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Help me be as prepared as possible

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« Reply #15 on: (00:49:11/08-23-18) »
So, none of them have played SR before (but have played other RPGs I assume)....

2 have taken the most complex classes right out of the box...... (technos and Riggers)....


I advise what I call "trash" runs for the first few runs before you attempt anything with a plot.... Because you are going to need a long "feel out" time with such a small group so new to the rules and no obvious combat front. You could easily end up with a TPK with a pair of gangers if you're not careful!   
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« Reply #16 on: (11:10:05/08-23-18) »
The good news is that every time combat happens, they will be on a huge adrenaline rush!

A couple of questions that may really impact their ability to deal with even low levels of combat.

  • Do any of them have heightened reactions in meatspace?
  • How much edge to they have?
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« Reply #17 on: (13:49:49/08-23-18) »
If they're not that good in combat, you'll want to help them become aware of all the tricks they can pull to be harder to hit: Smoke grenades, flashpaks, heavy cover, suppressive fire. And maybe throw them into situations where the goal isn't to beat the enemy but simply to escape the enemy.
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The Wyrm Ouroboros

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« Reply #18 on: (17:41:00/08-23-18) »
Yeah.  Tell them out front that you want to run 2-3 combats with them, just so that everyone gets used to how it's done, discovers what they need and don't have to hand.  Waive gear expenditures, but give them some karma to reward them showing up.  ;)  Or maybe make it a 'robot wars' / 'decker duel' sort of thing -- where they're in a tier competition, for the first they win a small bit of money if they win, and the amount goes up with each successive fight.  And they can ICly get to know each other through that.  At the end of it, though, they should have a decent sense of what they need to have handy on their 5x8" index card for each vehicle / sprite ...

In regards to how to keep it centric on them, make their decisions matter.  Have them 'make requests' to the mooks 'doing the real fighting': 'give us two more minutes, that's all we ask!!' or whatever.  Make the Yakuza soldiers backup -- and because combat in Shadowrun is fast, nasty, dirty, and deadly, show them what happens when some young turk gets an 'honorable' hair up his ass and doesn't retreat, or challenges a KE high-threat response team.  Maybe make up quick 5x8's for the NPCs -- both sides!! -- and have your players run the fight with 'the big guns', just to show how nasty it is when the big guns show up.

Combat is practically inevitable in SR at one point or another; the trick (as a PC) is to make sure you control as much of the elements involved in it (place, time, lighting, participants) as you can, and if you can't, to be able to get the hell out of dodge as quickly as inhumanly possible.  And that's what you're teaching them ...

... at least at the start.
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PingGuy

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« Reply #19 on: (09:53:24/08-24-18) »
So, none of them have played SR before (but have played other RPGs I assume)....

2 have taken the most complex classes right out of the box...... (technos and Riggers)....


I advise what I call "trash" runs for the first few runs before you attempt anything with a plot.... Because you are going to need a long "feel out" time with such a small group so new to the rules and no obvious combat front. You could easily end up with a TPK with a pair of gangers if you're not careful!

I'm definitely going to need to find a way to keep the early runs on the lower end of dangerous until they find their groove, and until I figure out how to fill in the gaps without it feeling like I am doing that.  Luckily that initial fight I mentioned is already setup that way.  Plot-wise, they are going to be going up against a new gang in the area.  This gang is luring in recruits from other local gangs with promises of nuyen and chances to take positions of power.  Essentially they are scooping up all the gangers the other gangs won't miss.  This is intentional, they are fodder.

Basically I'm going to do a short solo session with the TM beforehand where the Johnson asks him to gather some data from the gang's host (there is a plot-based reason why they have a host).  No matter what happens, he will get traced, and the low-level gangers will be sent to retrieve him.  Then during the first full session, the other two players will go to extract him, with the main NPC will be there as a potential distraction if things get too hairy.  This way, if I need more force I just add more gangers, or if I need less I distract some with the NPC, or just disappear some quietly (out of sight,  out mind).

The TM will have an NPC Rat Shaman and a couple gangers as protection already when the team arrives.  All the team has to do to make me happy is get the TM out and escape alive.  But I've already had a lot of time to think about this particular event.  Going forward I need to be sure to vary things so the solution to combat doesn't get obvious or repetitive.

PingGuy

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« Reply #20 on: (10:20:51/08-24-18) »
The good news is that every time combat happens, they will be on a huge adrenaline rush!

