NEWS

[SR6] First Decker + first character ever. Please help optimizing!

  • 6 Replies
  • 518 Views

jtkirk22

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 33
« on: <04-16-20/0638:22> »
Hi everybody,

I am absolutely new to Shadowrun and this is my first build I have ever done. I can't estimate stats, because I have so little experience. But maybe, you can help me, optimizing it a bit. I'd really like to know what you think about it.

Intention: I planned to build a hacker that is good in, well, hacking, but also has some utility skills and at least a bit of firepower and toughness.

I have some specicific questions + comments at the end of this post. But first of all, This is my build:

Code: [Select]
#### PRIORITY ####
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Metatype           C        Elf             low-light vision     
Attributes         A        24                                                             
Magic/Resonance    E        Mundane         
Skills             D        16           
Resources          B        275.000                               
                     
Ressourcen by Karma         40.000          (20 Karma)                                                   
 


#### ATTRIBUTES ####
---------------------------------------------------
CON    5      (+3 Bone density augmentation)                         
AGI    7               
REA    5           
STR    1
WIL    5   
LOG    5      (+3 Cerebral booster)   
INT    5   
CHA    5
EDG    4



#### QUALITIES ####
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Positive Qualities                   Karma    Descripton
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Analytical Mind                        3      +1 Edge when making any Logic-based test
Hardening                             10      +1 Edge when making Matrix Damage Resistance tests
                                              able to convert up to two boxes to Stun Damage, rather than Matrix damage
                                           
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------   
Positive Qualities                   Karma    Descripton
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                               
Honorbound (Hacker Codex)              10       
Incompetent (Outdoors)                 10       
Addiction 5 (Coffein/Energy Drinks)     8     Needs coffein any six hours
                                     
------------------
Karma:         +15       



#### SKILLS ####
----------------------------------------------                         
Action Skills           Points   ATR    POOL 
----------------------------------------------
Biotech                   3      LOG    11   
Cracking                  6      LOG    14     
Con                       1      CHA     6   
Elektronics               5      LOG    13   
Engeneering               1      LOG     9
Firearms                  3      AGI    10
Influence                 1      CHA     6   
Perception                1      INT     6
Piloting                  1      REA     6
Stealth                   1      AGI     8



#### BODYTECH ####
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyberware/Bioware/etc.                 Rating   Essence   Type    Description               
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Cyberjack (used)                         4       2,53     CW      D7 / F6 / Matrix-Ini +3               
Smartlink (Betaware)                             0,14     CW                             
Body density augmentation (Betaware)     3       0,63     BW      Damage Resistance +3 / Melee Damage +2K/ Melee attack rating +2       
Cerebral Booster                         3       0,60     BW      LOG+3                   

ESSENZ: 2,10



###############################                                               
      E Q U I P M E N T
###############################


#### Kommlink ####       Rating      DP    FW   
------------------------------------------------
Erika Elite                4         2     1   


#### Cyberdeck ####  Rating    DP    FW    AT    SL     Matrix - INI                       
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Renraku Kitsune        4       7     6     7     6      12 + 3W6


#### WEAPONS ####
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Name                          Type       Damage      Attack Test    Modes       Muni      Mods                 
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
FNP93 Praetor                  MP          4K         9/12/7/-/-   HM/SM/AM     50(s)     Smartgun, Silencer
Ares Predator VI             Pistole       3K        10/10/8/-/-    HM/SM       15(s)     Smartgun, Silencer
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                         
#### ARMOR ####                                                     
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                         
Panzerung            Armor    Capacity    Mods           
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------                                         
Amor West              3        6         Electricity Resistance (6)   
Helmet                 1        4   
                             


     
###############################                                               
    C O N N E C T I O N S
###############################

---------------------------------------------                               
Connections        Influence    Loyalty                       
---------------------------------------------                             
Gang Leader            4           3                                               
Info Broker            5           5                                               
Barkeeper              3           2                                               
Black Marketeer        5           3


Note: I have 25 Karma points to spend after character creation from completed adventures. I planned to spend them on skill specializations:

  • Biotech: First Aid (5 Karma)
  • Cracking: Hacking (for illegal Matrix Actions- 5 Karma)
  • Electronics: Computer (for legal Matrix Actions - 5 Karma)
  • Engineering: Lockpicking (for opening Maglocks - 5 Karma)
  • Firearms: Pistoles (counts for Machine + Heavy Pistols - 5 Karma)

Questions:
  • What do you think about this build in general? Any recommendations? Attributes okay? Augmentations/Bioware?
  • I had "Tough build 3" in my first variant of this build, but I thought that's too much into toughness. What do you think about it?
  • Would you go with or without Bone density augmentation? Costs 22.500 and offers +3 damage resistance and close combat boost. (could spend 5 karma to go for close combat later on).
  • What do you think about my planned upgrade progression on skills?
  • What do you think about my weapon choice?
  • Can you recommend any utility tools/equipment?

