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Author Topic: [Shadowrun] Combat Monsters  (Read 12452 times)
JongWK
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Posts: 5


« Reply #15 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.
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Precious Villain
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« Reply #16 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.
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My real name is Robert.
Zamiel
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« Reply #17 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?
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Callan S.
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« Reply #18 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. :)
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Wade L
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« Reply #19 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.
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Zamiel
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« Reply #20 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.
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JongWK
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« Reply #21 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.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #22 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
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Zamiel
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« Reply #23 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.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #24 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
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JongWK
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« Reply #25 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.
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Precious Villain
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« Reply #26 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
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My real name is Robert.
Wade L
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Posts: 22


« Reply #27 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.

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Precious Villain
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« Reply #28 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.
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Ron Edwards
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« Reply #29 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.
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