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(Another) New GM

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Ailowynn

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« on: (20:06:00/05-15-13) »
Well, in case you're wondering, I've seen about five threads along the lines of "I'm a new SR GM, help" in the last two days, but none of them have really answered my questions. So, without further ado:

I'm going to start my first ever Shadowrun game in a month or two. But..it's just such a different system than I'm used to. What am I used to? Pathfinder and Star Wars Saga (and a bit of FFG's Star Wars too). The whole Shadowrun deal feels way different than that. I get the rules, but, seeing as this was my first ever time using a system with these rules and background, I wanted to get advice. Otherwise I'll end up making a d20 adventure, and I don't see that working XD.

So first question; adventures????? How do you structure them? I'm used to planning out four encounters and some story in between. In Shadowrun, what do you do? The PCs should really be making the plan, I think, but what happens when a fight breaks out and you have nothing planned?

Next: PCs. How do I introduce them to the system? Especially the npart that's "don't fight everything"? How about over/under-powered character archetypes? I'm sick of the power gaming that is d20, and want to know how balanced SR is and how to handle specific types of overpower...ness.

And then I'm struck with the problem of measuring challenges: how??? There aren't levels or anything to judge easily who should be up against what.

Fourth, I'm wondering how long the campaign should go and how epic it should be. I'm used to going from PCs running farms to ruling nations—how vast does a typical campaign reach in this game?

And finally, I'd really appreciate some general tips and common house rules. Stuff you didn't think of until after you started playing, and then wished you'd thought of three months ago.

Thanks very muchly in advance, fellow forum folk.

(Also yay!  First post!)

GiraffeShaman

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« Reply #1 on: (20:58:54/05-15-13) »
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So first question; adventures?? How do you structure them? I'm used to planning out four encounters and some story in between. In Shadowrun, what do you do? The PCs should really be making the plan, I think, but what happens when a fight breaks out and you have nothing planned?
There's 2 essential parts to a typical shadowrun: Meeting the Johnson and penetrating a security system. There's a 3rd part that is optional, but fairly important, the legwork section.

Meeting the Johnson usually is done at a bar or night club of some sort, often in the back room, but this is not a set rule. There is sometimes a meeting with a Fixer first, but often this is done by phone/text. The runners get the vague outlines of the run, decide if it's something they want to do, and if so then negotiate a price. At this point the runners are given more details on the job and can ask questions. The Johnson sometimes provides help with the run or sometimes will provide it if asked. (Fake key cards for example to get in the target site) This is a great time for a GM to help out beginner players with ideas on how to infiltrate the site.

Instead of a dungeon full of monsters, shadowrunners penetrate security systems. This is usually to get into some building or group of buildings. The basics you need to have is a layout or at least a general idea of a layout, guard stats and patrol habits, command centers and other large groupings of guards, physical security (ie drones, cameras, motion sensors, fences, and more), magic security (if any), and matrix security (If any, usually at least a small amount) You also want response times both for the police and any additional security the site has contracted. (Could be their own forces somewhere nearby or some other contracted company) The generic shadowrun is the runners breaking into a building to get a hacker to an offline system to steal paydata. But sometimes the target is something physical. And kidnapping valuable employees for a "career change" is another common shadowrun.

The third optional part of a shadowrun is the legwork section. Not strictly necessary, but it makes richer stories and it lets certain character types like Faces get a moment in the spotlight. This is mostly meeting with contacts to get information about the run. It may involve solving a mystery or it may involve things like learning the physical layout of a target. Sometimes an entire shadowrun can be mostly legwork. For example, you are hired to find some rich corper's runaway son or daughter. (The legwork section of the run usually is set before the security system penetration)


« Last Edit: (21:13:39/05-15-13) by GiraffeShaman »

GiraffeShaman

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« Reply #2 on: (21:37:25/05-15-13) »
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The PCs should really be making the plan, I think, but what happens when a fight breaks out and you have nothing planned?
You should have stats for every NPC they might fight on site. In addition you want stats for any possible responding forces or police. You also want social stats for any guards, receptionists, or other npcs they might have oppose on the social level, such as conning their way past the npc to avoid a high security chokepoint. In addition, it's a good idea to have some stats for really typical npcs in the world on hand, just in case. Typical ones include police officer (Lonestar or Knight Errant), typical security guard, typical ganger, and typical lieutenants for all these types. You probaly also want some elite forces ready, especially for the police. You probaly want some drone stats too, especially recon drones as they are often first responders for many security services.

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Next: PCs. How do I introduce them to the system? Especially the npart that's "don't fight everything"? How about over/under-powered character archetypes? I'm sick of the power gaming that is d20, and want to know how balanced SR is and how to handle specific types of overpower...ness.

