Shadowrun – Platypus has Fallen

I first played Shadowrun at a convention called Arcarnacon in the early 90’s. A group of us  tried a number of RPGs that we already played and some we hadn’t. Shadowrun with its mix of future and fantasy held my attention and I liked the mechanics of the game too. My group didn’t play it, but I collected an assortment of books through the 90’s. I later sold off many of them in order to buy miniatures, but re-invested in a few things pdf and paper in the last decade.

I’ve spent most of my free time over the last week reworking my basic structure of a one-session SR3 adventure I first made notes on 4 years ago. I’ve cleaned up and expanded the adventure and made a bunch of extra maps and visual aids. I’m now happy to declare it done.

The whole idea was based mostly on the movie “Olympus has Fallen”. The characters are all slightly improved versions of the sample characters from the SR3 rulebook, and named after the actors in the three movie series. Eg: Gerald Butler, Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, Angela Basset, etc. There are ten choices offering a wide spread of character options.

The setting (as the name suggests) is the Canberra, Australia, based in and around our Parliament House. The President of Australia is hosting the Deputy PM of New Zealand. Injecting a little humour, all the politicians involved are Australian & NZ celebrities. So the players could be trying to rescue Hugh Jackman, Kylie Minogue, Russel Crowe, Peter Jackson, Neil Finn, or Paul Hogan.

I may be an Aussie, but the closest I’ve gotten to the real Parliament House was driving past it with my parents when I was a kid. (The War Memorial held a much greater attraction!) I do enjoy researching stuff though, and there’s an incredible amount of material (especially maps) that you can find on the internet nowadays. I’ve looked at lots of photo’s too, so I had a good idea of what the main chambers within the building actually look like, in order to come up with authentic and accurate handouts and game aids.

When I put together the PC’s it was always in mind that they could be used for other SR one-off games. This week I had a basic idea for a Tasmania based adventure. (My SR timeline says Tassie was abandoned 30 years ago except for 2 small research stations.) I really need to get back to finishing my Star Gate and Battlestar Galactica one-offs before I chase this idea any further though.

I’m haven’t seen some of my gaming group face to face for what could be a year, but its a good time to see if we can get back together. A one-off game could be a better option than straight back into our long FalsKrag D&D game. This is one possibility, though one of my players has already voted for “A three hour cruise” – a Cthulhu Future one-off based on Gilligan’s Island. We’ll see what happens…

RPG Settings… and Shadowrun Australia

“A setting is the time and geographic location within a narrative, either non-fiction or fiction. The setting initiates the main backdrop and mood for a story. The setting can be referred to as story world or milieu to include a context beyond the immediate surroundings of the story.” (Wikipedia)

Settings can be as important as the game itself that you are playing. They can define the type of game you are playing, the expectations that the players have about the game and what sorts of elements will be encountered within the game. If your players are familiar with that setting, they may get more out of the game as they recognise some of the things they see, or have knowledge about a place, a legend, or the history of a thing encountered.

This isn’t always the case, and it can depend on your players, and the type of game. Personally, I feel the setting is most important to the GM, as you are the one putting the game together and both the setting and the game rules help you structure everything. It’s not always as important to your players.

Say I start a new D&D fantasy campaign, regardless of edition/version. I can choose to run my campaign in Greyhawk, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Golarion, Glorantha (who says I have to play Runequest?), Middle-Earth, Westeros, the Discworld, or Foraldoorei. (The last doesn’t exist, I just made up a name.) I may impose race/character restrictions, or limited magic items, or whatever I choose to better suit that setting – but in this case the game edition sets the rules, and the fact that it’s D&D pretty much sets the tone/style of the game.

My current D&D campaign is set in Greyhawk. I’m quite certain that only one of my players really knows anything substantial about the Greyhawk world (and he knows FR too), a few may know some Dragonlance, Westoros and/or Discworld. Most of them don’t know Greyhawk and that doesn’t effect their enjoyment of the game. If there’s history/legend/detail that they need to know, they will either find it, or I’ll give it to them if they research, make a Knowledge roll, or ask people who would know.

