Getting Out Of First Gear

Youíve gotten your group together, and youíre about to start the game session. Youíve got a little nasty adventure that you expect to get through in four, five hours at max. Everyone has a shoebox of six-siders within reach. Birds chirp outside. Children play in the street. The world is at peace.

But before you can say "munchkin," the chaos begins -- but not the chaos of a go-gang crashing the runnerís hidey-hole, the chaos of Last Minute Business. "Can I check something in the Grimmy?" "Oh, I forgot how much Karma it costs to change my Quickness." "How much damage does a gel round do?" Everyone grabs for the Street Samurai Catalog, looking up Stun Gloves, Flash-Paks, and Laser Crescent Axes. Players of magical characters reread the astral combat rules. The rigger wants to add a firmpoint to his trike. The decker cooks up more programs.

Suddenly that four hour adventure spans three game sessions.

How to avoid this? Players, Iím talking to you now: Buy A Book. Hereís a secret: the GM isnít the only one that can own the sourcebooks. Youíre playing a shaman? Spend the cash on the Grimoire. Youíve got a decker? Get VR 2.0. A musician? Dig up a copy of Shadowbeat. And for the main rulebook, there should be about one copy for every two to three people at the table.

Now that you have the books, read them before you play. Everyone playing should have read the timeline in the main rulebook at least. And the sections pertinent to your character. A player who has a mage should know how the basics of magic -- how it works and how to function in astral space. Likewise, every player should understand how to resolve ranged combat, the damage resistance test, and staging damage. Also, the players and GM need to know about karma -- the pools and how to spend karma points.

Now that there just isnít one copy of every Shadowrun sourcebook owned by the GM, the players can use the time between runs to go shopping, increase skills, and pay the monthly bills. Just have the players write down what theyíre doing between runs, and give the paper to the GM before the next game session. If the GM and the players have e-mail, itís even easier.

Whatís next to speed up the game is to institute a few house rules:

Rule One: Donít Argue With The GM.

If you are the GM and a player thinks you are misinterpreting the rules, let him or her tell you and quickly state their case. You should inform the player what the correct ruling is, and if both parties disagree, both of you will look up the rule at a lull in the game. Thereís nothing like a gunfight when the characters are about to make their break for the car and WHAM the game stalls for a ten minute rules refresher course.

Rule Two: Five Seconds.

Another way to get the player's minds back on the game instead of thinking up another flatulence joke is to have a time limit in combat situations -- everyone has five seconds to tell you, the GM, what their character is going to do. They can decide what their character will do, during all the time you're describing what's going on, all the time they're rolling dice, and all the time during the previous actions. If they don't shout out what their action is when you get to them, or don't hear you when you get to them/call out their phase number, their character freezes in place, doing nothing. This will keep them a bit more focused on the game and cut down on out-of-character chatter.

Remember, in Shadowrun, each turn takes three seconds and the average character acts once or twice in those three seconds. By giving them a five-second countdown, you're giving them two to seven additional seconds in which to react. They should be grateful.

And if they complain that you skipped over them, you should tell them they should have been paying attention. Next time, you can bet that they'll be listening in, not joking around.

Rule Three: You Said It, Your Character Said It.

If your game is turning into something like an hour of gaming per hour of goofing around (and not everyoneís having fun), or you have a player or two that disrupts the game session with continual out-of-character jokes and chatter, you might want to institute Rule Three. If the player says it, the character says it. If the characters are meeting with the local Yakuza and a player starts repeating "yakuza" like Beavis ("ya-koo-ZA! ya-koo-ZA! ya-koo-ZA!"), feel free to shoot him. His character, I mean.

There, now youíve gotten your gaming group back to playing Shadowrun. Perhaps that adventure youíve prepared for will actually be finished tonight.