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I was hoping that people would be willing to post how they used the Various oddities like Dragons, Shapeshifters, Free Spirits, Vampires, and the like. Things like how you stated them in your Games, their personalities, and the sundry other things that would prove interesting and helpful when utilizing them for various purposes. I myself have(by the GM's view anyways) freed a number of spirits, and have encountered two vampires, only one of which actually was a danger, but would rather enjoy the input of others. Much of the joy I take in the game is the wonderful way that people can encounter said beings, and I would like to have a better idea of how I could use them myself in a more riveting and meaningful manner.

I know that they stat Dragons and Vampires, but I mostly view them as a bare-bones look at their abilities, with the rare examples being much more interesting.
I haven't used dragons in my current campaign at all. Too much of a bother to use without making them either invulnerable GM-pets or cannon fodder, and the campaign does not lend itself to the involvement of great dragons.

Vampires I have one steady NPC, part of a love triangle with a PC and another NPC. A bunch of shapeshifters had a feud with the vampire, and so the PC got targeted. There's also a nightclub in my campaign where the goth-crowd goes dancing and where the oddities "hide in plain sight", with a stage mage show a big attraction. It's the most common place to meet or encounter shifters and vampires, and for mundanes (and even non-initiated mages), it's often hard to tell who's a poser, who's a fan, and who's the real deal.
I do run vampires more like they are often portrayed in contemporary vampire novels, but without the "king of the city" "traditional" structure. But my Vamps need or at least want blood as much or more than essence - they can survive easily by draining two poor saps of essence in a year, but will drink blood much more often. I found this makes them better for roleplay in my campaign, since players can "donate" blood much more easily (and willingly) than essence.

Free Spirits are a staple in my game. The latest, a Shadow, the runners wanted to enslave to exploit his fortune-creating powers. However, another group took the spirit out before the runners succeeded - they had the chance, however, but first bad karma on the binding roll happened, and then they messed up the metaquest during which they could have stopped the other group from destroying the spirit.
I use free spirits for all sorts of paranormal presences, as well as spirits of the dead, and loas, and ancestor spirits - my campaign is voodoo-heavy. The group's mage is also the assistant of a magic professor at the local university, who runs dangerous experiments with (toxic) spirits and other threats all the time.

I often only stat out a character once it's needed, and only as far as it is needed, so most of my odd critters don't have full sets of stats.
Today's session of Stormcrow's group had an amusing side scene. The PCs were helping staff a local underground dance party; as a bonus, three of them were ready to Initiate, and having a DJ direct the psychic energy of a large crowd was part of the ritual. Anyways, so the possession-tradition mage is checking people at the entrance for any magic, and a guy walks in who's possessed by an F3 Spirit of Man, and rubbernecking as if everything he sees is bright, shiny and new. Conversation reveals that months ago, the spirit was tasked with maintaining (Guard) a merry-go-round at a carnival; the carnival folded and the merry-go-round was dismantled, and the spirit has been at loose ends ever since, with months left on its "year and a day" term. Some local stoner types got high on Deepweed and the spirit hopped into one of them, then walked over to the rave site. The mage persuades the spirit to let its host go, with the promise of showing it "fun stuff". After a while the mage sends the spirit into the ambulance driven by a rigger/medic PC (for rave purposes, it's a mobile free clinic). The spirit makes the ambulance's music player blare some carnival music; we warn it not to turn on the sirens. Then, since the spirit likes making machinery work and being around people having fun, we have it take over the DJ table at one of the dance tents... and it finds music that people really enjoy, so that tent gets kinda wild. Total fluff, not necessary for the mission, not useful when the party crashers showed up and the Big Fight started, but lots of fun.

Also, if this spirit keeps hanging out with us, it could possibly become a free spirit...
For Shapeshifters, I like using the recent SF/Fantasy novels that describe the pack structure and instinct-driven behaviour of weres. It's almost a genre convention, especially the struggles for dominance within a pack.
QUOTE (Athanatos)
I was hoping that people would be willing to post how they used the Various oddities like Dragons, Shapeshifters, Free Spirits, Vampires, and the like.

IMC, elven vampires rule the counties and cities of Ulster. Every new moon they feed off a person who was married that day (a twist on ius primæ noctis). The Roman Catholic church refused to provide bloodbrides (or bloodgrooms, according to the vampire's preference), so they were forced underground and replaced with the more pliable Church of Ireland. When there aren't enough newlyweds, they feed on convicted felons.

