set the hitpoints of your device - the Matrix Condition Monitor - which is calculated using Device Rating the same as Body for a PC. If a device runs out of Matrix HP then it's a brick until it's fixed using an Engineering test. As well as that, you also have to worry about Convergence - that is, the big bad Matrix police (aka the Grid Overwatch Division, GOD, groan). Any time you do anything illegal on the Matrix, or maintain access illegally to a device, your Overwatch score goes up by one, and when it reaches 40 you get promoted to Gol.. uh, sorry, your device gets instantly hit for all of its HP and you get dumped out of the Matrix.

There's also this example:

There's practically nothing in the book before this about "Matrix attribute adjustments", aside from one sentence in the stats section which says "you can rotate all attributes through your persona, even if they originated from different devices". This could reasonably be read to say that if you have different devices, you can use the best rating in each category, but apparently we're meant to conclude that it also lets you swap a device's stats with each other. The Erika MCD-6 has Attack 4 and Sleaze 3, and the Transys Avalon has Data 3 and Firewall 1, so at least the numbers are correct, but at least one swap is required for either of those stat blocks to make sense.

So! Let's hack. First step is to find the thing we want to hack, which is a Matrix Perception test; Electronics+Intuition, opposed by Willpower+Sleaze if the target is particularly trying to hide and has set their system to silent. Next, we might or might not need to roll initiative..

Uh. Ok. Certain systems in the Matrix are monitored by white-hat hackers (called spiders, although this is only briefly mentioned, causing a bit of confusion when other chapters refer to secure bank vaults protected by spiders). If a system's monitored, the Willpower of the monitoring individual is added to the difficulty to hack it. Unfortunately, this is mentioned in exactly one place in the whole book: the early hacking example. There are absolutely no rules on how you "monitor" a system or how difficult it is. What if there's more than one spider? Can the team decker monitor all their buddies' PANs at once or just their own, or are they not even monitoring their own if they're busy in a firefight? Dunno.

Anyway, if you want to roll initiative in the Matrix, it depends on whether you're using regular AR, VR, or "hot" VR which is illegally modded VR hardware with the filters removed (whatever that means). VR and hot VR give you the Matrix version of wired reflexes. In AR, you use the same initiative as everyone else; in VR you use Intuition + Data Processing with one extra initiative dice, or two for hot VR. This means that you have at most 3 Initiative Dice in the Matrix, which is not enough to get you an extra Major action.

So, let's suppose that we are the archetype Decker, and attempting to hack the PAN of the archetype Weapons Specialist. We have no idea if he counts as monitoring his own PAN or not, but let us assume that he does not. Our Cyberjack and Shiawase Cyber-6 deck give us total Matrix stats of 8/7/9/8. The Weapon Specialist has an Erika Elite Commlink and no deck, giving him 0/0/2/1. There are two options for how to hack. One is to use Brute Force, which is quicker (the exact opposite of what it logically should be..) but potentially raises the alarm and causes Convergence faster. So we'll use the other option, Probe, which doesn't raise an alarm. That's our Cracking+Logic (Cracking 7 Logic 6), vs their Firewall doubled since they aren't monitoring (2).

Oh, wait, hang on. The Probe action is "linked to the Sleaze attribute". The text says that this means that "if you use an action or program that's linked to the lower of the two attributes, you take the difference between the higher and lower Attributes as a dice pool penalty to the test". But Probe uses Cracking+Logic, which isn't using any attributes? Apparently we apply this anyway. So let's swap our Sleaze and Attack before we start, giving us 7/8/9/8.

We are rolling 13 dice compared to the target's 2. We get five successes. They get none. The Weapon Specialist's commlink is Device Rating 4, so the backdoor we created will only be closed after 6 hours. With 5 net successes, using this Backdoor to gain Admin access will have a +5 dice bonus. Using it is Cracking+Logic again, this time vs Willpower+Firewall, which leaves us with the question of whether or not the monitoring counts or not. But still, cracking+logic+5, that is 18 dice, compared to the Firewall's 1, to gain Admin access without being considered to have illegal access.

So, here we see our first problem. If hackers are supposed to be involved in combat, then there's an issue in that a dedicated hacker, even a starting PC, can utterly shred any balanced character that is not also a dedicated hacker. So unless you are very generous with the monitoring rules, and allow your PC decker to monitor all their friends' PANs, anyone except them will be instant bait for any NPC hacker who is built to match the PC level. But don't worry. There's a balancing factor.

So, we've hacked into the Weapons Specialist's PAN. Assuming he's gone for all the juicy Wireless Bonuses, we can now take control over all his Matrix connected gear. And what can we do with it?

We don't know!

Yes, for all the hullabaloo about Wireless Bonuses and similar things, there is absolutely nothing about what can be done with a hacked device or piece of cyberware! There's control device and spoof command actions, which just says "you can take any action that could be taken at your access level to that device", but absolutely no clue about what that is for any given item! Wired Reflexes, for example, have the Wireless Bonus to make them compatible with Reaction Boosters. So can you just switch them off from the Matrix, when likely there is no reason they could receive any message from the Reaction Boosters telling them that? Who knows!

Literally 90% of the Matrix chapter is about combat between hackers, regarding bricking target devices, crashing hacking software (there's programs. They give you bonuses to hacking actions. You have to pay for them all because obviously there is no support for pirating them even though it's the first, easiest, and most obvious cybercrime), rebooting devices, and snooping on data. Nothing about the actual integration of the Matrix and combat, even though all those extra rules and specifiers were put in for that reason.

Next, there's a section on Hosts - that is, the major servers that make up the Matrix (which we have no idea about when and how they are used). They have a Host Rating, which translates into their Matrix stats, and they also have ICE, where we completely throw out anything about hacking and just straight up try to use the combat rules. And fail. The ICE have special Defence specifiers for what you have to roll to defend against them, but only one brief sentence about what they roll to attack you, which is the Host Rating doubled. They also have Attack Ratings, which implies they can have Edge (and there are Edge actions for the Matrix), which would be good if any hacking hardware had a Defence Rating to compare to.

