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Grunt "power levels", a karmic review

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Herr Brackhaus

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« on: (16:44:36/01-20-15) »
Spurred by this discussion, I decided to review the karma spent on attributes, active skills, active skills groups, and knowledge skills of all grunt type NPCs from the core rulebook and the Plots & Paydata book from the Alphaware kit.

I've attached my findings to this post (PDFs of an Excel spreadsheet) as the data is somewhat elaborate. I essentially just noted down how many attributes, skills, and skill groups each NPC had listed on their entry and multiplied by the appropriate Karma cost to get an approximate karma spend per NPC. Note that certain factors were not considered, such as Magic and Resonance attributes (some NPCs seem to be missing these), karma spent on resources (deckers and street sams in particular) and any qualities or similar. Also note that each tier also includes Lieutenants, who in many ways have far more potential than their comrades.

What follows, then, is a baseline comparison of karma costs for each Professional Rating entry, with regards to attributes, active skills, active skill groups, and knowledge skills only. Without further ado, I give you a summary:
PR0: Ranges from 218 to 340 karma, most of it spent on attributes.
PR1: Ranges from 250 to 445 karma, with two thirds or more spent on attributes.
PR2: Ranges from 186 to 467 karma, with spend all over the map. This is by far the most confusing range, as the Rent-A-Cop has extremely low dice pools and only 186 karma spent even though it's supposed to be a PR2 opponent.
PR3: Ranges from 266 to 568 karma, with two thirds or more spent on attributes. Interestingly, the grunts in P&P are more diverse than their core book counterparts, with knowledge skills listed as well as slightly different statlines.
PR4: Ranges from 230 to 671 karma, with two thirds spent on attributes. Same as PR2, with one entry (Mafia from P&P) having significantly lower attributes and skills than every other entry
PR5: Ranges from 658 to 1318 karma, with an approximate half spent on attributes. This tier represents the most dramatic shift in ability, as the PR5 Elite Corporate Security Lieutenant has a whopping 1318 karma spent on the categories mentioned alone, before accounting for gear costs and the like. Karma spent on skills at this tier is more than half of the entire allotment.
PR6: Ranges from 1278 to 1358 karma, with less than half spent on attributes.

I haven't yet looked at contacts, but I think it'd be interesting to see what kind of karma costs they've been built with, especially since there's a quick contact table in Run Faster (page 180) we can use as comparisons.

Hopefully, this'll give you all something to draw your own conclusions from. I make no judgement calls one way or another where the data is concerned, these are merely the observations I've made based on character progression. Make of that what you will.
« Last Edit: (16:46:07/01-20-15) by Herr Brackhaus »

firebug

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« Reply #1 on: (17:29:18/01-20-15) »
It's interesting.  I like to see the karma totals of NPCs so it's more possible to design your own and be sure of "around what level" you want it to be.  Though obviously, karma building NPCs should be done sparingly so as to not waste loads of time...  But still, it gives me a more clear idea of "What kind of experience would a runner have to have to be considered on the same level as these guys?"
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Namikaze

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« Reply #2 on: (18:09:22/01-20-15) »
Thanks for this, Herr Brackhaus.  I think this is a very useful tool to all GMs out there.  I know that I've seen more than a few questions on the Interwebz about how to know when you've gone too far with the opposition.  Despite having been a GM for forever and a day, I still made a mistake in my last game that caused one of my players to almost get one-shotted.  I just didn't take into consideration how little armor he'd be wearing and made the bad guys really nasty as a result.  They still found a creative solution to save the day, but I hate when a player can be taken out of combat before they even get to act.
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Herr Brackhaus

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« Reply #3 on: (08:10:38/01-21-15) »
Ta very much; if nothing else, I think the number of skills and attributes are good indicators. I do agree with you, Firebug, in that using Karma to generate NPCs might be a little overkill.

I'll take a look at some of the NPCs in published adventures and missions for 5th Edition to see if it's possible to assign a Professional Rating to them.

Sabato Kuroi

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« Reply #4 on: (08:20:33/01-21-15) »
I remember the fight with the Chimera Assassins(PR 6) in Splintered State...
At first I thought It would be  manageable since my street sammi was lucky to kill one of them in the first round with finishing move(combined with one bad defense test on behalf of the NPC).Immediately after that  the Chimera Sniper almost one-shoted me with his first attack, the other Assassin almost destroyed our rotor-drones which provided cover  and my team had to flee in order to survive the encounter :P

« Last Edit: (08:22:25/01-21-15) by Sabato Kuroi »

Patrick Goodman

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« Reply #5 on: (10:34:37/01-21-15) »
I'll have to take a look at this later to see where I may or may not have screwed up as I was working on these. Thanks for taking the time!
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Herr Brackhaus

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« Reply #6 on: (14:03:37/01-21-15) »
Patrick,
My pleasure. I can give you some hints of what stood out to me as odd, at least. That'll give you a starting point if nothing else.

