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Making our favorite games even better
Eliminate the Active Skill Astral Combat.
From a game mechanic min/maxing meta point of view the only character likely to purchase Astral Combat at an high level would be an Adept wanting to fight non-materialized spirits. Even in that case a smart spirit would take advantage of the astral environment to stay out of range of a dual natured enemy limited to just close combat. The adept would be a 2d character fighting a 3d enemy.
A magician would be better off using any Karma spent on Astral Combat on specialized spells that target astral beings from an effectiveness and efficiency perspective.
If Mystic Adepts could Astrally Project and you were making an astral combat warrior than there might be some usefulness to the skill as the mystic adept could combine ranged and close combat in the astral then but since they can’t without a house rule even that option falls flat. Otherwise the 42 Karma spent to make a solid professional Astral Combat skill could be spent on 8 spells or raising your Magic rating or Spellcasting and the character would see a much larger return on their investment.
So, why have the skill if it is just a point sink, not very effective compared to Spellcasting or Banishing, and is very rarely used even in magic heavy campaigns? You get the occasional character getting a 1 in it just for emergencies. Even then with a 1 you’re not likely to be effective in astral combat so you might as well use that Karma somewhere that provides consistent benefit in as many arenas as possible.
In the end a magically talented character is more powerful and more versatile in the Astral Realm by NOT learning Astral Combat. This kind of defeats the purpose.
An astrally projecting Mage with a weapon focus can just use her Weapon Skill or use her Unarmed Skill when attacking with her astral body just as if she was attacking an astral form with her meat body. Absolutely no need for the skill. If a PC has sunk points into the Skill give her one or both Qualities below or add the karma cost to a close combat skill. The character can even use appropriate Martial Arts Techniques against Astral opponents. Rumors of a Martial Art devoted to Astral Combat have surfaced in Hong Kong involving a variant of Wu Shu which takes advantage of the possibilities in the astral realm and uses maneuvers that would only be possible while in astral form.
A sapient creature native to the Gaiasphere may attack a materialized Spirit and substitute Charisma for Strength during a melee attack for damage purposes and bypass the Spirit’s Immunity to Normal Weapons. The creature may also be able to defend against a materialized spirit by using the Steeling the Will Interrupt Action. These actions should be powered by the story and fueled by powerful emotion and not something that a typical being would be able to tap into at will or very often. Hate, Fear, Rage or even Love of another could empower even the most physically feeble of defenders to harm the mightiest of spirits. This also brings some hope for a team should the mage get geeked as spirits are pretty much unstoppable by mundanes in many situations. I could imagine a water elemental drowning a Face and getting a little surprise. A PC can tap into this rage or will by spending a point of Edge and taking the appropriate Interrupt Action if there isn’t adequate story reasons or if they don’t have the necessary Qualities.
Positive Quality: 10 Karma (Can be learned after character creation without doubling Karma cost with an Instructor who has this Quality and takes a month of intensive training)
This Quality was originally codified by charismatic welterweight boxing champion Lee Ray McDaniel after an event in 2018 when a shadow boogeyman spirit tormenting his daughter caused her to scream in terror waking him up and he rushed into her room and lashed out with all his fear and rage into the materialized spirit with a single right hook that ‘knocked it out’ in one hit.
Decades later a squad of Red Samurai honored an elderly Lee Ray upon his induction to the Boxing and MMA Hall of Fame with a masterwork Daisho crafted by the Imperial Swordsmith saying that the reason they were able to survive the Manila Bug swarm of ’58 and save thousands of lives was because of his techniques that he freely taught to respectful members at his dad’s gym in between fights during his entire career.
A spirit brawler can in melee combat add his Charisma to his Strength to increase the DV of his attack against a spirit in the physical world or any astral being that is Materialized. The attack also counteracts the power Immunity to Normal Weapons for materialized astral forms. A dual natured spirit brawler can do the same against astral targets when in close combat.
Against an astral target a projecting spirit brawler still knows the right way to channel their rage and strike an astral form in close combat to do the most damage and thus have their DV and appropriate Limit/Accuracy raised by 1 when in astral melee combat.