There's also the mention that Hosts use their own architectural design to prevent hacking, and that a link to a deeply nested Host is a valuable thing to have, because without it you have to suffer Convergence based on your illegal connections to all of the nested Hosts. So, what's your explanation for why every single corporate Host isn't just nested 41 Hosts deep, guaranteeing Convergence before you can hack the last one? It'd be a lot cheaper than hiring a spider and running IC, not that money matters to the big corps anyway. Um.

And that's the Matrix. Yea, the whole thing gave me a serious headache paging back and forth to work out the missing bits. Obviously, there's nothing more we have to say about the Matrix at this point. Hey, what's that in the corner of the scrn? My kbd is scrw p a ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Oh, god. Alright. Next time, how the Internet is actually maaaaaaagic. And no, it's nowhere near as cool as actual fairies in the Internet.

Nowhere near as cool as fairies in the Internet

posted by hyphz Original SA post

7: Nowhere near as cool as fairies in the Internet

Ok. I'm not sure how to tackle this particular mountain of insanity, so let's go step by step.

First of all, there was the regular Internet that we use today. In 2029, it was attacked by something called the Crash Virus, which spread across the Internet and destroyed "software and hardware alike" before being halted by an elite US internet security squad called Echo Mirage, who were the first to use direct neural links in order to be able to fight the virus fast enough (and to get their brains fried by it). However, apparently "the damage had been done".

This resulted in the Matrix, "an advanced network" designed to work with those same direct neural links. But, hang on, weren't those links designed for the original Internet? How does the Matrix differ? More importantly, what prevented the virus reappearing on the Matrix, and who wrote it? We do not find any of these.

So. Renraku corporation were "pushing the envelope on advanced semi-autonomous programs" when they "stumbled into creating the first artificial intelligence". AI as a noun has a horribly messed up definition, but we'll assume that what they mean here is the first strong AI. Of course, creating one of those - and in doing so resolving a bunch of serious philosophical paradoxes regarding the nature of intelligence and its observation - by mistake would be ludicrous, but no matter. As a result of trying to work out how this AI worked, another one was created which was hostile, and which crashed the entire Matrix again in 2064.

So. The current state of play in Shadowrunland is the Matrix 2.0 which appears to be the same as the Matrix 1.0 except it's wireless. How does this stop it being attacked by AIs again? Move along, citizen. What actually stops it being attacked by AIs is the Grid Overwatch Division we mentioned last time, but why did they need to rebuild the network wirelessly? Huh.

So, around 2050 it was discovered that there were some people - first called otaku, then Technomancers - who could access the Matrix without needing any gear at all; they could simply process information on the Matrix with their own brains, and when the network went wireless that became even more powerful.

Ok. I can totally buy a machine empathy type of deal where someone can interact with computers with their brains, that's cool. But these guys and gals don't just do that, they actually become fully functional Matrix nodes, presumably meaning that their brains are running servers and networking protocols that weren't designed around that. They can actually run software, too. Seriously, they can just download a program and run it in their head, and they can do that even if they can't program. How is this explained? It isn't. It's all just "unknown mysteries".

(Oh, and running software in your head and making your very brain a part of a network made for machines in which you are natively interacting with them. How much Essence does it cost? Um, none. Why are you asking? What?)

Oh, and yes, there is that thing about the second Matrix having been built from one hundred dead Technomancers being used as the backbone. See, that could have been genuinely interesting if they'd mentioned that all the devices were secretly rebuilt to use the protocols of Technomancer brains rather than the brains adapting to the protocols, and how the protection against viruses and maybe AIs and maybe even GOD itself comes from the fact that the Matrix itself is technically sentient but afraid for its own safety, and.. but there's none of that. What there is is a lot of ridiculous handwaving about something called "the Resonance" which supposedly is, well, something to do with the Matrix and support for it, but we don't know what.

Still, the point of Technomancers appear to be the White Wolf style edgy outsiders of the setting. Everyone is suspicious of them, they're suspicious of everyone, they constantly try to hide their identity as Technomancers, and most of them even still carry commlinks so that nobody suspects them (and obviously not because without the Living Network upgrade, a Technomancer can't run their own PAN off the brain, and thus they still need a Commlink for pretty much any device functionality)

If you want to be a Technomancer, you need to take a Resonance grade in your priority picks (by which we mean you need to take Resonance at grade D because of the rule that taking it any higher results in having less total points at no benefit). Once you have a Resonance rank, you get a living persona which lets you connect yourself to the Matrix as if you were a device. Your Attack, Sleaze, Data Processing and Firewall ratings are equal to your Charisma, Intuition, Logic and Willpower respectively, and you have a pool of bonus points equal to your Resonance with which to increase them, which you can reassign any time. Also:

So, we are told that Technomancers don't have a Matrix Condition Monitor and they use their Stun Condition Monitor instead, but then we are told how to calculate the size of their Matrix Condition Monitor. I mean, even goddamn Synnibarr was better edited than this.

So, let's work this through. If we give up 20 attribute points (out of the max 24 we can have if we pick attributes as priority A) to have 5 in all of the four attributes we depend on as a Technomancer, then buy up our resonance to 6 with 5 adjustment points (at least adjustment rank C), and use priority D on Resonance to be a Technomancer at all, then we will have Matrix attributes of 7/7/6/6 after applying our Resonance bonus points. To get those mundanely, we would need a Grade 4 Cyberjack (Data 7 Firewall 6) and a Renraku Kitsune Cyberdeck (Attack 7 Sleaze 6) which would set us back 202000 nuyen, in reach if we picked Wealth as priority A or B. In fact, if we are devoting ourselves to decking then Wealth B gives us enough nuyen to buy a Shiawase Cyber-6 instead and have stats of 7/6/8/7. So being a Technomancer is a pretty expensive way of just getting to be a hacker.

