This rule system is based on five basic principles.
Rules should be consistent. This means mostly that they should not contradict each other and they should be mostly the same across a large field of use cases. A consistent rule system helps to prevent misunderstandings and supports the game master in making understandable and agreeable decisions in situations not covered by the basic rules. It also helps the players judge the results of their actions.
Rules should scale. This means mostly that the rule system should work over a large span of simulated sizes. A squirrel fighting a slightly bigger squirrel should get about the same result as a dragon fighting a slightly bigger dragon. In this case the same result does not only mean the general outcome but also the spread of results. A scaling rule system should be able to simulate shooting with a light pistol and a tank cannon and everything in between without becoming unusable. Traditional rule systems can have scaling problems in various ways:
- simulating on different scales does get you the same result (the bigger beating the smaller guy) but the spread decreases rapidly (the small squirrel has a chance to beat the bigger squirrel, but the smaller dragon has no chance to beat the bigger dragon)
- usability goes down rapidly on higher scales (because of the number of dice rolled)
- different scales are not represented correctly, with a bias towards human scales. Small simulated creatures tend to be too strong and heavy, large simulated creatures tend to be too weak and light.
Scalability makes a rule system believable and more realistic.
Rules should be complex. At least complex enough to simulate the portions of the world that are relevant to the decisions of the player characters in a way that overlaps with the expectations of the players. The rules should be complex enough to be consistent with the fluff description of the world. The rules should also be complex enough to differentiate between the various choices the setting focuses on. A complex rule system need not necessarily be complicated.
Rules should be usable. Resolution of situations should be fast. In the best case there should be no more than one dice roll for any meaningful player decision. Players should not be forced to do complicated or long calculations. Players should be able to judge the outcome and the risks of a test.
Rules should be balanced in a sense that various options should be viable and not one be the dominant solution. Balanced rule systems promote variety and diversity. A players choice of character as well as a characters choice of methods and equipment should not be restricted by choices that are, from an effectivity standpoint, no choices at all. A balanced rule system helps to preserve options.
How are these principles realized in this rule system?
This rule system tries to generalize concepts as much as possible and apply them to the various fields. The idea is to have special cases only if needed and that special cases should be a more fine grained version of the general rule with the average result of the special rule being the general rule. For example the Time Modifier table should in principle apply to each and every Task that somehow benefits from more or punishes not enough time. However, in the special case of taking more time while Aiming, there are special rules because of the strong emphasis of quantized time in combat situations.
This rule system tries to scale from Lady Bug sized objects up to at least Dragons/Tanks in a realistic way. This means two things:
- Quantitative Attributes like Strength or Maximum Life scale with Weight. The exact scaling is not linear due to biological effects (an ant is relatively much stronger than an elephant).
- The rule system returns exactly the same result (statistics wise) when somebody with Strength 30 wrestles with a Strength 40 guy compared to a Strength 600 dragon wrestling with a Strength 800 dragon.
Furthermore the rule set scales in a way that a test between two squirrels takes exactly the same amount of time as the same test between two dragons, or between two experts in contrast to two amateurs.
This rule system uses complex formulas to simulate various physical properties. The main principle is to focus on aspects that player characters will care about, that have impact on their decisions in the game world, or that add a lot to the immersion of the game world. If a player would pick or not pick an item because of a value of a property of an item in contrast to another item with another value in this property, the property is most likely enriching the rule set. Typical examples are the inclusion of various, more detailed properties of Ware, Weapons and Vehicles that help distinguish these pieces of gear, which are very much a focal point of various characters interests. This gives them more meaningful choices. Other examples are the inclusion of a hit-zone model in combat to help localize wounds and damage. This adds more meaningful choices in Armor as well as adding role-playing opportunities in having localized wounds and damaged limbs.
This rule system tries to be usable by making tests mathematically simple, easy to judge and meaningful. Mathematically, the user is shielded from all the complexity in the rule-set by condensing everything down to simple numbers that are added or subtracted in most cases. Most Task Modifiers are normalized such, that they are 0 in a standard situation. The Gaussian Die itself has an expectation value of 0. Furthermore, dice rolls are only required at meaningful steps in the simulation process where choices are made. The idea is to not have any rolls that have no impact on player choices. One example are repeated, or even extended tests: Instead of rolling time and time again till the character is successful, there is a Time Modifier Table so that only one roll is always needed.
This rule system tries hard to deliver balance in various ways, following the principle that everything should have advantages and drawbacks. This is true for the three main realm "Physical", "Magical" and "Matrix" as well as Equipment, Weapons, Spells, Vehicles and more. Where ever possible mathematical calculations are used to ensure balance.
A good rule system should promote the feeling and peculiarities of the game world. Consistency between Fluff and Crunch is important as it adds immersion to the game. This is especially true for basic assumptions of the setting. As any RPG has a more or less fictional setting where "having fun" is always the number one priority, there will alwys be some inconsistencies where suspension of disbelief is needed. But a rule system should try hard to minimize the number and severity of these cases.
What follows are a number of setting imperatives this rule system tries to support.
- Shadowrunning is possible and plausible
- The run itself should be possible
- No omnipotent security measures like totally automated and and ubiquitous facial/gait/cyberware recognition/detection
- For every security measure there should be a counter measure
- It should not be too easy to find runners after a run
- No extremely powerful search powers, matrix searches, search ritual magic
- There should be a reason why people with "Runner" power Level do Shadowruns
- Runners should be able to afford the gear they need
- The run itself should be possible
- Shadowrun is Cyberpunk
- Cyberware is ubiquitous
- Consumer grade cyberware should not be too expensive
- Cyberware should be better than bioware
- Bioware should have other advantages (detectability, lower cost at lower Essence niveaus)
- Cyberware is ubiquitous
- Every role has its niche (the following definitions are about roles, not characters that can fulfill multiple roles)
- Street-Sams are king of "standard" combat. In large scale battles they lose to drone riggers, but large scale combat is not the standard.
- Mages can do everything, sometimes better than everybody else, but they can not do it often (there is no such thing as no drain)
- Hackers have only a small part in combat, but the matrix is so ubiquitous hackers are vital
- Riggers are king of large scale combat, and observation. They lack the stealth and versatility a Street-Sam brings to the table
- Corporations use available technology
- Drone and cyberware pricing should not be too cheap or nobody would use human guards
- People use available technology
- social impact of self driving cars (car pooling)
- mobile/home working