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General Forge Forums => Actual Play => Topic started by: Precious Villain on April 27, 2006, 10:17:00 PM



Title: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on April 27, 2006, 10:17:00 PM
I'm playing in a Shadowrun (4th edition) campaign.  Up until last Saturday there were three of us:  Myself (Rob), Sam and Kelsey.  Saturday, we invited an old fellow gamer from our high school days (Tom) to join the group, along with his wife (Misty).

Now, the usual consensus view we had of Tom was that he is a power gamer, building characters solely to get the greatest amount of combat ability.  The character he brought to this game (and the character he designed for his wife, who is new to SR) fit the same mold:  massive fistfuls of dice for fighting, no points spent anywhere else.  We're talking a lump of meat with no social or thinking skills (Logic and Charisma stats at 1).  If I were GMing I simply wouldn't tolerate it - one of my rules is that player characters are vetted and approved before play and I enforce it.  But I'm just a player in this game.  You'd think I'd be happy to have this much firepower around (after all, they're on my side), but it actually bothers me.

In the past, I've written Tom off as a jerk who just wants to "win" the game.  But now, I'm not so sure.  Tom's great formative game experience was playing in a Champions campaign in college - he's a couple years older than the rest of us, so he headed off to college first.  Having read Ron's posts about the Champions play going on over in Buzz's campaign I'm wondering if maybe Tom isn't bringing his Champions habits to every game:  analyzing the combat rules and character creation, and carefully tweaking each character for maximum lethal efficiency, but at the same time blatantly ignoring everything else because he expects it to have no real input.  For example:  in the session, the shadowrunners were hired to break some people out of a corporate facility. In the process (which was quite violent), his character picked up a commlink from some dead guards - and tried to use it to unlock some doors.  This character, by the way, has the negative quality Incompetent with Computers. 

I get the feeling that what it's been adding up to is that Tom is used to playing in a game where his role (as a player) is to act out the part of one character in the GM's story.  Combat skills and character tweaking are the prime ways the player can affect the game, so that's what he works on.  For the rest, Tom concludes that any reasonable plan will work if it furthers the GM's big pre-planned story.  In the meantime, his role is largely coasting along between fight scenes.

Now my view of Shadowrun is entirely different:  I see it as a proactive game, where the players (and their characters) should have a very wide lattitude in terms of strategy to accomplish a given job.  The fun is in being clever and tough and ruthless.  This explains why a Combat Monster character ticks me off as a GM - the player takes the challenge out of the fight scenes and limits every approach to a single tactic.  Worse yet, the Combat Monster player expects the stupidest ideas to work, even when his character has absolutely no realistic chance of pulling it off based on lack of skill/proper equipment, etc.  And the player is pissed off when he gets slapped down, because the GM isn't driving the story anywhere.

So my questions for the Forge community are:

1)  Am I at all right in my analysis of the play styles?  How do I confirm this?

2)  What do I do about it?  Especially given that:  a) I'm just a player and b) I'm not willing to summarily write the guy off without trying SOMETHING. 

I'm well aware that the something involved has to be a conversation with the players and GM (Sam) - but in what way do I start that or proceed?

Any thoughts, advice or commentary would be most gratefully received -

Robert


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Tommi Brander on April 28, 2006, 01:22:49 AM
Not that I have anything constructive to say, but is the current GM telling a story and letting practically every plan work?


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: DagdaMor on April 28, 2006, 02:20:31 AM
Shadowrun has always suffered from players making the Combat Monster, because it allows it so easily (well less easily now with SR4). Players coming from other heavily combat oriented games, will try and break apart the game rules as much as possible, I have seen it time and time again. So your analysis of your friend Tom is probably correct, he is so used to playing a style where the aim is to be as powerful as possible, that when you come to a game like shadowrun, which intrinsically makes it easy to be powerful allowing on groups dynamics to fix the powerlevel for the game.

The best advice I can give you is to talk to your GM about it, Shadowrun's major saving grace is that all characters are basically impotent when compared to the real power of the world. No matter what a player can throw at the GM, the GM can kick back much harder to prove a point or conversely send you on runs where combat has a much lesser bearing on the outcome of the run. So discuss with your GM whether he has the same opinion of the character and that if he does, that he either forces a rebuild, or (preferably in my eyes) can accomodate the campaign to deal with the mismatched balance within the team.

One final suggestion is that when you next get chance to run a game of shadowrun with Tom in it, try and play a street level campaign, drop build points significantly (200 or so) half availability and rating limits and then have some fun at the bottom of the pile, hopefully Tom will then see that you can actually have fun without being a combat monster all the time.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Zamiel on April 28, 2006, 03:21:19 AM
So my questions for the Forge community are:

1)  Am I at all right in my analysis of the play styles?  How do I confirm this?

2)  What do I do about it?  Especially given that:  a) I'm just a player and b) I'm not willing to summarily write the guy off without trying SOMETHING. 

I'm well aware that the something involved has to be a conversation with the players and GM (Sam) - but in what way do I start that or proceed?

I think I'll ask the hard question:

Why do you care?

Seriously. Why do you feel that you have to tell him how to have his fun? Especially, possibly most especially, in Shadowrun, which is as much a meat-cannon-friendly setting as ever there was. One of the archetypical SR characters is a Troll with a Panther Cannon as a side-arm, for Hades' sake.

I think the real problem here comes with your statement:

Now my view of Shadowrun is entirely different:  I see it as a proactive game, where the players (and their characters) should have a very wide lattitude in terms of strategy to accomplish a given job.  The fun is in being clever and tough and ruthless.  This explains why a Combat Monster character ticks me off as a GM - the player takes the challenge out of the fight scenes and limits every approach to a single tactic.  Worse yet, the Combat Monster player expects the stupidest ideas to work, even when his character has absolutely no realistic chance of pulling it off based on lack of skill/proper equipment, etc.  And the player is pissed off when he gets slapped down, because the GM isn't driving the story anywhere.

As a frequent GM myself, but perhaps more importantly, as a frequenr cyber-genre GM myself, I'm just sitting here boggling, with jaw agape, looking at this paragraph. A Combat Monster takes away the challenge from a fight? If anything, the presence of a CM in the party increases your options ten-thousand-fold for every single encounter between the characters and the world. You no longer have to be concerned about the characters being overwhelmed in combat unless you truly throw a bus full of ugly at them, which frees you to engage them with the distraction of the physical encounter and work the strings of all the things it connects to, socially, personally, and emotionally, for every character involved. It no longer becomes a question of what is going to happen, but putting it in the characters why the events are unfolding so. That's a far, far more interesting question than "will the characters shoot their way out of this one?" The answer is "yes." That puts it in your hands, as GM, to ask more interesting questions.

Yes, the character is dumb as a brick. Seems to me that's by design. I can't really tell here if you're really saying the CM's Player is having dumb ideas he expects to work or whether he's actually just playing in-character and you are just bad at distinguishing the two. The key issue in this bit is that you say the GM slaps the dumb ideas down, but is simultaneously not driving the story anywhere. He can't have it both ways and have happy players, especially players looking to drive their portion of the story by mechanical interaction with the rest of the world. Which is, notably, a perfectly valid stance to take, even if its not mine. (Usually. Capes-play is almost entirely driven by the interaction between Player and mechanics, but its a whole different universe of play.)

Seems to me Tom has a hammer. Nothing wrong with having a hammer, and sneering at it because its not a screwdriver only gets you laughed at by folks who own a toolbox. Seems a bad plan.

But directly as to your questions:

1) You can never confirm analysis of play styles. Its abstract, but moreover emotional. Far better than trying to analyze him would be asking, "Hey, why are you doing that?" Reasons are far more useful than suppositions.

2) Why do you have to do anything at all? If the GM's OK with it, and Tom's OK with it, why do you care how they have fun? If the GM's not OK with it, then he should start by asking, querilously, "Why are you doing that?"

I do recognize that the Forge has a reputation for being the domain of those with more obsession with analysis than action, but not everyone's fallen into that hole quite yet.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: TonyPace on April 28, 2006, 04:35:58 AM
Yeah, Zamiel! I volunteer to be a gun bunny in your Shadowrun game!

Good Shadowrun is all about the bang and the boom. Or maye not all, but a big part of it. So you want to be good at the good stuff? Right, awesome, step this way. We got fireballs, we got trolls, we got assault cannons and speed freak gun bunnies, and laser guided missiles and the whole fucking works. We cook it any damned way you like, as long as you like bloody flesh.

I mean, what, you want credible science fiction action with deep characterization? In a game about magical trolls with assault cannons?

All that D&D stuff in Shadowrun used to annoy me to no end, because all the cool cyberpunk was being gummed up with that lame old oldness. But then I picked up the clue-phone - that DnD stuff is telling you something. Let Go of those 80's novels you've been hoarding and embrace the badass factor. Get into it, stir some shit up, and have fun.

