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> I think I screwed up my Shadowrun game
JonathanC
post Feb 22 2012, 07:07 PM
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My Shadowrun game has been on rocky footing for a few months, due to scheduling and the loss of a player due to work. Currently the group is only 3 players. All of the characters are mundane, and none of them has hacking skills (the Technomancer is the one who got a new job and stopped being able to attend).

It is in this environment that I sent them on the run in question. Combat-wise, they're actually quite competent, so I thought it would be fun to put them up against a magical foe: in this case, an evil Free Spirit. The problem, it seems, was with my execution.

The fixer hooked them up with a Johnson, but made it clear he knew little/nothing about what the Johnson wanted. They met in a park; the Johnson was an Asian woman who claimed that the government had taken her children away and given them to foster parents, and was refusing her visitation. She wanted the kids to be stolen back. The kids were still young, and were assumed to have been taken early enough that they might not recognize her, or even realize that they were adopted.

Footwork turned up nothing of interest on the parents. Corp workers, nothing special, living in a middle-class part of Renton. Records of adoption aren't going to be accessible by a Data Search check (at least, that's what I figured), and the TM left around this time, so their vague plans to hack into the records to check never materialized. I did let them gain access to some street-level surveillance photos of the area around the park where they met the lady - she never emerged from the park. They asked a hacker contact to look her up, but the hacker found absolutely nothing. They seemed to just assume that either their hacker friend sucked, or this person was super-connected; no suspicion of anything supernatural.

The kidnapping happened. They noticed that the kids were wearing biomonitors, but didn't remove them. They used tranq patches and left the house....I figured it was reasonable that exiting the house at 2am with wired-up kids would set off an alarm, so they were attacked by some drones. Very little came of it: they got to the van, the drones tried to shoot at the side of the van a little (mainly to mark it) but couldn't keep up for long, and the players easily disposed of them.

The next session was kind of fun, since we got to use the chase rules after the police started a pursuit. During the chase, one of the players wanted to fire on the patrol cars with his LMG, but it was an armored rigger van, so I was like "dude, you can't just stick that thing out of a window...I don't even think there are windows in the back". So he opened the side door and fired, but nearly got thrown off when the van was rammed. One of the kids almost flew out of the open door, but he caught them. I think it's reasonable to say that the patrol car's dash-cam would have caught him though.

The thing is they didn't seem to have a great idea of where they wanted to run to, and they ended up going to Redmond. None of the players are from Redmond, or have contacts there, so when they asked for a safehouse there, I was like "uh...wait, what?" The van had been pretty badly damaged during the case (they got rammed by a patrol car and lost half of the damage boxes on the van), so I let them find an abandoned service station. I had a police drone following them from afar after the end of the chase, and it took a pot-shot at one of them. They bailed soon after, and shot up the drone. They spent the night in an abandoned lot, with the rigger doing some basic repairs on the van.

Next morning, they made contact with a smuggler contact to try to find a route back to Puyallup, since going through the city didn't seem safe. They also heard a news report about the kidnapping, including a note that there had been other disappearances in previous months. At various times during this op, by the way, the kids would wake up, scream, beg to be taken home, and were usually tranq'd again or gagged. Anyway, the smuggler agrees to help and gives them a route that will take them briefly into Salish territory, in exchange for them delivering a small package. The delivery goes fine. I tried to spice things up with some random encounters, but the players avoided them.

At some point the players buy some food from a service station, and it occurs to all of us that the kids haven't been fed or allowed to use a bathroom. They feed the kids some snake jerky that they bought in Salish, and when they arrive in Puyallup they get some fresh, cheap clothes and wipes for the kids to clean themselves up with (looking back on it, the oldest kid was like 7, so this seems kind of ridiculous). Anyway, the brief time with the kids ungagged gives the kids another chance to ask what's going on, but no info is given. At the meet with the Johnson, one of the kids looks at the woman (by this time, the kids had been told they were being given to their mother), turns to one player, and says "that isn't my mother".

The woman comes over, hugs the kids, and soon after both kids claim to recognize her as their mother. She pays the group, gets in her car, and drives off. A day or so later, the players hear on the news that the kids' bodies were found, mostly eaten. Tests for HMHVV on the remains were negative, so it wasn't ghouls.

The players seemed a bit unsatisfied, and I definitely was. Suddenly they cared that they handed the kids over to a child-eating abomination, but various times during the op when I dropped hints that there was an odd lack of info about this woman, and no reason why the family would be a target of corporate espionage, nobody was suspicious or thought to question their Johnson's motives.

