Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: New campaign, gritty street level with 2050s tech in SR5
Dumpshock Forums > Discussion > Shadowrun
FriendoftheDork
Greetings dumpshock, it's been quite awhile since I frequented these forums. If you don't want to get the details of the plan, you can skip ahead to the main question at the end of the thread.

I haven't really played Shadowrun for a long time, but me and some of my players miss the old good times we had in "Life in the Barrens." I recently picked up the SR5 book cheaply, and after reading some of the rules I really like the changes in initiative system, introduction of Accuracy stat and so on.

However, I still plan for some very dramatic changes. First of all, I really don't like the Ubiquitous Wireless of SR4 and beyond. It makes hacking a chore, makes everyone connected and vulnerable, a lot of AR descriptions to account for, and makes hackers, deckers and technomancers too close to one another. Secondly, what I did to limit the runners in LotB campaign was a step in the right direction, but led to powergaming and only delayed the runners becoming too good for the opposition. What I want from this campaign is more down to earth, low powered, almost like today's age except with cyberpunk elements. Inspiration for this campaign will be shows like "The Wire" and 90s-2000s LA gangstas.

The PCs will all be members of a marginalized group, either poor metahumans or even black/Hispanic humans/meta mix living in a poor neighborhood in Seattle. I want Lone Star (not KE) to be a pesky foe and obstacle on a regular basis, so smack in the middle of lawless Redmond Barrens is not going to work. I haven't quite figured if they should be all SINless or SINNers, even criminal SINers. SINless fits the dark atmosphere of being a marginalized and forgotten group of people, but also makes law enforcement less of an issue, and given the circumstances is bound to get them a Criminal SIN sooner or later. Criminal SINs however are a really bad drawback not only for shadowrunners, but for anyone given how much they are discriminated against and how little rights they would have. They will be marginalized, but they need to be able to buy stuff at a Stuffer Shack or fast food chain without getting hassled too much (unless the 'Star is bored and are in he area). If I can't decide in time I will leave the choice to the players.

This start won't be very fitting for Shadowrunners, but that's the whole point. Runners is something they can aspire to be, or even to become petty crooks. I'm planning to start out the players as friends at a very young age, probably teenager. That means they will not be fully developed, so even the "street level" starting abilities and gear will be too much. The priority system can actually help in this, as it means what they choose will be their adult potential rather than what they start with. So instead of getting say 24 attribute points, they might only start with 12 of them and get the rest later on or gradually.

Gear is even more critical. Even 5000 nuyen which is the minimum starting gear for a street level campaign is too much for a poor teenager - imagine yourself having 5 grand when 15 years, to get shadowrun stuff. Sure, if you add your parents lifestyle costs, your clothing, magazines, computer, sports equipment, health insurance and whatever else you probably had it could easily cost 5 grand to replace it all, but you shouldn't get it as free spending cash. Therefore, lifestyle will be of a higher focus. PCs will start with either Low or Medium lifestyle bought for with what their starting money would be. While starting from poor, if the players want to prioritize Nuyen so that they can in the long run become a well-equipped street samurai, I could let them start slightly more well off than the others, and then introduce lump sumps here and there: A sudden inheritance, winning a lottery game, getting a downtime job that pays decently for some time. In either case I will use the Street Level starting restrictions on everything.

As for magic, this is more tricky. If they can start at magic 6 that will obviously be unbalanced compared to a wannabe Street Samurai without a single piece of cyberware. But on the other hand, no magic at all is boring for those who want to play a magician, which I don't want to discourage too much. In my old game Simon (the sorcerer) started with Latent Magic which he later developed slowly into a real magic rating. He was extremely weak at first especially compared to the gunslinger elf adept and the troll samurai (who were fairly strong because of high attributes), but then later became really dangerous due to magic being impressive even at rating 5. What magic level is reccomended for so young and weak characters? Magic 2? Just half of what they should have? Another balancing act is to make magic expensive again. I remember Hermetic Magic in SR2 and SR3 was extremely expensive as you required libraries to learn new spells, and they cost shitloads, while Shamans pretty much got it cheap in return for looking like dorks. Since the runner will start almost without magic, he will need to learn spells the hard way, spending some hard-earned nuyen getting access to books on magic or bribing a shaman teacher. Getting a talismonger contact will be essential and could lead to a lot more adventuring for the whole party.
Besides, having Magic 3 or even 6 is kind of pointless if you don't know any spells or haven't learned how to summon spirits.

Adepts are another matter, as they might not require book learning at all. Once the ball starts rolling Adepts are mostly self-taught until they Initiate. However, I could treat this more like RL kung fu monks - that it requires patience, meditation and good trainers to develop those amazing powers. Im assuming such a mentor will be less interested in material wealth than a Hermetic Mage though, and require services, time and patience instead, perhaps with some moral lessons as well.

I can see this way of handling things could be difficult for the players, or encourage min-maxing by combining planned attribute points with early karma purchases. To avoid this I will have to limit the choices a bit more by raising the minimum attribute to 2 (costing them 8 points already), and then not telling them how much or when they will get more points. I'm pretty sure they haven't read this book anyway, and if I tell them not to read chargen rules they probably won't. They simply need to know that they can choose priorities from A to E and what kind of categories are available (and minimum priority for certain races and magical abilities).

Technomancers... I will simply not use. Maybe they exist, maybe they don't, but it's not open to PCs.

Main Question
PS this is before delving into the Matrix chapter.
How well does SR5 rules mesh with a pre-matrix 2.0 setting? Can I use the decking rules and simply require a wired connection as well as ban AR decking? Can the new cyberdecks represent the old wired ones? What would normal civilians use for communication and basic computing needs instead of the Commlink, a videophone maybe? In my game the PCs might start without even these, possibly only having access to cheap cellular phones. I don't have access to SR 1-3 books, but I want the tech to be closely matching the Shadowrun Returns computer games, with a retro feel. Or maybe keep commlink as a non-decker device.

