Category Archives: General

Shadowrun, Sixth World Setting Overview

By Jason Hardy, Shadowrun Line Developer

While last week’s post focused on the rules of Shadowrun, Sixth World, today I want to talk about the game’s Sixth World setting, which is a key element of its success. It’s not just the unholy hybrid of fantasy and cyberpunk that make it compelling, but also the way the ongoing storyline has evolved over the years. With dragons, spirits, and sasquatches wielding significant corporate power, AIs and other mysterious entities roaming the Matrix, and spell-casting gangs spreading chaos through the world’s cities, the Sixth World is vibrant and exciting—and always throwing challenges at shadowrunners.

Talk to any Shadowrun fan and they’ll tell you stories—maybe about the Universal Brotherhood, or Renraku Arcology, or the death of Dunkelzahn, or Crash 2.0, or the fight for the future of Chicago. The unfolding story over the past thirty years has kept players and readers entertained, as stories play out in both sourcebooks and fiction.

That tradition continues with Shadowrun, Sixth World. Last week I talked about the upcoming plot sourcebook Cutting Black and the campaign book 30 Nights. While I don’t want to spoil any of the upcoming plot details, let me say that they start with Ares making a big move against the bugs, and the various responses to that destruction will reshape the world. The events are big, multi-pronged, and provide lots of chances for shadowrunner involvement. These aren’t events that happen over shadowrunners’ heads—they’ll be right down in it, dealing with world-shaking events and trying to survive while figuring out just what happened.

While these events are important, they don’t cover all the stories of the Shadowrun universe that need to be told. Novels, novellas, and short stories play vital roles in immersing readers in the universe and sharing unforgettable stories. From classics by Nigel Findley, Tom Dowd, and Robert Charrette, to new favorites like Russell Zimmerman, Jennifer Brozek, and R.L. King, Shadowrun has been Home to great stories and storytellers. Which means I’m very excited to talk about the fiction that’s coming up!

We already mentioned the six-part series of novellas called The Frame Job. They’ll cover the four characters included in the beginner box set, as well as a bonus character, then have a Sixth novella wrapping the whole story up. Dylan Birtolo wrote the first one, Brooke Chang wrote the second, and talented writers such as Bryan Steele, CZ Wright, and Jason Schmetzer will take on the other characters. Then I’ll be delighted to wrap it up!

But that’s not all the Shadowrun fiction that will be coming your way! Jennifer Brozek has a new novel called Makeda Red coming your way. It starts with an extraction on a luxury Party Train, and it’s every bit as fun as that concept implies. And more is in the pipeline, so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements!

Word about Shadowrun, Sixth World is starting to spread! EN World has a review up of the Beginner Box, Diehard Game Fan put up an unboxing, the Shadowcasters Network continues to cover the rules and upcoming books, Meeple Monthly and GTM have articles about the game (the latter includes a new, double-sided poster), and more reviews will be coming up—we’ll link to them when we see them!

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Shadowrun, Sixth World Developer’s Notes

From Jason Hardy, Shadowrun Line Developer:

Shadowrun, Sixth World is coming soon!

Wait, Shadowrun, Sixth World isn’t out yet? But I’ve been thinking about it for years! Playing it for more than a year! How are other people not playing it? Development time can be so disorienting.

There was a time—six years ago, to be specific—when I threatened physical violence to anyone who said the words “sixth edition” in my presence. (The threats didn’t work. No one is ever scared of me. But I digress). Fifth Edition took a lot of effort to produce, and I didn’t want to think about starting that whole process again. But then there were a few years where I didn’t have to think about a new edition, and I could recharge. Actually, that’s not entirely true, because every time I play a game—whether it’s one I worked on or not—I’m kind of thinking of a new edition. I’m looking at what works well, what works differently than intended, and what possibilities might open up with a tweak here and there. So when the time came to envision the next edition of Shadowrun, I had a few ideas, as did the excellent roster of Shadowrun writers and gamemasters I could tap into.

All those ideas needed a framework, of course. As we started our work, we decided the sixth edition of Shadowrun needed to possess three main qualities:

  1. Be no more than 300 pages long;
  2. Use D6 dice pools; and
  3. Feel like Shadowrun.

Those last two points are related, because it’s tough for a game to feel like Shadowrun if you’re not rolling a healthy handful of D6s. But there’s more to it than that. Combat specialists, spellcasters, conjurers, adepts, faces, deckers, technomancers, riggers, enchanters, weapon specialists, and more all need to exist, and they all must have different and meaningful ways to contribute to a run.

