[Shadowrun] Adding bangs to save a failing campaign...

Started by The Dragon Master, March 16, 2008, 08:02:05 AM

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The Dragon Master

The last few sessions (comprising all of the sessions so far in this campaign) have been falling flat. I decided to add some bangs to the next session or two, but wanted to run some of the situation past the folks on the forum.

The Crew
All members have experience in Shadowrun, oWoD, Exalted, Rifts, DnD.
G. - The host, our usual GM, and one of two remaining "founders" of our group. He has about 20 - 25 years of RPing under his belt. Having been born with a forked silver tongue, he tends to play the socially minded
     Bloody King, a former CAS assassin spruced up with Delta Wired Reflexes and the switch that allows him to turn them off, cyber eyes with two registered SINs and a slot for a third one, though not much other chrome. He has made enemies with a fair amount of megacorps, and has had a career as a body guard for a simsense starlet, also appeared in one of her movies as an extra (or some such).

D. - The other remaining founding member of our group. Other than that mentioned above, his experience extends to Robotech, and Cyberpunk 2020/20xx. He usually plays the tactically minded one. No matter what role his character fills, when it's time for a plan, he has it.
      Havok, a former Lone Starr Agent turned Private Eye turned shadowrunning Air Elementalist (mage who only has access to air based spells. His parents were killed when he was young, and the local Lone Starr branch took him in and enrolled him in mage classes when they realized he was magically active. He grew up to be a member of Lone Starr, till the day a Vampire showed up and told him they were running Lone Starr, and wanted him to join them at a higher level in the organization. He refused and went to his office to warn... somebody, only to find that no one recognized him, and that his SIN was no longer any good. He became a Private Eye, and supplements his income with Shadowrunning.

C. - A member of our group who is almost as much into gaming as I am, he has several games he goes to during the week (at least one per day at last count) including some Vampire LARP. I'm not sure what all he's been exposed to outside of that and the groups games though. He claims to have a large indie collection at home, though he hadn't heard of anything I'd mentioned from The Forge.
      His character is a Physical Adept with boosted Senses, Killing Hands, and Distance Punch, as well as Orthoskin and some other piece of bioware that I can't recall right now. He has connections to the local Oyabun, though there wasn't any real discussion of his characters past beyond that. We bounced some idea's off of him, but nothing seemed to stick, and he didn't seem interested in coming up with idea's of his own.

J. - A less pressent member of our group. After we started the game he signed up for a class on that night that he is at till about an hour before we call game. He has had the same experience with gaming that the others have, only outside game of his that I am aware of is a Camarilla and Sabbat LARP (two separate games, one of each though there has recently been some crossover). Temds to gender bend because "I like to play something different than me, and the more different the better."
     Karen, a Female Elven Voudoun who practices the darker arts of Voudoun (zombies and such, things the book recommends be left to NPC's). She is one of the immortal elves, who popped back into our reality with the onrush of magic. When the elves began to divide into subtypes, she mutated to a night one, and was rejected by the racial purity sect of the elvish population. Her ma tet is Gede (king of death and lover of life) and as a tribute to him, she acquired a bioware liver that allows her to never become intoxicated.

Me - Been roleplaying for the last three years, same games as the rest of the group, with the exception of DnD. I have been GMing for almost a year. Three or four sessions of MURPG and the same for Shadowrun. I have taken my gaming fairly seriously, to the extent that I suffer withdrawal symptoms if I don't game during the week, and that I specifically refuse to work on game night (a stance otherwise reserved for sunday service at Phoenix First Assembly).

The Game
I started out with the notion of tossing aside the whole "one over arching plot" idea, since our group doesn't seem to enjoy that, and I don't know the system/metaplot/setting well enough yet to really do any of it justice (so says I). So instead, I focused on Dunkelzahns Will. The current game time is the year leading up to his death, in order to give the group time to bond before running off after some of the bigger prizes. I told them that the game would be, eventually, dealing with a larger scale than just a backyard shadowrun, and that to the end of preparing them for it, I would let their characters be as big as they wanted to accommodate their concept. G. took me up on it in a big way, for those familiar with the "Enemy" rules he has enough Enemy Points to warrant a Great Dragon as a personal enemy. It netted him six million extra nuyen which he has put to good use (semi with a gun workshop in the back, top of the line security on it, and a couple months of High Lifestyle just to give an idea). I told them that I would be applying those rules to their starting resource count anyway so they may as well take advantage of it. The only caveat is that they had to come up with the enemies, and why the enemy hated them. J. also took advantage of it, though in a different way (Karen lives in a van), he wanted certain enemies and kept taking Enemy Points till he had them the way he liked. D. also had a fair idea about the enemies he wanted, though he didn't take any extra points, just made due with what he had. C.... I think he took a minor member of the Yakuza as an enemy and hasn't  really done anything else with his Enemy Points.