I'm taking responsibility for this, though. I think I just ran a crappy game, and the gaps in play sessions didn't help at all.
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Synner667
post Feb 22 2012, 07:14 PM
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Not really sure what the problem is.

They did a job, they got paid.

What's the issue ??

That they didn't realise something was "suspicious" ??
That it was children ??

Based on what you've said, I don't see anything wrong with the sessions.
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Irion
post Feb 22 2012, 07:16 PM
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@JonathanC
Sounds like a great plot to me. A bit dark for my taste, but well though out.

Thats the hard thing if you play, sometimes you loose.

I do not know your players, but depending on the character I would like a possibility to repend. Meaning a (very) hard way to track this abonimation and scatter her spiritual energy to the end of the universe and beyond. (So R&R repend and revenge)
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JonathanC
post Feb 22 2012, 07:21 PM
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QUOTE (Synner667 @ Feb 22 2012, 11:14 AM) *
Not really sure what the problem is.

They did a job, they got paid.

What's the issue ??

That they didn't realise something was "suspicious" ??
That it was children ??

Based on what you've said, I don't see anything wrong with the sessions.

Eh, I don't think they really got the feeling of making a moral choice. During the op, they were cool professionals, one player was like "man, f--- those kids, I don't care what they have to say". After the op, he was super-pissed at the fixer, like "what the hell?! You sent us to work for a goddamn flesh-eater!".

I feel like I failed to elicit the responses that I was looking for (either they would get moral and try to protect the kids, or remain immoral, accept what they'd done, and would be targeted for reprisal later). Instead, it just feels like they made decisions based on bad information, or info I didn't convey to them completely/correctly. The most obvious hint was at the end, but they said that by then, it was "too late", and the lady would have just mind-controlled them too.

But hey, maybe they're just trying to justify a game that ended with them assisting a cannibal. It just wasn't fun, and having made my players feel bad for what they did (even if their characters might not), I just feel like I failed as a game master. Plus, now it just casts a pall on things. I want some closure for the story, but I'm not even sure how I'd do that. The Free Spirit is out in the world, has no reason to re-hire the same Runners, and really the main link for the authorities would be the smuggler contact (who didn't know the details, but knew the group was on the run from something, and was driving a van) and while he's only Loyalty 2, I'd feel like kind of a jerk if I made him flip on the players.
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Murrdox
post Feb 22 2012, 07:22 PM
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Your players weren't thinking on their toes and they got the "Bad Ending" to your adventure. They missed the twist ending, so it wasn't an entirely satisfying conclusion.

Why not come up with another adventure for them to get to the bottom of the child murders? Maybe their fixer knows what happened, and keeps his eyes out for another job dealing with finding missing children. At some point this Free Spirit is going to target someone with the Nuyen to hire Shadowrunners when her kids suddenly go missing, or worse, end up as half eaten corpses. She's going to want to get to the bottom of it, and needs Shadowrunners to do it. The Fixer can get the Runners signed up for that job, as a way to get revenge on whomever manipulated them into a plot dealing with killing kids.

There's always the possibility that the players would want to go on that adventure ANYWAYS just because they're "Good Guys" and realized their mistake... but in my experience Shadowrunners are rarely of that high moral character. You're gonna have to dangle some Nuyen in front of them.
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Synner667
post Feb 22 2012, 07:28 PM
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I think their responses are great.

The scenario is exactly the sort of thing that takes characters from being thugs with guns to being characters.
Now they've been shocked out of their thugs with guns world and realise there's more to life.

As others have mentioned, this is a great lead for monster hunting games or just games where they think more and do things for better reasons than just for money.

In many ways, I think the sessions were a great win.
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Critias
post Feb 22 2012, 08:28 PM
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I think the obvious "fix" here is to channel that frustration and outrage, and offer them a gig going after that child-eating monster-bitch. Maybe Knight Errant contacts them (complete with some footage of their kidnapping), and offers to wipe that crime away if they can go "take care of" this situation. They're in a unique position to track down whatever is stealing and eating kids, cops in the setting have a long history of sending murderous shadowrunners on jobs that the cops themselves can't/shouldn't do...your players get some emotional closure, you get a couple more adventures out of it, everyone wins.
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SpellBinder
post Feb 22 2012, 08:44 PM
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Could try hitting them in the reputation. Was going to do that with one group after they delivered a smuggler back to his boss (which ended with said smuggler's death) rather than just delivering the lost goods & helping the smuggler skip town. Just casual remarks from Johnsons and such about it in later jobs, and give them harder times when dealing with coyotes as well ("yeah, heard about you guys. it's gonna cost extra for you.") kind of thing. But two players moved out of state and the whole thing fell apart, and I never got to do it.

