Thursday, October 31, 2013

Gear Review: Hold-Outs

One of the thing I love about role playing games, of all stripes, is the gear. Players develop a love affair with their equipment. I've seen players go to great lengths for a piece of equipment. With D&D and Pathfinder, artifacts and magic items make some sense. We all love our +2 long sword of troll slaying. However, in Shadowrun I have found no less love for the inanimate objects of our world. I'm going to take the time to go over the gear section, in no particular order, to point out the things I love, the good, the bad, the ugly. Today, it's the drop gun. You don't buy extra clips for them, and you most likely will never fire them, but every runner worth his salt has one, or two, or ten. They are cheap, disposable, concealable, and cheap, did I say cheap? They are, the hold-outs.

In Shadowrun 5th Edition you're presented with three hold-outs in the core rules. Three, it's a shame I tell you, but it's a shame that I hope they will rectify when the gun source book comes out. You hear me Catalyst! I want hold-outs by the dozen! Why do I love hold-outs? Let's look at the bargain basement one, the Streetline Special.

Acc: 4
Damage: 6P
AP: -
Mode: SA
RC: -
Ammo: 6(c)
Avail: 4R
Cost: 120¥

Want to spot this little beauty? That's a Perception + Intuition [Mental] test. Drop 4 dice, because it's a hold-out, might as well put it in a concealable holster, though it'll cost you more then the gun, that's another -1. If you read my "Let's Build" for the Decker a few weeks back you'd know that every runner worth his salt has a lined coat. That's another -2. So, you're walking down the street, it's a lovely day in Seattle (yes they happen) and you pass by a beat cop. He gives you the eye. Let's assume he's the canned grunt from the core rules, Perception 3, Intuition 3. He gets 6 - 6 dice, that's a big fat 0. You can walk through town with a gun and know for sure, that you're safe. That, friends, is a comforting thought. Add to that the fact that MAD Scanners take a -2 dice hit to detect it, and I won't leave home without one.

Now, let's look at the gun itself. I love the Streetline. At 120¥ it's disposable, and I mean really disposable. This is the snubby .38 of the Shadowrun world. You don't reload it, you drop it and quick draw another. Why? Because you have multiple, and what's the harm? The biggest drawback of all the hold-outs is the low accuracy, 4 for the Walther, and Streetline, 5 for the Fichetti. However, this isn't a service pistol. You're not going to stand at 50 yards and empty a clip John Woo style. You're going to be in the bathroom, with your opponent at arms length, and you're going to pull the trigger till the gun runs dry, jams, or both, and then you drop it, and you run. This is the ankle gun, the small of the back gun, the taped behind the toilet gun and for that, it is incredible.

If you plan to go to war, you don't bring a hold-out alone. However, if you're going to go to war, what's the harm in having a little friend as backup?

Let's take a look at the other two hold-outs that you can chose in the core rules. First, we have the Walther Palm Pistol, think derringer. Two shots, break action, can fire both barrels. Not a bad little piece, but given that it's 60¥ more than the Streetline, I worry about what, if anything, you're going to get for your money. Long story short, you get one higher damage, and the ability to fire in SS or BF mode, however the burst is one bullet short, and requires that you reload the gun. If you're going to be burst firing with a pistol, you might as well go with the Streetline, and go for a Semi-Auto burst. Our advice, pass on the Walther.

Thirdly, you have the Fichetti Tiffani Needler, one higher accuracy, two higher damage, 8P(f), with a whopping +5 AP modifier, and a smaller clip, with only 4 rounds. Add to that a 1,000¥ price tag, and even the fact that it changes color doesn't really impress me. This is a gun for dealing quietly with soft targets. Want to off a man in his night shirt, go for the Needler. Want to carry a backup piece that might just save your hide against that angry ganger? Carry the Streetline.

Our final thoughts: Buy a Streetline, or if you're an up and coming fashionista, buy a Streetline, and a Needler. Keep them close, pay the extra for a concealable holster, and go forth into the shadows knowing that, at the very least, you have your hold-out.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fireside Chat: Run Their Game, not Yours

I have always preferred to run games, rather than play them. I'm a storyteller by inclination, and I've been told I'm good at it. While I can't speak to my own ability, I can say I derive a great deal of enjoyment from running a game. Over the years, and editions, I've learned a lot as a GM, a lot of mistakes that could have, should have, been avoided. These little tidbits of wisdom will be shared in a "fireside chat" format. For those of my audience who have never heard of the "Fireside Chats" a quick check on Wikipedia should bring you up to speed.

