Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A few points...

I wanted to take a moment and thank The Arcology Podcast for linking to my earlier progressive recoil post. Also, I wanted to address a comment I received about a few errors in one of my earlier post on Limits.

I know online people can get defensive, and arguments can quickly spiral out of control so I wanted to take a moment to say thank you. I try my best to present accurate, and factual information and when information is wrong, I do apologize and I sincerely appreciate issues being brought to my attention. I do moderate comments, but will not delete any comment unless it's spam, or inflammatory. So, long story short, if in the future you spot an error in any of my posts please don't hesitate to drop a comment and let me know. If, at first you don't see the comment don't worry it's being moderated and should show up shortly.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

First Session!

After some weeks I've finally nailed down a date for my first Shadowrun 5th Edition session. I have nearly all new players, so I'm running this as a one-off. I'm going to build a number of canned PCs and let the group pick. As this is a one-off, that will make things smoother, as I'll know the player's characters, their capabilities, and can offer advice as the game progresses.

I started by trying to come up with a hook, that is, the point of the run. I wanted to keep the players at street level, so I started thinking about a less technical run. I wanted them to experience Shadowrun, and have an enjoyable game, yet in a lower threat environment. I decided that they were going to be hired by a friend, of a friend, to help deal with a local gang that is muscling in on some new turf. Setting the run in Tacoma around the Port of Tacoma and Commencement bay would give me ample opportunity to tie the narrative in with the wider Seattle area, and the Shadowrun world.

I plan to expose the characters, some who are SIN-less to the dangers of not being a citizen in a world where the police are for profit. Police presence, the hazards of open carry, and the risk of low-rating SINs are all going to come into play between the call, and the meet itself. For the meet, I'm  borrowing a favored location of mine the Three Stone Steps Pub. This is a well known, and well loved, location. As with most of it's incarnations it's a small, basement level pub. Mafia controlled, usually by the Finnigan family, it does treble duty as a watering hole, money laundering front, and fence house. I describe the location as small, dark, and well worn. Think of your favorite townie bar, put it in a basement, add bagpipes, and you have the rough idea.

Mr. Johnson is a low-level made man in the Finnigan family, who's been contracted to deal with a problem in Tacoma. A new gang has started moving chips, and setting up a protection racket. This, obviously, cannot stand, but the family can't get involved directly, for political, and personal reasons, which if this wasn't a one-shot could serve as a plot point for later runs. When I plan a run, even a one-off I try to leave myself options, leave things open, so that I can reuse the run later, in a different setting, if needed. This keeps me from ever having to toss a run, everything is reusable.

Once the team goes through the negotiations they will need to use their contacts to find the gang, their hideout, and any other information they might need. I like to leave the legwork phase open to interpretation. Depending on the player they may think to ask an unexpected contact, an unexpected question, and if their logic is sound I like to reward them. This means I rarely tie specific bits of information to specific questions or contacts. Instead I have a list of answers, and when a player asks a reasonable question, to a reasonable contact, they get an answer. For a more experienced group, I might take a harder line, but for a one-off, with mostly new players I focus on the fun, and flow, of the session rather then trying to run a tough game.

Once the players have amassed enough information they move to planning the run itself. This is a fine balancing act. If they dig too deep, I'll have the gang get wind of the impending attack, and the lethality goes up some. If they don't have enough information, then the run becomes more difficult if not impossible. Once the planning begins, I leave it wholly up to the players. If they want to scope out the hideout, great, if they want to show up guns blazing, great, if they want to wait for nightfall, and go in stealthy, great, but the point here is that I'm leaving it up to them. This is one of the big issues I have with canned adventures. You lose that flexibility. I like to have a series of points, plot points, if you will that the players will bounce from. Keeping a series of points in mind keeps the session from turning into a railroad, which is no fun for myself, or my players.

