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I've been playing SR3 for the about 8 months.
Since my old group spilt up during the summer and moved to different part of the country, I have begun gamemastering for a new group of five players (one of them played SR before, the others played D&D).

We have played seven sessions in July/August/September, and most of my new players have a good understanding of the rules. Three of them plays street sams, one is a combat mage, and the last is a rigger/decker, they are very similar to the templates in the main rule book.

They do legwork and information gathering without any hesitation - sometimes their legworking ideas actually surprises me.

But when it comes to combat everything grinds to a halt during the planning.

I think out last session is the best example I've experienced:

The group was hired by a johnson to perform an investigation of several organlegging-related murders and dispose of the perpetrators. They managed to track the perpetrators to an one story building in the barrens. By doing a day of surveillance from a nearby building they managed to size up their opponents (6 gangers two of them with a few cyber implants) and a surgeon. They even managed to find some minor clues on who the surgeon was and why the johnson wanted the perpetrators dead.

After they performed legwork and surveillance, the players formulated a plan.

Enter the bureaucrats, the true rulers of the game...

After carefully and tediously evaluating numerous combat approaches, such as:
- Sneaking up to the house, lopping a few grenades into a window, and shooting the survivors (this plan was formulated within the first a couple of minutes, but quickly rejected).
- Stealing a petrol truck and driving it into the building.
- Sniping people as they leave the house.
- Full frontal assault
- Having the mage conjure several elements and have them trash the place.
- Calling in extra manpower and have them solve the problem.
- Several other plans involving very big objects or huge sums of nuyen.gif.

After two hours they reach a conclusion and formulate the following plan:
-The rigger/decker stays on the surveillance location with a sporting rifle, and provides cover and surveillance.
-The mage conjures a fire elemental and provides astral cover while remaining on the surveillance location.
-The three sammies would sneak up to the house, loop a few grenades through the windows and shoot any survivors.

By now the three sammies starts arguing (again) about who should go first and why they should enter the house. Half an hour later they decide to stick to the original plan again. But the mage is disgruntled because he has to astrally assist in the attack by dispatching the spirit into the building when the grenades explode.

15 minutes of combat later, six gangers and a surgeon lies dead on the floor - one of the sammies are moderately wounded by a sawn-off shotgun and another is lightly wounded by friendly fire.

This situation is a reoccurring problem, they spend hours on planning even the simplest thing and will do almost anything to avoid even the smallest amount of damage. Any light wound is and has been a valid reason for fleeing. And no excuse is to little when avoiding combat (the "I didn't bring my gun"-excuse has been used, personally I found it very amusing).

I once did a pure investigation scenario with them, and they actually complained about the lack of combat.

As a gamemaster I don't take much pleasure in watching my players spending half a session on debating the simplest plans.

How can one teach the players to speed up their planning and that no amount of planning can make the risk of taking damage go away ?
I hate to point this out, but battles are won or lost based on how well they are planned. Characters who consistantly refuse to plan end up dead rather quickly. Your complaint, on the other hand, is that they overplan?
I think he's irked b/c his players came up w/ a good plan very quickly, then argued for 2.5 hours only to go w/ the original plan. And the combat only took 15 minutes. And two players still ended up w/ wounds.
ahh, the plans of mice and men...
Here's a simple solution. Change the way you run the game.

No, I don't mean that as a big insult or anything, but for your group, the classic "run starts with the game" structure doesn't look like that great of an idea. Maybe a good solution would be to simply start a run, play out the legwork, and then adjourn for the night. The next session starts with the PCs putting their plan into action (this works really well if you can keep in casual contact during the time between games to handle any extra legwork or questions). About midway through the session, the first run ends, you do whatever downtime work and events you want, and start the next run.

