So in a previous post I described how I decided to start appealing to people to play some Shadowrun. I expected a few chummers to maybe appear and we could get a game going, but I got a really overwhelmingly great response – ten people in total! It was a pretty good feeling, but then I remembered that I had only designed my game for five players. This meant I was going to have to reject a lot of people and I felt bad about that as many of them didn’t have other roleplaying games – or even tried them in fact. So I needed a solution and it couldn’t defy that all important “Don’t run with more than 5 players rule”.
My “Five players” rule comes about because I’ve discovered it’s about the maximum amount of people I can adequately give equal attention to over a 3 to 4 hour session. I tend to balance my games, attention span and “stuff everyone gets to do” around that idea. While I have run games with six players in the past, it’s usually just a one off thing or it was when I was trying 4E for the first time (where I had six players, but then dropped to five for a much more stable overall time). So at this point I had to master that very difficult skill when you’re starting a game of saying “No”.
But then I thought, well, so many of these potential players haven’t even played a roleplaying game before and some didn’t have any experience with Shadowrun. Was there a solution? The answer was an ambitious “yes”.
To solve this I basically decided to make two groups of 5 out of my available players (or close to it, someone usually does pull out due to scheduling or similar) and then make the game every 2 weeks. This meant I could create two campaigns with 5 players each. Everyone wins! Nobody misses out on a game and I can put away my “Sorry, you can’t play” voice for once. Of course the corollary of this is that I now need to double my workload making another campaign with a new story. This is a pretty big disadvantage in terms of overall writing effort, but it does at least let me explore another really cool place in the Shadowrun Universe I found in the Core Rulebook: Tenochtitlan.
Like my previous “This art really inspired me” post from before, I found this full image of the Tenochtilan skyline highly inspiring. The contrast of the futuristic buildings with Aztec like pyramids emitting light was hard for me to resist. So I began looking into Aztechnology and immediately decided that yeah, these guys had some interesting aspects and a great style to them.
Reading into Aztechnology led me to find they had won some major battles against Hualpa and his nation of Amazonia, which is in South America. Meanwhile Tenochtilan is in Central America, which was formerly Mexico City and is now the capital of Aztlan. Hualpa is a feathered serpent and a powerful dragon, with an oddly eco-conscious view on how the world should be. Normally he keeps the megacorporations – such as Aztechnology – in check, but recent wars between the megacorp and Amazonia, largely resolving in the favor of the corporation, have changed that dynamic considerably.
Such an air of tension and interesting political plus philosophical outlooks was immediately intriguing to me. Where Mostly Flesh and Steel has a plot focusing on “What is your metahumanity? How much does society regard replacing bone and flesh with metal and steel to be still human?”, this game I wanted to focus on a larger and overall political situation. Do the players favor the high paying megacorporation? Is a state largely not controlled by the megacorps due to the influence of Hualpa worth abandoning a paycheck and actually fighting for? Are both sides just a paycheck and who cares who wins as long as money is made?
Thus from these basic seeds came the overall campaign: Icarus Protocol.
In this campaign I chose to focus on high energy, high action espionage and corporate warfare. Runners are likely to be more engaged in an overall military industrial complex, sabotaging things, stealing data, hacking into significant matrix data frames and possibly getting their brains fried:
And of course going through the ruins of long since abandoned hidden laboratories with who knows what in them:
Of course the plot is nowhere near as simple as it might first appear, but that is for my runners to discover! Overall I was pretty pleased with how my basic campaign summary turned out, which easily led me to justify adding a second campaign (despite the increased workload). Of course while it is more work there are easily two major advantages to this approach. The first and most appealing is to have one universal shadownet that bridges the two games together. The players can interact with the others campaign this way in some very interesting ways. For example, the players in Flesh and Steel might find damaging evidence of what Aztechnology plans to do, either creating a potentially fascinating run with players at cross purposes or even allowing the other group to buy that paydata for their own ends.
Likewise there is always that dream moment of getting both groups into the same room at once and then making them all jumble up together for a really big and very special run! Of course the logistics of that are pretty difficult and I probably would need some help, which really does indicate I should be doing that whole “Teaching people how to run games thing” more attention as well (especially on this blog). In any event if this works out well it will be pretty good and I now need to decide how I split my players up across the two games at this point (plus when I get started in March because I have lots on, so I need to get motivated in finding where to put my players!).
More work so that everyone can get into roleplaying seems ultimately like the best option to take, especially when everyone seems to be pretty happy with playing biweekly (well, I’m there every week but that’s my privilege as the game master I guess :P).