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    Default How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    I was DMing a D&D game, but after a hiatus looks like I am running Shadowrun. OK. My games devolve into a series of gigs anyways because that's what's easy for me. But, still, I am new to DMing GMing this system, and one player will be new to the system entirely. (Dad introduced me to roleplaying games in AD&D, but has never played naught but medieval fantasy.)

    My current plans are: have a session 0, where I find out what balance of magic to technology and killer to stealth the party will have; and whether they will have a PC Face or a shared NPC temp agency style of contact; and whether we are using 4th or 5th edition or a mix of both if the numbers are close enough. (look someone loves their old 4th ed books and someone else kickstarted 5th but I don't know if he will actually be able to play so I might be worrying about nothing.)

    So, I wondered, does this fine subforum have any advice for running Shadowrun? Any good seeds for adventures? Any way to ease the player who hasn't played this system before into things?
    yo

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    I haven’t played a lot of shadowrun, but for a new GM and with a new person in the party I would avoid using hacker PCs. In Shadowrun Hackers often end up doing their own thing in cyberspace while the rest of the party looks on, which is really difficult for people new to the system.

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    There are two things that it's really important to know about Shadowrun:

    The fluff is great!
    The rules are awful!

    For worldbuilding, it's the best cyberpunk game out there - bar none. It has very deep roots (as in, so deep that they draw their sustenance from Earthdawn, which is the fantasy equivalent), wide scope - it has tons of factions and corporations, tribes and nations, all that jazz. You can have irish faeries next to native indian shamans next to corporate cyber assasins next to stone faced g-men from shadowy agencies no one has ever heard of.

    The rules are .. just plain bad. Parts of them work well - combat is fine, magic is fine - but they don't work well together. Magic trumps all things, not by design, but just because mundanes are quite literally not designed to have any defence against mana spells. The Matrix rules work fine-ish, but mix poorly with magic and/or combat.

    So .. it's all about making the rules work - and that's absolutely possible, just as long as everyone knows it takes some work to make it work.

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    There is a very similar thread in the 'other ttrpg's' subforum (which is where some other shadowrun related threads live as well), so let me just copy my response there, as its mostly relevant here as well:
    Quote Originally Posted by DeTess View Post
    Regarding editions, all I know is that you don't want to play 6th (the newest). I think 5th or 4th will probably work best for you, as the systems are mostly functional, and not too old.

    Regarding how to play: in my experience, shadowrun should be a lot more sandboxy than DnD. Rather than setting up a dungeon with level appropriate encounter X, Y and Z, to be completed in that order, the Dm should create a local sandbox with an objective. For example, if the players need to steal a diamond from the museum, the DM will need to decide the stats for the guards, how many guards there are, what specialists (mages, hackers, etc.) are present, what other security measures are there, etc. However, the DM should then let the players figure out the way to approach the target themselves, and this will likely require the DM to make a number of on the spot calls unless they where really thorough in their preparations (for example, the players might ask if there are any sewers running closely under the museum they can use to sneak in).

    Another thing to keep in mind is that a mission should, to some degree, be tailored to the players. In DnD, any competent party of 4 players should be able to do a level-appropriate dungeon. However, in shadowrun, a party consisting of 2 hackers, a drone specialist and a social mage will have to get pretty creative if they're tasked with wiping out a gang in the slums, while a party consisting of two heavy weapon's specialists, a fireball mage and a rigger driving a literal tank might have some trouble with a data-theft mission requiring absolute stealth. That's not to say you should never put your team in a tricky situation, but its more important to serve missions suited to your team's specialty. It is for this reason that the players should also probably cooperate when making their characters so they form a seamless unit. If you've got a team with 3 stealthy characters, and one loud gunner, then the gunner is going to spend a lot of missions on overwatch in case something goes wrong (and if everyone else does their job, nothing will).

    Overall, what I think shadowrun requires from the DM is flexibility and the ability to improvise, because its unlikely you can prepare a location so thorough that the players can't come up with some novel approach that should work, but that you hadn't provided stuff for (such as the aforementioned sewer, or them trying to find blackmail material on a guard, or whatever). The DM should also be good at switching between perspectives and scenes, as there are certain specializations that do their thing separate from the rest (such as hackers), so you need to be able to handle that without everyone else getting bored.

    Players in shadowrun need to show a lot of initiative. In DnD you can often get away with just following the quest hook through all the encounters to the end of the dungeon, but in Shadowrun you need to decide yourself how you're going to approach things. When the DM asks 'what are you going to do now', the players should have their answer ready.