There may be multiple paths to BADASS in a good Shadowrun game but never lose sight of that goal. Maybe you enjoy hacking the hell out of security, stealing cash and pimping your employers all over the Matrix. Maybe you like having meets with Mafia capos and call them a punk. You're so damned good they just laugh and slap you on the back. And then again maybe you're cool as steel and twice as hard, barely human but a killing machine. Takes all types, you know.

Frankly, I smell that the real problem is that this guy is stepping all over your character's "Fuck, Precious just hacked the security system to shoot all the security guards! Holy Shit! Jackpot!" moment. He just has to do everything all by himself. You know, hogging the badassery. If that's the real issue, it's a Definite Problem.

I just think that if that's it, you need to talk to him, and tell him that some of the other characters are made to do that flavour of - you guessed it - badass. And if he has a good idea in that line, then he doesn't have to do it himself, just suggest it to you as a human being playing a game instead of always having to do it as a character. And maybe when someone needs to get dead you could go to him for help if that's an option instead of having to do THAT yourself.

Alternately, you're annoyed that his character is a huge lodestone around any more subtle plans you're trying to be cool with. Which is also kind of understandable, but easier to deal with too. You just need a plot device that you can activate to drop his dude in like a deus ex machina. If you have a rich rigger a yellowjacket with a rappelling harness should do the trick... maybe a coffin that attaches under any decent sized vehicle too. And perhaps the GM could be persuaded to make such a thing appear. Make it clear it's a device to let everyone shine at the stuff they do best.

And since the character's as dumb as a post don't whine when he does some funny dumb shit but cheer because:
A)  It's funny.
B)  Someone's pissed! Oh no, they're shooting! Profit!
C)  It helps pull him into the end of the game you're more interested in, which I'm guessing is a more wheeler dealer thing. Since he's a serious liability as a practical thing, you need to find a way for his actions to be a problem for the characters but great fun for everyone anyways. That way it lets him stretch his wings a little instead of being boring shit where you and yours look down on him.

Bottom line is ditch the high-mindedness and think about what you want from the game that this guy's playing style is preventing. And do something about it at a human, social, level that doesn't come off as talking down to this guy. If he acts like a choad about that, well you've got your answer.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on April 28, 2006, 06:27:19 AM
Thanks, guy, I knew there was something wrong with my analysis - at some level.  I'll talk to my GM - either he sees a problem with the level of badassery or he doesn't.  If so, problem solved, it'll be a GM/player talk.  If not, my character has some spare nuyen to burn - I'll amp up that vat grown muscle toner and throw some more dice, myself.  As far as the guy being a liability in more complex plans, that'll pass - he's about at the hard caps for combat skills so he'll have no choice but to up the other stuff.

Rob


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on April 28, 2006, 07:06:36 AM
Okay, sorry about this guys, but full stop.  I'm putting my gauntlet back down (and never should have picked it up in the first place). 

Tony, your comments are not.  Helpful.  You're trying to tell me, in a sense, what I should enjoy about a shadowrun game and not referencing what I actually do enjoy about the game.  I know what I want out of Shadowrun (or at any rate, at least I know what I don't want) and I don't need suggestions that I'm "doing it wrong."

I take everyone's very PC point about "why should I step on the other guy/s fun?"  Well, folks, I've told you why:  it steps on mine.  I will not sit through a crappy game - I have other alternatives, after all.  Moreover, I've talked to Kelsey and he shares my opinion about Combat Monsters in the game.  His character was our group's previous combat specialist, and he's been relegated to, in his words, "the team's limo driver."  So, guys, I think there's a bigger problem than that I'm just too high minded for a slam-bang action game like Shadowrun. 

Now, I'm sorry if I've hurt people's feelings and pissed everybody off around the Forge.  However, the fact is that, while I'm willing to see some compromise in how the game goes I'm not going to just pick up my gauntlet and play the other guy's way.  I do appreciate suggestions to talk to the GM (Sam) about it.  I will do so tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure he shares my views on the matter.  Which still leaves a group with a problem.

Best,

Rob



Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: TonyLB on April 28, 2006, 07:18:36 AM
It seems to me that the main beef is that the addition of a meat-cannon or two to your party changes the composition of the party so much that it blocks out many types of scenes ... they just can't be fun while the meat-cannon is present.

Can I suggest that, maybe, adopting some techniques that let you break up the group and tell separate and interacting stories with subsets of the group would help alleviate much of this trouble?

If the previous-combat-specialist and your character are off on their own and get into a fight, it can be a cool fight for them, scaled to their combat power and ripe for their canny strategizing.  Likewise, if the two meat-cannons are off and get into a much less subtle fight it can be a cool fight for them.  Then you can all get together and do some breaking-and-entering, and then two players can go try to lean on a cyber-doc, and so on and so forth.

Basically, rather than view "the group" as the atomic unit which must be dragged through every single scene (and therefore must be a fit protagonist for every single scene) why not fit scenes to sets of characters, and increase the diversity of things that can be offered?  Horses for courses, and all that?


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Callan S. on April 28, 2006, 12:19:05 PM
Hi Robert,

That's a pretty articulate and insightful analysis, I think.

Worse yet, the Combat Monster player expects the stupidest ideas to work, even when his character has absolutely no realistic chance of pulling it off based on lack of skill/proper equipment, etc.  And the player is pissed off when he gets slapped down, because the GM isn't driving the story anywhere.
Tell me if I'm getting too abstract, but imagine this: A guy is next to a roulette wheel at a casino. He just guesses the next number that comes up, but is wrong. Someone comes up, pulls his wallet from his pocket and takes money from it. He gets pissed off and rightly so, since he didn't put money down. Ie, he didn't give permission for someone to apply a penalty to him.

Is this player actually 'putting his money down'? Even at a social level, like saying "I bet I can get us out of here". Or is he just guessing and then when the failed guess has an effect on the overall game/the money, he's pissed off?

Now, this might help foster a greater understanding of your game, but it's trickier to ask than before. What about you and the other players? Do you lay down 'money', even if it's at a social level of saying you can, using those strategies you mentioned before? I know it's a tough question, but I'm trying to help by figuring out in what way you might be clashing. This will help eliminate possiblities.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Dav on April 28, 2006, 12:30:19 PM
Try this: avoid combat.  Or, even better:

If the guy made a character completely within the guidelines of your gaming group, don't go whining about it, buck-up, look at the guy making the character that you feel is causing a problem and... here's something better than passive-aggressive: FUCKING TELL HIM.

What is this, revenge of high school?

Dav


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Zamiel on April 28, 2006, 01:20:42 PM
Tony, your comments are not.  Helpful.  You're trying to tell me, in a sense, what I should enjoy about a shadowrun game and not referencing what I actually do enjoy about the game.  I know what I want out of Shadowrun (or at any rate, at least I know what I don't want) and I don't need suggestions that I'm "doing it wrong."

No, actually, Tony was telling you what Shadowrun in particular and the cyber-genre in general pretty much iconizes as the core protagonist strategy: doing big things in front of big people and making it look good. Whether it be the extremely archetypal hackery done by Case in Neuromancer or the driving by the Deliverator in Snow Crash (where everyone listens to Reason), cyberpunk has been a grand exposition on "the revelation of the badass" from day one. Shadowrun is just an amplification of that, by adding in the fantasy tropes associated with the heroic archetypes and fusing them to characters of a different social class. Just as if you said, "Well, I find associating with the hoity-toity movers-and-shakers of the world at dinner parties fun in Shadowrun," we would not say, "Well, that's just wrong," but we would and have said, "That's not what the genre is really set up to do, so its not surprising that you feel your fun is getting stepped on." The gun bunny is set up to echo the assumptions of the setting; he's getting reinforced. You're not.

Honestly, that's more your problem than his.

I take everyone's very PC point about "why should I step on the other guy/s fun?"  Well, folks, I've told you why:  it steps on mine.  I will not sit through a crappy game - I have other alternatives, after all.  Moreover, I've talked to Kelsey and he shares my opinion about Combat Monsters in the game.  His character was our group's previous combat specialist, and he's been relegated to, in his words, "the team's limo driver."  So, guys, I think there's a bigger problem than that I'm just too high minded for a slam-bang action game like Shadowrun. 

I heartily object to being referred to as PC in any context. Its a serious question, why do you want to step on his fun? Is he having fun? Is he really wanting something else from the game but what he's doing is "rewarding enough," because he is in tune with the archetypal underpinnings of the setting and you're trying to fight against them with no support? Until and unless you recognize why you should be bothering to step on his fun instead of stepping up your own, you end up looking like a hungus dong.

Seems to me that if there was a previous "combat specialist," the problem is obviously not the presence of gun-bunnies. The problem, not to put too fine a point on it, is your GM kind of sucks. He can't seem to manage spotlight time, he can't seem to discover conflicts that put get all the players invested through their characters, and he has a couple whiny passive-aggressive wonks who aren't stepping up to the plate the way they have to, out of game, and actually engaging socially with the other folk. What your GM needs, frankly, is a system that concentrates more on the conflicts between player-intentionality and less on modeling the sprays of bullets and manabolts. Were it up to me, I'd say port your game over to With Great Power or Primetime Adventures for a while, because both of them are systems geared to put the spotlight directly on the things the characters find important about themselves and don't start getting into the decoupling between Player-as-Author and Character that Capes goes for the jugular with ... you guys are clearly not ready for that degree of decentralized control, yet.