I know there is a 2050 book using 4th edition rules, but I hear the Matrix part there is just as bad if not worse than the older editions and SR4 itself. Could be useful for fluff and basic equipment perhaps, but I do like the SR 5 rules for most things. The wireless bonus is a nice touch, but will have to be replaced with something else (wired matrix bonus?) Any tips and experiences here will be most welcome.

I will probably have more questions after reading the Matrix chapter, hoping for only needing small adjustments. Above all I want to avoid solo-playing in matrix unless it can be done outside of normal play or resolved with a single dice roll or two.

Thanks for reading! If all goes well I will probably start a new AAR for this campaign. Won't be before at least a month or two though.
Tecumseh
To answer your question, in my opinion you could use SR5's decking rules and simply require the decker to have a wired connection. That reintroduces a couple issues that wireless decking was intended to address, namely giving the decker something productive to do in a gunfight and/or the hour-long mini-game of the decker jacking into a system while the rest of the team goes and orders pizza. But if you're comfortable with that then there's no reason SR5's rules won't work for a wired-only world.

In SR2 and SR3, you used wrist phones, radios, and PDAs if you wanted to stay mobile. At home, if you were Middle lifestyle or above you had vid phone (also called a trid phone) which doubled as your home computer. If you wanted hands-free communication, you used a headware radios/telephones. Low lifestyles might be using pay phones, which still existed as of SR3. (If your players seem dubious about this, remind them of the Crash of 2029 and how technology was set back 50 years.)

Now, to the meat of it. I've done three street-level campaigns over the last 20+ years and I love them. One of these days I'll write up a big guide but for today I'll try to keep it short based on what you've described.

First, decide how long you want them to stay street-level. Four sessions, eight sessions? That will determine how progression/advancement works.

Start very low and make your own chargen rules. No more than 16 attribute points for humans, maybe 12 for metahumans. Edge 2 for humans, Edge 1 for everyone else. Maybe 18-22 points of skills, but don't let any single skill have more than 3 points to start. Magic D for the Awakened. Mundanes get either a light pistol or an armored vest. Everyone else gets knives and clubs and synthleather. They won't be doing much more than clearing out devil rats, but even that's nerve-wracking when you're under-armed and under-armored.

Start them as a gang. It doesn't have to be a real gang (although it can be), it can just be five kids who all grew up in the same building. Touristville in Redmond or downtown Puyallup match your description of high-crime areas that still have a modicum of law enforcement. (The rest of Redmond and Puyallup are Z-Zones. Each session represents a different year of their lives.

Now, progression. Don't use karma, which strongly favors the Awakened, and don't use nuyen, since it's unrealistic that they'd be receiving what they actually need to be progressing at a good pace. Instead of using karma and nuyen, dole out attribute points, skill points, and gear. Be generous. For example, after every session award 1 attribute point and 1 skill point. Every-other session, award 1 special attribute point (Edge or Magic), 1 skill group point, and a new contact. Cash awards are a trick, so just "give" them the gear they need - including spells, weapons, armor, cyberware, etc. - at logical intervals. Everyone enjoys looting the dead, and the reasons you outlined also work well to explain windfalls. You can even design some of the missions around specific upgrades that the players want but can't afford and therefore need to illegitimately acquire. Assign qualities based on how the players RP their characters.

This lets the players feel real progress relatively quickly instead of having to save up dozens of karma to raise a single attribute point. Depending on the longevity of your group, by the end of 8 sessions you'll have proto-runners with 20-24 attribute points, 30 skill points, 4 group skills points, and Magic or Edge around 5. That's the equivalent of most of the priorities in the C-B range, maybe B-A for attributes. It requires more involvement from you, the GM, to try to balance the progression of the various PCs - pulling some up and pushing some back a bit so they keep pace with each other - but the end result is that the players will feel more ownership of their characters since they've been with them from such a young, vulnerable age.
binarywraith
I think I'm going to steal that approach to early chargen. I like it.
FriendoftheDork
QUOTE (Tecumseh @ Feb 18 2016, 11:57 PM) *
To answer your question, in my opinion you could use SR5's decking rules and simply require the decker to have a wired connection. That reintroduces a couple issues that wireless decking was intended to address, namely giving the decker something productive to do in a gunfight and/or the hour-long mini-game of the decker jacking into a system while the rest of the team goes and orders pizza. But if you're comfortable with that then there's no reason SR5's rules won't work for a wired-only world.

In SR2 and SR3, you used wrist phones, radios, and PDAs if you wanted to stay mobile. At home, if you were Middle lifestyle or above you had vid phone (also called a trid phone) which doubled as your home computer. If you wanted hands-free communication, you used a headware radios/telephones. Low lifestyles might be using pay phones, which still existed as of SR3. (If your players seem dubious about this, remind them of the Crash of 2029 and how technology was set back 50 years.)

Now, to the meat of it. I've done three street-level campaigns over the last 20+ years and I love them. One of these days I'll write up a big guide but for today I'll try to keep it short based on what you've described.

First, decide how long you want them to stay street-level. Four sessions, eight sessions? That will determine how progression/advancement works.

Start very low and make your own chargen rules. No more than 16 attribute points for humans, maybe 12 for metahumans. Edge 2 for humans, Edge 1 for everyone else. Maybe 18-22 points of skills, but don't let any single skill have more than 3 points to start. Magic D for the Awakened. Mundanes get either a light pistol or an armored vest. Everyone else gets knives and clubs and synthleather. They won't be doing much more than clearing out devil rats, but even that's nerve-wracking when you're under-armed and under-armored.

