Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Epilogue & Recap

Our very last recap episode of our final Shadowrun adventure, “Splintered State.”

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

And so we come to the end – not only of our latest Shadowrun mission, but also our campaign, and Shadowrun Fifth Edition. The official published adventure “Splintered State” acted as our grand finale, after some modifications. From here we’ll be moving on to Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition for a change of pace.

This was probably one of our more interesting recap episodes, since this was the first pre-published adventure for Shadowrun I’d ever used. Our previous three adventures were all originally written and crafted by me, for better or worse, and I wanted to try using an official adventure at least once.

Some time during our previous adventure I decided that I’d had enough with Shadowrun’s obtuse rules and complex systems, and wanted to draw our campaign to a close. Though “Splinterd State” would only be our fourth mission, we’d have been running our campaign for six months. Given my players’ recent run-in with Knight Errant law enforcement in the form of a refused quest-giver, I decided that “Splintered State’s” introduction via arresting all the players would work perfectly.

I tweaked a bit of plot and switched out several NPCs to make them work for our campaign. My players got a kick out of seeing these returning NPCs. The various characters I created along the way were defeinitely the highlight of the campaign – from Jeremiah Redd the cockney-accent ork gang leader to a rival street-runner gang that had escaped them before, I had a lot of fun bringing in old friends and foes back into the mix [Session 1].

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Unfortunately the plot of the adventure is needlessly steeped in backstory and information, when it simply comes down to having a McGuffin that other factions want, and will kill for. I’ve learned that my players are not fans of not knowing what to do next, but I feel this adventure did a good job presenting the options clearly and laying out their next steps, such as Dietrich calling them directly to buy the commlink at the zoo [Session 2].

The zoo (Session 3) went over really well. I was impressed how the PCs handled scouting it out, smuggling in guns and generally being very prepared. Too bad they got ambushed anyway! It felt very ‘Gotcha!’ since there was nothing they could have done when the elite Chimera assassins showed up. Thankfully the assassins leave quickly before murdering the players, but it was a nicely tense situation. Dietrich suffering from multiple personalities was also a fun roleplaying opportunity for my players to deal with.

For some reason every adventure has one player that takes the majority of the damage. Previously it’s usually Ursev but this time Falkirk took heavy amounts of stun damage, and actually dropped unconscious during the final battle back at the safehouse – from an ally NPC’s errant grenade [Session 4]!

Before the final battle the PCs had the choice of who to sell the commlink to – opting to only even talk to the ‘good’ choice, the underground resistance trying to undermine the evil racist Governor Brackhaven. The published adventure has lots of different options and outcomes available, which meant as a GM I had to build a TON of NPCs and we ended up using less than half of them. Wouldn’t have been so bad if I could’ve used them in future missions but as I mentioned above – this was our final Shadowrun adventure.

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Everyone was generally very positive and pleased with this adventure. They loved seeing old NPCs crop up and have meaningful roles, and they enjoyed having a clear objective halfway through (meet Dietrich at the zoo) but different options on how to approach it. They weren’t terribly keen on using their contacts during the initial commlink investigations. We hadn’t used the contact system very well in previous adventures, and it’s another obtuse and somewhat strange system in Shadowrun.

I love Shadowrun’s setting. When we first started talking about doing online role-playing again early this year, I immediately jumped at the chance to do Shadowrun. The sci-fi cyberpunk setting with fantasy races and magic is just so damn fun and interesting. Too bad the rules are kind of awful! After six months I don’t have much of a better handle on many of the systems, and we purposefully cut out many of the more complicated things like recoil and most matrix stuff. The fifth edition rulebook is also a bloody mess that’s terribly organized.

After six months I’m ready to move on to a different rule system and setting. I miss monsters, I miss loot, I miss dungeons. I think my players will really excel at the D&D gameplay and story flow more-so than Shadowrun’s. I’m really glad we tried Shadowrun and I’ve learned a lot as a GM, and look forward to continuing our online role-playing adventures with a fresh ruleset and setting. I’ll definitely keep the Shadowrun mantra of Shooting Straight, Conserving Ammo, and Never Dealing with a Dragon.

