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We continue with Part 3-The Rest

The Gamemaster Advice chapter, IMO, is fantastic. It teaches new GMs how to build and plan runs, what to discuss and decide before a game, and other important things. They even have Random Run tables for stuff on the fly, and the NPC creation rules are likewise great(with similar tables.) They discuss NPC builds as Full(created like Player Characters), Story(A bit simpler, the GM assigns appropriate numbers for the story), and Improvised(rules to quickly be able to toss in appropriately leveled NPCs.)

It breaks down even longer campaigns, time advancement, and the whole nine; I imagine GMs will be able to make much, much smoother things with this chapter. (Of course, crap can always go wrong. It’s Shadowrun.)

They even have extra rules for different campaign types-‘Street Scum'(which is even lower powered than the Street Level campaign rules), or ‘High Life'(even more powerful than Prime character creation rules), along with things like Mercenary campaigns, Criminal Syndicates, and the like.

There are plenty of charts, suggested Target Numbers, and so on to keep things moving along smoothly. There are even little example maps that a GM can use.

They added in lifestyle options in the main book, which is nice to see. There are options like Extra Secure and Difficult to Find(which make a lifestyle cost more), Cramped(‘Cozy’, which makes it cheaper), or Dangerous Area(also makes it cheaper.)

There is also a formula for calculating run payments, finally! This may end up a bit YMMV, for some folks may agree-or disagree-on how much the payments are. Generally, the more ‘milk like’ the run is, the cheaper it is, the more dangerous, the more expensive. Cost is by head, rather than by group. It takes into consideration the highest opposing Dice Pool they face, if they were outnumbered(and by how powerful an NPC they were outnumbered by), if they face critters, if they pulled it off fast and quietly, and many other things.

Another interesting thing are percentage increases depending on the *type* of run-nastier runs(wetwork, drug running) get bonuses, while ‘helping the little man’ or ‘making the world a better place’ get minuses. (‘Typical’ work gets no modifier-I’m guessing things like corporate sabotage, extraction, and the like.)

On the flipside, ‘bonus pay nasty runs’ tend to get less Karma, where the lower paying ones get more(this, I feel needs to be handled with care-and it could end up with a lot of meanie cybered people, deckers, and riggers and a lot of ‘kinda nice’ magically active folks or technomancers.) I would, IMO, not use this rule for my own games, but it’s there if folks want to do it.

Karma Awards seem moderate. Higher than the older days of 2e and 3e. Typical ‘base’ awards are things like survival, objectives completed, extra karma depending on the highest dice pool faced(rounding down). Of course, whatever else the GM wants to tack on for ideas, roleplaying, and the like can be added into this.

We get a whole chapter on NPCs and different professional ratings, as well as critters. They seem, from reading it, pretty well built and fitting enough opposition. I like how they have some example NPCs that aren’t just textbook combatants, but some rules for magically active ones and hackers as well. They also touch on Prime Runner creation.

The chart describing what Connection and Loyalty ratings are(connection up to 12, Loyalty to 6) is nice and detailed.

For those GMs who prefer a more supernatural game, there is plenty of Critter information and stats to be found in this chapter as well. It ends with a fun and flavorful drug discussion, for those hardline tables.

Street Gear:

So, gear. The stuff that lots of runners need. Has a nice glossary at the start, with the usual rules for black market stuff, Availability, Fencing the loot, and all of that stuff that runners need to know.

And then we get to ‘Wireless Functionality’ and ‘Wireless Bonuses’ and here be the big Room Elephant in all of his glory.

Practically every piece of gear and cyberware is capable of being wireless, and wireless gear gets bonuses over gear that turned off. Toggling it off is a free action, which costs wireless bonuses, but means it won’t be open to hacking. Yes, wireless gear that’s turned on is vulnerable to hacking. Now, gear can be slaved to a decker, who can protect it…but that requires you to have a decker on hand who isn’t so busy that they can’t protect your gear.

Even some melee weapons have wireless functionality. Monowhips, for example, gain 2 more accuracy, the ability to ready it on a free action, and a safety system that retracts on a glitch. (Oh yeah, Monowhips are AP-8 now. Yes, they got nastier.)

Even throwing knives and shuriken can get wireless functionality. It’s pretty crazy. There are essentially rules for each weapon’s wireless bonuses.

As for other gear-Fake SINs got more expensive; from 1,000 a level in SR4 to 2500 a level. I’m guessing this is due to the inflated nuyen you get at the start, as it seems somewhat in line with it(though I do feel they may be a bit too expensive, I’d have felt 2k/level would have been more appropriate, or maybe even 1.5k/level.)

