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Vignettes

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AndyNakamura

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« on: <10-29-13/2023:36> »
Is there life beyond the run?

For a game so rich in background details, I find that Shadowrun games focus very narrowly on the missions the player characters are involved in. Granted, the run is the center around which the Shadowrun plots revolve, and the whole point of the game. But runners do not function in a vacuum, there are multiple people they are likely to interact with during their downtime - neighbours, land lords, store clerks, what have you. For me as a storyteller GM, completely dismissing such interactions would be a wasted opportunity to build upon the larger storyline of the game.

To capitalize on such opportunities, I use what I call vignettes - small, self-contained, often improvised, mostly non-action encounters with ordinary, random people outside the main plot that I occasionally throw at my players. Usually, I put them there to spice up the downtimes in the game, or for a change of pace when the game starts to drag on for some reason or other. I've had several incidents where a well-executed vignette turned into the most memorable part of the game, or lead to a whole new, unexpected plot line opening up. But even if something like this does not happen, I find that the main benefit of vignettes is in giving the players the sense of place their characters have in the world, and remind them that Shadowrun is not limited to the NPCs they interact with during the run.

So what I propose here is to trade ideas for such vignettes. Have anyone ever done something like this? What worked, what didn't? Ideas to share? I'll post a few of mine below.

Granted, whether to use vignettes or not depends on the playing style. If you care about shooting people with as big a gun as possible more than you care about the story, feel free to skip the ensuing discussion - if one does indeed happen.
"If you are expecting a rousing speech, or a cunning plan that will get us out of this, I will have to disappoint you. I don't have any. We either do this, or we die. And the world dies with us."
"I paid quite a lot to get all of you here. I expect you to give me my money's worth. Shogun out."

AndyNakamura

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« Reply #1 on: <10-29-13/2102:10> »
As mentioned in the previous post, here's my adaptation of a trope-tastic "little girl crying over dead pet" scene to Shadowrun. Rather cliche, I know.

One defining trait of vignettes as I see them, is that they do not require any significant investment on the character's behalf - this is usually something that can be accomplished with a few minutes of the character's time and a few easy dire rolls. The rewards also tend to be no more than a warm fuzzy feeling - or maybe a point of Karma or a new contact if the scene is resolved in an exceptional fashion.

Can You Help Kitty, Mister?
Prerequesites: Character has low to medium Lifestyle. Knowledge of hardware and software is preferred.
Setup: On their way to their pace of residence, the character encounters a 8-10-year old girl, sobbing over a vaguely convulsing ball of synthetic fur that was once a pet drone. The character is completely free to ignore her and continue on their way, with absolutely no repercussions to follow.
Resolution 1: But hey, how often do you get to tamper with a drone that's 5 years out of production? Force-booting a toy drone into diagnostics mode (Hacking) is a breeze for someone who raids corporate databases before they've had their morning soycaf. Then, a few drops of WD-40 in the stuck leg actuator (Hardware), and a patch to disable the planned obsolescence killswitch off a drone hacker community forum (Data Search), and Kitty is as good as new. Feel free to congratulate the player on making the Sixth World a better place, if only a little bit.
Resolution 2: Nothing you can do for Kitty, but dammit, you hate to see a little girl cry. A few words of comfort (Charisma) and a Kitty-sized funeral service later, she is no longer so heart-broken about the "death" of her pet.
Resolution 3: Crying over a broken toy, ya gotta be kiddin' me. The Sixth World is a nasty place, and the kid's likely in for much more disappointment than that in her life. A stern talking-to (Intimidation) should get her over that "tragedy" and ready to face the reality of living in a dystopian cyberpunk world. Feel free to congratulate the player on having a heartless bastard who just ruined a little girl's childhood for a character.
Possible Plot Hook: The girl is a latent technomancer. If the character gets involved, they may find their bacon saved in the future, as their attacker is suddenly mauled by a horde of kitty-drones.
« Last Edit: <10-29-13/2114:25> by AndyNakamura »
"If you are expecting a rousing speech, or a cunning plan that will get us out of this, I will have to disappoint you. I don't have any. We either do this, or we die. And the world dies with us."
"I paid quite a lot to get all of you here. I expect you to give me my money's worth. Shogun out."

