Rigger Judgement Calls

I did a search and found a list of seven judgement calls I noted in the past as needed to help make Riggers playable. Some of those I already covered with houserules, others are no longer needed since Rigger 5.0. However some are still needed because official clarification is still missing. Below I’ll go into these. (Note that I call them judgement calls. This because the rules are simply unclear as to how these work, and they’re simply interpretations of the rules, not explicit overrules.)

First let’s cover Rigger 5.0 rules though. Unfortunately Rigger 5.0 does not include a lot of rule upgrades, though there’s three worthy of noting here:

First of all: Rigger 5.0 has 2 types of Modification rules: Normal Vehicle ones, and optional ones for Drones. For Drones they’re cheaper than the normal vehicle ones, but also more limited (though they can get more bonus armor than a vehicle) in what they can get. One recommendation: Use these optional rules. 🙂 Much fairer for Riggers.

Second, it has advanced Vehicle Chase rules, and here you can actually break past the Extreme Category. This means high Acceleration rates actually have value: Originally if you drop to Extreme but the other goes back 1 range, you’ll never manage to break loose. Under the new detailed rules, you could break e.g. 3 categories past Extreme, and unless they manage to immediately bring that back to Extreme you’re free. There are air-vehicles with Acceleration past 5 so a good Rigger will really be able to push that vehicle chase!

Third, Autosoft rules have changed! Your Autosoft Rating IS limited by your Pilot Rating now, unless you employ an RCC! This means that you can’t just grab a Rating 6 Autosoft on a Rating 3 (or 1!) Pilot, you’ll have to use a lower-rating normally. So if you want your Drones to have 8 dice, you need to upgrade their Pilot to 4 (3.5k) and get Rating 4 Autosofts of 2k each. 10 dice? 10k for the pilot and 2.5k per Autosoft… Better get an army! Or an RCC and stream rating 6 Autosofts, which you can only afford to do for 1 or 2 dronetypes at any given time… Really buffs RCC-users there.

An extra nice upside (in my opinion that is) here is that you no longer only need 3k to have 7 dice on any vehicle. Instead there’s actual value to taking 1 rank of Pilot Groundcraft on a character with anywhere-near decent Reaction.


Oh, remember my houserule for teamwork tests for Drones? There’s now a program for that, which is run by the RCC and run on the drones slaved to it! It’s a 600¥ program which adds as a single Drone instead of individual drones, using the highest Pilot/DR for Pilot (including the RCC’s!), highest Autosoft rating, highest Sensor Rating, lowest vehicle attributes, and +(#-1)[+(#-1)] on tests.

This makes swarms more effective against competent enemies (albeit only counting as 1 attack so making it harder for others to follow-up on your drones) , because you have both better dice and a better limit. No more silly “I roll six drones but none can score more than 3 hits”, instead it’d be “RCC DR5, 6 drones with Sensor 3, Rating 6 Autosoft = 16[8] Perception”. This makes Surveillance a VERY good job for Riggers!

Another houserule that no longer is necessary is my Acceleration rule: It now actually applies to how fast you can get to your Top Speed (but only decelerate 1 ‘category’ per turn).


 

Anyway! Back to my seven judgement calls (of which some could be split up). Let’s start with the ones that are no longer needed:

  • “Yes, if a Drone has a Smartlink in its Camera both it and a jumped-in Rigger can get the +1 die from a Smartgun’s wireless bonus.”

There’s now a Smartsoft Autosoft in Rigger 5.0, which lets you access Smartlink benefits as alternative. Not sure if it’d grant a +2 or +1 though? Since you need an Autosoft for it and it’s integrated, plus it says “full use”, I’d go with the full +2. It’s a Rating 3 Autosoft so needs a Rating 3+ Pilot (which not all new Drones have)

  • “Sensor replacements cost normal sensor costs, they don’t require a full new array. So adding a new Sensor (or replacing an existing one if no space exists) to your default drone costs 300, not 3.000.”

In the Drone-Upgrade rules, these are pretty much the official rules: Entire Array or Single Sensor. However, the following judgement calls are still needed because no rules are listed still for this:

  • “Sensor upgrades (eg adding Thermographic Vision to a Drone’s camera) do not require replacing the entire sensor, but simply cost the normal price and can be done by any Mechanic.”
  • “Default Sensors are 2 Cameras and one Omni-Directional Microphone. Larger Drones/Vehicles come with extra Sensors by default, namely <…>.”

If you want something for those, just check the houserules I wrote on those in the past.


Next up, the three Judgement Calls that are still unfortunately needed and are VERY important!

  • “No, Targeting penalties only apply to Active Targeting, and Passive Targeting against concealed targets. In a normal gunfight a drone does not take a -3 against a metahuman.”

Needless to say that Drones NOT taking a -3 on every attack in a gunfight, especially given their weaker dicepools from the getgo, is very important! And it makes little sense that a penalty for someone hiding would apply when nobody is hiding but straight-up fighting instead.

  • “Agility+Gunnery only for AR Remote Control, Logic+Gunnery allowed for AR Remote Control as well, Logic+Gunnery as only options for VR Remote Control as well as only option for jumped in.”

The Core-rules describe Gunnery to be Logic+Gunnery. Then Control Device goes and notes you can use Agility+Gunnery, explaining how you’d make AR-gestures to command it. Sorry but that excuse won’t fly if you’re unconscious from being in VR… So rather than going ‘one is wrong’, I unified them here. AR and manual remains Agility, AR can also employ Logic, but in VR/jumped-in Logic is your only option.

  • “Yes, Drones and jumped-in Riggers count as normal combatants. We interpret ‘use the normal combat rules’ as ‘they can use normal movement rules’ and ‘they can fire with Simple Actions’.”

This one is the BIGGEST of my judgement calls, and actually exists of basically 2+ judgement calls unified in one.

Normal combatants plan movement per Action Phase. Vehicles move per Combat Turn. Manual Gunnery always is a complex action, which sucks with the recoil errata even more than before them. But there is a line in Core about how drones use the normal combat rules… And yes, I am perfectly willing to read that as ‘they use the NORMAL combatant rules, so no movement and gunnery screwovers’.

Result: If your Drone moves 21 meters in a combat turn (running Speed 3), it won’t suddenly only be able to move 10+ meters in the next Combat Turn (walking Speed 2). It also can actually fire AND take cover, and under the recoil errata that I personally despise it won’t suck balls after just a single round of gunfire.


Lastly, there are elements I disagree with. Vehicle Sensor Enhancements are EXPENSIVE AS HELL, which I consider rather overkill given how a normal Array was originally 7k for Rating 7. Now, Rating 7 isn’t even available (even though under Core they are…) for vehicles, and a Rating 6 costs 30k…

I can sort of live with the high cost, given how powerful expensive vehicles can be when fully buffed, but I disagree with no Rating 7. I’d go with Rating 1-4 and Rating 5-8 instead of 1-3 and 4-6, using the same costs for Vehicles and Buildings. (In other words, if you want to outfit a building with a Rating 8 Sensor Array it costs 40k, not a mere 8k while a car would cost more for a mere Rating 4 Array.)