The Cyberware is where the wireless functionality becomes the most pronounced, and the most controversial in the ol’ Magic v. Tech debate. Some of it is normal(Bone Lacing is Bone Lacing, for example-it actually has the added benefit of adding to Body now instead of just damage reduction), but the Reflexes are the big thing.

Initiative is an important thing for a combat-oriented character(or hell, just someone wanting to defend by wanting to get the (/”& out of Dodge), and IMO, Reflexes need a workover, and it’s one of the big contending spots. Adepts get their Reflexes at a cost of 1.5, 2.5, or 3.5 Power Points. Wired Reflexes are still as invasive as ever(and aren’t too cheap, either-they were inflated, IMO a bit too much.) For Reflexes to be able to stack with Reaction Enhancers nowadays(they were able to before), they need to be run in Wireless mode. It sounds to me this was a nerf to something that *really didn’t need nerfing.* Also, you need to activate BOTH the Wired Reflex and Reaction Enhancer wireless systems to be able to go above a +4 Reaction bonus.

In my opinion, they either need to make Wired Reflexes cheaper(and stackable with Reaction Enhancers, with Wireless allowing them to go above +4), OR they need to lower the Essence Cost to match the Adept PP cost(still making them compatible with Reaction Enhancers.) It’s a houserule I’m strongly considering myself.

Cyberlimbs also have wireless capability, and they are really good in this, at least. The rules for Custom Cyberlimbs are in the core book, and you can still enhance them after that as per normal. The Wireless bonuses here, though, are more actual bonuses, rather than having the piece nerfed and the bonus bringing back a function(like with the Reflexes.)

All in all, the wireless system I fear is going to cause more issues than it fixes, but it has potential to actually work in a cool way. I actually don’t mind the fact it can be hacked as much as I’m afraid of what sorts of extra work this can potentially pile onto the GM.

Bioware got a boost in price-in some cases, *much much more* than the inflated Starting Nuyen would allow. Muscle Augmentation and Toner are now-wait for it-more than what they used to be back in the 2nd edition days, when the maximum nuyen you could have was 1,000,000. In those days, Muscle Augmentation and Toner were combined, and they cost 45,000 nuyen per level in the old Shadowtech book. In 3e, this was split up(but still equaled 45k after it was done, with Toner being the more expensive per level of the two, given Quickness’ power.) Now, Muscle Augmentation is 31k/Level. Muscle Toner is 32k/level. That’s 63k/level. It’s cheaper in essence, yes, but that is…confusing and I don’t think it was necessary. It’s strong, yes, and everything should have a price, yes(the ongoing thing to this book), but come on, at LEAST have brought it back to the ol’ 45k/level combination(with Augmentation sitting at 21k, perhaps, and Toner at 24k.) Another houserule I’m considering, since I think that price is kinda ridiculous, and I think it’s part of what is adding into the ‘Magic v. Tech’ divide.

The Suprathyroid gland is literally 100,000 nuyen more expensive than it used to be.

There is a bright side with this: Bone Density Augmentation is a measly 5k/level and even though it has an Availability variable now(it was a flat 12 in 4e) making Level 4 out of reach of starting characters who use Availability rules, it’s still a very good purchase. (Arguably, better than Bone Lacing.)

The prices, I admit, seem very…slapdash and done without much of a rhyme or reason. If it has a rhyme or reason, it certainly does not come off like it. As mentioned above, some raised far too much, some lowered, and then you have oddities like the Suprathyroid tripling in price per level, but the coveted Synaptic Booster only increasing 15k/level(which seems very much on point with nuyen inflation.) And then we have the Cerebral Booster which more than tripled in price per level. Damage Compensators get utterly liquidated from 15k a level in 4e to 2k a level in 5e. Symbiotes dropped more than half price. WHAT IS HAPPENING I DON’T KNOW.

The prices need a serious work-over, IMO. I think it’s pretty cool some stuff dropped, and I can understand wanting to raise some of the prices on the ‘better’ stuff(both to reflect how good it is and to reflect, again, the starting nuyen inflation), but these prices are up, down, and sideways.

But yeah, in short, Wired Reflexes need a buff, IMO, and some more forgiving Essence(I feel this is a holdover from the old 1e/2e days when you could go multiple times before someone could even act), Wireless bonuses should be looked at as to be a bonus for using it and not a heavy hindrance for not(being able to be hacked is a pretty big disadvantage), and the Bioware prices need some adjusting(mostly some pieces needing to be a at least a bit cheaper, as I said. the Booster’s price raise is fine, the Augmentation/Toner is far too much.)

Finally, Alphaware, Betaware, and Deltaware are all cheaper. They add to Availability, however. Alphaware adds +2, Beta +4, and Delta +8. By normal rules, you can’t get Beta or Delta at chargen(Prime Games should allow at LEAST beta, IMO), but once again, Wired Reflexes get the shaft here-you can’t get level 2 Alphaware at the start. That’s just not good. (On the bright side, if you don’t mind used ware, it actually takes OFF the Availability, and is cheaper though costs more Essence.)

