Geek rants
Geek rants

Oh, geek rants. I have sat through (and less often, participated in) a lot of geek rants in my time. You know what I mean – somebody innocently mentions a specific system or rule, and suddenly the normally mild-mannered geek burst loose and lets you know precisely what bugs them about it. In detail. For hours, or until you can steer the topic away to safer subjects.

Shadowrun 4th Ed introduced some interesting concepts and fixed some things that were wonky with 3rd Ed – mainly, making it possible for a Decker character to come along with the group, instead of leaving them to run their own side games in the Matrix while the rest of the group either waits around or goes ahead without them.

But man, the rules.Β  Yikes. More charts than you can shake a stick at.

News: Posted April 7th, 2008 by Alina

^ 41 Comments to “Geek rants”

  1. Discordant Harmony Says:

    My group still plays 3rd edition SR, we all love the setting of the 4th ed but hate the rules, and we long ago found the proper way to get the Decker involved in the run, 2GM’s one runs the physical side whilst the other handles the matrix side, works great for us
    4th Ed took a little too much of the customization that we loved away from us

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 8:39 am
  2. Prowler Says:

    You mean Shadowfun? Oh hell no… It’s too bright and cheery a world. Bring back the dark world of Shadowrun ala First Edition… sure clean up the rules, but do NOT mess with the setting

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 10:38 am
  3. Joseph Says:

    Oh, c’mon, it’s not that bad… And at least in 4th ed they’re actively watching out for rules bloat and keeping new mechanics from entering the game–that way it’s not having to deal with a dozen difference rules sets all at once.

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 10:47 am
  4. 4th Edition is a very good edition.

    Instead of having to do a lot of math, the “armor soak roll” just adds to the body when you do your damage resistance test. And damage is just more sensible. No silly stages of damage from L to M to S to D to..+++ and then back again?

    Beats having a 12D, subtracting armor from it, then rolling body to resist.

    Lets not even get into initiative. Initiative passes separate from initiative score is more logical. Instead of combat going something like this:

    Street Sam: Ok I rolled a 41 on initiative, so at 41 I burst two guards, at 31 I burst 2 guards, at 21 I burst two guards… do they go yet?
    GM: Dude, they’re all dead…
    Rest of the party: *Yawn*

    Everybody gets a chance or three to do something.

    Having played 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th Edition SR. 4th Edition is the best as far as most of the rules go.

    Some of the background makes no sense, wireless everything is a bit silly, and finding the appropriate rules can be time consuming and confusing to some, but the actual rules basis is much cleaner than any prior edition.

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 12:35 pm
  5. Werewindle Says:

    Besides, instead of having to track both Target Numbers and the number of dice, now we just have to track the number of dice. All bonuses and negative modifiers change the number of dice, so I kind of find it way easier to track. Well, my players have all welcomed this new edition anyway :p.

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 1:05 pm
  6. Ilex Says:

    I’m so happy for being able to play Shadowrun again, I can even live with the awful system. I really don’t like the dice engine, but I love the world, and the way it grows.
    We are playing 2nd Ed… *shakes head*
    We changed the initiative rules because Cryptoknight is SO right.

    Um. I actually wrote to say how much I like Weregeek. Thanks a lot Alina.

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 4:57 pm
  7. xaq Says:

    Actually, Cryptoknight, they fixed Initiative back in the 3rd Edition. You’re talking about the 2nd Ed version there.

    The 3rd Ed system didn’t have any need to keep track of number of dice… your numbers always stayed the same (your skill plus Combat pool allocation). The problem was (and still is) all the math involved in calculating target numbers, which has just changed to calculating dice pools. That doesn’t speed up the system. And combat takes even LONGER now that there’s an additional armor soak roll before the body soak roll. Each combat action requires the exact same number of chart lookups, but MORE dice rolls. It’s NO simpler to keep track of, and takes even longer than the old system. So what’s the point of the change?

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 5:24 pm
  8. spaceLem Says:

    I’ve been picking up all the Shadowrun 4th edition books, and I personally find the system far more manageable than SR3. I was happy when they changed your target modifier from variable to just 5, even if that mirrors WoD’s system. Also I find characters more easy to gen, but I could see how people might prefer SR3’s priorities system.

