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OH MY GOD, HERESY HE SAID "LEVEL"!!! Jul.02.04
Today I would like to present a new concept to some of the GM’s out there. It sounds like the antithesis of everything Shadowrun, but it really makes my life easier. What level are your pc’s?

Ok now before someone jumps through the computer to throttle me for being a traitorous spy for the d20 system I need to explain myself. On the front of every character sheet is a box that has your characters basic level… do you see it? It’s called “Karma Pool”. I know, that number can go down when someone burns it, or uses the “hand of god”, but it can be easily recalculated by adding your players spent karma, current good karma and then dividing by 10.

Average out everyones Karma Pool and you have the groups "Karmic Bond" or "Bond" score.

This is your player characters relative level. Ok… so now we have this nifty new statistic… what the hell do we do with it? Well I’m not going to tell you. Ok, I am going to tell you. I found three very nifty tricks.

Trick 1: Whom are the runners running against?

I slapped together this simple list to make my life easy, and man has it ever!

1 to 3 Bond – local gangs, private individuals and bureaucratic agencies (DMV, county planning office)

4 to 6 Bond– third tier corps, mafia hitmen/underbosses and Local Government (Lonestar, Mayor’s Office)

7 to 10 Bond– second tier corps, mafia dons and state government (Knight Errant, UCAS Army)

10 to 15 Bond– AAA corps, international crime conspiracies and shadow governments

20+ Bond– Your going to have to get creative here…

Trick 2: Scalable NPC’s

On my toys page I have built NPC’s with reference to your parties “Bond” rating. This is the Karmic Bond of the group of runners playing. To calculate this number simply adds up the Karma Pool and then divides it by the number of players. This average karma rating helps set a good stat line for NPC’s. This allows the npc’s the players are fighting to scale with the groups relative power, and saves you the GM all the effort of having to write up new NPC's every time you sit down.

Trick 3: Scaling Encounters

It just doesn’t make sense sometimes for security guards to have a Pistols: (4 + Bond) skill rating. Sure when the players have a Bond rating of 2, Pistols: 6 on that security guard might not be to outside the norm. He is well trained, that’s why he has this well paying corporate job. But what about when the players have a 10 bond rating? Would a man who has a pistols ability of 14 be working for a corporation as a security guard or would he have been drafted into the executive protection group? You better believe he would be guarding Mr. Corp Exec on his vacation.

This is where the Bond rating of the group comes into play. Instead of having the statistics and abilities of the guards scale, it scales their equipment and the number of guards on duty. It can easily take that Pistols: 4 Guard with a Light Pistol and a Nightstick, to five Pistols: 4 guards with Smartlinks, Predators, a dose of Jazz in their shirt pockets, a tear gas grenade on their belts and medium security armor.

This works well in many ways, and you will see that most of my NPC sheets use “Bond” ratings to create mock increases in characters. Keep in mind that your going to want to scale things down or up according to your campaigns realism level. If your runners are doing a little side project of their own, the guards may be underpowered. If they are taking on more than they can chew, the bond rating may go up a point or two.

Conclusion: By taking the characters karma pool as “Level” you can scale encounters to better suit your team, all without having to write up a thousand and one different character sheets. I have a page of damage boxes with notes (I’ll put that online soon too), and then a page with stat boxes. I can simulate hours of preparation with a few quick dice rolls, and notes jotted down next to the damage box tables.

Trust me, I think you guys’ will like it. Until next time, I’m still looking for a good tag line.