This way the original cost remains standing for Drones and sensor packages carried in limbs or sticks, but vehicles and buildings are more expensive.


By the way, Rigger 5.0 is awesome. 🙂 Unfortunately there’s some gaps in Core they haven’t filled in yet, but the book does update some rules and add some awesome modification options, as well as AWESOME vehicles and drones! Hello one-lining Horatio drone! XD

 

Houserules: Noise

We’re getting close to the end of my houserules-list, all I got left after this is some rigger-stuff.

These noise-rules are copy-pasted from when I first made them so they might be outdated since Data Trails. Feel free to make your own stuff of course, here’s the things I think a Noise houserule should address:

  • Too much Noise should cut off wireless functionality in some circumstances
  • Spamzones shouldn’t cut off wireless, because then what’s the point, but simply supply a penalty
  • Devices close to each other should be able to communicate even in static, assuming nothing gets in the way inbetween

And don’t forget: Line-of-sight is always an option for commlinks.


Rule: Noise shuts down all wireless communication

Under Aaron’s clarification, Noise only shuts down Wireless Bonuses, not Functionality. In other words, any functionality using the Matrix that isn’t actively described as a Wireless bonus, still works. Smartguns still transmit, commlinks can still make phone calls, and so on. To describe an over-the-top scenario, someone with a DR1 commlink, a rating 6 jammer next to them, buried in a container on the bottom of the ocean, would still have a signal. More realistically, Headjammers would not be able to do exactly what they are meant to do: “neutralize implanted commlinks.”

This houserule basically follows the RAW of p421, rather than the RAI that Aaron told us about: “If there is a Noise Rating from a situation that is greater than the item’s Device Rating, not including distance, the item temporarily loses its wireless functionality (see Noise, p. 230).”

As a consequence wireless bonuses are easily lost since standard personal electronics would likely have a device rating of 2 (page 234, table partially contradicted by page 356 and the Rigger chapter). So if you walk into the Barrens or CCZ you’d normally be fine, but every increase would shut you down, and so would walking within 10m of a rating 4 (and 20m for rating 6) Area Jammer. An enemy could shut down a lot of your stuff with a directional jammer at up to 80m distance. This tactic goes both ways, of course.

Jammers will become a viable strategy this way, shutting down communication of any sucker with a bad commlink. They can now be used to prevent security from calling backup, or to block the wireless signal meant to blow up that grenade in front of someone’s feet. A Street Samurai taking trips into bad areas of town will have to live with the consequences of not always having his wireless boni at hand, or invest into datajacks.

Of course this rule comes with its own consequences, so next we have these three:


Rule: Noise is split between Spam and Static effects

There are two kinds of Noise Zones. Static Zones are places where signals are either blocked or far away, whereas Spam Zones are so filled with signals that processing info becomes hard since signals are drowned out.

The downside of communication shutting down at Noise >= Device Rating, is the Spam Zones. An Advertising Blitz comes with a Rating 3 Spamzone. While some RFID tags (used for AROs) are Device Rating 3, simple glasses with an image link aren’t. This means that people would not be able to see the same AROs that the blitz is trying to show them. And even though a GM could say “commercial area noise only applies during peek hours and the Noise is less inside shops”, this still means that nobody would ever be able to see the AROs from outside or likely even make a phone call while visiting a mall.

As a solution for that, Noise can be separated into two factors. There’s the actual blocks that damage the signal, such as distance, all kinds of situational modifiers and the general environment (Static zones). Then there’s the Spam zones, where the only real problem is the massive amount of data flying around.

Noise has 2 effects. A penalty on Matrix actions, and disabling your wireless. It makes sense for Spam zones to do the first, but it doesn’t make sense for them to do the second. So Noise is split into two factors, Spam and Other. Spam+Other decides the dice penalty, whereas Other decides whether or not the wireless signal is powerful enough to get through whatever circumstances are in your way. This means all the offensive functionality of Noise remains, and trying to hack while you’re in the frickin’ Mall will be tough due to the signals around you

The question would be which kind of Noise is first reduced by Noise Reduction. It makes sense that the software would prioritize the signal loss, so the Other Noise, but a GM could easily decide differently, such as splitting it in two or making it reduce the Spam first.


Rule: Noise blocks communication but not one-way signals.

A different solution to the Advertising blitz is ruling that one-way signals still work. Think of it like streamed real-time video, even if you lose some data you probably can still make something out of it. Those RFID tags are simply broadcasting intel, and while your AR Goggles may not be capable of communicating with their environment, they may still be able to make sense out of the signals they receive. Since talking kinda requires a two-way street, while file transfers involve double-checking to compensate for packet loss, the Noise would still make this impossible. Meaning you wouldn’t be able to get a call out, but you’d be capable to receive a text message.

So basically the total Noise would have to exceed the sender’s Device Rating in order to block it from sending a message. If one side is fine and the other isn’t, only one-way messages are possible. If the Noise exceeds both, they cannot communicate at all. In that advertising blitz RFID tags of DR3 would be able to send out AROs and the DR2 Goggles would be able to read them. In the Mall the local Hosts would send out the AROs and your commlink would be able to receive texts, but you’d need a good one to be able to send texts. And when faced with a Jammer, you’d still be in trouble.


Rule: Datajacks can only provide Noise Reduction for a single plugged-in device, and don’t stack

Datajacks provide 1 point of Noise Reduction as wireless bonus. Leaving aside RCCs, this is the ONLY non-magical form of Noise Reduction that can boost any piece of equipment. So if you are in a really bad part of the Barrens and stuck without a wireless Smartgun due to Noise 3 instead of 2, plugging your gun into the datajack can save your ass. It likely has DR2 as well, so past Noise 3 it’s out of luck itself (unless your GM decides better-grades have a better device rating), but it basically lets you run a piece of electronics at 1 Noise higher.

Now Noise is a GM tool, so while running into Noise 3 rather than 2 may happen, it’s quite unlike you suddenly run into Noise 4 unless you are getting hit by a perfect storm. This means that very likely this one point of Noise Reduction can be the difference between life and death! Nah, just kidding chummer, it’s a difference of a dice or two. Or 6 in case of a First Aid kit… And that’s a rather decent case where it IS a matter of life and death, so I’ll grant you that.

Which brings us to Aaron’s official clarification: He stated that a wireless datajack boosts all of a runner’s equipment. In other words, that wireless datajack would cover your commlink, smartgun, vision enhancement, chemical seal, medkit and more at the same time. Heck it’d cover your grenades. Furthermore they stack, so a decker could spend 0.4 essence and 6 grand for 5 Alphaware Datajacks in chargen, and bam, any plausible Noise their GM throws at them will be easily nullified. This takes a GM weapon that should be used sparingly, and makes it completely irrelevant unless used in ridiculous excess.

