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New campaign, advice on adventures for small stealthy group

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mcv

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« on: (05:47:28/11-22-18) »
I'm about to start a Shadowrun campaign with a group that has played some 2nd edition in the distant past, though that was GMed by another player.

Part of the inspiration to start this is the excellent Dragonfall CRPG, and I would love to do something that ties into that somehow, or has a similar feel. On the other hand, I don't want to make life too hard on myself, so maybe I should stick with existing 5th edition adventures (looking for good suggestions here). I would really like an adventure that really grabs the players and drags them in deep. Something that ties into the Dragons vs Metahumanity plot which would allow me to involve APEX somewhere down the lane, would be really nice, but is not strictly necessary.

We've already done Food Fight to get a handle on the rules. One player already had his character ready (a ninja adept; all stealth and surprise attack, not too bright (really dumped Logic and Willpower, which I do intend to make him feel is a disadvantage)), the other two were Coydog and Gentry. We've got only 3 players, one will be the ninja adept, one is interested in playing a decker/street sam (a bit like Gentry, I suppose), and the third will probably want to play a street sam. Because they're a small group, they agreed to focus on stealth and subtlety (not usually their strongest suit). Infiltration, sneaking, info gathering, avoiding big firefights. Also, lacking a mage is obviously a weakness; nobody is going to hire them for anything involving magic, and I don't really want to punish them for lacking a mage, but it is a disadvantage that may hinder them at some point.

Looking over some options:
  • I could run a few more of the tiny adventures from the Alphaware box. They introduce several concepts slowly. Might not be necessary, but might still be useful. I hope they don't get too boring; they don't have a lot of plot.
  • I've heard good but also contradictory stuff about Splintered State. It's an introduction adventure that assumes a lot of background knowledge? Too big a reward? At the same time, something convoluted to drag them in might just be what I want.
  • Missions? How good are these? They sound too limited to drag the players into deep plots, but maybe they have hooks that I can later hang a campaign on?
  • I already have Serrated Edge, which takes place in Denver and has a few sequels, I believe, but I haven't read it yet. I'm still doubting between Seatle and Denver (I was planning Germany earlier, but I think there's not enough material there). How good is Serrated Edge?
  • How much work is it to convert older (4e or even older) adventures to 5e? I've got First Run for 4e which starts small but offers some opportunity to go off the rails (which is good, I think). I also have access to Blood in the Boardroom and for some reason I recently ordered DNA/DOA. Haven't read those yet.
  • Anything else I'm missing?

Keep in mind that we're short on magic and have a small (but hopefully stealthy) group.

Also, is there a good list of reviews/summaries of existing adventures, with some info on how good or mediocre they are? Perhaps what play-style goals they serve?
« Last Edit: (06:15:37/11-22-18) by mcv »

Beta

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« Reply #1 on: (09:18:36/11-22-18) »
re: adventures:
- I've not played Splintered States, but my understanding is that it forces a couple of combat scenes early on that can be quite deadly to groups not used to the potential lethality of SR combat rules.

- Serrated Edge has a mix of freeform for data-gathering and infiltration, with some forced combat scenes.  If they have enough hacking or social infiltration it might work well for them (there are multiple portions that occur in a large medical clinic, where they have to accomplish various goals without being obvious about it).  One good thing about it for your group is that no part of really depends on magic.

- Converting 4th to 5th isn't too bad, especially for early adventures.  4th capped skills at 6, and used a different matrix and hacking system, but it was broadly similar. You might have to do a bit of fudging to get the challenge level right, but you'll have to fudge pretty much any SR adventure a bit in that regard, to meet your specific group.  If you follow through that arc (the next one is False Flag, and the final is Ripping Reality), there is eventually some dragon interaction, but it may or may not be what you want.

