Is Shadowrun really this brutal?

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« on: <10-25-15/1246:57> »
Heya, so I'm a little new to Shadowrun, I've played in a couple games in the past, but due to laziness never really bothered reading the rules all that much.  Now 5th Ed is out and a friend of mine is wanting to run a Shadowrun game.  Deciding to play a decker, I've spent the last several weeks familiarizing myself with the setting and the rules.

But my friend keeps bringing something up that's nagging at me, which is that he says that Shadowrun is a brutal system where it seems that anyone can die at any time for any reason.  He and I especially got into it over the fact that no one in the group had decided to play a mage yet (we have since acquired a few people who fill that role) which apparently meant that everyone was going to die on the first run, and any run thereafter where the party lacks magic ability.  He later established that if there is even a single angle that the party doesn't have covered (Hacker, Magic, Face, "Gun Bunny," Beatstick) on any given run everyone dies.  Period.  That Shadowrun is a very gritty system that a single mistake not only can but willl kill not only you but your entire team as well.

Is this true?  I've looked around and I'm not seeing anything in the system or online that says Shadowrun is that harsh of a system.  Granted any system can be made into a brutal grind in the right (or wrong) hands.  (I've even played a particularly savage 3.5 D&D game, and that's one of the more forgiving systems out there.)  But he's never used the modifier of "In my game, Shadowrun is..." He's always said "Shadowrun is..."  like it's that obvious to anyone who's ever read or played the system.  What do you guys think?

TL;DR: Is Shadowrun a game where any mistake, on the players' or characters' part more often than not spells death for everyone.  Especially if the party lacks a certain archetype.

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« Reply #1 on: <10-25-15/1309:51> »
Shadowrun is a brutal system. You aren't heroes standing taller then everyone else, you're just normal people with will and a bit of an edge. If you get stupid, it's very easy to quickly get dead.

That said though, your friend is MASSIVELY over reacting about your survival. Games need to be crafted or modified to deal with what the party has so there isn't TPK one shots. Nobody enjoys those. This is the GMs responsibility, not the players. No player should have to play something they don't want just to fill some mythical "role" that Shadowrun technically doesn't even have, being a skill based system rather then class based. If the party doesn't have any magical assets, then the GM should modify the runs to not have heavy magical opposition. In game, a Johnson isn't going to hire a team who can't get the job done. As for mistakes, no plan survives first contact. Every run is about adapting on the fly to changes and mistakes will happen. How you deal with them should determine whether you (and/or the party) will live or die. It is not a guarantee. Hell, sometimes mistakes led to a better plan!

Also, while having no magic assets would put you at a disadvantage when dealing with magical opposition, you could still deal with it. Spirits can be disrupted by focused attacks (just takes some work) and decent stats will keep you safe from a mage till you put a bullet in their brain. Can't cast spells with no frontal lobe! You also have the option of buying some augmentative and protective preparations from an alchemist contact too. Not the best, but it can give you a boost.


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« Reply #2 on: <10-25-15/1310:36> »
It's not that brutual....  With a good gm a good party can improvise past needing one of the roles.  Or they can approach the solution from a different aspect.

The brutual part is if you get into combat taking a full auto in the open can drop you near unconsciousness or death.  Considering most characters have 9-10 hp for physical damage and 9-10 hp for stun damage and having to resist 10 damage at once is not uncommon.

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« Reply #3 on: <10-25-15/1312:30> »
Short answer: Your friend is wrong, not can be wrong, could be wrong, just plain is wrong.

Now I am pretty much a newbie when it comes to SR but I like to think I have good enough grasp on things to give some insight into it, even if very basic one.

Now shadowrun is a bit more unforgiving than many systems but hardly even in the top tier. Now if you are lacking some major depertment in your team then you will not be offered and unless you are desberate will not  accept jobs that need assets that the team will have. If your team consists of a cyber samurai, mage and physical adept nobody is going to tell you to hack into a database.

That being said, when you lack resources it will make things more difficult. In my experience the two big ones are if you do not have muscle, because eventually some mistake is going to be made that brings the heat down on the team and there will be a fight. Magic is the other one as without some magic on your own side, you have some real issues with defending against magical assaults or getting around magical defenses. Hacking is not too far behind but it is not out of the question to outsource spesific tasks, assuming you have a contact you can trust with that sort of thing. Regardles if you are lacking in some department it just means you are at a disadvantage no more no less.

To get everyone killed, unless you are in way out of your depth, requires usually either multiple mistakes to be made, one huge one and bad luck with the dice. That being said, for just someone to die, well that can happen even without any mistakes, just simple bad luck with the dice, as non combat focused characters are relatively fragile and dice are a fickle mistress.


