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Let’s talk about this for a second.
I regularly play with a group of insanely well-educated people, across various disciplines of technology and science with a smattering of incredibly specific trades.
I legitimately play Mutants & Masterminds with a lawyer, a naval sub spy, an electrical engineer, and a comic book encyclopedia.
My other groups are no less diverse. Let me tell you, I very often am stopped and corrected about how X or Y thing wouldn’t work because physics or that’s not how a ship is rigged or well the root word for that language is blahblah.
It gets tiring.
On the one hand, I should be expected to know what I’m talking about to a degree, as should you, when interacting with the game. If there is ever a point where you say something so arbitrarily wrong as to throw someone completely out of the game, it’s fair to say it was a misstep on your part.
Alternatively, the characters of the game won’t particularly have the knowledge that the players of the game have, and interrupting the GM to prove a point will literally do nothing but bog down the experience for everyone else at the table.
Writers of books are often told to research their stuff. If you’re writing a period piece, you better know what you’re talking about for that time period. If you’re talking about a geographical location, that location better make sense. GMs are expected to do this with roughly 1/60th of the time frame to do it in.
While I’m trying to design an interesting encounter about this mechanic and that mechanic, the idea that I might be fudging what I’m talking about to make a scene happen is something that will happen. I’m not a team of people, neither are you.
Prep is hard, and often last minute.
If the point you’re trying to establish within a scene must operate within the parameters of actual, factual logical reasoning to operate, to the point of which that it would detract from the experience due to it’s illogical points, then I would do the best you can to research such topics before putting them in a game.
If it is a minor point of the scene, such as a backdrop or a dressing, then glossing over harder facts may be more acceptable.
For the most part, if a player interrupts you to prove that they are smart, it really does nothing to promote the game. It just takes away your agency as “the authority”. Alternatively, the best defense against this is to know what you’re talking about to a believable degree.
It all comes back to prep. Prepare situations to the point that you understand what should and is happening, and allow yourself a minute or two to fiat everything else. Not all games are simulationist. Some things are just magic.
I’m not really countering anything counterpoints says here, but I’d rather go off in a different direction. I’m not sure what system(s) the anon is going to be using, but I’ve got a Masters in Computer Science and I played a hacker in Shadowrun for a while, so I’m probably your worst nightmare in this scenario.
So there’s a saying me & my friends go back to a lot when the dealing with world building, technical accuracy, and other keypoints that the gamemaster is expected to cover when running a game: “It’s the GM’s world. We just die here.”
The GM is the sole, preeminent, and ultimate authority on how this world operates, above even the publishers. Just because I know what the header size of a standard TCP packet on an IPv4 network does not mean I can authoritatively say anything about a fictional computer system in whatever setting another GM is using for their game.
The GM in my Shadowrun campaign knew just enough about computers to get his email and Facebook every day, and that was about it. But when we play, I have to take off my “computer nerd” hat and let him run his game. He had to work on making his game self-consistent and sensible, but he doesn’t have to worry about ICMP blocking or DNSSec or any other real-world counterparts. Like corruptionpoints said, “Not all games are simulationist.” Make sure your players realize this and are willing to give you the flexibility you need to create a consistent if not bits-bytes-accurate game.
Fun side-note: At the Shadowrun tournament at GenCon that year, my GM got assigned a hacker. He had never played a hacker before and, as mentioned before, didn’t know much about computers. But he ended up winning the tournament because, in his words, “whenever I wasn’t sure what to do I just asked myself what I thought you would do in this situation. And it worked.” So there’s my primary claim to RPG fame: I helped inspire the Gencon Shadowrun tournament winner. Yay me.
I played Shadowrun with a Technomancer who is potentially the world’s most laid back player.
For a guy that built his character to simply dive into the Matrix, filled with a team of combat specialists and headstrong mages, he very often took his own backseat to doing a full-on Matrix session.
With that being said, the other players universally understood when it was “his scene” in that he was allowed to go into the Matrix and research some stuff, or have a conversation with Silvery K, or find files hidden deep within ARES/Aztech territory.
I often tried to throw Matrix operations in at the same time as players were doing other operations. “Protect the Technomancer while he gets inside” was an encounter used two or three times, and generally kept everyone interested and doing their unique jobs.
However, this often took away from the Technomancer’s scene, in that he had to contend with four other people shouting plans, establishing tactics, and felt rushed into doing what he did as fast as possible to get back to the rest of the game.
My best advice is to let it slow down the game.
