Monthly Archives: March 2013

Sprawl Gangers Designer Diary 4

Shadowrun 5 Sprawl Gangers Logo

As I mentioned in Sprawl Gangers Designer Diary 2 (and Jason alluded to in his Introductory Box Set blog post), one of my goals right at the start was to try and achieve a thematic cohesion of terms—and rules as appropriate—across all the games we’re publishing during this Year of Shadowrun.

What do I mean by that? Well, here’s a sidebar straight out of the current draft of the rules out for playtest:

    Fusing magic with technology in a dystopian near-future setting, Shadowrun’s popularity has crossed into video games, fiction, and more—including this miniatures game—but the living, breathing Sixth World role-playing game setting has always been its heart.

    With that in mind, unlike many tabletop miniatures games that describe their models in impersonal rules terms, Sprawl Gangers, through its word choices and terms, attempts to bring every model to life as a flesh and blood part of Awakened Metahumanity. However, at the end of the day, while the terminology may be a little different from what a tabletop miniatures player is used to seeing, the rules will still have you squaring off with your models against your opponent and tossing dice towards victory!

But what does that actually mean for the game? It means, as much as appropriate, game terms and certain elements of mechanics are applied across the games. For example, in Shadowrun Fifth Edition you “make a Test” when trying to accomplish something in the roleplaying game, creating a pool of dice based on Attribute + Skill + modifiers against a Threshold value.

Those same terms and that same core mechanic for building dice pools are also emulated in Sprawl Gangers. When I want my Troll hardcore ganger to blast away and an Elven decker with his Remington 990, I make a Ranged Attack Test and build the dice pool as Agility + Firearms Skill + modifiers against a Defense Test made by the Elven decker.

We’ve also used as many of the same terms as possible during the design of Crossfire. And in fact, there are two terms that were specifically generated for Crossfire that I liked enough to fold them back into Sprawl Gangers: “Staggered” and “Critical.”

In Crossfire “Staggered” represents when a character is one step from collapsing, while “Critical” means the character has collapsed and he can’t do anything else. To emulate that in Sprawl Gangers, “Staggered” tokens are placed on a model for different reasons, such as taking damage, and limit the models actions, while the term “taken to Critical” is used when a model is eliminated and pulled from the playing area.

Why such a desire to cross-use terms/game mechanics like that? Won’t that mean the games play too similarly?

The easy answer to the later question is absolutely not. Each of these games is very distinct, with each bringing its unique flavor and its own fun to any table. However, working hard to implement as much cross-use of terms/mechanics as appropriate nets several desirable objectives.

First, it makes learning one of the new games when you’ve already got one under your belt easier. Love the RPG and want to try out Sprawl Gangers? You’ll be that much of a leg-up for the speed of understanding rules and tossing dice. Or if you’re moving from Sprawl Gangers to Crossfire. And so on.

Obviously this doesn’t mean we expect every person to play every game. However, my experience is that often if a person loves a universe, he or she loves immersing in that universe in a variety of ways. This works to lower the barrier of entry for that type of player.

Second, there are numerous examples of universes that have a variety of different style games within that space but some of them hardly feel like they’re even set within said universe. For example, when the original BattleForce box set published for BattleTech, the game terms and concepts used were so vastly different than anything previously done it was exceedingly difficult to get into the game, much less feel like the game you were playing was part of the over-all BattleTech experience. By striving to consistently use terms across all of the games of the Year of Shadowrun, we hope to accentuate Shadowrun as the pre-imminent experience and enjoyment of any of these games.

Whether you’re roleplaying, shuffling cards, moving miniatures or laying out a board, the name of the game should be having a blast immersing yourself in the Sixth World.

Next post I’ll start providing details on the actual mechanics and what you can do on the mean sprawl streets.

Randall N. Bills

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SR5 development: The reconfigured Matrix and the return of cyberdecks

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text

In the last post on the Matrix, we talked about trying to simplify Matrix rules and bring them more in line with mechanics for the other areas of Shadowrun. Now we need to cover a little bit about how the Matrix is changing and what that means to the people who hack it.

Around the time Jet Set came out, I ran my gaming group through one of the adventures in that book focusing on Danielle de la Mar and her efforts to make a “safer” Matrix. After the session, the player in the group who has a technomancer character looked at me and said “That woman’s dangerous.”

And so she is. While the Matrix is not changing between Fourth Edition and Fifth Edition quite as dramatically as it did between Third and Fourth, it is changing. The major change involves the megacorporations realizing that a free and open Matrix does not serve their interests, and that Danielle de la Mar and her ilk provide the perfect excuse to clamp down on things in the name of public safety.