For today, I want to touch on a very difficult topic. When you run a game, for a set of players, you're running a game for them, not for yourself. Think of a GM as a server, as in waiter/waitress, you are providing a service. GMs that remember this, run great games, GMs that forget it, don't. It's not difficult on the surface, yet it's a classic mistake I see in newer, and even some "veteran" GMs. When I develop a run I plan for as many factors as I can, and I ad-lib the rest. However, if in the course of a game I stray from what my players want, then my plans must change, and they much change quickly and dynamically. I'm providing a positive playing experience for my group, not for myself. Let me give an example.

I love grenades. Absolutely love grenades and have always felt that in Shadowrun grenades should be a standard piece of equipment for any paramilitary response unit. Now, I'm not talking beat cops, Knight Errant shouldn't pack frag grenades, maybe a flash bang or two, but that's it. However, if you're running up against a High Threat Response team, or a Red Samurai unit, you better believe there's going to be grenades involved. Grenades in Shadowrun, have a massive damage potential, and I've killed several characters using a well placed grenade at the end of a combat turn. They are the ultimate way to deal with min-max'd characters. Nothing says "I don't like you" quite like a grenade.

In some of my groups, where my players are looking for high-threat and highly lethal play my grenade happy mindset is not only welcome, it's expected. However, when I play with a group that isn't looking for the same level of high threat play I have to alter my tactics. It does not, let me repeat that, does not matter that I like grenades. If my players don't, then I have to alter my play style. The same piece of gear, used at the start of a combat turn, adds a level of tension, and drama to a combat, and allows me to describe the combat in greater detail. Plus, it gives a player the chance to be the hero and lob the grenade away before it explodes, seconds later, in mid-air. What changed? My NPC still threw the same grenade, the threat is the same, the only difference is that instead of holding an action to the end of the round, to pop a grenade into the middle of my party, I threw that same grenade at the start, allowing my players to react.

This is the essence of a good GM, tailoring every aspect of a run to meet your players needs, your players desires, to maximize the end experience for your players, over your own needs and wants.

However, with all things there must be balance. Nothing ruins a game faster then having too much fun, too much loot, and too much karma. However, I've found that Shadowrun is the easiest game system to handle the "Monty Haul" problem. Let's assume a character, without the SINner quality simply has too much money. It's relatively simple to have a cop, investigator, or Decker realize that the player's SIN is fake, and freeze all his assets. This also works as a great run hook for the players to win back their ill-gotten loot. Remember, GOD is watching.

For gear-snobs, the availability rules are a GMs best friend. Don't want players to have a certain piece of gear? Make it nearly impossible to find, or if they've already purchased it, brick it as part of a run, or if it's a firearm, make the ammunition so scarce that the player dare not fire a round. This too works as a great run hook, or story arc. One of your players really wants a minigun? Ok, go steal one. Make sure you get enough ammunition too!

I'm not advocating that you take away a players hard-won gear, nor am I advocating that you as a GM give a player everything they could want, I'm merely saying that you need to balance the fun of the game, with the long-term goal of the campaign.

As always, feel free to comment if you've run into good, or bad, GMing decisions, and how they were handled. I'll do my best to respond to the ones I like, and who knows you might even end up the feature in the next Fireside Chat.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Let's Build: A Decker

The "Let's Build" segment will be a semi-regular part of this blog. In it I'll go through building a character from the ground up including my thoughts behind the choices I've made, and the role I see the character playing in-game. I plan to loosely divide these characters into "competitive" builds, and "flavor" builds. Competitive Runners are exactly what they say on the tin, these guys hold to an archetype, and are good at what they do. They are built to be, if not the best, then close to the best they can be. Flavor builds aren't bad, per say, but I'll have made choices to enhance the flavor, or in-game experience of the player, over simply building the best statline I can.

For this episode, I give you a Street Level Decker. One of the new-ish Mechanics in 5th Edition is the ability to tailor game play out of the box for Street, Standard, or Prime levels of experience. While rules for street level, and higher power runners have existed in 3rd, and 4th, this is the first time that I know of where the rules have been presented as part of the core book, and as part of core character generation.

Onto the build!

One of the first things to note are the changes that a Street Level character comes with, first, is a lower nuyen value, an A, for example nets you a measly ¥75,000, as opposed to the normal ¥450,000, starting karma drops to 13, with a max of 26, gear ratings max out at 4, and availability is limited to 10 or less. Also, painfully in this case, I can convert no more than 5 karma into extra nuyen. Ouch.

