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Author Topic: [SR5] Priority Generation: Math You Really Ought to Know  (Read 2537 times)


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Plenty of outstanding players will tell you that it’s the story of a character, not their stats, that matters most. And while that may be true, Shadowrun - for better or worse - rewards mathematically strong character builds and punishes poor ones. Consider that an efficiently-built 0-karma character can sit at a table (say at a Missions event) with a sub-optimally built prime runner (with 150 karma under his/her belt) with the same archetype and have a higher roll for every test by virtue of their build. That’s seasons worth of hard work negated by lack of karma efficiency.

Thus the purpose of this thread is not to debate the merits of building your characters stats first and then developing a story to fit as opposed to vice versa - but instead to expose the math behind an efficiently-built character, and identify the patterns and processes that lead to such.

1. General Principles:
Karma Efficiency - We evaluate the relative strengths of competing builds by breaking down the karma value of benefits a character has, and then find the minimum karma cost necessary to achieve those benefits. For example, a post-gen skill specialization in First Aid costs 7 karma and adds 2 dice to the relevant tests, but a rating 6 MedKit costs 1500 NuYen (where 2000 is equivalent to 1 karma), making the MedKit a more karma efficient way to boost your First Aid pool (and perhaps the most karma efficient purchase in SR5!)

That said, Karma Efficiency isn't always optimal - any time a higher dice pool would gain/save you additional karma or nuyen, notably combat for instance. Ultimately, dying in combat costs ALL of the karma you've gained, and spending an Edge to be Not Dead Yet is less efficient than whatever karma + nuyen you could have spent on Attributes/Skills/Gear to not die in the first place.

Buy pools, not skills - Regardless of how you build your character, when you roll for a test all that matters is the (dice pool) & [Limit], and if we didn't find more efficient paths than Attribute:6 + Skill:12 we'd almost never get a pool of 18+.

Tall-stacks - Because character advancement in Shadowrun costs karma based on the "Desired Rating", the same stats can be more efficiently achieved by starting with a few high values (tall stacks) rather than many moderate ones (wide stacks).
Ie, to reach Reaction 5 Intuition 5, it's more karma efficient to Buy Reaction 5 (0 karma to raise to 5) Intuition 1 (10+15+20+25 = 70 karma to raise to 5) at character creation than it is to buy Reaction 3 (20+25 = 45 karma to raise to 5) Intuition 3 (45 more) with the same 4 Attribute points.

Attribute Synergy - One way to diversify your character's talents is to take an Attribute you already have a tall-stack in and put a point or two into a non-primary skill that uses that same attribute. Have a ton of Logic for hacking? Put a point in First Aid, and take advantage of that existing tall-stack by utilizing it in a new dice pool.

2. Priorities:
In theory Priority speeds up creation by restricting decisions to apples to apples choices. That is to say, once I know my ABCDE, I am only comparing STR with CHA, Armor with Ammo, Persuasion with Perception. That said, there's a weird cognitive gap where moving each Priority category up or down changes the relative cost/value of other categories. So, where with BP I might ask, “Would I benefit more from another specialization or a better CommLink?”, with Priority I might ask myself, "Okay, but if I'm a mystic adept, can I still be an elf?". Also, by contrast to BP it’s more difficult to spread yourself evenly between areas, tending instead to result in specialists due to the fact that if your Magic and Attributes are great you're going to have to suck at Skills and Resources, etc.

How do I get by with only Rating: E?
  • Magic: E - Best option for non-magic users
  • Resources: E - Bare min gear: Good for karma-starved runners. Can supplement with starting karma
  • Skills: E - Mediocre for NuYen-starved characters; a few 6's, likely no specializations, need 1-shots with karma.
  • Metatype: E - Low-Edge Human
  • Attributes: E - Sad times.
As a consequence, unlike SR4A where you'd often want to hone in on your character from the top-down, in SR5 there's an argument for figuring out which E Priority you can best live with and going from there.

Post-creation karma efficiency by category:

















For each category the first number is the post-creation karma points that Priority rating can be worth, if allocated for optimal karma. The number in parenthesis is the karma points lost by dropping to the next highest Priority (which is to say that after character creation it would cost 60 to increase to the same Attributes and Skills of Magic:A from Magic: B). That matters because you can, for each Priority level, choose the category with the highest karma lost to find a more karma efficient build.

So, why not always just go Skills:A > Magic:B > Metatype: C > Attributes: D > Resources: E?
Well, Trolls can’t go Meta (C), not all concepts need any Magic, and some archetypes need a ton of Resources. ‘Wared adepts DO want Magic, but know they’re not getting the value of a max Magic rating after Essence loss. Not to mention the fact that some large karma equivalences (particularly Skill Groups) aren't dice-efficient, and some small karma investments result in significant dice pool increases (1-2 karma of NuYen to purchase Vision / Audio enhancements, for instance).

But while there may not be 1 Golden Priority order, you can use the relative karma value for each rating to help optimize your builds. Example: Morningstar the Street Sam is an Ork (C) who is not magically active (E), and needs Resources: A for ‘wares. Using the table, he can still determine that going Skills: B (vs 116+62 less for D), and Attributes: D (vs 70+35 more for B) will gain him ~73 karma over doing it the other way around.

3. Magic/Resonance:
Magic should generally be the first Priority you determine.
  • If you aren’t planning on playing a magic user, go ahead and set this to E, effectively bumping every subsequent category up one, and move on to Metatype. You'll likely want NuYen to augment your dice pools with ware instead.
  • If you ARE planning on playing a magic user, but you’re NOT going to take any bio/cyber-ware on the runner, than you probably want Magic to be relatively high (Trolls might have to settle for C). Mystic Adepts tend to prefer this path. Remember that you can use points from your Metatype Priority to get to Magic 6, albeit potentially at the expense of Edge.
  • If you ARE planning on taking ‘ware at some point (particularly for Physical Adepts), there may be an argument to be made for taking Magic as a lower Priority, due to the way Magic Loss from Essence Loss works.
Magic Loss - Because purchasing magic is based on the desired rating, and essence loss due to cyber/bioware actually reduces your current magic rating, dual-natured characters who desire ‘ware can benefit from lower than normal magic Priority, then purchasing the ware and suffering essence loss, so that they may spend their karma on the (now) lowered desired attribute rating for magic. Just don’t let your Maximum Magic (base 6) be lowered to 0 or you can no longer purchase the Magic attribute or use magical active skills!

Technomancers While not technically magic users, Resonance users are handled the same way for the purposes of character creation. Complex Forms are no longer particularly expensive to purchase after creation, so you’ll just want to ensure you get Resonance of 6 and compiling + registering to 6 as well, whether it be through the Magic category or Metatype and Skills.

Magic Users:
Adepts are a solid choice, because (unlike Mystic Adepts) when they increase their Magic, they gain power points, facilitating the learning of Metamagic Feats at Initiation. Their strengths vs ‘Ware generally lie in skill-boosting and affecting the astral plane, but for some combat applications there are several Cyber and especially Bio -ware options are more efficient per point of Essence, and there’s nothing that says you can’t do both.

Mystic Adepts combine adept powers with the Magician’s ability to cast spells and summon spirits. In exchange, they are unable to astrally project (leaving the immediate area of their body). At character creation they can (and should) purchase power points up to their Magic rating for 5 karma each, but are unable to purchase more after creation except in lieu of a Metamagic Feat upon Initiation. This is why they prefer to take Magic at max and must weigh Essence loss more carefully than Physical Adepts.

Magicians are on the other end of the spectrum from Adepts, and focus on Spell-casting and Spirit Summoning, and their increase reflexes spell is probably the most efficient initiative tool in the game. While not as resilient as Mystic Adept based casters, they have the ability to project astrally and leave their bodies to Spy/Investigate/Fight.

Aspected Magicians at Priority (C) actually lose out on karma from spells vs full Magicians, and at Priority (B) the 25 bonus karma worth of Skill Groups (effectively only 10 if you dismiss Banishing / Ritual Spellcasting) isn’t worth sacrificing the versatility of full Magicians over. Even at Priority (D) you’d generally do better to adjust priorities, go full Magician, and maybe take one less Edge to boost your Magic instead.

