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Trekkin
2010-12-09, 12:07 AM
So I am likely to be GMing Shadowrun 4e in about two months and I thought I'd pick the Playground's collective brain on a collection of matters that occur to me as preying on my faults as a storyteller and adjudicator of the mechanics with a view towards proactively ameliorating them. Among them:

1. There are lots of shiny security toys in Core. Is there any generally accepted means of determining which combinations of them are appropriate for a given party level or given location?

2. How do I juggle physical, Matrix, and astral combat/actions all at once? I'd rather not slow the game down by a factor of three because two team members are doing what they're supposed to do.

3. Are there any houserules designed to fix any commonly encountered problems?

As always, any other information/warnings/anecdotes will be cherished.

Pyrite
2010-12-09, 03:30 AM
So I am likely to be GMing Shadowrun 4e in about two months and I thought I'd pick the Playground's collective brain on a collection of matters that occur to me as preying on my faults as a storyteller and adjudicator of the mechanics with a view towards proactively ameliorating them. Among them:

1. There are lots of shiny security toys in Core. Is there any generally accepted means of determining which combinations of them are appropriate for a given party level or given location?
You should basically design a few core security layouts that various facilities use, and fall back on that as a guide when throwing things at players. In shadowrun, it's less important that challenges be level-appropriate, and more important that they make sense for the background. The power of a given character will take a long time to ramp up, even if you're like me and end up giving out almost twice as much karma as recommended. Remember that a security guard with a manhunter can still kill a prime runner with a couple of lucky shots.

2. How do I juggle physical, Matrix, and astral combat/actions all at once? I'd rather not slow the game down by a factor of three because two team members are doing what they're supposed to do.
A: understand the magic and matrix rules like the back of your hand. This is incredibly important, and will sidestep a huge amount of wasted time and disparity between party members. If you have any magic questions, I've played a variety of successful shamans, adepts, and mages in 4th ed.
B: have one type of footwork possible to do for each type of runner at your table. If the mage has to go astral and scout stuff and the hacker has to hack a high security node to get the future location of a target, make sure that the Sam can accomplish something by scoping the place out physically or getting the word on the street.
C: In actual combat, remember that astral, matrix, and meatspace happen on the same time scale. In initiative order. And most data worth stealing isn't accessible from the matrix, so the hacker will have to drag his meatbody along with the group too. With the way commlinks work now, it's nowhere near as much a liability. Remember that enemy hackers can attack your teams smartlinks, and that a bit of drone support goes a long way.


3. Are there any houserules designed to fix any commonly encountered problems?
Oh yes, a ton. For one, I generally assume that the rating of a fake SIN is the number of successes that a reading device or someone researching an ID has to get to crack it, rather than the SIN having to roll opposed dice equal to it's rating against the checking machine. This makes high rating SINs worth anything at all.

As always, any other information/warnings/anecdotes will be cherished.
For every slightly significant action your players take, make note of two or more unforeseen consequences that will crop up later.

Also, if a fixer or a johnson betrays the team, the run becomes finding them and making them pay. Any other response will only lead to being walked on by everyone.

And finally, remember to keep in mind that payouts for corporate espionage should be competitive with stealing cars for a living. Each runner should expect to be able to make at least 10,000 nuyen a month if they keep a decent rep and don't screw up.

Autolykos
2010-12-09, 04:50 AM
I usually play 3e, so no rules advice from me. Having said this, here's my .02• on the matter:
You should not make too detailed plans of what your PCs are going to do, they will usually do something else anyway. Just design the building/terrain plans and a sketch of the security setup (if you don't play with total noobs, there's no need to include flaws in it on purpose, your players are going to find some anyway). You should also have stats for all important NPCs, plus stats for common generic NPCs (like policemen, office workers, truck drivers, gangers and whatnot) - at least if you're not exceptionally good at winging it.
Another thing to keep in mind: Security guards (or cops or mafia soldiers) are not mooks, they are human beings. They'll rarely fight to the death. If they are outgunned they'll probably retreat and call for backup instead of slugging it out with a bunch of armed-to-the-teeth streetsams. This will usually make it a lot more interesting for the PCs because they can't know if the guards are maybe setting up an ambush, flanking them, dropping a primed grenade before retreating, come back with better gear and filled up with combat drugs or do some other unexpected stuff. The enemies you don't see are the most dangerous - especially in a game that is as deadly as Shadowrun.
Oh, and for the love of God, don't use snipers the players aren't aware of beforehand (except if you like TPKs).