So, what do we do now? You can still take regular Matrix actions, so if you want to hack someone, you basically do the same as you would when using devices, but use the calculated stats instead. You can go to AR, VR, or hot-VR whenever you like, and don't need any equipment to do so. But you also get Complex Forms! Complex Forms are the Technomancer version of programs, and you get 2 for each point of Resonance you start with. And the mental wear-and-tear of fading is resisted with Willpower+Logic.

Yes, that sentence comes completely out of the blue in the book, too. Each Complex Form has a "fade value" and we don't know what it is. What the book is counting on is that you'll have read the Magic section too and you'll know that casting spells triggers a thing called Drain, and that you'll be able to guess that Fading is just the Technomancer name for Drain, even though that's never explicitly stated. When you use a Complex Form, it hits you for damage that you must resist with Willpower+Logic; if the unresisted damage beats your resonance, it's real HP damage, otherwise it's stun HP. Also, every complex form you have running at a time gives you -2 dice to all actions. Yes, these are copy/pasted from the rules for magic spells, except that magic spells throw fireballs, turn you invisible or read people's minds, while Complex Forms, well, do Matrix stuff.

(Oh, hey, I just notice there's a Fork program with the text "Hit two targets with a single Matrix action without splitting dice pools." There is nothing anywhere else in the chapter about being able to split dice pools to hack multiple targets.)

So, rather oddly it seems that the best role for a technomancer is to buff the regular decker with Infusion and Static Veil and then not to do anything else because they're sitting on a -4 dice penalty.

Another thing a Technomancer might want to do is to go through Submersion which is "a spiritual experience" involving "learning the deep and dark secrets of the Matrix". Yep, we've jumped the shark completely at this point and stopped even pretending that this is supposed to resemble a technological system. Submersion adds 1 point to your maximum Resonance (but not your actual Resonance score), and gives you a passive power called an Echo which has no reason whatsoever to be called that, but hey. And these are even dafter:

Finally, there's Sprites. These go ahead with the general theme of copy-pasting the Magic rules into the Matrix chapter. One of the things that magic users can do is to summon spirits and give them instructions, and technomancers can do the same, except instead of being called spirits they're called sprites and we have no idea how the flying fuck it makes sense that the "resonance of the matrix" can manifest a free-willed living being, that isn't an AI, and that can understand you. Instead of being summoned, Sprites are "compiled" (a term which makes no sense whatsoever in the context other than that somebody realized it was something to do with creating computer software); instead of being banished, they're "decompiled". Oh, and creating sprites is the one and only use of the Tasking skill which is specific to Technomancers, thus creating yet another dependency to spend points on.

If you want to summon, uh, compile, a sprite, you choose what kind of sprite you want and how powerful you want it to be, then make an opposed test against the power level you chose. You then suffer fading equal to the number of hits rolled on the opposed check, and assuming you're still OK, you now have a sprite who will do a number of things for you equal to the net hits you got. (Yes, this can be 0, so you can successfully compile a sprite who just immediately buggers off.) The sprite will only be able to function for 2 hours per power level you chose, unless you Register it, which is the one thing you can do with sprites that you don't have to do with spirits - it takes several hours work, and makes the sprite be recognised as a legitimate program on the Matrix, so it doesn't time out anymore, you can have several at once, plus you can tell it to help other people, tell it to sod off and then come back when you need it, or have it sustain your complex forms for you (which is going to be pretty essential).

So, There's five types of sprite: Courier, Crack, Data, Fault, and Machine; their power is set by their Level, which is your choice from 1-6; and their type determines the level-based formulae used to calculate their Matrix stats, and also what skills and powers they have. (Well, it says it determines their skills, but the sections only give lists of the skills, not their actual values.) Hey, we've already got 2 lists in this post, let's go for the hat-track with the list of powers:

So that's a thing. Our technomancer can potentially try to just summon up a 6/9/8/7 sprite with Cracking 6, although we don't get to find out what its Logic or Willpower levels are (the text on Matrix actions doesn't say anything about what sprites replace their mental attributes with, although bizarrely it does say what drones use. Yea, because a drone can hack. Um). Sprites aren't as problematic as spirits because the Matrix is less problematic than magic, but still, it does send the whole idea of the Matrix being a sensible thing not just jumping over the shark but over the entire school of fish.

Next up: vehicles and rigging! Then we'll do Magic, and then I can finally try to regain my sanity.

Baby you can drive my car, also you can do it on the computer and also you are literally a baby

posted by hyphz Original SA post

8: Baby you can drive my car, also you can do it on the computer and also you are literally a baby

Ah, vehicle rules. The other side of gear in modern games that's not gun porn. Also, ones that have a strong tendency to disconnect from and/or screw up everything else, so of course Shadowrun Sixth Edition is bound to contain plenty. Actually, that's not quite true. For some reason, all of the vehicle rules are written in the context of rigging - that is, remote piloting a vehicle - to the extent that the rules on just driving are actually under the heading Vehicle Rigging.

So. A vehicle has a whopping 9 stats. Handling is the difficulty of making piloting tests when driving the vehicle.. well, kind of. We'll see the issue with that below. Acceleration, Speed Interval and Top Speed all relate to how fast you can go. Acceleration is "the maximum meters per combat round the vehicle can safely accelerate or decelerate". That sounds fair enough.. until you then read the actual way acceleration works. If you're going 20 metres per round, you decide to accelerate by 10, so in your next round you go.. 25, because in the round you decide to accelerate your speed changes by only half what you actually accelerated by. Next round, you'll get to 30. And no, there is no option to accelerate or decelerate "unsafely" in order to increase these rates. (And yea, acceleration and deceleration rate are always the same, because you can't have better brakes than your engine.)