    For the background settings… I’ve been reading them, and using them, but we usually just create our own backgrounds, and modify them a bit using the official books as guidelines, which I’m sure is the best way forward. Since there are absolutely no rules in the settings, you can swap in SR3’s if you still have them. I suppose this means earlier editions are currently better, as they have more background available.

    If you don’t like SR4’s backgrounds, get on the SR forums and be vocal (and polite!), it may influence how later books come out.

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 8:47 pm
  9. Fitz Says:

    While 3rd really needed fixing, it was rushed out and never fixed properly, I think 4th went into some really wacko rule directions. I am also not entirely on board with the new Matrix rules, I prefer the feel of needing to plug into the system.

    Posted April 7th, 2008 at 11:46 pm
  10. Alina Says:

    3rd Ed certainly has it’s problems too – for one, there’s a lot of charts for modifying target numbers given certain situations that makes me leery of ever -running- the game myself unless I could print them all out and make a giant reference bulletin board. There’s also a lot of the story stuff (especially Insect Spirits and Dunklezhan’s bid for presidency) that I’d just as soon ignore completely, but that goes for most games.

    But I’m really not a fan of the fixed target numbers in 4th Ed. It makes the rolls feel so much more random. For example, you could be pretty good at something easy and have, say, 8 dice. It’s entirely possible to not roll a single 5 in 8 dice. At least with variable target numbers, an easy task has a target number of only 2 or 3 and you’re going to get at least 1 success.

    Also, like CryptoKnight said, the wireless everything is pretty weird, especially when it applies to cyberware. I see no reason why a cyberlimb would be wireless accessible, since the only time they’ll need external input is when a cyberdoc is doing repairs on it, but under the new rules, a decker can pretty easily hack into and even take control of your very limbs.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 12:03 am
  11. Joseph Says:

    @Fitz: Not to mention the Agent Smith issue… (commlinks subscribed to to commlinks, allowing a player to cascade Agents ad infinitum…)

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 12:04 am
  12. Joseph Says:

    “a decker can pretty easily hack into and even take control of your very limbs.”

    If they’re in signal range–which, for most cyberlimbs, is three meters. My hacker tried that… and got *ahem* decked by a very irate street sam.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 12:06 am
  13. xaq Says:

    I agree with SpaceLem about character generation… but then, I never use the old Priorities system. There’s a points-build system in the 2nd and 3rd Ed Companion.

    I don’t agree that the new edition is any less chart-heavy. ALL of the situation modifier charts are still there… they just give dice penalties instead of target penalties. It’s still the same number of charts to look up.

    I also agree with Fitz that 3rd Edition had some major problems that needed fixing. But I don’t consider 4th Edition much of an improvement (although there are SOME things that are better, it’s not enough to be worth switching a campaign over for).

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 1:48 am
  14. Pistol Pete Says:

    What about newbies looking to get into Shadowrun? Is it better to look for a group playing 3rd and hunt for old books, or just start with 4th?

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 3:05 am
  15. xavhorse Says:

    Just to say, it is possible to run a decker in SR3 in the same time as the group without being a drag. I’ve been running as one (though admittedly, a combat decker) for almost five years now with the same group.
    It’s ultimately down to the skill of the GM to multi-task/synchronise, switching between meat world and matrix actions while maintaining pace and suspense.

    Interested to see where the Geek Hunter plots going, keep it up!

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 5:10 am
  16. Werewindlefr Says:

    “It’s entirely possible to not roll a single 5 in 8 dice”
    That’s a 1 in 7000 probability though; That’s reasonable. I guess even quite-professional people have their moments of not being attentive to what they’re doing or something.

    Anyway, we’re all geeks alright: only one day after SR4’s rules were mention, there are already that many comments :D.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 6:44 am
  17. Combat takes at most 2 combat rounds (4-6 IPs).