Here's where I put my build choices.

A - Resources (¥75,000): This was a no-brainer for me, Cyberdecks are incredibly expensive, and even with a resource rating of A, I'm going to be hard pressed to buy a deck, and the gear and programs I need to run it, without skirting dangerously close to running in my skivvies, and living behind the local Stuffer Shack. With that in mind, for a Decker, especially at Street Level, A is the only choice here.

B - Attributes (20): This, again, is a fairly easy choice. A reader commented on my last post and pointed out the skill/attribute disparity, that a high skill cannot overcome a poor attribute. With that in mind, I generally prioritize attributes over skills. While I don't necessarily agree with the mechanic, it's the game we play in, and that drives Attributes into the B slot for me.

One of the sad things that I encounter when building a gear focused character is that it's very hard to build the character as anything other then a Human, or Elf. I have fold memories of a Troll Decker in 3rd Edition, and I hope with a Standard or Prime build, that I'd be able to push Resources down a peg, and still come out ok. But, that's for another day, and another post.

C - Skills (28/2): This is lower then I would like it, and means we're going to have to make some hard decisions when it comes to skills. However, with A, and B, solidly spoken for there's not much else to do. You could take Metatype as your C here, and go with a Human, Elf, Dwarf, or Ork, but I don't see much value, especially in the Ork, as you receive 0 extra attribute points. This means raising Edge with karma, an expensive prospect indeed, given how much you already need to do with karma at a Street level build.

D - Metatype (Human (3)): You could go with Elf here, but I love a high Edge attribute, so I went with the Human. Especially as the Elf's natural bump to Agility, and Charisma doesn't help a Decker much, at least in my opinion.

E - Magic/Resonance: That's a big fat 0 there boys and girls.

Attributes: In Shadowrun, you have 11 attributes. I've filled in my Decker's attributes below, and will go over some of them below.

Body: 3 (+2)
Agility: 3 (+2)
Reaction: 4 (+2)
Strength: 2 (+1)
Willpower: 6 (+5)
Logic: 5 (+4)
Intuition: 3 (+2)
Charisma: 2 (+2)
Edge: 5 (+3, special)
Essence: 6
Initiative: 7 + 1D6

Just for the sake of completeness, here's my Limits, at this point.

Mental: 7
Physical: 4
Social: 6

I tried to go for a balance across the board, taking a hit on Strength, and Charisma, both of which tugged at my limits a little. However, my Mental limit, which is the key one for a lot of tests a Decker makes, is 7, which is rock-solid in my mind. One advantage of playing a Human, aside from being able to take a D or E in Metatype is that your Edge starts at 2. Anyone who doesn't value a high Edge attribute hasn't played enough Shadowrun. Also, I chose to drop Strength, in favor of Reaction. This was deliberate for several reasons. First, my Physical limit is still high enough that I can do most physical tasks, and as long as I have a decent skill I should be ok. Reaction, given that it is used for Initiative, and ranged combat, is more important to me then Strength, which would be used for more up close and personal combat.

Before we talk Skills, I want to touch on another Shadowrun mechanic that I absolutely love, Qualities. Qualities work to customize a character so that each Runner can be different, even if they perform the same job in a team. For my Decker, I like to look at a few positive, and negative, qualities.

Codeslinger (10 Karma) is a must-have for any serious Decker. This positive quality gives you +2 dice to any one Matrix action. For me, that's either Brute Force, or Hack on the Fly. For this Decker, I went with Hack on the Fly. (Karma remaining, 3)

Quick Healer (3 Karma) is another great positive quality. While I'm going to pass on it for today, I find that it can really help when your character's Body attribute isn't quite what you'd like it to be, and for 3 Karma, it's a steal.

Negative qualities can get out of hand, and I appreciate that there's a built in maximum in 5th Edition, it keeps players from loading on odd allergies, and strange addictions, for a few more Karma. In our case, as a Street Level character, we're limited to a max of 26 Karma. I took this to mean base + 13. As always, feel free to correct me in the comments if you feel otherwise. Citing page numbers is appreciated.

The only Negative Quality I regularly take is SINner, I like existing. I know it has drawbacks, but I find that the knowledge that I'm a citizen makes a lot of decisions easier. I usually carry a backup SIN, for illegal things, but my lifestyle, permits, gun, commlink, etc. are all registered to the legit SIN. As a GM, nothing makes me happier then a player with no legitimate SIN, and a low-rating fake. The police like it too.

