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Shadowrun Overhaul: Astral Combat House Rule and two new Qualities


Astral Combat:

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.

Instead…

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.

Spirit Brawler:

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.

Interrupt Action

(-5 Initiative)

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.

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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:

Definitions:

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