Houserules: Teamwork Tests for Hacking, First Aid, Extended Tests

Teamwork tests are basically a team working together. They involve a leader and their assistants, whose skills can give a hand. Runners often teamwork when it comes to Negotiating pay with the Johnson (which may in fact piss off the Johnson, at least 1 Johnson in Shadowrun Missions gets a bonus if the runners insist on tagteaming him), and occasionally when it comes to other things. And both PCs+NPCs do so with Rituals because honestly they’re usually a pain in the neck otherwise. Same goes for creating Foci.

Upside of a teamwork test is more hits average, plus the higher limit can make a big difference. Downside is a single point of failure, who then carries the Edge burden to make up for a screw-up.

The question then is, when can you teamwork? Take Perception for example. If you do a Perception test to see if you notice something suspicious, or when you’re about to run into an ambush, each player rolls individually. If you decide to search a room together then it’d be a teamwork test.

There are several cases where it’s not really clear on how Teamwork tests would go, the following are rules for some of those.


Rule: All parties face the full reduction penalty in an Extended Test

If you’re doing an Extended Test, you lose 1 die each roll. This signifies the limit of your abilities. In the end you’ll risk screwing up more. So what would happen on a Teamwork test? And what happens if someone joins in after a while? Would they still contribute their full dicepool, letting you cycle assistants? Or would you already be at the point where they too cannot properly contribute anymore?

The proposal here is simple: All parties involved face the full penalty. If you’ve rolled 4 times already, everyone, no matter whether they’re fresh assistants or not, will face the -4 penalty. Say your teammember has 6 dice on Hardware and helps you with whatever you’re doing. The second roll they’re at 5, the third at 4, the fourth at 3, and after that the chance is too great that their aid will get in your way (critical glitches!) so you thank them for their help and finish without them.


Rule: Teamwork hacking tests are allowed with sufficient marks

When Hacking, you can easily be with multiple entities. A Technomancer has Sprites, a Decker can have Agents, or you could even have multiple hackers. So what is the value of this outside cybercombat? The answer is surprisingly little. You still need the Marks, which means more people trying to score Marks, which means a higher chance someone screws up and the system goes on high alert. The biggest advantage is that if the system DOES go on high alert, you got more shots at getting some last-second commands in before the big guns come out.

If teamwork tests are allowed, then there’d actually be an upside asides from ‘being able to get more stuff done before the system fries us’. You’d have better chances of success on doing so.

The obvious restriction here is that you need the Marks to perform the action in order to help. No 0-Mark Sprites letting a TM do a 3-Mark action.


Rule: Scoring Marks cannot be done as Teamwork test

When you score a Mark, it’s just for you. These Marks cannot be shared in any way, the only things that can share Marks are ICs in Hosts. So a teamwork test here wouldn’t sound very realistic. As such, while still allowing Teamwork tests on hacking, this rule would block them for Marks.


Rule: Techomancers can help their Sprites get Marks

Since Technomancers are hard enough to play already, and unlike Deckers and Agents their Sprites are tied to them, this rule would ignore previous limitation for TMs.


Rule: First Aid Teamwork faces same restrictions & threshold

Two default types of tests are opposed and threshold. With a threshold, you either hit it or you don’t. However, a third type exists, where you’re sort of opposed by the threshold and any hits past it will make a difference.

First Aid involves circumstantial penalties, Full Body Armor penalties, Essence Penalties and a threshold as well. Only hits past 2 count for healing. So how would this work for a teamwork test? Normally you’d just add all your hits as bonus dice, but things are tougher here.

Not to mention that the wireless bonus of +6 for a Rating 6 Medkit can quite easily push you to higher results, making assistance rather easy to handle normally.  That is, assuming you have a decent Logic and more than just elementary training in First Aid. And even without that you’d easily score 3 hits, while those 3 hits by themselves would only be 1 box healed.

So to properly showcase the difficulties in First Aid, here we apply the exact same difficulties to an assistent: They face the same kind of penalties, and only hits past the threshold of 2 can result in bonus dice for the leader.

Example: The team’s visiting a Street Doc for their badly-injured Street Sam. Said Street Doc has 8 dice for First Aid. The place itself is properly sterilized for +1 and the Street Doc uses a wireless Rating 6 Medkit, for a total of +7 dice, but the Sam’s Essence of 1.42 means a -2 for only +5 instead. In total the Street Doc has 13 dice.

The team’s Hermetic picked up a bit of First Aid herself and brought her own Rating 6 Medkit. Combined with her stellar Logic she has 8 base dice +5. As assistant the mage rolls 4 hits, which is 2 net hits. The Doc then gets to add those 2 hits to his dicepool, reaching 15. He rolls 6 hits, which means 4 net hits so 4 boxes healed. After this the Mage casts Heal on the Street Sam, which faces a -4 from the Essence penalty. She Pushes The Limit and manages to score 6 hits, meaning that in total the Street Sam has been healed 10 boxes. Had she tried operating him in the Street, he’d likely still be walking around with 3 more damage.

 

Houserules: Cover&Running Autohits + Skill Synergy

Just two (technically three) small tidbit rules this week. The first two has been in the planning for a while, while the synergy rule was born out of inspiration from tuesday’s first Black Hearts session and is unrelated to the other ones.


Rule: Cover translates to auto-hits after limits

Rather than gaining 2 or 4 dice, Cover would instead result in gaining autohits on your defense test, on top of your normal roll. So if you’re in Superior Cover, you’d gain 2 hits on top of your defense test, while in Good Cover you’d gain 1 hit. You’d still keep the “tie means through the barrier” rule though.

