Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report

The runners fend off a sudden kidnapping strike force in the middle of a psychedelic concert performance.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 2 Report

If last week’s seemingly random events surrounding a rock concert resulted in hilarious shenanigans, this week was much more focused and down to business. The role-playing and fun random characters were neat distractions but I still had to move the story forward, and for that I had to unleash a squad of stealthy hit-men into the venue.

The players’ main job as temp security guards were to protect the star attraction – indie singer Lana Grace. Unfortunately for them her talents extended to both her musical ability as well as some latent magical skills that resulted in the players entering a euphoric high while she performed.

During the performance my anti-runner team got into place, and all hell broke loose once they hit her with a tranq dart from the catwalks. A pair emerged onto the catwalks to grab her and fend off the players. Another cast an illusory spell on a dragon statue on stage making it seemingly spring to life and panic the crowd below, and another set off a bomb in the backstage bathrooms to cement their getaway. Roll for initiative!

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They didn’t get too far. I had written outcomes for the two possibilities of Lana getting kidnapped or being rescued, and the runners made fairly short work of the foes. Thus far I feel like I may be babying my players a bit as most encounters have felt like a piece of cake from my point of view, with little to no damage being sustained by the players.

In this case the kidnapping team were loaded with nonlethal rounds and were mainly trying to snatch and grab, so they were more interested in running than fighting. They were also unprepared for the players being there at all, so while they were equipped to handle some resistance, the players took them down fairly easily.

Even a fairly small combat encounter can take awhile in Shadowrun, and this one got a bit annoying as all but one of them went down quickly, while the last one was hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned and mainly just tried to flee – not terribly climatic! More exciting was Falkirk tazing one on a catwalk then having to roll Gymnastics to catch the falling unconscious Lana!

After the break the players got a surprising explanation from Lana herself after she came to, and her unfortunate past and parents’ ties with the Yakuza. At this point I was running out of material that I had prepared so I kind of sped things along. The adventure ends up becoming a Two in One. The initial job offer of working security for one show is technically over, but now the players have been hired by Lana herself to retrieve some blackmail-worthy evidence on her parents to use as leverage.

To do so they’ll need to get into her parent’s well-guarded mansion for their own smash-and-grab scenario. I was delighted to find my players already discussing different tactics on how to get in – including using their captured adversaries to gain access. Looking forward to it!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 1 Report

A new adventure kicks off as our runners are tasked with working security at a rock concert.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

A new adventure begins! One of the aspects I like to incorporate into my game writing and structure are my players’ back stories. In our previous adventure I teased Mauta’s back story, eventually causing her to reveal her darker past to her fellow runners in a fun, tense moment, and giving her a crisis of conscious with a choice at the end.

For our new adventure I used an NPC from our troll shaman Ursev – his estranged brother Benton. I got with the player and had him detail a bunch of information so I could role-play the character effectively. The idea was to have the brother track down the runners after their recent exploits and offer them their next job – joining his private security team in protecting a famous singer during her show at a concert hall.

BentonThere was a lot of role-playing and dialogue during these set-up prologue events. I feel like it went over smoother than previous set-ups as it was more back and forth rather than having me just dump a bunch of information at the players’ feet. The players asked questions and I answered, and it all felt much more natural and interactive.

The players were also given time to shop around for any new equipment they wanted, as well as explain any character advancement thanks to the rather substantial karma and nuyen rewards they received at the end of the previous adventure.

As a GM I’m not too terribly concerned with role-playing and nit-picking the downtime stuff. I use some slightly modified house rules for buying equipment that seems to work for us, and everyone pretty much relies on the team’s Face/Adept for his superior Negotiation skills.

The bulk of this first session was actually just the prologue – buying equipment, gathering information, and talking with the quest-giver. In a twist from previous adventures, I offered the runners a chance to visit the venue they’d be guarding.

Benton escorted them through the building which gave me a chance to give detailed descriptions without the added chaos of the upcoming event. It also gave the players a chance to explore the building and plan on how they wanted to handle their protective duties.

For once there was actually no combat in the whole session. The players had a ton of prep time to get the proper equipment, learn about the mission, and even scout the venue they would be pulling guard duty at.

The Bodyguards Scene 1

I’m excited about this mission as it was the initial story idea I had when I first got into Shadowrun role-playing. I’m hoping I didn’t overextend myself too much with events surrounding a full-fledged rock concert, and it should provide a ton of opportunities for multiple exciting events and incidents.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Epilogue & Recap

We break down our second Shadowrun mission, “Road Rage,” in our Epilogue & Recap episode.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 2 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 3 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 4 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 5 Report

For every mission we run in my Shadowrun role-playing group, I like to end with an Epilogue & Recap session. This gives us a chance to go over the events of the mission and pull back the curtain a bit on how I run the adventure. I welcome and encourage any and all feedback and criticism to the adventure itself (written completely by me) as well as how I run everything. It also gives me a chance to talk directly to the players about how they approached certain situations, and perhaps point out alternate paths or answer questions about other methods that were available to them.

