July 16, 2013
A Look At The Crunch Of Shadowrun, Fifth Edition
It is here at last; Shadowrun, Fifth Edition has finally been released, at least in digital form. Even so, in the few days I have had to read over it, I must admit that I am very impressed with the changes made to the system. As I have already reviewed Shadowrun, Fourth Edition, I will not go into all the specifics on how the mechanics work, as most of that has remained unchanged. Instead, I will be focusing on what has changed between the editions.
For the core rules, by which I mean general character abilities as well as combat; those things that all characters have in common despite any specializations, there have been a few changes. Building characters has gone back to the Priority system of older editions, meaning that you select which aspects are important to your character in a descending order of Attributes, Skills, your Metatype (race), Magic/Resonance, and Resources, replacing the build-point system of Fourth Edition. Skills are no longer naturally maxed at six, but now can go all the way up to twelve ranks. Rules for learning times for new skills as well as improving your attributes and already existing skills have been streamlined a great deal, something I am grateful for, and characters are left with lots of room to grow rather than starting off as some of the best in their respective fields. Some players might find this a harsh blow, but I personally am a fan of character growth, so I like it.
In terms of combat, damage and armor have both scaled up while your relative life hasn’t. This means that combat is much deadlier than before, meaning that characters will have to fight smart or risk ending up devil-rat food. The rules for recoil when using firearms have also changed a great deal. Basically, recoil penalties stack. This means that characters cannot just stand still and fire a fully automatic weapon without penalties until their clips run dry. Eventually, they will have to steady their weapon. It is a bit complicated, but through additional play I feel that the rule will eventually become second nature to most gun-specialists out there.
In terms of the Matrix and hacking, this is where the most change has happened. I will not go into a lot of detail here, but suffice it to say that the Matrix has gotten both smarter and meaner, and all Deckers (that’s right, Deckers are back) will come to fear the Government Over-watch Division which monitors all illegal activity on the Matrix and issues a swift kick to any who abuse the system too much. Technomancers, those who control the Matrix with their mind rather than via a deck, have also gotten a major overhaul, making their powers (Complex Forms) work much more like magical spells, which makes learning them a great deal easier for those familiar with mojo-slingers.
Speaking of magic, the Awakened World has become a lot more diverse. In addition to the basics of spellcasting and summoning, now people can learn various arts of enchanting and alchemy, which both existed in Fourth Edition, they have have had a lot more attention. Ritual spellcasting has also grown significantly in Fifth Edition, becoming something much more than just a group of people performing a super version of a basic spell. I loved magic back in Fourth Edition and I am absolutely ecstatic with the changes made to it in Fifth, even if the Drain of spells is a little harder to just shake off.
Overall, I am very happy with Shadowrun, Fifth Edition. If you ever find yourself given the chance to try it out, I would highly recommend it. Welcome back to the shadows, chummer. Here’s hoping you survive the experience.