Category Archives: Sprawl Gangers

“There’s Gonna’ Be a Rumble Tonight…” Sprawl Gangers Interview with Randall Bills

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When you’re a Halloweener,
You’re a ‘weener all the way
From your first cigarette
To your last dyin’ day.

When you’re a ‘weener,
If the drek hits the fan,
You got brothers around,
You’re a family man!

My apologies, chummers, I just can’t help myself. I assure all of you that this isn’t an April Fool’s joke. It’s hard NOT to break into song and dance when you have this much Shadowrun stuffed into a single year! The Year of Shadowrun is something of a revival of the franchise, and goodness knows it needed it! Shadowrun is a perfect storm of sci-fi, cyberpunk, and fantasy all rolled into one. There’s a bit of something for everyone, and it has retained a cult following since it’s inception in 1989. This year’s release list is a veritable buffet of dystopian delights that the franchise has slated for everyone! On the video game front, we have Shadowrun Returns, and Shadowrun Online, both slathered in awesomesauce. On the tabletop, we have the Fifth Edition of the RPG, and a healthy helping of Shadowrun: Crossfire, Shadowrun: Hostile Takeover, and Shadowrun: Sprawl Gangers. Top that off with a brand-spanking-new line of Shadowrun novels for dessert, and you have a feast for fans old and new alike!

Great ghostly tapdancing Dunklezahn with dinner, a movie, and a kiss goodnight! All of this shadow-goodness is going to be a real strain on the credstick this year!

I have the singular pleasure of being one of the “lab mice” for Sprawl Gangers, but I’m not allowed to talk about the details. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Quit being a tease, Belmont!” I hear you, chummers, and that’s why I have a little treat for you…

…I’ve snagged an interview with Randall N. Bills for Shadowrun: Sprawl Gangers!

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Sprawl Gangers Designer Diary 4

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As I mentioned in Sprawl Gangers Designer Diary 2 (and Jason alluded to in his Introductory Box Set blog post), one of my goals right at the start was to try and achieve a thematic cohesion of terms—and rules as appropriate—across all the games we’re publishing during this Year of Shadowrun.

What do I mean by that? Well, here’s a sidebar straight out of the current draft of the rules out for playtest:

    Fusing magic with technology in a dystopian near-future setting, Shadowrun’s popularity has crossed into video games, fiction, and more—including this miniatures game—but the living, breathing Sixth World role-playing game setting has always been its heart.

    With that in mind, unlike many tabletop miniatures games that describe their models in impersonal rules terms, Sprawl Gangers, through its word choices and terms, attempts to bring every model to life as a flesh and blood part of Awakened Metahumanity. However, at the end of the day, while the terminology may be a little different from what a tabletop miniatures player is used to seeing, the rules will still have you squaring off with your models against your opponent and tossing dice towards victory!

But what does that actually mean for the game? It means, as much as appropriate, game terms and certain elements of mechanics are applied across the games. For example, in Shadowrun Fifth Edition you “make a Test” when trying to accomplish something in the roleplaying game, creating a pool of dice based on Attribute + Skill + modifiers against a Threshold value.

Those same terms and that same core mechanic for building dice pools are also emulated in Sprawl Gangers. When I want my Troll hardcore ganger to blast away and an Elven decker with his Remington 990, I make a Ranged Attack Test and build the dice pool as Agility + Firearms Skill + modifiers against a Defense Test made by the Elven decker.

We’ve also used as many of the same terms as possible during the design of Crossfire. And in fact, there are two terms that were specifically generated for Crossfire that I liked enough to fold them back into Sprawl Gangers: “Staggered” and “Critical.”

In Crossfire “Staggered” represents when a character is one step from collapsing, while “Critical” means the character has collapsed and he can’t do anything else. To emulate that in Sprawl Gangers, “Staggered” tokens are placed on a model for different reasons, such as taking damage, and limit the models actions, while the term “taken to Critical” is used when a model is eliminated and pulled from the playing area.