It went over really well. We’re all old friends and family so everyone is comfortable talking frankly about what all worked and what didn’t. In general everyone was super positive over the “Road Rage” adventure, enjoying it more than the first mission. We all agreed it was a very combat heavy mission, but all the battles and scenarios were different and varied enough that they all remained fun and unique.

“Road Rage” was composed of five total scenes, using four custom built tactical maps in Roll20. It took us five total 2-3 hour sessions, not including this final recap session, making it much longer than our previous three-session adventure. I wrote it as a direct follow-up to the events of our inaugural adventure, “Not With a Whimper.” The players were contacted by their new fixer and contact, gang leader Jeremiah Redd, to escort an armored truck full of goods to an Ares MegaCorp buyer at the downtown Seattle docks.

The shipment came from Jay-T’s Automotive, the location of the final scene in the previous adventure. Reusing a previously built map was a huge time-saver for me, and I used the opportunity to create an entirely different scenario than the drone infiltration of the the last adventure. The players stumbled upon a hostage situation, and opted to go in guns-blazing, violently but effectively ending the hostilities with the gangers [Read Session 1 Report].

Shadowrun Road Rage Lapis LuzilThey also met their new NPC allies I saddled them with: freelance runner and sword-wielding Adept Lapis Luzil, and ex-ganger professional driver Crank. Crank was a fun callback to the last adventure as a previous minor adversary that the players specifically captured alive (as the driver of the DocWagon Ambulance) and turned over to Redd. I had him flip sides and embrace Redd’s gang. The players gathered the rest of the shipment into the truck, decided on how to split the party and what vehicles to take, and got started on their highway to hell, err Seattle [Read Session 2 Report].

What followed was a series of two unavoidable combat encounters. My initial plan was to offer a branching path depending on how the players handled the first encounter with the troll biker gang. After I started writing and building the tunnel map, however, I decided to simply force the issue so as to give the players another path and different encounter. It did feel a bit ‘railroad-y,’ a problem that crops up when using pre-defined visual aids like Roll20 in for a role-playing game, but ultimately all the players said they were fun and enjoyable encounters.

The highway chase scene with the troll bikers was a lengthy combat encounter, and our first use of vehicles in combat. Since starting Shadowrun I definitely wanted to jump into vehicular usage as it’s not exactly something that comes up during fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. The players took right to it, using a few special chase combat attacks like Cutting Off and Ramming, as well as unleashing spells and guns at the trolls.

My trolls got some good hits in on the truck as well, including setting off a demolitions charge, adding a dire sense of urgency to the situation. Ultimately the players were able to defeat most of the trolls, but more appeared on the horizon, prompting Crank to suggest the tunnels as an alternate route [Read Session 3 Report].

While the highway was a typical action movie set-piece, the tunnels were dripping with horror and the unknown. I used Roll20’s fog of war system to limit the players’ vision, and once they were forced to move an obstacle I unleashed my ghouls upon them. We’d never fought feral, monster-type creatures before (most Shadowrun opponents are fellow metahumans) and I was unsure how many the players could take.

Turns out I had my worst rolls ever that night, as my ghouls continually tied on their attacks (which is basically a miss) while the runners wiped the floor with them. Ghouls have little defense so their danger comes in their numbers and their relatively high attack, which didn’t end up amounting to much. Still my players said they enjoyed the encounter, and the dread of not knowing how many of them were out there.road rage scene 2 highway

The last 20-30 minutes of our fourth session was the highlight of the adventure for me, as our players reached the guarded entrance to the docks and began panicking over how to approach it. Mauta began confessing her previous relationship to the buyer which might cause interesting problems, while Saran simply leapt over the barbed wire fence using the nearby shipping containers I’d placed. It was a fun and zany moment of player drama that as GM I can’t write for, but always hope for [Read Session 4 Report].

The players made it inside using Ursev’s powerful Jedi Mind Trick, err, Control Thoughts spell. The actual exchange and deal went off relatively problem free, with Falkirk the charismatic leader using a point of Edge to extract an impressive additional payout from the buyer (I totally didn’t consider Edge when writing my Net Hits to Money ratio on that Negotiation test).

At the end, right before being paid, the players were suddenly attacked by an unseen mage via a two-pronged attack – casting Mob Control on everyone in the immediate vicinity of the exchange site, and summoning a water spirit to attack everyone else. To make things even more climactic, the water spirit summoned a powerful thunderstorm localized right over the docks.

My players completely panicked and it was glorious. I only ensnared one of them in the mind spell (Falkirk) as Ursev was adamant about staying the truck the whole time, and I definitely wanted to follow the line of sight rules for the spell. Saran had to deal with the surprise attack of the water spirit, while Muata had a good elevated position to discover the spell’s source – a mysterious figure on a boat in the harbor. The players were burning Edge points left and right to both avoid attacks and disable the spell on Falkirk.

shadowrun

I was pretty lenient and merciful with the players at the end, mostly in the interest of time and not to completely screw them over with this unavoidable surprise attack (had they killed the buyer, they wouldn’t get paid). When Mauta took a shot at the boat, I had them immediately drive off, dissipating the spell. I originally planned on having the water spirit stick around as a pseudo final boss fight, but the climactic relief from the players after the mind control wore off motivated me to actually just have the water spirit retreat. The players got thanks from the buyer (they kept both his guard alive, though they were heavily injured), and received their substantial monetary award [Read Session 5 Report].

