Riposte 1998: Part 1
By Blackjack [Blackjack's Shadowrun Page: www.BlackjackSR.com] [BlackjackSRx@gmail.com] [@BlackjackSRx]

Posted: xxxx

I need help from a GM that isn't a newbie... I have only 2 players in a role- playing group, and they insist on having a Street Samuri and a Combat Mage. I have just run out of ideas for them like I want them to do for a campaign or just runs. your help would be apprieciated

Shoot them both in the skull with a shotgun.

On second thought, next time they create their characters make sure you're there. Try to talk/trick them into taking a more diverse group of skills and not hardening their PCs up so damn much. If you convince them to make enough little tweaks you might end up creating a whole new kind of PC.

What archetypes are required in order to form a cohesive shadowrun team?

The actual archetype construction of a group isn't as important as the jobs the archetypes will perform. Generally, you need someone to deck, someone to toss spells, someone to fight, and someone to drive. You could have any kind of archetype, as long as it fills one of these positions. So, if you were to have a Reporter of some kind, he or she should have some computer skills, or be installed with a vehicle rig, or be a magician. During group construction, it's a good idea for the GM to be present so they can make sure the players are generating PCs that will be able to fill the basic requirements of an SR group.

The lead character in a book Iím writing is what I've designated a wild mage. It's a mage who, under extreme duress (how often does that occur in a shadowrunners life?), has a chance of losing control and flashing blasts of pure mana that takes various random forms. I've got the rules figured down, but I'm not sure if it should be an Archetype or a flaw(after all, it is detrimental to the mage.)

Flaw. Wild Mage shouldn't be a general archetype because being Wild isn't his job, it's just something that happens to him. Since it's possible for anybody, be they dekcers, magicians, riggers, etc., to lose control, a flaw would make more sense. The firing off of pure mana makes things a little bit weird, but not so weird that you need an archetype class to handle it.

Although my characters have contacts, they hardly ever use them. How can I motivate them to use their contacts?

Make sure you give them a reason to go to their contacts. You can usually do this by looking at their contact lists, figuring out what information the contacts would no but the runners wouldn't, and then integrating this information into a shadowrun. They should be able to realize that it's easier to ask a contact then to go aimlessly searching for the info themselves.

How can I gradually introduce new pieces of cyberware into my game?

The comments attached to individual pieces of cyberware generally have dates on them. Use those as a starting point when determining when everything becomes available.

Is a Watcher spirit smart enough to know time? Does it have a clock in it's head?

They're pretty stupid. They may have a vague perception of time, but I doubt they have an internal clock. If you wanted them to do something at a particular time, you'd probably have to give them some kind of cue. (i.e. When the clock bongs twelve times, harass Mr. Jenson.) Of course, even then it may lose count.

Years ago, I attempted to GM a D&D game, creating my own world and throwing in my uniquely designed people, arms, armor, and miscellany to go along with it. I finally ended up dumping the idea after it reached the Cool Concept Event Horizon and supernovae'd beyond my ability or desire to resume. My question is, what is a tangible "event horizon" for a Shadowrun game? Even with the desire for accuracy, intimacy, and realism in place, how much is too much? Or conversely, too little?

If you're remaining on Earth in 2050, it's a good idea to stick to the general timeline and the established laws of technology and magic. If you get too weird you'll lose the trust of your players and paranoia will be converted into pure confusion.

In an alternate world, you're pretty much free to do whatever the hell you want since it has no bearing on the normal SR world and the players know that, eventually, they'll get back home.

Why the hell are there dwarfs, elves, and dragons in just about every role-playing game on the face of creation? Doesn't anyone object to the heavy 'yawn aspect' of those beaten-to-death character types? More to the point: how does Blackjack feel about all them cliche'd critters?

People are comfortable with established mythological archetypes and can usually picture them in their minds without any extra description. Also, one of the foundations of Shadowrun's world is the concept of the 'Awakening'. In Shadowrun philosophy, all of those mythological creatures were, at one time or another, real. The awakening is simply their reemergence back into the real world.

