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[SR4a] Archetypes: replacements for the Sample Characters

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Archetypes Overview
The Archetypes are a replacement for the Sample Characters provided in SR4A. They are specifically intended for Shadowrun Missions and are fully compatible with the SRM rules. They can be used in non-Missions games as well, with a few caveats (see below), such as ignoring references to SRM-specific rules (such as how downtime activities work).

5 new archetypes: Martial Artist, Former Neoprimitive, Gunslinger, Magical Rocker, and Info Savant. In particular there are now 4 of every metatype except dwarves (of which there are 2).

Why replace the sample characters?
The sample characters are neither suitable as pregenerated sheets for new players to use, nor useful as examples of how to make characters. They have widely varying levels of effectiveness (compare the Weapons Specialist to the Street Samurai or the Enforcer), many of them cannot do the job they claim to be able to do (the smuggler cannot smuggle things, for example), and many of them are built in strange or illogical ways. They are also difficult to use, because they don’t list all necessary information on their character sheets.

The Archetypes fix these problems. They are built to a fairly uniform power level, and they all clearly advertise what they are and are not good at. Not only do they list all the game information needed to sit down and play them (such as the effects of spells, common dice pools, damage of weapons, and statistics of vehicles and drones), they also have a list of recommended ways to spend karma and nuyen with the costs pre-calculated, for easy between-Missions upgrading (useful for convention play, or for new players who are overwhelmed by the number of options).

All of the Archetypes have “hooks” that make it easier for players to get into the character and add unique elements to their version of an Archetype, as well as a few open Knowledge Skills (along with a list players can select from) to add a bit more uniqueness.

Finally, to be more friendly to new players, all the Archetypes have a “Tactics” section that lays out the basic way the characters operate and explains the typical use of each character’s abilities.

Design principles:
In general, all the characters favor passive and automatic effects (such as Improved Ability) over active-use preemptive abilities (such as Attribute Boost). Similarly, they have minimal amounts of “widget” gear - meaning small, situational pieces of equipment that are easy to forget you have and that you have to remember to use. The reason for both of these design choices is to make the characters easier on new players; sheets filled with lots of little things that only help in narrow circumstances and with abilities that you have to use in advance rather than activate “on the fly” when they come up are much harder to handle when you haven’t seen the character before and aren’t highly familiar with the game system.

All of the characters are designed with about a 70%-30% focus on effectiveness “as-is” versus long-term karma and nuyen efficiency. Obviously, this varies a bit from archetype to archetype, but at the very minimum none of them are missing anything they need to perform their stated roles, even if it means having some gear that they will want to throw away and replace after finishing their first run.

All of the characters are designed for a relatively high level of optimization, for several reasons. First, it’s a lot easier to weaken characters than to strengthen them. Second, the players of Archetypes will usually be newer players: they should be able to play alongside characters with more karma run by more experienced players, without being unable to contribute.

All characters are designed to wear acceptably discrete armor - typically armored clothing with discrete armor worn underneath. None of the characters start play with Restricted or Forbidden armor.

All of the characters have at least one weapon (or attack) that is Restricted, concealable, or both; many characters also own unconcealable and/or Forbidden weapons, but none of them rely on such weapons to be effective.

The Tactics section maintains the polite fiction that Stick-n-shock is for taking people alive, rather than for any situation other than fighting Stun-immune targets or intentionally killing people at the cost of taking them down less quickly. All characters who use guns own both Stick-n-shock ammo and lethal ammo; the intention is to facilitate both tables where Stick-n-shock is prevalent, and also tables that have a “gentlemen’s agreement” not to use it as a default attack.

Similarly, the characters with Summoning/Compiling have fairly conservative suggestions about the force of the spirits/sprites they should typically call, but of course have the option of higher-force summoning.

All of the characters have 35 points of Negative Qualities, with an emphasis on “personality flaws.” This is to give players immediate hooks they can use to get in character, and to make the Archetypes more distinctive. If you don’t have time to make a whole character from scratch and want to instead personalize an Archetype before play, swapping negative qualities for other ones is a good idea.

All of the characters have an appropriate contact. Characters with poor social skills tend to have higher connection-rating contacts to give them more to do during the Legwork portions of adventures.

As an overall design principle, more specialized characters aim to be excellent at all the aspects of their area of expertise. Less specialized characters aim to be pretty good at critical aspects of the areas they cover. For example, characters who are not very combat focused aim to be good with one type of weapon rather than subpar with every type of weapon. More combat focused characters aim to be very good with several types of weapons (including at least one weapon for any given niche), rather than incredibly amazing with a single particular weapon.

Excluded options: None of the characters use any of the following, even though they are (strictly speaking) permitted in missions, and most if not all of the characters would benefit.

