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> Understanding Organized Crime
FanGirl
post May 29 2006, 03:37 PM
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I'm amazed how some people don't do basic research.

During my SR session last Saturday, I described one of the other PCs as a "Mafia associate," and his player corrected me: "He's not in the Mafia, he just does jobs for them sometimes." Now, if he had taken five seconds out of his time to Google the phrase "Mafia 101"--as I did--he would have known that "associate" is the title of anyone who works for the Mafia without being an official member of the organization. I don't pretend to be an expert on the inner workings of the mob, but when basic information about them is so easy to come by, there's not much of an excuse for not checking your facts.

You might argue that it's unfair to expect him--or anyone, for that matter--to worry about conforming to a certain level "accuracy." After all, this is just a game, so who's to say that you shouldn't make things up when it's convienient? To which I counter that I prefer a certain level of versimilitude in my games. Sure, it's okay to make some stuff up when the official details are spotty. But when you just assume that your understanding of the Mafia (or anything that shows up in SR) is correct and plow ahead without doing a bare minimum of legwork...well, then you just start making these glaringly obvious mistakes.

So that's why I urge you all to look up a thing or two about the Mafia (or the Yakuza, or the Triads, or the street gangs, etc.) before you incorporate them into your campaign. For those working in the Mafia, I urge you to check out Mr. Mafioso's column at AskMen.com. Mr. Mafioso is an actual made man--or so he says--and dispenses the wisdom he has earned from his years of hard-won experience in his column. He also offers lots of good general advice for shadowrunners (e.g. several pieces about the art of negotiation), but the pieces that I'm linking to are ones that deal specifically with the fundamentals of La Costra Nostra:

Mafia 101 Part 1: The Family, The Structure, The Code
Mafia 101 Part 2: An Insider's Guide To Getting Into The Mafia
Mafia 101 Part 3: Becoming Godfather
A three part series on the basic characteristics of a Family and its hierarchical structure.

Mastering Street Slang
How to talk like a Family member.


(I also want to encourage anyone working street gangs into their campaign to read some sociological essays relating to street gangs, which dispel many of the misconceptions people have about street gangs and the role they play in the community. Specifically, I would like to recommend "The Social Organization of Street Gang Activity in an Urban Ghetto" by Sudhir Alladi Venkatesh (The American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 103, No. 1 (Jul., 1997), 82-111.) In fact, if Venkatesh wrote it, I unequivocally recommend it--he's just that awesome. If you're not usually in the habit of reading academic articles, ask a friendly librarian to help you out.)

Any thoughts on researching real crime?
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The ubbergeek
post May 29 2006, 04:08 PM
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Of course, the other forms of 'mafia' may have soem differences in working.
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FanGirl
post May 29 2006, 04:16 PM
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Of course, but this at least gives you a basic, understandable model that you work off of.
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emo samurai
post May 29 2006, 04:25 PM
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Are you insulting my GMing? You know what happens when you do that. :D

I don't think he's a real mafioso; anyone smart enough to rise high in Di Famiglia is making WAY too much money to want to be a columnist.

JK. I'm reading those articles, too.

Also, although he was a horrible Fascist policeman, Cesare Mori had many good insights into the Mafia mindset. He said that the Mafia code of honor basically said that as long as he watched out for his family, he felt he could do no wrong. Which sounds more or less correct.
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Glyph
post May 29 2006, 05:34 PM
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She was correcting the player, not you, Emo.

As far as research goes, though, while I agree it is good to have that background knowledge as a starting base, you won't always want to be accurate. Most "gang" campaigns don't resemble real gangs that much, and that's okay, because a campaign based on a realistically-depicted gang would probably be incredibly unpleasant. Shadowrun itself, for all of its "grittiness", still takes a slightly romanticized version of shadowrunners - part professional corporate espionage, and part Robin Hood.
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emo samurai
post May 29 2006, 05:40 PM
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I was kidding about being offended. You know, JK?

As for my usage of gangs... yeah, it'll be kind of SR-y, too.
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The ubbergeek
post May 29 2006, 07:42 PM
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wReflexes have some nice infos for the Vory and Triads and the jamaican poses.
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Anythingforenoug...
post May 29 2006, 08:28 PM
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If you want a realistic, day to day, type of feel for the workings of the Mafia without any of the self justification/self delusion that surrounds most such discussions an excellent resource to check out is Gangland News.

AFE :nuyen:
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eidolon
post May 29 2006, 09:28 PM
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Before looking up info on the real thing, you should be reading up on who and what they are in the SR world. Several books feature varying bits of information on them.

That's more important than knowing what the current day mafia (or any other group) is doing. (IMO, YMMV, various other ridiculous acronyms designed to remind people that everything anyone says is just what they think, etc, etc, etc)

On a side note, as a player, it's unfair of you to expect anything from this player. Well, expect it all you want, it's unfair for you to act as though you deserve him doing the same level of "research" as you. It's the GM's place to set the expectations for verisimilitude, appropriate behavior, expected research level, etc. As another player, like it or not, you're just going to come off as sanctimonious and annoying.
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Wounded Ronin
post May 29 2006, 11:53 PM
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FG: Whether you wanna put down someone for not googling t3h r34l Mafia before a game depends on the degree of realism expected in the game.

For example, if we wanted realistic economics, I'm sure we could sit down and write an economics paper about why the SR world wouldn't work and how the barrens shouldn't exist, and all that crap. But we take the world for granted and let it slide for the sake of flavor, essentially.

Likewise, if you want to t3h r34l Mafia, that's well and good. But there's no reason we couldn't have stupid movie Mafia for reasons of flavor, just like SR basically has stupid 1980s movie economics.

If it were me, my organized crime wouldn't be t3h r34l at all. Instead, it would be a bad hodgepodge of sterotypes from 80s movies. Except the yakuza would be the best in every respect because they have HONAAA.
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FanGirl
post May 30 2006, 02:20 AM
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I want to point out that I'm sort of used to having an intuitive grasp of many things (I learned to read when I was three) and sometimes I get contemptuous of those who don't seem to have the same understanding. "I figured it out so easily," I say to myself, "so why can't those other people get it?" All too often, I conclude that "it's because they are obviously too lazy and/or stupid to put in the effort of figuring it out." Is this conclusion arrogant? Hell yes, and I'm ashamed of it. That's why I'm trying to be humbler, so thanks for shaming me--it makes me into a better person. :D

About my desire for versimilitude: all my life, I've been uncomfortable when things aren't "just right." It's like OCD, but extremely mild: the air conditioner or TV volume must be turned to an even number, the little bits on spiral notebook paper that people leave on or under my desk must be ripped into tiny bits of confetti, and a man who does jobs for the Mafia but is not officially a member must be an associate. If these things aren't so, I get uncomfortable unless I can "fix" them.

So yeah, I'm just an egotistical nutcase.
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emo samurai
post May 30 2006, 02:22 AM
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I think he specifically said he was an associate... and I'm pretty sure that he can safely bite back at 80% of the people he deals with. If the boss is smart, he doesn't think much of the rank and file.
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