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I'm about to introduce some friends to their (mostly) first experience of role-playing games. I haven't yet decided whether it will be Shadowrun or an Iron Heroes - Eberron cross. I think what it comes down to is that my friends will want a bit more than just Hired For Job -> Do Job -> Next Job. I definitely need to bring in an over-arching plot with a bit more of a dramatic scale and some villains with very believable motives and aims.

I'm basically looking for good ideas I can adapt or steal. For some reason, it seems a bit harder in Shadowrun. Call it a shortage of mad half-dragons with orc armies, if you will. Or maybe it's just that my friends are non-gamers and wont have had all the conditioning to think in the usual stereotype plots. They'll be looking for story and something more than you are criminals, this is today's job.

What have other people used, or wanted to use, as campaign villains and plots? I seem to be having a low inspiration day and could do with some good, solid suggestions. Gimme your best!

Many thanks for all replies,

I had a mafia plot. The characters were associates of the mafia. Their fixer was mafia. Basically I have very few independent fixers. Most work under the protection of one of the syndicates. All of their contacts that they started with are mafia as well. They started with lower level jobs and worked their way up to higher level associates. They had grown up around the mafia for the most part but for one reason or another were not acceptable as an actual part of the family.

They started out in Loveland under the territory of the Bigio family. Most of the shadowruns were against low level corps. Basically most people don't know a fixer. If they ave the money they can find someone in the mafia though. They get directed to the right people and one of the Dons makes a deal with them. Then they send the details to the fixer. The fixer finds out which of his teams can do it at the time. Then he gives them the details. The Don gets a cut and so does the Fixer. They do all the negotiating. The team could negotiate a little with the Fixer but they had better have a good reason behind it or the Fixer would just say no and they get no job. The Mr Johnson is not going to double cross the Mafia but the job is still going to be dangerous. It could have several parts, etc. etc.

Enemies could be rival families in the overall mafia plot for struggles for control. They could be enemy syndicates, etc. Allies could be corrupt cops and government officials on the take, etc. They were allowed to take jobs outside of the family as long as they didn't knowingly take jobs from rivals or enemies. Most of the jobs were either hits for the family or low level corps wanting basic shadowrunning. That way the PC's could get a feel for the setting at a lower death level and I could get an idea of how smart they were. It also gave them a chance to create some operating procedures.

After a while a Megacorp would need some low level farmed out work. This is where the danger level increased. They were looking for some throw away runners instead of using their in-house groups that had proven themselves. They don't expect anything spectacular out of them and the runs are not that sensitive. They are mostly just side issues that will have even less back story given then what the mafia usually does. The mafia can't really challenge them in case of a double cross either. If they do fairly well then send them after bigger issues. After a while they will want to bring them in house for increased resources and training. They would be trained to work more like intelligence agents.

This was supposed to be a sort of next major section of a campaign but we never got that far. Too many schedule changes.

Hope that helps.
I've found that it's generally easier to have a target, rather than an over-arcing plotline. For example, if your ultimate goal is to bring down Ares, then you have your common link, you have allies and enemies built in.

But if an long plot is what you want, then you need to determine what the actual goal is. In my opinion, it's harder to work forwards than it is backwords when making a plot.

So lets say the ultimate goal is Humanis Bloodmage (we'll call him Chuck) wants to summon a freaking powerful blood spirit to eat trogs. Pretty straight forward, so we have to throw some twists in.

Lets say Chuck works for Aztechnology. Nah, to easy. Lets say Chuck works for the Draco Foundation, and is hiding his bloodmagey badness, and his driving need to exterminate all trogs.

How will Chuck summon the blood spirit? The standard 'kill stuff in the name of ZOD!' approach works, but he's to high-profile, so he needs something low key. Smells like natural orichalcum is needed, and lots of it. Good thing he's a mage working for the Draco Foundation, eh?

How will the runners get involved? This one is the easy one -- they get hired and smell a rat. Perhaps he recoils involuntarily to the party troll or orc (you've surely got at least one), or the party mage sees indications of blood magic. Whatever the trigger, the party is now suspicious. Now Chuck trys to throw the runners off his trail (but fails miserably, as he actually gives them more clues to his ultimate goal). Once that fails, he sends people after the runners (gives the street sam a chance to use all those booby traps he set up in his home).

The final showdown has the runners break into Chuck's Draco Foundation lab in the nick of time -- to watch the blood spirit consume Chuck and start going berserk.