Shadowrun anniversary cover

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

Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 4 Report

The runners try to sell the valuable commlinks and end up in the middle of a firefight.

shadowrun

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

Things wrapped up rather swiftly in our final session of “Splintered State.” The end of the published adventure is quite open-ended and very reactionary depending on whom the players decide to sell the commlinks to. I opted to eliminate the optional final run and instead use the meet as a staging ground for our climactic finale.

The commlink the players find early in the mission is mainly an excuse to suddenly make the runners big targets for many large organizations. They’re hunted and attacked through several scenes before everyone decides to play ball and offer them money.

Shadowrun splintered stateThere’s a bit of story going on but none of it really matters to the immediate plot. It was a bit unfortunate to be introducing this whole other plot involving FBI Agent Dietrich and Governor Brackhaven on top of our finale. To make it work I retconned Gregory Zane, one of the parties interested in the commlink and a shadowrunner working for Brackhaven, the main villain of our campaign.

The players had an opportunity to actually sell the commlink to Zane, as well as Ares or Mitsuhama for a sweet chunk of change. They chose to take the nobler path and sell to Eliza Bloom and Project Freedom, who vowed to take down Governor Brackhaven’s racist and terrorist activities. In hindsight I should’ve made Jeremiah Redd (their friendly fixer they rescued in “Not with a Whimper“) a member of Project Freedom. It would’ve fit perfectly since he was an ork and one of my players questioned him about it. I backpedaled not knowing if that would create some weird plot holes at the time, but it would’ve fit rather nicely and at least tied a few things together.

Instead my players were still left wondering why Zane went to all this trouble to hound them throughout the campaign, and attack them at the end. The players were in the midst of selling the commlink to some Knight Errant forces (whom they had actually battled previously in the adventure) when Zane showed up with a bunch of his own team to kill everyone and take the commlinks.

The final battle was filled with a dozen NPCs, but I quickly killed off many of them off screen to create a sense of chaos and deadly force. Zane’s team murdered most of the Knight Errant forces, then Mauta triggered some C4 she’d strategically laid around the windows and exits of their safehouse, killing some of Zane’s runners. The players had Detective Tosh Athack on their side, but hilariously my first roll with him caused an errant grenade to go off right in his face, knocking adept Falkirk unconscious.

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The runners were actually pretty well fortified in the safehouse, and handled the battle fairly easily. Mauta’s sniper rifle is a one-woman wrecking crew, and nearly one-hit killed both Zane and his partner mage (the woman on the boat that mind controlled everyone at the end of “Road Rage“). Tosh took some heavy hits but revived Falkirk enough to get him up and stabbin’. Soon Zane had to retreat pitifully along with the mage and a single runner providing covering fire.

The players had successfully fought them off, and completed the transaction. Altogether they received 180,00 nuyen for their trouble, a huge increase compared to previous adventures, as well as a bunch of Karma points and some new contacts like Tosh. While the villain and overarching plot came up a bit flat, I think overall “Splintered State” did a fine job highlighting my players’ strengths of tactics, combat, and socializing with fun NPCs. Look for our full “Splintered State” recap episode next week!

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

Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 3 Report

All hell breaks loose when the runners meet-up with an important contact at the zoo.

shadowrun

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

Working off an official published adventure has been an interesting experience. It’s incredibly handy in a lot of ways, with lots of pre-made stat blocks for all the NPCs, hefty amounts of colorful descriptions, and even suggestions for how to tweak the challenge level of various encounters. Even then I can’t help but modify and change things to suit my needs. I can’t get into spoiler-y stuff just yet, but the recap episode should be especially fascinating.

In last night’s session the players had a clear objective in front of them – meet FBI Agent Seth Dietrich at the zoo. He offered to buy back his commlink for a cool 100,000 nuyen. While the pay was certainly nice, my players were much more interested in getting some answers to this confusing mystery.