The players received a bunch of karma and money from the mission, quite a bit more than the first adventure, and everyone gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. The finale was their first real look at the overarching villain of this campaign. The players have had a few opportunities to discover their identity but so far have come up short, leading to more mystery and questions. Will we find out more of the overall plot beginning in next week’s session? Well we dive into some of our runners’ backstories? Will Saran continue to act like a hilarious psychopath? Stay tuned to Sunday evenings for more of our Shadowrun live-streaming adventures!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Session 5 Report

The runners finally make it to the exchange at the docks where they contend with a magical onslaught of thunderstorms and mind control that threatens to tear it all down.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 2 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 3 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 4 Report

I was super excited going into our fifth and final session of this adventure. The last twenty or so minutes from last week’s session gave us a lot of delicious inter-team drama and deliberation – the kind I can’t plan or produce but can only hope evolves naturally (and enjoyably) during the adventure.

Last night’s session picked up just as a tense plan was coming together. Our runners needed to get inside the docks to complete their exchange of the goods they’d worked so hard to escort and protect. I was expecting some fun social tests to crop up; instead Ursev the troll shaman cast his ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ Control Thoughts spell (a malicious but effective form of temporary mind control) and basically forced the guard to wave them through.

Most of them clamored into the truck but Saran the decker and Mauta the weapons specialist both opted to leap across the chain link fence and sneak around the shipping containers. Mauta stuck to the high ground while Saran sneaked around the side. This was our first real use of a giant map and set piece in Roll20, and I was pleased that my players were impressed, and somewhat apprehensive with it. There was a funny bit where Saran wasn’t sure how to sneak around a simple dock worker taking a cigarette break. He was seriously thinking of killing the poor guy just because he was in his way, which the other players immediately balked at.

Things seemed to go pretty smoothly at the actual exchange. Mauta and Saran took up defensive overwatch positions while Falkirk, Ursev, and their NPC buddies Lapis and Crank showed up with the truck and the goods.

I made the buyer, Ares mid-level manager Ricardo Martin, an affable and outgoing guy. Falkirk made the surprisingly but brilliant call to use Edge on the Negotiation roll to try and squeeze more money out of the deal, pushing his total hits to 6 (and net hits over Ricardo’s roll to 3). From my notes that equaled another $6,000 nuyen in reward money per player, on top of the original $2,000 they were getting. Working for mega crops does have its advantages!

srr_concept_docks

Of course I wasn’t about to let things go down that easy. I unleashed my secret weapon – a two-step mage attack from an unseen enemy. The skies darkened and a massive rainstorm erupted on the shipyards. At the same time a large group of people where suddenly mind controlled, and told to ‘Kill The Others.’ Ricardo and his Knight Errant guards pulled weapons and began engaging the runners. Falkirk was the only player in the area that was also mind controlled, and he was forced to attack (though I let the player decide whom he would attack and with what weapon).

Finally I added a Water Spirit into the mix as the storm-summoning culprit. This was an interesting combat scenario as our players didn’t want to actually kill their opponents, but instead attempt to subdue them, knock them unconscious, or disrupt or dispel the spell. Poor Falkirk didn’t have enough Logic and Willpower to be able to resist the spell on his own, but Ursev used all of his turns and Edge points to dispel the enchantment on his friend.

Speaking of natural spell resistance, that’s definitely the one bit of book keeping I totally dropped the ball on. I remembered it for Lapis and Crank but almost not at all for the Ares people until right at the end. Granted they only had 2 dice to roll and needed 4 hits (taking a minimum 2 turns if they rolled fantastically) but still, oops! As a GM there’s often a lot going on, especially in combat, so it’s very helpful when players and/or twitch chat can point out the things I forget.

Road Rage Scene 5 docks

There were two major ways the players could get themselves out of this situation without having to murder or knock out their opponents: block the Line of Sight to the harbor (either physically blocking it or moving the affected people out of the way) or attacking the source of the magical attacks. Mauta had the best vision and position, and a Perception test revealed one of the boats in the harbor and a figure with a magical aura around them, transfixed on the docks using mounted telescope-type device.

Mauta’s first turn was to unsuccessfully shoot at the water spirit. For her second she fired at the boat. In this case I wasn’t even interested in normal attack/defense tests as the boat was protected by a mana barrier. The impact on the barrier was enough to disrupt the spellcaster, and the Mob Mind spell was shattered. I’d originally planned on having the water spirit fight to the death but the mood of the players was of relief and ready for the epilogue at this point (we were also right up against our usual stopping time) so instead I had the creature slink back into the water. The storm subsided, Ricardo was greatful no one was killed (save a single dock worker but pffttt) and everyone went their separate ways. Mission completed!

For their troubles (and their great Negotiation rolls) the players received a total of $10,000 nueyn for the mission, as well as 10 Karma points. They also got Ricardo and Lapis as Contacts they can call upon. Campaign-wise the plot certainly thickened with the attack during the finale with this obviously powerful and magically-gifted assailant. My goal with the overall campaign is to loosely stitch together a bunch of missions with an overarching villain and frequent appearances by familiar NPCs, both good and bad. Basically creating my own comic book style story arc.