A spirit brawler is experienced with combat with spirits and has improved defenses to prove it. Their limit is increased by 1 when actively defending against any attack by an astral form or a materialized spirit.
Steeling the Will:
Positive Quality: 5 Karma (Can be learned after character creation without doubling Karma cost with an Instructor who has this Quality and takes a month to learn)
A newly commonly available ability by many soldiers in special or elite forces that deal with dangerous spirits on a regular basis. This Quality allows the use of a new Interrupt Action “Steeling the Will” at will. Developed separately by the Sioux and by the Wuxing Megacorporation in the sixties it has since been made available to be trained in by most of the world’s armed forces.
A trained and prepared defender with the Quality of the same name can at will take a brief moment to focus their minds and gain additional “Armor” equal to their Willpower for the rest of the Combat Turn when resisting physical attacks or damage from a physical medium that are caused by Materialized Spirits. This Interrupt Action can be spontaneously used by the untrained who are mentally very disciplined through meditation or introspection or it can be the product of a cold rage such as could be felt by a parent defending a child from a malicious spirit.
As an alternative to the Priority Table path to character creation I decided to try my hand at using Build Points as previous editions have done. In order to help the character creation process I also made Archetypes which use half the BP’s for a standard character to provide a template and aid for character building. This system is compatible with my Shadowrun Overhaul Rules on Karma and Character Advancement House Rules and the standard ruleset. With this system Magicians, Mystic Adepts, and Technomancers will be weaker, Aspected Magicians will be much stronger, and characters that rely on nuyen will be a little bit better off.
Street: These are the young, the disadvantaged, the has beens, the almost was, and the burnouts.
125 BP +13 Karma
Limit on Resources to 10 BP or 75,000 nuyen. Skill limit at 6 for 1 Skill or Skill Group, 5 for a second Skill or Skill Group and the rest at 4 or less. Knowledges and Languages limit at 6, Attributes have One Terminal Rating and One (Terminal Rating -1) and the rest at +3 added to the minimum Attribute Rating for their metatype or less (Humans for all Attributes except Edge would be at a 4 or less). Availability at 10.
Standard: The young geniuses, the competent professionals, and the cream of the crop amongst the disadvantaged.
150 BP +25 Karma
Limit on Resources to 35 BP or 450,000 nuyen. Skill limit at 8 for 1 Skill or Skill Group, 7 for a second Skill or Skill Group and the rest at 6 or less. Knowledges and Languages limit at 8. Attributes have One Terminal Rating and the rest at +4 added to the minimum Attribute Rating for their metatype or less (Humans for all Attributes except Edge would be at a 5 or less). Availability at 12.
Prime Runner: The experienced geniuses, the exceptional professionals, and the best of the best amongst the disadvantaged.
175 BP +35 Karma
Limit on Resources to 45 BP or 600,000 nuyen. Skill limit at 10 for 1 Skill or Skill Group, 9 for a second Skill or Skill Group and the rest at 8 or less. Knowledges and Languages limit at 10. Attributes have One Terminal Rating and the rest at +4 added to the minimum Attribute Rating for their metatype or less (Humans for all Attributes except Edge would be at a 5 or less). Availability at 14.
High Life: The very best of the best. World class shadowrunners, mercenaries, hackers, and magicians. For those who seek the limelight their names are known to almost all in their fields of expertise.
200 BP +50 Karma
Limit on Resources to 65 BP or 1.1 million nuyen. Attributes have just Metatype limits. Standard Skill, Knowledge, and Language limit at 12. No Availability limit.
Karma Conversion: 1 BP is roughly 5 Karma give or take a few.
Attributes and Special Attributes: 3 BP’s per +1 Rating.
Alternative rule: 6 BP for +1 if it is a terminal rating for the PC’s metatype such as a 6 in Logic for an human. (Don’t forget everyone starts out with their “free” minimum attributes.)
Skills: 1 BP per +1 Rating.
Alternative rule: 2 BP per +1 Rating for terminal rating based on character creation limit of the campaign.
Skill Groups: 2 BP’s per +1 Rating. (I prefer to encourage characters to use Skill Groups by providing a discount but if you don’t agree you can change it to 2.5 BP’s per +1 Rating)
Alternative rule: 4 or 5 BP per +1 Rating for terminal rating based on character creation limit for campaign.
