Thursday, February 3, 2011


I’m not sure if I was clear before with regard to chargen in Shadowrun, but I LIKE the old priority system. No, it is NOT as quick and easy as B/X (or even my space opera game), but it is very easy to master as evidenced by the 100 archetypes I was able to scratch up using the 3rd edition rules.

[and for those wondering about the difference between “Borgs” and standard chromed up “Street Samurai,” the former is my term for characters that make extensive use of cyberlimb and skull replacement with extra armor and whatnot…essentially becoming mechanical monsters; see Man & Machine for these kinds of goodies]

Now I’ve never used the 4th edition version of Shadowrun, but my understanding is Catalyst did away with the old priority system in favor of an overall point-buy package (a la GURPS or Champions). This is the kind of thing I stay as far away from as possible, so I’m sure the Catalyst folks will regard me as yet another silly grognard in this respect “clinging to my obsolete editions.”

Whatever, chummers.

In considering a little project we’ll call “B/X Fantasy-Punk,” I find that the old SR priority system is the kind of foundation on which I’D want to build a chargen system. Why? Well:

- The fantasy-punk setting isn’t particularly conducive to a “class-based” system; mixing magic and techware and big guns seems to work best (i.e. “with maximum flavor”) when there’s a LOT of over-lap. Part of being “punk” is NOT being “pigeon-holed;” it is antithetical to the rebel attitude to force characters to conform to particular classifications.

- I’m not interested in creating a “universal system” so why would I ever want to go through the trouble of creating a point-buy, universal tally sheet. I mean, isn’t there already a GURPS Cyberpunk? Doesn’t HERO System have supplements that would work for this kind of thing? Not sure why Catalyst decided to go that route.

- Without a class-based system or a point-buy system the usual method of character creation would be to create some sort of “skill-based” system…a hybrid system like Basic Role-Playing or a “prioritized point-buy” like White Wolf. I detest “skill systems” for a variety of reasons, and want to keep chargen FAST, so skill choice (if any) will be extremely limited by necessity.

Oh, yeah, there are other ways to do character generation, of course…something like Risus or Fudge or whatnot. But in some ways, “conceptualizing one’s character” can be just as drawn out and/or tricky as fiddling points to their maximum potential…and if any game setting is screaming to be based on an “old school wargame” design foundation, it’s one where characters are fantasy black-ops teams invading mega-corporation bases. Know what I mean?

SO…back to priorities.

Yesterday, I spent quite a bit of time figuring out how to properly juggle the priorities to get the same “flavor” as old edition Shadowrun, while maintaining B/X-style integrity. The good news? I got it done. The bad news? I was working on B/X Fantasy-Punk instead of my space opera game.

Ugh, ugh, ugh…actually, the fantasy-punk setting is even EASIER to do in a B/X style than the space opera thang. Let’s face it: we’re talking “site based adventure,” folks…break into the ginormous corp headquarters, snatch the objective, get out and get paid. The monster section is small. Treasure is taken up with future-gear (chromeware and such). Magic is easy (though non-Vancian…sorry). Combat is pretty much the same as B/X. Inter-web infiltration is abstract and easy (ICE patrols are little different from wandering monsters). Advancement is still accomplished through killing things and collecting loot.

The only real question is: can the basic rules fit into 64 pages?

And THAT's a tough question. In an age of “boxed” games, one might be tempted to create a couple booklets…say one with rules and one with the cyber- and spell stuff. Or a GM and Player’s guide. Even the original Little Brown Books of OD&D came in a 3-pack (and B/X is a two-book set…three counting my B/X Companion).

But how would such a thing be packaged in today’s market? I already have people screaming at me to provide the B/X Companion in an electronic format for ease of use on the old IPad. And wouldn’t a double-book set require twice the illustrations?

Ugh…priorities indeed! Finish one game or start another? Paper or electronic? 64 pages or 96 divided into two (or three!) booklets?

For that matter, does one need three types of machine gun? Should I be including a micro-gun instead of a mini-gun?

Ah, well…I suppose these are all ridiculous hypotheticals…guess it’s a Thursday morning. Maybe instead of reading my worries and misgivings, folks would rather hear about my priority system for B/X Fantasy-Punk? Right now it looks like this:

Prioritize A through E for the following categories:
  • Abilities
  • Race
  • Magic
  • Skills (!!)
  • Resources

A – Add 3 to all ability scores (maximum 18)
B – Add 2 to all ability scores (max 18)
C – Add 1 to all ability scores (max 18)
D – NO adjustment
E – Subtract 2 from all ability scores (minimum 3)

A – Any
B – Any
C – Elf or Troll
D – Dwarf or Ork
E – Norm only

A – Full Magi
B – Partially Active
C – Mundane
D – Mundane
E – Mundane

A – 4 points of skills
B – 3 points of skills
C – 2 points of skills
D – 1 point of skill
E – 0 skill points

Resources (in World Credits)
A – 1,000,000cr
B – 400,000cr
C – 90,000cr
D –20,000cr
E – 5,000cr

[The resources may well end up being adjusted based on prices of gear and hardware…I haven’t created the equipment list yet, so those numbers are just place-holders]

: )


  1. The point-buy system came in towards the end of the second edition, with the Shadowrun Companion, as I recall. The same book also introduced a bunch of alternate metahuman races like cyclops, satyr and -- eurgh -- dark elf.

    The points system is useful if you want to use the Shadowrun rules for a different game, as I have, as it offers easy flexibility, but yes, it is one of the unique aspects of the game.

  2. IMO, Fourth Edition was the first one where the SYSTEM of the game started to kick ass. Prior to that, the best thing about SR was the chargen and the priorities system (although they are way better in third edition than they were in first)

  3. @ Kelvin: I considered picking up the SR Companion the other day, but you know what? Edges and Flaws never helped my old Vampire (or Aberrant) games. This particular type of source book is the one I'll leave on the shelf.

    You actually use the SR system for other games? Wow.

    @ Dyson: I heartily agree that 3rd edition chargen is head and shoulders above 1st. However, 1st was a much more complete game...and the source books it had (the Grimoire, the Samurai Catalogue) actually helped fill it out. Meanwhile the 3rd edition sourcebooks contain a lot of extraneous doodads I don't need, having incorporated the earlier sourcebooks into the core book (at the expense of other critters and contacts!).

    Cybermancy and Cyberzombies are, of course, the exception. Thank you Man & Machine!
    ; )