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Total Newb GM Seeks Advice

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Hey there, total Shadowrun rookie humbly seeking advice - apologies if there is a thread somewhere for such requests, as I didn't see it while scanning over the forum. So, short version: I only just started playing Shadowrun, due to some fun youtube videos talking about campaigns people have had and picking up the Shadowrun Returns trilogy on Steam. I picked up the 5e core book and I love everything about it, but I wanted to consult those wiser than myself, as I have much to learn in the lore and such.

I'm going to GM the game, set in the Washington DC area, and the only houserule I've invoked is the removal of the limits for how many positive and negative qualities a character can have. Of my squad of four players, I am fully confident two will make great characters. The other two I'm a bit worried about for various reasons. I've found some useful character building tools and reference guides online, but I guess I want to ask:

1) What's a good way to get the team's feet wet? The team has all played different tabletops like D&D and Exalted before, but this will be very different thematically and mechanically. So I want both player and characters to get immersed and would like some advice on that.

2) Is there a good shorthand way of making NPC stats on the fly? My team is the sort to cut their own swath so a lot of my GM'ing efforts end up being largely improv. I would like a quick, easy way to transition to and from combat scenarios deftly, but haven't found a good way of rapid-fire generating characters yet.

And 3) Any sound advice for a first-timer like myself? I want to make it fun and the right level of challenge for base power-level characters.

Michael Chandra:
I should note that there's no actual limit to Negative Qualities, there's simply a limit of how much karma you can get for them. You can easily take 29 karma in negatives, and only get 25 karma for it. Maybe you should simply raise the limit to 35 karma for negatives max instead, rather than completely removing it. Unless you also made clear you will veto ridiculous combinations such as Allergy: Severe, Sunlight, Distinctive Style, Corporate SIN and more.

For getting the team wet, it partially depends on the player composition. You can start with an extended version of Food Fight, or have them do some investigating and feed them some setting-stuff through bartenders (such as 'Yeah, some of my clients got busted here by a Megacorp the other day. Apparently they stole some gear of a guard they executed, and a Corporate Hitsquad came calling. Sorry about the damaged door, but insurance hasn't paid me back yet. Now what was that about Blondie, you have to get her to pay her debt?'). Make sure to get them used to a few big things:
- Excessive Looting bad (everything has trackers and if you steal expensive stuff that you weren't hired to, people want to send a message)
- Murder-hobos bad (unneeded killing just makes worse enemies instead)
- There's always bigger fish (there's dangerous guys out there so don't pick a fight you cannot win)

As for advice: Stick to mostly PR0~2 enemies at first, and don't throw Force 5+ Spirits at the party yet. Let people get used to the game before you start putting out stressful things. While it is possible to rival a PR6 in dice straight out of chargen, that's still not meant to be a fight you dare take on.

For rough shorthand NPCs: On their primary skills, 6+2xPR (so a PR2 goon would have 10 dice on their main weapon), 6+PR for attribute-rolls (so Reaction+Intuition just assume a PR0 goon has 6 total) and for secondary rolls (such as Perception). Don't forget mooks get their PR rating as additional bonus when resisting social rolls ('look, I believe you, but my boss needs me to check these things in detail').

Oh, one more thing: In principle, do not allow any negative quality that gives 10+ karma. These qualities are supposed to come with big negative consequences, and often a lot of it depends on the GM. A misunderstanding between GM and player here will easily upset people. For example, don't allow Corporate SIN until you're more experienced because it's a Negative Quality that requires a lot from both GM and Player. Without that careful balance, it's either freebie-points or an upset player. And feel free to ask us for advice on how to deal with specific qualities (e.g. allergy wheat/krill/soy means allergic to 1 of the 3 most-common food ingredients, so at least 50% of the food will have this normally).


--- Quote from: WWDMMax on ---

2) Is there a good shorthand way of making NPC stats on the fly? My team is the sort to cut their own swath so a lot of my GM'ing efforts end up being largely improv. I would like a quick, easy way to transition to and from combat scenarios deftly, but haven't found a good way of rapid-fire generating characters yet.

--- End quote ---

Michael Chandra has some good points, but I wanted to chime in on this particular question. I've been GM'ing Shadowrun for almost 30 years now and I have gotten to the point where I pretty much improv my entire mission. If you have time to generate NPC's ahead of time there are many ways to do it depending on how much time and energy you want to spend on it, but to be honest as a primarily improv type GM I rarely if ever stat out my NPC's. I usually just throw together quick dice pools on the fly based on what my players are trying to do and how much of a challenge I want/need to make it for them. If the PC's should have the upper hand I go 4 or more dice lower than their dice pool, even up challenges should be within +/- 2 dice, tough challenges should be around 4 dice higher and if the players are out of thier league then go 8+ higher on the dice pool.

the ShadowRun sub-Reddit has been more active than these boards lately (these boards had a lot of downtime late last year and usage really dropped from that, I think).  This topic comes up frequently on the sub-reddit, most recently here:

Aside from some general reading in that thread, if you scroll down a ways to find the comment from LeVentNoir, he has a bunch of links for additional reading, including for a run designed as an intro run for new groups (Debian Data Tombs or some similar name).

You don't have to listen to any of the advice there, but it is an additional source of info for you.

Good luck, have fun, and don't worry too much about the details -- ShadowRun as a game has so much fun in its bones that it is possible to get a lot 'wrong' and still have a blast :)

I ran Food Fight three times before starting Denver. The first time with the pre-builds, the second and third with the players actual characters. Its pretty good for warming up newbies(including the GM).


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