Pen and Paper RPG House Rules

Making our favorite games even better

Tag Archives: experience

Shadowrun Overhaul: Magical Dueling

There are several ways that the ancient tradition of dueling as re-entered society as we go deeper into the Sixth World. Dueling pervades all strata of society and takes many forms from taking credit for an idea to get promoted over your rival at the office to a little amateur urban brawl action so your bike chummers think you’re chill to outright blazing guns and headless enemies. One of the most common forms of dueling is through proxies in which the rich and powerful pit their chosen against each other sometimes with challenges and sometimes in gladiator style combat.

The first is the basic duel in which the magicians choose a melee weapon and can use magic but nothing prepared beforehand and can only wear obvious armor if agreed to before the duel starts. This is more common for Adepts but the occasional magician or mystical adept has dueled in this way. The problem with this form of dueling is that it tends to be injurious to both duelists and possibly even deadly. Even with each duelist having a second to protect bystanders and their charges from errant magic it is just too easy for things to go wrong.

The second involves combat in the Astral realm which is evolving very rapidly as it becomes more popular. Hidden Arenas in Domains linked to the Battle metaplace have spread like wildfire in the past two years with the arrival of tempo and the rising popularity of spirit vs spirit combat. It is rumored that a cabal of free spirits has inordinate influence on the dueling scene one of whom takes the form of an older african male with wild and crazy hair.

With the introduction of the first martial art form created for Awakened Orks and by Awakened Orks: Hez Errit’grumrutra has changed the landscape for magical duels. Masters of this new martial art have dominated the metahuman combat leagues while sparking interest in Astral Combat official competitions and the magical society Egran’den Er’rek Wejoto has profited greatly despite suffering from half a dozen deadly attacks on its Jrikrek or school building by unknown but powerful magical assailants. The Egran’den are made up of an unique blend of ex-military or mercenary Orks with extensive Awakened combat experience and street shamans with a bent towards social justice. Many of the new outer circle members are former gang toughs who are being rehabilitated with tough love from the military crowd and a little wise gentleness from the street shamans.

The third involves direct magic to magic battle extreme. There are two methods by which this duel takes place. The first involves the duelists channeling their power and essence into a centerpoint until it gels into a form and a duelists dominates it. The second option involves a Ritual which is cast by a neutral third party that has evolved into the popular collegiate game Astral Total War.

The Arcane Duel

 Traditionally the two duelists face off with their seconds watching for treachery and their thirds creating mana barriers up to prevent accidental harm to bystanders. Each bows towards each other and stand within 10 meters of each other. Now both cast the Arcane Duel spell targeting the area between them. The Force of the spell acts as a limit to most Tests between the Duelists and the spellcaster can pick whatever Force they want but they have to handle the Drain from the spell which is quite demanding so they risk gaining penalties from before the actual duel for higher potentials. The spellcasters decide whether the duel shall use Sorcery, Conjury, or Enchanting.

The two duelists continue to pour power and weave threads into the center of the dueling area which slowly takes on an appearance based on the personalities of the duelists, the Skills involved in the duel, whatever mentor spirits they might have, and their Tradition.

In battles between master conjurers the audience can watch two pseudo-elementals slug it out for their amusement while another might involve a single elemental that both conjurers are trying to control. A duel between two Chinese sorcerers may play out visually as a game of go played by two elaborately designed Shen. It was once common amongst Hermetics familiar with the Old Matrix sculpting for their duels to take on the clear lines and geometric shapes of the Old Matrix protocols but that has become rarer in the modern day.

There is a moment when the spell gels and combat can begin usually sometime after the combined total of the two spell’s Force x 3 Seconds but can happen earlier or later depending on how difficult it is for the spell to find an appropriate venue. The better duelist at Assensing tends to win first action which is a big advantage as from then on the duel goes back and forth between the duelists until the victory conditions are met.

The duelists trade blows or moves back and forth until victory is achieved. For the vindictive they prefer to deal several light to medium blows to weaken the mage before hitting them hard so as to “Scorch” their opponent and possibly cause permanent damage to a magical faculty or mental facility.

Victory conditions can be the collapse of the opponent or first blood or first to five damage boxes dealt.