Would be really glad about answers!

Thanks in advance! :)
« Last Edit: <04-16-20/0643:46> by jtkirk22 »

Hobbes

  • *
  • Catalyst Demo Team
  • Prime Runner
  • ***
  • Posts: 2766
« Reply #1 on: <04-16-20/0901:48> »
Overall good build.  Random optimization notes, take 'em or leave 'em.

16 Skill points: Cracking 6, Electronics 5, Firearms 5, everything else buy @1 with Karma would be the mathematically optimal array for long term Karma efficiency.

Gear/Augments.  Matrix Attributes don't do much.  They matter a bit, but I'm not convinced they're worth the Nuyen you're spending.  You could easily dial down on the Cyberdeck, and Cyberjack.  And you really don't need the Commlink unless your GM is limiting the number of devices you can slave to your deck, and if they are use Metalinks to daisychain everything.  I would look at Muscle Toner or Muscle Replacement, and carry some hits of Jazz.

Other gear, Ammo, Fake SIN, Grapple Gun and Gecko Gloves, tool kits, Microdrones, transceiver, data tap, Contacts/Glasses/Earbuds.

Take 6 Qualities.  Impaired Str would be a freebie in this build. 

Contacts, always take a Fixer.

Other random notes: You do fail my own internal "Are you a Shadowrunner test" because with 1 Str and no Athletics you literally can't climb a chain link fence without help.

FNP93 Praetor is a SMG, not a Pistol. 

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Team
  • Prime Runner
  • ***
  • Posts: 3650
« Reply #2 on: <04-16-20/0923:46> »
That's a good character.  Quite excellent for a first time!  There's no safety handrails in Shadowrun's classless chargen system, but you avoided falling into any traps that first timers so often fall victim to.

The good: You want to have a nice, big dice pool in your primary schtick. For deckers, that's Cracking and Engineering.  You have more than 12 dice in each there, that's what I consider the goal.  True minmaxers will want 16+, but I don't think that's truly necessary.  But with your specializations, you're in that neighborhood, so you're certainly good on your primary schtick.

You avoided use of the Impaired Attribute neg quality.  I absolutely hate that cheese, so I commend you for not using it. (but, if maximum munchkin is your goal, you're totally missing out on a bunch of karma)

Skills: Kind of the inevitable downside to overspecializing in one schtick is being one dimensional.  You do an admirable job of avoiding the worst of that.  Excellent use of attribute points and resources to end up with mostly viable dice pools even at low skill rank values.  I'd quibble a little bit about putting firearms at 3 instead of perception or stealth, but it's small potatoes.  Really it depends on the rest of your team, so if I were you I wouldn't change it just because someone else says they'd do that one thing a little different.

Specializations:  this is where I have some bad news to share. Cracking is for illegal matrix actions, and Electronics is for legal matrix actions.  Specializing in illegal/legal is akin to taking a specialization in Firearms of "guns that fire bullets".  No sane GM is going to let that fly.  You'll want to establish with your GM what the Hacking and Computer specializations do and don't cover, since he'll be telling you rather than you telling him.  Per the description of "Hacking actions" on page 182, I advise you to prepare for your GM to rule that Cracking (Hacking) only covers Brute Force and Backdoor Entry.  If your GM is familiar with 5e, he might instead say that Hacking specialization covers the matrix actions that the 5e Hacking skill covered in 5e.  Namely: Crack File, Backdoor Entry (in place of Hack on the Fly), Spoof Command.  Ditto for the Computer specialization for electronics.  "All legal matrix actions" is overly broad.  It basically covers everything the skill covers, rather than being a specialization in a subset of things.  Your GM would be nuts to agree to that interpretation, but if you have a nutty GM, congrats :)

Same thing for "Pistols" for Firearms, but to a lesser degree.  Per the most recent errata, the "book specializations" are the same as the categories listed in the gear section.  That is, the specializations are: Tasers, Hold-Outs, Light Pistols, Machine Pistols, Heavy Pistols, SMGs, Shotguns, Rifles, Machine Guns.  Of course, if your GM will let you combine two categories into one specialization, more power to you.

