Firstly, I want to thank the chap who got me this massive book. I hate it, and that’s wonderful. It’s filled me with such joy to go through and puzzle out why some of these rules are even in the book, and it’s going to provide me with hours and hours of confused fun yet. So, thanks, Matt.

Now – Shadowrun is a fucking joke, and here’s why.

This is the random personality table for NPCs, and almost all the personalities are awful

This is the random personality table for NPCs, and almost all the personalities are awful

DINOSAURS

For those who don’t know, Shadowrun is a combination of two great 80’s roleplaying tastes that taste great together – High Fantasy and Cyberpunk. So you’ve got near-future chipheads and goons struggling to survive in a world of chrome and neon and double-crosses whilst also, crucially, being trolls and elves and casting magic spells.

Now, these days we’re in something of a movement towards lighter games. We don’t need massive blocks of stats and numbers to help us define a game world; we need brisk, crisp rules that power reward behaviour and power stories. There’s still a market for your Travellers and your Dark Heresies, of course, for hardbacked tomes that have rules for every eventuality and worldbuilding that covers every base. There’s a thrill to pitting yourself against a ruleset and trying to wring the most effective characters out of it. But, for the most part, they’re dinosaurs.

shadowrun-blandness

This is a BENEFIT you can purchase for your character. “Distinctive Style” is a penalty. In a game where you’re trying to make a legendary name for yourself. GUH.

Shadowrun is a dinosaur. It is a Frankenstein’s Monster of a game, a cobbled-together list of in-jokes and leftover rules.

COMPLEXITY

I’m not against complexity in games, but I am against it when it’s the first thing that players come across. In all of these examples, I want you to remember that this is the core book – the book should allow a gamesmaster to run a game with no extra written materials. This is not the advanced, all-singing-all-dancing-hundreds-of-rules-for-a-specialised-class splatbook. Take a look at this sample starting character:

shadowrun-rigger

SERIOUSLY.

You probably won’t be able to read all that, and that’s fine. This is a Rigger, one of the six basic roles you can take on in a Shadowrun team – they’re in charge of piloting vehicles from unmanned drones to tricked-out battletanks. As a starting player, here, you’re expected to look over the list of potential vehicles and pick out twelve of them.

That’s too much to take in as a new player. If you’ve been playing Shadowrun for the last ten or twenty years, it’s fine. But if you’re just coming to the world now, that’s so much choice as to make informed decisions almost impossible.

REDUNDANT

That level of granularity – although it’s so granular it’s now unpleasant to experience, so perhaps grittiness is a better word, in as much as the bottom of a cup of coffee is gritty – is present in every level of the game. I can’t imagine what they cut from it, because it seems like everything is here.

I hate three kinds of rules: redundant rules, rules that require maths, and rules that directly counteract against the story. Shadowrun is made up of all three. For the first example, here’s a paragraph that offers full rules for treading water:

treading-water-shadowrun

Not swimming: TREADING WATER. Now, this isn’t a game about pirates. Or fishing. Or, you know, swimming. It’s a game where you are thrown onto the mean streets of Neo Tokyo (or Neo Wherever) and fight to survive against almost impossible odds through canny use of tactics. 7th Sea has fewer rules than this for treading water, and large sections of that game are expressly designed to take place on board ship.

Once a game does something like this, it’s hard to take it seriously. You have to read it with an eye for which rules you’re going to use and which ones you’re going to cut out, and that’s not a good rules-set. This is like when Vampire: The Masquerade decided that skills such as Flying and Lip-Reading were as mechanically important as skills like Persuasion and Streetwise in their urban game of dark horror. What else is useless? Where do I draw the line? Can these rules survive intact if I ignore bits of them? Will I still be playing the game as the designers intended?

(And while we’re at it, I’m fully aware that the important bit isn’t the rules, it’s that we all have fun, and we can ignore rules if they don’t fit. It’s just that it’s a fucking shoddy excuse for writing bad rules, is all. If I wanted to ignore rules I could just tell a story with my friends and leave the dice at home; a game should fit together beautifully and each rule should act in service of all the others, not function as some dirty little grab-bag of ideas. Especially if it’s in hardback.

My favourite thing about this passage is how I've read it four times and still can't understand it

My favourite thing about this passage is how I’ve read it four times and still can’t understand it

In fact, no, you’re getting a rant. You’re getting a full rant. This isn’t some backwater unplaytested clusterfuck of a thing. This isn’t some sideshow attraction like FATAL, or a product that is essentially satire akin to Hackmaster. This is the fifth fucking edition of a wildly popular title. This game has been in circulation longer than a lot of my readers have been alive.

This isn’t some PDF we’ve found on the arse-end of the internet. This is a product, a piece of game-design, and it deserves to be viewed under a critical lens. If I didn’t like one character in a film, could I mute all their dialogue and still experience the film as intended? Probably not! And yet we still see these massive, bloated games where every rule is inherently optional. It’s bad design. Don’t give me things I can cut away and not detract from the experience. If I can remove a rule from the game and not change much, that’s something you should have done yourselves.)

MATHS

Next up: maths. Maths are the bane of pacing. I can dig that Shadowrun is explicitly designed as a sort of puzzlebox. Your team of cyber-badasses is given a difficult mission to undertake, and through clever application of their talents, equipment and capabilities they can overcome the difficulties posed to them and get paid. Mechanically, it’s not that different from a classic dungeoncrawl.

However, these are the rules for working out whether explosion damage is reflected off walls:

COME ON.

COME ON.

There is no way you can do this without scratch paper, and these are rules for explosions. This isn’t character gen, or background creation, or even an ongoing skill challenge. No, these are rules which the GM is supposed to look up every time someone throws a grenade near a surface. Not only do they have to work out if the wall is destroyed or not, but if it remains intact, they then have to calculate how many times each target is hit by the blastwave as it rebounds within the space.

This is a terrible idea. You take the excitement of an explosion and render it down into a series of calculations. Similarly, here is a section of the rules which covers firing a weapon on full auto:

shadowrun-recoil

These rules actively slow down something which should be too-fast and brutal, which is holding down the trigger on your gun and firing off as many rounds as you can at something in a desperate attempt to kill it before it kills you. These are rules in which you divide a thing by three and then start adding numbers to it before you subtract additional numbers which gives you a running total that you subtract from an entirely different set of numbers.

Fuck. That.

(Also, it makes you roll Initiative every single round, and to hell with that.)

COUNTERACT

Now let’s look at the rules for running:

shadowrun-running

Don’t bother reading them, just know they’re there

In this game, running is a penalty. If you want to move faster than your base allowance of movement, everything else – aside from defending – becomes harder to do. That’s realistic, and that’s fine, but hear me out a second: this game has rules for Grunts.

Grunts are Mooks, or Cannon Fodder, or – for the want of a better word – Monsters, in D&D terms. They are faceless hordes whose only purpose is to die at your hand, or drive you away from your objective. They go down much, much more easily than named characters.

This a world set up in which the player characters are badass from the word go: the only thing that can pose a threat to them in their normal locales is other Prime Runners or being vastly outnumbered by level-appropriate Grunts. In that world, doesn’t it seem odd to penalise the players based on how many metres of movement they can perform in a turn? How is that fun? How is that illustrative? How is that better than abstracting movement into adjectives that describe relative positions, which is all we really care about anyway?

I can’t find the bits where it says that Shadowrun is a miniatures combat game; there are some maps presented with the book, but they’re too small to be of any real use. The only way I can see the mechanics of Shadowrun being used rules as written is on a map with scale miniatures and a fucking calculator, and that’s not one inherently supported by this book. This ain’t no D&D 4e.

DEAD MAN’S TRIGGER

I think the following example of Dead Man’s Trigger sums up most of what’s wrong with the Shadowrun rules as they stand. Dead Man’s Trigger is one of the multiple ways you can spend Edge, which is a store of what are essentially Drama or Fate points. It lets you, upon being reduced to zero hit points, take one last action before passing out. Neat, right? Except…

shadowrun-dead-man's-trigger

Except that there is a three-step checklist to see whether they can do it. Step two isn’t bad – you need to spend Edge to activate it, that’s fine – but step one stops you from doing it if you’ve already acted too much this turn. Step three makes you perform a toughness check to see if you stay on your feet – and this happens after you spend the point of Edge, so you might well lose it even if you don’t succeed.

“Hey,” says Shadowrun, “here’s a cool thing to do!” You smile and nod enthusiastically. “Do you want to do it?” You say you do, and you’re about to do it when Shadowrun interrupts: “Well FUCK YOU, buddy, you’d better fill out these forms first and then flip a coin, and if it comes up tails then SO HELP YOU GOD.”

WALL OF DATA

There is so much here that is hard to grasp, and grasping the fundamentals of Shadowrun is very much the core idea of the game; you are to become ever-more-proficient freelance criminals, masters of your world, getting the most of the opportunities handed to you. Imagine sitting down as a new player seeing this massive wall of data, as a new GM trying to work out how to make a puzzle that’s a challenge to a group who might well be working in three worlds – physical, digital, and astral – all at once.

shadowrun-bogged-down

The writers of Shadowrun wrote the second paragraph without a trace of irony.

Imagine the first combat where the GM has to not only remember that those rules for sustained fire and reflecting explosions exist, but then calculate and enforce their effect on the players.

This is not a core book, because this is not everything you need to play Shadowrun. Everything you need to play Shadowrun is multiple years experience of playing Shadowrun.


Categorised in: RPG, Tabletop

228 thoughts on “Ten things I hate about Shadowrun

  • pdunwin says:

    Thanks for this. I always felt bad for not getting into Shadowrun. I don’t feel so bad anymore.

    • Nick says:

      Same here, friend. I’ll stick with my simple D&D4E, thanks very much.

      • Immortal Soul says:

        it’s not as complicated as you make it out to be. Did you try to create a character at least?

      • Sam says:

        Its 5th edition shadowrun, all the complexity of both 4th and 3rd crammed into one game with all the stupid rules of both.

        You can have several of the rules and other details within the game but it falls apart because its crammed so any disjointed rules from differing edition in an attempt too appease 3rd edition fanboys crying over stuff it breaks.

        Rules complexity is only a bad thing when it makes playing the game impossible

      • Nic says:

        well since its not unplayable thats good, since me and my group are getting together to play some shadowrun tomorrow.

        For the origenal poster: personally i have to say if you dont like the extensive rules, dont play or revise them to suit you. if you dont want to put in effort to learn a game, play something stupid easy, like dnd online.

        the only thing i will agree on above is that rigger as a profession is a little hard to learn at start. my first character was a mage, fairly streightforward

      • Eric says:

        Yeah, but the book sure looks good on a shelf, doesn’t it? So shiny and cyberpunky.

      • Daemeon says:

        I have made Shadowrun characters before and I’ve been playing D&D and the like for over 15 years. It STILL takes me over 5 hours to build a Shadowrun character and they die like no tomorrow. Pathfinder or D&D I can build a top tier character in about 45 minutes.

      • Darth Folwart says:

        I enjoyed the snarky replies almost as much as the original piece. I don’t disagree with anything the op said. He’s spot on. I really enjoy Shadowrun, the setting is awesome. The implementation has problems. All he is saying is that they spent far too much time on trivial and overly complex details instead of focusing on the fundamentals.

        Apparently everybody is entitled to their own opinion, so I’ll respect that; however, the game is objectively not perfect. No game is. Those trivial rules are things that should be handled by the house. it’s a waste on so many levels.

        Time is one that hits several tiers of people. Time is money, and time is wasted on making these trivial rules, then writing and printing the rules, then on the consumers that are forced to consider them. I know, if it’s trivial then just don’t use it, right? blah

        Paper is another. That also hits cost for the developers, wages for the employees and price for the consumers. It also results in a bloated book with a bunch of unnecessary info. If one prides themselves on memorizing a bunch of trivial shit for a fantasy world, then more power to them. Myself? I’d be happier with a more streamlined, rational approach.

        It’s a good game that I like, and it’s popular. Scrutiny is part of reality, nothing is perfect. Blind fanboyism helps nobody. It’s also irrational. Maybe some of you enjoy breaking out the rulers and the calculators and play more seriously, fine. The question is, does everyone in your group enjoy that, or is it just you? Most people I know sit down to play these games to engage their brains, but also to relax. These rules hinder progress in the story, and deciding which to ignore and which to enforce on the fly is a pain in the ass for new players. For veterans that have played for years, ran and played through a dozen or more lengthy campaigns may not see the issue or remember the struggle, but the struggle is there. It is unnecessary.

        It used to be that painting that kind of detail into the world was the job of the GM. Gming is about creativity, not having a rule to back up every possible eventuality to avoid confrontation or whatever. In my groups, what the GM says goes, period. So what’s the point of these rules other than to convolute the game? So people, like a few of these responders, can feel that they are more hardcore, like the Dark Souls crowd? Come on, grow up. The setting is good, the rules are objectively convoluted and there is a better way. I have no bias here. I like the game as much as any fanboy. The difference between us is that I see the weaknesses in the game, and the rest of you that don’t are fucking lost at sea. (See rule for treading water, good luck, you’ll need it)

      • James Mcelia says:

        Really? I’ve been playing for about 4 months, and I can write out a powerful charecter within two hours, less for less complicated builds. To each their own I suppose.

      • Kithanalane says:

        Sorry D&D 4e was a bad attempt by Wizards of the Coast to turn D&D into a strategy based card game with out the cards. What I have learned in my 20 plus years of role playing is that the simpler the rules the less customization you have with you character. Shadowrun is very Complicated I admit that 100% but the only other game I have played that gives you the kind of character customization that Shadowrun does is Rifts and that system has so many add on rules the it takes a month to build a character and I believe the combat rules are in Mutants and Super Spies of which I haven’t seen a copy in ages.

      • Danatoth says:

        Rifts Ultimate Edition has the updated rules

        PS to all the haters, Shadowrun is poorly laid out & at times a bit daunting put there is a lot of fun in there.

        Also the rules for bounce back of explosions of walls has made for some tense times in games, like the party splitting up & one part getting there part done, than the other half of the party dropping the building on everyone 5 minutes into their infiltration.

        having your characters watch the ceiling collapse with no way of knowing when it will stop was very tense. (we all died in the collapse) ;(

    • J says:

      I like the setting, I like the concepts, the system is something I’m familiar with So I like that, too.

      …But holy fucking shit is it horribly laid out. My friend wanted to dual wield pistols, so we tried to figure out how exactly this would work, particularly if he was going full balls-to-the-wall spray and pray. After 3 hours flipping back and forth between 4 sections in two different chapters, I said “Fuck it! We’re doing it this way.”

      They clearly didn’t play test this at all. It needs to be trimmed WAY the fuck down. The rules that will remain need to be clear and concise. And they shouldn’t have any rules that directly contradict each other. I shouldn’t need to roll 4 different times to determine whether or not a bullet fired at someone hits, and how much damage it did.

      • Haaly says:

        To dual wield pistols you just use the offhand penalty when firing the piston on your offhand. If you want to fire both pistols with the same action you ignore all smartlink and laser sight bonuses and split your attaqck pool between the pistols and then roll both attacks with their respective modifiers.

    • con-f-use says:

      Here is a giant reddit thread discussing one little detail of one little spell in shadowrun: https://www.reddit.com/r/Shadowrun/comments/44j0vp/sr5_rules_trid_phantasm/

      This very much proofs your point.

    • Shotozumi says:

      I have the core rule book for 1st Ed and 2nd Ed, and a bunch of the accessory books for 1st and 2nd editions. That is the only Shadowrun worth playing. Some of the “optional” rules did start to get complicated in SR2, but they also simplified a lot of the math from SR1. The explosions were added in SR2, but I don’t remember them being quite that bad. Worse, if you were the guy standing down the hall from a grenade, but not so hard to understand. We almost always had to play with miniatures, though, and draw out our environments on big 11×17 papers, because it did used to take an hour or two to get through a few rounds of combat (a round being equal to 3 seconds of game time). Pretty much everything I ever loved about Shadowrun has been completely lost in the various online versions. And the cheesiness inherent in most games since Wizards of the Coast, makers of that cheesy Magic the Gathering card game for imbecilic children, took over D&D.

    • Obi says:

      The setting is good (for the most part) but yea, the rules are definitely terrible. I recommend running it with the AW hack called Sixth World. Much, much better.

  • necaris says:

    That _Hash_ thing reads like whoever wrote it thinks they’re making a clever cryptography in-joke (when in fact they’re revealing their ignorance of the basics). Sigh.

    • The Smiling Bandit says:

      Its not that hard. Sprite gets file, file is encrypted. Kill sprite, lose file. Sprite can carry file for force x 10 turns.

      I’m not seeing what the problem with Hash is. It seems pretty simple.

    • Cruxador says:

      I don’t see any flaw with it, really. It just requires some background knowledge. If you know that Shadowrun takes place on an internet that’s inspired by the internet, in the same way that Mega Man Battle Network is, and you know what those words mean in real life, it’s pretty easy to see how they co-opted real life concepts to their fantasy, and I see no particular stink of ignorance, any inaccuracy is small enough to be totally overshadowed by the liberties taken intentionally.

  • White says:

    Yes, a million times yes. I’ve done some usability and information design for user interfaces and printouts in my time and the way RPGs just drop the ball like this in unbearable. Dinosaurs, man.

    (Then again Fiasco is a brilliant young indie game and it has terrible presentation, so you can always lose.)

    • NineInchNall says:

      Absolutely true. It’s like no one involved in RPG production has any experience in technical writing, and they apparently aren’t concerned about that.

      Character creation rules should be laid out in a nice table so I can get all the effing information I need at once without having to flip from page 65 to 103 to 69 to 101 to 256 and back just to figure out basic stuff like how much a skill/spell/attribute/power costs or how many points I get.

      Necessary rule information should not be buried in the middle of paragraphs that are mostly not rules.

