Obscuritus.ca A nerd making a nerdy blog

Guns and Moments of Play

I really think Shadowrun is a neat game. Big fan. Of course, that also comes with a lot of baggage. Shadowrun is an old game, and it has a lot of the feeling of an old game. The most important part of that is that it publishes a bunch of big heavy hardcover books. And the real question is, is it worth buying this giant pile of heavy hardcovers. The question, for me, comes down to moments of play.

In theory, my goal in playing RPGs is to tell a cool story. I am totally down for that as a theory of how to make play happen, but I also think that the play of building a character, growing that character, and leveling up, and so on, that's all fun. Making a character grow and change is really fun. So having lots of options and stuff for that character to do is important to me, both to use when being played, and for me to think about as I level up.

There's a theory in cardgame design that putting in bad options makes the player feel good about themselves for noticing it. And therefore, the bad options are there in order to teach people about mastery. I think that makes sense for RPGs as well. Why ever use a Browning Ultra-Power when the Ares Predator V exists. The only differences are 5 ammo, and a little bit of cost (offset by the Ares' free smartgun). Similarly, why use the Remington Roomsweeper when the Colt Government is better, unless you need a few hundred nuyen. And obviously, making these attached decisions is fun. It's fun to see the better guns and try to do what you can. But there's also something important about that. People are using the Colt Government because they are issued by the police. People use the Roomsweeper because they cost a few hundred nuyen less, and that matters for people who aren't Shadowrunners. People with more poverty.

And I think that's where RPGs diverge from cardgames. Having lots of guns with different attributes, and narrative is pretty fun. Similarly, I've had moments in Shadowrun where I've looked through the armour, not looking for the best armour to money, but instead looking for what I could wear to a black tie event, without spending too much. Which is where things start to get more fun. No Shadowrunner will ever use the Tiffany Needler, but it's definitely going to be used by someone looking to have a nice fashionable weapon that wont raise eyebrows.

So, in order to sell me a book, Shadowrun doesn't want to give me bigger guns, more deadly guns, or whatever, they need to give me moments. Times when I want to use these in play. This works because Shadowrunners don't tend to be going into caves and killing goblins. They tend to be going into office buildings and planting data. Or to fancy parties and kidnapping socialites. So by having so many weird quirky items, Shadowrun gives me a lot of choices to give to enemies (which don't end up making the enemies feel samey, or make the enemies give the players a bunch of cool guns for free), as well as a lot of moments where the PCs need to select items for their roleplay potential, or for strange effects they have.

One of the things I'm seeing a lot in games with that every weapon is give 0-2 stats, and then a series of tags. For example, Spirit of the Century doesn't distinguish between weapons and fists mechanically, but you might be able to use a weapon to get an aspect or something, or use it as a narrative hook to add a gadget to. Most Apocalypse World games have damage and tags. So a gun might do 2 Harm, and be Heavy, or do 1 Harm and be Concealable. And this is a good way to minimize the problem