Riposte 1997: Part 1
By Blackjack [Blackjack's Shadowrun Page: www.BlackjackSR.com] [BlackjackSRx@gmail.com] [@BlackjackSRx]

Posted: xxxx

Iím sick of GMing. Is there anything I can do to spice up the game for ME?

This used to happen to me a lot. There's only so much GMing a person can take before the game begins to seem frighteningly dull. I realized my problem, which may be yours as well, was that everything I did in the game seemed to be orientated to pleasing the players and making sure they enjoyed the game, that it went smoothly, that I had a nice fairly complicated run for them, etc. There are things I hated doing, like filling out NPC sheets, making sure there was a variety of things happening all at once, drawing maps, rolling for initive every time, etc. Sometimes It's a good idea to just sit back and run the game on your own terms, for your own enjoyment, doing what your want to do, and basically saying the hell with telling them every little detail and using every little rule. For a gaming session I'd name everybody in the game Joe, make sure if a person was armed the gun was always a hot pink UZI III, screw around with the rules, and create absurd runs: Just because I thought it would be fun. The players weren't always thrilled to participate in such sessions but, after a while, would actually get into them and perhaps even enjoy them. Usually they'd create new, one run, PCs just in case anything too outlandish happened.

You said you like submissions, here's one based on your "getting hurt" supplement.

Uh, no. Youíre gravely mistaken. I said I HATE submissions. But thanks, anyway.

A PC in the game I run constantly brags about his actions. Itís getting annoying. What can I do?

I normally don't care if players brag in role-playing situations, they should just realize that the more they talk, the less people will listen and the less likely they'll believe anything the person says. Once they start bragging, I like to humble them a bit by introducing a few NPC interjections:

SCENE: Two street sammy's are sitting at a bar, bantering back and forth about a run they just went on. Off to the side is a bystander samurai who has taken an interest in their conversation:

SAMMY 1: ...and then I pulled out my warhawk and started blasting away at the guy and when I ran out of ammo I pulled out my Smartgun and finished him off. Blew his head clean off his shoulders.

SAMMY 2: Yeah, well I had Cobras rattling in each of my hands and did you see how I blew off his arms and head with that nice sweeping motion? Man, that was cool.

SAMMY 1: (looking to BYSTANDER) You got something to say, pal?

BYSTANDER: Just that I once completely reduced a man to a puddle of blood, skin, and bone fragments.

SAMMY 2: Wow! What gun did you use?

BYSTANDER: Gun?

I think you're probably the Dave Barry mixed with Bob Vila of Shadowrun.

This is by far the best compliment I have ever received in the 255 years I've been alive. If I ever win the lottery, you get half

Iíve attached a die probability table to this message, just in case you could use it.

Thanks for the probability table. I tried to construct one myself but not more than five minutes into the project my brain exploded. Film majors are not spectacularly skilled at the mathematical arts..

Iím taking a class on the WWW and was looking up Shadowrun stuff as part of an assignment. I like your page. (This message was signed with the sender's Full Name, Address, Phone Number.)

Lesson #l: NEVER PUT YOUR NAME AND ADDRESS ON AN E-MAIL MESSAGE!

There are a lot of really screwed up people roaming the internet and the last thing you want to do is let them know where you live or how to get ahold of you via the phone. (If your instructor suggested that placing your address on an E-Mail message was a good idea please inform him or her that I think they're an idiot.)

With that said; Welcome to the internet. It is a truly wonderful place, only 90% of which is filled with smut. Included in this mess is about 1,372,817,928,193,289 roleplaying game related sites including about 472,927,162 Shadowrun pages, some of which don't suck. I assume you came across my E-Mail address from my Web Page and I hope you enjoyed at least some of the writings contained within. The page is updated every Monday with new stuff and I hope you'll find time to stop by again.

If you have any questions or requests, feel free to E-Mail me again in the future. Good luck with your class.