If you’re in Good Cover, you gain 2 extra dice right now. However, you actually get hit more easily because suddenly a tie is ALSO a hit. Granted it’s a hit that goes through the barrier, but that only means 1 damage less. So while yes, the hits all do a bit less average (due to 2/3 damage average less on a hit), you also get hit more often (1 dice difference in the advantage of the attacker), so is it really worth it? Superior Cover DOES grant an advantage of 1 die in the defender’s benefit, + at least 1 damage less on a hit average, however it’s rather expensive at a Simple Action.

Furthermore, there’s Limits. If the defender uses a Skill in their Defense, they suddenly face a Limit on their defense test. This means those 2 (or 4) extra dice might actually be wasted due to going beyond your limit.

By making Cover become autohits, Good Cover no longer ends up occasionally penalizing the person in Cover, and Superior Cover becomes much more powerful. This has as extra bonus that you can end up in far longer gunfights, which can greatly matter in games where a gunfight ends in mere seconds in-game.

Downside is you lose the flexibility that +2/+4 gives you, namely not working in multiples of 3.


Rule: Running translates to auto-hits after limits

This one is comparable to the previous rule. If you are Running, rather than losing 2 dice from your action-rolls you lose 1 hit (after the limit already has been applied) from your result instead. And if you’re targeting a Running character you also lose 1 hit.

The motivation here is significantly different though. With Cover the justifications are ‘Cover shouldn’t screw you over’ and ‘Defender’s Limit’, here it simply is the Attacker’s Limit. See, with Limits a character can end up in a scenario where they don’t mind dice penalties. Losing 3 dice might not actually result in an average of 1 hit lost, because of less odds that you lose hits to your limit.

A quick example: A character with a limit of 6 and 15 dice. With 15 dice he averages 4.67 hits (due to results above 6 hits being cut down to 6), with 12 dice he averages 3.91 instead. So the 3 dice less only cost 0.76 hit instead of 1.

Basically, the more restraining your limit becomes, the better off you are with penalties. This changes if you ALWAYS lose hits though. And by reducing the hits after the limit is applied, rather than beforehand, that is exactly what we get.

For example, let’s say someone fires a shotgun with 4 Accuracy at a running enemy. Normally he’d take a -2 for that, but if he hits 4+ hits he still is capped. If the defender rolls 3 hits the shot is a hit. If instead the attacker loses 1 hit AFTER the limit of 4 is applied, they’re left with 3 hits and suddenly they miss the defender. And if you’re running yourself while also attacking a running target…

The risk here is that low-Accuracy weapons end up less valuable against Running targets. On the other hand, by Running your enemies also take a penalty themselves. And your table might decide they indeed prefer low-Accuracy weapons to indeed have a hard time at running-like-hell targets.


Rule: Two skills can teamwork with each other

A teamwork test is normally when person A helps person B with the same skill. Person A rolls, and any hits are added to B’s roll. There is a limit, no matter how many helpers you have you can’t get more bonus dice than your skill rating. Each assistant does raise your limit unless they screw up.

Under this rule, a player can teamwork with themself, without the limit-bonus. Not on the same skill, of course, but on two related skills. For example, say your player has Parazoology but also Redmond Barrens as knowledge skills. Now they’re trying to identify the critter they’re tracking down based on these skills. Normally you’d just roll the best one, but both can contribute here. So instead the player would get to teamwork them, roll 1 and boost the other with the hits.

This isn’t totally new, there already are skills that work together in Core. There’s Impersonation that can boost Disguise, though that raises the threshold of the Disguise instead. You can also build a Disguise with a Disguise kit and gain a bonus on your Disguise Test from that. In SR4 there were programmable masks instead, where the programming test would give you bonus-dice on the disguise test.

SR5 already has the rule where a GM can go ‘okay, this skill is sorta related to the skill you’re missing and should roll, so you take a Default penalty of… let’s say 3 here… and can roll the skill you do have with that.’ This rule is simply an extra tool where they can go ‘y’know what, I’m not punishing you but rewarding you for having two skills that synergize here, so teamwork yourself with them’. And rather than having the GM ballpark a modifier, they can instead ballpark when this rule applies but with an actual mechanic to it.

 

Vehicle Speed (2/2): Houserules

The following rules are 1 adjustment to how Speed works, combined with multiple add-on rules on top of that one, part to add fixes to the core rules and part to add fixes to the houserule. For the motives behind these rules, read this introduction post.

I’m not getting into Vehicle Chases here, because while I know a lot of people got issues with them, I haven’t actually done an actual Chase Scene yet* so honestly I don’t feel confident tackling a detailed alternative for them. If anyone has any suggestions, please let me know.

* The one chase I did was without a traditional Chase with Range Categories, using rolls and tricks and gunfire and thinking on the fly instead.


Rule: The Speed->Movement table is updated

Speed
Attribute
Minimum Move
Rate (m/CT)
Walking Move
Rate (m/CT)
Running Move
Rate (m/CT)
0 0 10 20
1 10 20 40
2 20 40 60
3 40 60 80
4 60 80 120
5 80 120 160
6 120 160 240
7 160 240 320
8 240 320 480
9 320 480 640
10 480 640 960
11 640 960 1280

Rather than double every step, this table doubles every two steps. Speed 5 is kept equal, lower Speeds become faster and higher Speeds become slower. No silly 768 km/h Westwind (which has 368 km/h instead), and no family cars that cannot handle the Highway. Now Speed 3 vehicles can go 80 m/CT so 96 (round that to 10o) km/h.


Rule: Acceleration determines actual acceleration/deceleration

Rather than blindly leaving it up to the GM, this puts an actual mechanic to acceleration and deceleration. Under this rule, Acceleration does not only matter for Vehicle Chases but also for changing your speed.

If your vehicle has an Acceleration of X, then it will be able to change X Speed categories per Combat Turn. Accelerating past that is impossible normally, Deceleration past it can require a Crash Test to determine if the vehicle goes out of control, and also is limited by GM fiat (no going from 400 to 0 in 3 seconds).

