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View Full Version : DM Help I have a strong itch for Shadowrun!



Scowling Dragon
2019-04-14, 10:04 PM
I can't help it. I got the itch for Shadowrun!

Question is which system. I get lots of conflicting wording on that end. I got all the physical 4e books, but I hear 5e does some new good things as well. And maybe its worthwhile going retro-ier and do 3e or below?

Tips people? Like how to deal with the Matrix for instance.

Ignimortis
2019-04-14, 10:55 PM
I can't help it. I got the itch for Shadowrun!

Question is which system. I get lots of conflicting wording on that end. I got all the physical 4e books, but I hear 5e does some new good things as well. And maybe its worthwhile going retro-ier and do 3e or below?

Tips people? Like how to deal with the Matrix for instance.

Seeing as all SR editions come with their own problems, I don't see any reason for you to not go with what you know, i.e. 4e. In my opinion as a mainly 5e player, 4e did many things right. Fixed initiative passes, lethality level (for the most part), etc. Kinda wish deckers wouldn't be as hosed, but 5e went overboard and threw out the baby with the bathwater, seeing as high-rating decks are either an investment for the whole crew, or you just have to steal them. I'm in the process of writing a list of houserules for SR 5e, and it's...well, it's huge, and I barely even touched most things.

Scowling Dragon
2019-04-14, 11:00 PM
Seeing as all SR editions come with their own problems, I don't see any reason for you to not go with what you know, i.e. 4e. In my opinion as a mainly 5e player, 4e did many things right.

I heard that 5e fixed some stuff. Like matrix combat, and initiative passes in its own way for instance. Maybe its worthwhile to grab some of that baby from 5e and keep the clean bathwater from 4e?

Zakhara
2019-04-14, 11:26 PM
I've played (and adored) 3e many years ago; it's a fun system. I never tried 4e, but if you have the books I'd say go for it--much of what 5e did (which I have played) seems intent on righting some of the more contentious aspects of 4e.

But it's always Shadowrun, no matter what. Each edition carries a great chunk of the same DNA and it's a fabulous game in any case.

Mark Hall
2019-04-15, 08:53 AM
These days, I would probably use Savage Worlds. Have Arcane Backgrounds for Magicians, Adepts, Deckers, Riggers, maybe even Cybernetics. Might have to work up a system for Decking, but I think I can manage it. I know others would suggest Interface Zero, but I haven't read through it, and I like a simpler system.

Ignimortis
2019-04-15, 10:20 AM
I heard that 5e fixed some stuff. Like matrix combat, and initiative passes in its own way for instance. Maybe its worthwhile to grab some of that baby from 5e and keep the clean bathwater from 4e?

Initiative passes in 5e are worse than 4e's. Matrix combat is still janky, but it's alright...but the Matrix itself is still a wild mess. Actually, I might just start a project to rewrite it entirely later this week...both mechanically and lore-wise.

Scowling Dragon
2019-04-15, 09:46 PM
Initiative passes in 5e are worse than 4e's.

Ouch, Mind elaborating?

Ignimortis
2019-04-15, 10:04 PM
Ouch, Mind elaborating?

The numbers are fun and interactive, as in, having initiative be like 10 or 15 or 24 or 35 is cool, since you have all these options to interact with. But the problem is twofold:
1) All initiative boosters give 1+1d6 instead of just "+1 REA, +1 pass". That means that your hyperspeed, wared-up sammy or magicked up adept is probably rolling 15+4d6 at best, which can still dramatically backfire and leave them with 19-20 initiative, which is two passes, which is what everyone else gets. Your investment into initiative can go down the drain very easily, depending on your luck with dice.

(my personal solution - everything that gives a permanent buff, so no Increase Reflexes or drugs, but yes powers/ware/matrix/drones, gives you a static +6 instead of 1d6. This way you get +7 for first booster, guaranteeing a second pass, +14 for the second, guaranteeing a third pass, and +21 for the third, almost every time guaranteeing a fourth)

2) The cap is +5d6 Init which cannot be reached without drugs or Edge expenditure or Increase reflexes. Limit things to 4 passes max and suddenly everyone's on a much more level playing field.

