I've been reading a lot of splatbooks, hoping to wrap my head around the whole 'run idea and i've ended up faceplanting a lot of times against a recurring problem.

Whatever good plot idea i have, there's no way the runners will make it out alive. I mean, you don't piss off one of the big 10 without getting some serious swat team nuking all of your hideouts, same things for anyone you actually are EAGER to run against.

Plus their facilities are Mil-Spec level (and their rules of engagement are even more hostile than regular militaries (Kill on sight, no bullshit))

How are you supposed to design a run for "new" runners? (the problem is even worse when the players are as green as the runners themselves since they can't easily make-do with little)

Any clues to make decently challenged runs, that makes sense in game, that the players (and runners) would actually enjoy (B&E at McDonalds, HoldUps at a gas station and runs against undefended petshops are not really that interesting when you can go plant a bomb at Shiawase's HQ) where the runners won't be totally destroyed in the followups. (don't mess with the wrong guys, 'cause they'll find you)


  • \$\begingroup\$ I would wait before accepting an answer for at least 24 hours. It does not discourage others to leave their answer which could be much better than mine. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:58

3 Answers 3


Major players

Assuming your runners are not Epic(*) powerful, they cannot piss off one of the AAA company enough that they will hunt them down to the ends of the world. Well, they could but it takes effort and skill they do not have. In the same way as myself would find it incredibly difficult to piss off the European Union. It is possible but would be hard. Even, if you did, you can still escape -- see Snowden and the NSA abuse.

(*) By Epic I mean can go toe-to-toe with dragons, Horrors, and have the resources to mess with most nation states. Most often than not, these are not really normal cyberpunk games.

Companies, and governments, and any large organisation is made up of competing individual. All will do their best of cover their tracks and do their best to get blackmail material on others. This is the cyberpunk way. This is where your runners come in: they as deniable black ops for one executive to get dirty on another. Your runners are never against Ares, but are against Bob while having the support of Alice. If the run succeeds, Bob can be pissed but their direct boss Fred might just sack Bob since he's clearly incompetent and put Alice in charge of finding the leak: which she can fake really easily.

If not, someone from an external company can provide shelter just like the freedom loving Russia (wait, what⸮) provided to Snowden. If the leak is big enough, the runners might just use that as blackmail: leave us alone or we'll tell the world about your clown porn fetish!

Your job as a GM is to make sure all those subtle connections and interactions are there.

Street level

Gangs, organise crime, corrupt cops, corrupt politicians, ecological disasters, ... Just read some local news and you'll get a hundred ideas for plots. If you don't want to be too depressed, look at your favourite TV show and ripe the plots out of that: Breaking Bad, The Wire, Bracco, Spiral, ... Hundreds of run ideas right there.

Get your players involved in the design of the game...

No, seriously. Get the players to write the plots for you. Ask them what they would like to do, to explore around their characters. Do they want to rise up as tragic heroes fighting for freedom? Do they want to get money, no matter the cost? Do they want to see deep down the rabbit hole they can travel while retaining their humanity? Do they want to explore racism, cults, and alternate religions?

Involve the players and your plots will become so much better.

  • \$\begingroup\$ i disagree to "Your runners cannot piss off one of the AAA company enough" steal their latest breakthrough at some groundbreaking new tech (the cure for the CFD virus maybe?) and sell it to one of their rival... and they'll go berzerk, they'll contract even ballsier runners than you over your head so they can get back their blueprints before the competition. They have enough money to buy china. They can spare the change te put you down if you steal something very bad. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ but the rest of the answer is spot on, i guess \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:24
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ @Mouhgouda: That's hardly the domain of most PCs unless they are at Epic level. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ i guess you're right. Maybe i should just lower my expectations about what a new runner should be doing. Great answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented Dec 22, 2014 at 15:56

Remember, competence is the exception, not the rule. Just look around the corporate offices of the real world. People are terrible at their jobs, pretty universally. Corporations with innumerable security assets are regularly hacked by script kiddies who barely understand the exploits they're exploiting. Banks are hacked by 12 year olds, not because the kids are geniuses, but because pretty much everything is broken. Defense contractors get completely owned by bored teenagers and publicly shamed. That's a thing. That happens in our world.

The secret to a successful run is finding the poor schlub who uses "password" as their password and getting them fired (ultimately). The secret to a successful run is figuring out what time of night the guards are most tired and bored. The secret to a successful run is recognizing that every seemingly impenetrable system is actually made up of thousands of individual parts (both human and technological/magical), any one of which could be exploited in some way if you just know how. The secret to being a successful runner is knowing how to find and exploit the weaknesses of the system, not bash your way through the hard parts.

As a GM, this means guiding your players to take advantage of legwork. This means creating opportunities for the players to find weaknesses and exploit them. Help them find the one security guard with gambling debts that need to be paid off. Help them find the one security terminal that wasn't updated to the latest firmware last week. Help them find the spirit guardian that's just waiting for a well-meaning (wink wink) shaman to free them from the bond that forces them to protect the vault (remember, spirits don't like servitude. Free them instead of fighting them). A successful run isn't about running wave after wave of runners into the heavily secured choke points of a building's security system. It's about finding the weaknesses and exploiting them.

...Just like real crime.


If you want your characters to pull off the Big Jobs, then let them do so. There are two things to remember:

  1. The Runners were hired by someone to do the job. That person would be taking the brunt of the Corp's anger.
  2. The Corp's thought processes might go as such: If the Runners were skilled enough to steal Project ABC from my company, they should be skilled enough to steal Project XYZ from that other company. Therefore, it makes perfect sense (If the Corp figures out who the Runners even were) for the Corp to show up, capture the Runners and threaten/offer to pay them to go steal Project XYZ.

Just remember: The MegaCorps are all about the bottom line. The guys at the top will set a limited budget for each facility. The guy in charge of the facility will have to split that budget between R&D, paying people, keeping the facility functional, securing the place, and their own paycheck. People are greedy, and so the guy in charge of the facility is going to cut corners where he can to ensure that his paycheck is as large as is possible.

  • \$\begingroup\$ One of my favorite Shadowrun storylines had us get hired for a job waaaay outside of our abilities. With a lot of luck, we managed to pull it off. Unfortunately, we got ID'd in the process. Word got out about our "Uncanny skill", and suddenly everyone and their grandma wanted us to pull big jobs. \$\endgroup\$
    – Mickle
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:20
  • \$\begingroup\$ hahahahaha, i guess fame has a price :P \$\endgroup\$
    – Mouhgouda
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 15:48

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