Speed Interval is the number that your meters per round is divided by to determine your penalty to handling checks - and yes, you could technically munchkin it by going 1mpr less than the threshold - and Top Speed is the fastest your vehicle can go. There's a translation table for converting meters per round to KPH or MPH values, too - although it's in units of 10, and many of the actual vehicles use numbers that aren't.

It makes the actual stats look a bit strange, too. For example, the fastest accelerating car in the game has an Acceleration stat of 24mpr. Suppose we want to accelerate to 60mph, which is 81 metres per round:

First round: starting speed 0, accelerate 24, apply half acceleration now: 12mpr.
Second round: starting speed 24, accelerate 24, apply half acceleration now: 36mpr.
Third round: starting speed 48, accelerate 24, apply half acceleration now: 60mpr.
Fourth round: starting speed 60, accelerate 21, apply half acceleration now: 70mpr.
Fifth round: starting speed 81, target reached.

Five rounds. 0-60 in 15 seconds! Yep, a car in the distant future which "pushes the limits of performance and the verge of street legality right to the edge" would only just lose to a 1983 Nissan Pulsar!

The rest of the stats are Body and Armor which are used for damage checks, Pilot and Sensor which represent the effectiveness of the built-in driving software, and Seats for how many people they carry.

So, just driving around doesn't incur any skill tests. If you want to "do something tricky with the car" - like make a hairpin turn, make a jump, or follow another another car without being spotted(?), you need to roll Piloting+Reaction against your vehicle's Handling score. If you're opposed by another driver, you just roll Piloting+Reaction against them. Example: Billy and Milly are drivers of equal skill who get into a stunt competition. Billy is driving the aformentioned Eurocar Westwind X80, a sports car with an on-road Handling of 2 (which is better, because remember, handling is what you roll against). Milly is driving an Ares Roadmaster, a heavily armored long-haul commercial truck with an on-road handling of 5. Since Billy and Milly are competing, they roll against each other, and their Handling stats are ignored. Even though Milly is driving a pantechnicon and is no better a driver than Billy, she still has a 50% chance of beating Billy in his sportscar.

If you fail a handling test, you need have to roll to see if you crash. (Yes, you might crash if you failed to follow another car without being spotted.) That's another Handling test, but always against the standard threshold this time (so I guess Milly does have a higher chance of crashing than Billy, which might even it out a bit). If you crash, everyone in the vehicle takes damage equal to the mpr speed divided by 10. "A vehicle may have safety features such as airbags, rapid-expanding foam, or even simply seat belts, which can reduce this damage," says the section, but none of the vehicles actually list these nor the amount of damage they subtract.

Curiously, crashing does not appear to do any damage to the vehicle. In fact, there are very few rules for doing damage to a vehicle at all. The Defense Rating of a vehicle is its Armor plus the driver's Piloting, so as usual, the Armor value of a car doesn't actually protect it against damage. It can presumably roll Body to resist damage, but there's no guaranteed level of resistance. Body also determines a vehicle's HP count in the same way that stats determine them for PCs - half the stat plus 8 - and some of the vehicle Body values are alarmingly low, which means that someone with a cyberjaw can just straight up eat a Proteus Lamprey submarine in 9 seconds.

That said, he may have trouble hitting it, because there are no rules for what a vehicle rolls in defence against regular attacks. If you try to ram a vehicle with another vehicle, it's an opposed Piloting+Reaction test, but there's nothing about shooting a vehicle or anything similar. If you try to ram a person, you test against their Intuition+Reaction as usual, and you deal them damage equal to your vehicle's body halved plus one for each speed interval. "Soft targets inflict the target's Body/4 rounded up damage back on the vehicle", so ramming a troll with a sports car can leave the car off worse. To continue with the daftness, there is no actual statement of how much hard targets inflict back - I guess maybe you're supposed to use the same ram damage on both sides, but it doesn't say it, so technically you can crash into tanks all day as long as you don't hit any trolls. Oh, and if a vehicle loses all its HP, it "breaks down". Doesn't crash. Doesn't do anything to the passengers. Just breaks down.

If you want to fire from a vehicle, that's Logic+Engineering for a mounted weapon, or a regular ranged attack if you're just firing out of the window or something; although in both cases the penalty for the vehicle's speed is applied to the attack roll. There are, however, no rules for shooting a person in a vehicle as opposed to the vehicle itself. This means that it's even easier than it was in Fourth Edition for your group to pull off the dumb shit my murderhoboes did of crashing armored cars into gunfights and blasting everyone at no danger.

Now, how about drones? Drones can't be piloted manually (you'd look pretty damn silly trying to sit on one) so you have two options: rig them or remote control them. They use their Piloting stat to maneuver, and fire weapons with their Sensor rating plus the rating of their software driver for that weapon. If they're fired at, they use their Evasion software.. assuming they have it, and if they don't we have no idea what they use. Oh, and as we mentioned last time, Drones can.. hack. They have an Electronic Warfare program available which "is used as the Cracking skill for purposes of jamming and overcoming ECM." There are no ECM devices in the book which are overcome by using the Cracking skill.

Ig. Do we think that maybe the rules for actually rigging vehicles - that is, controlling them through VR - could be any better? Well, we kick off by saying that to do this, first of all you need a Vehicle Control Rig, "or the appropriate technomancer complex form", because the author didn't actually bother to read the section on Technomancers and didn't realise that Machine Mind is an echo, not a complex form.

So, if you "jump in" to a vehicle and take control of it in VR, you use your Willpower, Charisma, Logic, and Intuition values to replace your Body, Strength, Agility, and Reaction. I am not sure what your Body and Strength would ever be used for while rigging a vehicle, since none of the vehicle skills relate to them, but hey. The alternative is to use a Rigger Command Console, which only lets you issue commands to drones, but does let you control multiple drones and can share software between them. The bad news is that your Command Console can be hacked, and the really bad news is that since you probably don't have a cyberdeck you don't have any way to fight back. The recommendation is to "use the Full Matrix Defense action". Which defends only your own person (not the device you're in) and we don't know if you can use it while rigging a vehicle or not..