The problem here is that Noise Reduction is really hard to get. Yet in the form of a Datajack it suddenly would become harmless at a cheap price, where only awakened characters and some street sams would have a hard time with the essence loss. To solve that problem the datajacks would be tuned back: They only provide Noise Reduction for themselves and whatever single item is plugged into them, and cannot stack with each other.

Consequences are that Noise can still be real dangerous this way. If a Street Sam wants their smartgun to still run in rating 3 Noise, they’d need a datajack. If they also want their Thermal Dampening to work, that requires a second datajack. It makes datajacks an important strategic decision, and in Noise 3 environments a tactical decision is required on which wireless bonuses you want to keep and which you drop.


These Noise rules all have 1 thing in common: They keep Noise a dangerous thing. This means that excessive use by a GM can spell trouble for players, so the GM should keep in mind that Noise is a GM tool that should be used sparingly, just like Background Count, and not as a weapon of choice for every run. The official rulings ripped out the sting, while these houserules keep it sharp and dangerous.

Addiction: Houserules

The previous post had a clarification for how the Addiction system works. Now it’s time to focus on the houserules. Again, only some of these are more forgiving than the core rules. The why is simple: As noted before, if your players avoid the nastiest drugs and your runners only go on a run once per month, they will never face Addiction anyway. Not to mention that if you pay for Pharmaceutical drugs (see Chrome Flesh) the Addiction Threshold will be 1 lower anyway.


Rule: An Addiction’s level cannot rise past its Addiction Rating

Soykaf has an Addiction Rating of 1 (so an Addiction Interval of 10) and an Addiction Threshold of 2. If someone has Willpower 3 + Body 3 and drinks Sofkay every day (so the threshold never resets), they have 256/729 chance to fail an Addiction test, which means that on average they fail once every ~2.85 intervals. After 11.4 intervals they’ll be at Burnout, after 14.24 intervals they’ll first start losing attributes. If we continue with average rolls we end up that after almost 4 years our Average Joe will slip into a coma.

This peculiar situation is basically a consequence of that the Addiction system is geared against players, whocan game the Addiction clock or manage an excellent dicepool. So for NPCs it grows strange, which means that yes the system would kill Soykaf drinkers within 4 years and alcoholists even faster.

To prevent that kind of strange situation, while keeping Addiction dangerous and lethal for stronger stuff, we can cap the maximum Addiction level on the Addiction Rating. This means Alcohol, Long Haul, Soykaf, Zen, Hot-Sim and Cold-Sim are not lethal in the long-term.

Possible add-on: A Rating of 4 could be ruled to only get you to Burnout level without making you actually go above that and start losing attribute points. This would add Cram to the non-lethal list. Asides from the side-effects when using that is.

A stronger adjustment could add the total Attribute Points burned out to the level, so a Rating 6 drug would only let you lose 2 attribute points by burning out. Of course that rather takes the lethality out of Burning out, but even losing two attribute points already hurts like hell for a player. I’d keep the lethality in myself though.


Rule: Gain (Current Addiction Level + 1 – Addiction Rating, min 0) dice on Addiction Tests

The previous rule, where Addiction Level is hardcapped, would mean some drugs simply cannot kill you. But let’s face it, Alcohol is something that can in fact kill you. So taking that out is a bit strange. As alternative solution we could instead give you bonus-dice on the heavy addiction tests, making you last longer.

With Alcohol (Rating 3) you’d only get bonus dice when you’re at Severe (3+1-3=1) or Burnout (4+1-4=2) when rolling your Addiction Test to make things worse. With Soykaf the second level already gives you a bonus die and losing Body/Willpower would face 4 bonus dice, making it near-impossible but still possible to die from the weaker stuff.


Rule: You cannot Edge Addiction Tests

Quite honestly, as far as I’m concerned Addiction Tests have no bite whatsoever if you allow Edge on them. Let’s say you face a threshold of 2 with 6 dice, you’d fail once every 2.85 intervals. Without Edge. Second-Chance that and you’re at once every 15.26 intervals… If we assume 1 interval per session, then your runner would essentially never actually get into the dangerous area unless you play for a long, LONG time.

In other words, during normal campaigns they will not have to care at all, even if they take the heavy stuff such as Kamikaze. And I’m not interested in letting a player get away with doing something dangerous without it actually being dangerous. So since CanRay said Edge-use for Addiction is basically up to the GM and table, I myself would advocate not allowing Edge on it.


Rule: Additional tests if the interval is 0 or less

Normally the Addiction interval caps at 1 minimum. If you dip heavily into Focus Addiction, however, or a very heavy custom drug, you might want to give that actual consequences. Under this houserule, if Addiction Rating > 9 you have to make AR-10 tests in a row… So if you use 11 Force, you have to pass two Threshold-2 addiction tests. An Addiction Rating 12 drug would require 3 tests, and so on.


Rule: Immediate test with penalty on use past Addiction Rating 10

An alternative to the previous rule, here instead you’d face an immediate addiction test if you dip that high into the Addiction Rating, on top of the end-of-week test. And on this immediate test you’d face a dice penalty equal to Addiction Rating – 11 on your test, so Rating 12 would be -1 die, Rating 13 -2 and so on.


Rule: Addiction Threshold +1 if multiple drugs used during the same day

A stronger version of the Speedballing rule from Chrome Flesh (which only raises the Rating if you mix), this raises the threshold if you use multiple drugs in the same day. Multiple times the same drug also counts here. This is to signify how tough it is on you if you keep using drugs throughout the day.


Rule: +1 on Addiction Test if you are a frequent user

If you keep using a drug, not ever allowing the Threshold to reduce, then your body might be building up a tolerance. This may (if the GM decides so) give you a bonus on your Addiction Test. Note that the use has to be frequent enough, so expensive, and that you may have to start increasing your doses to still get the benefits.


Rule: Focus Addiction Addiction Rating = 2 + Excess*2

If you have 6 Magic and use 8 Force of Foci simultaneously, your Addiction Rating will be 8 so interval 3 weeks. If you have 9 Magic and use 10 Force, the Rating is 10 so the interval 1 week. If you have 30 Magic but use 31 in Force, the Rating is 31. That’s a bit strange. So under this rule, the Addiction Rating for Focus Addiction depends on the excess Force, rather than the absolute Force. If you have 6 Magic and use 7 Force, it’s AR 4. 9 Force becomes AR 8. You’d need to use 4 Excess to guarantee an Addiction test.


Rule: Addiction Rating is replaced by a Session Addiction Rating

As mentioned before, if you only play once per month nearly all drugs will never have any addiction consequences. On the other hand two runs in the same week would also not matter much. This rule makes addiction work every few sessions instead.

There’s two options for the SAR I thought of:  First is (4-AT), where the original AR doesn’t matter. A downside is that Pixie Dust and any custom drugs with a high Threshold would result in an interval of 0, rquiring the additional-tests use above to make sense. It’s also a bit strange that the original AR is completely discarded.

