Tag Archives: Information

Shadowrunning 101 – Tips and Tricks

A question was asked.  What are some good (maybe lesser known) Shadowrun 5e tips and tricks.  I thought about it, and only had a few answers immediately ready.  Now, that I have a chance to sit and think about the question, I figure I will take down the answers here.

I’ve already written a few write-ups that you can find on this site about different ways you can use Reagents and some methods to speed up the Matrix.

These are going to be other tips and tricks that I’ve either discovered on my own or learned from others.

Stat Blocks – Some make the mistake of trying to stat up their NPCs.  Instead of wasting time coming up with stat blocks for NPCs that may not even survive, just grab some dice.  If you figure that the “average” human is going to have attributes of 3s, and skills in the 3 range as well, that means “average” dice pools of 6.  Well, your Average nobody will probably have a specialization or augmented bonus of some sort, so grab 8 dice instead.  8 dice is good for low-life grunts who aren’t there really to pose a significant threat, but to merely delay your PCs, or be a nuisance.  If you want your NPCs to pose a significant threat, grab 12 dice instead.  12 dice is enough to score 4 hits on average, or to buy 3 hits.  If several gangers with 12 dice shoot at someone, they are likely to hit.  Serious threats, on the other hand, warrant 16 dice.  This allows for 4 purchased hits, or 5 if you roll average.  NPCs might cause some actual damage with this amount of dice.

Now, with everything, you need to know your players, and your PCs.  If they are all of the optimized variety, you can add 2-4 dice to the numbers I’ve listed above.

For Major NPCs, if they survive, you can stat them later.  No one is really going to notice if they were firing with 16 dice in one encounter, and later (after you’ve had a chance to think about some of their gear and augmentations) they suddenly have 19 dice.  But even if you give them a stat block later, keep it short.  Attack, defense, armor values maybe.  A few key skills that will matter; Negotiations, Con, Small Unit Tactics, Composure, Judge Intentions.

This works outside of combat as well.  Street chase between PCs and a group of semi-skilled gangers, 8 dice should work.

Gear – In the same vein as stat blocks, it is okay to leave gear mostly ambiguous until it matters.  No one is going to realize that you were capping yourself at X dice during the fight, but when they scoop up the guns, the accuracy is Y.  Its not that important, since guns rarely fetch a fencing value worth anything, so they are likely to just be left behind.

Say Yes – Some refer to this as “Yes, and” or “yes, but.”  When your player asks to do something, say yes.  Let them be the hero of the story.  Of course, you may get some players that want to do the absurd that really doesn’t make sense or fit the game/world/story.  So use a little common sense, and ask your players to use a little common sense.  But if a Player asks if there’s a window on that wall over there, and it really doesn’t matter one way or the other, say yes.  Now, if you’ve mapped the place out, and that wall leads into a lab, or another room, instead of outside, then you say no.  Is there a fire extinguisher in the hallway?  Yes, and it happens to be mounted on the wall right by those NPCs.

Now, saying Yes goes both ways.  If you are a player, and the GM presents some information, or what may be some plot info, and he asks if you are going to interact with it, say yes.  Unless you have a really valid reason not to, you should usually take whatever bait the GM lays for you.

Metagaming – Usually, metagaming is something you should avoid.  If you’ve read some novels, and you know what certain people go on to do in the lore, don’t just assume that the lore in the game you are playing is identical.  If you’ve played through a certain module before, then let some of the other players come up with some of the important decisions.  Metagaming isn’t always bad though.  As a friend points out, you sometimes need to engineer  a situation to further the story.  Example.  Take a modern horror story perhaps, where the PCs come across a classic Vampire.  They know nothing about it, nothing about its strengths and weakneses.   It is up to the Player to discover the ineffectiveness  of their current weapon, and then to improvise.  The player knows he needs a wooden stake, but the PC should try a golf club, then maybe a gun.. and then out of desperation because nothing works, he grabs the chair and breaks it over the vampire’s back, only to have the vampire recoil in fear at the broken, wooden chair leg.

Don’t be afraid to fail – Failure doesn’t mean game over.  Failure doesn’t even always mean death of a PC.  Failure in certain tasks can mean that now more interesting things are about to happen.  You should trust that your GM is not going to immediately kill everyone because they were all knocked out.  If the players are fighting, say feral ghouls, where being knocked out will likely lead to the PCs being eaten, then the GM should say something to the players.

Trust – This goes both ways, and is partially addressed in the “say yes” portion above.  If you are a GM, trust your players not to go out of their way to ruin the game (unless this is actually an issue, then there might be other problems).  Trust that your players are there to have fun as well as you, and will actually play the game.

On the player side, trust that your GM is not just looking for new and interesting ways to ruin your PC.  Dramatic things happen, bad things happen, but these are often catalysts to the story.  When it looks like the story is leading into a place of no return, trust that your GM is going to leave you an out of some sort.  Maybe the opposition is way overpowered, you might be able to run.  You might be able to sneak.  You might be able to talk your way past a stronger opponent,  The point is, have some trust in your GM.

Play the game –  This come into play with trusting your GM, but there’s more than that.  Pull levers.  If you notice that the plot is to the left, don’t be a dick and go right just out of spite.  Play the game.  If the game allows your stuff to be hacked so that a certain archetype (Deckers) have something to do, then don’t go out of your way to minimize that aspect.  Play the game.  If there’s a McGuffin presented to you, and you know it’s probably a trap.  Interact with it anyway.  Play the game.

Playing in Character –  As a GM, most of us like when our players remain in-character, and don’t drift OOC all that much.  We like the immersion, the interactions, etc.  Just remember that roleplaying your character is not license to be a dick to the other players.  If your sole response to something bad is “But that’s what my character would do” you might want to rethink your character.  Rogues shouldn’t be stealing from party members.  “Loners” shouldn’t be making the game harder for everyone else, because they want to be the whiny, broody type that never wants to play along with the rest.  Characters can be dicks, but ultimately, it is you, the player, who chose to play that dick of a character.  Remember that.


