Monthly Archives: May 2013

Shadowrun, Fifth Edition preview #3 now available

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text

The third free preview of Shadowrun, Fifth Edition is now available! To review, the first preview had fiction and flavor text to help convey the look and feel of the game, while the second preview contained the Game Concepts chapter, giving the basic structure of the game. The third preview gets a little flavor and a little mechanics–it has the short story (written by Patrick Goodman, author of Another Rainy Night) leading into the Character Creation chapter, along with the first few pages of that chapter, giving you a taste of how character creation works in Fifth Edition. It’s available at the Battleshop or DriveThruRPG. Enjoy!

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Crossfire: Developing the Metatypes

Shadowrun 5 Crossfire Logo

There are five different metatypes in Shadowrun: Crossfire: dwarf, elf, human, ork, and troll. Each metatype determines your starting cards in hand, starting nuyen, and starting and maximum hit points. Relatively minor variations in these three statistics end up providing a surprisingly large amount of variance in how each metatype plays.


Let’s take a look at each of the starting statistics and how it works in the game.

Hit Points

At first glance, it would seem that hit points are the most important statistic. You lose if someone on your team runs out of hit points and goes critical, after all. In early versions of the game, hit points were definitely the most valuable of the three starting stats. As we developed the game, though, two major changes reduced the importance of hit points. First, we introduced the Crossfire deck, which encourages runners to achieve things quickly, rather than stalling. This addition made tanking the obstacles less desirable of a strategy. Second, we reduced the number of cards that let runners move obstacles. As a result, it became more common for a runner to go critical while others on the team had lots of hit points. The result of these two changes is that there are strong diminishing returns in terms of starting hit points. Having 5 hit points is very noticeably better than 4 hit points, but having 6 hit points is only a little better than 5 hit points, and having 7 hit points is barely better than 6 hit points. If you do choose a metatype with more than 5 hit points, you should consider focusing on the Street Samurai role because of the Monofilament Whip card. This card allows you to move obstacles from another runner to face you instead. If you’re going to be doing that often, you probably want a few extra hit points. It’s also generally desirable for the starting runner to have extra hit points. In all of the missions, that runner tends to take a bit more damage than the rest of the team (since the team has fewer turns to deal with obstacles in front of that runner before they attack). This is especially noticeable in the Deal with a Dragon mission.

Starting Cards

If I had to pick one of the three statistics that was best, I would choose starting cards. Having high starting cards lets you get a fast start. By defeating obstacles quickly, you can often prevent damage to a runner, in effect increasing their hit points. In addition, defeating obstacles faster will result in you getting your nuyen payouts earlier, allowing your team to improve their decks earlier. There are some diminishing returns in starting cards, though. For example, in the Caught in the Crossfire mission, there is a big difference if you finish the scene on the last runner’s turn or end up waiting an extra turn and finishing on the starting runner’s turn. In the first case, you have drawn one less Crossfire card, so you will face one less hard obstacle in the next scene. This is a major reward, because the hard obstacles are bigger, have nastier effects, and pay less nuyen than the normal obstacles. On the other hand, the reward for finishing two turns before the Crossfire flip vs. one turn is relatively low. It only gives you an extra turn during the next scene in terms of avoiding extra Crossfire flips, but it doesn’t make the next scene any easier. When this happens, you’ll often wish that you had taken less starting cards as a team, and instead taken more nuyen, which would make your decks stronger for the next scene.


Taking a metatype with high starting nuyen is really fun. You get to buy better cards, so your deck will be stronger than the other runner’s, long term. Of course, someone has to be responsible for tanking and defeating the first set of obstacles, so your team will suffer if everyone goes down the path of playing for the long game.


Now that we’ve gone through a quick overview of the starting statistics, let’s look at each metatype and talk about its strengths and weaknesses.


Humans are the most balanced and easiest-to-play metatype. They have 5 hit points, which is usually enough for most runs, and they have a nice balance of starting cards and nuyen. A team of all humans works fine.


Elves lose 1 hit point and gain 1 nuyen compared to humans. The extra 1 nuyen is quite valuable long term, but having only 4 hit points means that you will rarely feel comfortable with your health total. Obstacles with Attack Strength greater than 1 are dangerous for you, and you’ll often be living in fear of what event the Crossfire deck might bring. Playing as an elf is fun, though. You have a good amount of nuyen and starting cards, so you can be a star both early and late. It’s the rest of the team’s responsibility to make sure your low hit points don’t take them down, right? A fun challenge is to have everyone on the team play an Elf. You’ll come out of the gate fast and have good decks in the long run, but you will also be desperately short of hit points.