The second is simply the normal Addiction Interval /4, with the threshold reducing by 1 each session the drug hasn’t been used. So 7~10 would be once per session, 4~7 once per two sessions, etc. Basically you roll once per X months, rather than once per ~X*4 weeks, and there’s no avoiding a test by letting a threshold easily drop to 0. Instead it will take a significant while to wean off.

Of course under these circumstances Edge-use likely should be allowed, at the expense of it coming out of your session’s Edge like how downtime-Edge in Missions works.

Houserules: Movement 2

Last week I went into the Movement power, offering a possible way of nerfing the ability if granted to players through Channeling & Possession. It’s complicated, especially since people aren’t equivalent to vehicles so ‘sidestreets’ would become ‘sidealley’ or something like that.

Below are a variant and some possible combination-rules, coming from debates with my players about in what way I’ll nerf them.


Rule: Movement penalties are -25% per complicating factor

Complicating factors here are: Bad terrain, narrow area, stuff gets in the way. So if you’re running over rooftops, you’ll suffer a bad terrain penalty and a stuff-gets-in-the-way penalty. A forest has all 3, alleys can easily have all 3, sidestreets got 1~2, etc. In combat you’ll likely suffer -50%. No figuring out the terrain penalty or doing division, so more finesse (-25% instead of an immediate -50%) is possible this way. It’s the variant I’m currently leaning towards.


Rule: Only the increase from Movement is nerfed

If you get divided by 4, or -75%, a Force 6 only means +50% while Force 4 would give no bonus. Under this change, however, you’d still get a bonus of +75%/+125% for Force 4 and 6 respectively. This keeps Movement nice and nerfs the bonus without fully crippling the power.

Granted, under those circumstances you might want to add 1 to the divisor for the /difficulty rule, and consider taking a 20%~40% terrain-quality + 2x -20% penalties for the complicating factor rule. That way the bonus doesn’t go too crazy.


Rule: In combat you can try to go faster, using Gymnastic tests akin to vehicle stunts

The idea of the nerf is that some things are simply not built for you going that fast. If you keep pushing yourself you’d have an accident, so instead it’s nerfed period. In combat, however, one could try to push themselves to go that extra quarter mile. However, you’d have to roll well on a Gymnastic test, with a threshold directly related to the Vehicle Stunt table. This combines nicely with the idea beyind the division-rule, and rewards Gymnastics users which is a skill few people take.

The question is what do you do if they fail. Do they crash, bump into stuff or just not get up to speed? Maybe move but not do special stuff if they hit the terrain threshold but not the additional stunt threshold, or do a crash test to see if they manage to stay upright? GM call, discuss it with your players.


Rule: Spirits suffer a reduction only if they fly within 2 meters from varying obstacles or 1 meter from default obstacles

In other words, if a spirit is buzzing about but far away enough from obstacles to not have to worry about them, they don’t take a movement penalty from it. Here a straight wall / rooftop is far different from an alley with obstacles in the way or rooftops with AC Units and wires and more in the way. This keeps spirits from easily outdoing players without risks while also still letting them outshine players when it comes to what spirits do well: fly.

As for the reduction: Take a look at how you’d treat players, but keep in mind that they don’t have to touch the ground.


Rule: In combat Spirits need to roll Fly tests to buzz around properly

Akin to the Gymnastics rule above, a Spirit would need to roll Fly (normally used to cover extra distance, remember that any Running skill on a spirit should in fact be Flying) to pull crazy movement maneuvers in combat.


And remember: No only deciding on your actions after you moved, you declare intended actions together with your movement before going at it. Anything more complicated than ‘I fire at the first plausible threat I see unless I change my mind and lose my attack action’ wouldn’t fit in the 1~2 seconds going into your Action Phase.

Houserules: Movement Power

The Movement power is what allows some spirits to move at incredible speed, as well as either buff or restrain others by either multiplying or dividing it with the Spirit’s Magic (which equals Force).

In SR4 this power had only two restrictions listed: Inside terrain it controlled, and based on Body (B>M = halved effect, B>2*M = no effect). SR5 has more detail to it, going back to SR3’s description and talking more explicitly about terrain/domain the Spirit controls, as well as containing a separate rule for vehicles.

This unfortunately runs into two complications. First of all, what IS terrain a spirit controls? Clearly it’s not just ‘their natural habitat’, since otherwise an Air Spirit could easily target any plane they see, while a Plant spirit would rule surpreme in the jungle. Don’t even get me started on what kind of terrain would be a Guardian spirit’s natural habitat…

The second is that the power’s description went back to its SR3 version. Unfortunately, some mechanics have changed since SR3… Some even midway SR5’s development, such as Vehicles… Rather than having a significant Acceleration and Speed directly translating to m/CT, Acceleration is now a tricky number solely for Vehicle Chases (which a previous houserule already covered) and Speed simply is a limit as well as translating to how fast you can go.

I mean nobody woudl believe it’s intended that a good test on a good car could easily make it go 2^18 as fast. That’s 50 million km/hour… If we look at SR3’s Speed system the original intent seems more clear: Say you got a vehicle with an Acceleration of 10, and Speed actually is your actual speed rather than a single-digit number, then those 6 hits would translate to making the vehicle go 100 m/CT faster/slower instead, which likely (especially with deceleration rules) could actually cause it to crash due to the sudden changes.

I’ll be discussing three core Movement houserules here, two of which I have already applied in my own campaign. An important note: This has actually impacted my campaign’s balance and I’ve been thinking of ways to nerf it down for a while, which will be included as corollaries. It wasn’t that bad (sorta) with one Speedster, but with four magicians all outshining the Rigger’s speed… Not to mention it kinda ruins ambushes and all that.


Ahem. Before we go into the houserules, there’s something VERY important you should know first, a small detail of the rules that many probably missed.

Your actions and movement are declared at the START of your Action Phase. That is, you FIRST declare what all you’ll do, THEN you start executing it. (Page 158, 159, 163.) You can stop or change direction, but you cannot increase your movement after finding out some of the results of your actions. Logically the same would apply to your offensive actions, even if not explicitly stated.

So say you decide to run around a corner. If there’s an enemy waiting around it, you can’t go ‘oh then I’ll just run past him’. You can break or dive back, but not go further than originally declared. You also cannot attack him if you didn’t keep the option in mind. That’s why I make my fast players declare what their intent will be in somewhat-vague terms, for example ‘cut the first enemy that dares to get in my way in two’. That way the runner still can go around a corner and attack, assuming there is in fact an enemy within reach.

This might seem like nitpicking but when it comes to combatants easily moving 100 meters in a single Combat Turn, it becomes VERY important. You can’t walk 20m, see what enemies are where and THEN make a detailed plan for the rest of your Action Phase: Decide at the start and run into danger! You can run up a staircase but only if you knew it was there and declared the intent.