I was satisfied with the end result, though hopefully it didn’t feel too rushed or anti-climatic. I was definitely hoping we’d finish the adventure this week and be able to do the full recap and epilogue episode next week, and frankly the adventure was already very combat-heavy without having me draw out this final battle. Look for that recap and feedback session next week as we cap off this second adventure of our Shadowrun campaign!

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Session 4 Report

Our runners fight off a pack of ghouls in some dark tunnels and finally make it to the docks where drama on how to get in ensues.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 2 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 3 Report

Thus far in our sophomore adventure combat has been a major focus. Each scene has revolved around a big encounter as my runners make their perilous journey to the docks in downtown Seattle. I’ve attempted to give each battle a very different feel and situation, from a hostage crisis to a chase scene on a highway to a creepy ghoul infestation in some darkened tunnels.

This session began just as the ghouls began attacking my players after they’d cleared the blockage for their vehicles. I rolled Initiative for both the few ghouls that the players had discovered as well that ones still to come, hidden via the GM layer. I rolled sneak checks for each hidden ghoul and gave the players a chance to spot them. The idea was to give a sense of dread and foreboding as more and more of the creatures approached from the darkness. Unfortunately once combat began I couldn’t roll worth shit!

Road Rage Scene 3 tunnel combat

Seriously, I probably had my worst rolls ever as a GM during this lengthy combat encounter that lasted a good two hours (nearly the entire length of our session). Ghouls were my players’ first real encounter with a feral monster-type enemy. As a GM they’re pretty easy to control even with nearly a dozen of them, simply charging at the nearest foe with their claws. I’ve never seen so many ties in my life. So many Ghouls connected with the runners’ armor only to bounce off. It was becoming an ongoing joke!

The ghouls’ main strengths lie in their surprisingly high attack roll and their numbers, neither of which did much good with my rolling. My runners, meanwhile were able to almost completely slaughter them using teamwork and coordination, especially the Falkirk- Saran pair that was on the South (left) side of the tunnel. The players did have an edge with having their two NPC allies that I controlled, one of whom was completely worthless while the other got two one-hit-kills by herself – wow. Ironic that my best rolls were for the players’ ally.

The one nasty outcome was that Ursev, the troll shaman, was rendered unconscious thanks to continued spellcasting drain and the few hits I was able to get with the pack of ghouls on the North side. Mauta the street samurai was able to use her First Aid (and a point of Edge) to revive him back to consciousness, and I let the players heal a bit of stun damage as they continued their journey out of the tunnels and into the docks.

Road Rage Scene 4 docks entrance

I was pleased to see that the tunnel combat didn’t take up the entirety of the session, though it came close. Combat can be fun in its own way, but as a GM I very much enjoyed the sudden drama that cropped up at the end as my players frantically deliberated on how to approach the heavily guarded entrance to the dockyard.

Mauta chose this opportunity to reveal more of her dangerous past with Ares, whom the players were attempting to sell the shipment to. At the same time Saran the decker impulsively leapt across the shipping containers, over the barbed wire fence and landing on the other side. That one is probably going to be saddled with some kind of ‘loose cannon’ Negative Quality very soon!

We ended it just as a plan was seemingly being put together, even though team leader Falkirk was wholly unaware of it! I absolutely love these unexpected moments of panic, drama, and deliberation – the kind of fantastic questioning and role-playing that can only be born from a live game in the middle of the action. Next week’s session should be very interesting, and should mark the end of our runners’ action-packed escort mission.

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Session 3 Report

Our adventures continue as our players fend off a troll biker gang in a high-speed chase, then flee to some abandoned tunnels and run into even more danger.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report
Read “Road Rage” Session 2 Report

A lot can go wrong with video capturing and live streaming. I suppose I’ve been lucky thus far to run into a minimum of issues. Unfortunately fate reared its ugly head during last night’s session: my streaming program Open Broadcaster Software crashed multiple times and ended up corrupting over half the recorded video. Ironically I was disconnected at one point, which forced a reconnect and seemed to fix my issue, leaving us with at least some video – a good 45 minutes worth in fact. Thus the above video represents the second half of our adventure last night, with the first half (most of the highway battle) lost to to the ether.

But you can always read about it here! Our third session in the “Road Rage” adventure picked up right in the middle of the exciting highway chase combat scene that had unfolded at the end of last week’s session. My players had to fend off half a dozen troll bikers with mounted AK’s and zero interest in talking.

I had our missing player from last week roll Initiative along with the rest, and a forced Pilot Ground Craft test put him right in the thick of the battle on a stolen motorcycle. The combat reached some much more interesting outcomes as one of the troll bikers leapt from his bike onto the armored truck to set a demolition charge, while another succeeded in a Cut-Off chase maneuver, forcing my NPC truck driver, Crank, to make an emergency test. He failed and slammed into a car in front of him, spinning that poor car into the guardrail, doing further damage to the truck and losing speed.