Sure there's gonna be some that don't care they're kidnappers who deliver to cannibals, but there will be others who won't like dealing with those who do.
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Loch
post Feb 22 2012, 08:55 PM
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As a GM who tends to run Bad End/Dystopian type games, you have to learn to accept that your players will at times be completely oblivious, or worse, willing collaborators to the evil things that power players try to pull off. It doesn't really faze me anymore when players fail to pick up on subtle hints or willingly carry out horrible acts for a quick buck. As long as you make it obvious somewhere down the line, they'll enjoy it (provided everybody's on board with the People Are Terrible campaign from the beginning). The big reveal at the end is what keeps people interested, whether it's a Shadowrun game or a TV series. Heck, in Los Angeles it's both! (IMG:style_emoticons/default/spin.gif)
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capt.pantsless
post Feb 22 2012, 09:30 PM
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QUOTE (Critias @ Feb 22 2012, 02:28 PM) *
...your players get some emotional closure, you get a couple more adventures out of it, everyone wins.


Except the imaginary children that were eaten. Won't SOMEONE please think of the imaginary children!!!

Aside from that, Critias has it right. You didn't do anything wrong, the players just weren't being paranoid enough. In a sense, you got lucky as an SR GM, as your players probably aren't going to take what your NPC's say at face value anymore.
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Notsoevildm
post Feb 22 2012, 09:36 PM
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The problem with dropping hints is that sometimes they players just don't get them. Even if you had included something blatant like a news report about other kids turning up dead might be missed, ignored or just plain forgotten between sessions.

However, as others have mentioned, you now have a perfect opportunity for a follow-up run that the players will want to do, rather than you having to convence them to do it. That's the dream of every GM.
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JonathanC
post Feb 22 2012, 10:02 PM
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QUOTE (capt.pantsless @ Feb 22 2012, 01:30 PM) *
Except the imaginary children that were eaten. Won't SOMEONE please think of the imaginary children!!!

Aside from that, Critias has it right. You didn't do anything wrong, the players just weren't being paranoid enough. In a sense, you got lucky as an SR GM, as your players probably aren't going to take what your NPC's say at face value anymore.

The thing is, they often don't trust NPCs (usually when they're playing semi-straight) and seem paranoid about all sorts of things. Anyway, I'm taking the advice in this thread to heart.


Detective Hal Pedroni is an Awakened Knight-Errant detective who has been investigating the kidnapping/murder and is link to a possible supernatural beast. He has dash-cam footage indicating one of the PCs, and claims to have a witness who can tie them to the van and the kidnapping (should put some paranoia into them over whether the smuggler betrayed them, or they were seen by someone else; they handed over the kids in an empty parking lot near the Crime Mall in Puyallup). He uses this to coerce/convince the PCs to agree to hunt this thing. None of them have leads yet though, until the next disappearance...


During the downtime, I was going to let them "relax" with a simpler run. Their fixer (none of them took a fixer contact, so I gave them Smiley from the On The Run adventure) has gone to ground after the blowback from their last job, so their only lead on work is the smuggler who helped them escape last time. He offers them a similar job to the "favor" they did for him before: delivering boxes of an unknown substance to rural parts of NAN territory. In this case, it's a run of four villages/towns. Opposing them will be a Salish narco unit (they don't know the PCs, but will be watching the folks they're delivering to), a go-gang that likes to hijack random shipments out of Seattle, various wildlife (if they ever get out of the van to camp), and I plan to have their third meetup interrupted by an attack from a rival NAN syndicate (the attack has little to do with them, but they'll be caught in the middle).

When they return to Seattle, dusty and tired from their delivery run, they'll have a message from the detective waiting for them.
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svenftw
post Feb 22 2012, 10:17 PM
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JohnathanC, I don't see a single thing wrong with the outcome of the run. That is actually exactly how I would run that adventure if the players played it that way, and I actually ran a very similar scenario where the runners turned over a "liberated" child to the person who was actually the kidnapper. The kid died, and the players learned a lot of valuable lessons about legwork and background checks.

Lessons learned this way are lessons *actually* learned. I think it does the whole table a lot of good when you've run games in the past that make them think about their actions and the consequences afterward.