As mentioned in Storm Front, the Corporate Court is introducing a whole bunch of new protocols as part of this new Matrix. Old commlinks and their programs are no longer equipped to deal with the level of security these protocols present. Instead, if hackers want to be able to break into this new system and mess around, they need a new tool. It will be relatively small, discreet, and wireless-enabled, and it will have the tools and capabilities needed to do battle with the new security structure of the Matrix. All the device needed was a name, and we decided there was no need to invent a new one. We went back to the classic name: cyberdecks.

So why bring back cyberdecks? A lot of reasons. On the simple side, it’s because we like the name, and because we like calling people “deckers” (in Fifth Edition, “hackers” is an umbrella term for anyone who messes with the Matrix; the subsets of this group are deckers, who use devices to do this, and technomancers, who do not). Additionally, we wanted decking to feel both difficult and special–it’s not something just anyone can do. As is the case with any other specialization in Shadowrun, you have to commit to it.

As is the case with most gear in Fifth Edition, cyberdecks set your limits when performing Matrix actions. They’re customizable, giving you the chance to put a higher limit on the type of activity you expect to be doing frequently. As mentioned above, they’re wireless enabled, but they also can plug into systems when you want the advantages plugging in gives you–or if you’re dealing with one of those paranoid types who stores things on a non-wireless system. They do not come with a giant keyboard, unless you want that sort of thing for some reason.

The Matrix is a tougher place for hackers now. Security is tighter, and the Grid Overwatch Division of the Corporate Court is constantly on the watch for illicit activity. This gives deckers and technomancers the chance to buck the odds, show off their skills, and pull off amazing feats in the face of pressing danger. To us, that feels very much like Shadowrun should.

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Crossfire: What’s Going to Work? Teamwork!

Shadowrun 5 Crossfire Logo

What’s going to work? Teamwork!

In Shadowrun: Crossfire, just as in the RPG, you are a team of runners working together to accomplish a mission. This direction meant that one of our major goals for the adventure deck-building game was to make it a cooperative team game. We built in several mechanics that create opportunities for players to help each other and to work together. I’m going to walk you through some of those now.

The most central co-op mechanic is baked into the core mechanic of overcoming the bad guys, and it’s a new mechanic that we invented for this game. Each obstacle to success that you face has a damage track. This track consists of two to eight steps. On your turn you use your cards to clear these steps, one by one. The foe is not defeated until the last step is cleared, but even between turns the obstacle will remain damaged to the step where you left them. In the early game, no one player can defeat a foe alone, but each player can make progress, and two or three of you can take down a foe together. Some of the steps require specific types of cards (Skill, Spell, Weapon, or Hacking), so players often need to plan and work together to defeat the foes efficiently. Just to make sure, we gave players starting decks containing different proportions of these four card types. Your team will be depending on you to come through with the type you have the most of when the team gets stuck on a foe with a damage step of that type.

When you do defeat a foe, you gain nuyen that you can use to buy things. The player dealing the killing blow, however, doesn’t get all the money—that would lead to very uncooperative situations. Instead the nuyen is distributed around the team. That way, everyone is happy when you defeat a foe, and everyone cooperates to defeat each foe.

We also wanted a way for a player to play cards on another player’s turn. The game would be a confusing mess if you could play any card on another player’s turn, so we created a mechanic to handle it called Assist. It appears on some of the cards you can buy and add to your deck during the game. Assist allows you play the card during another player’s turn, often for a slightly different effect than you could play it for during your own turn. You feel really great helping your teammate handle a foe they couldn’t deal with using only the cards in their hand. Plus there is a subtle power advantage for using Assist—it lets you play some of the total cards the team is holding earlier, which lets the team defeat obstacles earlier, which gets the team more nuyen earlier, and that makes the team more powerful earlier in the run.

All this and more add up to a cooperative experience that’s more than sharing a common goal. It’s sharing a common method of reaching your goal, and having everyone engaged during every turn.

—Gregory Marques, Lead Designer

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Catalyst Game Labs Announces New Shadowrun Print Novels

Catalyst Game Labs has worked hard to create a Year of Shadowrun unlike any experienced in the game line’s nearly twenty-five year legacy. From a new edition of the classic RPG to a deck building card game, miniatures game to board game, as well as coordinating extensively with the return of authentic Shadowrun computer games in Shadowrun Returns and Shadowrun Online, Catalyst has strived to bring Shadowrun’s passionate fans an even deeper journey into the game’s dark, dangerous world.

Now, one of the last missing parts to create the full experience to fans of this brilliant universe has fallen into place: new print novels.

Read Full Article.

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