Testing the Waters: Learning to Play and Run Shadowrun 5th Edition

Howdy All,

In addition to my Iron Gods conversion project, I have been poking at a series of Shadowrun 5th Edition one-shots, which are designed to teach and learn specific areas of the SR5 rules.

They are, loosely and in no particular order:

  • A Hellblazer-style magical mystery set in 1930s Los Angeles: Incorporates the Contact, Combat (unarmed and basic firearms), and Basic Spellcasting Rules
  • A Mad Max/Death Race style post-apocalyptic contest: Incorporates the Combat (all firearms and vehicle weapons) and Vehicle/Rigging Rules.  Possibly Critter rules too (who knows what lurks in the radioactive wastes).
  • A Deus Ex/Transhuman space style infiltration/assassination mission: Incorporates the Combat, Cyberware and Decking Rules
  • An early Renaissance dark fantasy/horror murder mystery: Incorporates Combat (unarmed and armed), Critters, Summoning, Astral Space, and Spirits.
  • A Wuxia-style high fantasy playing heroes in a city besieged by a horde of maggot spirits: Incorporates Combat (unarmed and some ranged), Basic Spellcasting, Foci, Spirits, and Adepts.

My thought is that, by the end, my players and I should be familiar with the Contact, Combat, Spellcasting, Summoning, Vehicle Combat/Rigging, Critter Combat, Decking, Cyberware, Astral Space, Spirit, Foci, and Adept rules (so, basically, everything we need to know to run a full Shadowrun 5th Edition campaign).

Last weekend, I got a chance to start the first of these one-shots with my son (the one set in 1937 LA with him playing an occult detective) and it ended up being both fun and educational.  I thought I would take a break from my Iron Gods postings this week to share what I learned in that first session.

For those interested, I have included a copy of his character (a spellcasting private detective named Jake Gilles) at the end of this blog entry.

Finally, I should also note that the following will assume some knowledge of the SR5 rules or, at least, a review of the Quick Start rules that can be found here.

DUNGEON MUSER’S NOTES

The session saw Jake investigating the disappearance of a wannabe actress from her apartment and, as he investigated, he quickly found himself in a shadowy world of pimps, mobsters, studio heads, and occult societies.

Mechanically, we got the hang of the casting spells, melee combat, gun combat, knowledge skills, and using contacts (we used 5E’s rules for connection/loyalty ratings) and they all played really quickly.

Casting spells seems faster in this edition than in earlier editions (thanks to the elimination of damage codes), though it seems like you get more bang for your buck with indirect combat spells than you do with your direct spells (Jake was routinely doing more damage with Flamethrower than with Stunbolt).

Melee combat is pretty fast and easy to run, though I need to look up the rules for grappling before the next session (why are grappling rules always so damn complicated in RPGs?).

I love that you can get a +2 bonus for “superior positioning” when fighting in melee, and I found that Jake was looking to the environment to try and get that bonus (pushing a guy off balance in one case, and trying to blind a guy by turning the lights on, in another).

As an aside, we noticed after our session that, where Jake was doing 2 damage with his fists, the default Street Samurai from the Core Rules does 7 with his fists and 10 with his sword.  Considering a Pistol does 7 damage, that makes it seem like the rules will make the Street Sam feel like the badass he is supposed to be at the table, in this edition.

For gun combat, I fucked up a bit in that I let Jake use two Swift Actions to make attacks in the same initiative pass (something not allowed in the Core Rules, but included as an optional rule in the Run & Gun book).  Fortunately, the recoil rules served as enough of a deterrant to avoid abuse of those actions.

Since Jake only has a Strength of 2, he suffered a -1 dice pool penalty when blazing away with a Swift Action semi-auto burst (recoil compensation in this edition is 1 + Str/2, which then has the number of bullets fired subtracted to determine the dice pool penalty for recoil) and, if he followed that up with another Swift Action semi-auto burst, he would be shooting at a -4 dice pool penalty.

I think in the next session I may apply the regular rules (one attack action per pass), but it is good to know that the recoil rules seem to provide balance, if I choose to ignore that rule.

We also got to use some of the Interrupt defensive actions, which were a nice way to keep Jake involved, even on the enemy’s turn.

The Contact rules are fairly similar to the older editions, and I like the new rules for Connection and Loyalty (which serve to separate out the contact’s overall influence from how much they like you). 

These rules also proved to be an AWESOME source of roleplaying opportunities at the table.  We roleplayed out each of the meetings Jake had with his contacts (with a talent agent, with a mobster, and with a fence) and it made for the kind of session I like best (with the PCs advancing the plot through meetings with NPCs).

