Product– Shadowrun 6th Ed.
System-Shadowrun 6th Ed.
Producer– Catalyst Game Lab
TL; DR– New but similar. 93%
Basics– Shadowrun is 30 years old! In honor of this, here is the 6th edition. What changed? What’s new? What’s old? Let’s dive in together!
Basics- Shadowrun 6th ed. uses the solid base of 5th edition. Almost all rolls are: take an attribute (the stats of your character that range mostly between 1 to 6), add your skill ranks, and roll that many dice. You then count the number of 1s and the 5s and 6s. 5 and 6 are successes and used to determine if you succeed, while if you have over half 1s, that’s a glitch and something bad happens. Pretty simple.
What’s new with the basics-the BIGGEST change between editions is edge. Edge is the magic cheaty story currency. You buy pizza? Get a point of edge. You roleplay well? Edge. You’re the only player paying attention and you catch the plot hook? EDGE! What changed is now before every roll we check who has an advantage in a situation. That side gains edge now. You see in the dark and the opponent doesn’t? Edge for you! What’s also changed is edge isn’t just rerolls now. It’s much more an a la carte menu where you choose abilities, to change dice faces, and other crazy options. Edge even powers new abilities.
Combat-combat got more of a face lift with two sizable, but manageable changes. 1st, armor…is gone. In 5th ed, I would roll to hit you. You would roll to dodge. If I got more successes (5s and 6s on the dice) than you then the difference would be added to the weapon damage. You would then roll a soak roll. Soak is reducing damage, and it was found by adding your body attribute to your armor value. You would roll that many d6s praying for 5s and 6s so you would not die! In 6th ed, armor doesn’t provide damage reduction but instead provides a score to compare to guns to gain edge. It means you roll much fewer dice and weapon damage is also down to compensate. The second biggest change is actions in combat. Before, in 5th, you would roll initiative and all characters would act from high to low. After actions, you would subtract 10 from all scores, and characters with scores above 0 would act again. This would result in multiple passes for fast characters moving at super human speeds. Now all characters roll initiative as before, but depending on the number of d6s you roll you may gain additional actions. Every character gets 1 minor action (things like run ) and 1 major action (thinks like attack and cast spells). You can spend several minor actions to make a second major action. This means you get fewer passes at the top of the round, but you also have a more stable initiative action order and action amounts.
Magic- magic changes, but it still follows the basics above. Before you would choose how hard a spell would hit, now you just roll and if you get more hits, you increase magic effectiveness after the roll doing more damage or being more hidden based on your result. Magic’s overall power did go down, but it also gained some significant ease of use, especially in regard to healing!
Technology-All the basics you loved before are here except streamlined. You no longer need to MARC (put a tag on in game) computers or computer programs to take them over. It’s also streamlined, with all matrix (think futuristic internet) actions being reduced to two basic skill pools. It’s a lot quicker, and also means that you can do so during a fight rather than having to do all the hard work before a fight. Also, all the naughty things you do online make the tracking score on your dirty deeds go up MUCH faster. This means that a whole section of the game tracking how long until the matrix overwatch simply called GOD comes to smack you down now matters a whole lot more!
Mechanics or Crunch– Sixth edition is different, and that’s not bad! Overall, the mechanics are still the same. I liked 5th ed’s base mechanics, so 6th ed starts strong. The changes that have been made are all made in the name of speed. You don’t reroll init (speed), it’s easier to do hacking (speed), magic is a smaller number of steps (speed), and a whole host of other things. These I really like. All the choices here seem to have been really well thought out. The things you won’t like are the loss of full crunch. Numbers are smaller and there are fewer fiddly bits. You can run a whole game of “Lasers and Love” where you do all the things in a Shadowrun game with just 1d6, but there isn’t a whole lot of crunch to that system. You most definitely don’t hurl a dumpster of d6s at a problem any more. That feels a bit wrong. And there is the armor thing…. It’s small. The logic has been explained to me by both the creator of the system. It’s mathematically sound. And it’s wrong. It bugs me to high heaven that I can’t strap on a tank and take no damage from a pistol. I gain a point of edge (of the maximum 2 I can earn each turn) for the tank I’ve strapped to my face but still take a crap ton of damage if I can’t roll a dodge worth a crap! 4.5/5
Theme or Fluff– Shadowrun always has good fluff, and this book is no exception. That’s it. I’m in Michigan, and despite all the horrors of the 6th World, this is the one future where Michigan has an economy! 5/5
Execution– PDF? Yep! Hyperlinked? YES! This book is done pretty well. My main issues are some of the tables and the writing with them. A key example of this is the table for racial maximums. As you build a character, you are given extra points that you can put into special attributes like magic, edge, or some racial attributes like orcs are strong etc. You have to manually find that. It’s not hard when you jump onto the writer’s logic, but why? Don’t make me five second logic puzzle out where my extra points can do. Just put that in the chart! There are a few times where those small puzzles come out. Now this is a MASSIVE BOOK, so editing issues will pop up, but those things hurt teaching new players this game. I live and breathe RPG, so that took me five seconds. A few of my friends though? It took multiple passes to make them understand if your score can go above six, then you can put the extra point there. But, for the majority of the book, this is how you want to make a RPG book. 4.5/5
Summary-The sixth sixth world is here, and I like it! This might not be a complete love affair as some minor things like tables and armor values murky my joy, but the changes together make a game that runs a WHOLE lot faster than before. The one thing Catalyst can do extremely well is tell a crazy story about orcs with shotguns in downtown Detroit, so the story and fluff of this game is amazing. The layout is good, with some minor issues that once you get past will work easily. Is this a perfect system? No, that can’t exist. The changes that happened all happened to make the game run on a non geological time scale. Will this make all fans happy? No. It’s got some differences that older fans just won’t grok. Does it make me happy? Honestly yes. I look forward to playing in the sixth world as my decker hacks Elf eyeballs in the middle of combat in Jersey fully as a member of a team even if my armor doesn’t matter much! 93%