I might have more for later.  I will either update this, or start a new page.  If you have ideas that I might have missed, feel free to leave a comment below.

First Anniversary!

This week, on the 11th, Relative Dimension celebrates our first anniversary. Tomorrow, before we record our session, I’m going to do a little special episode. Memorable runs, what the players think could have happened better, things like that. If anyone has questions for any of the players, or all of us in general, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact us using the contact link at the top, or find us on Twitter @relativedpod and submit questions/comments with #RDanniversary



Car accidents can be a dangerous thing, and this is still true in Shadowrun. However, the way the actual crash rules are written out, you are in for more danger if you are in a big rig that slams into a Smart Car, while the passengers in the Smart Car are likely to walk away uninjured.  Makes total sense, right?  Nah.

So, I am going to try to come up with something might make sense here, toss the idea around, see if I can get others to comment, contribute ideas, and maybe we can refine it to something that is acceptable to many GMs and Players.

First, Crashes usually involve the impact of a vehicle with another vehicle, or physical object.  For the sake of Crash damage rules, we are going to address a vehicle hitting a solid object, or Barrier.  And a vehicle hitting another Vehicle.

Next, lets address the different attributes of a Vehicle.  Body represents the structure of the vehicle, and Armor represents the ability of your vehicle to shrug off damage.

So, in the instance of hitting a barrier, lets start with the assumption that a vehicle that hits a fragile object is not going to cause much damage.  It really doesn’t matter how fast a vehicle is going, running into a pane of glass is just going to break the glass.  So if the Body of the vehicle is higher than either the Armor or Structure of the barrier, assume it passes right through undamaged.  If either value is higher, then it might pass through with little to no damage.
     So for instances like this, I propose that one consults the speed chart for the vehicle, and if the resulting “damage” is higher than the Armor of the barrier being struck, then the GM may rule that the vehicle destroys the barrier with little to no damage to the car.  Examples, if a Honda Spirit (Body 8, Armor 6) travelling at 51-200 m/turn (Body x2, or 16DV) hits an Armored glass pane, or other “Reinforced Material” (Armor 12, Structure 8), then the vehicle is going to bust right through.  However, in this case, since the structure is higher than the armor, I might call for the car to resist a DV equal to the difference in DV of the Vehicle and the Armor of the target.  In this case, 4DV to the vehicle and Passengers, but since the DV is not higher than the Armor of the vehicle, the damage is STUN, and the passengers get to utilize the Armor of their vehicle as well.  Note, the -6AP mentioned in crash damage resistances applies to personal armor worn, if any, not the added armor of the vehicle passengers are in.

In the next instance, one of the vehicle hitting tougher objects, in which both the Armor and Structure of the target are higher than the Body of the Car.  I might recommend figuring the DV that ramming vehicle will inflict, and having the vehicle resist half that amount.  As for Passengers, it makes little sense for the size of the vehicle they are in increase the damage they are taking.  So for instances like this, I recommend a flat rate of 10S, modified by the speed of the vehicle.  Normal Crash rules for damage resistance apply (resisting with Body + Armor -6AP)  I also propose adding in the Armor of the vehicle (or perhaps it structure) as sort of the “crumple zone” impact safety feature of the vehicle.
So for example.  If that same Honda Spirit runs into a brick wall or other “Structural Material” (Armor 16, Structure 10), at the same speed of 51-200m/turn.  The vehicle would be inflicting 16P against the wall, and would be resisting 8P DV.  If this damage is lower than the armor of the vehicle, the vehicle shrugs off all damage.  The Passengers all have to resist 10S normally, but they get to add the vehicle’s 6 Armor to their roll.

In the case of vehicles hitting other vehicles, I would propose similar numbers as those with vehicles vs structures.  First, consider the speeds of the vehicles  If a faster vehicle is hitting a slower vehicle int he same direction, just take the relative speed.  If the relative speed is 1-10m, then the Damage being inflicted by the ramming car is Body/2, which is not likely to much more than force a Crash roll, but still compare DV of the ramming vehicle with the Armor of the rammed vehicle to see if any damage is caused (less DV than Armor means no damage).

But lets assume a large or fast vehicle hits one that is not so large, or it’s a head-on collision with a high relative speed. Two Hyundai Shin-Hyungs travelling 110m/t head on collide,  The DVs based on these speeds are Body x2.  You could take the Relative Speed, and have it Body x3, but since both vehicles are travelling the same speed, it’s easier I think to just have them each inflict the same damage to each other.  In the case of the Passengers through, I would modify the flat 10S by the Relative Speed, so all passengers are resisting 30S, and might possibly die in this impact once you consider the extra stun rolling over into Physical at a 2:1 rate.
So, Two Hyundais are impacting head on.  They are both Body 10, Armor 6.  Each is inflicting 16DV to the other vehicle, which is higher than the armor, so each will have to resist the damage.  The Passengers have to resist  30S with Body+Personal Armor (-6AP) + Vehicle Armor.  So if they had Body 5, Armor 12, they’d be resisting with 17 dice (5+6+6).  Assuming average results, each is likely to be taking 20+ Stun damage, resulting in unconsciousness, and possibly death.

If Anyone has any comments, suggestions, etc, I would greatly appreciate hearing them.  This hasn’t been play tested.  I basically came up with this as I was sitting here typing it, so it may not fairly address vehicle or passenger damage in crashes..  but it seems like it would be better than the crash rules as presented in the Core Book.