Spell casters must choose a magical tradition. Traditions primarily dictate which secondary Attribute (in addition to Willpower) they use to soak drain. Possession traditions, while sporting two of the best sets of spirits in Vodou / Psionic, are not permitted in Missions, so you can omit those from your search. You'll also want to look at which 5 spirits you can summon, or more specifically, which spirit powers you desire access to. Considering that Spirit of Man's (Innate Spell) power can either act as a 0-karma Sustaining Focus or double your combat spells per turn, I'd suggest making that your top priority, followed by looking at the expanded spirits in Street Grimoire for access to Magic Guard and other new powers.
  • Logic traditions can benefit from a Cerebral Booster or drugs to increase their Drain Attribute, and lends itself well to a variety of technical skills. Of the Logic Traditions, Zoroastrian (SGp52) offers Spirits of Man and Plant Spirits.
  • Charisma traditions take advantage of the increased Charisma of Elves and allow casters to double as Negotiators. For Charisma Traditions, Obeah (HTp129) offers Man/Task/Guidance Spirits, and Shinto (SGp48) offers Plant/Man/Air
  • Intuition suits combat-focused magicians / mystic with its high Initiative. You may boost your drain attribute by 2 with a Cerebellum Booster. Chaos Magic (SGp44) offers access to Spirits of Man, but sadly no expanded spirits.
Mentor Spirits:
For less karma at char-gen than a Specialization, Mentor Spirits are a pretty good value to most magic users - each gives a 2 dice bonus as well as either a second bonus to a magic skill roll (Magicians) or free adept power (Physical Adept). Mystic Adepts choose between the two. Each comes with a disadvantage to be played around, but many roll Composure to resist, which isn't so bad for Charisma Traditions (although even they still need 15d6 to get 3 consistently).

Depending on your choice of spells, it's not unlikely that you'll use Manipulation spells more often than any other school. That said, Combat and Health spells tend to benefit most from high force / high pool casting, so they'd benefit most from a +2, if perhaps not as often. Here are my top recommendations:
  • (Combat Spells) Dragonslayer > Wise Warrior > Wolf/Shark (Shark ranks higher for Unarmed Mystic Adepts)
  • (Health Spells) Bear has the better bonus, but Dolphin (HSp43) has an easier-to-play Disadvantage.
  • (Manipulation) Raven > Raccoon (HSp46) > Fire-bringer > Monkey (HTp137)
  • (Summon: Spirits of Man) Alligator (HTp137)
Choose based on the adept powers you'll be using. The spirits below are worth the most power points.
  • Oracle (SGp200) - 1 PP of Astral Perception, bonus to Arcana (for Initiation) is solid for Intuition tradition Mystic Adepts.
  • Peacemaker (SGp200) - 1PP of Enhanced Perception, bonus to Negotiation.
  • Raven - 1.5 PP between Traceless Walk and Voice Control 1 and +2 bonus to Con is solid for infiltration specialists..
Alternately, you could choose for the cheap +2 skill bonus. Some of the best for skills would be:
  • Cat - +2 Gymnastics (for dodging) or Infiltration are both good
  • Dragonslayer/Raven - Raven grants +2 con and Dragonslayer offers +2 to any social skill.
  • Eagle - +2 Perception is pretty good, if you also use Astral / Matrix.
  • Mountain- +2 Counter-spelling is pretty good.
  • Rat - +2 to Sneaking is pretty good as well
  • Shark - Killing Hands + Unarmed Combat is pretty good for Unarmed Adepts.
Recommended Spells:
Since spells all cost the same Karma, karma efficiency doesn't directly apply here. Instead we want to look for spells that come up often, open up approaches not available to non-casters, and (when in combat) hit multiple targets in a single turn. And be careful of augmenting spells that must be sustained while taking other actions, as their bonus is often mitigated by the -2 sustaining penalty.
  • Trid Phantasm -This is perhaps the best example of a spell that can turn a "no way out" into a "no problem", and no-one but the magic-users can access this approach. Physical Mask can be substituted for lower drain and simpler rules.
  • Levitate - Same as above. The difference between being able to fly or not is dramatic
  • Heal - The only way to heal wounds after First Aid but before Medicine
  • Influence - in 5E, most of the subtle Mental Manipulation spells are gone, but this survives
  • Combat Spell - One of the following:
    • Blast (AOE) / Clout (Single) - Probably the best general combat spell. Indirect, so it adds Force to damage, and while it allows them a roll to resist, it's at -Force AP. It's worth considering that while you can't revive a dead foe, killing a sleeping one is trivial
    • Chill (Single; SSPp16) - for individual targets whose armor is too high for blast, this improved Stun Bolt also reduces their initiative score
    • Ball Lightning (AOE) - Does Physical Damage, but also reduces initiative score for targets hit.
    • Foreboding (AOE. SGp112) - Add a -1 / net hit penalty to all targets in area (friendly and enemy).
    • Mana Net (AOE. SGp114) - Reduce all targets' Agilities by 1 per net hit, binding them if it's reduced to 0.
    • Petrify (Single, SSPp21) - Temporarily turn a subject to stone.
Keep in mind that for spells you want to cast at high force with high drain, like combat spells, you'd do well to buy a Fetish (SGp212) to reduce the drain.

Close Runners Up:
  • Increase Reflexes - The most Essence-friendly initiative booster; you'll probably want this for combat
  • Improved Invisibility - The poor-mages stealth. While really useful, you can get by with the Concealment Spirit Power
  • Magic Fingers - That's telekinesis, Chummer
  • Clairvoyance - Knowing which corner they're waiting behind can be VERY helpful.
  • Shapechange (SGp118) - Transform into any critter, increasing Physical Attributes in the bargain, & can still cast spells
« Last Edit: (21:21:57/04-20-17) by gargaM0NK »


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Recommended Adept Powers:
  • Improved Ability - This is the main edge Adepts have over Street Samurai, and it works for almost every non-magical skill.
  • Cool Resolve (SGp170) - Better than Improved (Social Ability) if you regularly use more than 2 Social Skills.
  • Authoritative Tone (SGp169) - Better than Improved (Social Ability) if you initiate the test, Max: 3 levels.
  • Facial Sculpt (SGp171) - is effectively Improved Ability: Disguise for half the Power Point cost.
  • Nimble Fingers (SGp173) - Effectively cheaper Improved: Palming & reduces reloading to free action.
  • Voice Control - Improved Impersonate + Improved Social Potential in 1.
  • Enhanced Perception - Better than Improved Ability: Perception for characters who use Astral or Matrix Perception tests.
  • Astral Perception - Good for Magician-focused Mystic Adepts or fighting against Spirits.
  • Killing Hands - A classic, un-disarmable magic weapon, and what makes Adepts strong against spirits.
  • Elemental Strike/Weapon (SGp170) - Electricity is a solid add-on for killing hands / weapon foci, adding dice pool penalties and reducing the target's Initiative.
  • Critical Strike - Decent for, say, a Monowhip Adept. Less so for Strength-Based Melee weapons.
  • Improved Physical Attribute - Generally better than Attribute Boost due to Drain and having it always on. Conversely, Muscle Augmentation and Toner are more Essence vs Power Point Efficient, although Improved Body is an interesting application.
  • Improved Potential/Accuracy - might be worth the points for Physical or Accuracy. See Limits.
  • Improved Reflexes is good, but Synaptic Boosters gives the same bonus as level 3 for 2.5 Essence instead of 3.5 power points, or you could instead take....
  • Heightened Concern - Excellent for Mystic Adepts. Can also be combined with Living Focus for Physical Adepts to sustain the Improved Reflexes spell at 1.5 Essence instead of taking Improved Reflexes 3 at 3.5.
  • Combat Sense - Not Amazing, but generally better than Mystic Armor for defense.
Adept Ways:
Most ways essentially allow you to pay 20 karma for extra power points. You'll want to choose based on your selection of Adept powers, with more benefit from ways that apply discounted Power Point cost to more expensive powers like Astral Perception, Cool Resolve, Improved Physical Attribute.. Two stand out above the rest by granting you complimentary Mentor Spirit bonuses, effectively giving you 25 karma worth of quality for 20 karma. Burnout's way is completely different, costing only 15 karma, and essentially facilitating 'Wared adepts by reducing the essence cost of all augmentations as though they were Alpha Grade.
  • Spiritual Way (SGp178) - Astral Perception, Improved Physical Attribute/Cool Resolve, Free Mentor Spirit
  • Beast's Way (SGp176) - Astral Perception, Improved Physical Attribute/Cool Resolve, Free Mentor Spirit
  • Burnout's Way (SGp177) - Use the essence discount for 'ware, then Raise your (now lowered) Magic later.

4. Metatype:
Choice of metatype affects 3 things, systematically: Starting Attribute values, Special Attribute points to allocate, and Natural Maximum Attributes - which will have an effect on the relative value of the Attribute priority. So you’ll want to keep your Attribute priority in mind when deciding on one.

