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Shadowrun of Yesterday

Started by xjermx, December 27, 2006, 05:56:50 PM

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Did my title give it away?

A gaming friend of mine and I have played shadowrun a few times over the years.. its a really fun game with a pretty broken system.  So we briefly discussed doing a game of Shadowrun in TSOY.  I'm curious if anyone has tried to do such a thing, or if anyone familiar with Shadowrun might be up for offering some comments/suggestions/etc on doing a TSOY Shadowrun game.

Some of it is pretty elementary.  The things that I'm unsure about are trying to convert some of the bits of Shadowrun that had weird pointy angles and such.. like Spell Drain. 

Anyway... anyone care to jump on this one?

Darcy Burgess

Jerm --

I can't pretend to be particularly well-versed in Shadowrun (played a couple of times, but never avidly).

However, my memory of the system is that many of the "weird and pointy angles" were either patches to overcome munchkinizing or inherent loopholes, or they were simply poorly thought out ideas inserted into the system for the sake of "hey, that's kinda cool, let's see how that works!".

That says to me that the easiest thing to do is drop all concept of Shadowrun-as-system and focus on what was always best about Shadowrun.  It was D&D with guns and cool magic.

'Port the concept.  Not the rules.

And finally, this is a tangential but related point, don't fall into the trap of having a 'netrunner' class (if memory serves, 'decking' in SR) -- netrunning is something that everyone should be able to do.  That way you don't have 3 bored players watching 1 other player get the data they need.  Just let everyone jack in, and the 'net becomes 'just another setting'.
Black Cadillacs - Your soapbox about War.  Use it.


To throw in my two cents, I'm 100% with Darcy on the "port the concept, not the rules" philosophy for moving another game into TSOY. Particularly if you think the rules in Shadowrun needed sanding; I'm another person who played it years ago, but can't remember much of the fine-tuned mechanics, though I do recall people complaining about them being agonizing. Of course, what I remember about Shadowrun was that it had great flavor, and I suspect our GM at the time was saving us from a lot of the horror of it by just being a good GM, and adjudicating sensibly.

I think TSOY's classlessness is pretty ideal, and I wouldn't recommend necessarily reverting to a class system. If you want that to become your stand in for TSOY's Cultures, well, don't let me stop you, but I seem to recall Shadowrun having some pretty engaging settings with a lot of flavor to them. Isn't there effectively an elven nation inside the US, for instance, in addition to a free Native American protectorate, and a host of other good stuff?

But I'm going to come out against Darcy on the netrunning issue a little. I'd say that one of TSOY's best strengths is just how quickly you can accomplish "side jaunts" (netrunning, trips into the spirit world, what have you), while still keeping action moving for the other players. Don't lock players out, of course, of the option of joining your netrunner characters, or for that matter people going into astral space (consider how the options for the Green World, for instance, allow passengers to come along and applying that to both instances above), but I don't think you need to dread players going to do their own thing. The secret is not to let that take hours of play time with needlessly convuluted sub-systems. Eliminate the problem the TSOY way-- everything is predicated on ability checks vs. opponent's ability checks, things move fast, and you cut to where the action is. Don't check every inch of the corridor for traps, get to where the good stuff is happening. Treat programs as weapons and armor, treat AI's and opposing programs as enemy opponents--in most cases pogues with no pool points and no more ability scores than they absolutely need. Interact with enemy netrunners for that personal flavor touch and keep the pace moving at a good solid clip.

The thing I always wonder about is how best to handle the summoning issue, with spirits and elementals and the like. You can easily have those mages/shamans pick up abilities that grant them spirits/elementals who perform a number of tasks equal to the result of an ability check, but make sure to define some parameters around what these summoned things can and can't do (in which case perhaps Qek Necromancy solves the problem for a sample list right there). If I remember correctly, elementals tended to be more mechanically crunchy, while spirits tended to be more esoteric/useful at performing tasks. Is that right? Keeping the two systems different by deciding that those creatures can do different things might make the flavor of the shaman vs. mage from blending together too much.

-shadowcourt (aka josh)

Clyde L. Rhoer

Hi xjermx,

I saw the Shadowrun title, which caused me to poke my head in. I think Darcy has given you good advice about not trying to port the mechanics but the concept. There's a point about the game that should be mentioned. One of the things I really like about Shadowrun is it a very good way to run a more traditional game where the GM creates plot, and the players are along on the ride portraying their characters in Actor Stance, responding to the elements of the story the G.M. introduces. The game is about doing Shadowruns, which makes it mission based, I believe purposely. In my experience it tends to create buy-in from the players for this type of game style in a way dungeon crawling doesn't.

I think another important idea for getting Shadowrun correct is a saying we had in my local community. "It's not a Shadowrun unless the Johnson has screwed you twice." I think that really points at the gritty level of Shadowrun, and it might be worthy of incorporating as a feature somehow. Not that I know how you would do that mechanically.

I'm interested in seeing what you come up with.
Theory from the Closet , A Netcast/Podcast about RPG theory and design., Clyde's personal blog.


Thanks for the commends, gang.

