Addiction: Clarification

CanRay’s Addiction Rules, first published in SR4’s Sim Dreams & Nightmares and later as part of SR5 Core, put numbers to Addiction. This helped solve the ‘What DO you roll for Addiction anyway’ conundrum. However, asides from the fact it is often misread it’s also not a perfect system. Furthermore, a GM may want to tweak it to give players either less or more leeway. So there’s some room for houserules, and definitely room for some explanation. Explanation here, houserules next post.

(Note, however, that the houserules I’ll list won’t include many forgiving houserules. Given the clock-killing space it’s hardly necessary to add much more leeway.)

First of all an important note though: The Addiction rules bring numbers to the table, ending the days of ‘nah I just only use once every session so there’s no way I’ll get addicted!’ So they’re quite useful there. Unfortunately they’re geared against PCs though, which results in a few wacky results. For example, a few years of drinking Soykaf can easily kill an average Joe, and once Focus Addiction goes high enough in Force you’ll hit the mysterious timespan of 0 or negative weeks as Addiction Test interval…


Let’s start with explaining how Addiction works. It notes that you make a test if you use X weeks in a row, but there’s an addendum in the rules that’s easily overlooked. Namely that if you don’t use during a week, the clock STILL ticks on. You simply reduce the Addiction Threshold for weeks you don’t use. The German edition actually removed this and also removed a line noting that some drugs can get you hooked with a single shot…

Each drug has the following 3 stats: An Addiction Rating, an Addiction Threshold and its Addiction Type: Physiological (physical) and/or Psychological (mental).
– Addiction Threshold is the base difficulty for your Addiction Test.
– Addiction Rating determines how long you have inbetween Addiction Tests, you test every (11-Addiction Rating) weeks.* So an Addiction Rating 9 drug like Kamikaze has you test every (11-9=) 2 weeks.
– Addiction Type determines your dicepool on the Addiction Test. You roll Willpower + Body for Physiological and Willpower + Logic for Psychological. If a drug is Addiction Type both, you have to make both tests.

* Given how the rules note you check at the end of each week, if the Addiction Rating is 11+ the interval would likely still be 1 week, not 0 or negative weeks.


Example: A Kamikaze user with 4 Willpower and 4 Body would roll 8 dice versus a threshold of 3 normally. A Novacoke user with Willpower 3, Body 4, Logic 2 would roll 3+4=7 dice on his Physiological test and 3+2=5 dice on his Psychological test. Both are against the same threshold (default two), if they fail either they’re hooked.


You test every (11-Addiction Rating) weeks, if at any point you fail your Addiction Test you get addicted. If you’re already addicted, your level goes up. If you’re already at Burnout level, you lose 1 current and 1 max Body/Willpower, whichever is highest. On a tie Body for physiological, Willpower for psychological. If it’s both Addiction Types you flip a coin. If either attribute hits 0, you hit a coma and can forget about your character.

Now comes the tricky part. What decides when the cycle-clock starts and stops? Well it starts when you first use a drug without being in its Addiction cycle already. It stops once the threshold hits 0. And as mentioned, every week you don’t use the threshold reduces 1. Stay clean long enough and the threshold hits 0 and you’re clear. If you use again, however, the threshold resets to its default value…


Example: A Troll runner uses Kamikaze (9,3), which has a cycle-length of (11-9=) 2 weeks as mentioned before. The moment he uses starts week 1. At the end of week 1 you see that he used Kamikaze that week (since that started the clock), so the Threshold remains at 3.

He stays off the drug so at the end of week 2 the threshold goes down 1. Now he’s at Addiction Threshold 2, and at the end of his Addiction Interval. Since he’s at the end of his interval and his threshold isn’t 0, he has to make his Addiction Test. He Rolls Willpower+Body with a threshold of 2.

Now there’s two possibilities. 1: He only scores 0 or 1 hits, so he gets addicted. Or he scores 2+ hits and doesn’t get permanently hooked.

Regardless the clock continues into week 1 of the new interval. Our runner stays off the drugs again so at the end of week 3, which is week 1 of the new interval, the threshold goes down again. Now the threshold is 1. After he doesn’t use in week 4 (= week 2 of interval 2), the threshold goes down to 0. Now he’s at the end of the interval so normally he’d make an Addiction Test, however the threshold hit 0 so the clock stops.

If at any point in the future he uses Kamikaze again, the clock starts fresh.


Example: A Decker gets spooked and uses Jazz during a run. Jazz is (8, 3, both) so has an interval of (11-8) = 3 weeks. Week 1 would be threshold-remains-at-3, week 2 it goes down to 2, if he stays off the drug in week 3 he’d have to make a double test at threshold 1, then week 4 he’d be in the clear. If he’d use again in week 5, well the clock stopped entirely so he’d simply start a new cycle as week 1 instead.