  • Humans have only average maximum attributes, but require the lowest prioritization and get the highest special attribute points to spend of any race. Their bonus edge makes them worth 10+ Karma from starting attributes.
  • Elves’ extra point of Agility and 2 points of Charisma are worth 35+ Karma and makes them proficient Magical, Social, and Physical roles. They get almost as many special attribute points as the Humans, but the require at least a Metatype: D priority. The Nocturna (RFp95) variant have the highest Agility, and the Wakyambi (RFp96) have the highest Intuition.
  • Dwarves' 2 Body, 2 Strength, and 1 Willpower net them 60+ Karma at creation and make them decent close-ranged combatants as well as capable Technomancers (especially Gnomes - RFp88) and Magicians of any Tradition. Just don’t forget their increased lifestyle costs.
  • Orks’ 2 Strength and 3 Body are worth 70+ Karma and make them the best Close Combatants barring Trolls (albeit without the reach in exchange for no cost multiplier), with Satyr’s (RFp92) bringing high Reaction.
  • Trolls require the highest level of prioritization and have DOUBLE lifestyle costs per month, but their Strength and Body are worth a whopping 140+ karma, with Cyclops and Minotaur (RFp93,94) hitting 168 - they’re the best Close Combatants around.
That said, to balance races Metatype also controls access to Special Attribute points, which is where the otherwise awesome non-humans get whittled back down to size. The priority table calculates the total karma gain between Physical, Mental, and Special attribute points. Where Specials are concerned, Elves at C are fine, but Dwarves get only 1 Special and Orks get none at all, meaning you’re either sacrificing Special attributes or, by swapping, probably Physical / Mental to compensate.

And while it can be tempting to use Metatype as a dump priority, Edge is really valuable for breaking limits as well as adding dice, and Metatype is where you pick it up. That said, if you’re not a magic user, make sure you don’t prioritize for more Special Attribute points than you can invest in Edge.

It is worth noting that Special Attribute points from Metatype are worth more post-gen karma as your Magic and Edge Attribute approach 6. As an example, a Metatype (B) Dwarf's 4 points are worth 70 karma if added to an Edge of 1, but worth 90 karma if added to a Magic (D) Adept's Magic of 2.

Metatype also controls the Natural Maximums for Attributes as well, and can allow you to excel at your Archetype beyond what is even possible for Human characters.

5. Attributes:
Depending on your priority assignment, you have 12-24 points to assign to non-special attributes, regardless of current / desired rating, but only one attribute may be raised to the maximum (the rest cap at Max-1). After character creation, however, increasing attributes cost 5 karma / desired rating. Keep in mind that whereas Skills generally contribute only to specific rolls, each attribute contributes not only to multiple skills, but additionally derived attributes (such as Limits and Initiative) as well.

Allocating Attributes:
If you chose a non-human, try to increase whichever Attribute has the highest racial Maximum to that max, then soft-max any attributes which exceed the default max of 6. Of attributes that have the same maximum, look at the linked Skills and prioritize Attributes related to the Skills you’re focusing on. There's a downside of leaving attributes at 1 long-term though: you are entirely unable to default on those attributes. Keep in mind however that after character creation it costs 25 karma to raise a rank 1 Attribute 2 points to 3, vs the same 25 for only 1 rank from 4 to 5, so if you start with several tragically low Attributes, it doesn’t have to stay that way for long.

Also, there are other ways to increase your attributes than direct karma purchases. Unlike the ease of raising Limits, which is significantly easier for Mental, and easier still for Social, There are many more ways to boost Physical Attributes than Mental Attributes. Of Physical Attributes, Body is the most difficult - and with Body you ideally want an odd number since the extra condition boxes round up.

Boosting Physical Attributes:
• (Bio) Suprathyroid Gland - +1; Ess: .7
• (Adept) Increased (Attribute) - +X; Power Points: R
• (Bio) Adrenaline pump - +1-3 (1d6 Turns); Ess: .75*R
• (Spell) Increased (Attribute) - +X


• (Cyber) Cyberlimb - 3+ Custom; Ess: .45-1 / limb
• (Cyber) Muscle Replacement - +1-4; Ess: .5*R
• (Bio) Muscle Toner - 1-4; Ess: .2*R
• (Drug) P4MO (CFp182) - +1; Both: 1 Week  (Cyber)

• (Cyber) Reaction Enhancers - +1-3; Ess: .3*R
• (Drug) Overdrive (CFp186) - +1; Both: (10-Bod)h
• (Drug) Betameth (CFp180) - +2, +1 Int; Both: (9-Bod)h
• (Drug) Novacoke - +1; Both: (10-Bod)h

• (Cyber) Cyberlimb - 3+ Custom; Ess: .45-1 / limb
• (Cyber) Muscle Replacement - +1-4; Ess: .5*R
• (Bio) Muscle Augmentation - 1-4; Ess: .2*R

Boosting Mental Attributes:
• (Spell) Increased (Attribute) - +X; Force: Current (Aug) Value

• (Drug) Hurlgh (CFp181) - +1; Both: (12-Bod)h

• (Bio) Cerebral Booster - 1-3; Ess: .2*R

• (Bio) Cerebellum Booster (CFp118) - +1-2 Intuition; Ess: .2*R• (Drug) Psyche - +1 Int; Psychological: (12-Bod)h

• (Drug) Ex - +1; Both: (8-Bod)h• (Drug) Red Mescaline (CFp182) - +1; Both: (18-Bod)h

Boosting Derived Attributes:
Initiative: (Base: (Rea) + (Int) +1d6)
• (Spell) Increased Reflexes - +1d6 /2 hits, +1 /hit, max 4d6 + 8+
• (Adept) Improved Reflexes - Max 4d6+ 3; Power Points: .5 + 1 /1d6   
• (Cyber) Move-By-Wire (CFp84) - +1-3 Rea, +1d6+3-9 Ini; Ess: 3-5
• (Cyber) Wired Reflexes - +1-3 Rea +1-3d6; Ess: 2-5
• (Bio) Synaptic Booster - +1-3 Rea +1-3d6; Ess: .5*R
• (Bio) Boosted Reflexes (CFp118) - +1d6; Ess: 1
• (Gene) Synaptic Acceleration (CFp162) - +1, +1d6; Ess: .4
• (Drug) Cram - +1 Rea +1d6; Psychological, (12-Bod)h

Attribute Observations:
  • Increased Attribute spells are tricky as sustaining them without a focus adds a -2 penalty to all other actions, and even sustaining them with a focus costs karma to bind.
  • Some drugs (such as Blood of Kali) cause permanent harm on a failed roll, and you still must be careful of addiction to the rest as Severe and Burnout levels inflict permanent negative modifiers to all social tests.

6. Skills:
Although it's the 2nd to last priority to consider, skills are really what defines most Shadowrunners. And where Metatype is kinda tied to Attributes, Skills are similarly tied to Resources in that - depending on your archetype - you’re going to grow faster with either NuYen (Hackers / Street Sams) or Karma (Adepts and Magicians). If it’s NuYen, you may want to sacrifice skill priority to bump up resources.

In the priority table, we can see that Skills (A) is worth 88 karma more than Skills (B), the largest drop of any priority A - a compelling reason to make Skills your top priority IF your character could take full advantage of all of those skills (and skill groups). There are several caveats to that choice, however:
  • Compared to Attributes, which contribute dice to many pools as well as limits and derived attributes, individual Skills contribute to only one pool, and are thus generally less dice-efficient even for the lower karma cost to increase.
  • The post-creation skill cap of 12 vs max of 6 at creation makes it impossible to really tall-stack skills like you can attributes (at max-1).
  • High priorities grant skill groups, which aren't karma efficient. They're 2.5 * the cost of skills, so a group would need to contain 3 core skills for it to be a discount, and since almost every skill group has a dump skill, they're really more equivalent to the karma of the two skills you DO want, or 4 karma per rank instead of 5. Not to mention the weird rules about breaking them up and specializing only at the final step.
  • Most Archetypes (as evident in the table below) can do their job with 1-3 core skills, and almost no runners (maybe some Infiltration / Matrix specialists?) take full advantage of two skill groups at character creation.
Core, Auxiliary, and Synergy Skills by Role:






Melee WeaponComputer,
Ranged Weapon,
Con, Disguise,
Arcana, Astral
Elec Warfare,
Elec Warfare,
AttrAgi / StrLogicAgiAgiMagicCharismaLog/WillReaction
First Aid,
Ranged Weapon*Based on
Drain Attribute
First Aid,

Allocating Skill Points:
If you have points in skill groups, deal with those first, as you can’t use skill points for a skill in a group you’ve purchased. Keep in mind that you cannot break a skill group (to specialize or raise an included skill) until karma expenditure, and not all Skill groups are equal: not only do some feature more frequently used skills than others, but some contain 4 and others only 3. The most commonly useful are probably Influence, Stealth, Cracking, and some of the Techno/Magic groups.  The least commonly useful are probably Close Combat, Firearms, Acting and Outdoors. As with Attributes / Skills, groups at rating:6 are the best karma value.  Athletics is a decent use for any leftover skill group points after, as just not defaulting on running / swimming is a plus, and the more Gymnastics the merrier for dodging.