Depending on how the runners play this, the Draco Foundation might actually help them in the final showdown, or be sending security to 'detain' the violent criminals that just killed poor old Chuck and summoned a nasty Blood Spirit.
The classic SR campaign plot has the runners doing a series of seemingly unrelated jobs for an anonymous employer - many times, the villain of the story. You leave tidbits of info here and there to give the PCs the feeling that all is not as it seems. Late in the story, the employer is revealed. If the employer is the story's villain, this is usually where he tries to have them killed and the PCs narrowly survive. In the final chapter, the job is about doing the right thing - saving the cheerleader, the world, clearing their names, and often revolves around undoing the plot they've been unknowingly helping the villain achieve up to this point. That's a good, if predictable, twist.

Are you really having trouble finding a villain though?
Or in my games, beak into the Chuck's lab to discover that the Draco Foundation has P-Fixed him to no longer hate Trogs, but to continue practicing Blood Magic according to the wishes of Big D. cyber.gif
Non-Gamers Gaming.

I guess I would want to find out what kind of things do they enjoy, expect. Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Post Apocalypse, Horror, or complete silliness.

Having the Characters be rogue operatives for an organization. Where there main thrust is to imporve the organization as a whole sounds great. You could then give them some high pay-out jobs without worry, as that would free them up to do some more important low to no pay-out jobs that they feel are important.
I like political could have them wrapped in a political plot where they uncover the machinations of a sinister president and his cabal of white house staffers to involve the UCAS in an unnecessary war in the middle east.... Only the shadowrunners can get this valuable pay data into the hands of a cynical press core more interested in the love life of the latest trid star. Can the runners stop the evil machinations of Rick Delaney in time?

At least it would be topical. smile.gif
If it'd help, one of the players in my campaign is keeping a log of our game. Feel free to steal whatever you like for your game.
Aaron, I would just like to say, that I've been reading the log of your player, and I think that the stuff is HALARIOUS (the comedy parts, I mean) and that is the kind of shadowrun game I would love to be in.

Also, I can really tell that your players hate Vampires biggrin.gif
Kyoto Kid
...I'm with Dizzzman on this. It can be difficult, for intrigue is usually built on subtle subplots and clues, that can easily be sidestepped particularly due to the presence of magic. I am currently running just such a campaign which also has a bit of a decidedly film noir feel, but for spoiler reasons cannot mention actual details here.

Intrigue need not be restricted to government politics either. Detective films of the 30s are a good resource to look at. Corporate Espionage is another angle that can be used. Again, be warned that magic can circumvent many of the classic "mystery" elements central to this type of campaign. The one other thing is an intrigue based campaign is much more low key in that it tends to be heavier on the legwork and social interaction aspects of the game than on combat. So if everyone is more interested in toting an Ares Alpha with EXEX & frag grenades or slinging that boffo Powerball spell, this may not be the way to go.

In this type of campaign the Face, a Reporter (a variant of the Face), and Investigator (mundane, matrix, or magical) character types can work very well.
I guess it all depends on the kind of movi... I mean the kind of story you and your players would like to be involved in. Plotwise it will be easy later on to somehow make things up. It is not so much what you want to do but how you tell things. I usually start campaigns with something simple with no strings attached and in the first sessions I try best to establish the tone and mood of the campaign, plot comes a bit later. I have found that players are the best resource of plot ideas ever, after a couple runs they have already hinted me in the right directions.

Just for the sake of nostalgia and inspiration I will mention some of some plot lines I have used and that I am using now, If any of my usual players browse this thread, please do not read on, thanks

[ Spoiler ]

[ Spoiler ]

[ Spoiler ]

Another source of inspiration might be the Ghost in the Shell anime tv series. Second Gig can be a good plot to follow if you ever want to make a Section 9 type of group. I have the ideas but never got to run it.

Well... I have much, much more. I have actually been playing and Gming Shadowrun for many years now and I realize we have played a lot! Those are a couple of the most recent stories and one of the first. I might return with some more later as I remember them. Also you could tell us a little about the players and what they want, they will be the most recurring characters in your story, so that's what matters the most.

Tired and a little bit nostalgic.


Thank you very much for all the replies. I don't know why I'm having trouble with this.

In response to the questions about the group, there are four players lined up at the moment, one of which is heavily into gaming and one of which once played in a brother's game a couple of times when she was little. That's it for gaming experience. One of the players likes good quality science fiction and fantasy and likes a bit of computer empire building. I think she'll be the one most happy with rules and numbers. I think she'd also be slightly miffed at playing a hardened criminal and probably wouldn't enjoy playing any character that casually killed anyone else (including security guards). The second player is a nice enough guy, not particularly into science fiction, fantasy or gaming of any kind, but I think he's a good laugh and I think he'll go along with whatever. I don't think I could ever persuade him to get excited about how much karma he's earning or dice he's rolling, but I'm sure he'll join in with the role-playing. I think only a storyline with a very human angle would actually engage him, though. Again, there's probably a little too much real world experience to regard casual violence as wholesome fun. And I guess this is actually part of what I'm worried about, now I've thought it through. A proportion of the group is going to find sneaking through a building shooting people for money vaguely distasteful. I really need to provide a context for it all.