Having a clear focus of where to go and what to do greatly motivates my players into tackling the objective in some fun ways. In this case they wanted to scope out the zoo location the day before the meet, and check to see if they’d be able to smuggle weapons in. I may have made them a tad paranoid – not only is the world of Shadowrun generally violent, but this adventure has been especially action-packed as the players have been attacked left and right.

In fact on their way to the zoo they noticed a car following them, and opted to pull over and ready their weapons. It proved to be a solid move as they made short work of the crazy cyborg Night Hunters that poured out of the car to attack them. A combination of Ursev’s ball lightning centered on the car and a barrage of bullets put most of the them down. I did the rest by rolling a 0 on a leaping charge attack from a very wounded attacker. I had him sail past his target and splatter on the sidewalk. Hey, as long as it’s fun I don’t mind failing miserably with my NPCs, and I’ll always play it up.

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At the zoo it was fun describing the various para-animals that inhabited the enclosures. Falkirk did a great job scouting out the areas and finding a hiding spot for their weapons that they tossed over the wall.

They next day they waltzed in through the entrance. Well, all but Saran the decker who really wanted to hack into the extensive security in order to bring his gun inside. He had failed at this task the previous day, also for no reason other than wanting to walk in with all his gear. His team mates balked at this and finally talked him down, where he went back to the car. I don’t think the decker role suits the player very well, but that’s also on me as someone who’s still not totally on board with how decking (or rigging) work in the obtuse Shadowrun rules.

Inside, the other three retrieved their weapons and met Dietrich in the reptile tunnel, next to the basilisk exhibit. Unfortunately while Dietrich’s body was there, his mind was not. It was currently occupied by someone named Jake Armitage (whom you may recognize from the old 16-bit Shadowrun game or the recent Shadowrun Returns).

Armitage was just as confused as the players as to his situation, alluding to the title of the adventure as well as the confusion surrounding the missing commlink. Like any good mystery it led to more questions than answers – especially when an unseen sniper tore a hole through Armitage/Dietrich’s throat at the height of their confusion.

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All hell broke loose in the zoo – what you thought this was going to be easy? A pair of highly skilled assassins opened fire on both sides of the players as the basilisks burst through the glass. Falkirk and Ursev were sitting ducks, but Mauta actually got the jump on one of the assassins by being nonchalant at one end of the tunnel.

There were only two assassins but they were both more powerful than any of the PCs (skill and armor wise, at least). The players were also slightly under-equipped since they couldn’t smuggle in Ursev’s battle axe or Mauta’s sniper rifle. Thankfully for them the assassins didn’t want to stick around with UCAS Military Police converging on the location. They left the runners after a single round (though not before doing some significant damage) to deal with the basilisks.

My players have proven heroic in the past so I played up the screaming and crying of the crowd during the chaos, and had one basilisk attack a group of huddled school children in a corner. My players responded immediately with charging melee attacks and Mauta’s deadly shots, making fairly short work of the overgrown lizards – though not without a briefly enjoyable scare as one of them partially petrified Falkirk.

Saran was able to watch the video feeds and then shut down one of the assassins’ cyberware and weapons, further hastening their retreat. Unfortunately he really didn’t have anything to do for the round or two where only the basilisks remained – a bad design on my part. It speaks to our ineptitude at thinking of things a decker/hacker can do, most of which isn’t written in the adventure.

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The players were able to blend in with the chaotic, surging crowd leaving the zoo, and escaped with relative ease. Mauta managed to grab the pouch of credsticks and a 2nd commlink that Dietrich had on him – something I specifically mentioned to the players during the conversation and hoped they’d remembered about. Maybe they’ll find some answers in this commlink.

They also have several pending messages from some contacts and unknown parties, no doubt pertaining to this hot potato of a commlink they have in their possession that everyone wants to get their hands on. This was one of our more enjoyable sessions with lots of laughter, jokes, and fun heroic moments in combat. Tune in next week!

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

Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 1 Report

We tackle our first officially published Shadowrun adventure for our campaign finale.

shadowrun

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

Note: For some reason OBS only recorded audio and no video. Argh.

