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Is this too much meddling in a PC's background?

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Lorebane24

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« on: (23:44:08/02-28-18) »
So I'm about to start up a SWT campaign with players that are generally pretty new to Shadowrun lore, or at most know the barest basics.  I used to take a fairly strict stance on non-core options, but I've been getting more lax, so when one of my players wanted to play a vampire I was like "what the hell, let's try and make this work."

So she had a lot of questions about how they fit into the world, and so far, she's been pretty good about understanding that this is a shadowrun vampire, not a whatever-else vampire.  She's been made aware of the risks of addiction to essence drain, and that she will have to either feed on a sapient creature at least once per month or (house rule here, since it's been seen often enough in fiction) partake of preserved blood (blood packs, blood wine, etc...) twice per week.  The latter cannot restore essence, but if consumed regularly can stave off its loss.

In any case, since she didn't know much about the lore of the world, I helped her build her backstory, and asked her if she felt okay if some of the stuff would have plot implications later on that she will be in the dark about for a while, and she said sure.  So she find herself at the center of a very elaborate Aztechnology recruitment scheme.  So here's where we're at with this...

The backstory.....  Kimberly was born a horizon citizen, and an adept.  When it became apparent that she had a knack for the social game, they started grooming her pretty much immediately.  She was molded into social adept, though, since mages are rare and certain accommodations are made for their eccentricities (especially at Horizon), she dabbled in the combat side of the physical arts, having been a fan of old Bruce Lee films as a kid.  Jeet kun do also made the approach of the chaos tradition feel pretty natural.  By this time, Horizon was looking at her as a potential candidate for the Dawkins group.  Not now, but with a few more years of grooming.  So she was sent to good corporate college in Seattle, and one night and a party, she meets this latino guy who is just the right blend of delicate and rugged and he is suave as fuck.  They are on their way to a no-tell-motel, step into an alley, and the fangs come out.  She wakes up, thirsty as hell, two days later. 

She's in a ramshackle tent with and old man, a dying junkie, and a jaguar.  The old man, wearing a tattered coat adorned with plumage, bids her drink, and she does.  He's a street shaman following the Aztec tradition, and found her after the attack.  A retired runner, he once had a vampire friend, and knew immediately what he'd come across.  He found a junkie from the community who he estimated had about a year left to live and made him her first meal.  Guy was so strung out he might have enjoyed it.  He explains that the first thing she needs to understand is she is not a monster, but she is a predator.  He gives her a little Aztec shpeel that ultimate comes up to accepting that she will need to kill, but that the streets are an ecosystem.  A smart predator hunts only for food, not sport, and doesn't take more than they need.  He tries to instill a worldview that life preying on life in a natural, inescapable cycle, and that doing good with her own life is the best way to honor the lives she must end (or at least injure, but he IS kind of darwinistic) to sustain her own.  He helps her learn the basics, and get her feet under her.  She decides not to go back to Horizon (she has a corporate SIN and is listed as missing), because she knows that even thought they're ostensibly very open, the thing runs on the Consensus, and she knows what the public thinks of vampires.  So her new shaman mentor has helped her acclimate to the streets and given her a couple contacts in the shadows.

What she doesn't know....  The vampire who bit her and the shaman instructing her are both Aztechnology.  They saw an adept who enjoyed fighting, was socially adept, and young enough to mold, and they marked her for what amounts to an elaborate extraction.  Ultimately, they want to make her into a Bloodpanther.  The guy who bit her was one, and now the "street shaman" is very slowly trying to lay the groundwork for her acceptance of blood magic.  I told my player that he will work as a talismonger contact and will also be able to help her initiate after she gets enough karma.  If she takes that option, though, he's going to ask her to kill someone as part of the initiation, and he's probably going to make some arguments that sound pretty convincing coming from a trusted mentor.  If she goes through with it, rather than choosing her first metamagic, she will gain Sacrifice and become a blood mage.  She's a generally good-natured character, and I presume at that point she will quickly catch on and reject her mentor, but forbidden arcana had what seemed like a cool take on PC blood magic, and I thought this might be a neat way to sneak the option in.