The above makes it sound like they don't actually want to play a role-playing game, but they're actually all friends of mine and they all like the sound of it. They know me and they know that I do this "role-playing game thing," and I've obviously made it sound fun. I do have a third player who wont have a problem with violence or sadism. (Given some of the things she's into in real life, I'm worried whether the Shadowrun setting will be dark enough for her). Whilst putting a bunraku parlour in a session will make two of the players retch, I know this one would really appreciate the whole idea.

The fourth player is one of two people. Ideally a friend of mine who I think would be okay with whatever I run, but I'm not sure that he can make it. If he can't, I have another player who is virtually breaking my door down to get in. The trouble is that he is very much the sort of person who will tell you at great length about how his troll beserker defeated X, Y and Z and he's already sent me a several page background for his character upto and including his mothers maiden name (no it isn't relevent to the character). He wont gel with the rest of the players and will likely get resentful when he doesn't. I am really, really hoping I can make up the numbers without him.

And no, I hope he doesn't read dumpshock.

Maybe I'm just having a bad GM day. I need to set up a Shadowrun game where the players can do something heroic, I think. More particularly, I think it needs to have a really personal angle, too. Maybe I'm going about this wrong and I should try and work with the players to set up some loose ends and mysteries in their own character backgrounds... Just got to think what, now. Would need to be something that tied into larger events.
In that case, may I recommend starting with a canned adventure? There's On the Run, which I used to kick off my game. I've also got a couple of appropriate one-shots that were run at Gen Con last year; I can send them to you if you like.

After a canned run or two, you'll have a better feel of where the characters are going and who they are, and will be more able to pull some plot threads out of the game.

Also, I like to use the tables that start on p. 23 in the wacky-befonted Contacts and Adventures book that came with the screen, as sort of a framework for what I want to do. And if I don't like a result, I either fudge it or start over, so its not like I'm locked into anything.
One thing you can do is provide a non-criminal context for the players to do their "runs". A good example would be working for relief organizations or peacekeepers. It's a very Shadowrun-like experience, except that the goal is to keep as many people from perishing in the food riots and disease as possible.

Here's the basic set-up:

You have a region that has ethnic, religious, idealistic, economic, and/or racial tensions. Then you throw a humanitarian crisis on top of that. Then you send in the player characters - underfunded and undermanned.

So for example: you start with a region in Montenegro which has yet to be fully rebuilt after the Second Jihad. You've got ethnic tensions between Albanians and Serbs, you've got religious tensions between the Eastern Orthodox and the Muslims, you've got nationalistic conflicts between the "Yugoslavs" and the "Ottomans", and you have uneasy relations between humans and orks. Now: throw in a plague.

A good plague. Lycanthropy. It's just like Vampirism, except it involves people transforming into big hairy berserk canibalistic monsters instead of cool and coniving canibalistic monsters. "Corpses" left behind have a disturbing tendency to get back up and turn into big hairy monsters the next time the full moon happens. Standard fast-zombie apocalypse scenario, except that this time they spend a lot of time looking like normal humans and having amnesia about their rampages.

In the mean-time, lycanthropes and terrorists have taken out power, water, and sewage treatment, causing secondary outbreaks to run amok.


Player characters have completely insufficient tools to handle all of this, but basically you're trying to keep riots from happening long enough that you can get food and water into the camps. Also, you're going to have periodic "bug hunt" scenarios when someone goes wolf and starts ripping throats. Try to get organized body incineration going when some of the people actually believe that the lycanthropy is a gift from God to drive out the heretics (choose your flavor).

Players who come to the table with medical skills, social skills, weapon skills, spying skills, magic skills and logistics skills will be in high demand.

First off if you take mr Troll feel free to start up a whole new thread on that. I'll talk your ear off.

Anyway what I tend to enjoy in the campaigns I run is a "layered" structure.

First their is the plot of the day. One nice thing about SRs mission structure is that you don't have to come up with lame hooks to do wildly different things on different days. One day they're trudging through a jungle trying to track down a toxic shaman the next they're trying to keep 20 screaming kids under control as they guard a AAA schools class trip to the zoo (who knows who might want to kidnap those kids!).

