Thoughts on Shadowrun 4

It has been almost a year now since I started playing Forth edition Shadowrun with a group. And some things have progressed some things haven’t. But I wanted to give my overall thoughts of SR4.  I am by no means an expert on the system, even after a year which I guess could show that the game system has depth, but I don’t think you can be a master of any pen and paper RPG after only one year.

Our first impression of the system was that it was much more simple than previous editions. This impression largely came due to how they deduced successes or not. The game was based on a 6-sided dice, so only one die to work with. You hit with a 5 or a 6, and in order to do something, you either had to get hits vs a predetermined number based on the task, or beat an opposing test. At its core, this is a really great system and the developers should be proud of it.

The other thing we felt early on was that the game was fairly well balanced. They took away some of the complication with deckers (now hackers, which I still think was a bad move), and we didn’t feel like some classes were as overpowered as previously (for instance trolls with bows apparently had quite their hayday in previous editions).

Upon playing it further, we get the feeling that some classes are  more than a little incomplete, or badly worded. The biggest culprit of this seemed to be the Rigger which in this edition was turned into a weird offshoot of the hacker so followed many of the hacker rules (which also was badly done), but then never felt complete. They added more rules in both Wired and Arsenal but the archetype really felt like it was waiting for a new Rigger Black Book that never surfaced.  A good example was autosofts which run programs on the drones so that the drones operate decently without the rigger. The problem was the pre-built archetype in the book only showed the Rigger having 1 of each program, none of which seemed to be attached to the drone. This lead us to believe it wasn’t part of the drone which didn’t entirely make sense. So we had to come up with house rules to work this out. There were actually countless similar instances like this with Rigger, hacker, and technomancer where the rules were confusing or not even there which really led to us making up our own house rules.

It wasn’t completely with the tech based crowd, but the tech-based crowd seemed to have been the biggest problems. The mage had multiple issues too, though a pure gunner was actually a really simple archetype to play. I think if you played this game with a group of non-mage and non-hacker and non-rigger players, this game would be really simple and fun. Even with the adepts it isn’t too bad so there would be a lot of room for differences just with this.

That isn’t to say, the game isn’t fun. We have been playing a year now and while we have taken a break over the summer and have begun talking about perhaps doing a couple non-Shadowrun adventures from time to time as a group, we still want to play Shadowrun long term and are enjoying it. The problem is we still as a group run into hurdles where we spend 15 minutes in the middle of the session looking at how particulars work and we feel this part really should get fixed.

Is too bad too because Shadowrun Forth Edition has a ton of potentional, and if straightened out, could very well be the best edition. I think it almost needs a Shadowrun 4.5, however the system is clearly waning in popularity and the publisher that now owns it seems iffy at best so who knows how long the system will last. I hope it resurges but after a few years of neglect it might just fall by the way side. I would like to see Catalyst do what Dungeons and Dragons did with third edition and open up the source to allow people to really fill in gaps.