Anarchy House Rule: Cinematic Campaign Play
House rules for a cinematic method of meta-gaming Shadowrun: Anarchy.
Shadowrun: Anarchy can be more than just a string of Contract Briefs interspersed with Karma paydays and character advancement. It can be a rich, cinematic campaign world populated by the player characters, scheming non-player characters, and powerful factions, each vying for survival and control. Below are options that a GM may use to add some cinematic style to their Scenes and shared-storytelling aspects into their campaign story arcs.
THE PROLOGUE/INTERCUT SCENE:
EARNING YOUR PLOT POINTS
In standard Shadowrun: Anarchy game play, the players start each session with three Plot Points. In Cinematic Campaign Play, the players need to earn those Plot Points (up to three) before the game begins by doing the following:
Earn a Plot Point by listening to the GM’s recap of the previous session (or get one for free if there is no recap).
Earn a Plot Point by recounting something cool or something of note that happened in the previous session. This gets players thinking cinematically as soon as possible during the session.
Earn a Plot Point by describing something that happened "off-screen." This could be anything from what you did during downtime, to what your Contact did while you were on mission, to even what the opposition is doing to prepare their defense/offense against you.
If this happens at the beginning of a Contract Brief, you might consider this a Prologue. If it happens in the middle of a Contract Brief, consider it an Intercut Scene. The “off-screen” narrations, help the players build character for NPCs and add seeds for upcoming Contract Briefs in the campaign.
A useful technique of suspenseful storytelling is the Flashback. Flashbacks take the story back in time to allow the players to use their Narration to describe certain preparation steps that their characters had taken before the current Scene. This allows the players to get into the action of a Scene without bogging down the session with the minutia of detailed planning. It also helps bridge the gap between what the hardened, shadowrunnin’ character knows and what the player knows.
Player spends TWO Plot Points to invoke the Flashback (think: Shake it up plus Live Dangerously).
Player describes the purpose and method of the Flashback, tests an appropriate Skill, and adds a Glitch Die.
An Exploit may refund a Plot Point or have an added positive narrative effect.
A Glitch may cause Cooldown, Stun or Physical damage, or another negative narrative effect.
Player narrates the Flashback and results but may not negate or reverse a Narration that has already taken place.
Imagine the Decker sets off an alarm while hacking a mag-lock open. The player may not know the standards of Sixth World security, but the character would. The alarm is definitely triggered (the GM said it out loud, so it happened), and a Flashback cannot negate that, but the player Flashbacks to previously re-routing the security call from Knight Errant to his Face’s commlink who can diffuse the situation. She spends two Plot Points, makes a Hacking Test and rolls a Glitch Die. If she succeeds, it works; if she Glitches, perhaps she routed the call to the Street Samurai instead!
THE MONTAGE :
STYLIZED LEGWORK AND INVESTIGATION
The Montage is a staple of cinematic storytelling and it is used to compress separate scenes into a concise whole. This concept can be used in Shadowrun: Anarchy to speed up legwork and investigations so you can get to the action.
Players spend a Plot Point each to invoke the Montage.
Players make a Logic + Willpower Test (for Investigation) or Charisma + Willpower Test (for Legwork).
Players take turns (from lowest to highest hits) narrating increasingly successful, short, descriptive encounters. Players may narrate Cue-reasonable violence but there are no further Tests and no combats.
GM may reveal Cues, Scene locations, NPC information, etc. based on Narrations and net hits. At the end of the Montage, the players should have enough information to get to the next Scene.
GM may award Plot Points for the best Narrations.
Imagine the players need to locate a shady BTL dealer. In this Montage, the Face could narrate an encounter where she chats up some gangers at a dive bar. The Decker narrates late-night VR sessions tracking suspicious Matrix transactions. The Street Samurai narrates busting heads in a dirty alleyway and shaking used BTL chips out of pockets. After all this, the GM would let them know (based on the hits of the Tests), where the next Scene is and perhaps how many thugs are guarding the place.