I also have been keeping everyone on track with what happened last session by email, and in that email have been offering extra Karma (read: experience) for answering some questions about the characters past/personality/etc., though only D. and G. have taken me up on it.

  The idea with the subplots was that they were background, and they would just be a way to bring in the characters enemies and friends for complications. Subplots included the formation of a community of Ghouls on the outskirts of Seattle, Critter Hunting in the wild lands of North America, The Kid (a fanboy corpkid who has latched on to Bloodied King and is creating fake runs in order to experience a run alongside with him, while not being in any real danger, I have a "boy who cried wolf" twist waiting for the right moment right now). Seems like there was another, but anyway...

   This last session was the first where all the PC's met up (first two sessions I only had G. and J., last session was trying to get them all to the same place for the meet). They talked with the Johnson (a pregnant ghoul) about the run, destruction run on a corp facility turning "surplus" embryo's as portable, living flesh for Ghouls. The corp is run by Aztechnology (known for work in blood magic and other dark arts). The meet with the Johnson took the better part of the session, and ended with the PC's (lHavok) to scout the location from which they were most easily able to get into the complex where the goods were held, so that they show up dressed appropriately. Well, that meant going to a monorail station, which was separated into public and private sections (private for the corp, public for everyone else). Havok and Karen entered by the public entrance, then Havok abandoned Karen to run over to the other side, where he boarded the next train into the complex. Now, he had an ID device that lets him in, but it also attaches his face to the ID supplied there, an ID that they (read HE) had suggested using only on the day of the run, so that their images weren't broadcast to the head haunchos at Aztechnology just before they blasted the place back to the fourth world. He worked a shift there (I'm so tempted to have him get a paycheck in a week or so of game time for that shift), and started asking the security personnel about the security systems weaknesses (specifically a known paracritter Shaman, who had a pet, untrained, Shadowhound at his front door, that obeyed him without hesitation). He also offered up his real name (though he doesn't tend to use it any more since his SIN was wiped). Then he went home. This took up the last hour and a half of a four hour session. I kept asking everyone else what they were doing during this time, trying to get some reaction, but to no avail. Even D. seemed a little listless about the whole thing.

I realize that allowing one player to monopolize the session to that extent is a bad idea, but no matter what I tried, everyone else just wandered off, and he didn't seem to want to let go of that bone. I should have asked his intent before he ever boarded that monorail, but didn't realize he would take it that far, or that everyone else would have wandered off so quickly.

I figure that (aside from getting statements of intent from players before that type of detour) I need to toss some more bangs into the players laps.
One bonus question G. had responded to is that his motto is "No innocents, no women, no children.", while another part of his motto is "survivors carry grudges." so I suppose that a good bang for him would be to have him face a woman about to kill him, or someone close to him. Or, a clearly evil corporation, employing only clearly good/innocent people, though I don't know how to pull that last one off, and haven't had much luck with such attempts in the past with him.
D. is "racist" (if such a word can apply) against vampires, his actions nearly cost the group their run, maybe their lives, but a Vampire has just what he needs to make it all work out fine. Or perhaps an old friend, long thought dead, who returns as a Vampire trying to escape the secret cabal of Vamps that had taken over his Lone Starr office.
J. also has an easy one, Karen was part of a tight community/family, till she morphed and was tossed out due to issues of "racial purity", so confronting her with Elvish intolerance of "impure" elves, might just do the trick, but is that close enough to home?
I don't even know where to start with C.'s character. It feels a little too much like he doesn't care what is played in game, so long as he gets to play Shadowrun. Almost like he is lost in how "kewl" his character is, and isn't thinking about much else.

Any thoughts on what I can do to help this game "pop"? Or on the quality of my bangs? If more information is needed, I'll supply what I can.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

Please keep in mind that these are guesses, so you'll have to assess them for whether and how they might play out with this particular group of people.