      However, they are writing for a consumer base who are unwilling to take things at face value or to offer criticism. When you tell the average gamer that page X says one thing and page Y says the opposite, said gamer will engage in contortions of elaborate exegesis in order to explain away the contradiction. It’s like the book is Holy Writ, inherently inerrant – if there’s a problem, it’s with the reader.

      So … Yeah.

      • Clinton says:

        Rule #1 in table top gaming, have fun. Rule 2# the GM is always right, Rule #3 these 3 rules are the only ones that are actual rules the rest is just suggestions. Don’t like how explosions work think you have a better idea? Great use it and forget the one in the book.. this is not a computer game this is not locked into a true false creation system build to come to a specific result. Its a background piece to hang out with buddies, and if you get to exercise your imagination/problem solving skills in the process great.

      • grant says:

        But – but – I don’t want to write different rules. I want the ones in the book to be good. Is that so much to ask? If I’m writing my own rules, why am I buying a rulebook in the first place? I’m not saying that it’s not possible to have fun with Shadowrun 5e; I’m saying it’s a badly written game. As are many other folk in this thread.

      • Clinton says:

        I have only bee poring over the 5e book for about 2 weeks at this point, but the only complaint I have for it is that the index is not near comprehensive enough. I actually found it less frustrating than D&D 4e books, but this is coming from someone who is an engineer not a writer. There are strengths and weakness’ to every game ruleset. I could tare apart any game ruleset with little effort. I don’t expect you to love it, or to cause you to love it all I hope to accomplish is for you to try it in a game before dismissing it. Have you ever played a game that was not Fantesy but had guns and did they even bother doing the recoil.

      • Hellraezer says:

        Who CARES if they didn’t include rules for recoil. Single shots=-1, 3-round burst=-3, full auto= -5 (or something). But this kind of ruleset just slows down the game. I would like to see somebody do a page like this for Mutant Chronicles 3rd Edition, (496 pages in that one!) So, I’m doing my OWN conversion of the Mutant Chronicles setting withj Savage Worlds ruleset. When I’m done, I may just do the same with Shadowrun, and all of my other favs (Cyberpunk, d20 (Anything), Fallout, etc.)

  • Gavin says:

    I have to agree ShadowRun rules are well past due for ripping up and re-writing entirely and not just updated.

    I love the ShadowRun universe it’s got everything and sort of makes sense and have run games set in the setting with other systems or even no-systems at all. I once played a ShadowRun game with no rules just roll a dice and tell the players whether any actions succeeded based on the story and actions not the result. No-one knew until after the game was over and it was quicker paced and actually more enjoyable than using the ShadowRun rulebook or some other systems.

    I’ve never enjoyed playing with rules lawyers that’s why I’ve rarely used the ShadowRun rules in the last 20 years. Oops showing my age there !

    • grant says:

      “I love the ShadowRun universe it’s got everything and sort of makes sense”

      That’s a cover quote for 6e, man, right there

    • Tab says:

      Some friends and I made a d2 system. You explain your action, then flip a coin. Heads means a success, tails means a failure. Simple as that.

      Our flagship game for the system is “The Happening: The Game of Innawoods Survival.” Take us seriously, please. If we won’t, someone has to.

  • Clifton says:

    This is an unecessarily harsh review; you don’t even attempt to understand what it is it you are bashing, though I do think I know where you are coming from. If you are the type of gamer who wants everything to be super simple, Shadowrun might be a bit too complex for you. The Fudge system is not. I’ve played Shadowrun through many editions, and this one is definitely more streamlined than before. Is it playable? Certainly. Having fun has a lot more to do with your attitude and creativity than what system you are playing. I really don’t like AD&D 2nd Edition, but I still can have a great time playing with my friends. Complexity in a gaming system allows for a level of detail that a lot of gamers really enjoy, and is missing from a lot of more recent systems. There are pros and cons to both sides. The short of it is this: if you can’t stand it, don’t play it. I don’t see the point of writing a several page rant that very obviously doesn’t even attempt to actually address the system in any meaningful way. So calm down and go play a game that fits your style more.

    • grant says:

      I don’t think you’re quite getting what I wrote, there: not only do I not like Shadowrun 5e, I think that it’s wrong. I think that it is bad art. I wrote a post saying what was bad about it. What sort of discussion would we have about art if we only ever wrote about things we liked? What would happen to criticism?

      • Ang says:

        I actually agree with Clifton here. I think you were pretty harsh here.

        It’s fine that you don’t like Shadowrun or its rules set, but you were kind of insulting to the people that DO like it, which is where I got a bit bothered. The best criticism can get the point across without insulting the people that may disagree with you.

      • grant says:

        Where’s the bit where I was insulting? I had a look over the text and can’t find it.

      • tommy says:

        This book is atrocious. And this is a valid rant. I had to read passages numerous times in the character creation chunk alone trying to figure out what tables it was refering to. The intent to update the system is there, however the production of this book is a travesty and makes gamin difficult. RPGs need to be slick to play fluidly and entertainingly. This rulebook is not intuitive to read, easy to read, or constructed for fun gaming. It feels like it’s been written by a bunch of old school GURPS gamers who miss bookmarking half a dozen source books and who yearn for the days of spending twenty minutes leafing through pages and discussing the the last fun time they used that rule.

        I will be sticking to previous editions.

      • Clinton says:

        Curious have you ever played G.U.R.P.S. ?

      • Hellraezer says:

        How did he insult you?

    • Clinton says:

      As someone that has never played Shadowrun but just recently bought the book, I have found the rules to be too basic… a little caveat I am a hardcore G.U.R.P.S. 3e player/gm, so to find a game set that can keep up with that set is a bit to ask for I suppose. oh do love the comment about D&D 4e, that is just a computer game made into a table top game.. “I want to hit it with my sword.” OK, “I want to hit it with my sword again.” OK… Zzz I want to set up a controlled explosive one the 3 key structure of the building while my friend of here hacks into the building next to it while its going off and gets the file we were hired to get.. oh how i love loud/destructive scenes.

    • trismegistus says:

      Took the words.out of my.mouth. Just about everything the author said.is true to an extent, but it’s why we like it. We like the brain bending rules and we like the math. This article is not a critique, but rather an opinion piece written by somebody who clearly isn’t this game’s target consumer.

    • Hellraezer says:

      You don’t HAVE to like his opinion. I don’t want a physics degree to play an RPG, neither should I need one. It’s great that you like complexity in your games. I feel that too many rules which try to cover EVERY possible scenario is a bit of overkill. This is a game, and NOT a reality simulator. I don’t want, or need rules for treading water. I don’t care. How about rules to cover how much noise bubble-wrap makes in a tunnel, compared to an empty room? This is an exaggeration, but you see my point. I play Savage Worlds for the simplicity of the system which makes the game “fast, furious, and fun”, and NOT “slow, thought-provoking, and tedious.” Just my opinion.

      • Blob says:

        Yup, the author did not understand the game, did not even try and just write a review about it. Of course if you want a fast paced easily accessible game. This one is not for you. This is a fact. Still it’s like everyone is forgeting one thing : the DM is the main rule, if he think this rule is not good, he get ride of it.
        But I mean, saying that your point is this game is to become some hero well known… He clearly did not got any idea of what this game is about.. Shadow run… running shadow.. being not know !! It’s like so obvious, he did not even get that. So of course, if you miss the core of the game, you miss the rest. The game is full or rules, because you got a run to do, and every way possible to do it. You take hours to plan your run, and try to cover everything. And to do that, rule are important. But of course, you might not need the rule.
        You are firing from 500 through a wind spirit to get a shot at the shaman that is threatening your partie. Why put so much rule ? So wy buy something that make it easier to aim and to get the recoil right ? And why have a rule for the distance of aiming ? Well in this case, i am 3km away, with a simple gun and I shoot the shamin through a fire spirit and a tempest spirit with my eyes closed.. If it’s the same rule, why even bother.
        This is the difference of a fast game and a slow one. Those rule are meant to be realistic, not meant to just be spectacle, you have a lot of game that does that a lot better than shadowrun. If you are playind a DD campaing and complaining because it’s not scary enough, it’s not because the game is bad, the game is bad FOR THAT, and it’s because you choose poorly.

  • Jason says:

    Very good points. I like the setting. I even ran a game in the Shadowrun setting using “The Shadow of Yesterday Rules”, and it was fast and intense and the combat was visceral.

    That said, I wouldn’t mind seeing an OSR-style Shadworun, where each run is very much a “dungeon-crawl” challenge full of danger, tactical “puzzles” and resource management. More focused design in either case.

  • Markus says:

    I have been playing SR since the frist edition and up to 3e it got worse (just imagine, you probably would rant some more). And finally in 4e they started to change direction and abstract the rules… a bit. I wait for my copy of 5e to arrive but I guess it went worse again. Nevertheless I will give it a try even though I am writing on my own set of rules for SR (sot of personal 6e).

    Even though this game has it’s… shoals. A lot of people still enjoy it so it can’t be that bad.

  • I was actually looking forward to SR5 when I heard they were supposed to be simplifying things. I was introduced to it in SR4, which wasn’t as bad as GURPS in the level of detail (though it was close), so I was excited to see it get the cutting treatment. I am SO GLAD I saw it in a store before purchasing it online. I picked up that brick and was actually contemplating whether I could knock a door down with it. I skimmed through character creation and put it back down.

    Frankly, the SR-verse is quite fun, but I can make stuff up about the setting on my own with a toolkit system like Fate (or even a more detailed system like M&M). I don’t need their book to do it, and I certainly don’t want all those rules.

    But then, I’m one of those KISS gamers. If you can cover running/jumping/swimming/climbing in one Athletics skill, or cartography/tracking/foraging/camping in one Survival skill, your game is moving in the right direction for me. Even better if you can give me a simplified action list to go along with it. I don’t EVER want to reference a book at the table. If I can’t remember the rules after reading them twice (and then writing to/creating characters for my first or second game), they’re too complicated for me, personally.

    I wouldn’t call this a “good” critique of SR5, if only because of how rant-y it reads (although you did say it was a rant, so there’s that…), but I do think you were accurate in hitting all of the points that make it practically unusable for anyone but simulation gamers, whom exist and are allowed to have their fun, but aren’t representative of the community at large. Some of us just want to tell a good story with guidelines to keep us on track and honest.

  • Auliyaa says:

    I couldn’t agree more about that clusterfuck of rules which Shadowrun is.
    And that’s pretty sad because the Shadowrun universe is so cool. This is the king of background that makes you immediately eager to play the game once you read about the story.
    Earthdawn (which is set into the same universe, at a different time) has a pretty decent ruleset but the game is kind of dead right now. I just hope that some new content will be released one day.
    In the end, the best solution to still play Shadowrun and enjoy it would be to use some Savage Worlds (or any generic ruleset) conversion or to go for the 4th edition with the Runner’s Kit which offers a lot of cool gaming aids to help you keep up the pace through the different actions your players may do.

  • Mark says:

    First of all, I have never played with SR 5e, I only know the 2nd and 3rd editions rules and the universe and theme written there.

    That’s a nice review. I agree with almost everything that you have written here. But I think there are two parts of the Shadowrun-universe you don’t completely understand though:

    1. Shadowrunners are criminals. They don’t want to be legends. They don’t want to be recognized. The more the people know them, the bigger chance that a bad guy that hates them will find them. So blandness HAS TO BE a benefit.

    2. Yes, maybe the characters are badasses as soon as you start playing with them. But the universe of SR is dangerous. The combats are lethal! It’s a game, where a single bullet can kill your character. And the rules for running support the fact that you have to be careful. And that’s ok.

    • grant says:

      It says in the book that the ultimate goal of any shadowrunner is to become a legend, for their name to become known; I didn’t make it up or infer it from the text.

      • Danny says:

        I will note that being a legend and being instantly recognizable on sight can be two different things. And in Shadowrun, they certainly are.

        For the review, it reads to me as “If you don’t like lots of rules, you probably won’t like Shadowrun.”

        It does come off a bit preachy, though. But shit, it’s your blog,eh?

  • Chris says:

    You might not be surprised to find out that the folks currently developing Shadowrun are not the folks that developed the earlier editions. They aren’t even the team that made the major rewrite that was fourth edition. No, they are the leftovers of Catalyst Game Labs, what’s hanging on after the owner embezzled a large sum of the company. His cronies kicked anyone to the curb who wouldn’t shut up about the glacially slow development cycle or the company’s inability to pay their artists. The current line dev, a former editor with no prior game development experience, decided to re-gear and drop quality big time to keep production lurching along, as you can see with 5th edition and pretty much everything that came out after Vice in 4th.

  • Cele says:

    Your not even trying to understand what you dislike about the game but rather invest time in coming up with a good rant that looks sharp as an article. I’ve been playing SR 4e for half a year now and i can’t say that understanding the rules for recoil has been particularly hard on me.
    Furthermore, as mentioned above, it’s always a tradeoff. Some players do like an extensive ruleset that allows to describe various scenarios in detail, which leads to, of course more rules that can hinder the gameflow. But on the other hand, systems that heavily encourage gameflow are oftentimes lackluster in terms of covering various actions in a explicit fashion.

    You could and should have thought about that before ranting away i feel.

  • Andrew says:

    Here is a version of Shadowrun based on Old School Hack. Another way into the game world!

    http://sentientgames.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/shadowhack.pdf

  • Moonshine Fox says:

    Wow, you must hate pretty much every game system outside of something like 4th ed D&D then, and have never played any edition of Shadowrun outside of 4th.

    The world of Shadowrun is not D&D. It is not Mutants and Masterminds. It’s not World of Darkness. You are a guy with a skill people want to pay for who is completely deniable when you die. Catch you by surprise, and some punk gangbanger with TAC-9 can take you down. And if he’s got his chummers with him, he may not even need to surprise you.

    The game is not meant for you to run in guns blazing cutting down everything in your path. You have to play smart, moving frogger style in formation, using cover, employing stealth and confidence skills to score paydata.

    You may not even be a merc on the streets of Seattle or Denver, you could be a resistence member in the jungles in Aztalan. You may be a smuggler running your goods along the Golden Coast. The world is vast, and needs rules for things that other groups will never run into.

    It’s fine that you don’t like it, but your wholesale smashing of it is way out of line. Play your more simple ruled games, and leave the more complex stuff to those of us who like it. (and you don’t understand what Hash does? Really? It’s dirt simple, especially with how the Otaku and their sprites used to work back in 3rd ed.)

  • Xemides says:

    This is no criticism, this is simple bashing a system you don’t like and shows some disgust for the people who do.

  • Linix says:

    I feel that calling Shadowrun a dinosaur is a little harsh. Yes, cyberpunk and fantasy were big in the 80’s but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good. People still enjoy Ghost In The Shell and are looking forward to Cyberpunk2077. Yes there are a lot of rules, BUT you might’ve not taken into account that there is a quick rules pdf that was released with some basic rules, and a large portion on the advanced rules are conpletely optional. I only just got into shadowrun and just last week GM’d my first game using 5th. A good way to put it is that if you want quick and dirty, fighting monsters, etc. Play D&D, if you want a more sci-fi feel and more corporate espionage, Shadowrun is your thing. If anything I’d say this article was a little harsh in that, yes, you didn’t like it. But maybe say who might, go find a group online and listen in or play and see who might like it instead of just putting people off a game they might enjoy.

  • Grant, I find this article sort of funny. I, too, recently (and gratefully) received this book as a birthday present, and I was also let down.

    In the past, we had spent a small bit of time to make our Shadowrun game flow more easily. When I received the book I eagerly opened it up to see how it had been simplified… It was a *NEW EDITION* after all. It’s not a new edition; they just added more shit and made it more complex.

    I just don’t have the energy to teach my new group how to play it (let alone try to relearn it myself).

  • tommy says:

    This game world is wonderful. This Rule book is balls. This rant is utterly valid. He’s not knocking the universe, or even the SR pedigree, he’s knocking the absolute, balls to mouth, cluster of a core rule book.

    I have only just managed to get round the character creation, which not only fails to simplify it to a points based system, but also increasingly convolute the priority system (which I like) to a near unintelligible mass of tables, maths, and unexplained numerales.

    I was hoping maybe it would simplify later, but after describing it’s production as ‘designed by a Hyborian dyslexic race’ (and I’m dyslexic), he linked me this rant.

    I will not be using 5E or waste my time reading this rule book.

    I owe you a debt of gratitiude =)

  • Trent says:

    I have to say, if I was looking for an actual breakdown of what Shadowrun is I can’t say I’d ever trust you on it. Shadowrun is an old game yes, but the fact that you think Shadowrun is a game about “making a name for yourself” is completely idiotic. Shaowrun is just that “Running in the shadows” A game about being a grunt working by some corporate and/or psychotic drone to kill others that might ruin his business. This game is different, I’ll give you that. Most gamers can’t understand the idea of “Your character isn’t a savior he’s a pawn” but hey who am i kidding. Honestly, I find shadowrun lack luster… but I know you didn’t even come close to reading after the certain part above. Congratz, you have become as terrible as Skrewattack and TGWG.

    • grant says:

      Here’s the bit in Shadowrun 5 where it says your eventual goal as a Shadowrunner is to make a name for yourself – http://imgur.com/TAJwLqe

      That’s it, there, in the book. Seems strange you didn’t seem to catch it when you were reading the entire thing from cover to cover eh Trent

      • Bluescales says:

        The issue there is that that was -never- the goal of Shadowrunners originally – it was to make money and survive, that’s the way it’s always been from 1st all the way up to 4E, that horseshit about ‘making a name for yourself’ is due to the developers seemingly having no idea what Shadowrun and shadowrunners are all about. The word ‘shadows’ is used for a reason – it’s implying a place where people can hide and keep secrets – in the cracks of society that have from from the decades of power accumulation by megacorps and the extreme stratification of the social classes.

        If I were you I’d disregard that whole part, as any experienced player of Shadowrunner will tell you whoever wrote that is talking out their ass – it’s simply a case that the writers have gotten it wrong. 4th already strayed from some of the flavour that was 3rd’s strong point – 5th is pretty much the final nail in the coffin in that department.

