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has anyone got any tips on how to incorporate critters?

Whenever I bring them in, unless they are an especially large or powerful critter, the team seem to shrug them off, fill them with hot lead, and move on. Unless its got hardened armour or regen, they just don't seem to have problems.

some things work well - Stonebinders are horrible and scary, for example.

Ambush never works that well - the mage always spots them, even with Concealment. If its not magically hidden by a power or something, the sammie with the thermos spots it. As its attacking, at least one person in the party tend to have a higher initiative and they hose it or zap it, or whatever.

Can any of you kind people provide me with your experiences? I'd find it incredibly useful!
Three ways to use critters:

1) As appropriate parts of a security apparatus. If the corp normally puts hellhounds at its ultra-mega-max-super research facilities, put hellhounds there. The effectiveness is a non-issue, at least it's appropriate for the corp to realize the hellhounds do them no good against anyone (though considering how many PETA and GreenWar activitists get eaten for every group of runners, the hellhounds will probably be around for a while.)

2) When the runners aren't on a run. Have a swarm of devil rats attack a samurai outside a bar, when he's barfing in an alley. Have a lost piasma wander into the decker's home on the edge of the metroplex. etc.

3) Attack isolated runners. That drone rigger hiding in the alley while the rest of the team infiltrates the corpo compound. The body of the mage on astral recon. etc.
I've also mostly found them useless. But only from a number-crunching, combat angle.

Animals are great guards because a) they're cheaper than people and b) they're better trained than people. They'll die, but only if the intruders are committed. And in that case, a human would have been in danger too.

I was running a game once, and I had the 'major NPC' own a lap dog. And because of that dog, the PCs were totally paranoid about sneaking into his apartment because they were afraid of being detected.
Critters ,unless guard animals, don't work well with cities. Remember they are smnaller than most humans, and especially smaller than Trolls and so most will sculk away from runners, but might be a distraction "Whats that?" guns out, they all have a look, "Crap, it's just a cat." and so miss the real risk.

In the wilderness outside the sprawl they become more risky trying to pick off runners-most mages aren't goingto waste spells looknig for creatures ina woodland, it's full of them. Like Indiana Jones said in 'Temple of Doom "that's why they call it a jungle."
Critters are nothing more than Shadowrun animal, surely you can think of times and places where animals would cause a problem?

You're trying to get onto a corporate compound but the damned guards are patrolling with trained dual natured critters, always a problem.

The thing is mostly to not make the critters the main problem, unless you have a seriously large critter in store that is. They have powers, but so do the players and te enemy mages, which pretty much means those critters, in terms of threat level, are rather equivalent to dogs nowadays, which, if you carry an assault rifle and are used to getting into large firefights, well, a couple dogs won't really bother you, you'll fill them full of lead and move on, like you say they do.

I recommend the critter power where the target is essentially cut out of everyone elses reality, I can't remember what it's called. Take a good look at the critter powers, some of them are really useful for splitting up a group.

Frag-o Delux
Give them runs that not raising hell is part of getting paid. If your Johnson says I want it done with no alarms then a goose is a very good security animal with no special powers. We had a run were a corp A wanted a sim that corp B had made for release, but hadn't yet, it was still in post production with about 2 weeks of work to do. Now if corp A got it with out corp B knowing then corp A could to do a cheap production run and beat them to the market with it, and corp B will be holding the financial basket. If corp B found out about the run then they could hurry and drop it on the market to make sure they got their money back. The rules of engagement can be set by the Johnson and if the runners don't like it they can go to hell, or if they agree to the run and disobey then no payday and possibly a slippery slide to "bad" runner town they go. We had runs were a 0 body count was an absolute must, there as an awful lot of Narcoject darts flying that night.
The other reason why buying Cayenne pepper by the pound (or quarter kilo) can be a good thing.

well, to quote a member of one of my teams - yeah, we're gonna get some tranqs, then head down to kewik-e-mart and buy some 'I can't belive its not Red Meat'...