1. I notice that, for some reason, you are apparently the point-person for the collective memory of what happened and what's going on in the game. I suggest spreading that around. One quick way is to designate someone else as the email person who summarizes the last session, and that can be further modified by having people reply with additions or corrections. Another way, which I am taking straight from the excellent game-in-design Path of Journeys, is to begin a session with individual recollections of what happened last time. (I found, in playing that game, that my assumption about what everyone "obviously" remembered was very mistaken.)

2. I also suggest taking a strong lead in switching attention from scene to scene, when characters are separated in location. Instead of playing out what Guy A is doing all the way until its thorough conclusion, cut to Guys B and C as they sit in the mall drinking cokes and play what goes on with them. Never mind that Guy A is hanging by his fingernails as the combat trolls rush him! He got a while to play, and you'll find that cutting away from him right then is a fine and dandy way to keep that player's attention during the Guys B-C scene ... especially if you cut away from them at a similarly cliffhanging moment. As long as you actually permit each character to do stuff, resolve stuff, and move along to a significant extent with each "bit," then cutting that like makes all the difference in the world.

Bangs are a great consideration in terms of content, but if you are dealing with imperfect or even absent attention to "what's going on" from session to session, and if you are dealing with a general awareness that if the spotlight's on me, it's on me until I'm done, then Bangs by themselves won't help much.

Best, Ron

The Dragon Master

As far as the point man bit, I had originally started a mailing list for the campaign. I tried to get them to use it, but it didn't work out as no one wanted to have any of there responses passed to everyone else*. That was when I switched over to the email before the session. The idea was to remind everyone of what happened the last session, and hopefully get them fired up for the next session. though I found out in the last week or so that J only checks his email once a month at best, and C doesn't actually read the email, he just skims it to see if there are any changes in the plan for the night. D and G have both been responding to them, but I don't know how much even they have read it. I do like the suggestion of a sort of round robbin reitteration of what happened the previous session.

As to the other, jumping from one scene to the other, I'm just not quite sure how that could have been done in this instance. I started with G, well he was working in his shop... just hit me I could have had some chance meeting happen, but I hadn't thought of that at the time. When I asked C what he wanted to do with his spare time, he said he was finding a bar, and hooking up with someone. We spent a little time on that, but in the end it didn't take long to resolve because he kept pushing to just roll to see how well he did at picking her up, when asked afterwords (in order to keep from focusing too much on one player) what he was up to, he just replied "sleeping", "but it's only nine o'clock, you aren't looking for a club, or talking to a contact about the run?", "nah, havok is on intel tonight, so I'm just going to sleep".  Before they split, J had tried to test a barrier between the public and private sections of the station, by pretending to be drunk and stumbling into it, falling down, and looking to someone on the other side to help karen up. Well to show that the barrier is the same on both sides, I had the NPC in question reach to help him, and get stopped by the barrier, then shrug as the train was pulling up. I asked J what karen did, "she sits there looking petulant", "okay, so now he's on the train, and it has pulled out of the station, what do you do, where do you go", "I sit there." after making it clear that an hour had passed, then two, I asked again what do you do "I sit there" and that was the end of his character trying to do anything. I asked if he tried to break through the barrier other than by falling on it, "no", I asked if he switches to astral perception to see where it's coming from, "no."

The big problem at the table seemed to be that once he was on the monorail into the compound the other players just assumed that there was nothing left for them to do. And at that point I'm not sure there was anything that I could have done to get them active again.

Well, two more weeks till I run it again. I'll try your suggestions and go from there. I would hate to think that the GMing style of the normal GMs (if the players aren't doing anything, have an army pop out of nowhere that they have clearly no hope of beating so they have to run away) has ruined the group for any proactive gaming. I'll post again after next session to let you know how the change worked out.

*There is some fear of metagming in that group, even though the players who used that technique to detrimental effect are no longer with us. It even seems to have gotten worse as time goes by, we're falling back into a sort of blue-booking mentality, even while the communication level in the games is dropping. PC's are wandering off without letting other members of the group know what they are doing, or where they are going. Any more, metagaming is the only way to keep our PCs heading in the same direction. But then that is a topic for another thread
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony

Ron Edwards


I'm curious about something. How is it that you are the GM? The "G" guy was the original one, right? How did the change-over occur?