Start them as a gang. It doesn't have to be a real gang (although it can be), it can just be five kids who all grew up in the same building. Touristville in Redmond or downtown Puyallup match your description of high-crime areas that still have a modicum of law enforcement. (The rest of Redmond and Puyallup are Z-Zones. Each session represents a different year of their lives.

Now, progression. Don't use karma, which strongly favors the Awakened, and don't use nuyen, since it's unrealistic that they'd be receiving what they actually need to be progressing at a good pace. Instead of using karma and nuyen, dole out attribute points, skill points, and gear. Be generous. For example, after every session award 1 attribute point and 1 skill point. Every-other session, award 1 special attribute point (Edge or Magic), 1 skill group point, and a new contact. Cash awards are a trick, so just "give" them the gear they need - including spells, weapons, armor, cyberware, etc. - at logical intervals. Everyone enjoys looting the dead, and the reasons you outlined also work well to explain windfalls. You can even design some of the missions around specific upgrades that the players want but can't afford and therefore need to illegitimately acquire. Assign qualities based on how the players RP their characters.

This lets the players feel real progress relatively quickly instead of having to save up dozens of karma to raise a single attribute point. Depending on the longevity of your group, by the end of 8 sessions you'll have proto-runners with 20-24 attribute points, 30 skill points, 4 group skills points, and Magic or Edge around 5. That's the equivalent of most of the priorities in the C-B range, maybe B-A for attributes. It requires more involvement from you, the GM, to try to balance the progression of the various PCs - pulling some up and pushing some back a bit so they keep pace with each other - but the end result is that the players will feel more ownership of their characters since they've been with them from such a young, vulnerable age.


Very interesting response. I had forgotten about the wrist phones and other 80s notions of what the future would bring, although with smart watches we have some similarities I would think.

The assumption about wireless in my game is that the technology exists, but the willingness to make it ubiquitous is not. It's still used for communication (radio etc.), and riggers need some sort of wireless functionality to use their drones effectively, but these are expensive and highly encrypted. Speaking of which, the encryption in SR4 was laughable, which is another thing I feel must change. The problem with solo-adventure hacking was not solved by wireless IMO, my old game the hacker would often hack outside of combat, or when the opposition was already neutralized or bypassed. The decking in combat scenario already existed in the old SR, and even the computer games (SRR) has that as a possible option, also giving jacked-in deckers far more actions in the Matrix than the combat characters had in meatspace, making up for having to both run to a jackpoint and then jacking in.

In any case, as I want to avoid having the rest of the players wait an hour, I will probably decide simple decking situations with a single roll or two, instead of running it as its own combat. If there is a major deck (hack?) that needs doing I might have to resolve it outside of play, using email or something or even having a solo-session to do it, so that the major decking has been done before the mission plan is executed, and the decker can control the needed systems fast and efficiently with hardly any rolling. Well as of now I don't even know if anyone wants to play a decker, and if not I can make missions not require it, or have them needing to outsource the decking work to an NPC (who I decide on will either succeed or fail in certain tasks).

So to the MEAT:

It's hard to anticipate exactly how long the characters will stay low-street. I erred on the side of fast in my Barrens game, and after a few sessions the PCs were pretty effective. After maybe 6 months of playing the PCs were probably already more powerful than starting characters, and after a year I had trouble giving them any opposition except prime runners and high force spirits. My players are also accustomed to low-level play and character restrictions, and they enjoy having to make do with low resources and having a slow advancement (AD&D players with low-magic settings). They are very good at problem solving, planning, and making much out of little.
So all in all I imagine at least 8 sessions until they become something like starting runners stats wise, maybe longer equipment wise. Shadowrun is gear-heavy, meaning even fairly low skills and attributes can become really good if you have the right kind of stuff. Agility 4 Pistols 1(+2specialization, +2 smartlink, +1 cyber) and you already have better shooting skills than most lone star, with a minimum of karma investment. I want to prevent this in my game by nerfing non-skill bonuses, as things get too easy when you have 15-20 dice.

Age will go faster though. Starting them out at 10-15 age (depending on metahuman) means they will be less developed. In the matter of maybe 4-5 sessions they should get to adult age (18-20) and thus have at least 12 points worth of stats each, more if they prioritize it. They will be inexperienced still, definitely street, but they will all have guns if they choose to, and maybe even have some cyberware, but nothing like a street samurai. Since they are above the average, they should be able to deal with small numbers of opposing gangers, but still be very vulnerable to numbers or exceptional enemies.

Step 1: Nerf specializations. Either I will not allow them at all, or I will turn the bonus dice into a limit/accuracy bonus instead. Input appreciated. Almost all the NPCs presented in the book have few or no specializations, so why should the runners need any?
Step 2: Nerf laser sights, smartlinks, vision enchancement etc. These should still be somewhat useful, but only boost Accuracy or Limit instead. I might keep the dice pool bonus on implanted (only) smartlink, and also allow dice pool bonus from the Adept powers - these are paid for with essence or magic. But overall the dice pools should not have more than a +2 from permanent bonuses, anything else should be from circumstances or Edge.
These changes should mean the PCs are less dependent on gear, and more on investment in skills and attributes. Having a dice pool of 10 is not some newbie corpsec guard, it is a highly skilled professional with excellent talent. Since the skill system goes to 12 now, that means some of the best humans in the world have 18-20 dice without cyberware or magic, and only have that because they spent ages practicing it and had a talent for it. A dice pool of 6 should be the norm, and what the PCs are likely to compete against for some time.