Hereís an idea for a Random No Trespassing entry: Trespassers may be subjected to ballistics testing and other moderately stressful activities

Naw, it would have wrapped around the edge of the page and messed up the aesthetics of the chart. Aesthetics is a very important thing to keep in mind when creating a Random chart. I believe that, someday, a large corporation will hire me and give me a starting salary of 2,000,000 dollars a year just because they were pleased with my random chart aesthetics.

My players take FOREVER to plan a run. How can I get them moving?

I always give my players a bit of time to plan a run, but constantly inform them that the clock is ticking. If they talk too long I have Johnson call them up and say he needs the run done NOW, as opposed to next Thursday. I send in suspicious NPCs to listen in on them and occasionally tap their phone lines. And if that doesn't work I listen closely to their plan and make sure it gets fouled up. That last method is a bit vicious but the sooner they learn that they can't plan for everything the sooner they'll stop yacking and get to work. Also, I make sure they can't plan without roleplaying. They always need information from somewhere else, or have to meet with an informant, or something like that. Eventually they have so much "pre run" stuff to do that they have to split up to do it. Time then quickly passes in the game world and, next thing you know, it's run time.

During runs my players like to ďconferenceĒ about every little situation, even gun fights. How can I stop this?

Once the bullets start flying or the PCs enter another situation during which there is no time to conference I forbid it, unless it is realistic in terms of the gaming world. This means they can shout one liners to each other, but they can't discuss anything. If they try I keep the clock running in the game. If it is a PC's turn, and they begin discussing stuff with their fellow runners, they lose their turn. Usually I give a player 5 to 10 seconds to respond with what they're doing when their action comes around. Not only does this kill unrealistic discussion but it also keeps a quick game speed. They key is to not give them time to babble.

The PCs keep clobbering my NPCs with magic. How can I stop them?

Make sure your NPCs always have a magic user or two with them at all times to keep the mages busy, banish the elementals, etc. Just about everybody the runners will run into (gangs, corps, other runners, cops) will have a magic user. Nobody survives in 2057 without magic. Make sure you have some on your side

Have you ever considered writing up a Rifts/Shadowrun conversion?

I stay away from conversions because it necessitates the posting of copyrighted material. In other words, if I wanted to convert Rifts to Shadowrun I'd have to reprint some of the Riftís stuff, which isn't really legal. I like to keep my page as legal as humanly possible. Besides, I've never played Rifts and wouldn't know where to start

I used your Back To Basics ideas and started my players out in 2050. It worked great.

For even less stress, start them out in 231 B.C.E.

When will we see more Brumby?

For his next entry I'm trying to decide whether he should discuss the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and how it relates to God or if he should simply ponder dirt. Right now I'm leaning toward the dirt.

How do you map out matrix systems?

I always map out matrix systems on the fly, simply describing the various nodes as the deckers encounter them. It is the decker's responsibility to write down what I have described. If the decker ever has to be given a map of the entire system layout I simply describe the path that he must take in order to get to the node he is looking for. So if they have a map and wish to go to a specific SPU I say "You have to travel through three other SPUs to get there, each of which has an Orange-4 rating. The decker then draws out this chain of nodes. I also let the decker ask me any questions about the matrix he or she wants to once they get the map. They may ask me, "Are there any Slave Nodes which operate the security cameras?". If there is, I say yes and tell them how to get there. Also, in my mind, I try to keep a mental map as to where everything is in relation to each other and what's in them. If I forget I can always just ask the decker who has the map. The main problem with this system is that you have to manipulate rules like Load Ratings because you cannot calculate these ratings unless you have a complete system drawn up, which I never do. So you may have to play around with the rules.

 

How can I get my PCs to follow their answers to the 20 Questions?

Deduct karma every time they violate one of their 20 questions (duh). It's the only way they'll learn. The 20 Questions is more than just an exercise designed to please the GM. It is a CONTRACT which must be followed until the PC has a damn good reason for changing his actions. Itís not that the PCís arenít allowed to change. They just have to have some reason for changing.

