The combat system in Sixth World (6W) Edition does not resemble previous editions much at all. The changes are pervasive and make me wonder again about the amount of play testing behind the system.
Aside: the tone of the writing in this book really bugged me. The book is clearly written as aimed at the people playing the game but has this weird attempt to channel some of the “attitude of ‘runners” that just falls flat and seems amateurish. It really popped out at me in the Combat chapter and annoyed me. Not a fan.
Overall, the general combat turn works as before – 3 second combat rounds, roll an attack vs. a defense opposed test, soak damage/apply damage. Next.
Aside: There’s a bit here about the fact that Gunnery falls under Engineering and explains that you use Logic instead of Agility when shooting them and it’s almost like the writers knew they were gonna take shit for putting Gunnery under Engineering and felt the need to explain again…
Things get a little different when you get to Step 2: Distribute Edge. I know I’m saving the Edge system for last but just a reminder – Edge use is the pervasive new (hotness!) mechanic in this edition. So getting and spending it is a constant thing.
Determining if a combatant gets any Edge works by doing a comparison of Attack Rating vs. Defense Rating and also looking at the circumstances of the moment.
Attack Rating is now a stat that all your weapons have. It represents the many and varied vagaries of each weapon at each of their available ranges. For example, at reasonable pistol ranges the Ares Predator has an AR of 10. You compare this to Defense Rating which is usually Body + Armor Rating. If either one is 4 or more points higher than the other – boom! – that side gets 1 Edge. Every other consideration of the situation (lighting, weather, crowds, etc.) is entirely summed up in a judgement call by the GM and may earn combatants another point of Edge. Other things like, Qualities, etc. may also hand out Edge but no one can earn more than two points in a round (and 7 total) but earned Edge that isn’t used is carried over round to round (again, max 7).
Rolling is almost identical to 5e – Attribute + Skill vs. Reaction + Intuition. Net hits add to modified Damage Value.
Oh, Defense. As far as I can tell, there is no penalty or reduction for defending against multiple attacks in a round. You always roll your full Reaction + Intuition. This is true even when defending against multiple attacks say from Full Auto (don’t get me started about how weird/silly the Firing Modes are) each with their smaller, divided dice pools. Because the defender only rolls once and compares their full dice pool roll against all the attacker’s pools. Because full auto already reduces your Attack Rating by 6, the Defender might even earn bonus edge against this attack!
Then you soak. Armor is no longer used to resist damage. You only roll Body. It’s worth pointing out in this system that the difference between no armor (+0) and full body armor (+5) is exactly 1 point of Edge for the attacker. That’s it. That’s all armor does.
Then you apply damage and that basically works just like before, you take the points off your appropriate Condition Monitor, you take a -1 penalty to actions for each 3 full boxes marked off.
Initiative and Actions
Right, I got carried away and didn’t explain the Initiative and Actions. Again, Initiative is rolled much like 5e – Reaction + Intuition + the total generated on your Initiative Dice.
But initiative is only rolled once, at the beginning of combat, and that order is then set for the rest of combat.
Actions are 1 Major Action + 1 Minor Action + 1 Minor Action for each Initiative Die you have. You can have up to a maximum of 5 Minors. Four Minor Actions can be traded in for 1 Major Action. This is significant because for most street sam/phys ad types, the list of Minor Actions consists of “shit I’ll never do” or “shit I can only do once (Take Aim), or “shit that replaced the Interrupt Actions of 5e but does them worse.”
Any type of Attack is a Major Action. So fighters only get one per round now without splitting their dice pools. This is very significant because multiple actions were the force multiplier for physical fighter types in Shadowrun. A rigger might have multiple drones in the field, a mage might have multiple spirits, and they also still have their own actions. The street sam now gets one, single, attack. This makes getting that +4d6 number of Initiative Dice a distinct line of effectiveness for these characters.
This is doubly offensive to the standard fighter type when you consider that “command spirit” and “command drone” are Minor Actions and thus the mage/rigger are that much more effective than you again. Now it’s really easy for a rigger to give multiple drones different commands and also get their own attack action while you get… one attack action.
Action economy in 6W is poorly conceived and I’m certain that a lot of a Minor Actions are going to be “left on the table” each combat.
Other Combat Stuff
There’s a large section on rules for barriers, grenades got less complicated (explosives) and more complicated (gases).
There are new “grunt” rules for allowing similar combatants to attack as groups but the grunts are still counted separate for defense. Since the group attack test is unaffected by injury modifiers, except to the “leader,” it seems like this will get annoying/lead to predictable outcomes.
Obviously, with the changes to armor, there is no longer any AP value or any comparison of damage vs. armor rating to shift damage down to Stun.
There’s no more “first aid before magic or, huh?” rules. But first aid is more complicated, using a Medkit is a lot more complicated, and both are affected by the patient’s Essence. Good news, if the patient has a full 6 Essence, you’ll get an automatic hit on any healing roll. Wow.
Overflow damage is now no threat. There are no “bleeding out” rules. So once you go down, unless the enemy keeps shooting your unconscious body, you will survive. No urgency on the part of other characters to save you at all.
Aside: though, with armor no longer actually protecting from damage; shooting downed bodies is a really good tactic, because they won’t get any opposed test to avoid the attack so all your hits are just straight net hits added to damage. #protip
I won’t go too in-depth about weapons but it’s worth noting that weapon damages have been lowered a little across the board – A predator pistol does base 3P now instead of 5P. I assume this was to counteract the fact that armor no longer protects you.
Bone Lacing is now a top-tier piece of ‘ware. Because it adds to your Defense Rating and adds dice to your Damage Resist tests (why it does this but armor does not is a mystery).
Melee Weapons also do flat damage ratings now that are not affected by strength. A combat axe used by a 2 STR elf and a 9 STR troll do the same damage. In fact, the elf will probably do more because of a (likely higher) Agility translating into more net hits.
Combat is weird. I am drawn again to the question, how much play testing happened with these rules? The way the bits fit together and the effect on front line fighters seems pretty drastic. The whole concept of just foregoing armor might have been something they wanted to happen in this edition but it leads to some predictable outcomes.
When I first thought about the AR vs. DR thing, I thought maybe that Armor would act more like the passive defense version of combat that is represented in D&D as “Armor Class” but it doesn’t even do that.
The Action economy is all screwed up and really breaks down the value of things like Wired Reflexes while the damage system really elevates other gear like Bone Lacing to new heights.
I’ll dig more into the “Edge on every turn” thing later but the way Edge is earned and works now creates an additional step in every combat round where you do comparisons, creates a new cognitive load (masquerading as lessening the cognitive load), and exacerbates the death spiral problem. It’s also likely that Edge will be “left on the table” every turn because no matter how many tests you make or how many ways to earn Edge you have, you can only earn two in any full combat round.
So that’s a quick assessment of the state of combat in 6W. Disappointing and sloppy design.
As always, thanks for reading.