Stats we are thinking the same thing. I might even go as low as simply halve what priority they are choosing, thus 12 points will be maximum to start with. 6 is too low though, they should be able to be average at least. To make the characters more unique I want to keep most of the priority system instead of letting them all have the same attribute points. Attributes will be minimum 2, so having 16 points means having potentially 3 in everything, or four 2s and four 4s. This is about the power level I want to start with anyway.

As for not using Karma for balance reasons: Do you mean ever? Should I simply hand out all rewards in points to attributes, magic, skills and edge according to what I feel like? The issue with that is that there is no incentive to spread out the points rather than overspecialize: If the players starts with a 5 in their best attribute and get a point every session they will quickly have maxed out, and for skills will after a few sessions be world champions. With the karma system however getting a 3 is not too expensive, but raising it to high levels is something only done after saving up a lot. So a character with 15 karma will probably raise several skills he thinks he could use rather than spent it all on his Pistol skill or whatever to become the best. Unless he chooses the opposite, which means sacrificing some utility in the character. I'm fine with either.

The drawback of going from points to karma is that this system can be gamed. If at chargen you simply dump everything you dont need right away and put the rest to max out attributes as soon as possible, you can then spend later karma levelling up the weaker ones to get them to average level. That's exactly what happened with my Barrens game, meaning you had Logic 1 Body 12 Troll, or the Agility 9 Strength 1 Elf. Despite having fewer points than normal, or maybe because of it the players min-maxed hard.
So hard caps will have to be very low for this system to work, or the players can't know they will change to the karma system until they have something close to starting characters. In which case it will be the same as the normal chargen rules where you already can dump stats and then raise them with karma awards. Such characters will be stronger in the long run than characters attempting to cover more bases and be "organically" developed. My fix earlier was to use Karma in chargen instead of build points, but that is much slower and more complicated and I would hope the priority system would address this issue.

Chargen also assumes runners will start with free karma, but limiting it to 12 means you cant even afford a 3 attribute, so I dont think these are problematic. Players will obviously not be able to start with thousands extra cash, but maybe something like an old car could do.

BTW how do karma rewards favor awakened more than others? Or do you mean vs nuyen rewards? Also, no nuyen rewards will be hard to justify, since many mission will be based on the PCs needing cash. Some major rewards can be items of course - "randomly" inserted into the game, but they will not usually be directly linked to mission awards. For example, they might find an old cyberdeck, liberate a car, have a contact provide them with some weapons, and get rumors about certain items available for theft if they have the guts. But in general they will earn some nuyens for the jobs they do, can earn some by doing non-running (drug sales, fixing things, security work).

Qualities: Negative qualities will be mostly unavaialable for karma gain, but they will also get Home Turf and maybe more for free. I dont want to see anymore "allergy to silver" for extra points.

Magic and Edge: I'm not sure if I want to start them at minimum edge, as I want them to be able to use some to compensate a bit for low attributes. Also, I want them to be able to invest or dump Edge as they see fit. So having Edge 3 or maybe even a 4 at chargen is not completely unlikely, after all it is not dependent on age or training.
Magic is trickier - it should be underdeveloped and lack any real knowledge - 3 might be too high even, but at least nothing more. They could get Magic 6 already when they are physically and mentally developed, but should still lack the skill and spell repertoire to utilize it most. I probably was too restrictive against the mage in Barrens, making him almost useless in the beginning 3-4 sessions. This time I want magic to be something powerful, but uncontrollable at first and inherent dangerous without proper guidance and training. They might cast a Force 10 fireball without actually knowing what they are doing, and thus taking heavy drain. The player in question will not know the rules of magic and will have to experiment to find out, or get in-character training and info from shady mentors.

Thanks again! Hope to continue this discussion.
binarywraith
QUOTE (FriendoftheDork @ Feb 19 2016, 07:15 AM) *
BTW how do karma rewards favor awakened more than others? Or do you mean vs nuyen rewards? Also, no nuyen rewards will be hard to justify, since many mission will be based on the PCs needing cash. Some major rewards can be items of course - "randomly" inserted into the game, but they will not usually be directly linked to mission awards. For example, they might find an old cyberdeck, liberate a car, have a contact provide them with some weapons, and get rumors about certain items available for theft if they have the guts. But in general they will earn some nuyens for the jobs they do, can earn some by doing non-running (drug sales, fixing things, security work).


Karma rewards benefit the Awakened vastly more than they do everyone else (except Technos, because SR5 Technos are just mages, progression mechanics wise) because they can directly buy their primary powers with them. In your game, it will be less of a huge deal, simply because your mundane characters can be assumed not to have character optimization dwerp'd themselves to maximum possible dice pool in their most common useful ability as a matter of course, so will still have places to spend karma that will have a return on investment,
Tecumseh
I had a ganger campaign get thrown out of balance by karma awards and how the Awakened characters benefited disproportionately. 5 karma for a spell or 13+ karma for an initiation is far more potent than what a mundane can do with the same amount of karma. Or say you start at Magic 2, getting to Magic 3 is only 15 karma. That gets an adept an extra power point, which would cost a mundane character somewhere between 15,000 and 50,000 to replicate. Maybe you're generous with nuyen, but that's a lot of money for a street campaign.

If you have "players are also accustomed to low-level play and character restrictions, and they enjoy having to make do with low resources and having a slow advancement" who are "very good at problem solving, planning, and making much out of little" then you're living the dream (or at least my dream) as a GM. If you have a regular group that's stable and meets regularly then slow progression down a bit. I proposed 8 sessions due to an understanding of how long groups usually stay together. If you have consistency and longevity then definitely take advantage of it and draw things out. I'll try to contain my envy.

I meant "don't use karma during the rapid street-level advancement phase". Once they've graduated to the phase of the game where they are normal-powered runners, then by all means resume using more traditional karma and nuyen awards.

