Shadowrun, Sixth World Seattle Edition: Easier to Play and Seattle-Based
I’ll be honest - as a game line developer, reprints are usually not the most exciting part of my job. They typically involve clerical work—assembling corrections found since the book was released, making sure everything is ready to go in the right place, and sending it off.
The newest printing of Shadowrun, Sixth World was different, because it provided more chances for fun and creativity than the normal reprint. This came in two ways: rules updates and Seattle content.
This immediately brings up a question—why is there Seattle content in the reprint? This came about as we had discussions in Catalyst about what we could do to make the reprint a little extra special. We settled on one critical condition right away: No matter what we did with the reprint, it couldn’t alter the page count of the core rules. Shadowrun, Sixth World has about a dozen books following it in the line, and all of them have page references to the core book. If we altered anything, then we’d be creating confusion with any new books we’d come out with (which would probably have references for the reprint) as well as old books (whose page references wouldn’t work for the reprint). That was clearly unacceptable. Whatever special elements we wanted to add, it had to keep the core pages unchanged.
Around the time we were thinking about the reprint, we were also working on the Seattle core book for Shadowrun, Sixth World, which will be called Emerald City. That meant my mind was thinking about Seattle in detail. One new feature of Emerald City is that the write-ups of each district have qualities for characters that came from those places to help people build characters with local flavor. From there, I thought about other content that could also provide Seattle flavor. The core rulebook has contacts for the player characters; we could add Seattle-specific contacts. We could also put in some plot hooks for stories that could involve those contacts. And, of course, we could add some gear and Seattle-specific rules, because what shadowrunner doesn’t like new toys?
What does a runner in Seattle need? Rain gear, for sure, so we added water-repellent coating, a ballistic hood, and a cloak. Seattle-area runners could also use some help navigating the massive sprawl, so we developed the mapmaster system to help runners find their way around even if they don’t have Matrix access.
We also thought about a way to represent the fact that in the Sixth World, Seattle is a shadowrunning capital, a place where the best of the best make their name. Special rules for Reputation and Heat help characters get the respect they deserve for running in such a challenging spot.
Then we thought about the flavor, art that would help convey the feel of the city. One of our favorite newer images went on the cover, of course. Then, to finish off the book, we included a new short story to depict the twists and turns of running in Seattle.
Altogether, that was sixteen pages of new content. We placed it in the back of the book so it wouldn’t interfere with pagination, and we were ready to go.
One thing in particular I was excited about was the chance to give this treatment to other cities of the Sixth World. Next time we need a reprint, we’ll pick a new city. Hong Kong, Berlin, Neo-Tokyo—there are plenty of possibilities. We’re looking forward to seeing what other parts of the Sixth World we get to explore, and how we can make special books for people who want rules for their favorite corner of the Sixth World.
Along with the Seattle content, we had rules updates. All sets of errata, including some not yet released, were put into this book. The newest set is a little different from previous ones, as it’s the result of more time spent with the game and some reflection about changes, we could make to improve the game without disrupting the overall feel and flow.
One examples of this is the change to hydraulic jacks. It’s a relatively minor thing, as hydraulic jacks are not the most common piece of gear runners use, but it shows some of the thinking that goes into these changes. Any time a runner is getting an advantage, we have to look at what to change to reflect that advantage. In the original book, hydraulic jacks cost 2,500 nuyen per point of rating, and their benefit is that they provide an extra die for each point of their rating. This is not an overly expensive item, and the cost is well under other cyberware that give dice pool bonuses, so it seems reasonable.
But then it gets complicated. The cost is actually higher - because no one can get by with one jack- you need two, one for each leg, or you’ll find yourself going sideways a lot. And second, a dice pool bonus is especially good for items used in opposed tests (like weapons) because every die helps, but they can be less useful on tests that are usually made against a threshold, as is the case with jumping. Shadowrun’s D6-based mechanic means each die hits one-third of the time, so each die is worth approximately 0.3 hits. In other words, if you got rating 1 hydraulic jacks, you would gain extra jumping distance one of of every three rolls.
That really doesn’t seem worth it. So, we made a simple change—the hydraulic jack doesn’t increase the dice pool by one, it lowers the threshold by one. That, in essence, gives the player a bonus hit every dice roll—three times better than the dice-pool bonus. The jacks will usually have an effect, which is appropriate if you decide to build something like that into your cyberlegs.
Those are just a few of the changes made to the book. I look forward to people having the chance to pay with a smoother version of an already-streamlined system, and I hope lots of people dive in and have fun in the shadows!
Jason M. Hardy is the Shadowrun line developer for Catalyst Game Labs and the designer of Our Cartoon President: The Game. He also developed the initial structure of MechWarrior: Destiny and co-developed a new rules system set to debut in 2022.