So my questions are twofold, here.

1)  Am I being a little too invasive as a gm here?  I think it will make for some VERY interesting storytelling, but it does involve her being "tricked" into making a few decisions, including one build option.  I THINK she would be okay with it in this instance, but I wanted to get the community's opinion.

2)  Is this fitting with Aztechnology's? MO?  I figure that they are the only corp that can rival Horizon's PR machine, so this sort of shell game doesn't feel too far out for them, but I don't have a lot of knowledge of how they have historically worked.
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Frost

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« Reply #1 on: (10:55:06/03-01-18) »
Honestly, it may be a little bit invasive, but it may be easier if the player is unfamiliar with the game history. With that being said, the lack of background knowledge may also be problematic later on. If the player in question doesn't understand the subtleties involved in the story line then he/she may have to have the plot twists explained in depth.

In my opinion, the more advanced races are best saved for further down the line. The recent group I'm GMing had never played before, so I insisted on only the core races and gave them a very simple group backstory. [All the players were orphans at the same orphanage which had to kick them out when they turn 18 and they hit the streets, being chased deeper and deeper into the nasty parts of the city, until they wound up in the Rats Nest. They started off with no cyberware, battling a group of rats. From there we gradually developed the characters adding cyberware and more adept/magic powers.] With that in mind, what I would do is start the new player off as a basic adept until they get the hang of the game. Maybe keep the corp storyline to give them a basic background but have the player join the runners to get some "experience" in the shadows (plus game experience). Then have the vampire thing happen after a good understanding of the game and its subtleties are established. That's my opinion, take it for what it is worth.   

DigitalZombie

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« Reply #2 on: (13:01:44/03-01-18) »
Note: I think you mean the cannibalize meta magic and not sacrifice if she is an adept.

1) what do you mean by one build option?  The metamagic or the face adept part?  (I don't know the blood panthers) I presume she is making her own character with your guidance?  Or are you making it for her? 
From what you've told so far I wouldn't have a problem with it.  You could always tell her the complete backstory (leaving out the your second part)  and her what she has to say about it and then change it accordingly if necessary. 
Regarding the meta magic: are you going to cheat her into the initiation?  Like " OK,  so I've completed the initiation and choose a PowerPoint,  so I can upgrade my improved reflexes.. " GM: yeah about that,  as soon as the initiation is completed you feel something is wrong.  Instead of gaining the power point you gain sacrifice/cannibalize" because I don't anyone would be OK with that.
 I feel that 1 power point is usually better than the cannibalize meta magic.  She might feel cheated later when gaining some more experience with the game and getting to know how adept powers work.  You could always have the initiation count as both ordeal"killing a meta human" and schooling " from the mentor" thus lowering the karma cost by 20% ( 3 karma) .
Regarding the Aztec contact. Is it a bonus contact?  Or one she bought with karma/charisma score?  If it's one she bought herself then I would give her a new contact or something of equal worth once/if she decides that he is an enemy. 

2) yes I think is sounds cool and totally legit.  They might also use something for leverage later on.  (videos of her committing murder/crimes etc.  ) which would be an excellent scenario if she decides to break away from the Aztecs.

Tecumseh

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« Reply #3 on: (20:14:12/03-01-18) »
I'm pretty impressed with how well this sticks to canon, including Aztechnology and the Bloodpanthers. (I presume you saw the sample character for one in Dark Terrors.)

I think the twist(s) regarding the vampire and street shaman are dynamite.

As for the initiation, that's a bigger risk that depends on your understanding of the player. I would agree that it could be unfair to penalize her 13 karma in the name of a twist, so I might compensate her with something else. Optional Powers that she doesn't already have are a possibility. Terrorscape from Dark Terrors is about the right price.

Ultimately, the GM/player relationship is based on trust, specifically trust to enjoy yourselves and have a good time. That trust doesn't mean that you can't ever do anything to inconvenience the player and that nothing will be a setback, but it does mean that there's some good faith that challenges can be overcome and that things will be fun in the end. It sounds like you have that with your player, so your scenario sounds like a reasonable risk to take.

