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> Creating Runs: How do experienced GM's do it?, Noob GM needs help (you'll get tired of me asking for help)
Troyminator
post Mar 23 2011, 04:26 AM
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I am trying to create a run for my players and I get so overwhelmed when I sit down to do it. An early 4th edition book had a random generator (roll d6 on various tables). I did that, but don't really know what to do to put a run together after that.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.
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Epicedion
post Mar 23 2011, 05:51 AM
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This is a pretty big question, so don't expect a simple answer. Plus, everyone's going to have their own style.

If you want the bare basics, the "what do I do to put together a simple run?" style, you just have to identify the core components of a simple run and build them up.

1. The Target -- What is it? Where is it? Who has it? Who wants it? How much is it worth?

For basic runs, the target can just be a MacGuffin. One unit of plot stuffed into a plot-sized bag. This can be anything like an experimental military-grade laser emitter, or a prototype commlink memory unit, or a fancy piece of biotech, or the collected mystical writings of the Great Ork'et Metaphilosopher Shum'bug'no. It doesn't matter. Just pick something practically useless to the party so that you don't have to worry about them stealing it for themselves. That's the advanced course.

Then put together a minor write-up on who has it and who wants it. Use one of the Big 10, or make up a smaller company that's independent or a subsidiary of one of the Big 10. They have it. Some other company wants it.

Your write-up should look something like this: "Compuwerx, an independent software development company, has created a new optimized program to run the Seattle traffic grid and is poised to win the next multi-year contract to implement that program and provide service. Trafficom, a direct competitor, wants to hire a team of shadowrunners to steal all of the development notes for the project and then sabotage the Compuwerx system by loading an agent on it."

2. Contact -- How does Mr. Johnson contact the team? Where do they meet? How much does he offer? How much higher will he go? How much will he offer up front? What information and special equipment can/will he provide? How long does the team have to complete the mission? Are there any bonus objectives?

3. Legwork -- What kind of information can the team acquire through research, contacts, and physical/matrix/astral surveillance?

and

4. The Site -- What is the layout? Where is it? What kind of physical security does the site have (door locks, guard posts, cameras, fences, drones, etc)? What kind of Matrix security does the site have (nodes and their stats, security hackers, agents)? What kind of Astral security does the site have (combat mages and astral overwatch, wards, spirits, biofilm)? Where on the site is the target?

Legwork and The Site need to be considered at the same time. It's easiest to mostly design the site first, and then write down a list of basic facts about it. Things like "there are X guards, they change shift every Y hours," and "two mages keep constant astral overwatch, alternating every hour so that one is always on shift," and "the main office is only accessible via elevator with the right keycard, but none of the interior doors have anything other than basic privacy locks."

These are the tidbits that characters can learn via legwork. How creative they are with what they do is going to determine what they can find out, so the best way to go is play it by ear. They might learn the guard schedule by setting up cameras and monitoring them for a week. They might learn it by hacking the security network from the coffee shop down the street. They might learn by bribing a What they learn and how they learn it is going to depend a lot on what they want to know.

5. The Ending/Twist -- How exactly does Mr. Johnson plan on screwing the team at the end of the day? Does a third party offer them extra cash for a double-cross? Has the team pissed off someone with the resources to spend on tracking them down? Did Mr. Johnson lie about the target, and does the team find out about it in the middle of the run? What are the repercussions of the run?

-------------

These are just basic elements of a basic run. Once you've got these things figured out, you can then keep building to make this thing as complicated as you like.
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ggodo
post Mar 23 2011, 05:57 AM
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QUOTE (Troyminator @ Mar 22 2011, 08:26 PM) *
I am trying to create a run for my players and I get so overwhelmed when I sit down to do it. An early 4th edition book had a random generator (roll d6 on various tables). I did that, but don't really know what to do to put a run together after that.

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.


My method is to plan in 'acts' that may not need to occur in any order. I'm a big fan of the nodal method of GMing with setting up a few things to do, then letting the PCs decide the course of action. I jot down some keywords for NPC personalities and motivations, and play act the rest. Always keep some mooks of assorted flavors on hand in case a fight starts, and figure out how ood your players are at the game when designing security for them to crack. Some players don't take security systems into account.
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phlapjack77
post Mar 23 2011, 06:06 AM
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QUOTE (ggodo @ Mar 23 2011, 01:57 PM) *
My method is to plan in 'acts' that may not need to occur in any order. I'm a big fan of the nodal method of GMing with setting up a few things to do, then letting the PCs decide the course of action. I jot down some keywords for NPC personalities and motivations, and play act the rest. Always keep some mooks of assorted flavors on hand in case a fight starts, and figure out how ood your players are at the game when designing security for them to crack. Some players don't take security systems into account.