Message to our Patreon Supporters

Earlier today, I posted a Patreon message for my patrons. We don’t have many yet, but that’s no problem. The message was a list of free stuff available. I purchased the Playstation Humble Bundle, mainly for the Resident Evil and Devil may cry stuff. That left quite a few games that I’ll probably never play, so I decided to give my patrons first crack at anything they wanted from the list of PS3 games (and a PS4 game). I’ll eventually take the remainder of the list to twitter for random giveaways or something.

I am also in the process of editing our first bonus actual play. Several months ago, we took a short break from Shadowrun, and I ran a Dark Heresy game. I’ll be releasing those episodes to patrons in the near future as well.. with the caveat that the ending is pretty much left to your imagination. Our last session ended with the group just about to resolve everything, and then one of my players ended up in the hospital for several weeks. By the time he was out and able to resume gaming, a month or so had passed, and no one was in the mood to pause our shadowrun game again for a single DH session.. so, the very ending, we’re just gonna leave open.. hopefully that won’t happen again.

We will probably be doing something like this again in the future.. either slowing our shadowrun game to an every other week thing to fit an alternate game in for bonus content, or finding a day where I can run a game once or twice a month. The games may vary. Perhaps depending on patron preference, they might be Shadowrun, or things like World of Darkness, Mekton, Cyberpunk, Edge of the Empire, or even other Star Wars systems. I have a lot of games on my shelf that I have an itch to run, and this would be the perfect opportunity to break some of them out. OR, I might get to play in some of them, and someone else can GM for the campaign. We shall see.

In any case, if you are interested in supporting the Relative Dimension, you can find our patreon page here

House Rules – Matrix

As I mentioned in my Decking article, my group recently had a discussion about the Matrix.  Despite being one of the best versions of the Matrix to date, there are still times when it just seems to take forever.  In my game, what happened was that the team was given a job, sort of immediate action needed, no time to “plan.”  They had to steal a shipping container that was being loaded onto a truck.  They were about 2 hours away from the docks where the truck was being loaded, so the player of the Decker decided to flit on down in the Matrix and try for some surveillance.

He first started going right for the Universal Oil Host, because that is who owned the dock all this was taking place on.  At which point, like I recommend in my previous article, know the desired result.  He wanted to get access to cameras, so I offered him the suggestion of looking for other cameras that might not be protected by a Rating 6 Host.  Which he found, and decided to hack.  Okay, Rating 2 Cameras mean 4 defense dice.  Much better than the 15 or so that the Host would have been rolling.  The problem came into the time consuming nature of rolling to get a mark a few times.. and then OS increasing as time passed while they were driving tot he location, and the Decker deciding with a 32 OS that he didn’t want to risk waiting another 15 minutes, so he rebooted, and then we had to start over again.

The end result was that after 2 hours of game play, people felt like the Decker had been monopolizing the game for most of that time, and had very little to show for it, since much of the time was eaten by failures, re-rolls, and reboots.  So, after discussion, we came upon a few ideas that we are going to try.  They are pretty much built on optional rules already in the Core Rule Book,

First – In Situations that are not involving Combat, Hosts, significant risks or dangers, Marks will be ignored.

When it comes down to it, Marks tend to just slow things down.  The Decker is going to try a few times to get a Mark, and the moment they fail, they are probably just going to reboot, and try again.  It’s a time sink, especially if all it is going to take is a few re-rolls for the Decker to get the information he needs.  This is also important when it concerns information that will help the story progress.  The group needs to hack a the video cameras along a route to monitor traffic, and if they fail to accomplish that, then it’s going to delay the game.  At times like this, it’s more important that the group get the info they need, instead of how they get the info.  So speeding things up a little and letting the Decker actually accomplish what he’s supposed to do are a good thing.

In non-combat situations, or situations where there’s little to no risk or retaliation, then there is little point to slow things down for Mark acquisition.  Just let them Edit File to copy something, or Reboot the vending machine long enough to try to jack a Soy-Fizz Soda without the security notifying anyone.  Having to stop and go for the 1 to 3 marks, hack again, wait, reboot, hack again..  they are pretty much rolls that really don’t have to happen.  Now, I say Non-combat situations, unattended devices, etc.  If there is a chance that someone will notice, and there may be repercussions, then you should take the time to go through the process with Marks, especially if it is during a Combat Turn, where other Players will be participating as well.  Also, Marks often provide bonus effects to some matrix Actions that will be used more in Combat Situations, so you don’t want to deny those to your Decker.

Second – In Situations that are not involving Combat, Hosts, significant risks or dangers, Hits will be purchased by the GM.

Just as taking the time to make the rolls to acquire Marks can slow things down, so can the GM’s dice.  In the situation in my game, the Decker was rolling 10-12+ dice, sometimes with an Agent assisting for extra dice, against my 4-6 dice depending on whether it was a Rating 2 or 3 device.  And despite sometimes him rolling double my dice pool, luck was on my side.  However, it was information that they kind of needed to progress the story.  So again, it just slowed things down.  He’d roll to try to Mark it, and he’d get the first Mark, then fail on the second several times, and then OS would increase, so he’d reboot, start again.  Wasted time.

This is just for the GM.  The player should still be rolling his dice, since we still want the chance of rolling glitches or critical glitches.  How this works.  Please stick to the Device Ratings charts in the book on page 234 (around where they talk about Grids), 356 (Wired Security in the GM section), and repeated again on 421 (in the gear section).  I am looking at page numbers in one of the first errata’d PDFs, your pages may vary by 5-6.Device Rating1

When you look at these charts, you notice that most “common” devices out there are very low Rating.   A lot are Rating 1 devices, which cannot buy a hit to defend themselves.  Rating 2 devices can buy 1 Hit, etc.  Hopefully your Decker can roll better than a few hits.  So he should be flying through those Rating 1 or 2 municipal traffic cameras, or most maglocks.

