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Character themes and YOUR game

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prismite

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« on: (11:33:31/07-10-18) »
Hi all ... wanted to ask a question about the thematics of a character.

That is, how important is it to you and your table that the character makes sense for the world at hand?

A little backstory here, my players have struggled recently to successfully complete a mission and I'm beginning to think it has a lot to do with the individual characters present on the run. While the group leader is little more than an angry blade adept, some of the other members have made characters that dont necessarily fit as your typical runners.

One of the characters is a ex K-E dispatcher who's backstory is that she was abducted and mentally tormented by criminals and now runs to find a way to bring her own form of justice to shadows.

One character is an Arabian who dresses like Bo Rai Cho from MK (forgive me if I misspelled that) and is perpetually happy. He's a geomancer, only taking spells that deal with the elements in some form and never seems to find an issue with anything happening around him.

Another is tall fire-haired man who believes himself to be the living edition of Lion-O from the Thundercats, complete with taking a collapsable sword for the Thundercats-ho cinematic.

I'm asking because I'm not entirely sure if these things make sense to me for a 'normal' game. Should I just take the concepts and roll with it? To me it seems like no respectable Johnson would hire someone so outlandish (in the last example) for most jobs. If I reject these kinds of concepts does it seem too oppressive?

What do you normally do at your table? Are thematically inappropriate characters allowed, just because your player wants to play something unusual?
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Reaver

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« Reply #1 on: (13:11:00/07-10-18) »
Not the worst that I have seen.

I am going to guess that many of your players are new to SR, and are generally young. (under 25).


But you are correct, you can basically roll with it and play, or you can harp on them and be the grumpy GM.

My question to you is, "How have you presented the world to them?" A lot of time, the characters created by the players reflect the world they think they are playing in; Which reflects their understanding of the world/setting.

Saying "its a Dystopia setting" does mean anything. To some people a Dystopia is their welfare check is only $400/week. (discounting the fact that welfare itself wouldn't be found in a Dysotpia)

The other problem you have is figuring out exactly what your players are wanting to accomplish with their characters - these are are scattered which doesn't help that much.


If it was me, I would let them play these ones until the game is finished, but I would make a note about it, and do a better job of explaining the game, the setting and what is generally expected the typical shadow runner. But at the end of the day, if they are enjoying themselves, and you are enjoying yourself, there is no problem.
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Myriad

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« Reply #2 on: (13:20:24/07-10-18) »
Probably a play mentality leftover from other communities, but I always try to do thing for the team or 'be cooperative' even if I make a socially weird character.  Sometimes even a real talk to them with, "I really care about you guys as players, and made this adventure, but I'm having trouble dealing with...."  (insert whatever issue) "... Maybe we could figure out a solution together?"

Lot of times, people get wrapped up in their power fantasy without regard to others (I know I've done that on occasion and regret it).  Just expressing concern and 'let's have fun' together usually fixes it.

Anyway, hope that helps.

prismite

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« Reply #3 on: (13:27:00/07-10-18) »
Appreciate the responses and the insight.

I wish I could say you had it nailed, as that would make my situation easier. As it stands, these folks are 30+ to a man and have been playing under me for 10 years in various settings. They know its a dystopian world and (to my belief at least) understand that we play a darker game with elements not suitable for more naive minds.

This current wave towards thematic characters is relatively new. I know they want to have fun while being dark (lol!) but its messing me up to think that somewhere out there He-Man, Master of the Universe had chosen to run into a corporate building and slash at security guards, expecting to be taken seriously.

Just wasn't sure what others were doing.
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Sphinx

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« Reply #4 on: (13:36:41/07-10-18) »
It's worth a conversation at least. Ask whether it's their intention to play a character who seems out of touch with reality (my favorite example for this kind of thing: King Arthur on Babylon 5, "A Late Delivery from Avalon").

If the answer is "Yes!" then go with it and have fun. Have NPCs greet the character with bewilderment: "What the frag are you supposed to be?" or "Your fixer warned me that you were 'different.'" Encourage them to take the Distinctive Style quality.

If it's "What do you mean?" then you probably need to have a longer talk about your vision of the Shadowrun universe and the people in it.

Overbyte

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« Reply #5 on: (14:47:26/07-10-18) »
Probably a play mentality leftover from other communities, but I always try to do thing for the team or 'be cooperative' even if I make a socially weird character. 

What Myriad said is totally true for me as well. I love to play oddball characters, but I always make sure that my write-up brings something to the group and my play is not so outrageous that it is either disruptive or non-helpful. As a player, you have to remember you are not the only player at the table (unless you actually are), and that it's everyone's job (players and GM) to create a fun gaming experience for all (players and GM).

So while the characters are definitely odd, if you can get your players to adjust their play a little so that they work together it can still work out.
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adzling

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« Reply #6 on: (15:18:08/07-10-18) »
What is this Halloween or a rpg?