Specializations (and Concentrations for Overhaul rules): 1 BP per new specialization or concentration.
Knowledges: 1 BP per 3 Ratings. 2(Intuition + Logic) for free. (Overhaul rules gives 10 free Knowledge points to be spent only on Interests)
Languages: 1 BP per 5 Ratings. (I like to encourage Language taking at character creation for realistic reasons because it is much harder to learn languages as an adult then it is to learn them as a child. Plus, most games seem to assume someone who knows lots of languages is rare probably because of the bias of americans. It isn’t uncommon in Europe to see well educated people able to minimally comprehend four or five languages and speak well two or three others.)
Spells, Preparations, Rituals, Power Points, and Complex Forms: 1 BP each.
Contacts: 5 Points to spend on Connection and Loyalty per 1 BP.
Registered Sprites/Bound Spirits: 5 Tasks or Service per 1 BP.
Technomancer: 15 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Resonance. (Some GM’s may increase to 20 BP but TM’s have been blunted in many other ways and don’t need to be artificially expensive as they are on the Priority Table.)
Mystic Adept: 20 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic. Mystic Adepts must purchase Power Points to unlock Adept Powers.
Magician: 15 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic.
Aspected Magician: 10 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic, an Active Skill Group equal to their final Magic Rating, and as many Spells, Preparations, Rituals, or Bound Spirits (each with 5 services; # of spirits is limited by Charisma) equal to their final Magic Rating. (In my opinion the Priority Table as setup in 5e really discourages anyone from picking Aspected Magician as a trait and I think having the extras added on makes it a viable choice. Also, by leaving Magician without any extras it allows for a full magician character who is as new or untrained in magic as a minor talent but has greater potential which can be a lot of fun depending on the style of the campaign.)
Adept: 10 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic with an Active Skill equal to her final Magic Rating, and automatic gaining of Power Points equal to Magic at character creation and whenever their Magic Rating increases.
Minor Talent: 5 BP’s and includes a 1 Rating in Magic. At character creation the PC can only have 1 Magical Skill and 1 Spell, Preparation, Ritual, Bound Spirit or Power Point. After character creation the minor talent can learn new abilities by purchasing Power Points if an Adept up to their Magic Rating and once that is done they are a full Adept and automatically gain Power Points when they increase their Magic Rating. If a potential Aspected Magician then they can learn other Skills in their Skill Group and new Spells, Preparations, or Rituals by spending Karma as normal. This is a good special trait to have in a Street level campaign and it can be quite fun to watch the nascent Awakened grow into their full power. (An example of a common Minor Talent would be someone who can Astrally Perceive. Buy 1 Power Point for the Astral Perception Adept Power and buy a Rating in Assensing and voila!)
Nuyen: (A PC who wanted 80,000 nuyen would pay 11 BP’s) an alternative system is to simply have 1 BP = 10,000 nuyen.
1 BP = +5,000 nuyen
5 BP = +30,000 nuyen
10 BP = +75,000 nuyen
15 BP = +140,000 nuyen
25 BP = +275,000 nuyen
35 BP = +450,000 nuyen
45 BP = +600,000 nuyen
55 BP = + 800,000 nuyen
65 BP = +1,100,000 nuyen
Each Archetype includes an example of a standard character brought to step 5 and thus still have Karma to spend.
Standard PC: 150 BP
(35 BP) +450,000 nuyen in gear and cyberware
(69 BP) B: 8 A: 6 R: 5 S: 6 W: 4 L: 2 I: 3 C: 2 E: 1
(32 BP) Close Combat Group 6, Firearms Group 6, Pilot (Ground) 1, Sneaking 2, Perception 2, Intimidation 2, and First Aid 1.
(1 BP) Knowledges (10): Law Enforcement 3, Safehouses 2, Small Unit Tactics 3, Triads 1, Yakuza 3, and Seattle Gangs 1.
Interests (10 free): Great Restaurants 4, Poetry 2, Matrix Fantasy MMO’s 2, and Akira Kurosawa movies 2.
