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What is the best setup for a group of only 3 runners? How about only two runners? Are solo missions impossible ? WHen does a group get too big ?

Three is totally fine. General mage for handling all things magical. The other two, not being so reliant on burning build points on magical attributes and skills can diversify. A hacker/rigger would fit, and then you'd probably have a samurai with some stealth skills. It's fairly well-rounded, although you need to make sure at least one has passable social skills or you find many doors close on you.
To answer your last question first; I think a group gets too big when people start to have side conversations during gameplay. This may vary given the size of the group, but more than about 6 and people will start to get bored when they aren't in the spotlight (plus combat takes forever). I've played a number of games in short-handed groups; for SR4 I'd say you could probably get away with a hacker and a mage. The hacker would handle computers and guns, the mage could handle magic and face-like stuff. One man is of course possible, but that would just be playing whoever you wanted, wouldn't it? nyahnyah.gif Honestly, you shouldn't worry about "Group dynamics" or anything like that; just talk with your GM about what you want to play, and it's up to him to tailor the adventures to your characters strengths. A Johnson isn't going to hire a pair of troll gangers for a quiet B&E job, is he? But there are jobs that are suited to their "talents".

Hope this helps,


Oh! Forgot to tell you about the 3 man setup. That one's easy- Mage, Hacker, Gunz. One specializing in each of the 3 game-worlds (Astral, Cyber, and Meat-body respectively).

Actually the minimum you need is Mage/Mystic Adept and Hacker/Technomancer. Since both PCs are presumably Physical, then all you need is to cover the Astral and the Matrix.
Actually solo play works surprisingly well. Maybe less so at the gaming table, but in forum based games it excells.

Three is a fine number

Five is as high as I like to go with a table group, preferably four.

As has been said covering the magic/matrix bases should come first if you don't want to rely on NPCs.

Well yesterday I played my streetsam in a group of 4 streetsams. Fun and efficient... You might lack astral and matrix cover, but who needs it when you have such firepower?

QUOTE ("Book of Cataclysm")
Bravery will take you into the most dangerous of places. Overwhelming firepower will see you safely through them.
I have run games for individuals (generally promos to introduce them to the game). It can be great fun but demands more from the GM as you have to provide a supporting cast that is far more textured and believable as the focus of the game is less on group dynamics but with the PC and the NPCs that they know.

Two for SR is a little tight but DrZaius is pretty much spot on. Hackers can make excellent 2nd string street samurai (and with enough nuyen first rate murder machines) while a mage with a decent charisma can make for a fine face. I will warn you, though, that the mage will 'suck' at one or both of those tasks until karma and gameplay rewards have fleshed out their skills. Contacts can add up fast in BP, same as magic.

My preferred group size for SR is 3-4 players. Four can seem like too many very easily, though, depending on the types of players and their characters. If the group of 4 has characters with wildly different ability levels, backgrounds and play styles then you are in for a long night... Three can lead to a situation where your players are designing submarines or other naval vessels rather than PCs - every possibly cubic inch of space must be used to complete the mission, nothing else. With five players I have run my best games but they were indeed time consuming. I would say that five has been the most rewarding, less than three extremely challenging and four to be the 'sweet spot', as it were.

This is all coming from the perspective of a long time GM, at least. As a player (oh, how rarely that occurs!) I have found that I do not like playing in groups of 5 or larger as the action bogs down, people get distracted and I am constantly waiting on someone. A group that is 'tight', both in character similarity or familiarity, and also knows how to play together, as players makes a game fly.
My two best campaign (One as a player, one as the GM) were with two players. We occasionally had extra players sit in on games from time to time, with some even becoming regulars for a while, but the game always revolved around and often consisted of just two players.

The first game was where my namesake comes from. The Bull & Johnny Show (As we called it) was Bull the Ork Decker and Johnny 99 the Coyote Shaman. Neither of us knew much about Shadowrun at the time, and both characters were terribly built (Bull more so than Johnny.) Eventually Bull branched out into Rigging and Firearms and Heavy Gunnery, while Johnny branched out into Hand to Hand. The game ran for about 6 years. We ended up with a rather large cast of regular NPCs, and by the end we had a couple of semi-regular players.