This sounds counter-intuitive, and I absolutely hate slowing down the game in 90% of situations, but something as specialized as full-hacking or an extended decking scene both requires and warrants a good focus on what’s happening within that situation, as well as for the operating player.
Alternatively, make the hack/deck really, really important to the other players. Make it so important that a run might live and die on the success of the hack. Then all players are equally invested, the operating player is super empowered, and everyone will be cheering for their success.
It also makes for understanding if they fail, and delicious complications for you to unravel.
Everyone’s so ingrained in D&D-inspired advice like “never split the party”/”never let one player hog the spotlight” that they carry it into other games or settings where it simply doesn’t work. What corruptionpoints writes goes for rigging, recon/scrying, the face, and depending on the party even the climactic fight against the BBEG.
A great run in SR—to me at least—plays more like a spy thriller, with each specialist getting their 15 minutes, their one chance to push everyone forward with success or to throw the next team member into an improvisational lurch thanks to their failure.
If the entire team is together in a gunfight—the muscle and street sam, sure, but also the decker, rigger, and magical glass cannon trying to figure out how to load and aim their pea shooters—and playing out a D&D-style “encounter” of “kill all the minis on the board that aren’t yours”, someone done fragged the pooch bad.
If it’s business hours, they shouldn’t be in the same room, maybe not even the same area code.
And if they’re not on the clock? Whoever makes it out alive is in charge of taking a monowhip to their fixer’s neck and drekking down their throat.
18.) Something that went hilariously awry.
So I had just played Shadowrun for the first time at a convention and I really liked it. My friends in my regular gaming group had never played it so I told them I would run a 1-shot adventure just to let them try it out. I picked up the same printed module that I had played at the convention since I was already familiar with it. In the adventure, the characters meet their fixer who gives them a job. To do the job they need a piece of information that the local yakuza had. The implication is that if they do a favor for the yakuza, the yakuza will do a favor for them. At the con we just went to the restaurant (a cover for the yakuza), told them what we needed, and they sent us on a straightforward delivery run in exchange for the info. No big deal.
I had tried to emphasize to the players the Shadowrun wasn’t D&D, that they needed to be more cautious, do more legwork and planning beforehand, and not jump to combat as the first solution to their problems. When they got to the restaurant, instead of just walking in the group split into two “teams:” the hacker & face went in the front door, and the combat mage & street samurai went around back into the alley. The hacker & face sat at a booth while the hacker attempted to just hack into the restaurant’s network to steal the info they needed. Of course, it wasn’t there. When the restaurant’s “owner” had his bodyguards approach the pair, the players decided to pull their guns and “intimidate” their way to success.
Thirty minutes and three dead player characters later, all my friends decided Shadowrun is lame. I know at the time they didn’t think it was hilarious, but the fact that they decided to die in a gun fight instead of just delivering a brown paper sack is still endlessly amusing to me. The game didn’t even last 2 hours. It was months before I could get them to give Shadowrun another try, but since then they’ve definitely appreciated the differences between Shadowrun and most other RPGs.
28.) Your creative process when you plan a game.
I actually just made a longer post with the steps I personally go through for this.
9.) Strategic combat or dramatic plotlines?
Oh definitely dramatic plotlines. I’m pretty mediocre at combat strategy. I mean, I can make a particular encounter challenging, but largely that’s because we’re playing Star Wars right now and Storm Troopers are cheaper by the dozen. If a particular combat seems to be getting too one-sided I can just throw more Storm Troopers at them. And forget aerial combat. I’m awful at that, and one of my players primarily plays Star Wars BECAUSE of aerial combat, so he knows all the options, rules, tricks, and minutiae around it. For that I just have to hope that two more tie fighters won’t cause them to be blown out of the sky.
But dramatic plotlines? Oh I’m all over that… taking the character’s motivations and using that to assess what is really important to the player… then taking that and challenging them over it. Building up NPCs that they like and trust, then revealing them to be a traitor, or taking the PCs’ assumptions and biases, and forcing them to overcome those to be able to accomplish the group’s goals. Yeah that I can do.
19.) Your most memorable in-character moment.
29.) The best / worst character concept you’ve ever heard.
Worst: Without a doubt, when I was running my 17-player Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game (MURPG) campaign, I had one guy that wanted to play an “elementalist.” In MURPG there was a family of powers that would make you the master of some particular element…. fire, ice, water, wind, etc. Except, he really really really really wanted to play as a … Hair Elementalist. And at the time I was considering it because I was thinking prehensile hair that he could control like Madusa of the Inhumans.