For example, the Ford America can hit 75 km/h in 3 seconds, whereas the Bulldog needs 9 seconds to hit 100 km/h. The Westwind would take 6 seconds to go from 0 to 300 km/h and will hit its topspeed 3 seconds later. Vice versa the Westwind can easily break fast, while a Bulldog has some rather annoying inertia to deal with. If you’re driving at 100 km/h, it will take more than 3 seconds to stand still on that sluggish car.


Rule: Each Speed category also has a minimum Speed

We already have Walking and Running Rates. Basically if you drive really fast, you’ll be pushing the vehicle causing you to suffer the traditional -2 Running penalty. With the table adjustment each Speed Category has its own Walking and Running Rate. To this we add a minimum movement rate, so a player cannot go ‘no I’m driving at Speed 7 but I only go 20 m/CT’.

Basically, a Speed category becomes like a gear, with a minimum and a maximum it can handle. If you go below the minimum Speed of a category without changing gear, the vehicle won’t like that. Consequences up to the GM, chances are the car shifts down automatically though.


Rule: Rotorcrafts get +1 Speed Category outside cities

The actual Speed remains the same, but outside urban environments Rotorcrafts can go 1 Speed category above their Speed. So a 4-Speed Helicopter can go 150 km/h inside a city and 200 km/h outside.

Page 200 notes Helicopters and tilt-wing aircrafts can go “around 220 kph cruising over open terrain” versus 140 inside urban airspace, while tilt-wings can hit 300 in rural airspace. Two out of three helicopters have Speed 4, under our rule that’s 120 m/CT -> 144 (~150) km/h. With the +1 we’re near-200, which is relatively close to the listed 220.


Rule: Rotorcrafts get +1 Speed Category, risk crashing in cities

An alternative to the previous rule. Rather than letting Rotorcrafts only get extra Speed outside urban airspace, instead we can let them also go that fast inside urban airspace. However the local law enforcement won’t be happy with it.. Plus going too fast makes it rather risky so will require Vehicle Tests to avoid crashing into things.

Note that one could also raise the actual Speed by 1, but this impacts Speed Chases so instead we merely modify the Speed Categories.


Rule: VTOL/VSTOL get +2 Speed Categories

There’s 3 airplanes in Core. The Commuter which somehow can only go 50 km/h (and only 100 in our table), the Venture which could hit 800 and now only 400, and the Banshee which dropped from 1600 to 600 in earlier table. The Banshee would need Speed Category 11 for supersonic, while the Venture would need 2 extra categories to get back.

All in all, if Airplanes get +2 Speed Categories and the Banshee gets an exception of +3 instead, then the Commuter hits 200 (versus a 250-benchmark on p200), the Venture hits its old 800 (hitting the 800-benchmark on p200) and the Banshee is back to Supersonic. This fixes the Commuter and also undoes the damage our table-changes did to the other airplanes.


Rule: Drones lose 2 Speed Categories

Since we buffed movement rates, Drones are suddenly significantly faster… For some of them that gets us numbers that are a bit unrealistic, so in return we want to roughly their movement rates. No Duelist running at 100 km/h, thank you very much. This could be done by simply halving their movement rates, but that means they accelerate rather slowly. Instead we simply take off 2 Speed Categories, letting us still use Speed as limit and general indicator. And yes, this means the Kanmushi is permanently stuck in Speed Category 0, while the Dalmatian can hit its topspeed of 100 km/h in 3 seconds.

Houserules: Karma to/from Nuyen

In Shadowrun characters earn and spend both karma and cash (nuyen, alt+0165 = ¥ for those that want to type the yen symbol). In previous editions the karmic rewards could differ per player, but in Fifth the rewards are normally the same for everyone.  However, different types of characters have different needs. A Street Samurai can always get more or better ware, a Rigger can get more drones or upgrade them, a Decker can save up for a new one, but magical characters tend to not need money. Often not at all. Instead they need more karma, because they need to work on their Magic and Initiation Grade on top of all the other karma expenses. So you end up with characters who desperately need karma and have way too much money at hand. On the other hand a Street Sam might be all ‘who cares about karma, right now I need a ware upgrade!’ and the Decker will moan and drool about better decks.

To accomodate for different people needing different amounts of Karma and Nuyen, a table can houserule that you can trade one in for the other. This already happens in chargen, where 1 karma becomes ¥2,000, so there’s something to base things on. The question is, how exactly will you do it. What is the price, what is the limit? Because if you allow for too much to be traded, it can seriously impact the balance between characters.

The following three rules are simple: The first is how Missions does it, the second has a different at-a-price and is similar to how some (including me) did it in SR4, the third is the way I currently do it in my own campaign. My own way combines it with another houserule, but that part can easily be ignored.


Rule: ¥2k <–> 1 karma (takes time, 5 max per downtime)

Missions works with Working for the Man/People. You spend a week of your time doing either good work or soul-draining one, letting you freely convert up to 5 karma per downtime period. The only price paid here is time, which with Missions matters since you fully control your free time. Outside Missions it hardly ever matters though, unless you’re working on something that takes a lot of time. Which means Mages suffer under this, because Initiation tends to take a lot of time. Others not so much. So a Street Sam can easily grab a quick buck now, then later on convert the money back to karma. In fact I did this on my Missions character. And it’s just weird flipflopping all you want on this.

Another downside of this rule is the quantity. If you earn 12 grand on a job, which a lot of Missions get you, then with this rule you can pay your Lifestyle and buy 5 karma, no cash left. Vice versa of the 6 karma you’d usually get, you can convert nearly all of it into cash. So you can end up with characters that basically end up with twice the cash or twice the karma. Giving them extra karma/nuyen, sure, but when they can double and nothing it has a significant impact on the game balance.


