Channeling the Ur-Saga

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This is heavily inspired by the way the fae work in Kingdoms of Amalur, with a big dollop of Unknown Armies. It’s written for Fate because that was the easiest way to capture the idea, but it could use any system with some tinkering.

The Matter of Earth

There is a narrative that underpins all the tales of humanity. Extremely cyclical, this Ur-saga has repeated itself throughout thousands of years of civilization and all the world’s cultures. And it is always shifting subtly, new chapters being added and old ones fading away as reenactors adjust its tapestry. The trappings of each tale change with each era, but the heart of the saga retains is meaning. And there is power in recreating the tales anew with each cycle.

It begins and ends with the Swordbearer. The dying True King leaves the symbol of his rule under her protection and she will give it to him again when he wears a different face. She, and a few others that survive the end of the cycle and retain roles in its beginning, will meet other individuals an a fashion that marks them as part of the saga as well. Then they will wittingly or unwittingly play the roles that have been played over and over again, matching archetypes to people who will then move on throughout the saga.

For example, the Questing King first enters the saga when he meets the True King on a joint attempt on a beast. Once the saga has become sufficiently advanced, the True King will set out upon this quest, and whomever he meets with the same goal henceforth is marked as the Questing King, who will begin to have his own adventures. Once, they were Western sheriffs hunting the same lawbreaker. Once, they were captains of industry pursuing a new technology. The trappings change, but the characters remain the same.

There are whole groups of people that work to catalog the saga and make note of its current state and changing tales. This is an inexact science, as whole plotlines can vary in relation to one another. Sometimes, the World’s Strongest Man joins the Ship of Heroes before he has even begun his Labors, and others he is an old man waiting for a final call to adventure. It is also a difficult task to maintain an updated codex of the saga, because other scholars hide their own research and attempt to destroy the work of their rivals. Because if you know the secrets of the saga, you can find a place to insert yourself.

If you understand the saga, you know that there is great power in walking the road of a character. Reality conspires to make the saga come true, time after time. If you know what character you are portraying, and know what events are coming up for that character in the tales, you can bend your own goals to match the predestined results of the story. Many scholars try very hard to find the heroes that slay the dragon, win a kingdom, and live happily ever after, and look to become that hero so their own dragons and their own conception of a kingdom will be delivered to them on a silver platter.

But the saga is always moving. Reality conspires, but it is subtle. The actors do not lose their free will (though they find themselves unconsciously driven to play their parts), and sometimes do things unexpected in the story. Characters meet that have never met before, spinning off a new tale that may add a whole new supporting cast to the saga. Actors overcome the push to repeat, and do something differently than it is usually done, weakening the strength of that tale and possibly forging a whole new plotline. Heroes die unexpectedly… sometimes because a greedy scholar wants to replace them before the next act.

Rules (Fate)

In order to join the saga, you must be a reasonable fit for the theme of a character and find yourself filling its role in a scene with someone that’s already part of the saga. This must either be the first time the character appears in this cycle, or the previous actor must have died or otherwise become incapable of continuing in the role. For player characters, this will often be accidental: an interaction with a stranger seems rife with portent and impossibility, and suddenly coincidences abound to draw the character into a larger world.

When you are an actor, you write the “name” of your character as an Aspect. Scholars of the saga tend to couch these characters in general terms so as to not impose preconceptions, but with some digging you might find out who the most famous example of your character is. That is, you could write the Aspect as “The Man from the Lake” or “Lancelot.” The Aspect can be used normally for anything relevant to the character: The Man from the Lake can be invoked to become the best at whatever being a knight means this cycle, and compelled to lose control of your emotions at a disastrous time. Sometimes your character will not have a clear analog in known sources, so you’ll have to experiment to find out what role you’re meant to play. Additionally, you can always invoke the Aspect when you’re trying to escape danger in a situation where your character isn’t meant to be harmed; you’re being saved for your big exit.

Any time a character with such an Aspect is around, it’s possible a game scene may match the next Scene in his or her personal story. This becomes extremely likely whenever that character crosses paths with anyone else with such an Aspect that isn’t a regular part of his or her story. As noted, the actual trappings of the scene usually vary based on what’s appropriate for the character; what’s important is the emotional heart of the scene and its impact on later behavior. If you believe the scene where your character is grievously wounded by a one-off monster is coming up, that monster could be just about anything.

