An Example of Play
In a previous article on this same web site, a column was presented that explained what a role playing game is and the different elements you might find in one. That article tried to show what a role playing game was and what it wasnít. But the best way to illustrate how to participate in a role playing game is to sit down and watch a game session. Barring that, reading a transcript from a game session. Yet oddly, Shadowrun is one of the few major RPGs that donít provide the first time gamer with an example of play.
Those reading this article who have played other game systems before know the story of our intrepid dungeoneers tracking a fleeing wererat in TSRís AD&D Playerís Handbook, or WEGís smugglers trying to bluff their way past an Imperial customs frigate from Star Wars, or even a bunch of paranormal investigators trying to fathom whatís going on with all those telephones in the Ghostbusters RPG. All Shadowrun offers is a short story that switches points of view twice, confusing the reader. There are a few examples in the text, but these donít really convey the feeling that one will get in a game session.
Without further ado, hereís a Shadowrun Example of Play.
What might you see when watching a game of Shadowrun? Four people gathered around a table with dozens of six-sided dice, sheets of paper, pencils, and rulebooks. At the head of the table is a player called the Game Master, or GM. The other players portray a specific character. Around this table is Ray, the GM. Darla plays Ash, a fire elementalist -- a magical adept. Bruce plays Edgework, an ex-bodyguard with many cybernetic modifications. Julie plays Virgil, a rigger -- someone who can interface with vehicles. Currently, theyíre following a person and theyíre supposed to find out who heís meeting with.
Ray [GM]: Okay, the car youíve been following pulls off the road and turns into a graffiti covered parking garage on your right.
Bruce: Anyone around?
Ray [GM]: Just the usual street dwellers. Over to the right of the entry are two street squatters dressed mainly in brown and gray. Just behind an abandoned car on blocks near the far end of the building are three youths with their hair poofed up, listening to a radio turned up really loud.
Darla: I check out the most likely gang members.
Ray [GM]: Make a Street Etiquette check, target number 4.
Darla (rolls 5 six sided dice and checks the results): One, five, four, six, one. Thatís three successes. Anything interesting?
Ray [GM]: Oo, look at the brains on Ash! Not only does Ash know that the gangers are members of the elven go-gang The Ancients, but she also notices that The Ancientsí gang signs are newly painted on the three story parking garage, over another gangís sign -- the Rubber Dawgs, she thinks.
Darla [Ash]: "Looks like The Ancients are moving on the Dawgís stomping grounds, boys."
Bruce [Edgework]: "The Rubber Dawgs? Hey Virge, didnít your chummer in Lone Star tell us about the elves trying to organize some of the smaller gangs?"
Julie [Virgil]: "Yep. Iíll ask Dice about that again after we find out who our mystery man is meeting with." Ray, Iíll park the van across the street from the entrance to the parking garage and see what the gangers do.
Ray [GM]: Okay, youíre parked. The gangers are just hanging. Now what?
Bruce [Edgework]: "What say I head over there with Ash in astral? If I get in trouble, bring up one of your elementals."
Julie [Virgil]: "Sounds good. If you get into trouble, shout out loud" -- Virgilís activating the vanís external mikes. "Iíll be in there faster than Ripleyís APC in Aliens."
Darla [Ash]: "Just remember this time that the sliding door is on the right, Edge."
Bruce [Edgework]: "Hey, itís me."
Darla [Ash]: Iím strapping myself into the crash couch in the back of the van, then going astral.
Ray [GM]: Okay, you slip out of your body and are now floating inside the van. The mostly dead aura that is Edgework checks your pulse.
Bruce [Edgework]: "Keep the motor runniní, Virge." Ray, Iím out the door. Iíll head down a building or two towards the freeway we came from, then cross and head back.
Darla: Iím boppiní behind him. Anything odd about anyoneís aura by the garage?
Ray [GM]: Perception, target number four again. (Ray looks at Darlaís roll) One success -- the squatter under the rags on the right is dead. The elves are mundane, as is the other squatter.
Darla: I stick with Edgework.
Ray [GM]: You cross over and pass the squatters and are at the entrance to the parking garage. Itís dark inside -- some of the fluorescent lights are broken or dim. There are several older cars on the first floor. Three rows of four thick columns hold the structure up. Off to your left just inside the building is an empty park attendantís booth. Three bullet holes trace spider lines across the glass. Thereís no one in sight.
Bruce: Is that blue car we followed in here?
Ray [GM]: Nope. But thereís a ramp up to the next level on the right and a ramp on the left with a down arrow painted on it.
Bruce: Can I hear anything in here?
Ray [GM]: Over the gangerís box? Roll a Perception test -- target number 8.
Bruce (rolls 3d6): Four, one, and six. Reroll the sixÖ one. Target number seven? (Ray shakes his head). I go in, quietly.
Ray [GM]: Urban stealth? TN four.
Bruce (rolls 7d6, looks up with a smile): Iím a ninja! Five successes. I slide on in, heading for the wrong way ramp. Any severe tire damage spikes here?
Ray [GM]: Nope.
