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[Shadowrun] Combat Monsters

Started by Precious Villain, April 28, 2006, 02:17:00 AM

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Precious Villain

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?

My real name is Robert.

Ron Edwards

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

Precious Villain

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."


My real name is Robert.

Callan S.

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).
Philosopher Gamer


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.


Ron Edwards

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


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.


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.



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.


Precious Villain

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.
My real name is Robert.

Precious Villain

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).
My real name is Robert.


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 Filz


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.

For the love of all that is good, play the game straight at least once before you start screwing with it.



Callan S.

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).
Philosopher Gamer

Precious Villain

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.
My real name is Robert.


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.