Rule: ¥4k –> 1 karma –> ¥2k (2 max per month)

Under this rule, people can easily trade Karma for Nuyen, or Nuyen for Karma. However, something is lost in the exchange.  If you trade one way then the other, you’ll have less than you started with. This is to make the trade come at a price, so people won’t as easily do it because it’s not easily undone. The maximum is what I used in SR4 (though the quantities were 5k and 2.5k then), because I wanted it to be more limited.

An upside of this rule is that the time required is handwaved, so there’s no additional restraints for people who spend a lot of time training.

The biggest problem here is determining what actually is the decent trade-in value. Is 1 karma worth 4 grand? Would you rather make it 3? Or 5?


Personal Rule: ¥2k <–> 1 karma (3 max per month, sidejob)

My current rule is a variant on Working for the Man/People. Basically I let my players do the same thing, however with a lower limit (see above for reasons why). The big difference is that here it doesn’t cut into training time, at the price of having to tie into a sidejob.

This is due to something else people note: Your runner obviously doesn’t sit around doing nothing but training inbetween runs. Even if you do train a lot, you won’t be training 12h/day. So you have spare time, and you can try to use that. Some people try to steal cars* or run a business, which can lead to balance complications (one runner earning far more than another, or people earning way too much compared to runs), playing complications, etc. Instead, I decided to handwave the executional details. Instead, characters without a Day Job simply spend part of their downtime doing some form of sidejob, which they earn compensation for in the form of ¥2k and 1 karma.

This sidejob doubles as their method of karma<->nuyen transfer, letting you trade 3 steps up or down. Say you trade 2 grand for 1 karma, then your sidejob gets you 2 karma and no cash. If you trade in six grand, you’ll be losing 4 grand but getting 4 karma. The other way around you can be a coldhearted bastard that loses 2 karma and earns 8 grand.

One restriction: The player has to tell what their runner does, and the sidejob has to be related to their skills. For example I got a player baking cupcakes or selling commlink apps, one working for the Mob with cleanup jobs to earn money at the expense of karma, while a third one does charity work in pro-bono street clinics that costs him cash in return for extra karma. They can do something similar each time, or change it up every now and then if they so desire. Through these jobs they also hear things (hello Metaplot!**) and get to know people, or improve their relations with them. It helps me give a bit of extra flavour to the campaign, while it lets the players give more flavour to their characters.

((When it comes to people with Day Job or Made Man, there’s some restrictions that apply at my campaign. It boils down to how I don’t want to let people get way more money than others, and actually pay the price for the time they have to spend on their Qualities. So Day Jobbers end up not getting the default 2k+1karma for the sidejob, while the Made Man will have to do sidejobs related to the Quality and cannot easily turn cash into karma.))


* Do not get into the whole car-theft-as-a-job debate, I’ve seen the debates and they’re not pretty. If your players try this, you COULD retaliate with natural consequences but you really should just go ‘come on guys, let’s not do that okay, you’re runners not carthieves’ and go with the Social Contract.

** An example would be overhearing some intel about group X moving around. If group X then features in a run, the player will be able to go ‘wait, I heard about this, weren’t they getting ready to hit Y?’ or something like that. Foreshadowing is awesome.

Houserules: Attribute Boost

There are quite a few ways to raise your attributes in Shadowrun. For Adepts there are two magical means: Permanent through Improved [Attribute] and temporarily (with Drain risks and a randomness factor) through Attribute Boost (Attribute). With inherent values being a thing now, its description was changed leading to conflict and the following two possible houserules:


Rule: Strength Boost impacts melee damage

The Attribute Boost (Attribute) Adept Power has a bit of a problematic description. It has an inclusive effect (affects dicepool) and an exclusive effect (does not affect Physical Limit and Initiative). There’s a few things that are neither. For Agility this would be your movement rate, and for Strength your base melee damage. It seems likely that these are not meant to be impacted, but with Strength this runs into a small problem.

Now for Agility, you get bonus offense dice so hit far better. For Body you can resist more damage. Reaction lets you evade more attacks. But Strength’s dicepools are near-always useless. Being able to lift more for a short while isn’t that useful a power, and running has quite little actual use.

Furthermore, it heavily limits melee Adepts. They already need a second attribute compared to the ranged Adepts, and need more Powers to make that better, but now they also MUST get either ware or a very expensive Improved Strength Power instead. So to give Physical Adepts the opportunity to punch harder, we would make Strength Boost also boost the damage of melee weapons.

The downside is that this means Physical Adepts can far more easily punch things, making Improved Strength not as interesting. But the same goes for the other 3 Physical Attributes already. And Attribute Boost costs a Simple Action to activate, while melee attacks are Complex Actions. So activating Strength Boost means the Adept cannot attack in melee in their first Initiative Pass.


Rule: Agility Boost impacts movement rate

Similarily, one could allow for Agility Boost to influence an Adept’s movement rates, letting them cover more ground when under the effect of Agility Boost. With 2~3 hits this means 4~6 walking and 8~12 running distance extra.

However, movement rate is more of a passive value than melee damage, and Agility is not in the Physical Limit. So it’s far more likely that Agility Boost was never intended to boost movement rate. Since Agility is already the main attack stat, it can be said it does not need this extra boost. Especially since one can already use Sprinting Tests to cover more ground, at a price.

Houserules: Recoil

SR4 allowed you to fire once or twice per action phase, and recoil resetted each phase. In SR5 recoil got changed to accumulate. The way it was originally phrased, many assumed you would have to not fire for an entire Action Phase to reset your recoil. The errata changed all that, and in my opinion this was a bad change. So that’s where these come from, a strict rule to bash it down, plus one corollary and one alternative that others came with in debates about the recoil rules.