The players continued to take shots at the trolls and were slowly gaining some ground. After all the heavy attacks on the truck, a panicked Crank suggested they need to get off the highway and flee to the abandoned tunnels to escape the gang. At that point the gang was reduced to only two trolls, and as I anticipated the players were reticent to suddenly change course. That’s when more troll gangers appeared on the opposite side of the highway, read to cross over at the next median break and join the fray.

shadowrun troll biker

I definitely wanted to create a tense action-packed atmosphere, and make the situation dangerous and dire enough to warrant the players essentially fleeing the battlefield despite their steady progress. The players themselves had taken hardly any damage but both vehicles had taken a toll, and I emphasized the danger of the damaged truck continuing at these speeds.

The players agreed, and fled to the nearby tunnels using a GM-directed ‘cutscene’. The tunnels were almost the antithesis of the highway – slow and spooky. Light and visibility suddenly became a big factor, and I quickly found that my players grew frustrated with the overbearing Fog of War. Considering I can use the GM layer to hide creatures and objects, it was probably a bit much.

The way forward was blocked by a broken down truck, and it was a fun opportunity for the players to divvy up what they wanted to do – some kept watch, some helped move the truck, and others explored the dark corners of the tunnel. I made sure to constantly ask what everyone was doing, as an attack was imminent.

Road Rage Scene 3 tunnel

The session ended just as a lone ghoul approached from the edge of the tunnel, while another pair of players stumbled upon a pair of them in a dark hole. Going straight from one non-negotiable combat scenario to another may prove a bit too much, but I’m hoping they provide such varying experiences as to remain enjoyable as our players continue their hard-fought journey.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “Road Rage” Session 2 Report

Our second session of “Road Rage” concludes the initial hostage encounter from last week and moves onto the highway as our players defend their cargo from a troll biker gang.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Read “Road Rage” Session 1 Report

We picked up right at the conclusion of our very long first session last week as the encounter with the gang at Jay-T’s had just ended. Two of them lay dead (well one was technically stabilized), with the third surrendering, and the fourth still handcuffed to the truck outside. My players were curious as to why this gang was here, what they were doing, and who they were working for. Unfortunately for them the two people most willing to talk to them lay dead or unconscious, so even with successful social tests they weren’t given much information.

My players spent quite a bit of time talking with their captives (and new NPC allies), asking questions, and deciding what to do with them. This whole first scene ended up lasting much longer than I anticipated but provided a lot of neat opportunities for combat, planning, and social skills. They asked one of their NPC allies what they should do next, and through her I suggested they call their Fixer and give him an update on the situation. They agreed to Jeremiah Redd’s suggestion to leave them tied up to be picked up later and get on with the mission.

Sadly right when we were about to go live with this week’s session, our decker player got called in to help deliver a baby. The curse of being a doctor! For the first time we had to roll with an MIA player. We had his character get a sudden call and have to leave, and I’ll leave it up to him on what that situation was. We’ll also need to write him into the next session, which could prove interesting considering the team ran into a biker gang during their highway escort mission!

i-5 route mapI left it entirely up to the players in how they wanted to situate themselves for the road trip. They had to travel North on I-5 for a little over 10 miles to downtown Seattle – yay for Google Maps! The armored truck would be driven by NPC Crank, whom they had just saved in the hostage situation and was a returning NPC from the first adventure that they had essentially captured and turned over to Redd. Crank had joined up with the Redd Scars and it was a fun opportunity to reward the players for their mercy and leniency by having him join them here – and in fact is probably a big reason that the players actively tried to recruit their new captured foes into Redd’s gang as well!

The armored truck could technically fit all of them, but they decided to utilize the modified pick-up truck they’d taken from the end of the last adventure as a secondary vehicle to help defend the truck should the need arise. Mauta the ex-special forces street samurai offered to drive while Falkirk the elf adept/Face rode with her. Our troll shaman opted to hide in the back of the armored truck amongst the crates, thinking he needed to avoid the port authority guards, while using clairvoyance on top of the truck to keep an eye out.

I gave the players a couple minutes to simply socialize with each other and offer a bit of downtime for the first leg of the journey. It ended up as a chance for Mauta to reveal that she had some connection to the buyer, though she remained mysterious and wouldn’t go into specific details. I definitely like the idea of incorporating my players’ backstories and pre-established contacts into the adventure whenever I can. It was a fun chance for role-playing and I try to give my players moments of levity in between the craziness.

Craziness, of course, will happen. This ain’t no peaceful cyberpunk world. A few minutes into the journey a half dozen members of the troll biker gang The Spikes roared up onto the on-ramp in an attempt to hi-jack the truck. I may have been a bit overeager to jump into a chase combat scenario on only our second ever Shadowrun adventure. As it is I do what I usually do and simplified much of the rules to suit our needs and keep everything fun and flowing.

road rage scene 2 highway

Drivers had to perform a driving test during their first initial pass (or autopilot takes over) but could use that test to perform a chase action such as ramming or cutting-off. The biker gang closed in on the vehicles and the players definitely felt their deckers’ absence, both another available gun and someone that could potentially stop a vehicle electronically.