(2 BP) Languages: English N, Or’zet 5, Japanese 4, Aztlaner Spanish 1
Standard PC: 150 BP
(15 BP) 140,000 nuyen in gear.
(7 BP) Elf
(10 BP) Adept
( 75 BP) B: 3 A: 4 R: 3 S: 3 W: 4 L: 3 I: 3 C: 7 E: 1 M:5
( 39 BP) Acting skill group 3, Influence Skill Group 6 (Negotiation 8*), Close Combat Skill Group 4, Stealth Skill Group 2, Pistols 5, First Aid 1, Perception 5, and Pilot (Ground) 1.
(0 BP) Knowledges(12): Business 4, Neuro-Linguistic Programming 2, Psychology 2, Bartering 1, and Nonviolent Communication 3.
(4 BP) English N, Cantonese 5, Mandarin 5, Japanese 4, Sperethiel 4, Aztlaner Spanish 2.
(0 BP) Interests(10 free): Designer Clothes 4, Elven Wine 3, and SF trids 3.
(0 BP) Voice Control 4 levels (2), Kinesics 2 (.5), Improved Reflexes 1 (1.5), Improved Negotiation* 2 (1).
Standard PC: 150 BP
(10 BP) 75,000 nuyen in gear.
(16 BP) Troll
(10) Aspected Magician: Sorceror (includes a 1 Rating in Magic, an Active Skill equal to their final Magic Rating, and 6 spells or rituals.)
( 75 BP) B: 6 A: 4 R: 4 S: 6 W: 4 L:5 I:3 C:2 E: 2 M:6
( 27 BP) Sorcery Skill Group 6* (free), Close Combat Skill Group 4, Perception 4, Assensing 4, Arcana 4, Sneaking 3, Pilot (Ground) 1, and First Aid 3.
(2 BP) Knowledges (16 free): Critters 3, Magic Theory 4, Small Unit Tactics 4, Military Procedures 3, Russion Vory 3, Triads 2, Yakuza 1, and Street Gangs 2.
(4 BP) Languages: English N, Aztlaner Spanish 4, Latin 4, Greek 3, Hebrew 3, Sperethiel 2, Or’zet 2, and German 2. (He likes to read Arcane Texts in their original languages)
(0 BP) Interests (10 free): Action Trids 3, Urban Brawl 3, Fantasy Matrix Games 2, Ancient Languages 2.
(6 BP) (6 free) Spells and Rituals: Heal, Stun Bolt, Combat Sense, Ball Lightning, Flamethrower, Increase Reflexes, Armor, Detect Enemies Extended, and Invisibility. Ward, Circle of Healing, and Remote Sensing.
I went through and attempted to balance out the skills list in fifth edition Shadowrun which are a mess. At least they took Herding and Lockpicking out as you can see by looking at the Errata for page 90. So, I consolidated a lot of the weak Skills or pushed them into Knowledges were many of them belonged anyway. The other major change is the introduction of Concentrations. Many of the Skills should be grouped together for someone who is really good at one thing is very likely to be good at the other. A master gymnast is likely to be an excellent swimmer if she was properly trained and it wouldn’t take nearly as long for her to be trained as it would someone starting athletics from scratch. This system uses my Character Advancement rules. With the consolidation of so many skills into a single skill there are no longer Skill Groups in this system. There are two additional Knowledge categories: Wilderness and Science & Technology. Wilderness works much like Street but deals with life outside of the urban environment. Science & Technology represents practical, theoretical, and applied knowledge within the sciences and technology fields.
Concentrations: Each Skill has three or more concentrations listed with it. With purchase of the skill comes one Concentration for free and each additional Concentration must be purchased in order to access that part of the skill.
Defaulting: The penalty for defaulting when having the Skill but not the needed Concentration is -5. Without the Skill it defaults to Attribute -3 though certain ubiquitous and simple abilities may get a -1.
Character Creation: Skills Priority Table: A: 40 skill points/ 20 Concentration or Specialization points, B: 30/15, C: 25/10, D: 20/10, E: 15/10. Max Skill or Knowledge Rating during Character Creation: 10.
Knowledges keep the free 2(Int + Log) points as in the base rules but in addition to that everyone gets 10 free points they can spend only on Knowledges in the Interests Category.