Rule: Recoil requires an entire Action Phase without firing to reset

Under the errata, recoil resets when a Simple Action is spent on something other than pulling the trigger. Since you can only fire once per IP, however, that quickly translates to Simple Action fire, Simple action something-else, repeat ad infinitum (7 IPs without wireless smartgun). Recoil isn’t a problem this way unless you use Complex Actions, at which point it quickly starts stacking up.

Is this a bad thing? It might be. Before the errata, one reason to take up Longarms was that you’d be able to keep up firing longer than the Automatics user. You may hit less often but you’d be able to fire off more shots in a longer battle. After the errata it’s a different tale altogether because the Automatics user can simply keep firing Simple FA Bursts. While Longarms do more damage, they also hit less. Comparing the Ranger Arms to the Ares Alpha with competent enemies is tough due to existing tools having a hard time with multiple layers, especially when only >0 results need to be continued. However, it suggests that the average damage after soak seems to still be in the advantage of the Alpha, because the decrease in defense dice translate to both a damage bonus and hitting more often.

The pre-errata situation also encouraged players to think tactically. If you had, say, 9 RC then you could fire a Long Burst (either as a Complex Burst-Fire or a Simple Full-Auto Action), switch to BF if necessary with a Free Action, and fire a Short Burst before your recoil was out. This would be a good choice for a battle where you really want to hit on the first attack and don’t expect many enemies to be left standing after the second. If you wanted to get three shots off before your dice started to suffer, however, you’d have to use 3 Short Bursts instead. You could switch to SA-mode, throw a grenade or dive for cover in turns where you decide recoil is getting too much. This made it so that FA bwasn’t always the mode to take.

Under the Simple-Action system, it basically doesn’t matter. Sure you could do BF and then use Complex to get recoil issues, but then you could have simply fired in FA mode to begin with.

SR4 comparisons are made in this debate but run afoul on something important: In SR4 you needed more recoil compensation for continued fire, while you didn’t get (Str/2) free points there. For a LB+SB combo you needed 8 RC, whereas for LB-forever in SR5 you only need 4 on top of 1~3 Strength. But if you enter Progressive Recoil, you’ll suddenly need more than in SR4. So the difference between when it adds up (Complex Actions or subsequent Simple Actions) and when it doesn’t is far more extreme.

There are of course bonuses to Longarms still. Their range is greater. However, only past 350m does it really start to matter, which is a range that hardly ever will be relevant in a run. A clean shot past 2 city blocks requires a rather rare situation to be possible. And cost-wise Longarms lose out, it’d take >500 IPs of APDS Long Bursts before the price difference is made up between an Alpha and the heaviest Sniper Rifles, which still lose out in DPS.

So the rule would be to require an entire Action Phase without firing to reset recoil. Negative consequences are that it penalizes Automatics users and also SA users who want to fire SA Bursts and easily reset it with a simple SA shot. Positive consequences are that it makes Longarms more viable and encourages tactical thinking over spray-and-pray.


Rule: Metahumans (not Drones) may use Take Aim solely to recover their natural recoil compensation

While it’s an interesting change to only let Recoil reset after an entire Initiative Pass of no firing, it makes sense that steadying your aim may help you at least partially recover from it. However, the gun itself would still be stressed. So as a partial solution, Take Aim would have a third possible benefit added, as alternative to the bonus and range-reduction effects one can choose between now.

Take Aim: Alternatively can be used to reset Natural Recoil Compensation.

This natural recoil compensation is the (Str/3)+1 part, and would not work on the recoil compensation provided by accessories, harnasses, etc. This means that a weak human can only recover a bit, whereas a huge high-Strength Troll can keep up the FA spam, rewarding their high Strength with something other than Melee ability.

This means high-Strength characters become far more dangerous than others in combat because they can afford to keep up the Simple-FA spam for quite a while. As long as they sacrifice their other Simple Action for solely recovering their Aim, that is, and Simple Actions have plenty of other tactical benefits. So it makes for more interesting tactical choices and rewards high-Strength characters, letting them suffer less under the consequences of overriding the Recoil Errata.

If functioning under the rule interpretation where Drones can fire as a Simple Action, this would make it far too easy for them to keep unloading bullets. And Vehicles would be able to keep firing all their guns without worry. As such, this rule should not apply to Drones (including Vehicles).


Rule: FA-mode cannot fire as a Simple Action

Rather than making recoil harder to recover from, a more elegant solution is eliminating the most problematic case from the scenario. Since the only real concern is the Simple FA burst of 6 bullets, removing that would work as well. So while BF and SA mode both know Simple and Complex Bursts, FA would only be possible as either 10-round Complex Burst or 20-round recoilless Suppressive Fire.

This means it’d be far harder to use the FA mode as instakiller. One would need a solid amount of RC and go |cFA|sTA-sBF|sBF-sTA| in repeat to be able to regularly throw 10-round bursts out with a decent recoil. It also increases the pressure on getting a decent amount of Recoil Compensation, otherwise it’d make more sense to just use the 6-round Complex BF Burst and not have to constantly switch weapon mode with Free Actions. So this mostly eliminates the sFA-spam that make the recoil errata so problematic.




Note that additional houserules could be made, such as varying recoil for different weapons. However, there is no general consensus on what could be nice houserules, nevermind on how solid they would be. So such houserules would first have to be actively debated before I could add them as possible suggestions.

Houserules: Initiation (and Submersion)

Initiation/Submersion

There’s two new factors in SR5 to Initiation (one of which also applies to Submersion). The first is that since you start with karma, if allowed you could actually initiate in chargen. Now the book suggests this isn’t allowed, which has been confirmed by several designers from the very first day SR5 launched.