    The Armor soak doesn’t slow combat down at all, you just add it to Body and roll. The seperate step you’re referring to is a comparison of attack DV vs Armor to determine if it’s stun or Physical, that’s not a roll, it takes less than a second. I also like it because in prior editions with armor cutting attack power it let the troll shrug off everything. “Oooh you hit me with 10D attack… well my armor cuts that down to 2.. and I roll tons of body to resist… goodbye damage” No its… “Oh you hit me with 10P attack… well my armor turns it to S… hmmm I roll 20 Dice to resist and… ugh… take 4 stun damage…”

    Makes people worry about getting shot by anything… like they should be.

    A Heavy Pistol does 5P or thereabouts plus net successes. With 4 skill, 4 agility and a Smartlink that’s +3-4 so to soak 8-9P (or S if you have high armor) means you need to throw 24-27 dice to resist completely. Most folks don’t have that many dice. Ever.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 10:00 am
  18. For those of you who wish to discuss Shadowrun…
    Join the official “unofficial” Shadowrun forums at

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 10:02 am
  19. I’d also like to point out that rolling 8 dice, it’s possible to roll nothing but 1’s and 2’s… so a 3 target number is about the same odds of failure.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 10:05 am
  20. As for wireless cyberware… that doesn’t bother me that much because you can turn it off. Which makes sense, a quick thought turns it on for diagnostics, but otherwise it’s DNI only.

    What bugs me about wireless everything is network security. Where I work, we put wireless on the outside of the firewall. You use Wireless, you have to authenticate to it, then open a VPN to our internal network. There is no way that the future is going to go to a wireless everything, all of our servers are publicly accessible to anybody with a strong enough wireless signal and patience. Chokepoint/Checkpoint security on a network isn’t going to go away.

    Such a concept doesn’t make sense. It’s like the writers didn’t talk to anybody who knew anything about computers or networks when they made the wireless matrix. It was if they took their laptops to a Panera Bread and decided that the whole matrix should work like wireless internet access seems to work to them, and never thought about how things actually work to give them that appearance of access to everything. On the bright side, some folks came up with network models that still emulate chokepoints and work within the wireless rules.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 10:11 am
  21. Chris Says:

    ha! i love the new World of Darkness (nWoD) stuff (it took me about 2 years to adjust from oWoD and get over the differences, but i love it now). i think it’s pretty cool to see it mentioned here, even if the character ranting about it totally hates it. btw, would the vampire larp that the characters play happen to be Vampire: The Requiem or Masquerade? and can we see more of them playing that, please (it’s one of the things that originally got me hooked on this web comic)?

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 12:24 pm
  22. xaq Says:

    I don’t think Wayne hates the new WOD, he just thinks SR4 is lame for ripping it off. πŸ˜€

    Also, the Vampire game was deliberately vague, but it most closely resembles Masquerade.

    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 4:18 pm
  23. DTFarstar Says:

    I’ve been involved with very little SR3 and tons of SR4, so I may be biased, but from what I can see, the system has been greatly simplified and while there are still charts for ranged attack modifiers and ranged defense modifiers, it takes all of about 1-2 game sessions to memorize them all. Might be harder if you had all the TN number modifiers memorized, but I shouldn’t think so. Combat is really simple and in my games(both played and ran) it takes a lot less time than any other system I have played to resolve a combat of similar complexity. Just roll your dice less the penalties described at the beginning (I usually give a summary of the relevant penalties at the end of the description of the beginning of combat and update that if anything changes. For our first couple of games I would write a modifier legend out on the side of the wet erase map we have, but it isn’t necessary anymore) they roll defense, if you hit compare weapon DV + net hits vs. Armor Rating to determine Physical or Stun damage, and then they roll soak which is Armor+Body(one roll, not two).

    One thing that is nice about fixed TNs is you can take dice that are single color with white pips and mark in the 2, 3, and 4 with the color of the dice, leave the ones white, and color the 5’s and 6’s green or something that stands out to make hits and glitch calculation REALLY quick and simple.