Once the run is planned, I let them execute. At this point my role shifts, I move from being a narrator, to being the op-for, I am the bad guy. While I need to keep the game moving, and fun, I need to put myself in the shoes of the NPC, the mindset of these gangers. Once that is done, then I can have them react in ways that make sense, that mirror reality. This, again, is where staying flexible really helps out.

Here's the roster I've put together:

- A human decker/face.
- An orc investigator, think Eddie Valient with tusks.
- A human street aspected mage, no SIN, focusing on combat spells.
- An elven adept, focusing on stealth.
- A human rigger, with a small arsenal of drones, and a large shotgun.
- A troll "street samurai" though at street level play there's not much cyberware.
- A dwarf gunman, two pistols, and a leather duster.
- A human shaman, low-grade mage, mostly optimized for conjuring.

With four players, this gives them some choice, and flexibility. For me, it limits the potential pool, and makes planning the enemy much, much, simpler.

Magic in the Shadows: Conjuring

If you read my previous post on spellcasting you'll know I'm not a fan of the magic rules in Shadowrun, and unfortunately 5th Edition hasn't done much to make me a fan. However, of all the magical abilities, I like spirits the most. I find the concept of spirits, and especially the various types of spirits to add a lot of flavor to a game, and to the universe as a whole. I've always enjoyed finding new ways to describe the various spirits when they use their powers, or manifest.

Conjuring is broken into three sections, summoning, binding, and banishing. I'll handle them separately beginning with summoning. Summoning is the act of compelling a spirit to serve you. One of the new features that I like, but haven't gotten to play with much is specifying optional powers. If you summon a spirit of Force 3 or above, you can specify an optional power for every three points of force. Force 3, one power, 6, two powers, etc. My only complaint is that it's harder to summon a low level spirit, then it is to summon a higher level one. The test for summoning is an opposed test: Summoning + Magic [Force] v. Force

This means that to summon a force one spirit, you only succeed if you roll a success and the spirit does not, as ties go to the defender. With a higher force spirit, there's a lower chance of all their dice (the limit) coming up as hits, so it gets easier the higher the spirit's force, as it raises the limit. Granted, the rules do let you raise the limit through use of magical reagents, but for such a low-level spirit it hardly seems worthwhile. Once the test has passed, or failed, you must resist drain, the same as with spellcasting. In this case the drain is twice the total hits the spirit rolled on the summoning test.

I really like conjuring for two reasons. First, it's flavorful. Spirits can have a personality, they are all different. A spirit of man (my favorite) can manifest as a stop sign, a pile of garbage, a dust devil, reminiscent of a subway train coming into the station, or a sentient tire. A spirit of water can be a puddle, or a quick micro-burst shower. Second, I love the fact that spirits are sentient in and of themselves, I like that they can break free, or on a glitch show up for a "chat" with the summoner. I like that mages can develop a relationship with spirits. Conjuring, as a discipline, is less flexible then spellcasting but in my mind, from a game play experience I'd much rather conjure, then spell cast.

Let's move on to binding. When you summon a spirit through conjuring the spirit/mage relationship is short-term. There's nothing holding the spirit to the mage past the next sunrise/sunset and there's nothing I like more as a GM then having a spirit dissipate, mid-service. Ah, the joys of being a GM. A bound spirit however, is around until their services are used up. This generally is reserved for a higher level spirit. I wouldn't recommend binding any spirit below force 6/your magic rating. Though your mileage may vary.

Once a spirit is summoned, and has enough services to be worth keeping around, or maybe you're lonely and simply want a friend, you need to bind them. In 5th Edition, the binding rules haven't really changed, and unlike spellcasting they are fairly straightforward. The only hitch is that you need a significant amount of reagants. Once you have them the test is fairly straightforward, if taking a fair amount of time.