One of the last SR games I played in had a similar structure where we were always breaking at the start of a fight or during planning. It worked rather well. Not all games/combats have to be broken across sessions, but it'd be nice to do that with the major planning segments.
or you could come up with a situation where they don't have the time to deliberate so much. give a 6 hour time limit on a wetwork job for instance. this way they have less time for planning and you can show them one of the virtues of going in with guns blazing: not many people actually expect a person to walk throgh a metal detector with an uzi then start blazing away with it. i lost my train of thought ::sigh:: stupid music distracting me. anyway, you get the idea. a situation like that may point out the fact that not all situations need every contingency to be planned for. a lot of times all you need is an escape route or two planned just in case the shit hits the fan.
Raptor has a good idea, but don't over use it. They're obviously having fun right? You can take that time to get a snack or roll every 15 min for the badguys to see if they notice a drone watching their hideout for 2 hours.
Rick-"Hey Bob, what's with this drone floating nearby?"
Bob-"A drone in the barrens? Drek, someones found us."
Rick-"Hurry, through the escape tunnel."
Bob-"I'll take this C4 and rig a surprise for our friends."
Bob and Rick="He,he,he."
I get what Double_Dice is talking about. Planning is good, over planning is bad, very bad.

TinkerGnome's suggestion is pretty good, but it's not for everybody. In fact, what happens if you use a whole game session to plan and then after a week several players return and having thought about the whole situation for that long they want to tinker with the plan some more. Another session could turn into a planning session and you've now totally lost control. If you go that route, I suggest setting very clear limits.

The only thing that cures over planning is when things happen during the run that can't be accounted for during planning, making the plan obsolete. The player's solution might be to reconstitute a plan, at this point you should point out that their conversations should be taken as in character and in real game time, meaning that if they sit on the floor of the arcology to come up with a new plan in 2.5 hours at about 2 mins corp security is going to find them.

Example: I was involved in a run where we had to do some B&E and data recovery in place crawling with security guards. We came up with a plan, didn't really overplan, but once the shark shaman botched a stealth roll, our plan went tits up. After a huge fire fight where several runners were wounded we managed to get out of there with paydata. But we had to accomplish this by thinking on our feet on how to best accomplish our goals in a radically changed situation.

So, on their next assignment, give your players something a little tougher. Let them plan to their hearts content, maybe even try TinkerGnome's suggestion. But come to the session not just prepared, but ultra-prepared concerning security procedures and perception test rules and modifiers. Don't explicitly use knowledge from their plan that guards would have no way of knowing, but once alarms start going off security might start doing things that the runners didn't anticipate/surveil. In any case, experience is the only teacher for these situations. How your player's react will depend largely on how you handle them in their character's moment of crisis. In other words, make sure you are perceived as the kind soul of understanding gm reluctantly following the rules, not the sadistic character destroyer gm, gleefully ripping through character sheets like tissue paper. If they're running away after only taking light wound's... Well, not always a bad thing, context is important. But the fact is, runners are dealing with people who have weapons and somebody is always going to get hurt.
The White Dwarf
Well, from where I sit theres two problems there. The first is that theyre taking too much time to plan in RL. The only good way to solve this is to have players get more comfortable with the SR universe so they have a better understanding of what will work and what wont right from the start. For example, last night we got hired for a run that had to occur inside a 5 minute time frame (matrix reasons) and we only had 48 hours to plan in game. We had to move fast to recon the place, find out what we needed to know, and make a plan. In the end we had to scrap the original plan and work one out in the 15 minutes prior to going in, and it worked out fine. But the only reason we could do that is that weve all played a fair bit and knew what we needed to do and how to do it.

The second problem is that theyre overly concerned with not getting hurt. While no one likes to get hit, with the Heal spell and Biotech skill, you can likley go from serious to light, or moderate to nothing, once youre out of the combat situation. Plus with even a week or two between runs the players can easily heal up a moderate. Stun damage takes but a few days at worse. You might highlight the healing times some adventure by having them resuce a wounded runner that was captured from a corporate faciity or something. Soon as he is with them he could get healed kinda fast, maybe open their eyes, or something. But if theyre fleeing at a light, thats going to make them plan so much longer because theyll obsess over every detail. You cant be a runner without catching some lead, just keep your doc payed well and suck it up.
QUOTE (CanvasBack)
In fact, what happens if you use a whole game session to plan and then after a week several players return and having thought about the whole situation for that long they want to tinker with the plan some more.