Ok. Let's stop it. The section on rigging and vehicles, not including the vehicle stats, is 6 pages long. There are 21 suggested errata for the section on Reddit. Not all of them are justified, but still, that's 3 and a half errors per page, which has to be some kind of record. It's a shame that trains are not listed as vehicles, because if they were, they'd be wrecked. (But wouldn't take any damage)

Next time, we'll make everything else irrelevant by learning about magic.

Argle bargle, foofaraw, hey diddy hoe diddy no one knows

posted by hyphz Original SA post

9: Argle bargle, foofaraw, hey diddy hoe diddy no one knows

No, that's not a really lazy post title. That's actually a quote from the book:

That should already tell you a ton about the design of magic in Shadowrun. There's a ton of stuff that works reliably but nobody really understands why because we can't be bothered to write a back story. Oh, and people who can use magic are incredibly rare. Yes, it's one of those settings. Just take Awakening at a priority other than E and suddenly everyone you meet will be like, hey, wow, who would have expected a mage to show up?

Also the Magic chapter is 44 pages long. By comparison, the Matrix is 26, vehicles are 6, and even regular combat is 22. Yes, it's one of those systems, too.

There's several different ways of being a mage, and we already talked about the simplest one: Physical Adepthood. This means that you channel magic purely through your own body and use it to increase your physical abilities. For each point of Magic you have, you get a Power Point, and you then spend the power points on adept powers; some have variable costs. You can wait before you decide what power to buy, but we don't know if you can trade them back again (or how long it takes to make the decision, so you could technically leave a bunch of Power Points free and then arm up at the last second).

All spellcasting can produce Drain, which is the same as what technomancers called Fading two updates ago. It's regular damage resisted with Body+Willpower; if the unresisted damage is less than or equal to your Magic, it's Stun, otherwise it's Physical.

What the vast majority of adept "powers" actually do is to let you trade Magic points for physical stats at some exchange rate. Namely:

As I mentioned before, this tends to result in the situation where almost any physical character is just better if they're made as an adept who instantly cashes in their Magic points for numeric boosts and then never mentions Magic again. If you don't want to do that, though, there's actual effects too. Well, actually, there's.. stuff that gives you Edge!

Before you get too excited (you were getting excited, right? right?) remember than this still counts towards the cap of gaining 2 Edge per combat round. And then finally, gasp, actual powers:

And that's it for Physical Adepts. Next step: actual magic. This is divided into three categories: Sorcery (actually casting spells), Conjuring (summoning up spirits), and Enchanting (making magic items). You can be a regular magician who can gain all three magical skills; or you can be an Aspected Magician who can only gain one of those skills but gets an extra point of Magic at character generation. The one advantage of buying Magic points with the priority stat, rather than adjustment points, is that it determines the number of spells you start with.. but Conjuring and Enchanting Aspected mages don't cast spells, so they have no reason to care. If you want to be a Physical Adept as well as a regular mage, you can do that, but you have to split your Magic points. You can also choose whether you're a Hermetic or a Shamanic mage, but all this changes is which stat (Logic or Willpower) you use as part of casting, so you choose the one you're highest in. Done. Bear in mind, nothing else in the game gets to pick a stat this way.

So, let's sling some sorcery. You pick a spell - which will specify a casting threshold; roll Sorcery+Magic to see if you cast it right; then roll Willpower+your chosen stat to resist the drain. For +2 extra drain, you can add a point of base damage value to a combat spell; and for +1 extra drain, you can increase the radius of an area spell by 2 metres. Again, no-one and nothing else gets to customise risks on the fly in this way.

So, let's get into the actual spells.

You're probably seeing a theme by now. Yea, don't expect it to change. Next up, we have detection spells; they give you, or someone else you touch, the ability to get more information about something.

Yay! Let's break every investigation adventure wide open! The bad guys would never have thought to hide their clues from a mage, they're rare, remember! Next up, healing! Antidote heals toxins, Cleansing Heal heals HP and Corrosive, Cooling Heal heals HP and Burning, Heal heals just HP, Stabilize removes all Overflow damage, Warming Heal heals HP and Chilled. Increase Attribute and Increase Reflexes boost your or your buddy's attributes by up to +4, but aren't listed as applying the augmented maximum, so you can go hog wild, and Reflexes boost increases Initiative Dice as well without limit - but they increase their Drain Value by their net hits, so if you're a good caster you can unexpectedly drain yourself to death; Resist Pain directly reduces the damage penalty modifiers; and Reduce Attribute is not a bloody Health spell and should not be in this section.

Illusions! Yes, more choice for you! Why would we ever stop giving cool stuff to casters? Love, love, share, share!

Don't worry. That's about all. There's just Animate or Shape (Metal, plastic, stone, or wood); Armor, Elemental Armor, Mystic Armor or Vehicle Armor; Control Actions or Thoughts, creating Darkness or Light..

Look, you get the bloody picture by now. Sorcerers get carte blanche to mess with every single aspect of the game. There's even a sorcerer spell that increases the Matrix stats of a device, just to really piss the hacker off.

Alright, I was going to do magic in one post, but Sorcerers I guess are just so goddamn awesome that they're getting an update all to themselves. Next time: conjurers and enchanters. And more sorcerers. What, you thought we were done?

Look, just make a magic guy

posted by hyphz Original SA post

10: Look, just make a magic guy

So, last time we went into all the things sorcerers can do and ran out of space as a result, so let's catch up with what we missed. Rituals! Rituals are more complex spells that take hours to cast, and that can be cast by groups of mages working together. First, you need one leader who knows the ritual. Next, you need a magical lodge, which is a room that's set up for doing magic; you need one to do rituals, learn spells, and enchant items and building one costs 500 nuyen per Force level of the lodge, which determines how powerful the enchantments you can do inside are and.. well, apparently nothing else. Or you can create a temporary one by using some reagents, which you can buy for a whole 50 nuyen per "dram"; apparently there's all different kinds of reagents but they're all bundled together as one good.