Best bet is to try out a few test runs using only the book archtype characters. Keep it simple and introduce combat and social skill basics first. Then introduce magic and breaking and entering skills. Save more complicated parts of the game, such as the Matrix and vehicle combat for later. Once you have magic and combat and skills down, then have them make real characters and start the real campaign.


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And then I'm struck with the problem of measuring challenges: how??? There aren't levels or anything to judge easily who should be up against what.

There aren't any D&D 3rd edition type formulaes that I know of. Just like 2nd edition, it's just something you have to learn by trial and error and experience. Your best bet is to go easy at first and focus on story telling. You can also use tension encounters to liven things up without killing everyone. For example, the cops pull them over. No combat happens unless the players are dumb enough to set it off, but it livens things up a bit. It's quite easy to become a killer GM in Shadowrun, so go easy, at least at first. Remember many of the lower level corps use non lethal measures with their security guards. (As opposed to the sadistic and wealthy MCT goons who love killer drones and deadly nerve gases)


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Fourth, I'm wondering how long the campaign should go and how epic it should be. I'm used to going from PCs running farms to ruling nations—how vast does a typical campaign reach in this game?

And finally, I'd really appreciate some general tips and common house rules. Stuff you didn't think of until after you started playing, and then wished you'd thought of three months ago.


There isn't really a set limit on how vast a campaign goes. But this is a dystopia and generally the runners don't take over the world. It's a huge victory if they survive 5 years in the shadows and retire. Many many runners die in the first year. It's usually good to break things into seasons like a TV show, with a big story arc to go along with it. And campaigns sometimes end suddenly, so this way if that happens you at least got to tell a few story arcs.

I suggest always having small shadowruns on hand to run. These can be extremely basic. The point is you can use them to speed up a session that is running slow and also they make sure you are never empty handed. Also some books that I've found extremely useful for creating stories are the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition Seattle guides. Each of the edition has different things in it that I found of great use. 1st edition sprawl sites is also excellent for run ideas. The Genesis shadowrun video game can give you some ideas for basic runs if you can find a copy or emulator. I'm sure the new Shadowrun Returns game will have some great run ideas as well.



« Last Edit: (21:48:41/05-15-13) by GiraffeShaman »

emsquared

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« Reply #3 on: (23:00:28/05-15-13) »
And then I'm struck with the problem of measuring challenges: how??? There aren't levels or anything to judge easily who should be up against what.
The rule of 3s is a decent starting point. Because a 5 or 6 on a d.6 is a "hit", 3 dice more or less is 1 hit more or less, on average.

So, take a look at your PCs and there main dice pools. Dropping or raising an NPCs similar or resisting dice pool by groups of 3 will give you a decent guide in "challenge levels".

Example: Say your PCs have Firearm Skill Pools (or Blades or Hacking or what have you) around 15 and Damage Soak Pools around 12.

Enemies with around 15 in Attacks and 12 in their Defense, if presented in equal numbers to the PCs, should be a hard fight, you may even put a PC (or 2) down.

Enemies with around 12 in Attacks and 9 in their Defense, if presented in equal numbers to the PCs, should be a challenge, but the PCs should survive. i.e. the PCs should be having to expend some resources to get through the battle or in the aftermath.

Enemies with 9s in Attacks and 6 in their Armor, if presented in equal numbers, should be an easy encounter. They may take some damage, but nothing major.

Enemies with 6s in Attacks and the same or less in Defense should be completely walked over by the PCs.

The nature of SR combat (the application of wound modifiers) is such that initiative is VERY important. Going first is gives you the upper hand. Why? Because he who goes first has the best chance to impose some negative modifiers on his enemy before they go and therefore his enemy, who may start out as his equal, will already be at a detriment. This makes Initiative the best place to tweak challenges, have weaker enemies spend their Group Edge to go first so they're not all just one-and-done. Give your tougher enemies lower initiatives if you're afraid they might otherwise kill your PCs. Make sense?

Armor is also a good place to tune challenges. Beef up enemy armor to at or above PC levels, but keep their Attack Skills -3 or 6 for enemies that give the appearance of toughness but probably won't end up doing that much.

And if you want to injure, maim or kill your PCs, give the enemies high enough Attack Pools so that they can take some damage and still be throwing a decent number of dice.

All of that said, combat is an order of magnitude more lethal in SR. One ill-timed glitch, or failed Damage Soak test can make it a really bad day really quick.