Then take your skill points and take as many skills to 6 as you can afford (3 at E, 7 at A). It’s only 2 karma to grab 1s in a couple of skills (especially the ones you can’t default in) after you earn some karma in-game. Also, although it's not on the table, virtually every Shadowrunner wants and benefits from Perception.

Any remaining points are best spent as specializations. Specializations at character creation cost 1 Skill point. After character creation, they cost 7 karma. The best specializations are those that come up frequently, such as Automatics: Machine Pistols/SMGs/Assault Rifles, Perception: Visual, Stealth: Urban, or Con: Fast Talk.

At ranks 1-4 of a skill, the specialization will gain you 5-9 more karma than increasing the skill 1 rank. Increasing from rank 5 to 6, it’s the same either way unless one or more of those points would have to be spent on a rank 1 skill to specialize in, at which point you’d do better to just take the 6.

Street wisdom is that for your runner's core skills, you want to aim for a pool of 16+ dice, with 13+ for your auxiliary skills, and 10+ dice in your synergy skills. That won't get you far unless you have limits to match, however.
« Last Edit: (21:36:43/04-20-17) by gargaM0NK »


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7. Limits:
With SR5 one of the biggest changes to the core rule-set was the addition of limits. Your character has Accuracy for combat as well as the three inherent limits, described in the table below, but all of them work the same: no matter how many hits you roll, you can only use a maximum of your limit for that roll.  Alternately, you can spend edge before you roll to ignore your limit for that test.

Mental Limit
Physical Limit
Social Limit
Base  (Gear-based)(2*Log+Int+Will)/3(2*Str+Body+Rea)/3(2*Cha+Wil+Ess)/3

How high should my limits be?
Because we're using d6s and 5's and 6's are successes, we'll average 1 success for every 3 dice we roll. So we should always aim for a limit of at least 1/3 of our dice pool for a roll. Then using some fancy math we can derive the following table for how much higher than dice/3 we need to go to ensure we keep a # of successes within the standard deviation for the pool size.

Dice Pool2-1011-2829-55>55
Extra Limit

Which is to say that, if I have 18 dice to roll for Con, I'd want a modified Social limit of at least (18/3)+2 = 8 to ensure that I don't discard successes on more than ~3 out of every 20 rolls.

Boosting Limits:
• (Adept) Improved Potential (Men,Phys,Soc) - +1; PP: .5
• (Quality) Indomitable (Men,Phys,Soc) - +1; Karma: 8*r

• (Gear) Laser Sight - +1
• (Gear) Long Barrel (HTp181) - +1
• (Gear) Personalized Grip (HTp182) - +1
• (Gear) SmartLink - +2
Mental Limit
• (Bio) Mnemonic Enhancer - +1-3; Ess: .1*r
• (Drug) Deepweed - +1; Physiological: (6-Bod)h
• (Drug) Psyche - +1; Psychological: (12-Bod)h
Physical Limit
• (Bio) Enhanced Articulation - +1; Ess: .3
• (Gene) Neo-EPO (CFp160) - +1; Ess: .2

Social Limit
• (Gear) Armored Clothing(R&Gp57) - +1-3
• (Bio) Tailored Pheromones - +1-3; Ess: .2*r
• (Adept) Voice Control - +1-3; PP: .5*r
• (Drug) Novacoke - +1; Both: (10-Bod)h

8. Resources:
To compare the benefits from items vs other character improvements, you can divide the cost in NuYen by 2000 to determine how many karma you'd have to spend (with Bonus chargen karma) or earn (using Work for the Man). Because the karma cost of skills/attributes increases per rank while NuYen costs are linear, bonuses from items become better deals as the cost to increase your pool with Attributes / Skills increases. Ie. if my Magic is 1, its more efficient increase it to 2 (10) than buy a rating 1 Power Focus (9 karma worth of Nuyen + 6 to bond), but the same focus is cheaper than raising Magic from 3 to 4 (20 karma). Also, since the cost of items in NuYen doesn't increase post-gen, many purchases can safely be postponed until after creation.

The general rule for Lifestyles is, the less you can get away with, the better. A month of High Lifestyle at character creation, it should be noted, costs less on average than a month of Medium after starting NuYen is taken into account. Higher Lifestyles may serve the interest of bio-drone Riggers wanting access to exotic pets or Matrix specialists with the better grid access, although said runners are hit among the hardest by the NuYen squeeze.

Privileges for Various Lifestyles:
  • Low+ - Credit Account, Public Grid Access
  • Middle+ - Local Grid Access
  • High+ - Global Grid Access
  • Audio Enhancement - (500 *r)¥, Avail:(2*r); Get Rating 3 in earbuds for permanent +3 [+3] to audio perception tests.
  • Autopicker - (500*r)¥, Avail:8R; Adds rating to your lockpicking pool for mechanical locks.
  • Bug Scanner - (100*r)¥, Avail:(r)R; Add rating to Elec. Warfare for finding devices, or double to search autonomously
  • Chisel/Crowbar (20)¥; Doubles your strength for forcing doors / crates
  • Olfactory Booster - (2000*r)¥. Avail:(3*r); Ess: .2; Costs essence, less often used, yet harder to find and more expensive than a/v.
  • Medkit - (250*r)¥, Avail:(r); Adds rating to First Aid test, and increases Limit, or doubles rating to apply autonomously
  • Vision Enhancement - (500 *r)¥, Avail:(2*r); Same as Audio except contacts for visual tests.
With Cyberware and Bioware stacking normally in Fifth Edition, you have to be careful with how you spend your Essence, but the upside is that the cost and availability of higher grade 'ware is lower. As per 4A, Cyberware tends to cost less Nuyen, where Bioware tends to cost less Essence. Also as per 4A, Bioware is often more Essence efficient than the Adept equivalent in Power Points. The general rule is this: Rather than taking the same grade for everything, it's more efficient to buy higher grades of less expensive, higher essence augmentations. For example, if my runner has Wired Reflexes(1) (Ess: 2; 39K) and Muscle Toner(3) (Essence: .6; 96K), I'd do better to grab Used Muscle Toner (Ess: .75; 72K) and more cutting edge Betaware Wired Reflexes (Ess: 1.4, 58.5K), saving me .45 Essence points and 4.5K NuYen.

The best overall deal (if you can live with an illegal implant and spring for the Restricted Gear) would be Alpha Move-by-Wire:2 (CFp84) with an average of +10 to Initiative (Ess: 3.2, 150K), although magic users will likely prefer Synaptic Boosters:3 with an average of 9 (Ess: 1.5, 285K), and Pilots may want to combine Wired Reflexes:2 (Ess: 3, 149K) and Alpha Reaction Enhancers:2 (Ess: .48, 31.2K) for an average of 8 but two more Reaction in the bargain. The Cerebellum Booster (CFp118) is less Nuyen efficient than most other options at 50K and .2 ess per point, but stack with all other boosters. Boosted Reflexes (CFp118) and Synaptic Accelerators (CFp164) are more efficient alternatives to rating 1 Wired Reflexes and Synaptic Boosters respectively, but if you ever upgrade later you won't get any essence / nuyen refunded.

Soaking Damage:
Bone Lacing offers twice as much per rating as Bone Density Augmentation for comparable essence. Both remove your ability to deal Stun damage with Unarmed attacks, but synergizel with Striking Callus (CFp121).. Orthoskin mods like Chemical Repulsion (CFp116) make it the superior choice to Dermal Plating. Dedicated tanks should also look at the Pain Editor.

(Off-)hand and feet replacements with Armor 2-3 stack and aren't restricted by your Strength. A full cyberarm "of awesome" with max Agility that you use to increase your ranged weapon pool. Unfortunately the non-specific wording about which attributes are used when means that whether you get the attribute you paid for, half of it, or ignore it entirely is up to GM discretion (not worth it to my mind).