When a scene is relevant to one or more such stories, it has a scene Aspect that explains the gist of what happens. For example, “The Man from the Lake rescues the White Queen from the Summer King” or “The World’s Strongest Man defeats the Lion.” The scene also comes with a collection of Fate points that can be spent to invoke or compel that Aspect. This pool of points is roughly equal to the number of times that this scene has repeated itself successfully: for key scenes of the saga, the budget is basically unlimited and a concentrated effort must be taken to keep it come coming to pass. For more “optional” scenes that happen more often than not but can be changed without hurting a much larger narrative, the budget might be only a few Fate points. If the scene doesn’t turn out “correctly,” it has one fewer Fate point the next time it comes around; within a few cycles, it might be expunged entirely from the canon. Similarly, when an actor does something significant and in keeping with that character’s themes, particularly something that involves another actor, that scene may try to repeat itself on subsequent cycles, starting at one Fate point.

Ways to Use this System

There are several different uses for this in a game. One of them is, of course, “railroad the hell out of your players because your campaign is based on the Arthurian Mythos and every scene has a million Fate points to come out right,” but I wouldn’t recommend doing that. Instead, some examples are:

  • The PCs accidentally become actors in the saga. Initially, they may enjoy sometimes getting a big pool of Fate points to make sure things turn out in their favor. But, sooner or later, they’ll be compelled to do something “in character” that isn’t in their best interests. The campaign becomes about questions of free will, particularly once they realize that their characters are not ones that live happily ever after.
  • The saga is viciously guarded by a sketchy cabal of historians, and actors almost always come from a global society of clued-in families, manipulating it to retain their own power. The PCs are on the outside, and come up against someone on the inside and get blindsided by antagonists that can sometimes marshal functionally unlimited Fate points to have a scene turn out in their favor. The PCs may have to learn a lot more about the saga in order to turn the narrative against their enemies if they’re to have any chance of winning.
  • The game is a chronicle of ages, starting with a line of the saga that doesn’t have many predefined scenes. The players play out the same sequence of the saga again and again, each time with a new generation of actors. The different scenes wax and wane as the players decide whether to go with the flow or fight against them from cycle to cycle. The goal is to see how the same basic sequence of events plays out when only the core thematic elements of the characters remain the same but the setting and time period changes over and over.

Dirge NPCs

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Not a particularly dramatic idea this week, but it comes with a fun spreadsheet.

This is an expansion of the idea presented in a previous post about letting players turn NPCs into PCs when their characters die or for side missions, designed for Dirge. As usual, it will probably work with any modern D20 game with minimal tweaking.

The Basic Idea

When you introduce friendly NPCs that can join the players’ community:

  • Determine ability scores for the NPC. These should have a decent degree of variability (so the NPC winds up with core strengths and weaknesses), but should probably approximate a lower point value than PCs get. For example, if PCs are made with 20 point buy, the NPCs can be made with 10.
  • Figure out which stance and skills those scores favor. While it’s fun to make the occasional NPC that has horribly mismatched skills to innate capability, the players are less likely to be interested in that NPC as one that can contribute in a real way to the group.
  • Buy the basic starting ranks available to the character in several appropriate skills (in Dirge, starting ranks are equal to Intelligence). Don’t make any choices of feats or other options unless required to by the plot.

When a player decides to turn that NPC into a PC (either permanently or as an alternate character):

  • Allow the player to allocate the NPC’s feats (and other options, if applicable).
  • Grant one additional point of stats (per point buy) per time the players receive an advance until the character has equivalent stats to a starting PC (e.g., if PCs get 20 point buy, and the NPCs are made with 10, award one point for each of the first ten times the players get an advance while the character is active). This represents the previously background character growing into a protagonist once on screen, but keeps the players from just hopping between NPCs for one session as they might if they got the point boost immediately.

The Spreadsheet

The spreadsheet is available here. It just spits out stats, stance, and six skills. Use those as a guide for developing the NPC’s basic identity, and use the random namer of your choice.


