Shadowrun, Shadowran, Shadowrant
I got to play my first session of Shadowrun (4th ed.) with our new group this last Tuesday. Boy, was I disappointed! This is me blowing off some serious steam about the game. Arrgh! I'm STILL mad... Fair warning folks, this is going to be a bitch-fest more than anything else.
The night started off bad when my wife was 45 minutes late picking me up from work. There was a real bad wreck blocking the highway and she was stuck in traffic forever. Oh yeah, and my daughter got sick while they waited in bumper to bumper gridlock. Nice.
We thought that our friends would either be there waiting for us, out eating dinner, or that they would have cancelled due to our tardiness. A few minutes after we got home they called us to tell us that they were running late as well and would be there shortly.
When they arrived I tried for over twenty minutes to get the GM to check the characters that I had made so that we'd be ready to play. He was more interested in playing a game that I had been playing on the Xbox when they showed up. A game that he owns and has already beaten. You need to get some priorities bro...
We were something like two hours late getting started.
When he did finally turn his attention to our characters, it was only to nonchalantly shoot down some of my best, most creative efforts to the entertainment of the other two payers, both of whom are Shadowrun vets who have been playing Shadowrun for over a decade each and have several sessions of 4th ed. under their belt already. What a load of crap...
A Little Background
I borrowed the GM's basic Shadowrun book so that I could make characters for my wife and myself. The GM had visited for several hours on Sat to do the same thing but we made very little progress.
So I borrowed his book and worked on our characters while on the job. I sent the GM several emails asking for clarification on issues, or help, or advice. I didn't receive any responses.
My GM works graves and is not awake before 1600 hours. He gets home around 0900 hours and can check his email. I start at 0700 and he'd have several waiting. I'd have been happy with short responses. He does have email access at work and time to write them. I get off work at 1800 hours and then we meet at my house at 1830 to roleplay. That's plenty of time to answer questions.
So here I am. Working on creating two characters for a genre that I'm not familiar with, for a game that I don't know, with absolutely no help. I spent most of two days, approx 8 hours each day, making these characters.
Disclaimer: I have played a few sessions of 3rd ed. while working security with the GM in question. This was over a year ago and I never made the characters. The GM did. He also had me invent skills and spells for those characters rather than just relying on what the books had to offer.
I created my character, a Chinese martial artist/mage who was born into the Triad, based off a character that I had played in 3rd ed. I played that character for one session, but the other players liked him so much that I recreated him for them. His name is Hung So Lo.
Hung is a serious comic character. By that I mean that while his name is Hung So Lo (say it out loud, you'll get it) and he has funny spells and the like, this is not a silly character for a silly campaign. This is a serious character for a serious realistic campaign. That's what makes him so funny and endearing to everyone.
I gave Hung 9 spells. I invented several of them and needed stats. These spells included Menstrual Flow (obvious, targets women), Anal Leakage (causes mild to explosive diarrhea), Branding (imprints neon blue letters on subject's skin. Glows in black light, caster chooses words), Spiderclimb (allows subject to climb up and down walls and ceiling at normal movement. I freely admit stealing this from D&D), and Gremlin (same as disadvantage, mechanical and electrical objects stop working and developed weird problems. Examples include clip falling out of gun, security monitors showing episodes of Desperate Housewives, etc.). I sent multiple emails to the GM on Monday and Tuesday.
The only response that I received from the GM (while gaming the fantasy game that he is also running on Monday night) was that he would allow me to have two unidentified spells in exchange for Menstrual Flow and Anal Leakage. I said fine and received Orgasm (single subject) and Orgy (area of effect). Nice trade that I am happy with.
The GM also told me Monday night that he'd HIGHLY recommend these characters investing points into contacts.
So I gave Hung two contacts. A rookie beat cop and a journalist fresh off her internship with a major news agency. I worked up complete backgrounds on these contacts including name, description, job, how they met my character and what their relationship was. I included their history and where I thought their relationships were headed. I even included what they did for a living, what resources they had access to, and something on their personality.
Each of these contacts was fleshed out enough to be characters in their own right. They were interesting and had potential to move up in the world and become more valuable over time.
I emailed the contacts to the GM. His only response was Tuesday night after I finally got him to look at our character sheets. He told me that I didn't get to choose who my contacts are. He does. Just like that, the hours that I invested in my contacts got shot down the toilet. What kind of crap is that?
Neither one of these contacts are powerful. There is nothing remotely munchkin about them, yet they are useful and have lots of potential in the long run. But no, the GM wants to give me premade contacts out of a book.