And yeah, I can think of situations where they would be a problem. I just don't seem to have any luck actually encountering the players. The critters mainly don't have the reaction levels to win surprise test if they ambush, so the players cooly turn round and vape the poor thing before it has chance to rip their throats out....

But thanks for the tips!
incidentally. NO guard animal will EVER eat anything their trainer does not feed them directly. That's one of the first things taught to a guard animal, and one of the things molested by nearly every TV show and movie ever. It just doesn't happen.
Woohoo! thanks for that tid-Bit (sorry about the aaawful pun), I didn't know that. That's going to be veeery amusing next time they try THAT plan!

Although, in my particular example they were captivity-bred barghests, kept as pets, not trained guard animals (yeah, I know its unlikely. We're running Harelequin so the Gm thought pretty much anything was possible if he wanted it to be. i agree with him! Fraggin' Elves. wink.gif But if we'd known about that you can guarantee they wouldn't have taken the steaks anyway cos it is pretty basic stuff, I suppose!).

They were given the run of a compound at night as a deterrent, not as an actual security device. That was a purely secondary effect which occurred when people looked over the wall and saw barghests looking back at them!

The caretaker lived on site and they were his pets. So they came when he called (say in the morning for their food and daily lockup so the place could receive non-eaten customers), and would attack anything that moved in the grounds except him. But they weren't "sic'em, boys!" kind of animals. And we had a mage on standby with a full spell pool and a loaded sleep spell, just in case they didn't go for it. We even threw 'em round the side we weren't going in to because we knew they'd at least go have a look see at the noise. Fortunately they ate the real-blood-soaked soy-steaks and passed out, and we got in and out as quick as we could before the fraggers woke up.
Just remember the distinction between guard animal and "things turned loose".

To be sure, it's a distinction you're only going to find in SR, but still...

The last run in our game was stealing an artifact from Aztechnology. It was transported in a sealed shipping container (the big ones that get stacked on the cargo ships) on a flat bed. Aside from all the other security, inside the container was a Gorgon. They found it before they opened the box, and dumped in a dozen concussion grenades to put it down, but the mage barely survived finding it, and if she hadn't, they would have opened the container and released a large can of whoopass. I was really looking forward to it, too frown.gif
Not to pick bones here, but how did the Gorgon survive the shipping process in a sealed crate?

No food, air or water and the body waste would have to be something absolutely foul after a day, never mind several.

I personally love the UCAS guard dogs in all the Denver books I've read. Silent, deadly.. don't give the players much of a chance to find them, and they are pack hunters.

That's actually something that hasn't been mentioned much yet in this thread -- many animals are pack creatures, so use them as such. Oh, sure, maybe it means keeping a ton more records.. But when you get them in numbers of 3-4 to one, even a non-awakened critter can be a threat.

Also, never hesitate to use their powers. It is described in the fluff of the critters book (and will probably be expanded on in "running wild", when it makes it out in a year or so) that many of the animals will hunt with their powers, activating them before the combat begins. Fight as such. The runners don't always need to get the jump on everyone they face...

It all depends on who gets surprise, I suppose.

You might even go so far as to pick a wind direction at random.

Hellhounds and a lot of other animals will pick up on hostiles by scent long before hearing or seeing them.

Which is a hell of an argument for not going in blind.

Siege, there was food and water, and the container isn't air tight. Sure it would be stinky by the end of the two week trip, but it's great security.
And who cares if someone's got to shovel 100 kilos of gorgon shit out at the end? The guy who gives the orders is not the one with the shovel. The Azzies have never won any awards from the humane society.
Anyway, the point to the creature was that it would make it almost impossible to sneak in some how, like getting underneath and cutting through, and if they tried to just dive in, stop the convoy and break in, that big nasty would come out wreaking havoc while the PCs were also dealing with a gunship, a half dozen soldiers, a mage and a blood spirit.
In other words, there was no chance to make it through without a good plan, and the Gorgon just made sure.
I seem to recall a good thread about this in the old forum... One big point is that animals are generally a good deal faster than us. Sure, if you're in a big plain it's not a problem, but if you're inside of a corporate facility with lots of winding hallways and you're being tracked by smell by a group of vicious hounds... It gets a bit more interesting. Also, I seem to recollect you can make called shots to avoid impact armor, in which case animals can go straight for the throat and all that armor plating counts for nuthin'...

