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).