In short: I like the critters.

The border between being a happy GM and an indulgent GM seems like a tough wire to balance upon. So, what do you think? Is the GM there for the players, the players there for the GM, or should both try to mesh in a symbiotic relationship?

Symbiotic. Both the players and the GM have to give certain concessions in order to insure the others' enjoyment of the game. This is why it's important for all GMs to play a PC from time to time, and for all PCs to GM. Once they get a vew of SR from the other side of the GM screen they gain a better understanding of how the other feels.

Is your handle (Blackjack) from the Shadowboxer novel?

I've been using Blackjack since the mid 1980s. I canít for the life of me remember how I acquired it.

Some guy posted your Renegade vehicle without giving you credit.

Thanks for the info. He gave me a flattering link comment, so I may let him off with only a mild decapitations.

How do you draw the pictures for your guns? No offense, but the Ratt looks like a Gameboy that got hit by a truck.

Well, hopefully I've gotten better over time. The farther back the post date is on my Weapons and Vehicles, the worse the art tends to be. The 'Puck' looks like a box of Kleenex that somebody covered with snot and then stomped on, but it was also my very first attempt at modeling anything that even remotely looked like a vehicle.

How old are you? Running the shadows for 9000 years?

I'm 472 years old, but I ran a few campaigns for God before I was born, thus making me a runner of the shadows for approximately 518 years.

I need a decent back-story as to why my PCís an Android.

How about this: The scientist who created the cyborg realized that it was capable of much more than the mundane violent chores the corp had set out for it. When the cyborg started to show the capacity for emotion, the corp ordered it destroyed. The scientist escaped the corp (along with the cyborg) but was killed when the escape vehicle exploded. The corp though the cyborg was also killed. But, of course, it wasn't.

In your opinion, would a true Android (no human parts whatsoever) have essence to worry about? would she be immune to mana spells, but vulnerable to electrical shock induced shutdown? any thoughts on the matter would be appreciated as I am very interested in playing such a character, and quite honestly, my GM has a lot more respect for your opinions than he does mine.

This is tricky. I've always believed that if any thinking, 'living' creature (be it manufactured or natural) showed enough of a desire to experience life then they might actually generate some kind of 'aura' from scratch. You may want to determine that the cyborg actually has an organic brain, just to keep the GM from getting pissed at never being able to throw mental spells at it. If the brain is organic, the spells would work.

As for essence, you may want to read and incorporate some of the negative essence rules discussed in Cybertechnology.

Whatís the strangest compliment youíve ever received?

I guess the strangest compliments I receive are from people who write a fairly coherent message, but then insist on finishing it with a threat issued in a tough-troll kind of voice:

Dear Blackjack,

I really like your page. It has tons of interesting and unique material that has assisted me greatly in becoming a more well-rounded and creative GM.

Sincerely, Bob

p.s. Youz gotta better git sum more Brumby up or da Pounder Troll Squad is gonna put ya in a ditch! 

How do I keep things secret from different players when one set of them go into the Matrix or Astral Space and the rest remain in reality? I donít really have the space or time to put the players in different rooms.

The players must force ignorance, and the GM has to pay close attention to make sure they're doing so. If you've GM'd the same people for a while, you probably have a good idea of what they are and aren't capable of thinking of. You can usually tell if their revelations come from their own thoughts, or outside information.

In other words, if a player suddenly comes up with a stroke of genius regarding something they couldn't possibly have thought of themselves, whack them in the face with a ruler and deduct some karma.

How do you run a game with only two PCs? Is it even possible?

As long as the two people playing actually bother to work together, these pair up's can work out rather well. Just make sure you're designing your runs for two people, and not a group of 5. This means you have to tone down the complexity and lighten up on the NPC load. Also, you may want to have the players design PCs with a more diverse group of skills. If the Sammy also picks up a bit of computer skill and perhaps a low level Vehicle Control Rig, he can act as Sammy, Decker, and Rigger. A magic user may want to pick up Biotech, so they can be the medic as well as the magic user.

