Riposte 1997: Part 2
By Blackjack [Blackjack's Shadowrun Page: www.BlackjackSR.com] [BlackjackSRx@gmail.com] [@BlackjackSRx]

Tweeted: May, 2021

I gave a mage in my group an extremely powerful magical staff, but now Iím beginning to regret it because it creates a big game imbalance. What would be the best method for removing the staff from the mage. My first thought was to have Harlequin take it, but I thought against it.

Having Harlequin take it is a GREAT idea. He'd be terribly jealous of anybody possessing an object of that strength and would want it for himself. He'd play around with the PCs for a while, perhaps offer them a bit of money or some lesser object for it, and finally just take it. You can get away with Har taking it as long as you do it with style. Don't just have him run up and grab it.

What should I do about an annoying streetsam that wants to load up on little flaws for the huge edge bonus?

Don't let him make up his own little insignificant ones ('harry knuckles'). The flaws in the Companion - even the little ones - can still greatly affect a runner's life. Make sure all of these flaws come back to haunt him. Also, make sure he has a good reason for possessing each of the flaws. If he's going overboard, demand a two paragraph long explanation as to how the flaw came about. (Don't let him cheat and put 'genetics' on every one of them.).

Mahlzeit!

Huh?

'Mahlzeit' is one of the weirdest german greetings. It combines 'Bon Appetite' with 'Hi'.

Huh. I always align "Bon Appetite' with 'enjoy your food'. So, by my interpretation, "Mahlzeit" means "Eat this greeting".

Have you any problem with players playing characters of different sex/ sexual orientation?

Not if they play them at least semi-seriously. It's difficult to run a game properly when you have a PC running around acting like a Bravo stereotype. In other words, I don't want somebody to play a member of the opposite sex, of a different sexual orientation, or a different ethnic group simply so they can make fun of stereotypical images of how these people act.

Your vehicles are too expensive, too heavily armored and too mighty to be obtained by runners.

EXACTLY! I create them mainly for GMs to use as "props". Also, few of them are any nastier than something a PC might create on his own with a few hundred grand and the Rigger Blackbook.

What do you think of space station scenarios for SR? I was thinking if a few of the big corps got together, they could put together some kind of space program. It seems like after the ghost dance and the US fell apart, the space program just stopped. But human curiosity has to enter in again _somewhere_. What do you think?

I'm all for space runs - but I'd want them on a BIG ASS station. In fact, I've considered designing one and posting construction updates on my page on a weekly basis. It has to be big because it'd be difficult to Shadowrun in something the size of Mir. The only really big station up now is Zurich Orbital. You'll get your ass blasted apart before you even get CLOSE to getting on that thing.

Do you believe that time is a continuum where events occur sequentially after each other?

I don't recall the comment to which you are responding but, no, I don't like to think of time as linear. That kind of though puts too much weight on events of the past. Makes them too concrete. We can change the past - perhaps even negate it - through actions in the present and future. If you can obliterate the past in the present, create a past that affects the future, and change the past via works that have yet to occur, how can we possibly define time as linear?

Do you have any ideas for enticing people into playing Shadowrun?

Free sex.

Woah. Sorry. It's late and it's Friday and I've been answering E-Mail for about 4 hours so my mind's a little bit off. Lets try this again:

Figure out what your potential players are interested in in real life and then encourage them to create PCs that will allow them to carry out their pursuits to a fantastic extreme. Find out what they want to do, and then help them create PCs that allow them to do it. While this plan violates the traditional separation between an individual's real personality and their roleplaying personality it's sometimes the only way you can get a reluctant player into the game. Once they're there, be sure to create runs that allow them to pursue their desires. After a while you'll be able to shift to more general runs and they may not even notice it.

Problem: Characters who overly use the ĎTorture then killí technique to gain information.

Torture is an unreliable way to gain info in the first place. Sure, they'll talk but they'll also let out a stream of untruths in an attempt to get the person to stop. If a person is in extreme pain they may not even be able to answer or understand the question clearly. Some people have heart attacks and die before they can even give any info at all (which creates a real problem for the torturers if this is the only person who has the info they're looking for.) Torturing people is also bad for a person's rep - nobody wants to hire a bunch of people who skin a person alive.

Finally, make sure one of the offending runners gets into a situation in which he is tortured. After he goes through the process he may not try it again.

You use such rude terms as "geek Speak", yet you maintain a rather large site on the very thing that produces such geek speak. How can you bash The very thing that you seem to know about right down to the 10th letter on the 128th page of the out-of-print version of the street samurai catalogue?

