One of the best campaigns of my life

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…was the five-year long Shadowrun 1e game I GM’ed in the early 1990s. We played every Saturday, most of the time with six players, and sometimes with as many as 12. Our campaign flew in the face of everything the rest of the Shadowrun fandom liked:

– We threw out the rules (because they were awful) and

– replaced them with Wyaul Hyoiwto, a „system“ I had come up with, similar to Sword & Backpack. The rules: Tell me what your character can do, and I give you a number you have to roll on or over, with a d20. The higher, the better.

Character creation was a snap: write down a few „Good Things“ (things that are advantageous for your character, like good attributes, lots of money, connections) and a few „Bad Things“ (things that are bad for your character, debts, weaknesses, flaws, enemies). All of that was expressed in words, not numbers (eg, „I’m pretty good at shooting a 9mm“, or „Even as a little boy, I could already lift the heavy oil barrels that stood behind my dad’s garage“).

Money was handled abstractly. Each character was either „Poor“, „Working Stiff“, „Well-off“ or „Rich“. When you wanted to buy stuff, I gave you a target number to roll on or over, adjusted to your wealth level.

Experience (or „karma“ as it was called in SR 1e) was gained when and if it was dramatically appropriate. After a session, we would talk about what had happened, and if we all agreed that the characters had gone through enough shit, they could improve the skills they had used most often.

– The player characters fled from Berlin, Europe (ADL, Allianz Deutscher Länder, Alliance of German States) to Seattle after two or three years real-time play. Most of them underwent extensive plastic surgery. The Yakuza and three different corporations were after them.

– In the very last session we played, we all knew the characters were doomed. Too much had happened, one too many deadly enemy had been made. It was amazing, we really knew that we had to say goodbye to them, a farewell to good friends.

– We also knew they would not survive the day. Something like poetic justice was at work.

– And after the elven magic initiate and the human rigger had obliterated an entire corporate highrise in a bloodcurdling dog-fight, after the street sam had taken out an entire squad of Lone Star bullies and the decker had erased all the backups of a million-nuyen project hidden away in a corporate datastore, and after the troll war veteran had beheaded two immensely dangerous killers in an apartment, Death knocked at the door.

The elven sorcerer and the rigger didn’t survive the heat-seeking missles that came in from every conceivable angle. The street sam died in a hail of Lone Star bullets, alone and quiet, as he had been in all the years we had known him. The decker managed to jack out before the Black IC fried his brain, but then the corp hit squad beat him to death. And the troll heard a VTOL plane right above the house he was in. With a grin, he waited for it to go into descent. Then he yelled, „Come and get me, you bastaaaaaaaaaaards“ , triggering the C-4 he had taped onto his body. Like his buddies, he went out in a blaze of glory.

God, how I love that game.

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