Orks are a good metatype to have the starting runner play. In that seat, it’s more likely that you’ll be able to take advantage of your 6 hit points. In addition, it’s great to have someone with 5 starting cards lead off and set up runners with fewer cards in hand. Because of your low nuyen, though, the team’s long-term potential will suffer if you have too many ork runners. Play a few games with everyone being orks and you’ll see what I mean about it being possible to have too much firepower at the start of the game.


Dwarves are the opposite of orks. They are a good metatype for the runner who is going last. You only start with 2 cards, so if you go early in the round, you often can literally do nothing on your first turn. If you go later in the round, though, your teammates can often leave you valuable things to do with your 2 cards. Long term, you’ll have the best deck since you have the most nuyen. If too many runners on your team are dwarves, though, you’ll suffer a lot in the early turns since you simply have too little firepower out of the gate. Dwarves also suffer a bit in games with less than 4 runners. There are fewer runners to help make up for the fact that they are so weak at the beginning of the game.


Without upgrades, trolls are probably the weakest of the metatypes. Even as starting runner, 7 hit points often turns out to be more than you can use. To help trolls out a bit, there are a few events and obstacles that work out much better for the team if one of the runners is a troll. In addition, some of the upgrades allow you to leverage your hit points for other things. A hilarious challenge is to have everyone play a troll runner. You won’t lose quickly since it takes a while to eat through all those hit points, but you’ll notice how long it takes to defeat obstacles when you start with so few cards and nuyen as a team.

Jim Lin

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SR5 development—Magic: A stitch here, a hem there

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text


When we were planning the changes we were going to make in Shadowrun, Fifth Edition and we were thinking about what we wanted to do to magic, we decided that it did not need changes as extensive as the Matrix (see this post and this other post for info about those changes). The system essentially worked, and it was consistent with rules in the rest of the game, so a major overhaul did not seem to be in order. That’s not to say everything was perfect. There were some balancing issues we wanted to address (including adepts, which we discussed here), some flavor we wanted to put in, some new things to add. What kind of things, you ask? Well, things like this:

  • Adjusting Drain Values: In Shadowrun, Fourth Edition Drain Values tended to favor mana-based stun spells, which meant spellcasters could bring down enemies with Stun damage without having to resist a ton of Drain. That made these spells too powerful. Drain Values were revised and rebalanced across the board.
  • Restraining spirits: Spirits can be powerful weapons–sometimes too powerful. There is a particular problem in the area of Edge. Spirits tend to be around for the short term, which means that if a conjurer wants to, he can have them blow through their Edge in short order, without them showing the same restraint that characters do in deciding when to employ those extra dice. Since the conjurer can keep summoning new spirits, they often had access to a lot of Edge, which was not balanced. The fix was that spirits cannot use Edge when they are bound or carrying out services. If a magician wants a spirit to have access to Edge on one of its tasks, he has to use his own, not the spirit’s.
  • Enhancing Alchemy: Moving from a specialization of Enchanting in SR4 to its own skill in SR5, Alchemy received a strong boost. It can now be used to create reagents, which have expanded functions (such as helping increase your limits in certain tests) and to design preparations, which hold spells for later release.
  • Adjusting tradition flavor: One way to distinguish traditions from each other in SR5 is to look at how they interact with spirits. The core book has details on how conjurers of the hermetic and shamanic traditions view spirits and how that affects their interactions, along with other details about each tradition.
  • Simplifying spell damage: We streamlined the damage and the Resistance Tests from Indirect and Direct Combat spells, making the process of casting them a little smoother.
  • Rebalancing foci: Foci are too cool to go anywhere, but they needed to be a little cheaper (especially since their price made them so lucrative to manufacture). Their price has dropped, and some risks were added to the manufacturing process to make it a little more of a challenge to leap into.

All these changes, along with other little tweaks and changes in flavor, should preserve the essential character of Shadowrun magic while balancing it better with the rest of the game–but not so much that people will stop geeking the mage first.

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Shadowrun, Fifth Edition Preview #2 is available

Shadowrun 5 Logo with Text

We told you yesterday to be looking out for a new free preview of Shadowrun, Fifth Edition, and that preview is now available (Battleshop, DriveThruRPG). While the first preview focused on the look and feel of the game,  this one provides more rules content. It has a big load of the Game Concepts chapter, laying out the basic framework of the game, including tests, limits, attributes, uses of Edge, and so on. Enjoy!

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