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

 

One final houserule post coming next week

With Rigger 5.0 out, some of my temporary houserules can be scrapped. However, I likely still will need to post the judgement calls that I feel are needed to make Rigger playable. I’ll need more time to read through Rigger 5.0, then put those together. After that I’m pretty much at the end of the houserules I got, so starting 2016 I’ll be going into Easily Missed Rules posts instead. 🙂

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.

Addiction: Clarification

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

Addiction houserules teaser

Unfortunately the friday-deadline today was either obtainable for Black Hearts or for the houserule post, not both. However I will have time tomorrow, so I’ll type in the houserule intel on addiction then.

For those who don’t know, SR5 added an actual mechanic for when to roll addiction tests. Previously GMs had to just ballpark it. The system is designed to add a potential risk for PCs without instantly destroying them, and unfortunately has a few gaps and weird consequences as a result. The houserules will try to balance that out, with the big core pillar putting a max on how badly you can get hooked on fairly benign stuff. This would mean that Soykaf no longer can kill a civvie within 2.5 years…

The post also will come with some clarification. 🙂 The rules are a bit tough to read after all, plus the German rules even erased part of them and took out the bite as a result…

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 5

Previously on Black Hearts:

Mr. Smith sent his Black Hearts on clandestine ops that was unsanctioned by the UCAS, with a briefing handed to them by their fellow operatives rather than the normal system. He split his agents into three teams for three simultaneous ops. One op with Decker, Assassin, Face and Rigger. The second had his Muscle, Stealth Mage and Demo Man. The third op he sent his B&E ghost, his Mind Mage and his Pickpocket Face.

The first op involved kidnapping a cartel boss’s daughter and heir, giving her a warning that her father should get better friends than terrorists. He also informed her she had better stay away from his daughter. The second involved blowing up said poor friend, as well as several dozens of soldiers as collateral damage. Just before the target’s commlink died, it flashed the filename Angela Serrano…


Mr. Smith was an excellent CIA Operative. He was meticulous. Made smart choices when recruiting assets and when hiring mercs. Knew when collateral damage was to be expected or even desired. Cleaned up trails like nobody else, discovered enemies like nobody else. His bosses were very satisfied with his work and let him create his own group of deniable assets, while most of his coworkers didn’t even know he existed. Those that did considered him nearly-flawless.

If there was one flaw that Mr. Smith had, it as his love for his daughter Angela. It was a flaw he kept well-hidden even from the UCSA Government. That his real name was Charles Serrano and that he had a daughter he saw once per year, nobody knew. Using the tools of his trade Smith had long since buried any trace that could let people connect his business with his personal life.

Arthur Nielsen was an excellent CIA Operative. He was meticulous. Knew exactly who to blackmail or bribe, and with what. Found weaknesses and dug up secrets. If there was one flaw he had, it was his selfishness. A selfishness that had driven him and seven other CIA operatives into the hands of Horizon, double-dipping with their intel. It also had driven them to help ensure their jobs by turning on the UCAS government…

Thus came into existence Quantum, a terrorist group which held the belief that peace made weak and so if the times were too peaceful, things needed to be shaken up. For that goal Quantum sparked terrorism and bloodshed, making others do their dirty work. And when it came to figuring out whether to use carrot or stick, bloodhound Arthur Nielsen was one of the best. Thus he rose to second-in-command, and so he got on the trail of Angela Serrano…


Nielsen had a black book commlink with the names of the many dozens of people he used. And the day came where he added his ‘coworker’ Smith to it. This exposed a flaw that Nielsen normally kept in check, namely his hubris. Had he been smarter he would have killed Smith within months of blackmailing him for the first time. Because Serrano loved his daughter and the best way to keep her safe was to bury his secret inside Nielsen’s grave.

Nielsen was a ghost. Nobody ever saw him. Nobody knew his face, his race, or what made him tick. So getting to him would be tough. But Smith knew how to play the long game, plus he knew that going for a quick resolution would tip his hand. So he bided his time and started digging. And since Nielsen was a coworker with a long dossier, it wasn’t hard for Smith to read between the lines and find an angle to use…

The weakness he identified was that Nielsen liked to get all hands-on if a pet project of his threatened to go wrong. So to lure him out, all that would be needed was to mess with the right project in the right way. The biggest problem would be taking out his dropbox with him. Because after all, there was no way Nielsen did not have a Dead Man Switch ready to burn quite a few people if he ever bit the dust…

And there Horizon came in… Because the Dawkins Group keeps tabs not just on potential enemies and assets, but on their own agents as well. There was bound to be some hints left by the double-agents, so ‘all’ Smith had to do was get into the Dawkins Group their intel stores. After that he’d have to lure out Nielsen while also figuring out where the switch was and how to kill it…


Four months after Nielsen added Smith to his black comm, Smith made his first move. His target was Jason McDonalds, a former member of the Dawkins Group that had been sidelined after complications in the Aztlan-Amazonia war. McDonalds had realized he was now expendable and was busy arranging his extraction. So Smith sent half a dozen agents to snatch McDonalds during the extraction, as to leave a trail of confusion and suspicion.

