Help - Search - Members - Calendar
Full Version: Running a campaign without fixed players?
Dumpshock Forums > Discussion > Shadowrun
I want to run a sr4 campaign, but I won't always have the same players.
I want to set up dates for a game, then the players who can just come and play. So it's not usually the same people, it's more 3 randoms out of 10. Then I write a summary for those who weren't there.
Is it doable? What kind of campaign could I run like this?
Are you talking about having everyone have their own characters or a set of pregens for whoever shows up?

If you run a very episodic game then it could work. I wouldn't do summaries either. Only characters involved in a run would know about it.
They will have their own characters.
Maybe I could make them part of a big group of shadowrunners which is hired by Johnson then dispatches members to the missions. If there's a problem, it will be the whole group's problem.
Yeah, make sure each run can fit into a single session.
Make the fixer part of a syndicate. That way you can have a story arc that effects the whole syndacate but individual characters move in and out of it..
QUOTE (Garrowolf)
Make the fixer part of a syndicate. That way you can have a story arc that effects the whole syndacate but individual characters move in and out of it..

Nice idea !
QUOTE (Garrowolf)
I wouldn't do summaries either. Only characters involved in a run would know about it.

That's a fine idea in theory, but it's a terrible idea in practice. What would be the point in playing in a campaign where you don't know what the story is? Sometimes GM forget that players like to have fun too. Make the story obvious. Write out little summaries, maybe as short news story clippings if you have time, of the events going on. Provide NPCs that go "Hey, did you hear about the hit on the Ares facility last week?", etc.

Keep all the players involved in the story. It may take away a bit of 'realism', but otherwise your players are going to have zero interest in your campaign.
it could be a kind of thing where all the runners are associates, but aren't a "team", more like independant contractors working together.

THat way who ever shows up that day for the game, the fixer calls them and says "I have need of your special skills today".

This is the way I see shadowrunners working more often than not. Individuals who will team up temporarily to achieve a goal, then go their seperate ways.
Actually, why not run a Missions campaign? It's not like there aren't enough of them. They're designed for different teams that are not static every session. Plus, if players can keep their traps shut, you can run the same adventure twice for two completely different groups. Not to mention they're already written. And free.
I've run a (short) campaing with pregens for whoever showed up. It was at a local gaming club once a month. I had 6 pregens and the first 6 players to sign up got to play them. If a player had played befor, they got first choise of character.

In between the games I would write summeries for each of the characters, so players that hadn't played before had a chance to catch up.

Unfortunately the campaign folder after 6 months, and thus 6 scenarios, as the club started charging way to much for my liking (they were saving up to get their own locals instead of borrowing to local school).

But they idea worked fine as long as it was running.

This is the way I see shadowrunners working more often than not. Individuals who will team up temporarily to achieve a goal, then go their seperate ways.

I have always liked this approach as it really feels right for the setting. However, metagame reasons prevent it from ever including the PCs...
Use a Character Pool and let the Players choose which Character to use that Run.

Not a perfect solution to be sure, but its the only one I can think of at the moment.
When I was talking about not having summaries I was thinking that they wouldn't know all the different runs that the syndicate is doing. It would give interesting in game fodder for conversations. The fixer and other NPCs would keep them up to date on the overall story arc. That way you can give different details to different groups and let them speculate in several directions. Then take any ideas that sound better then what you had and work them in. If you keep good notes the setting will look complex and alive but the players are doing much of the work for you! But if you give out some sort of news letter to each group then it will neutralize this effect and reset the game based on each newsletter. Give the players something to talk about, not more paper work.
this is how we ran for years. main characters and we went with who's available which is knif of like reall ife or mission Impossible
I'm doing something like this in my Skype game right now.
At this point I'm just echoing what other people have said.
1) Make sure they have a common ground. In my game, they can have any background they want, provided that they were all, at one point, connected with a particular gang. This way, when two characters finally meet each other in-game during session 4, even if they've never met in their backgrounds they have something tying them together, making them want to work together, and no one has to "prove themselves" and no one gets shot over a minor argument.
2) I do recommend summaries. This way someone who misses a couple sessions in a row still feels involved. Otherwise, you risk people feeling alienated and not coming back after missing a couple sessions.
3) Highly episodic. Duh. You can have underlying/overarcing plots, but make sure every sit-down session ends with some downtime.
4) Just as a nice little touch, make sure every character has a reason to be elsewhere. For example, in my game, if the player who is playing Boris the street samurai isn't available to play, then in game I mention that when they go to round up the team that week, Boris (who is an alcoholic) is in far too sorry a state to participate. Other characters may have families, jobs, or other commitments, but every character should have a character-developing reason not to be available, not just "uhhhh, he's not here".
5) Make sure everyone can do a few things. Generalists actually work well in a campaign like this, because odds are any given week they're there they can be the best at something, or they can shore up weak points on the team. Also, with 10 people you are going to have some overlap, and you don't want someone who only does one thing being completely overshadowed by someone else who does the same thing, only better. If the person who is better than you shows up, you need to have a secondary role to fall back on to still feel useful.
6) Make sure the schedule is regular, and scheduled well in advance. Once you start trying to change the schedule around, it becomes a nightmare. In my group, we play every other Saturday from now until universal heat-death. If a particular Saturday isn't going to work, we just skip it and move on.

