Well, we are at it again. I had a request from one of my regular players to run a zombie game w/ ShadowRun 4e. Seemed pretty simple. I mean, we already have ghouls as a part of the rules. I could just use them instead. Slap some fluff on there and BAM! Emeril would be proud. However, it turned out to be a bit harder than I thought.
I sent out the invites via Google Calendar (don’t pretend you don’t use it) and pretty soon I had 9 people signed up (and since I expect 3 or so not to show up, it was perfect). I spoke with the manager at IHOP and made arrangements for us all to use the back room to play and eat a bite. The accommodations were really extraordinary and, judging from the player’s reactions and feedback, we may be back again soon.
We all arrived Saturday night, ate, then worked on character sheets. Wow. I had totally forgotten how long character creation takes with SR. I had made up this “character creation cheat sheet” that helped, but we still worked on them for an hour and a half or so. This was problem one as that made the rest of the game seem rushed. You know what? It was.
Once we all got into the game, I revealed that the setting was the city we were physically in, only in 2073 (or 2072, whatever freaking year SR 4e takes place). They seemed to appreciate that as now they knew EXACTLY what was quarantined off and what was out of bounds. A printed map helped for those that didn’t know the town so well. I started them in the downtown mall where they proceeded to whoop zombie butt as I knew they would. But, something was definitely wrong. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew it was there.
Soon, the team ran into an abandoned tank in the middle of the street with ghouls everywhere. They started to employ what they knew about their enemy here which I was thrilled to see. On a whim I described a corpse with a chain of ammo wrapped around him under the tank. They pretty quickly associated it with the minigun mounted to the tank. That’s when I realized my problem. The game paused due to lack of time, but I was assured that everyone wanted to finish this game at a later time. Even the manager was enthralled with the goings on. But I was a bit concerned about my sudden enlightenment to hear positive messages.
You see, there are several ways you can run an RPG. The easiest and by far most common is what I refer to as heroic. It’s a game about kicking down doors and whooping bad guy ass. If you are after a “last action hero” kind of feeling, this is the way to do it. However, I wasn’t. I wanted a “gritty” feel. A feeling like every encounter could be your last. Every zombie could be the one to end you. I fell short of creating this feeling mostly because I didn’t truly understand HOW to make that happen. I had an IDEA (limit ammo, limit communication, ect.) but I needed something deeper. After several conversations with a few of the players afterward and several good friends that are familiar with this kind of experience, I think I have a good idea as to what I was missing, and what will make the next game really and truly gritty (read: epic).
So beware. I know we will have at least one seat open for the next installment, but if you sign up, you just might not make it out :P. Wish me luck, all! I’ll see what I can do about getting some of the players to writeup the events of the game from their character’s perspective.