Let’s face it. The Shadowrun books are huge. And occasionally, that one rule you’re looking for is hidden away somewhere where you did not expect it, or you completely missed it existed and made a wrong assumption about the rules as a consequence.
This is in no way the fault of the players and GMs, but they could still use a hand. So the following is a list of easily missed rules, compiled by combing through rules, errata, answers provided by freelancers and developers, and occasionally a bit of common sense.
+- Sustaining Range
+- Power Foci & Magic
+- Initiation & Magic Points
+- Magic & Power Points
+- Initiation/Submersion at Chargen
+- Physical vs Stun Damage: modDV>=modArm, not modDV>modArm
+- Immunity To Normal Weapons working exactly as normal Hardened Armor
+- Reagents/Edge & Sustaining Focus/Focused Concentration trick
+- AoE Defense
+- Priority & Magic
+- Priority & SAPs
+- Chargen caps
+- Adept Powers Off-switch
+- Physical Adepts & Magical Skillgroups
+- Background Count
+- ‘Spell’ slots
+- Oversummoning & Edge
+- Condition Monitors
+- Increase Attribute spellforce
+- Power Points at chargen
+- Resting & Sustaining
+- Attribute Boost (does not give any non-dicepool advantages)
+- Cover: Always applies, ties to attacker
+- Attack Action: Multiple
+- Accumulative Recoil
+- Maximum DV of Called Shots
+- Damage is not a dicepool
+- Armor & Locations: No Headshots
+- Martial Arts
– Autosoft Prices
– Noise & Wireless Functionality
– All wireless benefits of Smartguns
– Drone defenses
– RCCs & Sharing
– Drones & Cyberprograms
– Faraday Cages & Wireless Communication
– Second Skin
– Essence Holes
– Cyberware ‘Upgrades’
– Control Rigs & Speed
* Weapon Slots/Mods
– Taser Charges
– Law Enforcement Vehicles
– Training Times
– Lifestyle consequences
– Quick Healer
– Losing spells on off
– Spirit Condition Monitors
– Special Reagent Prices
– Adepts + Rituals
– Losing your Way
– Alchemical Preparation Triggers
– Toxin damage intervals (Immediate = end of CT)
– Augmented Maximum: p94: This is your natural (unboosted) Attribute value + 4, NOT your racial maximum + 4. Note that this limit only applies to Augmentations (‘Ware), and anything else that actively states they obey Augmented Maximum, like the magical abilities/spells that raise Attributes. This means that Drugs, by confirmed developer intent, ignore it.
– Body Augmentations: Bone Density Augmentation, Bone Lacing and Toughness do not have an actual higher Body. They do not get additional Condition Monitor boxes from it, they do not get a bonus to Toxic Resistances, it doesn’t help their Physical Limit, Overflow or Resting. They simply add to the Body part of the Damage Resistance Test, which is the non-reducable part (in contrast to the Armor part). Note that the Suprathyroid Gland augmentation and the Increase Body spell DO raise your actual Body stat, and so does Kamikaze. Incidentally this means that you could die if such boosts stop working if you are heavily injured.
Some of the same restrictions apply to Body Boost, which only works as dicepool modifier on any test including Body, so not on your Condition Monitor, Overflow or Limits.
– Magic & Power Foci: Power Foci do not raise your actual Magic. All they do is give you a dicepool bonus on any test that includes the Magic attribute as part of the dicepool. A GM may decide to also apply it for tests that have [Magic] as limit, though right now only Wall Running has that.
This means Power Foci do not affect Overcasting/Oversummoning for Physical Drain and maximum Force. They also do not stack with other Foci that give a direct dicepool bonus (such as Spellcasting & Summoning Foci). They do not give Power Points to Adepts.
– Magic & Initiation: Initiation does NOT raise your actual Magic, all it does is raise your maximum Magic. Your Maximum Magic is pretty much Essence (rounded down) + Initiation Grade, 1 higher if you have Exceptional Attribute: Magic. Adepts do not get a free Power Point from Initiating, they would have to pay karma to raise their Magic and/or take Power Point as Metamagic for that. Mystic Adepts also need to take it as Metamagic.
– Magic & Power Points: If a Physical Adept raises his actual Magic score with 1, he gains 1 Power Point. If he lowers it due to taking augmentations, he’ll lose Power Points. If a Mystic Adept raises his actual Magic score with 1, he does NOT gain a Power Point. If he lowers it, he’ll lose Power Points. See the houserule topic for more info.