With the intel from McDonalds in hand, Smith sent agents after a former Horizon hotel. Their task was to obtain some art pieces present there that had Dawkins data stores inside them and replacing them with forgeries. The switch was to be made before anyone would realize they had slipped and was done quite excellently. Now even if the Dawkins Group or Quantum realized, they would only find the fakes and would be none the wiser.

With his intel in hand, it was time for Smith to lure out Nielsen. He decided to do so by targeting the Mirando cartel. Nielsen had allied himself with the cartel boss, convincing him that sponsoring terrorism was a good way to distract the cops from his own drug business. In return Smith allied the UCAS government with the Artosa cartel, an enemy of Mirando. He made sure to time this with an attempted coup against Artosa, as to buy a longer-lasting alliance.

Smith also had his Black Hearts hit a Mirando drughouse that was originally meant to be a honeypot. Had CAS agents hit the place and stolen the cash themselves, they would have been blackmailed as part of Nielsen’s plan. Instead the place was blown to bits and Lone Star got hotheaded-mad when one of their own cops ended up murdered. If the Mirando cartel wanted to get heat off them, they would have to try even harder now…

These setbacks would not be enough to lure out Nielsen though. The Mirando cartel would also have to be subtly exposed without Nielsen catching onto Smith. For this purpose Smith needed to frustrate them, and there was a really nice way of doing that… Nielsen knew there was a sociologist catching onto his game, so he wanted her gone. And two could play that game.

At the Joint UCAS-CAS Anti-Terrorism (JUCAT) Conference, the Black Hearts protected Agatha Lancer who aimed to convince both countries to look into cartels sponsoring terrorism… Meanwhile, they also took out her opponent Victor Mondreau, whose speeches were part of Nielsen’s divide-and-conquer strategy. Best of all, they did it sneakily and stole useful paydata on the Mirando cartel as well.


All the pieces were in play and thus began the story’s final act. In a simultaneous triple strike, the Black Hearts went after Nielsen, his Dead Man Switch and the Mirando cartel. The third wasn’t that needed but if anything separated Nielsen and Smith, it was that Smith still cared about his country. As such he refused to let terrorism happen if he could prevent it.

Daniella Mirando got kidnapped by four agents and given a stern talking to. This would guarantee that in the future the Mirando cartel would stay far away from terrorism. Three agents used the Dawkins intel to take out Nielsen’s dead man switch, making sure that no intel would leak unless Smith wanted it to leak. And three more took out Nielsen with a very big bang, making sure he’d rest in many, many pieces.

But no secret can stay buried forever. So Smith played another long game and gave away his personal motives. This way if Quantum came digging, they’d know he had acted out of personal motives. So rather than consider Smith a liability, they’d simply consider him an enemy. As a result they would argue about whether or not to take him out and if he even still was a threat to them.

Smith was good. And indeed Quantum debated internally about whether or not to take him out, deciding after two months that it seemed like he was indeed clean so no problem anymore. They let him slide.

During the third month the Black Hearts killed five Quantum members. The final two disappeared soon after…

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 4

Previously on Black Hearts:

A team consisting of Scottie, Doll and Zen was tasked to go to Colombia and track down Arthur Nielsen with the help of Black Hawk, who had aided the Black Hearts before. This time she was less helpful and let the team fend for themselves when it came to obtaining intel. All she was willing to do was play Tracker for them.

In a town with a lot of soldiers in and near it, the team quickly employed their good points: Scottie showcased his ability to get the group in trouble, while Doll showcased her ability to smoothtalk things and Zen just helped hide them when consequences came a-running. With a lot of difficulty they managed to score intel on where Nielsen had gone, so now it was time to go and hunt him down…


Reaching the jungle, the team had to leave their truck behind and go on foot. Black Hawk found the trail without problems and lead the team along the path as they sneaked to the camp, a few hours travel away. They had to evade the jungle patrols, but that didn’t prove too difficult (a single close-call aside): The team all was at least somewhat trained in stealth, while Zen supplied a powerful Spirit that helped conceal them.

After this stressful trip the group reached an outcropping which helped them oversee the enemy camp. Using binoculars they could see a camp with three big tents and two Ares Roadmasters in the center. Surrounding that were several more tents, containing both semi-disciplined military troops and casual cartel heavies. There were lookout spots and two more parking spots for jeeps and other trucks. Last but not least, the camp (which was about 60 meters either side) had a wooden fence set up around it.