Actually, the suggestion was that you don't have planning happen during a game session at all. Depending on your group, this might be impossible, but I know I could easily conspire with my team via email, telephone, and other-purpose social gatherings during the course of a week. The GM simply has to rule that, if the game starts at 7:00, he wants a plan at 7:05, or he's going to start using random encounters ("As you guys plan, the rigger's pager goes off. It's your van's alarm system..."). Once the game starts, enforce the OOC planning = IC planning idea, and it should work fine (most of the time you don't have a lot of time to plan in the middle of a run, anyway).

And yes, throw random variables at them throughout the run which they won't have planned for. Don't specificly target the plan they use (you won't even know it, possibly), but throw in some "spice". As time goes on, they can only get better and/or realize that any plan is just about as good as any other, considering the unknown variables.
Quote: TinkerGnome
Actually, the suggestion was that you don't have planning happen during a game session at all.

Oops. Re-reading the last part of that message I see that now. I like that idea even better, but obviously it might not work out for everybody. Home campaigns can afford to be much more flexible than con scenarios in this and other areas but lately most of my gaming has been at cons (Though just recently I've gotten in on a home campaign). What I've learned from playing SR at cons is this, if it takes your group more than 45 minutes to establish a plan, something is not gelling with the team. If it takes less than 15 minutes, you probably haven't planned enough. Either way something will go wrong. This is not including legwork or surveilance which will always be highly variable. Now granted, the artificial 4 hour block of time you are given at cons tend to lead to fairly straightforward runs, but it does tend to focus both the GM and the players and forces them to convey critical information efficiently and in general expedite the process. The hard truth is Double-Dice's players might have to get more experience under their belts before any "solution" works. All in all, it could be worse. Double-Dice's players might have opted for no planning at all and just gone in guns blazing every single time. That would be a much worse, though in some respects less tedious, problem to have.
I just run combat like it is in real life: Chaos.

A plan is just a list of things that don't happen the way you want them to.

My group will make a general approach to a situation but they do not plan out how they want combat to work past the first round because it's undependable. They instead excel at manipulation the flow of combat on the fly. One cannot assume that any plan will work, nor they they be assured that the enemies will do what you expect them to do or to die when you expect them to die.

The only real way to win a war is to not get into it in the first place.
sir fwank
you could just set down an amount of time they have to plan. stopwatch or a timer. i know i have a little 1 minute sand clock that i whip out during combat to keep everything going smoothly.

course i like listening to the hour or so of planning...
I sooooooo relate, in fact it's a rather recurring topic between me and my mage's wife. See the mage, well his wife loves gaming, not playing, but watching, like TV, our campaign is one of her favorite shows wink.gif

We (her and I) often discuss the fact that the PCs, overplan everything. They love to consider every possible turn which is nice and neat at the beginning but when you're 4 "if THIS happens" down the line, you're now planning so far into the realm of improbability that you're really just wasting time.

If you don't have all the intel you need either get it or make a basic plan, covering who's responsible for what, throw up any major concerns you may have, adjust the plan, look at each other, nod and then GO!

Overplanning can really bog a game down and underplanning can certainly cut a game short, in all things, there must be balance.


On the other hand, if you DO have the intel, planning everything down to the minutest detail can make a near impossible run go off without a hitch, note I say CAN, and not "does". =)
If players distrust the GM, it can lead to overplanning. Sometimes a player will get the impression that if they miss something in the planning, the GM will treat that as permission to kill their character during the combat. GM: "You never planned for the Troll with the Panther Assault Cannon. He shoots you. Twice. You're dead!" If this distrust is happening in your campaign, there will be other clues besides the over-planning.

Sometimes overplanning happens simply because the players, as a group of people, have no technique for making a decision when there is no obvious right answer. Usually, over the course of time, one of the players emerges as a leader and planning gets much quicker -- it only lasts until the leader says "Here's what we do..." Until that happens, the GM can choose to let things play out or can choose to try to speed things up.

