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Being a relative novice to SR Game mastering, I am curious what are the ways you have found to challenge players without resorting to combat? As an example, the PC's have gone to great lengths to have "no history" behind them. Therefore, the old bad guy ploys of there is something you care about (family) and I am going to take it / hurt it/ ect dont work very well. So, as GM's, what have you found (other than money) to help to motivate players?
A run for something they feel strongly about. (id est Dog Shamans and helping out humankind in some way, such as rescuing a "damsel in distress.")
Puzzles. Safes that have to be opened in certain ways, facilities with several security holes but an overpowering combat response, investigative runs… there are lots of possibilities.

97% of the time we use money to get the players into the adventure. The traditional call from Fixer, meet with Johnson or Fixer, get some up front money, legwork, etc.

Sometimes the challenge is the legwork. Sometimes its in the planning. Sometimes it is executing the missions. Sometimes its getting out. Sometimes its what the Johnson does to them and their desire to do something more. Occasionally the challenge is due to their Flaws, and occasionally it's a result of some prior adventure catching up with them. One coming up is due to two of them with the same oath to the same magic group.

I haven't used the 'kidnap xxx' and force them to do something. And if they had a paladin I could use a similar technique to get them to go fight the Red Dragon. wink.gif

I try not to have them save the world too often.
A good nemesis who rarely confronts the PCs directly.
Gives the PCs are simple basic run then have it come back to haunt them. Maybe the runners wound a security guard and his vindictive Otaku kid starts emptying the PC's accounts and issueing warrents for their arrest.
In this case, brute force won't solve the problem. Even if they can outhack their advasary, their decker can't be everywhere all the time.
That is the big qualification, a situation which requires through above strength.

Crusher Bob
The first step is deciding what sort situations (in your game world) cannot be resolved by violence. This requires careful communication with your players as to what game conventions you are using. To paraphrase a line in a comic book, you might think you are running The Frighteners while your players think they are playing in the next Oliver Stone movie.

Once you and your players agree when violence can be appropriate, you can add situations that cannot be solved by violence, you can put the characters in some of them.

Everyday events will tend to make great 'challenges' since very few can be solved by violence. The Pcs are on the way to the drop off the a large car accident causes traffic jams, one the the characters has a cold (and sneezes alot), their vechile hits something on the raod and gets a flat tire. The new neighbors have shouting matches at all hours of the evening, making it hard to sleep. For players that are living 'legimately' the IRS is auditing them.

The next possible challenge is a lack of information, they want to bring someone in for a bounty (for example). The challenge is beating the ppor gimp up (that's easy) the hard part is finding out where he is. Mysteries and investigations also fall into this category.

The next possibility is 'creative combat' (i.e. Jackie Chan fighting). The PCs are not prepared for the fight in some way (the PCs are low on ammo, the other side has a tank, whatever, it's zombie night at the local zoo, etc). The challenge lies in comming up with some 'creative' way of dealing this the opposition (rather that just rolling the dice or whipping out big gun # 57).

The next is things that effect thier world, not necessarily the PCs: their favorite show is being canceled, bar is being eaten by termites, favorite contact is getting out of the business, etc. What the the PCs going to do about it?

Next: negotiations.
Somebody has something that the PCs want. They may be unable or unwilling to fight that somebody, so have to come up with something that the other side wants in exchange.

Next: their own imaginations:
Their Fixer comes to the party, he's wearing his brown pants. He is offering the PCs a big pile of money to do a job of terrible weight and important: they must bring him 500 big macs in the next two hours; 100,000 nuyen.gif. A few days later, the Fixers body is found in a gutter, slight chewed on. What did they just do?

Next: The race
The Pcs must get X or do Y before time Z. The things standing in their way might not all be combat, but might involve such things as finding the right route, getting fake IDs/tickets/ etc fast enough, carefully coordinating the parties actions in both time and space...

hmm, looks like I've written long enough already
Just Jonny
I'm a big fan of weird social situations. Cases where the "opposition" is a crazy homeless person who they have to coax information out of are a great way to make the players think. Additionally, even the most badass cybermonster is at risk saving lost children in burning buildings. I like to delve into the characters' (or, failing that, the players') personalites, especially watching for the things that they, personality-wise can't or must do. Character driven stories don't need a significant physical threat to work very well.
Crusher Bob
Note that you really need to define the 'game type' you are playing, otherwise the answer to the above crazy homeless guy might be:

Character 1: So what does the bum know that my interrogation (torture) 5 (10) can't get out of him?
GM ...
Character 2: An organ that we can sell for more than 50 nuyen.gif , cheap bastard.
GM !
I'm curious as to what you meant by the PC's going to great lengths not to have any history.