Our Gamma World campaign is set in north-eastern America. This is only because I started with published adventures (Famine in Far-Go, Legion of Gold, Mutant Master) that happen in a specific location. I could have easily chosen Australia and started near Melbourne or Sydney – just changing names and drawing my own maps (or ignoring large scale maps entirely). When you are gaming in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, one devastated country is much like another.

I have ideas for a Call of Cthulhu campaign set in England in 1922. I’m much happier to run this set in the UK rather than America because I know the history and culture of the UK. I own good maps of the area – I’ve been there and seen it myself. I’ve never been to the USA; I don’t understand their politics, I know little of their history and it’s too big a country to know much about specific areas that are the main focus of published CoC adventures.

When a game is set in the real world (past, future or alternate reality), there is a much greater chance that all your players know something about that location they are in, especially if it’s their country, or another major country like America, Australia, Canada, China, the UK, etc. It can make it easier on the GM because you don’t have to tell the players as much about what’s happening – you can assume they already know most of it.

This whole post has come about because I’m looking at a new setting for Shadowrun. My group has gamed perhaps once in the last five months, and that likely won’t change for at least another month. I’ve spent a lot of time writing up single session games using a variety of RPG’s and settings. One is Shadowrun (3rd edition), set in Canberra, Australia based on the ‘Olympus has Fallen’ movies. I really like the 10 sample characters I have, and thought it would be fun to keep them for other one-session adventures. While I don’t think I’ll actually run a SR campaign, that hasn’t stopped me starting to build an Australian setting. If I have details on a few decades of alternate-history/future, notes on what has changed, and little things like an alternative to Lone Star, then I can easily run published material based in Melbourne or Sydney.

Published SR material on Australia seems to be very basic. I did find someone on Reddit who put together a heap of material for an Australian campaign, mostly based on a Mad-Max wasteland. I’m slowly working over his material (13 pages long) to make changes that suit my idea of future Oz. It’s not so desolate. Lake Eyre is a freshwater inland sea, with both the Simpson and Strezlecki deserts now fertile plains. ‘Alice’ is the new capital of the Northern Territory. The ACT is gone, Canberra is now on the border of Victoria and NSW. The only known people in Tassie are at research stations in the ruins of Devonport and at Port Arthur.

I’ve spent time on the weekend making a map of the Republic of Australia in 2050, and here’s basic timeline of what I’m working on:

2010 VITAS.

2011 UGE. Mana storms in central & eastern Australia. Tasmanian tigers reappear.

2021 Goblinization.

2022 Lake Eyre expands outwards and the Northern Territory becomes a ‘First Nations’ state. (After the Great Ghost Dance & Treaty of Denver in the Americas, things don’t get as nasty here.)

2023 Following earthquakes, more manastorms, and political negotiation, state borders are redrawn.

2026 Tasmania abandoned as the wilderness comes alive. Storms, buildings collapse, wildlife attacks.

2029 World-wide computer virus, Matrix Crash.

2030 The Republic of Australia formed.

Afterthought: If Covid-19 is anything like VITAS (Virally Induced Toxic Allergy Syndrome), do we get UGE (Unexplained Genetic Expression) next year?

[Following incubation, initial symptoms include fever, chills, and vomiting. If unchecked, VITAS progresses into anaphylactic shock, with an increase in histamine levels causing bronchospasms and vasodilation. Most deaths occur from bronchoconstriction, leading to suffocation.]

One-shot games (or “What to do when players aren’t free?”)

Long gone are the days when my gaming group played some sort of game multiple times a week. Work, partners and/or family, and life in general means my group now averages a gaming day/night twice a month. My main D&D game has six players, and I generally don’t feel like running it if two people can’t make it. The Pathfinder game I play in came about in part for this reason – so that we could still role-play when the two busier people in our larger group weren’t free.

