Riposte 1998: Part 2
By Blackjack [Blackjack's Shadowrun Page:] [] [@BlackjackSRx]

Tweeted: May, 2021

I used to play high octane SR and used to write up runs that mostly involved fighting. Now I want to change but am having trouble switching my players over to the new style (many of them are pretty stupid and don’t know how to do anything but shoot).

It's tough to teach old players new tricks, especially if you've trained them to shoot without thinking. But, if the players are as stupid as you make them out to be, they probably would have done that anyway.

I suggest writing better runs but catering them to a few of the things you know your players know something about. Think about their interests and education, and write something that will allow them to use this inherent knowledge in the game. It will require some sacrifice on your part, but you'll probably be happier quelling some of your ideas as opposed to having them shot apart by idiot players.

I was wondering if you could create some simple pistols for your page. I like the Blackjack Weapons, but most of them are just too damn powerful.

To tell you the absolute truth, I don't really have any choice when it comes to which weapons I create. Honest. For some reason, I have the inability to create a simple pistol or SMG; I always end up with these gargantuan assault weapons from hell. It's weird. I'll give the pistols a try though, but they probably won't end up as simple pistols. Regardless of what I create, it's gotta have something nifty built into it.

What kind of stats would Harlequinn have? I’m planning on using him in a game and I KNOW the players are going to ask.

You really can't create stats for somebody like Harlequin. I wouldn't even know where to begin. He's one of those NPCs you just don't let the PCs get close to. The PCs should be smart enough to know that they don't have a chance of defeating him and there's not much use in trying. Sure, the PCs can play with some of his minions but, in the end, Harlequin will get out alive. Just remind them that Harlequin could have them all killed anytime he wants to; the only reason the runners are alive is because Harlequin, and NPCs like him, allow the runners to stay alive. It's all a game to the NPC.

How much would you pay/compute for pay for a run? We kind of disagree with our GM regarding the costs of living in the SR world. For our first campagin, he had us retrieve and escort a pair of defecting deckers currently stationed in a Gang infested area for 2,000 Nuyen each. For our second session, he wants us to do Wetwork jobs against 3 people for 3,000 Nuyen (for each PC, for killing all three). After explaining that a few of our PCs don't do wetwork while others attempted a Negotiation skill (and got 2 successes), he would only go 200 bucks higher! (This was the only campaign he prepared for so we had to accept). Is his estimation of the costs of living correct?

Not even close, especially not for wetwork. 3 grand hardly even covers expenses. Then again, it depends on how complicated the run was. If all you had to do was walk in a bar or something and shoot three people, the price was pretty close to right. But a GM shouldn't have you straight out executing people anyway. If the run involved tracking these people down, negotiating with contacts, decking a corp or two, and doing a bunch of other things in order to waste three people who were part of some larger, unseen plan then you should get around 8 to 10 grand each, plus some medical coverage if the run was dangerous. Normally you shouldn't get paid per kill, either. You should get paid for the run as a whole. I think your GM needs to sit down and put more thought into his adventures.

You suggest always having a mage on the opposing team to counter act any magic on the runners side. But magic is supposed to be pretty rare (something like 1%) and I want to keep some of the mystery and awe of magic. What do you suggest?

Magic is rare to everyday people, but it is a fact of life in the shadows. Nobody survives in the shadowrun world without magical support. While your everyday pedestrian won't see it all that often, your everyday shadowrun will see it around every corner.

You can keep magic mysterious by giving the NPC magic user odd abilities, or derive them from an odd discipline. Many are simply sorcery adepts who specialize in one area of spells, shamans who cater their skills to the street, etc. Variety is the key if you want to keep magic frightening and odd.

A shaman in my game wants to make a spell were he can summon a certain object. What do you think?

Usually it's a good idea to require that the spell turn something into something else, as opposed to simply making it appear out of thin air. Unless it involves an elemental effect, you'll rarely find a spell that makes something out of nothing. Usually you need some kind of base object to start with.

Did you know that in "ShadowBoxer" by Nicholas Pollotta, there is a Shadowrunner named BlackJack who gets brutally murdered at the start of the story. Spookey, huh?

Perhaps it's time for me to stop bashing FASA, eh?

How much a "yen" is worth?

It depends on what you're comparing it to. If you're trying to equate it to the 1997 American dollar, the exchange rate is about 1 ny per 1 dollar. (This is based on a comparison in which I looked at various firearms in some shadowrun books and then went to an actual gun store. The prices were fairly balanced.)

My SR team has no magician, but in our next run we are certain to meet magical resistance. Any suggestions?

Fighting magic without magic is a bitch and a half. First off, make sure you have some smoke/thermo grenades to toss around for the purpose of messing with the magicians' line of sight. If you get them to rack up enough modifiers, they'll have a hard time flooring you with a stun bolt. Of course, this also creates problems for you, so make sure you have a set of Ultrasound goggles with you to cut through the fog.