No, that wasn’t it. He wanted to be able to manipulate OTHER people’s hair. He wanted to cause their eyebrows to get so bushy they couldn’t see, or call forth beards onto their faces to make it hard to breathe…. weird stuff like that. I know GMs aren’t supposed to say “no” but… I didn’t want a “Great Lakes Avengers” vibe to the campaign, so I asked him to come up with another character. I can’t remember the specifics of the character he did end up playing (again, there were 17 people in that campaign), but I do remember that his combat specialty, rather than kung-fu or boxing or something like that, was roshambo.
Best: I’m going be super egotistical and mention to of mine, because I still think they’re brilliant. Either Tanq, the Shadowrun Troll that I’ve previously mentioned, or Key another Shadowrun character I played that was a hacker. Key was a human that was obsessed with playing video games. He played any/all video games, racing games, first-person shooters, MMOs, whatever. He actually learned how to hack so he could get access to unreleased video games & alpha testing. He was so good at it however, and his addiction was so bad, that he could no longer tell what was reality and was a video game.
So he would sit in meetings with fixers and Johnsons telling the other players how he hated block text, whether he thought the voice actor for this NPC was lousy, he would ask if anyone knew what the XP rewards were like for this quest chain, etc. It was totally meta and super fun (especially because the GM and I knew what was going on, but the other players just thought I couldn’t stay in character. Eventually they figured it out). He also absolutely no sense of self-preservation since he thought everything was a video game. He actually had to take a considerable amount of damage before figuring out that he wasn’t just playing an FPS, but was ACTUALLY getting shot at. It was super fun.
WOOT! ASKS! YAY!
12) Your Favorite Character: Tanq the Troll
Tanq was a character I never really got to do as much with as I wanted to, so he’s always the character I remember with the most fondness. It was for a Shadowrun campaign that fizzled out before I got to do too much with him. Actually made him to do the thing that you never want to do in Shadowrun: hand-to-hand combat. He was practically useless with a gun, knew nothing about computers or or magic, and while he wasn’t a bad mechanic he was pretty worthless behind the wheel. He was made to take a lot of damage and punch things really hard. He was amazing. On one run we broke into a warehouse that had automated mini-gun defenses. I literally just stood in the middle of the room with the rest of the team crouched down behind me for partial cover. I took maybe 3 or 4 points of damage while my team blew everyone away. Another time our team interrupted another team trying to kidnap somebody, and I ran down the full length of an alley headfirst into a hail of gunfire. Again, I end up absorbing almost all of the damage, so that by the time I got to the end of the alley, the bad guys were either out of ammo or had been sniped away by my team. It was amazing.
My one regret is we had a job where we were supposed to hijack a runaway semi. I really, really REALLY wanted to just stand in the road and run at it headfirst, just to see if he could take the hit of a fully loaded tractor trailer going 75 mph. My team insisted this wasn’t the wisest option so I didn’t get to test it. But yeah, I miss him.
14) Best in-character line you’ve ever had: Warcraft 3 References
So the other thing about Tanq (as referenced above), was I kept almost ALL of his dialogue restricted to quotes from the Orcs in Warcraft 3. I tried to limit myself to a list of quotes, saying things like “Okey-dokey,” and “Work Work” in the same tone-of-voice as the peons from WC3. So there was no single line that really stood out. But my immersion in the completely stupid but very agreeable meat shield was a lot of fun, and everyone else thought it was pretty funny too. I think the thing that made it so great wasn’t just the individual lines, but the fact that if I couldn’t come up with an applicable quote, I would just shrug my shoulders and look confused. My wanton disregard for my personal safety combines with my inability and/or unwillingness to argue with any given orders gave me a really good reputation in the Runner community in the short time we played. He’s still the character I use if I get to play Shadowrun at conventions.
19) Your most memorable in-character moment: So one time when I played Earthdawn, I played a Windling (sort of like a fairy, only a bit bigger and he only had one wing so he couldn’t fly) Troubadour (their version of bards) named Winqi. Yes, I was traveling minstrel named Winqi the One-Winged Windling. Our GM at the time gave out awards for whoever would do a write-up of the previous session so we could keep a log of our adventures. Being a troubadour, I felt it only fitting that I composed a song. So I wrote up our adventure to the tune of Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and, at our next session, sang the whole thing through, complete with karaoke backing track. (For those of you who aren’t aware, the song is over 5 minutes long). The entire group was in tears laughing so hard, we attracted the attention of the wife & kids of one of our players who had to come in and see what the caterwauling and riotous laughter was about because I was selling it SO HARD. It was amazing and epic and I still have it written up somewhere and it’s probably my most memorable moment and my proudest RP moment.