Again, this is for out of combat situations, or when facing low-end, or unattended devices, or situations where there is little to no risk.  If the group wants to hack into the Rating 6 commlink of a Street Sam they just geeked, the rolls are unnecessary.  The Sam is dead, he’s not going to counter-hack the Decker.  In a situation like this, I’d even say just give them what they want without any rolls, since they’ll eventually get into it.  Come to think of it, If the player can buy twice as many Hits as the GM in these low-risk, no consequence, non-combat situations, then I say just go with that.  They are so much better in these circumstances, that there should be little risk of Glitches.

Even though the device will be buying Hits, you (the GM) should still secretly roll the appropriate dice for OS purposes.  Just because you want to speed up the game, you should still give them the chance to have GOD converge on them.

Third – If the situation is not involving combat, or actively being on a Run, then you get one chance to remotely hack a Host.

When I say not actively being on a run, that means mostly legwork, information gathering, or times of investigation.  Times when time isn’t critical for the success/failure of the run, or when there’s little to no consequences towards the failure/success of the run.  If your group is in danger, and time is of the essence, or especially when everyone has rolled initiative, and are taking their actions in order, then you can commence these actions like normal.

When you try to hack a Mark onto a host, it often defends with many dice.  If you fail, it gets a Mark on you, and at this point, you often reboot instead of erasing Mark, and the like.  It’s often the easier thing to do.  However, according to page 49 of the Core Rule Book, Trying Again after you fail a test comes with a cumulative -2 penalty.  What this means is that you are now attacking that Host with fewer dice.  And we can spend several minutes of you Hacking, failing, rebooting, and trying again with fewer dice.  Or we can just limit your attempts for sake of saving time.

So, the One Chance is not set in stone.  If time goes by, and the group does other things, and the Decker comes across some information (possible entry codes, or possible back-door exploits) that puts him in a Superior Position (+2 dice) to Hack the Host, then let him try again.  This is addressed in the Trying Again entry, “if the character takes a sufficient break from trying, they can begin the task again with no penalty.”  But if the situation has not changed, then this means the Decker needs to get to a device slaved to the Host’s WAN, and hack in directly, thus bypassing the Host’s defenses.


So that’s what we came up with to try to help speed things along, and help your Decker shine in places where he’s supposed to be Wiz.  Please share any questions or comments below, and anything else comes up that needs to be added to this list, it shall be revised.

Shadowrunning 101 – Decking

Decking, or..  How do I hack The Matrix?

Before everything, this is not going to touch on Technomancers.  They are their own beast, and I will try to get a basic write-up for them in the near future.

To begin, this informational is going to use just the Core Book.  It will not take into account anything in Data Trails, or any other books that may have any Matrix sections.  Another disclosure is that this is my own best interpretation.  You, or your GM, may have other ideas, which I’d love to see in the comments below.  Even though SR5 has the best rendition of the Matrix so far, it still has some issues, and after my most recent game (as of writing this), my group and I discussed a few options to help speed up the Matrix even more, and I will follow up with a new post with what we discussed.  I am going to start with a quick data dump of Matrix terms other things you need to know.  If you already know about Icons, Grids, etc, you might want to skip down a little.  Still here?  Then let us begin.

Okay, so what is the Matrix?  It’s the question that drives us.  It’s the question that. . . Okay, enough of that.  The Matrix is pretty much the Internet equivalent of the 6th world, and yet it is more.  The Matrix is practically everywhere, displaying advertisements for the latest NERPS product that you should be stuffing in your face, or using to clean the rims of your sweet Eurocar.  The Matrix is how you communicate with your team, with the rest of the world.

So, the basics.  Everyone uses the Matrix on a day to day basis for the most mundane of tasks, but it takes Deckers and Technomancers to really abuse the Matrix.  And that’s what this is about, abusing the Matrix.  So, one of the first things you should know about the Matrix, is how to access it.  You can start with Augmented Reality (AR) in which you view a Matrix overlay over your normal vision.  When you look towards a restaurant building, you might see an AR menu advertising their food.  When you look at a Stuffershack, you might see an AR ad for their 3 Taquitos for 3¥ sale!  The benefit of AR access is that you remain mobile.  You can still see and interact with your environment, though it can get a little distracting.  It is in this way that a Decker can follow their team into a building, hack the doors or security system, and still be “awake” enough to lend some fire support when the drek hits the fan.

The other method of accessing the Matrix is Virtual Reality (VR).  In order to access via VR you must have a Sim module that can feed the data directly to your brain.  You then go pretty much comatose, while your brain is fed all of the data you would otherwise “see” if you were in AR.  Even though it may seem like you are travelling the city, state, country or the like, you aren’t actually going anywhere.  You are just being fed data from the place you are “going,”  This is why there’s noise that slows you down when you “go” too far, the data has a lot more distance in which to travel, and in which it can be corrupted.  Depending on whether you are in Cold or Hot SIM determines your speed and effectiveness.  Cold SIM is legal, and safe.  There are buffers and protections build into the relay so that you cannot absorb too much at a time.  Hot SIM is illegal, but it’s the only way to travel.  Those safety buffers aren’t there.  You can go faster, stronger, but you can also end up brain dead if you aren’t careful.

Now that we’ve gone over AR and VR, the next thing you need to know about are Icons.  When you look around in AR or VR, you are going to see Icons everywhere, and they fall into 6 categories; Persona, Device, PAN, File, Host, and Mark.  You can read more about these in your book, but for now the very basic explanations are that Personas are pretty much the people and programs of the Matrix.  They can be using their Commlink or a Rigged vehicle to enter the Matrix, or they be one of those Technomancer terrorists.  Watch out for them.  Devices are the things in the matrix.  Coffee makers, security cameras, environmental control units, vending machines, etc.  PANs are personal networks.  People slave multiple thing to whichever device has the best firewall for protection.  Files are the meat and potatoes of the Matrix.  If you are hacking the Matrix, chances are you are looking for a file to steal, copy, alter, sell, etc.  Hosts are the strongholds of the Matrix.  If what you’re looking for is valuable, it’s probably in a Host.  They offer more protection than simple Devices.  And lastly, Marks are how people exert their control over things they don’t own.  A little bit of Code hacked onto a host, device, persona or the like, so that you can then perform some of the more devious Matrix Actions, like formatting or rebooting devices, shutting things down, copying their files, or just flat out attacking them.

