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> GM ingenuity?
emo samurai
post Oct 26 2006, 02:13 AM
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I put this out there both because I wanted to counter the taint that is the dysfunctional players thread and because I want ideas for byzantine plot structures and twists. Shadowrun, with its themes of information warfare and magic, is ripe for crazy ass plot twists. What are your most memorable plots?
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nezumi
post Oct 26 2006, 03:05 PM
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*sigh* this thread is just going to make me sad, as I tend to write out long, complex stories with beautifully crafted NPCs and a vibrant background to explore, and most PCs are like "I get paid to get suitcase, I get paid to get suitcase, I get paid... OUTTA THE WAY, OLD MAN! I get paid to get suitcase!" I feel like they're Toto getting carried through Oz. The awe and beauty of the Emerald city is ignored in favor of pondering when they'll next get to sniff some munchkin's crotch.

For the most part I've given up on formal plotting. It takes too long and never goes how you planned it anyway. I set down some 'starting conditions', some 'possible causes' and let it shift around the players.
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Lagomorph
post Oct 26 2006, 03:28 PM
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I feel bad for my GM some times, because I know he comes up with these intricate plots, and then we ruin them by either: Blowing holes in anything that moves, or choosing an entry/exit path orthogonal to every option he had planned for. You can tell when we've done it too, there's that long silence, and then a shrug and a sigh, and he tells us what happens next.
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Dog
post Oct 26 2006, 04:58 PM
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Well, there's this one: I started off with a well-known scenario: "capture the blood mage for a reward" ... and ended up with:

The team is baby sitting a decker for a FOF, not knowing what the job is, when a team of battered runners shows up in desperate need of help. They pass on their vehicle and cargo to the confused PC's who then deliver it to a strip bar. At the strip bar they meet a fixer, who reveals that a dead body is the cargo. The fixer and her entourage quickly scatter without making payment, leaving the runners wondering what the hell happened.

A short time later, the decker they were protecting contacts the runners and tells them that he is going into hiding, and that they should, too. However, the runners return to the strip club looking for the fixer. When they find her, she reveals that they are already "in too deep," so she might as well hire them on. She sends them to meet a Boeing maintenance guy who can give them plans to a certain "abandoned" building. She also gives them some money for the impromptu courier work and tickets to a concert at Underworld 93.

At the concert, one of the runners meets up with a girl, who quickly falls for him. This complicates the relationship he has with his current girlfriend, who treats him like dirt anyway.

Next the team uses the plans they have to rescue a group of other runners from the "abandoned" building, where they are being held by unidentified mercs. Having done so, they deliver the injured runners to a ranch owned by Mr. Johnson. From then on, Mr. Johnson drops hints that he is backed by Transys Neuronet and may be working directly for Celedyr. He makes it clear that he will have more rescue-work for them in the near future, so stick around. While spending time on the ranch, they meet an Amerind warden who protects... something... in the nearby woods, and a former shadowrunner who now tends the ranch's horses and offers the team riding lessons. One of the rescued runners also invites the PC's to visit his talismonger shop.

Meanwhile, the Boeing maintenance guy contacts the runners, because he is convinced that he can lead them into another Boeing facility where they can lift a product and make a huge profit. The guy's kind of a dork.
Over the next while, they are invited to do some hunting in the local woods with the game warden, deepening the mystery of what's he protecting. They also learn that one of Mr. Johnson's entourage, an elf, is a real ass and major rival to the fixer the team met earlier.

Eventually, the first fixer sets the team up for another rescue job. The team agrees to it, and the next thing they know, they wake up deep inside the Aztech pyramid. One helpful overwatching decker and a plot device later, they realize that they were put into some kind of hibernation to sneak them in, with short-term amnesia being a side-effect. The decker guides them to their gear and helps them locate another team of runners to rescue. Along the way, they witness a really creepy conjuring of a blood-spirit, (but have no idea what it is they're seeing.) They escape with the prisoners by the skin of their teeth.

A party is held at U-93 for the couple of dozen people working for Mr. Johnson on his "project." The girl that the PC met before manages to convince him to bring her, and she gets the approval of everyone present. At the same party, it is revealed that the horse-lady and one of the recently rescued runners (a cybernetics expert) had a relationship in their past that went sour.
To take it easy, the runners take a weekend to help out the owner of the talismonger shop and look after it while he takes some down-time with his wife. They are harassed by some suits looking for the guy, adding to the suspicion created by the first decker. Upon his return, the talismonger gives the PC's a talisman that he says is "acting funny" in their presence.

