I have a small group that plays games weekly on IRC. We've been playing Dogs in the Vineyard for a while now and that appears to work pretty well. We've been a little slow at the start, but it was never too bad. However, I recently started running a Shadowrun campaign and combat slows our group to an absolute crawl. It took us 90 minutes to complete 2 turns of combat.

The group has accepted that text-based roleplaying is simply slower. However, this kind of slowdown is honestly frustrating both for me as a GM and them as players. It's hard to care about the action when your time to shine won't come about for another 30 minutes.

Are there any ways I can speed things up? Shadowrun is a system that is rather heavy on referring to charts so I've tried to consolidate those in easily accessible places, but a single action still seems to include far too much look up and calculation from everyone. Is the answer to simply not play such table-heavy systems?

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ Hi Blake, and welcome to the site. I've removed your request for advice on any system, since that's going to be very broad, and if we really did that, you'd wind up with an awful lot of advice totally useless for solving your issues in Shadowrun. Let's just focus on your specific case. If something useful to lots of systems is applicable to Shadowrun, it'll get mentioned. If you want advice for other systems, I suggest you ask about those separately. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 19, 2014 at 8:29

3 Answers 3


I have been player and GM for IRC based games for going on 15 years. I have played Shadowrun on IRC several times, but I will focus on the general advice of playing crunchy games on IRC, as it applies equally to Shadowrun and anything else.

Dispense with charts.

As a rule of thumb, every time you have to look at a chart, that costs about 8 minutes of game time. House rule away as many charts as you can.

Roll initiative exactly once per session

It only takes a few seconds to roll init at the table, but with a group of 5, it takes about 6 minutes on IRC. That's six minutes you lose per combat if you roll init for each encounter, and 6 minutes per ROUND that you lose if you roll initiative each round.

Call for less rolls

This may be the most irksome suggestion, but sometimes, its obvious that the player will succeed. Don't call for a roll in these cases. The loss of the chance of a glitch is a small price to pay for 5 minutes less time spent in combat. Always call for the roll if it is obvious that they are going to fail, however.

Cheat enough to get kicked out of Vegas

Cheat on behalf of the players. If by the end of the round, the bad guy isn't dead enough, take away some of his health.

Combat is never fun on IRC

Do what you can to limit the need to call for rolls, and get back to what really works on real time text chat - in character role playing.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have some suggestions that you're welcome to add to your answer: 1) Use an IRC Dice Roll bot. That could take the fun out of dice-rolling manually, but it also makes the results obvious and quick. 2) If you aren't already doing this, wait until the combat rolls are resolved to describe what happens. 3) Do multiple rolls together. Have your characters roll avoidance and mitigation at the same time. Hope some of those help! \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Oct 19, 2014 at 14:40
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @Codeacula I think #1 is a given. Heck, IRC network that cater to role playing games have network services for dice rolling. #2 is kind of required in all role playing games, you cant describe what happens till it has happened. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tritium21
    Oct 19, 2014 at 14:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've seen it be done. "I do this action and describe in detail how I'm doing it." "Ok, let's do the rolls." While it's usually fine in-person (which often includes retconning) I wanted to make sure I brought it up. OP didn't mention their setup, so I wasn't sure if they're using a bot or not. \$\endgroup\$
    – Codeacula
    Oct 19, 2014 at 15:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ We are using a bot in fact. I've started to add some things to the bot to make certain rolls require less effort on my part. For example, I can just ask the bot to roll for defending against a ranged attack and it adds up all the dice needed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Blake Hair
    Oct 20, 2014 at 3:46

I have never played SR online. However, the situation is not much different at the table, the online-modifier to communication speed only makes it worse. Yes, Shadowrun is a system that's pretty detailed concerning combat and combat will take a lot of time per turn compared to other systems.


A character can easily have 3-4 actions of their own. Adding a few reactions depending on combat scenario and maybe a few drones from the rigger, depending on party size you can have 30+ actions and reactions in a single round from your party. An action can be used to make two attacks. For comparison, in D&D that would be 6-12 full rounds of combat.

Yes, Shadowrun is that detailed. Most people like that level of detail.

What you can do within the rules

There two things you can do to speed up combat

  • There is a rule allowing you to not roll dice but instead buy successes. Although the conversion rate is not as good as average dicerolling, it's ok. Use this rule for all henchmen, gangers and otherwise non-story-relevant sidekicks that don't have a personality of their own. Yes, they become stereotype, but "gang member #5" was stereotype from the start.

  • Pre-Calculate. Much calculation comes from adding and substracting bonusses. Bad lighting, heavy wind, gas grenade, fast car, volley fire... add that up before the fight and make up your own tables for the encounter where those modifiers come precalculated. That's a lot of work though.


  • Shadowrun has many systems that grant bonuses against maluses. For example the sight system. Although that adds realism, it also adds calculation and bookkeeping effort. A possible houserule would be to let them grant immunity to those maluses instead. You are either affected, or not. No number crunshing.

  • Force your players to use buying successes against those henchmen that you decided would buy successes as well. Make salvo attacks do something instead of giving modifiers. For example, long salvoes intended to make dodging harder: instead of making it harder, disallow the dodge roll.

  • Make bonus dice and negative dice negate each other, even if they are not the same number of dice. Darkness gives -2 and a salvo +3? Salvo negates darkness, roll normal dice. You don't even need to look up how many dice darkness and salvo each grant.

Keep in mind that many people (myself included) would argue that with those houserules, it's no longer the system we love. It's no longer the detail-loaden combat we like. But if it means it's more playable and you are happy with it, who cares if it's still "the" Shadowrun. Don't get bogged down by details if you don't find the details to be fun in your group.


Playing tabletop online has been my primary way to do it for about five or six years now. The answers already posted address the specific problems of playing Shadowrun in IRC quite well, but I wanted to add some general points.

You should try to get your players to use voice chat. I don't know if it's an issue of trust, shyness, or even just bad bandwidth that you've decided not to use VoIP, but this speeds up play immensely, especially when you can yell at someone to tell them it's their turn. I can't even imagine how slow a game of Shadowrun over IRC is; I've played Shadowrun with VoIP and several helper tools (such as combat calculators) and it worked out fine, however. If your characters are really too self-conscious to roleplay without using text, they can do that. But for communicating during combat, you should always use voice.

If you really can't use voice, consider using roll20 as an all-in-one solution. roll20 is a pretty good app. It has chat, rolling, and cartography all in one nice program. They have a library of tokens and will search the web for any images you want to add to the game map, and you can upload your own material as well. It even has a jukebox for playing appropriate music or sound effects.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .