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Monday, October 3, 2016

Shadowrun:Anarchy (review/overview)

Let me preface this by saying Shadowrun was the second RPG I ever ran. I've clocked more hours running SR than probably any other setting/systems. I've run every edition, at least a handful of times. I liked some more than others. I've also run the SR setting under dozens of other systems over the years. So SR is part of my DNA as a GM.

I'm still reading over the rules, first time through I gave Anarchy a quick scan. Now I'm looking closer and picking out parts to go a little deeper with.

First off I don't find the collaborative mode of play all that fitting for my group, but I never rule anything out. So I'm sure I'll be running Anarchy in a more traditional RPG style. But I already like to give my players narrative freedom if they feel comfortable doing so.

The other thing I don't see myself focusing much on is the Cues, I'm unfamiliar with the Cue system. From what I can see they are just phrases that are either about your character or something they would say. Which seem to be  way more useful in the collaborative style of play.

The core mechanic is a dice pool system, but instead of rolling against a set difficulty (threshold) the GM sets a difficulty and rolls that many dice. So all rolls are opposed rolls in Anarchy. I see myself adding thresholds back, if nothing else just to speed up play. Ability scores are just noted as number of dice in that pool, a 6 in physical means you roll 6 dice for physical rolls.

There is no dice pool limits like core 5th edition, but I don't see that being an issue as skill levels stay relatively low in these rules.
Gone are rerolls from 5th edition SR like 10 again, 9 again, and 8 again. Rerolls do show up but as the result of Amps, which I'll cover later. 

Each character has only a few skills, skills are noted as 3+P, meaning you would add three dice to your physical ability score for this kind of roll. 

Characters also have qualities (2 good, 1 bad), these define your characters further. Special aptitude, contacts, education, physical qualities, natural ability and resistances are all qualities. Negative qualities are things like phobias, enemies, being wanted, distinct look, or any other drawback can be your negative quality. Most Qualities add dice to a single action, some give rerolls to a single pool for an action and others are strictly roleplay driven resources like contacts.

Next is Shadow Amps, Amps cover a lot of different things. An amp is just a general term Anarchy uses for resources, powers, and gear. Amps include spells, adept powers, cyberware, bioware, special gear, drones, and spirits. Amps give a few different benefits, most common is extra dice to a pool, rerolls to a type of action, and some spells do damage. 

The one mechanic I think they present poorly is plot points. I get the idea of them. But the explanation of gaining and spending is all kinds of terrible. They break down that plot points are their to add twists you never see coming. 

It says players gain plot points through good narrative (that's it, no examples or ways to earn them) and can spend them on things like add plot twists, alter dice rolls, change turn order, gain back damage. But the first example of use is "add a glitch die to a players roll, including your own" another is "Surprise threat: corporate security suddenly show up". What player would choose to do these? These would be great ways to earn plot points, not use them. The glitch die can cause good effects, so I guess it's tempting fate to get a good result. 

The other uses of plot points make sense. Change initiative order, move twice, two attacks on someone who attacked you, heal one wound, and take a hit for someone else. I assume my misgivings about plot points is because I'm thinking of a more traditional GM player relationship and not the collaborative version. 

Combat is straightforward, if a weapon does 5 damage you fill in 5 boxes of damage. Damage can be stun or physical. Armor works very different than 5th shadowrun, armor has its own damage track to be filled in first. 

Anarchy has a pretty simple and clear character creation system. With rules for starting characters off at gange-level, street runners, or prime runners. Characters get X number of points for each category, based on what level you start your game at. I hope an official or fan based priority system comes out as it's my favorite way to build a SR character.

There is even rules for Amp creation, which can easily double as Amp customization, which I really really like. It's a base cost then add cost for effects. Left over Amp points can be turned into Edge.

Anarchy includes 30 pregenerated characters in the book, each character is two pages and cover a broad array of character types. I really like this as I find it will help with getting games going quickly. Players are assigned or pick pregens and you play. 

The book also has premade adventures, they are designed to throw you right into the action, instant playable. I assumed these would be designed with more collaborative play in mind and less reliant on the GM as storyteller. 
The adventures have a set of scenes numbered to be played in order. Which I'm sure is for collaborative play. I assumed that would be there only use. But after reading a few of them there is enough meat there to give a GM some solid framework to run a game filling in any blanks as needed.

Overall I like what I see. This is something I hope to run here soon. I'll be bringing my core 5th books to the table, but we'll be playing it through the Anarchy lense. I tried to touch on everything without rambling too much this time. Hope someone finds it useful.

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