(Yes, for the players at home, I know WGP is a supers system, and archetected for such. That's why I say its perfect for Shadowrun. The Story Arc system coupled with the emphasis on picking only the facets of character important to the Player, plus the rotating scene-setting seems to be damn near perfect to help work out issues in a group that has problems with spotlighting. Likewise with PTA, with an even deeper focus on system-minimal descriptions. Get them away from obsessing on the damage-code of the latest Fireball and back on obsessing about who they have relationships with and how they matter.)

Now, I'm sorry if I've hurt people's feelings and pissed everybody off around the Forge.  However, the fact is that, while I'm willing to see some compromise in how the game goes I'm not going to just pick up my gauntlet and play the other guy's way.  I do appreciate suggestions to talk to the GM (Sam) about it.  I will do so tomorrow, but I'm pretty sure he shares my views on the matter.  Which still leaves a group with a problem.

I can say safely you've never hurt me feelings or pissed me off. I just don't suffer foolishness gladly, and you have a serious wall to break through before you're ready to actually deal with the core issues in the group you're in. Think of me as the old wuxia master who repeatedly cracks the young protagonist across the head with his oaken staff out of his grandfatherly kindness.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: JongWK on April 28, 2006, 04:05:22 PM
Especially, possibly most especially, in Shadowrun, which is as much a meat-cannon-friendly setting as ever there was. One of the archetypical SR characters is a Troll with a Panther Cannon as a side-arm, for Hades' sake.

The Troll Street Samurai appeared in 1992, in the Street Samurai Catalogue sourcebook. Things have changed a bit since then. ;)


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: JongWK on April 28, 2006, 04:06:55 PM
Ack, forgot to add: It's impossible to get an assault cannon from the start, if you follow the rules. This has been so since SR3.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Zamiel on April 29, 2006, 12:47:53 AM
The Troll Street Samurai appeared in 1992, in the Street Samurai Catalogue sourcebook. Things have changed a bit since then. ;)

If you can be a socket-jockey gun bunny still, it ain't changed that much, or so says my copy of SR4 ...

Big troll with big axe? Check. Heavily cybered humie with a induction gun grip and overlayed targeting data? Check. Mages with up-blown hair and crackling auras of power just before they throw huge balls of energy? Check. Urban shaman commanding the streets themselves to shake off a fleeing car? Check.

Change? Not s'much.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Ramidel on April 29, 2006, 01:31:08 AM
I'd come up with something witty about combat monsters in Shadowrun, but I think Tastes Like Phoenix Games, in their Harlequin review (http://www.tasteslikephoenix.com/review/harleqrevue.html) did a better job than I can:

Lexical note: a "munchkin" in Shadowrun is a combat machine who doesn't know when to use a silencer. Combat machines who do use silencers are called "team players" or "me chummer here," at least until you find someone else who provides as much cover.

Seriously, at least in Second Edition (which is the Shadowrun I'm most familiar with, may have changed since then), no matter how badass a war engine is, he is still not going to be able to solve every problem by making with the huge-assed assault cannon 'cuz there's always someone with a -lot- bigger guns (which is very much supported by the cyberpunk genre). If a shadowrun team makes too much noise, Lone Star or someone else will target them and they will die. So having a troll samurai with 0.1 Essence and an atomic bazooka doesn't tread on anyone's fun unless the GM allows every problem to be solved by breaking out the heavy metal.

Now my view of Shadowrun is entirely different:  I see it as a proactive game, where the players (and their characters) should have a very wide lattitude in terms of strategy to accomplish a given job.

It is. But Combat Monsters don't take this out of the game for the reasons above. A CM or two in a group is a good thing and fills a team niche; without one, the team has a much harder time coping when they've hosed the run and have to make an exit over a huge pile of dead bodies. But even a complete team of brick-brained assault cannon trolls will not be able to simply force their way into a corp headquarters to steal a genetically engineered rabbit.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: JongWK on April 29, 2006, 07:26:03 AM
If you can be a socket-jockey gun bunny still, it ain't changed that much, or so says my copy of SR4 ...

Big troll with big axe? Check. Heavily cybered humie with a induction gun grip and overlayed targeting data? Check. Mages with up-blown hair and crackling auras of power just before they throw huge balls of energy? Check. Urban shaman commanding the streets themselves to shake off a fleeing car? Check.

Change? Not s'much.

SR4 allows for various playstyles. You can be a combat monster, a social expert, a tech specialist or a generalist. The archetypes provide a wide range of characters to choose or use as inspiration.

I have no problems is someone wants to be a gun-bunny from the start, but he won't have access to that assault cannon until later in the game. The GM has the final say, thanks to the availability rules.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on April 29, 2006, 02:56:23 PM
Zamiel, I take your point on the "Guns and Explosions and Cool Magic Stuff" style of Shadowrun.  I've played it myself, in previous editions of the game, and I don't care for it.  Contrary to your belief, there is in fact more than one way to play Shadowrun.  Upon consultation with Sam (the GM) and Kelsey the three of us are in accord that there is an issue with this type of character in our game.  The matter will be resolved by discussion with the players of the two combat monsters.  We're prepared to switch to another game system, such as D&D 3.5, which will be more facilitative of everyone's desires if that proves to be necessary. 

I do appreciate everyone's interest in this matter, even if I don't appreciate everyone's tone.  That's the internet for you - and the Forge doesn't exactly strike me as a place where sugarcoating things is strongly desired.  I'll update this post in a week with the results of our discussion.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Zamiel on April 29, 2006, 06:26:23 PM
We're prepared to switch to another game system, such as D&D 3.5, which will be more facilitative of everyone's desires if that proves to be necessary. 

You're discussing changing to D&D to get away from the gun bunny motif? Isn't that like seeking employment in a bordello to escape sexual harassment in the workplace, or a candy company to help with your diabetes?


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Callan S. on April 29, 2006, 07:20:39 PM
Just a quick note: Consider a game like capes, where one goal could be about an orphanage burning down and another goal could be about an entire war. What's great about that system is that players can interact with either...there being a massive war doesn't remove the possibility of interacting with the ophanage issue.

In Robs game, if you were to consider it a gamist one (I'm still hoping for an answer for my question about that), then one challenge type Rob apparently wants on the table is a subtle tactical considerations, while the other player is very overt and direct challenge taker.

But currently the overt challenge overides the subtle tactical one. It removes it from the table and blocks interaction with it. It's deprotagonising Rob, in my estimation. Something like that isn't part of a (IMO) functional game, regardless of the genre and what that genre is supposed to contain.

I'm looking forward to that update, Rob. :)


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Wade L on April 30, 2006, 02:02:06 AM
We're prepared to switch to another game system, such as D&D 3.5, which will be more facilitative of everyone's desires if that proves to be necessary. 

You're discussing changing to D&D to get away from the gun bunny motif? Isn't that like seeking employment in a bordello to escape sexual harassment in the workplace, or a candy company to help with your diabetes?


  If the issue comes down to niche protection - which I'm guessing might be part of it - it might not be a horrid idea.  D&D generally does niche protection fairly well.  Everyone has a role to play.  Part of the frustration Precious might be experiencing with Shadowrun is the feeling that the Combat Monsters are making everyone else's specialty redundant.  Depending on the GM, I could see that being the case...

"I'm good at sneaking, so I'll sneak past the guards..."
"Don't bother, Combat Monster can just kill them all."

"I'm good at talking, so I'll try to talk us into the mob boss' estate..."
"Don't bother, Combat Monster can just shoot his way in."

  Etc. :)

  The idea that different characters are better at different areas of play only matters if those different areas of play aren't hierarchical - if combat trumps all others areas of play, than it doesn't matter what else you're good at by combat.  D&D fixes this neatly by having everyone primarily oriented the same way - everyone does combat, they just do combat in different ways.  So everyone is still important.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Zamiel on April 30, 2006, 12:31:33 PM
  The idea that different characters are better at different areas of play only matters if those different areas of play aren't hierarchical - if combat trumps all others areas of play, than it doesn't matter what else you're good at by combat.  D&D fixes this neatly by having everyone primarily oriented the same way - everyone does combat, they just do combat in different ways.  So everyone is still important.

The problem I see is that such is the problem with the group, D&D is only going to make the problem more pronounced. If it happens with the Troll Sammie and the hardwired covert ops guy, its going to happen with the Fighter and the Barbarian, and for exactly the same reasons.

In this case, the problem doesn't appear to be the system, its the group.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: JongWK on April 30, 2006, 07:34:24 PM
Part of the frustration Precious might be experiencing with Shadowrun is the feeling that the Combat Monsters are making everyone else's specialty redundant.  Depending on the GM, I could see that being the case...