Tehnar
2010-12-09, 05:32 AM
Actually I found it is pretty easy to "wing it" in Shadowrun. As people said just prepare a general security setup, and if something unexpected comes up just assign a target number on the action they are attempting and roll with it.

It is a deadly game and even rating 1 mooks can be dangerous to runners if they get lucky. And if there is a lot of them they will get lucky.

I would also ease new players into security defenses. Start at first with obvious cameras and motion sensors, and when the players learn to deal with those (and your way of thinking) then you can go to harder things.

Suggest to the players when they make their characters that they should be able to do more then one thing. While that 25+ dice in rifles street sam will be awesome in combat the player will be bored when doing anything else.


As for trying to mix together meatspace, matrix and astral; Ive generally managed two out of three at the same time. Your hacker will probably not be able to act in combat to a significant degree so try to nudge him to use his hacking abilities while combat is going on. Simple things like hacking the opposing teams smartgun systems (and ejecting the ammo clip), disrupting their communication, hacking the building node and taking control of cameras, automated weapon systems and drones will make a difference, and will be pretty fun.

Astral space can be combined in as well, but generally things that you do on the astral have few if any immediate consequence on meat space so I haven't found a way to bring all three together without it being forced.

Reynard
2010-12-09, 05:40 AM
I don't play Shadowrun, but I am both interested and have tried playing a similar sort of setting, so...

When planning the places they'll visit, don't plan too much. Basically, design the buildings and offices as places to be used for day to day jobs, not just as a place for the PCs to visit/get killed in. Alternatively, see if you can find floor plans of any places that can be easily adapted to the setting, like department stores, office blocks, mechanics shops, etc etc.

Also, if you use snipers, make sure the first shot misses, or hits an unimportant NPC.

Britter
2010-12-09, 10:59 AM
Ask your players what they are expecting from the game. Seriously. A group of people who want to play pink mohawk-style characters might not be interested in bypassing complex security systems every adventure. A group of trenchcoat wearing paranoid runners might not want to have running gun fights with corporate security on a daily basis.

Once you and the players have agreed on what type of shadowrun you are playing, give up the idea of doing a lot of pre-planning. Watch a lot of crime movies, have general ideas of how hard or easy something may be, and let the players come up with unusual plans to circumvent things.

In many ways, the players will write the security systems for you. If a guy buys tools to bypass complex locks, give him locks to bypass. If someone has skills allowing him to work out the rotation of complicated guard schedules, have a lot of patroling guards. That sort of thing. Play it fast and lose, because your players WILL throw you a loop or an unexpected issue, and the more adaptable you are the less likely your sessions are to devolve into 4 hours (real world time) of planning for every 30 minutes of gaming.

Also, and this is just my opinion, but after years of watching players try to come up with the perfect plan, I think it is valid. If they are planning for more than 15-20 minutes of game time, have a bunch of guys come through the door with guns. Players will try to come up with a risk-free plan. While that might make sense in the real world, in a game there should always be an element of risk. Now, if your group enjoys long planning sessions and high-paranoia, good for you. It drives me nuts when my players start obsessing over tiny details in an effort to have the "perfect crime" thing going on, and it cuts into game time. So I don't enjoy it much, and try to avoid it.

Now, to avoid punishing the players by minimizing the time you want to spend planning, be reasonable. If they encounter something they can't get around and one of them says "If only we had done X before we came here", let them flashback to doing x, make a few rols, and see if they managed to do what would have been needed to prevent the thing. Again, look to crime movies, spy thrillers, that sort fo thing. Try for that level of pacing.

Earthwalker
2010-12-09, 11:16 AM
Definatly talk to your players and make sure they all have the same general idea one what the game is going to be. You can play without magic or hacking but that is cutting a lot out of the game and limits the runs the players would be hired for. This is another consideration when making characters.