Best, Ron

The Dragon Master

G usually runs our games, but when someone else has an idea for a campaign we establish a night for their game (at the moment my game is being run every other Thursday, on the other Thursdays we have a Hunter game being run by D, and the Friday games switch between an Exalted game run by G and a Rifts game being run by one of our other players).

I had been reading through some of the RPG Library that G has and had come up with a few ideas for campaigns. I'd also come up with a few more while reading on this forum and other RPG sites. By the time I was done I had a list of about 10 campaigns I wanted to run. After reading through some of the rules systems our group is familiar with I settled on MURPG as the easiest system to write an adventure for, I tried that (posted the experience in the forum here, didn't work out too well though I believe that was a setting issue) and then decided that I'd look through some of the other systems again. I was reading through the Shadowrun Companion and loved some of the mechanics I found there and decided to try a campaign in that system, if I could find the inspiration for a campaign.

In this instance, I had been inspired by one of the supplements that dealt with Dunkelzahns Will. It provided opportunities to explore a different type of adventure in that setting than the more traditional ones (specifically, there were a handful of runs that would require crossing international borders, and drawing on resources other than the characters bullets to complete them, while still giving plenty of opportunity for big gun fights). I presented this idea to the group, and everyone seemed on board. When character creation started I told them that since this was liable to be a higher power level than normal, I would allow them to create their dream character*, with the aforementioned Enemy rules being enforced. As mentioned, only one of the players really took me up on it, another took the enemies, but the character concept apparently doesn't translate to a powerful character (though it is a character with resources to call on which would likely be very useful in such a campaign), and the other two didn't take me up at all on the concept**.  So before character creation that type of campaign was already shot. I decided to soldier on, and take the opportunity to learn some GMing techniques as well as to gain the experience with improvisation that will likely be needed if I continue to run games.

*Big mistake under normal circumstances. The fun is in the process, not the prize, but I figured that they would need the extra firepower to be able to handle the runs that would be part of this type of campaign.

**In fact their characters might actually be weaker than a normal starting character.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony

Joel P. Shempert


As someone who's been working on applying Bangs and similar techniques to a game with a pretty traditional paradigm--with mixed results--I can say it can be a rocky roa, or at least a gradual climb. I wouldn't expect a lot of results very quickly or smoothly. It'll come bit by bit, in little bursts of insight or unconscious shift in play mode, if the players are amenable.

A couple of experiences I could particularly relate to:

1) The Emails; I tried starting a roleplaying blog a couple years ago (it's still up on Blogger, as a sort of internet ghost town), specifically to talk about RPG theory and what I want out of play, with the friends I game with. I got one guy to read it and post a brief reply, and that's very nearly it. No amount of nagging, blogging, and begging could get my fellow players invested in the ideas I was invested in, r invested in reading about them. And I think it's probably a telling cue when you start using phrases (like I just di!) like "get them to. . ." or whatever. In my experience that idiom is a polite version of "make them [do whatever]," and is a sign of an unproductive mindset that can onl end in tears.

2) The "I do nothing" guy; the second link above ("A paper trail to Nowhere") chronicles my flabbergasting experience with a guy who wanted nothing more for his character that session than to sit in his apartment and organize paperwork. It's quite disconcerting to be confronted with such an apparent lack of investment in what's going on. It felt like a slap in the face: "naw, Mr. GM, I'm not really going t take advantage on your (wasted effort t involve me in the game in a dynamic way." It's hard to know what to do in such a situation; I don't know about yours but in my case I'm convinced the player genuinely was content to do nothing that night and just watch others play. I was sorely tempted to just make the action come to his apartment, but that would have felt a lot like the "no matter whatyou do, I'll throw 10 ninjas at you and herd you along!" you were talking about. I eventually salvaged what I could of the scene and went, OK, you find something interesting in your research when you organize it," so it wouldn't be a complete dead end.

I was reading a thread on Storygames today and someone mentioned that using language like "what do you do?" can be kind of a trap, canalizing the player into a mindset of "what the guy would do" in a narrow sense, at the expense of "what would be fun and engaging for the players." Just unobtrusively using language that reinforces "we're creating a fun experience on purpose" can go a long way, like saying "What would you like to see happen for your character now?" and such.