I particularly love that Jake had a list of characters to seek out for help/info/advice in the adventure, which made the story feel more player-driven than DM-driven.  Jake decided who he wanted to talk to (“Maybe Isaac, the talent agent, will know something about the guy I am looking for, or maybe I could check in with Solly, the mobster I know”), rather than me providing new NPCs to serve up clues/plot details to him.

If this was an ongoing campaign, I can see how those contacts would add a ton of texture to the game, in the same way that the prominent NPCs in my other campaigns have (regular, reliable in-game sources of roleplaying, resource, and story opportunities). I really cannot say enough about how much I loved the way the contacts played out in Friday’s session.

In a similar vein, the Knowledge Skills added a ton of story flavor to the session. I really like how they give me a way to get campaign/setting information to the players, while simultaneously fleshing out more of the PC’s backstory.

For instance, Jake has “Hollywood Politics” and “The Mob” as Knowledge Skills and a couple of great rolls on his part (scoring 5-6 hits on each) helped me give him a bunch of helpful info (including identifying a talent agent/pimp referenced on a note he found and recognizing that a certain ex-cop private investigator he encountered was used exclusively by the big studios to protect the reputations of their contact actors/actresses), while also adding tidbits of backstory (Jake knew a girl who had been a victim of the agent/pimp and he used to work on the LAPD with the private dick).

As with the Contacts, I think the Knowledge Skills would be an awesome source of atmospheric texture for an ongoing campaign, giving the players and the DM opportunities to flesh out story elements at the table, during sessions (another of my favorite things to do in my games).

We also learned that Edge is an extremely valuable stat.  The ability to reroll a failure and invoke the “Rule of 6” is pretty awesome and it gives the players a measure of control over the results of the dice.  Oh, I also love that Edge regenerates essentially the same way that Feat Points or Inspiration does in the Iron Kingdoms RPG or D&D 5E, respectively (through good roleplaying or good rolls).

Finally, my son loved slamming a fist-full of dice down on the table for his skill checks (we do this instead of tossing them, to speed up dice rolls) and there is something to be said for the tactile joy you get from rolling a handful of dice, rather than just one, for task resolution.

Overall, this one shot served as a nice reminder of how much I loved 5E Shadowrun when I first read it, and my level of enthusiasm for the game is, at least, as high as it was last summer, when I first purchased the game, if not more so (put more plainly, holy fuck do I look forward to running this again!).

We didn’t get a chance to finish the adventure, but we hope to do that soon and then move on to the next of the one-shots, and I will provide a further update, once we finish this first one-shot.

Until next time, I remain;

  • THE DUNGEON MUSER

Jake Gilles

pulp_detectives__the_dour_detective_by_roberthack-d5cc7h4

Body 3 Willpower 4
Agility 3 Logic 5
Reaction 3 Intuition 4
Strength 2 Charisma 4
Essence 6 Magic 4
Initiative 7 + 1d6 Edge 3
Active Skills: Knowledge Skills:
Assensing 5

Con 5

Drive Car 4

First Aid 3

Forgery 4

Impersonation 5

Intimidation 5

Influence 4

Perception 6

Pistols 3

Running 3

Sorcery 4

Stealth 4

Unarmed Combat 3

Fences 3Hollywood Politics 3

LA Area Knowledge 4

Magical Groups 4

The Mob 4

 

Spells:
Analyze Truth: Type M, Duration S, Range T, Drain F – 2

Clairaudience: Type M, Duration S, Range T, Drain F – 3

Clairvoyance: Type M, Duration S, Range T, Drain F – 3

Detect Individual: Type M, Duration S, Range T, Drain F – 3

Flamethrower: Type P, Duration I, Range LOS, Drain F – 3, Damage: P

Heal: Type M, Duration P, Range T, Drain F – 4

Invisibility: Type M, Duration S, Range LOS, Drain F – 2

Magic Fingers: Type P, Duration S, Range LOS, Drain F – 2

Stealth: Type P, Duration S, Range LOS, Drain F – 2

Stunbolt Type M, Duration I, Range LOS, Drain F – 3, Damage: S

 

Contacts:
Bartender (Tommy O’Connor) – Connection 2/ Loyalty 2

Los Angeles City Official (Ed Tingle) – Connection 3/ Loyalty 2

Mobster (Salvatore “Solly” Lucchese) – Connection 3/ Loyalty 2

Talent Agent (Isaac Epstein) – Connection 2/ Loyalty 3

Talismonger (Mr. Han) – Connection 3/ Loyalty 3

Weapons:
.38 Automatic Pistol – Acc 7, Damage 7P, Mode SA, Ammo 7
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Testing the Waters: Learning to Play and Run Shadowrun 5th Edition

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