Archetypes, Replacements for the SR4A Sample Characters
Archetypes, Replacements for the SR4A Sample Characters
Aug 14 2011, 03:40 AM
Joined: 1-July 10
Member No.: 18,778
The Archetypes are a replacement for the Sample Characters provided in SR4A. They are specifically intended for Shadowrun Missions and are fully compatible with the SRM rules. They can be used in non-Missions games as well, with a few caveats (see below), such as ignoring references to SRM-specific rules (such as how downtime activities work).
5 new archetypes added - the Magical Rocker, Martial Artist, Former Neoprimitive, Gunslinger, and Info Savant. In particular there are now 4 of each metatype other than dwarves (of which there are 2), and more adepts.
Why replace the sample characters?
The sample characters are neither suitable as pregenerated sheets for new players to use, nor useful as examples of how to make characters. They have widely varying levels of effectiveness (compare the Weapons Specialist to the Street Samurai or the Enforcer), many of them cannot do the job they claim to be able to do (the smuggler cannot smuggle things, for example), and many of them are built in strange or illogical ways. They are also difficult to use, because they don’t list all necessary information on their character sheets. Lastly, they aren’t fully Missions-compatible (for example, the Occult Investigator has Mind Probe, which isn’t allowed in missions).
The Archetypes fix these problems. They are built to a fairly uniform power level, and they all clearly advertise what they are and are not good at. Not only do they list all the game information needed to sit down and play them (such as the effects of spells, common dice pools, damage of weapons, and statistics of vehicles and drones), they also have a list of recommended ways to spend karma and nuyen with the costs pre-calculated, for easy between-Missions upgrading (useful for convention play, or for new players who are overwhelmed by the number of options).
All of the Archetypes have “hooks” that make it easier for players to get into the character and add unique elements to their version of an Archetype, as well as a few open Knowledge Skills (along with a list players can select from) to add a bit more uniqueness.
Finally, to be more friendly to new players, all the Archetypes have a “Tactics” section that lays out the basic way the characters operate and explains the typical use of each character’s abilities.
In general, all the characters favor passive and automatic effects (such as Improved Ability) over active-use preemptive abilities (such as Attribute Boost). Similarly, they have minimal amounts of “widget” gear - meaning small, situational pieces of equipment that are easy to forget you have and that you have to remember to use. The reason for both of these design choices is to make the characters easier on new players; sheets filled with lots of little things that only help in narrow circumstances and with abilities that you have to use in advance rather than activate “on the fly” when they come up are much harder to handle when you haven’t seen the character before and aren’t highly familiar with the game system.
All of the characters are designed with about a 70%-30% focus on effectiveness “as-is” versus long-term karma and nuyen efficiency. Obviously, this varies a bit from archetype to archetype, but at the very minimum none of them are missing anything they need to perform their stated roles, even if it means having some gear that they will want to throw away and replace after finishing their first run.
All of the characters are designed for a relatively high level of optimization, for several reasons. First, it’s a lot easier to weaken characters than to strengthen them. Second, the players of Archetypes will usually be newer players: they should be able to play alongside characters with more karma run by more experienced players, without being unable to contribute.
All characters are designed to wear acceptably discrete armor - typically armored clothing with discrete armor worn underneath. None of the characters start play with Restricted or Forbidden armor.
All of the characters have at least one weapon (or attack) that is Restricted, concealable, or both; many characters also own unconcealable and/or Forbidden weapons, but none of them rely on such weapons to be effective.
The Tactics section maintains the polite fiction that Stick-n-shock is for taking people alive, rather than for any situation other than fighting Stun-immune targets or intentionally killing people at the cost of taking them down less quickly. All characters who use guns own both Stick-n-shock ammo and lethal ammo; the intention is to facilitate both tables where Stick-n-shock is prevalent, and also tables that have a “gentlemen’s agreement” not to use it as a default attack.
Similarly, the characters with Summoning/Compiling have fairly conservative suggestions about the force of the spirits/sprites they should typically call, but of course have the option of higher-force summoning.
All of the characters have 35 points of Negative Qualities, with an emphasis on “personality flaws.” This is to give players immediate hooks they can use to get in character, and to make the Archetypes more distinctive. If you don’t have time to make a whole character from scratch and want to instead personalize an Archetype before play, swapping negative qualities for other ones is a good idea.
All of the characters have an appropriate contact. Characters with poor social skills tend to have higher connection-rating contacts to give them more to do during the Legwork portions of adventures.
As an overall design principle, more specialized characters aim to be excellent at all the aspects of their area of expertise. Less specialized characters aim to be pretty good at critical aspects of the areas they cover. For example, characters who are not very combat focused aim to be good with one type of weapon rather than subpar with every type of weapon. More combat focused characters aim to be very good with several types of weapons (including at least one weapon for any given niche), rather than incredibly amazing with a single particular weapon.
None of the characters use any of the following, even though they are (strictly speaking) permitted in missions, and most if not all of the characters would benefit.
