Monday, July 19, 2010

Shadowrun Campaign Journal #1

I’ve decided to run a Shadowrun mini-campaign over the next couple of weeks. It has been a couple of years since I have played Shadowrun and probably 15 years since I have been a GM for the Seattle based cyber punk RPG. I’m looking forward to it. I also don’t feel like buying some new books for a game that is only going to last a couple of weeks so I am sticking with the one book that I have; the 2nd Edition basic book. Also, none of the players in the game have ever run the shadows before and Shadowrun (especially 2nd Edition) is not the most novice friendly game. So I’ve decided to do a stripped down easy version of the rules with an emphasis being on quickness of play and a good time. We will see how it goes.

For the sake of brevity I made all the characters ahead of time. Yes, I understand that creating a character is a ton of fun. But so is playing and I wanted to get down to it. We only have a couple of weeks before D&D picks back up. We got together and the players decided to randomly pick the people that they were going to be playing. I gave everyone a basic history of the Shadowrun world so that they understood exactly where they were in time and space. Everyone seemed into it. In my opinion the strength of this game has always been the universe that it exists in. It’s just pretty awesome and has a ton of possibilities for adventure. I also explained that there was really no such thing as alignment and as good and evil, just varying shades of grey. I think that they liked that as well, knowing that they were free to indulge whatever they wanted to without having to adhere to some sort of ideology that may or may not apply to their situation. After the intro we stacked silly amounts of six sided dice on the table and I distributed the characters. Let’s meet the party.

I put together the stats for the runners (old school on lined paper, no character sheets for us) but it was up to them to come up with names and backgrounds. We wound up with: Phil the Kill, a motorcycle riding sniper hopped up with a bunch of twitchy cyberware; the manaball throwing combat mage Katsin; Puppy the troll, a former bodyguard turned shadowrunner; and Mr. White, best know for owning a van with a cannon and a warehouse full of equipment. I answered some questions about what was what on their sheets, but I pretty much left out anything related to the rules of the game. They would figure it out as we went. I’d help. And we were off…

Phil the Kill got a call from a Mr. Johnson associate of his by the name of Zapper. Zapper wanted to meet up at a well known club on Seattle’s west side called Purgatory. They split into pairs; Katsin riding with Phil on his motorcycle, and Puppy taking shotgun in Mr. White’s death wagon and headed over to the place to meet their contact. They had no trouble getting in and soon enough were parlaying with Zapper about his latest deal. A high up corp type in Aztechnology was looking for a little help with a dirty job, the type of work that runners excel at. Turns out this guy’s daughter fell in with a go gang on the outskirts of town, an outfit called the Silver Streak. The daughter comes home knocked up, the suit says enough is enough and now he wants this gang to pay. One chummer in particular, a man by the name of Handsome Dick. The pay is 40,000 nuyen for proof of his death, Zapper would take his usual 20% for bringing in the work. Deal? The party agrees and set off into the night in search of Dick and company.

They had the name of a bar that the gang hung out at, Morpheus’ Throne, and a general location of where to find them. A little computer investigation by Mr. White turned up a single mention of Handsome Dick. A police report that was a couple of weeks old mentioned that he was questioned and released by the cops in relation to a robbery. Aside from that the intel produced no info so they decided to head over to the area and check out the scene. Perhaps it was Handome Dick’s night to die. We all got to go sometime.

Speeding down the road the party spotted a roadblock up ahead. As they neared they saw that it was a security contingent from a company called Steel City Security. Using his Etiquette (Street) skill Phil scored a couple of successes and seemed to remember hearing that this company was mixed up in a high profile murder case a couple of years back and subsequently went out of business. With this in mind Phil and Katsin cautiously approached the roadblock, expecting some trouble. Mr. White and Puppy hung back in the van. Five men in security uniforms informed them that they had been contracted to guard this area, and with grins they said that passing through was going to cost 2500 nuyen a person. Since this was the first real encounter that any of the players had ever had in Shadowrun they weren’t really sure how to act. Though I assumed that it would escalate to violence pretty quickly. And it did. While Mr. White got on the PA system in his van and was telling the “guards” to get out of their way, Phil the Kill lived up to his name and drew his pistol and began firing at the five men.

Their first combat was an absolute bloodbath. Before the guards even had a chance to act they were mowed down by Phil and Katsin. These thugs were about as weak as you can get, this encounter was just about learning how some combat works. I walked them through the basics of target numbers and modifiers, what power and damage codes mean, and all that other stuff. I kept it pretty simple, which was good for everyone. Myself included, like I said it has been a while since I ran this game. After they looted the thugs (and Mr. White kept the three undamaged uniforms) they continued until they were within a couple of blocks of their destination.

Morpheus’ Throne was a crummy biker bar in a low rent district. The outside was littered with motorcycles and junkies. They tossed around various plans to find and kill Handsome Dick but ultimately settled on the direct approach of walking into the place. Mr. White waited across the street in the van and kept some surveillance on the surroundings while the others were inside. They went in and had a drink and were approached by a Silver Streaker who said that his name was Wonderdog, and that he was the baddest dude around. Wonderdog was a bit hostile and things got heated. There was almost a bike race between him and Phil, but that never happened because Phil shot him first and triggered a messy close quarters firefight, truly a staple of Shadowrun. I had told the party ahead of time that Shadowrun is a lethal game and that anyone can be killed at anytime. Clearly they were not listening to my warnings.

The Silver Streaks were mainly low class thugs, though two of them (Wonderdog and another) exhibited the twitchy tics of someone a little tougher. The party fought pretty well; Phil used some grenades and his Ares Predator to good effect, Puppy did some serious damage with his monofilament whip and one liners, and Katsin cleared out the cannon fodder with several manaballs. It was a battle of attrition though as both Puppy and Phil wound up with serious wounds from the fracas. While this was all going down Mr. White noticed several members of the gang leave the bar and head into a building a couple of doors down. They emerged soon after with a third member, who he recognized from a photo as Handsome Dick. Unable to control his bloodlust, Mr. White opened fire on them with the ultra powerful autocannon that he has in the van. Handsome Dick was reduced to a fine red mist, never again will he impregnate the daughter of someone wealthy and spiteful. Fortunately Mr. White was recording all of this with his cybereye as proof that Dick was dead.

When I was describing what different items and abilities were in the beginning of the session I made a point to mention that Mr. White’s autocannon was some serious military grade hardware. The type of weapon that gets noticed when it is used, like noticed by GMC Banshee panzers that will come looking for it. Everyone was a little bugged out that it was used on an open city street.

With the mark taken care of it was time to head out. Quickly. Because of the injuries everyone piled into the van (including Phil’s motorcycle) and they sped off into the night. As they were nearing the safe house they heard and saw some helicopters searching the area that they had just come from. They had snuck back into the shadows just in time…

I thought that the session went really well, especially considering that none of the players had ever played the game before. They all took to their new personas and took the characters in directions that I was not expecting, which is totally awesome. And honestly my biggest concern was that the mechanics would bog the game down, but they were not as cumbersome as I assumed they would be. And when they started to be I just moved things along. The system is not as bad as I remember it to be, and as a bonus their seems to be tons of places online selling 2nd edition Shadowrun books for pennies. Score!

One aspect that I thought that was really cool and was also approved of by Puppy was that things get harder when you get banged up. Of course that seems logical, but in D&D your barbarian swings that ax just as hard when he is injured and when he is dancing on death’s door. Not so in Shadowrun. It makes being injured exponentially more dangerous since not only are you closer to death but you are not going to be on the top of your game either.

All in all I’d say that it was a great session and I am really looking forward to next week and getting a little deeper into things.

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