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My Karma-Based Character Generation System

This page contains information on how I used a karma point approach to character generation. I tried this for my first two campaigns and it worked pretty well, although it requires more effort. Since my third campaign is an open one and archetypes are fall back characters, I wanted to keep things as close to the book as possible, so I used the standard Priority system from the main book, with minimal modification.

Priority System (Rationales below)

Rank System
Full Magician
200 karma
250 karma
1000 k¥
Adept/Aspected Magician
176 karma
200 karma
400 k¥
152 karma
170 karma
90 k¥
128 karma
150 karma
20 k¥
104 karma
135 karma
5 k¥

Via Building Points (Rationale below)

Another idea is converting BPs into karma, then going from there. I will not use this, but it is included for completeness.
  • Players build their characters with 125 BPS
  • For each BP allocated to Attributes, the player has 3 1/3 karma to spend on Attributes. Yeah, it's a fraction, calm down, your calculator will protect you.
  • For each BP allocated to Skills, the player has 5 karma to spend on Skills.

Choosing Attributes [pg. 55]

Use my karma system and the costs for Improving the Character [SR3, pg. 244].

Apply racial modifiers to your Attributes after you pay for your them.

I strongly recommend you decide what Attributes you want before buying Skills to avoid excessive recalculation of Skill costs.

Assigning Skills [pg. 56]

Use my karma system and the costs for Improving the Character [SR3, pg. 244].

Knowledge Skills (Rationale): Characters receive Intelligence x 21 karma points in Knowledge Skills.

Language Skills: Characters receive Intelligence x 5 karma points in Language Skills.

Karmic scraps (sounds pretty cool as a phrase doesn't it?): leftover karma trickles down from Attributes to Active Skills to Knowledge Skills to Language Skills. So, if you have some karma left over from buying Attributes, you can spend it on any of the skill types; if you have karma left over from Active Skills, you can spend it on Knowledge Skills or Language Skills; if you have left over karma from Knowledge Skills, you can spend it on Language Skills; and if you have left over karma from Language Skills, tough luck, learn some more languages, there are more useful languages than you can afford to buy.

Karma-Based Character Generation Rationales

Karma Point Character Generation System Rationale - I want to use karma points for buying skills and attributes because I think the system as is discourages people from taking skills at modest levels.

Attribute Points

The costs of attributes are: 1 = let's make it 2, then 2 = 6, 3 = 12, 4 = 20, 5 = 30, 6 = 42

No matter how realistic, let's be simple and look at maximum and mediocre:


If Min is 2

A: 30 pts.: 666651 = 200 karma
B: 27 pts.: 666621 = 176 karma
C: 24 pts.: 666411 = 150 karma
D: 21 pts.: 666111 = 132 karma
E: 18 pts.: 663111 = 102 karma
A: 30 pts.: 666642 = 192 karma
B: 27 pts.: 666522 = 168 karma
C: 24 pts.: 666222 = 144 karma
D: 21 pts.: 663222 = 114 karma
E: 18 pts.: 642222 = 86 karma
A: 30 pts. -> 6x5 -> 180 karma
B: 27 pts. -> 3x4 + 5x3 -> 150 karma
C: 24 pts. -> 6x4 -> 120 karma
D: 21 pts. -> 3x3 + 4x3 -> 96 karma
E: 18 pts. -> 6x3 -> 72 karma

This system can produce attribute totals beyond the standard system.  So, what mediocre combos can the maximum karma values create?

Karma Maximum(pts) Mediocre (pts) Karma left
200 666651(30) 655555(31) 8
192 666642(30) 655555(31) 0
176 666621(27) 555554(29) 6
168 666522(27) 555544(28) 8
150 666411(24) 555444(27) 0
144 666222(144) 554444(26) 4
132 666111(21) 544444(25) 2
114 663222(21) 444443(23) 2
102 663111(18) 444333(21) 6
86 642222(18) 433333(19) 6

If I wish to allow the creation of the somewhat min/maxed Combat Mage archetype, with attributes (before racial modification) of 162666, I should assign at least 176 points for the B priority. While a human Shadowrunner with a 1 in an attribute is silly, a meta with a large bonus taking a single 1 is not quite as silly; so, I feel somewhat compelled to allow the 200 and 176 values. If I only allow one 1, then the we get C(666321) = 146, D(664221) = 118, and E(652221) = 92. That would give a drop of 24, 30, 28, and 26 between ranks. I also feel compelled to take a cue from the BP priority system and have the change from rank to rank be the same amount. If we go with 24 per level, then we get 200, 176, 152, 128, and 104. That is bad news for someone hoping to to take 666111 for their D pick, but I can live with that.

Skill points

Assuming the linked attribute is a 6, Active skill costs are
1 = 1, 2 = 1+(2*1.5) = 4, 3 = 4+(3*1.5) = 8.5, 4 = 14.5, 5 = 22, 6 = 31 karma, and the ultimate min/max based upon karma cost, seems to be a specialized 6, or 5 (7) = 22+(6*.5)+(7*1) = 32. If your linked attribute is 7 or higher, then this only costs 28.5. I'll just go with 6's as the "max."