National SIN (+5 Karma) This is the lowest grade SIN, and I generally make my characters a UCAS citizen, keeps things nice and tidy. (Karma remaining, 8)

Remember, I'm going to use the Karma I have for more nuyen later, so I want to have some leftover.

Skills! If you remember from up above I took skills at C, this gives me 28 skill points, and 2 points for skill groups. This is a good point to touch on another of my favorite additions to 5th Edition, the separation of skill points, and skill groups, at character creation. Also, the fact that you can break apart, and re-assemble skill groups over the course of game play adds a layer of extra customization that really works for me.

Let's start by assigning my two Skill Group points. Skill groups are a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck, though with only two points my bang is going to come out as more of a whimper. Oh well. First, I'm going to a take a point in the Athletics group. This is something I always suggest players do, unless they plan to build a physically minded character. The one point in Gymnastics, Running, and Swimming save you from defaulting on a lot of tests. Given my low Strength attribute, defaulting could be catastrophic and leave me hanging, possible literally, at the end of my rope at the worst possible moment. For the other point, I have a number of options. Stealth could be helpful, as could Acting, or Influence. Given that I'm looking to build a competitive Runner, I'm going to take Influence, also at 1. This helps offset the low Charisma, and will give me the ability to work a bit in social situations, without defaulting.

Influence Group: Etiquette, Leadership, Negotiation (1)
Athletics Group: Gymnastics, Running, Swimming (1)

For my 28 skill points, I'm taking the following:

Hacking: 6 - As a Decker, this is my bread and butter.
Cybercombat: 4
Electronic Warfare: 4
Pistols: 4 - This gives me some offensive firepower, alternatively you can take Longarms, and carry a sawed-off shotgun, which is always a nice touch if I do say so myself.
Computer: 3
Software: 3
Hardware: 1
Perception: 3

My biggest piece of advice, when it comes to skills, is don't be afraid to take a skill at a rating of 1, or 2. It won't get you far, but it's head and shoulders better than defaulting. One skill I would have liked to have higher is Hardware, given that I'll be repairing a fair amount of my own gear, and my team's gear, I'd like to have a few more dice here. This is a good place to spend some in-game Karma.

Knowledge, and Language skills I leave to your imagination, for competitive characters I tend to take business related skills, clubs, bars, gang identification, police/corporate policy and the like. For flavorful characters, it's a wide open world, and you take whatever it is that makes you smile.

Money! It's time to spend that big pile of green we burned an A on up above, a big, fat, stack of ¥75,000! I'm not going to go into exact detail, instead I'm going to hit the highlights that I go over when buying gear for a competitive Street Level character. To begin, the Cyberdeck. My view here, as with any character is, if it's your main piece of gear, get the best you can. In this case, that's the Microdeck Summit, at ¥58,000. Our big pile of money just got a lot smaller. Next, programs. Common programs will set you back ¥80/per, and there's 7 of them, get them all, that's another ¥560. Now, the fun stuff, the illegal hacking programs. These bad boys will set you back ¥250/per, and with money already looking tight we can't buy everything we may want, or need. Here's the selection I recommend.

Armor: +2 Firewall, a lifesaver.
Biofeedback Filter: +2 dice to resist Biofeedback damage, another lifesaver.
Exploit: +2 to Sleaze when Hacking on the Fly, worth every penny.
Sneak: +1 to Sleaze. Alternately, to run a heavy-handed Decker swap Brute Force in with Codeslinger above, and take Decryption here.
Shell: Additional +1 dice for damage resistance, and Biofeedback. Works great with Armor or Biofeedback Filter above, and the Virtual Machine common program.

Five programs, ¥250/per, that's another ¥1,250 spent. A quick tally tells us we've used ¥59,810 of our starting funds. We still need a lot of gear to survive even a basic run, and funds are going to get tight.

Next, I worry about a gun, clothes, and a place to sleep.

The Gun, for this character I'm grabbing two pistols, with ammunition. First, is a Streetline Special (¥120) with 20 rounds of regular ammunition (¥10 for the clips, ¥40 for the rounds) this is my daily carry piece, I'll pick up a concealed holster (¥150) to go with it making sure anyone trying to spot my piece will have to roll really well. As a working gun, I'd usually go for the Ares Predator V (¥725), and as I'm going to have a datajack (¥1,000), and SIM module (in my cyberdeck), there's no need to deviate here. I'll pick up 20 rounds of ammunition to go with it as a starting point as well.