Reaver

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« Reply #7 on: (17:07:05/07-10-18) »
Good, they are older players. That alone gives you more options.

First off, make sure your players are not trying to subtlily tell you something. ("Dude, your games are boring!!" Etc). If players are expecting to be bored, they some times try to spice things up through their characters.

Or, maybe they collectively need to "blow off some steam" from real world issues, and are looking at doing through their concepts. It may sound strange, but you'd be surprised what stress will make a gamer do :D

But other then that, they are also mature enough to take the flaws of thd concept seriously, as long as you don't beat them over the head with them.

For example:
A few years ago, a player I respect came to me with a character concept for his new character. A japanese troll physical adept ninja, with the "Day job" and "famous" qualities that he tied into as a job as a male porn star.... and he refused to use ranged weapons.

I let it go, and allowed it in. But I wasn't going to change anything for him.... And I really didn't need to: He took the steps and responsiblity for making sure he was in the best posituons possible to make use of melee combat. And when that was unfeasable, found some other way to contribute.

And admittedly, the crap that character got into really did bring some great qualities to the table in terms of RP antics.

The same could be for your players....

And if not...well, they learn why the firearm replaced the sword as a weapon of war :D
Where am I going? And why am I in a hand basket ???

Remember: You can't fix Stupid. But you can beat on it with a 2x4 until it smartens up! Or dies.

Marcus

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« Reply #8 on: (00:10:48/07-11-18) »
Collect all those character sheets and use them to make a nice camp fire. Meditate on Wheaton's law. Make some smores, cook a meal together over said fire. Have a nice weekend discussing team work. Try some trust falls, play a dozen rounds of Heroes of the Multiverse with steadily increasing difficulty, require and rotate the use of the buffing heroes.

Then come back and make a new team of runner as a unit, build characters via consensus. Never allow thundercats at your table, nobody can take that shit seriously. Maybe be a break away ares fire watch team, make very good use of the teamwork rules in Run & Gun and Street Lethal. Teamwork makes the dream work. 
« Last Edit: (00:12:54/07-11-18) by Marcus »
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Michael Chandra

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« Reply #9 on: (01:31:58/07-11-18) »
I have literally vetoed characters, requested explanations and disallowed qualities in the past. I also banned the Orgasm spell, and the player that was really upset about that didn't turn out to fit in well and fortunately left later on.

Honestly, I see 2 options here. One, they remake to fit your game. Two, they want to play this and aren't serious about the game, in which case I'd say 'Pink Mohawk game and let's get crazy'.
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Nephilim

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« Reply #10 on: (15:48:06/07-11-18) »
It depends mostly on your setting. Those character would work fine in a zanier example of a Pink Mohawk game. In a more cynical/black trenchcoat game, they won't. Crazy people are dangerous and most 'runners won't run with someone who comes across as nuts. As Michael notes, it's entirely within your power to veto characters or require explanation/justification. I would deny a character like that in a game I run, but it's important to feel your players out. Some players want to play their game that way, and denying them it will just push them out (for better or worse.)

prismite

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« Reply #11 on: (18:03:52/07-11-18) »
Once again, I appreciate all the feedback.

I, too, will veto a character if I dont like the concept enough but its rare, admittedly. We have banned Orgasm as well, as it was once used in a way that creeped out the whole table. Got rid of Leroy Jenkins and Hobo with a Shotgun too. I'm ok with characters wylin' out once in a while, but not when the mission is an honest attempt at serious.

I have spoken with the player of the self-proclaimed "Thundercat" and indicated that no self-respecting Johnson would hire someone so ... 'colorful' ... to do anything clandestine. This lead to a conversation of what we each find fun. Player said he likes his characters to have something unusual about them so he has something to roleplay. He feels he's been in SR too long and has done everything there is to do.

I understand the sentiment to some degree. Not much I can do for the one guy if the whole group is still digging the game. I guess sometimes you have to pick your battles.
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Reaver

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« Reply #12 on: (18:44:09/07-11-18) »
Once again, I appreciate all the feedback.

I, too, will veto a character if I dont like the concept enough but its rare, admittedly. We have banned Orgasm as well, as it was once used in a way that creeped out the whole table. Got rid of Leroy Jenkins and Hobo with a Shotgun too. I'm ok with characters wylin' out once in a while, but not when the mission is an honest attempt at serious.

I have spoken with the player of the self-proclaimed "Thundercat" and indicated that no self-respecting Johnson would hire someone so ... 'colorful' ... to do anything clandestine. This lead to a conversation of what we each find fun. Player said he likes his characters to have something unusual about them so he has something to roleplay. He feels he's been in SR too long and has done everything there is to do.

I understand the sentiment to some degree. Not much I can do for the one guy if the whole group is still digging the game. I guess sometimes you have to pick your battles.