The following are stats are examples of 10 point characters produced by the spreadsheet:

Str 12 (+1), Dex 13 (+1),
Con 12 (+1), Int 10 (+0),
Wis 8 (-1), Cha 14 (+2)
Athletics +2, Handle Animal +4,
Leadership +5, Negotiate +4,
Stamina +2, Survivalist +2
Str 10 (+0), Dex 13 (+1),
Con 10 (+0), Int 11 (+0),
Wis 13 (+1), Cha 13 (+1)
Handle Animal +4, Heal +3,
Leadership +2, Negotiate +3,
Perception +3, Stamina +1
Str 10 (+0), Dex 11 (+0),
Con 16 (+3), Int 10 (+0),
Wis 10 (+0), Cha 9 (-1)
Athletics +1, Intimidate +2,
Leadership +0, Mechanic +1,
Stamina +6, Survivalist +5
Str 17 (+3), Dex 10 (+0),
Con 10 (+0), Int 6 (-2),
Wis 10 (+0), Cha 13 (+1)
Athletics +4, Intimidate +4,
Leadership +2, Mechanic +1,
Stamina +1, Survivalist +1
Str 12 (+1), Dex 10 (+0),
Con 11 (+0), Int 13 (+1),
Wis 15 (+2), Cha 7 (-2)
Acrobatics +3, Athletics +4,
Criminal +2, Heal +3,
Perception +4, Stealth +2
Str 10 (+0), Dex 16 (+3),
Con 10 (+0), Int 10 (+0),
Wis 10 (+0), Cha 10 (+0)
Acrobatics +6, Athletics +1,
Criminal +5, Drive +4,
Leadership +1, Stealth +5
Str 11 (+0), Dex 10 (+0),
Con 9 (-1), Int 13 (+1),
Wis 10 (+0), Cha 15 (+2)
Computers +2, Handle Animal +5,
Leadership +4, Negotiate +4,
Profession +5, Sciences +3
Str 10 (+0), Dex 10 (+0),
Con 10 (+0), Int 16 (+3),
Wis 10 (+0), Cha 10 (+0)
Academics +6, Computers +6,
Electronics +5, Handle Animal +2,
Heal +2, Sciences +7


Comments Off on Conspiracy!

This post brought to you by a binge watch of Scandal while reading Unknown Armies.

Two Can Keep a Secret…

Conspiracy theorists tend to lose traction when their ideas require lots of people working together to enact the conspiracy. Most people are rightly cynical about the ability of a whole collection of individuals to work together in secret to do something terrible. Each individual added to a conspiracy is another point of failure: one more person to make a mistake and blow the whole secret wide open. Even if the unlikely happens, and everyone can be trusted to keep it together, day in and day out, the bigger you get, the less everyone believes that. When you share the secret with more and more people, the least trusting in the group are going to start thinking about eliminating those they trust least… or trying to save themselves by outing the secret on their terms.

And monolithic conspiracies aren’t very fun for PCs to unravel anyway; players need to be able to actually remember who the people they’re trying to stop are, and think they have a chance to make it happen.

Most conspiracies form around a secret: something they did to create or protect their power. It’s probably something illegal or at least extremely embarrassing: they need to stop people from investigating it, discredit those that get an idea about it, and eliminate those that can provide proof. The loss condition for a conspiracy is that its secret gets into the hands of an entity that can destroy it: either the citizens, the government, or a stronger enemy group. Thus, most stories about conspiracies revolve around uncovering this secret in the face of conspiracy opposition.

Conspiracy Traits

Each of these traits is rated on an abstract 0-10 scale. For games without a formalized influence and contacts system, these can remain abstract. For those with such a system, adjust the conspiracy traits to fit the scale the system uses.

When designing a conspiracy, come up with two key pieces of information: What is the secret and who is fully involved?

The secret is often the easy part. It’s the item, event, piece of information, or action that would bring the world down on the conspiracy’s head if revealed. Maybe it’s that the king’s wife was unfaithful, and his firstborn isn’t his own. Maybe it’s a history of secret deals with enemies of the state. Maybe it’s that the technology upon which the company’s fortune rests is easily and cheaply replicated with the right data. Whatever it is, if it got out the members of the conspiracy would be ruined financially, imprisoned, or killed.