Do you mean that they all come from ordinary nuclear families with ordinary middle-class lives and ordinary backgrounds? Although you implied that they didn't have families...

Oh, I've got a good one! False memory implantation via hypnosis! Sorry, I've just finished watching the first two seasons of Alias over the last month, couple of episodes a night smile.gif What if the "memories" that the players have of their ordinary lives are a cover implanted to hide darker secrets? Of course the proponents of this heinous plan would want to minimise any possible weak spots by removing as many people as possible who would be able to expose them (families that don't really exist, for example). SO the fact that the players think they've been so clever in removing all potential targets/plot hooks from their backgrounds turns into the plot hook.
Well, I think he meant that since the players went out of the way to create No-Plot-Hooks characters, any hook he thought up would be Rail-Roading.
Non monitory motivations.

There is the old favour for a friend. Works best with a high rating friend but the level 1 contact street doc may be having some difficulties with a gang, a gang contact that has been feeding you information for a while may want the favours repaid (and as he seas it your teem should help him out as they all benefit from his information.

Such jobs are often payed below market rate or are farley simple (SR team asked to lean on a street gang without backers).

Another way to do an under payed run is a plea for help. Look at why the character has no family or real friends, ho died gruesomely in what way and make the Johnson somebody with a similar story. “I know its not much but its all I have”.

If the PCs al live in a local aria the local gang could be causing problems for all the residence including the PCs and it becomes necessary to “deal with the problem”.

The owner of their preferred drinking hole is being pressured into selling cheep. He doesn’t ask for help he just apologises that he will have to close the bar (the window are all broken, there is minor firer damage and the carpet is wet). Works best if you spend a few sessions playing up how good the bar is to them.

Or the party is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Take food fight as an example.

Have some girls hit on them during the legwork faze of a run. Make shore there is time to let them play. Have the girls try to make it a semi regular thing. In a couple of months you have a ready made group of NPCs to threaten to motivate the players. If thay are really the type of hard arses that can live a solitary life to protect there professional integrity then see if they can roll play it. It’s not all that easy I know 2 people that tried. One failed miserably and repeatedly. The other nearly managed but eventually he found a nice girl and got her pregnant before severing criminal ties to protect his family. If they want to be the ultimate cold professionals make them role-play the self imposed isolation.

It is best not to do these types of runs too often as the party needs money.

If you want to play up the lives of the characters however you could do about 1 commercial run each month game time to pay the bills and every second or third session being a non commercial run (or 2 if they are short). You should only do this if the players want to and judging by the lack of loos ends in the character histories they don’t. personally I consider the character history inadequate if there are not 5 ways the GM can make my character react strongly. (Sometimes very strongly. timothy Carter “by 12 year old daughter is not your sex play bunny doll” drone fleet arms weapons complex action ~ 80 rounds “do you understand”).

QUOTE (Kagetenshi)
Puzzles. Safes that have to be opened in certain ways, facilities with several security holes but an overpowering combat response, investigative runs… there are lots of possibilities.


Don't make me come up there. mad.gif
You know, the laser would have worked. You would have been there for a looooong time, but it would have worked smile.gif

That being said, the one I gave you was simple. I was referring to one from the first completed SotSW run in which there was a safe with four electronic keys that needed to be inserted in the proper order.

Crusher Bob
Plenty of people have had bad experiences with GM railroading using backstory. So they will tend to get in the haibt of making 'special exploding dependants'. IMHO, it's much better to add such characters over the course of the game as Edward suggests, since the players will tend to feel less emotionally cheated when friends aquired in the game get into trouble
Crusher Bob
Yep, key 1 c-12, key 2 c-12, key 3 c-12 key 4 detanator...

Things that are challenging 'just because the GM said so' (like the silly resident evil puzzles) irritate me much more than things that a believably impossible.
Well, in this case it isn't entirely a guessing puzzle. Well, it wouldn't have been if they hadn't killed everyone in the room first. And if they'd bothered to search the bodies to find more than one of the keys…

Three ways I usually use to add difficulty to a run:

A) Surprises. This doesn't have to be extreme surprises, though it can be. One time my PCs had to sneak through a Humanis compound during a rally and nearly got caught because someone had a little too much beer and got escorted out by security. People take bathroom breaks, get ill, go get coffee, lob rockets at passing airliners and bring down the Metroplex Guard into the area, etc.

B) No plot exposition. Sometimes there's no friendly Mr. Johnson that tells them exactly what's going on and who the bad guys are. Things just start happening and it's up to the PCs to figure out what the heck is going on and regain the inititive.

C) Multiple plot threads at once. You'd be surprised how challanging even the most simple runs or encounters can be if you keep throwing stuff at the characters, not giving them a chance to stop and rest (or heal wounds, or restore their karma pools).
Another challenge: red herrings.

