Right. Slacking with the off lately. Back to the bloggage:
Firstly: Shadowrun (Third Edition, as it turns out) was pretty good, especially considering we were all feeling our way, both in terms of rules and each other. Well, Vickie and I were feeling our way with Tracey, and she was feeling her way with – wait, this is suddenly reading rather weird, so if you don’t mind I’ll drop that little metaphor. Okay.
So we’ve got Vickie, who has never played Shadowrun, was, I think, feeling a little uncertain about this whole Lord of the Rings meets Blade Runner business and is always complex-rules-ick, and me who’s on this whole Story Now, Player-Engaement-Yes-Easy-On-The-Rules kick right now. Then there’s Tracy, who’s keen on Shadowrun but hasn’t played or GMed it in a few years and has a “rules are a guideline” mindset; she’s also thankfully pretty cool and patient and went through character creation with Vickie. I think Vickie still came out of it like, “All those numbers – huh?”, but was pretty okay with playing. Meanwhile, I was in the computer room, mucking around with a Shadowrun character generator I downloaded and getting the odd bit of guidance from Tracey (I still managed to forget to buy a knife). We had a fairly short run – mainly because there was no violence and things were getting late, which meant I was getting tired and grouchy – but we got fairly familiar with the system. I think.
Anyway, I think Vickie managed to put something solid together in terms of background for Tracey to work with, where I didn’t have anything much more than “Sean Hendric, Irish Elf” to work with. Oh, and that he was a rigger/street samurai combo. That probably contributed to the averageness of Friday night’s game, and Tracey asked me to please give her something more before next time. Thankfully, she loaned us her Third Edition rulebook. I spent some of Saturday reading through the future history chapter and re-acquainting myself with the Shadowrun mythos.
I started reading with an idea I took from a bit of game mastering advice in Listen Up, You Primitive Screwheads: Look for something that bothers you about the world of the game and use it. I found that bothersome pebble in the way people treat each other in the harsh world of 2054 (Tracy’s using the Second Edition setting), specifically, the way employers treat shadowrunners as a deniable asset; use ‘em ‘til you don’t need ‘em any more, then toss ‘em out. The double-crossing Mr. Johnson may be a schtick of the Shadowrun mythos, but I couldn’t help wondering, what sort of mindset would someone – a shadowrunner, say – have to adopt in order to cope with it? How do you survive in the Sixth World when who you are doesn't matter much to most?
The answer I came up with was looking at yourself as an investment; you’re less likely to be betrayed if you’re worth more to your employer alive and able to do more jobs. Fine and fair enough, you might say, nothing really new there. My take, the bit that really interests me, is this: What if that person viewed everybody, not just the Johnsons, the same way, because he thinks that’s how everyone deals with each other – keeping people around while they’re useful, then ditching them when they're not any more?
Having that immediately clarified some background stuff that had been hazy beforehand. I knew that Sean came from Tír na nÓg (Ireland) and had a low lifestyle, but I didn’t know why he left or what he was doing in the Seattle Sprawl. Suddenly, I realised that Sean’s parents had split up badly and that he probably had a more successful brother somewhere, and that he’d basically been raised in the Sprawl. The Shadowrun Timeline on Wikipedia told me that Sean’s Catholic parents probably saw Sean as an abomination after Pope John Paul IV’s 2011 proclamation that metahumans were soulless, which was also why they got out of Ireland after it started becoming elf heaven. Some more reading of the background told me that Sean’s parents were big in the IT biz, and that the loss of their careers in the Crash of ‘29 was a big part of why they split up. One or the other of them – whichever got “stuck” with Sean – probably ditched him in the Barrens, and after that, he likely would have been raised by whatever gang he made his way into (by proving his worth somehow, further confirming his “you scratch my back” attitude).
I e-mailed some basic notes through to Tracy, and I’m working my way through the Shadowrun Twenty PC Questions at the moment; I’ve realised his cyberarm was due to another big split up in his life; the fracturing of his gang, allowing a bigger, tougher one to run it into the ground. I’m partway worried that I’m over defining this guy’s background at the start, but I’m looking at it as giving the GM ways (read: NPCs) to put the screws to Sean so I can find out if and/or when he’ll ever change. At the very least, I’ve got a character I’m interested in playing – sure, he’s a bastard, but he’s an interesting bastard.
Anyway, Tracy is keen on an every Friday fortnight game, which suits Vickie and I as well. I’m getting seriously keen on seeing how this game shapes out. Mainly because I’ve got a character who’s personally interesting beyond the balance of his stats, skills and gear.