    Oh, one last little thing for the DM, coming from my own experience. The world of Shadowrun is a dystopia, but that doesn't mean that everyone is out to betray the PC's. Sure, a corporate A-hole that betrayed them after hiring them can make for a great multi-session antagonist, but if every single person that ever hires them tries to betray them, it'll quickly grow stale and start feeling more like 'the DM is being antagonistic'.

    One more thing. Character building can be quite complicated, but for 4e and 5e there's a tool called chummer that's basically an electronic character sheet that can do a lot of the math and points-tracking for you, that has most gear built in, including the basic stats for quick reference. In my experience, chummer makes character building lot more easy and fun, and speeds up gameplay as well since you can easily check what your character can do without needing to check the books or look through a 4 page paper character sheet.

    edit: oh, there's another thing. You should expect your players to spend a lot of session time planning their approach. This is not a bad thing, but both the players and DM should keep an eye on how the planning is going . If it seems to be stuck in a rut because of the lack of some information or tool, the DM can introduce that through one of the PC's contacts, or just an OC nudge of 'hey, you know you could try to do X to get that info, right?" As a player, if you notice that the plan is basically done, but everyone is still stuck in contingency planning to make it perfect, it might be time to suggest that you just get going, as you're going to need to improvise at some point anyway.

    edit2: what I'd recommend you do when you're just starting and everyone is still new, is to just start with a couple of simple stand-alone 1-2 session heists and assassinations, ideally with different characters each time and maybe even different DM's. That way you get a chance to learn the different aspects of the system and what everyone likes best.
    Last edited by DeTess; 2019-10-31 at 05:49 AM.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by DeTess View Post
    Regarding editions, all I know is that you don't want to play 6th (the newest). I think 5th or 4th will probably work best for you, as the systems are mostly functional, and not too old.
    Now I'm feeling old - I got my teeth into Shadowrun on 2nd Ed...

    If it hasn't changed too much, the only thing I will add to DeTess' very comprehensive write up is to bring D6s. Lots of them.

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    My advice for stepping into SR 4/5e with newer players.

    Ban deckers and (tentatively) riggers. Deckers pull in a whole new set of rules that the player is burdened with the knowledge of. Lacking ranks in knowledge ttrpg(specialization deckers) the player will be defaulting to you on “how do I...?” Deckers when played slowly yield the infamous Pizzarun wherein the GM and the decker go do a hacking mini game while the rest of the players go order pizza. The matrix being separate from meatspace splits the party to varying extents depending on how well the GM blends the hacking elements into the run... But even then the openness of shadowrun lets the decker wander off on their own in a way the rest of the party usually can’t follow. If you and the player are both familiar with the rules (4 and 5 have some painful issues with each implementation of the matrix, I’d advise looking for suggested house rules) decking can be resolved quickly. If not decking will be a big drain on playtime and is best relegated to npc handwavium as story elements.

    Riggers also interact with the matrix to some extent and will end up encountering deckers as part of gameplay. They are functionally pet/summoner builds and are liable to bloat combat with multiple turns for some builds.

    If using 4e I heavily advise making recoil cumulative across initiative passes until the character uses the Take Aim action or spends a whole pass not shooting. Otherwise the game devolves into long burst spam of magical recoil free guns.

    It’s important to have all your players understand what sort of game everyone is playing. Covert ops jobs, guns blazing gun smoke and chrome, etc. The world needs to properly react to magic / weaponry / use of force. Legality of equipment and how easy it is to bring places. Whether that panther assault cannon will be scaring off gangers and awakened beasts or lead to some middle manager drawing up a dead or alive bounty to make an example of a few uppity shadowrunners who splattered too many corporate interests (or invites HTR crews to hose the party into cheese flavored hole ridden nutrisoy)
    Quote Originally Posted by An Unfortunate Player
    Obviously he died to a brain eating bird. No, not a rapier or crossbow bolt. Birds, brains, yeah.
    And so their arrival was foretold

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    I've seen several people suggest banning deckers to start with. I can see where they're coming from, but I think hacking is actually an important part of the futuristic/cyberpunk flavor, so I'd personally recommend just making sure that both the person wanting to be the decker and the GM are well-read in the hacking rules (or, alternatively, that for the first couple of games the GM and decker agree to calvinball the rules based on the fluff, rather than playing strictly by what the rules say).
    Last edited by DeTess; 2019-10-31 at 09:01 AM.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Decking isn’t exactly something you can safely learn as you go as a player given that playing a decker starts at character creation. SR precon characters tend to suck, badly. Outfitting a decker is no small feat for the uninformed (the same is true to a lesser extent for riggers). Skills, attributes, cyber and off the shelf gear yield competent street sams and adepts in a relatively straightforward manner. Mages are even simpler to build (and only have one math juggling mechanic to deal with in gameplay). Deckers need to build what is effectively a second symbiotic character in the form of their deck, its accessories, programs and their arrangements. How much investment do they need in decking as a baseline? Really hard to say in a vacuum (player and gm having no experience with the numbers). The buyin on decking for 4e/5e is significant so you’ll be behind in meatspace and may feel like you’d be better off ordering pizza... hope the other players left some after you finished that last matrix run.