Yep. The players attempted to make "I dont have a past" characters. I had already taken liberties with 2 of their histories (one memory wipe, the other adopted at birth and didnt know it. Will start running against his own real family here shortly).

These are all great ideas. I appreciate it. I think something I missed so far was getting the players attached to, or thinking in their characters minds more.

Thankx. If yall have more, keep the suggestions coming.
It appears to me that your players maybe want to play Shadowrun, instead of the day-to-day plot of someone's (i.e. their characters') life. They may not be interested in who, or what their character's background is, and just want to go on some runs. I would at least have them determine why their characters are running the shadows though. If it is just for money then leave it at that and give them simple (maybe even straight forward) runs that let them get a feel for their characters.

One observation that I have made over and over again is that players who over-develop and define who their character is, generally don't end up playing their character in the way they developed it. But when players start off with a simple premise, and explore the possibilities of their character during the first few runs, then they start to develop backstories and personalities and plothooks for the character. This is the best way, IMO, for character development, as the characters are developing along with the campaign rather than as an adjunct to it. Not everything has to be defined to the smallest detail of a character's past and present life for that character to be ready for play.

I would start off with some basic runs, where the challenge is in the run itself. This seems to be what your players want. And after you have done this for a few sessions then things will start to happen on their own that you and they will find interesting.

This is how I run any RPG, and it works for me and a what I consider to be a large variety of different people.

Defiantly start with basic runs just for money. But you can use side time in these sessions to do things like set up girl friends.

For another challenge watch there bank accounts closely. Have a dry spell of 2-3 months (no job offers) so there finances are depleted and offer them a job they would not normally take.

If one of them has a fence contact, have him act as a Johnson. He just got an urgent order he needs some expensive items in 2 days (pick something with an availability in the order of a week) and he wants you to steal it for him. Party needs to decide where to get the items. A bit of research determines they can all be had at one place with good security or you can shop around and have difficulty getting them all in time. Not all the items should be easy to carry but not all should be hard.

In all honesty...*looks at damage monitor*...I've never seen it hard to make SR challenging in combat.

What's harder, is when you suggest to the players that there are other means than killing to complete the objectives.
Then they start feeling pain.
Truthfully, if the players are all going out of their way to make cold, unfeeling professionals with no family or dependents, it may mean that you have really, really overused the "kidnapping/threats to loved ones" tactic. If you do that too often, they don't feel emotionally involved, only angry, frustrated, and manipulated.

Try appealing to things like their idealism (the megacorporation is illegally dumping toxic waste in the tribal warrior's old hunting grounds) or their ego (the new gang in the 'hood says the group is a bunch of washed-up losers). You can also use contacts as a great way to motivate them, either doing favors for a useful contact or getting one out of a jam. Don't have the bad guys kidnap/torture the characters' contacts, though. That would be getting back to the railroading tactics that your players have already demonstrated they don't like.
I would agree with you Glyph if the players first made characters commonly with family backgrounds.
OTOH, it was often a twisting wrist ordeal to get a few of our poayers in my old group to even begin to make characters that weren't Joe Mercenary, the cold heartless, no family, hired hitman.

For those guys, it seemed that their gun was always the answer.
To make that harder for them, my old GM just let them do their thing and simply let SR's atmosphere exlain to them why that might not be such an "easy" idea to do every time.

In all honesty, SR is very harsh. I find that it's harder to keep players alive than not when they want to go gun toating all over the place.
I think Edward had something like the right idea. Create that history through interactions. It doesn't just have to be girlfriends or whatever. It can be other Shadowrunners!

Have them go on a job as backup for another team, or give them a big enough job that they can subcontract other runners to help out. If you define the personalities for these NPCs, giving each one a distinctive voice and attitude, then the players are bound to like one or another of them. You can work the popular ones in as recurring characters, then start blood feuds, betrayals, kidnappings and so forth to your heart's content.

A lot of players are going to be uncomfortable roleplaying some kind of domestic family relationship. But nobody ever got cooties hanging out with the guys. They won't even realize what's happening until it's too late.
My thought: A corp extracts them for use as denialble assets.

Have a bunch of runners kidnap them and knock them out. When they wake up, they're in a medical recovery ward. A Johnson contacts them via the wall trid and congrats them on their new enployment and recently installed autoinjector with cutter nanites. When the characters complain the Johnson replies, "We researched you vary carefully before hiring you. We made quite certain there was noone who cared if you lived or died."

Yes, the charcters will be pissed at you, almost as pissed as when they find out the injectors were filled with something else. If they want to take the "no-history" edge, turn it into a flaw.
Crusher Bob
From a risk management prespective, this is not a good way to recruit long term employees. If there is a single job you want done, and you can't just hire the runners, then you can do something like this. But keeping these highly trained, well equiped, willing to kill, and specifically pissed at you/the company runners around in the long term is just asking for trouble.