Third, spend the reagents needed to cast the ritual (which are not listed for any of the rituals in the book), plus 1 extra dram of reagents for each point you want to reduce the drain by. The leader makes a Sorcery test with the help of all the other participants to seal the ritual; the net hits on this determine what the ritual does, and also determines if the drain that all the participants suffer is Physical or Stun. But unlike regular spells, you don't get Physical drain if the spell resistance goes badly; you get Physical drain if the spell casting goes well - specifically, if the number of hits on the Sealing test is higher than the leader's Magic rating. If anyone tries to leave the lodge during the ritual, except for one person named as a spotter who goes out to find the target, or the leader gets killed then the ritual fails; in that case, everyone still suffers all the drain as stun.

And here's the rituals:

And speaking of that, Conjuring is how you summon regular spirits. We've already kind of covered the rules for this in the section on Sprites as used by Technomancers; you choose how powerful a spirit you want to try and create (which is called its Force), then make an opposed test against the spirit to see how many things it will do for you and how much drain you suffer. Again, you actually suffer drain equal to the number of hits on the conjuring check - not net hits - so you can summon a tiny Force 1 spirit, roll well, and kill yourself. You can also spend reagents to gain.. a point of Edge on the point. One solitary point of Edge. On the other hand, conjurers don't have to do anything like "registering" spirits, but they also can't do so; so the spirit is going to sod off after one sunrise and one sunset, no matter how well you summoned it (but the book emphases that this is affected by geography, so you can spirits hanging around forever in the seasons of midnight sun).

Unlike Sprites, Spirits have much fuller character sheets equivalent to complete PCs and written as formulae based on their Force level (which are terribly laid out). There's six types of spirit in the book: Air, Beasts, Earth, Fire, Kindred and Water. Each one has different sets of powers, and how many of them they get access to is determined by their Force as well. And, oddly... there's not all that much about what spirits actually do. Previous editions emphasised that spirits had their own agendas, but there's none of that here, so they just show up, work for you, then leave. A typical stat block for a Spirit will have all stats at, at least, the Spirit's force; so if you're willing to risk summoning a Force 6 spirit (there seems to be no particular limit to Force), you'll get essentially a character doing your bidding with all but one of their stats at least 6.

(Note: if you wish to piss off your GM in a similar way my group did in Fourth Edition, summon a Kindred Spirit with Force 7+ and ask it to plan your run for you. It's got all mental stats at 7 or more so it's smarter than any of the players, before allowing for the fact that the average RPG player isn't Marilyn Vos Savant even if they think they are.)

Enchanting. Enchanting is divided into two categories, and the first is Alchemy. This is not turning one thing into another; it's making objects that contain spells. Find an object, choose a spell you know, choose something that will set it off (magic word, touch, or time bomb that's armed immediately), make an Enchanting + Magic test based on the Drain Value of the spell and the trigger you chose to determine how strong the object you create is, then resist drain as usual. You can reduce the drain value by using reagents, but only by 2 points.

The object stays at full power for 2 hour per point of strength; and that strength is also used when the spell actually fires as the object's stat modifier to cast the spell (so, yes, you can make a preparation that throws a fireball at Potency 10 and then have it roll badly and only get 1 net hit on the actual fireball). Other than that, it's just the regular spell, with no drain because that was already dealt with when you made the object. Hum. Those are actually... pretty clear, concise, decent rules so far. Oh, wait, you can totally break the Increase Attribute and Increase Reflexes spells by putting them enchanted objects; they normally increase their drain based on the net hits of the spell, but here the net hits aren't rolled at the time the drain is taken.

Next up. Foci! Foci are objects that power up your ability to cast. Essentially, having a Focus on your person and being bound to it (which costs Karma, so this is the only object in the game you have to spend effectively-XP to use) will add the Focus's Force level to a certain dice pool used when taking magic actions. The exceptions to this are Qi Focuses which contain or power up Adept spells, Power Foci which increase your effective Magic rating, and Weapon Foci which are melee weapons which add their Force to your attack rolls (but you still have to have some kind of magical ability to use them, which is even more reason to give your regular martial character a point in Magic to be able to use them. You can buy Foci, although they're expensive and licensed (and you still have to spend Karma to bond to them), or you can make them yourself - although you still have to buy the formula, a bunch of reagents, and make an opposed roll depending on what object you're using for the focus.

Think we're done with magic yet? Nope, we still have the Astral Plane to worry about. The astral plane is the plane where the energy that's manipulated by magic shows up; the main things that show up there are living creatures and magic. If you've got the power of Astral Perception, you can Assense (ugh) the auras of living things to see their health, illnesses or poisons, emotional state, relative magic ability, cyberware, and any astral signatures on them. Astral signatures are the fingerprints left behind when mages cast spells, and recognising them can trace a spell back to the casting mage, but unfortunately nothing in the assensing table says anything about identifying who cast a spell, only identifying that there is an astral signature present.

Plus, there's Astral Projection. If you project yourself into the astral plane, you can fly around at speeds between 100 metres and 5 kilometers per round (we don't find out if you create a sonic boom by going through the astral at 5 times the speed of sound, mind you) and you can also pass through manufactured walls, so cliffs and similar objects are still problems (and you can't go underground through natural earth), but any buildings in a city are see-through and walk-through. So there's yet another way to break apart investigation or infiltration adventures! That said, you can't see artificial things in detail (so you can't go reading books or searching for a critical item), and although you can manifest as a ghost on the physical plane to communicate with people there, you can't manipulate with, attack, or cast on anything, so it's mostly useful for scouting. Unless we remember to put all of our secure facilities underground, probably with supernatural astral guardians and cunning magical tra.. uh-oh.