Q&A:

1) I think I covered my views above!

2) Built Tough seems like an awful expensive luxury for a non-combatant.  I think you're well rounded... wouldn't be worth becoming more one dimensional for a bigger CM.  MAYBE if your one dimension was physical combat, but that's not even your schtick so in no way would it be worth giving anything you have up to gain Built Tough 3.

3) I'd keep the Bone Density, even without any skill in Close Combat.  Soak dice are very important.  You may be a noncombatant, but that won't stop NPCs from shooting at you.

4) Aaaaaaah... I didn't realize that those specializations are post-chargen until just now.  Heh, it helps explain why your character looks so good.  It's including 25 more karma than chargen gives! :D Still, I wouldn't change it.  GM credit/rebuild opportunities are what they are, and no point in NOT using that karma to your best advantage!  EDIT: I Have to concur with Hobbes about Athletics.  Maybe instead of 2 of those specializations take Athletics and Close Combat.

5) Hard to go wrong with the Predator... it's a truth across every edition of Shadowrun.  As a minor point: the Praetor is a SMG, not a machine pistol.  (though, it looks like you're going off the German language rules, so if the German CRB calls it a machine pistol, never mind me...)

6) mandatory equipment every runner should have:
Fake SIN with fake licenses for every (L) coded bit of gear you don't plan on hiding inside your body.  And since cyberware scanners are a thing, I'd recommend getting permits even for that...
A cheap commlink you can afford to use once and throw away
Contacts and earbuds to cover vision and hearing augmentations you didn't get via cyber/bioware
AR-interaction tech (image link+AR gloves, or DNI.  Cyberjack satisfies that for your char)
Toolkits for your skills (In your case, you'll want Biotech, Engineering, and Electronics toolkits.  Probably also want a First Aid kit, since everyone will be looking at you to be the healer)
Lowlight or Thermographic flashlight (as appropriate to your vision enhancements)
Respirator
Suggestions specific to your character:
Cyberprograms
Lockpick tools
Sequencer
Passkey
Card Reader
« Last Edit: <04-16-20/0932:55> by Stainless Steel Devil Rat »
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

jtkirk22

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 33
« Reply #3 on: <04-17-20/1155:00> »
Hey,

first of all: Thanks for your detailed feedback! This helps really much. I got a few questions concerning your feedback. I am sorry, if this post is getting long, but I tried to take up all your thoughts/points.  ;D

1. Attributes and qualities:

You were so proud of me, Stainless. Damn. Now I know about "Impairment" and it seems just so reasonable to pick it (even from an RP perspective, as my character is treated as a weakling from the team anyway).

I thought about changing Honorbound -> Impairment STR. That's +14 Karma. Afterwards, I'd had enough Karma to buy Exceptional Attribute (Logic). After that, I would trade lower Constitution to 4 and add 1 point to Logic (6+3). That would also be a boost to all my important skills. Attributes would look like that:

Code: [Select]
#### ATTRIBUTES ####
---------------------------------------------------
CON    4      (+3 Bone density augmentation)                         
AGI    7               
REA    5           
STR    1
WIL    5   
LOG    6      (+3 Cerebral booster)   
INT    5   
CHA    5
EDG    4

Question 1a: How do you think about that?



2. Skills

When it comes to skills, I am really not quite sure, how to distribute them. If I see it right, the Tiers are the following (by importance for a hacker):
  • Tier 1: Cracking, Electronics
  • Tier 2: Biotech, Engineering, Firearms
  • Tier 3: Perception, Stealth
As a min-maxer, I would want to max Tier 1 and get at least 3 points in Tier 2, right? Unfortunately, if I max Tier 1, I have only 4 points left to boost Tier 2 without using extra Karma. It could look like that (including +15 Karma from adventures!)

