Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Shadowrun 5, Part 2 - Mechanics

Old Shadowrun Fistfight: My skill in dice vs. a target number of your skill, extra successes on my roll bumps up my damage. So my street samurai with armed combat 6 when fighting a ganger with armed combat 3 would roll 6 dice looking for 3's or better. When the ganger hit back he would roll 3 dice looking for 6's. Yes, a disparity in skills could get ugly in very short order.

A lot of the game worked like that - opposed rolls generally did. Even non-sentient stuff like matrix nodes had a rating and doing something to it meant rolling dice equal to your skill against a target of the rating. Modifiers generally changed the target number, and as you can imagine bumping things up past a "6" made it tough to succeed when rolling d6's. The system allowed for a roll of a 6 to explode, rolling the die again and adding to the previous roll. Figuring the odds gets a little weird under these mechanics, far more so than the typical d20 mechanics (a 6 is effectively a 7 for one thing), but that isn't everything. Knowing that was the base mechanic made it very easy to improvise in play. The probability may be all over the place but it was a very intuitive system and my crew loved it.

With 5th edition the system has changed quite a bit - maybe not from 4th, but definitely from the older editions. Now, stats actually contribute directly! A scenario like the one described above would instead be: Agility + Pistols in dice with a target number of 5+. The attribute and skill scale is the same with humans being a 1-6 so we're already rolling more dice, maybe twice as many. The fixed target number is a new wrinkle and it both makes it easier to figure the odds and eliminates the need for the exploding sixes. Modifiers change the number of dice in the pool, so a laser sight might add a couple of dice while bad lighting conditions might remove a few.  You're probably going to need more d6's. I get this now:

Apparently this was a problem with 4th edition, where characters could end up with 20-30 dice on rolls. As much fun as that is in Warhammer, an RPG table tends to be a little more crowded. To control this in 5th they have added a new mechanic called "Limit". The Limit is the maximum number of successes one can achieve on a roll. For the example above, the "limit" on a shooting roll is the accuracy of the gun used. So say I'm pretty handy with a pistol and have a 6 agility and a 6 pistol skill, and with some other favorable conditions I might be throwing 15 dice. My Ares Predator has an accuracy of 5, so even if I roll ten 6's, I still only scored 5 "hits". They call successes "hits" now so I'm trying to work in the lingo here. Note there's really no staging any more, so every hit has some kind of impact on the result.

There are a lot of places limits can come from but the most common one seems to be the gear, from guns, to cyberdecks, to vehicles. Driving 8 stuck in a car with Handling 2 - well, you're probably not going to be very happy in a chase. This also gives another angle for the gear to play with - that Ares Predator happens to have a built-in smartgun link so if my street sam is wired for it my accuracy goes up to 7.  Two pieces of gear might have the same basic functionality or rating but one might have a higher limit to represent better quality or materials without making it blatantly more powerful. I think it's a nice touch.

If the limits start to get in the way you can use "Edge" to surpass normal limits on a particular roll. It's an attribute, rated 1-6 like the rest, but it is effectively your hero point mechanic. There are other uses for Edge besides this but I can see this one coming up a lot.

Going back to resolution, with that shooting roll the target gets a defense roll, typically intuition + reaction (two attributes). So if this is an average joe type target they might be rolling 6 dice, looking for 5+ results. If they roll more hits than my shooter does, it's a miss. If they roll fewer, then it's a hit and we need to figure damage. Most opposed rolls work this way - I roll my stat + skill, you roll your stat + skill, and the one who scores more hits comes out on top.

For non-opposed rolls there is a "threshold" - the number of hits needed to succeed. "Easy" requires one hit, "Average" is two, "Hard" is four, "Very Hard" is 6, and then it gets into "Extreme" at 8-10. There are specific examples for a lot of skills and situations like combat, decking, magic, and chases but this is the general rule. If you want to get into probability it's nice to know that on average you need to throw 3 dice for every hit that's required.

Oh and defaults, when you don't have the skill but need to do something anyway, are attribute only -1 - and I thought the old skill web "add a +2 for each dot" approach was tough. Ouch.

Looking at the archetypes in the book it looks like most of them are throwing 10 or more dice in the things they are supposed to be good at so easy and average tasks are no sweat. Hard and very hard might be a little more tricky, especially "very" as you start to run into some limits there.

Damage: To wrap up this overview, weapons have a damage number and are noted as either physical or stun. - nothing really new there. Mr. Predator is rated "8P". Extra successes hits bump the damage up directly, so if I score 3 extra hits that damage rating is now 11P. The target rolls their body attribute and the number of hits reduces the damage number directly. So say an unarmoed Body 3 target gets lucky and rolls 2 hits - that drops the damage down to 9P and they get to fill in 9 boxes on their physical condition track. That's about a -3 modifier so that's going to make life quite a bit more difficult for them.

I'm going to have to play it, but I think this will work. It's definitely up to a Champions level of dice-throwing but there's nothing wrong with that. We did lose the intuitive skill vs. skill approach of the older editions but I don't think this one lacks flavor and the introduction of limits gives the players something to think about besides a simple "more dice!" approach.

Next post on this will talk about character creation, and then I may have one more to cover what I think are the highs and lows and then hopefully the next time I post about it will be some actual play stuff.

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