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Downtime, advancement, and wealth

Everything about how characters advance, the things they do between missions, and the use of the Wealth die

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Sprawlrunners uses a fully abstracted resource system, replacing the traditional RPG structure of buying gear and tracking a currency balance with a mechanic called Logistic Points. This works well for some tables, but we found it a little jarring for the characters to have no reason to discuss or negotiate the in-game payments for the jobs they undertake.

The rules in this section consist of several linked systems that work together to nudge the feel of Sprawlrunners a little closer to how Shadowrun works, but still without requiring detailed tracking of the resources each character has to draw on.

  1. Advancement tracking is moved from an “advance after each mission” model to “earn karma after each mission, spend karma to advance.” This is very similar to how older editions of Savage Worlds used XP. This helps our table smooth out the rate of advancement, as we play short sessions – and sometimes long missions that span many sessions.
  2. In addition to their LP pool, each player has a Wealth Die (see SWADE pg 145). LPs are used to buy all illegal or quasi-legal gear, as before. The Wealth Die is used for other expenditures: bribing a bouncer, paying for a nice dinner, purchasing small/legal items, and so on.
  3. When a character completes a mission, they typically receive an in-game payment from whoever hired them. This payment is only used to determine how many Downtime Actions they get to take before their next mission.
  4. In between each mission, the players get to use a number of Downtime Actions. These actions can be used to obtain bonuses (including to the Wealth Die, LP, or bonus karma points), advance the character, heal up, and a variety of other useful things.

1 - Advancement and rewards

Character improvement and other goodies

There are two kinds of rewards my characters earn from a mission: karma and nuyen. Nuyen is used to fund downtime actions. Karma is used to Advance the characters.

I typically award karma at a rate of 3-5 per session, depending on how much the PCs get done, and also give out occasional bonus points for cool writeups of downtime actions and stuff like that. (Note: at-the-table cool stuff, like clever strategies, funny jokes, and excellent roleplaying will earn Bennies, not karma.)

Savage Worlds advances

Core SWADE has a simple structure for advancement: every so often, the character earns an advance. Each advance can be spend on a few things, such as improving traits or new Edges. Every three advances, the character also improves their rank, which unlocks new Edges and other abilities. Sprawlrunners doesn’t change this structure.

Advances are quite “large”, as it were. Each one is quite a significant power boost for a character. It’s slightly tricky to work out at what rate to hand them out, as our mission length varies quite a lot and our sessions are quite short.

For my campaign, to smooth over this, I made a small change and re-introduced karma from Shadowrun. Karma will be simply spent on advances at a straight 10:1 ratio (ie. one advance costs 10 karma.) This means I can have a slightly more granular mechanic to reward my PCs than just SWADE advances, but it doesn’t change any game balance.

Alternative houserules for when to advance

These rules are for discussion with my table and are not currently canon for our game.

The above advancement rules will take a charater from the rank of Seasoned (our starting level) to Legendary (SWADE’s maximum “level”) in about 9-12 months of play. There’s no level cap in SWADE; you can continue to advance forever, but your character does become more and more powerful. Eventually this will cause me problems - it’ll get harder and harder to create challenges without stretching the narrative - and we’ll have to talk about retirement.

There’s a few options we could take here:

  1. Ignore it, and either have your characters tear through opponents like tissue paper or lean further into pink mohawk and get bigger and bigger opponents, even if that starts to get silly.
  2. Retire characters at some appropriate point after Legendary rank.
  3. Slow the rate of progression down somehow to delay when we have to do the above.

Some ideas for how to slow stuff down:

  1. Simply award less karma across the board.
  2. Continue to award karma at the same rate but change the amount of karma it takes to advance on a curve as you rank up. So at Novice, it might be 5 karma to advance; at Seasoned, 10; but then it goes up to 15 and 20 points as you progress through Veteran, Heroic and Legendary.
  3. Keep karma and advances the same, but require more advances to go through the ranks. See below for an example. As stuff like Edges and your LP budget (etc etc) are gated behind your rank, this is something of a compromise; you get advances at the same rate, but it takes longer to get access to the really powerful edges.
  4. Some combination of (2) and (3).