- The missions tend to loosely tell a story each season, but you may find it pretty basic for a home campaign.  But the Chicago seasons (all that are published for SR5) may not translate so well to other cities, due to the particular history of Chicago (the core was severely infested with bug spirits and got quarantined, they dropped a tactical nuke on the biggest(?) nest and dumped magic eating bacteria over most of the rest of the quarantine zone, and kept it isolated for some years and then restricted the movement in and out for until recently in the timeline)

- Season 1 and 2 of missions are available free on-line.  They were published for SR3, which was quite a different rules system, but you can mine story ideas from them fairly easily.  One particular one pops to mind, season 1, I think it was mission 2 or 3, called something like force reconnaissance.  Basically the group is hired to gather intel on the layout and defenses of a new facility that has almost finished being built but isn't being used yet.  It is a good opportunity for the group as a whole to get a handle on how the non-combat side of things work, are their dice pools good enough, etc.  You'll have to adjust stats, but you can mostly just use appropriate professional rating goons from the SR5 core rule book, and put in a basic host of a reasonable rating for what the facility is.

I hope that is of some help.
Jawsey  --
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« Reply #2 on: (09:36:36/11-22-18) »
The new, Neo-Tokyo campaign for Shadowrun Missions are great adventures for a group focusing on stealth/black trenchcoat style of play.  While they will eventually be available for purchase, for now you have to be a Catalyst Demo Agent to get access to them.

If you don't have access to Neo-Tokyo for now, something that is available is the London Falling missions pack.  It's obviously set in London, which like Neo-Tokyo is a surveillance state and has a pretty similar feel... differentiating these missions from the more pink-mohawky settings of Seattle and Chicago. Plus the missions themselves are pretty fun.

mcv

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« Reply #3 on: (11:03:57/11-22-18) »
- Deadly combat is indeed not going to be this group's strong suit. I'm hoping they can either see it coming or sneak out of the combat once it's there, but I have no idea whether those are things that could work. So Splintered State remains a maybe.

- Infiltration and hacking sounds good. I'll have a closer look at Serrated Edge.

- One other problem with older adventures is probably the wired matrix, and possibly that some events haven't happened yet. For example, I just did some googling and it seems DNA/DOA involves the discovered of the Orc Underground, which by the time of Splintered State is probably going to be well known (is it already an official part of Seatle?).

I believe False Flag and Ripping Reality are sequels to Serrated Edge, right? You make it sound like they're the sequel to an older adventure.

- Are the Chicago missions interesting? We know about Bug City (though never played it), so that might be an interesting option to tie into our older SR knowledge.

- I'll check out the older missions. Force Reconnaissance sounds interesting.

- I'm not a Catalyst Demo Agent, so it sounds like Neo-Tokyo is not an option for now. Also, I know absolutely nothing about Neo-Tokyo.

- I'll have a look at London Falling. If I don't want to play in London, would it be easy to translate these somewhere else?

Beta

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« Reply #4 on: (12:28:35/11-22-18) »
I'm not sure how I got that sentence about False Flag and Ripping Reality where it ended up.  Yes, they for a loose arc with Serrated Edge.  The three adventures are all in Denver, and follow in chronological order, but the later ones don't refer back to the earlier ones (as written -- you could absolutely slide that in, in your own game.
Jawsey  --
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Michael Chandra

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« Reply #5 on: (04:31:18/11-23-18) »
4e->5e conversions only runs into problems with Matrix. For the rest, simply do skills x1.5 or grab SR5 Mooks of the same PR level as quick fix.

Splintered State is deadly and massive high reward. If you use this, tune several things down to give them a fighting chance (and don't underestimate the possibilities good preparations can make. In one deadly adventure, my party avoided 1 fight and pwned a second by having decent observation drone networks). Tune down the reward as well, just tweak until it's a nifty intro.
CorpSec when an alarm is triggered;: "This is so sad, Alexa play Shoot The Runner"

mcv

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« Reply #6 on: (08:23:28/11-23-18) »
How different is the Matrix in SR4? Does it use completely different skills? (I suppose I could look this up myself.)

If I understand correctly, Splintered State has several groups going after the PCs. Would it be possible to tweak it so the groups spend a lot of their resources fighting each other while clever PCs can escape in the chaos?

And what would be a good way to reduce the rewards? Would halving all rewards fix the problem?

Michael Chandra

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« Reply #7 on: (10:38:32/11-23-18) »
SR4 had extended test rules and way different mechanics. Matrix received a massive overhaul, from decks to programs to Hosts.
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mcv

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« Reply #8 on: (11:29:40/11-23-18) »
Does that matter much in adventures, though? I'm not sure I've seen any adventures with a lot of detail on the Matrix. I got the impression that GMs are supposed to figure out the Matrix and Astral aspects of their games on their own. Everything is supposed to be hackable and connected, but there's no detail on it at all.