Soon, the original decker shows up again, claiming that an assassin actually tracked him down in New Orleans and he only narrowly escaped. He asks the PC's for help, and they take him to the ranch, where he is welcomed by the rest, but promptly disappears.
The time arrives for the run set up by the Boeing maintenance dork. It goes sour, and a strange merc nearly hunts them all down. The dork falls into an industrial forge.

Some time later, on a subsequent hunting trip near the ranch, the warden discovers that the "friends" he was protecting seem to have disappeared. He enlists the PC's help to find them, and they discover a small insect spirit hive in the mountains. Forging ahead, they rescue some of the warden's charges from the bugs: a tribe of semi-sentient centaurs. The warden is killed in the rescue.

Meanwhile, the budding romance between the girl from U-93 and the PC is interrupted when -in the middle of her lacrosse match- the demonic looking thing that was once the Boeing maintenance dork rips open the building to steal her away.

More confused than ever, the runners finally get some answers from Mr. Johnson and his fixers: All the runners that the PC's have been rescuing were involved in the attempt to steal a blood-mage from aztechnology. There are more to be rescued as well. The girl's presence was no coincidence, she does have an important role to play, and Mr. Johnson needs her returned. The fixer has done the intel to rescue her, and no sooner does she reveal the girl's location than a sniper's bullet drops her. The ranch is subsequently invaded and razed, although most of the PC's and NPC's escape. The PC's manage to find the sniper, who turns out to be the elf that was after them on the Boeing run.

The heroic PC's run off to save the damsel in distress. (The kidnapped one, not the one who was shot.) and discover some important things in the doing: The kidnapper is actually the blood spirit that they saw conjured in the Azzie pyramid, who has been following the runners for some time. It witnessed the death of the security guy at Boeing and took the form of his body. The spirit has been instructed to find the girl, but doesn't know why. The PC's are only able to defeat it with the help of the talisman they got from the talismonger. Mr. Johnson takes the girl into his care.

From there, the team is quickly mobilized to rescue more runners, this time from an Azzie ship about to head out. Accomplishing this mission, they return to a safehouse to find that the fixer has survived the sniper shot, and has again taken the reins from the rival, elf fixer. The fixer quickly conducts an interview with one of the newly rescued, and learns the location of the last team. This last bunch is being held in a nearly impenetrable mountain outpost, and almost everyone is at a loss as to how to get to them. The solution only comes when the team is able to convince the ex-runner horse lady and her now rescued ex-boyfriend to work together. They prove to be an excellent planning team when they cooperate, and come up with a way into the fortress, but it requires a particular piece of equipment.

The PC's are sent to steal the gear that they need, now aided by some of the runners that they rescued and that have sufficiently recovered. This job is a confidence builder that leads them quickly to rescue the last group of runners from the mountain outpost. When they return the prisoners to Mr. Johnson, he reveals his true nature: He is the Nubian right-hand-man to Celedyr, but acting on his own, with the permission, if not cooperation, of the dragon. Mr. Johnson also reveals that the elf fixer inadvertently orchestrated the disaster at the ranch by selling out the runners to the mysterious "Boeing security guy," not knowing that he was actually an Aztech spy. The fixer-elf is sent away in shame.

Mr. Johnson also gives the full story that the PC's are looking for: he intends to make a second attempt to steal a blood-mage. The target happens to be the father of the girl from U-93. (In fact, when the runners saw the conjuring in the pyramid, they saw the girl's father resorting to blood magic to locate his runaway daughter. Recognizing the hints of a connection on the astral is why the spirit was following the runners to get to her.) Mr. Johnson asks the PC's to wait to be called to action in capturing the blood-mage.

After an unnerving lull in the action, the team is contacted by the original fixer they meet in a staging garage and find most of the NPC's assembled. A total of 28 runners is executing a five-pronged attack to disrupt Azzie communication, create a feint by attacking the pyramid itself, draw out the blood mage and his guards to a less defended, but more secret location, and intercept any backup that his bodyguards might have. The PC's role is to assist some of the teams with their insertion and set up, then to infiltrate the secret location and use the mage's daughter as bait to lure him into capture. The team includes all of the runners mentioned above.