For armor, I usually start, and stop, with a Lined Coat. I simply love it, and even though it's a bit steep at ¥900, I think it's worth the money.

Lifestyle, as much as I'd love to start with Middle, a few months of Low is the best I can afford right now, that'll set me back another ¥4,000. With that, we've now spent ¥66,805! At this point we have the bare minimum covered, and it's as far as I'll take this build. Good things to pick up at this point include a vehicle, B&E gear, a Hardware Kit, and a second SIN. Given that you have a SIN might as well grab permits for your guns, as well as a second lined coat, or armored jacket. A backup,backup, gun isn't a bad idea either. Don't forget that once you reach the bottom of the barrel you can keep ¥5,000 nuyen back, for the start of the game. While most characters won't have that extra, it's certainly not a bad idea to line your pocket, even a little. I've also had players pick up a random assortment of higher availability gear, that they don't want to bother finding in game, explosive rounds are always popular, though how you fit them in a hold-out I'll never know.

I hope this has been informative, and I'd appreciate feedback in the comments. I'm going to be away from the net for a week, but when I return look for a post on Riggers, and a Let's Build post, most likely for a colorful Face character.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dumpstats, Gear & Limits

I wanted to touch on Limits, one of the new game mechanics in Shadowrun 5th Edition. Limits are used for every test in Shadowrun. They provide a hard limit for the number of successes that can be applied to a test. For example, in 4th Edition, if a player wanted to fire a pistol they would roll their Reaction + Pistols, and would apply the hits they rolled to the damage of the pistol. This works great, but it allows a few strange scenarios.

Let's look at an example. With a Agility of 6, and a Pistols of 6, the player is rolling 12 dice. Assuming one third hit, that's 4 successes. That's enough to take a hold-out pistol up into one shot, one kill range. Which, makes sense for a highly skilled user, even if it is a little off putting. Now, as I'm sure anyone who's ever rolled dice knows statistics mean little in the real world. Let's take that same test, and assume the player rolls really well, with 8 successes that same hold-out pistol has now shot up into combat rifle damage. That just doesn't make sense. This is where limits come in, and really shine.

Every test, every piece of gear, has a limit. For firearms it's accuracy, for active skill checks it's a calculated limit using your attributes. In our hold-out example above the accuracy of the firearm is a 4, or 5, depending on the model, that means that the player can use at most 4, or 5, hits. Granted there are ways to get around this using Edge, another game mechanic that we'll go into later, but for most tests you're stuck with your limit.

For gear this enforces a sort of "state of the art" mentality, as your character improves, you'll find you're losing more and more hits to your gears limits. This encourages players to update their gear, to purchase equipment, and cyberware to push those limits even higher, or to simply accept that the amount of damage they can do with their bargain basement Street Sweeper shotgun is sadly, limited.

Limits also effect skills, in fact limts apply to nearly every skill test. Skill tests in Shadowrun 5th Edition are limited by a calculated maximum based on a players attributes. Let's look at an example I've seen time, and time, again. Take your average magic user. Nearly every player I've seen builds a mage, and uses the physical stats as their dump stats. Body, I don't need no stinking Body! In 4th Edition this was safe, you could get away with having a few dump stats, without too much pain. But, in 5th Edition, with limits, these dump stats hurt, a lot.

Let's assume the following spread: Body 2, Reaction 4, Strength 1. Our mage knows that he might have to move, and needs to be able to react, but he's not terribly worried about his body, or strength, he has hulking Street Samurai to absorb bullets, and spirits to do the heavy lifting. How does this effect his Physical Limit? It's a 3 folks. That means, for any physical test he can apply no more than three successes. Want to climb a rope? Want to scale a wall? Want to simply run away? Hope you don't need to swim.

Limits don't prevent you from performing a skill, they simply prevent you from performing a skill well. Our mage above, with a Climbing skill of 12, and a Strength attribute of 1, the player is rolling 13 dice. Regardless of the number of successes they can use at most 3 hits. So, he can climb, but he's not climbing quickly, or with any grace.

Limits provide an effective method of limiting end-game power, veteran characters become more and more reliable, able to pull of dangerous, or highly technical actions reliably, yet they can't simply walk through a platoon of enemy guards, even with all the dice in the world, they are still limited by their own bodies, and the quality of their gear. As a GM, this opens up a much longer campaign view.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Group Sensitivity

Since moving to Seattle WA, I've gotten used to the idea that women play games. I know this seems fairly straight-forward, but I can count on one finger, the number of active female participants I had in any game in NY. In Seattle however, it's a much more common occurrence.