I do have to admit, however, that I do allow PCs to change some aspects of their 20 questions if they find that, once the PC is in the game, one of the PCís traits just makes him or her a miserable character to play. Sometimes you donít realize how stupid a 20 Question answer is until you you get your PC into the game and find that he canít interact with anybody because you said that he was a deaf mute.

When you visit my page, please excuse the crappy image map.

Never apologize for something until somebody points out that something is wrong. 99% of the time people don't notice inadequacies until somebody points it out to them. I probably wouldn't have noticed a thing.

Why do people keep making weapons conversions for Shadowrun from games like Cyberpunk? Why donít they just play Cyberpunk?????

There are two reasons why somebody makes weapons conversions, one of which I approve of and one of which I don't. Sometimes people like to run an 'alternative world' campaign, in which the game basically takes place in the world of Bubblegum Crisis, Cyberpunk, etc. but uses shadowrun rules. I think this is just fine because it doesn't really screw with the Shadowrun world, it just uses shadowrunís fairly decent rules in a different place. Some people may want to play in a pure Cyberpunk environment, but may hate the cyberpunk game itself. Conversions allow them to keep the best of both worlds.

What I DON'T at all care for is when people convert equipment, weapons, etc. from another game and then dump this 'stuff' into the actual Shadowrun world. Such an action can throw off game balance and create a world where there are just too damn many different kinds of guns. Such an action leaves a 'plot hole' of sorts in the entire game. Where the hell did the weapons come from? Who makes them? Etc. Even brand new weapons created by people on the web can cause this hole to develop. You can't just plop down a gun and go, "Here's a new gun.", you have to introduce some kind of story into it or, at the very least, have it be manufactured by an existing corporation. While I'm not always 100% clear on where Blackjack's Weapons come from, I'm hoping most people will realize that they're rare (Avail 21), and expensive, and are generally not in the hands of every moron you run into on the street.

Donít you think grenades are a little too powerful in SRII?

Grenades are very powerful, but their practical uses are restricted because: A: They make a lot of noise, alerting people to the users' presence. B: They cause a lot of collateral damage and may damage something unintended - like a gas line which will blow up the whole block (runners included). C: When somebody uses a grenade they give their opponents a reason to call in their heavy hitters. If a runner uses a grenade on a group of cops, the cops are going to call in the heaviest response team they have.

My runners donít have a medic. What should I do?

If the runners don't have medic they should try really hard not to get hurt. Eventually one of them is going to have to pick up biotech skill or one day they'll all die. Or, at least pick up a medic kit. It automatically gives you a 2 die chance at survival. And, if the group has a magician, he or she should pick up a treat or heal spell. Keeping runners alive on a run sometimes becomes a full time occupation for the magician.

Finally, donít forget to get a Docwagon contract. Most medic kits donít carry the spatula accessory which is required to treat really racked up runners.

I want to start playing music during my Shadowruns. How can I do this effectively, and without distracting the players?

Mixing reality based mood elements into a SR game can be difficult, especially with music. If you have techno or industrial playing in the background, club and bar scenes are spectacular, but the moment you move into a more formal setting, like a meet in a corporate office, you have to stop or change the music because it doesn't really 'fit'. Since the GM has barely enough time to GM, let alone be a DJ, switching music depending on the scene is usually out of the question.

Normally, I'll have music on standby, usually some kind of hard hitting instrumental industrial or techno (even though I hate techno) BUT I'll only fire it up when there's a fight. Violent music during a battle can be turned up to a fairly decent volume because having to shout over the music adds tension to the battle. You can also keep it down low for club scene and other situations where normal conversation is required.

No matter what music you use, try to stick to two rules:

1. No lyrics. They're too distracting.

2. Try to find music nobody's ever heard before. If they don't know it, it's difficult for people to lose themselves in it. If you play an album that has somebody's favorite song on it, you'll lose them to the music.

