Ask The Readers: Shadowrun WaRPed?

220px-Shadowrun-logoOver the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about Shadowrun. A while back my players asked me to run Shadowrun for them, and since then I’ve looked into various editions of the game. The 5th Edition actually caused me headaches (I’m not kidding) and while the 4th Edition makes much more sense to me, I still find it way too crunchy for my tastes. In my search for an alternative system, I looked at Fudge, Savage Worlds, a Shadowrun Hack of Apocalypse World, and a few others.

Last but not least I remembered the WaRP system by Atlas Games. WaRP is a very rules-light system which has powered the famous Over The Edge RPG. The whole system is just about 30 pages long and is freeform enough so that it can be used for almost every genre. From what I’ve seen so far a “normal” cyberpunk game could easily be run with the WaRP system. You just need to define fitting Traits during character creation and you’re done.

Alas Shadowrun is not just cyberpunk but also has several fantasy elements. Adding the various subspecies of Metahumanity is pretty simple. Just include a reference in your Central Trait. It gets more complicated when you want to create a character with magic abilities. WaRP allows the character to pick Fringe powers (which can be everything from magic to Psi or the abilities of superpowered humans). What I am wondering now how I could easily use WaRP’s Fringe powers to emulate Shadowrun’s magic. Alas I am lacking experience with the system, so I am asking for your help.

Do you have experience with both Shadowrun and Over The Edge (or the WaRP system)? How would you handle magic in a Shadowrun game powered by WaRP? Please post your ideas below!

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

11 thoughts on “Ask The Readers: Shadowrun WaRPed?”

  1. From the Atlas Games forums, there’s a discussion of using WaRP for traditional fantasy RPGs (D&Dish is what the example seems to emulate). But, it does seem to give an idea of how to do magic in WaRP.

    I am also not experienced with WaRP, so I’m not sure how to take that and apply it to Shadowrun. I would maybe run a few one-shots of WaRP with traditional fantasy, and mundane/non-magic cyberpunk. Get a feel for how the system works with those two pure genres, and that might help you figure out what you need to do in order to use WaRP for a hybrid genre (like Shadowrun).

    Though, I’m curious: why not FATE Accelerated Edition (FAE)? Or FATE Core? If you go with FATE Core, there’s always material from Starbright (Cyber-FATE and Realms, which both have FATE Core editions) that covers both cyberpunk and fantasy. Could be a good starting point for a Shadowrun game.

    1. I have thought about using FAE before, but for some reason I believe WaRP might work better for my group. It’s more or less a gut feeling I’m having.

  2. Oh… don’t know why I didn’t think about this earlier…

    what about WRM and WIRED? as with my suggestion for Starbright, you can take the magic rules and species/race stuff from WRM and apply it to WIRED (the cyberpunk variant of WRM someone else wrote). Though, that assumes you’re not getting tired of WRM yourself 🙂

    1. Haha. You’re not the first who has mentioned WR&M and WYRED. It might probably work, but I have to admit I am a bit burned out on WR&M at the moment. I actually had the plan to work on a second edition but my urge to change major things around (like the core mechanic etc.) was a sign that I wanted to try something new. So I shelved the plans for now. 😉

      1. I can actually understand that. And, even when you particularly love one thing, it’s still sometimes good to have variety. Sometimes the burn-out is caused by a lack of that variety.

  3. I don’t understand. There are only certain types of tests listed in the core book. Aside from that “Hits” and “Thresholds” are a straight forward concept. The system looks crunchy because of all the charts listing various modifiers. The system plays just fine; I think you are over analyzing the situation. “Limits” just place a bit of cost on any given roll. Increasing limits is one of the mechanisms that players have to build to develop the character. Other than being a dice pool all you need to get is what type of roll they are making. The core mechanic is contained in five pages “How to make things happen”. After that is the specifics that apply to a character in special situations depending on the role of the character in the group.

    Yes, I have played both Shadowrun and Over the Edge. You can emulate the environment, yes. I could make Pathfinder emulate Shadowrun. The system is designed from character creation to let players know there is a price for being a meta-human, use magic, live a high lifestyle or be a Technomancer. How will you emulate the cost of choice in a different system?

    I was side tracked from Shadowrun at 2nd ed. This system is so much easier from me to grasp. Honestly I do not understand the need to move a game from one system to another when each system answers the question of how to play in a different manner. Not all games make the translation well; something expressed even by game developers.

    1. Yes, I tend to overanalyze and overthink things. My brain just works that way. That’s probably one of the reasons I tend to prefer games which are called “rules-light”. You mentioned that SR was designed in such a way that it let’s the player know that there’s a price for being a metahuman, use magic, etc. For me that just feels limiting. Especially the priorities system tends to force people into playing the same archetypes over and over again.
      I’m not entirely sure if WaRP is the best system for what I have in mind. I think it just might work and I was looking for some tips to make it work. Of course some aspects will be lost in translation, but I don’t mind as long as my vision of the setting survives.

    2. “how would you emulate the cost of choice in a different system?”

      I wouldn’t. It’s an artificial game balance design decision, and not really a requirement of the setting itself. I would allow whatever game system I chose make use of its own game balance mechanisms, instead of making the decision to carry over a game mechanic when porting a game setting. Doing the latter is just silly.

      And, really, that’s the thing that matters to me: being able to do the setting (without any regard/requirement for the mechanics). That’s why it seems perfectly reasonable to me to have the Shadowrun setting on top of WR&M+WYRED or FATE or FAE … Shadowrun’s setting isn’t coequal with its game mechanics. And, frankly, what is interesting (to me) about Shadowrun is the setting, and not the mechanics.

      For example, I can run Traveler using the original mechanics … or using T20 (the d20 variant) … or using GURPS. And that’s just the list of published rules … there’s fan contributed stuff for using other mechanics to support that setting. Or look at the different mechanics used to support the settings of Star Wars (d6 and two different d20 versions, and now FFG’s version), or Middle Earth (Rolemaster-lite and whatever the system behind “The One Ring” is called), or Star Trek (FASA’s percentile system or the Last Unicorn Games version … or even the 3 different versions of Prime Directive for a variant version of the Star Trek universe (those being the original Prime Directive system, GURPS, and d20Modern)).

      All of these are examples where settings matter. And in each case, they were ported in a way that was true to the setting and not the mechanics. The One Ring doesn’t use anything like Rolemaster Power Points, for example. There’s some difference there, in that most of those settings (other than Traveler) existed before the first game incarnation of the setting, but it’s still true: if you’re trying to use the setting and don’t care even a little bit about the mechanics, why would you bother to port over baggage that came from earlier mechanics, instead of just wiping that slate clean?

      So, let me turn a question back to you: if I care about settings, and not the published mechanics, why would I force myself to use mechanics that don’t enamor me, just to play in a given setting? Why wouldn’t I take the concepts/ideas/future-histories/etc. and put them on top of another game system that is able to support the purified setting? (purified meaning “after you remove all elements that are purely there due to game mechanics”)

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