Anyway in addition to that I tend to have a "higher level" plot. Something going on in the world that's huge at least to the players. At first they might not even be aware of it.

And then they have subplots. I think subplots would work particularily well for you. SR characters don't just shoot stuff every day. In fact I think the new book limits how many runs they can do. They have lots of time on their own. It's quite in genre to give them boyfriends/girlfriends and all sorts of personal problems or other issues. One persons subplots can be quite dark. Another humourous. Anothers dramatic. I really enjoy those and they give people some spotlight time. Just don't spend all session on them. For time managment it helps if people get wrapped up a little in each others subplots. But I do like giving people a little "just you" time. I haven't had people mind so long as I give spotlight time fairly evenly.

Finally is the backstory. Not the stuff players write up. But the trail of experiences and NPC they leave behind. Keep some of that stuff around.

As for the morality thing. Remember your team decides who they work for and what jobs they take. You could only hand them stuff helping people or against villans. Of which SR has TONS.

For example maybe they're all runners for lonestar (yes lonestar has runners on the side). And overall plot might be some kind of fighting corroption within while trying not to throw the city into turmoil. Then in their regular time they're taking the jobs that are too dangerous or require bending the rules a little. Then they can also have their subplots.

If you're into epic stuff maybe check out Harlequin and Harlequins back.

Also I occasionally enjoy dropping the runners into some horrible situation. The day to day plots involve survival. The overal plot involves trying to fix things or somesuch. Subplots are the runner who found the little girl under the charred remains of her mother who took a blast for her.

An excellent example of this would be Bug City.

I would suggest watching the first season of Veronica Mars for a good example of how to integrate an ongoing storyline with episodic missions in the context of a mystery.

The second and third seasons lack the quality of the first, unfortunately and it appears that the solutions to the big mysteries were just pulled out of the writer's butts at the last minute.

A good freelance detective campaign provides a great many possibilities and can be scaled to any influence level. One can have corporate noir just as easily as one can have street noir. It also provides plenty of opportunities to reveal pieces of the ongoing plots as the characters investigate various entities for various reasons.

As for a good campaign villain, an underachieving corporate lower-middle-manager single-parent with 2s across the board who lives in a run-down tenement with his/her three special-needs public-school attendee children because he doesn't get paid enough to afford a place in the extraterritorial facility where he works who unilaterally made a decision which saved his corporation a couple of million nuyen and only killed a few thousand people in the hopes that his initiative and success would help earn him a promotion.
When the PCs start to discover the truth he has to take care of them. After all, the truth could be embarrassing; but, again, this is a unilateral decision without any input from the bosses so the buck stops with him. Because the government doesn't care about those killed, of course, he'll get away with it unless the PCs do something to him which provides them with an obvious moral dilemma when three disabled toddlers start pounding on their ankles and screaming for them to leave daddy/mommy alone. And one of the kids was born a troll, because a troll toddler defauting. And one of the kids was born a troll, because a STR6 AGI2 troll toddler is highly unlikely to land a hit but can cause some damage.

Shadowrun is a callous world where life is cheap and normal loving people commit genocide via papercut every day without really caring about those who suffer from the decision.
You could pick a suitably rough neighborhood in Seattle, plagued by organized crime and the dirty side of some suitable corporation (dumping toxic waste, doing experiments on SINless, exploiting unwanted territory for other purposes), and throw the runners in there.

They will have friends and possibly family there, and the conflicts between SINless citizens, organized crime, gangs and the corporation forces them to act. With the ultimate goal of exposing and pushing away the corporation and settle the crime syndicate conflicts, the runners are drawn into a series of runs where they will be forced to make difficult decisions, perform questionable acts, and ally with those they want to overthrow in an effort to raise money and connections so that they can actually accomplish their goals.

Tarislar - dystopian setting covered in ash and acid rain, where children grow up coughing. Knight Errant is payed to keep the peace, but recent conflicts with Laesa and KE have created a tension that is bound to escalate soon. Add to that escalating conflicts between Laesa and The Ancients, and life is getting harder in the elven refugee enclave. Now with Laesa opening a brothel where they dose the stunning elven beauties with laes, tempers are flaring.
You can adapt the run idea 'Job Dissatisfaction' in Runner Havens to the Laesa and have the young unfortunate flee to a local chapter of the Ancients - when she runs, it is into the basement of a secret waste reclamation plant in the area, exposing the fact that a corporation have been using Tarislar as a secure place to get rid of some of their more unwanted by-products.