The membership is a little harder. A conspiracy should ideally have two to ten members: the people that will gather together in a dark room to discuss strategies once the PCs begin nosing around. One member isn’t really a conspiracy, it’s a villain (and different stories are told about villains). Past ten, and it all starts to be impossible to manage while keeping track of the members and internal relationships that the PCs will be picking at. Even if the conspiracy sits in control of a larger organization, there will be members that are actually total partners in the conspiracy, and those that are kept at arm’s length: they may know enough to willingly serve the key conspirators, but don’t know enough to unravel it if captured and interrogated. A large organization, however, is a sign of a high Power trait.

Once you have the secret and the members, assign three traits to the conspiracy:

  • Power represents the conspiracy’s ability to work its influence on the world through favors, blackmail, money, and deniable agents.
    • Even a conspiracy of the highest order tends to have to work through backchannels to exercise Power; it doesn’t help to have your own army if using it to remove a threat leads investigators right back to your door. Instead, conspiracies wield power by silencing those that can be bought or threatened, having someone at the top of a hierarchy stymie the efforts of those below, and, at need, hiring assassins, hackers, and other shady types to solve problems that can’t be handled any other way.
    • Power is equal to the median rating of a relevant influence trait of all its members. You might let in one or two members that are useful for their subterfuge and contacts, but one powerful individual cannot raise the profile of a whole conspiracy of have-nots.
    • Power should use a standard influence and resources system if there is one. If not, the highest level represents gross acts of politics or hiring the best assassin in the world, and lower levels mean proportionately less.
    • Power can only be exerted at its full value once per member per story, and any use of power should create some kind of clues that the players can follow (guarded by Secrecy).
  • Connection represents the conspiracy’s ability to hear about threats in time to do something about them.
    • This represents underlings that keep abreast of the news, friends in various government agencies that will share weird things they’re told, and others that know just enough about the conspiracy to keep the key members informed about situations relevant to their interests.
    • Connection is equal to the median rating of a relevant contacting trait. It has a maximum equal to the number of members of the conspiracy (e.g., you can’t get to the maximum rating ten without a full ten-member conspiracy).
    • Connection should be used as the basis of a roll whenever the PCs or their agents initiate something that the conspiracy wouldn’t want to happen, with a difficulty equal to how careful and secretive the action is. The difficulty is high for actions that involve non-intrusive information gathering and very low when the PCs are harassing or invading key resources.
    • Even an unconnected conspiracy eventually finds things out. If the Connection roll fails, remember the margin of failure and have the conspiracy become aware in that many hours, days, or weeks (depending on the timeline of the game and the seriousness of the investigation); being successfully secretive against a conspiracy is mostly about getting an early advantage before they become aware, not keeping the conspiracy unaware forever.
  • Secrecy represents the conspiracy’s ability to keep its actions hard to track.
    • This represents the diligent practice of information obfuscation, such that everything the conspiracy does looks like isolated incidents or coincidences. It means using burner phones, separate bank accounts, onion-routed transmissions, dead drops, and all the other tools of the trade.
    • Secrecy is equal to the median rating of a relevant subterfuge trait. It has a maximum equal to 10 minus the number of members past two (for a range of 2-10 maximum). The more members you have, even if they’re individually good at the game, the more likely someone will make a mistake or two members will have a coordination failure and let something slip.
    • Secrecy is the difficulty of any roll to tease out connections in data. When the players start investigating one event, they’re rolling against Secrecy to find additional clues that might lead them to other things the conspiracy has done.
    • As with Connection, stopping the players cold on a failure is no fun. Instead, remember the margin of failure and that’s the number of hours, weeks, or months (depending on the type of investigation) it takes to tease out a clue if the PC continues to devote time to it. This will often intersect with the conspiracy’s own use of Connection; the player realizes that all the digging may soon pay off because the conspiracy makes a play to stop it.

