Yes, I am still looking for alternative ways to run a Shadowrun game. While I am still trying to find a good way to use the Over The Edge rules for it, I also keep looking for alternatives. The first Kickstarter project I backed was Technoir, a cyberpunk roleplaying game by Jeremy Keller of Cellar Games. So why not use Technoir?
One of the strengths of Technoir are its simple but powerful mechanics, that can easily made to fit any kind of cyberpunk setting. But Shadowrun is not just cyberpunk, it also has a couple of fantasy aspects. That’s what makes it harder to find a ruleset that may handle this combination. Today, I have leafed through the Technoir rules again (you can download a free players guide here), and had an idea how to handle Metahumanity and Magic in Technoir.
For Metahumanity one could easily add Training Programs. So each of the Metahuman variants adds a new Training Program with fitting Verb and Adjective choices. The Elf Training Program could probably look like this:
Verbs (increase each by one): Coax, Detect, and Prowl
Adjective (pick one): arrogrant, slender, long-lived
To add magic to the mix, one could just add a 10th Verb called Cast. Spells are then bought like Objects. Of course it would be helpful if the GM created a list of example spells to pick from. To keep the magic vs. spell dichotomy from Shadowrun players might have to choose whether their character wants to have access to either Cast or Hack. But if you want to allow characters who dabble in both Magic and cyberwear you might come up with a more elegant solution.
What do you guys think? Might this small hack allow me to run Shadowrun using Technoir? Or am I better off waiting for the still-missing HexNoir supplement?
In a comment on one of my post someone told me that I am overanalyzing things. I have to admit he’s totally right. It’s something I noticed a while ago. Heck, I even do this with pretty straightforward rules-light systems and even games I’ve designed myself. It’s how my brain works. The fact that I have a full-time job and sometimes struggle with depressions haven’t made things easier. When I was younger I ran games like Shadowrun and D&D 3.5 which are not known for being particularly rules-light, but nowadays just reading through the rules cause me headaches. Often it’s just easier for me to make up rules on the spot or make a quick ruling instead of having to remember the rules from a 500 page rulebook.
But first let’s talk about what a rules-light game actually is. Alas there are no clear guidelines to determine how rules-light or rules-heavy a game actually is. People often refer to “crunchiness” but this term isn’t properly defined either. We actually use these terms to describe something about roleplaying games but we can’t be sure that my definition of rules-light fits yours. In my definition a rules-light game usually has one (or a couple) simple core mechanics that cover most standard situations. Non-standard situations are usually solved by the GM making a ruling on the spot. Rules-heavy games usually have either a different mechanic for each subsystem and tend to come with rules for every conceivable situation. One example is Shadowrun’s infamous water-treading rule.
Things can get a bit fuzzy if a game has a simple core rule set but countless options. Even the simplest game can leave the “realm of rules-light” quickly if you give the GM and players countless options to choose from. That’s why I consider Fate Core more rules-light than the version of Fate used in Spirits of the Century. For me, a simple rule that shows me how to create my own stunts feels “lighter” than having to wade through a long list of precreated ones. I don’t know if that actually makes sense, but it’s just how my brain works.
Ok, we now should have a good approximation of what I’d call rules-light. So why do I prefer these games over the more complex (and sometimes even more complete) ones? As I mentioned before I just don’t have the time and patience to read 500 pages of rules before I can run a game. If I had sticked to the same game for the last twenty years or so, I probably wouldn’t have minded using a rather complex system. Back in the day, I still had the time and the motivation to learn pretty crunchy rules (by the way, crunchiness is another pretty vague term). But I never stick to one system for long. I like to try out new things. Alas I don’t get to play or run a game every week. There have been periods when we didn’t game for months. And in light of these facts it just doesn’t make much sense to me to put up with complex systems. It often takes quite a while to read the rules, prepare the game, and all this effort is wasted when you play perhaps once per month. Rules-light games also give me more time to focus on the things more important to me. Let’s say I have 3 weeks to prepare for a new game I want to try out. If I spend 2 weeks reading the rules, I am left with just 1 week to prepare the actual game. But if the rules can be read in an hour or so, I have almost the full three weeks left where I can ponder about what I can throw at my players.
I can fully understand that a lot of people love crunchy games where each new supplement comes with new options and new rules. But for me these games just don’t work anymore – at least most of the time. There are a couple of games I’d consider rules-heavy that have piqued my interest and I am actually tempted to put in some time and effort into those. Hero System looks very interesting, even though it feels extremely massive. I fear this game might put me into option paralysis pretty quickly, but some day I might give it a try. The latest edition of Shadowrun on the other hand just feels complex for the sake of complexity to me. And from what I’ve seen so far, I am not totally alone with that opinion.
So in a nutshell, I am old, lazy, and have the attention span of a squirrel on caffeine, and that’s why I love rules-light games.
On the other hand: rules-heavy games might have their advantages…
Over the last few weeks I have been thinking a lot about Shadowrun. A while back my players asked me to run Shadowrun for them, and since then I’ve looked into various editions of the game. The 5th Edition actually caused me headaches (I’m not kidding) and while the 4th Edition makes much more sense to me, I still find it way too crunchy for my tastes. In my search for an alternative system, I looked at Fudge, Savage Worlds, a Shadowrun Hack of Apocalypse World, and a few others.
Last but not least I remembered the WaRP system by Atlas Games. WaRP is a very rules-light system which has powered the famous Over The Edge RPG. The whole system is just about 30 pages long and is freeform enough so that it can be used for almost every genre. From what I’ve seen so far a “normal” cyberpunk game could easily be run with the WaRP system. You just need to define fitting Traits during character creation and you’re done.
