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Of the many editions of Shadowrun, we have access to the second and the fifth one. The group we're considering SR with has a few rather inexperienced, newbie players (and some who played a lot of SR2 but have just started reading SR5.)

Which Shadowrun edition's mechanics are more welcoming and easier to learn for relatively new players, SR2 or SR5? Why? Please, illustrate and explain briefly.

(SR5 seems more up to date, obviously, yet it also seems way more complex, the core appears to be chock full of not-really optional rules.)

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6 Answers

I would recommend you play with the fifth edition rules, it will be a leveling agent, since the experienced players will be on the same level as the inexperienced players.

Also, it is an updated edition that has gone through much revisions, systems have been improved and optimized, it should be a much smoother play experience, with little to no unexpected rules or strange quirks and misunderstandings. The balancing between the different choices a player has is much more... balanced.

Also - the game is more modern and fits our society more, with the inclusion of wifi for instance, and better references and support for modern and near-future technologies.

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I would recommend SR5.

It has many shortcomings, and clearly needs an errata in many places, especially about Rigging. But it is more balanced, playable and streamlined with the new "5 or 6 on a dice is good" rules. Also the new mechanics encourage Netrunners to go with the group instead of staying at the apartment.
Finally you are not DMing two essentially separate and independent groups.

5th edition has no supplementary books out yet, and the ones for 4th are not really compatible. If this is a problem for your group, I recommend playing 4E instead. One more reason to use 4e: it has a great character builder, while 5e has none (to my knowledge).
I find 2nd (and every edition before 4th) so horrible in mechanics I only started playing Shadowrun again when 4E came out.

Managing 12-29 dice is not easy, but there are great Android and iOs apps for handling dice rolls, my favorite is Shadow Roll. It gives you 20d6 with only one click, and can even handle Edge rerolls.

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5th Edition Shadowrun

The rules are, in my opinion, cleaner and easier to understand coming out of the gate. A lot of what made fourth edition really good, rules wise, has ported over to the fifth edition. The dice system for fourth/fifth edition is easier to understand and roll with than second. And it takes a lot less time to teach new people than the second edition rules. In my opinion, the rules for 5th edition are solid. There are a few sticking points for hacking, but it's more streamlined then it was in fourth.

Splat books will be coming for fifth edition (the Arsenal equivalent will be first) but I like the idea of getting a full feel of the core rules only before trying to add in all of the books. If you go with 2nd ed instead, you'll have the experienced players wanting to add in things from splat books that give them a much larger edge and, I think, would make it confusing and harder for the new players.

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I think that neither edition really pulls in front of another. I might recommend starting with characters that aren't too complex - namely avoiding sorcery, astral planes, and diving into the machines with the PCs until they (and most importantly you) get used to the basics. For the tables I usually run, starting "vanilla" and branching out based on interests has always born fruit, and you can have unstatted NPCs to do whatever needs to be done on the backburners without worrying about the RAW until you learn the material.

So in short I suggest street samurai, adepts, and maybe low level technocracy for remote controls more than hacking at first.

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I started with Shadowrun 3, not Shadowrun 2, but many of the rules are pretty similar.

Shadowrun 5 is a lot simpler in many ways than the earlier Shadowruns. You don't track two armor pools, for instance. The dice process is easier, and my players found not having to deal with floating target numbers a lot more fluid.

On the other hand, Shadowrun tends to bloat. If you play 2nd, you'll never have to worry about technomancers, wireless hacking, wireless bonuses, and a whole host of things that got added after the fact. I don't think Mystic Adepts were even around back then (I believe they started in 3e with a supplement, but might be wrong), which probably makes the game a little more balanced and less confusing in terms of magic users. Likewise, 5th Edition has limits and the like that tend to make play a little more difficult to pick up than it is in the earlier games.

In short, there's not a real solid difference between the two; they've been almost entirely reworked, barring some of the style and terminology, and really resemble two different games entirely. As far as ease to learn, it's more about which you can teach best; whichever you are most familiar with and will have the best ability to explain will be the easiest to start play on. Personally, I lean a little toward 5th Edition, just because it feels a little more modular and because there's a little less per-person stuff to learn (unless people feel like making, say, a technomancer-cyborg-rigger, or a mystic-adept-decker-street-sam, but that's their fault), and because it has less awkwardly crazy stuff if the GM's not paying attention.

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When the official errata has been released, I would recommend the 5th Edition Shadowrun . However, in my opinion Shadowrun is not for "inexperienced, newbie players".

The reasons for this are that there are a lot of ambiguities and questions about SR5 rules (see the official forum or dumpshock), there are 500 pages of SR5 rules that are complex, numerous and not homogeneous, often involving many rolls for one action.this is not for a newbie.

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Back in the day, there were no games for newbies, yet everybody learned them anyway. If you want to learn it, SR, be it 2 or 5, is perfectly fine for newbies. You might want to start without some of the many subsystems, though. –  mcv Feb 19 at 15:32
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