A second thing is that initiation is now an extended Arcana+Intuition test. This means that Adepts (and any magical character without Arcana really) will have a hard time getting a high initiation grade, plus it will take them many months.


Rule: Initiation/Submersion is possible at chargen, but Special Attribute Points cannot be used into the raised Maximum

The writers that confirmed you cannot initiate in chargen, also noted they don’t see a problem with houseruling it. However, one such problem does exist:

While chargen may seem like a strict progression, it’s more of a big ball of wibbly wobbly stuff. In later steps of chargen you can do something that lets you then do something in a previous step, so things get rather wonky. The general consensus is karma after points, so for example no taking a skill at 1 and then raising it to 6 with skill points.

Special Attribute Points are a special beast since the rules actively note they are conserved until the end of chargen. This opens up a small Essence-loss loophole, but more importantly it leads to 1 big problem with allowing Initiation (and Submersion but let’s just state 1 for now) during chargen. Theoretically a character could take for example Metatype D = Human(3), Magic A = Magician 6 Magic, Initiate 3x and use the 3 SAPs to raise their Magic to 9.

Is this a problem? Well in-game it would cost 120 karma. Raising Edge from 2 to 5 would cost 60 karma. So this is a massive karma gain and results in magic-levels that would normally take a LOT of effort to reach. It’s a point-grab abusing a loophole, and a bit unbelievable, so for some it’d be a problem.

Since Initiation isn’t supposed to be possible at chargen, this loophole normally doesn’t exist. Instead, taking Exceptional Magic would deliberately allow you to put in 1 SAP into the raised Maximum. Only when houseruling Initiation as allowed would this loophole come into existence. So the easiest solution is to change the houserule. Since the loophole depends on the houserule, just close it with an adjusted houserule.

So if a GM wants to allow Initiation at chargen, they should also state no Special Attribute Points can be used into the raised Maximum. So a Mage with Exceptional Magic and 1 Initiation would have a maximum Magic of 8, but would only be allowed to use SAPs up to the Exceptional maximum of 7. Any higher would require karma expenditure.


Rule: Ordeals with a lengthy time-period replace the normal Arcana test

Technically this one sort of isn’t even a houserule, because one of the Freelancers confirmed that this is what they intended. Of course this hasn’t been officially confirmed as Catalyst intent through a FAQ, so it still falls under houserules.

Anyway. The Arcana+Intuition(Grade, 1 month) extended test can take quite a while. Ordeals, which are a way of scoring a karma discount, also can take quite a while. They take a month and have a failing chance, so you can be stuck initiating for multiple months and then ALSO be stuck ordealing for multiple months. And with an Ordeal there’s no take-backs: You pay the karma cost in advance and are stuck with doing that. A Nine Path Ordeal where the GM uses the highest dicepool (they ARE allowed to be nice and take the lowest, but that is ill-advised unless it’s a low grade) can easily average 3~4 attempts needed.

Under this rule, this risky lengthy retrying replaces the Initiation test. So you’re not stuck spending months on each, instead the Ordeal would be the only thing costing you months to perform. This means Initiation to say grade 3 is not something that requires half a year or worse to complete just because you’re doing a tough Ordeal. (Don’t forget Ordeals are finite, you can’t just go and repeat the same one time after time.)

An added bonus to this houserule is that it gives Adepts a nice benefit. Even if an Adept picks up 1 point of Arcana, they’ll soon end up in a situation where their third or fourth initiation will take many months and might still fail. If instead they can try an Ordeal, they are not forced to spend a lot of karma on a skill that makes no sense for Adepts to have.

Houserules: Conjuring

Conjuring

When it comes to summoning, there’s a lot of things that are risky for the game balance. For most of those there’s already balancing mechanisms in place, such as with the Astral Spirit Index, but there’s a few cases that are a bit problematic.

The two cases treated here are the duration of Bound Spirit Services, and dealing with Oversummoners. The first doesn’t often come up but the second I have frequently seen debates about. Debates I participated in to get the math right. The math is skippable though.

A third houserule I designed is dealing with Free Spirits, but that’s not really a rule I suspect people have a need for. Anyway, if someone has any other problems with conjuring and want some houserule input, just contact me over at Shadowrun Universe by private message. =)


Rule: Bound Spirit Services last until dusk/dawn

Since a Bound Spirit does not expire at Sunset/Sunrise, it’s possible to make them sustain specific powers/spells indefinitely. Now this comes with consequences. However since Sustaining does not require LOS and Critter Powers normally (unless GM-called otherwise) are immune to Barriers, these consequences can be easily avoided. So it’s far too easy for a mage to have a single Spirit permanently sustain Movement and Concealment on them, and possibly even Endowment.

Another problem is that buff-spells from a Spirit of Man can also become rather permanent this way, with having to blow up or slip past Mana Barriers as only concern. While having a Spirit sustain your own spell is only its Force in Combat Turns, Innate Spell would avoid that and be indefinite.

The easiest solution to this is limiting how long services last. When a service does not explicitly state a deadline, it will now not last past dusk/dawn, preventing someone from walking around with permanent buffs for 1 service per buff. You still get all the other benefits from Bound Spirits, but cannot use them as cheap buffslaves. This way the GM won’t have to dig into the other consequences, which take time, and can simply block the sneaky trick from the get-go.


Rule: Oversummoned Spirits resist with Edge

Let’s start with an important disclaimer: Some may say this is not allowed by the rules, so the GM cheats. They are wrong. p304 says that summoned and bound Spirits cannot use their own Edge pool. However, a Spirit you are Summoning is not yet summoned until you succeed, so is allowed to use Edge against the Summoning attempt itself.