Weapon Foci bonded to a duelist provide an increase in DV by the rating of the Focus. Power or Spell/Spirit/Enchanting Foci add to the Attack or Defense Totals by choice of the duelist at the beginning of combat. For a duelist with two Foci one could be applied to Attack while another to Defense or both to Attack or both to Defense.


Initiative: Intuition + Assensing Opposed Test (only rolled once at the beginning of the duel; after that it goes back and forth)

Attack: Logic + (Spellcasting/Summoning/Alchemy) + (Power Focus or appropriate Focus such as a Spell Focus for a Sorcery duel) [Force]

Defense: Intuition + (Counterspelling/Banishing/Disenchanting) (Power Focus or appropriate Focus) [Force]

Damage Value: Charisma + Net Hits on Attack + Weapon Focus Rating + (Ritual Spellcasting/Binding/Artificing)

Resistance: Willpower + Arcana

Boxes of damage: Magic Rating x 2 (If damages overflows and is greater than Willpower then the mage is knocked unconscious (Stun Damage) and her astral form is disrupted which can cause permanent psychological or magical problems and is called Scorching your opponent.)

Edge: The Special Attribute of Edge is replaced by the Mage’s Grade. A non-initiate has a Grade of 0 and thus would act as if they had no Edge throughout the duel. “Edge” spent on the duel has no impact on the Edge Special Attribute.

-Don’t forget Wound penalties from before and during the duel.

-Reagents can’t be spent during the duel itself to alter Limits.

Arcane Duel Technique:

This arcane technique costs no karma to learn and can be taught in an hour or two with a good instructor. The Arcane Duel doesn’t conform to the standard categorizations of spells and rituals as it involves parts of all five spell categories and some of the steps of a ritual. Both duelists must have this Quality for the Duel to work. Some of the principles of Attunement are used as well as the anchoring technique of Ritual Spellcasting. Rumor has it that this technique involves elements of ancient and foreign magics.

Both duelists must be within 10 meters of each other. Both duelists expend Reagents equal to the Force of they choose for themselves at the same time which creates a temporary magical lodge just for the purposes of this duel in a sphere surrounding the two duelists. The initial prep time can usually takes about a minute. Each attack takes a full minute after which the other duelist begins their attack which lasts a full minute.

Drain is handled normally for your tradition as if casting a spell with a Drain Code of Force and Centering can be used.



Shadowrun Overhaul: Astral Total War

Today on Magicknet!

Astral Total War college semifinals: MIT&M’s blue doubles team faces UW’s purple doubles team live in the meat world and the astral at Three Crones in Boston at 7 PM East Coast Time tonight! {Buy Meat Tickets} {Buy Astral Tickets} {Watch on high definition Trideo}

How the Fashion spell can make a smelly loser into a winner with the ladies. {Buy Article} {Buy Spell Formula}

Ryan Two Tusks takes on Kamol “The Smasher” in Mixed Martial Adept Arts for the Ork heavyweight Championship next week. {Watch Live} {Buy Tickets}

Can too much magic lead to a radical change of personality? -By Martina Novoliska {Read Opinion Piece}

How to deal with the inherent difficulty of applying micro effects in a wide area. -Essay by Thomas Bonesage {Read Journal}


Astral Total War:

Astral Total War is a relatively new and very popular game that has spread like wildfire and has been very quickly codified and organized into various teams on every campus with a major magical program in North America, Japan, Australia, and Northern Europe. The standard freeform or professional game involves five players called pentacle games and a Ritual team that acts as judges, casts the ritual, and prevents outside interference. University play focuses almost entirely on doubles games with many Universities putting out several collegiate teams which compete against each other within the same conferences that they compete in with sports and matrix games.

The Ritual begins by the lead Sorcerer beginning the ritual and using the Attunement Metamagic to link via mana threads to each player and to an item usually a large cup or award at the center that acts as an anchor for the ritual. The players arrange themselves around the cup. The Force of the Ritual is decided with higher Force Rituals giving an advantage to stronger magicians and lower Force Rituals giving an advantage to weaker magicians as the Force of the Ritual acts as a Limit for each player for their magical actions. Once the Force has been decided then the Ritual leader begins the spell and each player begins to astrally craft his or her defenses, offensive forces, and sculpt their terrain which is visible from the Astral but each player is blocked by a Mana Barrier that prevents their observation of what their opponents are doing. From above in the astral a pentacle game looks like a pizza with five pieces with the people playing with miniatures.