Our final Shadowrun mission begins! For the first time in my Game Master Shadowrun career, I’m using a pre-written adventure. Published by Catalyst Game Studios, the creators of Shadowrun Fifth Edition, “Splintered State” is a story about a mysterious commlink that gets the runners into a lot of trouble. It’s designed as a springboard for new runners, but I’m using it as a finale for our street-level campaign with a bit of tweaking and modifying. Continue reading “Shadowrun 5E “Splintered State” Session 1 Report”

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Epilogue & Recap

I recap our third Shadowrun adventure, “The Bodyguards,” from rock concert chaos to stealth infiltration at a mansion.

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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
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 4 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 5 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 6 Report

When my friends and I first became interested in rekindling our online role-playing sessions from last year, I immediately suggested Shadowrun. The decidedly 80stastic cyberpunk-meets-fantasy world is just incredibly cool, and I was really digging the tactical RPGs being released from Harebrained Schemes.

Instead of diving into some pre-generated adventures to help us get started and familiarized with the world, I opted to jump write in with writing our own missions. My initial idea was the players working security at a magical rock concert, and having to prevent a chaotic kidnapping. I thought it might’ve been a bit too much to pull of originally, so I shelved it until our third mission.

“The Bodyguards” ended up lasting us six total sessions, with two shorter 1 hr weeks and one final, very lengthy 3.5 hour session. It consisted of four tactical maps in Roll20, three of which were quite large. I was incredibly excited to grow this adventure seed into a full-blown mission, though it ultimately ended up with mixed results.

BentonI encourage my players to create at least a bare-bones backstory for their characters, and I enjoy incorporating elements from their past into current adventures. In our previous mission, for example, Mauta nearly ran in to an old co-worker and boss she worked for at Ares before she went off the grid, which could’ve led to some interesting role-playing opportunities or combat (Mauta decided to avoid him entirely).

This time around I used an estranged brother of Ursev, our benevolent troll shaman as the quest-giver. This gave some personal motivation for one of our players and opened up some more meaningful dialogue.

The brother, Benton, offered the players the job as temp security guards for a One Night Only show for indie rock singer Lana Grace. He needed to double security, but wouldn’t divulge why. The players accepted the legitimate job and were given a chance to buy supplies as well as scout the gigantic converted warehouse location I’d built in Roll20 [Session 1 Report].

The night of the concert proved to be one of the single most enjoyable sessions I’ve had doing these online role-playing sessions. I had the major event planned with a strike team of kidnappers attacking and trying to abduct the singer. But first I wanted to explore the random events and situations that can crop up at a concert that the players would have to deal with.

There was very little actual combat, other than a surprise vampire that had a backstage pass. Players had to screen the backstage passers, confront a ticket scalper, deal with a drug dealer, help an unconscious fan and deal with the inevitable streaker on stage. It was a ton of fun, from Ursev crushing both tickets and drugs in his hands and scaring people off to Mauta spotting all the trouble from up in the catwalks. It still came down to me doing things and players reacting to them, but everyone enjoyed the structure and format [Session 2 Report].

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Finally Lana Grace took the stage, and I played my hand. The singer had some magical talents which helped distract everyone. Further complications arose when one of the magically-gifted attackers cast an illusion, causing a dragon to appear on stage and attack everyone. My players annoyingly resisted most of the illusions, and were able to handily defeat the kidnappers [Session 3 Report].

Shadowrun doesn’t operate with traditional levels, so when crafting my own adventures from scratch I find it difficult to balance encounters. I’d rather err on the side of easy to make things go faster and make the players feel more heroic, but by now my players have pretty much cleaved through everything I’ve thrown at them. During our epilogue session, I revealed that the story could’ve branched depending on if Lana had been captured or not, and the players admitted that losing that fight and having to rescue Lana would’ve been the far more compelling outcome.

This was not the end of the adventure – I had a whole follow-up planned. The kidnappers were sent by Lana Grace’s parents, who were involved with the Yakuza and wanted her returned. She just wanted to be free of them, and hired the runners to infiltrate their mansion and steal some blackmail-able evidence. This was our first real chance for a big stealth mission, and I was inspired by games like Deus Ex and Dishonored in creating a giant area filled with guards and opportunities. Unfortunately it kinda fell apart at the end.