Yes, I do peddle such talk on my web page BUT I restrict the use of such terminology to the content of my page or the dialogue of a shadowrun. I don't go wandering around using words like "drek: in everyday conversation. When I referred to Ďdrekí as a geek word in a past Riposte, I was referring to its use in normal, everyday language. Shadowspeak becomes geek-speak the moment you use it out of the context of the Shadowrun world.

Have you ever run 'freestyleí and let the Runners go where they choose, not really building a scenario but letting the runners do so out of their action?

New PCs are on their own for quite a while in my games. After they build contacts, find a Johnson, etc. their lives get a bit more structured (i.e. I actually give them runs as opposed to making them find all of them). But even then the outcome of the run I give them is almost completely under their own control. Rarely do I have an ending in mind.

I love my players. They are a group of veteran role players that take everything seriously....almost too seriously. What do you do about 500 page character backgrounds, have them published as a novel?

Usually if the player is serious enough to write up that elaborate a background/personality they're serious enough to follow their own guidelines without me having to check up on them. I love elaborate backgrounds (well, under 500 pages) because it gives me all kinds of ammo to use for and against them. Good roleplayers write up such backgrounds on purpose, because it give them more of an opportunity to roleplay. You sound like you have a good batch of players; donít quell their creativity..

My question is, do you have any ideas about how one might be able to integrate PCs like that into a tabletop campaign where they'll be useful to the group and have things to do as well? I've tried a little, but most of my players have gotten fed up with me, so I've had to save most of my 'experimentation' for online. Perhaps you can give me a shove in the right direction with a few suggestions?

Characters like rockers, store owners, etc. work in normal games as long as they think of their lifestyle as more of a cover or second job than something they do full time. You can play a rocker as long as he or she also runs. It's also a good idea if everybody in the group is involved in the same kind of extracurricular activity. If everybody in the group is in the same band or works for the same company or drives the same ambulance or whatever then there aren't any time/activity conflicts. Everybody works at the same time and everybody can run at the same time.

I have a so-called team of runners who, quite frankly, don't give a rat's ass about each other. A shining example is when one of the samurai (a troll) decided to kill the decker for his cranial cyberdeck and other assorted expensive crap.

Tell them to GROW UP!!!!!!!!!!! Honestly, I've written about this several and, if you've tried all my tricks, they're hopeless. I'm sick of dealing with it. If something like that ever starts to develop in my game I start sending people home. I'll give you a few quick suggestions anyway:

1. When everybody writes up their characters, do it in the same room so they can discuss how their characters are going to act. Stop incompatible characters before they get on paper.

2. Write runs that forces them to work as a team. Create parts that cater to each archetype's abilities and force the group to split up in order to reach their goal. Perhaps they'll forget that they hate each other for a few minutes and do their jobs.

I recently ran a session in which the PCs were hired to deliver a VERY powerful magical item (about 5 pounds of solid orichalcum) to a contact in London (of all places). During the course of the run, the plane the runners were riding on was shot down by Tir forces, so that they could get the item. The runners eventually made it to London (and back), but are now stuck with bad reputations and are being hunted by every bounty-hunter and law enforcement agent alive for "hijacking" the plane. After the run I was bombarded by questions, insults, death threats and various processed-food products, for railroading them into that situation. Do you consider what I did to be railroading?

It doesnít sound like you railroaded anybody because otherwise you wouldn't be asking the question. Either that or you suppressed your memories of the incident. In other words: Did you PLAN to have the runners crash and lose their rep? If the answer is "no", then you didn't railroad. Railroading involves consciously maneuvering people towards a predetermined outcome. As long as the runners had a reasonable amount of options available to them then you didn't do anything wrong. If you went into the game KNOWING that you were going to create this situation, then you're a jerk.

Odds are you didn't mean to railroad, but at the same time didn't give your runners enough of an opportunity to change the course of events thus causing them to perceive you as railroading. Just make sure there's always a chance for something different to happen, and make sure the runners see that these opportunities exist.

Iím a new Shadowrun GM. What pitfalls am I going to run into?

Don't let yourself get overrun by the complexity of the SR universe. Start out small and keep things small for a while. Don't bite off more than you can chew by trying to use every trick in the book on your PCs on the first day. Keep things simple and build on it.

Try starting out with The Front, my collection of beginner NPCs and places. It's a handy little start up guide that supplies all the necessary components needed to get newbies on their feet. It also provides some good pointers on how to start out a new group.