  • Active Hardwire (CFp81) - Also incompatible with Reflex Recorders and Edge, but more efficient than Skill 2 at (4 karma vs 6). Hardwires are more efficient than Skillwires until you have more than 5 skillsofts.
  • Attention Coprocessor (CFp78) - Cheaper, higher essence alternative to Reflex Recorder for Perception, but also increases the mental limit. Better for characters who also use Astral or Matrix perception as well.
  • False Face (CFp79) - 10 Karma worth of Nuyen for +4 to disguise.
  • Reflex Recorder - the only way to increase a skill with 'ware, roughly equivalent to specialization and cheaper than increasing a skill from 3 to 4.
  • Skilljack - For knowledge and language skills, you're looking at a ~23 karma investment for rating 6, +12/+6 for 2 knowledge or lingua softs respectively, vs 42 for two knowledge or language skills. Relatively efficient, especially linguasofts, and they get moreso with a chipjack and more softs to swap in, although you'll rarely need more than 1 language and 1 knowledge skill at once.
  • Skillwires - For most active skills, you really want a rating of at leaat 6, but because the rating of the skillsoft is restricted to the rating of the wires and the jack, even used, they're still a ~68 karma investment. Two rating 6 skillsofts are another 30 karma for a total of 98 vs 84 for two skills, so you need at least 3 skillsofts for them to be karma efficient. To run more than 2 of those simultaneously, you'll also need a Chipjack (a steal at ~3 karma), and even then none benefit from Reflex Recorders or Edge, so they're really only suited for Secondary / Synergy skills that won't be used in live-or-die scenarios.
  • Voice Modulator - .2 Essence and 15 karma for +6 worth of Impersonation.
  • Expanded Volume (CFp112) - Interesting for mitigating more frequent fatigue from Restrictive armor
  • Digester Endosont (CFp123) - Essentially sacrificing .2 Essence and 10K up front to spend less money on Lifestyle every month thereafter, which could be worth it to a Nuyen-driven character like a Street Sam or a Hacker, especially for pricier lifestyles.
  • Dareadrenaline (CFp160) - Good for drain fading if you're already sacrificing Essence elsewhere. Adds a composure roll... which it gives you +1 die for rolling?
  • Synch (CFp162) - 7 karma for +1 to all perception is okay, plus the bonus to fighting opponents after the first attack.
With Armor, we start to get outside of the mindset of Karma Efficiency (or NuYen Efficiency). Taking less damage means I have lower dice penalties for the remainder of the Mission, so the cred spent on it will soon pay for itself many times over. We do want something we can wear - a suit's probably less conspicuous at the Space Needle than Camo, and Powered Armor is right out. It's also worth taking the qualities into consideration. We also don't want to walk around encumbered as Agility skills are both common and critical. Mostly, though, we want the highest armor rating to live and fight another day. There are normally better ways to use Restricted Gear, however, so I've limited my list to Availability 12.
  • V.I. Sleeping Tiger (R&Gp61) - 13500¥. Avail: 10; 13 Armor; Top of the line, includes Ruthenium Polymer (3),
  • V.I. Synergist Longcoat (R&Gp61)- 2300¥. Avail: 8; +3 Armor; Stacks with Sleeping Tiger for 16
  • Ares: Big Game Hunter (R&Gp64) - 5000¥. Avail: 12; 14 Armor; Stands out, but includes more armor, Nonconductivity 6, and Gear Access
  • Armored Jacket - 1000¥. Avail: 2; 12 Armor; Basic Protection, cheap and effective
  • Ballistic Mask (R&Gp74) - 150¥. Avail: 6; +2 Armor; 8 Capacity for Vision Enhancements; Standard Armor Accessory
  • Forearm Guards (R&Gp73) - 300¥. Avail: 6; +1 Armor; 3 Capacity for cyberlimb mods
  • SecureTechPPP: Legs (R&Gp70) - 300¥. Avail: 6; +1 Armor; Reduces Social Limit by 1
  • SecureTechPPP: Vitals (R&Gp70)  - 300¥. Avail: 6; +1 Armor; Reduces Social Limit by 1
Melee Weapons:
As with Armor, we're normally more concerned here with stopping power than karma efficiency. When selecting a Melee weapon, you'll likely want to stick with a flat damage weapon unless your Strength exceeds 6. At that point, the Garrotte's +4S beats the Stun Staff / Shock Hands 9S, although Garrotte's use weird grappling rules described in Run and Gun. At Strength 7, the Mono Garrotte beats the Mono Whip / Chainsaw's 12P. It's also worth noting that there are fewer options to increase Accuracy for melee weapons, so Close Combat Adepts are more incentivized than their Gun Fu counterparts to take the Enhanced Accuracy power.
  • (Unarmed) Shock Hand - 5000¥, Avail:8R; Ess:.25, 9S Electric; -5AP; Acc: Physical
  • (Unarmed) Shock Gloves - 550¥, Avail: 6R; 8S Electric, -5AP, Acc: Physical
  • (Clubs) Stun Staff - 1000¥, Avail: 8R; 9S Electric, -5AP, Acc: 6
  • (Exotic) Garrotte (R&Gp20) - 50¥; Str+4S, -6AP, Acc: 5, *Special Garrotte Rules
  • (Exotic) Mono Garrotte (R&Gp20) - 2000¥, Avail: 18F; Str+6, -8AP, Acc: 5, *Special Garrotte Rules
  • (Exotic) Monofilament Whip - 10000¥, Avail: 12F; 12P, -8AP, Acc:5(7), Exotic
  • (Exotic) Mono Chainsaw (R&Gp20) - 2000¥, Avail: 6R; 12P, -8AP, Acc:5, Exotic
  • (Blade) Claymore (R&Gp18) - 4500¥, Avail: 14R; Str+5, -5AP, Acc:4 (Combat axe is -1 dam for 12R)
  • (Blade) Katana - 1000¥, Avail: 9R; Str+3, -3AP, Acc:7
Again we're generally more concerned here with stopping power than karma efficiency. Contrary to the Weapons Specialist / Firearms skill group mentality however, most runners can get by with a single ranged weapon skill. The best value here is the Automatics skill, as you can use a Machine Pistol (in lieu of the Pistols skill) in more hush-hush black trenchcoat runs or an Assault Rifle (instead of Longarms) in louder pink mohawk runs giving you essentially 2 skills in 1. While you can only specialize in one or the other at character creation, you're only paying 7 karma down the road for effectively a second skill instead of 112 if you went Longarms + Pistols/Heavy Weapons.

