Anarchy is Dead
Gameplay in Shadowrun: Anarchy revolves around two things (besides leaping into bad craziness for a handful of nuyen, which in Shadowrun is a given): Building the Story and Rolling Dice.
Building the Story
Shadowrun: Anarchy gameplay is divided into a series of turns. Each turn, every player has a chance to play out and describe their character’s actions, along with other elements of the story going on around them. These descriptions are called Narrations, and as the game progresses these Narrations build on each other and form the story of the game.
Giving a Narration is quite easy. All a player has to do is describe what his or her character is doing, such as engaging in a firefight, exploring a Matrix host, or summoning a spirit, as well as adding some descriptions about what happens around them when they do what they do.
If any action has a chance of failure, then a dice-rolling test is made to determine whether the action succeeds.
Cues are building blocks players can use as a basis for Narrations. Cues are both suggestions and descriptions. They can be positive and negative and never have to be narrated the same way twice. If a player draws a blank or wants to make sure he’s staying on-topic, he can look at a list of Cues and choose an appropriate one to base a Narration around.
Demonstrating a Cue for the first time in a session gains 1 Plot Point.
The most exciting plots include twists you never saw coming—a twisted water spirit emerging from a swamp, experimental security countermeasures appearing right in the middle of your firefight, a strange subsystem in a Matrix node that gets activated, or a vicious paracritter breaks free from its laboratory cage.
In gameplay, these twists can come about through Plot Points, which can be employed in many ways. They are used to interrupt or alter another player’s Narration—a method of adding a twist to the game. They can also be used to change player turn order, add a glitch die, or gain back a point of Physical or Stun damage. The ways players utilize Plot Points are only limited by how creative they want to be.
Players will be earning and spending Plot Points throughout the game, and using some type of tokens (such as poker chips or pennies) is the best method to track them. However, players are free to use whatever system works best, whether it’s chips, dice, noting them down on paper, tablet, or smartphone, and so on.
Earning Plot Points: Players
Players begin the game with three Plot Points each and may be awarded more points by the GM for particularly good Narrations, and for demonstrating Cues and Dispositions. Players may have a maximum of five Plot Points at any time, and only one point may be awarded to a player at a time. Certain Shadow Amps give players a bonus Plot Point at the start of combat.
The GM is the only person who may award Plot Points, though some Shadow Amps tell them when this should happen.
Earning Plot Points: Gamemaster
The GM also receives Plot Points into a pool of their own. The GM starts a session with one Plot Point, and every time a player spends a Plot Point, the GM receives two Plot Points.
Unlike the players, the GM has no limit on how many Plot Points they can have.
Spending Plot Points: Players
No matter what effect you want to cause, the cost is one Plot Point, and the change is immediately made to the game. Players may not spend more than one point at a time in an attempt to maximize the twist, though they can spend multiple Plot Points during any player’s Narration (whether their own, or another player’s).
Examples of things to do with Plot Points:
- Live Dangerously Add a Glitch Die to a roll (1 = Glitch, 5-6 = Exploit).
- Shake It Up Take a Narration out of sequence.
- Double-Time It Take two Movements.
- Surprise Threat! Add an unseen threat to the Scene.
- First Aid/Fix Recover a point of Armor, Matrix, Stun, or Physical damage.
- Frag It/Jam It Place a device/spirit/weapon/etc. on Cooldown (may not use this Turn).
- Take the Hit Defend against an attack instead of a Close ally (or Counterspell).
- Get Revenge Attack an NPC that just attacked you (just once).
- Ignore Cooldown Take an action that is on Cooldown.
- Get/Give a Clue Ask for a Narration suggestion or give one.
- Never Give Up Resist an action warranted by a Negative Quality.
- Flashback (2) (see “House Rules” below) Shake it up plus Live Dangerously to narrate a Flashback.
- Montage (X) (see “House Rules” below) Get a clue from each player to narrate a Montage.
Spending Plot Points: Gamemaster
Like players, the GM can spend Plot Points in any fashion they choose, with the following caveats:
- With the exception of adding a Glitch Die, Plot Points can only be spent to aid NPCs or create plot twists; they cannot be spent to directly aid or hinder a player.
- A GM can spend a number of Plot Points per turn equal to the number of players. However, only two Plot Points may be spent on the same player a turn.
- Instead of using a Plot Point to go first, the gamemaster can spend one to change how turn order works for a round. They can select to go in reverse order (starting with the player to the GM’s right), or they can roll a die to randomly determine a new starting player for that round. This can be especially useful to shake up patterns players develop in a game or keep players on their toes.
Plot Point House Rules
Players who spend a Plot Point to generate a complication for themselves (“Surprise Threat!”, “Frag It”, etc.), that player regains one point of Edge. If the player creates a complication for another player during their Narration, the targeted player regains one point of Edge.
The idea is that a player may use their Narration to describe certain preparation steps that they had taken before the current scene. This might be to bribe a guard, steal a getaway car, plant a bug or weapon, clip an alarm wire, or anything at all really. The Flashback is a heavier investment than other Plot Points and could go wrong, only to make things more exciting (or difficult).