Animals are also useful in combined tactics. Sure, your average guard can't see in the dark or on the astral, and your average dual being is mincemeat for a mage, but as soon as the barghest alerts the guard that there's something floating around that shouldn't be, the guards can lock down the facility. Have animals jump from unexpected places, too. Things fall out of the cieling panels onto your head, or slither out from deep in a ventilation shaft. IR doesn't help much if you're not even looking at it. If you want to be especially vicious, put bombs on creatures. Also, feel free to boost animal stats (guard animals are generally bred and trained, so they'll be above average anyway).
That's a good point. Stats given are "average".
A write up for a "human" would give stats straight accross as 3's with no special powers. Not many people would actually conform to that. Neither should your Barghests.
Gyro the Greek Sandwich Pirate
How about have more than one critter?
I mean, sure, one of your characters will get a higher initiative...killed the sucker, but now its daddy is pissed.
Actually, the worst thing we've come up against aside from bugs has to be the force 15 Noman-possessed Piasma. Now THAT was vicious. Thank heavens for a physad with a monowhip... Not that it saved one of the party getting infected.

That was really scary. I wish I'd thought of it!
nezumi had a good point, about called shots. this is especially effective if the critters are in a pack--that +4 TN is harsh when it's one on one, but when the critter's got four of its buddies there, it's suddenly a non-issue.
Here's the link to the old Critters thread. There are quite a few interesting suggestions on how to make critters more dangerous and useful.

My four personal rules for Critters are:
a) If they have Powers use them (Confusion and concealment are great even if a mage spots them the Sams won't).
b) If they have cover or can use terrain to their advantage use it (corners, walls, high grass, trees, office furniture).
c) If they run in packs combine their powers and natural abilities to best effect, don't play them as dumb animals (in real life very few predators are dumb).
d) In 90% of the situations Critters can get into close combat in their first action, use Powers and speed to get in close and then pile on.
Why would a mage have an easier time spotting a concealed critter? The power affects ANY perception test.
Concealment is a physical power, it doesn't work on the astral.

Also use critters WITH guards. dogs cost a lot less than people and are a hell of a distraction. Start a firefight right when the dogs are released, either the dogs screw you up, you take time to shoot the dogs while the guards shoot at you, or you shoot at the guards and the dogs eat you AND you get a penalty to your melee roll from having used a gun instead of melee. Win/win.
A neat spin would be to mock-up one animal to look like another animal. I don't know my pictures, but could a dog be bred that looks like a hellhound? That way, you get all the fear at a quarter of the cost.

I was running a D&D game, and the villain created a skeleton and two glowing orbs. He popped the orbs into the eye sockets and cloaked the skeleton in armor. Viola, instant death knight.

One look, and the PCs turned tail and ran. What's interesting, is that maybe the next time, the PCs won't run.
Kanada Ten
We hit the corp easy enough. Grabbed the Johnson and headed out only to come under fire from security. The corpers chased us trough the forest all the while exchanging weapons fire and magic. Nobody saw the Snowsnake; Kent screamed and fell to the ground. We thought a bullet hit him, until we saw the thing slither off as I picked my friend from the ground. Security almost caught us then, and they managed to tag the helicopter. Fraggin' snakes.

Basically, as said, use critters in conjunction with something else. They don't stand alone too well except in their own environments, as should be expected against full auto weapons fire and such.

Also, creatures like the Incubus can really make things... interesting.

You're standing guard waiting for the package to arrive. <GM rolls some dice> You notice a credstick in the puddle to your left. <PC investigates> A little further down you see another one...
Or deny them the use of their weapons.

A creature in the middle of three runners with autofire is going to result in a hell of a lot of friendly fatalities.

Unless your weapon can set for stun, a pack of devil rats swarming one character is just going to suck.

If you've played Half-Life, you'll remember those damned roof-things with the long tounge that you never managed to spot until two seconds too late.

Just some thoughts.

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