Which adventures have more detail on that? A bit more guidance would probably be useful.

Michael Chandra

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« Reply #9 on: (11:32:34/11-23-18) »
It simply means that any SR4 Node stats you have to figure out how to transform into Hosts.

There's plenty of detail in the books, so you're a bit off, but in the end a lot of it still comes down to personal gm style.
CorpSec when an alarm is triggered;: "This is so sad, Alexa play Shoot The Runner"

« Reply #10 on: (11:36:04/11-23-18) »
Converting from SR4 to SR5 is way easier than the other way around.  Hosts in SR5 are simple affairs really. You have a Rating, and 4 stats derived from that rating.  Decide what IC you want in it, a sculpting theme, and you're done.

A steeper task would be converting the DNA/DOA adventure to SR5.. the game mechanics have changed significantly since 1st edition... honestly the thing to do with that one is flatly ignore all the adventure's crunch and replace it all with stuff you build by hand based on the fluff/descriptions.

mcv

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« Reply #11 on: (12:59:20/11-23-18) »
I came across mention of Bloody Business, a campaign for SR5. Can anyone tell me a bit about that? Is it any good? Where does it take place? And does it have anything fleshed out, or is it all rough outlines? In the latter case, it's probably better to start with a more tightly defined adventure and move onto the campaign later on.

Tecumseh

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« Reply #12 on: (14:20:07/11-26-18) »
Bloody Business is not a singular campaign and is mostly loose outlines. There are 19-ish separate runs, and a run will have 4 to 10 "plot points" as a framework. A plot point is anywhere from half a page to a full page about what's going on and what the runners need to accomplish. Some of the NPCs are stated out but for the most part it depends on the GM to put meat on the bones of the run.

What Bloody Business lacks in specific details is makes up for in variety, with lots of run ideas involving lots of different organizations in lots of different parts of the world. I haven't run anything from it but I occasionally use the NPCs.

mcv

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« Reply #13 on: (05:17:13/11-27-18) »
The way you describe it, it sounds like Bloody Business is more a collection of stand-alone adventure seeds. Is it a campaign that ties it all together, or is it (also/more) useful as a collection of runs to throw at your players when you need something?

I'm currently still doubting between Serrated Edge and Splintered State. Splintered State sounds fun in a crazy over the top kind of way, with constantly changing groups of enemies crashing through the windows. I haven't looked much into Serrated Edge yet, but it seems like more serious investigation with some really interesting themes. Possibly something that could grow into an anti-Human Nation campaign.

Interesting detail is that the bad guys of Splintered State are also financing the bad guys of Serrated Edge. I might even tie them together, although revealing that link might be giving away too much for Serrated Edge.

mcv

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« Reply #14 on: (18:58:57/12-03-18) »
It looks like a 4th player might be joining our group in the near future. That might help a bit with the combats, and I think that means I'll be running Alphaware adventures or maybe short missions until he's ready to join us.

But after that, I still need to make the decision between Splintered State and Serrated Edge. I feel like I should be choosing Serrated Edge because it fits the focus of the group better, but I personally really love the "accidentally stumbling into something big" of Splintered State. It's crazier, it's gonzo (or "pink mohawk", I guess). Instead of reducing the rewards (which are part of the crazy gonzo feel of course), I wonder if I could destroy some of their property, for which they'd need their money to buy it back. It seems the decker is going to get a van with a bunch of equipment in it; that seems like a likely target (though I have no idea how much that van is really worth).

Ultimately, what I really want to know, is which one is more fun. Which one is better at drawing the players in. And while Splintered State seems like a lot of fun, will it really work out that way in actual play? And Serrated Edge has some pretty big themes that could also easily lead to more.

In fact, if they discover that Brackhaven finances the stuff in Serrated Edge, that might give them a stronger reason not to sell to the highest bidder in Splintered State if I run that later.

But will running Splintered State after Serrated Edge work? Officially, Serrated Edge takes place a couple of years after Splintered State, I believe.