Shadowrun Sixth World, Part One

I got a copy of the core book for Sixth World from GenCon this year. So I’ve spent some time with it and, now that the PDF has been released, I thought I’d discuss it. There’s a lot to take in so I’m devoting this whole week to my assessment of Shadowrun Sixth World (Edition).

Today’s post is just the setup, the basics, and character creation. I’ll tackle combat, magic, matrix, and other rules in their own posts. As the new Edge system is central to the entire game, I might reference it some but I’m going to save the last post of the week (Friday) entirely to that subsystem and how bonkers it is.

First – a compliment: the book is attractive. The layout is well-designed, the colors are nice, the art is largely excellent (it’s not my taste but it’s quality so I’mma shut up). Rules examples are used liberally (though typos ruin some of them). It’s a nice change from the brutal, ugly stylings of 5e.

An Aside: One of their big selling points was how they were going to streamline the game for 6W. The book is 322 pages. 5e was 502 so this seems like progress. Remember that Anniversary Edition though, which included references to splat books and a master index only clocked in at 376 pages and was much more in-depth than 6W.

Game Concepts (the Basics)

Sixth World (6W) works pretty much the same as 5e and Anniversary Edition (Ae). Pools of six-sided dice. Hits are 5,6 on die. Don’t roll too many ones. Compare total hits to threshold.

Actions have been changed from Free, Simple, and Complex to Major and Minor. You get 1 Major Action and 1 Minor Action per Initiative Die each round. 4 Minors can be exchanged for a Major and a Major can always be used to do a Minor. Nothing wrong with that but you’ll see where it falls apart when I get to the combat section.

Limits from 5e are gone but two new “stats” have been introduced, Attack Rating and Defense Rating that are equally pointless and over-designed for very little return. I’ll explain these more when we get to Combat as well.

A lot of the damage types and things like fear, etc. have been codified as Statuses. If you are familiar with conditions from D&D 4/5 or Pathfinder, you’ll get these. They are fiddly and I’m not a fan but I’m not opposed either.

There are a few new wrinkles, like some rolls using a Wild Die. I’ll discuss the wild die along with Edge later because I’m hoping it’ll slink off and die like the Edge mechanics.

Character Creation

I’m not going to rehash my “the Priority System method is terrible” argument here. Just know that 6W keeps the Priority Table that 5e brought back.

Metatypes are handled differently on the new table. You can be a Troll at any priority now. This changes the amount of Adjustment Points you get. Adjustment Points are similar to Special Attribute Points from 5e but also do more.

All metatypes now have attribute ranges that start at 1 and go up to the metatype max. Adjustment Points are used to raise attributes above the human max of 6. Yes, this means you can have a STR 1 Troll or a CHA 1 Elf. Enjoy.

One odd decision. Trolls are now capped at 9 in Body and Strength. Orks can still get to 8 in both and dwarves are STR 7/BOD 8 so they really closed the gap with Trolls. Augmented Max is still Attribute + 4.

The rest of the Priority Table is broadly similar to 5e so I won’t spend much time on it.

One last thing: Mystic Adepts are back to working more like they did in Ae vs. 5e. This is both good and bad. They were way too powerful in 5e but they are likely underpowered again now. I agree with a friend that the game is better off without them so I don’t much care

Qualities

Positive and Negative Qualities are bought with Bonus Karma as in 5e. Many are now designed to work with the pervasive new Edge system. Costs and balance issues are all over the place and really showcase how this edition shouldn’t have made it past play testing. I’ll hit a few here.

Focused Concentration is on its third version in three editions. A mage character can buy up to three levels of it. Each level allows them to sustain a spell with a drain value of 7 or or lower without the -2 penalty. At 12 Karma per level, this is pretty much a must have for every mage. No other value in the game could beat this. Expect to see it on every mage character – at least two levels.

Built Tough is a quality that adds an additional box to your Physical Condition monitor per level (you can take up to four levels). Orks and Trolls get some of this as a metatype trait (so they can take less of it, I guess). It costs 4 Karma per level. Oddly, the Will to Live quality adds two extra damage overflow boxes per level (you can take up to three) and costs 8 Karma per level. The math seems off there to me.

Dermal Deposits is a quality that trolls get as part of their metatype. But it’s listed with a Karma cost in the Positive Qualities section. Can anyone buy it? What is the social effect of being an elf with dermal deposits? Can an ork now take a “troll poser” quality if they take this? Inquiring minds…

Impaired Attribute is a mess. Another quality that should never have made it out of play testing, it gives you 8 bonus Karma per point that you lower your maximum in an Attribute. There are already posts on the SR forums pointing out the failures of this design choice but yeah, the optimization types are rubbing their hands over this one.

Another aside: Even though there is a reasonably well-written Addiction negative quality; there are no rules for how you become addicted to drugs in this version. So it’s open season on combat drugs. Take all the Jazz.

Overall, qualities are all over the place with costs and game effects. Little effort was put into making these reasonable and GMs beware at your tables.

Skills

There are only 19 skills now. Skill groups are gone (as each 6W skill is effectively one of 5e’s Skill Groups). Skill ratings range from 1-9. Each skill can have one Specialization that gets you a +2 dice pool modifier.

You can only ever have one Specialization in a skill but you can upgrade that to an Expertise. You can only ever have one Expertise in a skill. Once you upgrade, you can then choose a new Specialization for that skill but that one can never upgrade to an Expertise.

Cutting down the skill list itself wasn’t a bad idea. Ae and 5e both had some dead weight that needed to be trimmed. But the extreme cut down did create some weird design choices.

Lockpicking and Gunnery are now specializations of Engineering. Every great locksmith is now also a good boat mechanic. And good at shooting turret mounted machine guns. And every Navy gunner is now good at repairing helicopters. Simplicity in design is good. Letting it corner you into making bad design decisions is not.

There are other weird decisions. Even though they collapsed so many skills, they kept two separate Social skills. Con, which is largely performance/impersonation based; and Influence, which is largely persuasion-based. While I see many games make the “fast talk” vs. “diplomacy” distinction – it wasn’t necessary here and could have been one skill (except likely kept separate to allow more than one specialization).

Then there is Exotic Weapons. This is still one skill. You must choose a specialization in a specific exotic weapon when you take it. You can take multiple specializations under it. You cannot have an Expertise. All ranks of Exotic Weapons count for any specialization you have. Exotic Weapons 6 (Dart Pistol, Monofilament Whip) means that you have the same basic 6 dice for both weapons even though you only bought the skill  once. It’s kinda silly and didn’t need to happen.

Knowledge Skills no longer have ranks – they just are. Language skills do have ranks but they don’t correspond to the standard skill ranks. It’s confusing and doesn’t add much to your experience.

That’s enough for now. I’ll tackle Combat tomorrow. I’m sure it’s clear at this point that I don’t like this edition. I’ll try to be clear and straightforward about my critique but overall, my assessment is pretty negative – just to be clear up front.

As always, comments are encouraged and thanks for reading.

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