A sidenote: This also means that you got to keep a few possible outcomes in mind as player. As GM I wouldn’t give you a lot of hassle if you used an If-statement in your Action Declarations, but you got to keep in mind the highest declared movement will count for your movement allotment of the Combat Turn. Just make sure you make clear to your players what the limitations will be before they run into nasty complications, as part of the social contract.


Rule: Spirits can only use Movement on others inside Aspected Areas

There are basically three ways for an area to get Aspected in the advantage of a Tradition: The Personal Domains of some Free Spirits, frequent use by that tradition and magical lodges, in order from large to small (multiple acres, ?, very-small-region). Which means that for nearly every situation the Spirit will not be able to use Movement on others, only on themselves, fitting with the ‘only in terrain they control’ restriction being an actual restriction.

If they have the home advantage though, from defending their magician’s turf or their own… Ohboy… And that’s exactly what this houserule is about: Making it about the home-advantage. You get the enemy to fight in an area aspected in your favor, they’ll be in massive trouble against your Spirits unless they cleanse the area… Only being able to run 6 meters per Combat Turn as a 9-Agility character can REALLY hurt in combat, especially once AoE effects are put into play!


Rule: Movement against vebicles uses (M+W)d6*Accel*10/Body

Leaving aside the whole ‘Speed-changes’, which obviously no longer is intended like that with the new Speed mechanic, there’s another problem I personally have with Movement against Vehicles. Right now they have to hit a threshold, which can be MASSIVE for high-Body vehicles (9 for a Roadmaster!), but the threshold itself is merely to decide if it works! You hit a threshold 6, you suddenly count as 6 hits instead of 0. That’s plain weird. It’d make more sense if your effect was divided by Body.

Now keeping the Acceleration is an easy call since it seems logical that the better a vehicle accelerates/decelerates, the more easily a Spirit can manage to change its speed. The biggest problem is what multiplier to use. SR5 mostly uses Acceleration 1~3, where 3 is the max that matters for a Vehicle Chase, only the occasional vehicle goes above it. So a significant multiplier seems required.

A Force 6 Spirit would average 4 hits, so on a 2-Accel Body-8 Jackrabbit we’d be at 4*2/8 = 1 as base modifier. To compare, in SR3 Accel-rates were roughly from 3 to 12 and the SR5 rule employs a Body/2 for the threshold. So let’s roughly quadruple to convert back to SR3’s concepts, double to fit with B/2 and round up to x10. Now 4 hits would translate to 40 m/CT. With the modified Speed system from my previous houserules, this could actually lead to a lot of discomfort for your enemies or even a crash test.


Rule: Channeled/Possession Spirits can use Movement

A Spirit can only use Movement on itself outside terrain/domains it controls. When a Spirit possesses someone or is channeled by a magician, they form a special kind of combination which impacts Physical attributes and their resistance to mental spells. So it makes sense to also let them use their powers (such as Elemental Aura and Movement) inside these bodies, with all the downsides in the case of Elemental Aura. (Congratulations, you’re on fire, how well-protected is your gear? You’re electrifying? Enjoy the fried commlink.)

There is a big balance risk with Movement though. Even a 3-Agility character Channeling a Force 6 Spirit will suddenly have 6 Agility and 72/144 as their Movement rates… A 5-Agility with a Force 8 would hit 9*8*4 = 288 m/CT running rate, that’s ~345 km/h. Compare that to a Rigger whose 4-Speed Drones, even under my Speed table if you don’t make them lose Speed categories (which I should consider only doing for walkers, and for any drone moving indoors), can only move 150 km/h, and you realize that indeed this houserule risks favoring Movement players too much. Of course there’s downsides (spooking cars, Metamagic or Tradition sacrifice, drawing unwanted attention, cannot mask this only Manascape it, etc.) but there’s still space for a few fixes to this.

(Incidentally, I already employ slight Accel/Decel-rules and ‘Gridguide hates you and demands you wear a tracker on the highway so you don’t spook their cars’, but there’s still space for more because it’s fun but not enough.)


Rule: Movement’s buff is divided by TerrainDifficulty

Note that this does not just matter for Channeling and Possession. Great Form Spirits with 6+ net hits on the ritual can Endow a power, meaning you can now let your Spirit pass Movement on to multiple teammembers… Anyway:

On page 201 you’ll find terrain modifiers for vehicle stunts. Now we could demand Gymnastic tests for magical-boosted movement speeds, but that’s a bit tricky for long movement and rather detracts from the game. So instead we’d nerf it differently: You want to channel a spirit and run through side-streets? The buff you get is divided by 2 for the Vehicle Terrain Modifier, so a Force 6 only triples your speed instead. Want to hit the back-alleys with a Force 8? You only double instead of eightfold due to/ 4. Rounding is of course on the final movement speed, not the multiplier.

(No, these are not insane examples. Now it might be because I employ a karma<->nuyen rule but I actually do have people working towards being able to Channel Force 10 Spirits and already using Force-9 ones…)

An important note here is that the same Vehicle table includes terrain modifiers for flying. Irrelevant for metahumans themselves, but Spirits CAN fly, even if they normally don’t. Still facing some restrictions even if they take into the air is quite nice and means drones are still quite useful: A Roto-Drone managing 200 km/h (+1 Speed Category with risks, no Speed Category reduction for being a drone) would still be able to outfly a Spirit using Movement, IF directly controlled by its Rigger or solely doing normal low-altitude flying (threshold-2 is doable for 9 dice, 15% failing odds and that simply means failing and a second attempt normally).

An alternative houserule would use percentages rather than division, and of course the vehicle table is for vehicles so the descriptions would need to be altered. What is the pedestrian equivalent of sidestreets?


Two sidenotes to make. First, Harlequinn channeling would easily go faster than the speed of sound but others would have a hard time coming close. Even if you go with ‘Increase Agility stacks with Possession’ like I do, you essentially need a Force 16 Spirit in a 5[9]->17 Agility character or a Force 14 in an 8[12]->19 to barely reach 1 mach.

Sidenote two: You need ~30 m/second, so ~90 m/CT, to be able to run on water. If we count running on water with Magic as /2 for difficulty, you’d need 180 meters/CT before division. Divide by 4 for running, and 6 for a normal Force 6 Spirit and you’d need 8 Agility which is doable.

Want to walk on water without running penalties or eventual running-exhaustion? You’d need 360, say Force 9 Spirit for 10 Agility, 4 of which from the Spirit so quite doable with a bit of magic. A Force 8 would require 11~12 Agility.

Houserules: Perception Teamwork

Perception is often rolled to see if someone notices a sneaker, a hidden object, a pickpocket or stuff like that. But there’s times where the Perception rolls seem a bit strange in execution. I’m listing a few of those situations below:


Say everyone’s together and something happens. They all get a Perception test, so you end up with some people rolling poorly and not noticing a thing, some decent, one or two rolling high and they all receive different intel and then quickly share it. If what they spot isn’t the equivalent of a Surprise test, the ‘some notice different things’ element just seems silly. Especially in cases where the team is clearly working together. You’re clearing a room? Investigating a mansion? Protecting someone and looking out for hostiles? Obviously you’re working together, so why are you all rolling separately? Why not a teamwork test?