Why such a desire to cross-use terms/game mechanics like that? Won’t that mean the games play too similarly?

The easy answer to the later question is absolutely not. Each of these games is very distinct, with each bringing its unique flavor and its own fun to any table. However, working hard to implement as much cross-use of terms/mechanics as appropriate nets several desirable objectives.

First, it makes learning one of the new games when you’ve already got one under your belt easier. Love the RPG and want to try out Sprawl Gangers? You’ll be that much of a leg-up for the speed of understanding rules and tossing dice. Or if you’re moving from Sprawl Gangers to Crossfire. And so on.

Obviously this doesn’t mean we expect every person to play every game. However, my experience is that often if a person loves a universe, he or she loves immersing in that universe in a variety of ways. This works to lower the barrier of entry for that type of player.

Second, there are numerous examples of universes that have a variety of different style games within that space but some of them hardly feel like they’re even set within said universe. For example, when the original BattleForce box set published for BattleTech, the game terms and concepts used were so vastly different than anything previously done it was exceedingly difficult to get into the game, much less feel like the game you were playing was part of the over-all BattleTech experience. By striving to consistently use terms across all of the games of the Year of Shadowrun, we hope to accentuate Shadowrun as the pre-imminent experience and enjoyment of any of these games.

Whether you’re roleplaying, shuffling cards, moving miniatures or laying out a board, the name of the game should be having a blast immersing yourself in the Sixth World.

Next post I’ll start providing details on the actual mechanics and what you can do on the mean sprawl streets.

Randall N. Bills

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Sprawl Gangers Designer Diary 3

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One of the great things about designing for Sprawl Gangers is that I’m really designing the game that I have wanted to play for decades. Ever since discovering the joy of league- and campaign-based miniature games like Necromunda, Mordheim, and Blood Bowl, I’ve wanted to build my own take on a deep and engaging set of campaign rules.

Sprawl Gangers features a set of robust rules that are ideal for seeing your gang grow and develop over time. Each ganger can develop his own skills and abilities, or he may be distinguished with a particular injury–although, of course, in the cyberpunk future of Shadowrun, many injuries can be solved simply by installing some cyberware!

I designed the campaign rules to allow for short-term and long-term games… short-term campaigns are going to feature a good amount of interesting choices, gear, and developments in the gang’s Turf. Long-term campaigns will see the same, with the addition of quite a few rare and expensive options (such as wired reflexes, among others) that are great rewards for playing the same gang over the course of the league.

Not just gangers are going to improve over time, either – your gang can have a number of specialists who also grow and change over the course of a campaign. These specialists include Shadowrun staples like deckers, mages, and shadowrunners themselves.

The two resources needed to advance your gang should be familiar to Shadowrun fans; karma and nuyen. Karma represents a gangers’ individual experience, and as he gains karma he gains various improvements to his skills, attributes, or special abilities named Qualities. Nuyen can be spent to buy additional gear, upgrade existing weapons and armor, and even to purchase certain rare items—like cyberware, bioware, or particularly restricted firearms—if a ganger is sent to search for these rare items for sale through various black market and illegal sources.

Deckers can acquire new programs and upgrades for their decks, mages can purchase power focuses to help them cast spells and formulae for learning new spells to cast, and any gangers that are developing into first-rate warriors can start on the path of the street samurai with cyberware upgrades, smartgoggles, or better armor.

Everything I’ve talked about so far are just some of the highlights of the campaign system for Sprawl Gangers! This game is going to feature a lot of opportunities for players who enjoy personalizing their gangs and watching them grow into actual street legends.