Automatics that feature either Gas-Vent or Suppressors are nice, because you can mount the other for a silenced burst. Assault Rifles are for when your Automatics user absolutely, positively has to kill every mother-drekker in the room. Submachine Guns only need one hand, are more concealable than Assault Rifles, but still offer better damage and recoil control than a Machine Pistol. Machine Pistols then are the discreet option for Automatics users, and fit in a holster.
  • (Assault) Yamaha Raiden - 2,600¥, Avail: 14F; 11P, -2AP, Acc:6(8 ); No SA, but max damage + suppressor. Great Rifle, but sadly illegal
  • (Assault) FN HAR - 1,500¥, Avail: 8R; 10P, -2AP, Acc:5(6); Internal Gas Vent 2 System, so just add suppressor
  • (SMG) HK Urban Combat (R&Gp36) - 2300¥, Avail: 16F; 8P, -AP, Acc:7(9); Illegal, but amazing SMG.
  • (SMG) Ingram Smartgun X - 800¥, Avail: 6R; 8P, -AP, Acc:4(6); No SA, but Smartgun (Int), Sound Suppressor, & Gas Vent 2.
  • (SMG) HK-227 - 730¥, Avail: 8R; 7P, Acc:5(7); Smartlink (Int), Suppresor, sacrifice damage for accuracy.
  • (Machine) Steyr TMP - 350¥, Avail: 8R; 7P, -AP, Acc:4; Full auto burst on a legal Pistol, if you can mod the Recoil.
  • (Machine) Remington Suppressor (GH3p9) - 700¥, Avail: 6R; 7P, –1AP, Acc:6; Internal Sound Supressor, facilitating Gas-Vent barrel mod on a silent gun.
Battle Rifles are highly illegal, with larger clips and a tradeoff between burst fire and incredible stopping power. The Remington is really a higher pen version of a Sporting Rifle. There’s one clear choice in Sporting Rifles, but the 20 round clip and high range and damage rank it among the best legal Longarms. Then you've got the Shotguns granting Longarms some versatility with a high damage, close range option, but lack the potential to silence by RAW.
  • (Sniper) Onotari JP-K50 (R&Gp39) - 12,500¥, Avail: 13F; 12P, -3AP, Acc:7; Illegal, but scary. Look at those stats.
  • (Sniper) Ranger Arms SM-5 - 28,000¥, Avail: 16F; 14P, -5AP, Acc:8; Even higher damage, but no burst, and hard to buy.
  • (Sniper) Remington 950 - 2,100¥, Avail: 4R; 12P, -4AP, Acc:7; Good weapon, but slow RoF and only 5 ammo.
  • (Sporting) Springfield M1A (GH3p26) - 1,700¥, Avail: 6R; 12P, –1AP, Acc:6; Solid daily-use rifle at a great price.
  • (Shotgun) Auto-Assault 16 (R&Gp40) - 1,800¥, Avail: 18F; 13P, -1AP, Acc:4; Illegal, but man is that burst scary.
  • (Shotgun) Krime Boss (GH3p17) - 600¥, Avail: 11R; 13P, –1AP, Acc:3; Good damage once you fix the accuracy.
  • (Shotgun) Cavalier Falchion (GH3p22) - 1,200¥, Avail: 9R; 12P, –1AP, Acc:5(7); Lower damage, mediocre accessories, but better Accuracy.
Higher damage makes Heavy Pistols generally better than the top-tier Light or Machine pistols. The reason to use a Light Pistol over a Heavy pistol is because Heavy Pistols don't tuck into a Hidden Arm Slide, and the reasons to use a Light Pistol over a Hold-out are ammo capacity, damage, and accessories. Holdouts are discreet and highly concealable, giving you the best chance of getting you in somewhere armed rather than not. Compare Tasers to Pistols with Stick n Shock. The Ruger Super Warhawk does the same damage, has as much or better ammo (a phrase you don't hear often), and better range and AP than all but one Taser, which you'd need a base damage of 11 to outclass.
  • (Heavy) Savalette Guardian (R&Gp33) - 870¥, Avail: 6R; 8P, -1AP, Acc:5(7);Smartlink (Int); Burst fire makes this the go-to pistol.
  • (Heavy) Ruger Super Warhawk - 400¥, Avail: 4R; 9P, -2AP, Acc:5; Use a speedloader. Less ammo but best damage in class.
  • (Light) Fichetti Executive Action (R&Gp30) - 300¥, Avail: 10R; 7P, Acc:6; Burst fire, if you can handle the recoil.
  • (Light) Colt Agent Special (GH3p5) - 250¥, Avail: 5R; 8P, -AP, Acc:5; Higher damage but less ammo if you can't.
  • (Holdout) Streetline Special - 120¥, Avail: 4R; 6P, Acc:4; Best all-around hold-out.
  • (Holdout) Walther Palm Pistol - 180¥, Avail: 4R; 7P, Acc:4; Higher damage, but only 2 ammo.
  • (Taser) Defiance EX Shocker - 250¥; 9S(e), -5AP, Acc:4; Laser sight; Only taser worth using.
There are some interesting choices here, but most of them are Illegal and hard to conceal. For chemical users, though:
  • Ares S-III Super Squirt - 950¥, Avail: 7R; Chem, -AP, Acc:3
« Last Edit: (23:10:00/04-20-17) by gargaM0NK »


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Weapon Mods / Accessories:
For melee weapons, just grab the Personalized Grip and go. With gun mods, what you're putting on the barrel is normally the biggest question. The average combat round with Firearms will likely go something like: Simple-1 - Ready Weapon / Insert Clip / Take Aim -> Simple-2 - Fire SS/SA/BF/FB -> Free - Eject Clip (if necessary). This means that you'll want at least enough Recoil Compensation to cover the Semi-Auto (1) / Burst Fire (3) / Full Auto (6) you'll be firing depending on the gun. You'll also want enough Accuracy to cover your pool size (see Limits). If you've done both of those without using the Barrel mount, a silencer / suppressor gives more flexibilty mid-run. As a consequence, guns with integral barrel mods are more highly valued. There's much less competition for the other mounts.
  • (Any) Improved Rangefinder (R&Gp52) - 2000¥, Avail:6; Reduce Range Penalty by 1
  • (Barrel) Longbarrel (HTp181) - (As Weapon)¥, Avail:8R; Acc:1, Concealability 1 point worse
  • (Barrel) Electronic Firing (HTp180) - 1000¥, Avail:10R; RC(1), -1 to Perception to hear the weapon
  • (Barrel) Foregrip (R&Gp52) - 100¥, Avail:2; RC(1), Concealability 1 point worse
  • (Barrel) Gas Vent System - (200*r)¥, Avail:(3*r)R; RC(r)
  • (Barrel) Silencer/Suppressor - 500¥, Avail:9F; -4 to Perception to hear the weapon
  • (Internal) Smartgun - (As Weapon)¥, Avail:+2R; Acc: 2 - for if Top&Under mounts are taken
  • (Stock) Folding Stock (R&Gp51) - 30¥, Avail:2; RC(1)
  • (Top/Under) Smartgun System - 200¥, Avail:4R; Acc: 2
  • (Under) Underbarrel Weight (R&Gp53) - Free, Avail:-; RC(1) for Full Auto, incompatible with Foregrip
  • (Under) Ammo Skip (HTp180) - 250¥, Avail:8R; Allows multiple ammo types in one drum
  • Concealed Quick-Draw Holster (R&Gp51) - 275¥, Avail:6
  • Personalized Grip (HTp182) - 100¥, Avail:2; Acc:1 - Put this on literally every weapon
  • Extended Clip I (HTp180) - 35¥, Avail:6R; +50% Ammo, Concealability 1 point worse
  • Extended Clip II (Ibid) - 35¥, Avail:6R; +100% Ammo, Concealability 2 points worse
  • Hip Pad Bracing System (R&Gp52) - 250¥, Avail:4; RC(1)
  • Shock Pad - 50¥, Avail:2, RC(1), mounts on rigid stock of Rifle
  • Sling (R&Gp52) - 15¥; Readying weapon is Simple Action
  • APDS - 120¥/10, Avail:12F; +0 Dam, -4AP; Your go-to lethal round. Forbidden, but normally so is shooting people.
  • Capsule (R&Gp55) - 5¥/10, Avail:2; -4 Dam, +4AP; Used with Chem+DMSO on targets with high armor and exposed skin
  • Stick 'n Shock - 80¥/10. Avail:6R. -2(S)Dam, -5AP; Electric damage; Legal, non-lethal, and very effective. The best ammo.
Even outside of raw karma efficiency. Foci are efficient in that they allow Archetypes which thirst for karma to grow (via Initiation, increased Magic, etc) to advance significantly by means of NuYen (which they don't typically advance as quickly as Street Sams or Hackers) as well.
  • Centering - (9K*R)¥ + (3*R) Karma; Cheaper than Initiating for higher Centering
  • Power - (18K*R)¥ + (6*R) Karma; Cheaper than increasing Magic to 4, or to Magic (2) + Initiation
  • Qi - (3K*R)¥ + (2*R) Karma; Cheaper than Magic (2)
  • Spellcasting - (4K*R)¥ + (2*R) Karma; Cheaper than Spellcasting (3)
  • Sustaining - (4K*R)¥ + (2*R) Karma; Cheaper than Focused Concentration post-gen
  • Spirit - (4K*R)¥ + (2*R) Karma; Cheaper than Summoning / Binding (3)
  • Weapon - (7k*R)¥ + (3*R) Karma; Not as cheap as Qi Focus: Enhanced Ability, but stacks with the power.
Resources E Bare Minimum PACK:
  500¥ Squatter Lifestyle
1000¥ Armor Jacket
  250¥ - Chemical Protection I*
  300¥ Goggles(6)
  25¥ - Image Link
150¥ Earbuds(3)
350¥ Steyr TMP
120¥ 60x Regular Ammo
    5¥ Spare Clip
2500¥ Fake SIN
  200¥ Fake License (1:Conc. Carry)
    10¥ 2x Cert Credstick, Standard
100¥ Comm: Meta Link
100¥ - Sim Module
  70¥ - Trodes
  50¥ - Subvocal Mic
  20¥ Backpack: Cheap (RFp254)
200¥ Survival Kit*
  25¥ Flashlight*
* After increased lifestyle costs, Dwarves must choose between the Chem Protection and the Survival Kit, and Trolls get none.
† Both the Fake Sin and Meta Link should be upgraded ASAP, possibly with karma at char-gen to a Fake Sin: 4 (5 Karma) and Hermes Ikon (1.5 Karma)

9. Qualities:
Negative Qualities:
It is almost always in your best interest to take a full 25 karma worth of Negative Qualities at character creation. The reason being that there are several advantages you can either only purchase directly (like Contacts and Power Points) or can purchase for less Karma cost (like Positive Qualities) during character creation. Another reason is that some roles, like Technomancers (with Complex Forms) and Magicians (with Spells) may need to make karma purchases to really be even roughly playable. Furthermore, characters who take Resources (E) may desire to trade Karma to Nuyen for critical purchases like a better CommLink or Fake Sin.  And all characters would do better to buy Knowledge / Language skills for relatively inexpensive Karma costs as opposed to very inefficient use of Skill points.