The ritual is fully ready when Force x hours are spent with the setup. The moment that happens the Judge orders the mana barriers dropped and combat begins. There are various rules for winning range from having the most astral territory to who has the most Wizard’s Towers to control of the heart or area around the Cup in the center of the players. Some games have a built in time limit while others go until there is only one magician standing. Each player has a Wizard’s Tower which is key to their connection to the Ritual which if an enemy takes makes it impossible for the player to create or craft any new servitors and makes it harder to handle drain on any spells cast into the game.

The audience can watch in the physical realm since part of the ritual is a variation of the Trid Entertainment Illusion which makes an exact co-locational duplicate of the Astral Realm in the play area within the physical realm for those who can’t astrally perceive and for viewers on their commlinks or home trid player. The audience can zoom in and watch a single battle between champions called Tactical View or enjoy a fanned out Strategic view showing a Phalanx of melee troops fighting cavalry units. In pentacle games viewers will have alerts on their commlinks about surprise attacks or treacherous dealings going on. It can be hard to keep up with all the action. In doubles play it tends to be less chaotic then your typical pentacle game.

The kind of troops, defenses, creatures, and spells the Wizard can cast in his Tower depend on his skill set.


Ritual: Astral Total War: (Material Link, Spells, Anchored, Leader must have the Attunement Metamagic)

The Ritual Leader casts the Ritual which includes for the initial part a mana barrier in the form of a five fingered starfish for a standard individuals game (pentacle game), quarters for a standard double duel partner’s game, or a single barrier for personal duels and once the ritual is complete the Trid Entertainment spell which reflects the goings on in the Astral Realm so those without Astral Perception can watch the game. The Ritual Leader also has a Material Link for each player and for the cup which binds the players together.

The game concludes based on whatever the rules of the event say is a winning requirement. Standard collegiate rules are that the winner of a pentacle game is a player with three Wizard’s Towers. For a doubles partner game it is when you have both Wizard’s Towers of your opponent.

Rules of the Game:

The force of the Ritual is chosen. High School play is capped at Force 3 to prevent the chance of players passing out from Drain. Collegiate Student play is capped at Force 6. Professional games tend to sit at Force 8 or 9 when the players are all Initiates especially duels between Professors.

Each hour prior to the game is time that the mage uses his magickal skills to the fullest spending time shaping terrain, building units, spy networks, defenses, traps, creating champions, and the infrastructure to support them. The game copies many factors from popular Matrix games like Civilization 23 Orichalcum Edition and Age of the Fourth World: Total Conquest.

Once the prep is done then game play begins with most games lasting one to three hours. Many games involve treachery and social skills especially Leadership for partners games. Often the most powerful magician in University play ends up falling first to more subtle players in pentacle games as they tend to lack the diversity of skills and knowledges the sneakier players tend to master. In doubles play it is extremely common for teams to pair up as a powerful magician and a jack of all trades or a powerful magician and a face.



Shadowrun Overhaul: Shielding Metamagical Qualities

Shielding Metamagical Qualities:

After character creation and the Initiate learning the Shielding Metamagic she can develop new techniques that improve her ability to Shield herself from magic or develop new enhancements to her Shielding. These Qualities can be taken together and combined for additional effect.

Mass Shielding:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. The Initiate can protect an area with her Counterspelling equal to her Magic Rating + Grade in meters or a number of individuals within LOS equal to twice her Magic Rating + her Grade. This is a popular Quality amongst military and mercenary magicians.


This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. The Initiate gains the ability to absorb magical energy directed at her and channel it into her sorcery. Whenever the magician uses her Shielding/Counterspelling she may add the net hits from that Test up to and equal to her Grade as a dice pool bonus for her Spellcasting and Drain Tests on a single spell cast within that Combat Turn or the next Combat Turn.