Note: This is one of the reasons I give my players downtime between runs. I'll often let my players dictate how they spend their time between runs, this gives players the ability to fence stolen gear, find new gear, to summon, and bind spirits, to train, find an instructor, heal, or whatever they need to do. It also provides a great mechanism for me if every now and again the downtime gets broken up. A contact calls in a favor while you're busy binding a spirit, or before you've found that nice gun you're looking for. Do you say no, and risk alienating a potentially useful contact? Or, do you say yes and run somewhat under-prepared. It's a good way to, occasionally, up the dramatic tension in a group.

I'm going to skip over Banishing, and move on to why I really, really, like Spirits in Shadowrun 5th edition. In 3rd Edition which was the system I've played the most to date any spirit could do any task. There was no real limit on what a spirit could do. In 5th Edition however, spirits are limited in what they can do, and how useful they are, by their force. This gets around one of the most frustrating "tricks" in 3rd and 4th Editions, namely mages spawning force 1 spirits, having them do one task, and letting them go.

In games, from a GM perspective, I like that spirits are still useful, and can be a very flavorful part of the world, and I like even more that a mage has to risk drain when summoning. While the fact that a force 1 spirit is very hard to summon doesn't seem to mesh with my view on the game, I can respect the designers not wanting to break the system of Skill + Attribute [Limit] just for Conjuring. From a role play perspective, I like to make my spirits helpful, but a little surly. A spirit, in my mind, has a pilot rating equal to their force. Send a force 1, or 2, spirit to do a complex task and you may not like the results. This forces my players to think about their commands a bit more, and makes them leery to send spirits to do important things unsupervised. Let me give an example:

A low force spirit, single service, gets sent across a factory to "push the red button on that panel" the mage has line of sight to the panel, so can convey to the spirit the panel in question. If I'm feeling generous I have the spirit go, and push the button, and then consider it's service completed and leave. However, let's say the mage has a reputation, they have abused a spirit or two before, and word has gotten around. The spirit goes over and pushes the button, a lot. Not once, not twice, but a few dozen times. It's still within the scope of the request, and who knows what that button does. Or, if the mage uses a spirit of the earth, maybe he pushes the button really hard. There's so many things you can do as a GM to curtail a mages reliance of spirits. It's entirely up to you.

In a later post I'll talk a bit about magical security, and physical security, and using mages in security teams.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Magic in the Shadows: Spellcasting

I want to go out on a limb, and voice what I'm sure is an unpopular opinion. I hate the magic rules in Shadowrun. In three editions now, 3rd, 4th, and 5th, I've yet to see a mage that wasn't balance-breaking. I've played mages, and run magic heavy games, and even did a stint with a group where magic didn't exist. The last was the most enjoyable.

While I don't have significant experience with magic in Shadowrun 5th Edition, I have read through the bulk of the core rules, and have formulated a number of opinions. First, let's look at the two traditions in the core rules. Hermetic Mages, and Shamans are given as your two default choices. This is in line with previous editions, and I don't find fault here. Descriptions for both are fairly clear, and explain the difference adequately. The rules go on to cover Magical Lodges, and this is where my first complaint arises.

I understand the need to tie a mage to a physical location. I get that. I think the concept of a lodge grew up out of the need for a "spellbook" concept. If you look at a mage in a traditional D20 setting, they are hamstrung by their spellbook. Get rid of a mage's spell book and you've effectively rendered them impotent. However, lodges don't really accomplish that. As most players won't craft foci, or cast ritual spells you only need a lodge for learning new spells. As that's not exactly a common occurrence what's to keep a mage from simply not buying a lodge till one's needed? Buy the materials, sure, but keep them in boxes in storage, when you need them, pull them out, learn a spell, and put them back away. A mage in Shadowrun isn't tied to their lodge, or limited by their lodge in any way. This means that a mage, especially in low threat settings is simply better than the rest of the team.