Example of (3): normal SWADE uses four advances for each rank. Here, we make it only three advances to get from Novice to Seasoned, then +1 advances per rank after that; so it’s four for Seasoned to Veteran, five for Veteran to Heroic, etc. This doesn’t produce a huge change but is just an example. Obviously we could further change these however we want.

Number of advances Normal SWADE rank Possible houserule
0 Novice Novice
1 Novice Novice
2 Novice Novice
3 Novice Seasoned
4 Seasoned Seasoned
5 Seasoned Seasoned
6 Seasoned Seasoned
7 Seasoned Veteran
8 Veteran Veteran
9 Veteran Veteran
10 Veteran Veteran
11 Veteran Veteran
12 Heroic Heroic
13 Heroic Heroic
14 Heroic Heroic
15 Heroic Heroic
16 Legendary Heroic
17 Legendary Heroic
18 Legndary Legendary

2 - Using the Wealth Die in Sprawlrunners

Handling money for incidental purchases without having to keep track of a bank balance

Your character’s gear is bought with Logistic Points, as per Sprawlrunners core rules. LP represents not just the cost of acquiring any old gear, but the cost of acquiring gear suitable for crime: untraceable, scrubbed of all hidden RFID tags, no inconvenient ballistics records on file, no background checks carried out, etc.

Occasionally, though, your character might need to pay for other things. Incidental lifestyle expenses in the game (eg. if Mr Johnson stiffs you on the restaurant bill); bribes to get past a snooty nightclub bouncer; spreading some cash around to grease the wheels during legwork.

For these, we use the SWADE wealth mechanic (pg 145.) This abstracts the amount of liquid cash your character has available to a SWADE-style die type.

Starting wealth

At the start of each mission, Wealth resets to your lifestyle’s die type. For most characters, that’s a d6. If you have the Poverty hindrance, it’s a d4. The Rich edge makes it a d8; the Filthy Rich edge a d10.

Trolls starting wealth die is one step worse than usual, because of their increased lifestyle costs. A troll with Poverty rolls d4-2.

Downtime actions such as Side Hustle or Stash Nuyen can provide short-term bonuses or reductions to your Wealth Die.

Spending Wealth

When the time comes to spend money, I’ll tell you what to roll, based on how much you’re spending and what your current Wealth die is:

  • If it’s a trivial amount, you succeed automatically. (If you make a lot of trivial purchases in a row, I might eventually call for a Wealth check on one, just to represent the accumulated expenditure.)
  • If it’s too large an amount, you simply cannot afford it. Sorry chummer.
  • If it’s somewhere in the middle, roll a Wealth check. If it succeeds, you can afford the expense, but your Wealth die goes down a step. If you get a Raise, you can afford it and you don’t need to reduce your Wealth die.

Note that this might mean that when (say) splitting a restaurant bill, some of you are rolling to see if you can afford it, and others aren’t. It sucks to be poor.

Example Wealth roll modifiers for Shadowrun currency types

As a rough guide, you can translate Shadowrun monetary amounts into Wealth roll penalties as follows:

Nuyen Modifier
<100¥ No roll
<250¥ 0
<500¥ -1
<1000¥ -2
<2000¥ -3
<5k¥ -4
<10k¥ -6

3 - Downtime Actions

Things to do between crime sprees

When your characters complete missions, they will typically be paid for this (usually in nuyen.) These nuyen are only used to fund a number of Downtime Actions you can take before the next mission begins. You do not use nuyen to buy things directly; that is handled by your character’s LP pool and Wealth Die.

Every 10k¥ you earn from a run buys you enough time off afterward to complete one of the below Downtime Actions. (If this seems like a high figure to you, remember that this is the “gross” pay your character receives. A substantial amount is lost in money laundering, or spent on maintaining your contacts, paying your rent, buying food and other essentials, etc etc.)

A note for my players: you can roll Savage Worlds style dice in Slack with the syntax /roll 1d6x + 1d8x. Obviously, change the d8 for whatever your skill is. The x will make the dice exploding. This can be used for any downtime dice-rolling, as a more convenient option to Foundry.