Turning specializations into Limit/Accuracy bonuses will largely negate their use in a low-powered campaign. Limits don't come up much until you're flinging 15+ dice and it sounds like you're aiming for pools far lower than that. The same is true for laser sights and smartlinks. As a game mechanic, Limits were intended to put a lid on things to encourage people to diversify once their dice pools started getting close to 20. 4E didn't have a good way to say no to the 50-dice pornomancer, but now 5E does. But if gear and specializations only raise limits, then they'll be too niche to bother with. Going from Accuracy 5 to 7 only matters once your dicepool is 10 or higher; at 10 dice it would only come up once for every 13 rolls or so. Again, not frequently enough to spend karma or nuyen on.

Also note how limiting gear and gear bonuses will again favor the Awakened (who are less gear-dependent) over mundanes. There are balance considerations that sometimes trump realism. If the GM has a vision for the world, great! But that vision shouldn't inadvertently create classes of haves and have nots, or force players to play in the one way that conforms to that vision.

Also think about some of the implications of low dice pools. Yes, a dicepool of 6 would be fairly standard in the world that the game describes. Small dicepools are also a chore to play with, especially in combat situations. So you have 6 dice and you're trying to shoot someone with your pistol. Well subtract 1 or more dice for distance or other environmental or situational modifiers, then add 2-4 dice for the defender running or taking cover, and all of a sudden you have a dicepool of 5 trying to hit a dicepool of 10. The result is a drekton of attacks that miss. Realistic? Yes, very. Fun? That depends on your group's patience for combat sequences that are drawn out even by Shadowrun's lengthy standards. If you're limiting initiative boosters then odds are you'll be rolling a new initiative sequence every other attack or so, which you as the GM then have to do for all the opponents and then reorder the combat sequence accordingly. It adds an incredible amount of administrative weight that bogs things down into a dull grind in my experience. Maybe you have a veteran group that flows like smooth melted butter and has the patience for combat sequences that last 20 turns, but many players would rather keep things breezy and fun so that the story can progress at a reasonable pace. Alternatively, you'll find everyone racing to get automatic weapons and shotguns and AoE attacks and anything else that can reduce the dicepool to defend, if only because that's the only effective way to ever hit anyway. Maybe that's realistic and something you're comfortable with, or maybe you wanted to keep them lean and hungry with hold-outs and light pistols until they got older. You know best how your group works, so adjust accordingly.

I suggested limiting Edge because I also found it destabilizing in a low-powered setting. If Mr. Lucky shows up with 8 Edge and can add eight dice to eight different tests then that's very unbalancing when most dicepools are in the 6-10 range. Sure, Edge can help you sidestep some of the issues I outlined above - namely attacks that never hit - but it can also replace it with other issues, like tests that never fail. I would recommend starting low and refreshing often, but providing more Edge and refreshing it less frequently - so that its use is more strategic - also works.

As for Magic, it depends on what kind of character the PC is playing. Low-magic adepts can be very potent because 1 or 2 power points is enough to significantly improve your effectiveness. Low-magic spellcasters and summoners are more constrained because the low Magic value affects their dicepools directly. If your'e only throwing 5 or 6 dice to cast a spell and can only count on 1-2 successes, then for the most part you'll want to limit yourself to spells that aren't opposed in some way (like Levitate or Magic Fingers). Illusion spells aren't worth much at 2 hits (too easy to see through), Health and Detection spells often aren't worth the sustaining penalty (either due to limited upside or limited range), and Combat spells will often miss or do so little damage that you'll run into some of the problems with combat length that I described above. Low-magic summoners aren't inherently problematic, although they can get powerful quickly as spirits get significantly more potent at higher Force ratings. (Immunity to Normal Weapons is quite the hassle for low-level opposition.) Be wary of having a summoner spam low-level spirits to soak up damage or otherwise overwhelm the opposition. Street Grimoire has some suggestions for a spirit index that gauges how well a summoner treats its spirits. Sending them into a steady stream of gunfire is generally frowned upon.

I'm just outlining my experiences to give you some food for thought and maybe consider some unintended consequences. Take what works, ignore the rest. Low-powered campaigns are my favorite but they do require some thoughtful adjustments to game balance to keep everyone engaged and having fun.
pbangarth
I haven't played SR5 yet, but I think the following is generally applicable to all versions.

If you fear the Awakened will progress too quickly and soon leave the others behind, implement a couple of limitations. The first is background count. The lower the level of the campaign, the more likely the PCs are going to frequent parts of the city that are tough on Magic: pollution, hard times, etc. By the time the Awakened have progressed enough to overcome the BC regularly, they will need a lot more karma to go further, and the group as a whole may be ready to move up in the world.

Second, consider a house rule. Let the dice pool modifier some healing spells suffer for subjects who have reduced Essence apply to all magic spells. Some of those 'win button' spells would be as likely to fail as low dice-pool gunshots. This mod makes sense to me, and I've always wondered why it never became core. Were I ever to start a campaign again, I think I would give this mod a try.
FriendoftheDork
Thank you both for good replies. I can see how in a normal game karmic rewards are better for awakened as they can continually raise Magic etc.

Tecumseh:

I will definitely not give out karma rewards until the actual "build" points for attributes and skills will make the PCs on par with street level shadowrunners. Although the starting karma I think I will keep so they can get interesting Qualities and maybe raise a new or weak skill or two. Limiting Edge to no more than 3 in the beginning (or maybe less, depending on the limit of Magic) is probably also a good idea, Edge 8 characters will be unbalanced when dice pools are less than 10. However, Edge is something I see as essential for PCs who otherwise are not exceptional, its the stuff that separates them from the thousands of other poor, gangers, crooks etc. that never amount to anything. While I want them to start weak, I do want them to see their characters as special and having a great potential.