Adding on to this, I tended to get tripped up as a GM when the players would go off the rails, and ask for specifics about things I hadn't prepared for, like where the bartender lived so they could follow him home, break into his apt, etc.

I think it's worth it to build up a "library" of standard mooks, complete with descriptions such as carried gear, where they live, etc. Same for many types of buildings, like apartments, bars, offices, etc.
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ggodo
post Mar 23 2011, 07:22 AM
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QUOTE (phlapjack77 @ Mar 22 2011, 10:06 PM) *
Adding on to this, I tended to get tripped up as a GM when the players would go off the rails, and ask for specifics about things I hadn't prepared for, like where the bartender lived so they could follow him home, break into his apt, etc.

I think it's worth it to build up a "library" of standard mooks, complete with descriptions such as carried gear, where they live, etc. Same for many types of buildings, like apartments, bars, offices, etc.


Yeah, when I get bored in class I write backgrounds for background type characters. I'm slowly accumulating a veritable city of NPCs just so I can have some onhand when asked. iI this sounds like daunting work, know that you can totally rip off the sample chjaracters in the book for stats and gear. Mix it up a bit for the backstories and go for it.
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Epicedion
post Mar 23 2011, 07:40 AM
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Yeah, an important rule is: never throw anything away.
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Critias
post Mar 23 2011, 07:52 AM
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I tend to picture an awesome scene, and then work backwards. If I think a firefight on top of a moving truck would be cool, I figure out a mission that would make it likely to happen, and build back from there. I think about what could be on the truck and how it could link to another adventure, I figure out who the PCs are fighting to get the truck and how that could link to a prior session, I think about who hired them to steal the truck and how that could lead to a prior session...etc, etc. Work out a cool place for a Meet, think of a how to handle a few other ways they could try to steal the truck, and then I get ready to wing it -- because, invariable, Shadowrun PCs will figure out something you didn't think of, so it pays to keep some generic NPC stats on hand for when they blindside you.

Be ready to roll with the punches, and concentrate on telling a good story and making sure the PCs have fun, more than you worry about the niggling details and train-track specifics of a certain 'run. Be ready to modify it on the go, go into the game understanding they'll think of something you didn't, and just have fun.
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Epicedion
post Mar 23 2011, 08:09 AM
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Oh, and if your players ever start following a better plotline than you initially wrote, there's nothing wrong with going with theirs and not telling them how wrong things went.

Also, sometimes you'll present a scenario and, going on nothing other that luck and intuition, one player will totally nail your projected plotline. This can happen no matter how crazy and weird your plot is. One SOB is going to say, "If this run ends up being us recovering Lofwyr's smoking jacket from a Renraku corporate geisha's carry-on luggage on the 6:37 flight to Boston, I'm just gonna start shooting everyone." And it'll be absolutely true. Try not to look surprised, and just roll with it.
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phlapjack77
post Mar 23 2011, 08:18 AM
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QUOTE (Epicedion @ Mar 23 2011, 04:09 PM) *
Oh, and if your players ever start following a better plotline than you initially wrote, there's nothing wrong with going with theirs and not telling them how wrong things went.

This. Totally don't be afraid to take credit for a plot-twist that you hadn't originally planned (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)
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bluedao
post Mar 23 2011, 09:58 AM
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I'm fairly new to running too. But I'll put in my 2 (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) . First mission I ran went well from the players stand point but horribly wrong from mine. 2/3's of my plot had to get ignored since they went in a couple different directions then I thought of. Which taught me the valuable lesson of don't over think it. Like others have suggested, create a story, have the npcs and places to populate it but your players will drive you nuts if you try to plan it out to detailed. Also as others have stated, steal from your players, they'll never know (lets hope mine don't read this thread). Steal from dumpshock. Personalize it, I've got one pc who has a personal hate on the azzies so their now a chief player. I've got another who is a thrill seeking close combat specialist so now my pit fight below the bar has some background and future story to it. My last pc is in for a few personal surprises too but I'm still flushing them out. And one more thing, do NOT fall into the trap of raising the stakes constantly. It's really tempting to have the characters take on awesome tasks that save millions, or maybe kill millions, but then your stuck Either every mission impacts the world, and suspension of disbelief breaks, or you're players go from hot stuff to doing milk runs again which has its own problems.
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Blade
post Mar 23 2011, 10:13 AM
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I do it like Critias.

