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> Looting Dumpshock for Ideas, Help me out, will ya?
Adarael
post Dec 1 2009, 10:09 PM
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So, over the years, I've run damn near every sub-genre of Shadowrun game imaginable. There has been vanilla/straight shadowrun galore: armed criminals shooting dudes in the face for money. There's been mob games of the Italian and Russian sorts, a Hong Kong action theatre Triad game, Yakuza-aligned heavies, and even some Tir syndicate stuff that's gone down. There have been ninjas and superspies, James Bonds galore, cyborgs ala Ghost in the Shell. There have been military games and mercenary games, and even backwoods bounty hunters in Australia. Basically, with a few very fringe exceptions, if it's a shadowrun game type, I've probably run it, which is a side effect of constantly GMing and playing Shadowrun since 1st edition.

But there's one type of game I've been meaning to run since about 1996 that I haven't - escaped science projects. You know the type. They have no memory - or perhaps conflicting memories from multiple viewpoints. They have cutting-edge cyberware and killer instincts, and no idea how they got them. They even have secret cyberware they don't know about! And they have escaped into a world that doesn't want them or know them! You know, like "The Long Kiss Goodnight" except not crappy.

But there's a problem. I'm feeling kind of burned out on the kinds of stories I want to tell. I need fresh ideas and ways of doing things because without them, I feel like I'm gonna recycle earlier ideas. That's why I'm taking a break and running Exalted and Jovian Chronicles instead.

So, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like to lay out the touchstones I want to hit in the new game, and have you all throw back ideas that might fit for the game - concepts, plot ideas, whatever.

The overview is thus: the PCs break out of a black lab when the owning corporation decides it's better to destroy it than let it fall into an enemy's hands, but the lead researcher has a soft spot for his special snowflake guinea pigs and cuts them loose as the lab is destroyed. They've got the gear in their bodies, what they stole, and the memories in their heads. Many of the memories are conflicting and from different 'lives', which a player mentioned sounds a lot like Dollhouse, but I haven't seen it. And therein the PCs must learn to make their way in this world, relying on the very basic information their researcher-dad gave them about reliable contacts in the outside world. Naturally, Parent Corporation would really rather they get murdered to hell and back, or come back home so they can have their investment recouped.

CAPITALISM
I want money to talk more than anything else in this game, with the possible exception of survival. More than love. More than honor. I want everyone and everything to have a price, and I want the PCs to to chasing that cash cow like it was a hit and they were junkies. I don't need to know how to make them need money, I have that covered. I want good ideas to make money the prime motivator for everyone and everything in the game. Above all, everyone has a price.

GLITTER AND GRIME
This isn't gonna be a pink mohawk gangers on 300bp game, but it also isn't gonna be my semi-realistic Minority Report style world, either. I'm Blade Runnering this game, where it's always raining and the rain eats your clothes and feral hillbillies eat devil rats because they're cleaner than other people. To compensate for that, the metaphorical lights are gonna get turned way up. More chrome, more neon, more fame, more turnover of stars. I need these runners to be rubbing elbows with both the Avon Barksdales and Maria Mercurials of the world.

EVERYBODY GETS SCREWED
I think I want this game to be less hopeful than prior games I've run. I don't want people to get justice, and I don't want death to be the only threat. I want to giveth and then taketh away. I'm tired of "cyberzombie" being the ultimate scary thing a company can release on you. I want options like, "Brainwash your faux family," or "Give your faux - or is she?! - wife a scary disease and withhold treatment unless you do what I want", or "We know who you REALLY are! But we won't tell you unless..." And at the end of the day, I want film noir endings. You might come out a little ahead, but the best you can usually hope for is to stay a step ahead of your enemies.

BALKANIZATION
I'm as guilty as anyone else of ignoring this, but lately Shadowrun seems to have drifted away from the sense of jingoism and paranoia that was so rampant in earlier editions. The Sioux are a threat! The CAS is a threat! Tir Tairngire is a threat! Everyone is out to get us, go UCAS/CAS/Quebec! So I want people to constantly be butting heads and dealing with other, neo-retro cultures like the NAN, Siberia, tribal warlords in southeast asia, et cetera. So what are some good and unusual ideas along these lines?