        Other than that, regardless of book layout or anything, 5th Edition Shadowrun is a pile of crap, a shame really, what was an awesome setting has been driven into the ground by people who think they know better.

      • Teverin says:

        Just came across this post while looking up Shadowrun stuff. You make a valid point but I think what they are saying is that you will be a legend in the way that someone may say…

        “Aw man, Teverin is a legend! He hacked several mainframes blah blah blah…”

        “Oh yeah? What’s he look like?”

        “I don’t know…”

        That sorta thing. Among Shadowrunners you are a legend, but to the everyday people you are just some guy they saw messing with a terminal. That’s why those skills are there.

      • Anarkitty says:

        You have completely misunderstood what that passage means. Becoming “a legend” in Shadowrun, being one of “the people we tell stories about” is not the same as being famous or recognizable. If you notice, every one of those legends is referenced by their nickname or street name, no real names. These are celebrities *within the criminal underground community*.

        Successful Runners don’t want to be famous in the classical sense. Very few people know who they really are or what they look like, especially outside of the shadows, because if they were well known they would be dead or in jail. Being recognizable is a curse, blending into a crowd is a blessing, because it isn’t your appearance that makes you a legend, it’s your deeds. If people can pick you out of a line up, it makes it a lot harder to be a successful criminal. If your name is on the evening news, you’re pretty much fucked.

        On an related note, “Hash” makes perfect sense if you have actually read the other rules that go along with it. Even if you haven’t, it isn’t that hard to parse out approximately what it does. I’ve never had a problem understanding or remembering the recoil rules either, and there are rules for swimming and treading water because Seattle is SURROUNDED BY WATER.

      • Otomosix says:

        “I’ve never had a problem understanding or remembering the recoil rules either, and there are rules for swimming and treading water because Seattle is SURROUNDED BY WATER.”

        And we’re surrounded by air…doesn’t mean we need rules on how to breathe.

      • Jackrabbit says:

        Ok. right, you won’t need rules to breathe air, but we’re designed to do that naturally. We are not designed to swim or float forever, how long can you tread water??? STR 4 characters can do it for 4 minutes without needing to test it, I think that’s pretty logical…. They made the rules to make sense and be realistic. Which if you think about it, you make a swim check for the same thing in d&d, do you not? They are being specific for treading water because that is different than swimming, the act of swimming provides you with forward momentum and creates some lift in the fluid, where as being still does not provide that advantage and is reliant solely upon your own strength to keep going. This system was meant, in my opinion, to be USED. You learn as you use it, and grow. You don’t need to know what Hash does unless you’re a technomancer and they’ll understand it a lot more than you will. If you are running the game and someone is playing a ‘mancer, and you haven’t read up on it, then you’re not doing your job as a GM. Just as easy to say ‘no technomancers’ if you want to be that lazy. The rules make sense, once you use them, and sorry it seems people suck at math but to me it’s not that hard to count out 20 dice to roll.

      • Rycor814 says:

        Correct. Runners do not want to be FAMOUS because it blows their cover. They want to be well-respected and well-known within a community of professional operatives. They don’t want their names plastered across the headlines and movie titles. What they are doing is essentially criminal. Criminals who are famous never do very well.

  • Garith_volyn says:

    Let me just ask… have you ever sat down with someone who has played and try learning that way. I admit shadowrun was not a book I could just pick up and start playing. I needed some help. and even now i both play in one game and run another campaign as a gm… please for the love of all holy rpgs, try something before you completely make an ass out of yourself on the internet.
    Sincerely ,
    Garith Volyn ( Elf weapon specialist)

  • UncleAsriel says:

    Have you tried The Corporation? I had the joy of playing this over Christmas, and it struck me as a rules-medium version of Shadowrun. Most things were resolved with the the core mechanic of 2d10, roll under Attribute + Skill.

    While there was a lot of “stuff” to be tacked on (i.e. cyberware implants which enhanced abilities, gave thermoptic camouflage, etc) and these could be be kind of tricky to remember the details of, the game flowed steadily and most of the rules were pretty graspable.

    Was this just the luck of a good GM, or is this system more elegant? What do you think, folks?

  • Mashashige says:

    Pretty good review, all in all, though IMO you lean too much towards the “lets rant for ranting sake” rather than towards the “lets rant while making some cohesive arguments” – but that may well be an issue of different strokes.

    I would like to put out a few point that I think you misjudged or rather didn’t clarify enough:

    1. The “making yourself a hero” point – you need to make the distinction between a making a name that is related to the physicality of a person (actors, models, etc), and making a name in the shadows. Famous criminals (viz “shadowrunners”) would be more akin to something like Anonymous or perhaps to Jack the ripper. They will be famous. They will be known on the matrix. But no one will know how they look like. They’ll be famous by their actions or quirks, but police wouldn’t notice them sticking out in a crowd. Think “the usual suspects”. The blandness quality actually makes perfect sense in this contexts.

    2. I think you can just unify all the [Complexity]/[Redundancy]/[Maths] stuff into a single point. While, again, I think the choice between simple and complex mechanics is a taste issue rather than something objective, I would make the claim that the best designed games allow groups to go into as much details as they wish, while not penalizing those who would rather go K.I.S.S.
    That is, mechanics that allow you either just FA with a simple penalty or flesh the system out more with recoil calculations and the like, while still allowing both to work consistently. Different levels for different people. (you can still do it now with SR5, but it requires house rules and such)

    I think the issue with SR5 is (and btw, SR2 was way way worse) that they tried to go complex without making tiers of complexity to facilitate different preferences, while also not being consistent across the board – explosions, running and treading water being overly in depth, while stuff like physical combat being too simple to allow fun and crazy things (you can do more in 3.5e with tumble and some skill tricks).

    3. The quality of the product – I think you need to distinguish between the rulebook itself, and the ruleset. The rulebook is bad – it needs more editing, it needs to flow easier, char creation should be very simple and straight forward for beginners while allowing those who want to jump in faster to do so, etc. All of those (and many others) are valid criticisms.
    But the rules themselves are quite another thing. In all honesty, while they do suck on occasion – mystic adept OoTB springs to mind – I find that they aren’t much more complicated or badly written than a lot of mainstay RPG rules (3.5e is a prime example, though 4e isn’t much better. Most rulesets tend to suck at least a bit). More than that, I feel that for the purpose of actually fleshing out an RPG in a universe such as the SR universe, they work very well. They feel gritty (and I mean it in a good way), they give agency while not making you a god-like character like DnD does, and are in general pretty damn to play once you get a bit (1-2 sessions worth) of experience with them.

    I agree – SR isn’t for everyone. If you find 3.5e overly complicated, you’ll hate SR. If you don’t feel like taking the time to learn the system (and it does have a learning curve), don’t feel like dealing with odd quirks at times, or just want to play something that is drop-and-play, it isn’t for you.
    But if you like neo-punk meets magic, if you want to play in a world with the best matrix-hacking-whatever system so far, if you want to play a hard and gritty game in a futurist setting, this is the best there is (until they make a GiTS based system <3).

    (sorry about the wall of text, didn't mean it to be this long)

  • Anon says:

    I played and understood Shadowrun when I was 12. It’s not that hard, I promise. But you did a bang up job of coming across as 1) a complete jackass and 2) an idiot who cannot handle any but the simplest, most slimmed down, little-kid level of RPGs. “OMFG, I have to do maths!” Jesus. And you seriously can’t understand how maintaining anonymity is an advantage in a game where you are a professional criminal? Really?

    Shadowrun is explicitly not for people like you. Hurray that ranting about a deep and obviously out-of-your-league game made you feel better about yourself, I guess. But now I and everyone else know that you’re an idiot jackass.

    Good work. Have fun with your WoW tableto-er, I mean D&D 4th edition. I guess you get to pretend you’re roleplaying without all the, you know, verisimilitude and complexity.

    • grant says:

      Hey champ,

      Fuck you.

      Love,

      – Grant

      • Leevizer says:

        So, did I understand correctly that you just said “fuck you” when confronted with your rant being childish and your inability to play a harder system? Way to go.

        First off, I just played a very satisfying game of Shadowrun 5th edition with a 12-year old kid, two of my friends aged 20 who had once played a game of 4th edition and one friend who had never played Shadowrun before. Also, I have GM:d a total of one game of Shadowrun 4th edition before and had played Shadowrun 5th edition once as a player.

        Now, I don’t think I’m above average in terms of intellect, but I had no problems understanding the rules. The parts that were iffy or I weren’t unsure I either checked (which took about a minute or two at max) or handwaved it with something. Of course the players thought I knew what I was doing, even if I wasn’t entirely sure. That’s called Good Game Mastering.

        Shadowrun is a complex system that requires a lot of rules. It has more to offer than most typical RPGs and thus requires a lot of rules. Players don’t even need to know all the rules. A rigger needs to know how Riggers work and what drones they want. Mages need to know magic. If you play a mage, you have no need of knowledge about Riggers. It is true that this will be very taxing or even daunting to a new gamemaster, but you can just leave magic out of your game at start if you feel the need to. Learn one or few things at a time instead of tossing the players and yourself into the game.

        I am not going to argue about the rulebook being poorly written. That’s a given, and they should have fixed that in production instead of publishing errata. It doesn’t mean that the game is unplayable or that the rules are inherently bad.

        Sure, there are a few specific tests that require different throws that might not happen at some games, for example treading water. Sure, some groups won’t have anything to do with that, but some groups will find themselves on the Seattle docks thinking of jumping into the water to avoid being roasted by the raging fire elemental.

        Recoil is hard? How the hell does that happen? It’s a simple calculation which you need to basically do once and that’s it. I know my recoil compensation is 9 at any given situation for my assault rifle. I don’t need to calculate it every simple time I fire a gun. That’s like having a warrior in a fantasy RPG not knowing the basic damage value of his sword.

        All in all, you’re dumb. Stop writing stuff online, please. Your reactions to criticism has just made you look more childish.

      • grant says:

        You got me! From now on I’ll just write down all my thoughts about roleplaying games in a book then bury it in the garden so no-one will ever find it

        Thanks for saving future generations from my work

      • Slide_Eurhetemec says:

        Well, I’ve understood Shadowrun since I was 11 (in 1989, when 1E came out), and I think most of Grant’s criticisms are correct. Dead Man’s Trigger, recoil, chunky salsa and so on are effin’ horrible rules in 5E, just horrible, and 5E has a lot of issues that should be gone in a game from 2013. I still like it, myself, but he’s not wrong, and fiddly, badly-designed rules do not make for a good or “deep” game.

        I say this as someone who also loved Fire, Fusion and Steel, and calculating shell cartridge lengths for necked shell cartridges in G3G, too, so I don’t dislike math in the least.

      • johnnycache says:

        To be fair, “chunky salsa” is so overpowered, you almost never write it out. 23p is enough damage to kill an elephant, there’s no point in doing the shockwaves over and over – it’s in there as a nod to previous editions.

      • Responder says:

        “What is Look, Robot?
        Look, Robot started out as a blog about videogames but, over time, broadened its focus to encompass tabletop role-playing games as well. These days, RPGs are the main focus – as that’s what I spend the majority of my time doing – but I still use it for the occasional video games article, live-game report, vain attempt at tech journalism, or some whiny post about my feelings. (Ugh.)
        My name is Grant, and I write the damn thing.”

        I was reading this article, and taking it seriously until I read your response in the comments.. Now I know what kind of person you are I know that I can’t take this or the rest of your blog very seriously at all.
        This text above of what this blog is? I suggest you adjust it to “this is the spot in which I like to rant and not get any comments because I’ll get pissed and tell people to fuck them selves in”

        Very mature..

      • grant says:

        If someone calls me an “idiot jackass” on my own website, I don’t see why I should be polite to them.

      • Leevizer says:

        The same reason people in customer service tell you to have a nice day after you tell them you didn’t enjoy the meal you just ate and they should be shot in the head with a small derringer for serving it to them?

        It’s good customer service.

        Granted, we are not “customers” in the usual sense, but still. We are people who enjoy games and you give us information about games. The only difference is that we don’t pay to read your blog, but the same point applies. You could explain or iterate further on your ideas and tell us why you are, in fact, NOT a “idiot jackass” but you honestly feel this way because X or Y.

        PS: Also, that “One last job” of yours seems interesting. I’ll have to take a closer look at it.

      • grant says:

        I dunno; customers are owed something by definition. The way I view it is: I owe my readers nothing. I write stuff for free, they read it for free, we go on about our respective days. I see no point in acting professionally when this isn’t a profession – I write professionally, too, and you’re damn right I’m always polite in the comments there. I’m representing an employer, or I’m accepting money for a service, so I’m good-natured and pleasant throughout.

        But if someone comes onto my blog, and uses the space I’ve provided to be abusive? I’ll be abusive right back. I’m too old to be nice to people that hate me if I’ve not nothing to gain out of doing so.

      • Clinton says:

        In this age of people believing that quick and easy is best, a quick dunk into something truly slow and complicated, is for a lack of a better term refreshing. I have only been playing table top role playing games for about 7 years now, but I have always been a puzzle solving type. The beauty of a table top RPG is that it’s up to the people that decided to set aside a few hours to play/participate in a session(s).
        The rule books, errata, prebuilt set pieces are just the building blocks you have to build something, and in the end it does not matter what that is, as much as how much fun you had building it.
        My personal opinion is that the more pieces you have to build with the better. Now not everyone feels this way some prefer, sets where you follow preset instruction to build. That is fine but don’t expect me to join, oh you didn’t ask well um.. moving right along.
        Now that we have my opinions and understanding placed before the might of the internet troll hammer we can get on with what this is really about, Shadowrun 5e good or bad? and why? Well I have been reading through the book and doing my normal min/max critique and found it to be surprisingly balanced. With the possibility for the game to devolve into being 4 game world running simultaneously on top of one another and impacting each other, it seems to do a fine job of insuring one does not outshine any of the others. This by the way is so far outside the scope and capabilities of D&D 4e that any attempt at it would require the DM to make up and basically create his/her own rules that govern it. Best way to describe it: Imagine that every plane of existence was accessible directly from the material plane and that each plane of existence directly impacts every other plane of existence in a real way. So let’s take the plane of fire, in this scenario if you could stop it from interacting with the world in an area all thermal energy exchanges would shift to cold, yup you guessed it never said anything about the plane of perpetual darkness and cold so with the plane of fire being blocked the main plane that would impact thermal dynamics of the world would be the plane of perpetual darkness and cold. Now imagine every interaction in the world had this idea in the background but then add different skills/abilities whose main and only focus is to change how one or more planes interact. This adds such a depth of field that it would bog down just about any game and D&D 4e would just plain stop working all together.
        I keep referring directly to D&D 4e for two reasons. One it was directly referenced in the original post, and second: because it is considered the defacto’ “modern” rule set. I would rather play with a jank rule set over D&D 4th any day of the week.
        Now I would like to say because I have as much experience with shadowrun as you do, but mainly because my go to game rule set is hands of heels more robust than D&D 4e in every way imaginable I found Shadowrun to be Childs play to understand. But if my go to game was D&D 4e I would have opened the Shadowrun laughed to myself closed it and put it on a shelf someplace and forgot about it. But I do not run a gaming blog and as such I understand the reason why you posted the cataloged reasons you disliked the game rules. I would make one recommendation though if you ever want people to respect your opinion and to treat you with respect, not to mention keep the comments in the blog from turning into school yard bickering, more carefully consider how you respond to childish comments, or better yet don’t respond to them at all.

      • grant says:

        Clinton, this is a good defence of the work. Shadowrun is a mighty complex game given the wide variety of ways the characters can interact with the world(s); thanks to the weight of lore that it’s built up over the years, any attempt to faithfully recreate it with a nod to past editions will no doubt come with a fair amount of rules baggage.

        In regard to the comment; it’s one comment, dude, take a look through my others and you’ll see that I’m generally polite or, at the very least, snarky in a less offensive way. It’s weather, not climate. I don’t want to have to be polite to people who are rude to me, especially people who use MY platform to do it.

  • Unknown says:

    I think part of the problem has been mentioned earlier in that there was a change in development. SR5 seemed to do a fair bit of revamping and the rules get complicated enough to make my eyes glaze over. I started playing in SR4 and the rules felt more simplified and streamlined. Still somewhat complicated, but not overly so.

    I actually came from D&D4 as well. It’s an adjustment, but it’s not as bad as what they did in that thing known as “SR5 Core”. Not to mention that there were mismatches between examples and actual rules. It’s a confusing mess at times. Probably the only thing more headache inducing than trying to play a psionic character in D&D4 (I have trouble handling Augments, I’ll just stick to normal heroes).

    It’s a bit of a fallacy to say, but I don’t think one can consider SR5 to be really ‘real Shadowrun’ yet. It’s too early and there’s plenty of errors that are going to need more paperwork (errata) than doing your taxes.

    If you were to give the Shadowrun universe a second chance, perhaps look into a previous edition. The rules are still not perfect so you much find that while the universe is fun, the rules less so. Perhaps flavouring another game system into the Shadowrun universe might be best.

  • Shamie says:

    Point 1, “dinosaurs” : Meh, is an opinion which it sounds like one of a person who found the new shiny thing. Sure there are a lot of Rpgs with simpler mechanics but it just a taste. i have play the “simpler” systems in which some fine details of rules are just hand-waved. I have play the simpler one and i have found that some are poorly conceived or flawed in belief as any rules heavy game. Its like food, its a matter of personal taste.*

    Point 2 “Complexity”: Sure, i agree shadowrun and specially the riggers is a complex thing to handle it. Many people agree that the SR5 could have been put together better in terms of organization.

    Point 3 “Redundant”: i dont get it, so having rule for treading water is bad? You dont want it, dont use them. Sure the basic conception of SR is urban landscapes but you could play anywhere or any kind of game in the setting of shadowrun. Maybe a company of mercenaries in singapur with a boat and then the treading water rule would come handy. Besides is far easier to ignore a rule than to make it.

