Although Shadowrun, Fifth Edition has only been out for a few weeks, we’ve already got our first app for it! Next Pass, is by a third party developer, Eiger Tech LLC and is in no way affiliated or endorsed by Catalyst Game Labs. However, that’s true of all the Shadowrun apps for iOS device and there are several available for third and fourth edition, but Eiger Tech LLC is obviously ahead of the game and was able to get their app out before some people have gotten their actual physical copies of the newest ruled version for hacking and slashing in the Sixth World.
Now Next Pass is not going to run your entire Shadowrun game for you. Nor will it roll all your dice, remind you of the new sometimes annoying limits to rolls or point out that a PC was wearing more armour than you thought before you started to calculate damage. That’s all still up to your GM to handle. What Next Pass does do is manage one of the more intricate aspects of Shadowrun – initiative. Initiative can be a real pain, especially in large scale combat situations. Do you REALLY want to manage your six PCs and the three other sides out for a MacGuffin, each of which has between eight and twelve NPCS working for them? Trust me there are adventures where you have to manage that many characters at once, and so for adventures like those, Next Pass is a freakin’ godsend.
Next Pass covers all pieces of initiative in Shadowrun, but it can be as detailed or as lax as you want/need it to be. You can let the app add all the modifiers and interrupts together in addition to simulating die rolls, or you can just have the PCs roll for themselves (some people like the feel of shaking the bones after all) and just input the numbers for easy management. If you have a lot of generic NPCs like corporate wage slaves with the same stats, you can just input one and have the system dupe the NPC up to eight times for a maximum of nine exact NPCs. It saves you a bit of time, and all nine characters will be randomized with their rolls. Again, these are all things that make a GM’s life easier. It’s not going to totally change how they run the game, but anything that makes combat go faster and flow easier, is something I’m down with.
When you pull up Next Pass, you’re going to want to make a character. You have a chosen of roughly two dozen portraits for NPCs, although you can take a photo with the app if you prefer something else. My favorite is the one that looks like Fat Val Kilmer and Billy Idol had a baby together. You enter his or her name, set which version of initiative you want the system to use (manual input or generated rolls) and then you save the character. So on and so forth. After you’ve generated all the characters you need, you select “New Combat” and can begin. You’ll be given the order which is generated by either the rolls or manual input (whichever you chose) and then you go down the list from there. You tap on a character to show their turn was done. If you swipe the character, you can pull up “Terminate” which lets the system ignore that character as they are dead – which they are as this deletes them from the app. You can one tap FD for Full Defense or -5 for those situations that cost you that set number of initiative points. Once everyone is done, you hit “Next Pass” for the next round of combat. So on and so forth. If you want to start an entirely new battle you choose “New Combat” in the lower right hand corner. It’s not rocket science by any means and after a few minutes with the app, you’ll be able to use the thing as if it was second nature. Now, you might not WANT to use it because you prefer keeping it down on paper or your laptop or what have you, but Next Pass is a nice option for those of you with iOS devices that are always looking for new ways to carry less stuff or to flip through that PDF for the rule you were looking for.
Now Next Pass isn’t perfect. All it can do is initiative management however, so you might find the $4.99 price tag a bit expensive. If you really get flustered from initiative management though, you might look at the price tag as a fine deal indeed. I’ve also had the app crash on few multiple times in the middle of fiddling with it. It just closes down on its own, but at least nothing is lost when this happens. The last minor problem with the app is that you can’t do a mass delete via a button push after combat is over. You have to delete every character (PC or NPC) manually or you have to shake your iOS device to make it do a mass delete. It doesn’t take that long via terminate, but quicker is better. Plus shaking your device to do a mass delete is not instinctive AT ALL and I kept forgetting that the app even had that option. That mass delete option being available through a tap rather than shaking the device would be a great additional feature. So would the ability to perma-save a character. Overall though, these are petty issues and they shouldn’t hold you back from using or enjoying Next Pass.
It’s great to see an app for Shadowrun 5e so early on in its life span and I’m looking forward to seeing what other gamer aids Eiger Tech LLC can come up with to make running Shadowrun easier. It’s a fine product but your mileage may vary based on how much you play Shadowrun and if you feel initiative management is worth five nuyen or not.