3) Not really a problem since it's always been that way, but I find that letting everyone go once even though one guy is 4 times quicker and should be reasonably able to shoot two times before the slowpoke even gets what's happening, is kinda dumb? Still, that's a personal preference - we act in straightforward initiative, as is, whoever has the highest, goes right now, even if they just had a pass. People who say "oh but isn't that unfair to slowpokes?" are wrong. Is the fact that a sammy can't do anything while the decker's doing their thing unfair? Is the fact that they can't contribute to a Johnson meet wrong? Not really, everyone would say, those are specialist tasks. So is combat. You either get fast, take cover and use Full Defense, or die. The choice is yours.

Scowling Dragon
2019-04-16, 12:41 AM
Anyway, what are some of the best house rules for matrix stuff?

Ignimortis
2019-04-16, 12:55 AM
Anyway, what are some of the best house rules for matrix stuff?

For 5e? Make cyberdecks significantly cheaper. Even slashing prices in half isn't unreasonable. Make repairing Matrix damage and physical damage to electronics cheaper, maybe 100 nuyen per box. Not sure how to go about general Matrix stuff, since it's really convoluted to figure out where fixes are needed. I'd say that the mechanics are mostly fine (but take note of some actions like Tag which have immensely weird activation rolls and should put a pseudo-mark on the target so that a Tag could be erased without rebooting).

What Matrix really needs is less mystical mumbo-jumbo and more coherence and logical working, but you can't houserule that. If I ever get it done and then bother translating it into English, I'll post it on GitP.

Black Jester
2019-04-16, 02:04 PM
The numbers are fun and interactive, as in, having initiative be like 10 or 15 or 24 or 35 is cool, since you have all these options to interact with. But the problem is twofold:
1) All initiative boosters give 1+1d6 instead of just "+1 REA, +1 pass". That means that your hyperspeed, wared-up sammy or magicked up adept is probably rolling 15+4d6 at best, which can still dramatically backfire and leave them with 19-20 initiative, which is two passes, which is what everyone else gets. Your investment into initiative can go down the drain very easily, depending on your luck with dice.

Just use the original 2 e Initiative Rules then. It has been reprinted in Run and Gun:


In this option, everyone rolls Initiative as normal using their Initiative Dice and Initiative Attribute to determine their Initiative Score. Players then proceed through the Initiative Score order based solely on whose Initiative Score is the highest. After each player takes their turn, reduce their score by 10 and allow the player with the next highest Initiative Score to act, even if that is the same character. As in regular Initiative, once all players’ Initiative Scores have been reduced to 0 or less, everyone rolls again and a new Combat Turn starts.

Less Book-keeping, more fun (for the Street Sam).
The other issue with 5e is the somehwhat wonky "only one attack per Initiative pass" rule, that somehow doesn't apply to direct damage spells (because otherwise the players of the mage could be very, very sad). That is another good one to ignore.
Besides that, SR 5 works as good as you could expect from a Shadowrun game.

Brookshw
2019-04-16, 02:46 PM
Matrix remains miserable in 5e just as much as it used to be in 2e (no idea about the other editions). It's not so much as how the Matrix works, as that it splits the party as one person goes off into hacker land, possibly while sitting in a van parked several blocks away, and the rest of the team actually goes in to do the run. It forces the DM to make sections relevant to only one group.

I like the idea of Shadowrun, but every time I try to sit down to it I'm disappointed. If I do ever give it another shot I'd just ban the Matrix entirely or redo the hacking substantially.

Mark Hall
2019-04-16, 02:48 PM
Matrix remains miserable in 5e just as much as it used to be in 2e (no idea about the other editions). It's not so much as how the Matrix works, as that it splits the party as one person goes off into hacker land, possibly while sitting in a van parked several blocks away, and the rest of the team actually goes in to do the run. It forces the DM to make sections relevant to only one group.

I like the idea of Shadowrun, but every time I try to sit down to it I'm disappointed. If I do ever give it another shot I'd just ban the Matrix entirely or redo the hacking substantially.

I *really* wish 4e hacking had taken a page from 4e spellcasting... Roll your Attribute+Skill, max hits equal to your Program.

Mordar
2019-04-16, 05:12 PM
These days, I would probably use Savage Worlds. Have Arcane Backgrounds for Magicians, Adepts, Deckers, Riggers, maybe even Cybernetics. Might have to work up a system for Decking, but I think I can manage it. I know others would suggest Interface Zero, but I haven't read through it, and I like a simpler system.