    Point 3 “Math”: i agree and disagree. I agree because the rules of grenades are beyond the scope of my mental capabilities to understand. Im horrible with distances, i live in a country that even use meters as a metric and i cannot tell you what a meters is really. And i hate the whole grenade rules as it is way to much complex for me. However i also know this is my fault and not the game, could the game use more simpler rules for granades? sure but should a game which normally uses math stop using it for people like myself who have this crippling math adversion?…. no

    Point 4 “DEAD MAN’S TRIGGER”: i cant see the issue with it. So im not gonna comment.

    At the end of the day i think the game is not bad in itself. Im not a dinosaur by any means. Im barely 24 and i started shadowrun in the last days of 4th edition. I prefer those games you say that are “for dinosaurs” i prefer data, i prefer a firm rule-set in which i can use as a base for a game.

    I think you are confusing taste with trend. Your personal preference is simpler systems but you are by no means the whole gaming community, there is a place for people who like heavy rule games and they (and to an extend we) dont deserve to be called dinosaurs as you and the people who like “brisk, crisp rules that power reward behaviour and power stories” dont deserve to be called stupid.

  • Daerim says:

    Incoming wall of text, but I’m going to give your arguments against Shadowrun 5e the responses they deserve. I’m going to concentrate on the things you felt especially important enough to deserve pictures from the book.

    Also, I’m a long-time gamer and I happen to like a fair bit of complexity in my games, personally. But I’m also of the opinion that this is one of the most playable RPG systems out there, especially considering how much thematic ground it covers.

    tl:dr – You make some fair points, but the system is not as complex as your review makes it seem. Some of the complexity that is there is simply unavoidable but a lot of it can be front-loaded onto a character sheet or planned around.

    1. Random Personality Traits Table
    Yes, they’re all horrible… if that’s all the NPC is. But as the book says “while this quirk will help remind the players of the character, it shouldn’t define the whole or even the majority of the NPC’s personality.” The racist isn’t JUST a racist, but it is the most immediate personality trait the character has. How deep the character goes is based entirely on the depth of interaction. Whether he’s a bat-wielding throw-away combat challenge or a loving, frightened family man lashing out at a changing world depends on the needs of the story.

    These personality traits are the social equivalent of a pink Mohawk and that’s all they’re supposed to be. And they cover a lot of ground: angry, scatterbrained, prejudiced, inappropriate, addicted and sexuality. That’s not bad for a six point list that’s meant to be used when you have to throw together an NPC on the fly or when you’ve got GM’s block.

    2. Blandness
    Yes, part of the goal of Shadowrun is to become a Fastjack; the legendary Shadowrunner who can take on the biggest and the baddest and live to spend the nuyen on living the high life.

    Blandness is not for that. Blandness is to keep bystanders from giving your description to the cops, the corporate security forces from blowing up your home and the gangers from finding you in your sleep. That’s also why Distinctive Style is a disadvantage… because “that guy with the neon-pink Mohawk and full body bioluminescent tattoos” is a lot easier to find.

    Also, there’s no reason you can’t make a name for yourself in the shadows, even if you are Bland. It’s a pretty standard trope to have the “I thought he’d be taller” or “YOU are the total badass we’ve heard so much about?” intro scene.

    3. Character Sheet Bloat
    Yeah, the Rigger is a little out of control, but it’s also probably the single most complex character type in the game. It’s a pet class, and the pets are all vehicles with their own stat blocks. You can make very simple characters as well, such as a bog-standard Street Samurai with a machine pistol and a sword who will have very compact character sheets. It isn’t an endemic feature of all characters.

    Also, Shadowrun has a long, long history of having enormous lists of gear. It’s the system’s equivalent of D&D’s spell lists or GURPS’… well, everything. Not every system uses nWoD’s level of gear simplicity, but every system has something that takes up 10+% of the book (other than combat rules).

    4. Treading Water and Dead Man’s Trigger
    I actually agree with you here. More so for Dead Man’s Trigger than Treading Water, but still in agreement.

    5. Hash
    A sprite is a digital spirit. You give the sprite a file and it encrypts it with digital magic. Nobody can read the file unless the sprite lets them, and you control the sprite. If the sprite dies while encrypting the file, the file is corrupted, so don’t kill sprites that are encrypting files if you want it usable.

    I’m honestly not sure why you had trouble with that. I don’t say that to be mean or imply that you’re stupid, I just thought it was pretty straight-forward.

    6. Chunky Salsa Effect
    This is a bit clunky, but it’s also part of Shadowrun’s core conceit: realism of unreality. Shadowrun has always strived to be fairly realistic in its portrayal of a fantastic world and has leaned toward deadly combat has a control on roaring rampage gameplay.

    Plus, the rule has literally been there for decades. It isn’t quite rolling a d20 to hit in D&D, but it’s pretty close.

    7. Recoil Compensation
    Most of this calculation can be done up front. 1+1/3 strength is the kind of thing you do when you’re filling out a character sheet. The same with the recoil compensation of a gun. If you have a strength of 4 and you’re firing an Uzi IV, you know your recoil compensation starts at 4 long before your character gets in a fight. From there it’s just counting bullets fired.

    This is also a change from older versions of Shadowrun, which put all the recoil compensation on the gun as a flat value and didn’t care about the character at all. Which leads to silliness like a strength 1 wuss being able to control a minigun just as well as a strength 14 cybered up Troll.

    8. Running
    I’m actually going to cry foul here, because your picture is of three examples of running in play, not the rules themselves. The actual rules here are very simple: Agility x 2m walking, Agility x 4m running, +1 or 2m after a skill test if you’re sprinting flat out. Walking is free. If you’re running, you have to use your Free Action and you take a small penalty to actions and ranged attackers take a small penalty to hit you.

    This isn’t any more complicated than, say, D&D 4e’s rules for movement.

    9. Action Scene Description
    I see nothing at all wrong with these two paragraphs. I’m actually plotting out a campaign myself and I do this. I plan to have a car chase in the first session, so I write down important rules and the page numbers for if I have to consult the book. In the D&D 4e game I ran, I wrote down monster stats on 3×5 cards and had power cards for all my player’s abilities on hand.

    This is even more important with Shadowrun, where you can be dealing with so many setting elements. From gunfights between gangs on a freeway, to astral vision quests to data steals from secure computer networks to melee brawls with giant cockroaches, there’s just too much to not give yourself a break with references.

    It is both a strength and a weakness of the system and the setting, but it is also a weakness that can be planned for. The book recommends you do that.

    • Clinton says:

      You my dear sweet friend are amazing thank you for the thorough defense of this game. I expect that you are an amazing DM/GM.

  • Hasimir says:

    Just doing a quick 1-up in Grant’s favor. I started playing SR with its 2nd edition and followed its development ever since. I effing love the setting, and back in the day I also enjoyed the rules… although I often ingnored a good 3/4 of them because otherwise the game would not run to my liking.

    True, Grant is harsh, but I 100% agree with each of his points. If people find enjoyable ways to play with a stone that is a MERIT to their creativity and ingenuity, Kudos! This doesn’t mean that the damn stone is a well crafted toy that does anything good for the people who are supposed to play it.

    “Dinosaur” is a good term. Not because SR was born almost 40 years ago. And not just because of its size. But because after those 40 years, in the year of our Loyd 2014, it still has the SAME bugs and problems it had from the get go.

  • Morganna says:

    Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: this is not a review, it is (as promised!) a rant, about someone’s first brush with a gaming system radically dissimilar to the one he is accustomed to. Was he unnecessarily rude? Assuredly, but mostly in the comments.

    Two actual points I’d like to pitch in, one about SR and one about RPGs.

    Point 1: In SR, the players only THINK that their goal is to become famous. It is the same as any modern-day gang-banger who sees a big crime boss drive by and says, “Man, someday that is gonna be me!” In reality, of course, they are going to end up dead in a ditch, and the crime boss with the fancy car is going to get nicked by the Feds for tax evasion and spend his golden years being traded for cigarettes. GOOD criminals (or spies, or whatever your SR concept is) are anonymous.

    Point 2: SR has always been a rules nightmare, but only for the GM. Essentially I see two schools of RPGs – GM-heavy, and shared-load. D&D4 was a shared-load system; the GM didn’t do a lot more work than the players; they simply had a little extra prep. SR is, and always has been, a GM nightmare and a player’s dream. Traveller classic falls into this category, as well. The GM goes through tables, uses a calculator, a sextant, and possibly a Cray 2 to calculate what is going on, but that happens behind the screen. All the player has to do is roll the amount of six-sided dice the GM says, and then tell the GM how many 5 and above and how many ones there were. The end. Just like, in Traveller, the GM rolls on an infinite number of tables to figure out what is on a given planet, but the player? He rolls 2d6, adds his skill bonus (if applicable), and gets on with his (simulated) life.

    This isn’t so much a rant about Shadowrun as it is a wine critic ranting about micro-brewed root beer…just admit that it isn’t your area and move on.

    • az says:

      idk SR can be a shared load system I’m currently running a 4e game and I have a blood mage and a technomancer and I am absolutely terrible at managing the hundreds of rules that go into both of them however both of them have a decent understanding of how they work and if we have to take a minute break to look up how to math out the resonance of threading a complex program then we do and my technomancer here tells me what he rolled now that’s not the best way to play or run SR but it works and can work well if done properly

  • I’m DMing a SR5 Campaign just now, and I totally agree.
    The basic system is sound, whatsoever, but all the specific rules are way too complicated. I will use this system just for the basics, and to hell with all the stupid jerk rules.

  • Atlessa says:

    Shadowrun 5 has it’s flaws.
    Not one of them was mentioned here.

    That is all.

    • grant says:

      This is a great comment and I thank you for it.

      • grant says:

        Agh! Wait – sorry. I thought you wrote “Shadowrun has 5 flaws,” not “Shadowrun 5 has it’s flaws.” Sorry. It’s early. I came across as really sarcastic, and I didn’t mean to.

  • Kragshot Prime says:

    Grant…your rant/review does this game a vast disservice.

    Before I begin, let me preface my response by stating that I have been involved with the tabletop hobby for nearly 40 years. I’ve played D&D in all of its incarnations as I have played Shadowrun.

    The core of your complaint is the needless (in your opinion) complexity of SR5. But the fact is that SR has always been “complex.” It falls into the category of games that include GURPS, Palladium Megaverse, and Traveler.

    What amused me about your rant is that you compared SR5 to D&D4th. Grant, D&D 4th is no “landmark” system, buddy. D&D4e had one very awesome strength in its favor. Adventure design was so streamlined that it was almost frightening. I could crank out the mechanical aspects of an adventure in about an hour tops, leaving me only to have to actually work on fleshing out the storytelling parts. But that’s where the fun of that system began and ended.

    My gaming group got on the D&D4th train rather early and after a year, we collectively agreed to put the game down and never pick it up again. Our reasons ranged from the unreasonable length of combat, the removal of free choice in powers/spells, to the intentional tailoring of the game’s flavor in order to appeal directly to MMORPG fans. I spent countless hours on the D&D forums and used every “trick” or “tweak” to try to speed up combat and make it more streamlined for my players; none of them worked well enough to make a real difference.

    But and here’s the thing…we consciously acknowledged that the game wasn’t for us after a year of play. We gave the system a full chance to win us over.

    I feel that your rant/review does not reflect time spent on the system in the least. Furthermore, your text reads more as if you are ripping on more complex RPG systems in general (i.e. the “Dinosaur” remark) and using SR5 (unfairly, IMHO) as a foil to convey that viewpoint.

    For the record, I also run “light” systems for my gaming group. My favorite is Ron Edward’s “Sorcerer.” That system gives the player and GM a very loose framework and then urges them to run wild with it. The Fate/Fudge system is another system that leans toward less cumbersome rules for gameplay (I ran “Dresden Files”). Those are both good systems and do what they are supposed to do.

    But my personal opinion is that your rant/review is a bit off-key here. I did not address your individual points because Daerim did a far, far better job of doing so. Anything I could add would only be redundant in regard to those responses.

    Grant, you would have been better off writing a post discussing your preference for lighter game systems than picking on SR5 in an attempt to get page hits by ripping on “the flavor of the month (which SR5 is right now).” But, this is your page and I openly acknowledge your freedom to write about what you find prudent.

    With that being said; I do enjoy a good, albeit, irrational rant. And if nothing else, reading your post did bring a smile to my face.

    Good day.

  • Andrè says:

    Thanks. One ‘lil wisdom on the way: Just because someone wants to sell another edition of a product that doesn’t have to mean it is really the best edition.

  • Phelan says:

    I’ll just point out one very stupid criticism, the one of blandness being an advantage and distinctive style a disadvantage “in world where you’re trying to make a name for yourself”.

    “The Jackal”, “The Saint”, “Ronin”, …. Take any such movie and imagine the protagonists, who are definitely trying to earn a name as reliable professionals (or already have), as always making sure they can be easily identified. The Jackal wouldn’t have gotten past any airport controls to actually do anything for example.

    • Rycor814 says:

      If you bother to read the rulebook and understand the game, there are different levels of recognition that Shadowrunners aspire to. I can imagine there might be a great many infiltrators, spies, and assassins that want to be bland and unnoticeable.

      Also, don’t mistake the legacy and cred a NAME carries with the appearance of the individual. That is a mistake.

  • Flashy says:

    This is a suburb highlighting of many of the things to dislike about shadowrun, not only the vile 5e but even parts of pretty decent 4e.

    In particular the complexity. Holy Hell the complexity. 4e was the first system I ever GMed for, and so I have a certain irrational love for it that probably derives more from stockholm syndrome than anything else. You pretty much need a master’s degree in the system to run it halfway correctly though.

    It is a pretty great system for doing over the top nonsense in a cyberpunk setting, and it doesn’t have any of that reroll initiative every turn nonsense.

    • Flashy says:

      Oh, its also probably worth noting that MOST of those garbage rules were vastly better in previous versions. Dead man’s trigger was just a thing that happened, explosions didn’t reflect off walls, recoil was just a flat number that progressively took dice out of your pool for each additional shot you fired in a round, and so on.

  • Spitdawg says:

    You only listed Seven things.

  • Vorpal says:

    Actually, while the layout of the book was bad, the reviewer’s tone here was infinitely more obnoxious. Also, does anyone get the irony of him writing a scathing review of published material but needing a half dozen opologists in the comments to clarify what he did or didn’t mean in said review? Maybe focus a bit more on clarity and a bit less on being snotty, next time.

  • Tim says:

    I think we have different styles, I don’t have any issue with the criticisms you made. I have a beef with a game that tries to do something half-assed, and sloppy:
    1) 5th ed Shadowrun has encumbrance rules (ex: you can lift/carry str+Body*2 kilos) but nothing ((no armor, gear, weapons) has weights. So can I wear the heaviest armor and carry a bazooka or not?
    2) Speaking of Str, and Body, what do they mean? If I have a body of 1, am I weak or a quadriplegic? At a Logic of 1, am I dumb, or do I get lost stepping out the door?
    3) During character creation, stats/skills/qualities cost different amounts than they do after you start playing. This creates an atmosphere where if you do things in wrong order, you spend extra karma (experience points).
    4) There were many obvious editing problems with the book. People pointed them out, then multiple errata’s came out that only fixed half of them. I mean come on! Your bloody customers did your work for you; the least you could do is use it!

  • Miranda says:

    Your complaints about Shadowrun in general and SR5 in particular are pretty much spot on.

    Catalyst dropped the ball pretty hard with the editing and content of the SR5 core rulebook. It’s poorly formatted, information is all over the place, the information you find is often contradictory or simply nonfunctional. It’s a mess, and Catalyst has all but admitted to it. They’re taking steps to fix it but that doesn’t change the fact that they released what is little better than a beta-test product.

    I am not opposed to any kind of complexity in a game so long as that complexity is necessary and meaningful and does not impede the actual playing of the game. In the end, if you want to play an RPG where you just make the rules up as you go along, that’s fine. However, it’s not an unreasonable expectation that when you buy a rulebook that the book will actually give you playable rules.

    SR5 is a mess. That’s not even an opinion–it’s fact. If you’re going to argue the point, take a look at the fact that Diving and Swimming are distinct skills. The fact that Elves are by and far the absolute *best* metatype for anything except maybe that one person who wants to hit things with a sword? I’m not going to sit here and list every design flaw of the system, because I’ll be here all day.

    We’re still managing to enjoy it somewhat, but I’m currently engaged in a complete rewrite of the entire system from the ground up. I was amused to discover that someone else had managed to experience the same frustrations with the game as I had.

    • Hasimir says:

      Hi Miranda.
      If you read my previous comment you know I agree with you and Grant. What sparked this message though is that you said you’re working on a rewrite of the game… and so am I… would you be interested in comparing notes and, maybe, join forces?

      I have many projects I’m trying to develop, but so little time to do it ç_ç
      Shadowrun is one of my all time favourite settings and an external help to design something Shadowrun-y would be great! 😀
      (provided what I’m up to interests you, and vice versa)

      Drop me a line if you’re interested: brom00@gmail.com

  • Jared says:

    this post seems to assume it knows all about me and what I should and shouldn’t enjoy.

  • Josh says:

    This is a poorly writen one-sided B – fest. You don’t care for the system or the world that’s just fine. Thouse of us whom grew up playing Shadowrun from First to now Fifth Edition Greatly appreciate the hard work involved in honing the game down. Now the feeling of ” Inside Jokes” Well Yes there are loads of them in the book, If you have never played or heard of Shadowrun then there is little to no chance you will get them. Those jokes were put in for their Die Hard Fans. If its to complicated a system for you then stick to 4th ed DnD. This review is not representative of the Books Or the Game -One sided and Ignorant of the world of Shadowrun and the Core system it runs off of. – Conclusion – If the maths is to hard for you to do – Then Don’t bother with games like Gurps or Rifts or Basicaly anything othern then 4th ed DND.

