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New(ish) GM looking for some advice regarding a group new to SR.

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Karrth

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« on: (14:41:02/05-20-18) »
So, back when 5e just came out I tried running a game with my gaming group at the time but was overcome by the complex system and general burnout on GM'ing.

Now I want to try giving it a go again and I am looking for some advice on a few things:

Mainly I'd like to know how many dice a dice pool should have for a starting character in their main area, so I can give advice to the group during character generation.

And do people have some advice for a new GM to this game?

neomerlin

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« Reply #1 on: (16:14:55/05-20-18) »
For a character's main schtick, I would say 11 dice is the minimum. Add a commonly used specialisation or a bonus from a Quality and you get something respectble. This is, of course, unless you are an adept and thus made of cheese and I expect a minimum of 15 without a problem. But the broader your schtick, the more skills you neex to stretch points across.

Redwulfe

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« Reply #2 on: (17:07:51/05-20-18) »
To be honest it depends on what you and your players are going for. A well rounded party with room to grow in a black trench coat style game would probably have dice pools of 12-14. If each team member has a specific place in the team and are specialized in that are over others to grow wide rather than tall then your pools will probably be in the 13-16 range. In power game builds you will see higher pools.

One thing to note is that, IMHO, if your players start to escalate the dice pools into the 16-22 ranges the threat starts to escalate in kind and you start an arms race that is hard to remove form the game. There is nothing wrong with this style of play just be aware that it exists and is usually made better when all players and GM really know the system well to be able to find a balance in the nukes that players and GM will bring to the table. This can be a more forgiving style as it is harder to kill PCs when they start to really min/max their concepts into hard core runners. This can at times be frustrating for a GM as some characters will feel imposable to kill and any well rounded character will typically feel underpowered.

On the other end of the spectrum with characters that start out wide with dice pools with high ends of 12-14 you as the GM will need to be very careful not to oppose them with something that is to overwhelming for the party which will be easy to do. When this happens the arms race will begin. Try to teach the players that direct confrontation is not as good as circumventing the opposition and thinking out the of box to resolve the mission. focus on the problem solving aspects of the game. "How do you get past the threats without getting caught or dying and still get the job done?" this style of game will be deadly for your characters if they do not solve this early.
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Overbyte

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« Reply #3 on: (19:49:52/05-20-18) »
One easy thing to do is consider that on average 3 dice = 1 hit.
So a skill of 12 dice = 4 hits on average.
Also a skill of 6 with a stat of 6 is 12 dice. So that is very good. I know others on the board will say that is not enough but it really depends on what your game is like. Since you are the GM you know how tough you will make the enemies.
An "average" person on the street would have a stat of 3 and maybe a skill of 3 so that would be 6 dice.

It is very important to think about the dice pools of the characters when you make up your mission. If your characters have 12 dice, then the enemies should have similar amounts (less for "grunts" and maybe a bit more "bosses"). You want your characters to have a challenge but not get instantly killed. Keep in mind SR combat can be very deadly for those that try to just shoot it out head to head in the open. I'm talking about combat here but the consideration of dice pools is important in all areas: magical threats and wards, matrix hosts, negotiations, etc.

SR rules can be a pain in that sometimes they are difficult to track down in the books. My recommendation is that you agree with your players that you will make reasonable rulings if you don't know the exact rule (and it isn't super important) and move on quickly while playing. Later you can track down the rules to find out for next time. Otherwise you can really get bogged down.

Example (This happened to me the other day):

Your player has Vision Magnification in his cybereye and wants to know how that affects shooting his rfile:
So you look up under cybereyes SR p453 and it says
"Vision magnification: An implanted version of thevision magnification enhancement (p. 444)."
So you go to p444 and it says
"This zoom function digitally magnifies vision by up to fifty times, allowing distant targets to be seen clearly. For rules on using vision magnification in ranged combat, see p. 177."
So you go to p177 and there is nothing there.. because its really on p178. :)
So you go to p178 and it says
"Making faraway targets look closer (and bigger) makes it easier to use the old “aim small, miss small” mantra your sniper school instructor whispered in your ear. Image Magnification reduces Range modifiers when used properly. In order to use an image magnification system the attacker needs to use the Take Aim action to gain the benefit of the system. This includes both accessories, such as scopes, as well as cybereye enhancements.

