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 Drones may have less & different sensors (though in SR4 this was due to a rule no longer valid here).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.

Choice Paralysis

This post goes into Choice Paralysis and notes a few ways to help reduce the chargen stress of it in Priority, and why I consider it such a big problem of other SR5 chargen methods. It also gives a bit of info on flat tax problems.

In my previous post about Black Hearts I briefly mentioned Choice Paralysis. This is something pretty much all chargen methods of all RPGs suffer from, but some versions and parts in Shadowrun do far more. It’s something I have brought up myself a few times as reason why I prefer Priority over SR4’s Build Points and karmagen methods. (Karmagen was renamed to Build Points in SR5, while SR4’s Build Points no longer exists.)

So what is Choice Paralysis? Well it’s the name I use for what apparently is more commonly referred to as Analysis Paralysis. Basically by having too many options you get bogged down and fail at making a choice. For example, having 450k nuyen and not a clue what you’re going to spend it on.

Let’s use SR4’s Build Points as example. Back then you received 400 BP in chargen. You could spend at most 200 of them on raising Attributes, and at most 50 on Nuyen for gear. You could buy Positive and ‘sell’ Negative Qualities within a limit of 35 each, buy a metatype if you weren’t going for Human, contacts, skills and knowledge skills. All of these came from the same 400 BP. So then the question was… What were you going to do with them?

To illustrate how detailed this could get: ‘Okay, if I reduce the loyalty of this contact by 1, replace my commlink with a cheaper one and drop this skill from 4 to 3, that gives me 10 BP I can buy an extra Attribute Point with…’ While not the exact situation, I have in fact made that kind of chargen decisions several hours into building a single character. There were far too many things you could do with BP and getting one meant forgoing the other…

Karmagen still has this same problem, while with Life Modules it’s a bit less due to two reasons. Freebie points meaning you don’t need karma for contacts and knowledge skills, and Life Modules being a big point-drainer. Spending 100 karma in 1 go is far easier than having to spend each point separately. However, it still can be rather restrictive and the only reason I could still make my Sample Characters properly is that I had decided on their scope in advance. ‘This character will focus on skills X and needs the following Attributes to be high, let’s invest in that.’

Priority does have some flaws that Build Points had as well, namely flat taxes. I have no idea what the correct term for this is, but what I mean is that things cost a fixed amount of points here, versus a variable amount later. For example, you pay 1 Attribute Point to raise an Attribute, no matter what the value. Agility from 5 to 6 is 1 AP, while Logic from 1 to 2 is as well. But after chargen 5->6 Agility costs 30 karma, and Logic 1->2 costs 10 karma. The same applied in SR4 for Build Points, except there it was 10 BP instead of 1 AP.

This means it’s very tempting to munchkin things: Go high-low rather than more average. Why would you spend a skillpoint on a skill at rating 1, if you can use it for a skill from 5 to 6 and spend 2 (instead of 12) karma for the same result? With BP it was worse because some things had a different karma:BP ratio. Entire topics exist calculating how you can best invest your BP to get the most karma out of your buck.

Priority has this less, fortunately, though it’s still extremely encouraging min-maxing. This is why people have skills either real low or at 6, and not at say 4: It’s a waste of your flat-tax points if you look at the karma-expenses afterwards. Life Modules helped solve that problem, but unfortunately choice paralysis and its far-more-complex nature get in the way.

So. Choice Paralysis. With Priority it still happens in a few ways. On the plus side it now happens in smaller loads (Priorities, skills, qualities, nuyen), rather than in 1 big picture like with BP. Still, it gets in the way. So how do you manage it? Well the answer is: Step by step and with the big choices made first, so you have less options to ponder after.

First of all, you need to pick a concept. Are you going to be a decker with some extra skills on the side, a sneaky bastard, a combat monster, a mage laughing at the fools opposing him or a mage covertly supporting his allies from safety? This can greatly help you steer the Priorities you need to consider. And considering your strongest (A) and weakest point (E) is often also a really nice way of eliminating options for the other Priorities.