    • grant says:

      Cracking point Josh; the first ten times someone told me to leave Shadowrun alone and use 4e instead didn’t work, but the ELEVENTH time – your comment – finally helped me understand! What a ninny I was being. You’ll be pleased to hear that I’m going to sit at home and just play with crayons and safety scissors so I don’t hurt myself, on account of the fact that I am apparently some kind of fucking simpleton for not wanting to use a calculator when I play RPGs

  • (Strikes again/ Ha-Ha-Ha!) says:

    Blast in a confined space seems simple enough to me, and doesn’t require a scratchpad of any kind: the shockwave bounces if it happens in a confined space. In most cases, this will simply kill whatever it hits. In the unlikely event that you need to calculate it, it’s pretty easy to do so given that we know the strength of the grenade and the size of the confined space.

    The grenades lose 1P every meter the explosion travels. We know that the concrete cylinder is 2 meters wide. That means each bounce reduces both explosions by 2P every time the shockwave traverses that distance (going to the far wall and back. -2 to get to the far wall, -2 on the way back. So -4 total. It bounces off the near wall, too, and it hasn’t had time to be reduced by the time it hits the target. So it causes damage twice each time, reducing by four every time until it’s lost all its power.

    At that point, yeah, 23+23, 19+19, 15+15, and so on. All of which is incredibly easy math that can be done in your head in the space of a second or two.

    It will rarely be necessary to actually calculate this. In most cases, it can simply be assumed that being subject to a blast in a confined space simply kills the target.

    On the subject of treading water, I feel it is necessary to point out that rolls are only involved when you are forced to tread water for an extended period of time (you can automatically do it for minutes equal to your strength). And if you have at least 8 dice – a total that is not difficult to attain with even a minimal investment – you can forgo rolling entirely and just automatically succeed (dice can be traded in for hits without rolling at a rate of 4 dice per 1 hit).

    It sounds like Shadowrun isn’t your game. It sounds like you would probably prefer something like Fate or Fudge. That’s fine. But the very things you deride here are part of what makes Shadowrun fun. Rules intensive, yes, but also possessing a tactically rich system in which how you choose to go about doing things actually makes a big difference in what happens. It also rarely slows much of anything down once you learn the system.

  • Hide says:

    Much butthurt because of the fact you are too lazy to understand the rules harder than ones made simple enough even for retards.

    Shadowrun’s core mechanics is quite straighforward and small, check out quick-start rules. Most of it’s complexity is needed during exotic situations only (say, how often will your character be struggle to survive in waters?). Actually, Shadowrun isn’t an epic RPG about ass-kicking heroes butchering hordes of enemies with bare hands, it’s more down-to-the-ground with some grunts more hard-boiled then you are.

    • grant says:

      Excellent comment mate, the other 100 like it above it were clearly just a drum roll for this fucking masterpiece

    • DarcyDettmann says:

      So the designer of Shadowrun 5th edition are total lazy-asses fucks who never tried to learn the rules they are writing, Hide. The book is full of mechanical mistakes and unnecessary rules, and nobody make a Errata or Update for fix it.

      The new books only makes its worse and worse.

  • Agrijjag says:

    shadowrun has it broken bits just like other tabletops. After playing D&D4E any tabletop is better

  • Laphroaig says:

    DINOSAURS

    Your dislike is a very modern one. Everything these days has become simple; overbearingly so, for we children of the literate era. A person from our time period tends to demand more objectivity. Shadowrun isn’t bending to the modern push for reduction and I’m happy to read that people out there hate that. That means I can find a group of Shadowrunners and be around like-minded people. I can’t stand this new wave of people who pick up D&D, read “Game of Thrones,” and proclaim themselves nerds. Shadowrun keeps those people away like a wreath of garlic. Your article was refreshing.

    There is a lot of fun involved with expansive rules of Shadowrun. It’s something like playing Gran Turismo, learning about car parts and settings, and spending hours tweaking your vehicle. Arcade style is alright, but doesn’t project all of your personality into the game.

    New RPG’s are “arcade style” pen and paper games that don’t let dinosaurs pimp their ride as much as they’d like.

    • grant says:

      I would argue that I can project my personality more in FATE, say, than I ever could in Shadowrun purely because I’m given so much more creative control over the character – creative control that feeds back directly into mechanics. Same in Dogs in the Vineyard, say.

      • grant says:

        Although people can call themselves nerds if they want, it’s not hurting anyone if they don’t fit your definition.

  • Blaster says:

    I really don’t understand why people these days are so obsessed with the rule systems of rpg’s. Up to the point of declaring a system as bad just because they find it to complicated. Ihmo the most important thing is how interesting and elaborate the gameworld is. I’m still gamemastering Shadowrun 2nd Edition, because the rule books then were full of fluff and gamemastering information which really helped the atmosphere. Later editions became more and more bloated with stupid rules (how to build an aircraft carrier and stupid stuff like that), then overhauled the world to make it more accesible (Crash 2.0). Todays Shadowrun has completely lost its cyberpunk feel, is written by people who have no idea of the fluff (Shadowrunners frown on wetwork, why are there run ideas were the group is hired to kill someone?), and has this dumbed down childgame feeling all the other RPG’s today have. In 5. Edition there is an Archetype called a Tank. In a game with guns. How stupid is that????

  • Steve says:

    Man, the people who keep telling you to go back to D&D 4e sure are fucking stupid. You mention it in the context of contrasting that game with Shadowrun: that SR isn’t focused on miniature combat the way D&D 4e is. From that, they make the logical conclusion that of course you’re in love with 4e and if you love 4e so much why don’t you just marry it?

    Also, a lot of these people seem to think that D&D 4th is simple for some reason. But again: stupid.

    • Quicksilver says:

      I understood d&d 4th ed when I was 10, shadowrun when I was 12. I can whip up a character in either one Inn an hour or two. Idk if I’m a geneus, (I’m 13) but nither of them are complex, just different

  • Andrew says:

    I love the shadowrun universe, but I have to say that, mocking tone aside, this review is spot on. I continue to play shadowrun in its current incarnation, but everything about the ruleset is slow and cumbersome, which gives the opposite feeling at the table to the adrenaline rush you should be getting in a gunfight. I’m glad the rules for grenades were picked on in particular as they are just utterly bonkers. A single grenade took half an hour of calculations to resolve in my previous game. That isn’t even close to being fun. In order to make the game fast-flowing and enjoyable, I have to houserule almost everything and let the rules lawyers look it up between sessions so that we can “get it right next time”. That said, all of the incarnations I’ve played have had their problems with at least sections of the ruleset slowing things down. I’m still waiting for a version of the rules that does the universe justice.

  • Helmic says:

    You know, I see the majority of your criticisms, and I slowly smile and speak under my breath, “roll20 bitch.”

    I too prefer a game that can pace itself, but the advent of a widely available VTT with great macro support GREATLY reduces the need for watered-down rules. Combat can divide, multiply, add, and subtract away, all my players need to do is click a button and it’s done for them automatically, filling in their stats and the stats of their target automagically.

    Shadowrun unfortunately has some barriers in that department because roll20 doesn’t play all that nice with dice pools due to its quirky order of operations, but for other systems it’s beautiful how much can be simplified.

    I’m really hoping that new RPG systems will start to take advantage of this. There’s no need constrain the rules to stuff that’s human parsable so long the GM or players can easily find the button for it. That’s the whole point of most of those esoteric rules you quoted, to give us realistic-ish results. Why bother with a wishy-washy nonsystem when you can get good ballpark result without using up the GM’s time and effort?

    • grant says:

      … did you just call me a bitch?

      • Helmic says:

        That depends entirely on whether you’re mashing your gonads against the sexy beast that is roll20.

        I mean, if you’re allergic to tech at your table I can totally understand not using it for absolutely everything related to playing tabletop. I can see some people not trusting their players to pay attention to their game instead of checking their email on their phones.

        But if you’re comfortable with the 21st century and use smartphones and laptops for game aids, there’s no excuse. I have players in my game who have no clue what the rules in Pathfinder are but can take their turn in combat in under 5 seconds or roll a skill by finding it on a alphabetical list or cast a spell while linking everyone to the SRD page. I mean shit, I’m starting up a GURPS game that’s nearly as simple to play while still keeping the majority of the “crunchy” rules in effect. And since my players never know the rules for any of the stuff they’re doing, I’m free to totally BS some result if I want to.

        As a GM, why should I care if the book has specific rules for drowning? All I gotta do is click my drowning macro and click the player that’s drowning and I’ve got realistic-ish results without requiring any thinking on my part. Player feels their character’s strengths and weaknesses matter and I don’t need to know how long people can actually tread water before drowning.

        There’s an argument to be made for GM’s who don’t want to put in the prep work, but all I have to do is put up a website with all my materials once I’m finished and everyone else can be as lazy a GM as I am.

  • Six says:

    As an old-school SR gamer (GM) who is well versed in SR1 thru SR4, I will say that your assessment of SR5 is spot-on (despite what many of the naysayers claim). SR 2nd edition was fun (albeit slow-paced today compared to faster, “next-gen” tabletop RPG systems like Apocalypse World and Dungeon World…there’s even a Sixth World SR hack floating out there).

    SR3 was FASA’s last attempt at updating Shadowrun rules with (IMO) mixed results.

    SR4 (no thanks to Catalyst Game Labs) was an utter disaster. The amount of dice it added compared to previous versions was ridiculous. Rolling 12-18 six-sided dice (even the tinier ones) doesn’t add anything to the game (only wastes more time). It wasn’t perfect but there was something exciting about rolling a few d6 in SR2 and re-rolling it to reach a higher target number (compared to rolling a dozen d6 and interpreting all the 1’s and 5/6’s separately).

    Didn’t realize how messed up Catalyst Game Labs was as a company (until I read Chris’s comment here). Tom Dowd, Nigel Findley (RIP) and the old FASA Corp are sorely missed.

    In any event, rules do not make a game. They should facilitate the story, action and pace for the game (not hinder it which SR4 and now SR5 does more than any other version). That being said, it’s not the worst tabletop RPG system in the world but it certainly seems to be headed in the WRONG direction.

  • Bastinenz says:

    SR5 is a mess way beyond fixing at this point.

    It is too complex while still lacking details, uses a lot of maths that just doesn’t work out, relies on an awesome setting that it doesn’t even describe and overall it just goes 3 steps back for every forward step it takes.

    They did a lot of stupid stuff to the fluff and to the rules alike, they produce books that are less focused and fun than what we had in the previous edition and they even created at least one incomplete rule book that needed a separate paid for pdf (which wasn’t even released back then) to use some of the rules presented within.

    What little errata they provided for the core book (after much kicking and screaming and slowing down the process) made just as many things worse as they fixed while failing to even address the most egregious rules problems.

    They even went so far as to print cynical comments into the rules to make fun of the criticisms of their customers.

    What I wanted for SR5 was basically an improved SR4, which for me would have meant to simplify some of the rules while clarifying and adding to others, adding detail to most of the equipment descriptions and settle on a more coherent release plan so that relevant stuff isn’t scattered across a dozen different books. They did pretty much none of this, quite the contrary actually.

    I’m so massively disappointed in SR5 that I still have the energy to make an angry ranting comment on somebody’s blog, which is kind of amazing to me.

  • Skyviper55 says:

    I think I can understand your point with this post, but seriously? I played campaigns of Shadowrun 4th and 5th Edition with a group and it felt great! They loved the rules for gunfights with magic and cybertechnology!

    But my opinion about ANY RPG is: “It’s a Game! So it needs to be fun!”

    You have to know the rules, to any game you’re playing. But the beauty about RPG is that those rules can be replaced by common sense or democratic decisions in the table! I’ve never used all the rules of Shadowrun. If it’s complicated and the table doesn’t like it? Ignore it! Make a new one!
    HAVE FUN! And Play whatever you want! \o/

    I still love Shadowrun and I’ll always love it! =)

  • Sylex says:

    You couldnt have showed me that BEFORE I bought that heavy bastard for 42 Bucks?

    I could have bought myself for my birthday an Avatar-Comic COllection for that price

  • bob says:

    Very interesting read + comment section.

    I have mixed feeling about all this. I am a die hard fan of shadowrun world, and my best memory of RPG were all the old shadowrun scenario, harlequin, queen euphoria etc…

    i tried gming 5ed, the intro run, the crose mary arc, and the vampire rocker arc. 3 or 4 month, 3 to 4 times a month). But honestly the game was very slow, matrix is unusable same for rigging, all the weapon feel bland and copy/paste with a different name. We stopped after a game were the troll/tank with 1d6+5 init started a fight in a car and lost 3 actions to get to combat…the player fell asleep ^^ we stopped playing shadowrun after this.

    sorry for my poor english ;'(

    there is so much to say about this game…

  • Lucien says:

    I agree with the comment that this is a harsh review, and honestly you sound like the guy who wants a game where he can click one button and it does everything; that’s boring and shows you have no creativity so I can understand that you don’t like this game that however does not mean you have to bash it. You could have just walked away and let it go. This is a fun game and people who enjoy lots of detail and planning would enjoy playing. I myself am a running a game of it right now and it’s not as complicated as you make it out to be.

    • grant says:

      “shows you have no creativity”

      I wish I was creative as you, leaving comments on year-old posts about Shadowrun that say the same thing as the hundred above it

      • Six says:

        “…and honestly you sound like the guy who wants a game where he can click one button and it does everything; that’s boring and shows you have no creativity so I can understand that you don’t like this game that however does not mean you have to bash it.”

        Reaching a bit there on your assumptions, don’t you think?

  • Ryan says:

    I don’t understand the issues you’re underlining. The hash rules are super simple. A sprite (magic creature that can influence the internet) can encrypt a file. If the sprite dies. The file is unreadable. The sprite can encrypt this file for limited amount of time. How is that hard?

    The rigger sample character is longer simply because he has multiple drones he can run, each with their own stat block. It’s like complaining at all the stat blocks a summoner build character would have to have in a traditional high fantasy game.

    The recoil description isn’t hard. If you gun is compensated you have less recoil to worry about if not, recoil makes firing a lot of bullets harder -here are the rules- You will calculate the amount of penalty your favorite gun has in full auto mode once, then write it down and be on the look out to min-max and find recoil compensation gear or implants. Shadowrun doesn’t have traditional classes and prestige classes, it is a more open format character build that uses gear and magical abilities the same way D20 games use class features and feats. Complaining about complexness and depth of gear is like complaining the new splat book has too many Prestige Classes or feats.

    Shadowrun balances the fact that each turn takes longer than traditional D20 game (of any edition) by having combat be so brutally short in number of turns. D&D, for example, can regularly see combat go 5-8 turns in a normal, non-epic battle (even more if we get into the padded sumo effect that was 4E). Shadowrun is ultra lethal and combat very rarely goes more than 3 turns. Explosions are very deadly (as they should be), especially inside buildings (as it should be) and as a result that is a wee bit of math (basic enough it can all be done on a phone calculator without a piece of scratch paper by even your average human). The reason for this math is to make the damage deadly, but fair.

    Shadowrun isn’t about making your character stand out in a memorable way to the law enforcement community, you want the exact opposite since you are generally running illegal jobs. I’m not sure why that was a shocker.

    There is a lot of weird rules, but Shadowrun is a weird fiction, blending guns, tanks and orbital artillery cannons with blood magic, dragons and literal internet wizards, so you can very quickly find yourself asking if a Troll can survive in the void of space longer than a human who swapped out one of his lungs for a compressed air tank or if a Dragon would take more damage from an Armor Piercing Discarding Sabot round fired from a high calibre sniper rifle operated by a fully animatronic stuffed teddy bear or from a Vampiric Sasquatch’s blood magic thunderbolt launched from the astral realm.

    In short, the rules are there to be consulted when needed, but with the exception of odd scenarios (which happen more than traditional high fantasy or cyberpunk games), the rules are quickly understood and derived during character creation, written on the character sheet, and the game is run at the same average pace as any normal tabletop. It honestly sounds to me like you prefer a really fast and loose set of rules that are designed to be used a story telling approach to game running, not a power gaming, tactical/strategic approach to game running. Shadowrun is definately the latter, requiring much more forethought and planning to each adventure than most high fantasy “I kick in the front door of the dungeon” adventures.

  • Dan says:

    Hey, just wanted to say a few things. First, I love SR. It was the first system I was introduced to, and the one I’m always drawn back to. I started with 2nd edition and still play in 5th Ed.

    Second, those redundant rules you don’t like … Most of them are there because we (the SR community) ASKED for them. Treading water? Could be useless, but could be crucial to knowing if a player can hang on long enough for a rescue yo reach him/her.

    Finally, as a gamer who has played many systems, I’ve learned that as mentioned in a previous post, you absolutely cannot judge a game system by reading a rulebook. PLAY IT FIRST. You may not love it … Or even like it … But when you rant on it, those reading will know that you actually gave it a chance … Which you obviously haven’t.

    • grant says:

      I can judge a games system by reading a rulebook. Are you saying you can’t pick up on what rules do without playing them through? And, as a follow-up question, do you fancy a game of FATAL any time soon? Just so you can see if it’s any good or not, I mean.

      • IC115 says:

        Really… Wow.
        Maybe there is such a thing as objecting to the themes and setting, which is a valid thing to do, and using that to justify not playing a game. It isn’t logical to not try a game based on the fact that you don’t like the rule book.