I'm totally with all of you on the idea of converting the concept and not the rules.  I'd concede that things like Spell Drain seem to have been included in the system largely as a limiting factor for magic users - like spell casting limits in D&D.  Still, and I keep using Spell Drain as an example-  its become a rather integral part of the world of Shadowrun.

In my opinion, this is easily handled either via pretty vanilla TSOY stuff, like Pool Cost, or to be more creative, could be done via stakes negotiation.

Another element to be factored in is Cyberware.  So much of Shadowrun, for the street sam types, is the drive to get more cash in order to be able to buy more cyber.  I wonder if this couldnt be represented via Keys...


That was supposed to be "comments".  But I'm sure you guessed that.

So my cohort and I are still working on some rough ideas regarding a melding of Shadowrun and TSOY.   I've found myself the proponent of a conversion involving making Shadowrun work within the current mechanics of TSOY.  So it'd mean scrapping (or at least making them into flavor only) things like Spell Drain, Nuyen, some cyberware, catalogs of guns, and other such things.  This would be okay for me, but I'm perhaps easier to please.   Anyway,   part of trying to fit Shadowrun into TSOY mechanics involves using the existing species as templates to try to bring Trolls and things into TSOY, and modifying Elves perhaps.   I hope to convince my cohort of the superiority of my plan, and so I'm wondering if anyone here has a dusty Shadowrun book lying around, and wanted to take a stab, particularly at Secrets.  What I'm wondering is if there are species specific abilities and secrets that I can give to Trolls and Shadowrun Elves, like there are now for species in TSOY.   I also need to come up with secrets to offer humans, much like the secrets available to human cultures in TSOY.     oh.... and Cyberware Secrets.  Something like "Secret of Wired Reflexes I:  Add two bonus dice to React rolls.  Cost: 1 Instinct."   Or something similar.

Clinton R. Nixon

I kind of love Shadowrun, so if you get this going, let me know. I'm interested in seeing any documents that come out of this.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


Our friend Doyce Testerman has kindly put up a page on the TSOY wiki for us.

This little project is in its infancy, so I'd welcome anyone that wants to pitch in to go by and help out, while I'm dusting off my Shadowrun book and re-reading it :P

I do have a couple of questions that I welcome anyone to take on (though apparently only one good question comes to mind at the moment).

Abilities.    I'm perceiving that there is a certain balance when it comes to abilities.  If I were to make 4 or 5 abilities that covered ALL possible tasks,  then everyone would quickly become masters of everything.   On the other hand, if we created 80 abilities, each covering some specific task, people would be able to do a few things, but no one could operate a cash register or fill their car with gas.    Anyone care to weigh in this?  I know there are some loose guidelines in the TSOY material.  I'm interested in hearing opinions though.  For example:   Armed and Unarmed Combat:  One ability, or two?

Clinton R. Nixon

When I made abilities in TSOY, I made sure to have roughly four for each loose category. Each category, combined with one other, made a "class" - so a character was assumed to have about 8 things they were good at. I would follow this line of thinking.

As for combat, use ways of fighting, not the weapons used. So for Shadowrun of Yesterday, you'd have Street Samurai (kung fu + swords and stuff); Military (brutal military strikes); and other fun ways of fighting. Some might cover both armed and unarmed, and some might not. I'm leaving melee and ranged fighting separate, but only because I'm a grognard, and you should ignore me and put them together.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


Quote from: Darcy Burgess on December 28, 2006, 07:47:38 AM
And finally, this is a tangential but related point, don't fall into the trap of having a 'netrunner' class (if memory serves, 'decking' in SR) -- netrunning is something that everyone should be able to do.  That way you don't have 3 bored players watching 1 other player get the data they need.  Just let everyone jack in, and the 'net becomes 'just another setting'.

I actually have to disagree with this; in the many, many cyberpunk games I have run of all sorts of systems, the netrunner has engaged in the action alongside the rest of the party - even if the character is located miles or even hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles away. Remote administration, see?

Likewise my own favourite CP character, for ICE's most excellent Cyberspace, had an appallingly low Strength and Constitution, and was raised in dirt poor circumstances and was justifiably paranoid about his own health and safety. He lived in a tiny bedsit in the worst part of town with his desk and deck facing a highly secured front-door. He also had a shotgun in very close reach...


Just some suggested Keys.  Note that I may have an overly cynical view of how the average Run goes, and some of these may make the characters even less likely to complete a mission properly.

Key of the Infiltrator
1 XP whenever you sneak past someone or something
2 XP whenever you reach a mission objective unobserved
5 XP whenever you leave a complex unobserved
Buyoff: gain the undivided attention of the local security forces

Key of the Inept Infiltrator
1 XP whenever someone sees you sneaking
2 XP whenever someone raises the alarm
5 XP whenever your real name and/or description are broadcast through the complex
Buyoff: successfully sneak past someone or something

Key of the Demolisher
1 XP whenever you blow something up
2 XP whenever you destroy a building
5 XP whenever you level an entire facility
Buyoff: disarm some explosives

Key of the Renegotiator
1 XP whenever you betray Mr Johnson
3 XP whenever My Johnson betrays you
Buyoff: complete a mission under the original terms