The group managed to spot Arthur Nielsen for a split second, before he disappeared out of sight again. Given the amount of enemies and the fact Zen was quite exhausted from summoning the Spirit earlier, the team decided to rest and go for a night raid instead. Meanwhile Black Hawk stayed a while removed and wasn’t getting involved at all here, as she had told them before already.


After dusk the group discussed tactics, and of course Scottie had a big preference to putting his explosives to work. His Coyote had charged by the kilogram for the smugglejob, rather than by punch. If he’d known in advance the kind of stuff Scottie was bringing, he might have charged more. See commercial explosives aren’t that great. You need 25 kilograms of it to rival a single kilogram of the top-of-the-line stuff.

Scottie had brought 10 kg of that.

The group considered hiding small packets of explosives around the camp, to take out their trucks and lookouts: Strike their eyes and legs. But explosives by themselves wouldn’t be lethal enough, the agents felt. So they would need additional shrapnel to increase the killing range. Since they hadn’t packed that stuff, they needed to get some first. Fortunately for them, there was an enemy camp nearby which had plenty. So Doll snuck in and came back with lots of bolts and other random junk from the motor poles.

While Doll was gone, Scottie and Zen debated exactly what targets to hit. Since their initial targets would be on the outer edges, they wouldn’t really take out too many enemies. Zen had already summoned  a new Spirit since dusk, an Air Spirit which they figured could just grab the remaining explosives and drop them on the tents in the middle of the camp.

Wait…


The group hadn’t been hired to kill off the troops in the camp. Their one and only goal here was Nielsen’s head. If they were going to deliver a bomb by air, there was absolutely no need to first sneak in and set off explosives on the outer edges: Just make one huge bomb, deliver it and blow up most of the camp. Heck, with Scottie’s skills and the size of his supply, they might just blow up the entire camp and then some. After all they were using the equivalent of 250 kg Commercial Explosives…

So that’s the plan they went with. To maximize their chances, Zen turned his spirit invisible and pushed himself to make it the best Invisibility spell he’d ever cast. And up the spirit went, carrying a large packet for delivery. Not a single soul in the camp managed to notice it so the bomb got dropped at the center, the Spirit quickly jumped into the astral and just before it reached the ground the bomb was set off manually for maximum effect.

A Thor Missile would have made a bigger mess. This, however, was the next best thing. The tents were shredded, so were the cars and pretty much everyone in and near the camp. Heck even at half a click away Zen still got nicked by shrapnel. Good thing his armor managed to block most of the damage. As for the camp: Only a few were still standing: A cartel soldier and two soldiers including a Lieutenant.

Then, from the wreckage at the center suddenly appeared Nielsen, injured but still standing as if protected by the devil himself. The group immediately started sniping and even though he got lucky and managed to evade and take cover, no cover could save him from a sniper rifle and a Thunderstruck. While he died by an enemy he could not see, the soldiers at least tried to return fire. The spirit was sent to them to take them out, got taken out himself but soon after the snipers managed to take out the lieutenant. Taking no chances, the soldier quickly threw away his gun and stayed down.


Normally one would take the chance to loot the enemies and get precious paydata. However the team was half a kilometer removed and they already were starting to hear cars racing recklessly through the jungle back to the camp, while rotors were approaching from afar. Now was not the time to fight a war.

The job was done and there was no purpose in risking one’s life and not get to spend their pay…. So together with a rather spooked Black Hawk the group quickly went back into the shadows and, with yet another fresh summon’s aid, snuck away to get to an extraction point. What they left behind was damage great enough that most likely the astral space would be damaged for decades to come. What they left behind was a very big warning sign.

What they left behind was Nielsen’s body. On him two commlinks sparked and smoked from the shrapnel and blast damage they had received. One of them started cycling through recently-edited files. First came Victor Mondreau, next Daniella Mirando. The final name that showed up, just a split second before the commlink permanently fried, was Angela Serrano.

To be continued…

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.

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 3

Previously on Black Hearts: 

Two months ago two Black Hearts teams went after the Mirando organisation: One group hit a drughouse in the CAS on a Raid Party, which they discovered had quite some cameras inside. The other group had travelled to the Colombian jungle to engage in Soft Talks with the Artosa cartel, to obtain their aid in the fight against the Mirando cartel. Both teams left behind destroyed houses and a damaged Mirando cartel.