Mathwise, by the way, the teamwork test likely will roll higher on average but with more extremes. It’s a bit related to how when you roll a test often, you’ll get relatively closer to the average, you get less extremes. A d12 has 1/3 chance to roll 9+ and 1/3 to roll 4-, while 2d6 is at 10/36 and 1/6 respectively. This gets you the kind of statistics I like in Shadowrun, but let’s leave that aside. So, summary: A Perception Teamwork test here would better represent your team actually working together, would have a slightly higher average but with more chance on the extremes due to boiling down to one final test.

One side-effect of this is Edging by the way. If you’re doing a teamwork test, you got more dice to Edge but it all boils down to a single person having to make the call on whether or not they use a point of Edge.


Drones can roll Perception, as Riggers are wont to do. Unfortunately Drones run into 1 big problem… Their Sensor Rating is 3, which is their Limit. So if you roll 3 hits on Sneaking versus half a dozen drones with Clearsight 6? Even if the Drones take a -3 circumstantial Perception penalty they’ll have only 68.04% chance to not roll 3 hits, chances not a single drone pierces your Sneaking is <10%. At the full 9 dice, only 3 drones put you at ~5%.

On the other hand, if you roll 4 hits, even if they have their full 9 dice they now don’t stand a chance, simply because of their limit. So the entire drone-spy-network thing is utterly useless all of a sudden, only jumped-in can a Rigger stand a chance (or they could pay thousands to upgrade each drone…)

Teamworkwise, however, suddenly the drones will do rather decent. With several drones they’ll likely hit the maximum 15 teamwork dice, which puts you at ~60% to hit 5+ hits. Suddenly a properly-deployed network of spy-drones can truly serve as a Rigger’s Eyes! And even with just two they already can up their limit to 5!

Now granted, a GM may want to put restrictions on this. One option would be to require them being slaved to the same RCC, or even running a communication program (taking a program slot!) as well. In that case non-streaming drones would need to run their own, streaming drones could get it from the RCC. Your call really. I’d go with RCC-slaving, to further reward RCC-owners for going the extra mile. 🙂


Concealment, giving a penalty to physical detection, is real nasty against mooks. Quite often they’ll have 0 or nearly no dice left, giving them zero chance to ever detect the players. It’d be more fun if they’d still receive a bit of risk, through other means than ‘okay they just get plenty of extra dice each!’ Adding their PR (like with social resists) would be a bit weird since it’d mean that high-Perception people get a bigger bonus, since better PR translates to better stats and skills already.

So instead teamwork would be allowed only in professional settings, so a group of NPCs doing a big search and stuff like that. You randomly surprise them, they still roll individually, but if a team is trying to hunt you down specifically… Of course this rule has 1 big problem: It screws over non-Concealment players. 15 Sneaking versus 10 Perception is good, 15 Sneaking versus 15~18 Perception will do poorly.


All in all, just take a look at the circumstances and see if you’ll use some of these at your table (though for Drones, I strongly recommend it no matter what!). I can note that the third one added some excitement to Black Hearts #5: Biggest Guns.

Rule: Under Professional Circumstances players can teamwork Perception

(This of course does not EVER apply in Surprise Tests.)

Rule: Drones can teamwork Perception when slaved to the same RCC

Rule: Under Professional Circumstances enemies can teamwork Perception






http://www.AnyDice.com formulae used for this post, a d{0,0,1} simulates a Shadowrun die with 1/3 chance at a hit:

output [highest of [highest of [highest of [highest of 11d{0,0,1} and 11d{0,0,1}] and 10d{0,0,1}] and 9d{0,0,1}] and 8d{0,0,1}]
vs
output 17d{0,0,1}

output [highest of [highest of [highest of [highest of 14d{0,0,1} and 14d{0,0,1}] and 13d{0,0,1}] and 12d{0,0,1}] and 11d{0,0,1}]
vs
output 20d{0,0,1}

output [lowest of 3 and 6d{0,0,1}]
   (0.6802^6 = not anydice but just calculator)
output [lowest of 5 and 15d{0,0,1}]
output [lowest of 10 and 15d{0,0,1}]

 

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).

Houserules: Spirits breaking free

As some of you may know, Spirits can occasionally break free from their summoner and become Free Spirits. This is, however, extremely rare because for non-Allies there’s only 1 way for it to happen: The Summoner has to go unconscious from Drain damage while summoning or binding the spirit. Then and only then can they possibly break free. If they manage to hit a threshold of 3, they start Free with 1 Edge. Extra hits become extra Edge, which matters greatly but doesn’t matter now.

(For Allies they can break free during a Ritual of Change or at any point when the master goes down from Drain or Physical damage. No such rules are defined for normal spirits, in fact there’s nothing at all stating what happens if the summoner goes k.o. or dies in combat. Does the spirit stay, poof, go free? Nothing. But let’s not go into that right now.)

The actual fluff-text notes that Bound Spirits with a Force of 6 or higher tend to become free spirits. This is the same text as in SR4. Even the mechanic itself hasn’t changed. Which is, unfortunately, why the fluff description now is a load of crap.

The breaking-free test is an Edge test with threshold 3, with a possible +2 bonus. But Spirits now have Edge equal to F/2 instead of F. So a Force 6 bound spirit now has 3 dice instead of 6… Take a look at the following table:

Dice Chance Dice Chance
3 3.7% 6 32.0%
4 11.1% 7 42.9%
5 21.0% 8 53.2%

The 32% chance now is 3.7%. With +2 the 53.2% now has become a mere 21%, hardly fitting ‘tend to become free’. And the -4 from SR4 for unbound spirits now means that even with the +2 modifier added as well, a spirit needs to be Force 9 to even have the slightest chance of breaking free.

Worse, there was a way for a spirit to get more dice in SR4, though that way made no sense back then. It let them burn edge to edge the test. A test which determined how much Edge they started with as Free Spirit, so as long as they succeeded they lost nothing. That way is gone now, so it’s way harder for them to break free yet the fluff still acts as if the odds are the same.

So to summarize, F/2 makes the test near-impossible, the -4 means unsummoned got no chance at all, even the +2 hardly compensates and the spirit can’t hurt itself for better odds, plus if they could it should actually hurt them.

Which leads me to the houserule below:


Rule: Spirits trying to break free use the following table:

Situation Modifier
Unbound Spirit Edge
Bound Spirit Force
Experienced Spirit +2
Long-bound Spirit  +years bound
Rebound Spirit +rebinding attempts
Bound Burns Force Edged test allowed

The fixed unbound penalty has been replaced with a Force-related penalty. Since the Unbound Spirit uses Edge, they cannot Edge this test (Missions FAQ). Replacing it with F/2 would allow them to Edge it, but that would give them better odds than bound spirits without a price. Hence the odds are kept low like this.

The ‘memorable or frequent encounters with metahumanity’ (Street Grimoire p203) is kept.

