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Demonseed Elite
This question is mainly meant for the folks who like the non-magical aspects of Shadowrun more than the magical ones. The people who believe there's a leaning towards all things magical in SR and get concerned by it. But, anyone who has an answer to this question can definitely answer.

Putting magical antagonists (dragons, "Horrors", free spirits, shapechangers, etc.) aside, what sort of antagonists do you love that you feel enhance the non-magical aspects of Shadowrun? Faceless megacorporations? Uber alpha-men (like Damien Knight)? Technological freaks (cyberzombies)? Strange techno-influenced phenomena (AIs, otaku)? Shadowy conspiracies (Winterknight, Alamos 20k)? Do you find that badguys like faceless megacorporations just don't feel defined enough next to antagonists like dragons?

I'd just like to know what kind of opponents these folks like to face. There's been a lot of discussion here lately about Horrors and the magical antagonists, and I'm curious about the flipside of the coin.
I try to stay away from magical antagonists, but I do always end up putting some magic in there.

My favourite non-magical antagonists to date have been anti-corporate terrorist cells. Secret societies and the likes. Powerful underground forces like top of the food chain fixers and their hired goons. Kinda like the Merovingian in Matrix. Yeah, those guys I like.
Colonel John Adair, born Great Missenden, England, 14.03.2025. Graduated Sandhurst Military Academy with high honours, specialising in counter-terrorism and psychological warfare. Transferred to the Paras in 2048, operated in Euro theatre against Bosnian Serb rebels. Transferred to Lord Protector's office May 2051. Led covert operations unit for five years under the direct command of Lord Marchmont. Implicated in numerous acts of terror against targets designated as threats to national security. Dishonourably discharged 2056 for attempted assassination of senior political figures; claims of acting under orders from the Lord Protector unverified, but the death sentence was mitigated to exile. Joined Aztechnology as military advisor, served four years in the Yucatan. Believed responsible for the "lluiva de la muerte" incident, in which three villages held to be sympathetic to the rebels were bombarded with experimental neurotoxins. Left Aztechnology due to "professional dispute", believed to have killed Aztech General Juan Villa-Lobos during his departure. Since leaving Aztechnology, has operated as a specialist mercenary across the globe. Currently believed to have a core unit of 10 specialists in various fields, hires others as the need arises. Expert at reading a subject's psychology from their habits and tailoring actions against them on that basis.

I made this guy up on the spur of the moment. He's designed as a recurring enemy for a team; an expert in psychology who practically knows your actions before you do and has the tactical skill and experience to exploit that knowledge coupled to an absolute lack of any form of ethics or morality.
Ol' Scratch
The Media. The single most often ignored aspect of Shadowrun outside of the occasional newsclipping... which is just insanely odd.

After that I make heavy use of organized crime and the underworld. I tend to shy away from megacorporations simply because I find them dull and uninspired... corporate espionage gets boring after a while.

Lately, I had one PC regularly hunted by his old gang. I'm going to have to figure out something when the gang gets depopulated - the PCs are thinning their ranks pretty quickly.

Oh, and the PCs are also being pestered by some immortal elves (yes, magical) and some very mundane Native Americans and UCAS gubmint types. The PCs were hired to investigate the Lone Eagle missile silo site, just to look for the corpse (skeleton) of one person in there, and have been subsequently deluged with assassination attempts. They're just starting to figure out they stumbled on a Huge Secret Conspiracy. Unlike the gangers, the supply of ninjas is nearly endless, and so the Evil Secret Masterminds behind the Conspiracy can always hurl more legions of ninjas against the PCs. One of these days, the PCs will suffer the fate of all those who poke their noses into Huge Secret Conspiracies.
Necro Tech
Fringe Wackos. Those who are so far outside the world view its like they live on a different planet. The cultists, religious extremsists, bigots, idle rich and cause heads who always seem to be remarkably well funded. They are all kinds of fun and don't need any magical flavor at all though of course you can always throw the surprise twist in which the leader of an anti-magic cult is really an idol shaman bent on killing all other magical practioners. Because they are so weird, you can justify damn near anything as a valid plot because it only has to make sense to them. After one of these runs your players can recall the good old days of being screwed over by the Megas and organized crime.
Random note: Cyberzombies are created via magic, and therefore count towards your "magical baddies" list.

Edit: Unless you don't want them to, that is.
Neruda's Ghost
I agree with Necro.

Psychos, whether zealots or just mentally insane, always add that terrifying sense of unpredictability to the game. One villain in particular in my games was a corporate suite who also happens to be an insane serial killer on the side. The players were already expecting the worse from the magical opposition (the dragon or spirits), the fact that their johnson starts to secretly stalk them after the mission was over was something that really freaked them out.

