Friday, June 25, 2010


When I was first introduced to Shadowrun, it was college, and second edition was in full swing. It being a college game, we had our regular crew, but there were often visitors who'd want to play a session while they were there. They weren't necessarily familiar with the game, but they wanted to give it a go. The GM would tell them the same thing every time:

Play a street sam.

Why? Because they were the easy option. You take a guy, throw together some attributes and skills, and then stuff him full of the basic implants and he's ready to go. In game, he doesn't have many fancy options to manage, and any active bonuses he has can be written into his attribute and skill numbers and promptly forgotten about.

Somewhere along the way that stopped being true. Implants became more sophisticated, the catalog grew, and eventually playing a street sam had all the complexity of any other character type. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. After all, it puts the street sam on the same level as his magical compatriots in terms of depth of play and character planning. However, it also meant that Shadowrun was suddenly without an "easy" option that you could throw to new or casual players as a lifeline in a rules dense game.

Given that the sam in our game is played by a someone who prefers not to wrangle with deep rules (in SR4 he wasn't interested in modding out his gun because he didn't want to deal with long lists of components, and even preferred single fire to burst because he just wanted to roll some dice and drop some baddies, not do a math problem every combat round), I've decided to make the sam option the easy one as much as I can. Again, catering the game to my group and all.

What's that mean? For starters, it means I'm likely going to have to break one of my own rules: no dice beyond 10. I think the easiest way to represent most cyberware is as a bonus to die pools, and combined with higher knack ratings, that will push the character's pools over 10 in some cases. Even in the most extreme cases we're probably talking 4 extra dice though, and given that starting characters can't have knack ratings above 7 (and will only have a single knack that high), this isn't a gross violation. And if sorting an 11 die poll takes longer than a 10 die pool, the difference will be nominal.

Rather than convert every single piece of gear in the extensive catalog of Shadowrun, I've decided the best thing to do is convert gear as needed but create some general guidelines to speed the specific cases when they arise. To that end, I've decided cyberware, and all artificial augmentation for that matter, will do one of two things:

Allow the character to do the impossible.
Not all implants boost your natural talents. Some of them are like tools that have become a part of you, and let you do things no human, no matter how talented, will ever do. This includes things like having electromagnets in your palms, high frequency transmitters and receivers in your head, and an air tank with a 2 hour capacity in place of one lung. For most of these I anticipate no rules being required; they just do what they do. If you've got an air tank, you can hold your breath for 2 hours. If you don't, you can't.

Add more to what your character already has.
The most popular cyberware is the kind that's true augmentation, which takes what you can do and makes it better. Wired reflexes make you faster. Dermal armor makes you tougher. Muscle replacements make you stronger. A smartgun makes you a better shot. For the most part, these can be represented in die pool bonuses, and I think I can yank them straight from SR4 with little modification. For example, the smartgun implant gives you +2 dice when firing a smartgun. Yoink. Taken as is.

Now, this does require a little finessing in some cases. Muscle replacements add to a character's strength, except I got rid of attributes. I do have the Might knack though, so the implants could add its rating to that instead. More generally, I could simply say the character gets the bonus dice whenever physical strength is an important component of the test.

How about dermal armor? This lets the character resist damage by adding bonus dice to damage resistance tests. Except I got rid of damage resistance tests. In this case, I decided to give dermal armor the ability to soak incoming damage. How does one soak damage in Shadowitz? Injuries. For each level or dermal armor you have, you can take one additional injury per wound level. Wouldn't you know that there are four wound levels (L/M/S/D) and four levels of dermal armor? Seems like a perfect fit. So if you have rating two dermal armor, you can take two light and two moderate injuries instead of one each. Those bonus injuries can't be tagged by your opponent, because your armor prevented you from suffering any real damage. I realize this makes the implant ablative when the original wasn't but I'm willing to roll with the difference for the moment and see how it fares in playtest.

And then we get to the all important speedware. In Shadowrun you live and die by your reflexes, and the SR4 initiative system is nothing like mine, so how to represent the increased speed here? As it turns out, the translation isn't 100% clean, but there's some strong correlations.

First, the queen mother of speed: initiative passes. Initiative passes in SR determine how many times you can act, and that's what a high initiative is all about. In Shadowitz, the way to act more often is to reduce the number of shots your actions cost. The best speedware in the Shadowrun grants three additional initiative passes (high end move by wire systems might grant more, but no one in my game has expressed interest in it, what with the outrageous essence cost, money cost, and nasty side effects). Three points doesn't sound like a lot, but when a semi-automatic weapon costs four shots to fire, someone with topped out wired reflexes could do it for a single shot. That's fast.

Sounds perfect. And no, I'm not worried about shooting a gun for one shot, because if the guy doesn't roll dodge into that he's going to get pumped full of lead with no chance to resist or defend once someone returns fire.

The other side of initiative augmentation in SR is the reaction bonus. This is what you roll when you roll initiative. Shadowitz has an initiative pool too. So I could port that over as is. However, I've got one other thing in my system that SR doesn't: initiative method. It seems like there should be some kind of augmentation available to increase this score. It'll likely have to be a case by case call, but for the moment I'm thinking that any implant that adds to your reaction and your initiative passes will add its reaction bonus to your initiative pool, while anything that adds only to your reaction increases your method. I say this without pouring through the hefty implant catalog available, so something might trip me up eventually, but for the moment it seems like a good solution.

Oh, and what about essence? Well, what about essence? Let's bring that over 100% intact. Characters begin with 6 points of essence, and all cyberware costs exactly what the books say they do in terms of spiritual integrity, or neural integrity, or whatever representation of essence you want to use.

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