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Hello good people. I've seen a lot of stuff over the years about GMing succesfuly and seen at least as many people asking how to do it better. Recently I was at a con and someone outside my usual circle of villains said I did an amazing job which besides the ego boost kind of shocked me as I've always felt I was good but could be better. Anyway i thought i'd put down what i think are important things.

Rule 1: Be entertaining - This one is obvious but I always like to put it out there. If theere is ever any doubt in my mind I refer back to rule one.

Rule 2: Be prepared. I used to run things very seat of the pants for some systems but shadowrun especially it always pays to have the best documented set of notes you can. Satellite images, floorplans, pre-prepared news reports and things of that nature can really go a long way to enhancing things. All those sort of thing both help with your player immersion and help with your mental cohesion when you do the run. Shadowrun is the most preparation intensive game I run (for the record Mage(Ascension) is about the least) and I probably spend a good solid two or more hours of prep on it a week for a 5 to 6 hour gaming session. In my mind it's time well spent as it's a possibility to just let my mind run free. Now it's almost a guarantee that not everything I've preped is going to be used. Some contacts won't be used, sometimes they won't want to do a matrix hack of the internal datastore. Whatever, save it and tweak it and re-use it later.

Rule 3: Understand your audience - It goes for any kind of entertaininers but applies especially to small group storytelling (which GMing is kind of a historical evolution on). Know what they want out of a game and try and pare it up with what you want out of a game. Ideally your desires should be the same but even if their conflicting as long as no one looses out completely it should work out.

Rule 4: You are the final authority. Maybe it's because i'm ex-military but I've always felt a good leader, which a GM is, takes the counsel of their subordinates and listens to their wisdom but ultimately makes the final determination. I'm not talking rule with an iron fist here but if you and a player have a difference on how something works it's ultimately your game. Be polite, be understanding, and most of all BE CONSISTENT with your ruling but they always have the option to get up and leave. As a corollary to that try not to spring things on them and if you do try and resolve it outside of game. I get more mileage on game table disputes with "lets run it this way now and we'll talk later"

Rule 5: You are not your players enemy. Honestly this one seems the most elusive to some people. If you playing the game to beat someone with the statblocks of monsters and dice or tell some wierd self insert fantasy about your NPC I recommend to you online computer games and fan fiction respectively. Let your players succeed, let them raid the corporate armory, let them punch out the mafia don, let them put a bullett between Richard Villers eyes if they can get themselves to position where it might actually be accomplished. Yes you should challenge them yes a victory not earned will not be appreciated but above all else let them win and prosper. I've always felt that the only reason people tolerate tragedies as an art form is because at the end of the play the dead actors get up and take their bows. Why live in that world if you don't have to.
I like your post and agree with a lot of it. The only problem I have issues with is the perception of GMs versus Players being a bad thing. It is a bad thing when you don't let your players have their victories, and it is a bad thing when you're plotting how to kill them in every session.

However, at the end of the day, some people take not making GM versus Players to let the PCs do what they want without having to defend it. They fight for it, but they don't have to defend it. Blackjack had the article about people getting money and not spending it, as well as sometimes having his players getting acosted by robbers, and of course, the Shadowrunner usually wins.

So, I don't disagree we're out to kill people when we GM, but depending on the story you tell, sometimes a little bit of tragedy is a good bit of RP hook to the story. Other people just tell the story, move on to the next one, ignore all the sort of storyline stuff for characters.
Don't pull your punches, but be reasonable. The characters do not have "PC" stamped on their forehead and the universe doesn't love them. However, remember that it doesn't hate them either.
The best GM advice I've ever gotten was: Never be afraid to let your players be Awesome!

The second best advice I've ever gotten is: If you're really out of it, don't GM. But if you're just not feeling it, push through it and GM anyway. Often times you end up with some of the best sessions this way.
Another reality I faced during the years I've played/GMed, in any RPG, is that players refuse to fail, and may even go up to death's door to succeed, or die trying.

If players fail a run because they didn't plan well (or not enough, or under estimated the risk), so be it
If the players are rolling badly, or the opposition is just too good, so be it as well.
Nothing goes smoothly or as planned. If players want their character to live, they must take the right decision, even if it's costing them rep (at least, your still breathing).

Now here's the message for GMs: if the run goes against your players, don't change your plans to make it easier so the players can succeed the run. The NPCs you're controlling also wants to 'live' so if they get the upper hand, use it (if your players have the upper hand, trust me, they'll exploit it for the success of the run). That doesn't mean 'kill them', but allow them to escape or even surrender. Imagine how each NPC would react under the current situation; most less professional opposition (cop, sec guard, etc) would rather end a gun fight with a surrender than living with cold murder on their conscience for the rest of their life. 'Normal' people need a reason to defend themselves, they need a better one to use lethal weapons and risk their life, and most will not be able to commit murder, even if their life depended on it.

One last point: the karma system is very good for this as well; you get 1 point for survival, you get some points for challenge, and you get points for objectives. On a failed run, the players get the survival and challenge karma, but will not get the karma for failed objectives.
A remote NPC Hacker/Decker is very useful to a GM.

You can speed through a lot of the Matrix stuff so it doesn't slow down the physical world game.