My style when running shadowrun always started with a simple mission based game, letting the players find their feet and workout what they can and canít do. Give them a few missions, usualy B and E and after a while weave in an overriding plot arc. If your players give you backgrounds you can start feeding information and ideas from the background into the runs.
After a while the PCs are hopfully looking for more information and then choosing their own targets.

Like I say this is mainly my style running the game like a TV show, each mission is an episode and then 14 of so missions for a plot arc that would be one series of a show. With hopfully some character growth along the way.

Mark Hall
2010-12-09, 11:37 AM
So I am likely to be GMing Shadowrun 4e in about two months and I thought I'd pick the Playground's collective brain on a collection of matters that occur to me as preying on my faults as a storyteller and adjudicator of the mechanics with a view towards proactively ameliorating them. Among them:

1. There are lots of shiny security toys in Core. Is there any generally accepted means of determining which combinations of them are appropriate for a given party level or given location?

As above, make a few standard security layouts... but keep in mind a few things.

a) What does this place work on? A tech company is going to have a heavy amount of Matrix and physical assets, but less magical. Bigger companies will have heavier security.
b) Is the security feasible and not overly intrusive? Remember, people have to work here. In SR, you can do a lot with RFID-tagged nametags, but you're still going to have mostly a "shell" of security, then somewhat minimal once you're inside the security perimeter (maybe a second shell around specifically secure areas). Otherwise, you're looking at human security, either from a spider rigger or dudes with pistols and clubs.


2. How do I juggle physical, Matrix, and astral combat/actions all at once? I'd rather not slow the game down by a factor of three because two team members are doing what they're supposed to do.

4e makes this a lot easier by keeping the Matrix runners with the party. If someone is going pure astral or hot sim, they may need to minigame for a little bit, but those should not be self-contained sessions... unless they're doing something like an Astral Quest, which should probably be handled between sessions.



As always, any other information/warnings/anecdotes will be cherished.

Find and read the CLUE Files. They're hilarious, though you'll probably have to dig them out of the Wayback machine.

Kaulesh
2010-12-09, 11:48 AM
2. How do I juggle physical, Matrix, and astral combat/actions all at once? I'd rather not slow the game down by a factor of three because two team members are doing what they're supposed to do.

My GM had the brilliant idea of having us make cheat sheets for our characters. I've got most of the hacking rules written out on an easily-scannable sheet of paper. Someone else was supposed to write out the various magic-related rules he would need. This greatly speeds up the game - GM doesn't have to flip through books and, if the GM trusts them, the players can just tell him what they're rolling, what the opposed roll is (if any), what kind of test it is, etc.

ajkkjjk52
2010-12-09, 12:25 PM
For every slightly significant action your players take, make note of two or more unforeseen consequences that will crop up later.


It's a matter of game style, as another poster has already mentioned, but the best Shadowrun games (imho) are the ones where players do feel like they're operating within a real world, not an episodic tv show. Shadowrun is not D&D, where you can just kill the green guys and take their stuff; there are police, Megacorp security, and plenty of other folks who frown on runners, and who have access to magical, digital, and meatspace forensics to track down runners who get sloppy.

Britter
2010-12-09, 12:33 PM
Even in a fairly loose style of Shadowrun play, actions should have consequences. Make sure that the players occasionaly have complications arise from prior missions. Recurring adversaries, company men, the ocassional corporate hit squad or corporate decker hacking your bank account; these things can be fun.

Beware, however, of the ol' the-Johnson-backstabs-you-routine. Many of the 2nd and 3rd edition adventures were infamous for having the Johnson betray you at some point during the mission. The first time it happens, it can be fun. The second time it happens, the players will never trust you again. The third time it happens, the players will probably start killing major npcs on sight and damn the consequences, because said consequences won't be as bad as being screwed mid-job by Mr. Johnson.

I have found that one of the best ways to prevent that is to give the pc's a good, loyal fixer. That way they have a pre-screener for jobs and feel confident you won't have a Johnson betray them. They have an npc to potentially grow attached too. That makes it all the better when you do finally have a Johnson betray them and kill/capture/corrupt their fixer.