Finally, assign three significant non-member characters to the conspiracy:

  • Match the terms “Destroy,” “Protect,” and “Manipulate” to your choice of Power, Connection, and Secrecy.
  • Assign a character to each of these pairings. Ideally, at least one of the characters is a PC, a PC’s friend, or someone that would come to them for help (in the case of Destroy or Manipulate).
  • The term meanings are:
    • Destroy: The character is a dire threat to the conspiracy’s secrecy, power, or connection. They are trying to kill, imprison, or thoroughly discredit the character. This is the most active interaction, and likely what brings the conspiracy to the PCs’ attention in the first place.
    • Protect: The character is somehow responsible for the conspiracy’s secrecy, power, or connection simply by doing what he or she is already doing. Attempts to hurt or disempower the character will require the conspiracy to protect him or her. This is another way to find the first clue of the conspiracy: the PCs try to eliminate someone seemingly with few friends only to see hell rain down to stop them.
    • Manipulate: The character is being actively used to maintain the conspiracy’s secrecy, power, or connection, and is probably unwitting or unwilling. While the character is behaving, he or she is treated as a Protect, but if the character becomes unwilling and cannot be convinced, he or she may become a Destroy.

If any of these agendas are prevented, the associated trait may be temporarily or permanently lowered by two (e.g., if there’s a character that’s being Protected for Power, killing that character reduced the conspiracy’s Power).


The king’s heir is actually the child of the queen and the captain of the guard. The high priest knows the secret, and vastly favors the child over the likely possibilities if the secret is revealed. Their conspiracy of three has Power 7 (they’re three of the most powerful individuals in the kingdom), Connection 3 (limited to their number of members), and Secrecy 6 (with a maximum possible of 9 if they were less honest people). In order to preserve their Power, they’ve recently decided that they need to Destroy the king’s brother, who is seizing more power in court and would be next in succession. In order to maintain their Connection, they need to Manipulate the king’s valet to keep them informed about any investigations. In order to justify their Secrecy, they need to Protect the heir, or one of them might start talking.

A major corporation has been manipulating its FDA approval data, and its products are much more dangerous than expected. The CEO, three other executives, and the lead chemist all are part of the conspiracy. Their conspiracy of five has Power 4 (only the CEO and one executive are particularly powerful; involving the other three brought down the median), Connection 4 (with a maximum of 5), and Secrecy 7 (they’re actually all pretty subtle, and this is the maximum possible for their size). In order to preserve their Secrecy, they need to Destroy an investigative reporter doing a story on them. In order to maintain their Power, they need to Manipulate the leader of their board of directors. In order to preserve their Connection, they need to Protect a source inside the FDA who keeps them abreast of information they need to stay ahead of the regulators.

Shadowrun 5 – Crafting

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The SR5 core rules don’t have much more than a paragraph and a chart for bonuses on crafting (p. 146). Notably, it doesn’t really give any guidelines on costs or difficulties. I’m sure that information is coming in a later supplement, but my players want to start working on designing robots now. Hence, this represents my pass at a homebrew crafting system for my game.


The Base Threshold of an existing item is equal to its Availability rating x Legality factor (x1 for unrestricted, x2 for restricted, and x3 for forbidden). If the availability is –, this is equal to the digits in the price +3. For example, an Ares Predator V is availability 5R, so has a Base Threshold of 10, a Ford Americar is availability — and 16,000¥ so has a Base Threshold of 8, a flashlight is — and 25¥ so has a Base Threshold of 5. This is a rule of thumb based on the complexity of items often tracking with their availability; the GM is encouraged to adjust the Base Threshold for things that seem like they should be easier to find schematics for and create than their legality indicates.

The Build Interval for an item starts at Short (10 minutes) for items that cost less than 10¥ and increases by one step per digit of the cost (e.g., something that costs 300¥ is three digits and thus has a build time of 1 hour). See the extended test intervals chart on page 48. All crafting rolls are extended tests. It’s up to the GM whether long builds consume all your waking hours for the whole period, or whether you’re only doing them around your ‘runs and other errands. For really long builds, it’s probably best to let the crafter take breaks without harming the project.

The Base Cost of an item is based on the cost within the gear lists for existing gear, and pegged as closely as possible for new inventions. If you have existing items that are being repaired or used for parts, they contribute their individual cost based on how damaged they are. For example, the GM rules a Ford Americar from the junkyard is nearly totaled and only worth 20% of its price of 16,000¥, so contributes 3,200¥ toward any attempts to repair it or use it for parts.

