"Intelligence? That's just a stat."

Dateline: 06/11/97

Argh. You think up a bunch of NPCs, design a good backstory, introduce a neat little hook to get the runners involved, and what do the players do? They shoot everything in sight. They blast their way through each game session, only using their Intelligence to resolve Perception tests. IQs of .45, these people. And whatís amazing is that some of these characters -- no, most of these characters have an Intelligence of 5 or 6. Probably to give them a higher Combat Pool or Reaction, most likely. But they still think with their guns.

Hereís an example: a side adventure (done by e-mail) had one character in astral space, outside of a room where some terrorists were holding about twenty people hostage -- terrorists the player and the character knew were on the edge. So we have a situation where the bad guys are just hanging around, yelling at the hostages to keep quiet. Does the PC go and try to create a diversion to draw some of the bad guys away? Does he go and get the police, security, or the Marines? Does he try to get back to his meat body and find a phone? Nope. He summons an elemental to take out the terrorist mage. Which fails, miserably.

Three rounds into the combat situation and heís lost two of his elementals (well, one is pulling itself back together) and four of the hostages are dead. One terrorist out of seven is dead, and the terrorists know that one other elemental is protecting one of the hostages, the characterís girlfriend. Now to the mind of the terrorists, either there's a mage that cares about the woman, or the woman is the mage that's doing all this. Guess who's going to get killed?

Sometimes I just want to slap some people.

Place yourself in that same situation. Youíre an astral mage and you know that terrorists are holding people captive and they arenít going anywhere. What do you do? Iíd zip over to the nearest police precinct, manifest, walk in through the doors, and demand to speak to somebody in charge. Believe you me, a translucent mage appearing in the lobby of Lone Star will get a certain amount of immediate attention.

Sigh.

Not to just single out this player, but other players in my group tend to break out the Big Guns when they should look for better alternatives. Talk your way out of a situation? Negotiate? Bah.

How does this happen? When youíve got six people together staring down a curiously over-armed gang, all it takes is one person to open fire to get the other five to shoot along. If one person starts to reason things out, the others donít have to stop firing. Itís easier to escalate tensions than to lower them. Whatís easier: start firing and keep firing in the midst of negotiations or start negotiating during an ongoing fire-fight?

That's a rhetorical question.

So, how do you tone done the Fire! Fire! Fire! mentality?

  1. Have runs where the Johnson wants things taken care of quietly. Nobody can know about the job, nobody can be hurt or killed. Or a run where the guns are taken away -- have them be on vacation somewhere when the run starts, without big guns; or in a security patrolled area, slapped down with cyber restraints.
  2. Take them to a place where the use of weapons or destructive weaponry would be ... foolhardy. Like the scene in the movie Aliens where the Colonial Marines could only use flamethrowers for fear of rupturing coolant pipes? Same thing. Have the bad guys run through a crowded shopping mall. Do the runners fire through a crowd? Thatís reckless endangerment -- 2 to 8 years in prison. Donít forget the stray shots optional rule (page 93, SR2). Modify it for burst fire guns. Keep in mind whoís in range when that area effect spell goes off. Are those nuns over there? Whoops.
  3. Donít play the cops as idiots. After the runners blotch things up, the Crime Scene Unit and the detectives come in and they check everything. Shell casings? Found Ďem. Witnesses? Spoke to them. Bullet slugs? Retrieved from the walls and bodies. Fingerprints? DNA samples from blood? Surveillance cameras? You get the idea. The cops will be poking their noses around a bit: anyone asking about the security at that warehouse? The detectives have contacts as well. And sometimes they just get lucky.

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