A couple of questions that may really impact their ability to deal with even low levels of combat.

  • Do any of them have heightened reactions in meatspace?
  • How much edge to they have?

I was on mobile yesterday so I reviewed posts but didn't get a chance to reply.  However, this post was the one that hit me out of nowhere, like oh sh*t.

Nope, not a single one of them.  The main NPC has 2 levels of it, again with plot-based reasons, but that's more to keep her alive than to make her a combat monster.  And she can't be their combat solution, for meta reasons and plot reasons.  Some of them do have some edge though, like more than 2 anyway.

So the actor can't really add any more ware because he's the Face and also has a Control Rig.  The Rigger might be able to add some more but I'm not sure he would, and the TM can't either.  However, they do all have the ability to be in hot-sim VR.  That seems counter intuitive to combat, but is there an angle I could leverage here?

What if the actor's car had guns on it?  What if the Rigger was loaded up on drones, like a few walkers with armor vests, maybe a roto-sniper, and some armed crawlers?  The TM should have some new tricks in Kill Code that could make him useful in combat, by being in VR.  At least they could all have lots of initiative dice and ways to use that advantage in combat.

It would limit the venues they could do combat in, and there would probably be a lot of ruined drones after some fights, but it might have potential.  I already have plot-based reasons why replacement drones could be easier to come by and cheaper/free in some cases.

Anyway, thanks for pointing that out.  Now I have more thinking to do.
« Last Edit: (10:23:40/08-24-18) by PingGuy »

PingGuy

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« Reply #21 on: (10:28:50/08-24-18) »
If they're not that good in combat, you'll want to help them become aware of all the tricks they can pull to be harder to hit: Smoke grenades, flashpaks, heavy cover, suppressive fire. And maybe throw them into situations where the goal isn't to beat the enemy but simply to escape the enemy.

I had thought about making sure they knew to use cover, but forgot about the other options, thanks.  Escaping the enemy will likely be a theme with them, but I'm going to try and come up with some other ways they could be successful in a combat without winning, so that I can vary things over time.  So far anytime I've needed a way to deal with a situation as I'm planning the sessions I've been able to use the plot to find the answer.  This is because the plot is more of a history than a future.  Then I just look at how the NPC's would act based on how the situation got to that point.  Hopefully that will work in these cases too.

PingGuy

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« Reply #22 on: (10:40:19/08-24-18) »
Yeah.  Tell them out front that you want to run 2-3 combats with them, just so that everyone gets used to how it's done, discovers what they need and don't have to hand.  Waive gear expenditures, but give them some karma to reward them showing up.  ;)  Or maybe make it a 'robot wars' / 'decker duel' sort of thing -- where they're in a tier competition, for the first they win a small bit of money if they win, and the amount goes up with each successive fight.  And they can ICly get to know each other through that.  At the end of it, though, they should have a decent sense of what they need to have handy on their 5x8" index card for each vehicle / sprite ...

I'm going to keep this in mind, but it sounds like you are saying to do a few one-off trial runs.  I like the idea in theory, but for other reasons I want to try to keep their experience tied to the plot.  That does risk getting them killed horribly early on, but I'm balancing that with "what will keep them playing past the first session?"  One player is gung-ho to play this, another is somewhere between there and just "on board with it," and the last is skeptical but willing to give it a shot.  So the first night is more of an audition for me as a GM and Shadowrun as a system.

As beneficial as a series of tutorials would be to their future gameplay, with this group I think it would risk going in the wrong direction.  The complexity of Shadowrun is a negative in this instance, but once I get them to look past it, anything is possible.

In regards to how to keep it centric on them, make their decisions matter.  Have them 'make requests' to the mooks 'doing the real fighting': 'give us two more minutes, that's all we ask!!' or whatever.  Make the Yakuza soldiers backup -- and because combat in Shadowrun is fast, nasty, dirty, and deadly, show them what happens when some young turk gets an 'honorable' hair up his ass and doesn't retreat, or challenges a KE high-threat response team.  Maybe make up quick 5x8's for the NPCs -- both sides!! -- and have your players run the fight with 'the big guns', just to show how nasty it is when the big guns show up.

Combat is practically inevitable in SR at one point or another; the trick (as a PC) is to make sure you control as much of the elements involved in it (place, time, lighting, participants) as you can, and if you can't, to be able to get the hell out of dodge as quickly as inhumanly possible.  And that's what you're teaching them ...

... at least at the start.