The Sprawl Gangers playtest is well underway, and I’m collecting information from the first reports to help us refine and tweak the game to make it even better. I’m loving playing the game myself at home, and it’s quite a rewarding experience to coordinate this playtest across all the passionate groups and players who are a part of it. The playtest feedback is invaluable, and so far everyone seems to really like where the game is going. Keep an eye out for more designer diaries from myself and Randall in the future as we get closer to the start of open hostilities between the Ancients and the Halloweeners–this is going to be one gang war you don’t want to miss!

Ross Watson

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Sprawl Gangers Designer Diary 2

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While many of you know me, the excitement of the Year of Shadowrun is likely pulling in a lot of people that have no idea who I am. As such, like Ross’ Designer Diary 1, I felt it appropriate to introduce myself and provide some background.

In 1989 I strolled into my local game store, Game Depot (which is still alive and well…go Dave and Patty!), and there on the wall was a poster for an upcoming RPG that instantly grabbed my attention. In fact, it held the attention of my entire gaming group and we anxiously awaited its arrival. When Shadowrun released, we were all in the store and I believe we walked out with 4 copies that day.

Of course we couldn’t make heads or tails on how to actually ‘play’ the game…and unlike Ross, I didn’t play through all the editions. Despite such growing pains, Shadowrun has remained one of my favorite universes of all time. In fact, when I started working at FASA Corporation in 1996, I was to be an “assistant developer” for all the developers at the time, and that included Mike Mulvihill, the SR line developer. So every night I read an SR novel, or some sourcebook…did that for a month straight (such a ‘chore’…)

Under Catalyst it’s been a pleasure to grow Shadowrun in a lot of ways. And being integral to all we’re going to accomplish in the Year of Shadowrun has been amazing. (Who knew I’d find it so satisfying to create such great partnerships and cross promotion opportunities with our various partners in crime, such as Cliffhanger Productions, Harebrained Schemes and Lone Wolf.)

Nothing, however, can compare to my work on Sprawl Gangers. Being able to roll up my sleeves and create an all-new game design set within the Shadowrun universe is one of the highlights of my career. That I can do that while working hand-in-hand with Ross Watson (someone whose career I respect and whom I call friend) just makes the whole experience all the sweeter.

In some fashion or another, for the last 17 years I’ve been professionally involved in the development of BattleTech and last year my first all original miniatures game design was released, Leviathans. And I’ve worked on a variety of other games in some fashion, including Earthdawn, Eclipse Phase and Cosmic Patrol.

Despite my professional work, I’m just a gamer at heart and I’m playing them all the time. I’m an equal opportunity gamer, moving from board games to card games to miniatures games with equal ease…even RPGs, of course, though sadly those are lacking for how much time I’m really able to devote there.

As with Ross, I have incredibly fond memories of Necromunda, having played in an active league at FASA for well over a year. While I’ve played dozens of miniatures games (and I especially dove into several newer games in preparation for working on Sprawl Gangers), and many of them have different aspects I love, I felt strongly that Necromunda was in the space closest to what I wanted to achieve with this design.

And of course, while creating a game design to fill that area, its of the utmost importance that if feel Shadowrun top to bottom. The powerful impression that Larry Elmore’s First Edition cover made with me of what Shadowrun is all about is constantly resonating as Ross and I work. Often we’ve tweaked things to not simply feel more Shadowrun, but to ensure that indelible parts of the universe shine.

For example, we just got the following comment back from one of our playtesters (the first playtest cycle started last week as we mailed the rules out to over a hundred playtest groups):

    Also, we are really hoping that the Control Terrain exploit program ends up making it to the final product. Last game 2 characters at once were knocked prone and damaged from a 4 inch fall when the bridge they were one was hacked by the Halloweener’s decker that they had forgot about.

I’ve read that half a dozen times already and I’m still smiling large…a perfect example of the balance we hope we’re capturing between a great, fun miniatures game that is pure Shadowrun!

As Ross mentioned, we’ll be doing these design diaries every week or two in the months to come as we pull back the curtain and try and convey every aspect of the game as you look over our shoulders…enjoy!

Randall Bills

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