Oh, Mark...no. That just sucks all the Shadowrun out of the game and leaves you with generic blah. To be its like having an itch for Taco Bell and being given a pound of ground beef, a seasoning packet and a bunch of stale tortillas. Or worse...going to Del Taco.

Sure, you can make a passable taco, but it won't be Taco Bell.

- M

Mark Hall
2019-04-16, 07:25 PM
Oh, Mark...no. That just sucks all the Shadowrun out of the game and leaves you with generic blah. To be its like having an itch for Taco Bell and being given a pound of ground beef, a seasoning packet and a bunch of stale tortillas. Or worse...going to Del Taco.

Sure, you can make a passable taco, but it won't be Taco Bell.

- M

It will arguably be superior, because, well, Taco Bell. :smallbiggrin:

However, I generally dislike the systems Shadowrun has used. They're way too complex, with too many modifiers and subsystems. Playing the game requires systems mastery, which is why a lot of people say "You know what, no one can be a decker... there's just too much to learn."

A system that works and people want to use allows for a lot more engagement with the game world, which is Shadowrun's selling point.

Scowling Dragon
2019-04-16, 10:54 PM
Yeah as I started to read the rules again I remember why I quit in the first place. :smallannoyed:

Its such a cool theoretical fantasy, such a cool potential setting. But the rules are such a muck in a way even houserules couldn't fix.

But I also remember NOT being a fan of Savage Worlds either. Just never clicked to me. Its kinda the opposite of Shadowrun. Too simple.

caden_varn
2019-04-17, 05:33 AM
There's some stuff on the SJGames forum about Shadowrun in GURPS. Once I get the time (ie stop playing computer games) I am planning on trying it out.

I am in the same position, got to urge to do some Shadowrun that died soon after starting to reread the rules. Much too complex for me to be bothered with these days.

DigoDragon
2019-04-17, 07:16 AM
Anyway, what are some of the best house rules for matrix stuff?

I *really* wish 4e hacking had taken a page from 4e spellcasting... Roll your Attribute+Skill, max hits equal to your Program.

I implemented that once and it made hacking scenes run a bit faster (but I allowed the PC hacker to break the max-hit limit if they spend edge of course). It also stops the player from building a "Wonder Lump" character that has nothing but dump stats. :smalltongue:


I think if I run Shadowrun again, I'd take a chainsaw to all the spirit summoning parts and leave just the spells. The last adventure I ran for a local group turned into a slog when the PCs invested everything behind spirit summons and left me to do all the paperwork in combat. I felt bad for the street sam who really couldn't keep up with that due to all the nutty resistances spirits have.

truemane
2019-04-17, 07:36 AM
There are two or three quite good PtbA Shadowrun-esque hacks. One is called Sixth World (version 32 is the latest, and the best) and another is called Pink Mohawk.

Note: I know nothing about 5e. Maybe they fixed all this and my ranting is as out-dated as my taste in music.

I also love Shadowrun. And I also have had a decades-long feud with the rules. But the problem is deeper than rules. You can fix, or change, or ignore rules.

But all the rule-shenanigans in the world won't change the fact that some characters advance with money and others advance with Karma and that makes the game almost impossible to balance medium and long-term.

And it won't change the fact that the Astral and Matrix mini-games make everyone take turns sitting around while other people do awesome things.

And it won't change the fact that tougher bad guys need better gear, and when the bad guy is dead, their gear is still just lying there with them. Which makes balancing rewards vs challenge very difficult.

And one bonus problem: the very, very worst thing you can try to do in a PbP/on-line/non-real-time format is have a detailed tactical conversation between three or more people. Which is why every Shadowrun game I've ever been a part of has collapsed right after taking the first Run. And the ones that have made it past that point have done so by skipping it or interrupting it.

I love Shadowrun so, so, so much. But it's so hard to get rolling and keep rolling.

But seriously, if you're a PtbA person or not, Sixth World is amazing.

Lord Torath
2019-04-17, 07:47 AM
But all the rule-shenanigans in the world won't change the fact that some characters advance with money and others advance with Karma and that makes the game almost impossible to balance medium and long-term.This one, at least, is fairly easy to fix, if you allow players to "buy" karma between runs.

That's only one item out of a long list, though.

Mordar
2019-04-17, 12:29 PM
It will arguably be superior, because, well, Taco Bell. :smallbiggrin:

However, I generally dislike the systems Shadowrun has used. They're way too complex, with too many modifiers and subsystems. Playing the game requires systems mastery, which is why a lot of people say "You know what, no one can be a decker... there's just too much to learn."