    Posted April 8th, 2008 at 8:43 pm
  24. spaceLem Says:

    Probabiliity of failing to roll any successes on 8d6 where target number is 5:
    8C8 * (4/6)^8 = 0.03901 or about 3%

    Probabiliity of failing to roll any successes on 8d6 where target number is 2:
    8C8 * (2/6)^8 = 0.000152416 or about 0.015%

    You’re 256 X less likely to fail with the smaller target number.

    Posted April 9th, 2008 at 7:37 am
  25. spaceLem Says:

    My flatmate got into Shadowrun long before I did, and says his problem with SR4 is that it’s much easier to succeed at really ludicrous things. Before the target number went up, so it got exponentially harder, but now it only gets linearly harder.

    He cites the following scenario: firing a sniper rifle at someone a mile away, in the dark, in windy conditions, while running.

    Under SR3 rules, the target would be so high, you’d never make it. Under SR4 rules, it’s quite likely to succeed, providing you have all the right gear.

    This is why I prefer the SR4 rules, as it makes things easier and more possible. I suppose there is also an element of reality vs fun, and when you’ve got magic trolls running round with katana…

    Posted April 9th, 2008 at 7:42 am
  26. What I was saying was that you rarely only roll 8 dice in SR4. My friend who plays a sniper tends to roll between 12 and 15 dice. So the odds of getting all 1’s and 2’s using 8 dice with a TN of 3 (SR3) are similar to the odds of not rolling any 5’s or 6’s with a TN of 5 and 12-15 dice (SR4).

    The thing about SR4, is that somethings become basically impossible. Extreme Range -3 dice, in the dark -6 dice, Attacker Running -2 dice (windy doesn’t apply). or -11 dice.

    vs a maxed out sniper. Agility 6(9) + Longarms(sniper rilfe) 6(8) + Smartlink + Vision Magnification = 22 dice.

    Net result.. you roll 11 dice.

    vs a normal guy with a Sniper Rifle: Agility 3 + Longarms 3 + Smartlink + Vision Mag = 11 dice

    Net results, you roll 0 dice. Unless you burn a point of edge to make a longshot…

    Posted April 9th, 2008 at 11:38 am
  27. spaceLem Says:

    Okay, so you’ve said that a maxed out sniper can make the shot, but a normal guy can’t (which I think makes sense in a sci-fi/fantasy world).

    Just for comparison, what would those same targets/dice pools be for SR3? Would we find that the maxed out sniper could no longer reliably make the shot?

    Posted April 9th, 2008 at 7:15 pm
  28. xaq Says:

    The target would be around a 12 for either of them. The awesome sniper would have 8 dice to roll, plus some combat pool. If he went all-out, he’d have 16 dice, giving him a better than 1-in-3 chance of scoring a hit by the law of averages. The normal guy with rifle would have only 3 dice plus combat pool, for a max of 6 dice total, which gives him a 1-in-6 chance on average to make the shot. This isn’t taking Karma re-rolls into account, however (which no longer exist in SR4). Karma re-rolls can double your chances of success, which makes the awesome sniper pretty much the same in either system. But in SR3, the normal guy at least has a CHANCE of success.

    In any case, it really comes down to how you run the system. Nobody runs a system without tweaking it to fit their own style. My point was only that I don’t see how SR4 is enough of an improvement to justify buying all-new books. It really isn’t, so I ain’t gonna be switching to it any time soon.

    Posted April 9th, 2008 at 11:05 pm
  29. Punstarr Says:

    Wow. You guys are such geeks… and I count myself proud to be amongst you. *Sniffles* Right freaking on.

    Incidentally, I love 4th Edition, even if the Knowledge Skills part of it is a bit confusing (especially for newer players who I can’t get across to what they are. They want a neat list to choose from). I’ve played SR since 2nd ed (circa 2053) and now in 2070, our old groups’ kids are now getting into the biz. I love this game! I love Weregeek, too. Thanks, Alina. πŸ™‚

    Posted April 9th, 2008 at 11:52 pm
  30. DTFarstar Says:

    Just to be picky, spaceLem, the maximum range on a sniper rifle in SR4 is 1,500 meters which rolls out to 4921.5 feet, so not quite a mile. That is literally the farthest the game will let you aim the bullet. So, aforementioned scenario wouldn’t work. Also, you can’t shoot someone you can’t see, so it would be a trick to see someone a mile away in dark windy conditions while you were running in the first place. People often seem to forget this little fact. Oh, your flatmate wouldn’t happen to know Cain from Dumpshock Forums would he?