Of course the run is not smooth, and many runners are killed, which the PC's must listen to over their comm-devices as they wait in hiding. The plan barely works, and when the PC's nab the guy, some back up arrives to rescue him. All seems lost.

Until a group of indebted centaurs shows up to help the team escape, guided by the outcast elf-fixer who sacrifices his life to redeem himself. Escape by centaur is made possible largely by the fact that the team signed up for riding lessons earlier....

Returning the target to Mr. Johnson, they discover that the blood mage is immediately traded to two strange-looking Amazonians in exchange for prisoner they have brought from down south. The whole process takes about a minute and a half. The prisoner is led away by Mr. Johnson without ever revealing who he is.

In the end, the team is provided with a contact list of about a dozen new people, a decent wad of cash, and free summer vacations in the south pacific. I think some of them retired after that.

This took me a few months to write, a few months to run, and covered about 40 scenes in two dozen locations and detailed over thirty-five NPC's. It was kind of slow at work those days. Someday I hope to type it all up pretty and replace the notes I lost. Even if just to show my kids one day.

Four karma to anybody who read the whole thing. And if you didn't... I don't blame you.
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Butterblume
post Oct 26 2006, 05:09 PM
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QUOTE (Dog)
Four karma to anybody who read the whole thing.  And if you didn't... I don't blame you.

Damn, I stopped reading only a few paragraphs ago - somehow I was getting confused :wobble:.

I take it that this convoluted plot developed itself from the basic premise as time went by, rather than being written in advance? Hm, rhetorical question, railroading this long would get the GM killed.
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Dog
post Oct 26 2006, 05:36 PM
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About 25-75 or 20-80 GM to player input on the plot. I tend to use the "if the players do this, the NPC's will do this..." kind of writing. And yeah, the part that I'm prepared for will eventually lead back towards the conclusion that I have in mind. If the players do something I wasn't expecting, of course I'll run that as well. Fortunately, my players and I are good friends, and I'm able to anticipate what they'll do most of the time, so a lot was prepared in advance. I also ask them what sort of stuff they want their characters to face in upcoming runs. Some stuff I had to ignore, some I had to improvise. That's life. It's like fishing: sometimes they just don't take the bait. During this run, the romantically involved character was dealing with his other S/O and although his character didn't go after the mage's daughter, she pursued him.

Also in this particular game, the major plot points were a given: Mr. Johnson was for sure gonna make a second try for a blood mage. The girl was gonna get kidnapped by the spirit. The elf-fixer was gonna betray them. The players' choice on those matters was how involved they were going to be. I also have contingencies, like what if the PC's don't connect with the game warden, and don't rescue the centaurs? The fixer would show up with some other way to help them escape, like the gadgets they used to break into the mountain outpost.

So... railroading? Yeah, the tracks were there, but I don't mind when someone goes off road. The players control their own choices, but I can anticipate those choices and determine how the multitude of NPC's react. The world doesn't wait for the PC's to make it turn.
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Kyoto Kid
post Oct 26 2006, 05:52 PM
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QUOTE (Dog)

So... railroading?  Yeah, the tracks were there, but I don't mind when someone goes off road.  The players control their own choices, but I can anticipate those choices and determine how the multitude of NPC's react.  The world doesn't wait for the PC's to make it turn.

...I kind of do a similar thing now especially after a major scene early in my last campaign was completely bypassed.

I still have the main plot with it's various twists & clues all written out, but also have a parallel storyline which involves the NPCs that runs concurrently should the PCs head off on a tangent. Oh, I have a few "contingency" settings, basically "if the PCs go here", this is what they find or who they run into, but the main story continues to unfold even without them. In one case it allowed for a very bad situation to occur in their absence involving their primary mission and made the "endgame" a lot more difficult.
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Dog
post Oct 26 2006, 06:02 PM
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I think that generally, most players want to see where the GM's ideas lead, so they want to participate. GMs and Players should have a cooperative relationship, both have input into how the story goes.
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blakkie
post Oct 26 2006, 08:23 PM
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QUOTE (Lagomorph @ Oct 26 2006, 09:28 AM)
I feel bad for my GM some times, because I know he comes up with these intricate plots, and then we ruin them by either: Blowing holes in anything that moves, or choosing an entry/exit path orthogonal to every option he had planned for. You can tell when we've done it too, there's that long silence, and then a shrug and a sigh, and he tells us what happens next.

