Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shadowrun Project: Character Classes

I like games with character classes. I know they are kind of an archaic concept, but I like them anyway.

I was tempted to go the Stars Without Number route and just use Warrior, Expert, and Magician. The nuanced occupations of SR would just be training packages. (Street Samurai and Mercenary for Warrior, Decker and Rigger for Expert, etc.) I might still do that. For the time being, though, I'm messing around with using different character classes. Here's my list of character classes. What do you think I missed? What classes do you think are unnecessary?

Street Samurai
Infiltrator (think old school thief/sneak)

Now, a few concerns/caveats:
1. In my mind, the Merc looks different than the Sammy, but what about in terms of ability? Aren't the both just essentially the Fighter of this setting?
2. Yes, I want to keep deckers and riggers separate. SR4 has essentially combined them, but I like having them be different animals.
3. Ditto with Mages and Shamans. SR4 combined the two, but I like having two different flavors of spell caster. I'm thinking Mages are better with spells and Shamans are better with summoning/spirit work.

I have the Samurai, Mage, Decker, and Rigger worked up. My Shaman is done except for filling out some of the totems, and Adept is almost done but for a few more powers. I haven't started on any of the other classes yet.



  1. I kind of understand why Decker and Rigger got combined. It totally makes sense, and any Rigger or Decker character I would have played would at LEAST dabble in the other. But I totally get why you would split them up.

    I'd say Street Samurai archetype associates more strongly with melee and Eastern culture, and carries more cyberware. I imagine a Street Samurai having dermal plating and wired reflexes more than a Merc would.

    Merc associates more strongly with heavy artillery and Western culture. I imagine a Merc knowing how to get a tank running and firing.

    Both use small guns (as in, up to assault rifle), both can be specialized for group or individual ops, both have some of the traditional gun-totin' cyberware (smartlink, cybereyes).

    Based on that, does it make sense to even have a Face, when everyone has deep hooks into their own subcultures? Why should one smooth talker be the more likely one to communicate with a tribal leader, the head of a coven, a CEO, a biker gang leader, a Yakuza official, a fishmonger, etc? Instead, if you want to talk with the Yakuza dude, you'd better have the Street Samurai do it, etc.

    I get in-game reasons why not, in Shadowrun, since if one person piles on social skills and gets Guns 6 or whatever, he can still be marginally useful while allowing everyone else to plow all their points into Killing Stuff. Unfortunately, that makes the Face as gimpy as the Healer is in other games.

    Since it's class-based, I'd suggest giving every character social skills in their own subculture, which forces people to value a high Charisma or else accept the penalties inherent in having your Gang Member try to talk with the Corp Dude.

    Ganger sounds like a perfect "multiclass" or "bard" type, that is, a generalist without solid skills in anything. He would have no magic, of course, but the Street-level equivalent would be the Street Magician.

    So I'd have the classes organized by social structure and Fighter/Techno/Mage.

    Street: Ganger (F), Grease Monkey (T), Street Magician (M), Decker (T)
    Corp: Mercenary (F), Wage Mage (M), Matrix Technician (T), Security Rigger (T)
    Tribal: Tribesman (F), Backcountry Rigger (T), Shaman (M)
    Asian: Street Samurai (F), Ninja (F/T), Wu Jen (guessing here) (M)

  2. Interesting... in my class write ups, I've given the classes different specializations of the Culture skill. (From Stars Without Number) The Culture skill basically acts like a knowledge and streetwise skill for a particular subset of the Shadowrun world. (Corporate, Matrix, Runner, Yakuza, Tribal, Magical, etc.)

    The special abilities I've given the Samurai to choose from could easily lend itself to a Western style merc or a more Eastern style Samurai... though from what I've read of Shadowrun, Samurai has become almost a generic term for a fighting Shadowrunner... there wasn't anything Samurai about a lot of the NPCs presented save for maybe having a melee weapon. I do agree that with different applications of the Culture skill, the Face class does become unnecessary.

    I should also mention that deckers and riggers do have some crossover ability, but at two levels lower...so at third level, a decker can rig like a first level rigger and a rigger can hack like a first level decker. (I take the idea from the AD&D assassin being able to use thief skills at two levels lower.)

    I know that Shadowrun doesn't really lend itself to classes very well, but I find that I'm stuck on the admittedly archaic notion of character classes.

  3. RE: Mercs vs. Sams

    To me, it really depends on how you intend to use cybernetics. If anyone can purchase/install equipment than a heavily chromed merc is (mechanically) the same as a samurai, even if the latter has a "code of honor." There's role-playing quirks and such (honor vs. merc attitude) and then there's game mechanics. In B/X I make a number of different "fighters" that all use the same mechanics as the fighter class.

    Same goes ditto for ganger (a ganger could be a poor merc or a novice infiltrator, for example).

    I can see there being room for multiple types of magician, but from personal experience I'd say leave the adept on the cutting room floor.
    ; )