Advance

Spend 10 points of karma to advance, as per usual SWADE rules. If you have multiple advances to take, you can take them all as one action; you don’t need to spend one action for each advance.

You can use karma earned via Hang Out or Train in the same downtime phase to advance. For example, suppose you earn 19 points of karma on a run, and have three downtime actions. You can use the first action to Train to get to 20 points of karma, and the second to Advance twice. Then you still have the third downtime action to use as you please.

Advancing mid-mission

If a character accumulates enough karma to advance during a mission, and gets some suitable amount of downtime (like a good night’s rest), the GM may allow them to perform the Advance outside of the Downtime Action. This helps to spread out the rate of advancement when doing longer missions that span multiple sessions.

Attune spirits

An attuned summoner mage with the Initiate edge can journey to the metaplanes, explore a new metaplane, and learn its True Name. From then on, they can summon spirits from that metaplane whenever they please. You can do this action multiple times in a single downtime phase if you want.

See summoning traditions.

Carouse

Your character decides to blow off some steam and celebrate still being alive. They spend an extended period of time indulging whatever hedonistic vices most appeal to them.

Take a one-step penalty to your wealth die type die for the next session.

There is no mechanical game benefit to carousing. This is deliberate ;)

Hang out

You spend some quality time with your nearest and dearest. Write a scene telling us what you do together, and take a free point of karma for your trouble! (If you don’t want to write a scene, see Train below.)

Lie low

If you attracted an unusually breathtaking amount of attention on the last run and so have a Heat Die, you will need to skip town for a while until the heat dies down. This takes one of your actions and clears the Heat Die. In extraordinary circumstances (a Heat Die of d10 or more), it might even take multiple actions. Be less obvious next time!

Long-term project

Maybe your character is engaged in some sort of longer-term thing: researching something, making something, trying to create a spell… anything we’ve agreed upon.

We’ll handle this a bit like a Dramatic Task in SWADE or a Clock in Blades in the Dark. You’ll have some fixed number of segments to complete - you might or might not know how many, depending on what you are up to. For a single downtime action, you can make a Trait Test using any appropriate skill to work on the project.

Test success will tick a segment on the progress clock. Each Raise will tick a further segment. On a critical failure, you lose one segment. You cannot spend Bennies on this roll.

Network

You spend time working your contacts, buttering them up, making sure the next time you come calling they’ll have the good stuff set aside for you.

Roll a standard Networking test (Persuasion or Intimidate vs target number 4). If you succeed, take bonus LP on the next mission according to the table below. For each raise, take a further bonus LP (again, as per below). You cannot spend Bennies on this roll.

No penalty for failures, but you can’t try again; people have had enough of you for now. You can only do Network once in a given downtime.

Character rank LP bonus on Success LP bonus on Raise
Novice +1 0
Seasoned +2 0
Veteran +3 +1
Heroic +4 +1
Legendary +5 +2

Rest & recuperation

Each Healing roll takes one downtime action. (See SWADE pg 96 for full details.) Roll Vigor; success clears a Wound, each raise clears another Wound.

Other characters can Support this roll if they also spend a downtime action. This will usually involve them rolling their Healing skill, for obvious reasons.

Characters with the Fast Healer Edge can make two Healing rolls for a single downtime action.

Stash nuyen

Your character is saving up for a rainy day. Retirement? Paying off their dear old ma’s mortgage? Up to you. They spend their downtime living thriftily so they can divert as much money as possible to their savings. If you want to work to a specific goal, let me know what it is, and we’ll set up a clock to track progress towards it.

Take a one-step penalty to your wealth die type for the next session. You can only Stash Nuyen once per downtime.

Side hustle

Shadowrunner’s skill sets can be used for more mundane activities than the epic, daring heists we play out at the table. Riggers can do courier work; streetsams can work as bodyguards; mages can provide protection services; deckers can skim low-security systems for paydata.

If your character spends their downtime on a side hustle, they can earn a little extra cash in their pocket. Take a one-off bonus to their wealth die type for the next mission.

You can only do Side Hustle once in a given downtime.

Train

You spend time honing your skills. Take a free point of karma.