-Cyberhands and Cyberfeet with Armor Enhancement
-Emotitoys and Empathy Software (including not advising the Technomancer to thread them)
-Multiple Grenades
-Softweave Armor
-MRSI software
-Iron Will
-Dump stats were kept to the following standards: most of the characters have all or all but one ability score at 2 or higher. A minority (the Technoshaman and the Transhuman Mystic) have two ability scores at 1.
-None of the characters are metavariants, Changelings, or sapient critters.
-The characters avoid, as much as possible, the use of any spells, powers, or equipment with unclear mechanics. For example, the Technomancer is not advised to take the Swap echo, because it isn’t clear how it works and different GMs may rule it works in very different ways.

Rules assumptions:
There are several places where the rules are unclear. There’s simply no way to design all the characters to work under all possible interpretations of every rule, so instead, I will outline the assumptions the characters were built under.

Cyberlimb Averaging: It is unclear how cyberlimb averaging was intended to work as the example appears to contradict the text and the math used isn’t explicitly shown. The archetypes assume the most conservative (ie, weakest for the cyberlimb user) interpretation that doesn’t directly contradict the example, which also appears to be the most widely held version.
   a) The skull is considered a “partial limb” and is not used except in tests that directly and exclusively involve it (just like hands or feet).
   b) The torso is a full limb.
   c) Tasks that involve one limb and one limb only use that limb’s stats and only that limb’s stats, regardless of whether it is partial or full. The characters were designed to not bring up questions like “does firing a SMG use only my hand, or does it use my forearm, or my entire arm?”
   d) Tasks involving clear and specific sets of limbs use the average or the minimum, depending on the GM’s judgement of whether it requires a combined effort or careful coordination. Examples include running (both legs) and firing two-handed guns (both arms). Only full limbs are averaged; partial limbs do not apply in either case.
   e) Tasks that involve no specific body parts, such as encumbrance from armor or damage resistance, average the torso, both legs, and both arms. The characters base stats are averaged in multiple times if appropriate; for example, a character with a cybertorso, one cyberarm, and one cyberleg would have an “average Body” of [(base Body)x2 + cyber torso body + cyber arm body + cyber leg body]/5

The only more conservative commonly held interpretation that I am aware of counts the head as a full limb. However, this leads to either the nonsensical conclusion that the head is not involved in resisting damage, or contradicts the example given on page 343 of SR4A.

In any game that has houserules or a different interpretation of the rules from the above, all of the characters with cyberlimbs will need to be significantly reconstructed.

Skill caps: I assume that the skill caps are (unaugmented attribute plus unaugmented skill)x2 or 20, whichever is higher; ie, the Improved Ability adept power and other effects that increase skills do not raise the skill cap.

I assume that for Matrix tests, the cap is set by (unaugmented) Complex Form or Program rating and skill, not by Logic and skill. If Logic and skill is used to set the cap, the Technoshaman should be significantly rebuilt or not played.

Drones and Tacnets: It isn't uniformly agreed upon how drones and tacnets interact. One school of thought that is supported by the rules is that drones do not count their drone sensor systems normally, and instead count all drone sensor systems, collectively, as being a number of channels equal to the drone's Sensor rating. The other school of thought is that drones follow the normal rules, but may (instead of participating in a tacnet themselves) provide a number of channels to a different character equal to the drone's sensor rating. I used the latter assumption in building these characters, based on neither being a clearly more powerful option and the latter being more widespread in use.

In games where a different interpretation is taken, characters with drones may need some revision. If the former interpretation is used, the simplest fix is to remove any two sensor channels from each drone (while maintaining Sensor 6), and attach a microsensor camera with one vision enhancement to the drone. This will cause a drone to have 8 channels (6 from its Sensor 6, 2 from the camera [which is not part of the drone sensor systems]).

Other interpretations include that only unmodified drones use their Sensor rating, and drones with modified sensor systems use the normal rules, and that the Sensor rating is an upper limit on the number of channels a drone can supply, or an upper limit on the number it can supply with its drone sensor systems. These are not supported in the rules, however.

It should be noted that this rule only applies to drones, not non-drone vehicles. Non-drone vehicles follow the ordinary rules for Tacnets.

Biocompatibility: It is not written anywhere in the rules whether Biocompatibility is meant to deduct from the base cost or is meant to be a multiplicative deduction with other essence cost reducers, that is, it isn't stated whether a character with Biocompatability (Cyberware) and Alphaware cyberware has 70% or 72% essence reduction. Based on consensus of Missions GMs, I went with the simpler and slightly more favorable option (70%).

Missions Specific Design Choices
There are some things that might not be immediately obvious that result from the characters being designed for Shadowrun Missions; these are listed mostly to help anyone who wants to use the Archetypes characters in non-Missions games.

In general, all of the characters are designed with choices of skills and abilities that I have observed to be useful in Missions games I have run or played in personally.

Contacts: All the characters have a Contact from Season 4 of Shadowrun Missions. You may want to replace these if you are playing a different season or a non-missions game. The missions format tends not to reward very heavy investment in contacts at character creation, so there aren’t any characters who spent more than 9 points on contacts (but everyone has at least 1).

