Running Shadowrun Missions Events
Shadowrun Missions allows players from all over the world to participate and mold the world around them. As such, running SRM events provides some unique challenges for the gamemaster.
Normally, adventures are designed to run during a four-hour time slot, the standard for most gaming conventions. SRM events can be run at conventions, special game days, in-store demos, or even at home. There may be times that you can run your event longer than four hours, but since this is the standard for gaming conventions, this is the targetted play length for the adventures.
If you are able to run the event in a longer time slot, please take the opportunity to expand the role playing aspects of the game, including interacting with contacts, performing legwork, and of course allowing the players to more deeply investigate what is going on, and more properly plan their shadowrun against the target. The extra time should not be used for allowing the characters to garner more loot or cause random trouble and hijinx throughout the sprawl!
For those that have the normal time allotted, please keep the following tips in mind:Convention Play and the Dreaded Clock
Gamemasters should be familiar with the adventure, have all handouts, NPC tracking sheets, and especially debriefing logs ready and be available at least 10 minutes before their slot, or as the gaming coordinator requires. When you have 4 hours (or less) it is critical to be organized.
Use of your time should break down more or less as follows:
- When you're all together at your assigned gaming area, have the players get out their characters and log sheets and make up a name card while you're setting up. If the adventure relies on previous character actions, collect the log sheets for the previous adventures as required by the current adventure - make a note of the results and determine the outcome(s) for this adventure. All of this should take no more than fifteen minutes. If it can be done before the start of the actual event, so much the better.
- Play the adventure. Because of the necessity of bookkeeping: awarding Karma, fencing/awarding equipment and handling downtime purchases, you MUST end the adventure with at least 20 minutes to spare. The only alternative is to assume that no-one buys anything or upgrades any cyberware between scenarios, to save that time block. Players won't generally want to do that.
- Fill out the debriefing logs and award Karma, Reputation, Money, Equipment and Faction (see below) as per scenario guidelines. Players will have to decide how much to spend on their character improvements (skills, attributes, etc.) and how much to save. This is done on the honor system so don't feel obligated to baby-sit them.
- Sign each player's debriefing log at the bottom after witnessing any necessary metagaming activities.
- File an after action report with the Shadowrun Missions Coordinator or use the web feedback form appropriate to the adventure you've run.
The spirit of Shadowrun Missions is that player characters should be able to survive the adventures by dint of clever play and cooperation. The opportunity to roleplay and have fun is more important than firefight victories or adventure completion. If the players only complete half the adventure but have, in your estimation, done a great job and kept well to the shadows, feel free to award them the lion's share of the Karma. (Even if the adventure requires the completion of a major task which has been left unfinished.) At the same time, don't shovel Karma out for no reason.
On the other hand, if the group is a bunch of unrepentant, kamikaze dough heads, feel free to nuke them, maybe letting any better individuals have a chance to run for it.
The point is that the team should have to genuinely strive, but should not be fried just because of a few lousy dice rolls.
Scenarios have a habit of growing in the telling and players can be quite ingenious at garnering extra loot, contacts and so forth. Let the quality of role-playing and ingenuity be your guide if sallying forth past scenario guidelines. Absolutely keep "extras" to a sane minimum. For example, one extra contact apiece, beyond the scenario specs.
Try to keep a consistent sense of "pseudo reality" about things like NPC reactions and law level. Heavily (and obviously) cybered people are rare; magicians/shamans are rarer still. Law enforcement will take them down, quickly and cleanly if possible. Team members are supposed to be shadowrunners, not Public Enemies numbers One through Six. Contacts can be lost as well as gained, as can any equipment.
A special feature, in Shadowrun Missions, is Faction. As PCs proceed through the adventures in Denver, they may develop good or bad standing with many of the underworld organizations. These standings will affect their ability to interact with those groups.
Because of this, when calculating character awards at the end of the session, make sure to also mark off the faction changes that were earned in the adventure.
In game play, characters will gain bonus dice or suffer dice pool penalties for each tick of faction they have for social interactions dealing with NPCs belonging to those groups. For example, when attempting to negotiate with a Mr. Johnson affiliated with the Casquilho Mafia, characters who have two ticks towards Ally will have an extra two dice for any negotiation attempt. Characters can only gain or lose standing through gameplay.
The campaign follows the published timeline. Therefore, it is always 65 years in the future. While the actual time of year may vary, the current game year will be the same as published material. Events that have taken place in the sourcebooks have also occurred in the campaign setting. This does not necessarily mean that the character knows everything that has gone on - as normal, one must be able to separate player knowledge from character knowledge!
Sorry if the following seems obvious, but based on some experiences we've had, these need (re)stating:
- Know your basic rules and please read the adventure thoroughly. If you have questions, ask your event coordinator(at large cons) or e-mail the Shadowrun Missions Coordinator, if you have advance notice. If you are lucky enough to be at an event that has a FanPro Shadowrun Commando, then ask them.
- Adventure hosed or took a left turn at Albuquerque? There are many alternatives to simply annihilating a team, even if they've had bad luck or made a couple of stupid moves. We also must remember that, due to the nature of SRM scenarios, the make-up of teams will be very different from table to table. A situation that would be an absolute cake-walk for a team with, say, 2 mages with Foci, might be much more difficult for a group without magic. Use your best judgment.
- If you feel that you must alter something like loot or Karma awards guidelines for that adventure, to reflect excellent roleplaying or local tournament conditions (time short, etc.), please make sure that you keep to a reasonable amount. A few extra nuyen for a bonus from the Johnson is one thing - having everyone get a kilo of orichalcum is another! See Extra Cookies, above, for more information.
