The Wisdom of Shadowrun

Some of you that follow my Google+ page antics may have noticed that as I took a month (and a bit) off of blogging I got bitten by the Shadowrun bug.  I played a couple of games of Shadowrun last year and I also purchased Shadowrun Returns and played through the supplied adventure last year and it got me in the mood for Shadowrun.  From around 1989 to 1995 Shadowrun was the game you would find me GMing and it has a special place in my gaming memories.  I started to pick up the desire to run it again after Christmas when I finished Shadowrun Returns.

I realised at that point that Shadowrun is a powerful game but tells the wrong stories.  The Shadowrun Returns video game does a beautiful job of retelling an old module about the Universal Brotherhood.  The story starts beautifully but ends badly.  As a story it is OK and has action etc. but it moves from a beautifully woven story of an intricate personal relationship to a broad world destroying threat.  That might appeal to some people but to me it leaves a lot to be desired and I wanted more from it.  I wanted to continue to explore the close personal relationships and solve those rather than take on the massive threat.

Gaming wisdom has made me a happy GM!

It was at that time that I decided I needed to get my hands on a hard copy of fifthe edition and consider a return to running some Shadowrun so I could tell the right stories.  The personal stories of tight knit groups working together to take a piece of the action so they can continue that little bit more.  I had a friend that had a couple of extra copies but found out that I was too late.  He had given them away.  He came to my fortieth birthday though and bought me a copy of 5th edition as a present.

I leapt into reading the core book.  I try to read as much as I can at night in bed before sleeping and last night I came across a section in combat that made me realise a few things that I had the feeling had been lacking for a long time.  I read a section about applying environmental modifiers that said (and I am paraphrasing)

  • environmental modifiers are applied to the dice pool and may be overcome by gear, equipment or spells depending on the modifier.  It is the GM’s role to come up with the modifier but the players role to point out where they overcome these modifiers with their abilities.  It is the players role to know their characters enough to know when their abilities overcome certain modifiers and relay that to the GM.
I was laying in bed and had a moment of clarity that led me to being a much happier person.  It was inspired by this simple statement.  It has even had a ripple effect on to my Pathfinder game also (and pretty much every game) that will make my GMing just that little bit less stressful.  You see, I am a GM who tries to continually teach and help out at any moment when a player goes but what does this do.  I realised when reading this that my help in teaching the new players the system that I need to draw a line in the sand so to speak and let them run their own character when the line is reached.  I also realise that a lot of this is what has been slowing my games down.

The revelation did not stop there though.  I have to say that in that pearl of wisdom I read between the lines and saw that, although every game says this explicitly, the rules are guidelines.  The game is the most important thing.  I think this has been helped with my recent exposure to Dungeon World.  Keep the pace going.  Let the players handle their characters.  Accept what they say about them and do not check every bonus against the rule it comes from.  Let the game flow, allow the players the freedom to play their role and push ever onward.

This realisation has largely made me much happier about my focus on how Feats in Pathfinder overpower the game.  I realise now that I only need to know the rules for the feats that will have an affect on the game from my NPC’s and creatures.  It is the players responsibility to know their feats and make sure that they get the most from them.

I can feel a lot of you rolling your eyes and probably saying “Duh!” at me right now but sometimes it is these basic things that you need to refresh.  I have been in a rut in my gaming recently and I realise now that it was the fact that all of these rules and systems were overwhelming me because I was trying to understand everything off the top of my head.  That plus I am taking on board the Dungeon World play to learn what happens approach to my adventures in person and this seems to be working very well.  It is giving the players a nice taste of responsibility and power for their characters.

In short, I am a lot happier than I have been for a while in my gaming largely thanks to the wisdom of these games that are setting me free to be a great GM!

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