Well, now you know why he was running "thundercat" :P

I you are on board, here are some ideas you can throw his way if he is looking to spice things up.


1: A character with a "Moral" conviction. These can get interesting to play, as SR is a very morally grey game, where players have to sometimes do morally bankrupt things in order to achieve a good... but what happens where a character refuses to compromise their moral convictions??? Refusing to kill, and refusing to lie are two good ones, as technically you don't need to do either to achieve most goals in SR (its just that killing and lying are easier!)

2: "The long term planner:
when asked "why are running the shadows" most player runners give a flowery response that really boils down to "Get money, kill shit, bang bitches. Repeat". Or, it's some hyperly vague "me need revenge, because reasons!" approach. ** and really guys, I'm to blame here too, I don't give more then a paragraph motive for anything a character does anymore**
Having a clear cut, yet complex goal that the character seriously works towards, instead of a nebulous reason, can help focus a character and a player. "Me need revenge cause bad man stubbed my little toe" gets old by the 2nd time... "My character is raising money to build a orphanage that will be run by the local church because he was an orphan as well" can give a player a lot more focus as he now has various tasks and milestones to reach.... other than shooting something.

3: "Little man up" style game play can be interesting for an experienced player.  SR creation assumes the players have already cut their teeth in the shadows, and are professionals. But what happens when a professional gets pulled in to the shadows?
This style of play works best for someone with a ancillary profession to the shadows. Fire-fighters, paramedics, tourism outfitters, investigators, construction workers, and so on. You build the character based off of the profession,. with no illegal and limited restricted gear (a tourism outfitter might have a hunting/pistol permit, etc), that somehow end up in the shadows. How do their occupational skills come into play on a run? Some do surprisingly well! others not so much.

4: "The Elitist" style works best for combat style characters. They focus down one, and only one method of combat, and then work out ways to bend the combat to suit them. This could be like your sword guy above, but he should have the additional tools and skills to back up that style of play. For example: (sticking to the swordsman build) Character makes use of smoke grenades to provide cover to close to melee range with ranged combatants. A pistoleer may use subtly and palming to sneak a weapon close to a mark, and/or parkour style skills to get away/ close in to firing range.   
Whatever their chosen "elite" Method, they have the complimentary skills to make it work every time. Which takes a LOT more planning and fore thought then simply writing "armed combat 6 (combat axe) 8 on a character sheet! The Player should be asking themselves "If the target is at 'X' distance, what do I do?" for every single range interval, and have an answer. (even if that answer is "throw smoke grenade and advance"). He should also be asking " If I am attacked at "x" range, what do I do?"  and again have an answer.
 
Where am I going? And why am I in a hand basket ???

Remember: You can't fix Stupid. But you can beat on it with a 2x4 until it smartens up! Or dies.

Marcus

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« Reply #13 on: (19:20:05/07-11-18) »
I have played SR for fairly long time, not as long as Reaver or couple other on the board, but for all that I don't think I'm even close to having played everything, the nice thing about no classes is really infinite variation with archetypes. If your guy feels like he's played then maybe it time for him to run some or find another way to express uniqueness in a character design. Or he's just being difficult and need cut loose.
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Iron Serpent Prince

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« Reply #14 on: (22:41:03/07-11-18) »
The real problem with a classless game system is the lack of any real constraints for character building.

I know, that sounds like a strength.  It is, for a while.  The thing is, in a mechanically punishing game like Shadowrun, all characters boil down to the same essential variables.  If you don't "check the boxes" you end up having a very un-fun Shadowrun game.

  • Combat:
         
    • Does your character deal damage with a gun, or spell?
      -  Sure, sure.  There is always melee to mix things up.  Unless the whole group works to support the melee fighter though, many players will realize that range is the most useful.
    • Do you survive combat by not getting hit?  Or Armor plus Soak?
      -  Of course, there is always avoiding combat...  At that point though the player will not feel very engaged.
  • Are you the Decker?
  • Are you the Face?

After that, all the little details don't impact gameplay all that much.  From there, it really is dependent on game table.  Some tables will highlight other things, but the only thing that can be counted on is the above.

As such, I totally get how it feels like there is nothing new in Shadowrun.  Even the "uniqueness" of some Archetypes isn't all that unique.

Yeah, a Technomancer has some neat tricks that a Decker doesn't.  They are also highly GM dependent on how useful and unique they are, and that means they can only be counted as another Decker.

What else is there to truly separate one Archetype from all others?



As for making unique characters in the game...  That is also a big problem, as several wrote on.  Anything that makes a character stand out - also makes them less likely to be hired in a traditional game.  The more you stand out, the easier you are to be identified.  The easier you are to be identified, the quicker you will be geeked or shunned.

So, unless you are specifically running / playing in a full on Pink Mohawk game, unique characters are actually frowned upon.
« Last Edit: (22:50:33/07-11-18) by Iron Serpent Prince »