      • grant says:

        Really? Here’s a rulebook for you:

        DOING STUFF THE RPG
        a game for eight players or more

        This is a game about tense political negotiations and car repair. Play it according to the Vampire The Masquerade Chronicles model, so about 10-15 sessions with narrative arcs pre-planned out at the start

        Roll a D6 when you want to do stuff
        On a 6, you do that stuff
        On a 2-5, you do not do that stuff and events conspire to utterly humiliate you, but not kill you
        If you roll a 1, treat it as a result of 2-5 but intentionally stub your toe hard on the nearest piece of furniture

        What do you think, is it a good rules set? Best play it before you answer that

  • VileTerror says:

    Yeah, I’m still trying to sift through 4th Edition Shadowrun with all its supplement books, and the quagmire of complexity that entails. When software like Chummer is a /necessity/ for Shadowrun game sessions, there is definitely a serious issue at hand. And you know, complexity isn’t really the problem. It’s the complete lack of logic in how that complexity is expressed in the books. Like one of the other comments said: Shadowrun has a tendency to slip the actual rule effects in to the middle of the fluff. They mix abstract and literal so often that you have to carefully use a fine-tooth comb to try and find the rules, and then you have to consult two to three other sections of the book to put that rule in to context.
    I mean, people bitch about Dark Heresy being complex . . .   Not to toot my own horn, but instead as a comparison to Shadowrun, I have memorized Dark Heresy’s ruleset and wrote my own set of houserules in about two years, all “splats” included. Yes, there are problems with Dark Heresy. Contradictions, poorly explained rules, and some layout and logistics issues, but compared to Shadowrun . . . I’ve been hammering away at 4th Edition since it came out, and I still can’t get all the pieces to fit together right. And now there’s a 5th Edition that’s more of the same? “Thanks” Catalyst and Wizkids, but I think I’ll just stick to Shadowrun Returns and Dragonfall for my Sixth World kicks.

    Thank you, grant, for this review. I know to steer clear of 5th.

  • BrieCS says:

    As someone who loves, loves, loves the Shadowrun world and is a big fan of 3e, I can totally still see your points here. Some of the rules are just stupid and useless, and 5e in particular seems to be very obtuse in the rules and descriptions. I have yet to play 5e in part because of this.

    If someone ever manages to make a decent system to play in the Shadowrun world, I’ll be a happy camper.

    • I’m curious, how would that system look like?

      I’m not asking about what parts it should include or how it should work, but what kind of playstyle you’re after. What kind of situations that you can see happening before you, and what movies that supports the “feeling” of what the characters can do.

      • BrieCS says:

        In part, it would be simpler, and more focused on social interaction, less on gadgetry and more on the “punk” aspects – fighting against corps instead of working for them. I think that one of the cool things would be to have more social skills that make sense instead of just etiquette &etc. Empathy, reading body language, knowledge skills like social dynamics or anthropology. Does that make sense? I feel like I’m not making sense.

  • Felix says:

    I can’t think of many other games that have taken on quite so much in the way of setting. Based on the world of the game, I feel like they attempted to cover rules for a lot of variables. It’s not just fighter, wizard, thief. It’s virtual reality. It’s modern security systems combined with astral travel and spells. It’s cutting edge genetics combined with dragons as CEO’s. It’s orcs with cybernetic arms and grenade launchers.

  • Shadowrunner says:

    I ran shadowrun for years in college. Just recently I started a new group with 5th edition after running and playing dark heresy for a few years.

    The shadowrun world is awesome. The amount of fluff and backstory available makes for an infinite number of story hooks.

    The book is a beautiful pile of drek. The rules aren’t that bad once you find em and deal with the few inconsistencies and dip into third or fourth edition for all the missing rules like how to craft something or the procedures for upgrading cybergear. What helps most is find or make a cheat sheet that has the primary rules for each class. Have them for storyteller and players

    Refer to them and the game flow stops slowing down the story. Also hand wave a rule. Then discuss it after game to know how to use it in future.

    The cheat sheets. Full examples. And a real index resolve most of my problems. Without them. It’s brutal for new players

    I personally would rather adapt dark heresy rules as I’m now a bigger fan of percentile and d10 over counting gobs of d6

    Is the game fun and the universe awesome? Yes if you don’t mind the fact your characters will never be epic. Even the best runner can be one shot by a grenade or sniper once the edge pool runs out.

    It’s a dark and brutal world. That’s why we run in the shadows

  • Shamster says:

    I just started Shadowrun 5e, and I must say I am desperate to actually understand all the rules. Not that I did not try, but the book is killing me (and probably any newcomer to Shadowrun). A lot of rules needs to be refined more clearly, some are not even explained and some could just be streamlined without a sweat. I do not mind the heavy maths this game requires, and a lot of it is actually composed of coherent rules (if not overly intricate mathematics). And I really love the feel of Shadowrun in general. But the main book is the worst mess I ever saw in all my experience. It does not make any sense whatsoever, way too stuffy, way too unclear, way too repetitive. I really feel for my DM and I do want to keep playing cause our story is awesome, but I’m that close to just suggesting we keep the story and transfer it into another system.

  • Ivo says:

    I’m was new at shadowrun and started with this book a year ago.

    And while I absolutely love the game for what it is and what is can do. The book, as stated, is a bloody mess. It took me over a month of reading and re-reading for it to make sense. (And I am a fast learner and veteran of many a game system, this piece of work made me grapple for a time).

    The book lacks an obvious structure and several key mechanics are left out. (If you are full of stun damage? then you are K.O. But what if you are full of physical damage and not dead yet? Yes, it says you are dying., but are you K.O. as well? So.. can you do actions? (you are indeed K.O. I found out on a forum) It took a lot of browsing to have those questions answered. And don’t get me started about the endless chain-references.

    But, and that’s a big but, (er) I absolutely love it. It’s fast, its detailed and it is something other RPG’s I’ve seen do not provide.

    I did write a small manual for my placers, with the base mechanics written down in a few lines. Make handouts for all the skills and actions. Forced my players to calculate all the weapon bonuses and fire modes, speeds, etc. in their downtime so nothing has to be calculated during sessions.. and it works. It works well in fact.

    But yeah, the book could be an awful lot better for now the learning curve is pretty steep. I totally agree.

  • Omenowl says:

    The problem is shadowrun has literally 3 different rulesets all combined into 1. You have hackers, you have mages and you have everyone else. Players literally can be doing all three at once and are completely disconnected. This has always been an issue with shadowrun even with super simple rules you could have players completely disconnected with each other requiring 3 gms to handle everything.

    2. I have been familiar with shadowrun since 1st edition. The first three editions were a mess, but had plenty of flavor. I hated having target numbers and still needing multiple successes. Your odds of getting a 6 and a 7 were identical. You rolled your skill in dice and had to meet a variable target number and then get x successes.

    4th edition was much more streamlined amd the rules were easier to pick up, but lost a lot of flavor. 4th edition had a major advantage over 5th for the core sourcebooks as being easy to read and well formatted. Optional rules were included in the black bars and gave variations to game play. The number of dice to roll was simply attribute + skill + modifiers that required x successes.

    5th edition has issues by trying to pack everything from 4th edition into a smaller space without removing any material. Then it includes even more complex methods. Its format is not as easily readable. Look at run faster (5th edition) vs. runners companion 4th edition. Nearly identical information, yet I felt runners companion spent time with layout and visuals for easy reading.

    I agree there is a lot of rules bloat. That said is I never felt any need to remember more than basic rules and areas such as research were not time critical to find. Same with enchanting. The rules are there, but we could roll anytime unlike combat which was time sensitive. How long does each attempt take, how many successes are required, and what are the modifiers?

    The biggest complaint about gear is true of any system. Hell, anyone who has had to go camping or deploy with the military can tell you gear takes forever to decide in real life also. Character creation and gear purchases should be done before gaming.

  • PCO.Spvnky says:

    This is exactly why Roleplaying for dummies (I mean D&D 4th/5th edition) is out. Let the fake nerds play their spoon fed games and leave the real gaming to the real nerds.

  • Hg says:

    I guess there’s far too many rules in the book for particularly egregious ones to jump out on a read-through. I can understand gripes about having complex subsystems for treading water, but to me, the worst thing is printed rules which simply generate the wrong outcome. But none of my “favorites” were in your list. After playing a few sessions, here’s a couple of the most defective rules I’ve encountered:

    The book never actually says that characters fall unconscious when their last Stun box is filled up. It’s heavily *implied* in a few places (e.g. pain editing augmentations), but it’s never stated anywhere. The authors just forgot to mention it! And it’s not even fixed in the official errata! You just have to have played prior editions to know it. The same rule, and the same editing botch, applies to the Physical track.

    The damage taken by passengers when a vehicle crashes is based entirely on the vehicle’s Body score, and completely disregards the speed of the crash. Result: a head-on motorcycle crash at a relative velocity of 300 mph will be almost completely harmless, because motorbikes have low Body scores. But if you’re in an armored car that suffers a fender bender (let’s say the driver fails a drive check at 5 mph due to the effect of a spirit power), the occupants will be lucky to survive.

    It’s almost impossible to craft a very low-powered (Force 1) magic item (Focus), because the final test in the creation process is an *opposed* test where the creator’s number of successes is limited by the Force rating of the item, and the item gets a *minimum* of four dice (more often seven or even 10 depending on what you’re enchanting), and the creator needs to get at least one net success. So if the item rolls *any* successes, the enchantment process cannot possibly succeed. And you explicitly can’t use Edge on this test, so you can’t even work around the stated Limit that way.

  • Awebb says:

    Ah, I have clicked on this link so many times. The frustration of an SR GM:

    1. You are lost without a chargen. You are no 16 anymore, all you want is a quick RPG session with your aging friends.
    2. You realize, that the free chargen for SR4 has reached its EOL and produces ugly sheets, so you look up other solutions.
    3. Herolab doesn’t have language files for the language your group speaks. The price model is as transparent as the SR4 rulebook: You have no idea what to expect.
    4. You say fuck it and want to buy the whole package, but something about the site does not work.
    5. You want to pirate it first, because the free version really does not give you an idea of what you’d sink your money in.
    6. As you slowly add the usual fr00b keywords, this article shoves itself up your google results.
    7. You read the article, realize how annoying SR rules are, how much SR5 has NOT changed everything for the better and how much you really really don’t want to migrate to SR5 without a working chargen in the right language.
    8. You throw away ALL your run preparations that contain numbers, write a run based on plot trees and realize, that your players won’t even notice, how you pull all the numbers out of your ass during the run, because they are so busy calculating their own dice pools.

    Really, the day my group finds out they did all that number crunching for nothing, while I simply look at their roll results and think “that should do it…”, will be the day of my premature departure from this world.

    I really love Shadowrun. The world and the lore are great, it allows me to master P&P sessions without dying from my princess-and-dragons fantasy allergy. What I really don’t like is the high entropy in the rule and source books and the canned runs you can buy. On top of that, so much of the flavor texts in the source books read like bad fanfic.

    • Otomosix says:

      “8. You throw away ALL your run preparations that contain numbers, write a run based on plot trees and realize, that your players won’t even notice, how you pull all the numbers out of your ass during the run, because they are so busy calculating their own dice pools.

      Really, the day my group finds out they did all that number crunching for nothing, while I simply look at their roll results and think “that should do it…”, will be the day of my premature departure from this world.”

      AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! This was absolutely the best sum-up of how I ran my SR campaigns as well. And I’m pretty damn sure other SR GMs did the same. Well spoken, sir!

  • Jon says:

    Alright, you make some good points, but most of this article is just inane whining. Stick to D&D, kid. 😉

  • Andy best says:

    I’m late to this comment party but why not.

    I like the game and am gearing up to play a game of 5e with a group, and at the same time I completely agree with the criticisms in the post.

    Earlier today someone from my group asked me how the prep was going and I said something like: cool game world with some neat mechanics in it but the layout of the book is a disaster and I’ll have to make some simplified rules handouts for everyone.

    Mind you, I thought D&D 4e was a total disaster too.

    Here’s what I think. I like the idea of ruling, not rules. All table RPGs have the GM set a scene and the players act from their imagination and character knowledge, then, the GM can go to a rule if necessary. It should never be looking down to pick options from a menu like a paper version of a video game. For that reason, my group even plays old D&D TSR versions. Also, this theory backs up all the crit in the article.

    I love the Shadowrun concept and world so I’ll go ahead, I have enough RPG experience (from age 12 to age 42 now) and will be able to break it down a bit.

    But for new players buying the 5e book, that’s a tough task sorting it all out. I would recommend reading online versions of the two source books “Seattle 2072” and “The Sixth World Almanac” and then go into the quick start rules after that maybe.

  • TheStumps says:

    This entire post and comments reminds me of Shadowtalk in the early editions.

    Grant – sorry you got into SR with 5th; not that it would have been any easier to “get into” on your own with 3, 2, or 1.
    SR is niche; very niche – always has been from day one.

    It has its own lingo and its own culture; both of which are unapologetically delivered as if so dictated by Jeff Goldblum.

    Rules are found scattered in various odd places; such to the extent that it is not an odd object to come across a BBB (Core Rule Book – Big Blue/Black Book) which has been reformed into a Shadowrun version of the Jefferson Bible in a 3-ring binder.
    This is compounded by the shear mass volume of extra material (which everyone has at least the “Holy Trinity” – speaking 3E back), and many have several more (I’m currently utilizing 11; crossing 2E and 3E – which, mix-matching some edition-specific resource books is not that odd in SR).

    Some of the rules (such as Matrix in 3rd Ed back) were so vastly tedious and complicated as to be heavily neglected.
    For example, a large number of groups wouldn’t even permit player-character Deckers due to how much time would be soaked in just one-on-one gaming session between the Decker and GM (partly because the rules were not always straight forward, and partly because the speed of going through the array of rules was not as rapid as the standard combat rules).

    “Oh, the Decker’s up – all right; the rest of us are going to make a store-run. You two have fun!”

    Furthermore, many of the rules will not only seem counter-intuitive, but will seem contrary to the system’s previously stated game mechanics, or the general sense of the system’s game mechanic logic (compare Melee rules against the Called Shot rule).

    SR has a strange problem that is rather unique (aside from being transcribed from Jeff Goldblum’s dictation while he was playing Tetris).
    Shadowrun started out with a core system representing vague actions with summary rolls (sort of like Melee rules are in 3E – that is: a single roll represents several Melee volleys between combatants and not a “single” strike), but later piecemealed together these kinds of specific rules in supplementation or later Core Editions (for example: Martial Arts add-on’s would eventually have very specific strikes and attacks rolled so that the Melee attack was no longer representing a vague exchange, but instead representing a very specific and finite action, or brief set of actions).

    Another good example is the Task Difficulty system (speaking pre-4th Ed again), which ran on a basic assumption (which – again, you had to piece together across multiple disjointed pages and infer from the language in these various sections as if reading between the lines so to understand a Mafia Don’s request to have someone, “taken care of”):
    3D6 vs. 4TN.
    This is “average human doing an average task”.
    4 was the Target Number considered to be “average” in difficulty and 3 was the number considered to be “average” in Attribute and Skill level (representing that you would throw 1 die per every Skill Level; not counting dice pools – i.e. extra dice to help out).

    That all seems simple enough, and indeed it is. However, then there’s “Conditional Modifiers”, or rather…modifiers in general.
    Rather than a crossing chart of something like a “Condition Difficulty” chart using the same logic that “4” is “average”, SR drops TN Modifiers like Justin Timberlake drops names (but they’re rules, and it’s like you just heard Goldblumb mention something about a nuclear reactor failsafe, but you’re not really sure because he’s still going on about how to sign-out the golf cart for spinning around the reactor plant – although, he explains with his unique laugh, that if you want to actually “spin” in the golf cart, you’ll need apply for a permit following subjection 3. Subjection 3 of what…you have no idea – he’s now talking about the in-flight service of the company jet).

    This hybrid smashing of vague and specific rulesets caused a ripple-effect to progressively wiggle its way through the already inarticulate texts.
    The core set would generally (i.e. for the most part) list off vague rules and additional volumes would add multiple options for more specific rule options).

    >>>>>(Fans, however, in my opinion, encouraged this – let’s be clear.
    Fans during 2nd and 3rd editions were very interested in variation, modulation, and customization – just dig through the old Dumpshock forums some time for a taste.)<<<< Player”; think, “Book > GM > Player” for the delivery of the system comprehensively).

    It’s somewhat closer to something like the “Unreal Engine” than it is to something like “Deus Ex” or “BioShock”.

    This is one reason SR provided “Quick Start” rules, or player handbooks.
    It was generally assumed the complexity of the ‘universal rules’ of the game would be worked out by the GM via the GM working with players so they could “build” a system and then either “load” the adventures, or also build their own adventures, the players would have fun playing.

    So is Shadowrun, in general, far more complex in fully grasping than many other games (say…Toon, for example)?
    Yes – in fact, when it comes to Magic in full scope; I don’t think it gets much more complicated in variations of applicable possible modifying or influential rule components.

    Does this make it a terrible game?
    Yes and no.
    Yes; it makes it a terrible game for someone to pick up and try to read with the intention of just playing it “out of the box” in full comprehension without confusion as if one was playing a trading card game.

    No; it provides such a massive toolset for RPG game design hobbyists to use and influence that the possible array of options is practically endless in compilation.

    Shadowrun is absolutely not a game whereby story is the primary point (it’s a very important point; but not the primary).
    The “game” of the mechanics in and of themselves are also about as much of the point as the story.

    This isn’t Minimus or Tiny Dungeon (the latter of which summarizes itself as “a minimalist tabletop roleplaying system that focuses on roleplaying over expansive rules, stats, and numbers”).

    In fact, when 4th Ed rolled out; one of the biggest kick backs against it which I recall from the community was largely that it was alien and too trim – too “soyburger” (1st Ed ~5 rules books; 2nd Ed ~5 or so rules books; 3rd Ed ~12 rules books; 4th Ed ~6/7 rules books…).

    As you can see; 3rd edition (which possibly had one of the longest runs of the editions) really grew and grew.
    Part of the reason here is because fans became an active part of the developing community – some on Dumpshock, for instance, went on to work on sourcebook material later as a result of what started out as a hobby of creating alternate “book” material.
    Why was there this need for alternate material?
    Because the official production, for quite some time, was so volatile and uncertain (or just eerily quiet) that at one point the notion of a 4th Edition seemed only possible from fans.

    If I recall my rough times correctly, SR3 came out around 98/99, and SR2 came out in 91/92.
    It’s not like SR2 was pumping out books either.

