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.

Shadowrun 5E “Not With a Whimper” Session 1 Report

For our first Shadowrun role-playing session I throw our street-level runners in the middle of some good old-fashioned gang warfare, cyberpunk style.

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!

Last month I teased a return to online, live streaming tabletop role-playing, and last night marked our first official session in the wonderful world of Shadowrun. It was also the first time I GM’d a session outside of the Quick Start beginner mission.

Although a bit overwhelming, I decided to write our first mission from scratch. I have a bunch of well-written and interesting missions to pick from various source books and I plan on eventually using them either mostly verbatim or heavily borrowing their themes in the future. For our first mission, however, I wanted something that would introduce our new players into the world of Shadowrun, provide an action-packed introduction, and throw our street-level runners in the middle of some good old-fashioned gang warfare.

So our runners all coincidentally found each other at a bar, and then I had a bomb go off.

The resulting chaos and destruction provided many opportunities for role-playing, and I was pleased to see that everyone snapped into hero mode and tried to help the injured NPCs. I didn’t put too much prep time into this initial scenario, allowing the players to guide the action, and I came up with random injuries and deaths for NPCs on the fly.

Redd's Bar

Most importantly the players rescued Jeremiah Redd, the owner of the bar, and followed him into the awaiting DocWagon vehicle to receive treatment and hear his job offer. I had a contingency plan in case they didn’t want to enter but thankfully we could go with my initial plans. This lead to an interesting close-range fight inside the moving all-terrain ambulance as our DocWagon medics turned out to be hostile.

The feaux medics were horribly outnumbered (only three total, and one was driving the whole time) so I figured it would be a fairly quick outcome. Combat lasted longer than I expected, and when the shotgun wielder emerged from the cockpit and nearly killed the runners’ beefy troll shaman in a single blast, I was growing worried. Thankfully the player used an Edge point to re-roll the fails, and managed to cut the damage in half. The rest of the team sprang into action raining down bullets and leaping with knives, while the decker smartly attempted to wrest control of the vehicle.

The uniquely crammed quarters proved interesting but sadly I hadn’t built a proper map or grid, instead using a stock photo of the vehicle. I certainly didn’t expect combat to be as long or involved as it ended up being, and we were just moving tokens around a picture. I did have a pretty good grasp of how the inside looked, and could describe the area and situation after each initiative pass.

Doc Wagon Vehicle

Surprisingly the players were not nearly as violent as I expected, attempting to reason with their foes and trying to get them to surrender. I didn’t expect that, and the enemies were having none of it, fighting to the bloody end (which they quickly received). The driver finally surrendered after a successful Charisma check and looked behind him to see the runners standing over his fallen comrades. The decker brought the vehicle to a stop after it had nearly careened out of control (I was very close to crashing the players – they nearly gave control back to the driver to make him pull over and stop the car – ha!)

We ended our session right as the vehicle came to a stop at an unknown location, with one of the foes still alive. It’ll be interesting to see what information they can pry from their captive, and see what Redd has to say about all this. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far and the players have barely had a chance to even talk to each other yet (they made their characters separately), which was part of the plan. I anticipate that this run will take another two sessions based on how far they got, and so far seemed like everyone has really enjoyed it. Kudos to Roll20 for being such an easy to use system, and the amazingly convenient built-in character sheets that handle tons of macros and details so we can focus on the fun.

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