Friday, August 21, 2015

What Should a Shadowrun Game Look Like?

I have been playing Shadowrun Returns recently and I have been enjoying it. I have to admit to not being a huge fan of the Shadowrun tabletop game, it has way too much continuity built up, and I have never felt that the rules really had all that much to do with the theme of the game. This was fairly common when Shadowrun came out, and the Shadowrun rules are much better than many of the other games of the time, they just didn't make it feel like a shadowrun.

While I was playing Shadowrun Returns today, I started wondering what a Shadowrun game should be like. Pretty much every Shadowrun game I have ever played in or run has had these parts: Information Gathering; Planning; Execution; and Everything Goes Wrong. In my experience, Planning takes up most of the night, and Everything Goes Wrong is where all the excitement is. The problem with the Planning phase is that many players hate it and want to get to the action, but for a few players it is their favorite part of the whole game. Shadowrun, and cyberpunk games in general, are actually shot through with similar problems. For most games in the genre this stems from how netrunning is handled, but Shadowrun also has astral plane stuff that is basically another form of netrunning. One person is doing their "cool thing" and everyone else is sitting around. While some progress has been made with the netrunning problem over the years, the Planning phase problem still exists.

One way to handle it would be to have a very regimented game where you progress through all the phases but limit the actions the party could take in each phase to keep things moving. You could also just eliminate the planning phase through the use of an in-game currency. The players could have a certain amount of this currency, that would act like bennies or story chips, to allocate to each phase prior to Everything Goes Wrong. The game itself would start with the Everything Goes Wrong phase and the players could spend the currency they allocated to get bonuses, trump GM statements etc.

You could also do the opposite, you could have a game that was basically just the Gather Information and Planning Phases and then have the Execution phase and Everything Goes Wrong work kind of like programmed movement. This would work if you had a group that really enjoyed the planning phase.