Dice pools and limits: In the "Life in the Barrens" game i ran, which btw I recommend having a look at if you're interested in such, Two of the characters routinely had very large dice pools despite having much fewer build points and karma rewards than normal. I think in the first or second session the Adept Face was able to get 5-6 hits on a social test, which is insanely good. Luck, use of Edge and specialized characters, combined with players that are good at min-maxing (despite denying it) means I am worried about large dice pools, and the Limits in 5th edition seems designed very well to counter this. Now, it might be unimportant in play, but previous experience tells me somehow they will get the dice pools unless I cap it.

Letting specializations and non-invasive tech only give Accuracy/Limit bonus means the PCs won't hit these caps right away, and also makes them worthwhile only for those skills that they really want to focus on. Taking a specialization is extremely cheap point wise, especially with karma. In 4th ed and now there is no reason not to specialize in every skill you can, which also makes Skill Groups almost a liability too. I want to make specializations to be unnecessary for everyone, yes possible for those who want to create more one-tracked minds. And even as soon as the PCs hit 8 dice pools they are likely to sooner or later be affected by caps, especially using Edge. Unless they actually use Edge for going over the caps, having those specializations and possible Laser Sights and non-implanted smartlinks could mean the difference sometimes.
5 accuracy will be plenty for the runners at first, but their attribute limits are likely to be fairly low considering their attributes are low (3-4), and with Edge rerolls or added it is possible to get more than that easily, so specializations might actually help for stuff such as sneaking. Eventually their dice pools will increase and professionalism will make them want to get the Accuracy up anyway. After all, there is no real tradeoff to using a Laser Sight so why not?

As for implanted smartlinks and Adept power (increased ability?) I think I will retain their actual dice pool bonus as they are costly investments and iconic for the setting. Thus a cybered human PC can have 9(ag)+12(skill)+2(smlnk)+1(Reflex recorder) for a total of 24 dice (let me know if I missed something obvious). This is only human mind you, and Qualities can increase this by 2 more. I don't really think having more than 20 dice total is necessary, so the limits should be very important later on. For most normal shadowrunners, 10-12 dice should be enough, street sams and adepts around 14-16.

Now the idea is that both magic users and augmented users should be able to get these bonuses, and regulars not. If the bonuses from awakened is far superior to the augmented overall, I might have to nerf the adept powers and mage spells that add direct dice pool bonuses somewhat so that they are pretty much equal, even though im fine with street sams getting it faster while adepts getting slightly higher bonuses in the long run.


Small dice pool problem and a house rule:
I know how annoying it can be to have very small dice pools, and with some penalties you are as likely to glitch as you are to make a meaningful hit. In these cases players usually opt to not even try, and are frustrated.
The normal rules about 1s causing glitches are fine one dice polls are around 8-14, its a small risk yet not happening very often. Once you have 2 dice however the chance of glitching is suddenly 33%, which is unacceptably high. In order to combat this I introduce 2 changes which will make everything a little easier or a little safer.

1. Rule of six applies in general tests. This was the old 2nd ed rule, and worked fairly well with lower dice pools. It also means the Accuracy and Limits will come into play more often, as anyone can technically keep rolling sixes for crazy results. I like the unpredictability, and the limits will stop the most outrageous "random mook gets 18 hits vs PC" bs that other systems have.

2. Players have the option of "Play it Safe", similar to "taking 10" in that other game. If they do, they forgo the rule of six in return of ignoring all 1s. Thus you are glitchless! The GM may rule that some tests are simply too dangerous to forego this (defusing bombs, running on microwire etc). But it means if you shoot with your two dice you are no 33% likely to have your magazine fall out or some old lady getting hit instead.

3. Edge will naturally have to be handled differently. Rerolls are as before, except rule of six still applies and you cant use reroll to negate glitches of any kind. Adding dice after the roll always have the benefit of Rule of Six and works as before, and those dice ignore 1s. Adding beforehand keeps the best of both worlds, Rule of Six + Play it Safe, for when it really matters.

Any feedback on this? I know messing with the base system generally causes annoyance, but I want to see how it affects the general balance of the game as well as how it influences player choices. So far I'm assuming normal RoS will be used, while PiS will only be used for the very low dice pools that are not critically needed to be successful, like firing an attack to aid the group or casual perception tests. I want to eliminate the fear of trying things despite low dice pools though, unless the act itself is extremely dangerous.

These house rules will affect the combat length, as RoS means generally more hits, thus more damage, thus opposition goes down quicker. What it does is remove the surety of a 16 dicepool - where you generally always damage the enemy. 8 dice with exploding sixes (RoS) on the other hand means only about 3-4 hits, probably damaging weak enemies, but no instagib, unless the shooter is extremely lucky. The ability to cause a critical hit or some such is what I have missed in shadorun, or maybe the chance for grandma with pistols 1 to shoot and kill an unlucky shadowrunner, at least in theory. That means that every shot fired at you have the potential of killing you, just as in real life (yet far less likely to make the game playable). I think I'll leave with that for awhile, still happy to get feedback.

Magic:
I will probably have to customize the magic rules and advancement depending on what kind of awakened the players want, and what fits with their backstory, but the general idea is to introduce it slowly so they can't depend on it at first, yet retain the option of becoming powerful without too much number crunching. So they might get priority A for Magic, meaning their potential Magic will be 6, but only be able to use it passively or get it doled out in chunks. I suppose I could do the same for Edge. Or give them a weakened version and not improve it at all until they start getting karma for increasing it and Initiation. Even if they should start with 10 free spells they will only have 1 or 2 that they only have partial control for. Yet since Force 2 attack spells are useless, having them be able to use the full Magic rating occasionally might not be as unbalanced, since their low spellcasting skill should make it hard to affect people with them.
Adepts are easier as they generally have normal combat attribute and skills - magic just makes them better. So even if they should get 6 PP eventually they need to learn and "unlock" these points gradually, limiting both their number of powers as well as the level in them. A single point in Improved Ability or Improved Physical Attribute isn't that unbalanced in the beginning, assuming the street samurai gets better weapons, gear or even a little cyber to compensate.

