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


Houserules: Movement Power

The Movement power is what allows some spirits to move at incredible speed, as well as either buff or restrain others by either multiplying or dividing it with the Spirit’s Magic (which equals Force).

In SR4 this power had only two restrictions listed: Inside terrain it controlled, and based on Body (B>M = halved effect, B>2*M = no effect). SR5 has more detail to it, going back to SR3’s description and talking more explicitly about terrain/domain the Spirit controls, as well as containing a separate rule for vehicles.

This unfortunately runs into two complications. First of all, what IS terrain a spirit controls? Clearly it’s not just ‘their natural habitat’, since otherwise an Air Spirit could easily target any plane they see, while a Plant spirit would rule surpreme in the jungle. Don’t even get me started on what kind of terrain would be a Guardian spirit’s natural habitat…

The second is that the power’s description went back to its SR3 version. Unfortunately, some mechanics have changed since SR3… Some even midway SR5’s development, such as Vehicles… Rather than having a significant Acceleration and Speed directly translating to m/CT, Acceleration is now a tricky number solely for Vehicle Chases (which a previous houserule already covered) and Speed simply is a limit as well as translating to how fast you can go.

I mean nobody woudl believe it’s intended that a good test on a good car could easily make it go 2^18 as fast. That’s 50 million km/hour… If we look at SR3’s Speed system the original intent seems more clear: Say you got a vehicle with an Acceleration of 10, and Speed actually is your actual speed rather than a single-digit number, then those 6 hits would translate to making the vehicle go 100 m/CT faster/slower instead, which likely (especially with deceleration rules) could actually cause it to crash due to the sudden changes.

I’ll be discussing three core Movement houserules here, two of which I have already applied in my own campaign. An important note: This has actually impacted my campaign’s balance and I’ve been thinking of ways to nerf it down for a while, which will be included as corollaries. It wasn’t that bad (sorta) with one Speedster, but with four magicians all outshining the Rigger’s speed… Not to mention it kinda ruins ambushes and all that.

Ahem. Before we go into the houserules, there’s something VERY important you should know first, a small detail of the rules that many probably missed.

Your actions and movement are declared at the START of your Action Phase. That is, you FIRST declare what all you’ll do, THEN you start executing it. (Page 158, 159, 163.) You can stop or change direction, but you cannot increase your movement after finding out some of the results of your actions. Logically the same would apply to your offensive actions, even if not explicitly stated.

So say you decide to run around a corner. If there’s an enemy waiting around it, you can’t go ‘oh then I’ll just run past him’. You can break or dive back, but not go further than originally declared. You also cannot attack him if you didn’t keep the option in mind. That’s why I make my fast players declare what their intent will be in somewhat-vague terms, for example ‘cut the first enemy that dares to get in my way in two’. That way the runner still can go around a corner and attack, assuming there is in fact an enemy within reach.

This might seem like nitpicking but when it comes to combatants easily moving 100 meters in a single Combat Turn, it becomes VERY important. You can’t walk 20m, see what enemies are where and THEN make a detailed plan for the rest of your Action Phase: Decide at the start and run into danger! You can run up a staircase but only if you knew it was there and declared the intent.

A sidenote: This also means that you got to keep a few possible outcomes in mind as player. As GM I wouldn’t give you a lot of hassle if you used an If-statement in your Action Declarations, but you got to keep in mind the highest declared movement will count for your movement allotment of the Combat Turn. Just make sure you make clear to your players what the limitations will be before they run into nasty complications, as part of the social contract.

Rule: Spirits can only use Movement on others inside Aspected Areas

There are basically three ways for an area to get Aspected in the advantage of a Tradition: The Personal Domains of some Free Spirits, frequent use by that tradition and magical lodges, in order from large to small (multiple acres, ?, very-small-region). Which means that for nearly every situation the Spirit will not be able to use Movement on others, only on themselves, fitting with the ‘only in terrain they control’ restriction being an actual restriction.

If they have the home advantage though, from defending their magician’s turf or their own… Ohboy… And that’s exactly what this houserule is about: Making it about the home-advantage. You get the enemy to fight in an area aspected in your favor, they’ll be in massive trouble against your Spirits unless they cleanse the area… Only being able to run 6 meters per Combat Turn as a 9-Agility character can REALLY hurt in combat, especially once AoE effects are put into play!