The PCs are sheep-dipped agents slipped into Northern Ireland to gather military intel for retaking the island: how many vampires are there, how many Atlanteans, command and control, etc.
Ive used vampires from everything from small evil cults, to big, powerful BBEGs, to even not so bad ones who (indirectly) help the party, or just have information. (A bit too powerful to actually go along with them.) I've had more neo-classic vampires(the goth club type), real classic, live in a castle in Europe somewhere types, and yeah, also in my games, they can choose blood or essence(but they do need to drain essence every so often). Blood is a little more...erm, fun for them, i guess for lack of a better word.

I think I only used a great dragon once, and he was waaaaaay in the background and not an enemy(nor ally, really). They are just too much; as said, they become campaign-enders one way or another.

Free spirits appear once in awhile; but i actually typically use them as sort of the fun-loving type, as long as the party's mages behave and don't do something stupid like try to enslave them or something. Design-wise, hippies, old men or old ladies, pets(free-spirit hedgehogs rule), or kids are my favorite 'forms' for them to take.
QUOTE (Fuchs @ Feb 21 2008, 11:40 AM) *
For Shapeshifters, I like using the recent SF/Fantasy novels that describe the pack structure and instinct-driven behaviour of weres. It's almost a genre convention, especially the struggles for dominance within a pack.

For shapeshifters such as bears or tigers, i'd rather play on territorial instincts.
The interesting part in both cases is how the shifter views metahumans- can they be a part of the pack/potential rivals to be driven out of the own territory or does the shifter barely notice them?

I'm not using any weres right now, lacking a SR4 template for them, but once Runners Companion gets released, i plan on statting out several shapeshifting NPCs, current ideas including a seal who has "adopted" a hoverpirate/rebel/anti-corp terrorist crew operating out of Hamburg as her pack/schoal (or however groups of seals are called) and a werewolf bluespunk shouter who has formed a band with a sasquatch beatboxer and is facing serious legal hassle on his upcoming first European tour.

There's also plans of mine for a vampire/infected-themed campaign, but i'm still looking for ways to minimize the Anne Rice goth factor.
An "undead" go-gang would be an interesting, adorably pulpy idea, though i'm not quite sure on the subcultural context i'll portray them in.
Probably i'll go for the original "i'm only wearing black until i find a darker colour" style instead of the emo poseur thing and turn them into Johny Cash worshipping truckers.
As with shapeshifters, though, i'll probably wait till an official template is published.
Plus, i'd have to run a roadmovie style campaign to put them to good use.
Since that would work best outside of (at least central) Europe, this might take a while (hmmm...Yakut could be interesting...or Scandinavia...less overused than the American midwest).
I also like the idea of making them dependant on blood in addition to essence.

Until then, i'm busy enough with a F7 free sage spirit, dealing in illegal spell formula and similar stuff (all those ranks in arcana must be good for something, after all) who has taken the place of the deceased triad wujen who summoned him and is ruthlessly clawing his way to the top of the syndicate.
Street Magic offers some mechanically highly interesting options, especially that pact used to provide spirit powers to mages.

Oh, and as far as dragons are concerned, i definitely have to second what Fuchs said.
Great dragons are kept far, far away. Even if the dragon is intimately involved with the run, the runners never realize it. So as far as they're concerned, Great Dragons are just more 'big names' that shake the world but they won't ever meet.

Non-greats are viable for runs, although rare. What are they like? Curiosities. They generally can't operate in the city on their own, so they're always part of something greater, either a partnership, a pawn of a corporation, etc.

Free spirits I use with some regularity, ranging from basically magical animals that make life difficult to Johnsons to whatever else. They're my wild card, and I can use them where nothing else will fit.

Vampires I haven't used yet. They're very cliche, so it's hard to do them well. The only time I've ever used a vampire in an RPG is in my SR-history/Cthulhu/Paranormal game I ran with my wife. PC is sent to a castle in Romania to meet 'the Baron' who is late on dues to the devil. No other details of the deal are given. The PC is sent to rectify the situation. The Baron lives in a creepy old castle with a magical gate, blah blah blah. Long story short, the PC determines the 'vampire' is the last of a line. The deal is trading souls for the vampire to be male instead of female, plus the ability to feed on people's dreams to stay young. The only biting was bedroom play. Fun character though, she had some serious self-image issues, being born a girl and therefore physically unfit to rule and all.

Shifters are generally just wild animals and I play them like that. They're extremely smart animals, but wild nonetheless. They don't run corps or anything, but they might get kidnapped for experiments, dirty S&M and so on.

