SR5 development: Pathways to Power for Adepts

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text

Okay, fun fact: One of our best-selling PDF-only products in recent years is The Way of the Adept. It was written by a dedicated freelancer who wanted to give adepts a boost because he felt they were underpowered. It was edited by a member of of the Shadowrun development team who believes adepts were, if anything, overpowered.

That’s the joy of adepts, and it’s one of the reasons they’re so difficult to get right. There are a lot of different opinions about how well they work compared to other archetypes and the best ways to balance them, or even if they are worth the effort to have in the game. When we were planning Shadowrun, Fifth Edition, there was no question about keeping them. We’re awfully fond of them and we want them in the game, if only so we can punch spirits in the face with our bare hands. So getting rid of them was never a matter of discussion.

But if adepts were staying, what do we do with them? What needs to change to help them compete and be useful throughout their lifespan? As we talked it over, our focus settled on the idea that adepts needed some way to advance besides dumping loads of Karma into skills and attributes. If run rewards are going to take two forms, nuyen and Karma–and they are–then adepts need to have a wealth of options for their nuyen as well as their Karma. They have some, of course, from new guns to weapon modifications to armor and what not, but these options don’t pack the same punch as, say, a street samurai boosting up from wired reflexes 2 to wired reflexes 3 and getting that burst of blinding speed. So we tossed ideas back and forth, had a few arguments (as you might expect with the range of opinions in the house), and what we eventually came up with was: qi foci, a kind of focus just for adepts.

Now, this isn’t that revolutionary of an idea. Foci exist already, and are already there to boost the abilities of the Awakened. It was not, to be honest, the most difficult task in the world to design a focus that provided a boost in adept powers, similar to the way other foci lift up spellcasting abilities.

But that’s why we liked it. Simple solutions that fit with existing game mechanics keep complications down. Plus, we decided that qi foci could take the form of traditional objects (rings, necklaces, and so forth), but they could also be tattoos. Getting a tattoo that boosted your adept powers made us smile, which made it something that had to happen.

At this point I need to say that I will be severely disappointed if many Shadowrun fans are not reading this and thinking “But you said you wanted adepts to have an option for their nuyen! Foci cost Karma to bond!” Good call! There is a balance to work on here, as there is with everything in Shadowrun. While we want adepts to be able to use their nuyen to advance, using only their nuyen to get qi foci seemed to give them too rapid of a path to power. Shifting the balance–where they have some Karma-light options to go along with the Karma-heavy options–seemed like a good idea. We hope players have fun with it!

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  1. Cheeze-IT!
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    We had this same argument since we started playing Shadowrun some time between 1998-2000 whenever I started playing SR, we came to a conclusion after a lot of arguing that the best idea was Tattoos because we didn’t call them Foci but they were. that you had to pay a monthly say due to a Adept School. (martial arts mostly) and then you could spend your Karama plus pay the schools Tattoo guy to imbue e you with say Improved Str in the form of a Tiger or Dragon or something Man-tastic. this did leave adepts with not having to blow all their money on say a Charity for Orphans for sliding up scale of Karama gained from this method is what we had before (not sure if this was an SR official rule or house rule)

  2. Wizard
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    A tattoo to boost your adept powers… Awesome! Definitely feels right. I appreciate the thought and effort that is going into the development of the Fifth Edition. Can’t wait to get my hands on it.

  3. JWCash
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to see ideas similar to the ones I had being implemented in the new system. In older versions, it was all about stockpiling karma, then within 3-4 sessions you’d make a big dump and wake up all-powerful, like you’d gone through some kind of 80s movie montage. Nice to see that there will be room for a more gradual progression, this will make a few of my players very happy.

  4. Draca
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    What about sneaking through Magical wards. Like it reads, these tatoos are always magicaly actice?

    • Posted April 26, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Masking metamagic, most likely.

      • SCARed
        Posted May 24, 2013 at 6:17 am | Permalink

        masking does help against assensing – but wards are not at all affected by masking. the only thing is the extended masking an the possibility to synchronize your (false) aura with the one of the ward creator. which is only in very few situations a useful or even possible option.

    • Jerach
      Posted June 9, 2013 at 6:49 am | Permalink

      That’s the tradeoff I think. Nobody can take a tattoo off of you like they can a necklace but you can’t take it off yourself either.

  5. J.R.
    Posted April 19, 2013 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Hmm… Has potential though I reserve my comments until I see the actual nuyen to karma costs!

  6. Mara
    Posted April 21, 2013 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    I do hope, though, that Way of the Adept and Way of the Samurai will actually be put into the core book series. In fact, I hope that Street Sams will be
    getting more they can do with Karma other then buying up skills and attributes, and that the qi focus is viable enough that it does not make Augmenttion
    automatically the better choice for an Adept. Seriously, right now, I would rather drop in Synaptic Booster 2 and eat the loss of 1 point of magic then
    take the 2.5 power points from level 2 Improved Reflexes. Way of the Adept’s reductions on the price of Improved Reflexes power actually makes it more
    viable to go with that choice and take Improved Reflexes 3, and still have 2-3 power points to spend.

  7. Jerach
    Posted June 9, 2013 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    This is exactly the kind of change I wanted to see in Adepts. I’m very hopeful about this.

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