Great.. so all that and you still don't know what the rule is.. How much does it "reduce Range modifiers"?
So I just ruled in the moment that it reduced the range category by 1 level..
Later we found the actual rules and it turns out that is actually what it does.
Now I can't find where it was. :)
But don't let this stuff bog down your game or as a new GM you will spend all your time look stuff up in the books.
However.. there are some good "cheat sheets" that others have made that can really help, especially for magic and decking.
Nothing is foolproof. Fools are so ingenious.

Redwulfe

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« Reply #4 on: (21:16:52/05-20-18) »
Another thing you may wish to consider is to place a range ban on your characters so they are all in the same range. If you have one character that is in the 12-14 band and another in the 18-22 it could be hard on you to build the encounter so that the threats are not over powering the 12-14 character.

This of course this may not matter if it is your hacker as threats to them are usually only threats to them.
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Glyph

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« Reply #5 on: (00:41:04/05-21-18) »
I would not cap dice pools, unless you are going for a low-powered game all around.  A dice pool cap unfairly singles out specialists; not every player will want to play a generalist.  There are no levels in Shadowrun, just gradations of specialization versus versatility.  You see that even in the archetypes - the street samurai will be a lot more effective in combat, but the bounty hunter will be able to do a lot more outside of a combat role.

Don't worry about the 12-14 dice pools being overshadowed.  That is still a respectable enough dice pool to contribute to a fight, and they should be getting more spotlight time outside of combat (where their other skills can shine) to compensate for not rocking as hard during combat.  The game lets you build characters with widely ranging abilities and backgrounds, so keep in mind that the player with an alcoholic ork privatate eye with a shady past might not even want to compete with another player's ex-Vory augmented troll bodyguard.

For balancing encounters, don't straight-up derive some number based on party dice pools.  Shadowrun is a tactical game, and enemies that the group can normally blow away can be much more of a threat when they ambush the group, or attack individual party members when they are alone and relaxing in their apartments.  Similarly, the group can take down powerful enemies by setting up ambushes of their own.  Or they might think of a way to avoid a fight completely.

Expect it to take some time to find the right mix of power level, lethality, and group cooperation.  It can be a lethal game, where deadly attacks are easy to do and hard to resist.  And while character creation gives you the ability to custom-craft characters, you can easily over-specialize, spread yourself too thin, come up with a concept that the game doesn't support well, or create a high-powered character simply by making some logical choices at character creation.

One last thing to keep in mind is that the basic premise of the game is professional criminals working under the table doing dangerous jobs.  They tend to start out with a base of high main Attribute(s) and skill(s), then pile on modifiers for magic, augmentations, or expensive gear.  So they may tend to be significantly better than your basic security guard.  Use modifiers, though.  A character with a dice pool of 18 may get all of those dice at high noon and point-blank range against a stationary target.  But when the character is moderately wounded, running, and shooting at a distant target behind partial cover, at night, he will be rolling a lot fewer dice.

ShadowcatX

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« Reply #6 on: (09:46:11/05-21-18) »
One issue with dice pools and caps is that dice pools tend to vary wildly from one specialty to another. A mage can run with a dice pool of 12 with few problems, while a street samurai or a face with a dice pool of 12 is handicapped.

I do, however, suggest talking to your team about damage resistance dice pools, that's an area where a lot of newbie teams have an issue. If one of your players is like "I'll play a troll tank" and rocks a 40+ dice pool soak and the rest of your team is sitting at 15 or so soak, you'll have to work harder than if everyone hangs out in the same general range.

Sphinx

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« Reply #7 on: (12:53:51/05-21-18) »
1. Let the players be cool. When they optimize their characters to be really good at one thing, don't feel obliged challenge their superiority every week. Once in a while, sure, but most of the time just let them have their fun. Place your obstacles elsewhere.

2. Let your NPCs be ordinary. I'm not talking about major antagonists, here, just the routine grunts. Most people have rating 3 attributes, adjusted for metatype; that's the middle piece of the bell curve. Key skills should fall mostly between rating 3 (Competent) and rating 6 (Professional). Use the skill rating descriptions (p.131) as a guideline.

3. Make ordinary NPCs people. No group of NPCs should be cookie-cutter clones unless there's a valid reason for it. Give them each a name and a recognizable trait (e.g., goon #1 is Amber, she's left-handed; goon #2 is a tall guy named Burt; goon #3 is an Amerind woman named Cara; goon #4, Doug, has a ridiculous mustache). When gender doesn't matter, flip a coin. 

neomerlin

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« Reply #8 on: (18:38:46/05-21-18) »
If you really want to set your game at a certain level, capping dice pools is a way to do it. Personally, I wouldn't, for the reasons mentioned above. I also think it's easy to over-state the importance of big dice pools. It's fun to roll all those dice, but I'm not convinced it's the deciding factor in success.