I love shamans because totems are so fun. Right now I'm designing a character whose totem is the 'dark voice' that tells her to kill innocent people. She can't follow the voice because if she kills people, she might get in trouble, but she can't ignore it either because she'll lose her magic powers. Magic takes psychosis to a whole new level!
Great Dragons I just stay away from. Even as a GM, I figure they're out of my league. I've never used one, and neither has any GM that I've played with (at least to my knowledge, I guess stuff could be going on behind the scenes, but there's a fair amount of GD hate in my circle).

Immortal Elves, a group that feel fits in this discussion, are treated pretty much the exact same way, except that I HAVE played both Harlequin runs. I also wrote up notes for a Harlequin 3 run, but this wasn't an IE fanboy move, so much as an attempt to crap all over the pretentiousness that is the concept of IE's, and totally negate creator's intent. It would have worked, too, if that meddling world hadn't gotten in the way of the campaign!

Vampires and non-great dragons are weird, because though they have stats, they also tend to be magicians. And Vampires can have pretty huge essences, which can lead to huge magic ratings, if they manage to maintain their essence (so basically, they get to be magical badasses as long as they're genocidal bastards). And dragons are of course uber-powerful no matter how "non-great" they are (not necessarily impervious to PC weaponry, but not exactly cannon-fodder, either). So both of these groups tend to show up as extreme threats, with the emphasis generally on the magic.

Free spirits usually come up in the X-Files moments (i.e., when the circle's getting antsy for me to run another Call of Cthulhu game, and I want to whet their thirst without actually putting forth the effort I have to use for a suitably circuitous and detailed CoC game). In the past, they've always been powerful to the point that the characters don't want to touch them, but it's never really been direct conflict. I just use the really flexible nature of free spirits to fit whatever role needs to be filled in the story.

Now that I think about it, though, I kinda want to run something with a bunch of really low-force free spirits, and play them sort of like the 'toons in Who Framed Roger Rabbit. That might be a bit too comical for SR, but screw everyone; it'll be fun, and I'll get to run around maniacally screaming "Remember ME, Eddy?!?!?!" and telling the players "one day, you weasels are going to DIE laughing."
Great Dragons are running a lot of the background parts in my story. Ghostwalker and Dunk are the big two. I like running a very "Yeah, you guys are criminals, but some of you have morals, and you'll have to make hard choices soon" type of thing. Right now, there's a dragon named (unintentioally) Drake Morgan that is currently keeping the runners under his thumb, running around to find some pieces of a puzzle for him.

To say I love shapeshifters is like saying air is made of AWESOME! Let's put it that way. I have a club specially for shapeshifters that cater to their needs. I make my shifters as pack oriented, but a bit more civil. Less like instinctual animals and more like people or animals that are in a completely foeign place. My current character/NPC is a blue furred Fox Shaman, initiate grade 3, named Lake, or Crystal-Blue-Waters...or just Crystal. He's been 'running' since mid 2055, got caught and experimented on in Hollywood till 2062, and then sprung by his sister. He took a few years to get his head back, in which time he forgot everything about himself and took on the life of Lake. Lake had a traumatic experience that Fox saved him from, returning his powers to him. Since then, he's been working on a combination of arcane formulas and meta-quests to get his Ally Spirit, Kitsu.

Which brings me to the free spirits. I've never actually used them in my game, but I will once Kitsu is summoned. He's a trapped spirit on a meta-plane only Crystal can seem to reach. Kitsu needs help and has been giving Crystal directions on how to create his formula and rescue him. Once that happens, he'll be fiercely loyal to the shaman...and that's about the time I'll start introducing my PC's to the wonderful worlds of the meta-planes. ^.^


-One was a newbie adept vampire who was the leader of a gang in a place near Boston. It was quite a shock because the run was very street level and the runners had heard news that "yep, the leader of the Streetpunks died last year" but they never expected a vamp. The fight was scary and frantic and now the ork sammy wears the vamp tooths in a necklace.

- (My players should not read the following) :
[ Spoiler ]
That vampire was really powerful and practically owned the PCs, however, the goal of the run was not to kill the vampire. Unfortunately, one of the players moved to Sweden and another stopped playing the game so I do not think we could end that story to my satisfaction.


Once I had the players attacked by a Tiger shapeshifter assassin. It was great fun. The run was quite epic as it involved a japanacorps plot to help Seattle secede and install a new San Francisco. The team had done a job similar to the one in "Sneakers" and were starting to realize the implications of their actions. One moment they are talking business at a high rise flat of one of the runners and the next moment the windows shatter and a ninja strikes!. Injured and surprised, one of them manages to shoot the assassin dead with a Superwarhawk. They started checking the body for evidence when it quickly regenerates and a mad ninja version of Kintaro lifts the shooter by the throat.
They -barely- survived. Fortunately one of the runners -the mage- managed to throw the assassin down the window. That gave them enough time to skip the premises and continue breathing.