You also have a way to quickly introduce (or reintroduce) information to the players.

A couple of tips to using an NPC hacker.

Make sure they are remote (Different city or paraplegic works well).

Make sure they provide general information and they point the players to where they can get the goods if the Team does a little legwork rather than serving everything up on a plate for the team.

Make sure they have plenty of irons in the fire and are busy with other things, so the players know they have to tell the Hacker what to focus on. That he is rather literally minded so they have to direct his data searches. That way you don't have to spend to much time on figuring how much extra digging your NPC will be doing even if he is a brilliant hacker.

If the team does not have a Combat Hacker/Technomancer then for off the gride sites, you can play up having the team needing to make an outside connection (like a laser link) for their remote hacker to get inside.

If you do have a Combat Hacker/Technomancer in the party they really get to shine at a site kept off the grid. They can focus on the on site/combat hacking while the remote covers the perimeter and sets up everything for the exit.

Either way you can usually come up with enough stuff in the Sixth World to keep two hackers busy.
I'm sorry i do need to sharply disagree on the last bit. You should not be undercutting your teams hacker or technomancer just because you are lazy or can't manage pacing for the matrix side of the house. I can understand having a hacker available if no one wants to play one, but if someone does they need to feel like an integral part of the team and not just a moduel dropped in. I've never heard someone suggest hiring otuside help in the street sam department so I will never understand why rent-a-hacker is treated different.
I think it's a holdover from the Third Edition where you literally left to eat everytime the Decker wanted to do something.

Although I feel like quibbling and say that hiring outside muscle shouldn't be that uncommon.
QUOTE (LurkerOutThere @ Oct 22 2009, 02:01 PM) *
I'm sorry i do need to sharply disagree on the last bit. You should not be undercutting your teams hacker or technomancer just because you are lazy or can't manage pacing for the matrix side of the house. I can understand having a hacker available if no one wants to play one, but if someone does they need to feel like an integral part of the team and not just a moduel dropped in. I've never heard someone suggest hiring otuside help in the street sam department so I will never understand why rent-a-hacker is treated different.

If you have someone who knows the Hacking rules forwards and backwards then obviously no you don't need one.

I've never had that.

But most new GMs.
And most old 3rd Edition GMs (Yup guilty as charged and Ravor has that totally correct)
And every GM with a lot of players still learning the SR4 rules should consider it.

As the player hacker picks up steam, then the NPC hacker can become more of a group contact.

The other thing an remote NPC decker does is allow the team hacker to stay with the team rather than doing major data searches.

It is still nice to have an NPC in the group even if they are in a support roll.

You can never tell what the players will do and when the go off on a tangent (especially if the GM has a good head of steam and may have elaborated a little too much).

Too many detail or facts can confuse the players.

At least with a NPC in the group you can stress the stuff they should be looking at.

Especially if you don't have to run the NPC during a combat.

Although I do stand by my statement that it is easy to find plenty of stuff to keep two hackers busy in the 6th World.

As far as outside help, in my group they often called up the services of Valery Valkyrie, a chopper rigger in Seattle, and the Lone Rigger, noted for a love of the William Tell Overture, LOUD explosions, having his own Katyusha rocket launcher/Stalin's Organ, and providing fire support (softening up barrages, cover escapes, smoke barrages).

They charged an on stand by fee and another one if they were needed. The first was for just being there/having the chopper on the pad and ready to go. The second was if he needed to engage (mostly to cover his ammo cost and repairs)/a pickup was needed).
silly.gif Don't sound so suprised there, I believe I have alot of things 'totally correct". silly.gif
Just giving you credit for being dead on target. wink.gif

QUOTE (Ravor @ Oct 22 2009, 03:12 PM) *
silly.gif Don't sound so suprised there, I believe I have alot of things 'totally correct". silly.gif

Develop a "random event deck" of note cards or a chart of same for dice rolls, with fully fleshed out things that have no relation to the job itself, sometimes it will just be a fun bit of roleplaying and a distraction, sometimes it will be ignored, sometimes the players will find a way to make it a part of the run all on their own. Sometimes, best of all, a player will really latch onto something and make it a real and important element of their character's story. Be prepared for any one of those responses.
Don't save up your good run ideas "for later" use them when you have them, or you might end up never using them.
Remember the story you are trying to tell is a collective one. Talk to all your players about where you all want to go, and let them influence the direction of the story. If your PCs all catch a plane to hong kong in response to some rumor you offhandedly threw in.... you're running in hong kong now. If your players persistently refuse to engage in tactical level combat and instead act like agents from the matrix, soup up the level fo wuxai in your game and drop the SWAT elements.

It's like a movie - Band of Brothers and Ultraviolet (well, maybe not ultraviolet) work as movies, but have a completely different setting and feel. Bend and adapt to the setting and feel you want collectively.
Ghost in the Machine
Keep a 3x5 on each PC that lists information you will need to have handy (runner name, real name (if any), fake SINs, languages) plus a note of all positive and negative qualities and knowledge skills. Design runs with these things in mind, making sure that each PC will have the opportunity to make use of their more esoteric knowledge skills in an important way at least once during the campaign. Likewise, make sure to craft a chance for each quality, good or bad, to receive focus.

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