Character Skill Group Conversion: Any character with a Skill Group can be converted to a Skill with +2 extra Concentrations. So, an Athletics Skill Group of 4 would become an Athletics of 4 with three Concentrations.
Performance: Singing, Per Instrument, Dancing, Comedy, Dramatic Acting, Official Presentations, and more disciplines that involve captivating an audience by using your body or mind and its actions as the medium while Artisan deals with influencing an audience via a created work of art.
Artisan: Cooking, Sculpting, Drawing, Painting, Calligraphy, Runic Inscriptions, Metalwork, Jewelry, Carpentry, Scrimshaw, Glasswork, Ceramics, Matrix Graphic Design, Fashion Design, and other disciplines involving creating an objet d’art as the medium.
Gunnery: Artillery, Ballistic, Energy, Guided Missile, and Rocket.
Piloting: Deep space, Launch craft, Semi-ballistic, suborbital, Fixed Wing, Lighter than air, Rotary wing, Tiltwing, Vectored thrust, Walker, Exotic Vehicle, Bike, Hovercraft, Tracked, Wheeled, Modern Watercraft, Archaic Watercraft, Submarine, and Remote Operation. *A Rigger would need Remote Operation and Bike Concentrations to rig a bike from a distance.
B/R Hardware: Deep space, Launch craft, Semi-ballistic, suborbital, Fixed Wing, Lighter than air, Rotary wing, Tiltwing, Vectored thrust, Walker, Exotic Vehicle, Bike, Hovercraft, Tracked, Wheeled, Modern Watercraft, Archaic Watercraft, Submarine, Bioware Repair, Vat Repair, Commlinks, Smartguns, Cyberdecks, Matrix Host Servers, Robotics, Hydraulics, Structural Engineering, Electrical Power Systems, Bodyware, Cyberlimbs, Headware, Armor, Artillery, Explosives, Firearms, Melee Weapons, Heavy Weapons, Weapon Accessories, Biodrones, Nanomanufacturing Devices, Genetank Repair, Nanoware, Rigging equipment, Exotic Weapons, and Exotic Hardware.
Programming: Software, Computing, Cybercombat, Complex Forms, Compiling, and Decompiling.
Cracking: Encryption, Electronic Warfare, Registering, and Hacking.
Close Combat: Blades, Clubs, Throwing, Cyber, Exotic Melee Weapon, and Unarmed. “X” Martial Art may be taken as a Specialization.
Ranged Combat: Archery, Cyber, Pistols, Longarms, Automatics, Heavy Weapons, and Exotic Ranged Weapon.
Athletics: Free fall, Diving, Gymnastics, Running, and Swimming.
Grifting: Forgery, Con, Escape Artist, Gambling, and Palming.
Awareness: Assensing, Matrix Perception, Social, Bodyguarding, and Combat.
Infiltration: Impersonation, Locksmith, Disguise, and Sneaking.
Influence: Etiquette, Instruction, Intimidation, and Leadership.
Sorcery: Spellcasting, Ritual Sorcery, and Counterspelling.
Conjuration: Summoning, Binding, and Banishing.
Enchanting: Artificing, Alchemy, and Disenchanting.
Arcana: Astral Combat, Spell/Ritual Design, Spirit Formula Design, and Preparation/Focus Design.
Examples of Knowledges in each Knowledge Category.
Wilderness Knowledge Category: “Area” Survival, “Area” Navigation, Hunting, Gathering, Archaic Farming, Tracking, Trapping, Curing, Butchering, Fishing, Herding, Riding, Camping, Gardening, Outdoors Cooking, Leather working, Animal Handling, “Exotic” Animal Handling, Talislegging, Tribal Culture, and Herbalism.
Area: Desert, Forest, Ocean, Jungle, Freshwater, Urban Barrens, Polar, and Plains. “Exotic” could be a difficult to handle and rare non-awakened Beast or a paranormal animal of some sort. Each paranormal animal requires a different Knowledge unless it is very closely related.
