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A Well Balanced Group 06.14.04

I have received a veritable avalanche (3) emails asking me what is “needed” in a good running group. One particular fellow was having trouble with his group never having “the right stuff” to handle their runs without out sourcing a chunk of their cash to other runners. No matter what he tried (let’s call him Crapmastah J), he couldn’t get them to diversify themselves from the “combat monkey” mentality. So today I will talk about some of the finer points of “Building the Crew” as I call it.

Now as a GM I rarely ask a group to make a "well balanced" team. Most of my players already do this on their own, but if nobody in the group wants to play a Rigger, that's fine by me. They are here to have fun, and it is a small task for me to toss in an NPC once in a while to fill the tasks they can't handle in group. Sometimes I will just change the runs so they don't need the missing archetype. This is easy for things such as a Mage. If nobody in my groups wants to play a mage, I just go "ok" and hold of on the magical creatures/astral attackers. However for the case of this article I assume the GM wants all his bases covered.

Before you sit down to start a new campaign (i.e., all new characters) it’s a good idea to have an entire evening dedicated to character creation and some “milk runs”. This lets you hammer out any problems your group might have. It is also where communication is your biggest asset. If you want your group to be fairly balanced then it isn’t difficult to get them see it your way. Explain that if your players don't want to have a decker, they will most likely fail a lot of runs based on shoddy legwork, or doors that just wont open.

If they are persistent in their attempts to hamstring themselves you have three options.

Option 1: More of that Talking stuff
If threat of “difficult” runs isn’t enough to make someone branch out, then you need to find out why. If the entire group just feels that class isn't "right for them" or "I have this great concept I want to play" you are pretty much out of luck. Don't pressure a player into a character they don't want. Many times, however, the players feel the archetype is "worthless" or "boring".

Probe the players for reasons why they don’t want to play the specific character. Many times there is something you can change to make things more appealing. It could be as simple as making sure most of the runs require the decker to be on sight (data extraction from an offline node) or finding a way to make matrix combat more exciting (Sculpted Systems). This feedback is very important to planning your future runs.

If the players feel a class is "to complicated" then you might have to try streamlining the character creation process. I have several "Cyberdeck" kits prepared in advance ranging from 300,000¥ to 900,000¥. I do the same with riggers. In the next few weeks I'll dig out my books and put these packages online.

Option 2: Break up the Tasks
Let’s say nobody in the group wants to play a decker because they hated the movie Johnny Neumonic. Well that means you need to convince your players to seperate the decker's duties and fill part of his role with their skill points. One player can take a Data-Jack, a cheap cyber-deck and Computer 4. This player (usually the sam) will then handle the groups legwork decking. Have another player take Electronics 4 and a high rating maglock-passkey to handle locked doors. Make the everyone take a few points in the Security Systems knowledge skill, so they can figure out how to get around cameras and such. Make sure that they can succeed, but just barely. Point out that a real decker would make their lives much easier. Chance are that when one players character finally dies they will give serious thought at playing the missing class..

Option 3: The Worst NPC in Scotland
Let’s keep running with that “no decker” idea from above. Ok so they don’t want to play a decker… this is where I bring in my favorite Elf Decker… but not just ANY elf decker… I bring in Maestro. Maestro is the worlds most annoying npc. He can’t keep his mouth shut, he can’t keep his hands off other peoples stuff, and he is a total wannabe gang banger from the mid 1990’s. He has a collection of old movies he worships (South Central, Poetic Justice). He ALWAYS gets the job done… then shouts things like:

“BOOYA fool! That’s wut maestro be telling y’all, BEST RECOGNIZE THE MASTAH yo, I’m bringing down the hizouse all up in here! Don’t want none, don’t start none, know what I’m saying homie, oooh, gonna start locking doors and drek up in this mo-fo an I’ll be knocking down doors like da L-star with ill warrants motha-chummah!”

Typically he does this loudly, into everyones radio link… and he won’t stop for like 30 seconds… he does this EVERY TIME he opens a door, or gets a new file… EVERY TIME. And oddly enough he is ALWAYS the guy they get when they need a decker.

Conclusion: If you can’t accept a group without a rigger, decker or whatever it is nobody seems to be playing then you need to find some way around the situation. If people aren't having fun with an archetype you need to make it fun. If everyone has great concepts they want to play, you need to work in the missings classes duties, or give them an NPC who can do the job.

So till next week… um… I don’t have a witty closing line yet…