I like this a lot, it's the mindset I need to use when designing situations where they may end up in combat.  The Face will probably really like it if I give him some grunts to use Leadership on and manage during a fight.  Since he's the skeptical one, that could really be helpful.

The Wyrm Ouroboros

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« Reply #23 on: (21:00:28/08-24-18) »
As beneficial as a series of tutorials would be to their future gameplay, with this group I think it would risk going in the wrong direction.  The complexity of Shadowrun is a negative in this instance, but once I get them to look past it, anything is possible.

You know your players better than us; stick to that.  My advice then would be to minimize combat, and keep any dice rolling you have to do relatively simple, and on a spectrum: 1 net hit a bare success, 3 a good one with bonus, 5 a great one with extra bonus, that sort of thing.  Make it so that the drone rigger snoops a lot, or his sensors drone detects the bad guy long enough ahead of time for him to set the weapons drone up to have the drop on the guy and completely nuke him from orbit (since it is, after all, the only way to be sure).  Give the driver rigger -- sorry, I honestly haven't scrolled back up to detail-read what your players are besides 'rigger rigger techno face', and maybe I have an extra rigger there -- a chase scene, either in pursuit or escaping.  Give the face people to schmooze.

In short, either minimize the dice rolling, or simplify it (and let them know that the dice rolling is BEING simplified 'for now'), and concentrate on hooking them on what SR is: cool background, magic and matrix, high tech and low life.  Get them into the world; worry about dice later.
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PingGuy

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« Reply #24 on: (10:12:10/09-04-18) »
So we ended up having our first session this past Friday night, it was a little sooner than I thought I'd be ready for, but it actually went pretty well.  And by pretty well, I mean the players had fun, and so did I.  From a preparation standpoint, I wasn't nearly as prepared as I thought I was.

I arrived a few minutes early and got right to setting things up.  The first holdup was was technological.  I had a laptop and a couple tablets, plus my phone, to use for various purposes.  My friend has a gaming table he built and there is a TV set in the middle facing upward.  The TV didn't have a VGA port, and this laptop was old so there was no HDMI port on it.  Thats wasn't a huge deal, but I will be getting an adapter going forward, because there will be times where showing things from the laptop is easier.  Luckily that TV can be casted to using Google, so I did that with one of the tablets, and could probably even do it from the laptop now that I think about it.

Next I tried to get organized.  I dug out the printouts that I had prepared for the game, quick reference sheets and some of the player's characters I had put into Chummer for them.  There wasn't time to hang up the giant map of Seattle that I printed at work on our 42" plotter.  Time was beginning to become an issue, I felt like the prep was taking too long and I wasn't ending up feeling any more organized.  So I gathered what I could and got started.

Things started off a little slow here too, because I had written some narration to bring them into the situation.  Not just one narration, but two actually.  The group started out not as a group, and two players were arriving at a destination separately in the first narration.  Then I paused them, and narrated the start of the third character.  The part with the 3rd character was actually supposed to happen solo a few days beforehand, but that fell through, so I had to change things a bit the morning before we played to roll them together and risk some boredom.  That risk came from the third character being a Technomancer who had to do a datasteal and then get located by the target so the other two players had a reason to go extract him.

This was about the point that I realized I had lost all concept of time, I couldn't feel how long things were taking because I was in overdrive trying to prevent them from taking a long time.  Rules/rolls I thought I knew, they wouldn't come to mind.  Some player was always holding the sheet I should have been referring to at that moment (need to make more copies!).  And on top of that, my TM was still very shaky on his understanding of Matrix mechanics.  So I had to guide him a bit without telling him what to do, and that takes longer.  I don't actually know how long it was between the moment we started and the end of that data run, but it must have been less than an hour.  That sounds long, but it could have been 30 minutes for all I know, the players weren't complaining. 

I really tried not to design a mission where the players decisions could break things wildly, and for the most part I succeeded.  After all, an extraction is pretty straight forward if everybody is working together.  But where I goofed was how the data run had to end.  The TM had to get knocked out, that was my only must happen event.  Even if all the PC's got captured at the end of the extraction, I could work with that.  But the TM had to steal some data, get traced, and then get knocked out.  That would give the enemies time to get to his location, forcing the need for extraction.  Simple right?  I setup the host with a high attack stat, the spider had the same stats.  I had patrol, acid, and probe IC's to find him, hit his firewall, and trace him, respectively.  I even ran the IC's fairly loosely so they could achieve what they needed as it was needed.  But the TM was scared and didn't fully understand when he was in real danger.  So of course he decides to switch back to AR and jack out before I get the final boxes of matrix damage on him.  I had no choice but to pull the "as you go to do that, an IC you didn't see before hits you with a data spike."  I had him roll and I had to fudge a little, but he was out and not upset about how it went down.  Reading the rules later, I was shorting the damage he was taking because I wasn't counting the two marks they put on him to run the trace.  So it might have worked out right, but I chose not to stop and look up any rules that whole session.  I don't regret that decision.