"I'm good at sneaking, so I'll sneak past the guards..."
"Don't bother, Combat Monster can just kill them all."

"I'm good at talking, so I'll try to talk us into the mob boss' estate..."
"Don't bother, Combat Monster can just shoot his way in."

  Etc. :)

  The idea that different characters are better at different areas of play only matters if those different areas of play aren't hierarchical - if combat trumps all others areas of play, than it doesn't matter what else you're good at by combat. 

Curious. Most groups I know try to avoid combat at all costs. A team that gets a reputation for blowing up everything in their path would quickly find itself lacking job offers (except as demolition crews or cannon fodder).

Also, runners might be smart, but they are usually outnumbered and outgunned. Security guards know their ground, and while they might not be able to defeat the runners on their own, they can use tactics and cover to resist until backup arrives--and backup is what really kills runners.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Ron Edwards on April 30, 2006, 08:29:03 PM
All right, that's enough.

There is way too much implied ownership over Shadowrun in this thread. Everyone's prancing about talking about the way "it's" played and what characters are right or not right for "it" in the most vague-ass, nonconstructive way possible.

Get back to the thread topic. This one guy's game. This one play-group. This one composition of issues which were raised at the beginning. Next meatbag who sounds off about how "in Shadowrun, this kind of character is good for blah blah," that's the meatbag I'm gonna teach which ass cheek is which, with Vibrum soles.

You! The one who started this thread! Front and center! Describe an actual session of play.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Zamiel on May 01, 2006, 01:10:49 AM
There is way too much implied ownership over Shadowrun in this thread. Everyone's prancing about talking about the way "it's" played and what characters are right or not right for "it" in the most vague-ass, nonconstructive way possible.

That's actually funny, Ron, since on more than one occasion you've defended the statement "System matters!" If system matters, then its perfectly valid to talk about what it matters, what it supports, and what it undermines, both intrinsically and in terms of genre and thematic appropriateness. Or will you now pronounce "System doesn't matter!" and bring the Forge into a New Age of Enlightenment(tm)?

There's no prancing here. We're bringing "it" to the table and saying exactly what we mean. If anything, this thread has been a focus of candor and straightforward statement, with little to nothing in the way of prancing. "SR doesn't do that well, and the genre in general doesn't focus on those issues" is not only not "vague-ass," its true. You may not like the answers, and you may dispute the truth, but you cannot defend the position that its been anything but us responding to Precious' original post in an honest, straightforward way.

Well, you could, but you'd look goofy.

The reason we're not carrying on at length about what you might construe as constructive is that pretty much anyone that's cared to so far has agreed, for the most part. Precious needs to step up and deal with the issue out of the game. Its not an issue, at core, about gameplay. Its about the social context of the group and its social interactions, with a smidge side of story-affect expectations. But having been said, there's more stuff to talk about actual play of SR and cyber-genre games in general, and some of us are exploring those indirectly.

You might not find those interesting. Fine, don't read the thread anymore. It remains about "Actual Play," you're just not interested. Fair enough.

Get back to the thread topic. This one guy's game. This one play-group. This one composition of issues which were raised at the beginning. Next meatbag who sounds off about how "in Shadowrun, this kind of character is good for blah blah," that's the meatbag I'm gonna teach which ass cheek is which, with Vibrum soles.

Which we disposed of neatly, because "system matters," and further "genre matters."

You may have Vibrum soles, but no need to show off your Mister Snake in the forum just to flex the moderatorship, Ron. You could, possibly, actually contribute something meaningful related to the original post, I reckon, because its not as if Precious hasn't posted enough to actually talk about.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 05:15:23 AM
Although there's a new adolescence, or regression to it, infecting the multi-site RPG scene at the moment, I'm not putting up with it here. At this point, I'll put on the grownup hat and speak clearly, instead of punish you, Zamiel, which you're obviously angling for.

1. This thread could be a thing of brilliance if the respondents, you included, would bring your specific Shadowrun expertise in, rather than pronouncements about what its system does or doesn't do in the broadest terms.

Most of the comments about "system" are not constructive so far because you guys are jumpin' around editions of Shadowrun and not looking at what this particular group does in play.

For you specifically, Zamiel, it's been a while since I've seen blatant tries to make me argue against myself - "Ha, moderate the discussion, and you're saying system doesn't matter, nyaa."  They don't work.

2. The most important question asked so far remains unanswered: whether the GM lets the Meat Cannon succeed out of combat whenever it suits his need for scene setups. The related question is whether PV, who did put points and effort and all sorts of PC-creation into a skill-ful, partly non-combat character, is getting what he wanted out of the game.

I do not think the argument "Meat Cannons are fun! Rahh!" and repeating age-old party niche statements, which date back to the mid-1970s, are going to help. I do not agree that Precious Villain's point has been addressed nor that his needs have been served. I am seeing him getting bullied into agreement much as if you all were sitting at the table and protecting your own satisfying play of the Meat Cannons.

3. I still don't see much actual play being discussed. This thread needs the description of an actual scene or even session - what happened, who the players were, whether Precious Villain sat around for a long time, or whether he was involved the whole time but his rolls whiffed when the tough PC didn't have to roll anything, or what. We don't know. More clearly, Zamiel, you don't know. All you're talking about is you and your Shadowrun, and what "it" is, which is the prancing.

Once a more complete and clear picture has been presented here about what play is like, then we still won't quite get the system in question until PV, you tell us what the reward system is like. We can stick with character improvement for now - how much, how often, for what, and so on. Oh yeah, and character death, as in, is there any, and who, and how often.

See? System. Not "Shadowrun does this, so there." That's not system. That's argumentum od baculum, "Agree with me because I'm shouting."

PV, you're up - this is your thread and I agree that others' tone is way out of line. I suggest that you not knuckle under to the statements that your expectations are unreasonable. They may be misplaced given the folks you're playing with, but we don't know that yet. I'd really like to see your description of a scene or session, with an emphasis on the people and what they do.

Zamiel, this is me speaking to you like the child you're being: shut up for a while and let others speak. Just do it. Further defiant posting goes to the Inactive File.

JongWK, it's nice to have you join the Forge. I'd like you to consider that saying "Gee, our Shadowrun is different" is only useful when you relate it to what's going on in PV's game. After he posts about his scene or session of play, a description of a contrasting scene or session in your game would be a useful contrast.

Best,
Ron


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: JongWK on May 01, 2006, 09:47:11 AM
Hello Ron,

JongWK, it's nice to have you join the Forge. I'd like you to consider that saying "Gee, our Shadowrun is different" is only useful when you relate it to what's going on in PV's game.

I have to disagree. I saw people in this thread going after the OP with outdated arguments about SR, and that's why I mentioned that the game can be played differently.


Quote
After he posts about his scene or session of play, a description of a contrasting scene or session in your game would be a useful contrast.

Best,
Ron


We'll see what the OP has to say.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 01, 2006, 10:38:26 AM
Ron & Company,

Will post a description of an actual game session as soon as Real Life (tm) allows - that will be approximately 20:00 Pacific Daylight Time. 

-Robert


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Wade L on May 01, 2006, 11:27:22 AM
  Let me know if I'm off base, Ron, but I'm going to try and ask Precious a question or two to try and help me understand where some of the dissatisfaction is - yeah, they're questions targetted at the old "party niche" stuff I did drag out of the closet, but hopefully might be more constructive.  If, on the other hand, my questions are missing the mark completely, I'll be quiet.

  Precious, what would be cool for me is if when you're posting the actual game session...  I mean, it'd be great to know what you liked and didn't, of course, but Ron and others more experienced can help you get the most out of describing actual play better than I can.  But what I, specifically, am I'm curious about is this:  Are you finding yourself dissatisfied with what scenes are being played, or are you dissatisfied with how those scenes are being resolved, or neither?  I mean, is it "Nothing the group does is cool anymore!", or is it "When the group does cool stuff, the combat monsters are the only ones doing it!"?  Of course, I could be looking in completely the wrong spots.

  I'll save any further elaboration until you get a chance to post, Precious Villain.



Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 01, 2006, 05:11:20 PM
The backstory.  The original group consisted of three players, with a fourth (very) occasional player.  The characters were:  Del, female human wolf shaman (played by Sam), Shin, human warrior adept (played by Kelsey), and Grant, human gunslinger/hacker (played by yours truly, Robert).  The occasional was Preston, an ork mercenary (played by Spencer, who has been absent for some time).  The last mission was a twofer:  steal some data kept in an offline server at an Aztechnolgoy oil refinery in the Tacoma area, and blow the place up.  Long story short:  the team infiltrated through a storm drain system while Shin provided sniper cover from high ground a good distance away.  Everyone went down to severe wounds in the ensuing firefight, partly because the sniper, Shin, was out of position when we were caught, but partly due to some unfortunate rolling as well.  Shin observed the situation through his sniper scope, and noted that his teammates were taken into the facility (which was reinforced).  I was the GM for that session, Kelsey was playing Preston and Shin simultaneously, which may have had something to do with why Shin didn't have line of sight to any of the guys that brought down the rest of the team.
 