Let's look at the changes in spellcasting now. I want to start by saying I like that they kept casting multiple spells fairly simple. Take your pool, divide, roll, I like that. They kept the need for touch, or actual line of sight, again, I like that. I allows some very simple tactics to keep a team safe from magical over watch. Smoke is your friend. However, force, is where I start to have problems. It's not so much that I don't like how they determine if drain is physical, or stun, it's that the wording is terribly obtuse. What I *think* they are trying to say is that the hits you get on your spellcasting test determine if drain is physical or stun. Which just doesn't make sense. Sure, it's not a bad rule, but think this through. Magic rating 5, I cast a force 10 spell, and get one hit on my spellcasting test. It's still a force 10 spell, and I only take stun drain. They should have stuck with the force > magic rating = physical drain. I can't think why the would have changed it.

Then, to make things even more confusing they go on to reiterate the drain rules in the Cast Spell section, using slightly different wording. Given that the limit for the spell is the force, why would you ever, for example, light off a force 1 spell? It's very confusingly worded, and desperately needs a few concrete examples. If these rules make sense to you, feel free to comment, as I certainly could use some clarity.

Unfortunately, the rules continue to be clear as mud. We'll skip over Determine Effect, and move onto Resist Drain. They should have left this as "The Drain Value for a spell is given in it's description, and cannot be lower than 2" given that each spell description includes an F, for force, I don't see why they chose to include that it's based on force in the determine drain section. Also, why not print Force, instead of F? I understand ink's not cheap, but it took me a few reads through the chapter to connect F - 6 to Force - 6 (min 2) It's just shoddy. Also, while we're on the subject of Drain, a little reminder sidebar that resisting drain depends on your tradition would have been incredible. Given the high quality of the Matrix, and Combat, sections the Magic section comes off sloppy, and half-baked.

I don't mind the Spell Characteristics section, it's not great, and like the rest of the chapter it's needlessly cluttered, but it's not terrible. Once you tear the section apart, and re-write it with the appropriate tests, and limits in place of the page references it becomes usable, but I shouldn't have to re-write rules to make them make sense, and in this case that's exactly what is required.

Spell categories, are just as cluttered as the rest of the section Instead of a wall of text, a few good examples would have been incredible here. For example:

Combat Spells: Direct: When you cast a direct combat spell it inflicts a number of boxes of damage on the target, equal to your net hits. When casting a direct spell use on of the following tests. For physical spells, those with a Type P, the test is Spellcasting + Magic [Force] v. Body + Counterspelling. (if any) For mental spells, those with a Type M, the test is Spellcasting + Magic [Force] v. Willpower + Counterspelling (if any) Spell damage, once applied, cannot be resisted by any other means.

It's not a huge rewrite, but it follows the format of calling out tests directly like every other chapter does. It eliminates a lot of the waffling, and the parenthesis, for me at least it seems cleaner. Personal opinion maybe, but the whole chapter screams out for a rewrite in my mind. I won't even go over Indirect spells, that section makes my head hurt.

What kills me though, is when we get to the next section for Detection Spells, they go back to the format I used above, the tests are spelled out using the normal form. While it's still opaque, it's better. They have an example, it's a good one, it's game-relevant, and it helps to cover why you'd use a detection spell. Unfortunately it covers Passive detection spells, not active, which in my mind need the example more. Why burn the page space for an example here when the combat spells need one so desperately?

Then we get to Health spells. Good gravy! It's clean, the description makes sense, they explain Essence penalties in a way that works immediately. There's no confusion here. Whomever wrote this description, have them re-write the others. This is the best description section for the spells, and some of the best writing for the chapter to this point. Fortunately this spat of good writing continues through Illusions, a section that in 3rd Edition was murky to the point of being unusable.

The section on Manipulation spells is decently written, but I feel that they should have broken the manipulation spells up into sections based on their sub-type. For example, handle Damaging spells apart from Mental, or Environmental, or Physical. If the spell requires a different mechanic, then you need to handle them separately.

Next, we get to Counterspelling. I like the mechanic, and I like the way it's written. However, I really think they should have talked about counterspelling before the spell list. You need to understand the value of counterspelling before you slog through pages of spells. I have to say, I love that you can designate multiple friendlies, and they each get the full dice pool. In 4th Edition, or maybe it was 3rd, you had to split your pool, and you usually ended up with a die, or two, per friendly, and that never seemed to matter. In 5th Edition counterspelling matters.