The rest of the session was the extraction, and it went well, with a few minor quibbles.  I hadn't had time to put my ganger NPCs on index cards, or to worry about tracking all of their conditions.  Since I hadn't spent that time, I also missed the fact that professional rating 0 NPCs don't have guns or armor.  My original plan was to aim low on quality and make that up with quantity, just using as many gangers as were needed as they proceeded.  That worked, and along with the out of sight, out of mind principle, I kept them feeling in danger while still being able to dominate combat and achieve their objective.  By the end I started giving some of the gangers guns, which I wish I had started doing earlier, but my head wasn't clear enough to get there until the run was almost over.

Even though this session was designed to be a bit on rails to get them started, I tried to roll with whatever ideas the group had.  If a player had a good idea, then the friendly NPC would change her plans to fit the player's idea.  That happened a few times, and was good to see as they got more involved in the story.  By the end of the session it had been about 4 hours since the start of the narration.  I think I apologized for the slowness about every 5 minutes the whole night, but the players said it was fine.  The upside is that while two of them had to wait during the datasteal, the TM had to wait until the NPC used a Medkit to wake him up again.  That actually took a similar amount of time as the face was off doing his thing pretending to be one of the lowbie gangers that were looking for the TM.  During that time the Rigger was doing surveillance and plotting how to be in place for the pickup while getting combat drones into position.  It certainly could have gone worse.

Post-session everybody was happy and it looked like they were hooked.  This was confirmed the next morning when the player who had initially had the least interest emailed me background story details and started really getting into it.  Now I need to get back to planning so I'm ready for the next session.  So much learned though, and I don't doubt the next session will be just as chaotic.

PingGuy

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« Reply #25 on: (10:27:06/09-17-18) »
We had our second session this past Friday, this time with a few more challenges for the players and myself as a new GM.  There is a line between teaching them how the world works and telling them what they can and cannot do.  We hit some snags in the first few hours that had me crossing the line a bit.  Enough so that we had to stop and have a meta conversation about it.  That actually went well--we're all friends and adults--and led to a better understanding of the problems.

Essentially I had left them at the end of the previous session with some info about different operations within a gang.  They were supposed to start figuring out how to take down these operations.  Over the next two weeks I had fleshed out these operations and the gang members running them.  My expectation was that the next session would start with them gathering more information and then coming up with a plan.  That did not happen.  Despite my many hints and nudges, they just kept planning using the info they already had.  Then we had some miscommunication/misunderstandings over what they were trying to do.  All that lead to the eventual meta conversation where we got back on track.

After that I did my best to back away and let them do what they wanted, and they came up with a much better plan.  The confusion was mostly that I had an NPC whose reputation for handling of money and drugs was unquestionable.  Like if people tried to frame this guy, the bosses would laugh it off at least twice before even questioning the NPC's intentions.  But I also had described him as overconfident.  They kept talking about planting info and getting him in trouble, but in a vague way that left me thinking they were trying to attack his only strength.

Eventually, after they did some surveillance, they hatched a plan to blow the place up with a van loaded with explosives and combustible materials.  It was simple but genius.  I had unintentionally designed the location to be insecure and poorly guarded, like how somebody would do it if they were overconfident.  But I didn't even realize it until the players got the plan.  The rest of the session went well, with one flub on how I handled an interaction with a contact.  But that was minor and i can fix it next session.

After the session I spent the next day thinking about where I went wrong.  The number one problem was that I had designed all of these details about the world, and expected the players to just instinctively go looking for them.  To me, the initial info I gave them was a tease that would require more investigation.  To them, there seemed to be no reason to look for more information, even when I was basically telling them that they should.  They aren't me, and I would do nothing until I had every bit of information I could possibly find on anything.