That said, because Negative Qualities too cost 2* the karma to remove after creation, ideally you'd prefer to take Negative Qualities that you don't mind playing around than to be forced to pay them off later.  There's a discussion thread on Negative Qualities that lend themselves well to this approach here.

Positive Qualities:
  • Aptitude (13) - vs 14 after. Not super efficient, unless you really need 13 dice instead of 12 in a single pool (which at 126 karma is almost a prime level investment of karma in 1 skill).
  • Born Rich (5; RFp145) - Lets you effectively get a higher Resources Priority for Karma at Character Creation.
  • Drug Tolerant (5; CFp54) - Despite the name, perhaps more useful for Magic users with lots of Foci. Either way, if you'll be making tests often, and have a low (Body/Logic) + Willpower, this might be worth it.
  • Exceptional Attribute (14) - Decent but not amazing at 14 Karma instead of 35 to increase from a 6 to a 7, but it only gets better if your natural maximum is higher. Only take this if you have the attribute point to put in it at chargen, though.
  • Jack of All Trades, Master of None (2; RFp147) - If you have enough skill points to raise your core / auxillary skills to 6 at chargen, and then seek to branch out post-gen with 1-3s and Specializations, this is a solid deal at a mere 2 karma.
  • Lucky (12) - Might be worth it to raise Edge from 6 to 7, or 7 to 8 on a Human. Since pre-edge adds (Edge) dice to your pool (Edge) times per refresh, the 7th and 8th points are worth more.
  • Perfect Time (5; RFp148) - Really just paying for the extra free action. May be useful for reloading, accessing gear, reconfiguring, etc. Stacks with adept’s Nimble Fingers power.
  • Restricted Gear (10; RFp149) - Not long-term karma efficient, but useful for using a Resources (A) for Avail (24) gear.
  • _______ (6-7) - +2 to X; Effectively a second specialization bonus, but counting towards your quality limit. Of the list, Natural Athlete for Gymnastic dodging, or Catlike (Sneaking) may be worth it.
  • Biocompatibility (5; CFp54) - You would have to take 10 Essence worth of ware to get back 1 point of essence, which is impossible, so it's not as good as Prototype Transhuman for essence, but it is 25% of the karma cost. Generally better for Cyberware as it has the higher Essence cost.
  • Protoype Transhuman (20; CFp54) - The Missions version is a LOT of karma for an already tricky ability to take advantage of. It'd be good on Adepts, but you need high resources and likely Restricted Gear to get your karma's worth out of it.
  • Adept Ways (20; SGp176): For a Magic of 6, you can reduce the cost for up to 3 powers by half, for 1.25 Power Points if you choose two 1PP/level powers like Cool Resolve and Astral Perception. Discounts to Foci binding are interesting, but you'd need 10 relevant Foci to earn back the 20 karma.
  • Focused Concentration (4*R) - Essentially a single Sustaining Foci, for double the karma. Works with Complex Forms as well. Can be useful if you you have a low rating spell/form you want up constantly.
  • Mentor Spirit (5) - If you can play around the disadvantage (particularly doable for Charisma traditions) these become a reduced cost +2 to a Skill quality, plus a bonus to a relevant spellcasting / summoning pool on top.
Matrix / Rigging:
  • Codeslinger (10) - Not an efficient karma expenditure for +2 dice, but they go exactly where we want them, probably in Hack on the Fly.
  • Dealer Connection (3; R5p33) - Reduced NuYen for a type of vehicles (including Drones). Noticeable increase in NuYen efficiency for NuYen bound archetype at low karma cost. I dig it.
  • Otaku to Technomancer (10; DTp45) - +2 to Resisting Drain is interesting, but not cheap
  • Overclocker (5; RFp148) - Not a bad deal.
  • Quick Config (5; DTp46) - 2x Program swap per free action. Interesting, but not as versatile as Perfect Time.
  • First Impression (11) - Pretty good value for the Face, as you will constantly be meeting NPCs for the first time.
  • Trustworthy (15; RFp151) - Better than Indomitable:2 for Social.
Close Combat / Fire Support:
  • Acrobatic / Agile / Perceptive Defender / Too Pretty to Hit (3-4; RGp127) Pretty cheap for moving a tall stack in place of Willpower, but Full Defense should be a last resort.
  • Ambidextrous - Want to lay on some two-gun(/sword) mojo? You'll probably need this quality and some whiz SMGs.
  • Hawk Eye (3 RFp147) - Half a +2 to all perception, but the real value is in reduced range penalties.
  • Martial Arts (7 for Style + first Technique, 5 / Technique after) - Notably Martial Arts cost the same 7 for style and 5 for technique even after character creation. There are several solid techniques in Martial Arts, including Counterstrike/Riposte, and Finishing Move, each of which lets you sacrifice initiative score to act immediately in combat, as well as Clinch which has some interesting applications. Wildcat (Unarmed) grants all 3, and Ti Khao to improve the Clinch, which can be augmented by Muay Thai for a total +2 to Clinching, or Aikido / Jeet Kun Do's Yielding strike for up to +2 on Counter Strike. Wudang (Melee) offers Riposte and Finishing Move, which can be augmented by Fiori Dei Liberi's Yielding Force for up to +2 to Riposte. The latter also offers Two Weapon Style Attack, one of the few ways to increase accuracy for Melee Weapons.
« Last Edit: (23:32:18/04-20-17) by gargaM0NK »


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10. Character Advancement & Progression:
Skill Diversity:
When you transition to spending karma to advance after character creation (as opposed to karma equivalent priority points) the math suddenly changes. Where before you got the best bang for a few tall stacks, with karma it's much cheaper to raise your 0-1's to 2-3's than it is to raise 5-6's to 7-8's. This progression has always kinda reminded me of the Oceans movies (in 11, everyone has their one niche they bring to the team, but by 13, basically every member of the team can do passable face work).

Downtime Efficiency:
Lifestyle costs make it more important for Nuyen-driven characters to spend their downtime wisely than karma-driven characters. Here, efficiency is about reducing monthly upkeep costs (with cheaper lifestyles and by spending less on consumables/renewables) and spending as little downtime as possible between runs.

Training times reinforce the idea of tall stacks at char-gen, as it takes longer to train a single high skill/attribute than it does two lows. Specializations become faster than attributes and skills >4. Edge is faster than Magic.

Instruction is more useful for Skills below 5 (2 days off of 4 is 50%, but out of 35 is .05%), and it's most cost effective at rating 3 (2 fewer days for 30 Nuyen / day). Tutorsofts are more time efficient for training skills at rank 3+ and more Nuyen efficient if you'd eventually train a skill >5 (2400 for ranks 1-6 vs Instructor 2090 for 1-5 + 4610 for rank 6).

While metamagic feats are largely a playing style preference, there are a few that are recommended for everyone, namely: Masking and (Adept/) Centering.

Consumables / Renewables:
If you knew before a run whether you'd need a Grenade/Drug/Pheromone/Reagents/Subscription to succeed, it would only be efficient to buy them if your success or survival depended on it, because unlike most expenditures, it's a permanent cost for a temporary benefit.

Not knowing that, we can still find a maximum budget.  The average run pays ~11K nuyen according to FAQ. Each run takes at least a week on your calendar, so you can earn 44K a month (less if you spend time training or looking for gear).  Depending on your metatype and lifestyle, that leaves you between 43.5K and 24K. Your total budget for this category, then, should always be less than that number (or you'll eventually go broke), and (just like saving for retirement) the lower you can get away with here the faster you can save for new gear/'ware/etc. On the flip side, having consumables as an "Oh drek!" option on a run could make the difference between pulling it off, not pulling it off, or dying.

Skillsoft Networks (CFp78) - these are capped at rating 4, and cost as much for a month as it would to purchase a single skillsoft permanently. In exchange, you can freely swap out skillsofts for the month (only one at a time though). Consequently, they're better for situational skills (Nautical Mechanic) than primary skills. Also, these can be renewed in 3s when you need them on a run, so definitely let them lapse until you're about to need them again.