One technique to speed things up is for the GM to tell the players straight out: "My job is to present you with significant challenges. Sometimes those challenges involve unforseen things happening during combat. All the planning in the world won't make it better. You'll have a lot more fun if you limit how long you take to pick a technique (say 20 minutes), and then limit how long you spend with the details (say 20 minutes). Sure, things will sometimes go wrong -- but that is to be expected and is part of the game. Perhaps in 20 minutes you should each propose your favorite plan of attack, and then have everyone vote?"
Give out bonus karma for coming up with a plan quickly.
My players and I have a system for regulating that sort of excess (or any sort, really): shit-talking. We don't outright insult each other, but rather point out absurdities in each other's, or each other's characters', behavior in the cleverest way we can think of at the time. Everyone laughs and has a great time, and somehow, those behaviors don't repeat themselves (except for some that are maintained as part of the character's personality, like a certain homocidal troll we have... "Ok, wageslave, tell me where X is. <wet tearing sound> Dammit Trogdor, at least wait until he answers!!)
As some of my regular players are frequent guests on the forums, I sincerly hope that my statements doesn't offend them in any way.

I too have experienced problems similar to Double_Dice's.

Many interuptions in our game are simply just players rambling about their everyday real life. I take little offence in these intermissions as long as they are somewhat short and not interupting something important.

But every once in a while (I've noticed a disturbing increase in the frequency) my players bump into the same endless debates as Double_Dice's players. It is not necessarily prior to any combat related actions, it can be a simple thing such as interrogating people or asking some questions to their contacts.

In my case (perhaps also Yours, Double_Dice) I would suspect that such behavior is due to lack of trust toward the GM, and the lack of initiative amongst the players.

I find the trust issue very difficult to handle, since it is closely linked to unforseen things happening during or prior to combat (triggering an unseen alarm, or guards moving around in the buildings might not be caught initially or found where the mage reported them to be 2 minute ago).

The lack of initiative could be solved by rewarding initiative with kama (as said by crone). I'll try that approach the next time we play.

Hmm. I didn't give any soloution to Double_Dice's problem - but it sure is nice to know one is not alone wink.gif
I don't have a problem with long, elaborate planning. In fact, i very much encourage it in my group. I enjoy watching the group's thought process, going back and forth over every item that even seems like it might be important. Much of the fun of running any game for me has always been watching them plan, and compare what they believe is going to go down to what i know is going to happen. It's somewhat like taking a friend to see a movie you've already seen, but getting enjoyment out of seeing how they react to various parts. The time the planning takes is not a factor for me, even if it takes the whole session, as i don't wish to rush them through things just to get them to the site of the run. It's their game, I'm just running it for them. When Gm's see their role in that way, the world gets much better.
I have a few methods I've learned over the years playing various RPGs to maintain player trust. The first is I do not tailor encounters to the party; i.e. I do not create scenarios or NPCs specifically to take advantage of a weakness in the party, nor be susceptible to a strength in the party, nor even to be on par with the power of the party. I just create what I think would be reasonable given the environment/resources available/value of things/ etc. I am frank about this to my players; just because you see it, does not mean to can take it on, nor does it mean that you will get anything decent out of victory if it was easy. When the innkeeper tells you that no one who has travelled to the Killer Death Forest of Death has ever come back, that means you probably shouldn't go there. When your simsense dealer tells you that *no one* messes with that ex-military guy up on the third floor, there is probably good reason. This has the secondary function of reducing min-maxing a bit, as it requires characters to have a bit more breadth. Shadowrun has a built in mechanism that helps keep this GM-style from getting characters killed too much, also: contacts. If a Johnson or contact thinks a job is just to much for a team, then he/she won't offer it in the first place; thus keeping your 10 Good Karma team out of the AAA R&D facility where they would have no chance of victory. This is also subject to the perceptions of the contact, however...
Another method is that I try not to listen to player's planning too much. If they are discussing tactics that my NPCs would have no knowledge of, then I have found it best for myself the GM to have no knowledge. I usually try to distract myself by doing further world development, putting more detail into my security setup or maps, coming up with possible sidetracks and plot lead-ins to add, or, if as is usually the case I don't yet have the details of the run fully worked out, I do that. Then, I can be truly surprised when the players pull something on my NPCs, and I am forced to think as quickly as I ask my players to when something suddenly changes. (In addition, because I ask my players not to tell the their entire plan, when it comes to plan execution time, someone almost always forgets to do something he/she was supposed to, which always leads to a hilarious drek-storm).
A third thing I do (or don't do, rather) specifically in SR is never use snipers. It seems to me that if NPCs used snipers anywhere near as much as they should, no runner would last more than 3-4 runs. (hmmm.... remember that yakuza-owned shipment of BTL you sank into the harbor? Well, you walk out of your door one morning, a someone scores 5 successes (full combat pool plus aiming) on a called shot to your head (no armor) with a Remington 950 (no even a sniper rifle!) with EX rounds, for an 11S. Oh yeah, he was 100 m down the street on the 8th floor of an apartment building, and he surprised you, so you can't use combat pool to dodge or for damage resistance. And even if you survive, he's going to get another shot or two on you before you get under cover, and then you still won't know where he is or where the bullets came from because he had a silencer and a flash suppressor.)

