Tuesday, September 20, 2016

So Shadowrun

-Biggest problem with cyberpunk is: The same way the gravity of superhero games pulls toward in-jokey parody and it takes a lot of set-up to resist, the gravity of cyberpunk games pulls toward dumb escapist "real life just cooler". Since I live in downtown LA (literally where Blade Runner was set, blocks from the Bradbury Building) in 2016 and everyone here is in porn or something and my girlfriend has so many essential tubes in her she technically is a cyborg, this is a very serious problem for both overall setting, character gen, and improvising details.

-Ok, I recognize the gear and brand porn is actually an important setting element: when your characters can casually throw around shared ideas like "oh that Fairlight Excalibur used to be hot shit back when people thought AIs were spinning pyramids made of grey cubes" it really does help make a future of disturbed hypercapitalism come to life. And also, it is interesting as a planning challenge to have a "right tools for the job" approach to weapons. On the other hand, I don't want a simulation of the experience of actually shopping. There are, just like in real capitalism, more weapons than there are proper niches for them. A sci fi game should have each niche:

Long range, light damage, narrow area of effect, slow rate of fire, hard to get (like a sniper rifle)
Short range, heavy damage, wide area of effect, slow rate of fire, easy to get (like a shotgun)
Medium range, heavy damage, narrow area of effect, high rate of fire, hard to get (like a machine gun)

...and every other possible variation on those categories super-clearly laid out. Plus nonlethal weapons like a net gun and weird ones like the one that sends you to dimension 3 or sprays mutagen everywhere or whatever. And if you want to add a shopping-simulating mechanic (like some are cheaper but less reliable, etc) then ok. But actually having to have system mastery in order to get the non-trap weapon should not be a thing.

The reason I don't think this has ever happened is very few game writers are simultaneously old school enough to realize the legitimate world=building and tactical planning purpose of gear porn while also being innovative enough to cut away the parts of gear porn that exist because of sheer inertia. Any game mechanic which rewards having read the manual more carefully is evil.

-Like sex, hacking is more exciting in real life than it is in a game, even when you dress it up so it looks better and involves more robots.

Moreover, computers are kind of boring in general.

-It is definitely fun--and genuinely a challenge of invention--to make up dystopic, satirical versions of places in the actual world. That's fun. That is the tempting part.

-All the hippie shit has to go and you have to somehow make Shadowrun elves feel like elves without it. Which probably means many of them have to be immediately accepted very high into the power structure and establish their specialness right away.

-Do they have cyberware for critters yet? Because if you can't have a half-chrome cockatrice with Judas Priest cover claws what even is the point?

-Cyberpunk miniatures are terrrrrrrible by and large. The sheer volume of people trying to do it has resulted in sculptors able to produce medieval fantasy minis at a fairly high level of quality and the amount of money and talent Games Workshop aimed at them from the beginning has meant the 40k line has developed an idiom for their version of the future that looks pretty good but--as in life--reality is one of the hardest things to romanticize and generations of Cthulhu and Western and Shadowrun sculptors have fell flat on their faces churning out endless series' of grimacing big-headed knob-fisted humunculi that nobody wants a piece of.

-The current state of cyberpunk art in general is far advanced over the state of the art in actual Shadowrun books--which is only a problem as far as showing players the Shadowrun-specific stuff is supposed to look like, that is: the cyberelves and cybertrolls. But: that is a genuine hurdle. If you're gonna have orks, you want people playing them.


Konsumterra said...

If shadow run just had mythology of americas i would be more interested. Why take grim gritty nega-realism ans add tolkien to it it? pretty much opposite spiritually and races are not very mythical or gritty. More newage (rhymes with sewerage) not new edge. Cyberpunk already about tech x beats tech y, magic complicates this further and means you cant account for every problem.

I stole from shadowrun tech books for years but i think what zac says - generic tech with game effects and a random variation and brand might mean less splatbooks.

I enjoyed homebrew shadowrun campagns more - a friend used anime metropolis which worked better.

If game wasnt always mostly about crime and being betrayed I would enjoy more. This mode of play ruins traveller and cyberpunk too. I dont have any interest in crime fiction or genre excempt perhaps in gangbusters which has more interesting crime possibilities than most games.

Zak Sabbath said...