    Expectations should be set. SR has a bundle of numbers you need to have a vague grasp on as the game operates pretty differently from DnD. Combat is best described as humpty dumpties swinging rocket powered sledgehammers at each other. Specialists and slouches are almost guaranteed by the system design, big thing of note is numerous archetypes may miss the boat on combat. Involvement and contribution is something you’ll need to judge yourself at your table.
    Quote Originally Posted by An Unfortunate Player
    Obviously he died to a brain eating bird. No, not a rapier or crossbow bolt. Birds, brains, yeah.
    And so their arrival was foretold

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    Decking isn’t exactly something you can safely learn as you go as a player given that playing a decker starts at character creation. SR precon characters tend to suck, badly. Outfitting a decker is no small feat for the uninformed (the same is true to a lesser extent for riggers). Skills, attributes, cyber and off the shelf gear yield competent street sams and adepts in a relatively straightforward manner. Mages are even simpler to build (and only have one math juggling mechanic to deal with in gameplay). Deckers need to build what is effectively a second symbiotic character in the form of their deck, its accessories, programs and their arrangements. How much investment do they need in decking as a baseline? Really hard to say in a vacuum (player and gm having no experience with the numbers). The buyin on decking for 4e/5e is significant so you’ll be behind in meatspace and may feel like you’d be better off ordering pizza... hope the other players left some after you finished that last matrix run.
    This hasn't really been my experience in 5e. Building a basic decker isn't that much more complicated than buying the appropriate skills and the best cyberdeck you can. Programs can then be used to optimize, but any other character-arachetype encounters the same kind of difficulty spike when trying to get the most out of their build (whether it's cyber-decks programs, or cyberware, or adept powers, or whatever). Regarding the problem with either the decker acting, or everyone else doing stuff, this is mostly an issue during the set-up and planning phase, and action during that step is often only one person using their specialty to do something to prepare, so its not a decker-only issue. During the action itself, the decker should be acting in tandem with the rest, scrubbing camera-recordings, disabling alarms and the like, and a good DM will keep things rolling and will switch perspectives so neither side has to sit still doing nothing for long.

    However, as I mentioned, this is just my experience. Decking is probably the most tricky aspect to handle for a new group, but I think keeping its potential problem in mind and learning to deal with it from the start is a better idea than just removing an entire aspect of the game, even if its just for when you're starting out.
    Last edited by DeTess; 2019-10-31 at 10:32 AM.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    I’ll admit less familiarity with 5e which brings me to the 4e v 5e

    4e: has lots of minutiae to wade through. Autofire issue is easily houseruled. Decking really needs some of the rules that show up in Unwired (iirc away from book). Arsenal rules for gear are a large step up in lethality and complexity.

    5e: pricing structure props up mages by slowing mundane progression. Cyberwear is generally worse off vs the 4e analog. Decking rules are generally considered to be better in 5e, though everything wireless and hackable as the default assumption is just immersion straining. Limits (mechanical cap on how high you can roll - a function of your attributes) are hate or love and I’m personally a hater. Overall it’s a little more streamlined and lite.
    Quote Originally Posted by An Unfortunate Player
    Obviously he died to a brain eating bird. No, not a rapier or crossbow bolt. Birds, brains, yeah.
    And so their arrival was foretold

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    You could also introduce the idea of deckers gradually. A few runs in the Johnson includes some decker support which they party can call on mid run to get the benefits of a decker with all the mechanics hidden. Unlock a door, loop a camera, that kind of thing. Get the party valuing the decker and then they can have the option of adding a PC later. This still leaves the pizza run as a risk but leaving one set of rules to learn later might help.

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Glimbur View Post
    You could also introduce the idea of deckers gradually. A few runs in the Johnson includes some decker support which they party can call on mid run to get the benefits of a decker with all the mechanics hidden. Unlock a door, loop a camera, that kind of thing. Get the party valuing the decker and then they can have the option of adding a PC later. This still leaves the pizza run as a risk but leaving one set of rules to learn later might help.
    This is exactly how I’ve done it in the past. Let the party make a few key rolls using the decker’s stats but otherwise have the decker’s contributions handwaved into the narrative.
    Quote Originally Posted by An Unfortunate Player
    Obviously he died to a brain eating bird. No, not a rapier or crossbow bolt. Birds, brains, yeah.
    And so their arrival was foretold

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Thanks for all the advice. Unless someone has their heart set on decking, then I will run them as NPC support at first.
    yo

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Now I'm feeling old - I got my teeth into Shadowrun on 2nd Ed...