Malathis

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« Reply #2 on: <10-30-13/1019:30> »
I assume the point is to have a variety of little things to help make the world seem more alive and immerse the players in it a bit more. With that in mind a few random ideas I have, thought not as thought out and organized as yours.

The PC's are gathered in one of there places and the landlord stops by to...(collect rent it's late, notifiy of a utility problem, warn the tenant about fumigation next week, etc).

With a perception test the players notice a mugging happening down an alley they just passed, random event, red herring, plot hook, you decide.

I've got a few more, but breaks over...

Kincaid

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« Reply #3 on: <10-30-13/1046:19> »
When I'm running a campaign and the current arc is over (or half the group is out sick), I'll often have an entire session of vignettes.  I'll probably be kicking around a few ideas about where I want to take things next, but my players have always been pretty amazing at creating and developing their own plots, so these sessions are really about them taking the ball and running with it.  It really helps me get the creative juices flowing and it fleshes out the characters at the same time.  One of my favorite on-going subplots was the go-ganger turned shadowrunner.  He still liked his old crew, but he had moved on to a Middle lifestyle (occasionally High for a month--he always overspent) and moved in different circles.  His old gang kept on crashing his fancy new digs to throw parties and hang out "for old time's sake."  Watching the player negotiate the always-complicated minefield of growing older and becoming (marginally) more responsible while maintaining friendships (and contacts) from his previous life was a blast.
Killing so many sacred cows, I'm banned from India.

farothel

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« Reply #4 on: <10-30-13/1426:02> »
Look at your character's sheets, especially their qualities.
Dependant is a very good one for this: a sibling who is graduating from high school (and character attends the ceremony), grandparent who has to go to a hospital (visit), ...  You can even add a mini-run in there.
"Magic can turn a frog into a prince. Science can turn a frog into a Ph.D. and you still have the frog you started with." Terry Pratchett
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AndyNakamura

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« Reply #5 on: <10-31-13/2217:35> »
I assume the point is to have a variety of little things to help make the world seem more alive and immerse the players in it a bit more.

Exactly. I guess sometimes my grandeloquence gets in front of getting the point across.

In any case, thanks for the ideas. I'll see if I can flesh them out with writeups similar to the one I posted earlier. Once I'm not falling down with exhaustion. Now, where did I leave my R3 stims?
"If you are expecting a rousing speech, or a cunning plan that will get us out of this, I will have to disappoint you. I don't have any. We either do this, or we die. And the world dies with us."
"I paid quite a lot to get all of you here. I expect you to give me my money's worth. Shogun out."

cyclopean

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« Reply #6 on: <11-01-13/0018:02> »
I do a lot of this stuff, and really encourage my players to also have well thought-out "lives" outside of running. I've had individual players get involved in drug manufacturing, gunrunning, terrible focus-grouped art making, joining bands, filming and marketing their exploits (unbeknownst to the rest of the team), street racing, fight clubs, and many other things, which leads to a lot of fun side-stuff & mini-missions. One of my favorite characters was really invested in building up a personal gang (who would finally give him the respect he longed for), and was always trying to recruit local youths to join it, with some hilarious consequences (the youths being somewhat inept), and some of the most memorable happenings from the session. The team at that team had a nightclub hangout that lead to a lot of really great little extra social scenes. A lot of this stuff has occured during sessions, but i try to engage with my players between sessions (via email or whatever) also to keep them thinking about the world & what their characters are up to. The current group i'm running for just built a really tricked out hideout in a Neo-Anarchist part of Hamburg, which is going to lead to a lot of great little vignette scenes, i'm sure, as they have to do their part for the community etc.

I also like to have the team occasionally encounter other runners (adversarily or as unexpected assistance through the Exchange or something, or just casually have them cross paths), to remind them that they aren't the only player's in town.