Licenses: Per Bull’s preferences, Fake Licenses are based on “common sense” things that characters would have licenses for - such as a license to practice magic - rather than the way the Sample Characters have a separate fake license for each restricted item (even to the point of having two fake licenses in order to own two copies of the same gun).

Optional Rules: The characters assume that no optional rules (aside from those explicitly included, like extra recoil compensation for high Strength) are used, and that no “at the GM’s discretion, characters may take...” abilities are permitted. Specific “game-changers” commonly used in non-missions games:
   1) Martial arts. Every character except the pure mages and the Technoshaman would benefit from some investment in martial arts otherwise.
   2) Way of the Adept. The Negotiator should probably have a Way, if Way of the Adept is allowed.
   3) Custom streams and traditions: All the magical and emerged characters would benefit from having a customized tradition or stream.

Possession: Possession traditions were temporarily banned in Missions (at the time the characters were made), so there are no Possession-tradition magicians or mystic adepts. Some may be added, at some point; currently they are now legal.

Mental spells: Mental spells were temporarily banned in missions (at the time the characters were made), so none of the magicians know any mental spells. They are currently legal and so this may change.

Specializations: Missions allows only the specializations listed under the skill entries in SR4A, in all of their vague and inconsistent glory. This causes a whole host of oddities such as Unarmed (Martial Arts), Pilot Ground Craft (Wheeled), no Pistols specialization that covers the Ruger Thunderbolt, et cetera.

Languages: The amount of knowledge skill points assigned to languages and the languages chosen reflects the sort of NPCs that tend to show up in Missions. It might be a good idea to change Language skills (or background skills in general) in a differently-themed game.

The Archetypes:
Archetypes Spreadsheet that gives a general idea of what the Archetypes are and what they do.
Burnout Combat Mage: a cybered Dwarf magician focused on combat magic.
Spirit Medium: an Elf magician focused on summoning.
Paranormal Detective: an Ork magician focused on detection and illusion.
Magical Rocker, a human magician focused on flashy combat magic and rocking out.
Transhuman Mystic: a Dwarf cybered mystic adept focused on magically-enhanced physical combat and B&E.
Negotiator: an Elf cybered adept with a mix of social and physical combat skills.
Martial Artist, a troll augmented adept focused on melee combat and social skills.
Former Neoprimitive, a troll augmented adept who uses archaic throwing weapons to great effect.
Gunslinger, a human augmented adept focused on mastery of pistols.
Ronin: an Ork street samurai, focused on an even mix of toughness, melee combat, and ranged combat.
Ghost: an Elf street samurai, focused on ranged combat.
Bad Enough Trog: a Troll street samurai, focused on toughness.
Mercenary Rigger: an Ork rigger, with secondary skills in hacking, B&E, and physical combat.
Generalist: a Human face/street samurai/hacker.
Spook: a Human face/street samurai/B&E specialist.
Combat Hacker: a Troll hacker/street samurai.
Technoshaman: an Elf technomancer focused on hacking, with secondary rigging.
Info Savant, an ork technomancer focused on rigging, with hacking secondary.

Chummer files:
I am linking completed Chummer files of the above characters produced by other forums users, credited to them.
Spirit Medium, credit to SladeWeston.
Gunslinger, credit to SladeWeston.
Mercenary Rigger, credit to groduick.
Technoshaman, credit to RHat.
Info Savant, credit to RHat and runner-up to SladeWeston.

All chummer files by Andrej533

Thanks for putting these together.

This post is 15 kinds of awesome.  Attention moderators, STICKY NEEDED.

The keeper of the character section delivers yet again :)

Shinobi Killfist:
People always say the smuggler can't smuggle, but while it is not perfect I think it could smuggle given the context of the main 4e book.  Infiltration, navigation, driving, electronic warfare covers the sneak past borders part of smuggling fairly well with the base rules, a few more hacking skills would be nice but you only have so many points.  I'd of gone with con as well, but negotiation(bargaining) can work on the bribe front.  And the knowledge skills are solid.  The vehicles are decent given its just the main book they are using, the programs as well.  It really isn't until you start adding in all the supplements that the smuggler falls down a bit. And even then she can smuggle across quite a few borders with what she has, it isn't like she needs to get out of east berlin in the 60's.  Borders are big, knowing the routes and border patrol tactics should get her 90% of the way there.

I'm not saying I wouldn't build her differently, but we had a player use it once and she worked out reasonably well and could smuggle to some degree.  The archetypes are not perfect but I think they get a bit more flak than they should.  A wide range of effectiveness on the 400 BP scale is actually a good thing in my mind, I just wish they were labeled in a way that a novice would know this guy was built to kick butt, this guy was good at combat but we left out some things for growth or to start on a lower tier.  For example the weapon specialist and the sprawl ganger would work on the same team, but if the street sam was thrown in the mix it would make both of those 2 look bad at the start. 


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