Science Officer
2010-12-09, 01:08 PM
Are your players familiar with point-buy character creation systems?
Mine were not, and so by the end of the campaign only half had actually built characters.
But besides that, which character creation system will you use?
BP seems to work fine, KARMAgen helps players understand using Karma to advance their characters, but has the draw back of being extremely breakable. I've heard nothing but good things about the Priority system, but I'm not quite sure how it works.

Besides these, I'd recommend looking into the P.A.C.K.S. system. Can't find the link right now... but it seemed really neat. Had templates for character creation. Would have made things much faster for me.

Cheat sheets (http://pavao.org/shadowrun/cheatsheets/)are fantastic.

Advice for your players:
avoid specialising, it's usually not worth it and makes the game less fun.

Pyrite
2010-12-09, 03:14 PM
Also, it's important to get a feel for if any of your players know more than you about, say, firearms or police procedures or security tactics or computer networks, and talk it out with those players so you can be certain they will use their knowledge to help you without undermining your authority.

Swordguy
2010-12-09, 05:25 PM
As above, make a few standard security layouts... but keep in mind a few things.


Find and read the CLUE Files. They're hilarious, though you'll probably have to dig them out of the Wayback machine.



Listen to Mark Hall, he knows of what he speaks.

Also, just to save you the trouble, here's the current mirror of the CLUE files:
http://www.highprogrammer.com/alan/gaming/shadowrun/clue-files.html

Kalaska'Agathas
2010-12-09, 06:53 PM
So, I've never run a Shadowrun game, but I'm currently playing in one (and having loads of fun) so I'll offer my .02• - first, figure out where the group lands on the sliding scale of seriousness (the extremes are Pink Mohawk and Mirrorshades, before you ask). Then make sure all of the players are on board for this. In my current game we've got a player who falls distinctly in the Pink Mohawk region, and likes to instigate some PvP. This has been good, as it's allowed me to play the 'straight man' which I particularly enjoy, but it put my character into the hospital for a week and has him now planning an easy way to take out the other player's current character (and before I get jumped for singling him out - he is the one who instigated PvP the last time around, and his character is my debt collector (and threatened my hacker's sister, which was a mistake) so there is a high probability of violence between us from the get go. I'm just being prepared.)

Now, you'll want to generate characters. You can have them do this separately (which is what our group did), but I think it might work better if they work together on this. Remember that runners form teams because they can't do it all, so having them figure out who is filling what role beforehand shouldn't break verisimilitude - and this will lead to a stronger, higher survivability team.

When it comes to building the characters themselves, leave enough time to work out 'wares and spells and such - these can be daunting for new players. Also, recommend they choose two things to be good at and two to be ok at. This will lead to more balanced characters and dice pools (and eliminate the need to make extremely difficult, and therefore deadly, encounters to challenge your players) and it will mean that people can meaningfully contribute more often.

As to running Astral/Matrix/Meat combat simultaneously, remember that (at least for matrix combat) you can give them the ability to effect the real world from wherever they are. Give them enemy drones to spoof into firing on their riggers, or smartguns to hack (dropping the mags out, as previously said, or changing the biometrics (assuming they have them) so that the person holding the gun can't fire it, etc.). I'm unfamiliar with Astral Combat, but I'm sure you can find similar things to do. Also, remember that meatspace IP boosters also work in AR, so you can build a more-than-viable combat hacker.

Your players can do a lot of the planning for you, as has been said. If you don't like having them do planning in session, create a way to communicate in between games that's viewable by everyone, that way they can plan things out (and you know what to expect). Remember that a typical run is 20 minutes of objectives, 3 days of planning, and 600 seconds of mayhem. Don't be afraid to spring complications on your players, but do be careful, as things are likely to escalate (http://forums.dumpshock.com/index.php?showtopic=25988&st=25&p=791266&#entry791266).

And finally, chummer, "Watch your back, shoot straight, conserve ammo, and never, ever, cut a deal with a dragon."

Pyrite
2010-12-09, 08:23 PM
Are you going core only? what rule-expansion books will you be using, if not? There are things in Arsenal, Unwired, Runner's Companion, and Street Magic that completely change the playing field.

With that in mind, Core only is not a bad policy for a first time GM, and you should carefully read and consider the implications of any new books you want to introduce.