As always, any other interesting ideas y'all might have are appreciated.
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Karoline
post Dec 1 2009, 10:31 PM
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Well, sounds like an interesting sort of game, let me see if I can throw out any sort of ideas to help you out.

Capitalism: Make sure that anything that must be paid for is paid for. Focus on little things about currency. Are they using credsticks or online bank accounts? What ID are those accounts tied to? Are they off-shores that don't require a SIN but might vanish overnight with all your cash? Make sure to even add in the little details like interest in different accounts, or anti-interest in certain shady accounts. Don't let your players just 'buy a coffee' but get a '10 nuyen soycaf double espresso with extra coffee stuff'. Cab rides aren't free, food isn't free. This goes well with them likely not having lifestyles at the start of the game. Allow for bargaining in things beyond a die roll to get more or less money. Basically, if you want money to be important, draw their attention to it as often as you can, make it more than just a resource that comes up in negotiations of a job and buying equipment.

Grit and Grime: Well, I don't know why the runners would be hanging out with superstars, but that aside, it is easy to do that by mentioning little things, like how the players get bombarded with spam, and casually mention things like 'the newest single by Jane.' or 'Jane, now on tour, live and in person.' Use a small handful of names for a while, then slowly change them up to get that sense that who is hot is changing. Do the players check the news at all? Include the latest hot couple and big breakups. Our news if full of that crap very important information crap, it is unlikely to change by 2072.

Everybody Gets Screwed: It's called an orgy.... oh, wait (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nyahnyah.gif) This is an easy one to do by de-emphasizing combat. If 95% of a character's life is spent in combat, then something big in combat is going to be what scares them. If a character spends 95% of their time being the character, living life, existing, and so on, then things that threaten that existence as a constant (Having a loving wife, the kids, the bar down the street, whatever) will be the bigger fear.

Balkanization: News can be a big factor in that. Headlines about how tensions are high between X and Y, and how Z is getting into the middle of it or saying "Screw you guys." Getting hit with spam about voting for that new law that will make it illegal for anyone from NAN to look at you funny. Protest groups or similar advocates in important locations. Even just the 'buzz' "Hey, did you hear about how a border station got blown up last week?" "Man, stupid CAS trying to say that gays should be able to not be killed on sight." "Joe got busted for watching ultraporntm the other day."

The golden rule here is bring it to the forefront.
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Adarael
post Dec 1 2009, 11:16 PM
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QUOTE (Karoline @ Dec 1 2009, 02:31 PM) *
Grit and Grime: Well, I don't know why the runners would be hanging out with superstars, but that aside, it is easy to do that by mentioning little things, like how the players get bombarded with spam, and casually mention things like 'the newest single by Jane.' or 'Jane, now on tour, live and in person.' Use a small handful of names for a while, then slowly change them up to get that sense that who is hot is changing. Do the players check the news at all? Include the latest hot couple and big breakups. Our news if full of that crap very important information crap, it is unlikely to change by 2072.


I was perhaps unclear. I don't mean that I need them to hang out socially with these people. I mean something like, "Middle Manager Takahashi has hired them to kidnap Sim Starlet X from her condo, hold her for three days, and then release her, because he needs HIS Sim Starlet to be the biggest goddamn thing at the Oscars, cuz then he lands a bonus and can pitch his new show." Or alternately, "You know, Rockerboy Chuck is up and coming, and making tons of money for Horizon. We need you to approach him and covertly pitch the idea of an extraction to him so he can work for us. If he isn't game, you need to kidnap him within 24 hours and deliver him to us."

That kind of stuff. I was thinking a lot about the entertainment industry while playing The Ballad of Gay Tony expansion for GTA IV, and thinking that I haven't done enough with the massive amounts of money and power present in that industry.
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kzt
post Dec 1 2009, 11:36 PM
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To make money more important, increase the cost of stuff. SR has vehicles, drones, guns and ammo (other then regular pistol/rifle bullets) priced absurdly low. For example, if you buy .50 cal HMGs in lots of 498 you can get them for the low price of $13,613 each, vs SR with a cost of 7,500 in quantities of 1. Drones at 1000 to 3000 are kind of absurd, raise them at least 10x.
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Fix-it
post Dec 1 2009, 11:44 PM
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EVERYBODY GETS SCREWED
I think I want this game to be less hopeful than prior games I've run. I don't want people to get justice, and I don't want death to be the only threat. I want to giveth and then taketh away. I'm tired of "cyberzombie" being the ultimate scary thing a company can release on you. I want options like, "Brainwash your faux family," or "Give your faux - or is she?! - wife a scary disease and withhold treatment unless you do what I want", or "We know who you REALLY are! But we won't tell you unless..." And at the end of the day, I want film noir endings. You might come out a little ahead, but the best you can usually hope for is to stay a step ahead of your enemies.