We’re also forgetting one thing-cybered people also take a Social hit. They always have, it’s understandable, but it feels like-just a little bit-that magic is moving ahead far faster than technology, which seemed to get stuck in a bit of a rut in some ways.

Shut up already, what’s the verdict?!

I’ll actually be continuing this by creating three characters-yes, even with personalities and everything-to really dig into the character creation system. They’ll be separate from this, but kinda tied into the review.

Now you’re all probably wondering at this point, ‘After you babbled on for three parts of a review of a single core book, what do you actually think about it?’

My thoughts essentially come together as follows:

+ Love the new priority system chargen. I feel like they managed to perfect it here.(See more thoughts in the character creation examples I’ll be doing.) It lets you make characters that feel badass, and it’s a lot faster than 4e.

+ Love how they give optional rules for different styles of games, like Street, Prime, etc.

+ I do enjoy many of the ‘small’ rule changes, like Attribute Augmented Maximums being Stat+4, which brings up the lower end, while lowering the higher ends.

+ Mystic Adepts are awesome now.

+ I like being able to make a Technomancer that isn’t completely deficient in anything physical at the start.

+ The book’s layout is wonderful. The charts are clear cut, all the chapters include very clean examples, and it makes things very easy to learn. The sidebars are used well and I just really like how everything is set up. The book has useful information for both GMs and Players, old and new alike.(It should be noted that there ARE errors about, and perhaps a few more than I’d like, but the general layout of where everything is located I really, really like.)

+ Matrix and Rigging seem a lot easier to understand.

+ ‘Old School Terminology’ brought back. Riggers and Deckers, Hermetic and Shamanic magic.

* Limits bring an interesting new level to the game, though it seems to be mixed good and not as good.

*/- Wireless bonuses I think have good intentions, but they could use some looking at. They end up, I feel, causing more problems than they’re going to fix, in particular with GM workload, which typically isn’t a good thing to add onto.

Cyberware needs some love, in particularly the Reflexes. They need to be cheaper either in cost or essence. Heavy Cyber fans may want to houserule some stuff. I don’t think Adepts are overpowered-I think that cyber, in some ways, needs to be brought up a bit.

Beta grade should be allowed at chargen, at the VERY least for Prime games.

Prime games should have the allowed Availability increased.

Bioware costs make little sense. They’re up, down, and everywhere. Some were raised with good reason, but far too much.

Some qualities are simply bad. Uncouth and Uneducated long, LONG needed a workover, for example.

Only getting Int+Logx2 Knowledge Skills.

Some flaws, I feel, are holdovers from things in the old days, since some things changed but others did not, while some things changed more than others, and it’s starting to catch up.

All in all, I’d say-I dislike giving ‘number ratings’, but for me, I’d put this as a…

7.75 Mohawks out of 10.

If you’d like to know how it would stack up, I’d say I’d have put 3e(my fav), as an 8/10, 1e/2e as a 7/10, and 4E as a 6.5/10(to be raised to a 7/10 after the Karmagen rules were released.) So from my first impressions, I’d suggest grabbing this PDF. If you’re a longtime Shadowrun fan, I think you will appreciate the shout-outs to us oldheads that sometimes felt to be left a bit behind. A newer player will be able to get into it rather easily, thanks to the nice layout and all the examples. It reads better than 4e as well(though dare I say it doesn’t quite match the ‘flavor’of the 1e/2e days, but I wasn’t expecting it to.) Despite the book’s flaws(and there will be errata), I feel like it’s a strong contender for continuing one of my favorite tabletop games(if not my favorite tabletop game of all time), and I do not regret buying it; indeed, I look forward to playing.

It definitely isn’t perfect though, and will need some smoothing out over the months rule-wise, I think.

Til’ next time, when I go over Chargen, and how the different types of games work out! (For the record, the three characters will be a Street level human shaman, a Normal level elven adept, and a Prime level human samurai.)


One Comment

  1. You forgot to mention that the system for creating the run payments is complete and utter bullshit. Payment that get’s decided AFTER the run? Payment that depends on attacking the most powerful npcs? Imagine the enemy hacker has one gazillion dice for hacking, but the pcs succeed in kidnapping his daughter, thus using him instead of having to face him – the payment becomes much less? The pay is also much less if the runner walk through the critter infested park instead of sneaking through the back door, etc. This does not make the slightest sense.

    Run payment depends on the job from the johnson’s point of view, nothing else. Some hints about that would have been helpful, not computer game nonsense like that.

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