In this edition, all that had to happen within 300 pages. Which is a trick. Fifth Edition, not counting the index, is 466 pages; the anniversary edition of Fourth Edition was 351 pages, and Third Edition was 325 pages (minus the sample record sheets). Second Edition is a lean 284 pages, but it had no bioware, no technomancers, no alchemy, and no qualities, to name a few things that have changed in the intervening years. The book that started it all is an even leaner 207 pages, but along with the elements Second Edition didn’t have, it lacks things such as adepts and foci, and it offers only twenty guns—heresy! (Fifth Edition has 52, while Shadowrun, Sixth World will offer 53–we didn’t cut back much on those options!) All this is to say that streamlining the core rulebook back to 300 pages was not going to be easy.

It’s important to note that simply making the book shorter doesn’t, by itself, do any good. You can make any book shorter by simply ripping every third page out, but you end up with a book that makes no sense. Making the book shorter only is useful if the game also becomes smoother to play. In other words, we didn’t just want a shorter game—we wanted one that moved faster and was easier to get into, while still offering lots of meaningful options. We also didn’t want this to be Shadowrun: Anarchy for the simple reason that Anarchy already exists. Anarchy represents a more extreme end of the rules-light spectrum than Shadowrun, Sixth World–one way to understand the difference between the two is that the gear rules and listings take up about seven or eight pages in Anarchy, compared to fifty pages in Sixth World. Did I mention we wanted to offer lots of options?

Anyway, this means that if the rules were changed, they needed to be changed with an eye toward enabling players to do the things that they wanted to do more quickly. Combat should be faster. Hacking should be smoother and more intuitive. Magic should adapt to be just what the caster wants it to be. And so on. So what, specifically, did we do? Here’s a sample:

  • Expanded Edge: Yes, one of the things we did to streamline the game was to make one function much more detailed. But stay with me for a second. The definition of Edge has shifted—rather than being that undefinable something extra you reach for in a tough spot to help put you over the top, Edge now represents the accumulated advantage you get in opposed situations. Whether you’re fighting, spellcasting, hacking, or negotiating, you’ll have a chance to earn and spend bonus Edge. And you should spend it—if you’re not gaining and spending Edge regularly in Shadowrun, Sixth World it might be time to rethink your tactics. Or find less formidable opposition. Gaining and spending Edge replaces a lot of other functions in the game, like calculating situational modifiers, dealing with recoil and armor piercing, and environmental modifiers. Edge also provides a chance for a character to really have an impact when it’s time to spend it.
  • Fewer action types: There are two, Minor and Major. That’s it! You get one Minor and one Major per turn, with an additional Minor for various circumstances, such as reaction-enhancing augmentations or spells. One Major Action may be traded for four Minor Actions, or four Minor for one Major.
  • Simplified initiative: You roll initiative at the start of an encounter and then don’t re-roll it. Certain actions or effects may change your initiative score, though.
  • No limits: Limits served a valuable function of balancing attributes and providing different opportunities for rule effects, but in a streamlined ruleset, they are not needed. Limits on most tests and Force for spells have all been removed.
  • Skill list narrowed: SR5 has 80 skills, while SR6 has 19. That’s a big difference. There’s definite streamlining there, but it comes at the risk of characters not being distinct from each other. To deal with that, players can still select specializations but can also upgrade a specialization to an expertise, giving their character +3 bonus dice instead of +2, and once they  have an expertise they can select an additional specialization. This will provide characters with chances to become truly distinct.
  • More intuitive Matrix: This is an ongoing goal, and it’s always fun to try to make Matrix activities happen alongside and in parallel with the other actions. Deckers will have meaningful things to do and ways to get in, make things happen, and get out—all while trying to avoid the watchful eyes of the Grid Overwatch Division, of course.

Those are some of the major changes, but far from the only ones. We haven’t talked about Attack Ratings, the uses of armor, changes to Knowledge skills, revamped spell design, new vehicle stats, cyberjacks, and more. I hope this gives you a taste of the upcoming changes, and I look forward to you all playing Shadowrun, Sixth World as much as I have and will! And look for more information on this blog each Wednesday in May!

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Catalyst February Shadowrun Street Dates

The following products have a Street Date of FEBRUARY 18, 2015:

CAT27004_Shadowrun-Run Faster_Cover
Shadowrun Run Faster, Standard Edition ($49.99)
Every step, every advantage, every millisecond counts. The streets of the Sixth World are mean, and if they want to stay alive, shadowrunners need every advantage they can get to gain a step on the opposition. Fortunately, Run Faster is full of them. With it, you can learn about more metatypes for characters, including hobgoblins, giants, centaurs, and sasquatch; acquire new qualities, such as Disgraced, Hawk Eye, and Lightning Reflexes; and, if you dare, dabble with the dangerous and deadly Infected.