A system that works and people want to use allows for a lot more engagement with the game world, which is Shadowrun's selling point.

I knew Taco Bell was dangerous water, but it also fit nicely. Many of us down here mock Taco Bell because the average 3-year-old knows what a good taco should be...but I am of the school that Taco Bell is not "bad Mexican food". It is its own special kind of fast food, with vaguely Mexican-food-inspired ideas. It comes with all of its own problems...many starting an hour or two after eating...but it is also a very specific and unique experience. Like Shadowrun.

I am always a "play the game in the system designed for the game" guy, because I think it keeps a unique flavor for the game and, in the best cases, the system is designed to enhance the specific game world experience. The rules/systems in some games (and I think SR is one, Earthdawn, World of Darkness and Call of C'thulhu being others for me) are a part of that experience. Playing any of those games in a generic system really Del Taco's the flavor for me.

You're right about system mastery and the decker issue, of course, but in all the years I played in active groups (IRL, never PbP) it was never an issue. We worked around the decker issue, and never had to worry about the possibility of the astrally active characters leaving everyone for their own mini-adventure. No different than not splitting the D&D party because the rogue and bard want to go infiltrating while the fighter, cleric and wizard sit around playing swap.


Yeah as I started to read the rules again I remember why I quit in the first place. :smallannoyed:

Its such a cool theoretical fantasy, such a cool potential setting. But the rules are such a muck in a way even houserules couldn't fix.

But I also remember NOT being a fan of Savage Worlds either. Just never clicked to me. Its kinda the opposite of Shadowrun. Too simple.

I say keep it, warts and all. Playstyle away the problems (decking), but don't fiddle with the rules too much or the whole house will crumble.

- M

truemane
2019-04-17, 01:36 PM
This one, at least, is fairly easy to fix, if you allow players to "buy" karma between runs.

That's only one item out of a long list, though.

That's true! I have tried that a couple of times, but I've never found that the two economies line up well enough to establish a standard conversion rate.

Man_Over_Game
2019-04-17, 02:48 PM
Yeah as I started to read the rules again I remember why I quit in the first place. :smallannoyed:

Its such a cool theoretical fantasy, such a cool potential setting. But the rules are such a muck in a way even houserules couldn't fix.

I played both Rifts and SR4e, and they both were effectively the same thing: Really cool world, cool concepts, terribly convoluted and chaotic system that isn't designed around people actually playing the d*mn thing.

Now, I'm not saying that Shadowrun should be emulated as something as simple as Savage Worlds, but game has gone through 5 editions, and nobody has once said that one of them was "good enough" in this thread. That says something.

Mark Hall
2019-04-17, 02:53 PM
I knew Taco Bell was dangerous water, but it also fit nicely. Many of us down here mock Taco Bell because the average 3-year-old knows what a good taco should be...but I am of the school that Taco Bell is not "bad Mexican food". It is its own special kind of fast food, with vaguely Mexican-food-inspired ideas. It comes with all of its own problems...many starting an hour or two after eating...but it is also a very specific and unique experience. Like Shadowrun.

I am always a "play the game in the system designed for the game" guy, because I think it keeps a unique flavor for the game and, in the best cases, the system is designed to enhance the specific game world experience. The rules/systems in some games (and I think SR is one, Earthdawn, World of Darkness and Call of C'thulhu being others for me) are a part of that experience. Playing any of those games in a generic system really Del Taco's the flavor for me.

You're right about system mastery and the decker issue, of course, but in all the years I played in active groups (IRL, never PbP) it was never an issue. We worked around the decker issue, and never had to worry about the possibility of the astrally active characters leaving everyone for their own mini-adventure. No different than not splitting the D&D party because the rogue and bard want to go infiltrating while the fighter, cleric and wizard sit around playing swap.


Part of the problem is, by design, the decker (and, IME, to a lesser extent, the full magicians) are supposed to have their own mini-adventures. And, while you cite several games where the rules are supposed to be thematic, they're also games where the rules are famously terrible or obtuse. I mean, Earthdawn had some GREAT stuff going on, but you have things like Earthdawn's step chart, where step changes involved rolling completely different dice at times. Or Vampire, where certain powers were so vague as to be unusable or too powerful (Presence especially had this problem). Or Shadowrun, where the consensus, even among veterans who love the game is, "Oh, yeah, completely ignore this one major archetype, it's too much of a pain to incorporate."