Good luck!

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

The Dragon Master

1. Absolutely, and I'll be talking with the players about that next session. The new idea, which was mentioned in an earlier post, is to have a round robin discussion of the last game session before play starts.

2. Wow. I had read the "Paper trail to nowhere" post a while ago, but hadn't yet had this happen and it got pushed to the back of my mind. Now reading it again, having just experienced it, I feel like the wheels are turning. But I'll get to that in a moment.

I stopped by G's house to hang out on Monday, just to hang out, and we got to talking about the game. One thing that came up is that while I was dumbfounded at D's action, it doesn't have to lead nowhere. It is an opportunity to drag his enemies to a more front and center location. It is also an opportunity to perhaps show the players that this world will react to their actions. I had been planing to have that happen later, when I had a better handle on the system, yet here we are.

The second thing that I realized (which ties into point two above) was only a dim light at the time, and has become clearer as time has passed. (Some background) I frequently find myself being expected to just know what the players are thinking. To put it mildly, I'm not very good at that. At the meet Bloody King asked the Johnson how much Aztechnology had put into this subsidiary. I had no notion of what he was trying to get at... Well, I had some idea (he has a tendency to walk away from certain parts of the setting just based on the notion of character survival, but that is a topic for another post) he was trying to figure out if he was willing to take the job, and I had no idea what the right answer was. I didn't want to place it too high and have his character walk out, didn't want to put it too low and strain suspension of disbelief. Normally I wouldn't mind the players walking away. That's part of the reason I designed the campaign this way. I've got a handful of runs for them to go on, so if they turn one down, I can throw another at them. But this is the first run with all the characters there. If he walks away from this, there is not yet even a "group" to speak of. I almost had a melt down, but decided to step OOC and ask him what he was aiming at, and had the Johnson respond accordingly. This is a new way for me to handle things (as either GM or Player) and I'm not quite comfortable with it yet, but I'm working on it. I've been reading the Burning Wheel system, and think I'll steal their task/intent technique (which is apparently absent from Shadowrun). When a player says something that throws me for a loop ("I pretend to be drunk and wander over to him", or "I sit there looking petulant") I'll as what they are trying to accomplish, and work it from that angle. Hopefully it will prevent game freeze-up on either my end, or theirs.

The first step is definitely going to be talking to the players about some of the things I'll be trying/changing. On that list is the task/intent bit, making sure not to "lead" the characters (much of the "important" info in the compound was on the astral plane, so when D ran ahead I was constantly asking if he's using astral perception), as well as better scene framing (leaving out the sitting around, waiting bits in leu of getting to the action/story/plot/whatever). Still a week away from that though.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony


Quote from: The Dragon Master on March 19, 2008, 08:20:28 PMI frequently find myself being expected to just know what the players are thinking. To put it mildly, I'm not very good at that.

Interesting. I was just about to ask you if you had asked the player who decided to keep sitting there having his character do nothing "Why?" The answer to that question might have given you insight on how best to continue from that point, instead of each of you trying to (it seemed to me) silently read the other person and guess what they want.

QuoteWhen a player says something that throws me for a loop ("I pretend to be drunk and wander over to him", or "I sit there looking petulant") I'll as what they are trying to accomplish, and work it from that angle.

Have you read the recent Sorcerer thread, particularly the part where Ron and Jesse talk about actual-play versus table-talk?
Rev. Ravenscrye Grey Daegmorgan
Wild Hunt Studio

Joel P. Shempert

Quote from: The Dragon Master on March 19, 2008, 08:20:28 PM
I almost had a melt down, but decided to step OOC and ask him what he was aiming at, and had the Johnson respond accordingly. This is a new way for me to handle things (as either GM or Player) and I'm not quite comfortable with it yet, but I'm working on it.
I hear ya. I've had a lot of experience with that clammed-up, "say what my guy does and that's it" kind of play from both sides of the silence. Even though I've done it (and, when I don't catch myself, still do it), I'm always a bit mystified at the behavior. I think it's partly a reaction to the idea of a GM, or player in a PvP situation, putting the kibosh on any intent he catches wind of ("anything you say will be used against you"), for whatever reason. And partly, in my case, a sense of bad form or something, like I'm getting ahead of myself or preplaying, or trying to do something "meta" (with a vaguely negative connotation of "bad roleplaying") instead of just "playing the character." And it's easy in this mode of play, especially when you do see intent after intent beaten down or even accidentally stepped on, to get into a toxic, passive-aggressive resentment stance: "Oh, they know what my intent is, the bastards. They know."