Sam was the GM for this session, which was set up as a rescue of the other team members.  Shin met with a fixer who hooked everyone else up.  Marv (Tom's character) is a cybered ork who has conversations wit his revolver.  I can't recall the name of Misty's character, but it was something like Laila?  Since I was without a character, I ran an NPC who had appeared in the game previously - an adept (and Lone Star officer) named Pelter. 
 
Shin pointed out the backstory and the use of the storm drain entrance - and the fact that during his observation Aztechnology security guys hadn't paid any attention to it.  Planning was conducted in character for once, and it went as follows:  nobody spoke up, so Pelter reminded everyone that Aztechnology security is not to be messed with - using overwhelming firepower with little to no concern for collateral damage.  Additionally, the previous team had been much stealthier, wearing active camouflage covering and having the skill for it - they were caught anyway.  Instead, Pelter suggested sneaking in and capturing a guard to snag his uniform and commlink - which would provide us with better access.  The others assented to this rough goal. 
 
Infiltration through the storm drain worked as advertised, although folk got a bit mucky.  Once inside the perimeter, the team held a sentry at gunpoint and got his uniform and commlink - those went to Misty's character, who best fit them and who happened to speak Spanish.  Through some blind luck, the team made it to shooting range of the actual building they needed - Misty's character distracted them long enough for silenced gunfire to drop the two guys at the door.  We used one of the guard's commlinks to open the door.  At that point, the balloon went up - there'd been enough chatter and suspicious movement (reported by the commlink's internal GPS I suppose) to warn security.  Pelter's first move was firing a minigrenade at some tanks a good ways off - which kicked off a hellacious fire.
 
Seeing two guards at the end of the hall, Pelter fired a minigrenade at them.  This basically cleared the area - but left us wondering where to go.  A hand grenade lobbed our way from a freight elevator gave us an indication - it was picked up by Marv, I think, and thrown into the next room before it could cause us any problems.  Pelter gave the freight elevator doors a nice burst of assault rifle fire.  Seeing that it went down, we decided to head downstairs ourselves - but taking the stairs rather than an elevator. 
 
Reaching the subbasement, we expected and got a firefight.  Shin, our adept, got his one moment of glory by dispatching a water spirit with a single swipe of his katana.  The rest of us demolished five cybered up Aztechnology goons - although they inflicted some injuries to Misty's character and to Marv in the process. 
 
After that, Marv tried to use another commlink to gain access to the cells themselves.  This failed, but we got the door open somehow (I actually don't remember how - it wasn't a demolition charge or anything).  With that, we were able to effectuate the rescue.  Getaway was substantially easier than I anticipated - possibly due to the raging fire going on and half the security force being KIA. 
 
Some notable factors:
 
There was comparatively little in character discussion.
There was a fair amount of cross talk and chatter - much of it dedicated to explaining/teaching the rules to Misty, who has not before played Shadowrun.
Misty's character and Marv both threw an insane amount of dice when it came to rolling initiative and shooting things.  They almost invariably:  acted first, and hit and killed their targets.  I believe Misty's character missed one shot the whole night.  Neither really threw any dice with regard to other activities.
Tom is quite good at portraying his character, who is pretty blatantly (and admittedly) ripped off from the character in Sin City. 
No mention was made of acceptable power levels prior to play - Tom made his character and Misty's character prior to the game and without (to my knowledge) review by Sam.
Tom can be a "tetchy" individual.  No signs of this character trait at this game, however.

Marv was able to "hand wave" his way through the use of a commlink to open some doors.  Per SR4's rules this should probably be at most a simple computer test - you can make the case that an authorized user would've been able to unlock doors through the commlink without making any kind of a roll.  On the other hand, with no computer skill, and a Logic stat of 1, Marv should have had zero dice for any attempt to roll.  Moreover, Marv had the flaw Incompetent: Computers.  That should have forced a roll even on simple tasks - as well as barring the character from having the skill.

THUS FAR, serious problems haven't really cropped up.  The session itself was all right.  However, I do foresee problems based on two areas with the *characters* in question.  The characters, not the players.  Problem 1:  The characters are *way* overpowered for combat in this campaign.  The pistol adept played by Misty throws some 20 dice when firing a handgun.  Marv is a similar beast - not as bad on the dice, but crunched out in all other ways as far as I can tell.  Balance in Shadowrun is a tricky beast (unless you just ignore the problem, per Zamiel's interpretation).  It's a little like having a 20th level fighter in among our 7th level thieves - and our 7th level fighter.  Both characters far outclass Shin in terms of speed and damage output, leaving him kind of nicheless.  Yes, Shin's player, Kelsey, is not happy with this.  Problem 2:  The characters are way UNDERpowered for anything other than pounding out the lead.  It's not just the lack of skills:  in SR4 a skill of zero actually means you have the average level of knowledge to be expected of a typical man on the street.  You can default to many skills, even without training (excepting technical stuff, like Medicine or Pilot Aircraft). However, with Logic and Charisma stats as low as they are they're bound to fail any time a roll is called for.  I believe this is a problem, because I believe it's not the effect intended by the players!  I don't think they intended to play characters who are mentally and socially crippled, and I'm not sure that they realize that they are.   

At the *player* level, my concern is that perhaps Tom or Misty or both of them want something different from the game than we do. 

In respones to Wade:  as regards the combat monsters, I'm dissatisfied with how scenes are resolved.  Blasting the opposition with a double fistful of dice isn't remotely fun, cool or even moderately interesting.  Hand waving away the crippling flaws your character posses on paper isn't a better resolution system, either.  I'm fine with diceless, but give me a frickin' break, here.  When you combine the two, I'm not the least interested in the game that will result. 

However (still with *you* here, Wade, since you asked), as regards the game as a whole, I'm moderately dissatisfied with what scenes are being played as well.  I'd like to see a lot more social interaction, both among players and with NPCs.  I'd also like to see more of the *background* stressed - it's not uncommon to wave away weeks of training, or to assume away the purchase of thousands of rounds of (illegal) ammo or dozens of (highly illegal) weapons, programs, and so forth.  I think there are some missed opportunities, there, and not just for "wow, aren't we gritty and realistic" style of gaming - I'd think the guys who are selling you illegal submachine guns and software might be dangerous, unpredictable characters with whom we could have really interesting encounters.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 01, 2006, 05:30:48 PM
I'm gonna go out on a limb here and phrase a possible paraphrase of your viewpoint in the harshest possible terms. Robert, you tell me if I'm on the right track. Here's me, being a very bad and ungracious part of your mind, saying ...

1. There isn't any real risk. We walk in, we do the most basic tactics and even make tactical errors,* and we blow the shit out of anything we run into. A few wounds here and there, never a problem.

2. We get all the equipment for blowing shit up without risk, without complications, and with no need for strategy to acquire it.

3. No strategy in character creation seems to pay off - if you max out in combat "hit" effectiveness of one sort or another, then (a) it's all you need, and (b) built-in limitations of that approach aren't really limiting in play.

Here comes the rough part: My fellow players are pussies. They don't earn their bad-assery, and thus are no bad-asses at all. I wanna Step On Up, and all I'm seeing is people basically getting trophies for merely showing up.


I don't know whether this is actually true of either your fellow players, or whether this really describes your dissatisfaction. I'm not speaking for you in some pretense of being there or reading your mind. What I'd like to know is whether what I've written above describes your viewpoint to any percent at all, and if so, what percent that might be. (10%? 75%? or?)

Speaking for myself and my observations of play of this kind, which in my case is probably associated mainly with AD&D of the late 1970s and some Champions of the mid-1980s, I found this to be a fairly lame-ass, pallid form of Gamism - maybe a kind of "oh, let's get together and everyone wins" sort of whiffle ball experience. The more lame it seemed to me, the more the participants seemed to congratulate one another on their characters' toughness and bad-assedness, usually in terms of describing how much damage they were doing. Does that scan at all?

Two questions ... (1) How much grumbling was there, if any, when you beat the dogshit out of the characters when you GMed them? Especially when the sniper couldn't coordinate with the others?

(2) How much of a girlfriend-bonus is going on, if any? It seems to me, based on your writeup, that Misty basically got a free ride through the whole scenario, including her super-customized souped-up PC written by someone else, and she got to distract guards (I can guess how) and blow shit up way past the scenario's power level. Remember, a player doesn't have to be a girlfriend to get a girlfriend-bonus.

Best, Ron

* Notice that #1 didn't apply in the session you GMed. Then, when they messed up, they got beaten up and captured.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 01, 2006, 09:40:17 PM
Hi Ron.

I'd say your hypothetical is about 60-75% on target.  The nasty, brutish part of me does consider players like this to be total pussies, and frankly that part is totally unimpressed by the amount of damage their characters can do.  Your comments about damage definitely scan - "Look how much friggin' damage I do" sounds *very* familiar.