For example, in one game I was playing, a friend played a street sam with 12 dice to shoot, and I played a physical adept with 17 to shoot. In every combat, I out-classed the street sam, but not because of my shooting dice. It was because the street sam's maximum Initiative was 11, and my minimum initative was 15. Most opposition we went up against, the street sam could hit as often as I could and usually with higher DV weapons (I was limited to pistols, he had bigger guns and the option of autofire). The difference was I usually made three attacks for every one attack he made. Tragically, when the Shaman boosted her initative with magic, she was able to dish out more pain more often than the street sam, too. Fortunately, he brought some decent skills in stealth and spycraft to the group, so he had plenty to do outside combat, but it was a depressing sight, this street sam with the second lowest kill count in the group (just above the decker).

Another illustrative example I think works well is decking. Everyone knows to deck a high rating host you should find a slaved device and plug into it. Then you don't have to deal with the host's rating. But what if you're a pro decker with the best brain boosting chrome, and you've got 20 dice to hack that Rating 7 host with its piddling 15 dice pool? You can hack through that in your sleep, right? Sure. But even though 15 dice might not keep you out of the host, there's a good chance you're going to get up a lot of OS breaking through, and you've still got to do whatever it is you came to the host to do. That's a good reason to look for a weak point, even if your dice pool is high.

Shadowrun rewards players who make smart decisions. Sure, being the best at your thing is good, but you'll go a lot further if you look for ways to tip the odds in your favour. High defense dice pools are meaningless if you never see the shot coming.

Marcus

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« Reply #9 on: (19:35:19/05-21-18) »
I want to open by saying Sphinx gave you the best advise anyone can give any GM in SR. If you take nothing else away from this thread then those words, you gained a LOT.

Dice pools are irreverent, as GM you have unlimited ability to create any sort of opposition you want. You can always, always, always, make challenging fight/encounter, and Dice pools are just a means of knowing how many success your players will have on average and go from there. What's much more important is Helping your players be happy with their characters, making sure each character can full-fill their role and not be outclassed in their role by another character. Give them good challenges, and make them work/play hard to achieve their goals.  Work with players to develop their characters. Some will need more help then others, and that's fine. Weaker character with help can easily catch up to more specialized characters.

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Karrth

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« Reply #10 on: (11:51:15/05-22-18) »
Thank you all for taking your time to answer.

I have no intention of capping the dice pool, I just wanted a number I could give my players (most of who has never played SR) as a guide so they didn't make a character with too low dice pools and end up having to rebuild their character after the first session or two.

The way I'm thinking about doing the character creation is that I will gather all the players before the next session and we can all have talk about how we want this game to run, what they want to play and then create their characters and then I can spend some time with their character sheets and create some interesting runs based on their capabilities. Then adjust any vulnerabilities with NPC characters the players can take of their runs if needed. (no shadowrun team will make it far without a Decker for example.)

Overbyte

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« Reply #11 on: (16:04:27/05-22-18) »
The way I'm thinking about doing the character creation is that I will gather all the players before the next session and we can all have talk about how we want this game to run, what they want to play and then create their characters and then I can spend some time with their character sheets and create some interesting runs based on their capabilities. Then adjust any vulnerabilities with NPC characters the players can take of their runs if needed. (no shadowrun team will make it far without a Decker for example.)

You can always have an NPC fill any role that is necessary that your players don't want to play. I run a "group" of two players who are mostly just stealthy sammy types. So when they need additional support (magic, matrix, whatever) they just bring in an NPC. After a time they have a roster of contacts they can use for any situation.
Nothing is foolproof. Fools are so ingenious.

SunRunner

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« Reply #12 on: (08:49:02/05-23-18) »
Yeah I will second the use NPC contacts to fill in holes in the team if its small or even if no one is interested in a particular role. My group has used an NPC decker for a long time as matrix stuff tends to be the GM and the decker go off by themselves for 45 mins while they resolve his 15 seconds or real time hack on the host. Its just easier if the GM handles all that with a few dice rolls to determine how good or bad things went and then has our NPC tell us how it went, with either a I got the paydata follow the exfil plan to OHH crap GOD just landed we are hosed GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!!!

Karrth

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« Reply #13 on: (16:01:50/05-23-18) »
Yeah sounds like what I had in mind.

Thanks for all the help! Now, off to create the shadowrun game I promised them!

Marcus

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« Reply #14 on: (19:22:57/05-23-18) »
Good Luck, and don't be stranger!
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