CAT27004LE_RunFaster-LimitedEdition_Cover
Run Faster also has advice on fleshing out characters of different metatypes, expanded contact and lifestyle rules, and alternate character creation methods to help ensure that players can build exactly the character they want.

All these options make Run Faster a crucial companion to players who want to get the most out of their Shadowrun, Fifth Edition core rulebook.

Shadowrun Run Faster, Limited Edition ($74.99)
Run Faster Limited Edition book includes a bonded red leather cover with gold foil stamp and a de-bossed graphic.

Shadowrun: London Falling
London Falling ($19.99)
London—where the thick fog (sounds nicer than smog, doesn’t it) makes for some truly deep shadows. Every crooked street, every cramped building holds a secret or two, as well as a person or two who will go to great lengths to ensure those secrets are kept. There is, for instance, the dark secret of a minor noble who has not been seen in Parliament in months. And the researcher who has a startlingly large amount of people interested in his work. The courier who carries one secret in his head and another in his gut. And an explosive secret that has been festering in the West End Underplex for years or even decades.

Skilled runners have the chance to uncover these secrets and more, but they’d better be ready for the forces of the world that would prefer to keep things covered up. They are tenacious, dangerous, and, perhaps most surprising for England, not at all polite.

London Falling features four adventures for Shadowrun set in London. Initially designed especially for gaming conventions, these adventures are now available to all players who want to dive in and see if they can survive the challenges of the Big Smoke. London Falling has stats that allow it to be compatible for both Shadowrun, Fifth Edition and Shadowrun, Twentieth Anniversary Edition.

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Runners Gone Wild!

So apparently there’s this little game that Catalyst Game Labs released last week. It’s pretty small, so you may not have heard of it. Shadowrun, Fifth Edition? Oh, so you have heard of it! Excellent. I’m a big fan myself. So anyway, along with SR5 there was another product called Sprawl Wilds that was released and it has a lot of people asking “What is this?” Since I worked on the product and helped develop it, I figured I’d drop a little chip-truth on ya and tell you what’s what.

Shadowrun: Sprawl Wilds

Sprawl Wilds is a collection of adventures written for the Shadowrun Missions Living Campaign back in 2010 for the summer gaming conventions. These adventures were only available at Origins, Gen Con, Dragon*Con, and a handful of smaller conventions. We always planned to release these after convention season was over, but we all got busy with other things (because chummer, there are always a pile of other things to work on, lemme tell you!) and these fell by the wayside. Once we finally realized that we were never going to have the time to go back and clean up and get these old Missions ready to be released, we brought in some extra help in the form of Robert McKittrick to finish off the adventures and make them all nice and shiny so we could release them to the public at large.

Now, we had two other problems. The first was that one of the adventures slated for Sprawl Wilds was CMP 2010-02: Copycat Killer, which some of you may recognize because that adventure is a prequel to one of our Season 4 adventures, and was released bundled with SRM 04-05: On a Silver Platter. So one of the four adventures planned for this book had already been used! We decided to make lemons out of lemonade, and Rob sat down and worked up a new adventure called Carbon Copy which serves as a sequel to both the original Copycat Killer and On a Silver Platter. The story of the Mayan Cutter lives on!

The second problem was that we were about to release Shadowrun, Fifth Edition and the adventures were all written for Shadowrun, Twentieth Anniversary Edition. So Rob and a few others put their heads together and dual-statted the book top to bottom with both SR4A and SR5 stats! So now the book is playable regardless of which edition you are playing—no home brewing needed!

So what’s in the book? Four adventures that will kick you in the hoop, that’s what. We start off with Manhunt by Ando Muneno, which tasks the runners with delving deep into the wilder parts of the Barrens and help out an ex-Lone Star cop who’s gotten himself into some paracritter trouble. Then we find that yet again the Mayan Cutter is back, like a killer from a 1980’s slasher flick in Carbon Copy by Robert McKittrick and myself. From there, we head into the Ork Underground where a meet goes horribly wrong in Ashes, another adventure by Ando Muneno. And finally we get an adventure a lot of fans have requested as the runners have to transport a vaccine to a town beset by a killer virus in Humanitarian Aid by Alan Vuchichevich, a prequel adventure to SRM 04-10: Romero & Juliet.

These Missions can be played as part of Shadowrun Missions Season 4 using SR4A or as prep for Season 5 under SR5. Or you can simply use these as one-off adventures for your home game, or as a mini-campaign to take your players into the wilder areas of the Seattle Sprawl.

Good luck chummers. The Urban chaos of the Sprawl is a deadly place, so you’re gonna need it!

Steven “Bull” Ratkovich
Shadowrun Missions Developer

Get Sprawl Wilds at the BattleShop or DriveThruRPG now!

Also posted in Conventions, E-books, Products, SR Missions | 2 Responses
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