Maybe I went a little over board, but this killer actually started murdering the players' contacts one by one before they finally took down the psycho. It took a while too, since the killer was actually very smart at covering his tracks and could make the crimes look like unrelated murders.

Guess I shouldn't have watched American Psycho while I was writing the game.
Ol' Scratch
QUOTE (tanka)
Random note: Cyberzombies are created via magic, and therefore count towards your "magical baddies" list.

Shh. Denial is good. Same goes with otaku. But shh...
Otaku aren't really magical, per se. At least, not by any full-blown announcement that I'm aware of.

It's theorized, sure. However, theories are just that -- theories.
Actually, mine is a squad of corporate guards. We're talking full armor with their only enhancements being cybernetic arms to increase their strength. These people turn runner teams into paste quickly with their combination of firepower and armor.
Crimson Jack
Tir Ghosts make for a cool black ops style enemy to use in a game. For that matter, black ops in general are pretty fun to use as a GM (nod to Wildcats).

I've used terrorists before in games and even played off the terrorist theme by reversing the protagonist/antagonist roles of the terrorists in question (ie. Eco-terrorists). I wrote a run once where the runners switched sides when they realized that the eco-terrorist group was actually providing them with a service which would be more important to the shaman in the group, than finishing the mission.
Hell - couldn't you throw in Deus and his minions? I believe there are hints in the SOTAs that he's still around somewhere.
Crimsondude 2.0
I wouldn't exactly call Tir Ghosts non-magical. As a matter of fact, they're pretty effing magic-heavy.
In the past 18 months game-time my players have faced down a conspiracy to break Seattle away from the UCAS (masterminded by a Lone Star Special Ops commander, a department chief of the CIA and a corporate CEO who had a penchant for installing cyberware in his family against their will), tangled with Tsunami Special Forces while breaking up a WMD smuggling chain and fought against the Vory and a hard-as-nails ex-SAS merc in Vladivostok. They have also (under different guises) been involved in starting a civil war in Egypt, destroying a Swiss corporation's headquarters and preventing the release of a mutant strain of Ebola across Europe. And that's just the non-magical threats. I think they're glad they're not playing mages...

Crimson Jack
QUOTE (Crimsondude 2.0)
I wouldn't exactly call Tir Ghosts non-magical. As a matter of fact, they're pretty effing magic-heavy.

I suppose you're right. I guess I was just thinking of 'black ops'... got me thinking about the Ghosts. Feh. nyahnyah.gif
Cynic project
Well, the scariest non magical threats to runners are ones they can't fight. I mean you can't shot your way out of black listings,nor can you kill every "cop", nor can you stop A mega from doing what it wants. But for enamies,have them be faceless, have them be subtle,and have them go at the players whent hey let their gaurd down.. Wire taps can be scary things.
Yeah, I had my archnemesis create clones (plastic surgery, not real clones) of the runners and had them blow up a cop car. The real runners immediately got framed, their contacts squeezed for info...their main doss tracked down by FRT teams...and they had to figure out how to get their names "clear".

Sometimes the scariest situtations are when things are normal - yet not.
In the campaign I've been running, I've had several long running story arcs, starting with renegade factions within the Puyallup division of Lone Star, a criminal association that took control of most of Puyallup (this one overlapped with the first, because LS helped them take power), and now some corporate happenings, though magic has been thrown in sparingly (as a GM I hate using magic, but there's magic users in the group, so I have to, or they get to do whatever they want). The problem with these is that the solution to the particular ones I've used can often be as simple as mass murder if you don't structure things well (with the criminal association, the group killed all 70+ of the major players eventually, which brought all the horrible consequences you'd expect; they just took really good precautions against those consequences like finding the right allies and what not). Also, deckers make good enemies if there's a decker in the group, because if the enemy has a lot of power in the matrix, he's a VERY dangerous enemy. The problem here is that if there's no decker in the group, they're unlikely to be able to do anything about it, and that's no fun.
Wounded Ronin
I like villians who are smart enough to use suppressive fire on the party. Leeches away their combat pool.

Villians who use super munchkinous tactics and budget their combat pool till just the right time are all the scare that you need.
I find it's the intelligent ones that screw up a party the most. Hence Colonel Adair, above - a Thrawn-esque bloke who anticipates you three steps ahead.

Try watching a little Alias, as well; the main villain in that, Arvin Sloane... hmm, how do I do that spoiler tag thing?
Just make sure you have a high Intelligence to back up your Thrawn. My group has an Otaku PC/NPC(when she can't come down for the games) who calls the shots because she's got the data and she's got the brains. Imagine an 8 year old girl strategic genius commanding a team of shadowrunners. Most (meta)human villians can't match that in my games and I can't see a reasonable way to make the opposition any smarter, other than AI or Dragon.
QUOTE (DrJest)
Try watching a little Alias, as well; the main villain in that, Arvin Sloane... hmm, how do I do that spoiler tag thing?

