Shadowrun and the Matrix

I am going to preface this with saying I played Shadowrun mostly through first and second edition.  I did play I think three games recently in fourth edition but I was a shaman and the matrix did not get a lot of my focus at that time.  I was too busy trying to interpret spirits and magic use as the systems from then and now are like chalk and cheese.  I have to say though that the idea they included magic users that can enter the net really disappointed me when I read it in fourth edition.  It smacked of a very poor fix about what I am about to talk to about the Matrix.

Musing over my past failures…

My first FASA love was Shadowrun.  I bought first edition after it came out surrounded by a large marketing campaign (well it was large back then).  Machine, Magic and Matrix.  It seemed interesting, it was new and I damn well had to get in on the act.  In the early nineties I was seen as the GM of choice in my gaming community for Shadowrun.  I essentially got nearly every book that came out for first and second edition and it was one of the major games we played.  That, AD&D and Mechwarrior were our major choices at the time.  I noticed one major thing about it though, and that was how divisive the rules for the matrix were.

In essence, the cover of first edition Shadowrun was the GM’s worst nightmare as well as the players worst nightmare.  A decker about to jack in to the computer terminal whilst the others fought off a bunch of gangers…  In my very honest opinion I find that the divide of deckers and the rest of the world as related to speed of processing has lead to a problem in the system.  In fact, it is almost broken because of it.  The problem is that any actions taken in the Matrix always worked in a different time scale to all other actions and therefore, as a GM you were always forced to separate the action into two streams.  The first that concentrated on the decker(s) and a second stream that covered everyone else.

This severely hampered the system and in fact after a long time running it I decided that the system in this regard was broken.  I tried a number of solutions.  First, I would run the decker portion before we arrived at the game with the decker.  This worked OK but allowed the entire plot to be known before hand as well as what happened if someone targeted the decker?  I tried running it after the combat but this left me with the question of how long they had to cover them for.

How can this different timing be reconciled in system.  There were few discussions about it around at the time and deckers were largely unpopular with my players anyway.  I only ever had one that wanted to involve themselves and in the end I ran his game solo to avoid problems and the inevitable abuse that he would receive as everyone had to sit through a mini solo game when they were eager for action.

I feel really disappointed that they ostracised one of the key portions of the game in this manner.  I was seriously looking forward to the decking portion of this game and it was really the only part of the game that broke the system.  I am keen to hear from others that run Shadowrun to find out how you all, or if you all fixed this portion of the system.  If you didn’t what other systems would you suggest be used for a decking/computer game.  Imagine you were going to run Tron as a game and let me know the system you would use!  Keep rolling!

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