    Posted April 10th, 2008 at 1:05 am
  31. Jenny Islander Says:


    Gag me with a Bohemian ear spoon.

    I had already decided to stick with 3.5 when I found out that the new rules made tieflings (demonic background, look like extras from the Mos Eisely Cantina, ooooooo edgy) PCs, but didn’t include gnomes (who had actual lives beyond being angsty and dangerous, plus (le gasp!) didn’t take themselves very seriously). Oh, and the massive cost of rebuying all those books had something to do with it. But if you can be a flippin’ part-dragon at first level, forget it. IMO the best games happen when characters become something incredible, not when they start out with lots of stats explaining how incredible they are. Especially when everybody else can be just as incredible in exactly the same way.

    Posted April 10th, 2008 at 4:34 am
  32. spaceLem Says:

    My flatmate goes by Lilt on Dumpshock forums. Don’t know if he knows Cain (will ask him if I run into him – I’m busy revising for exams at the moment, and he isn’t).

    Posted April 10th, 2008 at 6:46 am
  33. DTFarstar Says:

    Cain just repeatedly uses examples similar but even more implausible or impossible to exemplify what he sees as a broken system. I am DTFarstar there as well as here, but I don’t think I’ve met your flatmate. Apparently I troll the SR4 stuff and he hates it so that isn’t a surprise.


    Posted April 10th, 2008 at 9:15 am
  34. Ilex Says:

    After yesterdays session I officially stopped believing in probability! Seriously! There is no such thing as probability. It is just a conspiracy – Aliens or the Old Ones or something. … Making us by more dice – yes! That’s it.


    Posted April 10th, 2008 at 10:55 am
  35. If you don’t buy campaign books, we’re talking about 5 books total here.
    Street Magic

    That’s not a huge investment. I started my SR investments in 1st ed. I have just about every rule/equipment book (minus the SOTA books) as well as most of the campaign books for SR1,SR2, SR3, and SR4. Staying current in the rules is something I’ve taken for granted. Just like AD&D 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3.5th, and now 4th edition.

    Just because you can play a dragon or a Tiefling or whatever, doesn’t mean you have to. A lot of the stuff I’ve seen for 4th edition DND is pretty cool too. I look forward to wizards who can cast Magic Missile at will (but now have to make a to hit roll instead of autohitting), as well as things like healing surges, etc.

    Posted April 10th, 2008 at 12:24 pm
  36. spaceLem Says:

    Aargh, unWired? I haven’t seen it in my local game shop yet, and since it’s the only shop worth anything in Edinburgh…

    I’m going to have to poke someone.

    Posted April 11th, 2008 at 6:15 am
  37. Unwired isn’t out yet. It’s the last core sourcebook due out I think June/July (It’s presently in layout).

    Posted April 11th, 2008 at 11:15 am
  38. xaq Says:

    To summarize my feelings about SR4, I generally agree with what this guy says:

    Posted April 12th, 2008 at 12:06 am
  39. So basically, lack of organization in the rulebook is your biggest problem? Because that appeared to be the major complaint. And some of the complaints (why are the matrix and astral combat rules in the matrix and magic chapters) is old holdover from how prior editions of SR were organized.

    Posted April 14th, 2008 at 7:58 am
  40. xaq Says:

    No, I pretty much ignored everything he had to say about organization in the book… that stuff isn’t my concern. But I agree with everything he had to say about the game’s mechanical failings.

    Posted April 15th, 2008 at 1:32 am
  41. Rust Says:

    Wayne’s rant was funny, because when I first started playing the old WoD stuff I commented to my play group that it seemed to be just a rip off of the Shadowrun system.

    Posted May 2nd, 2008 at 12:42 pm