If Shadowrun got the reboot treatment, what sacred cows (mechanics/setting) would you put up for slaughter?

Raduin711

Explorer
Shadowrun has never done a proper reboot since its creation and while that is admirable, I feel like SR is dragging a lot of baggage behind it. There are aspects of the game that don't really serve the game very well as a whole.

Some of my sticking points are:

  • Balkanization. The game kind of gives the impression that everyone just woke up one day and the United States was no more, and we are left with the UCAS, CAS, NAN, and city-states like Seattle. Why? These things would be fought over with wars. Like, I understand that the Native American genocide was a real bummer, and wouldn't it be cute if the south actually did cede from the union in the future world, but we kind of have to do better than "Everything west of Denver belongs to the Native Americans because magic."
  • Essence. So there is kind of an interesting question in Transhumanist fiction where "what happens when we replace a person, part by part, with technology. When we have replaced everything, even the brain with technology, what remains of the original person, if anything? Shadowrun's answer seems to be that we are at least in part, our bodies, so that when we give up an arm to cyberization we literally do lose a part of ourselves. I understand that this creates a kind of interesting game mechanic balance between cyberization and magic, but I think it sells transhumanism short and comes off as a little ablist. I think a more realistic cost for cyberization might be experience- it's kind of silly to imagine that our brain could so quickly adapt to your left arm suddenly having a retractable buzz-saw, but your potential for magic just took a nose dive.
  • The Matrix. It feels really outdated. Shadowrun imagines that the internet will evolve into a single virtual reality space, but I question what value there is in turning the internet into one big game of Second Life. I understand virtual spaces, but I can't see the whole internet getting the VR treatment. What's more, hacking would probably not look anything like presented in SR. A humanoid rabbit shooting magic missiles at robots is not hacking. It looks cool, and it is something a GM can describe... but it's not hacking. In any event, the idea that things move "at the speed of thought" doesn't really explain why you can hack faster or better in virtual space then in real space. If you can run your programs by just thinking about them in VR, there isn't any reason why you couldn't do it in regular R. You can still have your life and death "I need to jack out!" nosebleed scenarios if you're hacking with your brain without VR... it's when you are hacking with a keyboard and mouse then that becomes less of a threat.
  • Three Worlds. This is just bad game design. Astral is more or less kind of junk, so it might as well get the axe (nobody cares what is happening in the Astral unless you are fighting a spirit), and I am not convinced of the value of VR as being so much a world as something you do that consumes all your attention.
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I have to agree with those last three points. Three worlds does nothing but split the party, and the less time spent in VR, the better. I'd honestly like hacking to be almost invisible, like firing a gun, so we could just get on with the game. And yeah, the idea of having a prosthetic limb doesn't seem nearly as traumatic as it used to be, so there's no reason why we really need to insist on essence being a balance factor (as long as there's some other balancing factor, such as price or availability).

Personally, I would like to see a vast reduction in the number of stats. As it stands, none of them really does very much, which makes it too easy to dump one with no consequences. Combining Body/Strength, Agility/Reaction, Intuition/Logic, and Charisma/Willpower would make it much easier to differentiate characters by stat spread alone.
 

Raduin711

Explorer
Personally, I would like to see a vast reduction in the number of stats. As it stands, none of them really does very much, which makes it too easy to dump one with no consequences. Combining Body/Strength, Agility/Reaction, Intuition/Logic, and Charisma/Willpower would make it much easier to differentiate characters by stat spread alone.
I would agree with this too. The system tends to encourage min/maxing, which is fine, but the stats and skills are so incrementalized. So you end up with characters that look really weird on paper. I have a super high reaction but no agility... so I tend to fall down really fast? Or I am a master with Rifles, but hand me a pistol and suddenly I have no clue what to do with this... are you sure this is a gun? Where is the stock... I don't get it...
 

schneeland

Explorer
Hmm ... I have to say that following your points might create an interesting game, but it would probably no longer feel like Shadowrun to me. Now I am old and my Shadowrun experience is very much shaped by 1e and 2e, so it might be different for people who joined with 4e+, but especially (1) and (3) feel like essential parts of the mission-based Cyberpunk genre to me.
I agree, though, that both the essence mechanic and the co-existence of three different layers of reality makes gameplay a bit clunky, so there's probably a good amount of work to do here.

The two sacred cows that I would happily offer to the reboot gods are:
  1. The understanding of Shadowrun's timeline as an extension of our real-world timeline. Just commit to SR being an alternate reality that diverged from our timeline at some point
  2. The big pile of gun/equipment porn. Most of it is pretty mediocre anyway, so it might as well be cut down to a small set of meaningful choices
 

chrisshorb

Everything's Fine
I would think AR would be more likely in the near future. And Jackers could hack that AR to cause people to go to a Chinese restaurant when they wanted Mexican - that's potentially broken right there.