Falkirk was able to take the closest biker down after two shots with his taser. He was getting crazy high, 5 hit rolls all night! Ironically filling up the stun monitor track via a taser will still probably lead to an opponent’s death when they’re rocketing down a highway on a motorcycle! Mauta and Crank both drove the vehicles and attempted to cut-off nearby bikers. Mauta came close, causing an opponent to swerve and get out of the way but he was able to avoid a crash. Ursev spent a dramatic, John Woo-type moment throwing open the doors of the truck and blasting a ball lightning at two bikers…for all of 2 hits, which both of them were able to dodge. Hey at least it “looked” cool!

We had to call it a night after the first combat turn was up. Combat in any RPG lasts awhile as you keep track of lots of things going on, but I’m glad we at least made it to the end of the turn so we can start with fresh new Initiative rolls for next week. We’re definitely going a lot slower in this adventure than I expected, even with the extra long session we did last week. Most likely Saran the decker will come roaring up at the beginning of this next round, and well see just where this encounter takes our heroes.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central.

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Epilogue & Recap

Our first mission was designed to bring our street-level runners together and throw them into an exciting plot involving gang warfare.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central!

Read the Session 1 Report
Read the Session 2 Report
Read the Session 3 Report

Since Shadowrun is composed of smaller individual runs or missions than your typical Dungeons & Dragons adventure or dungeon crawl, I’ve opted to include a recap session at the end of each mission. This session will serve three purposes: 1) Recap the entire mission, going over how the runners handled the situations and the paths and choices they made, 2) Allow for feedback from my players to better improve my GMing and mission-building skills, and have an official forum for out of character discussion of mechanics, character advancement, buying/selling loot, etc, and 3) Give me another week to write the next adventure!

“Not With a Whimper” was our very first full length Shadowrun adventure, and one that I wrote myself from scratch. It was designed to bring our street-level runners together, embroil them in an exciting plot involving gang warfare, and give them an important NPC ally that can act as a Fixer for future jobs.

It was composed of five scenes: Redd’s Bar, Redd’s Bar after the bomb, the inside of a DocWagon vehicle, return to Redd’s now-destroyed bar, and Jay-T’s Automotive. My players all created their characters separately, mostly unaware of whom each other were playing. They were all in the bar coincidentally looking for work when a bomb went off, destroying half the bar and spurring them into heroic actions of trying to save the people inside.

Shadowrun Now Without a Whimper Scene 4

One of the people they saved was an ork gang leader named Jeremiah Redd, the owner of the bar. He invited the players into the DocWagon ambulance that arrived to give them the job of investigating the bombing (and to offer some free healing after the blast). The players nicely followed suit, and I sprang the trap of the fake DocWagon medics that were attempting to subdue Redd. The players immediately felt protective of him and intervened, defeating the fake medics and nonviolently bringing the vehicle to a stop. [Read Session 1 Report]

Before they could even interrogate the one foe they’d left alive, I’d set up a random encounter with some Halloweeners in the bad neighborhood they happened to stop in. The players managed to negotiate their way out of a fight, trading the vehicle for their lives. Redd then finally offered them the official job of tracking down the culprit to the bombing.

The players returned to the bar (reusing meticulously crafted scenes in Roll20 – woo!) to investigate and look for clues, leading to a fun bit of role-playing and exploration. I set it up as a fairly easy trail to follow, leading to a car bomb in the alleyway. The players traced it to a Jay-T’s Automotive. They arrived to a car garage and auto parts shop in the dead of night. I built it with multiple entrances and security measures, and emphasized a stealthy approach. [Read Session 2 Report]

Shadowrun Not With a Whimper Scene 5

Memorably the players decided to go through the front door, disabling the keypad and alarm only to be spotted by the video camera just inside. The roto-drones activated and I was on fire with the dice, resulting in a tense but brief combat encounter as the players took some pretty big hits. The drones went down but dwarf rigger Jay-T was alerted to their presence and tried to make a run for it, leading to an interesting set up for my boss battle of the adventure.

Jay-T made it to his truck only to spectacularly critical glitch on his mounted grenade launcher, resulting in its complete destruction. Before he could even leave the garage the elf adept busted the passenger side window, and the street sam followed up with a deadly OHKO with her hunting rifle. The players wisely used healing and first aid to stabilize him, but he remained unconscious and thus unable to be interrogated.

Still, enough clues were discovered on his computer to put him as the guilty party behind the bombing. The further implications of why he did and any accomplices he might have had have only been teased and shrouded in mystery. One final twist revealed that Jay-T was actually a member of Redd’s gang, making his involvement all the more distressing. [Read Session 3 Report]

At the end of the adventure our new runners had earned the gratitude and respect of Jeremiah Redd as well as some Karma, Nuyen, and Jay-T’s truck. No doubt Redd will have some future work for the runners as they try to unravel this plot. We had a lot of fun with it and all the feedback was incredibly positive. Looking forward to unveiling their new mission next week!

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Session 3 Report

The thrilling conclusion to our first Shadowrun adventure ends with a showdown in the automotive garage.

Note that since my players will read these I have to avoid spoilers and background information while the current mission is still in session. Look for our epilogue episode and write-up for more in-depth analysis and feedback.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central!