Spirits that have spent a LOT of time tied to humanity by binding (even if not in this plane) get a bonus for being well-connected to this world. This basically lets GMs give spirits a bonus for being kept around idly. This can combine with the Experienced Spirit.

Furthermore, any rebinding attempts (either succesful or failed, including the current) add a bonus. The longer you force it to stick around, the better the odds it breaks free if you go unconscious. 🙂 Note that this could be ruled as ‘resummoning + binding the same spirit also adds the bonus even if it’s technically not rebinding’ if the GM wants a memorable spirit to have better odds.

Lastly, the SR4 Edge-burn rule gets replaced. Instead the Spirit burns a point of FORCE. Unlike Edge this actually is relevant and permanently damages the spirit no matter whether it fails or succeeds. In return both their odds and their average Edge as Free Spirit can go up quite nicely. By burning 1 point of Force, despite being summoned (so no access to their own Edge) the Spirit is allowed to actually Edge the test as normal, so Push before/after or Second Chance.

One bonus to these changes: The limit of [Force] to the Edge [Force] (3) test actually matters… Under RAW only a bound F3 spirit actually could be limited, anything above would have at most their Force in dice even with the +2.

Sensor Arrays: Houserules

With Sensor Arrays explained, next up is what default packages they come with. To start with, let’s look at the lessons we can learn from SR4.

Now in SR4, Arsenal defined a Standard Vehicle Sensor Package on p105, but back then each type of vehicle had a specific sensor capacity so drones had less sensors than that. This changed in SR5, as explained only the maximum rating of the sensor array depends on the vehicle, each array can contain up to 8 sensors.

Mind you, that’s UP TO. In other words it’s still perfectly possible, and with factory arrays even rather plausible, that a drone can come with less than 8 sensors normally.

Another thing Arsenal noted is that the GM could allow different default sensor packages, which I refer to below as well. (It also actually noted a test for replacing a Sensor with another.)

The standard package came with 2 Cameras, 2 Laser Range Finders and 2 Motion Sensors. This allowed vehicles to check out both its front and back, quite useful given how pretty much everything can move in reverse and you want to know what’s coming from behind you.

So these are the things we can gather from Arsenal:

  1. Vehicles come with Standard Sensor Array loadouts, rather than with completely-customizable loadouts for free.
  2. Custom Loadouts are possible but by GM discretion.
  3. Drones may have less & different sensors (though in SR4 this was due to a rule no longer valid here).
  4. The standard packages keep both front and back in mind and are willing to double-up on a sensor for that purpose.
  5. The standard packages include laser range finders for distances, and cameras + motion sensors for vision.

With that in mind we can design custom sensor packages for multiple types of drones/vehicles.

Disclaimer: This only applies to the factory arrays, not for any new sensor array you buy yourself!

Player Advice: If you buy Vision Enhancements, consider only getting them for your front camera! That will be the camera used when firing after all.


Rule: Land-based vehicles come with 2 Cameras, 2 Laser Range Finders, 2 Motion Sensors, 1 Atmosphere Sensor, 1 Omni-Directional Microphone, almost no plausible alternative loadouts exist

Since vehicles are big and expensive, there’s no real reason for them not to come with a full sensor package. This is pretty much the Arsenal package, except that the Radar has been replaced with an Omni-Directional Microphone for hearing stuff nearby. The Laser Range Finders let you measure precise distances, which is needed for Autopilots and more. The Motion Sensors you need for blind spots near you, so you realize there’s someone next to you while turning. No headsup on that truck barreling your way though…

The two motion sensors could perhaps be replaced by a single one because honestly, there’s nothing in those that explicitly forbids 360-vision despite the car being partially in the way. You could always replace the second and the microphone for two directional microphones.

This package is everything a car should ever need to come with under any normal circumstances. The only possible exceptions are the luxurious cars, which might come with a MAD scanner instead of the Atmosphere Sensor. Of course a GM can always change their mind, but I myself would stick with this layout.


Rule: Land-based vehicles come with 2 Cameras, 2 Laser Range Finders, 2 Motion Sensors, 2 Omni-Directional Microphones

Basically the same as above, except for following the ‘car blocks motion sensor’ logic for the microphone as well so using two instead of a silly atmosphere sensor. In a car you don’t usually care about the outside after all.


Rule: Microdrones and Minidrones come with 1 Camera, 1 Laser Range Finder, 1 Atmosphere Sensor and 1 Omni-Directional Microphone, no alternative  loadouts available

Since these drones are really small and are designed to essentially look forward, such as the Fly-Spy with its insect shape, their sensor packages represent the fact they don’t bother looking back. This restricts them to 180-degree vision. The Atmosphere Sensor is useful for hazardous situations, and at their size an Omni-Directional Microphone would never be restricted.

Keep in mind these drones normally cost at most 2 grand. Even though the factory has a scale discount, there’s still no reason for them to put extra sensors on these. They’re enough for what they need to do, and there’s no need for all the extra fancy sensors normally. You want extra? Well good luck, there’s still 4 space left so go ahead and buy your own! We only care about the bottom line after all.


Rule: Small Drones come with 2 Cameras, 2 Laser Range Finders, 1 Atmosphere Sensor, 1 Omni-Directional Microphone, alternative loadouts replace Camera + Laser Range Finder

Already more expensive than the tiny drones, these drones come with double vision+distances because they’re big enough to actually run into trouble if they don’t look at what’s behind them. They still don’t normally come with additional espionage sensors, but if you really need one they do sell those at a price: Sacrificing the back-view for it. This is so there’s an actual price paid for the additional option, since it doesn’t cost you a single penny. Still has 2 spare Sensor slots to fill up though.


Rule: Medium Drones and Large Drones come with 2 Cameras, 2 Laser Range Finders, 1 Atmosphere Sensor, 1 Omni-Directional Microphone, 1 Motion Sensor, 1 sensor of choice (Cyberware, MAD, Geiger, Olfactory, Radio Signal or Ultrasound), alternative loadouts replace Atmosphere Sensor with a second sensor of choice

Since these are bigger and more expensive, they come with a full sensor package that can keep both front and back in mind. This package is almost identical to vehicles, with one exception: They’re equipped with a single Motion Sensor because at their size the single sensor plausibly can cover their entire surrounding area. (The same applies for the microphone if you compare it to the second possible vehicle-package rule.)

Since you don’t buy a drone like this unless it’s to be prepared for trouble, the spare sensor slot is filled up with a sensor of your picking, all six options being sensors you’d like for security. If you really want to push it and the GM allows it, you could even get a model that comes with 2 security sensors but without atmosphere sensor.


Rule: Watercrafts and Aircrafts follow Land-based Vehicle default packages

You want to keep it nice and simple, this will suffice.