Imagine that your Johnson has to explain his every action (and the possible future consequense thereof) to a bean counter whose dog just die b/c the Johnson spent too much money on runners for the bean counter to take it to the vet. It really helps give you a prespective on what is really 'necessary' from a Johnson's point of view, and what isnt' (Pay special attention to the future consequences clause.)
draco aardvark
I've got a player who has had trouble making sessions, and decided to upgrade his lifestyle without incurring quite the cost jump by moving in with a girlfriend. I want to encourage roleplaying like that, but also think it would be really cool to use her in some way. any sugjestions?
He knows she's a runner, as they met in a runner bar where there were all sorts of Johnson meetings and random hevally-armed people (weapons policy: don't bring a rocket launcher).
QUOTE (Crusher Bob)
But keeping these highly trained, well equiped, willing to kill, and specifically pissed at you/the company runners around in the long term is just asking for trouble .... It really helps give you a prespective on what is really 'necessary' from a Johnson's point of view, and what isnt' (Pay special attention to the future consequences clause.)

But maybe the Johnson isn't reporting this activity to the bean counters. Maybe she needs a specially trained group of people and doesn't care that they'll be pissed off because she's living on borrowed time as it is. Maybe the Johnson is undergoing cybermancy in a few days but they need X for ritual Y. Or, perhaps the corp is gunning to kill the Johnson for something and the Johnson hires the runners for protection. If the Johnson's future is bleak (or short) then she may not be worried about a group of pissed off runners; she'll cross that bridge when she comes to it.
QUOTE (draco aardvark @ Nov 15 2004, 06:42 AM)
I've got a player who has had trouble making sessions, and decided to upgrade his lifestyle without incurring quite the cost jump by moving in with a girlfriend. I want to encourage roleplaying like that, but also think it would be really cool to use her in some way. any sugjestions? He knows she's a runner, as they met in a runner bar where there were all sorts of Johnson meetings and random hevally-armed people (weapons policy: don't bring a rocket launcher).

She gets injured, arrested, stolen by another runner, cheats on him with another runner, kidnapped. Maybe she's a spy or a double agent trying to get information out of him. Maybe she's a recruiter for corp X and regularly sleeps with the talent just for kicks. Maybe she's a drake or a shifter. Could she have mysterious cyberware? What happens when she contracts HMHVV and turns into a ghoul? Will he still like her post-SURGE when she's got abnormal major hair growth and cronic osteocuspus? Maybe she installs that new model cyberskull and he doesn't like all that much. Do her boosted reflexes "ware" him out eek.gif What about her family, friends, pets, history? Does she have any enemies? How does her being an Adept with Flexibility 2 affect thier relatinship wobble.gif Is she a full mage? What happens when she projects one night and the shedim from down the street decides to pay a visit? Or, perhaps she's a toxic siren shaman and is luring him towards some freaky magical ritual that will drain him of ... karma.
Crusher Bob
Not every motivation or challenge needs to be some horribly overblown or life threatening situation.

Their aniversary is comming up, what is the runner going to do about it (he did remember the anniversary, right? eek.gif ), she wants the runner to meets her parents, one night she says 'honey, I think I'm pregnant, She wants the runner to come wtih her to visit the grave of her _____, she brings home a cute {puppy, kitten, etc}, she's gotten a job offer from X and wants advice on wether she should take it or not...
Maybe she's a spy or a double agent trying to get information out of him.

Heh heh, got to love that Irina Derevko goodness...

Here's an odd one. The girlfriend gets an offer to appear in a new "Reality TV" program following some up-and-coming shadowrunners. The faces of her and her team will of course be fuzzed out for security, but lo and behold someone slips up during filming and your player's face isn't fuzzed.
Or they are fuzzed but can be un-fuzzed with some interesting software currently under development by corp X. Could turn into an interesting datasteal run -- especially if she comes along because she feels responsible for getting them into this mess.
draco aardvark
Thanks for the many ideas, now she's not going to be boring but without being something over-the-top wierd or excessivly overdramatic (while kidnaping is dramatic, it's really been excessivly overused)

biggrin.gif evil ideas biggrin.gif
That's what we're here for devil.gif
Ed Simons
QUOTE (Crusher Bob)
Not every motivation or challenge needs to be some horribly overblown or life threatening situation.

Me applauds.

Your examples are things that give opportunities for roleplaying, which can make the game more interesting for everyone. The screw-the-runner-over options some people have suggested would be a great way to insure the PC never interacts with this NPC again. Or any other.
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