Something else to take into account is your players and PC. If you know they play Shadowrun mostly to shoot things in the face, make an adventure with plenty of shooting in the face. If they prefer complex corporate intrigues, insert complex corporate intrigues...
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nezumi
post Mar 23 2011, 01:22 PM
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I start with the players first. What gaming style do they enjoy? Lots of planning? Shoot-outs and explosions? I base my plot around that.

Next I focus on the characters. What roles are they heavy in? What are they light in? That determines the nature of the challenges in the mission.

After that, I have two ways of making a mission, from the bottom up, or from the top down.

Bottom-up involves doing as Critias described - I think of one or more 'cool scenes' and contrive to pull them together, always bearing in mind the notes above.

Top-down involves figuring out broadly what sort of a mission I want (Smash 'n grab, extraction, etc.), then creating characters and background, then focusing on scenes and props.

I think almost more important though is what NOT to do when planning an adventure:

Don't stick to a hard timeline for events. Events happen when it's awesome for them to happen.

Don't overplan - most of the material won't be used. Don't underplan unless you like improvising.

Expect the players to always rush forward when you expect them to retreat, retreat when you expect them to press on, lag when you think the path is obvious, and turn left on roads with no turns.
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Troyminator
post Mar 23 2011, 01:42 PM
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QUOTE (nezumi @ Mar 23 2011, 08:22 AM) *
Expect the players to always rush forward when you expect them to retreat, retreat when you expect them to press on, lag when you think the path is obvious, and turn left on roads with no turns.


This SOOOOOOO describes my group.

Thank you all for the hints. I appreciate them. Keep them coming
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Wesley Street
post Mar 23 2011, 01:45 PM
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You want to know what would be really easy? Take an existing SR adventure from 1st or 2nd ed., file off the serial numbers, and change the stats to match SR4. The funny thing with RPGs is that you can throw the exact same situation at a group of players but if you re-skin it, it feels new. Once you've done that a couple of times you'll start to understand the basic SR story adventure structure and be able to plot your own to meet your group's needs.
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Blade
post Mar 23 2011, 02:04 PM
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QUOTE (nezumi @ Mar 23 2011, 02:22 PM) *
Don't stick to a hard timeline for events. Events happen when it's awesome for them to happen.


I don't completely agree: having the Lone Star SWAT raid the mafia's drug factory just when the players decide to go there might be awesome. But it's quite unlikely. Having it happen once is okay, but if it happens too many times, everything might feel a little staged (which might be the case, but then it's not a problem).

Plus, sometimes you can have awesomer scenes happens because the SWAT have already attacked the place by the time the PC get there, or have the SWAT attack just after the PC left or have the PC blow up the place before the SWAT can get there, or have the SWAT get ready to act just as everything is blowing up...
Deciding that the SWAT will arrive at 2'o'clock on the second day of the run can lead to any of these situations depending on how the players act. It can also be a way to make it harder for the players if they took too long doing things or on the contrary, give them a hand if they lag behind and you want them to get back on track so that you can get to a more interesting part of the adventure.

Let's say you decide this:
- Day 1 - 10:00PM: The runners are hired to get the list of undercover Lone Star agents. M. Johnson, officially from the Mafia, is actually one of the Lone Star agent. He was ordered by the mafia to hire runner to get the list so he has to do it, but at the same time, he tries to warn everyone.
- Day 1 - 11:30PM: M. Johnson is in a safe place so he calls the undercover agent in the mafia's drug factory. That agent reports back to his boss and asks to get out of here FAST.
- Day 2 - 01:00AM: The Lone Star boss has got the authorization to raid the drug factory. The undercover agent is to "get arrested" with the people working there.
- Day 2 - 01:45AM: The SWAT is deployed and waits for go signal.
- Day 2 - 02:00AM: The SWAT agents get the go signal.