The next thing to understand are Grids.  Think of them like your mobile carrier.  Every major Corp has their own Grid, major cities have their own Grid, and then there’s the Public Grid.  The Public Grid is so choked up, that just using it has penalties.  So one of the first thing a good Decker will do it purchase a Lifestyle that comes with a better Grid.  Or, they simply hack their way onto a better Grid.  For everything to work as smoothly as possible, you want to be on the same Grid as whatever it is you are hacking.

Now, lets talk about GOD.  Grid Overwatch Division is watching you.  The new Matrix is built to hinder your illegal activity.  To stop you.  If you spend too much time on the Matrix, you will fail, and they will find you.  So you need to make sure you keep ahead of GOD,  Every illegal activity you perform leaves a little trail.  Illegal Activities are anything with [Attack] and [Sleaze] as a Limit.  As long as you stick to strictly legal activities, GOD will never bother you.  But as long as you stick to legal activities, you might as well stay home and let the big boys and girls go out Shadowrunning.

In order to successfully hack the Matrix, you are going to need two things.  Skills and a Cyberdeck.  In the past, a wiz deck might have been enough to fool people into thinking that some noob was an ace Decker.  It’s not the case anymore.  Your Cyberdeck pretty much sets your limits, but its your skills that determine what you can do.  So don’t think you suck because all you could afford was the Erika MCD-1.   A skilled Decker with one of these can run rings around an unskilled poser with a Fairlight Excalibur.

Now on to Hacking

So You have your Deck, you have your skills, and your team is constantly telling you to check the Matrix.  First, tell your team that they can check the Matrix too.  Anyone can perform Matrix Perception checks and see all visible icons within 100m.  It doesn’t take a Cyberdeck, it doesn’t even take a DNI.  Someone with a Commlink can hold up device, point it around, and check the screen in order to see all visible icons in range.  So make sure your team is doing their part.  But there’s a part they cannot help with, and that’s where you either shine, or sizzle and burn.

You have your book, you can read all about the Matrix Actions, but what do they mean?  Which ones do you use?  That’s what I’m here to tell you.

First, lets start with a big target, a Host.  You and your team are going into a certain place, to access some files, and make off with the paydata.  Your first choice is to decide if you want to try to stay safe back at home and join them entirely in VR, or if you are going to join them in person, and access the Matrix in AR.  I can’t really help you here.  I can say that if the drek hits the fan, and the host traces you, you’ll be all by your lonesome when they come to . .  ahem, perform a courtesy call to check on your well-being.  As a GM, I recommend the AR aspect.  It keeps the group together, lets you all share in the fun, etc.  It also helps a lot when you make your way into the heart of the target, only to find out that the paydata is on a secure device not connected to the Matrix.  Also, there’s a slight trick that makes getting into a host a little easier when you are there, and that’s a Direct Connection.

So you have your target.  Let’s assume for this that is a Local Corporate Host, Rating 8.  Ouch.  That means it can have a Firewall ranging from 8-11.  Assuming they want their stuff protected, it’ll be 11.  That means in order to get a Mark onto their host so that you can enter it, you are looking at an opposed dice pool of 19.  So if you are trying to stay safe at home, and tagging along via VR, you might have a few bonus dice, but still, that 19 dice may prove to be a tough nut to crack.  So, that little trick?  You perform your Matrix Perception, and you get a few questions.  What rating is the host?  What rating is the firewall?  Is that maglock panel slaved to the host?  What is the rating of that maglock Panel?  Bingo.  Most door locks (According to the Device Ratings chart in the GM section) are Rating 2.  So, if you walk up to the building, and plug your deck into the maglock, you are rolling your Hack of the Fly or Brute Force vs 4 dice.  Isn’t that much better than 19?  You bet it is.  Once you have a Mark on a slaved Device, you also have a Mark on it’s owner, the Host.  So now, you can enter the Host.

Once you have a Mark on the Host, you do not automatically get a Mark on everything slaved to it.  At least, I cannot find any example of this in the book.  It works one way, not the other (If you have a page number that corrects me, please leave it in the comments below).  However, once you have a Mark on the Host, you are considered to be Directly Connected to everything slaved to the Host.  this means that you are bypassing the defenses of the Host, and rolling directly against the device you are trying to interact with.   This means that if you want to  Snoop on a camera, you roll vs the cameras 2 dice (Typical DR of 1).  If you want to format a Server and erase all it’s data, you roll vs 8 dice (Corporate Server typical DR of 4).  If you want to Data Spike maglocks to brick them so they cannot lock behind you, then you are rolling vs 4 dice (Typical door lock DR 2).  The exception is IC.  IC shares the attributes of its Host, so has a DR of the Host Rating.  When it attacks, it rolls Host Rating x 2 dice, and resists with the appropriate number of dice.  When IC starts to come after you, it’s probably time to get out.