In seriousness though - I like the balkanization end point and find it interesting from a starting setting-wise. But you are right - any portion of the US that wants to secede will be subject to the full might and power of the USican military - and that's no joke (see US Civil War of 1860's). And if magic was involved, then I would think there would be some cities that are smoking arcane craters.

However it can lend itself to some great stories, including espionage between secessionists and unionists.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Based on the art, not the mechanics of the game:
When is dawn going to come? It's been dark out forever. A little sunlight for us non-vampires, please!
Um... it is called *SHADOW*Run. Not "DayInTheSunnyPark Run". :p
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
  • Balkanization. The game kind of gives the impression that everyone just woke up one day and the United States was no more, and we are left with the UCAS, CAS, NAN, and city-states like Seattle. Why? These things would be fought over with wars. Like, I understand that the Native American genocide was a real bummer, and wouldn't it be cute if the south actually did cede from the union in the future world, but we kind of have to do better than "Everything west of Denver belongs to the Native Americans because magic."

Yes... Um... maybe you need to refresh yourself up on the canon?

The Ghost Dance War started in Shadowrun's 2014, as a guerrilla conflict, with the Native American side increasingly using magic as those powers returned to the world. It ended when Daniel Howling Coyote led the Great Ghost Dance, a magical ritual that caused Mounts Rainier, Hood, St. Helens, and Adams to all volcanically erupt simultaneously in 2017.

So, yeah, there was a war, until one side showed that it was willing to drop the equivalent of small nuclear devices, and the other side gave in. Go figure!

The balkanization is pretty necessary for the setting to work - it needs divided powers that don't cooperate for the PCs to have a plausible chance of doing what they do without getting pasted by united authorities.
 

BrokenTwin

Explorer
I'd happily swap VR for AR as the core hacker conceit. I do like the Astral, and I think it would get more play if VR was scrapped, but I'd accept its removal as well without too much fuss.

I'm torn on Essence. On one hand, I love the Old Magic vs New Tech vibes, but on the other, I also really like transhumanism. I'd say maybe rework it, but keep it in some form. Shadowrun is cyberpunk, and cyberpunk (to me) is a lot about what people are willing to do to survive. Cutting yourself off from the spiritual world by replacing too much of your natural body with inorganic hardware seems like a natural thematic decision in the setting.
I would like it if they made it matter more to none mages though. Maybe roll Edge and Essence together (with the required balance adjustments)?
 

Saelorn

Adventurer
I would like it if they made it matter more to none mages though. Maybe roll Edge and Essence together (with the required balance adjustments)?
Essence affects healing for everyone, which is something, but probably not enough. They can't increase the healing penalty, though, because too many people ignore those rules anyway.

There's also the "problem" that normal people with neither magic nor cyberware are kind of boring. I'm not sure that they really want to encourage that. Or maybe they do, from a setting standpoint?

Personally, I'd really like it if it made sense for a mage to pick up a little cyberware, or for a muggle to only be half-cybered, but the rules really encourage you to pick a path and go all in. I'm not sure what the best way to solve that would be.
 

Raduin711

Explorer
Yes... Um... maybe you need to refresh yourself up on the canon?

The Ghost Dance War started in Shadowrun's 2014, as a guerrilla conflict, with the Native American side increasingly using magic as those powers returned to the world. It ended when Daniel Howling Coyote led the Great Ghost Dance, a magical ritual that caused Mounts Rainier, Hood, St. Helens, and Adams to all volcanically erupt simultaneously in 2017.

So, yeah, there was a war, until one side showed that it was willing to drop the equivalent of small nuclear devices, and the other side gave in. Go figure!
I was aware. Hence my cheeky little quote at the end. Somehow, I don't think the US would cede half it's territory over volcanoes overnight. It has one of the largest militaries in the world... yes, magic was brand new at the time, and that might make the US capitulate to some of the Ghost Dance's demands, but it wasn't long before US colleges discovered their own kind of magic (based on hermeticism for some reason?) which would probably reignite the conflict. Not to mention the Native American population is quite small. It's a little too cut and dry. Same with the secession of the south and the merging with Canada. It's way too quick, nice and neat. The civil war was long, and bloody, and complicated, and we are still carrying around the scars of it today. That said, the ascent of native american culture is really important to the game, I just think the volcanoes thing isn't all that.