Where you do have a lot of flexibility is when it comes time to evaluate player plans with respect to the run. They may come up with clever ideas that simply haven't been covered in the scenario. If so, great! If they work, they win! (Just try to keep it interesting by ad-libbing or adapting a few scenario encounters to use the slot time if it looks like you'll end an hour early - but, if they've done a legitimate end-run around the danger spot, these ad-libs should not be lethal!) Never make up new ways to kill them! Try not to "wuss out" either. Be the impartial arbiter.
- Thanks for all your efforts!
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area where there are a lot of gaming conventions or gaming stores, and you find that you enjoy being a gamemaster for Shadowrun Missions, you may be interested in becoming a FanPro Shadowrun Commando. The Commando program is a chance for people that are committed to ensuring the popularity of the game system by promoting it to other gamers. Commandos run events at conventions and other gaming events, in-store demos, and anywhere that they can pull new people into the game. If this sounds interesting, check out the Commando program at www.commandohq.com!
The submission process begins with the writer submitting a detailed outline to the Shadowrun Missions Coordinator. Currently, we are seeking adventures that use the Shadowrun Fourth Edition rules. If the campaign director feels that the adventure does not fit the campaign setting, then the writer is informed as to what might make it acceptable. If the writer wishes to continue after reviewing those suggestions, and the campaign director approves the adventure, then the writer proceeds in fleshing out the proposal and writing the adventure.
Once the adventure is finished, it is submitted to the campaign director to check for game balance, general level of difficulty, continuity, and other factors, as well as a preliminary edit for grammar and spelling. The adventure is then returned to the author with corrections and changes. This process continues back and forth until both the director and the author have created a fun adventure.
During the editorial process, the director may pass the adventure to select groups of campaign staff for playtesting purposes, in order to identify any underlying problems. These playtesters will forward their comments back to the director and author for consideration.
Finally, the adventure is formatted and packaged as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file and released for distribution. Because of the long process involved, the initial submission should be filed six months prior to a planned event. The actual adventure should be submitted about four months prior to the expected debut. Keep these time frames in mind if you are writing for a specific convention or event.
After an adventure has entered distribution, writers are compensated for their hard work with FanPro product and a unique Shadowrun Missions collectable.
So you have an idea for an adventure - great! The first thing to do is to work up a short synopsis of the adventure, a short outline showing any mandatory and optional scenes, proposed rewards, any special events or considerations, and an overview of major non-player characters (NPCs) both friend and foe.
Depending on the adventure, you may be asked to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This is sometimes necessary if the campaign director asks you to integrate new information into your adventure that has not yet been published.
Once your proposal has been accepted, you need to write the adventure. Follow the tips below to start the process. When you have finished, you will submit your adventure to the campaign director. Your adventure must be submitted electronically via email! Also, please use the "spell check" feature of your word processor before submission! Maps, photos, or other visual player handouts should be submitted initially as JPG (jpeg) at 72 dpi (screen resolution) in order to save space. Once your adventure has been approved and gone through the editing process, final jpegs will be requested. Do not send in Adobe Acrobat or other non-editable formats.
Adventures should be constructed so that a good team can finish the entire adventure within 3 1/2 hours and an unlucky or inexperienced team should be able to complete about 75% of the mission. If the team is reckless or bickering, they'll be lucky to survive, let alone complete and profit.
The team should have a good chance of survival if they perform well. Auto-kill situations and ones where a character's life, or those of the team, depend on one lucky roll should be avoided. Beware of "cavalry charges," high-powered NPCs and other items that will detract from the players' enjoyment. They should feel as though they legitimately triumphed against tough odds amid the usual web of betrayal. This is Shadowrun.
SRM adventures use the concept of "Table Rating" (TR) to vary the difficulty of an adventure to the characters in a session. TR is based on the average Good Karma that each character has earned. Various challenges, such as NPCs or device ratings, should be variable based on the TR used.
Please do NOT have the entire adventure hinge on one (or more) characters having a particular skill or a certain contact. Leave alternate paths to the end if the team is lacking the one "vital" ingredient. By all means, make it more difficult for them, but not impossible.
If your adventure absolutely requires a type of skill (e.g. Rigging or Decking), discuss your idea with the campaign director. We'll create a scenario specific solution. Try to have something for everyone in a team to do. We have warned players not to overspecialize their PCs.
In addition to their stat lines, NPCs should have short descriptions to aid the GM in roleplaying the character and how to handle various situations that may arise in the adventure.
Karma awards are as usual. Karma should be around one to three. GMs will be adding up to three more points for individual playing. Suggestions by the author about how to award Karma, are invited. As for gear and other rewards, including cash, we would like PCs to progress at a slow, but reasonable, rate. Again, GMs have guidelines to allow mediation of huge hauls due to player cleverness. The exception here would be utility items (a freebie pocket comp, wrist 'phone, simsense player, etc.) and consumables (small amounts of ammo, expendable fetishes, patches, cheaper chipware, etc.). Any major items like Foci, Heavy Weapons, Vehicles, etc. should be rare. Spread loot among the interests of a variety of archetypes, if possible. Everyone loves nuyen.
Typically, PCs will be drawn into an adventure for little or no cash, but will find windfalls en route. Or, the PCs can contract a mission for decent nuyen, but will acquire far less loot. Offering split fees or bonuses based on performance is fine and can be used to encourage tactics.
You may also have the employer offer mods/equipment/spell formulae, or other barter, instead of cash. The value should follow the above guidelines. Contacts also make great rewards. Please limit yourself to only 1 or 2 new contacts to each PC. Also, please include criteria for the person to become a contact. Finally, please describe which Contact Type they are, if it is not obvious.