Posted by: markfender | May 1, 2012

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary Edition – Character Creation

Hey, let’s pretend to make a character!

Fresh Meat
This story features the worst exposition so far. “Hi, I’m a shadowrunner. I’m pretty good at [Highest Attribute] and [Second Highest Attribute] but aren’t great at [lowest Attribute]. I’m good with [highest Skill]…” Yeah, fascinating reading. Add in the reality show hook and you’ve got something special.

Creating a Shadowrunner
So, we’re finally to character creation. It’s point-buy, which is a change from previous editions. Previous editions had this agonizing Priority system where you would prioritize various categories in order to points for the various parts of character creation. I say “agonizing” because it always turned out poorly for me. It was a process that required going back and redoing the priorities at least three times in order to get my character to where I was slightly mollified by him. But now we’re dealing with point buy, which opens up the whole process to take a lot longer. At least the Priority system was quick (relatively – you still had to go through all those Gear chapters).

You get 400 Build Points to build a character…which immediately rings alarm bells. 400? You couldn’t have made that a slightly more conducive number, like 100? Yeah, okay, in order to create the balance you wanted, 400 may work, but there is something to be said for an easier-to-use number. And it’s not like Shadowrun still doesn’t use decimal places for points (Essence loss from cyberware and buying Adept powers).

Regardless, the first step is to buy your metatype, which aren’t balanced at all. I mean, I don’t know how they’re pricing decreases to stat maximums, but I would think that would be less than extra stat points…which are in almost all cases double what buying them individually would give you. So there’s that. No wonder every group includes a troll.

Next, there’s Attributes and Skills, which are kinda self-explantory. Skills are divided into Active, Knowledge, and Language. Knowledge skills are actually a separate pool of points that you get and don’t necessarily cost you Build Points. They’re used for your character fluff knowledges…awareness of street gangs in your area, music theory, and those sorts of things. Languages are bought from those same points…so the reasoning behind having them as a separate category is currently lost on me.

Lastly, we need to buy Resources. This is pretty much the rest of the book…gear, lifestyle, magical resources, adept powers, technomancer powers and contacts. This section primarily talks about how to purchase those various Resources and some of the rules surrounding their limits. For instance, cyberware has an Essence cost, which is subtracted from your Essence Attribute. Bioware also has an Essence cost, but it’s tracked separately from cyberware. Half of the lower of those two results is added to the higher before subtracting the whole thing from your Essence. That may seem weird, but it’s slightly better from previous editions where bioware was subtracted from Body which meant those super-tough trolls could actually carry more bioware than anyone else.

Lastly, we have a list of all the Qualities available. These are your Merits and Flaws and some are required purchases if you want to make a magic-user or a technomancer. Most of these are strictly rule-type of Qualities (like High Pain Tolerance) but there are a few story-related ones scattered throughout (like Elf Poser). Personally, I’m a fan of things like Mentor Spirit, which broadens out previous editions magic split between hermetic/shamanic into whatever you can come up with. Some fans weren’t pleased with this new direction, citing it as ‘generic.’ But I care not for their opinions (nor for the emphasis on shamans). I’m a bit confused by Natural Immunity as it has two levels. The first level lets you be immune to one naturally-occurring substance and the second lets you be immune to a synthetic substance. What a weird way to divide it. You’d think maybe it would be divided into inconvenient/deadly or uncommon/common, but no. Added into that is the fact that the first level costs 5 BP (reasonable) while the second costs 15 BP. Dear God, if that’s how many points it costs to be immune to a synthetic substance, I’m suddenly afraid of all synthetic substances in this game.

Negative Qualities are next and they’re along the same lines of the Positive ones, except more prone to abuse. Everyone just looks for the ones that won’t affect them too much so that they can get the free points. So, I’m looking with a more critical eye at these. We’ve got the ever-popular Allergy, which every edition of Shadowrun has had a hard-on for. And they’re often quite silly (seriously, one of the Archetypes has an allergy to sea water.). There’s also a lot of magic or hacking related ones that would really only suck if you’re of that particular ilk. I mean, does a mage care if he’s Codeblocked (unable to perform a certain Matrix action)? Probably not. And why wouldn’t every mage take Sensitive System (implants have double the Essence loss, but since mages are going to be avoiding implants anyway, getting 15 extra points doesn’t seem like a big hardship)? Some of those super-specific Qualities have different costs based on the group its affecting, which seems fine. Sensitive Neural Structure could be a problem for everyone (5 BP), but it’s really a problem for hackers (15 BP). Personally, I’m a fan of Gremlins (it’s easier to glitch on electronic tests) just because complicating a character’s life like that is amusing. Infirm, Uneducated, and Uncouth penalize all physical, technical, and social skills respectively. But there’s also Incompetent which outlaws one particular skill. I think you might be better off taking Incompetent for a bunch of skills than picking up one of those previously mentioned Qualities. ‘Course, the others are more flavorful and are less prone to abuse, so maybe Incompetent should be watched carefully by GMs. And then there’s SINner, which means you have a System Identification Number (SIN – basically a passport). This is a negative Quality because shadowrunners are generally criminals living off the grid…except remember the ridiculous security measures previously mentioned? Yeah, you’re constantly going to be scanned to see if you’re legit and without a SIN, you’re going to be ringing alarm bells everywhere. Having a criminal SIN does seem like a disadvantage, so that level of the Quality seems fine, but I’m not sure on the “negative” qualities of having a SIN. Seems more like an advantage than not (I mean, unless you just want to buy a Fake SIN and then roll constantly to see if it stands up to scrutiny – that’s doesn’t sound viable either, which means the ubiquitous security of the future needs to be dialed back some in order to even have a playable game).

Next we have some Archetypes, which are premade characters. The character optimizer in me recoils at a few of the choices made here (Why does practically every troll get cybereyes to override their natural Thermographic Vision?) but I’m not a Dumpshock member so I’ll just leave those alone. The Covert Ops Specialist has a monofilament chainsaw which doesn’t seem like a very ‘covert’ tool, the Occult Investigator only has one Detection spell (although it’s a good one), and the Smuggler is an Elf Poser which amuses me.



  1. Reblogged this on KEEP ROLLIN' SIXES and commented:
    Check out this discussion of how to make a flash new Shadowrunner.

  2. Does this mean a Shadowrun campaign is in our future, Mark? 😉

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