An Opinion on Shadowrun: The Sixth World Beginner’s Box (#Shadowrun)

So, next week will see the SR6 Beginner’s Box made available to the world at large during Origins.  As a demo agent for Catalyst, I have read through the rulebook of the Beginner’s Box and can weigh in on certain aspects of Sixth Edition.

Because I have a promo copy, I can’t give specific details from the book… but my thoughts about it may give some indication whether the newest edition is right for your group.

Setting and Theme

So, I’ve always loved the Shadowrun setting… it was one of those things that has kept me invested after GMing for 20 years.  Mercifully, the setting is still very much intact.  The writing style of the rules is very casual and even garnered some chuckles from me when a few characterful rules were written with a comedic bent.  The metaplot has been advanced to 2080, one of the Big Ten AAA corporations from 5th has fallen from grace and a new corporation has risen to the top 10 (in case you haven’t been keeping up with the plot).

Mechanics

The biggest changes in the new edition occur here.  While the base rolling mechanic is still the same as 5th Edition (Attribute + Skill, half 1’s = glitch, etc), there are some very significant changes to tests, especially in Combat.

Edge is a lot more fluid than in 5th Edition, where more Edge can be earned regularly, if you are tactical in combat situations.  Which is good because Edge now has a multitude of uses, many requiring multiple points for the better effects.  Tactical situations (augmentations, better gear, active illusions, etc) can provide bonuses to a fighter’s Attack or Defense Rating, which can augment your Edge before the bullets start to fly.

Character’s no longer necessarily get multiple passes in an Initiative order (which I’m personally a fan of) and it’s one Initiative value for the entire fight, rather than having to re-roll after each pass.  Augmentations and spells can allow a character to do more during their action, but figuring out who gets to act more than once or twice is no longer required.

Ranges are broken down into universal bands and weapons will have Attack Ratings based on what range the target is in (which is nice as a GM, so you don’t need to know how many meters away something is to check what range it falls into for each weapon type).

The Matrix still has some complexities to it, but determining what to roll has been vastly simplified.  Convergence from GOD isn’t quite as terrifying as it was, but tracking Overwatch is easier and deckers can be far more multifaceted in the skill department.

Magic has definitely been streamlined as well, with a reduction in skills and much less math for figuring out drain with the elimination of Limits, but mages are far less able to figure out their maximum “safe” force so they can cast infinitely… a problem with 5th Edition.  Mages will take Drain and they will need to be more cautious to not overexert themselves or risk blacking out in a crisis.

Contents

The Beginner’s Box comes with the rule book, a short guide to the setting (if you aren’t familiar with it already), an introductory adventure, a poster, gear cards for the items carried by the pre-made characters and four pre-made runners.

It’s not a bad little bundle.  The Quick-Start Rules (QSR) give you almost everything you need (I say ‘almost’ because I’m a stickler for the crunch of the game… more on that in a bit) to play the introductory scenario or another scenario of a GM’s design.  The poster provides some useful game aids and the gear cards can be handy reference elements for each player, rather than locating it on the character sheets.

Missing Elements

OK, I know that this is to whet the appetites of groups for the new Edition, rather than being comprehensive, so this is purely subjective on my part.

There are things from the main game I would have liked to have made it into the QSR, if for no other reason, than to see how they work mechanically.  On the characters that come in the Beginner’s Box there are Qualities and Contacts for the characters, but there is no mechanical basis for them in the QSR, so they exist solely as roleplay text.  Not having (at the very least) the Qualities on the characters explained in greater detail, it could leave new GMs victim to overpowered interpretations of what those names mean.  It’s less of an issue with Contacts, but I feel Qualities could have been better handled.

No character creation rules… it would be nice to know just how flexible the character creation rules are going to be.  Instead, we have four characters to pick from, each with their own niche to fill.  Being able to tweak the templates slightly to suit individual tastes could have been a nice touch.

No spirits, no technomancers, no adepts… with only four characters, there’s only so much ground they could cover, but I know a lot of my players would be disappointed in the lack of physads and summoning info in the book, as they are popular tools of the trade.

Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a huge fan of the pre-made scenarios and (as this site would show) write my own.  If you’re familiar with the look and feel of pre-made modules in 5th Ed, then the one that comes with the Beginner’s Box will feel very familiar.

TL;DR

Overall, I really like the Sixth World Beginner’s Box.  The mechanical streamlining should speed up games that are combat heavy, especially, while the feel and flavour of the setting is still present.  There are things I would have liked to see in the Box, but I know that it’s more to sate my curiousity than feeling that it hinders the viability of the intro package.

+ Simpler mechanics
+ Rich setting kept intact
+ Removal of Limits/Force
+ Similar to 5th for many aspects, to help with Edition transition
– Not all aspects of template characters are explained
– No character creation elements at all
– Fan favourite elements (summoning and adepts) missing
– Pre-made scenario sticking with the same format

The new Edition shows a lot of promise and if the core rulebook can continue to extend the core principles from the QSR throughout all elements of the Shadowrun mechanics, I think Sixth Edition will be fantastic for GMs to better manage the game and be less intimidating for new players to get involved.  If you’re a fan of the setting of Shadowrun but were always intimidated by the weight of the system, this is your chance to get in on the ground floor of the latest version and while there is still a hefty weight to the rules, the latest distilled version is the simplest to pick up to date.

~ by 1nsomniac on June 7, 2019.

2 Responses to “An Opinion on Shadowrun: The Sixth World Beginner’s Box (#Shadowrun)”

  1. I’m afraid this beginners box was a highly negative experience for us as an intro to h, and I find it hard to believe any new players will find this an enticing entry into the world of SR.

    • With the negative press swirling around the Sixth Edition, I agree that my appraisal of the Quick Start rules may have been shaped by optimism. I have found that my players have taken to Sixth quite well (full rules, not QSR), but I realize that these changes won’t appeal to everyone.

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