Steps for Stylized Flashbacks and Preparation
1) Player spends TWO Plot Points to invoke the Flashback (Shake it up plus Live Dangerously).
2) Describe the purpose and method of the Flashback. Test appropriate Skill and add a Glitch Die.
- Exploit may refund a Plot Point or have an added positive effect.
- Glitch may cause Cooldown, Stun or Physical damage, or have an added negative effect.
3) Player narrates Flashback and results (using up their Narration) but may not negate a Narration that has already taken place.
The last two bits are important. The player uses their own CURRENT Narration to narrate the FLASHBACK Narration. This is for action economy and balance. The Player may also not negate a Narration that has already taken place. If an alarm is triggered while breaking in, the player cannot Flashback to say they disabled the alarm. They didn’t disarm it or it would not have been triggered. It already happened. But they could Flashback to rerouting the alarm away from Knight Errant and to another player or a contact instead.
Before attempting the break-in (and triggering the alarm), the player could Flashback to the time they spent all night studying the electronics and hardware of a similar device. With this they might get a reroll or extra dice on the test. You could spend Edge, certainly, for the same effect. One method represents Luck or Skill and the other represents Preparation or Forethought.
The Glitch Dice adds the element of unforeseen consequences without fully playing them out in the Flashback. If you Glitch on a Negotiations Test to bribe a bouncer, you might take 1 Stun to represent the punch in the eye you got. If you Glitch on an Electronics Test to clip a wire, your tools might be on Cooldown to represent dropping them when you grazed the livewire.
Steps for Stylized Legwork and Investigation
1) Game Master may reveal certain Scene Tags or Cues as a starting point for the Montage. Players may spend Plot Points to gain further clues.
2) Players roll Willpower + Charisma (if they are working the crowd or hitting up contacts) or Willpower + Logic (if they are working the Matrix or hitting the books) and are ranked by net hits (lowest to highest) opposed by standard difficulty rating.
3) Players narrate increasingly successful encounters at various locations or with various NPCs (starting with lowest ranked PC).
4) Players must describe what their character is doing plus what 1-3 other player characters or contacts are doing.
5) Players may narrate Cue-reasonable violence but there are no further tests and no combats.
6) Game Master may reveal clues, scene locations, NPC information, etc. based on Narrations and net hits.
Shadowrun: Anarchy uses six-sided dice; anytime “D” is used, as in “D6,” it’s shorthand for “die” or “dice,” so 4D6 means 4 six-sided dice. Rolled dice are scored individually instead of being added together.
The main goal when making any die roll is to score hits. When rolling dice, any die that comes up as a five or six are counted as hits. When you spend a point of Edge, dice that roll a four, five, or six are counted as hits.
The Core Mechanic
Any time your character (or an acting NPC) wishes to perform an action where the success is in doubt, you need to make a Test to see whether the action was successful. Your main job is to figure out how many dice you are going to roll, then roll them and count up hits.
The gamemaster decides on a difficulty for the roll and rolls an opposing dice pool, or rolls an opposing dice pool generated by an NPC. After making your roll, apply any Shadow Amp effects (if any), count up your final number of hits, and compare them to the number of hits rolled by the opposing dice. If your hits equal or exceed the hits scored by the opposing dice, then your action was successful. If you score zero hits, the Test automatically fails, even if the opposing dice also rolled zero hits.
This means that the mechanic for resolving all Tests looks like this:
There are two types of occasions when you might exclude Skill dice from a Test and only roll Attribute dice.
Untrained: If you want to try a specific action but are untrained in that action—i.e., the appropriate Skill is not on your character sheet—then determine what the linked Attribute is for the missing Skill, and then use that Attribute’s dice for the Test. In a few limited circumstances, such as Magic-based actions, Untrained actions cannot be taken. If a Skill cannot be used untrained, that is noted on the Skills list.
Attribute-Only Tests: Some Tests only apply to a specific Attribute and don’t need a related Skill. In those cases, either add two Attributes together, or add one Attribute to itself. For example, lifting a heavy object would require a Strength + Strength Test; catching a thrown object would require Agility + Agility; resisting torture, Willpower + Body; remembering a specific detail, Logic + Logic; judging someone’s intentions, Charisma + Charisma; and so on. One of the most common Tests of this nature is Perception, which is Logic + Willpower.
When you need a boost on a test, you can spend Edge in one of two ways. First, you can announce you’re spending Edge before you roll a test; when you roll the dice, you get to add an extra die to the roll and count fours, fives, and sixes as hits, instead of just fives and sixes. Second, after you roll the dice, you can spend a point of Edge to re-roll all of the dice that were not fives and sixes. When spending Edge this way, you still only count fives and sixes as hits. If you want the benefit of having fours be hits, plan ahead!
Good shadowrunning requires teamwork, and sometimes that means pitching in as a team to get a single task done. When appropriate and sensible, players can help each other on a Test, making a Teamwork Test. A player can suggest a Teamwork Test on their Narration, or other players can mention they would like to help. Making the assist rolls do not require any change in whose turn it is; players can make an assist roll even when it is not their Narration, but the leader must make a roll during their Narration.