Social Software Subscriptions:
  • Thermal Mood Reading (CAp144) - 250¥ for +2 to Judge Intentions. +3 if you combine it with Vocal Tension for another 250¥
Grenades: (better to have and not need...)
  • Flashpak - 125¥; 10x unavoidable -1/-2 aim penalty, even with flare comp, recharge for free
  • Flashbang - 100¥ for 10S
  • Gas - 40¥ +Chem
    • NeuroStun (15S, Disorient) 60¥ End of Combat Turn
    • DMSO (SSp188) +50¥ Contact, Narcoject (15S) 50¥, Immediate
Patches: (Well worth carrying one of each)
  • Stim:6 - 150¥
  • Trauma - 500¥
Drugs: (Somewhat confusing. See interpretation and example)
Drugs with a Threshold of 1 can be purchased at Pharmaceutical Grade to reduce the threshold to 0. Otherwise, you need to periodically skip weeks or have a combined (Body/Logic)+Willpower of 3*threshold+2 to reliably beat the addiction test (see Limits). You may also have to spend Edge on beating the addiction Threshold in the event that luck abandons you. If you STILL fail the test, you take the addiction quality for 0 bonus karma, and you probably want to think about stopping intake of that drug. The longer the duration, the less you'll spend on them.

Reagents: (Use in emergency to manipulate spell limit)
  • Direct Combat - Use reagents to increase the net hits for low force spell
  • Heal - Increase the net hits for low force spell, making it turn permanent faster.
  • Sustained - Allows you to cast at Force 1 and use more net hits, but opposes background counts and mana barriers as force 1
  • High Force spells - Reduce the limit to <= your Magic rating to avoid Physical drain.
  • Best coupled with the Gear Access trait from armor

11. References and Shout-Outs:
Book Codes
CF = Chrome FleshDT = Data TrailsGH3 = Gun H(e)aven 3HS = Howling Shadows
HT = Hard TargetsR5 = Rigger 5.0RF = Run FasterR&G = Run & Gun
SG = Street GrimoireSSP = Shadow SpellsSS = Stolen Souls

Codes will typically use the format CFp7 - for page 7 of Chrome Flesh as per the table above.

  • Shout-outs to emsquared and UmaroVI for their work on the pivotal SR4A math topic that inspired this one!
  • Shout-outs to FASA for making this amazing game, FanPro for keeping it alive, and Catalyst for bringing it back with the latest editions!
  • Shout-outs to TeutonicLord and the Mission teams past and present for all the work behind the living campaign!
  • Shout-outs to all the contributors to this thread for helping improve it!
« Last Edit: (21:35:11/04-20-17) by gargaM0NK »


  • Ace Runner
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There are some mistakes there:

  • Orcs’ 3 Strength and 2 Body are worth 70+ Karma and
It's '2 Strength and 3 Body'

  • Trolls require the highest level of prioritization and have DOUBLE the cost of gear and lifestyle

Trolls only get lifestyle cost doubled, check the Errata.

I can look for more if that helps.
« Last Edit: (07:00:22/02-16-17) by ZeldaBravo »
*I have problems with clarifying my point in English, so sometimes I might sound stupid or rude.*


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Another one to correct :
"Adepts are a solid choice, because when they initiate they gain both a Metamagic feat and a Power Point"

Pretty sure it's either one or the other per initiation, not both. Raising magic does give them an auto-Power Point, but as far as Initiation goes, I believe you have to chose.


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Cheers guys! Adepts, Orks, and Trolls have been updated!


  • Catalyst Demo Team
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For example, the conversion of 1 karma to 2K NuYen tells us that Resources: A is worth ~255 karma points, whereas optimal skill allocation makes Skills: A worth 477 karma, so generally Skills: A is more karma efficient than Resources: A.

I don't dispute the math, but your next point and the limited number of skills needed for a character to efficiently contribute to a team means you can easily have "Too many" skill points and not enough other things.

Tall-stacks - Because character advancement in Shadowrun costs karma based on the new "Desired Rating", the same stats can generally be most efficiently achieved by starting with a few high values (tall stacks) rather than many moderate ones (wide stacks).
Ie, looking at the table below, to reach Reaction 5 Intuition 5, it's more karma efficient to Buy Reaction 5 (0 karma to raise to 5) Intuition 1 (10+15+20+25 = 70 karma to raise to 5)  at character creation than it is to buy Reaction 3 (20+25 = 45 karma to raise to 5)  Intuition 3 (45 more karma) with the same 4 Attribute points.

Most important point that drives almost all optimization choices in a build.  Well stated.

So, why not always just go Skills:A > Magic:B > Metatype: C > Attributes: D > Resources: E?

That would be a hot mess of a character.  Elf Face Shaman, maybe...?   : )   

The other advise really worth repeating is start with "E".  (Hint, it's resources, magic, or metatype) 


  • Prime Runner
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While Skill A is karma-efficient, there is a significant percentage of the population that considers it a trap option. See this long thread, which I won't try to summarize here.

I will point out that there are things that are difficult to quantify in Karma, such as Limits. A Limit it set by multiple underlying values, and so the cost of improving the Limit is highly variable based on the the cost of improving the underlying values.

I have seen Skills A + Attributes D and it was a mess of low Limits where nothing past the first 5 hits counted. The reverse build produced comparable dice pools with vastly improved Limits and was more effective, if less versatile.

To paraphrase Moneyball, most players think in terms of buying skills or attributes. Your goal shouldn't be to buy skills or attributes, your goal should be to buy hits. And in order to buy hits, you need to buy both dice pool AND Limits. Now certainly skills and attributes are highly important contributors to dice pool, and attributes are key to limits, but there are other factors that affect both like spells and adept powers and cyber/bioware and equipment and even Edge that upend the whole equation and make it the product of so many moving parts that you're often better finding a happy balance between the variables than trying to calculate a mathematical purity.

To voice a less popular opinion, this is why Limits and Accuracy are one of my favorite additions to SR5. With only dice pools to consider and with build points offering an easy conversion rate between priorities, the math to chargen in SR4 was too straight-forward and easy to optimize. ("Easy" is a relative term. I will note that UmaroVI had a Ph.D in mathematics.) Limits were specifically introduced to curb the dice pool arms race and to give equipment other ways to improve a character than simply adding more dice.

I specifically like the difficulty of optimizing in SR5, if only because the difficulty creates plenty of grey area where if you follow some basic guidelines you can play what you really want to without worrying too much about every potential point of karma left behind in chargen.

Edit: grammar
« Last Edit: (21:12:35/02-16-17) by Tecumseh »


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Another one to correct :
"Adepts are a solid choice, because when they initiate they gain both a Metamagic feat and a Power Point"

Pretty sure it's either one or the other per initiation, not both. Raising magic does give them an auto-Power Point, but as far as Initiation goes, I believe you have to chose.

You're right. Core book 278-279 and core book 326.

Adepts get free PP whenever their magic rating increases, and when they initiate may choose PP instead of metamagic. If an adept always takes PP instead of metamagic, he could theoretically have up to 2x his magic rating in power points.

And of course, if an adept wants to load up on qi foci (what else is he going to spend his money on?) he can have a little more than that.


  • Chummer
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  • Drake on the run.
And of course, if an adept wants to load up on qi foci (what else is he going to spend his money on?) he can have a little more than that.

A Workshop to make better toys for you and/or your team of course!
Take a Qi Focus with Improved Ability keyed to your favorite downtime vocation: (Armorer, Mechanic, Biotech are good picks)
« Last Edit: (15:23:13/02-17-17) by Dwagonzhan »
"You haven't truly lived until you've had a Cortex bomb!" ~Former GM


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Thanks guys! I've updated the skills section to better point out the downsides of Skills: A priority.

I've also further fleshed out the Magic, Attributes, and Limits section, and added a legend for Book Codes.


  • Omae
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For example, the conversion of 1 karma to 2K NuYen tells us that Resources: A is worth ~255 karma points, whereas optimal skill allocation makes Skills: A worth 477 karma, so generally Skills: A is more karma efficient than Resources: A.

So, why not always just go Skills:A > Magic:B > Metatype: C > Attributes: D > Resources: E?

That would be a hot mess of a character.  Elf Face Shaman, maybe...?   : )   

The other advise really worth repeating is start with "E".  (Hint, it's resources, magic, or metatype)

Dwarven technomancer with a lot of logic linked skills to partner with diagnostics might work too. :) 

I would caveat that dwarves, and sometimes elves/trolls demanding on what else they have going on can take Attributes E. And the skillpoints for magic A/B can allow those characters to go skills E sometimes. 


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Just wondering if it would make sense to break the magic column up by type (adept / full-mage or mysad / aspected), as surely the net karma and step values values vary depending on what you are building?  (granted that there are a lot of columns to cram into the page already, not sure if adding two is actually feasible --- if not, could maybe break that down in the magic section?)