Code: [Select]
#### SKILLS ####
----------------------------------------------                         
Action Skills           Points   ATR    POOL
----------------------------------------------
Athletics                 1      AGI     8
Biotech                   3      LOG    12   
 -> Frist Aid             -      LOG    14   
Cracking                  6      LOG    15     
Close Combat              1      AGI     8 (+2 Bone density Augmentation)
Con                       1      CHA     6   
Elektronics               5      LOG    14   
Engeneering               1      LOG    10
 -> Lockpicking           -      LOG    12
Firearms                  3      AGI    10
 -> Which Weapon?         -      AGI    12
Influence                 1      CHA     6   
Perception                1      INT     6
Piloting                  1      REA     6
Stealth                   1      AGI     8

Question 2a: Which skills of Tier 2 are most important to have a hight rank in? Biotech, Engineering, Firearms?
Question 2b: Would you trade Firearms for Engineering? Or progress on Engineering later on?
Question 2c: And I believe, it's better to put ranks into low skills instead of using specializations, right?



3. Weapons:

Thanks for your information about weapon specializations. The German core rules just has so much wrong information...

Question 3a: What weapon category would you recommend for me? Would I need a weapon for closest range, now that I have close combat + bone density augementation?



4. Augmentations:

Cyberjack/Cyberdeck/Muscle Toner: I am not quite sure about, how important Matrix Attributes are. I guess, they are most important against IC defense and otherwise "only" for attack vs. defense testing, right? Dialing down both would mean: ASDF 6/5/6/5 instead of 7/6/7/6 and save 19.500 Nuyen + 0.3 Essence (because I bought Cyberjack in "used" condition). Worth it? What would I buy in exchange? Would have 0.43 Essence left to go for further Augementation. Hobbes suggested Muscle Toner. But wouldn't that be a bit too much combat orientated?



5. Equipment:

Thanks for your awesome recommendations. Concerning Sequencer, Passkey and keycard reader (did you mean "copier"?). But it seems that I don't understand how to use them right:

Question 5a) I thought I would hack Maglocks etc. with my cyberjack (opening lock + connecting cyberjack) instead of "short-circuiting" them "manually".
Question 5b) Furthmore, I thought that the Sequencer/Maglock Passkey would replace my skills. E. g. Maglock Passkey gives 8 dice to open a Maglock. But my Engineering is already 10. So, is there even a use of a Sequencer/Passkey?



Hope, this weren't too many questions. I tried to take up all your points.  ;D

Would be really glad about further answers! Thanks in advance!

Kind regards
« Last Edit: <04-17-20/1204:59> by jtkirk22 »

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Team
  • Prime Runner
  • ***
  • Posts: 3650
« Reply #4 on: <04-17-20/1337:43> »
1a) well, I can't argue against the brutal efficiency of Impaired Attribute.  It's basically too good to not take.  That's why I don't like it, but too good to not take IS still too good to not take.  And I do think a decker will be better served with LOG 6/BOD 4 than both at 5.  You're correct that you had to buy exceptional Attribute to make LOG 6 not be your second attribute at max. You could have put it in either LOG or AGI... I like the decision to put it in LOG.  Unlocks the potential to raise your LOG to 7 via karma in the future.  Paying AGI up from 7 to 8 is less plausible, especially as  a Decker.

2a) Call it personal preference, but I'd demote Firearms to third tier and bring either stealth or perception up to 2nd tier.  With your AGI, Stealth is probably the easier option than Perception.  Between Biotech and Engineering... mox nix! (or since you actually speak German: macht nichts!) I'd say the abilities of the rest of the team should drive this decision.  Do you already have a healer? Do you already have someone to tinker with things?

2b) Unless your team lacks a primary combatant, Firearms is pure luxury for you.  let the pros handle shooting people.  If you have as few as 9 dice in Firearms, you're already golden.  With your LOG, noone else is likely to be able to be the primary guy for juryrigging gear.  Embrace your strengths.  Especially if you're min/maxing.

2c) Due to the way chargen works, you're better off putting skill points into a few skills all at high level, and use karma to attain any skills you don't have at high level.  From an extreme min/maxing perspective, every skill should be either 6/5 or 1.  I don't like that degree of it, but YMMV.  By my reckoning, 9 dice is the magic benchmark.  A typical test is Threshold (3) (see pg. 36).  You want at minimum 9 dice in anything you expect to succeed at.  For your secondary and primary niches, you need to be able to still get 3 hits after assuming increasingly bad conditions, and/or be able to hit increasingly high thresholds under ideal conditions.

3a) Your bone lacing already gives you a close combat weapon without further need for investment.  A weapon that you can bring anywhere, and you can't lose/be disarmed of/have taken away at a weapons check booth.  But if you have some nuyen to spare and want another option: shock gloves are a strong alternative.