Mantis

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« Reply #4 on: (23:13:28/05-15-13) »
Grab some of the free missions off the Catalyst web site so you can see how a typical adventure is structured. Generally, they have a section of description for the players that sets the scene, then background for the GM on what is happening and what NPCs are present as well as a projection on how the encounter is supposed to go. Then there is a debugging section to help you fix things when (not if) the players jump off the script (cuz players are like cats, they do whatever the hell they want) and then finally there is a section called pushing the envelope that describes how to make things tougher if the players are having too easy a time. A typical adventure will consist of between 3 and maybe 6 or so of these encounters along with a final section on rewards for the character, new contacts earned, a list of available legwork information and then finally a Cast of Shadows that gives the stats for the major NPCs.

emsquared

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« Reply #5 on: (23:17:12/05-15-13) »
Fourth, I'm wondering how long the campaign should go and how epic it should be. I'm used to going from PCs running farms to ruling nations—how vast does a typical campaign reach in this game?
We've started a campaign by statting out ourselves as everyday Joe's, and while we ended up in a TPK, we had progressed to Corporate pay-roll Runners. GM said he was disappointed because we didn't get to the dragon. My buddy did a campaign that started normal, street level, but progressed into the Zombie Apocalypse (with some unwitting help from the players of course). You'll see people talking about their Runs into the Meta-planes, space, and basically whatever you want, sky - no - the Universe! is the limit, no different than PF. I don't know if I've ever retired an SR campaign. They've all either ended in deaths (whether it's TPK or just a couple players who are then "over it" so the group moves on), or the group fell apart. Mostly died though.

pariah3j

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« Reply #6 on: (00:21:11/05-16-13) »
There is a starter guide, called the "quick start rules". The run inside is called "Food Fight", It not only breaks down the combat, it has some pre-gen characters you can use, and a quick and dirty setting to get them introduced to the game. I'm starting 4 ed after being away from the game probably 10 years, I have an idea of how the game feels or how I want it to feel based on my past experiences. But all of my players have never played so they are exactly where your at, feeling a little overwhelmed. I've seen SR played a couple different ways, one way was to just make random runs and kind of let the players and their backgrounds fill in the story. And of course the second being a structured (at least somewhat) storyline almost like a season of a TV show, like mentioned above.

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I'm used to planning out four encounters and some story in between.
The thing I think that works best for shadow run is make the runs, or at least most of them - be part of the storyline. The guy you extract in mission one might not mean much, but when he later becomes a contact or a source for another run it starts to weave together more, and start to paint a larger picture.

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Next: PCs. How do I introduce them to the system? Especially the npart that's "don't fight everything"? How about over/under-powered character archetypes? I'm sick of the power gaming that is d20, and want to know how balanced SR is and how to handle specific types of overpower...ness
No game system I've played is perfect. They all have things that break down if you have a player looking for it, that said I think SR has ways to challenge/counter every build in some way. I would say unless your players actively look for it, it being a new system for them, its less likely they'll break it first go round. Best way to stop the "fight everything" syndrome is to explain how deadly the game system can be, and if that doesn't sink it, you might have to give them enough rope to hang themselves.

pariah3j

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« Reply #7 on: (00:40:09/05-16-13) »
Oh another thought would be to watch some movies/tv that are cyberpunk related. One of my favorites that I've suggested my players watch, to kinda get an idea of how the world looks/feels, is Johnny Mnemonic. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113481/ Its not perfect, the technology is a bit dated, but the feel I think is very shadowrun-esk.

Warmachinez

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« Reply #8 on: (06:20:08/05-16-13) »
I highly suggest you the free Season 3 missions. Their structure will help you understand the basics parts of a game. Or even SPlurge a little and spend 4$ for a Season 4 Mission I beleive the yare better  8) and worth the cash. You could also run the adventure On the Run which is also very good for beginners.

Here is the general structure of a sessions, as mentioned higher:

Characters get a call from a Johnson,
The meet goes down,
Legwork,
Actual mission + TWIST (to make it interesting),
Resolution of mission (meeting with Mr. J again, delivering an object, etc)
Shopping!!
Chaos? Lack of protection? Enemies lurking in the shadows? Sounds
to me like the fun’s just beginning. Sorry you’ll miss it, omae.
> Kane

Silverfish42

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« Reply #9 on: (11:07:04/05-16-13) »
Also, it should be noted that combat is waaaaay more dangerous than typical d20 stuff. A single lucky shot for 8 or 9 damage is capable of incapping most characters, as there are no levels or hitpoints like in d20. If you have 12 hit boxes, you're a freakin' tank. Armor is your friend. Cover is your BEST friend. You can't stand in the open and slug it out usually (there are always exceptions, but that takes a lot of magic/nuyen).
« Last Edit: (11:08:55/05-16-13) by Silverfish42 »