– Trolls & Dwarves do NOT pay extra for Gear, they simply pay more for Lifestyle, as confirmed by developers from before SR5 released. See the errata for a partial fix. Trolls pay +100% lifestyle (note it’s +100%, not x2), Dwarves pay +20%.
– Elf(3) means you are an Elf with 3 Special Attribute Points (SAPs). These SAPs can be used to raise Magic/Resonance and Edge above their starting value, up to your maximum. So for example a Magician B Elf(3) has 1 Edge and 4 Magic, and could use the 3 SAPs to go 4 Edge / 4 Magic, 3/5 and 2/6.
– You must take a Metatype entry listing the race you want, you cannot for example be a Troll at Priority E.
– You cannot raise a Special Attribute you do not have. If you do not pick a Priority that makes you an Adept/Magician/AspectedMagician/MysticAdept/Technomancer which gives you a base Magic/Resonance, you cannot raise this value with SAPs or karma.
– A Magician / Mystic Adept who gets free Spells, actually gets free ‘Spells’. They can use these for Spell, Ritual and Alchemical Preparation Formulae. Note that Alchemical Preparation Formulae are not actual enchanted alchemy objects, they are ‘alchemist spells’ that you can cast. For example, a Magician with Magic A could use their 10 free spells for 6 Spells, 2 Rituals and 2 Alchemical Preparations.
An important detail is that the spellcasting rituals are rituals that require you to know both the formula of the specific Ritual (such as Prodigal Spell) and the formula of a spell you want to perform with it (such as Stunbolt). You do not need a ritual for each spell, you only need a ritual per spell type.
– You’re limited to one maxed Physical/Mental Attribute at chargen, so max Agility OR max Charisma OR etc. This limit does not apply to Special Attributes.
– There is no limit to how many skills and skillgroups you can have maxed at 6 at chargen. However, you can only have 1 Specialization per skill.
– You can spend SAPs/AttributePoints/SkillPoints to make use of a raised maximum from a Positive Quality. So earlier-named Elf could learn Exceptional Attribute (Magic), then put all 3 SAPs into Magic for 1 Edge and 7 Magic.
– You cannot initiate/submerge in chargen, as confirmed by multiple developers. However, they also stated they do not see a problem with a GM houseruling it. See the houserule topic for more detail on it. It’s not allowed in Missions though.
– Damage Resist, Physical vs Stun: When an attack deals Physical damage, and the modified Damage Value equals or exceeds the Modified Armor, the damage ‘penetrates’ and remains Physical. This very likely applies in ALL cases, even where equality is not explicitly mentioned, such as Vehicle Armor and Hardened Armor.
– Damage Resist, Stun: Page 173 is often misread, having people miss the line about modified Armor Value being positive. As a result, they think that Stun damage is only resisted with Body. However, this is not the case, you still add your modified Armor.
– Damage Resist, Modified Armor: The line often skimmed past, resulting in the previous-mentioned confusion, is about modified Armor. If the AP of an attack equals or exceeds a character’s Armor, his Armor simply counts as 0 for the Damage Resistance test. Excessive AP does NOT result in additional soak dice lost. This is why BDA/BL/Toughness mention they add to the Body part of damage resistance tests: Their bonus neither impacts Physical-vs-Stun, nor is it reducable by Armor Penetration.
– Immunity to Normal Weapons: The sloppier explanation does not mean a difference in mechanics. Immunity works exactly as Hardened Armor, so AP still applies to determining whether or not the attack actually can do damage. Furthermore, AP does impact how many auto-hits the Immunity adds.
– Overflow damage: When you receive more Stun Damage than your Stun Condition Monitor can contain, any excess is divided by 2, rounded down and only then converted to Physical Damage. This means that if you take 3S twice when it’s full, you end up with 2x1P damage. Note that this is an actively stated exception of the “round up unless stated otherwise” rule.
– Losing consciousness: You fall unconscious if either of your Condition Monitors fills up. While the rules erronously do not state it explicitly, there are references to this fact in other abilities. Note that a Pain Editor actively circumvents falling unconscious from Stun damage.
– Magic: You cannot sustain spells when unconscious, and foci, including sustaining foci, also automatically deactivate. Only Quickened Spells and innate Adept Powers remain active.
– Area of Effect Defense: There is NO Defense test against explosions and Indirect AoE Combat Spells. The -2 in the table was erronously not removed between rule changes. However, Run&Gun includes an Interrupt action that lets you run away from/to the expected (pre-scatter) AoE attack.
– Defenses & Skills: Any test with a skill in it has a Limit, only Attribute-only tests do not. As such, any addition of a Skill to a Defense Test, such as Dodge, will cause the test to now have a Limit.