For example, a Decker needs to spend a lot of money on their Deck, and >90% of them are mundane. This means your Resources will likely be A or B, and your Magic/Resonance will be E. You need a LOT of skills for all the hacking stuff, plus likely want something on the side for in the meatworld. This means your other A/B will probably go into Skills. Since you need Attributes, both mentally and some physically, you likely will go Attributes C and Metatype D.

(Note that this is an example. I’m not saying all Deckers should do this. However, if I were to build a Decker or advise someone with building theirs, it’s extremely-likely the line of thought I’d follow.)

With a Combat Mage you would want a good amount of Attribute Points, because you need at least 2 good and 1 decent mental stat, plus decent Reaction. For a Support Mage you could afford to go a bit lower. Either way Mages will go either D or E for Resources normally. If you’re going to be spellcasting-only you can afford to skimp on Skills, but if you want to be a Conjurer as well you will probably need C or B for Skills (Spellcasting, Counterspelling, Summoning, Binding, Assensing, Perception, maybe some stealth). Metatype depends on your Magic Priority so you can now weigh perhaps half a dozen options rather than all 5!

Skillwise you want to identify your primary target and potential secondary options. Check your Skills Priority, aim for as many 6s as you can and fill the gap with the rest. If you’re Skills B or A you want to figure out what skill-group you most like having all 3 skills in. For example if you’re a Mage and think Banishing is nice to have but Ritual Spellcasting sucks, you’ll likely take Conjuring as your group. If you’re a Street Sam and don’t care about all three ranged weapon types, but you do care about Disguise and Palming then Stealth is a nice group to take. If you don’t care about Disguise and want some weapon flexibility, then Firearms (or Close Combat depending on the character) is a good group to go for.

This matters even for Deckers with Skills Priority A. Why? Because you cannot specialize a group in chargen with skillpoints, but you can specialize individual skills. So if you grab all 6 decking skills, you want to check out which of the two you’re willing to not specialize (hint: make it Electronics, and put two of your skill points in Cybercombat and Hacking specializations).

And one important detail: Remember the flat-tax thing mentioned before. Take as many 6s as you can, don’t bother with three 4s if you can get two 6s instead.


I in fact did this when constructing my Street Sam for Missions. Now this guy was a social character so needed a LOT of Attribute Points as well as a lot of skills. So that’s Attributes A, Skills B (I heavily considered otherwise but decided to munchkin a bit here). Magic E, Human D, so Resources were C, making me a poor Street Sam. I could have flipped Skills and Resources, but I felt that restricted the social side too much.

I took Skills B so I had 36/5. That meant 6 skills at 6, and a group at 5. I wrote down all skills I’d like to have, grabbed the important ones and started identifying the best group to take. After that I knew how many skills I had left and prioritized them. Any skill I didn’t mind at a low value I could buy at rank 1 with karma later. This resulted in 1 Ranged + 1 Melee Skill, Perception, Negotiation, Etiquette, Con, Sneaking and Palming. With 2 skills each of Influence and Stealth, I had to pick one of them as my group and decided Leadership be damned, Disguise it was.

Qualities are a big problem. For those I recommend doing it the same way I did Skills, which is in fact the way I did Qualities as well: Write down all you’d like (for both Positive AND Negative), identify the most important ones, then start scratching off others until you’re down to 25- for PQ and 25+ for NQ (remember, you are allowed to take >25 karma in NQ, but you only get 25 karma from it). Make sure to pick ones that fit with your character concept, and be willing to give yourself a significant downside. I took Simsense Vertigo, which means my character does NOT get along with Smartlinks, aka gun-accessory #1.

Nuyen… Ouch! I always have a hard time with this and I really messed it up with some of my Wild Things Sample Characters. I would realize I missed an important detail and then desperately trade toys in to afford the things I accidentally left out.

