Why should you play Shadowrun 4e?
Editor notes & links to resources
- Note that the “20th Anniversary Edition” version of the Fourth Edition rules is essentially “the original rules plus errata and fixes”. You should definitely pick the 20A version.
- A comprehensive chargen tool for 4e, Chummer, is still available here. It’s no longer updated but should work fine.
I’m going to keep this general… I don’t see the benefit of arguing about specific skills or anything. So…
One of the things I love about future fiction is that it tends to heavily reflect the time in which it was written. Old Atomic Age fiction is fascinating to read as a person of this time and place.
Cyberpunk, and hence Shadowrun, is heavily rooted in the 80s. The hair, the punk, the neon, the dark dystopian future full of acid rain and big hair.
But it’s not the 80s any more. It’s inevitable that Shadowrun updates to the times. It was getting rather silly that the cyberpunk future didn’t have wireless everything. We needed to capture the zeitgeist of our time. Cellphones are cheap and ubiquitous. Megacorporations know more about our shopping habits than we do. The problems with end stage capitalism are staring us in the face. And we can keep the neon, the hair, the ‘tude, etc.
So, we update from 3e and we get wireless, AR, cheap computers, cheap drones. And a certain “Apple-ification” of tech, yes.
Shadowrun had a problem. It was the “Everyone go get pizza, it’s time to do the decker minigame.”
4e makes everything wireless and that gives the hackers stuff to do in combat. Hack the opposition’s ‘links, sign them up for spam, turn off their firewall, mess with their drones, listen in on their coms, disable their smartguns, etc etc etc. Judicious use of wifi blocking walls made it necessary for the hacker to come along for the ride too.
Wireless and cheap computers allowed people to “rig” on the cheap. Nothing beats a dedicated rigger, but the Street Samurai could keep a couple of cheap drones for peeking around corners or watching the escape route. Everyone could, and that is futuristic and good.
Virtual Reality is so…. Lawnmower man. 80s. AR is a more up to date and believable interface that lets you check out that hot elf chica’s social media profile on the dance floor, which fits the zeitgeist better.
I get that many people like the tone of earlier editions, but tone is largely set at the table anyway. You can have neon and mohawks and punk with 4e rules. You just also get ubiquitous cell phones and network connectivity.
4e also did away with a priority character generation system. I think the point buy allows for more nuanced characters. I think priority gen forces stereotypical characters.
I liked the metaplots. I thought the Brackhaven political stuff was interesting and plausible, for example.
I think the 4e matrix rules make sense. I’m a techie by trade. I get the 4e matrix rules. They make sense. They’re not complex, but they ARE…. there’s a lot. Trying to explain all of that to my friends felt like I was trying to give them a networking certification. I get why 5e tried to simplify the matrix rules. I just think they made it worse….
So why not play 5e? 6e?
The editing is atrocious. The 20A book had all the splat books in the main book index. You could look up anything from all the books in one spot. That is awesome. (So does the 5e Master Index Edition, to be fair —Editor)
I find 5e and 6e hard to read. Again, the editing sucks. There’s too much gratuitous filler text, and they changed the background color to blacks and reds. Ooooohhhh. Edgy! Ugh. The language took a tone change too. I liked the “drek” of previous editions. Really though, after the beautiful editing and cross referencing available in the 20A book, reading 5e and 6e makes me angry… Why? Why’d they have to mess up something so basic? It makes it so hard for new people…
I already have all the splat books, and 5e/6e gave me gratuitous filler text instead of… gear, weapons, adept powers, etc that I had taken for granted as being “Standard”. I don’t appreciate being charged for something I already have.
The 4e Seattle book is awesome. I feel like 5e and 6e tried to go away from Seattle, but never released a good meaty book on other locations, so everything got kind of…. Fuzzy… for locations. That might just be me though.
They brought back priority generation after 4e. The standard priority gen is… well, everyone uses alternatives for a reason. Try making a troll decker. You need high priority for Troll, you need high priority for money to afford the stupid expensive cyberdeck, and you still need stats and skills. It doesn’t work. So people use alternatives. Also, it felt like a naked attempt at “We’re going retro!” without a good reason to do so.
Cyberdecks are expensive again. Some cyberware got more expensive too. Why? Tech gets cheaper, not more expensive with time! It beggars belief. It flies against the zeitgeist of the time. And again, it felt like a naked attempt at “Look at us, we’re going retro!” without a good reason to do so.
I hate 5e limits. I loathe them. If they’re an attempt to cut down on power gaming munchkins, they suck at it and instead of saddling every single roll in the game with something to check, they could have just imposed limits on dice pools ONE time at character generation. If they’re an attempt at “realism”? They’re not needed, and they saddle every single roll in the game with something to check. They’re no benefit, high cost.
I don’t like the 5e or 6e metaplots. They feel recycled. Another crash! Another Chicago, but with nanites this time! And 6e feels even worse.
I don’t like the matrix Foundation runs. If I want to play Wild West or Fantasy or whatever, I’ll go play a different game.
I don’t like the matrix rules. They don’t make SENSE, from a technical standpoint. They brought in moveable matrix stats, which is just more headache to keep track of. The matrix needed a simplification, not a completely new ruleset with completely new problems.
I loved the 5e idea of grids. It brought in the Net Neutrality issues of our time. And then they did away with them….
4e20A. Better than 1-3e because of more believable tech, no pizza run/matrix time, better character generation.
4e20A. Better than 5-6e because the editing doesn’t SUUUUUUCK, better character generation, more believable tech, no limits, and the plot isn’t recycled. Again.