“You gonna do me like that too?” or Shadowrunner ethics, and group dynamics.

Posted: October 9, 2010 in Shadowrun, Table Top Gaming

So in my Shadowrun game there has been some problems with maintaining a consistent characterization in some situations. Especially when it comes to how dark to play a character. If a character who the player describes as “good” does a reasonably evil act.  The act in question is disposing of a prisoner by selling of his parts especially cybernetics to a ripper doc.  This came into direct conflict with the rest of the team, who had real in-character problems with doing that to someone, especially since the NPC was some one they had worked with in the past, but has come up on the opposing side.  

 In the past the player has described his character’s morality as chaotic-good in D&D terms and in his background he has a real hatred for human tracking and other forms of similar exploitation, so organ-legging seems like its out of character.  I have no real issue with a bit of player conflict in my Shadowrun game, often with in the genre it makes for good story telling, moral conflicts are a fun part of the Shadowrun experience, and the initial roleplaying around the  argument of what to do with their captive was very compelling and it looked like every one was having fun with it. Up until the player in question started to loose the argumentand started looking for almost metagaming reasons to end the conflict, justify the actions and get a quick and easy payday for his character, even if it looks like violates the character’s ethics. 

When do you lean on a player to play a character a bit more in character, is setting fluff enough of a reason to give the player a pass with zero consequenses? In the end the player figured out a devious way forward to pull off his plan, that the others would not know about, and  I see a way forward with the character getting some unwanted attention in the form of toxic mentor spirits and the like.  This brigns up some other questions: where does morality fit into a Shadowrun game? Is not falling on the gratuitous side of the violence spectrum just good business for a Shadowrun team?  How do you handle a loose cannon team member?

  1. darkcyril says:

    This can definitely be a fine line to walk as a GM, Shadowrun or not. Yes, there are certain in game repercussions you can heap on them, from the toxic mentor spirits you mentioned to dark side points to loss of humanity. However, when does it stop becoming a character decision and an opportunity for some good role playing and simply become the player looking to get a rise out of everyone else at the table (specifically the player in question who’s character has a moral problem)? It gets even worse when confronted with the action and the player justifies it with “I was just role playing my character.” My usual response to that is “No, you were towing the line and seeing how far you could push me.”

    I think the best course of action, especially if it’s causing any sort of unwanted angst within the group is to be direct with the player about your concerns with the player. If it’s stopped being fun for a large majority of the players, then something has to change, and the needs of the many have to outweigh the needs of the few.

    As for the questions of morality in a game like this, where lines are often gray and muddled, it’s usually a matter of whether or not the people at the table are able to handle it in a mature fashion and keep game and table separate, which, it sounds like in this situation, didn’t happen. Probably best to try to nip it in the bud early on before it becomes a major problem.

    • veganshane says:

      With the current group of players two of them I have been gaming with since my early 20s I am not overly concerned about too dark, if its the right set of characters for it. If it was the consensus that it was going to be a dark, dark game I would be fine wit it.

      My biggest issue is that I think that the one player is straying away from his characters world view, just to get cash for better toys, and he has a tendency to do it and it always mean leaning on him a bit.

  2. BLuR says:

    Since we are no longer at the table I feel OK chiming in at this point — I’ve been gaming a long time and learned very early on to make sure there is a complete separation from what happens at the table and what happens over a beer. I rarely have issues that move away from the table and into the real world.

    What to do? Usually what I do is try to sit down with the player/character and have him or her explain their motivations to me under the guise of “better understanding your actions.” If they are unable to justify it to my satisfaction I explain that there will be consequences to their actions and that they need to be prepared for them.

    I was one of the players at the table when this happened. My character mostly freaked out because the person he sold off was, up until just an hour or so before the incident, a team member which is where the “are you going to do the same to me when I drop?” comes from. As marginally the team leader at the time, I needed to know if it was some failing on my part that was generating his character’s need for money. Was I not pulling down the right jobs? Did I need to start finding jobs that had higher incidental pay outs? Was it time to just start pulling self-directed snatch and grab missions to fill the coffers? I couldn’t tell.

    It did prove to set a number of things into motion. Fearing a full on confrontation with another mage, my character started an all out arms race halting all other improvements in favor of initiating as fast as humanly possible to give me the power edge. With a single exception, every single karma spent on my character was for initiations.

    Morally, it was a “friend” that he sold off. Morally, my character believed that family was the most important thing in the world and that the group was “family” at the time.

    I think you handled it as well as could be with the material you were working with. Sometimes even a hammer cannot get the job done and I think that is what you were facing on this point.

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