When it comes to Shadowrun, the topic of this blog, I find that to be a great thing. Shadowrun doesn't have to be combat-centric, it doesn't have to conform to a male-driven view of the world. Crime, as we all know, doesn't discriminate. However, I'd never given much thought to the sex of my players, nor to any other factor then if they could roll dice, and follow the rules, and some semblance of table etiquette.

This is why, while reading the Shadowrun 5th Edition core rules, I was pleased to see a significant amount of space given over to Group Rules and Boundaries. Even more surprising was the frank and open nature the designers discussed the need for sensitivity when it comes to racism, sex, violence, and the questionable morality in Shadowrun. While this was always something that was in the back of my mind as a GM, having it spelled out in the core rules was a new experience for me. Quite frankly, it made me sit down and think about things in a more structured sense then I ever had before.

As I'm approaching my upcoming game, with three players who are new to me, and one veteran, I wanted to take a moment and decide how to approach the issues raised above. If a player approaches me with a concern about the content of a run, or the direction a group is taking I feel it's my job, as GM, to address the concerns.

Morality: I love Shadowrun, as it allows me, as the GM, and my players to act out criminal behavior that would get us all arrested in the real world. It's escapism on a level not seen in most other games. In D&D, and Pathfinder, you're the hero, the villagers all know it, you are there to right the wrongs, and slay the bad guys. Games that go in another direction exist, sure, but they are the exception. I like to encourage my players to think outside the usual societal morals. Want to deal with a snitch, killing him is a perfectly viable option. That is if you can get away with it. However, this might not sit well with all players. With that in mind I try to design a run with a number of solutions. With that in mind, I try to encourage quieter behavior. Killing people, and breaking things, while fun is messy and should evoke an appropriate legal response. Frankly, the cops frown on bodies.

Racism: I try to not play the race card. This isn't so much a group dynamic decision, as it is a storytelling decision. I find racism a poor motivator. If I as a GM cannot find a better motivator then racism, I've not done a good job. Now, there are scenarios where race plays a factor. Posers, the Ork Underground, and modified gear come to mind. I have no issue with making it harder for metahumans, specifically Trolls, and Dwarfs, to find gear. This isn't racism, in my mind, this is a game mechanic the player agreed to by taking a troll, or dwarf metatype. With metatype-centric organizations, where racism is already a factor, again I feel that this is a style decision made by the designers, and if it's an issue with the group I simply won't write the organizations into the story.
Note: I feel the need to address real-world racism. If I were to encounter racist attitudes within a gaming group, I would simply disallow the offending player to return. While I know this seems extreme, I cannot help but feel that there's no place for any "ism" in a group I run.

Violence: This is a big one for me. I GM, to tell a story, and violence makes for great storytelling. There are two points addressed in the core rules, how graphic the violence is, and if there are any groups that should be off limits. I tend to not be overtly graphic in my descriptions, unless it's meant to set the tone. I'll gladly describe an ossuary, as a dank pit filled with half cleaned bones. But I won't go into the look of a hit and run victim, unless the players ask for more detail, or there is some detail that is crucial to the advancement of the plot, or story, and in that case I'll reveal only the necessary details. As for groups, or acts, that are off limits, I struggle to draw a clear line in the sand. From a storytelling perspective I'm willing to go anywhere, as long as the group agrees. From an individual perspective, I draw the line at gratuitous abuse. I'll gladly describe an abusive relationship, if it's relevant to the plot, but I won't toss details into the narrative about the child prostitute on the corner, unless it's absolutely critical. I don't view suffering, and violence, to be good narrative flavor. If I have to resort to those tactics, I'm not telling a good story in the first place.

Sexuality: This is another tough one, though murkier then violence. I think sex, and sexuality has a huge part to play in any Shadowrun game. If we look at the trends in our world, and extrapolate out to the Sixth World you can't help but think that sex will simply be everywhere. However, there are limits. Openly describing sex acts, or sexual abuse, in a gaming session is off limits to me. References to abuse, as plot devices, or hooks for a run, sure, but as with violence above if I have to resort to describing sexual abuse, as narrative flavor, I've not done my job. While it will largely depend on the group, and their triggers, I do plan to use sexuality in my game, specifically prostitution, and human trafficking. While these are sensitive topics, I feel they add a significant amount of depth, and emotional investment, into the setting.

These are my initial thoughts, and I'm sure they will change as I gain experience with my current group. As my views adapt, and change, I'll be sure to continue to expand on the thoughts above.