That's just stupid. Why shoot down a player who is ambitious and creative enough to spend hours inventing and fleshing out perfectly usable NPCs for the game? If I were running the game, I'd welcome and reward this kind of effort. Even if the NPCs thus created were stupid or overpowering, I'd tailor them to my campaign and fit them in. You don't just hit the delete button, ass.
So here I am. Pissed off and moody. Not knowing if my characters were any good. Waiting on a GM who really doesn't seem to care.
I made my wife an elven college student who was a Shadowrunner because that was the only way to pay for school. Her father owns an independent security business that supplies security firms and home owners with security devices like cameras, motion sensors, and alarms.
The only disadvantage that I could find that fit her character was to give her a SIN (System Identification Number), making her a legal citizen. There are only twenty disadvantages in the book, and that's a generous estimate. Most of these disadvantages deal with addiction and the like. Crap. Her character is actually a "good" person, not someone who lives in a garbage can and has to Run to eat for the next few days.
I gave the GM a list of possible disadvantages for her so that she could use the points to buy the contacts that he said she needed to get. I asked him to pick a couple and assign point values to them, or to supply me with other disadvantages (he has every published Shadowrun book before 4th ed.).
He didn't. Of course.
So then he tells us that we need a fixer. Why? I'm in the Triad for cryin' out loud! If he needs me to go on a run, all he has to do is have someone who outranks me (which at this point is everyone as this is my character's first run) tell me to go do a job. Hell, they don't even need to pay me. I'm obligated to them, not the other way around!
Kat (my wife's character) may need a fixer for her work. She would have had one too, complete with a detailed background, work ethics, and how he met Kat, if the GM had responded to my email and given me even one more disadvantage for her.
But no. He'd rather insult us for not having a fixer and then give us a shitty one. A Mr. Ed or something like that. Mr. Ed has a connection rating of four which means that he is well connected and knows a lot of stuff. A loyalty rating of 1 which means that he'll sell our souls for five bucks. Great... BTW That's ALL the info that we have on this guy. Way to go chump. Good background. How'd our characters even meet this guy? Why would my character need a fixer?
So this fixer has us meet him at a church and offers us a job nabbing six people. Pay is $2k a person, payment only when all six people have been delivered unharmed.
One of the vets didn't seem to get this. I thought it was simple. The fixer wanted us to deliver all six targets at once. It meant that we needed a safe house to store them. That's not hard to find. But that player complained that we didn't have the resources and the fixer gives us a safe house... for FREE! How does that make sense? Wouldn't he demand at least a cut of our profit? Then he supplies us with cryogenic tubes to store the targets in, again for free.
The only reasoning that I can see is that this job is a throw-away job for the GM to teach us the system. I hate it when GMs do that. They rush through something so that they can get to the part that they wanna play. They never stop to think that maybe the players aren't on the GM wavelength and might enjoy playing the set-up adventure in its entirety.
I know that as a player, I hate being rushed or having things skipped over. I'm not endorsing micromanagement here, but it's one thing to skip days, weeks, and months, while on an uneventful journey and another thing to skip steps during an adventure or to make things super easy when they shouldn't be, just so that you can get through it faster.
The veteran players decided after meeting with the fixer that they would start the job immediately. They also decided to attempt to grab the two hardest targets first, and then the four easy targets, despite the fact that this makes absolutely no logical sense. Their argument is that "this is the way that we always do it". How stupid is that? Remember, these are Shadowrun vets that we're talking about here.
My opinion of them and the GM lowered even further when they decided to grab the hardest target on the list with ABSOLUTELY NO PREPARATION!!! Their idea of preparation was to drive up into the target's gated community and hack into her home security system (which is an apparent cakewalk for beginner characters with a session or two under their belts).
This target was a mid level PR rep for a good sized corp. She lived in a gated community and had a large Samoan bodyguard. We knew her address, her job, her marital status (single), and criminal record (none).
We didn't know her schedule, what her normal routine was, if she had a boyfriend, if she had plans for the night, what time she got off, if she carried a gun or knew martial arts. In essence, we knew next to nothing.
Also, we knew nothing about the gated community, the security company protecting it, or the security systems involved. Please bear in mind that Kat has a working knowledge of every security firm and system within the city. She could have told us the gated communities security procedures, estimated camera number and placement, and other security systems that may be in place.
Kinda valuable intel, don't you think?
Not according to the vets and the GM.
After determining that she wasn't home and turning off the camera's, we strolled into her home and camped out until she showed up from work.
Our hacker, one of the vets, stayed in his white van parked across the street from the target's house. He kept an eye out for the target and let us know when she arrived.
