Prepping for an actual Shadowrun playtest/potential ongoing campaign, here’s a procedure for developing a plot and character web in the style of Smallville. It’s similar to Dresdenville and Heroville, but with even fewer direct hooks into the character sheet. Even though the process doesn’t demand additions to the character sheet, players should attempt to buy anything they link to with a positive relationship in a way that makes sense for the system (as a contact, safehouse via lifestyle, quality, etc.).

Each player should assign priorities (A-E to Race, Magic, Attributes, Skills, and Resources) and decide on character generalities before proceeding, but shouldn’t do too much actual point spending (to leave room to tweak based on the chart results).

As usual, go around the table for each step and sub-step before proceeding on to later steps. Whenever you draw an arrow, define the relationship. There can’t be more than two arrows between the same two nodes (and those have to be reciprocal).

The possible nodes for this process are:

  • PC (Square): These are the player characters. Start by adding each of these to the map but don’t connect them until later.
  • NPC (Circle): These are contacts, antagonists, and other known quantities. The players shouldn’t feel obliged to make all these friendly: it may be better to define your own principle antagonists and have a general idea of their capabilities rather than letting the GM make them in secret.
  • Location (Rectangle): These are locations where the players expect to spend a lot of time when they’re not on ‘runs. They may be clubs, places of business, whole neighborhoods, interesting landmarks, etc. They’ll tend to be important for meeting clients, investigating, planning, and laying low.
  • Macguffin (Pentagon): These are items that are likely to come up as objectives for ‘runs. The players will really only know their names and the relationship of groups or NPCs to them, but giving them an interesting name makes it more likely they’ll come up in an interesting way. In general, their style should match the Priority that placed it: magic (something magical), resources (some kind of tech), or attributes (some kind of information).
  • Canon Group (Triangle): This is an official corporation, gang, cult, etc. from canon setting material. This is how you vote for which groups you’d like to see heavily invested in the campaign, and establish some idea of what their initial goals are and who they’re connected to.

Step 1: Priority A

  1. If your Priority A is:
    1. Race or Attribute: add an NPC
    2. Skill or Resource: add a Location
    3. Magic: add a Macguffin.
  2. Add a Canon Group.
  3. Draw an arrow from one of the NPCs or Canon Groups to a PC.
  4. If your Priority A is
    1. Race: add a Location
    2. Magic or Skill: add an NPC
    3. Attribute or Resource: add a Macguffin.
  5. Draw an arrow from one of the Canon Groups to an NPC or Location.
  6. Tag one of the NPCs based on your Priority A (see Tags, below).

Step 2: Priority B

  1. If your Priority B is:
    1. Race or Attribute: add an NPC
    2. Skill or Resource: add a Location
    3. Magic: add a Macguffin.
  2. Draw an arrow from your PC to an NPC.
  3. Draw an arrow from your PC to a Location.
  4. Draw an arrow from an NPC to a Canon Group or Location.
  5. Tag one of the NPCs based on your Priority B.

Step 3: Priority C

  1. If your Priority C is
    1. Race: add a Location
    2. Magic or Skill: add an NPC
    3. Attribute or Resource: add a Macguffin.
  2. Draw an arrow from your PC to another PC.
  3. Draw an arrow from your PC to an NPC, Location, or Canon Group.
  4. Draw an arrow from an NPC to another NPC.
  5. Tag one of the NPCs based on your Priority C.

Step 4: Priority D

  1. If your Priority D is:
    1. Race or Attribute: add an NPC
    2. Skill or Resource: add a Location
    3. Magic: add a Macguffin.
  2. Draw an arrow from your PC to another PC.
  3. Draw an arrow from any non-PC element to any other non-PC element.
  4. Tag one of the NPCs based on your Priority D.

Step 5: Priority E

  1. Draw an arrow from one of the NPCs or Canon Groups to a PC.
  2. Draw an arrow from an NPC to a Canon Group or Location.
  3. Tag one of the NPCs based on your Priority E.

Tags

For the current Priority, if you chose:

  • Race: Assign a race to the NPC. This can be any of the standard PC races, including human; NPCs that end the process without one default to human.
  • Magic: Assign a magic praxis to the NPC (Mage, Physical Adept, Shaman, Mystic Adept, Technomancer, etc.) or declare that the NPC is non-magical. NPCs without such an assignment default to no magic.
  • Attributes: Assign a method to the NPC (Agent, Operator, Conspirator, or Bystander; see below).
  • Skills: Assign a signature Skill Group to the NPC. The NPC is guaranteed to be good at the chosen Skill Group; other skill choices for the NPC are up to the GM.
  • Resources: Draw an arrow from one of the NPCs or Canon Groups to a Macguffin.

Method

A method outlines an NPC’s general method of interaction with the world (colored by other tags and relationships decided for the NPC):

  • Agent: This NPC tends to be active in the world, and in the thick of things. The character is usually a ‘runner, guard, detective, or someone else used to face-to-face confrontation.
  • Conspirator: This character tends to be a social string puller who tries not to have anything directly traceable. The NPC is usually a face or Mr. Johnson.
  • Operator: This NPC tends to be active but at once step or more removed. The character is usually a mage, hacker, or rigger, or someone else that works directly but remotely.
  • Bystander: This character tries not to get directly involved. The NPC is usually a merchant, fixer, or other contact.

Contact’s Rating

Optionally, you can assign a fixed Connection Rating to each NPC that the PCs must spend to buy that NPC as a Contact. This keeps characters defined as movers and shakers from being purchased at low Connection Rating levels, and allows players that both want to have the same NPC as a Contact to know which Rating to take.

  • If the NPC seems like he or she should be very highly connected from the way the chart lays out (e.g., it’s implied that an NPC is high up in a corp or nationally recognized), the GM can simply assign a Rating over 6 that makes sense. This character will not be valid as a starting Contact, but might be befriended officially later. This shouldn’t be done for NPCs on the map that clearly have a relationship with a PC that implies that the player planned to buy the NPC as a Contact.
  • Otherwise, count the number of non-PC lines attached to the Contact (i.e., either to or from other NPCs, Groups, Locations, and Macguffins). That’s the Contact’s Rating; it should generally be between 1 and 6 and, thus, valid as a starting Contact.

Example

Here’s a potential web created by the above system, using data I threw together to test it (click to enlarge):

shadowrun_test

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