There will be a time where a player decides to go down the line and use all they got to summon a Force 12 Spirit. They may score only 1 or 2 services, but the Spirit will be completely invincible. At Hardened Armor 24 they are practically immune to every kind of non-magical attack, against Indirect Spells they have a massive defense pool, against Area effects they got plenty of Initiative to burn, and they laugh in the face of any spell they resist with their Attributes. Even Direct spells are harmless, especially if it’s a Spirit with Magical Guard.

In other words, such Spirits are a game-changer. Just like how gangers stand no chance against a Force 6, even a huge PR6 enemy team will be butchered by a Force 12. If used for the climactic boss-fight where everything is on the line, such a high-risk move makes sense. The problem arises when it is NOT a high-risk move and used as a frequent weapon instead.

Just like how wards are limited in how much they balance out Quickening, so is drain in itself limited in how they balance out Summoning. Now a anti-Summoning dice pool of 12, with hits doubled in drain, may seem like it is a decent risk. But at the same time it’s the same dicepool that is used against Binding, and people still have Force 6 Spirits. Sure, they got a safer environment but it still boils down to the same success chances and drain risks.

WARNING: The next section contains a lot of math. Skip to “Math Done” to get to the abbreviated version.

Let’s take a look at a slightly-buffed Shaman. At 5 Willpower, 8 Charisma and +4 drain dice from whatever origin, they’ll be at 17 drain dice. Let’s assume they’re also at 17 Summoning dice, which once again is quite doable.

First, the Summoning itself: There’s 2/3 chance to succeed, and half the successful summons will be at 3+ services. Plenty to butcher your way through whatever your GM throws at you.

Second, the Drain: 2/3 chance to take Drain, 1/3 chance to score 4+ drain, and assuming 10 Physical Monitor 1/31 odds at going unconscious (which means disaster). Those are rather excellent odds, since with combined numbers you have roughly 1/3 odds to fail generally. (More exact numbers would require a handwritten program to analyze the odds, but that 1/31 and a bit less than 1/3 odds mostly overlap so it still is ~1/3 overall.)

Without Edge.

If we bring Second Chance into the Summoning, failure is at ~1/32 and average services are past 5. And drainwise we’re suddenly at only 30% chance to get hit by ANY drain. 10+ odds are at ~1/3.000, 6+ at ~1/25 and 3+ at ~1/6. Let me repeat that: At the expense of 2 Edge, a player can score 5 services and take only 1P in drain from an unbeatable Force 12 Spirit. So all they have to do is make sure they have 3+ Edge, summon this at the start of a run and make it tear down the enemies without having to sweat at all.

It gets worse. Let’s assume the Shaman has +4 Charisma, +4 Willpower, 2 Initiations and a Force 3 Centering Focus. That’s 26 drain dice, which means that unedged their odds are worse but they still are at ~1/5 for 3+ drain, ~1/30 for 6+ and only ~1/150 to get hit with 10+. And even IF this worst scenario hits, they can still Second Chance it.

So unfortunately, Drain is not enough of a deterrent by itself against Oversummoning. Which means that Oversummoning is a high threat to the game balance and any player who so desires can greatly upset the game and ruin the fun for all. Now normally the social contract applies, but what if you cannot depend on that?

That’s where we grab back to SR4 Street Magic. In there was a rule, not an optional rule but a simple core rule, where Oversummoned Spirits always resisted with Edge. Back then their Edge equaled their Force so they resisted with Forcex2 exploding dice. Needless to say a Force 12 Spirit would utterly butcher you in drain.

In SR5 the Edge has become less, it is now half their Force. Which means an Oversummoned Force 8 Spirit could either have 8 rerolled dice (averaging 4.44 hit) or 12 exploding dice (averaging 4.8 hits). In other words, a Force 8 Spirit using Edge would be better off than that Force 12 Spirit we used in the previous scenarios.

Let’s take a look at 12 exploding dice. Against a Force 12 spirit our 17 second-chanced dice meant massive drain reduction, with only 1/6 chance to get hit with 3+ drain and zero odds at actually dying. With Edge-use the Force 8 Spirit is already at 30% and 1/140 death chances for an unwounded Body 3 Mage. So the Force 8 Spirit is significantly tougher than the Force 12 was.

Meanwhile, 26 rerolled drain dice versus the Force 12 Spirit would become ~1/3 at 3+, ~1/6 at 6+, ~1/16 at unconscious for Body 3~4, and ~1/80 death chances for a Body 4 mage. Definitely odds you do NOT want to frequently take, no matter how good you are.

Disclaimer: Said math was done with an emulation of an exploding die which cannot explode more than 4x, so only 5 hits per die are possible. However, this manages to emulate an exploding dice to near-reality at the point where the full numbers would differ only past the decimal cut-off.

MATH DONE

In short, Drain is unfortunately far from enough of a balance factor against an eager Oversummoner, and even maximum-Force Spirits are perfectly doable for someone who tries, which greatly upsets the game balance.

By making Spirits employ Edge against the Oversummoning, this is balanced out better and said mechanism will not harm normal Conjurers in any way. And when a player can make a good argument that in a specific situation the Spirits may be willing to help, the GM can always waive the Edge use for that one situation where it comes down to the line.

Houserules: Mystic Adepts

Mystic Adepts (MA) and Power Points (PP)

Shadowrun 5 significantly changed the rules for Mystic Adepts. They do not split their Magic rating over Mage versus Adept anymore, instead they lose a few magical abilities and are limited in how they can get Power Points. This allows for some very strong builds and makes them quite balanced generally.

However, there is a rub.

Mystic Adepts pay a significant, mostly considered balanced, price for Power Points at chargen. But they cannot get Power Points through this method after chargen, they can only get them as Metamagic. This means that a Mystic Adept who does not buy all the PP they can get in chargen, is crippled forever. And if they buy all the PP they can get in chargen, they are the only archetype that cannot buy 25 karma in Positive Qualities in chargen. It gets worse for Street Level, where they cannot even get the full 6 PP.