talk to Ancient History about this one. he seems capable of writing some pretty twisted stuff, if his website and posting history are any indication.

ps: be careful what you wish for.
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Chrysalis
post Dec 2 2009, 12:01 AM
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I have some ideas, but how twisted do you want? Be warned I can be pretty imaginative.

Gold is the heroin flowing through their veins. Everybody is a junkie after their first hit.
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Adarael
post Dec 2 2009, 12:02 AM
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Be as messed up as you want. Because at the end of the day? I don't think I've been mean enough to my players. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)
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McCummhail
post Dec 2 2009, 12:16 AM
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QUOTE (Adarael @ Dec 1 2009, 05:09 PM) *
CAPITALISM
I want money to talk more than anything else in this game, with the possible exception of survival. More than love. More than honor. I want everyone and everything to have a price, and I want the PCs to to chasing that cash cow like it was a hit and they were junkies. I don't need to know how to make them need money, I have that covered. I want good ideas to make money the prime motivator for everyone and everything in the game. Above all, everyone has a price.

As pure capitalism implies an innate morality with an idealism not unlike pure Marxist communism, I think you may want to steer that compass point towards materialism or some other idea.

I would white wash the players moral compass early. Punish decisions made for moral motives and reward amoral (not immoral, just amoral) decisions motivated by materials/currency. Set up scenarios where the people who can afford it are given special moments of joy, pleasure, fun, attention.
As an example, players are hired to kidnap the daughter of some television news anchor to influence his news cast, using force or other means to aid his decision acceptable. A player that tries to rise above this vicious illegal activity gets later singled out by the police or media as the face that stood out (esp. for their 'hypocrisy'). Once the run is over, they run into a crazy wild party full of women, novacoke, pumping music, etc (like something out of an 80s movie lol), but it isn't a cheap night out. Participants in the fun get low-level contacts as a bonus.
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Chrysalis
post Dec 2 2009, 12:29 AM
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Alright first of all, the game world is its own 300 pound cybered gorilla of a character. In many ways it's the BBEG of the campaign. Not the screwed up people they end up protecting or killing.

The shadows are cut-throat. Nobody is in it to make pals. Captain Chaos may have his wake and the sappy go happy people are there singing his hymns. But the majority of the real Shadowrunners. Those people the ShdowSea community plays la-la music to.

Nobody gives a damn about them, because they will just as soon kill you as look at you. So those elaborate poseurs can go brag about what group of insect spirits they killed. Their after all wearing their superman underwear and don't give a frag about anything that does not fit their small little TV world of black and white morality.

You want to run a job?

Here are some story ideas:

Tamanous is looking for fresh meat. 1,000 nuyen for any kid that's healthy and breathing. Preferred age between 12-18. Surged kids will net an additional 1,000.

Corporate terrorism. 5,000 nuyen to change cosmetics of Lips factor with their deadly blend. Get caught dead with Lips Factor. Promotional campaign by Lips Factor execs.

Redmond barrens. The adrenaline rich place for Met-2000 urban training. Your job: Make it real for the mercs. Preferred death rate 20%. All action recorded for Bloodbath Horizon reality sims. Don't just watch it - live it.

ACHE. Rich spoiled kid thought it would be cool to go into the ACHE as an indentured servant. Find her and teach her why she should not leave her daddy.



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The Dragon Girl
post Dec 2 2009, 12:32 AM
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I'm playing in a game with and as an escaped experiment.. this actually sounds really neat! Except er.. grimdark! rather than dystopia fighting the man style kind depresses me >.>; so I am likely not helpful with the ideas I would offer.
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Ascalaphus
post Dec 2 2009, 01:32 AM
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Print out some nuyen play money, and actually carry out all the transactions. Props are more vivid than a number on your equipment listing. (Bonus points if you know how to make credstick props that work.) This will rub your players in the monetary nature of your game.