In general, you can double the effective Threshold of an item to reduce the Build Interval by one step, and halve it to increase the Build Interval by one step. For example, a Ford Americar normally has a Base Threshold of 8 and a Build Interval of Exhaustive (1 week); by increasing the Threshold to 32, the Build Interval becomes Long (1 hour). This cannot reduce the Build Interval below Quick (1 minute) or over Mammoth (1 month).

There are four ways to use the crafting system:

  • To repair or tinker with an existing item: This does not require schematics (but they help), and is based on how damaged the item is.
  • To create an item from the existing gear list: The primary reason for doing this is that you can’t manage to get it through social channels or you want to make sure it’s made from untraceable parts.
  • To create something based on existing gear but improved/altered: This lets you get a little more punch out of your gear, make it more concealable, or otherwise create something that’s similar to an existing item but not really supported.
  • To create something totally new: This lets you make something that is totally unsupported by the existing gear list but within the possibilities of the fiction, like robots and power armor.

Repairing and Tinkering

Use the rules on page 228 for Matrix Damage.

For repairing physical damage, the GM should come up with a rough approximation of how close to totaled the item is; how much of the structure of the item remains intact vs. fully functional? For example, a heavily damaged but still driveable car might wind up at 50% totaled:

  • The Base Threshold is equal to this percentage (e.g., if the Base Threshold was 10 and the item is only 20% towards totaled, the effective Threshold is 2).
  • The Build Interval is based on the price of the item. As noted above, the effective Threshold can be doubled to reduce the Build Interval by one step (e.g., that Threshold 2 item can become Threshold 4 to reduce the Build Interval from a day to an hour).
  • The Base Cost is equal to this percentage of the item’s value (e.g., something that is 20% damaged will cost 20% of the item’s cost to repair to full). Any additional parts for the inefficiency of repair are assumed to be rolled up into the lifestyle or kit costs; PCs that are doing a lot of repair work out of a non-lifestyle based kit or shop might be expected to rebuy that item periodically as spare parts are used up.

For example, the GM rules that the player’s Ford Americar is heavily damaged and is 50% totaled. The effective Threshold is 4 (50% of the base 8) and it would take a week Interval based on its 16k cost. But the player chooses to reduce the interval by two steps to 1 hour, making the effective threshold 16 (doubled twice), and now we have the example from page 48. The car only contributes half of its 16k cost due to being 50% damaged, so will cost 8,000¥ to repair.

Use the modifiers from the Build/Repair Table on page 147. See the next section for how to determine if you have the Plans/Reference materials.

Tinkering allows the user to install upgrades or switch between standard options. It assumes that the crafter has all the parts required and is just trying to put them together.

  • The effective Threshold is equal to half the Base Threshold of the highest component. For example, an Armor Vest is Availability 4 and Fire Resistance is Availability 6, so the effective Threshold is 3 to add Fire Resistance to the vest.
  • The Build Interval is based on the total Price of the combined items. That Armor Vest is 500¥ and the Fire Resistance is 250¥ per level, so it takes an hour to apply level 1 but a day to apply any stronger coatings (since they increase the price above 1,000¥). As usual, the crafter can double the Threshold to reduce the Interval by one step (e.g., at Threshold 12, the interval on that vest upgrade can be reduced to half an hour).
  • The Base Cost is 0, assuming all components are on hand and the crafter is just putting them together.

Creating an Existing Item

This item will have exactly the same stats as an existing item. Cosmetically, it may look a little different, but you’re really just trying to get an existing item; maybe because you can’t afford the corp’s markup, you don’t want it to be traceable in any way, or because you don’t have a good enough Face or contact to get it through proper channels.

To make such an item you need the proper schematics (you’ll still get the plans/reference materials bonus):

  • The effective Threshold is equal to the item’s Base Threshold – 10 (if the result is 0 or less you can assume the item is so common that the plans are easily available on the Matrix).
  • The Interval works normally. There is no cost other than standard bribes and fees that come out of your lifestyle.
  • Roll Computer if you’re searching for the plans online, Negotiate if you’re tracking them down through contacts, or some other skill that you can convince the GM makes sense.

