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Shadowrun 5 for Hero Lab Update

This update is from Mathias, our Lead Data File Author for the Shadowrun 5 game system.

As I’m working on the Shadowrun 5th edition data files, I realize how great it is to be starting from an existing body of work – the SR4 data files.

In terms of the programming required, most of the differences between 4th and 5th editions are in dozens of small details, rather than in the broad strokes.  For example, the bonus added to skills by specializations hasn’t changed, but what has changed is the number of those specializations you’re allowed to take. Because of how Hero Lab is designed, we can start with these old mechanics and tweak them to work with the new rules, which has cut months off the time it’s taking us to develop the new data files. The framework we build for SR4 continues to work, and we’re finding and tweaking the many things that need to change within that.

Ammo trackingFor example, one of the larger projects in Shadowrun 4 that will work very similarly in SR5 was the ammo tracking and usage system.  Once you’ve purchased a weapon in Shadowrun that uses ammo, you’ll find that weapon on the In-Play tab. There, you can simply click a button to remove three units of ammo from the currently loaded clip to account for the burst you just fired, or press the 1 shot button for single shots, or choose to use a specified amount of ammo for other situations.

Behind the scenes, even ammo is not simple. Characters will often carry around multiple types of ammo – cheap regular ammunition for day-in-day-out use, armor-piercing ammo for use on heavily armored targets, and other special-purpose ammunition for all sorts of circumstances.  There are also weapons like the Gauss rifles first introduced in Arsenal – those require both ammunition and batteries, and every time the user clicks the button to fire a shot from that weapon, Hero Lab needs to both remove a slug and remove the correct number of charges from the battery.

There are many different laser weapons that all share the same batteries, but different weapons use different numbers of charges from those batteries for each shot they fire, so we need to record that, as well as allow you to unplug your laser rifle from your backpack battery, plug in your laser pistol, and have it recalculate the number of shots the new weapon can get from that same partially charged battery.  Hundreds of lines of scripting code are dedicated to handling all the various ways weapons in Shadowrun can use ammunition. The good news is that all this logic continues to work for SR5, and can be tweaked and expanded as Catalyst releases content for the new game system.

One major difference between 4th and 5th edition is of course the character creation process.  SR4 gave you a pool of Build Points that were used to purchase all the attributes, skills, qualities, etc. that made up your character.  The Runner’s Companion book then included an optional priority-based system for character creation, where you have several categories, and rank those categories in order, and get a certain amount of resources to spend on the things within that category depending on the priority you assigned to that category.  SR5 uses a similar system, but with enough big differences that it’s taking a while to get everything working right.

In SR5, you also have a small pool of points (called Karma in this edition) to add on to the resources you’ve acquired from each category.  There are also some interesting interactions between categories that add more complexity – for example, a Magician who takes Magic Priority B gets their Magic attribute increased to 4 for free, and gets two rating 4 skills for free, but an Adept who takes Magic Priority B gets their Magic attribute increased to 6 for free, and gets any one skill at rating 4 for free (and has fewer restrictions on which skill can be chosen as the free skill!). Suddenly, priorities don’t look as simple as they used to…

InherentLimitsWe’re not currently happy with the way that the user selects which category is assigned which priority, so we don’t want to show that off yet, since it’s very likely that we’ll change the way it looks before release.  One thing I can show you now is how we’re displaying one of the new mechanics added in this edition – the Inherent Limits that apply to rolls in 5th edition (see the image beside this paragraph).

We’re excited to be working on Shadowrun 5th edition, and hope you’re looking forward to using it in your games!

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