SR5 Core rulebook:
PR3 Police Patrols; 266 karma, 225 on attributes, 34 on active skills and 7 on knowledge skills. Vastly different from the 510 karma Police Patrols Lieutenant, both in terms of attributes (120 karma difference) and active skills (125 karma difference). This NPC has 3 R3 skills and 2 R4 skills, whereas a PR1 Street Scum NPC has 2 R3 skills and 3 R4 skills and better attributes overall. I would also argue that comparatively, the PR1, 2, and 3 non-LT NPCs in SR5 core are somewhat askew in terms of abilities, unless they were meant to be approximately equal.

PR5+; these NPCs represent a dramatic increase in ability even without accounting for all the gear they have. Looking at the karma spend alone they are more than twice as costly as anything of PR4 or below. In short, there seems to be no book NPC that represents the middle ground between police patrols and mobsters, and elite corpsec or specops troops.

Plots & Paydata:
PR2 Low-Level Runners and Rent-A-Cops; these should probably be PR1 given that their respective abilities.

PR3 Security Mage; with over 500 karma worth of attributes and skill, not counting spells and magic, this is more of a PR4 opponent in my view.

PR4 Mafia: this NPC is worth 230 karma, which puts him at PR0 or PR1 levels, far below his PR 4 Triad Posse counterparts

PR5 Top-Shelf Bodyguard: The 650 karma level for attributes and skills is kind of where I expected PR4 to be, personally, as the other NPCs in P&P of PR5 are all 1000+ Karma.

As for thanks, right back at ya! I always do appreciate your input when you post here, so I appreciate you taking the time to read this as well.

EDIT:
For my own guideline, I'll be looking at spending around (Professional Rating * 200) Karma on NPCs, with up to an additional 200 for Lieutenants. That gives a range of 200 (400) at PR1 and 1200+ (1400+) at PR6, and that's just on attributes, active skills, skill groups, and knowledge skills. They'll have whatever gear I want them to have as befits the nature of their group. I've been going through some combinations of attributes and skill combinations that add up to this to make it easier to generate NPCs without having to cost everything out exactly. I'll post up some observations once I've collated them.
« Last Edit: (14:12:29/01-21-15) by Herr Brackhaus »

Herr Brackhaus

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« Reply #7 on: (22:32:56/02-09-16) »
Resurrecting this thread in anticipation of going through the NPCs in newer, released material where PR is listed, such as adventure modules (with spoiler tags where appropriate) and Lockdown.

Lorebane24

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« Reply #8 on: (02:37:15/02-10-16) »
I think that looking at grunts in terms of karma used to build them is a flawed approach - it is much more effective and important to look at things in terms of final die pools in relation to your PCs.  For example, a grunt with 3 ranks in blades has a lot less karma invested than one with three ranks in the close combat skill group.  However, there is little difference as far as the PCs are concerned, and the difference in the challenge they present in close quarters is negligible.  The same can hold true for for cash spent.  To the people fighting an augmented grunt, it doesn't really matter whether they are sporting alphaware or betaware, so long as amount of chrome they actually have installed is the same.

On top of that, most grunts are only going to show up once and are, more often than not, used in combat encounters.  Does it really matter if you give your ganger a few ranks in con?  It doesn't make him any more effective in a fight, but it DOES make the grunts you have at your disposal more versatile, and if you need a dude on the streets who is a skilled amateur when it comes to lies, well shit, you can just use the stats for that ganger.  I think taking such an approach leads to far more modular grunts and creates less work for GMs.
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Beta

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« Reply #9 on: (09:00:17/02-10-16) »
Partially agreeing with Lorebane.  I would think that many grunts would not have their skills and knowleldges fully populated, because it just isn't considered all that relevant--nor will it be all that consistent.  If it ever matters, then the GM can decide that two of the gangers are trying to make a band work and have some performance skills, another is actually a decent pick-pocket, and a fourth is a decent mechanic -- but in most interactions with grunts, that level of detail just isn't important.

All the same, I think the sort of analysis that Herr Brackhaus is doing is still valuable.  I wouldn't use that as my only criteria for reviewing grunts, but when you see something that seems way out of line it could be an indication that it should be reviewed more carefully.
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farfromnice

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« Reply #10 on: (13:39:10/02-10-16) »
awesome work. Thanks a lot