I'm all for thematic rules, but not BAD thematic rules.

Mordar
2019-04-17, 06:21 PM
Part of the problem is, by design, the decker (and, IME, to a lesser extent, the full magicians) are supposed to have their own mini-adventures. And, while you cite several games where the rules are supposed to be thematic, they're also games where the rules are famously terrible or obtuse. I mean, Earthdawn had some GREAT stuff going on, but you have things like Earthdawn's step chart, where step changes involved rolling completely different dice at times. Or Vampire, where certain powers were so vague as to be unusable or too powerful (Presence especially had this problem). Or Shadowrun, where the consensus, even among veterans who love the game is, "Oh, yeah, completely ignore this one major archetype, it's too much of a pain to incorporate."

I'm all for thematic rules, but not BAD thematic rules.

I think there is a high barrier to entry for many games, and for some people that counts as bad rules. And I get that some people really dislike multi-dice games (Shadowrun and WoD using dice pools).

Keeping to SR, I obviously have to agree that if you do decking runs you have to have all deckers or a solo game. Kind of like FRPGs that have stealth/spy characters...you can really embrace the stealth/spy character and ignore everyone else...or you can do Stealth/Spy Lite. Similarly, you can do Decker Lite, and potentially Astral Lite.

I really don't know what the RPG atmosphere is any more, but when these games were coming out there seemed to be much more variety in systems/rules (not sure how to define each of those...and in which pot the Decker issue fits). GURPS was a thing, but it was fringe. The Savage Worlds and D20 thing started happening when I was transitioning out of the game store world...and maybe in part because the generic games started becoming the norm. That, I guess, on its own suggests my preference was a minority...but the four games I mentioned, three of which do carry the criticism you mentioned, were four of the five I most played, and by a large margin. The groups (probably covering 25 different players, with some but not much crossover) I played with didn't seem to have major issues, but maybe that's because they stuck it out long enough for sufficient mastery and were playing with the same general expectations. Perhaps we just got lucky.

At the end of the day, YMMV. To me, 3.5 has a higher barrier to entry than VtM, ED or CoC, and depending on the table, even more than SR.

- M

Mark Hall
2019-04-17, 07:39 PM
At the end of the day, YMMV. To me, 3.5 has a higher barrier to entry than VtM, ED or CoC, and depending on the table, even more than SR.


Oh, I'm not even going to touch 3.5; that's its own kettle of fish in terms for system mastery. For all their mechanical oddities, VtM, ED, and SR (I have never played CoC, so I leave it out) were pretty playable, and hard to make really broken characters in, partially because they drew clear boundaries. You could make a combat bunny with insta-kill weapons and godlike speed in SR... but they could also be pretty quickly fried by any mage they failed to notice (Yay manabolt). Earthdawn, you could really only make a bad character by ignoring the advice in the game about what attributes to choose. Vampire might have some unexpected super-powers, but they also implied a lot more ST control and collaboration than any of the others, so you were more likely to be reigned in.

3.x? There, you've got the synergistic interaction of a score of authors letting things like Pun-Pun happen, or classes that should be badass (like the fighter) getting overwhelmed because WotC simply didn't think people would play that way... they assumed D&D would remain the D&D they knew, and didn't expect anyone to redline the system into the Tippyverse. 3.x has a seeming of seductive easiness... learn one system, roll 1d20 and add modifiers, and you know the game. They didn't even realize that building your character was a loseable mini-game. You can't really lose SR, ED, or VtM in character creation.


Keeping to SR, I obviously have to agree that if you do decking runs you have to have all deckers or a solo game. Kind of like FRPGs that have stealth/spy characters...you can really embrace the stealth/spy character and ignore everyone else...or you can do Stealth/Spy Lite. Similarly, you can do Decker Lite, and potentially Astral Lite.

In a way, I think this is some of what they did with 4e's wireless... they made it so the decker could stick around. He may have his moment to shine, but it was not his own dungeon to explore. And it's DOABLE, certainly. But it requires that you trust your players who like deckers to run deckers fairly, or for the GM to do a lot of homework. And because SR has long been in love with having separate systems for different things. And if you find the added crunch to be a burden and not texture, then you're going to toss the box of rocks and go eat something that you don't have to fight with to get down to enjoying.