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« Reply #4 on: <10-25-15/1316:04> »
The fact that Shadowrun is a pretty high-lethality mechanical system doesn't change the fact that your friend is severely mistaken about how the game is supposed to go, especially in the "we NEED one of each role in the party" thing. If you don't have a mage or decker, it's on the GM to either minimize the issues coming with that (as in, not give you hard paydata duns to punish you) or provide NPC contractors willing to do that part of the job for a fee, and then the job becomes an escort quest to get the decker where ne needs to be to get the paydata, with the action still focused on the actual PCs.
Playability > verisimilitude.


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« Reply #5 on: <10-25-15/1359:35> »
To add to what the previous posters already (correctly) said:

You don't take jobs you are not qualified to do. There are ways to mitigate the lack of certain abilities through gear and contacts - all you need is (preparation) time and usually money.

It's the fixers job to send you to jobs you can solve successfully. After all you don't send an electrician to fix your leaking toilet.
talk think matrix

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« Reply #6 on: <10-25-15/1451:11> »
Never try to compare SR to DnD, the mechanics are so different, there is nothing to compare.

In DnD, whenever you reach a certain amount of XP, your character grows exponentally. (You gain HP, you gain better saved, you gain better attack bonuses, you gain feats.) And so, the game gets less dangerous as you progress. At lvl 1 a warrior has 12 hp. (For arguments sake) meaning a long sword hits him twice, he's dead... at lvl 2, he has 24hp... so that longsword has to hit him 4 times to kill him... at lvl 5 he has 60hp.... now that longsword has to hit him 8 times.... and so on...

In SR there is no lvl system, there is a karma system. Karma is used to improve everything, with progressively higher costs per improvement. Generally a character has 10 health boxes at start (average). A 100 karma later, he could still only have 10 health boxes (and 100 karma is roughly 12 to 15 runs in!)

That, combined with the damage of most weapons (a light pistol does 6 damage!) Means you have to be careful and can't expect to take as many 'hits' as one expects in DnD....

In fact, getting shot twice can kill many people!

So yes, your buddy is correct that SR can be brutally deadly. The good news is, careful planning and a wise array of gear and options can increase your life span. (Provided you get yourself out of DnD mindset of 'charge the enemy, hack him to bits).

What he is NOT correct is that missing an element of team (decker, sammy, mage, bozo the clown). First off a fixer is not going to hire a team that can't handle the task - his rep is on the line! He needs the team to succeed to continue to get contracts throw his way... So he will carefully match a team to a job.

No awakened on the team? Then the fixer isn't going to give you a job that requires an awakened to succeed. He's going to look at the team and match their abilities and competence to the jobs he has.

A 'perfect' team will gave all the bases covered, but 'perfect' teams are rare! (Heck, less then 5% of world's population has magic potential, even less have developed that potential, and only a tiny fraction make it to the shadows! There is plenty of work for all types of teams out there.


In other words, a good GM tailors to tuns to the team do they have a goid chance of 'winning' - if they play smart. (All best are off if you play like idiots)

A poor GM will club you over the head for 'poor character choice' (IE: not making a balanced team, dispite players not wanting to play a certain archtype).
Where am I going? And why am I in a hand basket ???

Remember: You can't fix Stupid. But you can beat on it with a 2x4 until it smartens up! Or dies.


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« Reply #7 on: <10-25-15/1451:31> »
The GM has access to any number of TPK options in Shadowrun. The sooner he realizes that, the sooner he won't feel threatened by the shenanigans of the players and the less likely he'll feel the need to draw upon those resources. While the GM can whack your character out of the blue, he should not do so since all that does is end the game.

That being said, it is well within his purview to give players enough rope to hang themselves, and then laugh maniacally when they do.

Generally speaking, everyone should be on the same page about having fun and continuing to play. To that end, missions can be tailored around the characters.  In game, this is rationalized by the fixer only bringing jobs that he thinks his team can complete.


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« Reply #8 on: <10-25-15/1544:11> »
I've definitely heard of games where one or more ayer characters did in most Missions.  Can't say I've heard of any really long running games that are that way, mind you ... But as with any system you can play it different ways.  I'd suggest games that make great stories for the characters involved, rather than lethal puzzle boxes that will kill you for not doing things the 'right' way, but for sure there are people who seem to enjoy the latter style.

For what it is worth, I'm running a one player game, so obviously not all bases are covered.  We do use NPC to flesh things out, but almost never have a "full" group with all roles well covered.


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« Reply #9 on: <10-25-15/1715:27> »
Shadowrun, like any game, is whatever y'all make of it at your game table.  Some adventures are built on certain assumptions -- about the capabilities of the group -- but adventures invariably also include subchapters specifically reminding a GM how to adjust an encounter/scene/NPC/adventure to fit for any given group.  So, yeah.  You should have a group that's able to get past a firewall, a locked door, an armed guard, and a security spirit, sure.  But you don't have to, if your GM keeps the capabilities of the group in mind.