Second, see if the GM will let you hire an NPC magic user for support. Odds are he won't, but it's worth a shot.

Third, get creative with your skills and create enough confusion that the magicians won't have a chance to get their thoughts together enough to throw anything too nasty at you. You might also try to get hold of some Fat-1 bacteria gas to hose around in order to keep any astral presences busy.

Fourth, be prepared to run like hell if things get too bad. Once you start to lose to magic, everything goes to shit in a hurry.

What kind of gaming aids do you suggest using? I have been GMing for a while and I usually have a few sketch pads, some descriptive notes, and occasionally an overhead map. I'm looking for ways to set the mood more and create less confusion as to character position, etc. Any ideas?

When describing places and distances, use terms everybody in the game can understand. There's nothing wrong with describing the inside of a bar as consisting of the same square footagage of a Mc. Donalds or saying a building's as tall as one of those metal structures that holds up high tension powerlines. For trickier situations, like the actual layout of a bar, you can give some general information, describe the lighting, music, and population, and then let everybody else fill in the blanks.

If you haven't read it already, take a look at Gamemasting 101 1/2 and Perception Problems on Blackjack's Corner. They may help you out.

My players refuse to get creative during downtime. How can I motivate them?

You may want to give them some down time and remind the players that during down time they're pretty much free to go to any location they can imagine (although, for some of them, they may have to leave their guns at home). They can go to a whore house, an amusement park, charter a boat and spend the weekend drunk, take a day trip into the mountains to go bungee jumping, etc. This recreational freedom of thought sometimes carries over into more important aspects of the game, such as actual Shadowruns.

Also, make sure your NPCs are acting in the manner that you'd like your PCs to act. Make sure they're being creative in how they fight, act, etc. Sooner or later the players may realize that the NPCs are making them look like a bunch of dorks.

Hello.I was wondering what type of character would be best for a new player.I know I dont want to be a street samurai, but that would be the best one for a newbie.What do you think, what should I be?

Try to create an archetype that doesn't have to rely solely on violence to get things done. If you use a Street Sammy right off the bat, you might have problems dealing with less physically powerful characters in the future.

Try the Former Company Man archetype and switch some of the skills around. This archetype is powerful enough to survive, but not so powerful that there isn't any challenge.

My GM never gives us downtime. How can I convince him to give us some?

Perhaps the GM needs to be reminded that downtime can be as much fun for him as it is for the players. Downtime is a perfect opportunity for a GM to roleplay weird ass NPCs, create odd locations, and just generally screw around along with the PCs. It's also an excellent time for the GM to reintroduce NPCs the PCs might have screwed over, develop some kind of subplot, etc. Your GM seems to think that, during downtime, he doesn't need to GM. If he realizes that actual runs are not the be all and end all of the shadowrun world he may actually find some enjoyment in weaving together a more complex web of events.

How do you get females to roleplay? It seems to be a difficult process.

Since I don't know your age and current educational (i.e. high school, college, graduate, etc.) situation it's kinda difficult to give advice on the subject. Virtually all of the female roleplayers that got involved in my games were in some way connected with acting and theater and were also friends of mine. Just start out by thinking about any female friends you might have and go from there. It's usually a good idea to try to have whatever female you invite to bring along another female friend. And, for god sakes, make sure you and your friends try to be at least a little bit civilized during her first game. Even if she's an extremely outgoing, intelligent, and aggressive individual, a collection of five males playing around with imaginary guns and shouting out testosterone heavy words of violence may seem a little bit imposing.

No farting, either. They HATE that.

My players seem to have a tough time grasping the fact that the smallest of mistakes or events may be sufficient enough to kill them off. Unless I point a Panther Cannon at them, the idea of dying never even enters their minds.

You may be able to solve the problem simply by creating a roleplayed conversation involving the idea of mortality and the fragile nature of life. If you created a deep thinking and admirable NPC - somebody the players would look up to - and show how this individual fears the consequences a single bullet wound can bring about, you may be able to affect the players on an emotional level. Perhaps this NPC's spouse and child were killed, or a close friend, or somebody else he cared about. Then - after the PCs get to know this NPC and are exposed to his ideas - kill him off with a stray bullet or have him get hit by a car. The psychological impact of seeing somebody who is so aware of life and death getting wasted in a freak accident may be enough to tune the players into the implications of possessing a mortal body and mind.

Another trick you can try is to locate the most introspective person in the group and then getting them on your side. Talk to them - in private - before or after the game and see if you can convince him or her to act like a normal, mortal (meta)human being. If the act is convincing enough and holds enough impact the rest of the players may fall into line.

One player in my group, a guy with an AD&D attitude towards gaming (another day, another monster to kill) doesn't seem to get the finer points of storytelling nor roleplaying, as opposed to roleplaying. He destroyed a couple neat storylines by blurting out, ah, it's HMHVV, ah it's a ghoul, ah, it's a hellhound, ah that's a toxic spirit (while his character has no way of knowing). While the rest of the players, for whom all this is a novelty may feel very inadequate by those guesses. Not to mention the ruined plotlines.