First my players had to get inside, and I was quite impressed with their plan to mind control (a way too easy and borderline broken spell) one of the more agreeable kidnappers, using him to set up a return trip to the mansion. Falkirk dressed up as one of the strike team assassins while Mauta pretended to be the captured and unconscious Lana. This lead to an interesting splitting up of the party when they got through the gates. Saren stayed in the guardhouse downloading the floor plans, Mauta was taken to an upstairs bedroom, while the rest were able to just drive into the garage – after a little nudging from myself.

I also used this opportunity to introduce a new player – a law enforcement officer that was staked outside the villa. Referring to herself as Ms. Johnson, she offered to pay the runners if they brought the evidence to her – giving my players a dilemma they would face later on [Session 4 Report].

Inside the split-party situation proved tense and fun at first as everyone scrambled to poke around. Unfortunately they didn’t really have a game plan, nor even really worked together other than stumbling around the house spotting guards [Session 5 Report].

We discussed the issues at length during this Epilogue & Recap episode. A major problem is our reliance on Roll20 – I build everything on the tactical grid, so my players naturally just respond to whatever they see. Instead of asking me more questions or trying to think outside the box, for example, they see the main set of stairs and focus on that. After becoming frustrated with their options, they decided to sneak attack the guard in the foyer. It did not go well, and we rolled for initiative.

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I honestly wasn’t sure my players would be able to survive a full-on assault, and that’s quickly what this turned into as more guards responded to the alarm. The guards were quite strong for random minion NPCs, rolling 10 dice on their assault rifles and 8 for defense. I also had a souped-up augmented boss that leapt down from the 2nd story and nearly killed Ursev with two blows. Two edge points later and my boss lie dead instead – another Shadowrun system that feels super cheap to me.

At least this time the players wouldn’t get through unscathed. Both Mauta and Falkirk took heavy amounts of damage, and Ursev definitely would’ve died had he not used an Edge point. Saren did have a funny and tense moment as she was outside the mansion by a car, only to be attacked by a patrolling guard dog. She tried to hack the car but the powerful, custom-engineered dog broke through the windows, and she had her hands full.

After a very long but tense combat sequence the players turned the foyer of the mansion into a bloodbath. They went upstairs and confronted the parents, and their exhaustion and bloodied appearance led them to get exactly what they came for. They decided to blow of Ms. Johnson and head straight for Lana – but not before some delicious deliberating that I enjoyed hearing. These actions could definitely have consequences for them in the next adventure [Session 6 Report].

We definitely learned that the team prefers shock and awe tactics to stealth, though they also enjoyed the larger focus on fun role-playing moments versus heavy combat. In fact the whole mission was extremely light on combat having only two real encounters, though the last one was a doozy.

I thought “The Bodyguards” went pretty well but I also hit peak reliance on Roll20’s visual aides by using these giant custom-built maps. Ultimately I think it was detrimental as we relied on them far too much. Basically I’ve turned tabletop role-playing into a tactical wargame, and that’s not at all what I was going for. Future maps will be used sparingly. I’m also going to be using a pre-generated mission for our next adventure, “Splintered State.” That will be our final Shadowrun mission for the time being, as we plan on trying out a new RPG system in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition – Coming Soon!

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

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 5 Report

The runners split up to stealthily infiltrate a Yakuza-infested two-story mansion.

shadowrun

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
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 4 Report

Building elaborate maps within Roll20 isn’t necessarily my forte, and I constantly worried this last week if I’d bitten off more than I could chew. The concert hall was a very large area full of multiple events transpiring, but that was only the first part of the adventure. After my players got their second mission to steal some blackmail evidence from a mansion, I had to actually build the two-story mansion.

Thankfully I found a pretty great resource at eplans.com, where I could download a lovely palatial floor plan to use as the basis for my map. After that it was a matter of filling in the various rooms using Roll20’s art, as well as creating a large circular driveway outside.

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Since the players were tasked with a stealthy infiltration, it was difficult to know how they’d approach the map, and I needed to have all two stories filled out and ready to go by the time we started our session Sunday evening.