    If it hasn't changed too much, the only thing I will add to DeTess' very comprehensive write up is to bring D6s. Lots of them.
    I still have my 1e.
    I haven't purchased 6th because I just got 5th last year and still haven't found a group in my isolated part of the world.

    As for advice on running the game,
    Use the Lore, there is nothing "generic" in shadowrun.
    Everything has a brand name.
    Shadowrun is the best world I've ever played in, with glorious lore. Use it all.

    I agree with a previous comment about your newbie avoiding a Hacking role, because of its general isolation. The new player will want to be in with the group.
    If you want to give them something easy to play, just to ease them into the game, Adept all the way.

    Something my old GM did that I completely enjoyed was that some games weren't a mission at all. We had one session that was nothing but the meet with the Johnson, everyone mostly in character RPing the entire game with only a few social challenges thrown.

    and yes on the D6s,
    10 If you think you have enough then get some more GOTO10

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Chalkarts View Post
    I haven't purchased 6th
    After even just a glance I’d aside avoiding 6e like a deal with a dragon. One bit of nonsense among the many: armor doesn’t reduce damage you take, it gives you some points to a pool to be spent on influencing basically any roll (even opponents) in combat. So yeah, the ganger swings a rusted pipe at your troll in riot gear and it makes the other ganger worse at seeing the troll simply by virtue of the pipe being of lower quality than the armor.
    Last edited by Xervous; 2019-11-01 at 10:30 AM.

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Hahahahahaha wow. OK 4th edition book is on the way, we have been using discord for voice and roll20.net for maps and dice. Seems they don't have a 4th edition sheet, nor can I set it so when I /roll 8d6 it will highlight the ones above a certain number, nor exploding dice. I wonder if anyone could suggest a different platform for maps and dice.
    yo

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Xervous View Post
    After even just a glance I’d aside avoiding 6e like a deal with a dragon. One bit of nonsense among the many: armor doesn’t reduce damage you take, it gives you some points to a pool to be spent on influencing basically any roll (even opponents) in combat. So yeah, the ganger swings a rusted pipe at your troll in riot gear and it makes the other ganger worse at seeing the troll simply by virtue of the pipe being of lower quality than the armor.
    What that is streamlining is the:
    roll to hit -> roll location -> check armor -> roll to penetrate armor -> roll for damage type of system into one dice roll (I can’t remember shadowrun’s exact system but many sci-fi combat systems are very complex).

    It isn’t making the other ganger worse at seeing the troll in riot gear, it is just reducing the number of steps between “I attack” and “outcome”.

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Spriteless View Post
    Hahahahahaha wow. OK 4th edition book is on the way, we have been using discord for voice and roll20.net for maps and dice. Seems they don't have a 4th edition sheet, nor can I set it so when I /roll 8d6 it will highlight the ones above a certain number, nor exploding dice. I wonder if anyone could suggest a different platform for maps and dice.
    If you use the chummer character sheets I mentioned before, it also comes witha dice-roller, though that does mean people will need to trust the one rolling the dice.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    What that is streamlining is the:
    roll to hit -> roll location -> check armor -> roll to penetrate armor -> roll for damage type of system into one dice roll (I can’t remember shadowrun’s exact system but many sci-fi combat systems are very complex).

    It isn’t making the other ganger worse at seeing the troll in riot gear, it is just reducing the number of steps between “I attack” and “outcome”.
    But it doesn't. 5e has three steps. Roll to hit - roll to dodge - roll soak. 6e has at least four steps: Roll to hit, compare AR/DR (possible Edge use), roll to dodge (possible edge use), roll soak (possible edge use).

    It's not streamlining anything, it adds new steps.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Brother Oni View Post
    Now I'm feeling old - I got my teeth into Shadowrun on 2nd Ed...
    Latecomer.

    We got started in 1e, with the old blue book.

