Taking a bit of a break from other writing to poke around on here.
Because I’m an addict, I’ve been mulling around what I’m going to run next. I have, at any given time, three or four ideas that I’m poking around. This usually results in me pulling down game books and poking through them, leaving them scattered around the apartment and frustrating my girlfriend with the mess I’ve made. I also bounce these ideas off my girlfriend to get some feedback.
The other day the girlfriend said, “I know what I want you to run next: A Shadowrun game that doesn’t suck.”
It’s funny how two people can say the same phrase and mean very different things. When she said, “A Shadowrun game that doesn’t suck,” I immediately thought of all the frustrations I’ve had with running Shadowrun for… Oh, dear god, nearly twenty years. While I’m feeling increasingly comfortable with less roleplay-driven games, there’s still a special level of frustration I associate with Shadowrun. It conjures to mind all of the bulky character creation that just drives me nuts.
For her, she mainly wanted something better than the game she played in high school, where the GM let another player do awful things to her character when she missed a session and wasn’t around to do anything about it.
Now, the girlfriend delights me by being the sort of person who does not quail in the face of complex rule systems. She would be quite up to the challenge of making a Shadowrun character, but that doesn’t mean other people we game with would be. And it doesn’t mean I’m up for dealing with the rules.
When I mentioned this in my Facebook status, I got a few bits of input along the usual lines. One person pushed for the storygame angle, specifically Wilderness of Mirrors. But Wilderness of Mirrors doesn’t seem well-suited for campaign play. I would be more inclined to use Primetime Adventures, but I’m not really interested in a Shadowrun storygame. (And, as always, I’m frustrated when people don’t see the difference.)
The other advice was GURPS, which also doesn’t do much for me. GURPS run by a GM who knows GURPS can be fun. But I don’t want to deal with it. The core mechanic is simple, but all the extras that help you sculpt a setting are overwhelming to me. Plus, if I just moosh together the cyberpunk and magic rules for GURPS, it will feel different from Shadowrun. I imagine someone well versed in GURPS could monkey with it enough to replicate the Shadowrun cosmology. But that requires a love and knowledge of the system that I utterly lack. Most other adaptations to generic systems suffer from the same problem.
I’ve poked around the idea of doing it diceless or semi-freeform for a while. But my attempt at doing that has met with mixed results. I wasn’t happy with my ADRPG-esque adaptation of the rules. It was a little too open and didn’t help guide choices for the players. Those unfamiliar with Shadowrun felt lost in the options. I’ve also considered adapting my Pulp Chaos/Rebma Confidental rules into a more generic format, but it doesn’t seem like it would work well for regular play. The advancement in the rules is built more around, “You show up once a year to play, here’s a bit of reward.”
This has led me to think about what I like about Shadowrun and wouldn’t want to change, and what I don’t like and want a better solution.
I love the setting and cosmology. And I’m kinda fussy about it. There’s a dynamic between technology and magic, and a cosmological geography that I specifically enjoy. I like the canon. I sometimes mess with canon in my games, but I like the raw framework. It annoys me when people get it “wrong.”
I hate the rules for cyberware (and, to a lesser extent, gear), especially in character creation. The whole tracking of nuyen and Essence costs is nightmarish, especially in comparison to the character creation for mages and adepts. As characters advance, it gets more obnoxious. It’s easy to front-load cybered characters. But it’s harder to make them as viable in long-term advancement. You reach a wall where it’s hard to get anymore cyberware, while the mages and technomancers have no limit to what they can do. You also run into the problem of, “Cash and XP are not equally valuable to characters.”)
The idea I keep coming back to is to map the cyberware rules to the rules for adepts. You have an attribute called “Cyberware,” that works just like Magic (or Resonance). Instead of initiation, there could be upgrades (overhauls?) which allow you to get more cyberware. Normally you run into the problem where the only way you can get more cyberware is to save up millions of nuyen to get slightly better equipment. Meanwhile mages are learning how to punch down buildings.
The hard part seems like it would be figuring out what to do with cybernetic implants (or other equipment) that falls outside of what an adept can do. How do I handle hacking if you aren’t a technomancer? Tactical computer implants? Datajacks? Skillwires? I have no great ideas for these.