Rule: Movement against vebicles uses (M+W)d6*Accel*10/Body

Leaving aside the whole ‘Speed-changes’, which obviously no longer is intended like that with the new Speed mechanic, there’s another problem I personally have with Movement against Vehicles. Right now they have to hit a threshold, which can be MASSIVE for high-Body vehicles (9 for a Roadmaster!), but the threshold itself is merely to decide if it works! You hit a threshold 6, you suddenly count as 6 hits instead of 0. That’s plain weird. It’d make more sense if your effect was divided by Body.

Now keeping the Acceleration is an easy call since it seems logical that the better a vehicle accelerates/decelerates, the more easily a Spirit can manage to change its speed. The biggest problem is what multiplier to use. SR5 mostly uses Acceleration 1~3, where 3 is the max that matters for a Vehicle Chase, only the occasional vehicle goes above it. So a significant multiplier seems required.

A Force 6 Spirit would average 4 hits, so on a 2-Accel Body-8 Jackrabbit we’d be at 4*2/8 = 1 as base modifier. To compare, in SR3 Accel-rates were roughly from 3 to 12 and the SR5 rule employs a Body/2 for the threshold. So let’s roughly quadruple to convert back to SR3’s concepts, double to fit with B/2 and round up to x10. Now 4 hits would translate to 40 m/CT. With the modified Speed system from my previous houserules, this could actually lead to a lot of discomfort for your enemies or even a crash test.

Rule: Channeled/Possession Spirits can use Movement

A Spirit can only use Movement on itself outside terrain/domains it controls. When a Spirit possesses someone or is channeled by a magician, they form a special kind of combination which impacts Physical attributes and their resistance to mental spells. So it makes sense to also let them use their powers (such as Elemental Aura and Movement) inside these bodies, with all the downsides in the case of Elemental Aura. (Congratulations, you’re on fire, how well-protected is your gear? You’re electrifying? Enjoy the fried commlink.)

There is a big balance risk with Movement though. Even a 3-Agility character Channeling a Force 6 Spirit will suddenly have 6 Agility and 72/144 as their Movement rates… A 5-Agility with a Force 8 would hit 9*8*4 = 288 m/CT running rate, that’s ~345 km/h. Compare that to a Rigger whose 4-Speed Drones, even under my Speed table if you don’t make them lose Speed categories (which I should consider only doing for walkers, and for any drone moving indoors), can only move 150 km/h, and you realize that indeed this houserule risks favoring Movement players too much. Of course there’s downsides (spooking cars, Metamagic or Tradition sacrifice, drawing unwanted attention, cannot mask this only Manascape it, etc.) but there’s still space for a few fixes to this.

(Incidentally, I already employ slight Accel/Decel-rules and ‘Gridguide hates you and demands you wear a tracker on the highway so you don’t spook their cars’, but there’s still space for more because it’s fun but not enough.)

Rule: Movement’s buff is divided by TerrainDifficulty

Note that this does not just matter for Channeling and Possession. Great Form Spirits with 6+ net hits on the ritual can Endow a power, meaning you can now let your Spirit pass Movement on to multiple teammembers… Anyway:

On page 201 you’ll find terrain modifiers for vehicle stunts. Now we could demand Gymnastic tests for magical-boosted movement speeds, but that’s a bit tricky for long movement and rather detracts from the game. So instead we’d nerf it differently: You want to channel a spirit and run through side-streets? The buff you get is divided by 2 for the Vehicle Terrain Modifier, so a Force 6 only triples your speed instead. Want to hit the back-alleys with a Force 8? You only double instead of eightfold due to/ 4. Rounding is of course on the final movement speed, not the multiplier.

(No, these are not insane examples. Now it might be because I employ a karma<->nuyen rule but I actually do have people working towards being able to Channel Force 10 Spirits and already using Force-9 ones…)

An important note here is that the same Vehicle table includes terrain modifiers for flying. Irrelevant for metahumans themselves, but Spirits CAN fly, even if they normally don’t. Still facing some restrictions even if they take into the air is quite nice and means drones are still quite useful: A Roto-Drone managing 200 km/h (+1 Speed Category with risks, no Speed Category reduction for being a drone) would still be able to outfly a Spirit using Movement, IF directly controlled by its Rigger or solely doing normal low-altitude flying (threshold-2 is doable for 9 dice, 15% failing odds and that simply means failing and a second attempt normally).