State of the Art Shielding:

This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. It allows the Initiate to apply her Grade in dice as a defense against any type of magical effect from any source.


This Quality costs 10 Karma after character creation. This Quality allows the magician to use her Counterspelling ability to redirect a Spell back at the original caster. The magician must be aware of the spell, be within LOS of the caster or target or be a target of the spell or within the area of the spell’s effect, and have an Arcana equal or greater than the Force of the spell in order for her to be able to comprehend the spell, unravel control of the spell, and send it back to its original caster. Attempting to Reflect a spell is an Interrupt action at -10.

The first step is to check if the magician succeeds on a Counterspelling + Grade [Magic] v Spellcasting + Magic [Force] Opposed Test (Add +3 Dice to the Counterspelling if the spell was cast recklessly). If she fails she still blunts the attack by subtracting her net hits from the Spellcaster’s net hits and goes on to take a defense test as normal. If she succeeds then the spell is sent back to the caster. The Force of the returning Spell is equal to the Grade of the Initiate with any net hits on the Reflecting Test acting as net hits for the spell. The targets completely evade the original spell and the reflected spell goes off as if it was a normal spell of whatever type the original caster cast. Area effect spells go off but do not harm any of the individuals protected by the Initiate with her Counterspelling which is a number equal to her Magic Rating.

Hermes Portal and Ars Magica

Here are pdf’s of the articles I contributed to for Hermes Portal an ezine for Ars Magica by Atlas Games.


Portal_US_11 Portal_US_10 Portal_US_9 Portal_US_15


If you’re interested in more check out Hermes Portal which has 1 through 15 issues downloadable for free.

Check out my blogroll on the right and check out Sub Rosa which is continuing the tradition of high quality Ars Magica articles.

Shadowrun Overhaul: New Metamagical Quality: Astral Impersonation

Astral Impersonation:

This is a positive Quality that costs 10 Karma after character creation and requires the Metamagic Masking and/or Flexible Signature and the ability of Astral Projection or the Adept Metamagic Astral Protrusion. With this Quality the Initiate can alter her astral form (with Masking) and/or astral signature (with Flexible Signature) to match that of another being that they have Assensed with 4 net hits or have an Material Link or an Artifact made by the target. With Ceremonial Metamagic and a Magical Lodge the Initiate can use a Sympathetic or Symbolic Link after an Assensing + Intuition [Magical Lodge] Test with 4 net hits. An Initiate with this Quality automatically succeeds in impersonation with Spirits if she knows the Spirit’s Formula or True Name.

The Initiate performs an Impersonation + Charisma  [Astral] Test with the number of hits providing the base threshold to see through the disguise of their Astral Form when the Initiate opposes an Assensing Test with their Magic + Grade.

For forging Astral Signatures add Arcana + Grade to the threshold of detecting a forged astral signature. Thus, the Forensic Magician would make an Assensing Test on a forged signature using this formula: Assensing + Magic + Grade [Astral] 3* + (Arcana/3) + Grade Test. They would see the false signature with 3* net hits and would need to match the forger’s Arcana bonus added to their Grade to see through the forged signature.

Depending on how familiar the entity is that the Initiate is trying to pretend to become there are penalties to the above total that need to be applied. A GM may rule that the Adept Power Voice Control can provide bonus dice per level to the Impersonation Test above.

Different Gender: -1 Die

Different Tradition: -1 Die

Different Species: -1 to -3 Dice. A vampire was once human so would get a -1 while a Blackberry cat would get a -2 as it is still a mammal and a Dragon would get a -3 as they are radically different than metahumanity.

Different Plane of existence: -4 to -10 Dice. A spirit close to metahumanity like a Guidance spirit might get a -4 while a Shedim would get a -10.


By Impersonating the Astral Form of another astral being the Initiate can bypass magical security as if they were the creator and even spoof commands to astral servitors like Watchers or Spirits that they can visibly interact with.

By Impersonating the Astral Signature of another astral being the Initiate can remove the actions of themselves or another and forge their astral signature to look like something completely different such as a spirit for example.