Free Spirits

In SR3 I had a free spirit as the team's Johnson for a long time. The story involved the Wealth power, a lost ring which once belonged to a Tir Prince, a renegade tir paladin, a toxic elven shaman and a couple quests to the metaplanes. It was real funny as everyone who had possessed the ring ended up dead. Eventually the last surviving runner gave it to a contact in the church.

In SR4 I had a houngan who frequently called a force 5 beast spirit. I gave that spirit a name and a very mean personality. I also used to roll particularly luckily when I rolled for that particular spirit. over time it had developed a role in the game and had long conversarions with the houngan. Eventually, in a extremely dangerous run in the Amazon, the spirit taught the hougan the steps to help him /her become a free spirit, in exchange of some extra help. (and edge use) The runners called it "La Pantera" and it was a pretty scary motherfucker. It is now loose.

Also I have a team in an jail run by Ares/hardcorps. There they discovered that a free shade lived on the premises, feeding on the oppression and suffering of the inmates. The shade encouraged events that lead to even more oppresion and suffering. The runners discovered and had made a spirit pact with a sodomizing troll. There you have a pretty terrified group of runners.

They have struck a deal with the warden to kill a problematic inmate in exchange of a relocation to another less risky facilty and, of course, the warden is planning on screwing them up. However, the runners are using this situation to prepare their escape, waiting for an opportunity to open. Meanwhile, the troll's menace seems closer and closer...


Haven't used those yet -except as movers behind the scenes- but I have a couple ideas...



edited for a couple of types and misplaced verbs.
Honestly I have the Vampires in Seattle at least being dominated by, a very, very old school vampire. Who is in opposition to the Ghoul population since he sees them as natural thralls and they do not share this opinion.

I have never included Immortal Elves closer than two removes from anything, and with a tendency of being the universes biggest screw ups. They are not as powerful as they think they are, and their attempts at treating life as four dimensional games of chess blow up in their faces.

Great Dragons I play as actually being as powerful as IEs think they are, and if they deal with humans having the tendency to be able to multitask to an obscene degree. In other words Lowfyr really does realize you are the ones who stole from him.

Honestly Shifters have not come up, but I told my players that a country in Siberia is run by them in game. None of their characters believed it.

Free spirits are variable, most are pretty harmless. However the free toxics I run as more or less demonic.
I've used them all as they have appeared in the published adventures.

I've also played an elderly/young looking vampire through about 20 of the published adventures. Used the character as a fixer for my frmer gaming group. For kicks in a short lived game, said group created PCs which included a free spirit and great dragon. That game lasted about a half an hour.

I've GMed PCs that used the rules for creating free spirits to create free spirits, bind them, negotiate a deal for getting along, and then feeding them karma. So far most of the free spirits have agreed to the deal, and most of the time the PCs not only meet the terms of the deal, but go out of their way to exceed the agreement. One thing that has come about from this is the free spirits possessing the dragons appearing in the published adventures I've run the group through thus far.
I've used both Vamps and Dragons as Johnsons and opponents. They make an entertaining alternative to corps (just another form of bloodsucker). My Highest power campaign has the team in Denver, often working for Ghostwalker (as often as not by accident as they hunt down shadowy threats, meaning GW doesn't have to), but also with Hestaby, the DF and once in awhile Lofwyr (though never against GW).

The best vampire related plot i ever ran was a cabal of vamps and other sapient monsters organising a Human hunt game. The team took them all out but I had fun throwing curve balls (The wendigo disguised as a rich old bastard almost killed the rigger when sent out of the house as a prisoner).

Shifters, i use these once in a while usually as Johnsons or interesting wilderness threats. I've had a couple of PC shifters back in 3rd (A tiger, a Fox and an eagle). I've got a player playing a Vamp at the mo in a Manchester based game, with plots involving the Ordo Maximus and a Vamp agent of the LPO.
Interesting stuff here. Always nice to see what other folks are doing in their games.

I doubt my players will find this, so... In my current game, there is a feathered serpent that recently awoke in the New Mexico area. He's small for his species - the runt of the litter, so to speak - but he's very ambitious. After a brief stay in the PCC, he's moved on to Seattle. Currently, he's playing three different fixers against each other (including the PCs' fixer), has managed to get cozy with some Aztechnology insiders, and is backing a radical pro-metahuman initiatory group. He's moving to gain control of a couple gangs and a work his way into the underworld. Like I said, very ambitious.