In other words, the rules currently force Mystic Adept players to get 6 Magic and buy 6 PP, which means they are more limited in their PQ ability in chargen. Where a Mage or Adept can recover from not starting at 6 Magic, a Mystic Adept forever has a hole that karma alone cannot properly fix. And even for people who consider 5 karma per Power Point balanced, this is considered a problem by some.

There’s several houserules that make it quite easy for a Mystic Adept to get their PP in other ways, but often these are at basic costs, such as “just buy them whenever you want”. Those rules will not be included here because of a simple reason: “Everything has a price.” Being able to postpone the karma expense without extra cost, will simply force Mystic Adepts to use that option fully instead. So rather than giving them a free benefit without consequence, the following rules are alternative options with a price.

As noted before, one of the primary concerns with the current MA PP system is their lack of ability to get 25 karma in Positive Qualities in chargen. These Qualities can be bought later for double the cost, but the GM may decide to make it more complicated at that point, or disallow a PQ after chargen. There’s also things that cannot be bought after chargen, namely contact points. In short, since the karma could be spent on things that cost double after, can’t be bought after, or are the same price after, a price is hard to pinpoint.


Rule: Power Points can be bought up to a specific maximum, 10 karma each

Under this rule, PP still cost 5 karma in chargen, but Mystic Adepts can afterwards buy extra Power Points if their Magic is high enough. So their bought PP may not exceed their Magic. Their Initiation PP do not count for this limit. This means they are not forced to maximize their Magic in chargen, nor do they need to buy all the PP they can get in chargen.

There are 3 options for the maximum. The first is 6, just like in normal chargen. The second is exactly like in chargen, so a MA with Exceptional Magic and 7+ Magic will be able to have up to 7 bought PP. The third option is unlimited, so if a MA raises their Initiation Grade and Magic, that means they can get more PP as well.

This rule treats PP as Positive Qualities that aren’t. So they do not count for your PQ limit of 25 karma in chargen, but they cost double after chargen. This forces a player to make the choice between more options in chargen versus not paying the extra cost.


Rule: Power Points can be bought up to a specific maximum, at a rising cost

During chargen PP cost <Rating+1> in karma, after they cost <Rating+3> in karma. A character cannot have more bought PP (again does not include Metamagic PP) than their current Magic Rating.

Rather than going the simple 5 karma in chargen and 10 karma after route, this rule makes Power Points rise in cost. Since Power Points obtained as Metamagics become prohibitively more expensive, it makes sense to make bought PP also cost a variable amount.

6 PP in chargen cost 27 karma under this rule, which is 3 less than currently. 7 (for Exceptional Magic) are 35, which is the same. PP before the 7th are cheaper after chargen than under the 10 karma rule, and starting with the eight they are more expensive.

An upside to this rule is that a single PP less gives a lot more karmic breathing space. For example, 5 PP cost 20 instead of 25 karma, which means a Street Level character can actually afford a few small karma expenses while getting 5 PP, and can still get up to 6 later.


Rule: Spell Slots can be traded in for Power Points at a 2:1 ratio

Each Mystic Adept Priority gets several free spells, namely 5/7/10. These Spell Slots can be used for Spells, Alchemical Formulae (basically Alchemy Spells) and Rituals. Under this rule they can also be used for PP, but at double the cost.

Spells, Rituals and Alchemical Formulae all cost 5 karma, the same as a PP in chargen. There’s also small monetary costs and training time involved after chargen, but those aren’t much of a problem. So the PP bought like this are the equivalent of 10 karma (and a bit of inconvenience) each, in other words basically doubled.

There’s several upsides to this rule. First of all, a build that doesn’t need that many spells is now not forced to take Spells they don’t care for. Where the previous rules still make you pay extra karma in the end, this rule gives an option between extra costs or having less spells instead. This is a nice boost to more-Adept MA builds. Second, it makes nice sense fluff-wise: The inherent magical ability of a character manifests as PP instead of free spells.

There’s also downsides. Builds that need the spells are essentially discriminated against with this option, since for them the price is more significant. Characters with a lower Magic Priority will also be more limited in how many spells they can sacrifice. This rule also still discriminates against players who do not maximize their Magic in chargen, permanently locking them out of some of their PP ability.


Rule: Mystic Adepts get 1 Spell Slot less and 1 free Power Point

One downside of the unlimited 2:1 Spell Slots is that it discriminates against Priorities with less free Spell Slots. It also can lead to builds that have nearly-no Spells, at which point it seems strange to still call them Mystic Adepts. A GM who dislikes those problems can instead reduce the free Spell Slots of all MA Priorities with 1 and give them 1 free PP. This still forces them to maximize their Magic and spend 25 karma on PP, but they can now actually buy 25 karma in Positive Qualities, and in Street Level they can actually get all their PP.

It’s a small boost to Mystic Adepts without an extra price, but not an unlimited one. While many of the problems still remain with this houserule, it’s of a rather elegant nature without extreme consequences.


Rule: Mystic Adepts only lose Power Points if their Magic drops below their bought amount

Under the normal rules, essence loss means both Physical Adepts and Mystic Adepts lose 1 Magic + 1 PP every time they drop below an entire Essence point. This makes sense for PA, who get 1 free PP per Magic point they have. But MA may not actually have a full allotment of PP so it seems strange for them to lose PP when their PP do not equal their Magic. Especially since during chargen they would not face this complication, since they’d simply buy the PP after the essence loss.

As a simple fix to this strange situation, under this rule if a MA’s bought PP do not exceed their Magic rating after essence loss, they will not lose any PP. Upside is that it makes more sense, downside is that it discriminates against other builds. Players would be rewarded for not getting their full allotment in PP since they can use the karma for other means.