-Cyberhands and Cyberfeet with Armor Enhancement
-Emotitoys and Empathy Software (including not advising the Technomancer to thread them)
-Dump stats were kept to the following standards: most of the characters have all or all but one ability score at 2 or higher. A minority (the Technoshaman and the Transhuman Mystic) have two ability scores at 1.
-None of the characters are metavariants, Changelings, or sapient critters.
-The characters avoid, as much as possible, the use of any spells, powers, or equipment with unclear mechanics. For example, the Technomancer is not advised to take the Swap echo, because it isn’t clear how it works and different GMs may rule it works in very different ways.
There are several places where the rules are unclear. There’s simply no way to design all the characters to work under all possible interpretations of every rule, so instead, I will outline the assumptions the characters were built under.
Cyberlimb Averaging: It is unclear how cyberlimb averaging was intended to work as the example appears to contradict the text and the math used isn’t explicitly shown. The archetypes assume the most conservative (ie, weakest for the cyberlimb user) interpretation that doesn’t directly contradict the example, which also appears to be the most widely held version.
a) The skull is considered a “partial limb” and is not used except in tests that directly and exclusively involve it (just like hands or feet).
b) The torso is a full limb.
c) Tasks that involve one limb and one limb only use that limb’s stats and only that limb’s stats, regardless of whether it is partial or full. The characters were designed to not bring up questions like “does firing a SMG use only my hand, or does it use my forearm, or my entire arm?”
d) Tasks involving clear and specific sets of limbs use the average or the minimum, depending on the GM’s judgement of whether it requires a combined effort or careful coordination. Examples include running (both legs) and firing two-handed guns (both arms). Only full limbs are averaged; partial limbs do not apply in either case.
e) Tasks that involve no specific body parts, such as encumbrance from armor or damage resistance, average the torso, both legs, and both arms. The characters base stats are averaged in multiple times if appropriate; for example, a character with a cybertorso, one cyberarm, and one cyberleg would have an “average Body” of [(base Body)x2 + cyber torso body + cyber arm body + cyber leg body]/5
The only more conservative commonly held interpretation that I am aware of counts the head as a full limb. However, this leads to either the nonsensical conclusion that the head is not involved in resisting damage, or contradicts the example given on page 343 of SR4A.
In any game that has houserules or a different interpretation of the rules from the above, all of the characters with cyberlimbs will need to be significantly reconstructed.
Threading: Threading is an action that takes no time, and a technomancer can choose to keep less hits than they roll on a threading test. Thus, a technomancer can in theory Thread, discard all the hits, and try again, until they either get as many hits as they want, roll no hits (in which case they must take -2 to retry), or glitch/critically glitch.
The Technoshaman is built in such a way as to still work if the Threading rules are not used as written, but the Tactics section assumes no houserules. No changes need to be made to the Technoshaman at tables that houserule Threading to bar or limit retries.
Skill caps: I assume that the skill caps are (unaugmented attribute plus unaugmented skill)x2 or 20, whichever is higher; ie, the Improved Ability adept power and other effects that increase skills do not raise the skill cap.
I assume that for Matrix tests, the cap is set by (unaugmented) Complex Form or Program rating and skill, not by Logic and skill. If Logic and skill is used to set the cap, the Technoshaman should be significantly rebuilt or not played.
Control Device: It is not uniformly agreed upon what you can and cannot “remote control” in order to replace your ability score with Command; for example, can the Mercenary Rigger use Control Device on his medkit to provide first aid? None of the characters are built around the assumption that you can Control Device anything and everything in this way, but a number of them (such as the Mercenary Rigger and Technoshaman) would benefit from doing so if allowed.
Missions Specific Design Choices
There are some things that might not be immediately obvious that result from the characters being designed for Shadowrun Missions; these are listed mostly to help anyone who wants to use the Archetypes characters in non-Missions games.
In general, all of the characters are designed with choices of skills and abilities that I have observed to be useful in Missions games I have run or played in personally.
Contacts: All the characters have a Contact from Season 4 of Shadowrun Missions. You may want to replace these if you are playing a different season or a non-missions game. The missions format tends not to reward very heavy investment in contacts at character creation, so there aren’t any characters who spent more than 9 points on contacts (but everyone has at least 1).
Licenses: Per Bull’s preferences, Fake Licenses are based on “common sense” things that characters would have licenses for - such as a license to practice magic - rather than the way the Sample Characters have a separate fake license for each restricted item (even to the point of having two fake licenses in order to own two copies of the same gun).
Optional Rules: The characters assume that no optional rules (aside from those explicitly included, like extra recoil compensation for high Strength) are used, and that no “at the GM’s discretion, characters may take...” abilities are permitted. Specific “game-changers” commonly used in non-missions games:
1) Martial arts. Every character except the pure mages and the Technoshaman would benefit from some investment in martial arts otherwise.
2) Way of the Adept. The Negotiator should probably have a Way, if Way of the Adept is allowed.
3) Custom streams and traditions: All the magical and emerged characters would benefit from having a customized tradition or stream.
Possession: Possession traditions are banned in Missions, so there are no Possession-tradition magicians or mystic adepts.
