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Large Mike

So the biggest holiday of the year is on our doorstep, and I am currently putting together what is, for my players and me, the Shadowrun event of the year.

Due to moving around a great deal with the army this last year, I haven't been able to get much shadowrun in, so I'm rusty, but I'm confident nonetheless.

That said, I thought I'd get the ball rolling and get everyone thinking about the inevitable run that should accompany this greatest of holidays *by law*. So I'm going to present some kickass elements I'll be using in this years run, as well of some of past years, and hope everyone else will do the same.

For starters, the control of information is key. Not knowing what could be waiting for you around the next bend allows your mind to fill in the worst possibilities. It's easier to let them scare themselves. To that end, dark is helpful, but not the be-all or end-all, what with low light and thermal. This year I'll be making serious use of darkness (limiting light to some glow sticks and maybe one or two flashlights for the whole team), hot steam pipes obscuring thermo as well as liquids pouring out of broken pipes to help limit (but not render useless) ultrasound. On top of that, waist high water, or nearby pools of water are an excellent resource as absolutely anything could be down there. In addition, it being halloween, the anything that inevitably will be down there probably moves through water much better than the PCs and doesn't have to worry about drowning. Providing no maps, or even better, inaccurate maps, can be a keystone when frightening the type of player that likes to do a lot of legwork and execute a perfect run.

Limiting information also doesn't have to be just a physical thing. A complete wireless blackout or extensive use of wifi blocking walls will drive many players bonkers. Physical hacking? How last decade! Having to find a way to power what you're hacking before you even begin? How last century. To that end, even a single weak ping off in the distance, or a very garbled attempt at communication, especially if that communication is along the lines of '...can't fin.... think she's dead... augh God, hel.... *buzzsaw sound* *screaming*' can seriously effect PC actions and ratchet up feelings of tension.

Similarly, astral is not that hard to limit, either. When in urban environments, wards can be all over the place. Transparent, opaque, one-way, and alarm wards are all kinds of fun. Low tech or rural settings can simply use the limiting properties of earth to limit information. No way to tell what's around that next corner when you have to dig out utility hatches in a partially collapsed mine to get where you're going. And in any case, FAB, background count, or wandering malicious spirits can also cause the Swiss Army Mage to hesitate in bringing out his best toys when he might need to save that capability for later.

On the note of magic and false information, illusions are fantastic things. Coming back to a place you were just a few minutes ago and finding halls where there were none, or even a completely different room, will disorient PCs to no end. If they begin to question their senses, all the better.

In a similar vein to limiting information, limiting resources is nearly as important to a feeling of horror or desperation. Just you watch how creative and scared players will get when between five of them they have a Predator with eight rounds in it, a grenade, and two fence posts with barbed wire wrapped around them. The old adage 'nothing to fear if you've got the gear' works in reverse, too. When you're short on weapons, short on armor, or short on something even more vital like light or air, everything becomes terrifying.

Keeping the pressure on also makes for a fantastic vehicle of horror. Everything becomes less challenging when you can sit back and think about it for a while. When you're staring in the cold face of an actual timer on the game table before the whole place explodes or unspeakable horrors (or Horrors, your mileage may vary) are unleashed keeps the heat on. Also having to stay ahead of a pack of ghouls tracking by scent or a rising water table can not only keep the heat on, but make sure that the surroundings remain new and unfamiliar.

Also, harming the characters goes a long way towards taking the PCs out of their comfort zone. When the players know the kid gloves are off, their A-game comes forward quickly. And by harm, I don't just mean kill, although that does drive home the point if done correctly. Beat them up Die Hard style. Break somebody's leg. Will the players leave him when trying to outrun an Dooz-Na-Big-Scary-Troll drooling toxic slime, or will they put in that extra bit to save their team mate at the possible expense of their own life? Take out an eye. Cut off a limb. They can be replaced if the character makes it out alive. Sear off half of a characters face with a belt sander. Besides being a cool way to pile on some wound modifiers, it will give the character some cool scars that the player is sure to cherish, and will attract many chicks in the future.

Besides that, the gaming area itself can play quite the part. Crammed around a coffee table where ever there happen to be chairs, with cheetos spread around and Eminem (or whatever you kids listen to these days) can seriously detract from a good Halloween game. Better to move the game to the kitchen table and kill the music in order to maintain mood. Cheesy as it often sounds, playing by candle light often helps the atmosphere as well. I tend to buy two big bags of tealights and spread them about liberally, replacing ones that die. That way, everyone has enough light, but everything is still spooky. Or, officially, The Gaming Table of Spooky Doom!

Anyways, that's what's been in my forebrain for the last couple of days.

It's worth noting, too, that Shadowrun is not normally about scaring the pants off of your PCs, so most of these techniques should be limited to special occasions. Taking away or stunting everyone's capabilities is fine for a session, especially if everyone knows beforehand that this is going to be a scary game, but most players like being cool and kickass, and would quickly be frustrated by having to fight with (as someone in another thread mentioned, and I'm totally stealing) a halogen lamp, as opposed to their favorite dikoted, monofiliment-edged, polycarbonate turbocharged laser crescent axe with super duper fuel injection.

More when I come up with it.
Wounded Ronin
Halloween's always been my favorite time to GM or play Shadowrun. I remember we even had a zombie invasion game once.

Too bad no SR for me this Halloween.
Kyoto Kid
...though I wasn't thinking of Halloween at the time, I really spooked the team's decker during a previous session of my RiS campaign. In describing the sculpting of a matrix he was in, he became so unnerved that his character is still somewhat reluctant to jack back in. Nothing "spooky" in the ghosts & goblins sense but it did involve a lot of suspense and mystery as it was set in a 1930's film noir style. At one point, when the Trace IC started following him (in the form of a suspicious car) he (the player mind you) really started sweating, even after successfully making his Redirect utility test to "shake the tail".

The "bar" scene was lot's of fun where he actually had a brush with one of the big baddies who was in the system at the time along with one of her Generals. When he was having trouble requesting information from the bartender (access IC) she walked up & smoothed things over for him telling the bartender to give the "kid one one the house". That really freaked him and he decided to leave. Good thing too, for that drink was nicely "IC-ed".

Later, when his character entered an office (node to a datastore) the first thing he nervously asked was if there was a phone on the desk Seems that he developed a slight paranoia of telephones from the last Matrix jaunt he made. When I told him it was a computer terminal he relaxed...well at least for a little while... pumpkin.gif
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