1)  There wasn't a whole lot of grumbling when the other team got clobbered.  For this game, we do our dice rolling in the open - everybody could see the great rolls I got, and I could see the lousy rolls the players were getting.  Nobody groused about the sniper being out of position that I recall  We (as in the players) were surprised when we checked lines of sight on Shin's initiative and discovered he didn't have a shot at anything.  Kelsey was running two characters and had sort of left Shin because he wasn't up to much.  Natural hazard of playing a "sniper" type, I suppose - snipers spend most of their time waiting, after all.  I may have even offered Kelsey the chance to "have shifted" Shin to a better post, though I don't recall that as clearly - I had a running firefight on my hands at the time.  No grousing - on the other hand I made it pretty clear that the characters would be rescueable.

2)  There was some "girlfriend bonus."  Although she didn't go for sex appeal to distract the guards - frankly she barely had to say anything - we had three guns trained on 'em after all.  Rules tidbit:  in SR4 ranged combat is an opposed roll between the attacker's Agility + Skill and the defender's Reaction.  A surprised character gets no Reaction roll, however.  To take a surprise attack from more than the rankest mook is to get taken out.  The girlfriend bonus mainly came in the form of an allowance for extra time to figure out dice rolls, rules, etc. 

So that's me.  I know you're not a mind reader, Ron.  If you were, you'd have found a way to make money off of it by now.  But I do respect your experience - any suggestions based on that experience?

Best,
Rob


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 02, 2006, 06:36:53 AM
Whew - well, I think the problem is out in the open at last, and glory be, it's a Creative Agenda, dare I say GNS thing, all the way!

You've been following that Champions thread, so you know about Chris' diagrams at Deep in the Game. Your situation is a little different from Buzz's, though. To label simplistically, at present, he's looking for any Creative Agenda when his experience doesn't really have good models for it, in a group whose play is highly Incoherent and tends toward Ouija-Board techniques even when some glimmer of a CA appears.

Whereas you are far more specific. You want Gamism - not the Hard Core, but just plain old straight-up violent Gamism with risks, strategizing, resources, and most especially consequences for these things, plus a whole lot of fun Color that isn't stupid. (Boy you'd have liked our Tunnels & Trolls game ...) But you're in a group which is (60%-75%, but that's a lot!) simply not dedicated to that agenda. In fact, they seem to tend toward the "wimp" in terms of my Gamism essay, but more fairly, perhaps they're more Sim-oriented in terms of simply emotionally connecting to the imagery of bad-assery rather than its core content.

So - CA clash. Classic situation, going all the way back to my System Does Matter essay. Since Shadowrun is basically AD&D with guns, it's not surprising that I'm familiar with this same issue going back to the late 1970s. As well as (broken record) tons and tons of mid-80s Champions. Basically, you want to test your toughness, possibly slightly competitively, and that just isn't mixing well with people who want to look tough. So far, you've been a nice guy about it. But you being a nice guy means they get their way ... when do you get yours?

Side point: Where is this vaunted "we can all get what we want" role-playing ideal in which CAs are supposed to be no big deal? Answer: Nowhere. That ideal is actually a festering pit.

Big Model logic, coming up. To solve a CA clash, you cannot drop down into the techniques. You must move up, into the Social Contract, along the vector of Creative Agenda. That means, you have to say, "Guys, I want this out of play. I want our play to have more of it." (Follow the arrow in the diagram and you'll see.)

And in saying so, realize that no one can make anyone else adopt or respect one's CA preferences of the moment. You might hit serious resistance, or you might get a few "hey, me too" responses, who knows. But you really are up against it - just because you all have a "Shadowrun group" in gamer-culture terms does not mean tha pack of you are actually playing an RPG together. You might just all happen to be the same room, that's all. If that's the case, then something has to give, or at the very least, you will have to reconcile yourself to not getting what you want.

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 02, 2006, 12:02:06 PM
Hey Ron,

Thanks for the analysis - I think you're dead on where I'm concerned.  The 60-75% refers straight back to Tom and Misty (who pretty much plays in Tom's shadow).  It doesn't apply at all to Kelsey - he Steps on Up on a regular basis.  He's been known to attempt called shots and ridiculous stunts where a simple attack looks too easy.  Sam's the variable - I think we may be in disagreement about some of the color, but it's hard to say without just asking him.  So, I'll ask him.  Not that any of this is "problem solved," but it's nice to have "problem identified."

Best,

Robert


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Callan S. on May 03, 2006, 07:14:44 PM
There is a technique I'd recommend applying, and that is to determine the stakes - what do they lose if their plan fails? And how is it determined if it fails (dice roll, GM call, a mix, etc).

The important thing is to not block low stakes, if that's what they want. But to give social feedback 'Eh, that seems a bit easy, but that's what you want so off we go'.

The responces will most likely be varied and some can indicate the player just has no interest in risk and gamism. A recent odd exchange I had in a PBP game, was where the player just started declaring he was using his weapon on full automatic. I stated that I was working from the idea of one shot per attack, but he could do that if he wanted. But I would think it would make the conflict easier. He had this weird responce where he acted as if I'd done the traditional GM fiat and said absolutely not, and that I should make up some house rules. It was really weird - I think he wanted me to make that call, so he didn't have to face the fact that he was reducing the risk. Like he wanted the illusion of badassery, but was making conflicts far easier through trying to guilt me into doing my 'GM's duty'. I told him I didn't have to make the call, we could do it the way what he wanted (I went to some length to state I honestly ment that). Strangely he gave up on the whole idea. I suspect he simply has no interest in gamist style play, but perhaps foolishly am keeping him on (I just didn't have the heart after already kicking another player for that very reason...weak of me, I know).


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: BearKing on May 04, 2006, 08:54:01 AM
I am the GM (Sam) and the only reason I let it go was to play.  I really wanted to talk after the game about them, but it was kind of hard to stay and let them leave. "Hey we are going to stay and talk about your character and how awful they are."  But this will change.  Yes with combat monsters I can pull out the big guns, and that’s fun from time to time, but having to do it every time gets old, fast.  Even if I break up the group (we will go over here and do all the sneaky social stuff, you go kill those guys), still have to make the uber baddies.  And this combat monster wants to do the social interaction, well witty banter anyways, but lacks the skill and stats to do it.

If you find it fun to go blow stuff up, great it is fun, loving doing it.  But not every time, I would much rather solve a problem without firing a shot.  Good plan and cunning are good ways of getting things done.  Work within your skills and make starting characters that won’t die from the first hostile mage they meet.

Sam


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Ron Edwards on May 04, 2006, 03:22:13 PM
Hi Sam,

Welcome to the Forge, and thanks for joining the thread. I have lots of questions for you.

What I'm getting from your post is that you agree to some extent with what Robert's posting. Is that true? Have you read my rude and blunt paraphrase of his thinking, which he has largely agreed with? What do you think of it?

I get the idea from the previous posts that your combat situations typically don't injure or kill characters. Is that accurate?

Have you considered putting the uber baddie character into situations where social interaction is crucial to later tactical consequences? I mean, badly, as in, ending up with his character disarmed, bound, and abused - not because you railroaded it but because he simply failed in rolls that even a ten-year-old non-combat character could be expected to make? I'm getting the idea that this character is so lopsidedly constructed that you could have an NPC walk up to him, say "Give me your gun," with a strong social-interaction roll, and the character would do it.

Most generally, have you ever run a scenario in which the characters (and by extension the players) could thoroughly, totally lose? Have you instead found yourself, when such a situation threatens, secretly modifying the scenario on-the-spot so they don't?

Best, Ron


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: BearKing on May 05, 2006, 01:17:07 PM
Hi Ron, thnx for the welcome.

Your analysis is right on of Roberts posts.  And yes usually the players either don't get hit or shrug off the damage, which isn't really a bad thing, but when they hit the bad guys every time, and when they do dodge go "Bull Sh*t!" then we have a problem, even if the play says he was kidding (tom).

We have only played about one and half runs with these combat monsters, but it has crossed my mind, also just having them go against low level mages and see the Combat monsters get thought controlled to kill his fellow runners :P.

In the past I have found my self fudging numbers, but not anymore.  About 3 years ago I DRTed (dead right there) my first PC, and the player took it well, even had me sign and date the character sheet, so I felt better on how the dice fall and players just taking it and understanding that is the luck of the draw and consequences of their actions.

The run I have planned for tomorrow was with the Combat Monsters in mind, I might tone it down a bit, but probably not (sorry rob :P).  Hopefully everything will go well tomorrow so we can keep playing SR4, because I really like it.

Sam

The run i have planned for tomorrow was with the Combat Monsters in mind, I might tone it down a bit, but probably not (sorry rob :P).  Hopefully everything will go well tomorrow so we can keep playing SR4, because i really like it.

Sam


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: BearKing on May 09, 2006, 08:58:19 PM
Things went well on Saturday.  He was agreeable to what we where talking about, and we got out in the open what he would like to have in his games.  He toned back his character to something more along the lines of a Street Sami, we didn't have time to totally modify Misty's character, but the attributes are better.