    Yeah, Shadowrun has always had really complicated mechanics, with lots of subsystems... spellcasting doesn't work like running the matrix doesn't work like rigging doesn't work like combat.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Spriteless View Post
    So, I wondered, does this fine subforum have any advice for running Shadowrun? Any good seeds for adventures? Any way to ease the player who hasn't played this system before into things?
    For at first campaign, I would start around 2050 and make sure to read up on the major events in the timeline. That way you can start of with vanillarun, and gradually introduce new threats as they emerge. I would also let the players choose between a number of pregen characters, and I would design those to keep things fairly simple. Finally, a trite old tactic like letting the players wake up with memory loss in a secret lab they have to escape also helps to keep things simple, and the players focused on learning the rules for the introductory session.

    Riggers:
    Create a Rigger pregen with one recon and one combat drone. Let jamming be prevalent enough that the character has to come along on the runs rather than sit at home. Add basic combat/survival skills for when the drones are not available.

    Decker:
    Same recipe as for riggers. No sitting at home. Design locations to have lots of systems that can only be accessed locally. Keep "real" decking sessions rare. Instead use straight up extended skill rolls to overcome electronic obstacles, like security cameras, elevator systems, fire alarms, etc. Add basic combat skills so they are not useless if there's a power outage.

    Muscle:
    Stay with the simple concepts. Chrome samurai wannabe. Elven physad with a love for sniper rifles. Ork mercenary specialized in demolition. Keep powers fairly simple, and make an effort to balance money and karma awards.

    Magic:
    Pregen shaman with a not too unusual totem, and balance between healing, combat, and utility spells.
    Flavor text is the key word. Descriptions of the astral, respect for the spirits, etc. has a lot of the cool factor for this type of character.

    Other:
    Save faces, pure infiltrators, quadriplegic deckers, and free spirit cat-person MMA champions for later. Once the players get used to the setting, let them experiment all they want. IMX such a rule heavy system, players can feel lost in the beginning, so giving them some predictable stereotypes and plots to relate to saves them a lot of work and helps them get invested in the setting.


    Other:

    - Once the players have survived the first adventure, let them fall into the lap of a fixer who can help them get their bearings in the shadows. (Once they have outlived their usefulness, feel free to get creative.)

    - Keep the power level fairly low for a while, until you and the players know the rules better.

    - This setting has a ton of antagonists. Choose a few and stick with them, so the campaign doesn't get too cluttered.
    Later when your players are comfortable with the system/setting, you can have insect spirits and eco terrorists clash with black lodge members in the corporate HQ of the dragon technozombie your players are making a run against, whilst being raided by the militant wing of the IRS.

    - This system has a lot of social skills/contacts. Always let there be an advantage to having these. If one of the players bothers to get a weapons dealer contact, let them get access to better/cheaper guns than if they use somesome random Johnson/Fixer. If not, your players will stop taking them, and your setting will lose flavor. Obvious really, but many GM's tend to forget because they're too busy with other stuff.
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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    Latecomer.

    We got started in 1e, with the old blue book.

    Yeah, Shadowrun has always had really complicated mechanics, with lots of subsystems... spellcasting doesn't work like running the matrix doesn't work like rigging doesn't work like combat.
    Ditto. Played 1st edition Shadowrun and Cyberpunk, and had a blast with both of them. However, one thing they both needed was an experienced GM. Both of them were really poor at helping a new GM actually make the kinds of adventures that the books implied was what playing in those games was supposed to be like/about. The core rulebooks were very much like a (2e AD&D or later)D&D PHB in that there is lots of character creation rules and equipment lists and a combat system and magic system and skills and how to determine what your skill chances are... but precious little on what to apply that against or how to turn that into an adventure. Has that part of the system improved in the intervening editions?

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    Default Re: How do I run shadows (Shadowrun help)

    Quote Originally Posted by Pauly View Post
    What that is streamlining is the:
    roll to hit -> roll location -> check armor -> roll to penetrate armor -> roll for damage type of system into one dice roll (I can’t remember shadowrun’s exact system but many sci-fi combat systems are very complex).

    It isn’t making the other ganger worse at seeing the troll in riot gear, it is just reducing the number of steps between “I attack” and “outcome”.
    SR 4/5: roll attack vs avoid with relevant modifiers, victim soaks if attack is successful. 2-3 rolls

    SR6: roll attack vs avoid. Difference in quality of weapon vs armor generates edge for whoever has the better item (blah blah apply modifiers). If attack is successful victim rolls soak.

    The thing I’m talking about is edge is universal in 6e (universal in 4/5 too but it isn’t generated by nonsense). The troll getting attacked by the pipe gets edge by virtue of wearing higher grade armor. The troll can then spend the edge on influencing the outcome of an opposed perception v stealth roll against the second ganger. Another example could be the troll standing in pistol fire to get enough edge to ensure he can jump between buildings.
    Last edited by Xervous; 2019-11-04 at 10:27 AM.

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