There's actually been a few times when I've been running a straight forward adventure that I felt the players caught on and started to play it loose and lazy. When that happens I'll add a twist on the fly that could have been avoided with some simple legwork and that gets everybody back into the game. Make them pay for being lazy and reward them for being diligent and you'll see the players get more engaged into the game as a whole. At least in my experience.

I get the feeling that you haven't been GMing for all that many years (if I'm wrong I apologize), so trust me when I say you're doing it right. Just the fact that you say "I think it seems reasonable that..." means that you're looking at the game from the right perspective in my opinion.
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JonathanC
post Feb 22 2012, 10:21 PM
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QUOTE (svenftw @ Feb 22 2012, 02:17 PM) *
JohnathanC, I don't see a single thing wrong with the outcome of the run. That is actually exactly how I would run that adventure if the players played it that way, and I actually ran a very similar scenario where the runners turned over a "liberated" child to the person who was actually the kidnapper. The kid died, and the players learned a lot of valuable lessons about legwork and background checks.

Lessons learned this way are lessons *actually* learned. I think it does the whole table a lot of good when you've run games in the past that make them think about their actions and the consequences afterward.

There's actually been a few times when I've been running a straight forward adventure that I felt the players caught on and started to play it loose and lazy. When that happens I'll add a twist on the fly that could have been avoided with some simple legwork and that gets everybody back into the game. Make them pay for being lazy and reward them for being diligent and you'll see the players get more engaged into the game as a whole. At least in my experience.

I get the feeling that you haven't been GMing for all that many years (if I'm wrong I apologize), so trust me when I say you're doing it right. Just the fact that you say "I think it seems reasonable that..." means that you're looking at the game from the right perspective in my opinion.

I've been running for a while, but it's been a little spotty in recent years, and I wasn't at my best when I was running this adventure, to be certain. I think a lot of my dissatisfaction is from a lack of preparation/laziness on my part that I intend to correct. I definitely appreciate the advice I'm getting here; I went from being kind of unsure that I should still be running this campaign to having a reinvigorated interest.
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snowRaven
post Feb 22 2012, 10:23 PM
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Sounds great, to be honest!

I'm in with the rest saying that the first run was good, and your plan to include the detective to bring them into part two sounds good as well. Give the players a fair opportunity for some revenge, and you can always bring them into further work using someone threatening to spill the beans on their involvement in the child-killings.

If the campaign runs on, I suggest having things related to the first run pop up now and again, as long as the players seem to enjoy it (a bit of frustration is desireable here, just make sure it doesn't go too far).

Having an arch-nemesis for your group can be great fun! (IMG:style_emoticons/default/grinbig.gif)
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Irion
post Feb 22 2012, 11:09 PM
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One shot thing: I would NOT Blackmail them with anything. If they kill the beast, let them be the heros. And only they knew their dark secret.
A Blackmail is an other source of frustration. And beeing tricked by a child eating monster, could have filled their frustration-meter for good...

QUOTE
and you can always bring them into further work using someone threatening to spill the beans on their involvement in the child-killings.

I would advice against it.
Two reasons:
First: Could add sour feelings of beeing tricked by the GM.
Second: Does not at to the dramaturgie. Would actually reduce the dramaturgie if they are not after that beast out of their own interest.

The ending of them beeing even cheered at for bring down this child killer and the characters knowing that they did it partly to cover up their own tracks, asking themself how far the differ from the beast they killed is, in my humble opinion, much better.
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The Jake
post Feb 22 2012, 11:55 PM
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I don't think the problem is your GMing or the story but rather, you have obtuse players. It could be that your clues were too vague but I doubt it.

- J.
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kzt
post Feb 23 2012, 02:05 AM
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It's exceedingly difficult for mundanes to interact with powerful spirits and not get screwed. You can't tell that they are not what they appear to be and even if they somehow suspect anything influence can fix that. On the entire group at once. Spirit has 12+ dice (plus edge), players have 3, tell me who wins that one?

Which, btw, is an out for why the players/characters suspected nothing.
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Neko Asakami
post Feb 23 2012, 02:08 AM
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Honestly, I like the run. It was well thought out and is what I would consider a classic "Mirrored Shades" run. It's not your fault the players didn't do their homework and got screwed. I pull the same trick on my group during the technomancer scare (we started during the events in Emergence). They broke in, captured a secretary that turned out to be a TM who was then dissected for her brain. It was a pretty polarizing run for our group; it was especially shocking for our own TM. She realized that by selling someone else, they weren't going to come after her and it made an impact on both the player and the character. Sadly, I never revisited it and I really regret that now. The fact you're giving them a follow up and a way to redeem themselves is great.