Mental spells: Mental spells are banned in missions, so none of the magicians know any mental spells.
Specializations: Missions allows only the specializations listed under the skill entries in SR4A, in all of their vague and inconsistent glory. This causes a whole host of oddities such as Unarmed (Martial Arts), Pilot Ground Craft (Wheeled), no Pistols specialization that covers the Ruger Thunderbolt, et cetera.
Archetypes Spreadsheet that gives a general idea of what the Archetypes are and what they do.
Burnout Combat Mage: a cybered Dwarf magician focused on combat magic.
Spirit Medium: an Elf magician focused on summoning.
Magical Rocker, a human magician focused on flashy combat magic and rocking out.
Paranormal Detective: an Ork magician focused on detection and illusion.
Transhuman Mystic: a Dwarf cybered mystic adept focused on magically-enhanced physical combat and B&E.
Negotiator: an Elf cybered adept with a mix of social and physical combat skills.
Martial Artist, a troll augmented adept focused on melee combat and social skills.
Former Neoprimitive, a troll augmented adept who uses archaic throwing weapons to great effect.
Gunslinger, a human augmented adept focused on mastery of pistols.
Ronin: an Ork street samurai, focused on an even mix of toughness, melee combat, and ranged combat.
Ghost: an Elf street samurai, focused on ranged combat.
Bad Enough Trog: a Troll street samurai, focused on toughness.
Mercenary Rigger: an Ork rigger, with secondary skills in hacking, B&E, and physical combat.
Generalist: a Human face/street samurai/hacker.
Spook: a Human face/street samurai/B&E specialist.
Combat Hacker: a Troll hacker/street samurai.
Technoshaman: an Elf technomancer focused on hacking, with secondary rigging.
Info Savant, an ork technomancer focused on rigging, with hacking secondary.
Aug 14 2011, 03:30 PM
Joined: 29-October 09
From: Leiden, the Netherlands
Member No.: 17,814
Alas, that's not the root cause. The root cause is this is what happens when one person builds all the archtypes. Some known cheese becomes common (cyberlimbs, rating 6 medkits). Some know cheese becomes deliberately avoided (Empathy software).
I don't get why Rating 6 medkits would be cheese. (Actually, I don't see why they had to give medkits ratings, instead of just fixing all of them at R6. There's no reason to go lower, so why add fake complexity to CharGen?)
Whether cyberlimbs are cheese is arguable. Personally I don't think so. Is your objection more OOC or IC?
OOC, it's obvious that cyberlimbs are powerful, and especially powerful considering the price. But are they unbalanced? Are they so powerful that you have to take them? I think they do a decent job (given the Essence price) of giving the non-Awakened something to fight back with.
IC, it's technology. Performance can be measured, people can post reviews on ShadowTweakers about which builds work well. So it makes sense to copy powerful builds. (I think that technology is exactly one area where it can actually be good roleplaying for a tech-savvy character to heavily optimize. Because that's what engineering is for: to achieve the best performance for your situation. That's what hackers do.)
Some design decisions are simply odd (Public and private commlinks are standard but both are left undefended on most characters. Even the hacker has, for his public commlink, a Meta Link with Vector Xim and no firewall.)
Eh, that's bound to happen I guess. I must admit I didn't review the stats thoroughly, I find reading other people's stat blocks to be extremely boring. (I also think SR has way to many stats and particularly equipment with sub-stats to keep track of.)
You would see the same thing if I ever got off my butt and did the Omae/Chummer project I'm thinking of. My personal design trends would creep into all characters I would build. Personally, I like the work and hope it continues. They're certainly better choices than the in-the-book archtypes and they allow someone to just grab a character and go.
I'd make things differently too I guess. It would also matter if you decided on the outset that all archetypes would be built for Pink Mohawk or Black Mirrorshades - the amount of detectable, visible stuff for example, and the amount of points that go into stealth.
Aug 14 2011, 03:50 PM
Joined: 22-June 10
From: Omaha. NE
Member No.: 18,746
I don't get why Rating 6 medkits would be cheese.They provide a first aid skill of 6 and give a +6 bonus to it for 1/5 of the price of rating 6 empathy software (which needs a commlink that can run it....)
Are they so powerful that you have to take them?5 characters took them. Throw out the guys with high magic ratings that didn't take the essence hit, and while it's not "have to take", you can see it from there. I find it interesting that there are more cyberarms than orcs, given orcs unbalanced BP cost.
Aug 14 2011, 09:17 PM
Joined: 3-December 03
Member No.: 5,872
They provide a first aid skill of 6 and give a +6 bonus to it for 1/5 of the price of rating 6 empathy software (which needs a commlink that can run it....)
5 characters took them. Throw out the guys with high magic ratings that didn't take the essence hit, and while it's not "have to take", you can see it from there. I find it interesting that there are more cyberarms than orcs, given orcs unbalanced BP cost.
I kind of think the first aid rules in 4e were designed around the idea that all the players would take a rating 6 medkit. i mean all it really goes is get you past the threshold in most cases. You still need you logic+skill to heal anyone to a decent degree.
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