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I have a group that is about to encounter another runner team in combat. They both want to do the same job and are going to be fighting for the package. The two thoughts I had were to make some of them (3) prime runners, but I worry that it will be a significant undertaking in combat to reference sheets for each of them and slow down the encounter. The other thought was to use regular blocks of stats, but I worry that it might make the encounter too easy.

What is a good tactic for creating an enemy runner teams to fight against that will hopefully deliver a significant challenge?

I am using 6e but would be fine with a 5e answer or a comparison between 6e and 5e.

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I cannot answer to how they technically should be set up (I've not played shadowrun in a long time, and I imagine this would depend on the composition of your group's team that you do not talk about), but I have experience with running combat against other adventuring groups, and can give you a few general pointers:

  • You are rightfully concerned that if each one of these characters is complex, this can slow things down. You are not familiar with them. I would try and limit complexity of these characters as much as possible. If you have a choice among diffent builds, pick the simpler ones, and make them a little stronger instead of giving them more options.

  • Your players have been playing their characters for a long time, and know them inside out, and each has to only focus on their character. You as the DM will have to manage a whole team instead of one character, have less time to think about each and likely will overlook abilities here and there. If you want a challenge, make the opponents about as strong as the group itself, and it should be in the groups favor.

  • The GM playing a group can easily come across as "DMs Pets" or DMPCs. When you run the combat, especially when you made the opponents strong, don't maximize their advantages through your rulings, which can come across as taking sides with "your" team. Especially in this fight be generous in favor of the PCs.

  • It sounds like your objective is a tough fight that the players ultimately win. Keep this in mind, and do not make them clearly stronger than the group. Otherwise this can easily end up in defeat for the players. It is no problem if the players win too easily. It may be a problem if they lose, which is a frustrating experience, and will feel to them as if you set them up to lose.

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    \$\begingroup\$ On the other hand, if you're fine with the players losing the fight (and fifth edition doesn't make it too hard for a group of PCs to survive losing combat, provided they don't go too deep into overflow before being stabilized), then you should plan for what happens, whether it's "failing the run; this Mr. Johnson will not hire you again" or "getting a chance to track down the other team and steal the package back." \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Mar 4 at 8:06
  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't believe almost a year later and I finally got a response. This is really solid guidance for the matter. I still haven't run the encounter because of other issues, but the group is mostly still together and we are doing other things until we can return back to it, so this might be a unique case of where a super late response is still helpful to the person who asked it. \$\endgroup\$
    – Arrowkill
    Mar 5 at 23:30

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