An alternative houserule would use percentages rather than division, and of course the vehicle table is for vehicles so the descriptions would need to be altered. What is the pedestrian equivalent of sidestreets?

Two sidenotes to make. First, Harlequinn channeling would easily go faster than the speed of sound but others would have a hard time coming close. Even if you go with ‘Increase Agility stacks with Possession’ like I do, you essentially need a Force 16 Spirit in a 5[9]->17 Agility character or a Force 14 in an 8[12]->19 to barely reach 1 mach.

Sidenote two: You need ~30 m/second, so ~90 m/CT, to be able to run on water. If we count running on water with Magic as /2 for difficulty, you’d need 180 meters/CT before division. Divide by 4 for running, and 6 for a normal Force 6 Spirit and you’d need 8 Agility which is doable.

Want to walk on water without running penalties or eventual running-exhaustion? You’d need 360, say Force 9 Spirit for 10 Agility, 4 of which from the Spirit so quite doable with a bit of magic. A Force 8 would require 11~12 Agility.

Sensor Arrays: Clarifications

As promised last week, I’m tackling default sensor packages this week. It’s not really a houserule, since it’s simply filling something in that has been left open by the book. Still, the term houserule will suffice.

But first I should explain how sensor arrays work, because I’ve seen several people get horribly confused on page 445~446.

Sensor: A single Sensor uses 1 Capacity. A Sensor can be quite a lot, as seen in the Sensor Function table on page 446. It can be an atmosphere sensor, a MAD (metal) scanner, a camera and more.

Sensors can be put in quite a few things: There’s special Sensor RFID tags and ammunition, handheld housings, cyberlimbs, drones+vehicles, buildings and more.

Sensor Rating: A Sensor has a Rating, which can impact 3 different things. For some sensors the rating basically is irrelevant, such as motion sensors and atmosphere sensors.

  1. Limits for some tests done by/through the sensor, such as Sensor Attacks (p184, ALSO a confusing section that I judgement-called myself) and Perception by/through Drones(/Vehicles) (p270).
  2. Dicepool for tests, such as for Olfactory Scanners, MAD scanners, Cyberware Scanners and Radio Signal Scanners.
  3. For Cameras and Microphones, Internal Capacity for Vision/Audio Enhancements. So a Rating 3 Camera has 3 Capacity for vision enhancements such as Thermographic Vision and Flare Compensation.
  4. ((Electronics with an explicit Device Rating also are an exception to the electronics-device-rating-2 entry in the Device Rating table. So, assuming Sensor Rating = Device Rating, the rating (mostly matters for cameras) matters when it comes to hacking non-slaved sensors. But that’s not relevant here.))

Maximum Sensor Rating: Each type of Sensor Housing has a maximum as to how good a sensor you can fit in there. For example RFID Tags are limited at 2, Small(er) Drones at 3, a Motorcycle can handle rating 6 at the highest and a building can handle rating 8. So if you want to put Olfactory Sensors in your doors, they can be rating 8, costing 800 each. In a sneakily hidden Sensor Tag you can at most put a rating 2, costing 200 (+ 40 for the tag).

Sensor Array: A Sensor Array USES 6 Capacity, but it can contain UP TO 8 Sensors, each of which has a Sensor Rating equal to the Array’s Rating. So a Rating 5 Sensor Array contains 1~8 Sensors that all are Rating 5. If there’s 2 Cameras in there, each of them then is Rating 5 so has 5 Capacity.

6-Capacity-required means you can’t put a sensor array in a handheld housing, because that has at most 3 Capacity. The array requires 6. A cyberlimb can usually take it, but it will be a significant drain on your capacity. With vehicles/drones they already got a sensor array, which you can replace, so the required 6 Capacity isn’t a problem (unless Rigger V decides otherwise).

In return for taking 6 capacity for >6 namely 8 sensors, Sensor Arrays are slightly more expensive: They cost 10x as much as a single Sensor. So with 8 sensors you’d be paying 25% extra per Sensor basically, assuming you’re buying a new array that’s completely filled up.