Alas Shadowrun is not just cyberpunk but also has several fantasy elements. Adding the various subspecies of Metahumanity is pretty simple. Just include a reference in your Central Trait. It gets more complicated when you want to create a character with magic abilities. WaRP allows the character to pick Fringe powers (which can be everything from magic to Psi or the abilities of superpowered humans). What I am wondering now how I could easily use WaRP’s Fringe powers to emulate Shadowrun’s magic. Alas I am lacking experience with the system, so I am asking for your help.
Do you have experience with both Shadowrun and Over The Edge (or the WaRP system)? How would you handle magic in a Shadowrun game powered by WaRP? Please post your ideas below!
I recently got a little gadget I was looking forward to, the Google Chromecast. It’s a handy little widget that allows you to stream video and images via WiFi from your computer, Android tablet or phone, to your TV. I’m not here to sell you on it, let Google take care of that! However I am here to tell you of the gaming possibilities I see.
There are lots of people out there using projector and flats screen TVs for mapping during their gaming, and while I love the idea, I have not fully embraced it, for various reasons, including expense and transportability of the hardware necessary. However most places you go will have a TV and WiFi…
You could take a Chromecast with you, set it up with the local WiFi and voilà! The TV is a map… Of course it has to be a Hi-Def TV and there is the set up process, but if you get one just for the game room, problem solved.
Recently some of my players have missed games and have joined us via Skype, but combat using miniatures and a map was a hurdle. With something like Chromecast I could use Roll20 to create the map and the long-distance player would see the map of his or her computer, while the face to face players see the map on a television. Any browser based map can be shared with your players, even a Google Drive drawing, as simple as that.
I run all my games from a laptop now, so integrating this tool into my game would be fairly simple. I have not tried this yet, but I plan to as soon as I can…
Have you seen the Chromecast, and do you see any gaming possibilities for it? Are there any similar tools out there you already used and I missed? Let me know…
Some pictures so you get an idea… (Sorry for the quality, not the best lighting!
Some of you may have noticed that I started to blog more regularly again, and that I’ve slightly changed the focus of the blog. Over the last year and a half – probably even longer – I have been struggling with several mental health-related issues. I’ve had to deal with anxiety attacks, depression, etc. which not only affected my work but also my personal life as well. For a while even the thought of running a roleplaying game caused bouts of severe anxiety. As you can imagine this also affected my ability to write about my favorite hobby.
Luckily things are way better now. I feel much more relaxed, I am basically symptom-free, and I’m actually running two games for two different gaming groups at the moment. Scheduling is still an issue, but things are way better than half a year ago. This also helped me to write more. And while I still plan to post reviews and interviews with industry insiders in the future, I want to focus more on my personal experiences and thoughts on roleplaying games.
Stargazer’s World has always been – even after I opened it for other authors – not just a roleplaying blog but also my personal blog. From the feedback I’ve gotten over the last months I know that our readers are not only interested in hobby news, reviews etc. but also in a more personal look at the hobby. Over the last weeks I have often pondered about the games I’ve run in the past and what really is important to me. I love to run and play roleplaying games and it’s a joy to share my passion for the hobby with people all over the world.
I also realized that I am a gamer and blogger first and a game designer second. It was a lot of fun writing WR&M, Arcane Heroes, and the other games but especially the success of WR&M put a lot of pressure on me. For a long time I felt as if I had to churn out new games and supplements regularly and felt depressed when I wasn’t able to get anything done. This year I made the concious decision to skip NaGaDeMon (National Game Design Month) or force myself to work on unfinished projects. Game design should always be a fun activity for me, not another burden. There’s a reason why I don’t want to work as a professional game designer.
So, how much will the blog change? Probably not much. There might be slightly fewer reviews and more posts in which I muse about certain aspects of our hobby or share my personal experiences with gaming. At least when my posts are concerned, Stargazer’s World will focus a bit more on Stargazer. And I think this is a good thing.
For quite a long time I started new campaign on a whim with an extremely short prep period. This works out well enough if you’re at the top of your game, creative, able to think on your toes. But if you are stressed from work and other things, perhaps even feeling a bit under the weather, this just doesn’t work out anymore. My friend Roberto has a different approach to GMing. He usually plans his campaigns way ahead. I think he’s already planning the campaign he wants to run in 2015. I don’t think I’ll ever plan ahead that early, but I’ve decided to change the way I prepare for my games.
At the moment I am running two games: a mini-campaign freely based on the XCOM series of computer games and a campaign based on the Fallout 1 computer game. Both games use Fudge rules, for the Fallout one I even wrote a pretty extensive conversion document. The XCOM game will probably be over two weeks time, so I am already planning for the game that will follow.
My players have asked me to run Shadowrun, so I started reading 5th Edition. Alas reading 5th Edition felt like gnawing off my own foot, so I decided to look for alternatives. At first I thought just tossing the Shadowrun rules would be best, but in the end I settled on Shadowrun 4th Edition. For some reason I find the game much more approachable. I’ll still think the same after I’ve finished reading the book.
But I will not stop there. As soon as we start playing Shadowrun I’ll think about what I could prepare next. Currently I am very interested in the Hero System. I picked up the current Bundle of Holding, and already started leafing through the various PDFs. I always wanted to run a superhero game, and Champions Complete may be the perfect game for this. If the Hero System turns out too much of a hassle after all, I still have a couple of alternatives up my sleeves. BASH Ultimate Edition looks like a more rules-lite approach to super hero gaming for example.
Do you usually plan way ahead for your games? Do you have several projects brewing at the same time, or do you prefer to focus on only one game at a time? Please share your thoughts below.