If you decided that the SWAT would attack just as the PC got there, it would have been strange if that turned out to be the first place the PC investigated or if they only went there 5 days after the beginning of the investigation. Or you'd have players tell you: "How come we didn't notice them?" because you'd have forgotten to take into account the time it takes to deploy. Of course, you could always come up with explanations, but then you'd have to make sure they don't break anything else that has happened before. Sticking to the timeline (as long as the PC don't blow it up to pieces) is easier and can lead to fun situation you'd never have thought about.
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jaellot
post Mar 23 2011, 02:32 PM
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It might just be my group, but for me a session of any game generally involves me introducing a plot idea, in a natural way, and watch the entire world implode as the group begin to ponder out consequences I could never have imagined in a million years. Or they go in a completely different direction, or even don't go for the plot hook.

An off-genre example; In a 7th Sea session I planned on a sea serpent attack. Big, nasty, and it was going to eat people all over the place. Instead, at the very start of the session, a love triangle went KABOOM. Duels left and right, honor sullied, honor repaired, stabbings and bets from the crew flew wild. One of the best sessions I have ever ran. And I honestly had nothing to do with it.

I guess the moral of this story is a repeat of something that's already been said; you can't prepare when the party goes horribly off track. Just roll with it, and keep your cool. If what they propose seems doable, let them try for it. If it's absolutely off the wall, let them know that, too. And if you need a minute to get your shit together, tell them. You are but one person, running an entire world.

It does come down to knowing your players, too. My group has made it clear they won't do wetwork. Fine. I don't waste my time, and eventually theirs, working up a Run based on sniping some dude. But I might work up a Run where they are to protect a target, or track down the hitmen before they do the job, for example.
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James McMurray
post Mar 23 2011, 03:10 PM
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Depending on how much time I have, I either do node-based adventure design or toss together a quick five room model. The former is great for getting a meshed web of information and scenery for the players to move around in until they finally reach their goal. The second is much more straightforward and tends to have some railroading aspects, but it gets the job done and easily fits a run into a single evening. In any case, I try to keep the following in mind:

  • Only stat up the bare minimum: system ratings, NPCs, payout, etc. There's no telling where the players will eventually go, and the less you can get away with the better off you are.
  • Know what the PCs are capable of. If the three combat gurus have 20+ dice pools, end-game NPCs need to be able to withstand that. And vice versa, if the group is maxed out at Pistols 12, don't send them up against cyberzombies with the expectation that they'll win. I keep a combat spreadsheet so I know what an NPC just below them, even with them, and just above them looks like. Having that info on hand also means I can quickly make up opponents should they do the unthinkable and run off to Africa with Paris Hilton (which they did once, albeit not in a Shadowrun campaign).
  • Make sure they have spots to shine. I forgot this on our last run and every fight involved at least one prime runner that was superior to the PCs. It bit me on the butt with an unhappy player, so I'm keeping in at the forefront of my planning for the next run.
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nezumi
post Mar 23 2011, 03:41 PM
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QUOTE (Blade @ Mar 23 2011, 09:04 AM) *
Let's say you decide this:
- Day 1 - 10:00PM: The runners are hired to get the list of undercover Lone Star agents. M. Johnson, officially from the Mafia, is actually one of the Lone Star agent. He was ordered by the mafia to hire runner to get the list so he has to do it, but at the same time, he tries to warn everyone.
- Day 1 - 11:30PM: M. Johnson is in a safe place so he calls the undercover agent in the mafia's drug factory. That agent reports back to his boss and asks to get out of here FAST.
- Day 2 - 01:00AM: The Lone Star boss has got the authorization to raid the drug factory. The undercover agent is to "get arrested" with the people working there.
- Day 2 - 01:45AM: The SWAT is deployed and waits for go signal.
- Day 2 - 02:00AM: The SWAT agents get the go signal.


Indeed, creating and sticking to a hard timeline does make the world feel more real. The trade-off is, it takes a lot of work, and almost always ends up being irrelevant. In your situation, my PCs would either wrap up the whole mission by 2pm on Day 1 (so the SWAT team is no longer even relevant, and never adds to the story at all), or get caught up in the Don's four mistresses and is tracking down geneologies in Venezuela, so they only get to the warehouse by Day 5 when all other leads have been explored, and now the warehouse is empty (so the SWAT team is only relevant in sofar that it tells them the princess is in another castle).