It sounds like your friend got burned by a particularly harsh GM, earlier in his gaming career.  Some groups have a sort of challenging, antagonistic, relationship that way, with "players vs. GMs" as the norm...but that's not how me and my group play, so it's clearly not what's best for everyone.


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« Reply #10 on: <10-25-15/1802:20> »
yeah, most of the other guys covered the basics so i'd just add that in shadowrun, you've got multiple ways to skin a cat tbh.
For "magic" stuff, you don't even need a mage. your combat adept who's a boss with his weapon foci sword can simply just take astral perception as a skill, bonus from a mentor spirit or in a qi foci and he can see into astral space to spot things like sentry spirits or enemy mages (and can now even take the abilitiy to be able to cast one spell (manabolt for example to help frag spirits). Mystic adepts can summon spirits as well as cast spells and still be a beast in physical combat or a boss in social situations like a regular adept. Hell, even a low rating aspected mage can still make watcher spirits with ritual magic skill, perceive the astral and cast spells. no reason at all that you have to.
As for matrix, a good lockpicking skill combined with Hardware skill and some breaking and entering tools can get you through locked doors, re-route elevators, disable cameras etc. With a decent rating commlink with some mods from data trails, you can defend your kit well enough that a dedicated decker isn't a necessity.

A decent team will include members who usually have two skillsets, one primary (like combat on a street sam) and one secondary, which usually rides a skill off an attribute the character would have at a high rating anyway (REA for the street sam, so he'd pick up Pilot: groundcraft and a car to drive the team in for example) or something you'd use in research and legwork before the main bulk of the run (lots of contacts to ask favours of, computer skill for matrix search etc etc)

Within your team, if you could cover;
-being able to perceive astral space
-being able to unlock locked doors
-being able to deal with electronic security measures
-being able to research things online
-be able to get the team to a job and drive away from it fast if it goes south
-be able to negotiate/talk down/persuade people
you should have the ability to get nearly every type of job done to varying degrees of success.

in short. it doesn't matter if you don't have a dedicated rigger. if your dude with social skills has a sweet car and can drive it like a boss, you're sorted.
it doesn't matter that much if you don't have a dedicated mage if your combat adept can see into the astral and let you know that a security spirit is inbound and going to ruin your day.
It doesn't matter if you don't have a dedicated decker if your techy rigger can subvert maglocks and disable cameras.

if the GM works with the players to make sure they get jobs they can actually complete and the players make sure they're not making super one-dimensional characters, you'll all have a great time and enjoy shadowrun.
if you don't all work together on making sure it'll work; probably better to find another game tbh.


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« Reply #11 on: <10-25-15/1811:17> »
I genuinely enjoy the lethality in Shadowrun. It always keeps me on my toes, but not to the point of powergaming. It also feels somewhat realistic (although, how realistic can it be, placed among spellcasters and technomancers?).

As for important roles, there are a few that most teams need. Note that they can overlap.
- A mid-range fighter, able to deal moderate damage
- Someone with Astral Perception
- (I know many disagree) A hacker of some sort

The rest are optional, but recommended.
- Face
- Melee fighter/tank
- Rigger
- Conjurer
- Support mage (Invisibility, mind probe, control thoughts etc.)
- Several other, similar types


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« Reply #12 on: <10-25-15/2024:08> »
Shadowrun is fairly lethal. One of the big differences in SR is fighting your way out(or in) is not always an option. If you're trapped in a KE precinct, trying to shoot your way out will get you dead real quick. SR requires a certain amount of intelligence and the the ability to approach problems with solutions other than 'Attack, attack, attack!'

All the roles are not absolutely necesarry, but helpful. As others have noted your GM should adjust the adventures appropriately.

Small Correction:
Heck, less then 5% of world's population has magic potential,
It's actually about 1%. Roughly 1% of the population is awakened in any manner. That means that all of the adepts, mages, aspected mages and spell knacks fit into that tiny fraction. Rare indeed.


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« Reply #13 on: <10-25-15/2025:15> »
Shadowrun is actually a less lethal game than many games.  The reason being that, while a character can die very easily, PCs all have Edge which can essentially be extra lives.  In D&D, a dead character is dead, and the magic to bring him back is expensive and high level.  In SR, there's no revival magic (at least, not that works the way anyone wants it to) but even a freshly made character can take otherwise lethal wounds several times depending on their Edge score.

That said, in most games I play, characters getting geeked isn't common anyways.
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« Reply #14 on: <10-25-15/2028:31> »
Shadowrun is a brutal system. You aren't heroes standing taller then everyone else, you're just normal people with will and a bit of an edge.

Speak for yourself,  omae. I, for one, am a proud member of the White Hat Brigade.
« Last Edit: <10-26-15/0934:54> by Patrick Goodman »
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