Again, let's be simple and look at maximum and mediocre*:

Maximum Mediocre
A: 50 pts. -> 6x8 + 2 -> 252 karma
B: 40 pts. -> 6x6 + 4 -> 200.5 karma
C: 34 pts. -> 6x5 + 4 -> 169.5 karma
D: 30 pts. -> 6x5 -> 155 karma
E: 27 pts. -> 6x4 + 3 -> 132.5 karma
A: 50 pts. -> 4x12 + 2 -> 178 karma
B: 40 pts. -> 4x10 -> 145 karma
C: 34 pts. -> 4x8 + 2 -> 120 karma
D: 30 pts. -> 4x7 + 2 -> 105.5 karma
E: 27 pts. -> 4x6 + 3 -> 95.5 karma

It's quite interesting, but there seems to be a pattern. If you look at the relative decrease in points from rank to rank, you can get an almost linear comparison with karma changes by multiplying the BP drop by 5:

Ranks BP drop "Max" change BP x 5
A to B 10 51.5 50
B to C 6 31 30
C to D 4 14.5 20
D to E 3 22.5 15

Which, if we round things off neatly, would give:

Rank "Max" BP x 5 approach
A 252 250
B 200.5 200
C 169.5 170
D 155 150
E 132.5 135

Is this abusive? Consider the min/max and mediocre limits with the karma system and the BPS it would take to buy them. Recall:1 = 1, 2 = 1+(2*1.5) = 4, 3 = 4+(3*1.5) = 8.5, 4 = 14.5, 5 = 22, 6 = 31 karma

Karma Maximum(pts) Mediocre* (pts)
250 6x8,1x2(50) 4x17,1x3(71)
200 6x6,3,2,1(42) 4x13,3,1x3(58)
170 6x5,4(34) 4x11,3,1x2(49)
150 6x4,5,2(31) 4x10,3,1x2(45)
135 6x4,3(27) 4x9,1x2(38)

* - choose level 4 because it is low enough to buy significantly cheaper but still high enough to be quite useful, hence a potential abuse.

I can live with that kind of abuse, especially if it means more realistic characters.

If a point based system is desired, that is a little harder to work out.  The point-based system gives about 30 BPS for some Rank A stuff.  Rank A Attributes gives 30 points, which would be 60 BPS  Rank A Skills gives 50 points, which would be 50 BPS Above we arrived at 200 and 244 karma for Rank A.  So, about 3.3 and 4.9 karma per BP for Attributes and Skills, respectively.  If the spending of points for Attributes is separate from the spending for traits, maybe it could work.  Let's use 3 karma per BP for Attributes and 5 karma per BP for Skills.

For the Edges and Flaws, just keep them as BPS.  The one Edge that I see really screwing things up would be Bonus Attribute Point.  In essence, one can buy an attribute point for 2 BPS, which would otherwise only buy 6 karma for Attributes.  This is a cheaper way to buy points 4-6.  However, it would count towards the 6 point limit on Edges, so there is some downside, though not much.

Let's test it out and build one of my character's at start.  The GM used 120 BPS

Magician Adept: 30 BPS
Attributes: 666552 = 192 karma (@ 3 karma/BP, it would be 64 BPS)
Skills: 66664 = 134 (@ 5 karma/BP, it would be 27 BPS)
Edges-Flaws: net +2 BPS

Total 30+64+27+2=123 BPS, which remarkably is the total of average BPS that an archetype costs with the BP system.  Of course, my guy was built with 120 BPS  But it's still quite good.  I will go with 125 BPS for PCs.

What about racial bonuses?  Let's take the most radical case: a physically maximal, mentally minimal Troll.  Using the priority system and adding the bonus afterwards, we need to buy up Quickness, Intelligence, and Charisma up to 2, 3, and 3, to allow all 1s.  That costs 30 karma.  Willpower 1 costs 2 karma.  Strength and Body of 6 costs 84 karma.  The total thus far is 116 karma, and we have B1A111.  That means that a Troll is going to have to buy Rank D Attributes to even be able to max out their Body and Strength.

Let's bring up the 1s to 2s, because I am thinking of making 2 the minimum for my campaigns.  That costs another 6+8+8+4= 26 karma, bringing the total to 142 karma, and ratings of B2A222.  8+10+10+6= 34 karma can bring that up to B3A333, for a total of 176 karma.  That would correlate to Rank B Attributes or 59 BPS  With the standard rank system, we would need 6+4+6+5+5+3=29 points, so this character is 2 points ahead of a standard Rank system Troll.    His karma cost from the ground up would have been  132+12+110+12+12+12.  If the karma Troll took Rank A, he could buy another 2 points, bringing him up to 31 points.

The most points should be obtained by spending points on the penalized attributes evenly.  So spend 84 karma on Strength and Body, then evenly spend on the other four, giving 3 fives and 1 four. Using points, we would need 6+6+3x5+4= 31 points.  Starting with B1A111 for 116 karma, bump up Willpower to 6 for 40 points and Quickness up to 5 for 40, giving B5A116.  That would correlate to 132+30+110+2+2+42=318 karma if bought from the ground up.

As for alternate methods, I do not want some freaky hybrid system where players buy a certain value, then add the bonus, etc.

I realize that I am sort of encouraging people to max out attributes they receive bonuses on, but that is only true if they plan to have that in the long run.  If the player of a Troll is happy with Strength 9, there is little point in raising it.  Ultimately, please be true to your concept.

So, the racial bonuses kick in after the initial attributes are purchased.

See summary in Karma Based Building Point System

Knowledge Skills Rationale - The upper bound would be Intelligence 6, which could be used to get 5 level 6 Knowledge Skills, which would cost 125 karma normally, so I keep it simple and give PCs Intelligence*21 karma for Knowledge Skills. I like PCs to have Knowledge Skills.  I don't like to make a high Intelligence unbalancingly important.  Because of the progressive karma cost of higher level skills, this actually helps low Intelligence PCs more as it allows them to buy a good deal more Knowledge Skills, assuming they don't try to buy skills beyond their Intelligence.

Language Skills Rationale - The upper bound would be Intelligence 6, which could be used to get a level 6 and a level 3 Language skill, which would cost 21 + 6 = 27 karma. So, let's go with Intelligence x 5.