However, instead of staying clean our Deckers two gets in trouble again and a half weeks after using first. He uses Jazz again, which was a bad idea… This was in week 3, so at the end of week 3 the threshold resets back to 3. And since this is the end of the interval, he suddenly has to make a W+B(3) AND a W+L(3) test to not get hooked! His own bloody fault for not using another Initiative drug instead…


So again: Your Addiction Interval is (11 – Addiction Rating) weeks, with a minimum of 1. The base threshold for your Addiction Tests is the drug’s Addiction Threshold. At the end of each week your threshold goes down 1 if you haven’t used that week, and resets back to the Addiction Threshold if you did use. The clock only stops if the threshold goes down to 0.

If you use without being in a cycle, you start week 1 and at the end of the week you’ll count as having used that week. If you use while being in a cycle, the cycle continues as normal (but the threshold will reset at the end of the week).

If the interval ends, you roll either Willpower + Body for Addiction Type: Physiological drugs, Willpower + Logic for Addiction Type: Psychological drugs, and both for Addiction Type: both. If you fail either test, your addiction level rises (no double-rise if you fail both).

One VERY important use: For ANY drug where Addiction Rating + Addiction Threshold is 10 or less, unless the player uses more than once per month, they will never end up having to make a test. So unless your players use the heavy stuff (Jazz, Kamikaze, Nitro, Tripchips, Force 8+), or their runs have less than 4 weeks inbetween (rather, 1+Threshold weeks), they can just stay off the drugs and not ever face an Addiction test.

So you will never need to even look at the Addiction Rules unless your players use the heavy stuff, are popping drugs like crazy in sessions and you deliberately give them less time inbetween two runs once, or your normal schedule is more frequent than once per month. Which means that you don’t HAVE to know these rules.


P.S. One final note: Focus Addiction ONLY counts when the Active Force EXCEEDS your Magic. So if you have several Foci but only have your Magic in Force active at any given time, you’ll never face Focus Addiction.

Houserules & Rule Clarifications: Background Count

Background Count is a GM-tool that can be used to nerf down players and enemies. It also can be used to buff magical characters by using Aspected Background Counts. Before we cover the houserules, let’s quickly cover some details here.

For those who don’t know how it works: A Background Count of Rating +/-X normally gives a -X Dice on all tests (buffed by) Magic, and sustained effects (spells, Foci) get hit by -X on their Force. Magical-buffed Initiative also likely takes a hit though that’s not entirely official yet (Missions came with it but will it apply elsewhere?). If the Force-drop makes the Force drop to 0, effects go poof: Foci deactivate and spells are all gone. (Including Quickened Spells, ouch for karma! What were you doing quickening at that low a Force though?)

If the Force of a Focus goes down, it also means the Focus gives less bonus. A Force 3 Power Focus in Background Count -2 will be stuck at only a +1 from Force 2 (and you ALSO take a -2 on the magical tests). A Force 4 Qi Focus giving you 2 ranks of 0.5 PP each will drop down to Force 2 so only giving 1 rank of whatever Adept Power it gave. And if you got a Force 4 Qi Focus giving you, say, Astral Perception? POOF! Force 2 means you no longer have the Force 4 required, so the power is unaccessable.

Sustained Spells also get hit by the Force Penalty, which may or may not matter. An Increase Attribute Spell must be high enough Force-wise to impact the target. If the Force is lowered to below the previous attribute value, well it would probably mean (GM-decision in the end) the spell is still active but no longer is giving a boost. Detection spells decrease in range, but most Illusion spells wouldn’t care. Combat Spells are Instant so don’t care anyway (even if cast from outside to inside a background count). And if you cast a low-Force Sustained spell using Reagents to keep the drain low, a background count can easily pop the spell.

(Summoners get hit badly by this as well: Spirits ARE magical. So ALL their actions take the penalty. Evasion? Yeah that seems like an action (GM-calls may vary). The sole exception would be Resistance tests.)

The flipside is Aspected Background Counts: If a Background Count is Positive AND Aspected in YOUR favour, ignore everything before this! Instead it gives you a limit-bonus on magic! Dangerous for Spellcasting (hits after limit decide whether drain is physical or stun), but real useful for things where the Force decides Physical vs Stun Drain and where the limit awfully gets in the way. Alchemy, Summoning and Binding come to mind. ESPECIALLY Binding, where without Limit-increase you’re stuck with >1/6 chance that a Force 6 Spirit’s hits will equal or exceed your limit and you’ll autofail. Also nice for Rituals which also suffer from an opposed dicepool depending on the Force.