Also, there's a time limit of 2 times your Magic on how long you can hang out in the astral, after that point, your Essence starts to drop by a point per extra hour, and if it hits zero you die. And to get back to the real you, you have to astrally move back to your body; because you're so fast distance isn't a problem, but it's a skill roll to find it if some cunning person has picked it up and moved it while you were in the astral and not watching. No word on what happens if they're nasty enough to have chucked it into the earth and buried it.

If you meet anything nasty, including another magician, in the astral, then you might end up fighting them. Guns don't work in the astral; you have to either use spells, bonded melee weapon foci, or just wade in with your fists. You use the Astral skill or Close Combat to fight, and Willpower instead of Agility, and you resist damage with Willpower instead of body. Your armor is greatly reduced because physical armor doesn't have any effect in the Astral, but since nobody really cares about armor that's not too much of a restriction.

No, you can't attack the living astral component of regular people from the astral plane. They haven't made magic users that broken. That said, they don't have any explanation of why not.

Now, remember that dumb "submerging yourself in the mysteries of the Matrix" thing that Technomancers can do? Regular mages do that too, except it's the astral and it's called "initiation" (even though you can do it several times). It's bought with Karma, increases your maximum Magic rank, gives you "the ability to visit other metaplanes" (these are apparently where spirits come from but we never find out anything else about them) and gives you a "metamagic", which isn't actually a D&D-style metamagic but a power-up to spell casting in general. Yay, yet another source of power ups for spellcasting! Here's your choice:

And that's, finally, that. So, yes, another game where magic users have a ton more options, a ton more power, and better alternatives for achieving the same things that others can. This is probably really just Shadowrun's age showing, but of course it becomes incredibly jarring in the modern setting of the game.

And that's more or less it. There's a surprisingly short GM section giving a rough overview of security levels and the effects of reputation, but it's fairly loose. But we're going to have one more post, which is going contain a bit of design waffle, and some highlights of errors I either noticed late or that come from the "interesting" Critical Glitch suggestions table.

Case had spent ten minutes in a urinal trying to discover a convenient way to conceal his cobra

posted by hyphz Original SA post

11: Case had spent ten minutes in a urinal trying to discover a convenient way to conceal his cobra

We're more or less done with Shadowrun Sixth Edition at this point. As you can tell, it's a mess. The few attempts at original mechanics don't work at all, and what's left is a weird mish-mash of systems that don't integrate with each other very well.

So for the last post, I'm going to engage in some design speculation about SR 6E and about cyberpunk in general. To make it vaguely entertaining I've also scattered in some rules errors I missed and some samples - in quotes, but actually paraphrased - from the suggested glitches and critical glitches table in the GM section. Glitches occur if more than half of your dice show 1s, and the opponent can spend Edge to make 2s count too; Critical Glitches occur if, at the same time, you don't roll any successes (and 2s cannot be made to count).

Here goes:

[Antidote Patches reduce the Poisoned Status as inflicted by a toxin. No toxin in the game actually inflicts the Poisoned status.]

Why write a F&F of Shadowrun Sixth Edition? Apart from the two obvious reasons - that I quite like writing F&Fs and so that sempai will notice me - and one unusual one, that someone suggested it; it was because I had heard about the Edge mechanic, and was interested in almost anything that was an attempt to do something new with a cyberpunk game.

[Critical glitch: "Your melee attack awkwardly shatters your forearm, which is irreparably damaged and must be replaced with cyberware." A cyber forearm is 12,000 nuyen and 0.45 Essence. Note that the glitch can still happen if your arm is already cyber.]

Because cyberpunk comes across as a genre almost even more grognardy than fantasy. First Edition Shadowrun was released in 1989, the same year as AD&D 2nd Edition but gives the impression of having been changed since then, but not in particular overhauled or experimented with.

[Social Regular Glitch: "You fart unexpectedly."]

Cyberpunk doesn't seem to have had a "D&D Fourth Edition" that was a good game that split the base. There was Cyberpunk 3.0, which genuinely tried to change some of the standards (corporate arcologies becoming entire belief systems, cyberware so advanced it doesn't need surgery, hacking so prolific the Matrix is abandoned), but was terribly designed, wilfully incomplete, and had some utterly ridiculous ideas (no Matrix, so the old ICE sprites show up as literal physical objects made of nanodust you have to fight)

[Critical glitch: "You are triggered into attacking your contact, no matter what advantage or numbers they have on their side."]

Moreover, it doesn't seem to have even had a D&D Third Edition which rejigged the old material into a new functioning layout, a layout strong enough to have supported the genre for years to come. Now it's fair to argue that it didn't really need it, because the initial standards like Shadowrun itself and Cyberpunk were designed late enough that they didn't have the cruft that D&D's Second Edition had, but still.

[Only Aspected Sorcerers get starting spells based on their Magic rank. This means that starting Aspected Enchanters can't enchant anything, because you need to know the spell you want to link to the object.]

The genre itself also seems to have stood still except for a few minor changes to the technology to reflect modern developments, which are often more problematic to the style than they are appropriate. Which is especially odd, because there seem to be plenty of potential developments to the setting. With the power of magic in Shadowrun, is big tech - and the acceptance of the corps that have to exist in order to make anything that sophisticated - the only choice anyone has against magocracy? What if hacking goes terminal; a perfect hack, which can never be patched, and works every time; to the extent that no computer can ever be secure, anyway, and the big guys all retire from digital space entirely - while leaving the men and women in the street stuck because things have grown beyond the point of scalable analog solutions? (Hell, you want technological verisimilitude? That might have already happened.)

[Critical glitch: "You open too large a mana channel and are burned out. You permanently lose 1 Magic rank."]