    As a result; this created a massive bubble of content and source material (iirc; SR3 has somewhere near 40 or 50 total books to the edition – most editions have half that or less – and I’d like to point out that in SR2 somewhere around a dozen or more of the titles were adventures books while SR3’s library was almost equal that just in rule books – and multiple “adventure” or “settings” books came loaded with additional rulesets or adjustments [e.g. 2060]).

    So; while I fully understand (and expect – and agree) with where you are coming from…I disagree.
    Shadowrun doesn’t have a problem…no more than the Millennium Falcon has a “problem”. 😛

  • TheStumps says:

    Line: “Player”; think, “Book > GM > Player” for the delivery of the system comprehensively).”

    Correction: Instead of thinking, “Book > Player; think, “Book > GM > Player”…

    Line: As you can see; 3rd edition (which possibly had one of the longest runs of the editions) really grew and grew.

    Correction: As you can see; 3rd edition (which possibly had one of the largest runs of the editions) really grew and grew.

    note: (the longest would be 2nd Ed)

  • Nathan says:

    I didn’t even _pay_ for this artbook-posing-as-a-game and I still want my money back.

    The editing. I would kill myself if I pushed out a book edited this badly. And you know that if nobody caught all the glaring copywriting mistakes, then nobody playtested this game.

  • Alex says:

    This sums up a lot about what I hate about Shadowrun 5e, and I’m GMing a 5e game RIGHT NOW.

    Full disclosure, I love Shadowrun, I love the setting, I love the incredibly customizable character creation, but when it comes down to playing there are just way too many inane rules for every feasible scenario. At some point they just trust the GM to come up with a way to rule something as specific as say, treading water.

    Also combat is just a horrible slough. It’s so slow.

    Also, FUCK limits. We did not need ANOTHER thing to keep track of.

  • Alastair Christie says:

    What an amazing and wonderful dialogue to this thread. If provoking a reaction is the goal of art then it seems this article is the gift that keeps on giving.

    For my part, I enjoyed the game setting of Shadowrun (at least, back with 2nd ed which I GM’ed). I certainly benefitted from some of the levels of detail in terms of absorbing the tone and feel of the setting. I have to admit I never took to the rule set particularly, I found most of the hard rules very unintuitive, especially combat.

    A lot of what the above suggests to me about 5th ed (flaws with the book’s layout & expression aside) is that it’s more extreme down that road, and would require more structured game management than I would find fun. For me, that type of game prep would just be obstructive and unwelcome. I’d probably take the setting and reach for Savage Worlds to run it, spending my prep time making in-character briefing packs, rather than recording rules on prompt cards. I’d just get more out of putting my time and effort into that aspect of the game.

    That said, I love how for many of the Comment posters above the game mechanics are a very important and completely defensible part of 5th ed Shadowrun, and RPGs in general. Personally, I can’t be arsed with that level of complexity in a tabletop game – and it comes down to this: to me, it feels like an inefficient medium. If I want a simulation and complex mechanical interaction, I’ll play a computer game. If I want an atmospheric story and complex interpersonal interaction, I’ll play tabletop RPG.

    The algorithms for reflective explosion damage might be accurate, but to my mind a GM can get by with “two grenades land near your head in a confined space… a bright flash of light and you’re paste, chummer” just fine.

  • Neonivek says:

    While a lot of this I can accept as your personal views, after all not everyone likes more complicated games and even I have my limits. It would be ridiculous for me to tell you what you are and are not allowed to like.

    Mind you I have supplemented the tons of rolling with electronic rollers.

    But here are a few things that you outright got wrong:

    -Blandness: The cost is appropriate… Because if you want to make a name for yourself in shadowrun then be a great shadowrunner. Being Bland means people cannot identify you on the street so the cops are less likely to knock on your door. This isn’t a penalty because if your a good shadowrunner then your reputation speaks for itself, you likely do not publish your face because you aren’t a moron. As well the reason Distinctive Style is a penalty is obvious, because your easier to catch… Heck who wants to hire a shadowrunner who leaves lots of evidence that implicates them?

    The Greatest Shadowrunner isn’t like being an internet troll where being a loud obnoxious loser wins you the internet awards.

    You are essentially a spy or a hitman. How much of an advantage is it for a Spy to be able to look perfectly normal versus a Spy who always wears a bright neon green fedora and will never take it off?

  • The great lizard king says:

    this is bullcrap and your argumentation is highly invalid.

    likeyour one example; you play a shadowrunner who tries to hide away from the law and operates in the shadows or works for crime syndicates and do NOT want to make a big name of yours and be a hero. you basicly wanna get rich by doing the dirty work

  • Alyson says:

    by that logic, it takes four steps to decide whether you can attack in fifth edition d&d, one of the most simple systems I have played.

    Fuck, I think WUSHU has two, according to you.

  • Pling says:

    Nice write-up. I enjoyed reading it. I am starting a Shadowrun campaign for my son and his high school friends. I bought the SR 1st hardcover way back in my own high school days.

    Here’s why I agree with the blog. Let’s say that I just want to have fun and create and experience for my son in much the same way I did so for my own friends years ago.

    1) I have to wade through a shamefully edited and not streamlined piece of flaming drek that I have seen in all my 30 years of GMing a number of game systems…

    2) …only to act as editor, co-creator, designer in comprehending, then possibly expurgating or revising rules…

    3) …to an awesome game in which I WILL have fun with my son and his chummers as sure as Dunzelkahn is dead.

    The thing is this. I love cyberpunk and the setting of Shadowrun, but it is a real hassle when the reentry price is greater than the hottest piece of Delta grade ‘ware. Wading through these rules is a nauseous experience, especially when several of the rules I will either throw out entirely because they bog down the game unneccessarily or are inexplicably included for some absurd corner case during which flipping through rules is the very antithesis of fun anyway.

    I studied architecture. Good design means that form follows function. I will use the rules within the text that support the form of my idea for Shadowrun. I guarantee we will all have a blast.

    It is just a shame that I have to do so much work to have fun.

  • Norbert says:

    I’m currently working on a lightweight Shadowrun hack of the “World of Dungeons” rules.

    It emulates SR 1e, complete with all archetypes, superquick decking and magic rules, and everything that made the first and second edition of Shadowrun so awesome.

  • Garthas says:

    Great post. The rules are technically garbage. Only the most die hard 1980’so shadowrun fan boys tend to defend it

  • I’m a happy Shadowrun 5e GM. I enjoy the “Everything Has a Price” theme and I love the clarity of presenting the rules within an espionage-genre game, because the players need to make their decisions against a realistic knowledge of what will work and won’t.

    “Rules-light” just makes players confused of what their PC’s capabilities truly are, and puts pressure on the GM to make up the rule when needed (e.g. the treading water example). GM invented rules are never openly playtested either.

    I’m getting what I want out of this game system, and I enjoy managing everyone’s characters within the Chummer 5 freeware tool. No marking up pieces of paper over and over again. All Test resolution can be handled within the Chummer app as well.

  • o.o says:

    Uh. In Shadowrun you’re trying to make a name for yourself IN THE SHADOWS. As in, your /name/ must be known. Why the hell would having a distinctive look not be a disadvantage if being a legendary Shadowrunner means world-known criminal?

    >Complexity
    The core rulebook isn’t complex, having a lot to work with is not the same as complex. And I’ve never heard anyone complain of a game giving them more material to benefit the buy. If you want complexity, go look at Shadowrun 3e, 5e and 4e are not complex by the stretch of a mile.

    >Redundant
    I don’t see the issue here? And at this point I start asking how many tabletops you’ve played in your life, not only because your complaint is that it apparently has too many rules that you don’t like but; “redundant rules, rules that require maths, and rules that directly counteract against the story.” I can get the last one, but against rules that require math? Have you never played a proper pen and paper RPG in your life? And apparently “redundant rules” doesn’t get any explanation besides “I don’t like it”.

    >Maths
    Oh no… primary school level math… the horrors…

    >COUNTERACT
    Being a badass doesn’t mean you can do anything you want. Literally the “You’re a badass from the word go” is a ridiculous argument that can be made to remove the simplest of negatives. “What? I don’t always crit? But I’m a badass. Negative due to wounds? But I’m a badass. I can’t one hit kill him? but badass!” But suddenly this is a proper thing to whine about a running penalty? Again, did you just start playing pen&paper?

    >Dead man’s trigger
    Again, complaining that there are rules that might block you from doing something. I’ll have to be honest, I feel like the writer hasn’t actually ever done much pen and paper. Complaining that you can’t just auto succeed or have most things just easily handed to you is a lot of this whole “top 10” and it’s also redundant. Has anyone really just played a pen&paper to have things all easily handed to them? And if the writer does play pen&papers I feel like he’s the type to swear anytime he fails a roll.

    >Wall of Data
    One of the few valid complaints, I feel. This can very well overwhelm a newbie and keep them from enjoying the game. But considering shadowrun isn’t a dungeon crawl, a lot of the game can rest on planning and doing things stealthy, then options are important. And I do enjoy the wall of text, but that’s just me.

    Shadowrun is far from a perfect pen&paper, but I feel like a lot of these complaints were some of the silliest I’ve heard. I’ve heard a lot of valid complaints on the rules and the workings of the game, these were mostly not among them.

    • grant says:

      I was with you up until you started writing about “proper” roleplaying games, like the ones without maths in aren’t, in actual fact, roleplaying games, and can be cordoned off along with all Untrue Scotsmen.

      Listen; I’ve been playing roleplaying games for a decade, I write them professionally, and I know what I like. And what I like ain’t Shadowrun 5e.

  • Eric da MAJ says:

    Chummer,
    Late to the party but you’re right – and totally wrong. Yes, Shadowrun rules are a hot mess though the setting is THE bomb. I can’t speak for all editions since I’ve only played 1st and 5th, but near as I can tell there isn’t a cunt hair’s worth of difference in complexity between 1st and 5th. The rules are crunchy as all dreck and none to well written (though the sprite one was a bad example and the chunky salsa good). I definitely yearn for, if not more streamlined rules, at least better written complicated rules.

    But consider that the Shadowrun universe is mega MUCH more complicated than a D&D universe. Shadowrun has gangs, mega corps, dragons (running mega corps), the matrix, magic, warfare, automatic weapons, spirits of all types, nerve agents, nukes, you name it. In a way it HAS to be complicated. It HAS to have crazy variables that throw a monkey wrench into what should be easy calculations. Think how much your daily life is compared even to a medieval lord, let alone a peasant and you can understand why. Experienced ‘runners have to have gun for every edge they can get. And what use would those efforts like improved recoil compensation, newer cyberdecks, faster wired reflexes, etc be if the GM deals with them in a hand wave like WoD or fast and loose D&D? (And admittedly, it doesn’t hurt Catalyst’s bottom line when it comes to dishing out supplements)

    I mean, I love the fast and loose stuff too. Yesterday I had a Dresden Files roleplaying game vampire character shove a lit stick of dynamite wrapped in semtex into a demon god’s mouth as it grappled him and flew out the 7th floor of a building. As a fast and loose game system the GM allowed it. He had to allow the fact I lit the fuse from a cigar while the building’s sprinkler system went off and held on to it as I took half damage as the demon tackled me just because I burned my luck points (I didn’t even have to roll!). At least there was enough game realism Dresden himself turned up to non resurrectable vampire and demon meat raining on his VW bug. It’s a great gaming story I’ll bore more than just your readers with to be sure. I couldn’t necessarily do that in crunchy ass rules Shadowrun. But if I did something like that in Shadowrun without GM fudging, it would be better than sex.

    So in summary, yeah, the rules need decent rewriting and editing. But a certain amount of complication is not only a good thing but quite necessary.

    • grant says:

      This. This is an excellent rebuttal.

      • Strott McTroll says:

        I agree. This is a good rebuttal.

        Like many have said, I’m an old SR player, though not as old as some. Some of the responses seem to think the way some things are done in 5th are new. Initiative in particular. They are wrong. The “roll initiative and you get over go every time you can subtract 10” (35 25 15 5 IE four turns in the round) is something that they removed in fourth in favor of “passes” The reason the initiative is rolled every round is because it is very variable. Someone with 3d6+7 init could have 3 turns (25 15 5) or 1 turn (10) in any given round. It is rare that combat will go more than two rounds, unless the situation is a rolling retreat or something.

        Anyway your tone was so derisive I wanted to defend the book, when I basically agree with you! They took the 4th rules and baked some of their pet “optional rules” that everyone hated except the writer who kept flogging them into the system (if you look at the numbers, the optional rule to add net hits to damage also to drain in 4e was made RAW in 4e anniversary edition and then after complaints errataed back to optional. They have now changed drain (the damage you may take for casting spells) so that on average your drain and damage are equal to that of this optional rule that everyone hated)

        Then they took all that, threw it into a blender with a bunch of art and fluff, and then poured it out onto the pages. Having read over it, I don’t think it’s really very different at all. I don’t think it’s any more or less complex. I think it’s a far more jumbled version of the 4e rules+ the errata and some pet house rules, obfuscated by terrible layout to keep people from realizing they are buying yet another pathetic “new shiny edition” money grab product ( CoC 5.1/6 I’m looking at you).

        I’ve played SR 2/3/4 and 4 anniversary. Sitting down and trying to “correctly” build an sr5 character took 5 hours, and I still missed a bunch of things I’m “supposed” to have, based on rules other players found during their spelunking in this hot mess.

        At least it looks cool and came with fold out poster(s), even if they were just the covers off old editions and splat books.

        The first time I scanned this book, it was literately incomprehensible. Your point about having to pointlessly flip back and forth was spot on.

        I’m conclusion, I don’t have a problem with the rules. I don’t have a problem with the complexity. Most of it isn’t even new at all. My problem is that this “new” “improved” edition is the most unusable, jumbled mess of an RPG book I’ve ever seen.

        Also, the only glued, not stitched binding tore out almost immediately. They did overnight me a replacement, but still. 482 pages and it’s only glued, not sewn? Shitty.

  • Mark says:

    Grant! Help! Please!

    I can’t figure it out. I definitely love playing this game and just had an opportunity to both play and GM recently at a convention. I think I even like this edition more than the previous ones.

    But … you are so right on every one of those points. I mean seriously spot on. So much so that after a game we sat around at a bar and laughed about shadowrun through each of the points (yes … loudly laughing about grenades at a bar does raise a few eyebrows).

    So back to my confusion. What is it about this game that so many have a blast playing it despite all this crap? We asked ourselves the same question, but after a couple beers and trying to follow the “chunky salsa” math, our own insightfulness took a nosedive.

    • grant says:

      It’s the setting, I think. It’s po-faced and camp at the same time, which gives you a lot of room to have fun.

      • BrieCS says:

        For me (as someone who loves Shadowrun but only plays 3e), the setting is the biggest thing. Even though the game is so incredibly crunchy that I have to often use a calculator for character creation, I love it – you can do really interesting characters, and if you divert from the standard hack-and-heist, you can do some cool stuff that’s politically and socially themed (at one point, I created the equivalent of an underground railroad to protect ghouls from being arrested, experimented on, and killed – while playing a satyr phys adept who had to dance to get the bonuses to use her dual diKote vibro-swords…).

  • Chris says:

    “My favourite thing about this passage is how I’ve read it four times and still can’t understand it”

    It just saying “Your assisting program is encrypting a file for you. If you lose the program, you lose the key to decrypt the file. ” Was that really that hard? Because it literally said so in the text and the action itself is even called Hash already. *shrugs*

    Besides that, you seem to be mistaken shadowrun for cinematic rpg system.
    “This a world set up in which the player characters are badass from the word go: the only thing that can pose a threat to them in their normal locales is other Prime Runners or being vastly outnumbered by level-appropriate Grunts. In that world, doesn’t it seem odd to penalise the players based on how many metres of movement they can perform in a turn? ”

    You are not the prime runners of world, you are a disposable and deniable human resource to use and throw away as some guy in a suit seems fit. Runners more talented and experienced as you die every night. Maybe tonight it will be you. The grunts might be grunts, but they know that there will be food the next day and usually the grunts survive a run more often than the runners do, because safety in numbers works and unlike you they have a case of emergency that batphone ready to call in the cavalry of actually badass security, so you better make sure to have be on your way before the response team arrives.

    Shadowrun is dirty, Shadowrun is nasty, and the edge that you have might be the reason that you see another sunrise, but for sure has nothing to do with fate.

    • grant says:

      *shrugs*

    • Ludanto says:

      Wow, this has been going on for almost two years now. 🙂

      “Besides that, you seem to be mistaken shadowrun for cinematic rpg system.”

      This! This is probably true. RPGs have seen some major innovations in the last 15 years (man, I’m old), but Shadowrun is most certainly not a “cinematic” or “story” game. It is not, mechanically, about the characters at all so much as the players. It’s essentially a high-tech dungeon crawl undertaken by a collection of unsavory sorts with nothing to lose, morality optional, death likely, relying more on the wit of the players than the numbers on the sheet.

      Where have I seen that before?

      Oh, yes! OSR-style, old-school D&D!

      The main difference here is that OD&D is a streamlined challenge-machine where it’s quick and easy to make a new character on the regular event of PC (or NPC) death.

      The latest Shadowrun, despite having pretty much the same goals, is much more cluttered, and character generation (can) be quite involved. Sure, there needs to be some concessions to the technology available, but still.

      Hmm. I have the tools. I wonder if I should try to build an OSR-inspired Shadowrun.

      • Rycor814 says:

        Actually, the players in my campaign have always chosen to go the Robin Hood route. When they’ve been offered a huge payout to turn against their own principles, they’ve always turned it down. Sure, they like money, but they don’t compromise the morals of their characters to do it.

        YOUR choice of play-style doesn’t reflect how everyone chooses to play. Gamers come from all demographics.

      • Strott McTroll says:

        I disagree with you almost entirely. While I love the crunch of shadowrun, every single memorable moment I have from the game is character based.

  • Dragmooth says:

    Oh Ludanto, I so agree with you.