We all introduced our characters, gave sort of descriptions, and were told we’d worked together before on minor jobs. Fair enough.
Then we get a meeting with Johnson. Cool.
He, before we introduce ourselves, greets us by our names. Okay, fair enough, he’s done his homework.
Not our shadowrunning names, our real names.
Wait. Perhaps the GM doesn’t realize most of us have multiple identities? So I gently mention to him (out of character) that I’ve never worked under that name before, I always work under this false ID. I figure he’ll agree it is a mistake and amend his statement to having greeted us by any fake name we are known to use.
I figured he’d realize that he wouldn’t know our real names, or at the least wouldn’t have reason to use them. The GM insisted, saying that this Johnson wanted to prove he wasn’t an ordinary Johnson.
Nope, our real names. I mention (again OOC) that that would probably be considered pretty creepy and unprofessional. GM said Johnson wouldn’t care, and would use the real name anyway.
I tried reminding him that too much connection between the Johnson and us was unwise, because it sort of defeats the purpose of shadowrunners being deniable temporary assets.
So, in character this time, I tell Johnson that I don’t want him to ever use that name, that that name is not to be connected to my illegal activities at all.
He refuses to use my false name.
My character walked out. 20 minutes into gameplay. A character I’ve been tinkering with for at least a month.
I didn’t want that to happen, but that sets a very bad precedent. That would not set well with my college student who does this for thrills. It says he will blackmail you with the knowledge of your true ID. It says you’ll be his puppet for as long as he wants you. My character envisions a future of magical research, which would not be likely if she worked for this Johnson, giving him ever-increasing blackmail material on her. It says that, even if he doesn’t intentionally screw you, he is highly unprofessional, and thus more likely to get you screwed by accident.
I sat out the session. I stayed, and kinda helped out with rules and how combat should work and stuff, but that’s about it.
So the character I’ve been building for a month never got to play, because she was highly disturbed by the GM’s way of showing us that this Johnson was “special” and “unique.” That, in addition, was a bit annoying since we have never played Shadowrun before, and so don’t really have a good comparison to other Johnsons to work with. We just kinda have to take his word for it that this one is different. Maybe if we had done quite a few jobs together in our background, enough that we’d be sort of famous, that level of invasive knowledge would feel more acceptable to my character, but not as basically a beginner.
So I’m gonna spend the next day or two working on a new character, who will be more accepting of irregularities.
I’d say nobody was really “in the wrong.” It seems more like a learning curve folks need to get over. Assuming that your GM hasn’t ever played Shadowrun before, he needs to know that what he’s doing goes completely against Shadowrun etiquette. Sure, some Johnsons find out all sorts of dirt on their runners, but they never air it out in front of them. Dragons and demigods go by fake names when dealing with Shadowrunners, so the fact that the Johnson made it so obvious & public means that the only thing “special” about this Johnson is that they are extremely unprofessional and no runner worth their salt would come within a 10-mile radius of him.
If your GM wants to change the world of Shadowrun that bad, he needs to have a conversation with them as players to ensure the impact that he wants to have is the impact that he actually has. He probably wants the Johnson to appear very menacing and like he has more contacts and power than your average Johnson. But like I said, even dragons and demigods play by the usual Johnson/Shadowrun rules, so he isn’t going to be either more dangerous, connected, or capable than other Johnsons. He’s just being more of an unprofessional showoff. If I walked into that room, I probably would have seen him as an inexperienced immature tool and one of the two of us wouldn’t have walked out of the room still breathing. As you’ve described it, any experienced runner is going to think this Johnson is way too unhinged, unprofessional, and unreasonable to actually work with.
But if he wants to change the world to allow for this Johnson, that’s prerogative as GM. He shouldn’t HAVE to be confined to one particular version of the Shadowrun/cyberpunk world. If he wants a version of Shadowrun where this Johnson is perceived as something other than too risky to work with, he needs to communicate with his players (ideally ahead of time) what changes he’s making to the world, so your characters know how his version of the world works. But his Johnson does not work in the standard Shadowrun world.
From Shannon Appelcline’s examination of how the tabletop RPG industry did in 2013. Also check out Designers & Dragons. (via unpossiblelabs)