Read the Session 1 Report
Read the Session 2 Report

Last week we had to end our session at a tense moment. The players’ stealthy infiltration into Jay-T’s Automotive repair shop and garage had failed, and they’d managed to dispatch the two roto-drones that attacked them in response, though not without taking some damage.

The immediate combat encounter had ended, though the feeling of adrenaline pumping action when you’ve been found out had dissipated in the week in between sessions. We have relatively shorter sessions for most tabletop roleplaying gatherings at about two and a half hours and the players needed some gentle nudging to get them back on track with the severity and immediacy of the situation (one of them was actually trying to go off and loot the store).

I found it rather humorous that although they’d been caught by the security camera and fought drones, the players continued to act cautiously and stealthily. While the decker was trying to loot the store (something I’d have to remind them to do when they were leaving) I had their target flee to his nearby car in the garage. The elf was looking through the door’s window at the time and caught him. He attempted to sneak out and engage him in conversation, which definitely seems like the standard modus operandi for our sneaky-social elf adept/face.

A successful dice roll got Jay-T to listen briefly, but he was definitely in fight or flight mode, and not yet interested in negotiating or talking. I really enjoyed the banter that my curt responses elicited from the players as they tried to surmise if he was the guilty party in the bombing, and/or if he’d just turned traitor or if he was blackmailed.

Jay-T, in his modified, weapon-mounted Toyota Gopher truck could be considered the boss battle of the adventure. I was worried I might have overwhelmed myself by including a getaway car and all kinds of unique rules for this final moment. I had given myself as much information and statistics as I could regarding the vehicle and its parts, and that definitely came in handy. The players reacted cleverly, knowing they didn’t want the vehicle to leave the garage.

Not With a Whimper Scene 5

Up until this point I’d been rolling fairly spectacularly. The previous drone fight saw the drones dodging attacks and laying on the hurt, and most of the players were forced to use Edge to take them down. Even simple tests like the elf sneaking with 9 dice and me rolling 4 dice on a perception test and beating him were happening more often than not. My luck finally ran out during this boss battle in a rather epic way: Our first ever critical glitch.

Jay-T’s truck was just starting up, and I used his first initiative pass to fire his rear mounted grenade launcher at the doorway, where most of the players were gathered. I needed to get 3 hits to hit the spot, otherwise scatter rules apply. I missed, and one of my players helpfully pointed out that I’d also glitched, rolling 1’s for half my rolls. Miss + Glitch = Critical Glitch! What should’ve been a horrifying attack instead ended with the mounted weapon sputtering, smoking, and crashing down off its mounts into the bed of the truck. Jay-T cursed inside.

With no drone support in the garage the players could all surround the truck and attempt to disable it before Jay-T could escape into the car yard. The troll shaman cast a ball lightning at the truck, though its armor absorbed half the damage. The street sam sprayed the truck and its hefty armor negated all the damage. The decker jacked into the matrix and began putting marks on the vehicle. The adept thought a bit outside the box, and smashed the window of the truck on an impressive 4 success roll versus the glass’ armor and structure rating, breaking the window on the passenger’s side.

This could’ve lead to all kinds of interesting possibilities, but it was the street sam’s turn next, and she decided to take advantage of the now clear path to take a shot at Jay-T himself. I admit that while the players were all deciding on increasingly dangerous and risky ways to capture him alive, I did mention that just attacking him and doing damage could put him down without killing him. Probably.

The street samurai picked up on this, shouldered her high-powered hunting rifle, and shot Jay-T right through the car window. I allowed him a defense test but with a negative modifier, as he was a sitting duck inside the not-yet moving vehicle. He took the full brunt of the attack, and with a 12DV and -4AP, it ended up doing 10 damage after resistance, putting him at 0 physical health. His head slammed against the steering wheel, horn blaring. The fight was over after a single combat turn.

We took a break and came back to the players investigating Jay-T’s office and computer while also using First Aid and Healing spells to stabilize him. I didn’t let them actually revive him (Shadowrun has pretty strict healing rules) but they could at least save his life for the time being, but unable to question him. I did have contingencies for a dead (or might as well be dead) or escaped Jay-T in his computer. The decker was able to hack into his emails and messaging and I teased some information on who he might’ve been involved with.  Without being able to talk to Jay-T directly, however their ultimate resolution would be limited.

Jeremiah ReddThey called up Redd and met at a safe spot to hand over Jay-T’s bloody body. Redd was concerned but satisfied that he was left alive, and the players had been nothing but straightforward and helpful to him throughout the adventure, earning his trust (Loyalty +1 as a contact) as well as their promised payment for investigating the bombing. I also doled out the karma rewards which I’d broken down into steps for completing various tasks, like aiding bombing victims and tracing the car bomb back to Jay-T’s Automotive.

Thus our very first Shadowrun mission concluded! “Not With a Whimper” was something I put together myself, wanting to involve street gangs and get the players involved with a reliable ally and fixer (quest giver) for future missions. I was very satisfied with how the players generally stuck to my script, and pleasantly surprised at some of the crazier tactics they used to handle the various situations.

Stay tuned next week for our full Epilogue and Recap breakdown episode where I recount the entire run as my players give their feedback, comments, and concerns. I will lift the veil somewhat in the hopes of improving the experience and learning what worked and what didn’t. After that we’ll move onto our next adventure!