Shadowrun Overhaul: New Metamagic: Astral Protrusion

Astral Protrusion:

This metamagic allows an Adept or Mystic Adept to manipulate their astral form and have it leave the physical body. To learn this metamagic the Adept or Mystic Adept must purchase Astral Perception as an Adept Power as a requirement. This Metamagic was developed by the Great Dragon Professor Schwartzkopf’s research team at the Charles University of Prague that has been focusing on a Grand Unifying Theory of Magic for decades and lead to the discovery by MIT&M in 2075 on how Adepts and Mystic Adepts can learn the Power of Astral Projection.

With this metamagic the Initiate can Astrally Protrude for free for the Initiate’s Grade in minutes a day and after that the character has a limit of her Magic Rating in minutes a day before her astral form starts to degrade which can lead to death or psychosis. This time doesn’t recover until the character gets a full 8 hours of rest. The Initiate’s astral form is connected to their physical body by a different colored cords or threads with at least one being silver which represents the character’s awakened gift. This astral thread can be attacked with Astral Combat or by a dual natured strike from the physical realm but since the thread has a natural sense of self preservation it gets a chance to defend itself normally though the character cannot use an interrupt defensive action. The speed of the astral form is limited to 100 meters a Combat Turn.

The Initiate uses their Physical Realm Initiative instead of the normal Astral Realm Initiative typical of a magician astrally projecting as they are so tied to the limitations and capabilities of their physical bodies that it transfers over to their astral bodies.The Adept Power Astral Projection requires this metamagic.

This metamagic also opens up more functionality with other Adept Powers in the Astral Realm.

If the Adept had Improved Strength +2 than that would also augment their Astral Form giving a +2 to their Charisma Rating to find out their Astral Strength. Traceless Walk transfers usefulness to the Astral Realm with the Adept leaving little or no traces of astral passage or trail and being undetectable to some forms of Astral Security by exerting control over her astral presence and the reaction of the astral realm’s mana to her form. Some Improved Senses work in the Astral Realm giving the Adept such as increasing visual acuity or transferring usefulness like heightened sense of smell allowing the Initiate to pick up a “smell or odor” when a particular type of spirit was in the area for example.

The Initiate can learn Astral Martial Art Maneuvers and use them with their astral form.

For example the maneuver Ghost Lightning Strike allows the Adept to take advantage of the blinding speed of her astral form and strike a distant opponent with a close combat attack as long as they are within Magic Rating x 2 Meters. This strike can use Killing Hands or a Weapon Focus and the target must be an astral form or dual natured form to have any effect. This strike uses the Astral Combat Skill.

(This maneuver has the visual appearance of the Lord Marshall from the Chronicles of Riddick movie)


Shadowrun Overhaul: Using the Draconis awards to explain Mystic Adepts in 5e

One of the main differences in 4e and 5e is how Mystic Adepts are more powerful and capable now that they can apply their full Magic rating to both Adept powers and Magician skills. In fourth edition a Mystic Adept was forced to divide their abilities between Adept Powers and Magical Skills like Sorcery. Now in 5e they are able to apply their entire Magic Rating to their Magical Skills and develop with Karma expenditure up to their Magic Rating with Power Points.

As I have previously mentioned I love using the Draco Foundation’s awards as a way to introduce new technologies and magics to the player characters. In this case the Draconis Awards give an opportunity to explain or retconn why things are different now and how to explain why and how converted characters from 4e to 5e would gain their new gifts. It also allows for a new beginning for Awakened characters converting from fourth edition to fifth edition. Enjoy the surprise the when the PC’s archvillain who was just a physical adept suddenly drops a manaball on them.

If you used the year of 2074 as a downtime year for conversion to fifth edition then you can just use the time for any Mystic Adepts to take a class or classes and have lifestyle cover any costs and use the story of going to school to explain increasing academic knowledges or skills. Going to the University is a great excuse to pick up new contacts for your runner during conversion. Adepts and Magicians becoming Mystic Adepts can also use 2074 as a downtime year to change their Awakened Qualities but must pay at least the Karma costs.