If you want good general background music, classical music is a good choice. Even slow classical songs played over a fierce battle can add an eerie effect.

Do you think PCs should be allowed to create custom spells during character creation?

Normally, I don't allow the creation of custom spells during character creation. In my mind, beginning players are supposed to suck and are supposed to hate what they have. A major purpose of the game is to WORK towards your goals, be they mundane or magical, and not start out with them. You mentioned having to spend 50 spell points on stuff you don't want. Simple solution: Don't take the 50 points. If you're going to have to take spells you don't want, why in the word would you take 50 points of them? Divert your energies into creating a more well rounded character, one with more skills, better attributes, a wider range of stuff, and so on. Yes, when the game starts you will suck. But that's the point. If your GM isn't an asshole then her or she will respect the fact that you've chosen to take a lower lever character in the name of having a more challenging roleplaying experience and will lower the power level of foes sent against you until such time as you can build yourself up.

My running group isnít big enough to create charecters in all the necessary archetype catagories. What can I do about this?

I usually let the runners hire an NPC of some kind, although this can get messy with magicians because it is difficult for a GM to control 'friendly' and 'enemy' characters at the same time. It basically comes down to a conflict of interest. The other option is, of course, to simply not include aspects of a run that require deckers/mages/etc. Unfortunately, to do this you have to warp the world of Shadowrun a lot. Also, unless your talking about magical support, the other non decker/rigger/etc PCs can take of the slack by obtaining more diverse skills.

Can shapeshifters be physads?

I guess so. In a sense, they already are. I wouldn't for a minute allow a Shapeshifter Physad in my game as a PC (I donít know one player who would play one responsibly), but they'd make wonderful high end NPCs

Iím entering a tournament wherein I have to send the PCs into a Dead Zone. (NAGEE Volume 1) Normally a sammy would be reduced to a blob if they entered such a zone. Is there any way I can logically have a Sammy survive in such a zone? I mean, I donít what him sitting around with nothing to do.

Since magic still functions in Dead Zones it may be possible to devise a magical procedure the PC will have to undergo before entering. Some kind of shielding against the effects of the Zone. Perhaps, as part of the adventure, the runners will have to find a mysterious, nomadic figure who lives near the Dead Zones and who has knowledge on how to stop its effects. Whatever the procedure is, you'll want to think it through carefully and adhere as closely as you can to the logic of spellcasting and the zone itself. But, since Shadowrun pretty much gives you the go ahead to do whatever you want, the 'protection' could come in the form of a potion or a plant or whatever. The 'blob' part can come into the picture when the spell or potion "mysteriously" wears off....

What do you think about magical potions and things that give magicians advantages or give mundanes limited magical powers?

I think they're nifty because they open up the opportunity for D&D like potions and items. I do, however, think they should be rare and carefully controlled, especially if they enhance spell casting. I'm much more in favor of items which give mundanes temporary powers. TEMPORARY.

In the CFS Sourcebook they give some examples of various herbs/potions which effect magic and other things. I think they did a bad job with these because the way it was written makes it look like they're readily available. If I introduced a magical herb/potion/item I would make sure it was given as a 'gift' from an unnamed source or make the item so rare that simply obtaining it would be a trying and possibly fatal procedure.

A player in my group keeps writing up insanely powerful characters. When I tell him he canít use them he calls me an Ďass-holeí and then insists on using them anyway. He just LOVES his overpowered PCs. Is there anything I can do about this?

This guy is missing the whole point of role-playing: Challenge. Inform him that, by choosing a high powered character right off the bat he's defeating a major purpose of the game. Usually people want to start out with high powered characters so they don't have to think. In other words: I bet he's a real idiot. He's also being immature; he wants all the toys right from the start and his bitching and lack of rationality is the equivalent of a toddler crying because he can't have every item from a toy store. Let him know these things and if he doesn't wise up, kick him out. Tell him to come back in a few years when he's obtained a decent set of balls.