The balkanization is pretty necessary for the setting to work - it needs divided powers that don't cooperate for the PCs to have a plausible chance of doing what they do without getting pasted by united authorities.
I think all that is really required for cyberpunk to work is for big corporations to seize power in a big way. Corporate Extraterritoriality is a big part of the setting, but things like the UCAS, CAS, NAN are mostly just window dressing. Whether Seattle is part of the US or a city-state in the middle of the NAN doesn't really seem to impact the game very much. The point is that the government is weakened, and the Megacorps are in charge.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
I agree with getting rid of the balkanization. I had an easier time accepting the existence of trolls, dragons, and magic than I did with Native Americans taking over vast swaths of what was once the United States.
 

Derren

Adventurer
SR doesn't really need a reboot.
But if you insist on change for the sake of change then look somewhere else than the balkanisation.
Yes, some don't like it, but it makes sense for the setting. The US was fighting someone with unknown capabilities who can to their knowledge make themself invulnerable at will, destroy armies with a snap of their fingers through tornados and had the capability to wipe out cities at will. The concept of drain was unknown at that point and the US was completely unaware how close the natives were at the breaking point as they essentially sustained a gigantic blood magic ritual with a lot of casulties on their side.

So ceding some depopulated (thanks to VITAS) flyover country sounds like a good way out. Especially when you expect to annex them easily later once you reorganized and understood magic. Only that more and more disasters happened, from the CAS secceding, over the first crash to goblinization that it always got delayed until it was no longer feasible.
The rest of the balkanization is fine too.

And please no transhumanism. They tried that before and it was bad. SR is not the setting for it.
It does not need a reboot, but fine tuning. Less powerful magic/spirits compared to cyber and better editing. But sweeping changes are imo unneccesary and contraproductive.
 
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BrokenTwin

Explorer
As much as I do enjoy transhumanism, I have to agree with Derren that Shadowrun isn't the setting for it. The struggle/tradeoff of maintaining your (literal) humanity vs equipping/modifying yourself to survive is something that is (to me) a core part of the setting. Having a gun as a functional part of your body is going to change your perspective and ability to relate to "normal" people. The fact that normal in this case includes trolls, elves, and dwarves doesn't really change that.
So I like the idea that bioware causes less Essence loss than cyberware. Basic bioware agumentation (that essentially just restores basic human functionality) should cost zero Essence. Maybe it already does, it's been a while since I've looked at the mechanics.
 

Derren

Adventurer
Basic bioware agumentation (that essentially just restores basic human functionality) should cost zero Essence. Maybe it already does, it's been a while since I've looked at the mechanics.
It does, if you can pay for it (most can't), but thats pretty much the case for everything in SR.
To restore limbs without essence loss you need a personal donor clone of yourself (or maybe also a type O replacement limb). Both options are at least gold level DocWagon stuff with a hefty surcharge.
For organs a compatible donor organ is enough, thats what Tamanous deals in.

Imo essence and that regular humans without cyber or awakened abilities are left behind are important aspects of SR/Cyberpunk.
 

BrokenTwin

Explorer
Imo essence and that regular humans without cyber or awakened abilities are left behind are important aspects of SR/Cyberpunk.
As much as I love transhumanist settings, I have to agree that SR is not one of them. Inhumanity in its various forms is a large part of the experience to me.
Does upgrading from a cyber-arm to a bio-arm restore the difference in Essence, or is Essence permanently lost once it's gone? I'd much prefer the former, because it could lead to some great stories where someone heavily cyborged fights to restore their connection to magic by replacing their Essence-draining cyberware with equivolent bioware. And I feel like the ability to get back what you lost is also an important part of the setting.
 

Derren

Adventurer
As much as I love transhumanist settings, I have to agree that SR is not one of them. Inhumanity in its various forms is a large part of the experience to me.
Does upgrading from a cyber-arm to a bio-arm restore the difference in Essence, or is Essence permanently lost once it's gone? I'd much prefer the former, because it could lead to some great stories where someone heavily cyborged fights to restore their connection to magic by replacing their Essence-draining cyberware with equivolent bioware. And I feel like the ability to get back what you lost is also an important part of the setting.
No, in all SR editions so far essence was lost permanently even when you removed the cyber later. There was no turning back.
Although some editions had advanced treatments to restore some essence, but they had a 6+ figure price tag and according to the lore they were rumored to involve a modified HMHVV virus.

Regaining essence by just removing the cyberware would imo be not be a good story. Get cyber, earn lots of money, pay for cloned replacement limbs and retire as full human. Not very interesting and not really a struggle.
 
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