My group lives in Central New Jersey.

I'm sorry.

I have a tough question which I have searched high and low to discover for my Shadowrunners...what are the addiction and tolerance ratings for normal, over the counter cigarettes? We've had a bit of difficulty reaching a conclusion in this matter, because two people think that ciggies are hyper-addictive, and will rot you instantly, two others say they're not all that addictive, and the fifth person doesn't believe there should be drugs in these runs. So, as the guru of Bitter GMing, what is YOUR opinion on cigarettes and their addictiveness?

Believe it or not, real medical evidence shows that cigarettes are MORE ADDICTIVE THAN HEROIN! I believe the research; I've been trying to quit smoking for a very long time and each time I've failed. The addiction isn't instant, however, and different people deal with it in different ways. Usually the 'point of no return' for physical addiction lies about four or six months after you start, usually when you reach about a pack a day. Physical withdrawal is at its worst the first three days after you stop, after which the nervousness loses a bit of its edge (although it doesn't go away entirely for a good two to four weeks). If you've been smoking for more than a year or two you also get to look forward to a good month and a half of hacking stuff up until your lungs repair themselves.

But the physical addiction usually isn't as big of a problem as the Psychological addiction. This is the area in which I have the biggest problem. You see, I got into the nasty habit of smoking a cigarette every time I wrote or conversed. I've psychologically attached the act of smoking to the act of writing and conversing. This means I AUTOMATICALLY crave a cigarette every time I engage in one of these activities. So, if I try to stop smoking, I CAN'T WRITE! I just can't do it. Can't think or anything. This is usually what wrecks my stop smoking attempts; I can't stand not being able to write for nearly a week.

Again, the addiction is different for everybody. Some people can smoke for 30 years and then drop the addiction like a stone and never look back. Other people can't do a damn thing without a cigarette in their hand. As far as smoking in shadowrun is concerned, I really don't think it's necessary to create 'addiction ratings' and stuff like that. While the addiction is intense, it's generally not something a GM should be spending much time pondering. There simply isn't much drama in having a guy be irritable for a week or so.

In response to the individual who doesn't think there should be drugs at all in Shadowrun, I say: WHAT? Elements such as drugs give characters and NPCs a chance to play out their weaknesses and hidden vices. Generally, runners will have the intelligence to not get so fucked up that they ruin their lives, but a runner without some kind of addiction is a runner who has TOO MUCH control over life.

What do you think is the best run you've ever GMed? And which one was the most dangerous?

Best: I have vague memories about some run involving a giant metallic phoenix or something like that, but I can't remember anything but the feeling that the run was fun.

Most Dangerous: The notorious prison run. This was a simple, but nasty run which required that the runners rescue somebody from prison (usually a friend of the runners). Many, many PCs have gone on this run and every single one of them has been defeated.

What would be the best way to create a samurai/detective?

Give the sammy lots of sensory cyberware (the works: Olfactory boosters, hearing amps, etc.). Don't make him too fast (he's a detective so he'll be used to taking his time.) It's likely that he doesn't used too many weapons of mass destruction (too many bullets destroys evidence.). He'll have great social skills and also won't have too much visible ware (scares the people he has to question). He'll need electronic and computer skills (or a good decker contact). Stealth skills are also a must. He'll also be a bit paranoid (constantly receiving detailed info from the world around you will do this too you).

As for the back story, you're on your own. Try to keep away from "Detective turned Samurai" (or visa versa) scenarios. They've been done to death.

In past Ripostes, you described how Cyberlimbs register 'pain' because, obviously; one might lose an expensive limb without actually realizing it... My question is: Is it possible to modify the 'pain' signal to register as something other than physical pain? Say.. Pleasure? Or maybe an audio tone? Or an itch or something like that?

Looking through Shadowtech, it seems like you could modify the Pain Editor to create such a signal. The signal coming from the limb would remain the same, but the brain would interpret it differently. This would not only affect damage to the limb, but to the entire body as well. This may not be such a good thing, unless you want to die of ecstasy.

It's also probably possible to create some kind of filter for the limb itself which would operate on a more localized level. All signals from the limb would go through some kind of translation circuitry (after all, neuro signals are electricity) and exit as a signal resembling that of pleasure.

Creating any system would be a bit tricky since everybody perceives pain on a different level. If you install one of these on a automasochist, he or she may destroy their cyberarm in an attempt to feel good since normal definitions of pain don't apply. In any case, a localized translator would probably be easier to install on a cyberlimb than a normal one. Odds are it wouldn't even result in a lowering of essence since the arm's neurocircuitry is already made of metal.