If you are thinking 'it would be awesome to have a shoot-out in a factory', it's almost guaranteed NOT to happen with a static timeline like this. Just between 10am and 2am there are 16 hours for the PCs to hit the warehouse or otherwise get themselves stupid. If you want the SWAT/PC shoot-out, you either need the PCs to trigger the SWAT team coming, or to 'happen' to run into them (whether it's at 2am or 10am).

I wouldn't even use that setup for the fun of 'your target WAS at the warehouse, but now is in LS jail'. For that, you're still doing setup work, writing out the jail and all that, but I would give better than even odds that, whatever you anticipate, the PCs do the opposite.

The only way I'd go through all that fuss of a timeline like that is if I want the warehouse to get destroyed, but don't care when, or if I want a shoot-out in the jail and they can reach it EITHER by following Warehouse Agent (who is arrested) or Agent B (who is arrested at another locale).


jaellot is right when the players are proactive. Even when they aren't, I generally roll with it. I don't believe in red herrings. If the PCs believe the agent is the Don's mistress from Venezuela, I either tell them straight out they're wrong, so don't waste the game time, or I rearrange the plot so the mistress is an agent.

Players are weird.
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Belvidere
post Mar 23 2011, 04:02 PM
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Know this: A GM will plan out four ways for a mission to go. Players will always pick the fifth.

I've learned that improv is the utter key to SR GMing. That and bookeeping. Players get a little upset when a mook had a 12 dice pool last week and 14 the next week. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/grinbig.gif)
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ggodo
post Mar 23 2011, 04:12 PM
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QUOTE (nezumi @ Mar 23 2011, 07:41 AM) *
jaellot is right when the players are proactive. Even when they aren't, I generally roll with it. I don't believe in red herrings. If the PCs believe the agent is the Don's mistress from Venezuela, I either tell them straight out they're wrong, so don't waste the game time, or I rearrange the plot so the mistress is an agent.

Players are weird.



I don't give Red Herrings, my players create their own. It's really amazing how paranoid they can get even when you explicitly state whether something is true or false.
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Method
post Mar 23 2011, 06:48 PM
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You might find this useful. There was a more polished version in the first issue of Dumpshock Datahaven <single tear> but all the key points are there and some good discussion.

I'll try to elaborate on my method form actually designing an adventure later if I have more time.
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Warlordtheft
post Mar 23 2011, 06:50 PM
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QUOTE (phlapjack77 @ Mar 23 2011, 02:06 AM) *
Adding on to this, I tended to get tripped up as a GM when the players would go off the rails, and ask for specifics about things I hadn't prepared for, like where the bartender lived so they could follow him home, break into his apt, etc.

I think it's worth it to build up a "library" of standard mooks, complete with descriptions such as carried gear, where they live, etc. Same for many types of buildings, like apartments, bars, offices, etc.


If they do that, wing it! This is were the descriptions of the skill rating and attribute level comes in handy. I tend to take that and run with it.

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phlapjack77
post Mar 24 2011, 12:29 AM
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QUOTE (Warlordtheft @ Mar 24 2011, 03:50 AM) *
If they do that, wing it! This is were the descriptions of the skill rating and attribute level comes in handy. I tend to take that and run with it.

But winging it is hard! (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif)

For me, it was the fine, nitty-gritty details that the players wanted. It got difficult to wing every NPC's equipment (needed lots of detail, here), the layouts and security and matrix of every single location, etc. So having a library of mooks, locations and objects helped me provide the details they wanted.
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kzt
post Mar 24 2011, 03:38 AM
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QUOTE (Critias @ Mar 23 2011, 12:52 AM) *
Be ready to roll with the punches, and concentrate on telling a good story and making sure the PCs have fun, more than you worry about the niggling details and train-track specifics of a certain 'run.

PCs can have fun or not, but if the players don't enjoy the game it won't be a very fun game to GM.
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kzt
post Mar 24 2011, 03:41 AM
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QUOTE (Wesley Street @ Mar 23 2011, 06:45 AM) *
You want to know what would be really easy? Take an existing SR adventure from 1st or 2nd ed., file off the serial numbers, and change the stats to match SR4. The funny thing with RPGs is that you can throw the exact same situation at a group of players but if you re-skin it, it feels new. Once you've done that a couple of times you'll start to understand the basic SR story adventure structure and be able to plot your own to meet your group's needs.

Dig into the 1st or 2nd set of missions. Make what changes you feel makes sense, or run them as is. http://www.shadowrun4.com/missions/downloads-season-1/
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