I've used a Free Forest Spirit as a Mr. Johnson. The runners didn't realize he wasn't a crazy, reclusive old shaman until after the adventure when he used the Wealth power (iirc) to produce a pile of gold and jewels to pay off the team. One of the mages on the team bothered to assense him at that point and... "Oh, frag!' said the mage as he stared at the Force 9(-ish) free spirit. Despite the difficulty of fencing the wealth, the team took their pay, didn't complain, and quickly fled the scene. I guess another of the group's GMs had used a Free Water Elemental a few weeks before to general kick the team's asses all over town and they were a bit gunshy about giving this one any grief.

Hmm. I was working on a plot involving a Vampire and her thralls taking over the club scene in Downtown, but I've pretty much been abandoned at this point. There's something about Vampires in SR that I just don't like, but I can't put my finger on it. Every time I've tried to use them, the plot ends up kind of bleh. Maybe I just played too much old WoD.

On the other hand, I really like SR's Ghouls and will probably try and use them more frequently when I transition to SR4. I have some fairly non-canon ideas that I'm working on to make sense of them though. Like, the idea that there are multiple causes for the condition: Krieger Strain HMHVV infection (the garden variety mindless monsters) and normal awakening (much like goblinization, which results in less beastial ghouls). Still a work in progress.

After the Striper: Assassin era, I wouldn't include a shapechanger in my game if you paid me. They're currently ranking right up there with Immortal Elves on my hate list. I've also more or less handwaved away the idea that there are (or ever were) true AIs in the world. Not sure how I'm going to reconcile some of the Crash 2.0 events yet, but I'm working on it.

I've used non-sentient paracritters sparingly, mostly for HTR corporate security. In my 2050's/SR3 era games, I consider them rare, difficult to train, and generally a pain in the ass for the people in charge of security. As I transition to a 2070's/SR4 era game later this year, I'm going to make them much more common. I figure the extra ~20 years will be good to the paranormal security business.

And because I like quirky slice-of-life stuff...

I'm working on a one-shot adventure featuring a sasquatch performer who wants to go home to visit his clan for what amounts to a wedding... his wedding. Unfortunately, he's being stonewalled by red tape and can't get legal passage there. Desperate to get home, he's decided to hire a smuggler and crew to get him there... and he has to be there in two days. Think Smokey and the Bandit meets Shadowrun. Assuming the runners make it in one piece, they'll be the honored guests at the wedding... I envision the scene playing out similarly to the party at the Ewok village at the end of Return of the Jedi... but with wookies instead of Ewoks. Obviously, most of the role playing in this adventure will be played for laughs. wink.gif

Nice, very Nice! Anyone else have love for the topic? Dragons are always nice, wierd Shapeshifters and drakes maybe? An ally that will knock the socks off?
In our Occupied SF (resistance to Saito) campaign, one of the PCs is considering the idea that northern CalFree would do better as a protectorate of Hestaby. Which would take our campaign off the rails of canon storyline, if the PCs could broker a deal that Hestaby would accept. Ares would retain control of Silicon Valley, and the government in Sacramento can still claim to run Los Angeles.

I make some use of paracritters, but nothing much so far. I do use free and wild spirits moderately however. If you check the NPC Rosters on my site, you'll see four such spirits of which only Six-Faced Shihab and Slink have actually been used (both as contacts, and I'm growing particularly fond of Slink). I may introduce the Colha when I think the new players are ready for it (it's nasty) and I intend to make Medusa the focus of a dramatic, high-power, larger adventure.

I have an adventure that I haven't run yet which I might write up for my site which features Fenris wolves converted from 2nd edition. One thing I didn't consider until I started putting the game together was that by RAW, the Fenris wolves' counterspelling will stack! I.e. One such wolf - a bit of magic resistance. A pack of such wolves, in LOS of each other - they'll shake off any spell!

For immortal elves, I'm fond of Harlequinn. But then I play him darker than most people do, perhaps. In my game, he's very, very sinister and he's unquestionably more powerful than other elves. I'm toying with the idea of making Ehran a fake - someone who successfully pretends to be immortal, perhaps have sources of information (history and magical knowlesge) from the 4th world but not realising there might be a living legacy of that age out there, and having that be the motivation for Harlequinn's vendetta against him in the Harlequinn adventure. Ehran's fear and uncertainty in this case would add a nice emotional glaze to the plot, I think.

Dragons I have used minimally. I have a Feathered Serpent assassin and another that works as a business consultant (staff management is his speciality), but that is it so far.

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