While this diversifying of skill makes for weaker PCs (which you should compensate by creating weaker NPCs), it allows the players to cover some of the skill areas lacking in two player groups.

Another thing you can do is have all players keep Walkmans handy. If you need to hide some info from them for only five minutes or so, have them put on their headphones.

I used to think I was a kick-ass GM until I met my current group. I canít get them to do ANYTHING! How can I get then to stop waiting for me to tell them what to do? How do I get them to go out and do something?

First, try asking them - out of character - why they're not doing anything. I'm sure you've already tried this, but you have to really, really pry sometimes.

Second, figure out what they (as people) are interested in and show them that there are locations in the gaming world that reflect those interests. This is a big violation of roleplaying, but sometimes you have to give the players a jump start by relating shadowrun to their real lives.

Third, make sure they didn't create boring characters. You may have to sit down with them and have them rewrite their whole PC. If they didn't pay any attention to the 20 Questions then their PCs probably don't have a personality. Without a personality, they can't act, only react.

What movies do you think are best for finding Shadowrun plots?

Actually, I've found some of the best Shadowrun plots in those cheesy independent studio sci-fi films. Not the old ones, but the stuff that shows up every day, with names like "Evil World Games", or something similar. While the acting and directing in these films tends to suck, the stories are sometimes simple, yet interesting enough to be turned into shadowruns.

Another option is to watch bad TV scifi shows like Sliders or Tekwars. I used to get all kinds of ideas from these shows before I stopped watching television.

A while back you sent me an E-Mail message that didnít make a whole lot of sense and had even more misspellings than normal. Were you drunk when you wrote it? If you were, I think you have a problem.

I doubt I was drunk, but I may have had a few drinks before I answered your message. You see: I view the maintenance of my Shadowrun page as a recreational activity. When I sit down to write something for it, answer SR E-Mail, or update the page I view the activity in the same way someone may view the act of watching a football game or going fishing. In addition, Iím one of the many millions of Americans that feel that a decent alcoholic beverage can increase the enjoyment of a recreational experience. Even though the occasional unintelligible E-Mail message or misguided link may result from such a combination, I donít get too frazzled about it because, after all, this is a HOBBY. Itís not like I drink up before going to work, or answer E-Mail to my boss while inebriated and, unless they have a personal problem or work as a roofer, neither do most other recreational drinkers.

I have found that the campaigns only go for 5-7 sessions, due to character death or infighting within the party/players, have you had similar experiences?

I can usually head off most of the more nasty personality conflicts before the PC even enters the game, usually by making sure the character isn't too far out of sync with the rest of the group. This doesn't earn me a lot of new friends, but it keeps the game together.

If a player starts being a jerk during the game, or if things start to get too out of control, I'll often stop the game cold, explain the situation to everybody, and ask everyone why the hell they're being such jerks.

How do I start a campaign when ALL of my players are newbies?

Start out easy by only using the main Rulebook and the Shadowrun companion in the year 2050. Make some photocopies of the history section (just the history section) of the rulebook and make the players read it. You might also want to make them read the first, short story in the Rulebook. This will give them a general idea as to how things go to be the way they are and what shadowrunning is like. When you first play, use LOTS of descriptions. Give them a chance to bum around Seattle for a while and, perhaps, send them on a few really, really simple runs. Also: Make sure they ask questions and that you explain everything you mention (like Trideos, Coffin Hotels, etc.) as much as possible.

In response to your God NPCs article: You can always just make it look like the runners killed the bad guy when they really didnít.

Good point, but you still have to make sure you don't over use that method. After a while the runners get so paranoid about people coming back to kill them that the shove a lit stick of TNT up the deceased's ass just to insure that he's truly gone.