I like that TOlkien and nega-realism are opposites. I think that's why it works for me--it has a lot of interesting incompatibilities to work out. Contradictions in motion.

I also like crime a lot. also crime fiction

heyjames4 said...

I like that you keep trying to find the good in things that others have given up on

Konsumterra said...

incongruity can be fun - id rather play cyber LOTR highlighting the post apoc feel of tolkien (and the bible). Crime in gaming a bit cliched. I guess my parents and i work with victims of crime (including criminals who are also victims) which is something not dealt with in crime tv well. Maybe shadowrun special victimes unit or playing social workers and porole officers in the sprawl might be my thing. The constant betrayal in crime games is a bit yawn. Gangbusters has great choices for criminals - i dont know why 80s parents though it was less evil than dnd.

Zak Sabbath said...

It sounds like you're trying to express an eccentric personal preference but you keep failing and accidentally using a fake language of objectivity ("is cliche" instead of "Is a cliche I don't like"--like: people in a game is cliche, but most gamers like playing games with people in them) "is yawn" instead of "is yawn to me".

Also you're repeating yourself a lot.

Unknown said...

Have you taken a look at Cyberpunk 2020 yet? All of those Shadowrun's built-in fantasy elements we're never even there, and it even has support for metal-as-fuck cyborg animals.

And Catalyst being the way it is, you can vote with your feet as well.

Kitchen Wolf said...

What suggestions do you have for getting around the fact that the people that sell the Shadowrun rules are sociopathic deadbeats that shouldn't be given any money?

Zak Sabbath said...

of course.
Cyberpunk 2020 is also a game. It has many but not all of the same problems, specifically it doesn't have the ones involving magic

Zak Sabbath said...

Obviously no company that hires Bobby Derie / "Ancient History" and David Hill is worth giving your money to, but that's not really relevant-- the newest edition of a ruleset is rarely the one you'll want.

acep hale said...

I'm trying to remember whether it was an architectural blog or a music blog I follow where they have had more than a few entries ruminating on the fact that when cyberpunk was first introduced the dystopian future was imagined as a vast inner-city sprawl yet what has occurred is a re-wilding as lots are abandoned and nature reclaims the abandoned. It's been a great series with a lot of photographs to back up what they're writing about, not only of Detroit but of several European cities as well. When I think about this and the recent NYT's article about cities that undergo periodic flooding flooding (Miami, Charleston) then not only their point that cyberpunk being written today should take into account this shift but also those fantasy elements in Shadowrun that always stuck in my throat seem more palatable.

Picador said...

I'm pretty sure you're thinking of a relatively recent post by Noism on Monsters and Manuals

acep hale said...

Thanks that may be it. I was thinking it may be BLDGBLG or Year in the Country.

Unknown said...

I guess Konsumterra's is the right idea: to play the game the way you want to play the game. Playing social workers or special victim's unit made me, for the first time in my life, interested in running a Shadowrun campaign, which is a game that I loath.

Oh, and, Zak, I think you commited the same mistake you think Konsumterra made: You said "It sounds like you're trying to express an eccentric personal preference but you keep failing and accidentally using a fake language of objectivity" instead of "It sounds to me like you're trying to express an eccentric personal preference but it seems to me that you keep failing and accidentally using a fake language of objectivity".

But, of course, nobody would take a personal opinion for an absolute truth, I think.

Zak Sabbath said...

No, Yorch, you've made a terrible mistake:

The phrase "it sounds like" expresses that what I am saying is a hypothesis.

If I had said "you are" then you might have a point, but you do not.


a) Konsumterra foolishly thinks a certain kind of game is universally boring to all people (though it isn't) and said that, thus making a terrible error


b) Konsumterra expressed opinion as if it were fact (thus making a terrible error)

...the phrase "it sounds like" expresses that b appears to be _more likely_ but does not _claim certainty_ and therefore cannot be called _an assertion of fact_ and cannot therefore confuse an intelligent but underinformed third-party observer who takes things stated as fact as if they were, which is the danger of opinion-as-fact.

Here are some further statements of fact:
Lots of people take personal opinion for truth, especially on the RPG internet

2. it causes most of the major problems on the RPG internet

...for example, the tedious "edition wars" were started by people who couldn't conceive of the idea of someone _liking a different way of playing than them on purpose_ .


Anyway you should to address these issues before you comment here again.