If playing before this or during this research being released there are many potential run opportunities because of this research. One might ask why this whole idea necessary at all? Well, the better the background the more stories arise. How much you want to bet an early version of the Mystic Adept Enhanced Theory of Magic would be worth to lets say a megacorp or a magical group? Maybe the Black Lodge had it two years before it was released to the public. That would make them really dangerous and give them recruiting power and maybe their rivals want their secret. Maybe another group or organization tried to kill Schwartzkopf to prevent this from going public. The mystic adepts that have this increased power would have a major advantage if the public lacked it. All sorts of run potential. Maybe there is an even better more refined theory that Schwartzkopf is sitting on to give his Benandanti an edge and Lofwyr wants hit for his drakes and elite operatives.


2074 Draconis Award for Magical Theory and Application:

The Draconis Award for advances in Magical Theory and Application in 2074 goes to Professor Schwartzkopf the Great Dragon and his research team at Charles University of Prague for their work in applying Professor Schwartzkopf’s Grand Unifying Theory of Magic towards unlocking the full abilities of Adepts and Mystic Adepts. A few decades ago the first Mystic Adepts appeared and until recently they were forced to divide their power between two paths but have now fully Awakened to their power. With these techniques and training around 15% of “normal” Adepts have been found to have the talent to become Mystic Adepts and have begun to learn Magical Skills which by itself would’ve been an advance worthy of a Draconis Award. Some 5% of Magicians have also made the transition to becoming Mystic Adepts by learning how to channel their magic inwards but as of yet none have been able to keep their ability to astrally project as tying their magic to their bodies makes it harder it seems to free the astral body from the physical.

We at the Draco Foundation are amazed and happy to support such magnificent research and applications of research into the real Sixth world we all live in. We are also pleased by the fair and extremely low licensing cost that Professor Schwartzkopf allowed so that magical schools, colleges, and universities all over the world could train their teachers and professors in this advancement and return to their homes and spread this incredibly valuable knowledge to all corners of the globe.

Game Mechanics:

Classes at a magical school or university can range in price and length depending on the training involved and powers that need to be learned. A good lifestyle can alleviate all or part of this cost. A personal instructor can also be hired which will speed the process greatly.

Generally a Mystic Adept/4e can go to an university and in 3 months of 12 hours a week learn how to be a Mystic Adept/5e. The price can range from 5,000 nuyen to 50,000 nuyen. No roll is necessary and missed time can be made up later in the quarter as the pace is slow and explained thoroughly by experts who spend some time one on one with each student. Character must have at least a 2 in Arcana to comprehend the basics of what they are learning. The Mystic Adept must pay the 5 Karma cost for each Power Point he learns. GMs who don’t allow Mystic Adepts to purchase Power Points after character creation should allow 4th to 5th edition converting characters to spend karma for Power Points and should consider allowing karmic debt if the newly converted Mystic Adept has no Karma.

For an Adept of either edition to become a Mystic Adept they must spend 50 Karma and take either four quarters of university or have the personal instruction of a Mystic Adept with at least four in instruction and in all Magical Skills. They must get four training periods with an instructor representing one for basics covering assensing, arcana, and heavy introspection with aural manipulations and three for sorcery, conjury, and enchanting. At the end of training they will need to have at minimum an Arcana 3, Assensing 1 (if the have Astral Perception), Sorcery group 1, Conjury group 1, and Enchanting group 1 to represent the rigorous training and education necessary to overcome the Adept’s previous self-taught limitations and bad habits from learning magic from a flawed theory or cobbled together self taught philosophy.

For a Magician of either edition to become a Mystic Adept requires two quarters of schooling and 25 Karma.

Cost of a personal instructor is between 500 nuyen to 2500 nuyen a day (8 hours) depending on area, contacts, skill of the instructor, and negotiation. The teacher must be a Mystic Adept who has gone through the training process either legally or illegally and as such the price is reflected by that.

Arcana + Intuition [Magical Lodge] Test. The time is equal to 28 days divided by number of successes and is the equivalent of a quarter of education at a school or university. If the full 8 hours is not spent for at least five days in a week or if a roll is failed then Karma is not spent but the training must begin again.

Below is the link for training to learn Power Points for Mystic Adepts as Adepts get their Power Points for free whenever they raise their Magic Rating. A Power Point covers whatever Powers learned equal to that Power Point. If spending 1.5 Power Points simply increase time/costs by 50%.

