House rules for a cinematic method of Exploration and Infiltration in Shadowrun: Anarchy.
In last week's post, I touched on a stylized method of running Legwork and Investigation called the Montage. It is basically a way of combining a series of small Scenes into a cohesive whole to compress the time that goes into Legwork and Investigation.
Below is a way to accomplish the same cinematic effect for what are essentially hexcrawls or dungeoncrawls in Shadowrun: Anarchy.
THE CRAWL MONTAGE:
STYLIZED EXPLORATION AND INFILTRATION
An alternate version of the Montage is the Crawl Montage. The Crawl Montage is appropriate when getting to the next Scene should be as exciting or dangerous as the next Scene itself. Imagine long treks through the Catacombs of Boston, or into ganger territory in the Redmond Barrens, or even into a complex Renraku facility with CorpSec patrolling. Shadowrun: Anarchy does not use traditional ranges and movement, so how do you measure progress? Through Narrations and Attribute Tests. Here is how works:
GM sets the Scene Location, the Scene Tags (descriptors that are helpful in guiding player Narrations), and the Scene Threats (typical NPCs the players might encounter).
Players spend a Plot Point each to invoke the Crawl Montage.
Players make a (Strength or Logic) + Willpower Test (for Exploration) or an (Agility or Charisma) + Willpower Test (for Infiltration).
Players take turns (from lowest to highest hits) narrating the team’s progress and then setting up a Scene. This could be a simple challenge or complication, a role-play or social conflict, or even a combat encounter. Play out the Scene normally.
After the last player's Scene concludes, the players have reached their goal. This could be successfully navigating the Catacombs to the other side, or locating the gang hide-out in the Barrens, or reaching the secure lab in the facility, etc.
GM may award Plot Points for the best Narrations.
Optionally, the GM can establish a net hit Threshold (a goal to work toward) and a test Difficulty (an opposing dice pool). Keep a record of how many net hits the players accumulate in their Exploration or Infiltration Tests. The players reach their goal when their net hit total reaches the Threshold. Thresholds should be set at about 2 to 4 per player and you can’t go wrong with Average (8) for a Difficulty.
If a player used Exploration, the GM gets the first Narration during the Scene, but the players gets +1 net hit toward Threshold. Exploration represents using athleticism (Strength) or hacking/tracking (Logic) to work quickly and directly toward a goal.
If a player used Infiltration, the players get the first Narration during the Scene (as they get the jump on the encounter). Infiltration represents sneaking around (Agility) or using social tactics (Charisma) to carefully wind their way toward a goal.
The Scenes that the players set up can be as simple as a locked door or as complex as a running chase/combat scene with threats all around. It allows the players to spotlight their own abilities and to tailor the excitement to their current appetites. Remember that the GM is free to add or change things by using Plot Points to keep things on track or to keep the players on their toes.
Example: Four runners (Martial Weapon, Flux, Tennessee Tophat, and Skunky Brewster) need to get to the secure arcane lab within a Renraku facility, which I set as the Scene Location. I set the Scene Tags as Renraku, Arcane Lab, High Surveillance, Cramped Quarters, and Another Mag-lock?! The Scene Threats are Corporate Security, Enemy Drones, and Lesser Spirits. I set the Threshold at 12 and the Difficulty at Average (8). The players spend their Plot Points and we make Tests.
In order from lowest to highest net hits, Skunky the decker gets 1 net hit on a Logic Exploration Test; Tophat the adept face gets 2 net hits on a Charisma Infiltration Test; Martial the street samurai gets 3 net hits on an Agility Infiltration Test; and Flux the mage gets 4 net hits on a Logic Exploration Test. The two Exploration Tests grant another 2 net hits for a total of 12 net hits - enough to get to the secure lab at the end of this Crawl Montage. The players know that Flux has the last Scene before reaching their goal, so they narrate accordingly:
Skunky narrates how they approach the loading docks; she has some hacked credentials to get passed the exterior mag-locks. The first Scene is a complication: Skunky needs to get past the mag-lock by making a Hacking + Logic Test, while the rest of the team stays out of sight of the High Surveillance by making Stealth + Agility Tests. I could spend a Plot Point on a Surprise Threat to have a patrol drone sweep the area.
Tophat narrates how he uses a physical mask spell to make the team resemble the technicians and wage-slaves inside the facility. The second Scene is a social situation: Tophat needs to blend in and convince the civvies and security that they belong by making a Con + Charisma Test. I will pull the rest of the team into the Scene with awkward conversation and suspicious technicians. The whole thing could blow up into a combat situation, but that would rob Tophat of his spotlight time.
Martial narrates how, after they get passed the worker areas, they go stealth-mode and dodge some patrols until they reach a checkpoint with some guards and drones that they simply cannot bamboozle. The third Scene is a combat scene and because they were Infiltrating, the players get the first Narration. We play out the combat and after a Turn or two of sniper rifles, power bolts, and ‘link jamming, the players are on their way… BUT there is Another Maglock?! so Skunky needs to hack that too (I give Martial a Plot Point because he remembered to hit a Scene Tag).
Flux narrates how, as they get closer to the lab, he starts to see mana lines and mana barriers. The last Scene is a complication: Flux needs to break down the mana barriers with a Sorcery (counterspelling) + Willpower Test. I feel like they are close enough to the goal that I can ramp the excitement up now, so I spend a Plot Point on a Surprise Threat as soon as Flux blasts the mana barrier. Lesser Spirits start to manifest in the Cramped Quarters hallway. Now it’s a combat and I get to narrate first, since it was an Exploration. Corporate Security will likely be on their way too, unless the runners can pull off something tricky…
All along the way, I can make things interesting with the Plot Points that I received at the beginning, by playing Live Dangerously or Surprise Threat. If I wanted the facility run to be more complicated or to last longer, I could have set the Threshold higher and we would run an additional set of Tests and Narrations and Scenes until the Threshold is met. If I wanted the facility run to be simpler and faster, I could have skipped the Threshold/Difficulty altogether, simply ordered their Narrations based on hits, and the players would reach the lab regardless of how well they rolled.