Try to talk to the person outside of the game. Explain to them the difference between player knowledge and PC knowledge and how crossing the line is a violation of what roleplaying is all about. Players must sometimes role-play ignorance in order to keep the events within the game realistic. If the player persists in his actions you have the right to nix any roleplaying karma he might receive. Even if he roleplayed well in other situations, he generated 'negative karma' by not role-playing so badly in those individual instances.

I just started a go-gang campaign, this semester, and am running it with 11 players.

Damn, that's a lot of players. You should start a player rental agency.

In your trid time file you have a read 306 "Breakdanceing Channel" spelled breakdancing wrong. Soon you'll be getting a letter from me, much like this one...except longer. Be afraid, be vary afraid.

You mean “very” afraid, not "vary".

(Two can play at this game.)

I had a runner add a skill without my knowledge, I look at his character sheet a couple of days later an can tell that he cheated to get it just because of a certain situation. I do not want him to know that I know yet I want to punish him. I was thinking of making him use the skill and have it fail miserably - the skill is demolition. Or maybe just killing his character off.

Man, I can't stand cheaters. I probably wouldn't blow him up entirely, but I would consider his skill flawed. You could even create some story that whomever taught him how to use the skill was a closet psycho and purposely taught him the skill entirely WRONG. So he'll probably blow off an arm, at least.

I also suggest humiliating the player. If everybody else in the group has been playing fairly, they probably won't be too pleased to learn that one of their fellow players has tried to take a shortcut while the rest of the group was busting their butts to build up karma.

Also, give him a whack across the head and say: "This is from Blackjack, you cheater."

A while back in Riposte you commented that people would attempt to destroy an ‘indestructable vehicle’ with an armor of 21 just because it’s supposedly indestructible. My question is: How would anybody know how tough the vehicle actually was?

A good rigger would be able to tell how tough a vehicle is simply by drawing on his knowledge of how different vehicles of differing size and strength operate normally. Some possible signs of a tough or modified vehicle:

1. The way it travels across gravel or broken asphalt will reveal how heavy it is.

2. The signature of the vehicle's engine may reveal that it seems unnecessarily large an engine for the size of the vehicle. (i.e. the vehicle's real heavy and needs a massive engine to pull/push it.)

3. You can tell the weight distribution of a vehicle by the way it handles.

4. Even if the owner screws with the signature, aural signature, handling, etc. an experienced rigger would be able to tell how he screwed with it, similar to the way any normal person can tell whether a vehicle is equipped with a muffler or not.

5. Pop up turrets usually leave some sign revealing where they are. An experienced rigger would be able to pick out extraneous molding or seals on a vehicle that may conceal a turret.

I like 'The Arsenal.' from one of your Places posts. I think I like it a lot because I use a bar like it in my own campaign (call it 'The Range' and made it a little more yuppie.)

A yuppie shooting range? I can just picture it:

"Thad, would you mind passing me your handkerchief? I want to make sure I don't get any gun grease on my briefcase. Bartender, another Martini, please..."


I read part your NPC compilation and I think it’s great! I just have one question: You say you steal most of your ideas from Newsweek - so where in the hell did you get the idea for the Super evil, essence draining lesbian supermage? (in the "Thinkers" section)?

Time magazine.

Aaaam...... what issue would that be?

The Super Evil Essence Draining Lesbian Supermage issue, of course. (They also did a special on the conflict in the Gulf.)

How many of the people/places in your writings were actual places/people in your games?

Sometimes the people in my writings were former NPCs and sometimes NPCs were people I wrote about in various stories. I've used Razor and Brumby and, I think, Piano Man, but only after I wrote about them. The story about Midnight came directly from the game; it was written when I first moved to Maryland (I've since moved again) and could only find one person who played Shadowrun. So it's basically a play by play account of his adventures. I had initially planned on writing about the solo adventures of his 2 future companions, and eventually about their adventures together, but I waited too long and lost my memory of what happened.

My players are running out of excuses for backstory that relates to how they got their large amount of cyberware. Any new ideas?

I'll give you some reasons but, in traditional Blackjack style, they all have a downside:

1. Disease. The runner had some kind in illness that resulted in damage to his nervous system, brain, limb, etc. The runner managed to get into an experimental program that replaced the damaged parts, but the disease is still there.

2. He sold the original arms, limbs, lungs, etc. to a bodybank that catered in organs that possess rare or unusual blood types. These banks pay much more than those who take in the normal type O stuff. Of course, this also means that if he needs replacement parts, they're gonna be tough to come by.

3. Lawsuit. Perhaps when the runner was younger (under the care of his parents) he was injured and the family actually sued and won. The losing party, however, wasn't especially pleased with the decision and is certain to be a thorn in the runner's side.