You have elven organized crime in the form of Laesa and The Ancients, a corrupt Knight Errant who have been paid off to overlook certain goings-on while they crack down on others, a corporation exploiting the isolation of the area (and maybe even dabbling in toxic magic...), all wrapped around the general hardships and despair of refugees living under poor conditions in an enviroment that is hazardous to their health.

The runners have the potential to really do good and improve the area, but they will face not only an external enemy but their own morals in their struggle. This will allow the runners to gradually move from a self-proclaimed band of do-gooders to vigilantes and possibly heroes, and at the same time explore the darker sides of shadowrun. At the same time, they will face racial discrimination - both positive and negative - within their home area and outside of it.

To begin with the main antagonists won't really be visible, but as the campaign rolls along the runners will discover the toxic shaman in charge of the waste-disposal subsidiary of a larger company, the corrupt KE official, leaders in the Ancients and Laesa, and maybe a Banshee(elven vampire) terrorizing the citizens - perhaps said Banshee is actually a high-ranking member of Laesa or the Ancients? Of course, the polluting company and Knight Errant have a deal, which will turn the peace-keeping officers into enemies rahter than allies when the runners threaten to expose things.

You should be able to find useful run ideas in both Runner Havens and the GM screen, and perhaps among the SR Missions as well (both old and new).
Kyoto Kid
QUOTE (Aaron)
In that case, may I recommend starting with a canned adventure? There's On the Run, which I used to kick off my game. I've also got a couple of appropriate one-shots that were run at Gen Con last year; I can send them to you if you like.

...I would also suggest one or two of the Shadowrun Missions which can be downloaded from the Fanpro Shadowrun site.
I find it a lot easier to do long, stretching campaigns in Shadowrun than most other games save stuff like White Wolf. The only problem is keeping a group together long enough.

First, pick a villain. This can be a specific person, a corporation, or some other organization.

Once you've done that...HIDE HIM/HER/THEM/IT!! The master villain should be behind the scenes not actually doing anything directly. The PCs shouldn't even know he exists until a few adventures in and probably shouldn't figure out exactly who it is until the last moments of the arch.

Now, the Machiavellian villain should have flunkies that do the dirty work. Now don't take that the wrong way, they should be tough and smart. The trick is unless you have the characters AND the players in mind BEFORE you design them, the best re-occuring villains will make themselves apparent. These are the antagonists who the players keep talking about over and over again even after they've defeated him. Don't forget horror, fantasy, and sci-fi movie cliches. Villains CAN come back from the apparent dead to torment the PCs once again.

Next, figure out a way to make the characters AND the players hate the villain. Betrayal is usually the best way to accomplish this goal. Have the person they trust -- their fixer, their girlfriend, their regular Johnson, whatever -- either be the villain or better yet, working for the villain the entire time. Making them do something they thought was good turn out to be an act of evil is good as well.

Finally, the resolution should cause the players to hit the villain where it hurts. If the villain is a big corporate or political player, just shooting him in the head is no fun at all. It's much better if they can completely destroy his career and leave his life in tatters instead. This also lets him come back for revenge, possibly working with the villain of the next arch.

The trick to all this though is to make sure that there IS an ending. It's always good to have a very long plot, but not so long that the players get bored with it. "Oh no, not Lugh Surehand AGAIN!" Make sure it's satisfying and let the characters beat the villain at his own game.

You want plot ideas? Watch a movie. Read a book. Play a video game. Take elements from different sources and mesh them all together in order to make them unique. Not just Shadowrun or even sci-fi stuff. Casablanca is great...a courier is killed to steal letters of transit that would allow two people to escape from an evil regime. Twist it around and it could be saving two metahuman activists from San Francisco...or getting someone out of Aztlan...maybe escaping Ghostwalker in Denver. Ideas can come from anywhere if you just keep your eyes and ears open for them.

Do yourself a favor though and read, if nothing else, the Evil Overlord list. Cliches may become cliches because they work, but it's much more fun if you have someone better. And for the love of all things holy, PLEASE give your villain a realistic motivation! Even the most evil people in history thought they were doing the right thing. It doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to be realistic. And when you have your master arching plan, take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of the bad guy. Is there an easier or better way to accomplish the same results that wouldn't involve getting a group of people pissed off enough to try to take me down?

The Abstruse One
It was an easy run. Steal a "key" from a couple of executive types. Hold the executives until after the job. Walk in late at night. Pick up some stuff and leave.
Heck even found a way to get the security riggers out of the building.

So there we are when a cyberzombie walks by. Doesn't attack, doesn't raise the alarm, just walks by. Then I hear one of the team choke out,"That's my sister! Oh my God! What have they done to my sister!" Things went down hill from there. But on the bright side his sister is no longer a Cyberzombie.
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