Training to learn Power Points

Shadowrun Overhaul: Karma Rewards

Karma Rewards:

Character Survived: +1

Character was severely injured or knocked unconscious: +1

Character completed a long term goal: +1-3

Group completed a short term goal: +1

Group completed a long term goal or major step towards doing so: +1-3

Run was successful: +1-3

Difficulty or Complexity of Run: +1-3

Quick Run or Mission: -2

Standard Run: 0

Long Run: +2

Good Feelings Run: +1

Cold Hearted Run: -1

Player voted best Roleplaying moment: +1

(Each player votes for another player who made the game more fun with some bit of great roleplaying with ties decided by the GM)


Each player should make a list of three to five personal goals that they would like their character to achieve. For a street level campaign a wannabe street sam might have goals of getting his first cyberspur, getting respect from a bartender at the Seamstresses, and beating his sensei in a hand to hand sparring match. A computer nerd in the same street campaign might have the personal goal of building his own cyberdeck, getting a datajack, and hacking his way into a data haven or warez site. A mechanic might have the goal of getting rigged, owning an Ares Roadmaster, and learning to pilot a thunderbird.  The bigger and harder the goal the better the reward. As gameplay continues and goals are completed the player is encouraged to make up more personal goals though a max of five different goals at a time is fair.

Each team should make a list of one to three short term goals sometime after it is formed. Why is the team together? Are they a Docwagon medic team that wants some new equipment? A small mercenary force that wants to get on Desert Wars? Are they smugglers who want to reach the big time and get a t-bird? Are they a biker gang? Then taking back a bit of turf and more that they lost to another gang would qualify.

One to three long term goals should emerge during gameplay over time. Did they survive the Universal Brotherhood and seek to fight back against the Insect Spirits? If so did they just clean out an hive? Do they want to clean up the Barrens? Defeating a major gang would be a great step towards doing that.

Most of the time long term goals aren’t fully achieved but points should be awarded after success towards the goal.



Shadowrun Overhaul Rules: Karma and Character Advancement

As the rules stand in SR5 there is really very little to prevent characters from all basically looking the same within an archetype after sufficient Karma is received. There is very little incentive to raise skills past 6 as it makes more sense to buy as many specializations in your key skills as possible, raise any attribute, and expand your character’s secondary and tertiary abilities. What’s the point of opening up Skills to 13 if few characters will ever improve past 7 or 8 even after achieving ridiculous amounts of Karma?

From a cognitive science point of view the game seems to think that adding completely new knowledge and skills or improving abyssmal attributes is extremely easy while mastering something is incredibly hard and unlikely. Gaining the fluency in a language equivalent of an year of high school or college in 21 languages is apparently the same as gaining professional fluency in one language which in an university environment would take four or five years. It also punishes the metahuman with greater than normal attributes from being able to achieve the same spot on the bell curve as an human. An Ork with a Body of 6 is the equivalent of an human with a Body of 3 but the human would only spend 20 Karma vs 35 to improve his Body as the rules currently stand despite being in the same statistical situation.

The other problem is that the system really encourages min/maxing which discourages people from actually making the characters they want to make and love or punishes them for doing so.

Also, after character creation for the most part you are assumed to be an adult. Adults improve upon crystallized knowledge extremely well but have difficulty with novelty and learning new things. The min/maxing discourages making a character with a dozen knowledges at 1 representing a normal person’s amount of dabbling but instead rewards characters that have high skill levels in a few knowledges and pick up all the 1 and 2 rating knowledges and skills for that matter in game play.

Also, for example in “real life” improving one’s Charisma from 1 to 2 should be extremely hard as an adult just as reaching your full potential would be for an human to go from 5 to 6 just as it is harder for an adult to learn the basics of a completely new field than it is to slightly refine their ability.

By having Initial and Terminal Karma costs higher it encourages more realistic distribution of Attribute Ratings by players. As it stands it makes more sense from a meta pov to have a character freshly made with a 5 in one attribute and a 1 in another than it is to have 3 in both even though it is much more likely statistically for the latter to be true. It also meshes well with the idea of there being greater cost for Qualities after character creation.