So yeah, busting through that is a huge, huge deal for me, and to the extend that I've shed "mum intent" play, my gaming has been loads more fun. Hope you're able to get some good use out of explicit-intent play as well.

Story by the Throat! Relentlessly pursuing story in roleplaying, art and life.

Ron Edwards

The Dragon Master

The next session was last night. I started off by talking with the group about some of the changes with how I'd be running things this session. Everyone seemed to be on board with me, and off we went.

The first new technique I implemented I called technique (though I don't know how well my definition lines up with the forge one). Before entering any scene, I asked the player what their goal was for the scene, and then focused on that during the scene. This led to scenes that were tighter in focus, since I knew what the players were trying to get at. It also led to faster scenes since the players weren't playing a game of guess the right question. And since things were moving along faster no one really had time to get distracted. For example, when Havok went to one of his contacts with the talisman that had allowed him in. So we stepped out of character and talked about what he wanted to get out of this scene. He said that he wanted to know how it worked, and then to have the contact trace it to it's creator if possible. So we ran that scenario. He asked her how it stopped spirits, she told him. He asked if she knew who made it, she made a deal with him telling him the cost, and amount of time needed. Then we moved on. I'd started to loose one of the players by this point (he had assumed it would be a longer scene than that) but when I jumped to where his character was, he set aside the xbox and we moved on.

Another technique was more agressive scene framing. I'd just give a quick description of what time it was, and where the scene was taking place, then ran with it. This helped to keep player destraction down, since if I was explaining what was happening, it was either important, or wasn't taking long enough for them to get lost in the myriad of game books lying around (those might have to be the next change, no non-campaign-specific books on the table). Since I'd cut passed the "you open the door, you walk in" section of framing straight to the "you enter his apartment, an expansive place in downtown seattle" section, less time was spent framing the scene, and more time was spent in it, so naturally we got more done.

I also took some of the advice from here about cutting between characters during long scenes. I started the session off with having everyone tell me where they were when we last met. This was greeted with comments like "you mean you don't remember?". I told them I did, but so should they and after establishing where everyone was we ran with it. When we hit the scene with the talisman, I ran it as two scenes instead of one long, slow, pan. I ran his discussion about the immediat info acquired from the item, and the resulting negotiation. Then moved to the characters down at the station who were seeing what changes had occured as a result of the recent incursion to the compound. Then I bounced to David (C's character) over at Bloodied Kings appartment. He'd said that while he was their by himself he called up one of his contacts (a simsense starlet) and invited her over. I asked the obvious "why?", but he said it's just what he would do. I'm really growing to hate that phrase, but when pushed he said it just seemed right. So we played through a brief scene of those two, and when everyone else showed up we played out her reaction to several others wandering in without knocking. It started as just allowing for the player to hit on what was important about his characters background, and ended up allowing the whole group a little laugh, and gave us an established personality for a character who may well be important in some later session.

All in all, it was a much more enjoyable session, everyone stayed in the game (if not in character*), and I think we're all looking forward to the next session a little more than this last one. Now if we can only get to the actual run next session. The PCs spent so much time talking about what were likely responses to last sessions incursion, that for a while it seemed that almost nothing would be accomplished. Though the main problem there was that the Elemental Adept who has no knowledge of how any technology works, decided to argue with the tech expert in the group that the transmitter that was placed in the talisman couldn't possibly be capable of transmitting an employee ID. I'm fairly sure though that that was just them playing out some inter-party-conflict-type character developement though.

The "Turtling in RPGs" thread was interesting. After some of the players choices this last session, I think that the problem is that he felt that I'd shut down an area where he had aimed for his character to shine. I'm going to try to work that in there, but as the player is gender bending (which I'm not terribly comfortable with) and is trying to play out "intimate" behavioural patterns as the first attempt to solve all problems (which I'm even less comfortable with) I don't know how much I'll be able to.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony

Ron Edwards

Cool! I am really enjoying this game and your efforts with it, in part because I read the first post of the thread with a kind of sinking feeling of dread.

I have two thoughts this time around.