– Cover & Ties: When being attacked while in cover, a tie doesn’t just miss but instead the attack hits through the cover. This employs the Barrier rules. In the case of guns, for example, this means that if the base damage exceeds/equals the modified barrier armor, it leaves 1 damage behind in the cover and the remainder is resisted as a normal hit.
– Cover & Unaware: If you are unaware of an attack, you get no defense test but cover may still apply. The action Take Cover is simply needed to employ it in an active defense test. If you are completely concealed, the attacker also receives a Blind Fire penalty. Of course the attacker still needs to know where you are, if they don’t and don’t get lucky guessing, they cannot hit you no matter what.
– Cover & getting defense benefits: To get a Partial/Good Cover bonus on your Defense Test, you must take the Take Cover action first. This lets you add the cover bonus to your default defense dice. Total cover is a different beast altogether: You won’t need to actually use the Take Cover action, simply walking around the corner is sufficient to block the line of sight. However, you will count as unaware, as noted above.
– Cover & Attacking: There is no actual penalty when firing from normal cover. The “Attacker Firing From Cover with Imaging Device” penalty only applies when you’re firing from total cover, by “sticking the gun around the corner”. In this scenario, the GM may decide that this lets you defend against an attack made on you, due to being able to perceive it through the Imaging Device. In that case the attack still takes a -6 from Blind Fire, while you would have +4 defense dice rather than 4 defense dice. The GM may also decide that you need to employ the Take Cover action to position yourself for being both in total cover and being able to fire around the corner.
– Damage is not a Dicepool: As it says, damage is not a dicepool. After you succesfully hit your target and determine the modified damage, this damage value (DV) is not rolled against the enemy’s damage resistance (often called soak) roll. Instead, it simply is a fixed value, which is then reduced by the enemy’s soak roll. So for example 13 damage against 4+10 modified soak means the enemy risks taking 13 damage, and rolls 14 dice with each hit reducing the damage taken by 1.
– DV Limit of Called Shots: Some Called Shots from Run&Gun, both Location-shots and Ammo-Whammy!-shots, have a maximum DV. This DV applies after, not before, the soak roll. After the soak roll, you look at the remaining damage. If it’s at least 1, the called shot succeeded. If it now exceeds the maximum DV, you reduce it to the DV Limit of the attack before applying the damage. Keep in mind that Location-shots won’t get any bonus damage from net hits, and you need at least 2 net hits to apply Location-shot effects.
– No Headshots: Attacks are always resisted with all the (modified) Armor the target has, no matter where you shot at. There is no such thing as a called shot to the head to bypass Armor in Shadowrun. The system abstracts from hit-location and armor-location like that, with a few special-protection exceptions. So yes, you might have actually nailed the guy in the head in the description, but in combat he’ll always get his modified armor on his soak roll. Outside combat it’s a different tale and the GM can have cinematic rules apply, such as when interrogating or executing someone.
– 1 Attack Action per Action Phase: Page 164, if a character takes 2 Simple Actions, only one can be an attack action. The Missions FAQ is more explicit and stricter: One Attack Action per IP, period. No rulelawyering what constitutes an Attack Action either.
– Accumulative Recoil: For any non-Single-Shot weapon, recoil accumulates if you constantly keep firing. If at any point you take a Simple Action that is NOT a firing action, recoil resets to zero. See the houserule topic for different approaches.
– Multiple Attacks & penalties: When splitting your dicepool for Multiple Attacks, the dicepool is calculated before splitting. This means that all penalties and bonuses apply BEFORE splitting into as-equal-as-possible portions. Multiple Spells is the stated sole exception to this. As noted in the errata, Edge used to Push The Limit is included in the equal split, while Edge used to Second Chance lets you reroll every attack for 1 Point total.
– Martial Arts: Martial Arts are not Specializations. They can, however, be ‘taken as specialization’ to skills. This does not, despite the identical karma costs, mean you have the Martial Arts. So it’s 7 karma to buy a Martial Arts with 1 free Technique, 5 karma per additional Technique, and 7 karma to take a Martial Arts as specialization. For example, someone might pay 7+10 karma for learning Parkour and 3 of its Techniques, then pay 7 karma to take the Gymnastics(Parkour Martial Arts) specialization. They then have a +2 dicepool bonus from the specialization whenever they use Gymnastics with a Parkour Technique. A SWAT officer might have Clubs(Knight Errant Tactical) as specialization and take up Barbed Hooks and Hammerfist, giving them a +2 from the specialization on Intercept and Called Shot(Blast Out Of Hands) when wielding a club.