I've completely stopped prefabbing plots. Instead I have an idea or maybe two.

For example all the PCs hate Ares for one reason or another. That's what defined them as being a collection. So I come up with Ares is sending is making a secretive latenight container shipment to a really bad part of town, the container is coming in by ship.

That's it. I've got some stats for NPCs that'll pop up, but I don't know where exactly. Just to make it easier than eyeballing NPCs on the fly that aren't that likely to end in a TPK.

Then everything falls out of that during the session. Including how the PCs find out about it, timetable details, where it was sent from, who's at the receiving end. They've successfully hijacked the shipment and the session ended just as they were about the crack the doors. At that point nobody knew for sure what was inside, including me. I mostly know now. There is one piece that's really important for the future of the plot, and says something about who was suppose to receive the shipment......but exactly how I'm not sure yet what that is. I just have some fuzzy ideas about it, nothing concrete.

I'll burn that bridge when we get to it. EDIT: If we get to it, assuming the players don't derail the whole thing and head off somewhere else.
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Butterblume
post Oct 26 2006, 09:02 PM
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I loved to be GM for a group of my best friends. I also could anticipate what they would do most of the time (not in detail, but in general). Those were my best years as GM ;).
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Fortune
post Oct 26 2006, 09:26 PM
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QUOTE (blakkie @ Oct 27 2006, 06:23 AM)
I've completely stopped prefabbing plots. Instead I have an idea or maybe two...

Pretty much the same here. It's much easier to just make most of the details up on the fly, and fill in the blanks only if really necessary. It does help if you have players that pay attention, or have a tendancy to take notes (especially names! :D ).

The world goes on outside the character's lives, and since most of my players read the sourcebooks, they have a fair idea of the Sixth World. If they choose to interact with a certain element, then I just go with the flow, laying out a scenario there and then (but names are still hard!), and let the natural consequences of any actions or inactions on the PC's part take place from there.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 26 2006, 09:28 PM
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QUOTE (Fortune)
It does help if you have players that pay attention, or have a tendancy to take notes (especially names! :D ).

That's pretty much what I do now. just write down names of people and locations, the occassional picture or map if something like that will be needed. For the most part, the rest just isn't worth the work, unless it's a really convoluted plot. Those are fun to throw out very unexpectedly.
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Wounded Ronin
post Oct 26 2006, 09:36 PM
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QUOTE (nezumi)
*sigh* this thread is just going to make me sad, as I tend to write out long, complex stories with beautifully crafted NPCs and a vibrant background to explore, and most PCs are like "I get paid to get suitcase, I get paid to get suitcase, I get paid... OUTTA THE WAY, OLD MAN! I get paid to get suitcase!" I feel like they're Toto getting carried through Oz. The awe and beauty of the Emerald city is ignored in favor of pondering when they'll next get to sniff some munchkin's crotch.

Yeah, god forbid that a team of mercenaries act in an objective-orientated manner instead of stopping to explore the world around them while on the job and chat up random old men on the street.

Me, I have no plots, only scenarios.

"Anyone looking for a plot will be shot." - Mark Twain
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eidolon
post Oct 26 2006, 09:53 PM
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QUOTE (Wounded Ronin)
Yeah, god forbid that a team of mercenaries act in an objective-orientated manner instead of stopping to explore the world around them while on the job and chat up random old men on the street.


Right. Because "shadowrunners" are the same, old, pigeon-holed, cliche, "professional", perfect, get-job-do-job-buy-gear-get-job shmoes in every game. ;)
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Wounded Ronin
post Oct 26 2006, 09:57 PM
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QUOTE (eidolon)
QUOTE (Wounded Ronin)
Yeah, god forbid that a team of mercenaries act in an objective-orientated manner instead of stopping to explore the world around them while on the job and chat up random old men on the street.


Right. Because "shadowrunners" are the same, old, pigeon-holed, cliche, "professional", perfect, get-job-do-job-buy-gear-get-job shmoes in every game. ;)

I dunno, dude. People seem to complain and write to the CLUE files when the characters are incompetent, needlessly violent, or sociopathic. If we're also going to start complaining that the characters are objective-orientated and efficient, then it seems like we no longer have a basis to complain about anything.