I'd like to go over Ritual Spellcasting, but I'm going to borrow a saying used by my U.S. History teacher when covering the Vietnam war: "I didn't support it, and I won't teach it, you can read it yourself." I feel the same way about Ritual Spellcasting. It's a terrible mechanic, it doesn't fit with the rest of the world terribly well, and it's seriously game breaking if you're not prepared for it. Why did the designers think to burn three and a half pages on it? This is perfect material for an advanced sourcebook later, this isn't something you put in the core rules. So, want to know more? Read it yourself.

Next, tacked on seemingly as an afterthought, is the Learning Spells section. This is well written, but feels out of place for me. This belongs in the character improvement section, not tacked on to the end of the Spellcasting section. I like that they call out the benefit of Instruction, and they also call out that you need a lodge, but don't say that it needs to be your lodge. So, again, why pay for a lodge? I can totally see a Rent-A-Lodge concept.

Whew, that was a lot of Spellcasting hate, sorry. What I would have liked to see is a clear set of examples walking the player through casting a spell of each of the types, from start to finish, including tests, and attributes for the mage, and targets. Take out Ritual Spellcasting, and you'd have plenty of page space to do just that. Do that, and re-write the most confusing sections, add in a spell reference table, and I'd be much happier with spellcasting.

I'll touch on Conjuring in my next update!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sample Contact: Gunner Doyle

My last post on contacts got me thinking, and I dug back through my folio to one of my original Runners, a one-trick-pony of a gun nut from 3rd Edition. This character had three, or four, incarnations over the course of his lifetime, each slightly more fine-tuned then the last. He is still remembered fondly for glitching a climbing test, and getting killed messily in the middle of a museum. Oops. This is also the reason why everybody in my group took the Athletics skill group at a 1, or better.

Now, I'm not going to give you his stats, other than some basic information, instead I'm going to describe the scene as if I was GM'ing for a group, and they wanted to contact Mr. Doyle for some reason.

The sign reads "Doyle & Sons: Gunsmith" sandwiched in a strip mall in Renton between a discount shoe store, a mom & pop take on a Stuffer Shack. The front of the store, viewed from the street has a series of windows, covered in a fine black grill, to deter break-ins. As you push open the door a bell sounds. The front of the shop is dimply lit, a few overhead bulbs suspended in metal cages provide illumination for the racks of ammunition, and accessories, and the front counter. As you approach the counter you can't help but notice the myriad nicks, and scrapes in the wood, a sure sign of years of use. A man steps out of the back room, a sawed off shotgun dangling from one hand, along the side of the stock you can see "First Born Son" has been engraved. As he catches sight of you, and your group, he speaks. His voice is rough, gravely, from years of smoking. A fact that is only reinforced by the full ashtray on his side of the counter, and the bulge in his shirt pocket that you hope is nothing more dangerous then a pack of cigarettes. "Can I help you?"

What all did that monologue accomplish? First, I established the scene, the mood, the feeling that I'm trying to convey. The shop is older, worn, I gave away no crucial information, no sense of the security, or information about the proprietor, then the fact that the windows are covered. I ended the monologue with a query, the player, or players, must now choose to respond. I have not confirmed that the individual greeting them is their contact, nor would I, if a player knows the contact then they could ask me out of character if that's the contact, and I'd privately answer in the affirmative. However, if this is a blind meet, then it's up to the players on how they proceed.

