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I have the old versions, and played the heck out of them.

I don't have version 4. If I buy it, what can I expect?

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I am very interested in the answers to this one as I started with SR4. I have friends who played older editions and do not like the new view of technology it presents. They seem convinced that cyberpunk requires everything to have cables and 'none of that wi-fi nonsense'. –  MadMAxJr Aug 23 '10 at 19:04

4 Answers 4

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We have been playing a Shadowrun 4th Edition game for a very long time now. I find the rules system to be much easier to understand/operate, and the dice rolling is pretty straightforward. I have been playing Shadowrun since 2nd Edition, and personally, I think 4th is the best yet.

Setting wise, the biggest new addition (as Numenetics stated) is the wireless Matrix. Also, now that machines are talking with WiFi, so are Meta-Humans - The Technomancer, a "hacker" that uses a Magic like stat called Resonance to "Thread" bonuses to programs, and summon "Sprites" to do their bidding is now a character option.

There are a lot of great optional rules, like taking "automatic successes" (your dice pool / 4 = number of hits) which allows you to quite easily run a diceless forum game alongside your sit down game. We have taken full advantage of that system in our very long campaign...

The main system difference is that the "Target number" for rolling is ALWAYS 5... I.E, 5 and 6 are the only #'s that ever "hit". 6's do not "explode" like in previous versions unless you use your "Edge" stat. Also, instead of increasing or decreasing target numbers, things increase and decrease Threshold/Pool size.

I would be happy to try to address more specific inquiries into the 4th edition as well, if there is something you were interested in knowing that I didn't mention...

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I don't have a lot (i.e., any) experience with previous editions, although I did play the Sega game. :-) That said, some of my fellow players when I played 4th pointed out the big differences that the change to wireless technology made to gameplay. Most deckers no longer jack in and go comatose. They can continue to interact with the rest of the party while hacking. From what I understand, it used to be that when the decker jacked in, everyone pretty much checked out and went to get pizza or whatever.

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That's both good to know setting-wise and playgroup-wise. How about rule mechanics? Is it still as 'crunchy'? –  Tobiasopdenbrouw Aug 22 '10 at 11:49
    
Unfortunately, that's where my ability to compare ends. It didn't seem to live up to the complexity I've heard described for 3rd edition, but unfortunately I don't really know. –  Numenetics Aug 23 '10 at 2:46

Shadowrun 4th edition has switched from its original mechanics to a (new) World of Darkness style mechanic. These mechanics are substantially less intricate mathematically, and as such are easier to resolve fairly quickly during gameplay, but are considerably less flexible.

For example, in SR3 and before, tactics of how to spend dice pools were important. In SR4, there aren't any variable dice pools. Result: faster gameplay, but a system which is more stat-dependent and less dependent on player cleverness.

As another example, SR3 works pretty well with amazingly powerful characters, and can do a halfway decent job with very weak ones, but the price you pay for that is having to keep track of a wide range of different target numbers (to differentiate between easy and difficult tasks) as well as the number of successes (to differentiate between barely succeeding and succeeding massively). In SR4, the target numbers are all 5--so gameplay is faster (one less thing to keep track of), but the mechanics no longer really support weak characters doing pretty easy things or extra-powerful characters doing fiendishly difficult things.

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I disagree with the assessment that weak characters can't do easy things. I have played both editions, and in my experience it's actually much harder for weak characters to do easy things in 3E. Ex: Untrained person with Attribute score of 4, average task (3E): must hit TN8 on 4d6. In 4E, Attribute score of 4, untrained: must hit TN5 on 3d6. This comparison is slightly unfair since that Attribute 4 costs more in 4E than in 3E; but, you get the picture. Also, 1 skill rank ups it to 5d6 at TN5, versus 1d6 at TN4. In SR3 you can actually get worse with a little training; this is not true in 4E. –  RMorrisey Jun 11 '11 at 1:04
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RMorrisey - If something requires TN4, and you're doing it entirely untrained, then it isn't "easy"! The point is in 3E the GM could rule that something requires TN3 when defaulting to an attribute if that's what seemed sensible. In 4E, you cannot require less than one success at TN5. I agree that there was a problem in 3E with a tiny bit of skill being worse than none; that was silly. In 4E, there is the opposite problem that all the skill you can take only makes you twice as good as having no skill whatsoever. 4E works well for tasks of moderate difficulty, 3E for very hard or easy. –  Ichoran Jun 13 '11 at 13:29

I've played a little of 3rd edition and a little of 4th edition. I preferred 4th edition for a few reasons:

  • The rules have been streamlined and are more intuitive, without sacrificing depth of gameplay (although this might be less of a selling point if you were intimately familiar with the 3rd edition mechanics)
  • Character creation uses a more flexible point-buy system
  • A lot of the anachronisms of the original game have been cleaned up by advancing the timeline (i.e., taking into account technological changes since 3rd edition was published).

There are probably other changes that someone more familiar with the game would notice, but those were the big ones I saw.

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