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It occurs to me that we, as players and GM's tend to forget that the various characters we control have no grasp of the numbers on the sheet. The Street Samurai knows his Wired Reflexes make him faster, but he doesn't know he has 3 IPs. He might know that the Mark V model is measurably better than the Mark III model he has.. but its unlikely he calls them 'wired three and wired two'.

We, as players, can look at the rules and the character sheet and see that there are no more dice to be had for Pistols, but the character can only measure his skill in the number of other gunmen he's shot down, and the ones that have shot him down instead.

More: Since we are playing with our Imagininations, we, as GMs can throw countless Mooks, enemy shadowrunners, and cyberzombies at a runner team without once considering where those bodies come from. Thus, the Players may rightly feel that their impact upon the world is limited.

I can think of a few recent threads and comments that make me pause, to consider this weighty matter. Should not a Shadowrunning team have the power to bring down a Yakuza Gumi? Do not Shadowrunners who have an entire business not rightfully consider themselves players, even once a Dragon's minions have blown it all up?

Are runners ever truely 'Small fish in a very Big Pond'?

My inspiration, my Muse, as always is the real world first and all those sources of entertainment that push me towards Shadowrun games second.

And I consider this, my polemic from on high, to be the answer:

No one person in life is ever truely a big fish or a small fish but that their mentality did not make it so.

The Yakuza does not have endless hordes of men to throw at Runners. Mob bosses can be killed. So to can Dragons, as a few threads have pointed out, if one is inclined.

In life, most syndicates are small, a handful of core players, a double handful of assosiated thugs and hangers on, and a double double handful of unaffiliated criminals who operate under their aegis. Undoubtedly if one were to ask the local police of any given city every member of an organized criminal enterprise (the Mob, let us say) is known by name and photograph at a minimum. What stops them from being shut down is legal rules more than anything else. One man with vengence on his mind and a working understanding of the local underground can wreak havoc, links to Austrailia's killings have appeared on this very forum to demonstrate that.

This is mostly true of Shadowrun as anything else. The size of the fish is entirely dependent upon what they do, and what they let others do to them. Shadowrunners can wipe out the local Yakuza if they wish. Not that it should be necessarily easy, but certainly a decent plan should take them far. No matter what their reputation within the city is assured, other syndicates will respect their potential, fear them, as they would any force capable of that level of destruction. If the Runners wished, they could take over local operations, or just charge the new management for the priviledge of not being killed off the way the former occupants were.

If a Dragon, running an operation (small corporation... up to even, yes, S-K) blows up the Runner's operation in a display of superiority the runners have two options: to accept that the Dragon has proven they are 'small fish' and retreat into the shadows with their tails between their legs, or they can wait until they have the opportunity to seize the initative and destroy their enemy, proving that they are bigger fish than the Dragon thought.

There is no right answer. Runners should not instantly be elevated to the biggest dogs on the block, nor should they be punished for chosing discretion over glory.

More importantly: the GM should let them. The GM should stop thinking of his playthings as monolithic entities without weakness, should stop thinking of dragons, even Great Dragons as demigods without weakness or vulnerability. This, to me, is where Shadowrun has always broken down, has always failed. Despite the example of Daniel Howling-Coyote, there is a tendency in the writing to present unstoppable forces, to make the Megas and the GD"s and the IE's and so forth into unbeatable forces, as elemental as Gravity.

You can not have a proper Dystopia without some glimmer of hope, if only so that hope can be stepped on again and again. But therein lies the flaw of any proper Dystopia: There is still Hope...

I dislike how great dragons and IEs were turned into invincible plot devices - especially things like Great Dragons attacking cities and getting away with it. I like how with hard caps, they are at least quantifiable foes now. I'm not saying they shouldn't be tough, with some abilities no PC could match individually, but they should be dangerous because they manipulate things from behind the scenes, because they don't take stupid risks, because they have sensible precautions and contingency plans, and because they have lots of minions that you have to go through if you want to get to them. NOT because they can magically no-sell everything.

Going up against the Yakuza, an IE, a great dragon, or a megacorporation should be possible for a hardcore team of runners, but it should be a major campaign, and involve not simply them, but allies (hopefully powerful ones), other power players circling around like sharks, planning, ruthlessness, and betrayal. I'll pimp Hardwired by Walter Jon Williams (for the umpteenth time embarrassed.gif ) as a good example of what bringing down a mega would involve - uniting a bunch of other runners, hiring a small army of mercs, and making a devil's bargain with another corp. And be sure to have an ace in the hole for when you're done, and the other corp decides that you need to either be their property, or dead.

But I wouldn't shoot down the whole idea down. I like to think that anything is possible.
Well in my last long-reaching campaign, my players deemed in necessary to start "cleaning up Seattle". They would actively search out any contract to go gang-busting that they could get their hands on. Partly my fault for starting them on one and them seeing how they could change the face of the city if they just started to cleanse it of the droves of gangers and low-lifes on the streets. Granted, I only gave them three of such contracts, and they did some other runs on the side... But still, it was impressive that they'd go out of their way to take out every last gang leader, boss, and member. And this was at a personal loss to several members of the team who got shot up pretty bad (or in one person's case, got in a bad encounter with an angry mage). I'd never imagine pitting a team of runners against something like a Dragon or The Yakuza unless it was going to be a very, very lengthy campaign. My old team has moved beyond wanting to do gang runs now, as they have gotten wind of the power and money that comes with corporate runs. Kind of ironic how they've become corrupted by the system... It's funny how things play out.

But yes, a team SHOULD be able to do something like stage a hit on a mob boss. But, alas, it will take the aforementioned mass quantities of planning, resources, assisstance, and the majority of the team should realize that total failure is possible and it is probably a fact that not all of them will come back (or even make it to the end objective) alive. It's no different than the sort of feat we see pulled off in the Shadowrun games for Genesis and SNES, despite the fact that they may not be "cannon". But a Shadowrunner (and his team) can take on a powerhouse and come out winning and change the face of the known universe.
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