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Message no. 1
From: shadowrn@*********.com (Ice Heart)
Subject: books vs. game (was No Cyber...)
Date: Wed Apr 3 16:10:01 2002
> > If any system used it's rules in the novels it'd read like a really > >
>badly run roll playing game ;)

Or maybe the author is writing from the benefit of hindsight? Let me give
you an example:

Game Session: (with GM, Joe, Bob, and Sally)
GM: the goons are charging your position
Joe: crap! I gonna lose another deck...I pop up and fire off two shots with
my light pistol...I buy some dice with combat pool and roll...holy cow!! 6
successes! and 4 successes!
GM: okay, the goon has armor, and a decent bod, and he rolls...whoa! all
1's. Wow. and three sucesses. he's got some serious damage and scraps his
attack to dice into cover.
Bob: I bust out the katana and charge the drek heads!
GM: you are peppered with uzi fire. they roll...crap! my dice suck! 1
success and 2 successes.
Bob: heh heh...our night I guess...I guess my armor can take a bit of uzi
fire...yep...5 successes and 6 successes...just a bit of a tingle for me.
Sally: I am gonna prep a powerball and toast a few goons...lets toss in
some sorcery pool...and ya!! look at taht!
GM: (looking) *sigh*...dice don't fail me now --rattle rattle roll-- woo
hoo!!!! I guess they shrug off the ole spell like nothing Sally.
Sally: darn it all! I hate being a mage!

Author's Take on the Above:
Edge, the physad, and his team of intrepid runners watched as the gangers
closed in. Edge was keyed up, feeling jazzed and aggressive. He drew his
katana and charged. Daemon, the decker extraordinaire was less than
enthused, since he'd brought his deck along and only had a small holdout in
his pocket. ManaChyld just closed her eyes a moment and began to chant in
Greek. Daemon, the only person not running or chanting, took the
opportunity to draw a bead on the lead ganger. Time seemed to slow down,
and Daemon lost all track of reality. His whole world became the ganger's
throat, and the glittering red dot in the center of it. The gun in his hand
roared, awefully loud for such a small sidearm. The two reports sounded as
one, and the ganger jerked as if a troll had clothelined him. A spray of
red filled the air about the punk's day-glo ornge hair, and the ganger
dropped from sight behind an old mailbox. Edge charged forward, lost in his
own world of slow motion violence. He scarcely noticed the tugging of
bullets on his jacket, or the small twinge of heat along his left side. His
mind, his blade, and the eyes of the ganger before him blended into one
entity...death was coming for the punk...and death's name was Edge.
ManaChyld gloried in the heady feeling of power, the rush of enrgy she had
conjured. It was a big surge, almost the largest she had ever channeled.
The adrenaline rush of spell casting was boosted by the knowledge that the
smallest stutter or misplaced gesture would fry her to a crisp before she
could scream. She hurled the magic outword, watching gather into a ball of
brilliant purple lightning and leap toward the gangers. It exploded, arcing
out to touch the three still close together. The purple energy danced down
their clothing and scorched the pavement. The punks seemed hardly touched,
running on as if nothing had happened. The mages shoulders sagged in
defeat. She felt suddenly weary and beaten. Why did she bother?

Now...mages do not question their magic because someone resists a spell in
the rules. A light pistol does not drop an armored goon. And burst fire
from an UZI is not lightly ignored. But the players played it that way, and
author descibed it. There is no special game mechanic effect to Sally's
dejection over a failed spell. It is pure roleplaying. The same is true of
everything in the "Author" section above. Roleplaying.

>Not necessarily... What I was mainly talking about, was stuff like >light
>pistols blowing people away like they were Dirty Harry's .44 >Magnum, or
>the runner group's mage feeling exhausted and drained after >only a few
>minutes of astral projection. (Both these happen in >Headhunters, IIRC.)

All of which I have seen in tabletop game session from a combination of
dramatic roleplaying and quirky dice rolls. The author simply added the
artistry of descriptive language to the mundane occurence of lucky rolls and
good roleplaying. Especially the bit about being "drained" after
projecting. That is valid, given the supposed strain of leaving your body.
That which can kill you six hours should tire you in 6 minutes, even if no
dice pools or TN are affected.

>Now I'm not saying you _can't_ blow someone away with a light pistol >under
>the SR rules, but it's not going to happen a lot unless you're >really
>skilled and the target gets a bad roll. This is something you >probably
>won't know unless you've actually played SR, as it may not be >apparent
>from reading the rules, but the stuff with the astrally->projecting mage
>seems to indicate the author didn't even read them >very well...

Or maybe we have ceased to roleplay as well, as we get lost in the

>And yes, I do know all this can be put under the heading "Dramatic
>License." But put too much under that, and it gets hard to suspend

The best roleplayer, often, are the ones who have never tried it before.
They sit down and try to do what we, the regular gamers, have always told
them gaming is. Visualize the world, imagine yourself in it, be creative,
blah blah blah...when did we stop taking our own advice? Are we as gamers
so jaded that novels have to tell us the guy rolled a natural 20 before
we'll buy the critical hit? (that last being your daily alotment of random
D&D references) Can we enjoy the dramatics even if there is no rule,
modifier, or chart to cover them? Because that is what the authors are
doing in books. They are showing us what are characters could sound like if
we stopped saying "I hit", "I miss", and "I staged it two
levels". We could
instead say "I feint low and then thrust hard over the top striking him in
the chest...", to which the GM replies "...feeling you blade scrape hard
across his armor without penetrating, though he winces and gasps at the
force of your blow." Tranlation: PC hits, NPC stages damage down to an L

Maybe the woman with no cyber in the book was actually full of experimental
bioware and didn't know it. Maybe she was a latent physicall adept and
neither she, nor the reader, know it yet. Maybe she has a darn good combat
pool, an impressive karma pool, and had a good night for dice rolls...along
with a smart player who new the value of things like called shots. Maybe
the author is showing us what Shadowrun ought to be, when we are not playing
Operation Speadsheet with our characters; checking charts, consulting dice,
and quoting rulebooks. The rules and the dice and all the other mechanical
details are necessary to make the game consistant, but are we not all
conversant enough in them to move on now? I personally know over a dozen
game systems by heart. I could run AD&D without a single book. I long for
a player who says, "Whew, I made it back to my body again...I grab a Soycaf
and rest a minute. Thank Wolf nothing bad happened on this journey into the
ether", and generaly has his character act like someone who actually did
just leave their phycial body and embark on a directionless walk through the
land of ghosts and spirits. So what if he could have done it for 57 more
minutes before he suffered any penalties? He just earned himself a
roleplaying karma point.

Okay, I am ranting a bit...but this (IMO) pervasive attitude among gamers
really bugs me. The novels are just doing what we all could be doing.
Describing our actions in the game world dramatically. All our characters
(PC & NPC) can sound as cool, and still be well within the rules as
published. And maybe we can finally seperate the ROLEplayers from the
ROLLplayers and the RULEplayers.

--a book is a window into our own potential

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Message no. 2
From: shadowrn@*********.com (Jonathan)
Subject: books vs. game (was No Cyber...)
Date: Wed Apr 3 16:35:02 2002
And maybe we can finally seperate the ROLEplayers from the
> ROLLplayers and the RULEplayers.

That's why "God" created freeform.


Further Reading

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These messages were posted a long time ago on a mailing list far, far away. The copyright to their contents probably lies with the original authors of the individual messages, but since they were published in an electronic forum that anyone could subscribe to, and the logs were available to subscribers and most likely non-subscribers as well, it's felt that re-publishing them here is a kind of public service.