Sometimes a player can drop out at last minute, or you may have a few people who still want to get together. Occasionally, we’ll still play and one player runs two PC’s. We have also ended up playing board games (like Dungeon Quest, Talisman, Minion Hunter), card games (Munchkin, Flux, Unexploded Cow) or I’ve run a one session RPG. In the past we have played two Call of Cthulhu games (I’ve got “Blood Brothers” – designed with this in mind) and last year we did three separate one-shot (/playtest) Gamma World games. I’ve still got another CoC adventure ready to run if required.

Earlier this year, one of the blogs I read – Dungeon Fantastic – detailed two sessions where he ran S2 “White Plume Mountain” (AD&D) as a change from his normal GURPS Dungeon Fantasy. It sounded like a lot of fun, both as an alternative from normal gaming and a chance to play a few adventures from early D&D versions without converting them to d20/PF (which is what I mostly do now) and/or having to make changes to suit my player’s character levels. It inspired me to look at the rule books on my gaming shelves and produce a couple of single-session adventures to have ready for one of those days when someone can’t make a game or we just feel like something different.

Over the last two months I started working on two One-Shot adventures – one for Star Wars and another for Middle Earth. This gave me a theme – Movie/TV – that I’ve been expanding to nearly every RPG I own. Generally I’m taking a part of a movie (or the general idea from the film/TV program) and building something for 4-5 players. I enjoy coming up with adventure ideas and I love making characters, so two ideas have grown into six – so far!

Here’s the adventures I’m working on; titles are subject to change.

Star Wars (d6 W.E.G.) – “The Pit of Carkoon”

Middle Earth Role Playing – “Dol Guldar: The Necromancer”

Gamma World (d20 Pathfinder) – “We’re not in Kansas anymore”

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay – “Inconceivable!” (Or “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya…”)

Shadowrun (3rd Edition) – “Asgard has fallen.”

Oriental Adventures (D&D 3.5) – “Gandhara/Journey to the West”

Now, it’s possible that the titles don’t mean anything to you, or only sound a little familiar. If so, here’s some more detail:

  1. The “Pit of Carkoon” is the resting place of the Sarlaac from “Return of the Jedi”. Six minutes in the movie makes a great set-up for a major combat on two skiffs and Jabba’s Sail Barge. For five PC’s, with an optional sixth being Boba Fett, fighting against the rest of the players. The session could be expanded with something in Mos Eisley where the players have to get back to the Millennium Falcon.
  2. Dol Guldar is a fortress in southern Mirkwood forest, where the White Council drive out Sauron – “the Necromancer”. There’s a scene that interprets the events from “The Lord of the Rings” in the movie “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”. The LotR book lists the “White Council” as being “the Wizards, Elrond, Cirdan, Galadriel, and other lords of the Eldar” so I’ve made nine characters that can be chosen from by Players, and I’ll modify Dol Guldar from the MERP sourcebook “Mirkwood”.
  3. The classic movie “The Wizard of Oz” converted to Gamma World. Five PC’s (including Toto) are sent by the “Tech Wizard from Oz” to remove the threat of the “Wicked Witch” (an Esper) and her flying monkeys.
  4. Another classic movie – “The Princess Bride”. Westley, Buttercup, Inigo Montoya, Fezzik and Miracle Max have to defeat Prince Humperdink, Count Rugen and maybe Vizzini. This adventure will draw on the characters more than the actual story in the movie.
  5. I’ve done little work on this so far. The idea is to have a Shadowrun session where the PC’s are all off-duty military/security named after characters (or actors?) from the “Olympus has fallen” movies who have to rescue the President and his son from terrorists. My big change is to relocate this to Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. Downloading basic maps/floor-plans was easy. I mostly need to make-up the PC’s and NPC’s.
  6. The novel “Journey to the West” is the fictional story of an actual Chinese monk who traveled to India to bring back Buddhist scriptures. Most people are more familiar with the 1978 Japanese TV series “Monkey”. The five main characters (including Horse) recreated in d20 and doing something similar to an episode of the series.

For most of these I’ve completed the PC’s and thought about NPC’s and creatures. Specific adventure detail comes next. Once finished, I’ll probably add the adventures to the blog.