Of all the archetypes, adepts benefit the most from maxing out on both magic rating and cyberware/bioware (mundanes don't have access to magic, and shamans/mages have both reasons to not max out on 'ware and diminished returns from magic once they have their necessary foci). Most adept powers and 'ware stack, so the combination lets us reach higher physical attributes and more defensive dice (dodge, damage resistance, melee defense) than any solo non-adept in the game. While there is a cap to our effective magic rating, our ability to purchase additional power points (see: HELP ADDPOINT) gives us the flexibility to mix-and-match our powers to better fit whatever situation we find ourselves in.
The tradeoff is that we take the most karma and nuyen to reach any overall combat effectiveness benchmark. Many of our powers are just not as efficient as spells or 'ware, so in the early to middle stages of our career, unless it's something we're specifically specializing in, we may find ourselves weaker than non-adepts. In addition, we don't have the ability to raise our ballistic armor rating through spells or cybernetic replacements, so we tend to struggle more against opponents that fire machine guns at high rates of fire.
In individual play, we have no real mechanical reason to avoid loading up on cyberware and bioware. Nothing that we do or use depend on our essence rating, and we can recover lost magic through initiation.
However, that's not necessarily the case in group play, because a spellcaster's heal spell has a TN that depends on their target's essence. If we have a full 6 essence, then a mage has good odds of healing us for 8 boxes, or a shaman can heal us for 12 boxes, with just a single cast. This sort of pairing has an additional synergy in that our pain relief power can be used to alleviate their spell drain.
Yes, adepts have a variety of interesting and unique unarmed combat powers. However, because we can only have so many powers active at a time (capped by magic rating), these powers have a high opportunity cost. Killing hands 4 + penetrating strike 3 + titanium bone lacing is effectively the same as a (STR+7)D weapon, which is a much higher damage code than any melee weapon available in the game. But the cost to do this is 6.25 power points, some additional point(s) lost due to the essence cost of the bone lacing, no reach, and no weapon focus.
A bit less powerful but significantly safer is to take the distance strike instead of penetrating strike (which don't stack with each other). Having distance strike active when attacking means we can't be counterstruck if we end up losing the clash. This doesn't apply when we're defending, but then we have the counterstrike power.
With a weapon focus, adepts can roll more dice on the attack than any non-adept in the game. A rating 3 weapon focus plus 10 skill allows 13 more dice to be allocated from our combat pool, totaling 26 dice (or 27 with enhanced articulation). Admittedly, only zero reach weapon foci are available at rating 3…. For weapons with reach, adepts roll equal dice on the attack as mundanes (10 skill +2 focus + 12 cpool, compared to 12 skill + 12 cpool). Of course, when defending, we roll more dice regardless because of the counterstrike power.
While an adept rolls less dice when firing a firearm, melee skill is still used for melee defense and so the counterstrike power still plays a role. In addition, the bonus dice to dodge from the side step power helps significantly when on the receiving end of gun fire (though less so when full auto makes the dodge TN difficult). Using a firearm is actually the easier way to play the early career adept since both counterstrike and side step are quite efficient at +1 die per 0.5 magic rating, and there's no spell or 'ware equivalent. Other powers that are important to this role are the improved sense low-light and thermo vision powers, which are considered natural and thus provide the best compensation against lighting and weather conditions, and the improved sense magnification power, which won't take up an accessory slot on our firearm.
Yes, cyberware and bioware do reduce an adept's magic rating, and thus limit the total adept powers that can be active simultaneously. But the magic lost from cyber/bioware can be substantially less than the magic cost for keeping a power active, and can also be recovered later through initiation. If there is some bonus that we want to keep permanently active, it is well worth looking at 'ware options, even in chargen. There are also a variety of 'ware bonuses that do not have an adept equivalent.
NOTE: To determine total magic rating points lost, add together the essence costs of cyberware and half the bio index costs of bioware.
NOTE: Adept improved sense powers are considered natural (with the better modifiers against lighting conditions), whereas cyber vision mods are considered artificial.
Here is a comparison of magic cost for a few adept powers vs magic loss for equivalent bonuses from 'ware (assuming cultured or beta grade). In addition, it may be possible to stack adept powers and 'ware together for even higher totals. The caveat is that if you only need a bonus/power active some of the time, then an adept's ability to deactivate powers and activate other powers is a more flexible use of magic rating than trading it in for permanent bonuses.
|Bonus||Adept Magic Cost||'ware Magic Loss||Stackable?||Notes|
|Quickness||0.5/rating||0.15/rating||yes||less useful after running out of slots to wear armor|
|Strength||0.5/rating||0.15/rating||yes||if building for non-monowhip melee, very much worth stacking|
|Body||0.5/rating||0.21/rating||yes||'ware options can also give ballistic/impact armor, or other bonuses, in addition to body|
|Initiative||2/3/5||(various)||no||equivalent to standard grade wired reflexes, so anything better is… better|
Some notable 'ware where adept powers do not provide any similar effect:
Some notable adept powers where 'ware do not provide a similar effect:
Notable adept powers that are far superior to any bonuses available elsewhere:
NOTE: It is very much worth grabbing the maximum rank of kinesics in chargen because the extra money we gain over time will pile up. We also don't need to have it active all the time. Throw it on when interacting with merchants or completing autoruns, shut it off for combat. Aliases can help with the tedium.