Speaking of Aspected Background Counts, according to page 31 and page 32 from Street Grimoire these are aspected towards their traditions and their Rating counts as their Background Count. On the other hand Missions rules player-owned Lodges don’t get this bonus. Which brings us to houserule number 1. Houserule 2 might not even be a houserule but simply a bad phrasing in Core, 3 takes that up a noth, while houserule 4 goes into a silly side-effect of the Force-loss of spells we mentioned earlier.

Before we get into the houserules, first though one tip for GMs: Background Counts are a weapon against magical players. Use them sparingly. Yes, it can be nice to make a Force-1-Sustainer suffer penalties, or to give the magicians a penalty once in a while (plus letting Adepts show off their Adept Centering), but when you start throwing around background counts as if they’re candy on halloween you should take a long, hard look at what you’re doing and why. Hint: If it starts with ‘Player X needs to be put in their place’, you need to smack yourself upside the head. Seriously though, don’t overdo it with this unless your campaign has a plausible reason for it AND you made sure your players knew in advance. Nobody faces Auslander every month and even that ass only manages an Aspected Count 4. That’s a horrible Force 8 Master Shedim that oughta die in a frickin’ fire and then be torn apart by demons, and even he only has a Rating 4. So ease up on the massive counts would ya?


Rule: Magical Lodges/Circles take time to aspect their count

As noted above, SG says these have an aspected count, while the Missions FAQ doesn’t allow it. Now we could decide one of them is wrong and the other should be followed, but where’s the fun in that? How about instead we reward permanency? See, you can take a lodge down in a day and rebuild it elsewhere in <Force> days. So if a runner really needs to, they can tear it down or just forfeit it and get another one. Which, if you end up burned by a Johnson, might be a good idea. You won’t always have a good base available.

So to not let background counts go crazy (‘hey, I spent a week of downtime setting this up, hello Force-4-limit-11 spells, let me just roll these 24 dice and BAM 8 hits!’), but also reward people who manage to keep their Lodge around, we let Lodges slowly build up their Background Count. Each step up costs <NewRating> months, so from BC0 to BC4 you’d need 1+2+3+4=10 months. And no, a lodge bought in chargen would start the game at rating 1 at most, no ‘but I’ve had it for yeaaaaaars!’.


Rule: Cleansing impacts an Area around the magician for all

Cleansing lets a Magician temporarily reduce a positive background count, with the fluff talking about neutralizing the background count and it being useful for a few hours, or temporarily cleaning up a mess. Now the ritual lets you cleanse a small sphere for a few hours, while the metamagic itself only lets the magician make a very-shortlasting effect.

One problem with that though: It’s noted to only affect the cleansing magician (for (Magic) CTs). This could be poor phrasing, or it could mean that Cleansing has no impact on other people. However the technique says you temporarily reduce the background count, NOT that it lets the magician ignore part of the count, so the magician-only thing seems rather weird.

So this rule lets the metamagic create a cleaned area the same size as the ritual, aka a (Magic) meters radius sphere around the Cleanser. This lets them support other magical beings such as their Spirits or Adepts, while also damaging any nearby enemies enjoying the count. It makes Cleansing not just an expensive thing for the Mage but also something with significant rewards for not just the mage but also their allies.


Rule: The Cleansing area is larger, jammer-wise

Normally Cleansing, both the metamagic and the Ritual, only work inside a rather small sphere around the caster. Which sounds a bit like bollocks. Seriously, you got a metamagic that lets you fight a background count and the best you can do is only reduce it in a tiny sphere?

Instead, we make it work like a jammer. Each increment equals (Magic) meters and each increment away from the origin you lose 1 impact. So you roll 4 net hits on your Cleansing test and got Magic 8? At 17 meters distance the Aspected Background Count will have been reduced by 2 for a short while.

This mechanic can be adjusted to even downgrade in increments rather than fully fizzle out in a single second. So when the effect starts wearing off, it will take a while before  it’s completely gone and until then the effect simply reduces by 1 each interval. (Magic – Original Background Count?)


Rule: Sustained Spells don’t keep hits from Background Counts

Say you cast a spell at Force 6 outside a background count of Rating 2. You step in, spell is now at Force 4. You step out, step in, Force 2. Third time kills the spell. If you end up going through a patchy area, or temporarily enter a fully-cleansed area, that will suck balls.

Instead we simply make the highest count experienced count, almost as if it’s Essence Loss. You lost 2 Force? Well you’re at Force 4(6) then. Exit, still 4(6). Enter a Rating 1 Count then? Still 4(6). But a Rating 3 drops you to 3(6).