Default Sensor Package: Vehicles and drones come factory-equipped with a Sensor Array, their stats note what the Array’s Rating is. The question is: what sensors are in that package? And THAT is the million-nuyen question. For that, see the accompanying houserule post here.

Upgrading Sensor Arrays: Now the book doesn’t state these things explicitly, but…

Since a lot of vehicles/drones can contain a better rating array than they come with by default (see Maximum Sensor Rating above), you can obviously purchase a better array for those. However, you got your sensors as an Array, with a Rating. So it’s not as simple as ‘just buy a better sensor and put it in the array’, because that makes the extra cost of arrays ridiculous.

So while it’s not stated explicitly, I interpret things myself akin to Cyberware enhancements: They have to be the same rating. If you want to add a Sensor to an Array that has space left, or replace a Sensor in an Array with another Sensor, the Sensor has to be the same rating as the Array already was. No stealth-updating or paying only 100 nuyen for a Sensor whose rating is irrelevant, if you’re putting it into a super-advanced Rating 8 Array.

Upgrading Sensors in Arrays: Another thing unmentioned is how you add enhancements to a Sensor you already have. For example, how do you add Thermographic Vision to a camera on your drone? Do you pay the addition costs? Add a mechanic fee, do an availability test for the new availability? Buy a brand new sensor? Or do you have to replace the entire array? There’s nothing in the rules that I can base an interpretation on, unfortunately, just like I have no idea if you can upgrade armor or goggles you already bought. Anyway, again see here for a houserule on that. 🙂

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.


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.

Vehicle Speed (1/2): Introduction

This post explains why Speed is weird in SR5, as introduction to an adjusted table. Said adjusted table, as well as a few smaller fixes, can be found in this follow-up post.

Vehicle Speed has changed significantly in SR5. In previous editions each vehicle had its own maximum speed and acceleration, which led to complicated situations such as ‘okay so my max speed is 200 km/h, BUT I’d need >15 hits on a vehicle test to hit that. What the hey.’

In SR5 it’s been simplified to two single-digit numbers. Your Speed number translates to how fast you can go. And Acceleration now simply matters for Vehicle Chases. (I looked through the rule and there’s no actual mechanic for the relation between Acceleration and movement speed… It’s merely implied.)

The reason for simplifying Speed seems quite reasonable: With Limits, you want an actual limit on movement speed. And I personally really like the unification of vehicles, where you don’t have a vehicle that can go 165 km/h versus one that can go 180 km/h. Of course Speed Chases don’t make much sense at all, but that’s a different story…

Limits aside, the Speed stat also translates to how fast you can go. A Speed 3 vehicle can at most go 40 m/CT (x1.2=48->~50 km/h), a Speed 5 can at most go 160 m/CT -> ~200 km/h. Every +1 Speed = x2 movement rate. Which is utterly insane. A Ford Americar can only go 48 km/h, whereas a Eurocar Westwind 3000 can go 768 km/h simply because it has 1 Speed more than the best of the rest…

It gets even sillier if you read the book. The book notes (SR5 Core p200) that Ground Crafts go 80 km/h on urban highways and 120 km/h outside the cities. But the number 1 family car cannot get close at all to that 80 km/h, and only 3 cars, including the Westwind and a luxury car costing 65k, can actually reach that 120 km/h…

And as far as boats are concerned, there’s a Speed-6 boat which thus can go 384 km/h. Page 200 notes 200 km/h for cigarette boats instead. Meanwhile almost all drones can go 48 km/h with the Medium/Large Air drones capable of going faster, while the Commuter aircraft is slower. It’s a tilt-wing, which classically can hit 400 km/h, but it only has Speed 3 while all the airbound drones are twice as fast or worse…

So on one hand your #1 family car cannot go faster than a fast Shadowrunner and even the Walking Ares Duelist can keep up with it, while on the other hand it can keep up with a classic commuter airplane.

The rules also note how Helicopters are faster outside city borders, but again this does not translate into an actual mechanic which is a damn shame. So I have designed a few changes to the vehicle mechanics that keep the vehicle stats intact but give them a different meaning.