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Session 2 Report

Our first Shadowrun 5E role-playing adventure continues with tense negotiations and a bombing investigation.

Note that since my players will read these I have to avoid spoilers and background information while the current mission is still in session. Look for our epilogue episode and write-up for more in-depth analysis and feedback.

Watch our sessions live on twitch.tv/gorbash722 every Sunday night beginning at 9:30pm Central!

Read the Session 1 Report

Our sophomore session for our very first Shadowrun adventure picked up during the briefest of down times. My players were attempting to question their new captive and get the DocWagon vehicle started when they were accosted by a roving band of Halloweeners. This was set up as a semi-randomized battle with three main outcomes – 1) the players fight off the gangers, 2) the players talk them down or negotiate or, 3) the players drive away.

Given the aggressive tendencies of my players I predicted we would go with outcome 1, but when the players decided to try and drive away (which would’ve been a very difficult Pilot Ground Craft test), I had the lead ganger grow impatient with his knocking, ripping the rear doors off the vehicle and having everyone roll for initiative (I rolled an astonishing 8 success for his test to open the doors).

The elf adept, who also acts as the group’s face with superior social skills, acted first thanks to his crazy high initiative score, and he immediately decided to bargain with the lead ganger. This actually segued us into outcome 2, and the elf quickly negotiated for their release. The Halloweeners wanted the fancy vehicle, so after a successful negotiation test, I allowed them to trade the vehicle for their lives. To my surprise the players accepted, gingerly stepping out of the vehicle and practically waving goodbye as they strode down the path with their NPC captive, avoiding an entire battle.

Shadowrun Now Without a Whimper Scene 3

Without their vehicle and stranded in a bad neighborhood my contingency plan kicked in, and I had an NPC we previously met in the bar roll up in an armored truck to help out her boss. Jeremiah Redd was still being protected by the runners through this grand mess and he finally got a chance to give the actual mission to this new rag-tag team: investigate the now destroyed bar and figure out who was behind the bombing.

The investigation allowed me to reuse the previous scene pf the half-destroyed bar, which was wonderfully helpful to cut down on building and crafting in Roll20. Also I spent a lot of time building that scene and was damn proud of it!

I layered in a bunch of clues that the players could’ve found throughout the bar and tried to leave this section much more open. They approached cautiously, which I had warned them about, though I had no intention of including any combat in this scene. Up till now the entire adventure had been a series of crazy events and I wanted to give them some down time and use investigation skills and inference rather than social and combat skills. They also got a fun chance to actually talk to each other and formally meet each other’s characters.

A combination of Perception, Demolitions, and Hacking skills lead to the rear alleyway, a barely functioning security camera, and a blown out car registered to a Jay-T’s Automotive. The players did the right thing in calling up Redd once they collected some evidence, though I had Sue-Z pick up the comm and had a fun bit of mysterious role-playing.

Shadowrun Now Without a Whimper Scene 4

At this point the players made it a bit farther than I expected them to this session, mainly as they had avoided a potentially lengthy combat sequence earlier! They made it to Jay-T’s, a set that had numerous entrances with an emphasis on a stealthy approach.

Disappointingly, the runners immediately went for the front door and disabled the lock and alarm using a combination of Locksmith and Hacking. The elf adept stealthed his way inside with 2 hits on 9 dice, but I rolled a killer 3 hits on only 4 dice on the nearby video camera on the opposed Perception check. Feeling bad I gave the player a chance to do one action before the camera swiveled over and spotted him. He dove into the room behind a shelf but rolled only 1 success, and the camera spotted him, tripping the alarm and activating a pair of roto drones.

Combat in Shadowrun has a lot of annoying complexities. Tons of environmental and range modifiers come into play, as well as melee attacks, cyberdeck hacking, spells, etc. It’s overwhelming and we’re all definitely still learning, so any combat sequence takes us quite awhile. I’m sure we played things wrong (indeed some times realizing on the next round) but the Roll20 character sheets help kept the pace flowing for the most part.

The drones were all offense and no defense and that was definitely reflected in the brutal and fast combat sequence. One drone did some significant stun damage to both the elf and the troll while the other was dispatched in an Edge-boosted roll from the Street Samurai’s rifle. In a funny moment the elf had his revenge by killing the other done with his knife.

I was very thankful that I wrote down a bunch of notes as drone stats are slightly different than metahuman foes. I was able to use a character sheet for the roto-drones with all the appropriate programs and stats which helped immensely. Even then I was scrambling to figure out what their defense was versus the decker’s hacking attempts.

Although the runners were in the middle of a hostile environment, one that was now aware of their presence, we had to take a break there as we’d gone past our normal cut-off time of midnight. We had to look up a lot more rules in this session, particularly pertaining to combat modifiers and Matrix hacking. I need to get more familiar with how deckers operate and also which rules we actually want to use as I’m pretty sure we weren’t playing the decker correctly in terms of hacking into the Matrix and using the VR Initiative.

The adventure should wrap up next week, and depending on time we may just do the epilogue and recap portion as part of that session.