Friday, July 25, 2014

SR5: First Impressions

Ran my first SR5 game last night. It was sloppy as SIN rules-wise, but I don't feel bad considering the size of the rulebook. There's a lot to digest, and it's going to take me a while to become blind-proficient with the rules. The group likes it; we've always talked about doing something cyberpunky and the disintegration of the Wednesday D&D game has left an opening for just that flavor. I'm glad we seized the day and did it—non-scheduled games, which used to be something we could easily do on IRC when enough people were around, have become almost impossible to play due to the limits people have on spending their time online dicking around. What I mean mostly is that people aren't online a lot outside of game times. Which is fine. Hanging out on IRC all the time is the sign of a seriously troubled personal life, probably, since there are so many better things to be doing in the real world. That being said, I miss the freedom with which we could start pickup games and the amount which they could be played.

So, what did everyone like about SR5 so far? Character creation is much improved from SR4, for one thing. The priority system allowed everyone to complete their character before the week was out. Back when we were considering SR4, this took weeks and weeks to manage as people puttered around with points, shifted them back and forth, etc. So yes, creation was greatly improved. Alex, who was making a technomancer, actually managed to create his entire character the day of, which would have been nearly impossible for an unexperienced SR4 player to do properly. Street level starts, of course, because I like putting my players in the most pain possible at the beginning of the game. They've all been complaining about the reduced points and money of street level, but so far I haven't seen a huge impact on their abilities—one or two runs should obviate their problems.

The layout of the new book leaves a little to be desired. If I had the hard cover I suppose it wouldn't be that bad, but I have the very slow pdf. As it is, looking up rules in various sections is difficult, laborious, and slow. The headings aren't that easy to navigate, and some rules are buried in sidebars on pages where you wouldn't necessarily expect them. The beginning of certain sections in the equipment chapter are several pages off from the actual cost tables, which means when I click the bookmark I still have to flip a few pages forward to get to the chart. Not a big big deal, but every little bit slows me down.

Limits are a good way to prevent enormous dicepools from overcoming every obstacle, and so far the tests I've had people doing have turned out well. They seem to very solidly represent the ingame reality as it unfolds.

My biggest gripe so far is NPC design. Grunt: sure, fine, easy. Not a whole lot of flavor on those guys. But Prime Runner foes? Jesus christ, that's a sunk 30 minutes just building them. There was really no better method than "Make them like a runner?" With priorities and all that shit? That's just awful. That's AWFUL. I'm not fast at making runners yet, but even when I am I can't see how that will be a brief and painless process. C'mon SR5. Give me one better than that.


  1. Something else I liked about SR5's character creation over the previous edition is that it uses Karma for its point buy, the same points you get during play, instead of SR4's Build Points that are used during character generation and then never again. This means the spreadsheet I use for making my character can also be used to track what I buy with Karma earned in play.

    SR5's priority system also makes it harder to have a character that's useful in only a narrow range of situations, something that happened by accident fairly easily with SR4's open point buy. You can still make a specialized character in SR5, but it's a lot harder to do it by accident.

    One disadvantage of SR5 is the lack of source books available for it. SR3 and 4 have over thirty books each, each introducing new and optional rules for archetypes, as well as new gear. Fortunately Catalyst is fixing that with their web supplements, which include rules for both SR4 and 5 in the same book. However, since Josh is a reasonable GM, if we found a quality or a piece of gear from a previous edition that hadn't been moved forward yet, we're able to work something out.

  2. Where are you playing on IRC? I would definitely be interested in joining. I miss your sick-nasty DM prowess. =)