Think about the relationship between corporations and governments. The corporations own all the people with significant incomes; the people who pay income tax. The governments, lacking about 60% of the income they used to get, are in trouble. In fact, they'd have long ago collapsed, but the corps won't let them die. The corps want a government that looks in charge, but needs them. They want government that can't stop them, but that takes responsibility. If there were no-one else, the corporations might face revolt and responsibility, but that's what they have the government for.

The government doesn't have money for welfare, for medical service - not for everyone. They semi-randomly cut away most of the bottom class, wiped their SINs. And the SINless can't get welfare.

Get rid of effective super-surveillance. Sure the government wants to control everyone, and the corporations market-research everyone. But the SINless are many, crime is endless, and budgets small. They'll make recordings, and maybe come after you in hindsight, but they can't afford to watch everyone all the time.

"Justice" becomes arbitrary and random. When the government moves, it's sudden and without rhyme or reason. Keeping your hands clean is no guarantee they won't come after you. And you can get away with murder if the cops just never decide to come.
Because it's so unpredictable, people do and dress as they like; tomorrow you might be dead or rich. Toeing the line is pointless.
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Dahrken
post Dec 2 2009, 06:35 AM
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Just a note : make sure your players are into it too, or it is likely to flop.
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Dahrken
post Dec 2 2009, 06:35 AM
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[edit] double post, sorry [/edit]
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Blade
post Dec 2 2009, 11:17 AM
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Capitalism: Set your game in a world where methuman life is cheap and money is expensive. Imagine post-depression U.S. where only the very-rich still do fine and everyone else can't seem to be able to get money. Corps are using this to their advantage telling their employees that "times are tough, those of us who have a job should be thankful and work harder to get the society back on track" (perhaps they are the one behind this and are just keeping this idea alive, so that people stick to them). Even in the black-market, times are tough and the only one to make money are those who had it to begin with (mafias, corrupt corporate/government businessmen...). People are so desperate that they're willing to work for next to nothing, even if it means risking their lives. If the runners refuse a job, Mr. Johnson has 4 other teams willing to work for less.

This doesn't just have an impact on the runners, but also on their contacts and on the people they'll meet: everyone has his price, nearly everyone is corrupt and everyone who's successful is corrupt. Even loyal contacts might sell the PCs, and the PCs will be able to bribe their way around.

Grit and Grime: in this world full of poverty, lights and neons are a way to escape reality to pretend that everything is bright and shiny. With Simsense, they can pretend they are these beautiful stars, part of an elite that hasn't been hit by the depression. It's good for corps, since it calms down people and make them less likely to riot. The problem is that the stars are actually as affected by this rotten world as anyone else. They're either aware of the sad state of the world and depressed, or bored by their perfect and uneventful life or getting rotten due to their proximity with the rotten elite... Some do drugs, other take some strange and perverted hobbies, other get crazy and start religions... They burn out in a few weeks, and get replaced by a new one.

Everybody get Screwed: everybody is rotten, everybody has things to hide, everybody will do anything it takes to hide these... Blackmail, assassination, brainwashing. The most sensitive people are the first to go, followed by those who won't use any means possible and in the end, the only one to stay would be the worst people with no ethics.

An excellent inspiration would be Ellroy's books, especially the L.A Quartet. Replace Communists with Sioux/CAS/Tir, minorities with metahumans (Blacks with Trolls, Hispanic with Orks) and rich dandies with elves, add some tech, magic and corporate backing to the rich and powerful and you should have everything you need.
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Ascalaphus
post Dec 2 2009, 12:30 PM
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Grit & Grime: whenever you design an NPC, give him some flaw of character. I don't mean a physical flaw, but actual moral or emotional flaws that make the guy or gal less sympathetic. You must be able to look at every NPC and think the world would be better without them, but they're useful for now.
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Saint Sithney
post Dec 2 2009, 12:45 PM
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Medical experiments with a heavy dose of mindphunk?