Iím GMing a game in which one of the players refuses to use the house rules. What can I do about this?

If a player refuses to bend to a house rule and insists on continuing to use rules the GM has found unacceptable then let them...but use the "old" rule to somehow screw them over. If you changed it there was obviously some kind of a flaw with it. Exaggerate this flaw to the point that it proves to be detrimental to the life of the PC.

Also, if the PC gives no good reason for following the rule, then you don't have to give any good reason for anything you do....like putting a bullet in their head.

Do you use actual drawn up maps of neighborhoods and locations in your games?

I almost never use maps of any kind. I just use descriptions. This is mainly because I don't use set plots, either, meaning I never really know where everybody is going to end up. I don't see why you'd need a map of the city. The most important aspect of the city is it's security rating. If the rating is, say, a D then you know everything in it it pretty much going to suck and you therefore describe them as sucking.

Lets say you're runners are being sent against a gang headquarters in a C district. Let them know what it was like getting there (i.e. everything turned to crap), what the gang block is like (a warehouse meshed with a variety of old apartment buildings with an alley in back), what the blocks around it are like (pretty much the same), and what the mood is (everything is fairly desolate with only the occasional gang passing by and sounds of domestic violence coming from a few of the buildings. There is also a light rain.) Then just break it down more and answer specific questions the runners will have on the area. If you need to draw a quick map on a napkin or something, nothing fancy.

Now, odds are, your exact vision of the map is going to appear differently in the player's heads. If they run down an alley they thought was there, and if this action doesn't destroy the game, then let them. For more info that may help with this question read Gamemastering 101 1/2 located at Blackjack's Corner.

A PC in a game I am GMing treats the entire universe as an action adventure movie. He gets pissed off at ME every time he gets hurt. The more he gets hurt, the more pissed off he gets. Is there anything I can do about this?

You should only have to be rough on them ONCE. If they don't get the hint it is the result of their own stupidity. Sure Shadowrun is like an action movie. But even in movies the stupid people get wasted.

I recently played a PC in an improvised adventure and the game went TERRIBLY Are you sure this system works?.

Spontaneous adventure generation requires a skilled and experienced GM, otherwise you end up with the fiasco you described. I see it as positive because I am (or at least was) one of these GMs. I hate plots. Plots don't exist in real life. The only thing that exists is what happens, not what you plan to have happen. It is a good method. Your GM just fucked up.

Everybody keeps borrowing my sourcebooks and they keep getting all messed up. How do I stop this?

There is only one thing you can do once your sourcebooks start to fall apart: Accept it. My sourcebooks are a mess. They were not built to last through as much abuse as players and GMs tend to deliver (especially GMs). The most important thing is to just try to keep all of the pages together. For a few of mine I've gone so far as to Three Hole Punch them and put them in a three ring binder. Sure, it's nice to have them pretty but, in the end, they're gonna get wrecked anyway. If you accept this fact early you will save yourself from much stress.

Or you can force your friends, at gun point of necessary, to get their own damn books.

How do you keep your NPCs from getting killed by miniguns?

I don't make them stand in front of the miniguns.

Iíd like to set up a Shadowrun web page. Any ideas on what kind of page it should be?

I don't know what kind of page you should have. What are you good at? I have to admit it is rather difficult to single-handedly maintain a shadowrun page consisting completely of original material and I don't recommend the idea to anybody who wishes to remain sane. You may wish to get a group of people who are interested in Shadowrun and each find a way to contribute to it. One thing I would like to see is a page with links to material which would assist a GM in coming up with run ideas. Links to, say, interesting government files (not the whole of the government files, mind you, just the good ones.) or any other page which contains stuff which, although it is relevant to reality, it's just so out there that it could be used to create runs. I'm thinking on working on such a project but don't know yet if I'll have the time. But don't make it just another list of links, you still have to have SOMETHING people will read. And, for god sakes, if it's shadowrun, keep it shadowrun. I'm sick of these "This Is Billy Bob's Home Page" and on it is one article about shadowrun and the rest is crap relating to god knows what. Keep the personal home page separate from the shadowrun one. (Notice how I my page is called "srindex.html". I keep the "index.html" reserved for my personal home page which has been under construction for the last few decades.) One thing we donít need is another archive. Not that archives are bad, itís just that we already have good archives, and any archive you set up probably wouldnít be better than the ones already in existance.