The second game was one where I GMed, and we had Mime the mute Phys Ad and Gahbardi the Wayakambi "Worst Shaman in the World". Mime was built decently, focusing on Hand to Hand combat, but gahbardi was built... Inefficiently, to say the least. Hell, he started with a point of essence loss, and the player opted for a second point of loss a couple game sessions in when he got clawed across the face and lost an eye, and opted for cyber replacements rather than getting a vat-cloned one. That game ran for about 3 years, and while we had a couple players early on, again it was mostly those two for the majority of the game. They also ended up with a fairly large cast, and ended up with a regular NPC decker who helped out some.

The nice thing about a small group is that you can really focus the story on them, and it's easy to scale down to their level. Granted, they have to play things smarter because it's hard to justify a mission going South at Ares but only 2-3 Sec Guards show up... But still. If I had my druthers, as they say, I'd run for 2-3 players max all the time.

Maximum size is trickier, and depends heavily on both your GMing style and the Players involved. I think it also seriously limits the type of game and how much RP you can do. Even in a 5-6 player game, it gets hard to really work in regular backstory and plot elements and roleplay sessions for the players, because you have to jump back and forth so much to keep everyone engaged. You lose out on being able to do really focused game sessions, and it's nigh impossible to give the entire team a detailed personal life, unless those lives are fairly intertwined. You run the risk of players sitting around with little to do for too long.

Granted, if you have the right players who can handle this, it's doable. But... Those players are few and far between. Most people get bored, get distracted, or worse, become distractions.

I've seen and played in games with a dozen people. It wa a bit much, but as long as it's a large scale, action oriented game, it works. But only for a few sessions. After that I think it would break down.

The best campaigns I've run have had four to five players. However, I really think that the type of mission/setting that you're running in can drastically affect how big an ideal group would be.
I've mostly played in 2-3 player games. We've always had a mage, and have at least one time ended up with two mages and adept. But you can do without, the GM just has to change what they throw. Hackers work well as NPCs in my opinion, the GM just does the same data dump without the "endless rolls while the other players go out to Outback for dinner" issue.

The trick is balancing the threat, which in SR is easier to do than most games because you can assume the fixer only suggests the group for jobs they are suited to.
I think it all depends on the kind of game you're playing. If you're just playing some sprawl gangers doing their thing, one or two would be fine, up to as many players as the GM can handle. If things get a little higher level, then you probably need dedicated runners to cover all your bases, so at least 4 with a street sam, mage, decker, and rigger.
There is NO reason in SR4 to have a dedicated rigger. You also don't really need a dedicated hacker, it's easy enough for a sami to get the minimal skills and tools to do an adequate job.

What exactly you need depends on the situation and the game, but for a the typical games I've seen a mage, a face, and someone who can open maglocks and deal with alarms are the minimum. These don't have to be all be seperate characters, and everyone needs some firearms skills.

For small groups you need to either have them face lesser opponents (as they will need to spread themselves a bit thin) or use something like Franks' house rules for character generation. We used Franks' rules.
Skillwires make a small party more viable. A person with Skillwires 4 can be a hacker, a driver/pilot, a gunsel, a face, and an infiltrator, just not all at once.

I imagine that task spirits also help one character cover a lot of bases.

I wouldn't write a PC who *only* could do rigging tasks, but I've run a PC with high Reaction, a Control Rig, and Driving 4, which yields a large driving/piloting DP. In some situations, it's really nice to succeed in sharp turns on unfavorable terrain at night, or "threading the needle" as the JIS are forming a containment cordon... especially when the whole party is in the van.
The control rig in SR4 isn't nearly as important as it was in SR3. It's nice, but not essential if the character is already a sami with wired 2 etc.
I've been a part of most everything from three players and a GM up to seven players and a GM. The latter got a little unwieldy, but it worked out pretty well. I think my preferred size is four-five players and a GM.
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