So what’s the next step?  Here, I can only say that the most important thing is to know what you want to do.  And GMs, try to make sure that you and your players all understand what the desired end result is.  I say this, because I’ve seen many times that players want to spend time going for 2 or even 3 Marks, when they just end up performing actions that only require 1 Mark.  The time spend acquiring those other Marks just ends up being wasted time and effort.  Also, Players may think that Matrix Action X is what they want to do, but when you finally find out their desired end result, it turns out they really need Matrix Action Y.  So the next step is definitely skip past the dice you need to roll, or the Action you want to perform, and find out what the player is trying to accomplish.  So here’s some example desires, and the Action I think best suits that desire

  1. Peek in on a facility’s security cameras – Snoop
  2. Open a door so you can proceed – Control Device
  3. Open a door and make it look “legit” – Spoof Command, as long as you have a Mark on the Host or PAN the door is slaved to.
  4. Loop security footage – Edit File
  5. Erase your presence from a few seconds of security footage – Edit File
  6. Erase yourself from the cameras in real time – Edit File once per Combat Turn
  7. Overhear your opponent’s commlink – Snoop
  8. Turn off your opponent’s Cybereyes, if wireless – Reboot Device if you have enough marks, and want to make it last a little bit.  Control Device if you have enough Marks.  Or, if those eyes are slaved to that guy’s PAN, and you have a Mark on his Slave Controller, just Spoof Command.  Note, Rebooting them guarantees they are down for at least 1 full Combat Turn, otherwise, they can just turn them back on next Action.
  9. Fake a Work Order or Purchase Order to give a reason to be there – Edit File.
  10. Swap recorded video for what an opponent is seeing in his cybereyes – This is a multistep.  First, you need to hack into something with a video feed, like municipal traffic cameras, and Snoop them.  Then You discretely Mark the eyes, and Spoof that Snoop directly into the eyes.  Now, the enemy street samurai is seeing live traffic outside of the Renraku Arcology.


To end this, I am going to walk you through the example of BK, on page 224 (depending on which book you have, the pages might be off by 6 or so).  So, BK is waiting around for the Bank to open in AR mode.  He’s able to browse the waitress’ music files because files are always visible, and unless you’ve set protection (Edit File) then anyone can browse your stuff.  However, to copy them, he Sleazes a Mark (Hack on the fly vs her firewall + Intuition.  Then he Copies the music with Edit File.  Since he performed an action with [Sleaze] as the limit (Hack on the Fly), he now has an Overwatch Score (however many hits the waitress got on her roll) and the timer is running before GOD Converges on him.

So the bank opens, and he figures than an employee got the files out of Archives, so he starts his run.  He crosses the street and enters an ally, looking for a maglock slaved with the Bank’s WAN.  Why?  Because of the Host rating.  The example never states it, but it’s probably better than the 3-4 of Low-end commercial, but maybe not as tough as the 7-8 of a local corporate host.  So I’ll guess it’s a 6.  That still means that it’s Firewall can be up to 9, for a total of 15 defense dice.  The maglock however, typically has a Device Rating of 2, for a total of 4 Defense Dice if you Directly Connect to it, which he does, and then slumps down so he can enter VR.  Not wanting to draw attention, he probably does another Hack on the Fly for the Mark.  Having a Mark on the door gives him a mark on the WANs master, so he can enter the Host.

He changes his icon, and starts looking for the file he wants.  He knows what the data is that he wants, but not the filename.  So while he can see the files, he needs to find the right one, so this is a Matrix Search.  Within a Host, all Matrix Searches take 1 minute, minus any time shaved off with extra Net Hits.  Searching is not illegal, so the Patrol IC doesn’t notice him as he is finding his file.  He starts to copy the files (Edit File) but can’t because it is encrypted.  So he needs to remove the protection  (Crack File).

This next step is vague.  He gets ready to crack the file, and the host has Marked him.  It is possible that he failed a Hack on the Fly, resulting in the Host getting a Mark on him, at which point the IC can see someone with a Mark on them.  Or maybe the Patrol IC noticed him attempting an illegal action, and alerted the Host.  By the context, I am going with the first interpretation.  So now that the Host has a Mark on BK, it launches a Killer IC at the start of the Combat Turn.

Initiative.  It looks like BK goes first, so he swipes the mark off (Erase Mark), then the Killer IC attacks, and deals some damage.  BK then disappears in a cloud of smoke (Hide).  It looks like this is the end of that Combat Turn.  At the beginning of the next, the Host launches a Tracker IC, and Initiative is rolled again.  It looks like this time, the Killer IC goes first, but since BK hid, it has no target, so it delays, or skips, or something.  The Patrol IC is waiting to spot something illegal again.  BK then goes, and attacks the Patrol IC, probably with (Data Spike).  It looks like he does enough damage to crash the Patrol.  Since there are no Marks on BK now, and only the Patrol IC can otherwise alert the other IC to a target.  It looks as if BK has another action this Turn, even though the example talks about another Patrol IC coalescing.  I think this is thematic, so with his last action this Turn, BK again tries to break the encryption (Crack File), and again fails.  Since Crack File is an [Attack] action, failing means that BK takes some damage.

Beginning of the next Combat Turn, the Host finally launches the new Patrol IC, and it looks as if BK goes first.  So he tries to Crack File again, and this time he succeeds.  The Patrol IC then goes, and performs a Matrix Perception “on all targets in the host,” presumably asking any questions it might have as to which was the last action performed by any given target.  BK goes next, and copies the file (Edit File),   It is unclear as to whether the Patrol IC notices this, or the Security Spider logging in does, but BK has enough time to Jack Out, suffering some Dump Shock, but probably figuring it was better than risking his OS climbing too high, or the IC inflicting upon him a fate worse than death.


Hopefully this helped.  Like I said, this version of the Matrix far better than any previous version, but it still has some issues.  There are still times when the group is sitting around doing nothing for too long, while the Decker is making roll after roll after roll trying to accomplish something.  So my group and I had a discussion, and came up with some options that I think might help negate that.  I will try to get another article out on that as soon as I can.

Shadowrunning 101 – Reagents

Reagents, or. .   How can I survive casting this spell?

One thing that I think is not utilized enough are reagents.  Reagents let you force your drain to conform to your wishes, while letting you get a little creative with your spells.