And without someone or something to villify and complain about...well, every time that happens, god kills a Dumpshock.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 26 2006, 10:43 PM
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QUOTE
well, every time that happens, god kills a Dumpshock.

Try clapping?

I think it depends on the group and what they're looking for. Think video game terms. Some want straight forward FPS objectives, others want to explore the world NPC RPG type games. know your audience. If they want Grand Theft Auto and you want Final Fantasy, there might be an issue there. ;)
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Wounded Ronin
post Oct 26 2006, 11:02 PM
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QUOTE (fistandantilus3.0)
QUOTE
well, every time that happens, god kills a Dumpshock.

Try clapping?

I think it depends on the group and what they're looking for. Think video game terms. Some want straight forward FPS objectives, others want to explore the world NPC RPG type games. know your audience. If they want Grand Theft Auto and you want Final Fantasy, there might be an issue there. ;)

Repeated for truth. It seems like an obvious point, but stop and think about it...imagine how painfully your brain would explode if you were in one camp and the other people were in the other.

GM: "Your objective is in the airport control tower, here. You know that there's a detachment of 5 secret service men standing right outside the tower, but that they're supported by two snipers on top of the D terminal, here. Besides for normal security within the airport you also know there's a platoon of UCAS marines about a mile away heading in by vehicle onto the tarmac to provide additional security. Your potential entry points are here, here, and here. What do you do?"

Player: "I want to explore the waiting area. Is there a doughnut shop?"
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knasser
post Oct 26 2006, 11:10 PM
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Or vice versa:

GM: The pretty girl smiles at you. She looks shy, but has an air of quiet confidence.

Players: Okay, hacker - scan her commlink, check what sort of music she has on there then hack the bar's system to play her most played tune in the last eight days. Samurai - you're running interference. Go and talk about baseball with that good looking guy who's been eyeing her up. Don't let him get away from you. Troll - your task is to come on to her first so that I look good. I want this to go smooth and by the numbers. Stay frosty people.
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Wounded Ronin
post Oct 26 2006, 11:17 PM
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QUOTE (knasser)
Or vice versa:

GM: The pretty girl smiles at you. She looks shy, but has an air of quiet confidence.

Players: Okay, hacker - scan her commlink, check what sort of music she has on there then hack the bar's system to play her most played tune in the last eight days. Samurai - you're running interference. Go and talk about baseball with that good looking guy who's been eyeing her up. Don't let him get away from you. Troll - your task is to come on to her first so that I look good. I want this to go smooth and by the numbers. Stay frosty people.

I'm gonna try and sig that if it's not too long.
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fistandantilus4....
post Oct 26 2006, 11:19 PM
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So is the rigger the "wingman"?
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Wounded Ronin
post Oct 26 2006, 11:22 PM
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It's too long. :(
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knasser
post Oct 26 2006, 11:24 PM
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QUOTE (Wounded Ronin @ Oct 26 2006, 06:17 PM)

I'm gonna try and sig that if it's not too long.


My first ever sigging. :) :) :)

I do my happy dance now!

EDIT: Sob. :(
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dog_xinu
post Oct 26 2006, 11:49 PM
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I am going to quote someone (and I dont remember who said it, so forgive me!)

QUOTE
the GM wil think up of two different ways the Players will act with the mission, and the Players will come up with the third.



I know I badly quoted them. But I will sit down and think about the mission, and what is going on from all sides, and I can see 2, 3,4 and sometime up to 8 or 9 ways the players can attack the mission and most of the time, they dont. I am fairly good (or at least I think so) about keeping the ball rolling. Occasionally, I will have to stop and just think for a few minutes. That is when I generally tell the players it is time for a smoke/bathroom break. This will give me 5-10 minutes to recover. Current group only hit me like that once so far.


GM have to be very flexible. That is why I suggest yoga for all of them.

dog
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Dog
post Oct 27 2006, 03:58 AM
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what?
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knasser
post Oct 27 2006, 08:43 AM
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Yoga is good for GM flexibility, but has negative side-effects such as causing excess calmness and introspection. This can lead GMs to introduce non-combat based encounters and extended dialogue scenes. In extreme circumstances, they may even bring morality into the game.

I recommend Hsing-I instead. It also clears the mind, but encourages the natural aggression that is inherent in all good GMs.
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