Now, while one team went after the daughter of the Mirando cartel’s boss, and another was up to no good somewhere out of sight, a third team was sent to engage the Mirando cartel again. But this time the Mirando cartel would not be the main target to hit…


The Run: Biggest Guns

The Agents:
  • Zen, a human magician with the most destructive spirits around
  • Scottie, human scottish demolitions expert extraordinaire
  • Doll, dwarven infiltrator and the best stealer of junk in the jungle

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To take out Arthur Nielsen, second-in-command of the Quantum group


After going shopping for various things in their respective home towns, our agents noticed something peculiar once they got back home: someone had sneaked a small device into their pockets, which they were unable to open. Zen tossed it in a corner of his house, where Doll just let it lay around. However Scottie pulled out some more paranoid means: He put the device in his explosion-proof safe and proceeded to blow it up.

The next day, Scottie found yet another device in his pocket, of the same kind. This time there was a note attached reading “Don’t blow this up you moron”. Still distrusting the thing, he stuck this one into the bomb-proof safe as well but decided not to blow it up for now.

A few days later, these mysterious devices started playing the ancient song “Thunderstruck”. When the agents rushed to observe their devices, they discovered that now they could be opened. Inside was a button and once they had pressed those, a message from their handler Mr. Smith began playing.

The mission they received from him was to go to Colombia to eliminate Arthur Nielsen, second-in-command of the Quantum terrorist group. Quantum had struck several UCAS targets in the past years so needed clearing. While Nielsen was normally well-hidden, he was set to visit the Mirando cartel, one of their sponsors, shortly. This was the opening the team needed to take him out.

The commlink also contained the standard 2000 nuyen advance, as well as the tickets to Colombia. However, as Zen quickly noticed, the message did not, as standard, self destruct, setting the team on edge a bit. They tried to contact their handler, but Mr. Smith was not reachable for comment. They requested Bluepin to hack Mr. Smith’s commlink for more information, who promptly declined (“You’re joking right? No way I’m even going near that”). Not knowing what else to do, the team decided to then simply cautiously proceed with the mission.


Scottie made some arrangements with his Coyote, paying quite a large sum for his services, while the other two simply didn’t take any illegal goods with them. The subsequent plane ride to Colombia proceeded without much difficulty.

The second leg was a tad less comfortable, being in a small postal plane with a pilot that wasn’t too enthusiastic about his job, but that too passed without incident. However from the air they could see that around the town they were going to, was quite a large number of military patrols. It appeared their destination would be far less peaceful than their ride there…


Once in town, Scottie noticed a familiar face – Black Hawk, a guide he had met last time he went into the jungle, to negotiate with an enemy of the Mirando cartel. Black Hawk did not have her bodyguards with her this time and she acted rather sour and unhelpful. She informed the agents that Nielsen already was in the area and that he had met with the local army commander. After that he had made for a camp in the jungle.

Black Hawk made it clear to the team that once they found her a trail, she would lead them along it, and that was all she would be doing for them. Without digging into her sour behaviour, the team went to the local watering hole to grill the locals present. Shortly after they entered, Scottie made a rather unfriendly remark to the locals and was shown the door, though Zen and Doll were allowed to stay around. An annoyed Scottie decided to retaliate by placing sticky grenades on the outside walls – something easily noticed by a few nearby soldiers. They didn’t stop to check it out yet at this point though.

When Zen and Doll did not get anywhere with simple questions – the locals being quite afraid of the whole cartel business – Zen decided to shift into a more aggressive gear and started threatening the locals instead. This quickly backfired as they realized that none of them were actually trained in interrogation or intimidation, and the locals weren’t too impressed. Our agents still had the upper hand, were open fighting to break out – but this time a fight had not been what they were looking for.

Fortunately, while lacking intimidation skills the group did have a Doll quite capable of lying through her teeth. Which came in handy when during their standoff the scene was joined by a group of soldiers. Thinking on her feet, Doll managed to sell the soldiers the story that the pub owner and his guests were plotting against the soldiers. Needless to say the troops became rather aggressive to the locals after they found out. The team quickly take off, as it wouldn’t take too long for the soldiers to beat the truth out of the locals.


With the agressive approach not working, the agents decided to go to the local general store and try a more bribery approach. While the shopkeeper was still not very willing to offer too much detail, after some pressing – and some generous “purchases” – he informed the agents that they should probably really stay away from a certain nearby path, because that would surely lead to trouble. After a wink and a nod, the team went back on their way.

Meanwhile, the local soldiers had discovered they had been played and gotten wind of what the team was actually doing, so they went on a manhunt. Rather than entering a shootout with the troops, Zen decided to solve their problems by making their entire truck invisible and silent. Scottie proceeded to drive the truck around stealthily enough so they also managed not to leave tracks the soldiers were able of following. With an exasperated Black Hawk in tow the group quickly left town and patrols behind, travelling to the path that the shopkeeper indicated.

To be continued…