1. When someone says, "It's what he would do," that's not always a bad thing. In fact, it might be quite good. I think we should back up to the question you asked, which was "Why?," and recognize that his response may be coming from the fact that he simply doesn't know what you mean. It's a damned vague question and is not immediately clear that it's still in and about the situation. I suggest saying instead, "The starlet comes over, wearing fishnets up to here, and says, 'You have a cool place!' What do you do?"

That will give you your answer to "Why" in the best way possible. I suggest applying this phrasing as often as possible, in combat, non-combat, intimate, non-intimate, and casual, non-casual scenes. It's crucial, in using it, always to provide a response in terms of actual GMing (what is happening, what the NPC does and says), as the first step.

2. Now for the kinky shit. OK, this guy is playing a hot babe, right? And the hot babe is trying to get her way and to do stuff that involves sexual talk with others, and perhaps even sex acts?

If I have this right, I have two suggestions. First, take a deep breath and run with it. Shadowrun is full of cheesecake, and if that's his inroad to playing the game, no one can say that he's making it up all by himself. Go ahead and let yourself be drawn along, and treat that dialogue and those actions as valid items of play. Second - and here's what makes the first less scary - introduce dialogue about Lines and Veils. Lines are best thought of as boundaries for game content, like "no rape in our story," or things like that. All groups have Lines and it's a responsibility for each person to make it clear to everyone else if play is approaching one. Veils are inside the Lines, in other words, the acts are permissible in the story, but they don't get shown. Maybe, "My character has sex with him!," and you say, "And the mists cover the scene for all of us. Meanwhile, back at the cyberbar ..."

Lines and Veils are not hard to implement. It's important to recognize that they might not be pre-set through an extended discussion. People are rarely honest about their real Lines and Veils in play (Grey Ranks is an exception for specific reasons that don't matter here). I think it might work best if you introduce the concept first, and let some brainstorming happen as people chew it over, but let the real establishment of where they are happen as play goes along. One thing you might say is that they're not negotiable; if anyone in the group calls that action over the Line, it is, and if anyone in the group wants an action Veiled, it is.

Best, Ron

The Dragon Master

Thanks for the reply, and a big Thank You to everyone whose posted advice. As I said, the sessions seem to be going better, and I think that with some experience they'll get better yet. Distraction around the gaming table, and off topic banter (not that there's anything wrong with that) are mostly the norm during our sessions, but this last session had as close to none of either as makes no difference.

1. I am trying to get better on that. Part of the problem is that I've never been very good at coming up with things on the fly. Even things I already figured out pose a problem for me (so I keep a large number of simple notes on hand so I don't forget something I was going to put in) I'm hoping that with practice I'll either get past it, or find a technique that works around it.

2. I'm going to let him keep it up (he hasn't done anything "on screen" yet, just made some comments in character that felt uncomfortably close to a Line or two of mine). The rest of the group is going with it, to the extent that part of their plan of entry involves him seducing one or both of the security consultants at the compound. With some of the characters I'm not really sure how the concept fits in with how they are being represented in play. I realize that concept frequently changes with play (no plan ever survives first contact and all that) but we've got a club hopper who has only spent time in a club when he was called there for the meeting with the Johnson, an immortal elf who acts like a nineteen year old who just got a new set, and a private eye trained by Lone Starr whose idea of a steak out is to walk up to the person you're tailing and ask them where they are going. Still we've only finished two sessions with everyone together, and it will probably just take time to settle into character.

Thought I'd toss this in. In the first post I'd mentioned tossing "innocents" into the way of Bloodied King. This last session, he brought the issue to the forefront himself, and there was a fun, in character discussion of the consequences of just setting some fuses and detonating from a distance. It was awesome. In past sessions I had tried to bring out PC sympathy for NPC's, and it always fell flat, but this one evolved more organically, was player driven, and I hope that I can figure out a way to keep this stuff coming. Our group has a history of taking a "nuke it from orbit" mindset with completion of any mission. Rarely is a building standing when our PCs leave it. That means offices, clubs, Manses in Exalted, and on more than one occasion a PCs residence. Well, I'll keep you up to date on the next session.

Two weeks away from the next session, and for the first time since I started GMing, I just can't wait.
"You get what everone gets. You get a lifetime." -Death of the Endless
The names Tony