One of the ways I determine a good roleplaying game from a bad one is how inviting the character sheet is. If the sheet is complex or overly pretty without being functional then I will likely never play the game. The other thing I look at is how character creation plays out – is it easy to follow? Do I feel confident the character I made works? Is there group creation rules? Having already pre-purchased the 5th edition of Shadowrun I sat down to run through character creation not only to see how 5th edition stacks up but to discover the rules. There were parts where I got lost along the way but I will point them out as I go.
The first thing the character creation rules recommend is for the player to have an idea for the type of character they are going to make. My plan is to create a character who is outcast from a corporation because his sanity started to slip and now he runs the shadows protesting the corporate machine. At this point I have a name in mind – Frank, so I call that’s what I’ll name him. In game terms I’m going to make him a Decker as I’ve already grasped the matrix rules but he is unlikely to make a good team member for a traditional shadowrunning team.
Next up is to assign priorities to Metatype, Attribute, Skills, Magic/Technomancy, Resources. At this stage characters are also granted 25 karma points to smooth out any rough edges at the end of character creation or purchase qualities. Frank’s going to be a bit of an everyman but decks are expensive so I need to make resources a high priority.
A: Skills (46/10)
B: Human (7), Elf (6), Dwarf (4), Ork (4), Troll (0)
C: Resources (140,000¥)
D: Attributes (14)
E: Magic (None)
Next up is metatype and I have the choice of selecting any race. The special attribute points, the number in parentheses, will be different depending on my choice however. Here I chose Ork because of Frank’s everyman template. He was born with low-light vision and above average body and strength attributes but he’s never going to be a smartest or wisest individual. I want to see what attributes Frank’s skills are linked to before spending my attribute point allocation so I allocate skills next.
Skills follow the same rules from 4th edition with the highest skill rating being a 6 or 7 with the Aptitude quality. Specializations have also remained the same between 4th and 5th edition, as have the skill rating proficiencies (0 = Untrained, 6 = professional, 12 is Apex). I did got lost here looking for the linked attribute for combat skills but it’s mentioned in the text that active combat skills are linked to Agility. With all this in mind I chose Frank’s skills:
Agility: Pistols, Unarmed, Palming, Sneaking (Urban)
Strength: Running (Urban)
Logic: Computer, Cybercombat, Electronic Warfare (Jamming), Hacking, Forgery, Hardware, Software
Charisma: Etiquette (Street), Con (Fast-Talking)
Computer, Hardware, and Software all fall under the Electronics skill group so I take that instead and I have more “skill group points” left so roll the running skill into Athletics. Cybercombat, Hacking, and Electronic Warfare are in the Cracking skill group but my specialization in Jamming prevents this. After assigning skills ratings this leaves me with the following for a total of 42 skill points and 8 Skill group points spent:
Sneaking (Urban): 4 (6)
Athletics Group: 4
Electronics Group: 4
Electronic Warfare (Jamming): 4 (6)
Etiquette (Street): 3 (5)
Con (Fast-Talking): 3 (5)
Frank has the skills to be a good hacker with the penchant for shutting down wireless comms. When things get hairy he can fire off a few shots or escape a grapple but his priorities will be to escape. He’s a victim of public transport so doesn’t have any driving ability beyond the basics.
Having chosen my skills I see that my skill set focuses on Logic and Agility with a little bit of charisma so I put my attribute points there and balance out everything else. Body and Strength are the default values for an Ork, making him a particularly scrawny example of his species but it does put him on par with an average human. Frank isn’t a mage or technomancer so dumps his allotment of special attribute points into Edge.
BOD: 4 AGI: 3 REA: 3 STR: 3 WIL: 3 LOG: 4 INT: 4 CHA: 3 EDG: 5
Now that my attributes are defined I can return to skills and complete Frank’s knowledge skills.
Knowledge Skills help describe your character’s past and particular focus and the points available are calculated based on Intuition and Logic. Frank is going to be a corporate outcast who uses hacking to protest the corporations so his knowledge skills will focus on corporate culture and hackivism.
Corporate Culture: 3
Matrix Security (IC): 4
Corporate Politics: 4
Corporate Security (Response Times): 3 (5)
Choose Magic or Resonance
Franks is neither a mage or a technomancer and allocated the lowest priority to this. Consequently there is nothing to do here.
Qualities are what makes the character special outside his skills or attributes. I already have a fair idea who and what Frank is so that’s what my selection is based on. Qualities cost Karma points so at the end of this stage I am left with 1 remaining point.
Blandness  – There’s nothing special about Frank and the world knows it.
Home Ground (On the Lam) – Frank’s always moving from place to place to avoid detection.
Human Looking  – Frank’s a poor example of an ork but it has helped him appear more human.
Now it’s time to buy gear and lifestyle. I have 140,000¥ to spend and can keep a maximum of 5,000¥ for play.
Survival Knife (GPS, Multitool, Microlight, Hidden Compartment, Wireless: ARO Maps, Commcalls) – 100¥
Ares Predator V [Smartlinked] – 725¥
Spare Clip – 5¥
Regular Ammo x 30 – 60¥
Average Street Clothes – 200¥
Lined Coat – 900¥
Cyberdecks – Hermes Chariot – 110,250¥
Common Programs (Browse, Encryption) 160¥
Hacking Programs (Baby Monitor, Exploit, Stealth) 750¥
AR Gloves – 150¥
Data Chip x 5 – 25¥
Area Jammer [Rating: 4, 20m range] – 800¥
Micro-Transceiver – 100¥
Electronics tool kit – 200¥
Glasses [Cap: 2](Image link, Smartlink) – 2225¥
Plastic Restraints x 20 – 10¥
Crowbar – 20¥
Miniwelder – 250¥
Datajack (Alphaware) – 1200¥
Low Lifestyle x 3 – 6000¥
After buying gear Frank is left with 3120¥. He has the basics for a fledgling hacker and doesn’t seem too special in terms of overall ability. It took me a while to find the program limit for the various cyberdecks – it’s in the gear section.
All characters begin play with some contacts in the Shadowrun world. Their loyalty and Connection derived from the character’s charisma. Here Frank’s got a variety of people looking out for him. From his drug dealer who supplies him with enough gear for any long-haul jobs to his flaky on/off Neo-Anarchist girlfriend.
Drug Dealer (Loyalty: 2, Connection: 2)
City Official (Loyalty: 1, Connection: 1)
Neo-Anarchist (Loyalty: 2, Connection: 1)
The last bit of character creation is determining all the derived values and spend any remaining Karma. Frank has only 1 Karma point left so he can carry it forward into play.
Initiative: 7 +1d6
Matrix Initiative: Cold: Data Processing + 4 + 3d6, Hot: Data Processing + 4 + 4d6
The character creation for 5th edition was straightforward with a few hiccups. I got lost in a few parts mostly due to non-existent information that required me to look more closely. I can see how character creation could be a bit daunting for a player brand new to RPGs but an experienced player should be able to manage. For those wandering the priority system makes it’s fabled return but karma allows you to round out the corners. Resources is the only concern with each priority level significantly increasing the available funds. This becomes a problem when you need an extra 10K or 20K and don’t feel comfortable about dropping another priority.