Key of the Single-Minded Mission
1 XP whenever your incompetent colleagues jeopardise the mission to hit their keys
Buyoff: jeopardise the mission to hit one of your own keys

Key of the Geek
1 XP whenever you solve a problem from The Matrix
3 XP whenever you solve a problem from The Matrix which would have been easier in the real world
Buyoff: complete a task without entering The Matrix

Key of the Astral Traveller
1 XP whenever you solve a problem from Astral Space
3 XP whenever you solve a problem from Astral Space which would have been easier in the real world
Buyoff: complete a task without entering Astral Space

Key of the Social Climber
1 XP whenever you pretend to be above your station
2 XP whenever you enter a function for people above your station
5 XP whenever you gain status within your society
Buyoff: admit you come from the slums or reach the upper limits of your society

Also, does anyone have thoughts on Pool Refreshment?  I'm wondering you should start everyone with double or triple the normal Pool size, refresh Pools at the start of the Run, and then have no refreshment at all until the next Run begins.  It's a grim option, but it might help you get the Shadowrun atmosphere.



I don't recommend your take on Pool refreshment unless you're changing the mechanics of the game in a big way. Keep pools about where they are, unless you're seriously changing the way Abilities and Secrets work and cost-- otherwise, prepare yourself for a lot of feats to become quite simple. Have refreshment be based on the same principles they are in standard TSOY-- hanging out with your chummers at the local bar, recreationally diving into the Matrix or watching a Simsense movie, going to a rave, or jumping into a fracas in an orc bar's fighting pit (or the thousands of other activities appropriate for refreshing Instinct, Reason, or Vigor).

It's true that there won't be a lot of opportunities to refresh *during* a run itself, but that's fine, and will add to the same tense atmosphere you suggested, where resources are running out.


It's true that there are some elements from Shadowrun you might want to drop (spell drain still comes to mind), there are plenty of others which you could easily keep. At some point in the past a thread discussion talked about a Wealth Ability (which could easily let you approximate systems to buy things, and increase your own finances). Similarly, you could have a whole category of secrets which are Cybernetic Secrets, which provide special bonuses. I don't quite recall if there were penalties in Shadowrun attendant with getting all cybered-out, other than the cost to get items installed (I recall Cyberpunk's dwindling Humanity system, but not how Shadowrun treated the issue, other than perhaps it made it less viable to become a magic user once you had it). You could easily say that a Cybernetic Secret has a special feature which puts it in addition to whatever the standard bonus is, like so:

Secret of Cybernetic Strength
You receive a bonus die on Bash and Hold ability checks, due to your strong cybernetic limbs. Additionally, you have a special bonus point of Vigor, which can only be spent on Bash and Hold checks.

You could set the Secret so that this additional special point of Vigor only refreshes under certain conditions (powering up your cybernetics in a special way), or just that it refreshes under normal conditions. While it's slightly more enticing than a standard Ability Bonus Secret, it's not outrageously better. You could also apply the aforementioned penalties for cybernetics (which I still can't recall, sorry...) to any such Secrets. Whatever those penalties are, you can also beef them up with the anti-magical penalties (say, that taking even one of these Cybernetic Secrets applies a penalty die for any spell-casting Ability check the cybered character makes).

I can't remember a huge amount about the big races in Shadowrun and their special capabilities, but I suspect that some of the Goblin Secrets may hold some answers for you. Allowing them to take Natural Defense secrets (imbued defense which is appropriate to their tough hides) can certainly make them feel brawnier. Perhaps something like the following for their Species Secret:

Secret of Troll Size
You are massive in size, and intimidating as a result. You take a bonus die on Bash and Hold ability checks, on checks to lift and move heavy objects, and on Intimidate checks against creatures smaller than you. You take a penalty die on checks to appear harmless, and on checks where your size is a hindrance (hiding, walking across a thin ledge).

That might be too powerful for some games, and might need tailoring. It could easily be divided into two Species Secrets, as well, with one of them being optional (i.e. the Intimidate clause coming out). As a mandatory Species Secret, I think it could work, but every game is different.


Clinton R. Nixon

My opinion: change the pools. My suggestion would be Metal, Mind, and Meat. Metal is used for dealing with computers and for using cyberware; Mind is wit and intelligence, and also, hermetic magic; Meat is physicality, sexuality, and shamanistic magic.
Clinton R. Nixon
CRN Games


Quote from: Clinton R. Nixon on January 17, 2007, 01:48:43 PM
My opinion: change the pools. My suggestion would be Metal, Mind, and Meat. Metal is used for dealing with computers and for using cyberware; Mind is wit and intelligence, and also, hermetic magic; Meat is physicality, sexuality, and shamanistic magic.  *sound of Hans's head exploding*  That is just so cool.  Changing three words and the whole system suddenly SEEMS different, even though it isn't, really.  Seriously, that is some incredibly cool stuff.
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The really cool thing about it is that it helps you figure out and differentiate different fighting skills and similar issues -- like Hermatic and Shamanic magic are much the same, but for their pool, ditto fighting styles like "ganger" (meat) and "street samurai" (metal) and post-humanist aikido (mind).
- Brand Robins