Posted by: markfender | May 2, 2012

Shadowrun 20th Anniversary – Skills

Skill systems…it doesn’t get any more exciting than that.

In this story, the shadowrunner betrays Mr. Johnson. After Gaia’s Heart, I don’t know what to believe any more!

This stuff wasn’t in the character creation chapter because it also contains all the fiddly bits involving skill usage. You know, individual tables of modifiers for individual skills, general rules for certain classes of skills, that sort of stuff. And man, does Shadowrun love modifiers.

There’s a new concept in this edition called Skill groups. You buy a category of skills at a reduced cost and get all the skills that fall under that particular umbrella. You can’t begin the game with them very high and they cost way more in Karma to improve later so if you’re looking to go that route, definitely get them as high as you can in character creation. This is a variation on the concentration rules of earlier editions, but I think done a little cleaner. (Previously, it was Skill/Concentration/Specialization but now it’s Skill Group/Skill/Specialization – a subtle change but one that works better since you don’t have to explain all those rules if people aren’t interested). Another thing I like about Skill Groups is that not every skill falls into one. For instance, the Firearms Group doesn’t cover vehicle weaponry or archery. If you want to get those, you have to buy the skills separately. I like that idea as it does sorta highlight that those are very specialized uses and wouldn’t be picked up as easily as how to shoot a rifle. Unfortunately, Skill Groups can’t start out high and cost a ton to increase later so you’re better off sticking with individual skills for your character’s emphasis and then Skill Grouping incidental skills. Influence and Stealth are good candidates for that secondary Group. They’re also a good tool for NPC creation as you can paint with a broader brush with Skill Groups.

We then get a long list of all the skills, complete with skill groups they may or not be in, as well as specializations for all of them. Specializations are really-specific uses of a skill you can buy that give you +2 dice. It’s a way to increase your skills outside the hard-coded limits.

Following that, we’re in for charts and charts of modifiers for all the skills. The Charisma-linked Skills Social Modifiers Table is a whole page. I’m a little confused by the Climbing modifiers as Rappelling has a much lower threshold and also grants bonus dice. So, am I to understand that it’s really, really easy to rappell? Or is that just a weird oversight?

Speaking of Charisma-linked Social Modifiers, there’s a separate write-up for Etiquette a couple pages later, even though it’s mentioned in the Charisma-linked Skill section. In fact, the Etiquette rules refer to that table of modifiers without actually using its name. Methinks there probably should have been a See Page XX there.

As an example of the amount of detail, there is more than a full column on treading water and floating. Even more amusingly, this table gives you bonuses based on how fat your character is. Which is fine and all, but if you’re going to go into that sort of detail in your rules, you might want to have some rules somewhere about being overweight. I mean, that’s pretty much up to the player to decide if their character is going to be fat and why wouldn’t you pick fat, since it gives you bonuses on floating? I don’t see anywhere else in the rules that depend on your character’s weight, so it seems like the smart move is to be overweight, just in case you fall into the Bay. If the rules are going to differentiate that sort of detail, it’s a shame there wasn’t any Quality related to that. This is further exasperated in later rules that rely on weight use the Body Attribute to determine how heavy you are.

The Technical Skills get their own charts on how to Build/Repair stuff. This is where we find a “gotcha” in the rules. Apparently, if you’re working from memory (and why would you with the Matrix?) and your Logic is less than 5, you suffer penalties to your dice pool. But, isn’t having the lower stat already affecting your dice pools, seeing as how that’s the Attribute that adds to those skills? So, if you’re building a techie character, don’t bother having a Logic less than 5, since you’re going to be double penalized. In fact, if your Logic is 1, don’t even bother having a Technical skill less than 4 because you’ll have no dice. Or just make sure to buy blueprints of every device ever.


  1. Truly outrageous.

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