There was a point where the face was essentially saying he wanted to go meet with the leader of this drug operation.  I kept trying to convey to him that he couldn't do that, that he would have to meet lower level guys first to get a meeting with the boss.  First in subtle ways, like a contact telling him he couldn't setup a meet because he'd only bought drugs from the street guys, and never met the boss.  Then in more direct ways, which is where we started to have issues.  Then later I had to point out that they were ignoring a major data point in the document they had stolen, which was the person who wrote it.  I had him listed as the "Head of Recruitment" yet the team never even mentioned him when figuring out ways to infiltrate the gang.

Next time I'm going to do a better job of helping them understand what is going on around them.  But I'm also going to handle bad ideas better.  If he wants to meet with that boss, and he knows where he is, then he can try.  I don't think the guard will be very receptive, and might even fire a warning shot, but I have to let that situation play out.  Otherwise I'll be guiding them too much, which none of us want.

PingGuy

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« Reply #26 on: (10:53:02/10-01-18) »
I'm not going to post every time we play, but I thought I'd put up one more update since things went a little better this time.

The session almost didn't happen actually.  We play at the TM's house and he had some water run into his basement.  By the time I arrived, the gaming area was out of commission, table moved, carpet pulled up, and the TV was pulled out of the table.  The TM has been dealing with a lot of issues at work and also with his family, so his head has been swimming with other things.  This had prevented him from being able to really sit down and learn his abilities, because he just couldn't focus on learning them with everything else that was going on.

Luckily I was able to convince them that we should still give it a shot.  I've been glossing over a lot of stuff anyway to keep things moving during the sessions.  That means he's basically playing a Decker instead of a TM--as far as the mechanics go--but that hasn't been a problem so far.  It fits with how secretive he is about his abilities.  In general I'm doing that for all the players to some degree, because they are all new to this system.

After the previous session I got really serious about rethinking how I was running the game.  Keeping everybody occupied can be difficult when you have an odd team combination.  I don't want every session to be the same formula with the same tasks in a different setting.  I eventually came to grips with the idea that sometimes the team will be together and sometimes they will be split up.  It can all work as long as the story is advancing and things don't stick too long with just one player.  I was sort of excited for how 5e handles The Matrix, no longer needing long solo hacking runs.  And here I was, back to realizing that making a solo run work in a group session was paramount.  Our first session--which went well--was setup this way.  So I decided to do it again, with the understanding that it couldn't always be that way either.  I had to follow the story and keep that moving, in whatever way possible.

So the session started at a point where the face had been hitting local bars, trying to run into the recruiter for this gang they need to infiltrate.  This isn't a normal gang, they are basically some rich ex-corp guys who are using wannabe's to make them some money so they can get into the higher echelons of the Seattle scene.  Long story short, rather than jumping the face into the gang, they had him jump through some hoops to test his abilities.  He was being watched so he couldn't contact the team for help.  He had to talk his way into an apartment and plant drugs in such a way that the KE employee would inadvertently take them to work.  Optionally, he could sleep with the employee's wife (and he did).  Then in the middle of that affair the gang called KE on him (made it look like he broke in) which led to a chase scene in his car.  Next he had to get a corrupt member of the gang to reveal their corruption, and then he was sent back to kill them.  Upon completion he was able to join the gang and take over the position of the guy the team had killed in the previous session.

While he was doing that, the other two members were sent to retrieve a drone that had been lost during an attempted theft from a shipment.  This eventually led them to a secret facility in Puyallup where metahumans on the run can get medical assistance and shelter.  This was mostly story development for later events, but I was able to tug at a few things from their character's backgrounds to make it more interesting.

Bouncing back and forth between the two concurrent events worked pretty well.  I hadn't intricately planned how they would run together, but they both wrapped up at the same time.  When the players were back together, the events had left them with plenty to discuss and key off of.  I was able to sit back and just let them interact with each other and let things develop.  My goal had been to put the rails back on, but to keep them wide, and it had worked.  I didn't interfere even once.  My informative statements were simple things like "you would know that you could..." and were only given when it looked like the player wished they had another option.

This session ended with everybody happy, including me.  I've been pretty critical of myself, more so than the players have been, so it was nice to feel like I did it right finally.  The TM wants to sit down with me and learn more so we're doing that this week.  We may also have to do the next full session a week early, so I'm in session-prep-frenzy already.  It's a good problem to have though, I hope.

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« Reply #27 on: (10:21:01/10-02-18) »
That sounds like a great session -- glad things are really coming together for you all!  (at least in the game, I feel for the TM player, it is rough when everything piles up like that)
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