After confirming the contacts identity, I'd say the following:

The man facing you across the counter appears to be in his mid-40s, though years of work outdoors, and heavy smoking have aged him some, so his exact age is hard to determine. His eyes are a soft blue, a well-washed denim blue, and they stare out from a face covered in fine wrinkles, and a perpetual tan that he's managed to keep in spite of Seattle's patchy weather. He places the shotgun across the table and leans forward. His forearms flex, not with the bulky muscle of steroids, but with the long lean cords of muscle earned through hard work, and harder living. His shirt, a well worn flannel button down, with the sleeves rolled above his elbows, is unbuttoned at the neck, revealing a hint of a tattooBehind him, is a rack of firearms, of nearly every shape and description, all neatly tagged and awaiting pickup.

When you describe anything, but especially a contact, you have to make them come alive. Of course, I could say that "Your contact is a white human, male, six feet tall, tanned, with blue eyes he's wearing a flannel shirt and carrying a sawed off shotgun." that conveys the same basic information, but it's dull, terribly, terribly, dull. This is a game, and what's more, it's a story. You have got to sell your characters, every person you meet, sell them.

The best advice I can give a new GM, is that you must, absolutely must, pay attention. If you're going to tell a convincing story pay attention to the people around you, what makes them unique, what little things, ticks, facial expressions, patterns of behavior, and dress, stick out? Remember them, and make note of them, and use them. Your contacts should be just as important, if not more important, then your players. Your players can sell themselves, they can describe their actions, their look, their gear, your contacts have only you, and you must do them justice.

Fireside Chat: Contacts Are People Too!

I want to talk about Contacts. As a game mechanic they serve a useful purpose, they find your players jobs, fence gear, sell gear, and provide a wealth of information for just a small pile of cash. The contacts your character picks tend to reflect the role, and back story of the character as envisioned by the player. These contacts have loyalty and connection rating, and are generally named after their role, and not themselves.

For example, in my current group we have a Decker/Face with a contact on his sheet that reads like this: KE Lieutenant (3/3) Now, that's enough to handle the contact. We know what he/she is, and what numbers to use for tests. This, for now, is enough. However, what happens when you actually start playing? Is this contact male? Female? Human? Ork? Troll? This is a trap that a lot of new GM's fall into. It simply doesn't matter.

Let's use the Lieutenant above. My Runners are looking to hit a local gang. Mr. Johnson wants to send a clear message that this upstart gang is moving in on his territory, but Mr. Johnson doesn't know, or won't divulge the location of the gang's base. So, the runners need to do some legwork. Knowing that he has a police contact, the group rings up this nameless, faceless, Lieutenant.

How do you proceed? As a GM I find you have a few options.

1) AR is your friend. Don't know, or care, about a contact's particulars? The Runners make a com-call, and the entire exchange is done via AR, they never see more than the contact's icon. Which, would be something police themed, and off the shelf.

2) Fall back on the archetype, we've all seen an episode of Law and Order, voila. Instant detective contact. Male, human, white, wrinkled, keep the conversation brief, and you should be in the clear.

3) Actually plan ahead. This is a tough one for new GM's but as you run more games this gets easier. I have a folio of canned Runners, contacts, places, etc. which comes with me to every game. If I need a canned police Lieutenant, I simply pull the canned policeman out of my folder, consult the list of pre-generated names, and pick one. This is tied to some vital stats, height, weight, etc. which allows me to build a plausible character out of a canned template.

I also make a point to keep every Runner I have ever built, for every edition. Just because the stats no longer translate into 5th Edition doesn't mean that the character itself isn't still valuable. In the end, it's the GM's job to provide a meaningful exchange. What that means to you, and to your players, varies by group. However, I find that I'm much calmer when I know I've planned for most eventualities.

Let's take a minute to look at the other side of the fence. Sometimes you have a player that knows exactly what they want their contacts to be. Name, age, place of employment, they have an image in their head and they want to take that image and express it on paper as a contact. These players tend to be more experienced, and in this case I have them write up a short bio for the contact. This gets tacked onto the back of their character sheet, and when the game wraps up, both their Runner, and their contact, get added to my folio. It's always nice for veteran players to see their old Runners, and contacts make another appearance. Plus, it gives you, the GM, a beautiful emotional hook. Don't ever discard an old character, crib sheet, or note from a game session. I've never regretted having too much detail on hand.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tactics, Recoil, and Single-Shot Guns

I sat on this post for a good long while, mostly because I wanted to try and find a way to explain what I was seeing, and thinking, with the 5th Edition rules changes around combat without having to go back and explain 4th Edition combat to readers who haven't played 4th Edition.

