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I've been gamemastering Shadowrun 5e since it was published. I have every single book published for the system, a throve of supplements, maps, miniatures, cards, and a bunch of other acessories. I made a few short stories, ran a lot of games, a few LARP events and baked a Shadowrun-themed cake for a loved one.

And, yet, for all of my time with it, I somehow never noticed the Limit rule until yesterday, when I was making my own character editor app for the system. I'm pretty sure I glanced over it on the past, but for some reason never took notice of using it in my games.

I'm not sure if I want to start using this rule now, after my tables got used to playing without it. I never felt the system was unbalanced or that I needed for some reason cut back the number of max hits one could get from any roll, but that may be just some sort of unconcious bias against a rule that I didn't ever remember it existed in the first place.

Are the Limit rules actually useful or needed for balance, or can I keep ignoring them safely?


For reference: The Limit Rule states that, for a big chunk of the rolls, you can't get more hits ("sucesses") on the die than your given limit value without spending a specific resource. So, if for example you got 12 hits to punch someone, but only have 6 as your Physical Limit, you can only use 6 out of those 12 hits. The leftover hits go wasted, as if they never happened.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your experience in playing without limits (literally!) might itself make a good self-answer. (By the way, not an SR dude, but limits are one of the major complaints I've heard leveled at the game, the argument being that they seemed both an afterthought and a wholly artificial way to enforce game balance.) \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jul 8 '19 at 12:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan That's how I feel about them, too! About the self answer - I may add one later on, depending on how the answers go. I'll give it some time before posting, however, to give time for other points of view to show up. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jul 8 '19 at 12:58
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I've ran games with the limit there and I've ran games with the limit houseruled out. I can't give you any objective answers but I can certainly tell you of my experiences.

Adding limits is occasionally useful because it prevents (or at least increases the cost of) getting a bucketload of dice for a specific task and -massively- overwhelming anyone else in that task, typically combat. Those with very high pools will still win at it, but they won't win by -as much-, so maybe they can't punch out the troll in one single massive punch and it will instead take two. This serves to moderate particularly unexpected rolls, and normalize particularly specialized characters so they fit into the same sort of possibility space as other more generalized characters.

If you don't have any people who are like this then this isn't a huge benefit, because in my experience it takes quite a lot of character optimization and specialization to reach the limits, and there's things you can do or get to increase them slightly - people who make this sort of character tend to also go for those options to increase their limits, and so their limit ends up higher than other peoples and comes into play about the same given their respective pools.

Using limits is also complicated, and limits the fun of people who make an amazingly lucky roll and are then told they can't punch out the troll in one hit even though they rolled all successes on every die in their pool. An extra step to check through on every roll also slows the game slightly (but this adds up a lot in situations with a lot of rolls, such as combat), and it's easy to forget. Even when people have high pools, it also doesn't come up all that often, and the above points mean that when it does happen the general sound at the table is usually "Oh, but... limit."

Given the above considerations, I would not enforce Limits when playing Shadowrun in the future, though I would pay extra care to anyone hyperspecializing in a thing. On the one hand, they really want to succeed at that thing so perhaps let them if you can, but on the other hand, Shadowrun is reasonably easy to do that with and it'll be a balancing factor, so that will depend on the group.

In my experience, nobody has yet complained when they're not there.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your input. Yeah, my major hangup with implementing limits is the inutilization of the amazingly lucky roll. Shadowrun gets really fun when your die begin to explode and you get an stupid amount of hits, and limits kinda kill that thrill. \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jul 8 '19 at 12:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @T.Sar Minor note: if your dice are exploding, you will be ignoring any limits. This can only happen with Edge use. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jul 8 '19 at 15:17
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It doesn't really seem to result in an unbalanced game, but the balance is changed: some options become more powerful, others become useless.

Edge

This becomes a bit less powerful, since the option of breaking the limit doesn't provide any benefits regarding the limits

Qualities / Bodyware / Adept Powers/ ...

There are several qualities, positive and negative ones, that modify the limit for certain applications. This benefit/drawback is effectively removed making these options less powerful or negative qualities less taxing.

Some options become pointless. E.g. the whole purpose of the Improved Potential adept power is to increase those limits. If they are not used, taking this adept power would just be a waste of resources.

Attributes vs Skills

Skills become more powerful/attractive compared to buying attributes. When using the limits, attributes need to be reasonably high to get the full benefit of large dice pools. Especially STR, CHA and LOG are especially useful, since they are included in the calculation of physical, social and mental limits twice respecitvely.

For some builds this can make much of a difference. E.g. an adept specializing in Nerve Strike needs a reasonably high STR to get the physical limit (=precision for unarmed attacks) to the point where enough successes can be used; without limits STR 1 could be chosen.

Also using limits makes building "one trick ponies" harder, since you always need to invest some karma in attributes.

Interupt Actions

Several of those add skill ratings to your defense test which results in a limit applying on the test. Ignoring the limits makes these options more powerful.

Conclusion

This doesn't result in an unbalanced game, especially since you're keeping precision/force/vehicle limits. All the points mentioned change the usefulness of minor options or the usefulness of options in a minor way, However you certainly need to inform you players about this houserule before they are creating their characters.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you for your input. You raise some very relevant points. If you mind, I wanted to ask you to elaborate a bit on your view regarding the character builds. Can you expand it a bit more in how this change would affect more "normal", well-rounded characters, if at all? \$\endgroup\$ – T. Sar Jul 8 '19 at 17:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ I forgot about the attributes contributing majorly to limits. That is a good point. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Jul 8 '19 at 20:43
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Yes, at least somewhat.

In Shadowrun 4th Edition, it was possible to make builds that combined Adept powers, bioware, and equipment to gain massive dice pools in a specific field of endeavour, like the "Pornomancer" build that got 20-30 dice for social rolls. The Limit rules implemented in 5th Edition act to curb the effectiveness of these builds, by limiting the number of successes these giant dice pools can generate.

They might not have much of an effect on more normal characters, but they do their job in preventing hyperspecialized characters from becoming overpowered.

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