Science & Technology: Computers, Software Design, Graphic Design, Host Design, Grid Design, Demolitions, Matrix Design, Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Design, Neuroscience, Physics, Biology, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Botany, Bioinformatics, Bioware Design, Cyberware Design, Weapon Design, Medicine, Surgery, Prosthetics, Nanotechnology, First Aid, Robotic Design, “Specific type” Vehicle Design (See Piloting Concentrations), Manufacturing, Engineering Principles, Maglock Design, Spider Security Techniques, Matrix Defenses, Counter-Infiltration Security Technology, Grid Design, Host Design, Cyberdeck Design, Commlink Security, Vat Farming, Rigging Technology, Spider Technology, Remote Operation Technology, Skillwire Design, Hardware cannibalizing, Drone design, Food Science, Nano forge facilities, Genetech, Desktop Nanoforges, Nanofaxes, Nanoneurology, Nanoware Design, Bioware Culturing, and 3D Home Printing.
Academic: Criminology, Literature, Geomasonic Landscaping, History, Corporate Politics, Magic Groups, Magic Theory, Philosophy, Government Politics, Music Theory, Parabotany, Parazoology, Corporate Security, Economics, Black Markets, Gray Markets, Free Markets, Astral Topology, Shadowrunning Theory, “Area/City” Knowledge, Magic Threats, Dragons, Neo-Anarchic Philosophy and Practices, X corporation, and Architecture.
Street: Organized Crime, Magic Groups, Corporate Politics, Gang Identification, Smuggling, Vices, Urban Navigation, Urban Survival, Thrift stores, Fences, Corporate Security, Smugglers, Black Market Pipelines, Urban Critters, Runner Hangouts, Mr. Johnsons, Fixers, Riggers, Counter-Infiltration Security Techniques, Grifting history, Grifting lingo, “Area/City” Knowledge, Dragons, Law Enforcement Tactics, Street Gang Politics, Street Drug Dealers, Street Clinics, BTL dealers, Deckers, Local Technomancers, Neo-Anarchists, Cracked Software Dealers, Small Unit Tactics, Law Enforcement, Safe houses, Infiltration techniques, Building Layouts, Corporate Security Systems, Magical Community (City/Area), Police Procedures, Sprawl Life, Critters, Gang X, Area Squats, Area Black Markets, Gang culture, Local chop shops, Backstreets, Area waterways, Street drugs, and BTL chips.
Professional: Journalist, Professor, Lawyer, Doctor, Security, Military Professional, Mercenary, Business, “Nation/City X” Area Knowledge, “Nation X” Military Regulations, Matrix Security Measures, Spider Security Techniques, Military Strategy, Small Unit Tactics, “Nation X” Best Business Practices, “Nation X” Business Regulations, “Nation X” Laws and Legalities, Bioware Implantation, Cybernetic Implantation, Medical Procedures, Law Enforcement, Corporate Security Systems, Magical Community (City/Area), Magical Forensics, Detective Techniques, Police Procedures, Business, Weapon manufacturers, Cosmetic Surgery, Trauma Surgery, Implant Surgery, Gene Therapy, Border Security and Forensic Accounting.
Interests: Current Simsense Movies, Matrix Surfing, Something Terrible Forums, Victorian clothing, Quilting, Popular Trids, 20th century trivia, Poetry, Great Restaurants, Elven Wine, Troll Grog, Dwarven Mead, Urban Brawl, Microbrewing, Baking, Cooking, Stand up comedians, yoga, taxidermy, Graffiti, Combat Biking, Pop Music, Orxploitation Films, Martial Arts, Martial Art Movies, Extreme Sports, Sprawl dive bars, Floral Arrangements, Parkour, skiing, ice skating, rollerskating, Eating competitions, Opera, Broadway Plays, Horizon’s latest new thing, juggling, drinking competitions, homebrewing, Religion X, Sports, High Fashion, Detective novels, Egyptian Ceramics, SF movies, X Music, AR LARPing, dogs, cats, Matrix Games, Vintage X collecting, Nutrisoy “cooking”, and Jet Black conspiracy theories.
Languages: English, Japanese, German, Sperethiel, Salish, Or’zet, Swahili, Lakota, Mandarin, Russian, French, Italian, Aztlaner Spanish, Traditional Spanish, Dakota, and Dine (Navajo).