So, I just had a birthday… maybe I’m feeling old. I suppose I could be that guy now. I’ve been tinkering with my Shadowrun/Dogs of War conversion or whatever you want to call it. I’m enjoying it and hoping to have something to show off soon. I made the mistake of reading the Shadowrun 5e, preview #3.
They’re making me pull my hair out. I mean – I already know I’m not happy with this game but really, are we actually going back to the priority system? How is that a good idea? I remember sitting down in the 2e days and making notebooks full of characters using the priority system and coming to the stark realization that the priority system is painfully limited and disheartening to use. I was one of those who did my own conversion to get a point-buy system for 2e because what was in the book just made me so sad.
A priority system is terribly limiting. Why is it that every troll has less skill points than every human? And why would anyone ever choose to play an elf? (Okay, to be fair – 4e has this problem too… elves are just… ugh). Ultimately though, the priority system creates this really weak funneling effect on character creation that pushes characters even more to be cookie-cutter look-a-likes. The typical shadowrun character is probably already going to bear a strong resemblance to others like him/her but priorities exacerbate the problem. Probably my least favorite part of the priority system in the old days (which we are apparently returning to) was having my money doled out to me in very specific parcels. The resources column is probably the worst part of the whole deal.
I really racked my brain to try and figure out why they would return to a priority system when they already have a great point-buy system created (which would have needed barely any tweaking to make nearly perfect). I really cannot come up with anything. I read an interesting piece the other day about applying a priority system to D&D the way Shadowrun did it… and everything that writer put forward as a virtue of the system had me cringing. Find the two posts here and here.
I feel it might be fair to say that his exploration of certain points about old school D&D is very surface. This is not an accusation, merely an observation. I doubt he meant to get too deep. The fact that he threw out the old, “Drizzt sucks” bone to the crowd gave me a chuckle and a headshake. Anyway. The second post strays more but between the two of them you get a sense that the author is a fan of scarcity. I contend that priority systems don’t really create much in the way of real scarcity – they simply create a different, and in my opinion, inferior system to get to the same thing that point buy does. As he mentions earlier – randomness creates a weird magic when applied to games. Rangers and paladins did have a certain mystique. Because people in the world knew that if you were a ranger, you were special. They’re just aren’t that many rangers. And even after ruminating on these posts though I still find myself asking, why go back to the priority system?
And I don’t have any better answers than, 1) just to give me something to rant about or, 2) just because it is “the way we used to do it.” Because it’s not (again, in my opinion) better design by any stretch of the imagination. The one point I really thought about – that it was faster – did give me pause. I thought about this. Sure, it might be faster because everything on your character sheet gets broken down into neat little boxes – but then you have to spend the points in those boxes and honestly, it doesn’t actually seem that much faster – just more restrictive.
I get it – I’m just a crazy old guy who hates 5e… nothing to see here. But everytime I read anything about 5e, as someone who loves Shadowrun, I find myself just shaking my head and wondering what the heck they are thinking. The more I read the more this game turns me off. I can’t for the life of me figure out how this was their answer to “what would a new edition of Shadowrun” look like.
I really feel like I should stop reading these previews. They only depress me. I just always hope that when I read the next preview it will be the one to draw me in, make me a fan again… and then it just makes things worse. Oh well. I’m working on a version of Shadowrun that I know will make me happy and I’ve been pulling together all of my old creations to start adding to the blog as permanent resources. Until next time – thanks for reading.
OH! And I am super-excited that Man of Steel is finally here!