I should elaborate more of what he wants.  Tom would like to have both social and combat, a mixture of both, and he does use outside of combat skills in his other games he has played.

And then tonight I happened to see him online and we chatted a bit.  And all on his own he admitted that he a created combat heavy character, and that he will be toning back his character even more and getting some skills outside of combat, and be doing the same thing with Misty's character.

Over all it has been a good experience and seems to be working out for us all, but time will still tell.

Sam


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 11, 2006, 04:46:59 PM
Late post for last Saturday's game.

Our talk with Tom and Misty was . . . interesting.  After discussing Creative Agendas for a bit, Tom said "I've never thought about any of this before."  Tom said that his preferred mode was a combination of (in character) role playing and combat.  He also refuted (conclusively) the idea that his game was similar to the one in the recent Champions thread - that in fact skills and other rules are used outside of combat.  I leave for another time the possibility that GM Fiat can easily masquerade behind the Diplomacy rolls if the GM wants it to.

Both Tom and Misty agreed to retool their characters, although there wasn't time for a total rebuild.  The end result was . . . less heinous.  Both Marv and Alira still dominated the fighting phase of the subsequent run.  At the same time, Sam, Kelsey and I all retooled our characters to start them over - we'd had over 120 good karma awarded in past games before Tom and Misty joined and we felt it a bit unfair and unbalanced to put a couple newbies in with such an experienced group. 

The run started with a message to Marv from one of his contacts - a job offer, with a meet to discuss details at a trendy Beltown restaurant.  Of course, the place was pretty much humans only and in a well policed zone - both problems for Marv.  Kelsey and I discussed security arrangements for how we'd arrive at and leave the meet.  Tom wondered why we were concerned about danger at this phase - I didn't really answer.  In the end, Grant arranged for a rigger to drive the team in an armored limosine and personally shut down the weapon scanners at the door - which let us arrive armed and in style.  The meet was straightforward - steal a briefcase from a Mitsuhama research facility in Salish territory near modern day Shelton, Washington.  A bright spot of the meet was that it was conducted in character, with especially good presentation by Tom as Marv "Can I smoke in here?"

Some judicious hacking (conducted in less than 2 minutes of rolling - the new Matrix rule are a whole lot smoother) revealed a basic layout:  a compound covering a full square mile in area, with nearly a dozen large buildings, two large defensive walls, a full 100 meters of cleared space, a guard force of roughly 20 (including some highly paid professionals), full time security hacker and a staff of several hundred shuttled in daily from a nearby "company town."  All this in the middle of nowhere, pretty much.

We bandied about a few plans.  Tom and Misty pretty well stayed out of this side of things, so it was all Kelsey and I coming up with what to do.  With a full 100 meters of open ground and a big wall to scale (plus overhead rotor drones to watch for us) we instantly scrapped the "sneak in and hope no one spots us" approach.  We toyed with the idea of setting off the biohazard alarms on site - and then flying in under the guise of the rescue helicopter (which we would steal from a nearby - and less secure - airport).  That was rejected based on the number of guards and the fact that we'd have to leave with this thing.  We also played around with the idea of posing as employees and just taking the bus into the place.  We finally settled on a plan of faking up a "surprise inspection" from corporate.  Kelsey's character, Shin, is Japanese and has plenty of social skills so this would play well.  Everyone on the team would become part of the young executive's entourage:  Grant being the tech guy and driver, Marv as bodyguard (so no one would expect him to talk or know anything), Alira as the generic "personal assistant," and Del as another bodyguard (focusing on astral threats, of course). 

Some more judicious hacking (involving an etiquette test to get the email right) and we timed our visit for the plant manager's vacation.  I got a monster roll on this one, so the personnel could expect to be suitably cowed.

We skipped through getting armored suits, renting a big black SUV and getting permission to cross through tribal territory.

On the site, it was mostly Kelsey role playing his way through a series of encounters to cow the staff and keep them off balance while the "higher up" demanding to inspect all the books and records, etc.  Part of the inspection was a brief look at security procedures.  The "boss" NPCs were heavily armored and armed to the teeth - assault rifles, grenade launchers, the works.  I took a risk and hacked their guns wirelessly - setting it up so that their grenade launchers would fire on my command with the grenades set to detonate at 5 meters from the muzzle.  Eventually we made our way to the building housing our package - which was some kind of biological research lab.  While inside (and wearing protective suits) a bunch of alarms sounded.  Seems a pack of vampires had gotten loose from another building.  They burst into the waiting area, where we'd left Marv and Alira to keep the back door open for us.  Those two proceeded to fend off an assault by fangs and such while blasting the vamps with pistols.  The rest of us hurried through decontamination just in time for the end of the fight.  In the process, Grant set off the main guards' grenade launchers while they were still inside their bunker - which pretty well put paid to them without a shot fired.  Well, okay, not a shot fired by us.

Despite all this confusion, security responded fast, with five guys rushing across the grounds toward us.  Grant shouted at them to come and help us, and given the situation (and a lucky default roll to Grant's Charisma stat) they bought it.  So we packed up and drove out post-haste with an escort from the guys we were ripping off.  Not a bad days' work, really.

More commentary to follow.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 11, 2006, 06:40:22 PM
Continued from above.

Overall, I was kind of "underwhelmed" by the run.  Tom and Misty didn't identify with any of the creative agendas, but it's pretty strong medicine to process.  Also, Shadowrun isn't wholly coherent.  Kelsey and I were both more than a little disappointed in the level of change in the combat monster PCs.  They were taken back a step, but only a step.  We'll see where things go once they've had time to do a rebuild.

What I'd like to know from the Forge community is:  what are some good titles that support a Coherent Gamist Creative Agenda?  There's a lot of indie stuff out there that supports Nar play, but Story Now isn't my kick.  Is there anything out there with some serious Step on Up value, or will I have to hack a game system to get what I want?  I think D&D 3E might do it, and so could Godlike (although that's Drift and extra work and I'd like to avoid that).


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: ffilz on May 12, 2006, 08:43:27 AM
D&D 3.0/3.5 is a reasonable gamist game if you stick to combat heavy play. See Ron's thread for some good thoughts on how to handle social skills.

I know there are some indie gamist titles, but I'll let someone else point them out.

Frank


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Jaik on May 12, 2006, 09:30:53 AM
I believe that Donjon was written to facilitate Gamist preferences.

It also seems to me that Dogs in the Vineyard could be played in a Gamey fashion, with the escalation providing a great arena for Step On Up.  Other aspects of Dogs could make it a touchy choice, though, such as applicability of traits.  Social Contract comes to the fore here.

Also, Capes has a ton of Gamism in it, but again, your Social Contract had better be rock solid.



Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Callan S. on May 12, 2006, 02:19:43 PM
In the last account, did the players accept a possiblity of failure with any of the tasks? Like with your hacking the grenade launchers, did you accept a possiblity of failure and how would that possibility come about? GM fiat? Dice roll/what odds? Here I'm really asking what you as a player decided would have decided was a fair method of determining if you failed. Not asking what the GM thought was a fair method (in fact, that's irrelevant for my question).


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 12, 2006, 07:56:24 PM
There was a serious possibility of failure with the grenade launchers, due to the way the Matrix rules work in Shadowrun 4th edition.  The new rules distinguish between two ways of gaining unauthorized access to a system:  slow and on the fly.  The slow kind takes hours of immersion in virtual reality to accomplish, but the defending system doesn't get a chance to notice or react to your attempt until you actually succeed - and it only gets one roll at some tough odds.  On the fly is faster, taking seconds at most, but the computer gets several rolls and it gets to add up every "hit" on those rolls.  If it gets enough hits, it spots you.  Hacking on the fly is risky, in this case we were within one hit of getting caught. 

On the other stuff, however, there pretty much wasn't any real chance of failure that I could see.  Certainly not the vampire fight.  Even at five to two odds that one wasn't going anywhere.

I'm fine with dice determining the possibility of failure - I seem to prefer Gamble over Crunch to borrow from Gamism: Step on Up.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: BearKing on May 12, 2006, 10:05:38 PM
Also when hacking the grenade launchers, if you had critically failed the launchers might have gone off with everyone in the room, mmmm chunky salsa.  The vampires where a bit crunchy, should have given them stun batons.  Still trying to find that right mix for the bigger group and more combat ability, I have been out of gamming for about 2 years, still trying to get my bearings back.  If people have suggestions I am so open to them, the next run I am going to do is from the Shadowrun Missions the grap.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Callan S. on May 13, 2006, 11:17:25 PM
Hi Robert,

It looks like you saw that risk involved and took it on. Good stuff!

Was that hacking moment one of the more exiting moments of play?

In terms of the stakes Sam suggested there, ie the launchers going off and blowing you all to kingdom come, did you take that on? Right now it seems esteem is the thing at stake, ie "I can rewire these babies, just you see. If I can't, damn, in front of everyone I couldn't beat it!". Rather than "I can rewire these babies...I'll get blown to chunks in front of everyone if I can't, eek!", which is esteem plus big resource hit risk. Let me stress here that both stakes are equally valid. I want your honest answer on whether you took the salsa risk on (try not to let pride alter your words, as either stake is pretty damn cool with me), so as to help with negotiations about what's at risk.