Rule: Watercrafts and Aircrafts have near-free loadouts, barring GM-vetoes

Since these things are rather expensive and follow different dimensions than mere cars, it’s quite plausible that no default sensor packages normally apply, instead leaving it entirely up to the buyer. I’d personally avoid this for the cheapest ones, but for anything past 50 grand this seems quite logical. The GM veto is because there’s a limit to how obscure a loadout you can easily score from a factory / mechanic without raising red flags.




Rule: Upgrading & Replacing Sensors requires Availability test for parts, Hardware test

If you want to add/replace a Sensor in an Array, or upgrade a sensor with new audio/vision enhancements, this lets you easily and cheaply do so: You first have to buy the sensor or the required parts, where for Enhancements you face the Availabily as if you were buying the combination new (just like Missions has for upgrading ware). So say you got a Thermographic Vision camera (Availability 5+6 = 11), and you want to add a Smartlink (+4R) to it. This means your contact has to do an Availability test of 15R to get the parts that wouldn’t clash with the TV already in the camera.

The reason for the rising availability is so that buying in chunks doesn’t avoid availability restrictions. No free ride here chummer!

If you want to add/remove a Sensor to an Array (replacing = remove + add), you need to succeed in the following: Hardware+Logic[Mental](8, 1 hour). This is basically the same test as in Arsenal.

For adding extra enhancements to a Sensor, or removing one from it, you need to succeed in the following test for each enhancement: Hardware+Logic[Mental](Ratingx2, 1 hour). In other words, the more advanced the camera/microphone, the tougher it is to put the parts in, doesn’t matter how much is already in there because you still have to leave space for future upgrades.

Of course a Kit suffices for these, so with a Shop or Facility you get a Superior Tools bonus. So if you hire a mechanic to put 2 Vision Enhancements into your rating 3~4 Camera, they’ll take ~8 hours which costs…. 800 nuyen I think?_? Buying a fresh one with enhancements already installed would still require 4 hours of cost to replace the sensor so not really a gain there. Just suck up to your Decker/Rigger instead.

Houserules: Vehicle Repair, Armor

With Rigger V in the pipeline, it’s time to discuss some vehicle houserules about repair and armor. After all, Rigger V is still at least three months removed from now (since they’re aiming for Q1 2016). Furthermore I doubt Rigger V will override all subjects tackled here. (I will also tackle the default sensor packages, but that will be done next week.)

Note that when I talk about vehicles, this generally includes drones as well. The reverse of how the Rigger chapter does it, but a bit less confusing for my tastes. ^_^


Rule: Vehicle repair-costs are 2% for normal damage boxes, 5% for overflow boxes, 10% for each box past overflow, percentage includes all modifications!

Originally all damage cost 10% per box to repair. This meant that a vehicle taking 10 boxes of damage would be a total waste to fix. There are Lifestyle options that absorb this as part of an expensive lifestyle, but those are hardly worth it. There is no official override for this yet. However, Missions has a 2% rule assuming the vehicle/drone isn’t completely destroyed.

Unfortunately, it is rather easy for a drone to be completely destroyed in combat, given their ‘HP’ of 6+B/2 (8~9 basically). A Roto-Drone, for example, only has 8 soak dice and 10 condition monitor boxes. An Ares Predator with a single net-hit will already do ~7 damage. If it happens to take 9 damage? Repair costs would already hit 90%, and that’s excluding mechanic costs. Cheaper to get a new one then. And under the normal 10% rule, a Steel Lynx taking just four boxes of damage would cost 10k to repair just for the parts. So the 10% rule makes drones far too expensive to repair, requiring at the very least the Missions rule. However, the Missions rule is insufficient because a drone also far too easily will go down. This basically means ‘as long as people see fit to fire on it, the drone can be wrecked completely’.

(It’s also bad for vehicles: They often are more expensive than drones but not that much sturdier, so while not as easily wrecked the second they are you always automatically can just forget about repairing it. )

Now the drones used in combat all have Body 4+. For a player that would mean they can take 4+ more damage before expiring. So why should a drone, or vehicle for that matter, not have Overflow of sorts? This rule introduces that overflow for repaircosts, where overflow boxes are more expensive but not as expensive as completely wrecked.

Second, this rule does not make you pay 10% per box the second you get past the threshold. Instead, it’s a sum-game. Say a Roto-Drone takes 14 damage. That’s 8 normal damage, 4 overflow, 2 past that. Repair costs would be 8×2+4×5+2×10 = 56%, excluding the price you pay for the mechanic’s services. And it’d be a really tough repair, so chances are they’ll only be able to repair some of it. Thus you would still be able to salvage your vehicle, but it’d be risky. If 5% and 10% seem too cheap, these could be doubled but with the manhours added it’s still really expensive.

And of course any modification to the vehicle would be included in the costs. If you bought additional armor, a better sensor array, weapon mounts and whatever else Rigger V may include, you’ll pay extra repairing the vehicle as well. This makes a wrecked vehicle still expensive to repair, without automatically requiring scrapping the entire thing.


Rule: Vehicles use Hardened Armor

Many vehicles are incredibly squishy in SR5, especially the Drones. Damage amounts went up, but the best defense they can muster tends to be 3 (Pilot) + 6 (Maneuvering Autosoft) = 9 [Handling]. And a drone has 8~10 soak dice, a bike has 10~19, even most cars have less soak dice than a runner. 18 dice is easy for even weak mages while any augmented character can hit 24 without trying.  Only the big vans got a good amount of soak dice.

One solution people have offered for this squishiness is giving vehicles Hardened Armor. They already partially have this by simply ignoring any damage that fails to pierce their armor, due to not having a stun track. However, they don’t have the auto-hits that Hardened Armor grants. If a Roto-Drone gets shot at with a Predator, that’s -1 AP so with Hardened Armor it’d still get +2 autohits on its soak test. A Ford Americar would get +3 autohits, pushing it to average ~8 instead of ~5 damage soaked.

However, there are a few downsides to this rule. Weak drones remain horribly squishy to any attack with a decent bit of AP. The second that Ares Predator uses APDS, those autohits are gone. An APDS Alpha would easily obliterate the Ford Americar. Only the vans would have Armor left. Which brings us to the second downside: Vehicles that already can survive a big hit, or even soak most if not all of it, would become impregnable. The best a sniper can do (barring the overpowered Bullseye Called Shot) is 14P/-10. The best they can do without a very expensive gun is 12P/-8. The Roadmaster would normally soak 9 damage, leaving ~4 damage. With Hardened Armor even that sniper rifle would do less than 1 damage average per shot, making it practically impossible to dent the heavy vehicles. If you don’t mind that, it’s a good rule, but it keeps the weak vehicles squishy while the strong become near-invincible. Hardly a proper solution to the whole ‘you lose way too much of your paycheck on gunned-down drones’ problem.


Rule: [[[Vehicles can get their armor upgraded]]]

Since I have no doubt Rigger V will include this modification, all I’m leaving here is a link to the temporary houserule I designed for my own campaigns. By letting vehicles at least get more armor, albeit at a price, it provides players with an option to make them less squishy. For a normal drone this already is +8 soak dice, while some can get even more.