As for your player's having initiative, I also run into this problem. In my group, we have 2 players who naturally take the lead. One is myself, but I GM half the time, and often RP characters who aren't leaders themselves. And the other sometime RPS follower-tyoe characters or is working on our game day. The result has been that, when one of us isn't being the leader, no one is. The only way I have found to counter this is the direct approach; I tell specific people that they should take the lead more often. The result isn't fantastic, but if you repeat it enough times, players do tend to become bolder and more decisive in their play-style, and have more fun.
I have a run I've used that allows almost no planning whatsoever. A fixer contact calls a player using his headware transducer and says "Hey, I've been pulled over by the cops and I've got 5 kilos of coke in the trunk. Get over here ASAP. 15 grand is yours if you can get me the hell out of this mess." He hangs up so as to try smooth-talking the cop without distraction.

I do it when the group is mostly together so that everyone can participate. I put the fixer five minutes from their location and then watch the clock, allowing them to discuss it for exactly five minutes before they arrive. A minute or two after the group shows up a cop finds the coke and calls for backup (if it's gotten that far).

It's fun and has a lot of potential solutions. It's also nice and quick which can be a good break from multi-session runs.
the most obvious solution to me is, when it comes time to plan, look at the clock and say "combat starts one hour from now, plan or no plan."
Talia Invierno
I've done that. Heck, I've stepped out of the room so I couldn't hear what they were planning. (For some reason what I set up almost always seems to cancel out their plans almost exactly - and they do plan, it's not like they're overly predictable.)

One hour later I came back. They set their plans in motion. I set my counterplan in motion. And the very first thing I had pre-planned separated out a key member of the party from the others (firewalls have a knack of doing that) - and threw their carefully constructed plan into chaos.

So that group more or less gave up on planning altogether. (Sigh ...)
QUOTE (kevyn668)
I think he's irked b/c his players came up w/ a good plan very quickly, then argued for 2.5 hours only to go w/ the original plan. And the combat only took 15 minutes. And two players still ended up w/ wounds.
ahh, the plans of mice and men...

I'm irked not about the players talkning damage.

The sammy walked right past an unsecured room (the kitchen) without bothering to see whether somebody was in it or not.

For my sake the player could be unharmed or left with a deadly wound, I don't play to see their suffering.

Regard to resources and healing time(), we don't actually give that much attention.

If the players are wounded and they are alive when delivered to the street doc, healing (free of charge) would be complete before the next session.

Unless they are stranded in the wastelands or limited healing capabilities is part of the plot I couldn't care less.

They don't get well paid (5-15k per job), but they have cheap source of vehicles and their low lifestyles are free.

I doubt that any my players bothers to go into great details with credbalances - so why force them.
QUOTE (motorfirebox @ Sep 9 2003, 04:59 AM)
the most obvious solution to me is, when it comes time to plan, look at the clock and say "combat starts one hour from now, plan or no plan."

Tried this once before with the group. An utter failure...

A contact of their had been taken hostage in his own manufactory plant by group of hostage-takers, unless their demands was met they would start killing hostages starting with the contact. Since the manufactory plant wasn't entirely legal, decided to call the players instead of official law enforcement.

I provided them with proper maps and approximated positions of people in the building (assuming the mage did a quick scan on the way), and tried to answer their questions the layout/alarms and hostages/opponents.

I made it perfectly clear to them that when I returned from doing my laundry, planning time would be up and they had arrived to the plant with only have a few minutes to spare before their contact was shot.