In the end, I gave up, and simply wrote the post below with the understanding that I would have to preface the discussion with a lesson on 4th Edition mechanics, before I could go on to talk about the new mechanics in Shadowrun 5th Edition.

Let me start by going over how combat worked in 4th Edition, and why it was, frankly, terrible. Combat in Shadowrun is usually a matter of putting as much lead down range as possible. In 4th Edition this meant a few very simple things. First, you never took a single shot rifle. It just didn't make any sense. With the exception of the miniguns, and why they are single shot, we have no idea. Anyway, there was simply no reason to take a single shot gun when you could take a semi-automatic gun, and have two shots in the combat turn verses one. The same was true on the other end of the spectrum, you never saw a character with a fully automatic rifle, as the recoil penalty simply got out of hand. Fully automatic weapons were used, in my games, for supressive fire, and that was it. This meant, for my players, and for myself that you only ever saw semi-auto, and burst fire guns, with a lot of gear strapped on to overcome the recoil penalties. While this was "legal" it certainly wasn't much fun. There were whole swaths of guns that nobody ever took, as their were cheaper, easy to fire, and more accurate options.

Now, we move to 5th Edition where several rules changes have turned the formula for ranged combat on it's ear. First, let's look at Progressive Recoil. This is a very simple rules change with massive repercussions. Progressive recoil states that recoil carries over from combat turn, to combat turn. This, if you think about it, makes sense. If you've ever fired a rifle, or pistol, as fast as you can eventually the gun gets away from you. That's what progressive recoil means, and we love it. In 4th Edition it was as if everyone stopped to take a breather between combat turns. There was no sense that combat flowed from one turn to the next, now, there is.

Right on the heels of Progressive Recoil comes another small, but catastrophic change to combat. You may take one attack action per round. One. That means, your single-shot rifle fires once per round, or your semi-automatic pistol fires once as a simple action (making it the same as a single-shot gun) or you can fire three times as a complex action. This is great, you get more bullets that you did in 4th Edition, but with the progressive recoil rules your three-round burst recoil carries over to your next turn. Fire another three-round burst and you have to contend with six bullets worth of recoil, out of a semi-automatic gun! That's nuts! Burst fire is even more insane, regular three-round bursts are a simple action, but you can fire TWO three round bursts as a complex action, however you're now carrying six bullets worth of recoil into your next turn. Full auto guns fire 6 rounds as a simple action, and a whopping ten rounds full auto!

What does this all mean, from a tactical perspective? Well, quite simply you cannot stand behind cover and spray bullets down range and expect to hit things turn after turn, after turn. You must take time to pause, adjust, aim, and at the very least break the flow of bullets to minimize the Progressive Recoil. Large characters, and guns mounted on tripods, or in fixed positions will still allow you to fire numerous rounds before incurring penalties, and that's as it should be, but for the average Runner the player now needs to weight the options, do I fire a burst this turn, and accept that I may have recoil to contend with next turn, or do I fire a single round and then move to a better position? Do I use a Take Aim action, and break the flow of recoil, before firing another round? All of these things were included in 4th Edition, but rarely used as it was simply easier to fire, and to keep firing.

Catalyst, good job. Seriously, good job.

After I published this, several of the comments brought to my attention two additional points. First, single-shot guns do not suffer from Progressive Recoil, they are immune. This makes single-shot guns, especially rifles, very useful.

Second, all characters start with one free point of recoil compensation, and then get strength/3 (round up) points of additional recoil compensation before any other equipment is added in. This means a troll, with a very high strength can handle Progressive Recoil much more readily then a human, or other less bulky character.