Make them psychotic. If they don't get regular (EXPENSIVE) medical treatments, you start handing them notes to tell them what they've seen. You know, "you just saw [a little girl in a nightgown] run through the intersection of this Azzie blacksite hallway. Roll composure or follow." Or "You've just realized that you haven't bathed in two weeks. Your teeth feel funny. Roll composure." Or, best yet, "You just realized that you have no idea when you started getting your treatments or how you came to find [Dr. Bentway]'s facilities to begin with. Roll, ..oh sod it! Psychotic break time!"


I sort of like the idea of a group of paranoid, broken, killing machines whose basic purpose in life is to keep raking in the cash to keep their decaying minds in tact. Maybe even, the first few runs are all elaborate sims created to establish the fake identity of the doctor whom they pay to keep them in order. Maybe he wipes their memories as best he can from time to time and sets them back up as fresh to avoid them catching on. Maybe this time he's screwed up... OR Maybe the Doctor isn't behind it at all. Maybe that's just another paranoid delusion, and they're planning to kill their only tether to reality? All they know is that after they get their treatment, they can feel better, but without it everything begins falling to pieces..

Play up the horror and alienation of senses which the PC's can't wholly trust. Maybe their senses are trying to guide them to the truth? Maybe they're leading them to a messy confused death.
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Chrysalis
post Dec 2 2009, 12:49 PM
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I was thinking about this last night a bit more. My recommendation is take the game out of Seattle. Seattle has nothing special in it and everyone has some ideas of what is fair and just.

How about instead take it to Tenochtitlan, Vladivostok, or even GeMiTo.

The Shadowrunner group is small. There are no gentlemen Shadowrunners in this place. Desperation is the key ingredient, but also the corruption and amorality of the world is flagrant and the status quo.

It's a place where Stuffer Shacks are usually knocked over and the people killed only next week to have new employees in to clean up last week's mess. This is not a nice place.
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Ascalaphus
post Dec 2 2009, 01:47 PM
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QUOTE (Saint Sithney @ Dec 2 2009, 01:45 PM) *
Medical experiments with a heavy dose of mindphunk?

Make them psychotic. If they don't get regular (EXPENSIVE) medical treatments, you start handing them notes to tell them what they've seen. You know, "you just saw [a little girl in a nightgown] run through the intersection of this Azzie blacksite hallway. Roll composure or follow." Or "You've just realized that you haven't bathed in two weeks. Your teeth feel funny. Roll composure." Or, best yet, "You just realized that you have no idea when you started getting your treatments or how you came to find [Dr. Bentway]'s facilities to begin with. Roll, ..oh sod it! Psychotic break time!"


I sort of like the idea of a group of paranoid, broken, killing machines whose basic purpose in life is to keep raking in the cash to keep their decaying minds in tact. Maybe even, the first few runs are all elaborate sims created to establish the fake identity of the doctor whom they pay to keep them in order. Maybe he wipes their memories as best he can from time to time and sets them back up as fresh to avoid them catching on. Maybe this time he's screwed up...

Play up the horror and alienation of senses which the PC's can't wholly trust. Maybe their senses are trying to guide them to the truth? Maybe they're leading them to a messy confused death.


Oooh! I like!
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Sir_Psycho
post Dec 2 2009, 01:58 PM
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When you're using mindfucked lab rats as the character theme, you've got to remember that the characters' background are what created them. Split this up and make it convoluted enough to resist casual exploration.

As an example, a cabal of differently motivated, incredibly intelligent and skilled scientists came together on corporate coin to tweak with the idea of human. Make this group diverse and eccentric. Some are intellectually motivated, which allows them to get over their corporate misgivings. Have some of the scientists have connections to groups like the Anarchist Black Cross/Crescent, environmental groups, etc., maybe some pragmatically stole and lied their way into their positions and were fighting to keep looking like they had all the ideas, maybe some scientists were actually plants. Have the scientists come from different nations, different corporations, even different scientific schools and methods. Then when the characters want to find something out about themselves, they have to track down and delve into different unfamiliar worlds you're interested in illustrating to get to that familiarity and pay off.