– Defender Unaware of Attack: When you are unaware of an attack, you do not get a defense test and thus only cover dice may be in your defense pool. You still get a soak roll though. There are multiple ways one can be unaware of an attack. You might be surprised, the attacker might be behind you, or you might not be able to see the attacker. If you’re already in combat, you’re generally considered aware of every attacker you can see, barring Surprise. However, it’s possible to not be able to see an attacker even in combat. For example, they’re concealed and you failed your Perception test to find them, or you’re behind Total Cover and don’t have some kind of imaging device at hand to see them anyway.
– Sustaining range: While a spell may be cast at either Touch or Line Of Sight range, sustaining a spell does not require line of sight. While not directly stated with Spells, Critter Powers note that, like spells, they do not require LoS to sustain.
– Magical Skill Groups: Physical Adepts cannot take any of the skills from the 3 Magical Skill Groups. The errata that meant to clarify this unfortunately made it even more confusing, but developer intent has since been stated.
– Background Count: Under the current temporary version, Background Count now equals a penalty to any test boosted by Magic (see the Missions FAQ for details, also here). This is even when the boost isn’t a dice-bonus, such as with Enhanced Accuracy. The penalty works similarly to injury penalties, which means that it’s a straight Initiative modifier if Initiative is magically boosted.
– Turning off Adept Powers: Adepts can turn off/on any Adept Power at will. Unclear what kind of action this is for passive boosts, GM decides.
– Pushing/Changing The Limit: When performing Magic, the Force chosen equals the Limit of the test. In some tests, however, you can spend Reagents to change the Limit to a higher or lower value. You can also Push The Limit with Edge, which makes the test without limit to the hits. This can be done both before and after the roll, so can be done to employ a really lucky roll.
Note that Hits AFTER applying the Limit decide whether Spellcasting drain becomes Physical or Stun, based on whether the remaining hits exceed your Magic. This applies to other tests as well, though some Magical tests, such as all Conjuring ones, use different rules. When the Hits decide, Pushing The Limit, or setting a real-high Limit with Reagents, can thus result in taking Physical Drain. Using Reagents to set the Limit lower can also prevent you from taking Physical Drain from Overcasting. Note that each type of test actively states what determines Physical vs Stun Drain.
– Limits & Sustaining Foci / Focused Concentration: For Sustaining Foci, and also Focused Concentration, their Force decides the maximum Force you can cast through them. This limitation solely looks at the Force, not at the actual Hits after Limit of the spell. As such, it is possible to e.g. take a Force 1 Sustaining Focus (Health), cast a Force 1 Increase Reflexes with 6 Reagents, and keep a maximum of 6 hits as a result. Downsides include the constant monetary/edge cost and that low-Force spells are easily dispelled or broken by wards.
– Increase Attribute Spell & Force: The Increase Attribute spell must be cast at a minimum Force equal to the current (augmented) value of the attribute. This means that for example an Adept with 5(6) Body would have to be boosted with a Force 6+ Increase Body spell. As such, the Foci+Reagents trick does not work well with Increase Attribute, though Reagents can be used to prevent Overcasting.
– Attribute Boost benefits: The Attribute Boost adept power lets you temporarily boost Physical attributes. It only affects your dicepools, however, so it will not impact your Physical Limit, Initiative Rating, Movement Rate, Condition Monitor size, or Strength-based Damage. However, the last one many disagree with, see the houserules topic for more on it.
– Spirits & Edge: Summoned and bound Spirits do not have access to any Edge pools of their own. Instead, the summoner decides whether to use their own Edge. This means that Spirits currently being summoned, as well as Free Spirits, do in fact have their own Edge pool that they can use at will. For example, a GM can make a Force 10 Spirit resist being Oversummoned by Pushing The Limit for 15 exploding dice.
– Ending Spells: When a Sustaining Focus is disrupted or deactivated, any spell being sustained by it is lost. If a Spellcaster falls unconscious or goes to sleep, their Focused Concentration, Foci and any normally-sustained spells also are deactivated/ended.
– Resting & Sustaining: To undergo natural recovery, you need to be resting. Since sustaining spells yourself requires to concentrate on the spells, which also leads to being distracted for a -2 penalty per sustained spell, you likely are uncapable of resting. Quickening, Sustaining Foci and Focused Concentration take the sustaining burden off you, so while it’s a GM’s call, you likely will be able to rest and recover while using those. Just keep in mind that you can’t sleep without losing all non-quickened spells.