That's all I can think of for now. This is what I've found for my group, but as always, YMMV. All in all, it's worked better than I'd ever hoped.
Good luck.
I like Moon-Hawk's suggestions.

Instead of the GM keepoing the summery I would suggest that the players keep a Journal and read off what happened to them from the last time they were with the group. It should be in their characters point of view, and include what happened to them in the downtime and missed sessions. A Karma or 2 for a good story.

This worked good for a group of seven from a different system. It got amusing when the POVs made the 'debriefings' seem to come form different missions.

The campaign w/o fixed player does remind me of my thoughts of the first D&D movie.
Oh look in this scene only the thief could make it.
Moon-hawks advice is solid. Shadowruns city based and run based nature makes it ideally suited for that kind of game. Usually works great.

A couple pieces of advice of my own.

Give the players who can't come a couple Karma, possibly tied in with whatever they're doing in their off time, offer a bit more if they'll write up what their characters are doing and make it interesting. Maybe 1 Karma default and 2 with a write up. It means attendence gives more Karma, but people aren't totally left out of the loop, having them write about their chars will keep them interested.

You'll really want to finish runs at the end of the night. (if you want a larger plot break it up into discrete chunks). If you don't just stay up until the runs done you'd want to plan for the run to take maybe an hour less than you have time to play so it'll fit without getting lame if there are complications. To that end plan some little schenanigans for the players after the mission. Maybe a mini run, or just some personal stuff for them. Brainstorm a little.

Also brainstorm on what you'd do if everybody shows up some week. In my experience a SR game with more than 6 players is a trainwreck. I think since it's going to get messed up anyway try to have a fun, less serious, maybe even a little silly run. Like they have to guard a bunch of kids of important people out on a field trip or vacation. The team gets flown out to the beach tosses on some swimware and has to deal with little devas, kids wanting to run off, some threats that need their butts kick, maybe a paracritter in the surf, bad pick up lines from others on the beach and generally lots of amusment as you find out just how many of your characters can't even swim. biggrin.gif
I have run into this with my current group. We have a group of 4 players and my general rule was that we would ALWAYS run a session with one man down. If two or more were missing, it would all be dependent on the scenario. I didn't try to make up a fancy reason for them being there, they just weren't.

Obviously, this sometimes caused issues, where a mage that started to scout astrally in one session was "just not there" the next session, but all my players were capable of going with the flow and making due.

Now, I didn't give any karma to players not there and I didn't NPC them either. I could see a larger group, being able to work with a few less players...but, overall, it gave our game a consistency and honestly, players missing a session was down to a minimum because they knew they would pay for it with less karma.

So, while you may get more continuity with there being a reason for a PC missing, just not dealing with it has worked very well in our campaign...
I do the same as deek (no karma if you're not there) but I do allow the character to be NPC'ed. That character doesn't offer any advice, plans, suggestions, or other solutions to problems (even if they might normally do so) but if instructed what to do by the PCs they will do it. That way, if the only mage with heal isn't around, the team can still cry out "MEDIC!" and the healer will come around to help them. Or if the hacker isn't around, the team won't have to start calling up contacts (unless they want to) since they can ask their hacker to look things up. But, the mage won't leap to help the other character without their request, and the hacker is spending all day at miracle shooter until such a time as the team requests her help. It's worked well for my games.
I used to do what Dashifen does. I'd say his is a better way to do it unless you have really experienced players. I switched to my current method mainly because we are all a close knit group of friends and players will pressure one another to not let them all hang out to dry.

I will say that it is very interesting when I have set up a scenario specifically for the mage and the mage isn't there:)
This is a "lo-fi" version of our main content. To view the full version with more information, formatting and images, please click here.
Dumpshock Forums © 2001-2012