Augmentations/Matrix Attributes: Matrix stuff is your primary schtick.  That being said, the difference between ASDF stats of 6s and 5s is not a HUGE difference from 7s and 6s.  They factor into Attack Ratings and Defense Ratings, both of which can be anywhere from important to critical. They also give defense pools.  But since they have little direct proactive contribution, you can cut corners.  But remember to do so at your peril.  With 7 raw agility, you COULD get some more via Muscle Aug, but I'd call it a luxury.

5a) as a decker, using Spoof Command to open maglocks is probably your go-to.  But, as the "open the doors guy" being able to open maglocks even without risking yourself in a host can be helpful to the team.  Plus, there's plenty of potential for a maglock to be more easily picked than hacked.  (matrix targeting rules and all)

5b) a passkey gives you the potential to "pick" that kind of maglock without having to crack the case open... fast, discreet, easy!  And in the case of a keypad maglock, you can't even ATTEMPT to pick it without use of a sequencer (see pg 279)
« Last Edit: <04-17-20/1512:28> by Stainless Steel Devil Rat »
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.

jtkirk22

  • *
  • Newb
  • *
  • Posts: 33
« Reply #5 on: <04-18-20/1128:11> »
Haha...yeah, I am German. Dankeschön für deine Hilfe! ;) Some further questions concerning your post:

1. Skills:

I follow your advise and put Fireskills to one. That gives me 2 more skill points (for a total of 7 points to spend for Tier 2). I know about the efficiency, but we have neither a Healer nor someone that is good in Engineering. The whole team is medium in Stealth (pool of 8-10). Actually, I need all three:

Biotech 0-5
Engineering 0-5
Stealth 0-5

So, including +25 points from adventures, I can go either 3/3/2 or 5/2/1. Somehow, 3/3/2 feels like a waste, because it "only" saves 15 Karma on character creation (+5 adding a new skill, +10 rank 2) instead of 45 karma rank 4/5.

I would look like either this ... (5/3/1)

Code: [Select]
Action Skills           Points   ATR    POOL
----------------------------------------------
Athletics                 1      AGI     8
Biotech                   5      LOG    14   
 -> Frist Aid/Medicine    -      LOG    16   
Cracking                  6      LOG    15     
Close Combat              1      AGI     8 (+2 Bone density Augmentation)
Con                       1      CHA     6   
Elektronics               5      LOG    14   
Engeneering               3      LOG    12
Firearms                  1      AGI    8
 -> Which Weapon?         -      AGI    10
Influence                 1      CHA     6   
Perception                1      INT     6
Stealth                   1      AGI     8
 -> Sneaking              -      AGI    10

or this... (3/3/2)

Code: [Select]
Action Skills           Points   ATR    POOL
----------------------------------------------
Athletics                 1      AGI     8
Biotech                   3      LOG    12   
 -> Frist Aid/Medicine    -      LOG    14   
Cracking                  6      LOG    15     
Close Combat              1      AGI     8 (+2 Bone density Augmentation)
Con                       1      CHA     6   
Elektronics               5      LOG    14   
Engeneering               3      LOG    12
Firearms                  1      AGI    8
 -> Which Weapon?         -      AGI    10
Influence                 1      CHA     6   
Perception                1      INT     6
Stealth                   1      AGI     9
 -> Sneaking              -      AGI    11

Could switch distribution of 5/3/1 or 3/3/2 between Engi/Bio/Stealth. Both without Piloting.


Question 1a: Which way would you go? Is it worth/important, having another high pool skill? (Can't estimate, how fast I will earn Karma via adventures and how expensive those costs really are) If yes, which one would you go - Biotech or Engineering?

Engineering: I am not quite sure how "situational" Engineering is. Is it mostly used to open doors? If yes, than it could be a good idea to pick Lockpicking Specialization instead of a high rank in Engineering. If no, than I would want to get at least 3 in Engineering.

Stealth: Disguise or Palming seems very situational. So, Sneaking or Camouflage. I guess Sneaking seems by far the most useful choice in urban szenarios, right? So, it could be a reasnable choice to go for Sneaking specialization.

Questions 1b: Would you prefer Biotech or Engineering? Is it reasonable to boost one of those skills with Specializations?

Questions 1c: I still don't know, if First Aid or Medicine is the better choice (for later on). Medicine can be applied for a longer duration and it give a higher healing. So, why would I ever go for First Aid? Do I miss something?