Just prior to my departure, they came up with a reasonable plan of entering the plant through an unguarded area and sneaking up to hostages - they only needed to deal with the two guards stationed with the hostages...

40 minutes later I returned from the laundry, finding my players deeply involved in how they rapidly could acquire several canisters of neurostun.

A lot of nagging from the players about 'real-time' and 'player-time' and why the players still had ample time before the contact was shot.

Dumb as I was, I gave them an extra 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes I told them that their contact was standing on the roof along with an armed person. Two minutes of panicked debate later, the contact was shot and pushed over the edge.

In the end they did manage to agree on shooting the hostage taker on the roof with several weapons at the same time.
QUOTE (Blackened25)
It's their game, I'm just running it for them. When Gm's see their role in that way, the world gets much better.

I would disagree with this - the GM is running the game to have fun too. Just because he is not called a "Player" does not mean he isn't playing the game too. That is something that too many players forget.

By your own admission you enjoy watching your friends plan, therefore it is acceptable for you to let them plan all they want. However not all GMs share your enjoyment of watching others plan.

It is a balancing act - the GM should let the players have enough time to plan so they don't get really annoyed by the GM rushing them, however the GM should make it clear if they don't enjoy watching them plan for 2 hours as they may be getting bored.

As has been said, a predefined time limit is useful - one that the whole group can agree with.
My own horror story -- I was playing at a sci-fi convention at Emory and actually dozed off on a sofa while the two most vocal players spent, I drek you not, six hours debating how to bypass a drone.

There have been several good suggestions on this board and you might try implementing a couple and see how your players respond to it.

The one thing I do like is positioning your forces in advance and letting the chips fall where they may. The one thing I absolutely _hate_ is the GM who tweaks things on the fly and then hides behind the "well, you just didn't know" argument.

For example -- if we reconned that kitchen, it was empty, and then the troll and his Panther Assault cannon steps out after we've moved on and takes us from behind.

Granted, if the GM can legitimately justify it, maybe. But I've had a GM who got caught red-handed a couple of times -- speaking to the lack of GM-player trust.

OH! OH! I know! lemme answer!

What about using a hostage situation, you must take the VIP out, safe and sound... the catch is: For every 10 minutes, they shoot a hostage, roll 2d6, if it's two ones then the VIP is shot, for every hostage shot then make it more likely she's shot (so 2-3 after 1 hostage, 2-4 after 2, 2-5 after 3)..... let the VIP be the daughter of the johnson/the yaks boss/A Great dragon, so if you fail you better check your bed, car, clothes, any building within 200 meters from your home etc.

Imagine the players looks when you say "They shot another hostage, 5 left now....".... eek.gif

*Edit* Forgot to say: don't let them know if she's been shot, just let them find her sitting in a chair, 5 years old, handcuffed, with a exit wound the size of a troll fist in her head, MANY messy details...... *Edit*
Also you could make them aware that the longer they plan for the more likely the situation will change.

For example they have scouted out the area and know that the 6 gangers who ripped off that crate of weapons they are after are in the warehouse. They now start their endless planning.

Midway through have one of them leave and head off somewhere.

They still plan.

Have the person come back with more gangers.

They now change the plan again.

A stolen bus arrives to cart of the gangers and the guns to another location.

All planning becomes useless.

Keep the situtation fluid, rather than set up a static situation and leave it that way until they have finished planning.
Talia Invierno
The same holds true within the larger timeframe as well.

NPCs and greater situations and plotlines aren't static either. Opportunities are usually time-limited: what has value today may be just so much background static tomorrow. Those NPCs who are contacts aren't just waiting around to meet the PC's need. Those NPCs who aren't have their own lives, ambitions, plots. Some of those NPCs may even themselves be shadowrunners ... and what they come up with may ruin the day of even the most detail-compulsive planner.

In-game rule of thumb: during combat or particularly time-intense situations, never let the out-of-game time available exceed the in-game time available. An obvious exception is combat phases, but that can be approximated by just snapping it off around the table. I usually give five seconds for people to respond at all, and another 5-10 seconds (occasionally 30 seconds) for them to tell me what they're doing. Someone misses their initiative or can't make up their mind in that time, then they've missed their initiative.
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