I really don't think that chunky salsa risk is existed at all, despite what you think Sam. Not functionally. Not unless the player has accepted it as part of the risk involved. Well, not just accepted...embraced! If the player hasn't accepted it, it's like a guy at a roulette wheel who's just standing there guessing the numbers and you forcably taking money off him when he gets it wrong. Until he's embraced the idea of losing his money, by laying it down, taking his money will just be dysfunctional.

But, if the idea of chunky salsa risks excites both of you, you can negotiate it in. This requires a pretty damn meta game negotiation though, because the player has to be empowered to say no. So if he goes to hack and as GM you say "You know that'd set them off on a failure", the player MUST be empowered to just say "I'm not willing to take that risk on" and that's the way it is in the game world. This goes against most gamist wisdom you'll currently find. Most of them try to stress that the risk HAS to be there. No, you just need the social feedback "Aww, come on, I know you can take on more than a hack...come on, take on the salsa challenge, I dare ya!!" and such like. The player must still have the ability to decline. But the social feedback is the real pressure a gamist needs to be under, rather than being forced into risks.

It's a pretty radical twist from the traditional sim-o gamist hybrid, where if someone jumps off a cliff then the risk somehow must be death/massive injury. Here the player can decline, wanting just a skinned knee as the risk. Then that's how it is. But, instead of game world causality, what tends to make the stakes death/massive injury is social pressure "Oh man, a skinned knee? Not even a broken bone? No, no esteem from me, that's for sure!"


Title: Skinned knees
Post by: Precious Villain on May 14, 2006, 06:16:36 AM
Hi Callan,

I'll say that I was unaware of the risk of chunky salsa!  Mechanics wise, I suppose that could have happened on a bad enough Computer+Command roll to rewire the launchers.  The risk that I, the player, was aware of was being caught.  Of course, that would turn out much the same way:  we had light, concealable weapons and armor, while there were more of them with heavy weapons and armor (and drone backup and 20 other guys).  So I was expecting both esteem and resource hits.

That kind of meta-game stakes negotiation would never have occurred to me.  On the other hand, I can see it preventing a lot of hurt feelings and calvinballing in game, too.

Can you give me an example from any game you've played in that illustrates the principle?

Thanks in advance,

Rob


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: BearKing on May 14, 2006, 08:05:20 AM
Maybe I wasn't clear enough on the whole grenades going off.  Only one roll would that have happened, and that was when Robert was re programing the grenade launchers, and only if he got a critical glitch.  Now if he wasn't anywhere near the grenade launchers, then something else equally as bad would have happened, or they still might have gone off, causing the exacts to escort the team out for there own safety.  Just a glitch (makes the test, but something bad happens) then someone would have noticed, and the baddies would have been alerted, or the IC come after him.  The thing about a critical glitch is it is supposed to be bad.  When firing your gun and critical glitches, the most common thing that happens is the gun goes off and you take damage from it and you need to repair it, while on just a glitch your gun jams and you need take a simple action to clear it.  The way i see it, when hacking any weapon, there is always going to be a chance that it will go off, it all depends on what roll you are making.  If you are just trying gain access, and you critically glitch, no the weapon will not go off.  Trying to re progame the weapon to go off on your signal, then yes there is a chance it goes off early.

Now meta gaming, I dislike a lot.  But I think we might be on a diffrent wave length here.  The meta gaming I have been exposed to is when a character acts on information he/she doesn't know, but the player does.  Outside the game discussion is not always meta gaming.

The biggest thing you have to remember about shadowrun is that any roll can get you into trouble and then possibly killed.


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Web_Weaver on May 14, 2006, 12:37:33 PM
Hi Callan and all,

You appear to have hit the nail on the head with your discussion of gamist meta-game (although your roulette analogy was initially very muddy when you first used it on the thread). But how easy is this to do in the current incarnation of Shadowrun? I remember the first ed. as a very traditional high concept sim with crunchy gamist bits bits for action.

So if he goes to hack and as GM you say "You know that'd set them off on a failure", the player MUST be empowered to just say "I'm not willing to take that risk on" and that's the way it is in the game world.

I am willing to bet that Sam didn't do this based on his post.

Now meta gaming, I dislike a lot.

and
Quote
The biggest thing you have to remember about shadowrun is that any roll can get you into trouble and then possibly killed.

So to keep this focused on actual play, I will direct my question to Sam.

Do you take time in each conflict to discus the stakes or do you, as you imply, rely on the genre assumption that life is short in cyberpunk. Both are actually valid, as long as everyone knows, genre assumptions are a key part of this kind of simulation game.

My other question goes back to the first part of the thread but was unspecified. When everyone in the group (before the new players) rolled up their characters, was this done with GM involvement, or was it based on GM approval after the process. I ask because I remember the 1st ed. rules being very biased towards extreme stereotyping. If you wanted a mixed character you had to make sacrifices. The new guys probably fell into this Mini-max trap inherent in the rules (at least it used to be).

When you approved the sheets, you may have assumed the choices were conscious, but in my memory the character creation process can produce narrow characters by default. Even if the ruleset has changed to make balance easier, a long running SR player may still be entrenched in this style.



Title: Re: Skinned knees
Post by: Callan S. on May 15, 2006, 07:18:38 PM
Can you give me an example from any game you've played in that illustrates the principle?
I can't put my money where my mouth is, to be honest. I've tried it out in two games so far, neither ended up clear cut examples. One is a PBP and I it started to show up what the players were more focused on . A couple of short examples play are where they would simply make a move, like treating a gun as full auto (when the rules are ambiguous) or treating a 'fire a rifle with one hand' as the ability to fire a rifle in one hand and a pistol in the other. Instead of returning to ten years of gaming history and trying to argue it at 'realism' level, I simply said that's fine and we'll go with it. But I think it makes conflicts easier for you. Both of them did return to that 'argue realism' level, even though I wasn't saying no. They wanted the sense of playing tough guy Rifts, but when it came to social feedback that didn't agree, they seemed to try and argue esteem out of me. Currently the PBP site is down, so no further updates on that.

In another short example, I played D&D with my partner and son. In this game I structured each room much like scene framing and every one was optional in terms of taking it on. They didn't have to go into any of them. This made my role as GM more like a game show host, where I tried to dare the players to enter. This one didn't end up a clear cut example, because my partner suggested a time limit on the game, otherwise they failed. This sounded good at first, until in play I realised they were skipping rooms because they couldn't see anything in them that would help with the main quest (something I just threw in for looks). They weren't judging if they could take on each room, they were judging if each was needed to complete the quest. If you go that way, then I'm the one deciding which rooms they go in, because I design the rooms and the quests needs.

Once we sorted it out, it was what I was aiming for but not an example of whole reward cycles. One room saw them dare to fire on a troglodite who was already fighting some human NPC. They tried their surprise shot...they even dared to shoot again when it noticed them. But they kept missing and decided that no, this was too much. Which is interesting tactical gamist stuff! Though I'm afraid I put a bit of a moral spin on it at first, because at first they were going to pass on it. In my game show voice I said 'Your just going to let that other human die in the dark?'. Though they didn't let that get in the way...they used a probing fire tactic and evaluated as too hot. Good stuff.

Working on getting in more play at the moment... :)


Title: Re: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters
Post by: Precious Villain on May 16, 2006, 08:37:38 AM
Hi Callan,

Great thoughts, but I think they may be better served as part of a new thread - because I'd like to go into an analysis of Shadowrun as a game (through the lens of years of actual play of the thing) and that goes way beyond the scope of "This game, right now." 

Robert


Title: Combat Monsters Reformed!
Post by: Precious Villain on May 21, 2006, 08:01:48 PM
Okay, we just ran another game session after a two week hiatus (enforced by real world events).  Things went quite well!

The players of the combat monsters (Tom and Misty) brought back completely retooled characters.  Stats were right in the range we're generally comfortable starting with.  Misty's gunslinger, Alira, had picked up a host of social skills and a much higher charisma - and was recast as a cybered up gunslinger/face rather than an adept.  The number of dice rolled dropped significantly, there:  down from 18 to 14. 

Marv, the Ork, acquired much higher Logic and Willpower scores (kept his Charisma 1, it fit the character, really).  He also picked up a new focus with skills in Demolitions and Heavy Weapons.  Still a gunbunny, but much more flexible than before. 

Both had Reaction, Agility and Initiative at the high end (they're combat oriented, after all) but nothing obscene for our campaign level.

Overall, the game session was a blast.  Not to say that it was perfect, but the glaring issues of the last couple sessions are completely resolved.  I'll be continuing my quest to Step On Up - and I may have some more interesting actual play to report at another time.  So let me close for now with a big "Thanks everybody!" to all who posted to this thread.