The best way to handle your nuyen expenses is to start with the essentials. Now unless you got Resources E, or you’re a Mage with Resources D going for a Rating 3 Power Focus in chargen, you will have enough money available for something that really matters: A Rating 4 Fake SIN. As for such a Mage: The fake SIN oughta be the first thing they buy once they got some cash at hand after a run or two.

Next, get a commlink. Assume you’re getting a Rating 6 at 5k nuyen, because everyone likes having their communication channel properly protected. And while you’re at it, buy a Low Lifestyle (2k for most, 2.4k for dwarves, 4k for Trolls). And put 5 grand aside for a Growler so you can move around.

With a fake ID, a commlink, a lifestyle and a vehicle you got your essentials for normal living all done. The next step is your class essentials. If you’re a Decker, this means a Deck. For a Rigger it means an RCC and a Control Rig. With a Mage it’s Foci (if they can afford it). And for augmented characters it’s ware.

Let’s note something very important: You can already own a simple piece of armor for 1 grand. And unless you’re going for the nastiest Sniper Rifles, your gun will be 2.5k at the most. So if you got a lot of cash to spend, don’t worry about the toys yet. Focus on the ware.

Start by identifying how important your initiative will be, and your defenses. Reaction Enhancers and/or Wired Reflexes/Synaptic Boosters/Boosted Reflexes are pretty much essentials for anyone who wants to be in a position where they can be fired upon. The same goes for Bone Lacing/Density Augmentation and Dermal Plating or Orthoskin, if you intend to be able to soak damage. These help consume a good bit of your money from the get-go. After that take a look, if you want good offense, to Agility: Either ware to increase it, or a cyberlimb to replace it.

Now of course this is rather detailed and not the way to go for many characters. But the gist is simple here and rather much alike how I recommended skills and qualities to go: Identify the main things you want based on your archetype, the other stuff, do the math and start scrapping things. You can always downgrade a piece of ware 1 Rating for extra cash, or get something Used if you can spare the Essence. After you got perhaps 5 grand left, you can start getting the extra toys such as armor, guns and spy stuff. And if you end up a tiny bit short in the end, consider downgrading your commlink to make room.

(As for my poor street sam, I went for Used Muscle Toner 3, Used BDA 4, Used Orthoskin 4, and ran out of money soon after. Bought my Used Reaction Enhancers 3 as soon as I could after chargen, until then I had to depend on Blitzing Initiative and Full Defensing. Or I would have had I not been GMing Missions and getting my rewards that way, but whelp. ^_^)

Now there’s 1 important role for the GM here: Advisor. First note what will be important for your campaign, second list options. Highlight some of their choices to consider, with arguments as to why you would think it’s a good idea. But don’t force the choice. For example, I have recommended switching Resources to B and Skills to A to a Decker for more freedom skillwise, since downgrading to 1 deck lower is something that wouldn’t restrict her too much. I didn’t force it, but I did heavily recommend it.

Remember that a new player might not realize all the stuff they need for their role. What Priorities are good, what skills do they need, what gear, etcetera. Do you think they need Perception? Are there good reasons they want to consider being able to dodge attacks in your game, or will the Face be fine if they don’t get any decent Reaction? What skills would you recommend they at least pick up at Rating 1? And so on and so forth.

And of course your planned campaign also matters. Just a few examples: Do you think you’ll ever make driving skill an issue? If so, is their Reaction high enough to just grab the skill at rank 1 or so, or would you recommend they spend 3k on a program to boost the autopilot? Is Locksmith something that can be useful to pick up for someone with good Agility, or can they freely ignore the skill because it will never matter ingame? Does the Rigger want a Mechanic skill, or can they depend on a contact for that stuff?

If your player gets bogged down by choices, ask them what they want and help steer them in a direction where they have less things left to choose from. Make sure to remind them of the essentials they need, so they won’t run out of things before they got all that. And give them enough info to help make an informed choice, but without bogging them down in choice paralysis yourself.