Instead, even the newer cyberpunk systems like Interface Zero focus on embedding the same cyberpunk standards into existing systems (Savage Worlds and FATE in that case), and while there's some adaptations of PbtA and especially BitD to the genre - like Hack the Planet - they tend to follow the same tropes as the others; explicit or implicit character classes, very familiar roles, similar disconnections in the setting (many of the indies give hacking rules without specifying anything about what hacking can actually achieve) (Note: I'm intentionally not considering Hard Wired Island even though I'm aware of it, because I know it's still in development.)

[Social Regular Glitch: "Coughing fit delays the conversation. Edge advantage to your opponent." There is no such thing as "edge advantage".]

But where's, say, Cyberpunk Masks where characters are defined by development arcs instead of standard roles? Where's Cyberpunk Mutant Year Zero or Legacy where you're building your own group on the streets outside the corporate arcologies and stealing and scrimping what you can contribute, and Mr. Johnson be damned?

[Spellcasting Regular Glitch: "Distraction sends the spell at a different target. Same effect." You just fireballed your whole crew! And that's a regular glitch!]

Instead, we have the idea of the players endlessly doing runs for Mr. Johnson.. which, as much as the books suggest that going to work for a corp would be "selling out", is ultimately just doing what a corp tells you and getting paid for it; just with a shady intermediary.

[If you have successfully hacked your way to Admin status on a node, you can no longer search for encrypted files, since Hash Check only works at User level.]

Is it just the genre? Well, I cracked out my old copy of Neuromancer which I first read years ago - thus the post title - and it's interesting what made it into RPGs and what didn't. Case saying "you're street samurai" to Molly early in the book has been fixed in RPG canon, but you never hear of a "jockey" or a "joeboy". There's portable computers, but not with Matrix access; a cyberdeck is something you plug into your desktop PC. Cyberspace is a visualisation of communication data personal to the user. Cyberspace is addictive. There are arcades. Media piracy is totally a thing that can be a much more valuable score than some random corp data.

[Critical Glitch: "Your weapon breaks and a broken piece hits your nearest ally in the eye. They take 2P unresisted physical damage and are Blinded 1."]

And that means that RPG-cyberpunk kind of developed as its own thing, and then.. just suddenly seemed to stop and settle on a standard. Which I would understand if that standard were coming across as being made for ideal RPGing, but it isn't.

[Spellcasting Regular Glitch: "You cast a randomly selected spell instead of the one you meant to."]

One of the things I found interesting on this thread was the mention that Shadowrun endured because it always gave the PCs clear things to do in the setting. I found this interesting because there's a parallel thread on Sixth Edition on RPG.net which says the exact opposite.

[Critical Glitch: "Your spell marks you forever as a practitioner of blood magic, even though you didn't use it." There is nothing in the book about blood magic or the danger of being a practitioner of it.]

And that's one I relate to, because while it's pretty clear what the PCs are meant to do, their wider relation with the setting is very confusing. How badass are they in comparison to others? If they're meant to be super badass, why are they stuck on the streets? Are runners supposed to be the bad guys or the good guys? The thread did comment that the sample adventures for Shadowrun veered back and forward between those two constantly over the course of the game series, with later ones having the PCs expected to work for people who would have been their enemies in the earlier ones.

[Critical Glitch: "A rock flies through your car's battery or fuel tank causing an explosion equivalent to a grenade going off at the center of the vehicle." This will deal 16 physical damage before resistance. This will knock any character with Body 5 or less unconscious every time; any character with Body 1 or 2 will actually fill their Overflow meter as well and be permanently dead. Even a character with Body 9 will be knocked unconscious unless their resistance roll is above average.]

So. Ahem. I kind of wandered there. But the point about the Edge mechanic is that I can really see what it's trying to do. It's trying to strike a balance between the free loose arguing-about-definitions applications of Fate points and the crunchier system that provides a stronger feeling of character empowerment. It fails horribly, but still; that's a damn good thing to try.

[As written there is no limit to the number of times you can use an Amp Up effect on a spell, so a caster can nuke the entire planet by repeatedly amping up a spell's area, although they will die by drain afterwards. Think any corp might have a conveyer belt of burned out mages to keep casting Control Actions on as many civilians as they can? well, why wouldn't they?]

A surprising amount of the other material is actually cruft from previous editions; in fact, those with more experience than me have noted that a lot of Sixth Edition appears to be just copy-pasted from Fifth. Cyberpunk RED, too, is largely being praised for its similarity to previous editions, although that's probably just because after Cyberpunk 3.0 fans lost trust in the developer.

[Critical Glitch: "A ricochet hits your teammate. They take full damage plus 3 hits with no defence roll, only damage resistance."]

So, Shadowrun Sixth Edition is a disaster. Obviously rushed out because of the popularity of Cyberpunk RED, but still somehow getting to #1-#2 on DriveThruRPG (although it's possible that this was because a re-usable download code leaked). There's still back and forth about whether it will be fully errata'd.

[Jumping into water clears the Burning status, but it doesn't give the Wet status.]

Actually, there already is one round of errata which I intended to go through at some point, then I found out that the PDF I was reviewing from already had the errata included. Well, some of them. Some of them are missed out. And some of them had typos in the errata that were then copied into the actual book.

[Critical Glitch: "You inadvertently insult your contact so badly that they instantly become hostile to you."]

But if there is going to be a cyberpunk resurgence led by the re-releases of these games, I'd far rather there was more of an attempt to do something original with the genre than simply remakes of the old games and standards. As it is, with Shadowrun Sixth Edition being awful and Cyberpunk Red potentially being too close to the old game to attract modern players, it might not go well. In fact, I'll finish with one of the very first regular glitches suggested in the book, because it could sum up the effect this kind of release could have on cyberpunk RPGing:

[Universal Regular Glitch: "The opposite of what you meant to happen happens, and you don't know it."]

(End of line)