2. Equipment:

2a) Sequencer/Passkey: Okay, so I understand that I need a Sequencer/Passkey to be able to open a Maglock. But may I use the whole pool of my Engineering skill or am I limited to the pool level of my Sequencer?

2b) Cyberdeck: So, if I dind't misunderstand you, you recommend staying with a high Cyberdeck/Cyberjack, because that my job, right? (I don't know what to by from that money anyways.)

2c) Weapon: Still searching for a good weapon category. Any suggestions?

2d) Smartgun: The rulebook says "Gain a bonus Minor Action on a turn when you use the Reload Smartgun". Realoading a Smartgun costs a Minor Action. Does that mean, it is "totally free"?


Thanks in advance! :)

Kind regards!
« Last Edit: <04-19-20/0207:30> by jtkirk22 »

Stainless Steel Devil Rat

  • *
  • Errata Team
  • Prime Runner
  • ***
  • Posts: 3650
« Reply #6 on: <04-20-20/1015:43> »
1a) Which skill array is better:  Honestly I'd say go with the one you like better.  You're getting down into the weeds here where in order to say what's "better", more contextual information about the campaign/rest of the party would be necessary to be able to say.  They're both perfectly viable, I think.  Go with the one you like better.

Biotech or Engineering: Biotech would be for patching bulletholes and repairing cyberware (you're the Sammie's best friend).  There's the obvious role for Engineering in lockpicking, but from a Decker's perspective there's an even MORE important role in repairing matrix damage! Beyond that, the ability to tinker with building infrastructure (without having to hack the host) is pure gold.  Need a way to make the fire extinguishers go off?  FAIL to go off?  Want to do the movie cliche of stopping an elevator in the shaft and escaping from the cab out into the shaft?  All engineering tasks.  And even beyond all that: engineering skill covers making all the sorts of James Bond gadgets.  If you have good Engineering, you're the team's Q.

Why ever go First Aid instead of Medicine: well, not sure how the German language CRB reads on these.  The way I read the English rules, there is no explicit use for the Medicine specialization.  First Aid "clearly" should apply to the First Aid tier of healing checks. The Medkit stage of healing checks also never says which specialization is applicable, but unlike First Aid it doesn't match the name of one given.  The last stage, Natural Healing, is where I'd personally view the Medicine specialization as being relevant.  As for the Medkit stage, I'd say there either a) is no relevant specialization because it's predicated on using a medkit and even if you're not using the medkit's dice, it's still "the primary healing agent", b) the relevant specialization isn't listed on pg. 94 and under the principle that "specializations listed are suggestions, rather than an exhaustive list of possible options" that a new specialization, "Biotech (Medkits) is applicable, or c) Biotech (First Aid) applies BOTH to First Aid and Medkit healing.  I'd probably go with c, but it does risk putting too much value in one specialization.  it's a toughie. Let your GM make that call :D

2a) Sequencer dice pool: Per page 241, you can use either your dice pool or the sequencer's.  Per page 279, they're necessary to even making the attempt.  So in combination, you have 2 ways of looking at it:  Option 1, buy the cheapest one you can since when you're using your own dice pool, you're ignoring the sequencer's.  Option 2: buy the most expensive one you can, because if you fail to pick the lock you can avoid the -2 dice penalty for "trying again" by using the sequencer's dice pool instead of your own.  It's a new task, not re-trying a failed one!

2b) Cut corners on ASDF, or go all in:  Only reason to NOT go all in is if you're trying to go hybrid decker/something else and you need to save money for other capabilities.  If you want to min/max the very best decker you can, there's no substitute for ASDF values.  But yes, there are diminishing returns.  Unless/until you're hacking high rating hosts, a little bit *more* ASDF when you're already getting edge hacking commlinks and low-end hosts can be a waste of nuyen.

2c) Well, it depends on what you want from your gun.  Do you want raw killing power?  Obviously it's hard to beat an assault rifle, but it's not the sort of thing you can take into many (any?) places. On the other end, you have hold-outs, which are the most smuggle-able but the least hard hitting.  Tasers are a great compromise option for the non primary combatants.  Decent damage, and you can get away with publicly carrying them in way more places than say a heavy pistol.  There's no right/wrong answers here.

2d) it's ALMOST "totally free"!  You still had to spend the minor action in the first place.  If you have no minor action, you can't do the action and if you don't do the action, then there can be no rebate on that action.
RPG mechanics exist to give structure and consistency to the game world, true, but at the end of the day, you’re fighting dragons with algebra and random number generators.