The only thing that I maybe would have done differently is what I call "gut feeling checks." I'll have members of the group who IRL seem a bit unsure about what they're doing roll a Logic + Intuition test and I'll give them a gut reaction. (As a side note, my players are pretty good at not meta-gaming, but some tables would require you to roll this behind the screen.) To me this represents that odd feeling at the back of your mind telling you something isn't quite right. When used correctly, it can be used as a soft-prod to make players consider avenues they wouldn't otherwise. Right at the end, I would have allowed any players that were unsure to make the check and used that as a final frying-pan-to-the-face hint that something might be up.
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Daylen
post Feb 23 2012, 02:10 AM
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QUOTE (kzt @ Feb 23 2012, 02:05 AM) *
It's exceedingly difficult for mundanes to interact with powerful spirits and not get screwed. You can't tell that they are not what they appear to be and even if they somehow suspect anything influence can fix that. On the entire group at once. Spirit has 12+ dice (plus edge), players have 3, tell me who wins that one?

Which, btw, is an out for why the players/characters suspected nothing.


The same way Call of Cthulhu characters handle it.
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The Jake
post Feb 23 2012, 02:11 AM
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QUOTE (Neko Asakami @ Feb 23 2012, 02:08 AM) *
The only thing that I maybe would have done differently is what I call "gut feeling checks." I'll have members of the group who IRL seem a bit unsure about what they're doing roll a Logic + Intuition test and I'll give them a gut reaction. (As a side note, my players are pretty good at not meta-gaming, but some tables would require you to roll this behind the screen.) To me this represents that odd feeling at the back of your mind telling you something isn't quite right. When used correctly, it can be used as a soft-prod to make players consider avenues they wouldn't otherwise. Right at the end, I would have allowed any players that were unsure to make the check and used that as a final frying-pan-to-the-face hint that something might be up.


That's a good idea that. I like it. Nobody EVER takes Common Sense as a quality, especially the ones that need it...

- J.
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ShadowDragon8685
post Feb 23 2012, 02:26 AM
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Sounds like the players dropped the ball here, with their lack of legwork and lack of following-up on legwork that went south.

That said, a Free Spirit isn't really a good encounter for a group of mundanes. There's pretty much no way they can hurt it, short of busting out heavy artillery from Arsenal or going full-auto with Stick n' Shock cheese. And, of course, it can just mindfuck them all.

Might I suggest that instead of blackmailing them, the Knight Errant Detective gets that they genuinely believed they were reuniting lost children with their genuine mother? Maybe he did the same thing - took a side job, off-the-books, to help this sweet Asian lady get her kid back, only to find out after-the-fact that he'd been mindfucked into handing innocent kids over to a kid-eating monster.

He goes from being a blackmailer to being a contact and an ally. Their problem then is that they're a bunch of mundanes on a mission to take down a nasty Free Spirit, and Mundanes are generally unequipped to do that. Then the goal becomes twofold: (1) track the bitch down, and (2) figure out how in the hell to kill the goddamn thing, or at least seal it up so it's never gonna hurt anyone ever again.


It also sounds like they're going to need to make some wizzer contacts. That, and/or recruit some new players, at least one of whom can hack, and one of whom is wizzer.
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Critias
post Feb 23 2012, 02:59 AM
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Just for the record? Normally, I'm not a fan of blackmail (because to a PC it often feels like just getting yanked around by the nose, and that sucks). But remember, in this case, these people are on video as (a) kidnapping a couple little kids to hand them over to something that ate them, and (b) shooting at a cop car with a machinegun, then nailing a police drone, too.

I think starting off the conversation with "boy, did you guys fuck up. You want a way out of it?" is pretty fair, given the circumstances. Over time their Knight Errant guy can turn into a regular contact, sure. But it's an instance where I think it's perfectly kosher for them to be starting out in a big hole, and have to try digging their way out of it.
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phlapjack77
post Feb 23 2012, 04:05 AM
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This isn't even blackmail, really. It's negotiation and making deals and tying up loose ends.

Don't want to work with the police? It's cool. But they did leave a lot of evidence that could cause them trouble later.

Work with the police? Then they get a chance to "right the wrongs" and maybe have some goodwill / contacts with the police for later.
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kzt
post Feb 23 2012, 04:15 AM
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And don't get placed in general population as baby killers. ...
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