Again thanks, hope to get more feedback further on.
Zednark
When it comes to changing around the base mechanics, I'd alter your changes so that while Rule of Six applies to all tests, minus Playing it Safe, spending Edge causes all hits, not just sixes, to explode. That way, Edge stays special, but the Playing it Safe mechanics stay in effect.
FriendoftheDork
QUOTE (Zednark @ Feb 20 2016, 11:22 PM) *
When it comes to changing around the base mechanics, I'd alter your changes so that while Rule of Six applies to all tests, minus Playing it Safe, spending Edge causes all hits, not just sixes, to explode. That way, Edge stays special, but the Playing it Safe mechanics stay in effect.


Wait, so reroll all 5s and 6s? Hmmmm I might go for that but I'm not sure of the math. How many hits would 6 dice and 4 Edge dice give, rolled together? So 10 dice, 5s and 6s exlode, and so on.

My very basic (and probably weak) math: 10 dice = 3.3 hits plus 1.3 hits. 4.6 hits? That's pretty damn good for an average roll, somewhere around 13-14 dice equivalent without RoS. Making rerolling those 6 dice failures a bit meh in comparison, which it already was too. This change would make rerolling the weaker option for everything except rather high dice pools, the opposite of what it is now.

I like the general idea of making Edge dice special, but it might be a bit too powerful with exploding 5s.
Zednark
QUOTE (FriendoftheDork @ Feb 20 2016, 05:35 PM) *
Wait, so reroll all 5s and 6s? Hmmmm I might go for that but I'm not sure of the math. How many hits would 6 dice and 4 Edge dice give, rolled together? So 10 dice, 5s and 6s exlode, and so on.

My very basic (and probably weak) math: 10 dice = 3.3 hits plus 1.3 hits. 4.6 hits? That's pretty damn good for an average roll, somewhere around 13-14 dice equivalent without RoS. Making rerolling those 6 dice failures a bit meh in comparison, which it already was too. This change would make rerolling the weaker option for everything except rather high dice pools, the opposite of what it is now.

I like the general idea of making Edge dice special, but it might be a bit too powerful with exploding 5s.

Well, you could always alter target numbers, or make every test an opposed test. Changing core mechanics generally entails changing target numbers around a bit.

Honestly, I'd recommend making every test opposed. It adds an extra degree of randomness, so that less talented characters have a shot even on difficult tests (if the opposing pool rolls poorly) and more talented characters still have to worry (if the opposing pool rolls well). Things that were already opposed use the same dice pools, but you could come up with different dice pools for different degrees of difficulty. 2 is Vety Easy, 4 is Easy, 6 is Average, etc.
FriendoftheDork
QUOTE (Zednark @ Feb 21 2016, 12:20 AM) *
Well, you could always alter target numbers, or make every test an opposed test. Changing core mechanics generally entails changing target numbers around a bit.

Honestly, I'd recommend making every test opposed. It adds an extra degree of randomness, so that less talented characters have a shot even on difficult tests (if the opposing pool rolls poorly) and more talented characters still have to worry (if the opposing pool rolls well). Things that were already opposed use the same dice pools, but you could come up with different dice pools for different degrees of difficulty. 2 is Vety Easy, 4 is Easy, 6 is Average, etc.


That adds even more rolling unfortunately. Im more inclined to just incease some thresholds slighty.After all with RoS all tests would otherwise be too easy.

Another possibility for edge is to make 456 count for hits, meaning 50% hit chance per die. I could ask my players what they think as they are better mathematicians than me.
Sendaz
I think the 456 option is a better choice than Playing it Safe.

Yes they still have chances of glitches when rolling, but you also have more chances of at least one hit scoring so the odds of a critical glitch occurring are less.

Or maybe still ignore regular glitches and only worry the players if a critical glitch occurs, you can always reintroduce regular glitches down the road when they feel more confident.
Glitches are more to add some flavour to the tests, it's the critical glitches that they have to watch out for.
FriendoftheDork
QUOTE (Sendaz @ Feb 21 2016, 02:37 PM) *
I think the 456 option is a better choice than Playing it Safe.

Yes they still have chances of glitches when rolling, but you also have more chances of at least one hit scoring so the odds of a critical glitch occurring are less.

Or maybe still ignore regular glitches and only worry the players if a critical glitch occurs, you can always reintroduce regular glitches down the road when they feel more confident.
Glitches are more to add some flavour to the tests, it's the critical glitches that they have to watch out for.



There are some issues with the glitch system overall IMO. I don't mind the idea of bad luck causing negative effects, but the way modifiers affect this. For example, a guy with 6 dice for shooting is not completely incompetent (he's actually good enough to have it as a work skill). However, when shooting at someone hiding behind a column outside a building, he suddenly drops to 2 dice meaning every 3 shots will cause either some minor nuisance (that can be hard to come up with), and out of those 2/3 will actually be a potentially catastrophic failure of sort. That makes it not even worth trying to do, as the target can easily dodge it unless rolling horrendously. Changing target number to 4 makes glitches "only" 50% chance of becoming critical, but that's still bad enough IMO.

For larger dice pools target number 4 makes a huge difference, far more than going from normal SR to RoS with edge used to do. And not being able to do PiS means PCs will still simply do something unimportant rather than risking the critical glitch in these situations. Changing player behavior is pretty much the goal in the first place.