Hours passed, the target arrived home with her one bodyguard. We killed him (after a pretty good struggle), rolled her up in a carpet and brought her home.
This was a cakewalk. Why? There is so much that could have gone wrong! My wife, a veteran of my games (mostly fantasy) tried asking about the number of security patrols in the gated community, assuming that they would be suspicious of a strange white van parked for hours in the neighborhood.
She was told by the GM and players not to worry about it. She was given the number of patrols (20!), but security never made an appearance. Weird.
Usually gated communities required signatures and verifiable reasons for non residents to enter the community. Not this one.
So we killed a bodyguard, grabbed a gal, and left in our van. We deposited the target in her tube and froze her.
The vet who owns the van never bothered to change or hide his plates. I'd assume that license plates would still be required in 2070. He also didn't bother checking the Community's security system, just the house's.
Do you think that an upscale gated community would have discreet cameras sprinkled throughout the neighborhood and a bunch focused on each of the main gates? And when a woman goes missing and her bodyguard is found dead from stab wounds, do you think that they'll check the records, find the van, and run the plates? That vet is fracked. What a friggin moron.
Crossing the Line
I endured an entire night of having the GM and the two vets downtalk and treat me like an imbecile. The vets played like morons and the GM either didn't realize how easily it would have been to mess with them (idiot) or didn't bother to do anything about it (lazy).
There is a pretty obvious line between knowing how to tell a story and knowing the game world and rules. It's easy to see which side of the line these guys are on.
No player in any game that I run is dumb enough to do what these so-called vets did. At least, not more than once. There is no way that you can just show up and grab someone like this. Not without some careful planning. Otherwise you'd face severe and usually immediate repercussions.
Kat and I were completely useless until it came to the fight with the bodyguard. We killed him. That's it. That is our entire contribution to the job. Killing a bodyguard.
These vets messed everything up and yet somehow the job got done with no mishaps. That is the GMs fault. What makes matters worse is that these vets are already congratulating themselves on a job well done and telling my wife and I that we should follow their example and that maybe we'll learn something. Makes me want to enjoy a wee bit o' the ultraviolence...
They also stated that they expect to be able to complete a run in an hour of playing time. That's their AVERAGE!! How is that possible? Maybe a really simple run with no complications or bad luck. But that'd have to be a rare occurrence, right? Guess not. Not with this GM...
Maybe they should have me run a short adventure for them. That'd shut them up and if the GM played, he may learn a thing or two about running a game. Things like taking advantage of mistakes that the players make. Giving the players realistic obstacles and consequences to their actions or lack of preparation. Rewarding creative efforts instead of shooting them down.
Shadowrun is a cool world and we could do a lot with it. My problem is not the world or the game system. It is the GM. I hate to say this because the GM is a very good friend of mine, but that game sucked hard ass when it shouldn't have.
This same GM has been running a fantasy campaign for us for over five months now. His GMing skill in that game is relatively low but he has said that it was due to his unfamiliarity with both the genre and the game system. I believed him and he has gotten better at running that game over time.
What's really frustrating for me is that this GM and most of the players in our two groups refuse to let me run a game. They also refuse to take advice and rarely accept feedback. That would be admitting that they are wrong and that someone else may know more or be better at something than they are. Can't have that! Especially not from someone who has hasn't even read the Shadowrun book or played through runs with them.
The players who I've GMed for in the past liked this GM a lot when they first started playing with him. He allows more powerful characters, lots of magic, the bad guys are pussies, and things almost always go our way. Over time though, they got bored.
This Shadowrun game was far worse. I have fun in the fantasy game. My character is pretty munchkinish in combat, but during the course of the game he met and married, had two kids, lost his wife, and is now losing his mind.
Granted, I put a lot of effort into keeping my character balanced and not being a full fledged munchkin, but at least I'm having fun.
I don't think that I will be able to play Hung So Lo in this group. Despite his name, this is a serious character not meant for popcorn movie type games. He deserves more. So do I.
Other then finishing the current job, my character has absolutely no inclination to work with this group again. Neither do I.
If this is a typical game, which judging from the vets and knowing the GM I'll assume that it is, then I have no interest in playing. I read most of the Shadowrun book and I have a fair understanding of the rules. I could easily run this game. Will I get a chance to? No.
Just like I haven't gotten a chance to run anything for the group in the last five months. My wife, my only vet player that is currently playing with the group, enjoys playing with me as a player but misses the way that I run games. The other players and the current GM could learn a lot by playing in a game that I run, but they refuse to.
If these were people that I didn't know then I would kick them to the curb and move on. Unfortunately, these are very good friends. So now what do I do?
Give some advice. Tell me what you think.