For example, you’re trying to create a deck that’s equivalent to a Novatech Navigator. It’s Availability 9R so has a Base Threshold of 18 and an effective Threshold of 8. It has a six digit price so it has an Interval of 1 month. You can double the Threshold normally to reduce the Interval (and you should; ferreting out complicated deck schematics isn’t a fast process).

You can also acquire schematics through in-game actions; the extra gravy on a ‘run might be grabbing plans for miscellaneous items the corp makes while you’re already grabbing the paydata.

Once you have the schematics:

  • Base Threshold works normally (Availability x Legality) and is not further modified.
  • Build Interval works normally.
  • Base Cost is equal to the normal Cost of the item. You can double the Base Cost to halve the Base Threshold. You can halve the Base Cost to double the Base Threshold. You can only double or halve the cost once.

For example, now you have the plans for your deck and want to build it. It’s still 9R so has a Threshold of 18, an Interval of one month, and a Cost of 205,750¥. If you were really trying to get a deal on it, you could reduce the cost to 102,875¥ if you think you can hit a threshold of 36.

If you end the extended test without meeting the Threshold (either because you ran out of dice or out of time), the GM might rule that you have a Prototype (see below).

Improving on an Existing Item

The existing gear lists are incredibly comprehensive, so it’s probably difficult to find a modification to the stats of one item that aren’t very similar if not identical to another item. In that case, you should just treat it as creating the other item using the rules above.

If you’re trying to make modifications that the existing gear won’t cover, the GM should first have a good long think about whether those modifications might make the item too good. An item with the stats of a sniper rifle and the concealability of a pistol is probably better than intended, for example. This is all very dangerous territory, so try not to be offended when your GM denies something that feels like a blatant attempt to break the system, even if you didn’t intend it that way.

Once you and the GM have agreed that what you want is reasonable, the GM will come up with an Availability rating and Cost for the item based on the most similar other items. If the GM feels like the modifications are especially complicated to implement, the Availability should be increased by a point or two (and, thus, increase the ultimate Base Threshold).

In addition to having the schematics for the base item (see above), you need to design the modifications. This is an appropriate Knowledge test with the same Threshold, Interval, and Cost as finding the schematics (again, see above).

Once you have the schematics and the modification design, use the rules in the above section to actually build it.

Creating Something New

Once you’re in the realm of something that isn’t really all that similar to anything in the gear lists, you’ve begun a delicate negotiation with the GM. Ultimately, you’ll describe what you want and the GM will try to give it stats, Availability, Cost, and even rules based on what does exist in the gear list.

Unlike building a standard or modified existing item, at this stage it’s as much about the design as the build. Make an appropriate Knowledge test to create the schematics as above, but without the -10 reduction to the Threshold; you’re not just modifying something here or getting by on common Matrix knowledge. If you don’t think you can make the Threshold to start with, you can use the Prototype system (see below).

Once you’ve gotten the design worked out, you can start building as per the normal rules. As with other builds, if you don’t quite get it done, you might still have a Prototype.


If you end any kind of build before getting the required hits, you might be left with a prototype: a version of the item with worse stats, a high chance to Glitch, and the ability to teach you how to improve your next attempt at the item. When creating something new, if you don’t get enough hits on the Knowledge check to create the schematics, you can attempt to build toward whatever hits you did get to deliberately create a prototype (e.g., if the Threshold was 18 and you only got 9 hits to design, you can’t get more than 50% of the build threshold either).

A prototype should have its stats reduced based on how close you got to your target (e.g., if you only got 50% of the necessary hits, the item is reduced by whatever 50% means to the GM). Additionally, a prototype has an increased chance to Glitch; when using the item, treat the wielder as having Gremlins 1 (or +1 if you gave your prototype to someone that already had gremlins; see page 81). Finally, the item’s effective Cost is reduced by the same factor for purposes of using the prototype toward another attempt to make the item.

Whenever a prototype Glitches and the crafter is in position to make note of what happened (i.e., is wielding it, is close by, or is getting a detailed after-action report), make a mark. Every time the item gets Glitch marks equal to its Base Threshold, you get a +1 to your skill total on the next attempt to design or craft that item (to a maximum of half the Base Threshold). For example, a prototype gun similar to an Ares Predator V has a Base Threshold of 10; for every 10 Glitches, the crafter gains +1 to the next attempt to build/design the item (to a max of +5).