I suppose I could make it less attractive by letting only sixes hit, and otherwise keep the old system for Edge giving RoS. PiS poor performance, but generally safe. I doubt it will be chosen as an option though, as say 2/6 chance for a single hit is probably too weak. Also, I notice that when the player hear about RoS they are more willing to take chances just because they know it's possible to be lucky.
BangBangTequila
If you're going to allow "play it safe" then just allow buying of hits. 1 success for every 4 dice, but it is automatic. Especially in situations where dice pools will be relatively equal, this allows the characters to "take the shot" with the reliability of an experienced character, while at the same time never being able to account for the variables because of the opposing roll. It seems to me that playing it safe should just allow for a consistent, reliable, albeit minor, success.

Managing awakened, if you wanted to allow them to be powerful but not able to dominate every scenario, then allow for high dice pools, but only grant them a certain number of total available magic dice per session. So sure, they may have a 12 dice pool for casting, but if they only get 36 dice per session, then they could use one spell three times at max potency, or be more conservative and use that same spell at six dice six times.

An alternative would be to cap the dice pools for spells and summoning at a low number, but allow permanent exploding sixes to reflect the unpredictability and chaotic nature of an untrained, inexperienced magician. The dangers are also self-governing, since drain is cranked up in tandem with net hits, and a young, non-maximized character is going to have a lot of trouble dealing with any serious drain.

That's just my 2 cents from a runner's perspective. The way you're already handling the low power campaign is something very appealing to me, and I'm already drawing up an idea to use a similar method to run a short to medium length campaign via PbP.
FriendoftheDork
QUOTE (BangBangTequila @ Feb 24 2016, 05:44 PM) *
If you're going to allow "play it safe" then just allow buying of hits. 1 success for every 4 dice, but it is automatic. Especially in situations where dice pools will be relatively equal, this allows the characters to "take the shot" with the reliability of an experienced character, while at the same time never being able to account for the variables because of the opposing roll. It seems to me that playing it safe should just allow for a consistent, reliable, albeit minor, success.

Managing awakened, if you wanted to allow them to be powerful but not able to dominate every scenario, then allow for high dice pools, but only grant them a certain number of total available magic dice per session. So sure, they may have a 12 dice pool for casting, but if they only get 36 dice per session, then they could use one spell three times at max potency, or be more conservative and use that same spell at six dice six times.

An alternative would be to cap the dice pools for spells and summoning at a low number, but allow permanent exploding sixes to reflect the unpredictability and chaotic nature of an untrained, inexperienced magician. The dangers are also self-governing, since drain is cranked up in tandem with net hits, and a young, non-maximized character is going to have a lot of trouble dealing with any serious drain.

That's just my 2 cents from a runner's perspective. The way you're already handling the low power campaign is something very appealing to me, and I'm already drawing up an idea to use a similar method to run a short to medium length campaign via PbP.


Buying hits don't work when you have less than 4 dice, which is extremely likely to happen at this low level. If you have enough dice to buy 1 or two hits you almost have enough dice to not want to play it safe anyway. I suppose you could instead of making every roll RoS limit the PiS instead: Limit/Accuracy is lowered to dice pool /4, round up. So two dice means accuracy 1, 5 dice means accuracy 2. Hmm that might actually be a good idea and less intrusive on the core rules of the game... however I do really like the idea of RoS for everything, exploding dice is fun, especially for the DM who often have to use NPCs with low chances in opposed tests.

Example: Jimmy the adept has 12 dice for sneaking (4 skill, 6 agility, 2 imp ability) and is wearing a chameleon-coated armor (-x to enemy perception). Bob the ork security guard has 7 dice for spotting (3 Per 4 Int) but lets say -4 for jimmy's armor. Jimmy rolls 12 dice and gets 4 hits, while Bob only has 3 dice - a fairly uninteresting situation as Bob simply cant win without Edge, and being a grunt he does not have that. However, if he rolls two sixes things can really get interesting as Bob can suddenly turn a situation around.
It could also be interesting for the players to have a chance of making a really lucky roll when it matters, even if they are out of Edge or did not expect to succeed in the first place.

From a runner's perspective the normal rules are fine, as you generally have higher dicepools. From the guttersnipe's perspective things are much different and the dice seems to be out to get you every time.

Limiting total number of dice for magic seems to me too much like spells per day like in That Other Game, I much more prefer the Stun and Physical damage boxes to be the actual limit.

For magic I intend to start disallowing the PiS on all Magic tests as the user has not enough control without experience, but might still have Magic 3. This means a dice pool of around 5-6 for starting mages, and around 8-12 for soaking drain.

I'm considering adding some sort of extra danger to magic in the beginning due to them being very inexperienced and without supervision.
1. Hits rolled adds to drain on all spells, not limited by force (unfettered).
or: 2. All drain doubled.
3. 2s rolled counts as 1s on magic and drain tests.

So drain will be increased even for low-force spells (which is the only spells I think they will use at first), and glitches will happen much more often - this will be generally harmless side effects of magic: Strange noises, flashy lights, extra magical effects (I healed your wound, but your arm is now glowing). Critical glitches will of course be much worse, such as hitting wrong target (yourself or someone close by), making the drain physical, doing something opposite of what intended, or attracting the attention of vengeful spirits or other magical creatures.
Note that once they get the proper training all of the above will cease to apply, yet magic will never be PiS-able.

Any thoughts on point 1 vs point 2? Obviously I won't apply both.

Also, still not sure if I should boost Edge added to a roll to 50% hit rate or give some other benefit... every 6 explodes twice? That could get ridiculous exponentially fast.
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.
Dumpshock Forums © 2001-2012