Sensor Arrays: Clarifications

As promised last week, I’m tackling default sensor packages this week. It’s not really a houserule, since it’s simply filling something in that has been left open by the book. Still, the term houserule will suffice.

But first I should explain how sensor arrays work, because I’ve seen several people get horribly confused on page 445~446.


Sensor: A single Sensor uses 1 Capacity. A Sensor can be quite a lot, as seen in the Sensor Function table on page 446. It can be an atmosphere sensor, a MAD (metal) scanner, a camera and more.

Sensors can be put in quite a few things: There’s special Sensor RFID tags and ammunition, handheld housings, cyberlimbs, drones+vehicles, buildings and more.

Sensor Rating: A Sensor has a Rating, which can impact 3 different things. For some sensors the rating basically is irrelevant, such as motion sensors and atmosphere sensors.

  1. Limits for some tests done by/through the sensor, such as Sensor Attacks (p184, ALSO a confusing section that I judgement-called myself) and Perception by/through Drones(/Vehicles) (p270).
  2. Dicepool for tests, such as for Olfactory Scanners, MAD scanners, Cyberware Scanners and Radio Signal Scanners.
  3. For Cameras and Microphones, Internal Capacity for Vision/Audio Enhancements. So a Rating 3 Camera has 3 Capacity for vision enhancements such as Thermographic Vision and Flare Compensation.
  4. ((Electronics with an explicit Device Rating also are an exception to the electronics-device-rating-2 entry in the Device Rating table. So, assuming Sensor Rating = Device Rating, the rating (mostly matters for cameras) matters when it comes to hacking non-slaved sensors. But that’s not relevant here.))

Maximum Sensor Rating: Each type of Sensor Housing has a maximum as to how good a sensor you can fit in there. For example RFID Tags are limited at 2, Small(er) Drones at 3, a Motorcycle can handle rating 6 at the highest and a building can handle rating 8. So if you want to put Olfactory Sensors in your doors, they can be rating 8, costing 800 each. In a sneakily hidden Sensor Tag you can at most put a rating 2, costing 200 (+ 40 for the tag).

Sensor Array: A Sensor Array USES 6 Capacity, but it can contain UP TO 8 Sensors, each of which has a Sensor Rating equal to the Array’s Rating. So a Rating 5 Sensor Array contains 1~8 Sensors that all are Rating 5. If there’s 2 Cameras in there, each of them then is Rating 5 so has 5 Capacity.

6-Capacity-required means you can’t put a sensor array in a handheld housing, because that has at most 3 Capacity. The array requires 6. A cyberlimb can usually take it, but it will be a significant drain on your capacity. With vehicles/drones they already got a sensor array, which you can replace, so the required 6 Capacity isn’t a problem (unless Rigger V decides otherwise).

In return for taking 6 capacity for >6 namely 8 sensors, Sensor Arrays are slightly more expensive: They cost 10x as much as a single Sensor. So with 8 sensors you’d be paying 25% extra per Sensor basically, assuming you’re buying a new array that’s completely filled up.

Default Sensor Package: Vehicles and drones come factory-equipped with a Sensor Array, their stats note what the Array’s Rating is. The question is: what sensors are in that package? And THAT is the million-nuyen question. For that, see the accompanying houserule post here.

Upgrading Sensor Arrays: Now the book doesn’t state these things explicitly, but…

Since a lot of vehicles/drones can contain a better rating array than they come with by default (see Maximum Sensor Rating above), you can obviously purchase a better array for those. However, you got your sensors as an Array, with a Rating. So it’s not as simple as ‘just buy a better sensor and put it in the array’, because that makes the extra cost of arrays ridiculous.

So while it’s not stated explicitly, I interpret things myself akin to Cyberware enhancements: They have to be the same rating. If you want to add a Sensor to an Array that has space left, or replace a Sensor in an Array with another Sensor, the Sensor has to be the same rating as the Array already was. No stealth-updating or paying only 100 nuyen for a Sensor whose rating is irrelevant, if you’re putting it into a super-advanced Rating 8 Array.

Upgrading Sensors in Arrays: Another thing unmentioned is how you add enhancements to a Sensor you already have. For example, how do you add Thermographic Vision to a camera on your drone? Do you pay the addition costs? Add a mechanic fee, do an availability test for the new availability? Buy a brand new sensor? Or do you have to replace the entire array? There’s nothing in the rules that I can base an interpretation on, unfortunately, just like I have no idea if you can upgrade armor or goggles you already bought. Anyway, again see here for a houserule on that. 🙂