Shadowrun 4th and Others

Haven’t posted a lot because I haven’t gamed a lot. Lack of gaming is a good lack of incentive to check up on gaming news, lack of me going online, lack of caring, etc.

Despite being in a gaming drought recently, with the newest required mash-up for the Thursday night game, we’ve been soldiering on rather well—well enough, at least, that hopes are higher and games are funner and we’re no longer making 8 successes to hit a minion of Odin and still missing because of bad ad-hoc GM fiat. Not that anyone’s bitter or anything.

Alas, I, befallen to The Plague, was unable to run last Thursday, so it was up to my roommate to throw together a quick starter for his new Shadowrun game. Being a huge Shadowrun fan, he’s been kind of dying to get a decent game out of it, with the last two burning up and dieing after a couple of weeks or so. The 4th Edition system is pretty basic—it’s the same standard dice pool mechanic as d10/Storyteller; roll skill + attribute with 5’s and 6’s as successes. While it looks good on paper, the fact remains that despite its similarities to Storyteller (one third chance for success), we always end up rolling horribly. We have bitched endlessly about the constant crop of 4’s rolled up, since a d6 curves towards 2-3-4. Our dice pools are mostly eight or nine d6’s, so it’s really annoying to watch most of them come up short. I could get into the fact that it’s not Cyberpunk 2020 (few things are), but I digress; while it’s an interesting system, Shadowrun 4th doesn’t get my mark of approval yet. It’s one thing to have a brutal combat system (Cyberpunk’s Friday Night Firefight), or a game with an intentionally high turnover rate (Deadlands, Dark Sun), it’s another thing to have a game work directly against the players. There’s also a few other nitpicks–why make everything wireless, what happened to the native americans since they’re a major theme, who the hell got their fantasy races in my cyberpunk game, etc.–but overall, I offer a cautious recommendation for 4th, since I think there’s enough merit in it for a look, but not always a buy. Besides, you can just house-rule the dice system to make it more manageable (4’s are successes, 1’s take away, 6’s explode/ace/reroll, whatever floats your boat).

The current game is set up around two Confederate genecrafted wonder-twin thug/heavies loaded down with automatic weaponry, cyber-blades, and jetpacks who are bossed around by a magical elven adept who plays nanny to their boyish man-child hijinks as they traverse North America in a series of missions while much is blown up. Pretty standard fare. As a part of the Confederate special forces, we’ve been hired to find out who’s been interrupting convoys of medical supplies, and to smoke them out we decided to infiltrate and travel in one of the convoys, though modifying our “repair van” to be the pimped communications truck of doom with a pop-up LMG turret ring, and some flechettes custom-made by putting plastique in the outward-facing tool boxes attached to the back of the truck. Currently we’re traversing Central America in, and managed to take out the insiders with a minimal loss of ammo and three trucks, only to end as the roar of engines droned up the highway. Always end on a cliffhanger!

We’ve gotten used to having a shortened four-man playing group of me, Strobe, Kevin, and Rueben, so things flow pretty nicely. As the big manly men, Kevin and I will be spending most of our time blowing things up and demolishing the hinterlands. I find it an interesting lesson on gaming-group cross sections. Strobe thinks vertically, Kevin thinks laterally, I think diagonally, and Reuben thinks sideways, yet at the same time there’s generally a lot of cohesion between our characters—or, at least intended cohesion, if we’re not falling out of semis or falling asleep at the wheel. Perhaps it’s because we’ve gamed together too much… last year I wouldn’t have considered us four to be the center of the group, but at this point we’ve got a lot of overlap developing. It’s interesting to see Kevin develop, getting more and more of a handle on cinematics in Exalted; he’s been trying to find new ways to handle the environment and combine it with his Prince of Persia-esque dexterity, kicking up plumes of sand so he can run up them, for example. Strobe’s learning a lot more about GMing, as last Thursday showed, particularly about plot, action, and making car chases not suck, as well as seeing how our playing styles match up; Reuben combines tactical and cinematic, I go more cinematic with a tactical tint, and Kevin tries tactical with a cinematic edge. The end result is something like an action movie turned into a wargame, as crazy as that sounds. It certainly makes three-person games a lot more interesting, when we’re so used to sprawling six-to-eight person monstrosities on campus.

Well, I thought it was interesting!

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