It also encourages characters from really wanting to improve their Knowledges without thinking they are wasting their Karma.

Plus, this system is very simple and doesn’t require the player to look at a table in the book and try and figure out the best thing to do after an adventure.

Game Mechanics:


Initial Rating: Learning a new Skill or Knowledge by getting a 1 Rating in it or spending Karma to improve an Attribute at its minimum for that metahuman type. For example an human improving Edge from 2 to 3 would be improving her Initial Rating in that Attribute and if she learned the basics of Sperethiel and gained a 1 in the Language she would be gaining an Initial Rating and paying the higher Karma Cost.

Terminal Rating: Achieving the pinnacle of ability in a Skill or Knowledge or achieving the maximum possible for your metahuman type in an Attribute. For example an human raising their Edge to 7 would be achieving the greatest amount of luck they can achieve without magic or a Quality and if she raised her Blades skill to 12 she would be the finest swordswoman a normal human would be without being born with a special talent or aptitude in which case her Terminal Rating would be 13.

Karma Cost: The first number is the Initial or Terminal Karma Cost for improving or adding a new Rating. The second is for everything in between.

Attributes: 30/+15

Active Skills: 10/+5

Active Skill Group: 25/+12

Knowledge Skills: 3/+2

Language Skills: 5/+1

New Specializations or Martial Art Style: 7

New Martial Art Manuevers: 5

New Concentrations: (this is a “new” category) 7

New Positive Quality: 2 x Character Creation Karma Cost

Remove Negative Quality: 2 x Character Creation Bonus Karma

New Complex Form: 4

New Initiate Level: 10 + (Grade +3)

Spells, Preparations, Rituals, and new Power Points up to Magic Rating: 5


Shadowrun Overhaul: Fourth to Fifth Edition Conversion House Rule

The conversion rules from taking characters from fourth to fifth dealing with skills bothered me because they weren’t nuanced at all. Basically they make no allowance for character experience or NPC experience and just didn’t make any sense to me. There should be a big difference in a converted Street thug compared to a converted Red Samurai or Wildcat when it comes to how high their skills are even if a street thug managed to have a 6 in a skill.

The conversion rules PDF can be found at

My house rule takes into account the various range of character potency. First I will start with NPC conversion:

Professional Rating 0: no change in skills or knowledges.
Professional Rating 1: One skill or knowledge raised by 1 pt.
Professional Rating 2: One skill or knowledge raised by 2 pts and one skill or knowledge raised by 1 pts.
Professional rating 3: One skill or knowledge raised by 3, one by 2, and two raised by 1.
Professional rating 4: One skill or knowledge raised by 4, one by 3, two by 2, three by 1.
Professional rating: 5: One skill or knowledge raised by 5, one by 4, two by 3, three by 2, and four by 1.
Professional rating 6: one skill or knowledge raised by 6, one by 5, two by 4, three by 3, four by 2, and five by 1.

A lieutenant could be converted as one Professional rating higher or given an extra quality, item, additional spells or a +1 to a skill.

A superhuman NPC such as an immortal elf could use the official conversion rules or a doubling of bonuses such as two skills raised by six, two by 5 and so on.

As you can see this gives you some freedom to decide just how diversified a professional with 6 rating in four skills can be rather than just having 12 in four skills she would have a 12, an 11, and two tens or maybe one of the five rating skills could get a boost retailoring the NPC a little bit. This makes having a 12 mean something and that 12 is the NPC’s top priority.

Skill groups should be split by this into their component skills to avoid skill group conversion issues.

For PC’s the GM could decide to simply pick one of the professional ratings above for all the PC’s to use or could use a system based on total karma gained since PC creation to place the PC’s into one of the above categories.

Rating 0: no karma gained yet. Might as well just make a new fifth edition PC.
Rating 1: under 50. Again for most PC’s just add the karma to the total in finishing touches and make new fifth edition PC.
Rating 2: 51-100.
Rating 3: 101-200 .
Rating 4: 201- 300.
Rating 5: .301- 400.
Rating 6 401+.

For my collection of house rules please visit: Shadowrun Overhaul House Rules