You use spoiler tags like these <spoiler>Sekrit text goes here</spoiler> but replace < and > with [ and ]. Sloane is so a mental adept. biggrin.gif
I like AIs. All the potential alien malice of the Horrors without the baggage and deus ex machina. My last campaign focused around the characters being occasionally helped and hindered by an AI who took the unwieldily name of Mr. Iam. It was manipulating events around a state-of-the-art biotech company based on its fractured, ungrounded concept of ethics.

Beyond very specific antagonists and organizations, though, it's hard to create a totally non-magical baddy. There's too many magicians running around Shadowrun for anyone to ignore. Unless your campaign is a particularly low-power or low-magic varient, anyone at the apex of Baddiness is probably going to have access to a quickened or anchored spell, spirit bodyguard, or some other means of protection from the prolific magical threats that pop up in the average day of a bad guy.
Cheers, Flak

Okay, let's try that again.

Alias spoiler up into Season 2

[ Spoiler ]


Just make sure you have a high Intelligence to back up your Thrawn. My group has an Otaku PC/NPC(when she can't come down for the games) who calls the shots because she's got the data and she's got the brains. Imagine an 8 year old girl strategic genius commanding a team of shadowrunners. Most (meta)human villians can't match that in my games and I can't see a reasonable way to make the opposition any smarter, other than AI or Dragon.

The first thing that sprang to mind when I read that was, "what side is she on in the Deus situation"? The next was to create a nemesis for her specifically, perhaps a rival Otaku who serves or served Deus and bears a grudge. The third was that I disagree that you need an AI or a Dragon to match her. That's the trap that, in fact, Thrawn was the counter to in Star Wars, where you expected major bad guys to be Force users, but Thrawn was no such thing. Take John Adair, from my example above. Give him, let me see, an ex-SAS combat decker to garner intelligence (Adair would hire from the best, after all), as well as the wealth of contacts that his length and variety of service suggest. And remember that Adair has the experience that an 8-year old cannot match - brains are good, but experience plus brains are better.
I was providing an example that for any nemesis, there is a counter PC. There was no counter-Thrawn during the just-post-ROTJ era but what if Luke wasn't a combat oriented Jedi but a Jedi general who used the Force to "foresee" the moves any enemy could make. Much like any dragon.
Demonseed Elite
A number of interesting answers here. Basically, as I read these boards, I see the SR players and GMs who love the Horrors/4th World stuff, and then I also see the players and GMs who would rather stick with relatively "down-to-earth" antagonists. So, I was specifically curious what these players and GMs use as these big antagonists without falling into the common trap of dragons, immortal elves, and Horrors.
Ol' Scratch
...and then you have those that like a healthy blend of both. It doesn't have to be a magic vs. non-magic thing.
Demonseed Elite
Nope, that's true, and that's why I included a few examples that aren't purely non-magical (like cyberzombies). Conspiracy groups and black ops teams can also use magic, but are not necessarily magical antagonists.
what if Luke wasn't a combat oriented Jedi but a Jedi general who used the Force to "foresee" the moves any enemy could make. Much like any dragon.

"I wouldn't trust Jedi farseeing...the Emperor did, and look where that got him." - Mara Jade

No, I take your point, but the argument works the other way as well - for every PC there's a nemesis. Which is as it should be; the very best antagonists are those who somehow reflect or bring out qualities in the heroes.

I just wanted to add as well that the power level of an opponent is not directly equivalent to its potency as a nemesis. Just ask my old AD&D group who their most hated and feared enemy was. They'll answer, to a man, that it was an orc. A bog-standard, 2HD orc (no monster class levels back then, remember) who happened to survive the party's raid on its caves and came after vengeance. He wasn't capable of facing the party toe-to-toe - so he didn't. At various times, he:
  • Framed the party for murder
  • Hired assassins in the name of the local Thieves' Guild, starting a war between the two groups
  • Sicced the tax collectors on them
  • Had them exiled from a city as undesirables
  • Bought their favourite inn and had them barred from it
  • Had a royal warrant issued for their arrest for treason (bribery is a wonderful thing)

Any one of them could have killed him without breaking a sweat, but he made sure never to face them (without a lot of high-priced bodyguards, anyway).
Herald of Verjigorm
QUOTE (DrJest @ Nov 7 2004, 12:09 PM)
[*]Bought their favourite inn and had them barred from it

Now that one is beautiful.

