Monday, August 10, 2015

Fireside Chat: Policing

Well, I'm back. It's been awhile but I reached a point where I'm looking to put a group together, and with that I started thinking about Shadowrun again. It only made sense then to restart the blog as well.

I want to ramble for a bit on one of the hardest points to GM of a modern, or pseudo-modern RPG. The police.

I recently wrapped up a play-through of Mafia 2, on the XBox 360, and one of the things I liked about that game, that I think is missing in a lot of games is the fact that the police behaved in a semi-believable manner. Hit someone while a cop is near? That'll get you in trouble. Speed, that'll attract attention. Commit the usual bevy of mayhem, or mischief? That'll get police attention.

Granted, the game handles the police far too leniently in my mind, which results in some odd behavior. For example, you duck down a side ally for a minute, and voila, all is forgiven. Pull back out in front of the same police cruiser, and it's as if you'd never hit them at all. Now, I understand this makes sense from a game mechanic perspective, the game is supposed to be fun, but it rubbed me the wrong way. It, in a way, violates the "rules" that we all intrinsically understand.

The Seattle police department, today, isn't known for their ethnic, and cultural sensitivity. In fact, they aren't known for sensitivity, period. I cannot fathom that this viewpoint will change much in the future, and especially not once you start talking about Megacorps, and meta-humanity.

Where am I going with this? Quite simply, I think the police, and security in general are one of the hardest aspects to get right in Shadowrun. I'm reminded of Shadowrun 3rd Edition. Lone Star officers came equipped with a burst-fire only heavy pistol, the name escapes me, but it was simply terrifying. A car with two officers was a serious threat, simply because they were lethal. Granted, I handled this all wrong when I was GM'ng SR3. I played the cops as bumbling fools, often fudging the dice to reduce the lethality. This made for a more playable game, a more "fun" game, but it's not a memory I look back on fondly.

I firmly believe that the police should be scary.

Part of this comes from a shift in my understanding of what a Shadowrunner is. When I was younger I liked my characters to survive, to reach nearly Godlike levels of skill, and lethality. Character death was unheard of. It wasn't uncommon for characters to retire with millions in the bank.

This isn't Shadowrun.

Shadowrunners die. A lot. Shadowrunners are disposable, cheap throw-away bang-bang for their corporate overlords.

Characters should die. If they do something stupid, or are simply unlucky.

I'm still wrestling with exactly how I want to play the police in my new group, but as the thought processes gel a little more, you'll see my thoughts here.