We should all know the steps you need to take when casting spells.  Start by choosing the spell, then choose the target, then choose the force (which determines the drain), then you cast the spell etc.  A Common tactic is simply to choose a Force that is equal to your Magic rating.  Why?  Stun Drain.  Your Force determines your limit, and if you cannot count more hits than your Magic Rating, you take Stun Drain.   You only risk Physical Drain when you have more hits than your Magic Rating.  So easy, if you always want to take Stun, you set your Force equal to your Magic Rating.

Of course, sometimes the amount of Hits you get on a spell decide other factors as well.  Sometimes the Force of the spell decide other factors.  Sometimes, you might want to risk Physical Drain in order to accomplish something spectacular.  So, this tutorial will go over the various categories of spells, list a few spells, how they are commonly used, and how you might use some reagents to make sure you get your way.

Combat Spells.  
Direct Spells have their damage determined by the number of Net Hits you score when you cast the spell.  So if you cast at a low Force, you keep your Drain manageable, but you also risk doing very little damage.  Every Mage should know that if your target is likely to have a high Body, then you try not to use Physical spells on him.  And if your target is likely to have a high Willpower, you try to avoid using Mana spells on him.  But, even if your target has a lower resisting attribute for the type of spell you are casting, you still might do very little damage.  So, lets say you have a really wicked dice pool, think you are likely to score a lot of hits, and want to risk doing a lot of damage.. but don’t want to risk killing yourself outright.  What do you do?

Reagents.  Powerbolt, being a single target spell, has a fairly low Drain Value.  So you can cast it at Force 5, to make sure you are resisting the minimum drain you can get away with.  But you want to try to do more damage.  Use as many reagents as you think you might likely roll on your dice.  Are you rolling 20 dice after you add in bonuses from mentor spirits, foci, specialization, and the like?  Then you might get lucky and roll 10 Hits or more.. so go ahead and use 12 reagents, or 15.  They’re cheap enough that using half a dozen extra on a spell won’t set you back too much.

So, whats the point of this?  Well, if you roll more Hits than your Magic Rating, you are going to be resisting Physical Drain.  Lets say you rolled 14 Hits, that’s 14P damage going to your target.  However, because you rolled so many Hits, you are resisting Physical Drain.  Ouch.  Not so fast.  You are resisting 2P drain, because you set the Force at 5, and relied on reagents to help boost your damage output.  Every Mage should be able to drop that 2P down to 0.

With Indirect spells, Force directly factors into the damage, along with Net Hits, so you might want to cast at a higher Force, but to keep from risking phsyical injury to yourself, now you use a lower amount of reagents.  Say, an amount equal to your Magic Rating.  With Indirect spells, the target gets a chance to dodge (unless they are Area Effect spells), so you have to balance this choice with their ability to dodge, but even 1 Net Hit can do significant damage if the Force was high enough.  However, now you are resisting more Drain.  You just made sure it was Stun.  6 Stun in a fight can be rather debilitating for a Mage to suffer, but it’s nothing a good Stim Patch can’t help with.

Detection Spells
There’s not a whole lot to consider with these.  Force determines the Area in which the spell is effective, so you might want higher Force spells in those instances.  And several of them have lower Drain values, so even higher Force spells aren’t too taxing on the Mage.  But then there’s spells like Combat Sense.  Casting this at a Force 1 means you can stick it into a very low force Sustaining Foci, but 1 Hit of effect is meaningless, so cast this with many reagents to maximize the benefit on you.

Health Spells
Many Health Spells have a duration that’s Permanent.  In order for a Permanent Spell to go into effect, you have to sustain it for a number of Combat Turns equal to the Force.  Force Determines Limit, and Limit determines maximum effect.  You see where I’m going here?  If your Street Sam buddy just got shot for 6P damage, then you need to be able to general 6 Hits (after penalties for his low essence and the like) to heal his sorry hoop.  So you might think that you need to cast this at Force 6, for the maximum healing effect.  Well, that’s one way, but then you have to sustain it for 6 Combat Turns.  or maybe Force 8, hoping that you can use those 2 extra Hits (if you roll them) to shave off 2 Combat Turns worth of sustaining this spell.

Or, you do it the easy way.  Force 1, 6 Reagents.  Now, you can still generate the 6 hits you need to heal his hoop, but you only have to sustain it for 1 Combat Turn before you can turn your attention elsewhere.

This doesn’t work with any of the Increase [Attribute] Spells, since the Force has to equal or exceed the value of the attribute being increased, but it does work on the Decrease line of spells.

Illusion Spells
Illusion Spells typically only rely on Net Hits for resisting their effects, so Low Force, High Reagents if you want to keep your Drain manageable, and even moreso if you want a low Force foci to sustain it for you.

Manipulation Spells
Now here’s where it gets tricky.  Often, you need to make sure that you have a decent Force, and amount of Net Hits.  Force often provides a penalty to their resistance roll, so here is why a Higher Force is important, but as they resist, they essentially “reduce” the number of Net Hits, and when that reaches 0, the spell no longer affects them.

Now, here’s a special case that was encountered in one of my games.  It involves Mana Barriers, Astral Intersections, and Reagents, and it’s why you should think about all the angles sometimes.  When you cast a Barrier Spell, it typically gets an Armor and Structure Rating (if applicable) equal to the Force.  So you often want a high Force for these.  If someone attempts to Dispell, they are rolling against Force + Magic, but each of their Net Hits reduces the original number of hits, and again, when that reaches 0, the spell fails.  So if you want to make your stuff harder to dispell, you also need Net Hits.