If you want brute overpowering non-magical forces, go with numbers, tactics, terrain use, and drones. If you want a non-magical main antagonist, that's easy. Most such antagonists will have a support mage, but some may be so anti-magic that their lair is in one massive FAB 3 cloud.
How did a 2HD orc get so much gold? And why didn't the PCs have more? When I played D and D, we had so much gold we needed a pocket dimension to keep it. In fact we offer bribes by the barrel, and we weren't talking ale (learnt that from Althalus).
Wounded Ronin
Mutual fund investments. rotfl.gif
It worked like this, since you ask smile.gif :

Once the orc picked himself up off the floor and realised what had happened, he spent some time tracking down who had done this to him. During the course of events, he came across the dungeons that the PC's had cleared out. Now, any veteran AD&D player knows that those dungeons are often littered with cash that it's not worth a player's time to pick up - mostly in the form of thousands of copper and silver pieces, or large statues worth loads of gold but too heavy to move. The orc initially went into dungeon clearing as a business; he hired some help, on a percentage basis at first then later as employees, and started clearing out the adventurers' leavings. He got really quite financially savvy during the process, and expanded into more "normal" lines of business, which increased his capital.

It amused the heck out of me that the party had, in essence, funded the orc's vendetta against them.

As for the players, well, I don't tend to run cash-rich adventures that much, and any player worth his salt has loads to spend his hard-earned gold on. Added to which, of course, did you miss the bit about tax collectors? wink.gif And wars against thieves guilds get expensive as well. No, draining cash out of the players was not an issue.
Huh? Didn't the PCs salt their cash off in tax free enclaves? Why didn't they hire movers to help them move the statues/silver/copper out? Why didn't they use the gold to put the whole country in their pocket? Why didn't they get one of their number as the chief embez... oops tax collecter? tsk tsk... biggrin.gif

Any player worth his salt will have made the Dungeon Mas... the gods his puppets. nyahnyah.gif
Man, I gotta play in one of your games - you're waaaaay nicer to the players than I am biggrin.gif Just try making the gods your puppets in one of my games... time for the Big Blue Bolt o' Doom wink.gif

In all seriousness, the average AD&D player tends to do the adventure and move on. If they can't pick it up and take it with them, it's of no interest to them. It's a trend I've noticed over the years, and this time I decided to make use of it. In fairness, they did have banking with the major merchant guilds of the kingdom, but in all honesty that just meant the tax collectors knew where to get their cash when they levied the 60% supertax on them. I feel no guilt, they'd missed the hints that their finances were under investigation wink.gif
To tell you the truth. The biggest element that is the most often forgotten about as far as I've seen is the relative CSI departement of Lone Star.

You know how much evidence most SR parties leave behind at a scene??
Ed Simons
Yes, but Lone Star is a for-profit corporation. All that crime scene investigation takes time and money.

To use a real world example, a friend of mine was working in a convenience store when it was robbed. The only reason the police checked for prints at all was the criminal had pushed open the door with his bare hand against the glass and the glass had just been cleaned, so they knew any print would be of the robber and not of some random customer or employee.

And in spite of that, the police were unable to come up with a usable print.

Lone Star could check every surface for fingerprints, but they won't. It costs money and there's all the time they have to spend sorting through prints they find to try to determine if any of them belong to the runners. Of course, there's no guarantee any of the prints they find belong to the runners.

The same problem applies to all other forms of evidence. Lone Star could have a forensics mage check every scene for signs of astral signatures, but there's no guarantee that any astral signitures were left in the first place, or that they haven't faded before the forensics mage examines that part of the crime scene.

Of course, many runner's actions won't attract Lone Stars attention at all. Extra-terratorial corporate sites are not part of their coverage area. The Corp probably wouldn't tell Lone Star about it and Lone Star would have no right or reason to investigate the crime even if they heard about it.
AI robots that kill people and wear their skin in order to blend into society. Good for creating paranoia.
good enemies?
gangers in your home turf, there are a zillion gangs in say seattle, since most runners live in gang controlled areas relationsips with the local gang and their enemies arise, they always make for nice runs where the `roleplay value`is high.

the star/KE is a threat more than an enemy, but an useful one, my players have always been terrified of swat teams.. with good reason.

media people with a grudge

organizations low in magic but high in influence like the humanis policlub make great recurring enemies.

the BEST enemy imho.. a drek hot decker with a grudge.. now that is someone who can really ruin your day.. if he is an otaku you can even knwo the guy and not be aware he is a decker at all.. smile.gif

now and then more specialised forces, sparsely used, and it has always been my policy that players should feel the professionalism of the forces not just by their equipment but by tactics.
when you face 6 well armed men and see them all seeking separate cover while 4 of them set a suppressive fire on your area, then two start delaying actions to snipe at whoever comes out of cover while 2 fire suppressers start switching to grenades you just know you arent dealing with gangers.. and you know if you leave initiative up to them the chess game will end up with you captured or dead.

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