I enjoyed the players’ plan to get inside – disguising as the sole surviving member of the kidnappers, and pretending another to be the captured singer. The party split up in some really interesting ways. Saran stayed back at the gated community entrance to get inside the guard house and download information. The rest of the crew met up with a Yakuza crime boss outside the house who took Mauta – whom they thought was the unconscious singer, inside to an upstairs bedroom.

I was playing hardball as the crime boss but surprisingly my players weren’t really rising to the social bait, instead opting to play it safe and willing to turn around and try another method. I softened up by letting their captured and mind-controlled NPC ally speak up with a suggestion to get them into the garage (we need gas!). Thus Falkirk and Ursev began in the downstairs garage.

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This lead to a somewhat stressful and haphazard ordeal as everyone wanted to do things at once, and I had to switch between three different scenes in Roll20. Saran knocked out the guard and got the floor plan info (which I quickly created handouts for, but only he had access to), Mauta escaped the bedroom and began snooping around the upstairs balcony. Ursev used Clairvoyance to look into the surrounding rooms, while Falkirk acted uncharacteristically bold and began searching room to room.

Thus far nobody has met up with a guard yet and been found out, and their reconnaissance has been pretty effective. That said they’re also kind of terrible at formulating a plan and working together. The team’s dysfunction has become a bit of a running joke, and I’m becoming more inclined that maybe I do need to railroad them through the missions as I’d done before. Giving them a large map and letting them explore has proved interesting but it’s clear they are used to reacting to events I put in place, rather than being proactive at the task at hand.

Next week we should be able to return to a full length session. This mission is taking far longer than I anticipated thanks to two weeks of half-length sessions, but if anything it’s given me more time to prepare and that’s never a bad thing. I anticipate my players should be able to complete the adventure next week, unless things go absolutely upside down and they have to fight their way out of the complex. Which could always happen….

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

Shadowrun 5E “The Bodyguards” Session 4 Report

The runners concoct an elaborate plan to infiltrate the mansion of some Yakuza leaders.

shadowrun

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
Read “The Bodyguards” Session 3 Report

Due to an annoying bout of illness we had to have a shorter session than usual. Tabletop role-playing can be a lot of fun but can also be quite time-consuming. When we originally started with Pathfinder we had lengthy four hour sessions every week that went late into the night. Since I took over as GM with Shadowrun, we do 2-3 hour sessions, and while we still get a lot done, combat can slow things down considerably. As can only going for an hour because I was running a fever.

Of course the advantage for having a shorter session is it allows me more prep time. This adventure particularly requires three very large, carefully sculpted scenes in Roll20. Unlike the previous mission where I shepherded the players along a series of small scenes, I’ve given them much more freedom on how to approach these areas.

In last night’s session it was fun for me to mostly sit back and watch my players formulate the best plan for infiltrating a mansion. They’d received a new mission after preventing singer Lana Grace’s capture at the concert performance – a snatch and grab of blackmail-able evidence from her parents’ villa. My players had discussed things a bit toward the end of last week’s session, so I knew they wanted to try and use their newly captured foes to their advantage. I thought of just straight up denying them that path with a myriad of ways, but wanted to see where it would lead.

As one player pointed out, it did unfortunately lead me to do some of the work for them. After their troll shaman cast Control Thoughts on the one captive that was willing to work for them, I set up the plan going forward. I did get some instruction from the players on how to handle things, so it ended up being a fun bit of collaboration.

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The plan was to have their team’s face dress up in the full body uniform of the would-be kidnappers, while another teammate pretended to be the unconscious Lana Grace. The others would hide in the back of the van. I was impressed with the plan so I generally let it go without a hitch.

Well there was one little hitch. I introduced a third party that also wanted their hands on some hard evidence of the Yamotos’ Yakuza involvement. The players readily accepted the aid of a “Ms. Johnson” and agreed to help bring her back the information she needed. It’ll be interesting to see whom the players ultimately end up helping, as well as how they handle a stealthy infiltration.

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

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.