What happened in my game however was this.  The group had just stolen an item, and they were on the freeway, travelling at high speed.  They were being magically tracked by a Mage, that was Astrally Perceiving.  He was a good enough driver, that the -2 didn’t bother him.  The group realized that there wasn’t much they could do.  They didn’t want to cast any area spells, because that might hurt some of the “civilians” around their target, but they couldn’t leave him to pursue them.  So they decided on a Mana Barrier.  At the rate they were travelling, they figured that the Mage wouldn’t have time to dispell the barrier, so they were trying to force an Astral Intersection.  Well, Astral Intersections are against Magic + Charisma of the target, and Force x2 of the Barrier.  They had assensed the Mage, so they knew he had a fairly high Magic, and estimated he had a decent Charisma, so they needed to make the Force as high as possible to stack the deck in their favor.

Their Shaman had a Magic of 5, so he could up to Force 10, but the Spells Drain if F-2.  If they went with 10, he could be risking up to 8 Physical or Stun damage.  8P would have killed him, 8S would have knocked him out, thus preventing him from sustaining the spell.  He had 4 boxes of Physical remaining, and 8 Stun remaining, so he had to make sure that whatever happened, he took no more than either of those.  He decided on a Force 9 Barrier.  That would Pit the Mage’s assumed 12 dice vs 18 of the Barrier, which they felt was safe, and it would also ensure that the damage was only 7.  But again, 7P could kill him.  So, they used Reagents, 4 of them.  4 Hits were enough to make sure the spell worked, it kept him from rolling more Hits than his Magic, thus ensuring the Drain was Stun, and the Force made sure that regardless of his Drain roll, he’d not pass out.

The Mage sees the Barrier, fails his composure test (to.. you know, just stop astrally perceiving), and passes out as he is forced through the barrier.  A Fiery crash later, and the group is safely leaving the area with their stolen item, heading for their payday.

Converting Old Material

When I started running my game, many of players had little to no experience with Shadowrun. My first choice might have been deciding which version of the game to run, but 5th edition had just come out and I really liked the system, so that decision was pretty much made for me. My Next choice then was when to set the game. Since my group was mostly inexperienced with Shadowrun, I decided to start near the beginning. This way, my group could experience a lot of the world shaking events that most long-time players take for granted. Luckily, there are several modules and materials out there that deal with these early years. The problem? They are for earlier editions of the game. Time to convert.

How to convert?  Thankfully there are some Conversion Guides out there.  In the back of the Second and Third Edition books, there are guides for bringing the previous edition “up to date,” and there is a PDF out there with details for bringing Third Edition up to Fourth Edition.  Some of the changes are listed below.

  1. From First Edition to Second Edition, very little changed except some gear and weapon stats.   Attributes and Skills, and most of the actual rules mechanics remained mostly the same.
  2. From Second Edition to Third Edition, certain skills changed names, and certain Concentrations were split off their base skill and became separate skills.  Also, knowledge skills were introduced, so points were given to add some of these to existing characters.  Again, most actual mechanics remained the same though, but since we’re not interested in mehanics, we can ignore any of these for now anyway.
  3. From Third to Fourth.  This time, more that just some gear and equipment changed.  The entire game changed.  We lost two Attributes..  well, Each one was Split into two attributes.  Intelligence was Split into Intuition and Logic, and Quickness was split into Agility and Reaction, taking Reaction from a derived stat into its own Attribute.  Rules were given to modify attributes and skills, lowering them slightly.
  4. From Fourth to Fifth, there were some minor changes.  Again, certain skills were renamed, or regrouped.  This time, skills were increased, and the net result brings them a little higher than they might have been before the reduction from 3 > 4.  And limits were added

So, adding all of that in together, I tend to just leave most of everything as is.  If anything, I increase some skills by a point or two, to bring things in line with expected challenge ratings.  When it comes to skills that were groups in previous editions, I just consider that he has the appropriate individual skills.. Firearms would be considered Automatics, Pistols, Longarms, etc..  that way, any weapon I might give the NPC, I’d just roll the dice listed in Firearms.  The same with other skills that used to be in a group.

So, here is an example NPC from a First Edition module

Body: 5
Quickness: 5
Strength: 5
Charisma: 2
Intelligence: 4
Willpower: 4
Essence: 4
Reaction: 4(6)

Armed Combat: 4
Car: 4
Etiquette (Corporate): 3
Firearms: 5
Stealth: 5
Unarmed Combat: 6

Wired Reflexes: 1

Armor Clothing and certain weapons

So, the first thing, I split Quickness into Agility and Reaction.  5 in each.. though since this is meant to be a hired gun, I might go with a +1 to Agility, making it a 6.  And Since it is a hired gun, when I split Intelligence into Intuition and Logic, I leave them both at 4.  Since he had Wired Reflexes 1, I adjust Reaction accordingly..  5(6)

For skills, I leave them pretty much as is.  Considering that the weapons he has are pistols, I just assume he has the Pistols skill at the same level as he has Firearms, so 5.

Cyberware and Gear, I use the equivalent from the SR5 material.  If they had a Predator II for instance, I still call it that, but stat it as if it were a Predator V.

So when it comes to combat, his Initiative is now 9+1d6 if his wired reflexes are off, and 10+2d6 if they are on.  For his pistols, he rolls 11 dice, + any appropriate modifiers for gear/cyber


The Matrix now, is the area that is the most different.  Original Matrix nodes were like flowcharts, or a dungeon crawl with pathways to different areas.  Since the new Matrix is a little more free form, I play this by ear.  I consider it a Host, trying to find an appropriate rating for what the target happens to be.  Areas in the Node that would Files or Devices, I treat appropriately.

There are sometimes some elements of the fluff that need to be considered as well.  In early editions, the Matrix was Wired, and sometimes that is referenced in the module.  Either by an NPC mentioning the lack of access, or the module assuming that access needs to be attained in a certain area, or by a certain method.  Most of these you just ignore, or alter accordingly.


If you have any questions about aspects I may have missed, or just about converting in general, please feel free to leave a comment below.