To assist, players choose a leader who will be doing the main work of a Test. The other players make the appropriate Skill Test. Any hits they make become additional dice for the player taking the lead on the Test, to a maximum of the leader’s Skill level (or the higher of the two Attributes, if it is an Attribute-only Test).
Certain circumstances are not appropriate for assistance. Spellcasting, conjuring, and most combat tests cannot use Teamwork Tests. Gamemasters and players should use their judgment as to when other Teamwork Tests will be appropriate or not. Generally, characters need to be in the same place and able to function in a helpful way (meaning they are, you know, conscious and mobile) at a minimum.
The Glitch Die: Glitches and Exploits
Even when a shadowrun is going right, sometimes a quirk of chaos manages to worm its way in and make things go south really, really fast—or provide just the lucky break you needed. In Shadowrun: Anarchy, gamemasters and players can represent this manifestation of fate, or whatever you want to call it, by introducing the Glitch Die into a roll.
To use the Glitch Die, the GM or a player must spend a Plot Point before a roll is made. The player spending the Plot Point gives the rolling player a die that is noticeably different from the other dice being rolled. This die can be a different color, style, or size—whichever the players prefer.
If the Glitch Die comes up as a 1, then a Glitch has occurred, and the universe has once again attempted to screw you.
In the event of a Glitch, the player who made the roll must detail their stroke of bad luck in their Narration of the attempted action they were rolling for. For example, a player who Glitches an unarmed Close Combat roll could miss a kick and fall; a Glitched Hacking Test could accidentally delete the wrong file; a Stealth Test could draw the attention of a corporate security hellhound; a Firearms action could jam the gun; and so on.
A Glitch will still occur even if the Test itself is successful, thanks to the other dice rolled. For example, if you are trying to make a flying dive into cover and you succeed in a Gymnastics Test but roll a 1 on the Glitch Die, then maybe you dive for cover successfully but land wrong, jam your elbow on the ground, and take 1 point of Stun damage. Or maybe you Glitch on a successful Hacking Test: perhaps you grab the file you need, but you trip security in the process and alert some intrusion countermeasures. How the Glitch manifests is completely up to the imagination.
Regardless of how the Glitch occurs, it shouldn’t be life threatening unless the affected player wishes it to be, for the sake of drama. Instead, a Glitch should represent unforeseen complications that really throw a spanner into the works. The best Glitches help move the story forward in new and interesting directions, so feel free to let your creative flag fly right in the face of bad luck.
An Exploit can also occur if the roll failed. As long as the Glitch die rolled a hit, the Exploit reveals a silver lining to your failed action. For example, a failed swerve to maneuver your Harley-Davidson Scorpion out of danger might distract one of the people you’re chasing, or an accidentally tripped Matrix alarm might spontaneously reset itself due to a scheduled maintenance routine.
As with Glitches, the best Exploits are those that inject some unexpected fun into your story.
If the Glitch Die rolls a 5 or a 6, then it counts as an Exploit. When an Exploit occurs, the player has made fate their plaything, and something went really right for a change. This windfall of good luck can take any form the gamemaster deems appropriate for the action taken, such as bypassing the target’s armor during an combat action, stumbling on an incriminating Matrix file that you weren’t looking for, an attacking spirit suddenly and mysteriously backs down, and so on.
Examples of Glitches and Exploits
Weapon Attack (Suppressing Fire)
- Exploit Target(s) Narrates last on next Turn.
- Glitch Jam/Out of Ammo—Weapon on Cooldown.
Weapon Attack (Called Shot)
- Exploit Increase damage by half or bypass Armor.
- Glitch Graze—Half damage.
Defense (Dive for Cover)
- Exploit Graze—Half damage.
- Glitch Prone—Lose Movement next Narration.
- Exploit Increase damage by half or increase effect by 1.
- Glitch Drain/Fading—Take 1 Stun damage.
Technical Skill (Jury-Rig)
- Exploit Increase effect of gear/drone by 1 temporarily.
- Glitch Gear/drone is on Cooldown for remainder of Scene.
Piloting Skill (End Run)
- Exploit Escape a chase scene by pulling off a stunt.
- Glitch Out of Control—Drone or Vehicle crashes.
Other House Rules
Debts and Favors
All characters are assumed to start with shadowrunner basics: a burner commlink (including cheap AR-only glasses), and fake SIN (with associated fake licenses), a trauma patch (to justify some of the not-dead-yet options on p. 44), some stim-patches (to justify First Aid use of a Plot Point on p. 36), and some non-armored, Tag-appropriate clothing.
“The right tool for the job.” Characters may leave one or more Gear slots blank and later fill in the space with a Plot Point expenditure.
Money in the Game
For narrative purposes, 1 Karma equals ¥2,000.
Mages can produce minor magical effects that do not take up Amp slots. Mundane tasks may be described as using magic to accomplish.