Lorebane24

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« Reply #4 on: (15:17:03/03-02-18) »
Appreciate the tips.  It seems like the sticking point here is forcing them into the cannibalize metamagic.  Ultimately, I'm leaning towards Tecumseh's line of reasoning here, mostly because this is a player that I've known for, like years (even if they haven't been in all of my games), and I'm like 90% sure that she'd love the chance to play a "good" blood mage, using the tips in Forbidden Arcana.  I think, as both a GM and a player, there is a difference between player gratification and player satisfaction.  I still remember one of my favorite games was a Ravenloft campaign from college, and what my old group and I remember most fondly is how we ended up running with the grittiness.  We were never crippled, but frequently hobbled, often having to adventure with a point of ability damage or two, or with the mage having to get by on whatever spells they had leftover from yesterday (because of restless nightmares) once in a while.  We ended up running with it, and when we triumphed in spite of these burdens, the victory was a LOT more satisfying.  That's kind of what I want to go for here - focusing on delivering a story to my players, with some twists, that they will find satisfying when all is said and done.

That being said, yeah, I would definitely give her the karma discount on karma.

Here's another things I'm wondering now, though, and this one I'm WAY iffier about.  This player has always been really reticent to shadowrun because of an earlier GM we'd had that that really focused on the absurdist elements in the game and ran a very pink mohawk style game.  I've finally convinced her to give my black trenchcoat, more intrigue and espionage way a go, but since she's only got the barest basics of the lore, she's been asking for my input on a lot of shit, and by this point she's pretty excited about starting the game.  Last night, she said she was feeling king of paralyzed by the sheer number of options, and she didn't know what she needed, so she asked how I'd build the character if I was her.

In the end, I pretty much built the whole character for her (sum-to-ten priority system), but I was talking her through the reasoning behind all of the choices that I was making, and why I was avoiding certain choices that were appealing but redundant, and always trying to stay true to the vision of "close combat face."  In the end, we ended up with a vampire adept who is, wholistically, and infiltrator.  She's not in a league with street samurai, but she's only one step down with a knife in her hands.  She has maxed intuition, helping her in social situations, with initiative, and evasion, so we made that a bigger theme of the character - reading people, both in a social situation and in a fight.  With some combat senses, she's got 14 dice to evasion (I assume, in my game, the typical corp sec has 3-4 agility, 4 ranks in firearms, and a smartlink, for a die pool of 9), so she's also a weird kind of evasion tank.  Basic agility boost for a catch-all combat booster, standard face skills, 1 rank of improved reflexes (stacking with her vampire die), and a few face-like utility adept powers that make sneaking useful.  Ultimately, she can talk her way through the doors of most places and then between stealth and acrobatics, sneak, fight or lie her way into more restricted areas.  Mist form will make her more effective later on.  So she has a clear role without being too hyper specialized.  My player is happy with the character and it seems like she now understands how it works and also has a better handle on the moving parts of the system in general.  On my end, I now know EXACTLY what her character can do, I can make sure to incorporate things that will both challenge her and let her utilize her abilities in fun ways.

But ultimately, I played a VERY active part in building her character, and that's where I get uncomfortable, maybe just because of traditions in gaming I've held to.  But if my player came out of this feeling happy, and more knowledgable about the game, and I feel like I'm in a better place to include her in the plot as a GM, should I consider doing something similar with my other players?
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DigitalZombie

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« Reply #5 on: (14:36:29/03-04-18) »

But ultimately, I played a VERY active part in building her character, and that's where I get uncomfortable, maybe just because of traditions in gaming I've held to.  But if my player came out of this feeling happy, and more knowledgable about the game, and I feel like I'm in a better place to include her in the plot as a GM, should I consider doing something similar with my other players?

In most (non one-shot) games I aim to empower the players with as much choice as possible. Having them make their own characters themselves gives them a greater sense of ownership of the game...... shadowrun is not one of those games. The rules, world and choices are often way too much to cope for new players. I think having the players come up with a concept/type/style and then you your self creates most of the character is often the way to go.