    I just finished to read the thing completely and tried to explain it to new players… Fff, I got discouraged before they did. If someone would keep this wonderful world of shadowrun and made the rules so the action flows at the speed of bullets and still enjoy spending Karma (or XP) and watching the character grow, that… that! Would be fragging amazing chummer

  • JCure says:

    I can almost feel the anger from these comments as if it is so potent that it has manifested out of my headphones into a physical form of a shadowrun fanboy that has begun shaking me for not liking his game.

    I played Shadowrun 4e two years ago and my group of 5 all agreed the rules were far too complicated and actually made the game unbearably slow and frustrating.

    I’m really enjoying D&D 5e which is what I would like SR to move towards. Routine actions such as combat and skill checks are so simple that they leave so much room for story telling and role-playing yet the game only ever gets complicated when attempting something that’ll only ever appear once a session.

    SR often felt like a book club to me with everyone reading through paragraphs to plan their next action.

    • DarcyDettmann says:

      Move to having a book of Errata, if i remember right the last (non official) errata of 5th have 30 pages or more. And each sourcebook only make things worse.

  • mainwaring says:

    if you want to enjoy shadowrun, go get the 2nd edition books. seriously, that is a much better edition.

  • Rycor814 says:

    Some people like opera…. some people like musicals…. some people like Glee.

    Just because you don’t care for complexity doesn’t mean it’s bad.

    If you think Shadowrun 5e is badly written, you should have played D&D 2nd edition.

  • OrichalcumRoad says:

    Well, I know I’m posting on this several years late, but figured I’d share my opinion, like (apparently) everyone else on the internet.

    I’m planning a Shadowrun campaign for a group of players; 2 like things light and fluffy like Fate, 1 just wants to play, and 1 likes things so mathed out that you need a scientific calculator to roll initiative. Normally, we compromise at about World of Darkness level complexity.

    I played Shadowrun when I was in middle to high school with my friends, though it was a cobbled mess of 1st edition rules, which were so poorly explained I never did find out how to make characters for it. I love the setting, which I know is an acquired taste, and my group likes the concepts presented in it.

    So, I’ve been on a two week search trying to find the differences between 4th and 5th. Mostly, what I find are people who bemoan the fact it ever left 3rd edition, or who think the newest thing is best.

    So, looking up stuff on 5th edition tonight, I came upon your rant. I read through it (skimmed in places), and then started poking around the comments. Gotta say, first, good patience on you man. I’d have been much more virulent to some of the posters.

    That said, thanks for putting this out there. It helped me get a grasp on how 5th is framed, what it’s about (style-wise), and the changes in both setting and system that have happened. I agree 100% with you that if you have to write a shit-ton of rules, you might as well be making your own game; and if a rulebook is incomprehensible, you don’t have to play it to know you don’t like it (Werewolves Wild West and Forsaken are my high water mark for drek).

    Keep it up, man. You’ve earned at least one new reader with this.

  • Jack says:

    Alright while I do believe that shadowrun should have some sort of monster manual or something similar to what they did in d20 modern with some easy ready to play archetypes thats all thats missing from this game. I mean listen to yourself “I hate rules that make me do math” seriously how soft are you? I swear people love to bitch just for bitching sake. Look what they did to wow they dumbed it down till it wasnt fun anymore for anyone. Same with rpgs now a days you people cant handle restrictions, rules, or anything that requires thought and imagination. Its sad really. Play a video game and bitch at that for the table top gamers who actually like to play games that require more brains than it does to take a shit we are tired of it. A game is what you make out of it. Dont like gritty? then change it your the dm. Tired of the same old same old? make your own adventure that is saying you have enough imagination to do so. Shadowrun is unique and there is a reason why its been around forever its because its good and nothing has been able to disrupt or knock the crown off its head. Dont like it? make your own game.

  • The Arkady says:

    You think this is bad? You should take a look at Shadowrun 3rd edition. Now that was one train wreck of pointlessly compicated rules.

    I distinctly remember there was substantial space given to how to calculate damage from a vehicle crash, and they weren’t just complicated, they were epically bad. Anyone with so much as a single functioning brain cell would have reduced that epic train wreck of a ‘rules’ passage to a simple ‘you crash, you dead’.

    Which. all things considered, tells you a lot of how much actualplay testing 3rd edition must’ve seen…

  • dirge93 says:

    Let me start off: the author is right that Shadowrun is a highly complicated, rules heavy system. And I don’t really appreciate the game for that reason either.

    However….

    The dude’s a “journalist”. But his “ten things” are buried within what looks like seven things, and six of those are really just variations on the same idea (to paraphrase, “I find the rules to be unfun”). The other thing is that it’s a “dinosaur”, and even then he seems to half way appreciate that thing he doesn’t like about it, while still going on about how unfun the rules make it. So “ten things” are more accurately one thing, with six or seven examples. It’s not that his opinions are wrong, but they’re so poorly presented as to be a joke.

    And his one complaint? Ultimately it’s venting about how a dog doesn’t meow (queue Penny Arcade comic!). I get it, really. If you want a cat, you don’t want a dog. If you want rules light systems with narrative control handed out to the players, you don’t want Shadowrun. But to try an objectively explain why you don’t like something you subjectively have no taste for… on the internet? That’s a sucker’s game. (at least when I objectively complain about the original article, I can point to the author’s inability to properly present ten separate things, and how it’s wrong to try and tell and someone else why they shouldn’t like something for not being what you want)

    • Six says:

      I’m starting to get the impression Catalyst Game Labs is getting financially desperate and have launched a propaganda campaign against this increasingly-popular site (not too surprising considering all the management turmoil they went thru and, even more significant, the lackluster products they’ve chosen to publish…Shadowrun Crossfire, anyone?…didn’t think so…).

      In any event, the author simply stated his opinion of why he felt Shadowrun has been going in the wrong direction after Catalyst Game Labs took over. Most of us who have played old-school SR1-SR3 (under FASA Corp) seem to agree. SR4 was a bit of a disappointment. SR5 is no different (and was Catalyst Game Labs’ chance to “get it right” with the fans).

      Is any of this necessarily “fact”? No, it’s an “opinion”. But then so is everything said by everyone else. The fact that some people are debating other people’s opinions…stating that the other person is “wrong”…oh, please.

      SR4 and SR5 suck. That’s my strong opinion.

      • dirge93 says:

        You don’t like Shadowrun version whatever. That’s cool. Really.

        But if someone wants to call themselves a “journalist”, they should at least learn how to write an article with ten clear points when the title says “here’s ten things about X.”

        Ignoring the article’s opinions, it’s an objectively bad article.

        (and yes, Catalyst -has- poorly handled the line with no signs of things ever improving.)

      • grant says:

        “Ten things I hate about Shadowrun” was originally going to refer to the pictures, of which there are ten, but I guess I made less of a deal out of that than I should have done. However I’m retroactively claiming it as an anti-Shadowrun troll move, now, because it seems to have upset so many people that it’s almost funny

      • Kalamarosoupa says:

        Dude you are a disgusting fanboy that is here to argue .

        Even from the title “Ten things I hate about Shadowrun” the author makes clear that what is going to follow is his personal opinion and not the cosmic truth that you have to blindly follow or else your are dirt.

        Journalism can and SHOULD be opinionated as long as it it presented like this and not hidden behing an illusion of objectivity.

        In this case the title makes the inention crystal clear but you are such a blind fanboy that you chose to ignore this little “detail”.

      • Darth Folwart says:

        It’s a pretty well written article with an objectively poorly chosen title. Objectivity isn’t for the emotionally immature right brained individual.

  • Raistca says:

    You used a lot of words to tell people that you don’t like RPGs that involve a lot of reading or detail. The whole “rant” is just a constant string of whining snark that doesn’t even understand the target of its ire, which is probably where your irritation comes from. My recommendation is that you either actually read the book (in which case most of your “what does this even mean” complaints mysteriously vanish; turns out when you read the manual it starts to come together) or don’t attempt to “critique” something that you obviously haven’t read.

  • Danny says:

    Valid opinions. Personally, I love the game.

    It did take some time to get to know the rules in a way that I don’t feel like I have to crack open the book when something like chunky salsa (the fun term for explosions near surfaces) comes up.

    But now that I do, my players don’the seem to notice the complexity, I sort of mediate, as GMs should, I think.

    It’seems definitely a lot, though, and not well organized. If you haven’t yet, check out the addiction rules, talk about obtuse!

  • Beef Jerky says:

    Wow! Look at all those comments! Sheeeesh! I just came here for some validation on what I found to be wrong with Shitorun 5e and found all this!

    I’ll probably still play 5e just because my daughter likes it. I let her look at the cool art, gripe about her character and then when we play I just make her roll a bunch of dice, I roll the same number of dice, we count our hits and misses, and then I make up some result that best suits the scenario. She doesn’t know that I do this; she doesn’t read the rules. It’s the BEST version of Shadowrun EVER! She loves this game!!

    Mostly though it sucks for the very reasons you mention (plus some you did not). I paid for good art.

  • Cboo92 says:

    I felt the same as you when I first purchased my copy. Hell, the book was so poorly bound, it fell apart as i read it. But they replaced it for free. And after 3 years of studying this book on and off, I finally understand it. It’s complicated af, but once you understand the basic concepts, its really easy to streamline it down.

  • Bixby Bill says:

    I can’t say that I disagree with any of the comments in this article. I’ve played Shadowrun for almost 16 years because I have friends that love it very much. I have never liked the gaming system in itself. I like the world and the characters very much but that pales in comparison to the overly ridiculously hard mathematics that go into gaming in the system. I have mastered games for almost 20 years and I always tend to go for games that concentrate more on action and character development then anything else. There need to be rules, don’t get me wrong but, if the rules take away from the action or character development of the game they’re not very good rules. You don’t need rules that are so complicated that it bogs down anything else that’s going on in the game. It is after all called role playing… Not Roll playing.

  • Albert says:

    Shadowrun is an urban fantasy. Urban fantasies are considered low fantasy considering that they don’t need to put as much effort into making the world because it is mostly dealing with the real world in some way.

    • BrieCS says:

      Disclaimer: I’m a SR fan, particularly SR3.

      Whether it’s “low fantasy” or not is debatable, & not all urban fantasy is low fantasy (especially considering the vagueness of that term), but neither of those things actually matter because Shadowrun is not actually urban fantasy, it’s cyberpunk. It’s sci-fi mixed with fantasy, so the creators both have to create the sci-fi cyberpunk fiction/world and additionally the fantasy fiction/world and tie the two. Shadowrun has *tons* of worldbuilding, like, books and books and books of it. The game is far different from an urban fantasy setting, in a lot of ways.

  • papa shell says:

    For those of you who really like Shadowrun but are interested in an alternative, “Cryptomancer” is basically the conceptual reverse of Shadowrun. Instead of Tolkien tropes in a gritty cyberpunk future, it’s modern conceptions of cybersecurity and espionage in a high fantasy setting.

    http://cryptorpg.com

  • Zorg says:

    So much hate in the comments. I know it’s the internet but still, too many people can’t disagree without being jerks.

    Anyway, SR was the first thing I GMed, and I hated it, dearly. This rant made me happy because I could show it to the guy who convinced me to GM it, and couldn’t understand why I hated it so much (he was one of my player, but usually a GM, and he wanted to have a taste of the system).

  • Nice read and very close to my impression of the 4th edition.

    I played and loved Shadowrun when it was released back in the time. I shelfed the 4th edition after a few scenarios of major pain when I realised I will never get the matrix rules right and the games just doesn’t feel like Shadowrun anymore.

    I decide to brought the 3rd edition and play it incrementaly (reading, playing each books in published order) and it was just a much more playable and enjoyable experience.

    I would just really liked you added the reference of the edition in your title, because you definitely wont have made the same remarks with the core 3rd edition rulebook.

    Thanks for your review.

  • Apfelkomplott says:

    Nice read. Very well elaborates the feeling my group and I had when we tried out Shadowrun. Multiple times. We always stopped after the first mission.

    I absolutely love the world and the setting. But this series needs a serious reboot with easy, basic rules. If you want something more complicated, it can be introduced via extensions.

    I don’t need a block of stats just for my fking PDA on my very first character!

  • gargaM0NK says:

    Hey Grant,

    I love the Shadowrun Universe, and have been playing Shadowrun for over a decade now, since 3E, and found this post while gathering information for getting into 5E.

    Seems legit to me. Some of the points are about preference, and thus opinions, but all are at least based on direct evidence or sound logic.

    I wasn’t going to necro a thread on article posted 4 years ago, but since people were still responding a month or two back, I figure I’ll give it a shot anyway.

    With the criticisms in your article, what are examples of RPGs that do that the Right way?
    I saw you mention FATE (which I also love) and Dogs in the Vineyard. Do those stand as examplars to you, or are there better ones?

    Cheers,

  • Alex says:

    Tried playing this with a group I’ve played D&D with for 10+ years. Someone wanted to play a Technomancer. Game ended after an arguement over something about accessing a host via the matrix. (Don’t remember exactly what it was, been a couple years.) Read the manual for hours, couldn’t find a clear answer. Nobody wanted to play after that.

    I don’t mind a certain amount of crunch. I don’t mind rules that are rarely used. I don’t mind the complex rules on grenades – I actually like the chunky salsa. But when your rulebook has so many conflicting, vague, or strangely non-existent rules, you’ve let your fanbase down. This book is not cheap. But there’s so many rules obviously copy and pasted (I mean literately copy and pasted in some word processing program) from previous editions, and seemingly released with absolutely zero playteasting or proof-reading.

    If your group is a stickler about rules, and isn’t that comfortable with GMs overriding what the book says, this game will end abruptly. It is literately unplayable unless your GM builds bridges and knocks down walls in this system. And that is a problem.

  • Corumeach says:

    I totally agree with the author. Editions 1 & 2 were quite ok for their time of release, although I always preferred Cyberpunk for both setting and rules. The Friday Night Firefight rules were elegant, simple and deadly. Shadowrun killed itself by putting too much stuff into it’s game world (cyberpunk, magic, elves and trolls, mysticism, high-tech) and by not seeing that the age of games like Runequest were already over. Although not filled with tables, the rules are so badly edited and thought out, that it is not funny to use them.

    No wonder people are no longer paying 50 $ for paper RPG if they get something like this (I know – the real reason is computer games and the internet).

    For anyone who feels offended by this post: don’t identify too much with a game, if someone “attacks” a game you like and you feel offended – something with your mindset is pretty wrong. You could try to argue and show where the author is making false assumptions (he isn’t), but rejecting criticism with the standard answer – if you don’t like it, read something else – just shows that you are not capable of running an objective discussion about a subject.

  • btsiperace says:

    if you don’t like it don’t play it if you think a little math and page flipping is to hard I don’t want you in my game anyway and I don’t want a rpg that is so easy a 1st grader can play it I like this type of game just like 2ed D&D go shadow run for not selling out to the masses and cheapening your game to appease those to stupid to play it

  • btsiperace says:

    I do agree with the grenade bit though just double the damage on it in a confined space. armor penetrating say 6 most thing are dead anyway its a grenade but here is some food for thought d20 modern call shot to the head with a railgun 3 d12 damage x2 on crit if you roll max 36×2 =72 on someone say we call him bill that has 122hp 122-72=50 hp ok you following me so far. now bill make a fort save or die dc 15. wait what you just took 72 points of damage to your head. should be dead now.

    D&D3.5 call shot between the eyes with a longbow on a lvl 7 human wizard named john your base damage 1d8 x3 for a max of 24 john lives and can now cast fire ball on his turn even though there is a arrow in between his eyes.

    OK OK OK I get it its FANTASY but come on YOU want to talk about stupid rule this is a standered in all d20 game once your passed lvl x. I’m just saying I love a game where a sniper can be leathel where one wrong move and its build a new guy

  • John Smith says:

    You are literally a MORON who can’t read a page worth of rules.

    You read the same passage 4 times and still didn’t understand it? Are you sure it’s not a problem with YOU?

    @Blandness This is a BENEFIT you can purchase for your character. “Distinctive Style” is a penalty. In a game where you’re trying to make a legendary name for yourself. GUH. = What if you want to play a character who is good at blending into a crowd? DUH!

    Distinctive style is a penalty, because the gang member named T-BONE who’s car says “T-BONE” on it is easy to find. And vice versa, when T-BONE tries to intimidate someone and has a reputation for being tough he gets bonuses to intimidate people. Cuz everyone know who the F*** T-BONE is…….. sorry you can’t grasp this concept.

    The reason this game has rules for everything is so you can do ANYTHING you want within the confines of the game. And just like ANY RP its up to your GM which rules you want to use or not. Just like all imaginary games with rule they are just a framework, its up to you and the group of nerds you play with to agree on the nuances and situations that fall between the lines.

    It was really interesting to read someone’s opinion on this who has never played Shadowrun. The more I read it the more I realized this game really isn’t for everyone. You must have both an imagination and a brain and really like games that allow you to do whatever you want with a very comprehensive rules system. Obviously rules can bog down game systems, but at the same time they give you the “freedom” to do whatever you want and have a way to make it objective and communicable.

    • grant says:

      John, you’ve brought me on-side mate. I see now – I’m a fucking idiot. I’m so sorry I upset you. Please let me play in your Shadowrun campaign so I can learn the error of my ways.

  • someone with reading comprehension says:

    this is a bad article and you should feel bad

  • Cyberserker says:

    You deeply misunderstand SR on a basic, fundamental level. Here’s a quote from you.

    “This is a BENEFIT you can purchase for your character. “Distinctive Style” is a penalty. In a game where you’re trying to make a legendary name for yourself. GUH.”

    Yes, it’s a benefit in a game where you play as a criminal for people not to be able to describe you very well to the police and/or corporate security. No, you’re not trying to be famous. Fame kills 99% of the runners who achieve it. Do you even have any idea what the game is about at all?

    • grant says:

      I’m fascinated as to why you felt the need to say this again after so many people have said it before you in the thread

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