To illustrate capitalism, make it hard for the characters to gain and keep contacts, especially at higher levels. When the characters can't rely on anyone else when their wallets are empty, it will make them more likely to try and keep the coffers filled. Also, because they have the skills and abilities afforded to a lab rat killmachine, anyone with a bit of paydata and an entrepeneurial spirit (by your post, I assume near everyone) will try and cash-in on the character's plight. Have a few runs where the work the characters do benefits their employer, but it turns out the employer has no intention of sacrificing profit to pay some lab rats and just calls the dog catchers.
Then, think about it from a security opposition. Maybe the security company that bungled their jobs and let you escape are a subsidiary worried about being liquidated. Maybe they're an independent contractor, full of bitter old veteran mercs and soldiers, led by a shrewd ex mercenary with a lot of wealth, but faced with losing it all. Have a good motivation behind a dogged enemy.

Finally, the corporation. The entity which has no personal concept of the runners, but forked out the nuyen for the scientists, technology, security and locations, and loses more as the characters survive and fight back. Consider money well when deciding what the corp's reaction will be. How much are the test subjects costing their mother corp? Are they running and hiding? Are they fighting? Are they actually helping the corp via shadow work? Remember the corp wants to keep it's book balanced, which can inspire you to come up with some horrifically amoral decisions made about the characters' lives.
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Ascalaphus
post Dec 2 2009, 02:05 PM
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If they've been mindwiped enough, they might also have some allies/debtors lined up that they might not remember right away. Occasionally a new chunk of memory becomes available to them and gives them something they need - they remember a cache of weapons they hid somewhere, perhaps.

I was reading this a while back. It might give you some ideas too - particularly on the perspectives the scientists might have about the "fake humans" they're working on.
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Saint Sithney
post Dec 2 2009, 02:11 PM
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QUOTE (Ascalaphus @ Dec 2 2009, 05:47 AM) *
Oooh! I like!


Yeah, I think the use of the term "treatment" would make it too close to Dollhouse standard though (OP should at least familiarize himself with the basic plot of said show.) However, if these guys are really lab rats with a degenerative mental disorder from multiple brain wipes, the treatments themselves would be completely real, necessary and verifiable by 3rd party.
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Brazilian_Shinob...
post Dec 2 2009, 04:06 PM
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I assume you are already familiar with it, but just in case. James Cameron's Dark Angel TV show talks about exactly this: Gene-engineered people who got out of a "secret-corporate-hideout-of-doom" and tries to survive on a very (less) cyber (more) punk world.
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Adarael
post Dec 2 2009, 05:00 PM
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Conceptually, yes. I haven't actually seen it, though, because I don't really watch TV unless someone says, "I have this show on DVD, you must watch it!" However, from what I know of Dollhouse and Dark Angel, the concepts involved are similar enough to things I'm familiar with - The Manchurian Candidate, the Ghost in the Shell films, manga, and series, and the memetic hacking techniques in books such as The Cassini Division or Schizmatrix.

Thank you all for responding as you have, by the way. Some very interesting ideas in here that I am busily looting. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif) And in answer to the "Augh, this sounds grimdark!" commentary, I want it to be so because most of my Shadowrun games explicitly ARE of the "fighting the man" type.
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Brazilian_Shinob...
post Dec 2 2009, 06:46 PM
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Well, if you happen to take a chance to watch it, please do. It is only 4-5 seasons, can't recall exactly and they have some interesting revisited clichés. I once tried to create some of Dark Angel "super-humans" using geneware and bioware and they would turn out really expensive for a corporation to develop the number of agents shown.
I mean, from an entire budget PoV, hiring shadowrunners look better unless you assume they got a breakthrough and developed for instance: geneware for half-price and delta-bioware by the price of alfa-grade. Anyway, just my 2 (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif)
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Vittek
post Dec 2 2009, 09:44 PM
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I second the Dark Angel suggestion, and it's only two seasons.
My take on the lab-rats:
Vat grown clones, quickly grown to adulthood, that should have no cerebral activity, suddenly wake up and escape form their vats and from the facility. During the following days (and for the entire campaign) they will slowly remember things from their previous lifes. They will find out, in the end, that they are actually ghosts that took the 'free bodies' found in the facility. This opens up a lot of questions and hidden hooks. Who were they? Family, friends, enemies? Who killed them? How, why, when? Can they exact revenge?
This is a way to keep the 'tech+magic' feeling of shadowrun: why settle for something you can do in cyberpunk when you can add magic, too?
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