I think you could easily offer the rest of the players to make a rough sketch of their characters, and then let them make some decisions based on fluff etc.

Im still not quite sure on how the metamagic thing is supposed to work? Will her mentor try to convince her that cannibalize would be a good idea? Or will he tell her that he will teach her the mysteries of e.g astral perception and then she to her surprise ends up with the power to cannibalize the power from living beings?

Lorebane24

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« Reply #6 on: (20:39:45/03-04-18) »
Yeah, for the metamagic, and this is why it's so iffy, she would essentially be "tricked" into taking it if she goes through initiation with him.  The karma discount for having a mentor and all that will be in full swing, and despite the usual potency of power point, I want to see the "high arts" theme used more in initiation, but, additionally, I think that cannibalize would be really good on her character, and that she'd enjoy the fact that she gets to play a blood mage (Aztechnology is going to play a big role later in the campaign, and if she's a blood adept she might have some unique insight into some of the going ons).

Mechanically, I think it would be pretty fun for her.  As a vampire, it's easily her most potent ability (even after my house rule nerf).  The idea behind her character is that she's fast and lightly armored (as a face/infiltrator she doesn't want to be too bulky).  She has 14 dice to evasion right now (I figure the average corpsec grunt is shooting with 8-10 dice), so when she DOES get hit, she just counts on not being one-shotted and hopes to heal up before she gets hit again.  With cannibalize, I figure she could withold as many dice from her attack on herself as she needs to for a pool of 12, buy 3 hits, and incrementally pump her stats while shirnking her "safety net."
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Spooky

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« Reply #7 on: (15:18:25/03-05-18) »
So, did you just hand her a prebuilt character, or did you sit down with her to teach how to build a character, and allow her to make choices in doing so? If the former, then you're handing out a pregen character. If the latter, then, you're teaching the game to a new player. Sounds to me like you did the latter, so congrats you helped make a new SR player. Good job. Every new player, regardless of system, needs a lot of help building their first character. As long as the player is involved in making the character, and learning how to build, then you're doing it right.
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Tecumseh

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« Reply #8 on: (17:52:08/03-05-18) »
Definitely do NOT feel guilty about helping your players build their characters, especially a new player that might otherwise be paralyzed by all the available options. As a GM, I actually prefer this approach because it can help me ensure that everyone is at similar levels of optimization and effectiveness. Since you're the spider in the middle of the web, you have the best overall view into the team composition and what is and isn't needed. The fact that you tailored the character to that is a big pro, not a con. The only reservation I would have is if she were now much more effective than anyone else at the table - which would put the other players at a comparative disadvantage - but it sounds like you already controlled for that.

I have a similar character, a close combat vampire infiltrator (less of a face) with a heavy dose of stealth. The power is poorly worded, but there's a clarification (somewhere) that that "+1 to all movement rates" listed under Gained Powers is functionally similar to the Celerity power. This means walking speeds are Agility x3 and running speeds are x5 (I think, unlike x6 for Celerity). This makes the character faster than fast and able to close distances in a snap. That's huge for a close combat specialist. Add Traceless Walk to that and, oh man, you are silent death.

Using the new Wildcard Chimera quality from Dark Terrors also opens up the possibility of acquiring Compulsion/Influence/Fear, any of which would be wiz for a social infiltrator.

neomerlin

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« Reply #9 on: (21:26:13/06-17-18) »
If her learning cannibalize is important to the story you're telling, if it needs to happen for further things to unfold, give it to the player for free. Let them choose a metamagic on top of it. One extra metamagic isn't going to break the game. You can even throw the other characters a free boon as part of their own subplot if you're concerned about it being seen as unfair or favourtism.

But I would be more than a little annoyed if I spent Karma and the GM said "You spend the karma on the thing you want but WHOOPS you get something else because it suits my plans better." At that point, you've preferenced your narrative plans over the player's agency and the collaborative story telling. Even if I think your plans are cool, the fact you're treading on my toes is going to sour the experience.

But everything else is golden and it sounds like a groovy twist. The rest of the decisions wouldn't bother me in the slightest. Makes for good drama.