(Ray hands Julie a note he just wrote that says the second squatter got up and followed Edgework into the garage. He then rolls the squatterís -- actually a street samurai hired to watch over the meeting -- urban stealth).
Darla: Ash decides to zip up through the ceiling to check out the second floor.
Bruce: What? "Get back down here!"
Ray [GM]: You donít know sheís gone. Sheís astral, you canít see her in the physical plane.
Bruce: I ready my Colt Manhunter.
Julie (reading note): Oh, no.
Ray [GM] (sighing): Youíre not there, remember? Whatís Virgil doing?
Julie: I get the guns ready to pop up out of the turret. Then I honk the horn twice.
Ray [GM]: Bruce, roll your reaction -- Surprise! Target number is 8. (Base TN for surprise  plus the street samís successes on the stealth roll  minus one for Virgilís warning, plus 2 for the lighting conditions. Ray rolls against a TN of 11 -- the base plus Edgeworkís 5 successes plus the lighting modifiers. Amazingly, Bruce only rolls one six. Rerolling, he gets a one, seven total, not enough to get any successes. The man following gets only one success, but thatís all he needs to surprise Edgework.)
Darla: Donít I get to roll?
Ray [GM]: No, you just went upstairs. Iíll get to you in a minute. But as for EdgeworkÖ You hear the distinctive horn of Virgilís van. You spin, ready for anything but a figure half silhouetted near the entrance fires a silenced pistol at you. (Ray rolls 5 dice, the attackerís Firearms skill and gets 1 success on the attack.) One success. You can only use your Combat Pool against this weapon -- 6S. No, wait, itís 4S Stun because your armor. So itís Combat Pool against a target number of 4.
Bruce: Is this a Narcoject pistol?
Ray: You going to stand there and stare at his gun?
Bruce: Nope, Iím rolling four of my dice. Banzai! Three successes! That stages the damage down to Serious, Medium. Medium Stun damage. No, wait, that was all from Combat Pool. Clean miss.
Ray [GM]: Okay. Everyone roll initiative. (Everyone rolls initiative dice; Ray rolls 3d6 and adds the result to 8, the NPCís reaction.) Anyone roll higher than 19?
Ray [GM]: Okay, Darla. You peek up through the floor and see the man you followed here leaning against a car. Roll Perception, beat a four.
Darla: Four successes. I just have my head from the nose up through the floor, and Iíll try to scoot under a car.
Ray [GM]: That man is a human, mundane -- although he has an inactive spell focus, a ring on his right hand. Coming down from the third floor is a dwarf flanked by two humans. Behind the humans is an air elemental in astral. Itís pretty strong.
Darla: I better get down and inform Edgework. Iíll zip back.
Ray [GM]: Down to 21. Your move, Bruce.
Bruce [Edgework]: "Chew on this," I whisper and fire at the slitch, running towards him, extending my cyberspurs.
Ray [GM]: Target number -- Four, plus two -- lighting, plus four -- running, minus one for the laser sight -- thatís a nine.
Bruce [Edgework]: BLAM! Two successes.
Ray [GM]: Oo. No successes on the resistance. Buddy boy takes Serious physical. You get right up next to him at the end of 21. Itís one of the squatters from outside. 19. He backs up and fires again, scrambling for cover. Thwip, Thwip. Gotcha with one success.
Bruce (rolls): Nope, success with my Combat Pool. Clean miss.
Ray [GM]: He fires again, shot goes wide. 18?
Darla: I pop back down to the first floor. What do I see?
Ray [GM]: Edgework chasing after some guy who just ducked behind a car.
Darla: I manifest behind that guy. That should spook him.
Ray [GM]: Ash manifests behind the guy. A ghostly image of an attractive female with fire for hair hovers behind him.
Darla [Ash]: "Hi there."
Ray [GM]: Julie, you go before 11?
Julie: Thirteen. Did I hear the gunshot?
Ray [GM]: With those mikes? Your ears are still ringing.
Julie: Iím flooring it into the entryway.
Ray [GM]: 11, you go, Edgy.
Bruce: I jump over the carís hood and slice at the guy.
(Ray and Bruce roll, Bruce manages to hit the guy, knocking the NPC out.)
Ray [GM]: Eight. Darla?
Darla [Ash]: "Theyíre on the second floor, you idiot. Ever think about getting a silencer?"
Ray [GM]: Just then, Virgilís van roars into the parking garage.
Julie [Virgil]: "Thought I heard something." Iíll stop just inside the entrance.
Bruce [Edgework]: "Did you hear me call out? Did you?"
Ray [GM]: Just then, your reply is cut off by a howling wind as the sounds of three motorcycles come roaring down the ramps. In front of the cycles coming down the ramp on the left is a very large rippling shape. Itís heading straight for the van.
Darla [Ash]: "Did I forget to mention the air elemental?"
What happens next is up to the characterís actions. Will they fight it out with the air elemental and whoever is on the bikes? How will they salvage the mission when they find out that the mystery man is dead by his car? And what does the elven gangís expansion have to do with any of this?
This example could have taken ten to fifteen minutes of game time. Most game sessions take about three to five hours, and it seems that most game groups have three to six players beside the GM.