Oops.

Dateline: 08/27/97

How many ways can the players screw up the run? Letís count, shall we?

1. Forgetting the mission objective.
2. Not being prepared.
3. Not thinking.

That's it pretty much. The only reasons why adventures fail by the character's own actions are those three. This week, we look at them in detail.

1. Forgetting the mission objective.

A long run I had my players on almost was totally hosed because of this. The mission objective was simple: bodyguard a client while she was shooting a movie.

Three game sessions ended when the person who was sending threats to the producer of the movie -- not the person the PCs were supposed to be guarding -- appeared on the movie lot trying to demolish the set. Instead of staying with their client, instead of letting the on-site security force (Knight Errant -- I hear they're pretty good with security) deal with the intruder, instead of doing what they were supposed to do, they abandoned their charge and attacked the crazed terrorist. Of course, the person who was trying to kill their client picked that moment to strike. One person stayed with their client. One person stopped the threat to their client. The other four went off and assisted about sixteen Knight Errant security members in apprehending one lone shaman.

And because of that, an innocent person might have died.

When your character is on a run -- or just beginning, at the first meet -- find out what you're supposed to do. Your primary goal and any secondary goals. Don't be distracted. If you're to break into a museum and are supposed to deface a statue, don't stop off and steal the jewels on display in the next hall. Don't steal the jewels on display before defacing the statue. Don't steal the jewels on display instead of defacing the statue.

What are you supposed to do on this job? Deface a statue. So deface it and get out. If the Johnson wanted you to steal the jewels, he'd tell you it's okay to take whatever you want. But he didn't, and you didn't ask if it's okay if you help yourself to a few baubles, so don't.

Perhaps your Johnson works for the museum and wants to show the others how poor their security is by disturbing a print he replaced for the painting last night. Perhaps he's a mafiso who wants to send a simple message to the owners of the painting not to mess with him. Perhaps he owns the museum and has highly insured the painting and wants to collect on the money. In any case, once the Johnson reads about the vandalism and theft, he'll know exactly who stole the jewels. Depending on his motives, he may really screw your characters over. Which leads us to number

2. Not being prepared.

The PCs are hired to break into a museum and deface a sculpture. They meet with the Johnson and get the address of the museum and times of operation. Their plan is simple -- pose as ambulance medics who are responding to an emergency call after hours. While the security guy is trying to straighten out the mess, one medic sneaks off down the hall, around into the west wing, sprays a mustache on David. Then rejoins the crew and everyone leaves.

The runner's ambulance arrives. They get out and confuse the security guard while Tuck slinks away, down to the west wing. Where she finds out that the wing is closed off because the museum is repainting this wing and the paintings and statues are all moved somewhere else entirely.

Oops.

Tuck could have gone by the museum to get the layout of the place, where she would have found out that the west wing is closed off. She could have gone to the Kimbell's infomation node on the Matrix to find out that renovations are going on until the fifteenth. She could have staked out the museum to see the external security and would have noticed the painters moving in. But nope, Tuck and her crew didn't do any investigation on the target of thier mission, so they failed.

3. Not thinking.

Tuck runs around the corner into the west wing and sees that her surveillance paid off, the statue is right there. She sneaks up, takes out her hammer and chisel, and prepares to clip off the nose. She holds the chisel against the marble nose, holds the hammer up high and brings it on down...

...Which causes the security guards to shout, "What the frag?" when they hear the chisel chipping the marble in a very quiet museum. Noises carry.

In my campaign something similar came up when the street samurai opened fire on an armored military grunt. Silenced pistols? Sure, your character has them, but did the army guy? Fire off a burst from an assault rifle in a military compound, and you just try to explain to me why nobody would hear that.

Sometime soon: Tales to Astonish! That's right, the players in my campaign have done some good things that I haven't expected during the game session. I'm pretty sure that your group has done similarly well.

In a future column, I'd like to present an article about the good moves that your characters have done. If you've had your character do something outstanding that threw the GM for a loop and generally saved your hoops, check out the contest on the front page. Later on, we'll also do a tribute to the foul-ups that have occured and the best story for each topic -- Tales to Astonish and Stupid PC Tricks -- will win a Shadowrun novel of your choosing.

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