Shadowrun 5 - Low Level Character Creation

This article builds on the SR4 Karma system and further simplifies it to allow a low-level campaign, where everyone is mundane and the only guns are an Uzi V and an AK-97.

FIrst things first: Any item procured both at creation and later has a maximum availability of 4R. This has some surprising limits: Only the worst of weapons are available, a smartlink (8R) can only be procured as "used" (1.25x essence, -4 avail), and stacking functionality into glasses or helmets fits only one or two mods. Under this system, hack pack (deck) costs are 1/10th because otherwise deckers are not possible.

Attributes & Skills

Both are fixed with respect to values and only the distribution is open. Each character gets two attributes at 4, must take one at 2, the rest is 3. Edge is always 4 for humans and 3 for metahumans. If you want to allow non-mundanes (we don't), start with a Magic attribute of 1. In the game, increasing an attribute costs 5x new level, and only one attribute may ever be brought to 6, two on 5, and you may never raise the attribute that is on 2.

Each character gets one best skill at 4, six at 3, three at 2, and three at 1. This means that your best roll will have 4+4=8 dice, or slightly more if you choose a metahuman and the appropriate attribute+skill combination. Speaking of which: You get 15 Karma for qualities (as per the SR5 core rulebook, not the Karma system), but only 5 Karma if you play a metahuman. In the game, increasing skills cost 2x new level, and the skill level x10 must be lower than your reputation (= earned Karma points). So to increase your best skill to 5, you must have 50 reputation, and you can only have a skill at 12 with a reputation of 120. Specializations and skill groups cannot be used.

Knowledge or additional language skills are still at six skills at 4. They can be increased at 1x new level without any reputation limitations.

Connections, Equipment & Nuyen

You will have some powerless persons as friends and you will know some semi-powerful persons not very well. Towards this purpose, each character gets a total of 10/10 points to distribute on connections. The two values added may not exeed 6, i.e. a 5/1 or a 1/5 connection is the baddest min-maxing you can do.

Each character gets 15K for equipment and 1W6 x 100 Nuyen at the start of the game. The maximum availability of 4R limits getting key cyber/bioware done, and the low total means no wired reflexes for you. Even if you allow non-mundanes (we don't), having Magic 1 means no adept reflexes or reflex spell either, and now you have to fear the street samurai (we hadn't had that experience for years, it's fun).

In the game, availability of items should rise by 1 for each 30 reputation; so at reputation 120 you can already buy availability 8 items like wired reflexes, adrenaline pumps and bone lacing -- at level 1. Forbidden items should not be buyable, just findable. Every found item which is too good should mysteriously break down after a while (e.g. because high-level maintenance materials cannot be come by).

Cyberdecks cost only 1/10th and have a "precision" (i.e. limit) of 2+device rating. This means a starting decker can have a maximum of 3 successes on a roll, enough to gain write access but not enough for admin access (under a simplified 1-read, 2-write, 4-admin role rule). This also means if a camera (usually System 1, rolling two dice) gets two successes, write access is not possible. Trying again is Hacking with one dice less, so good luck with that.

There is no Karma to Nuyen conversion anymore. Adventures should yield more Karma than money to accentuate the poverty situtation of the characters.


This is just a test. A fun test, so far! It makes for a fast start and memorable moments of hiding. Expect tweaks anyway.

EOF: May 2016