Houserules: Perception Teamwork

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule: Under Professional Circumstances players can teamwork Perception

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

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

Rule: Under Professional Circumstances enemies can teamwork Perception formulae used for this post, a d{0,0,1} simulates a Shadowrun die with 1/3 chance at a hit:

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

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

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


Houserules & Rule Clarifications: Background Count

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule: Cleansing impacts an Area around the magician for all

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

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

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

Rule: The Cleansing area is larger, jammer-wise

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houserules: Spirits breaking free

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which leads me to the houserule below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sensor Arrays: Houserules

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

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

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

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

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

So these are the things we can gather from Arsenal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houserules: Vehicle Repair, Armor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rule: Vehicles use Hardened Armor

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

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

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

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

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


Lifestyle updates & Grid Access

A small note regarding the Grid Access houserule earlier: There is now an official rule to get access to additional Grids, located in Hard Targets. Said houserule post has been updated to note the rule is no longer required.

For reference: The rule is located on Hard Targets p140, “Grid Subscsription (Updated)”. It lists both the normal Grids you can access, as well as what you pay for access to the Local or Global Grid and what Lifestyles only need to spend 1 point for it.

Hard Targets also has a rule for what happens if you run out of points but want to buy extra services and outings: If your Lifestyle normally qualifies for nuyen-free, they can be bought point-free instead (while retaining the nuyen pricetag). It also comes with a useful calculation order for Lifestyles, as well with a rule for sharing Lifestyles.

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

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.