Today I would like to talk about the Street Samurai in all his/her glory. Most “rounded” running groups have 2 Samurai, 1 Decker, 1 Mage, 1 Rigger. Many times the second Samurai is non-existent, or held by an “offbeat” character, like a detective. Nothing against the offbeat character mind you, just that’s how it is. The samurai has one basic job, keep the group alive by out thinking the other guys, especially in a firefight. Their job can be handled in several different ways, including “being so bad ass I reduce their workable options to 0”. First I need to talk about how to out-think someone, I will be dealing mainly with combat situations, because pre-run planning is a task the whole group should excel at.
There are three basic steps to a tactical situation. 1) Assessment, Selection and Implementation. First you must assess the situation and figure out what your workable options are. Ask some quick questions of yourself, such as: How do we win? Where are the exits? What terrain/cover do we/they have? What could prevent us from winning? Come up with several possible action plans quickly. Selection involves guessing what your opponent will do, and what they are prepared for, and then selecting the best plan from your set of possible actions. Implementation just involves doing it and not failing all the rolls.
The nice thing about the BBB (Big Black Book, a.k.a. core rules book) is that the Pre-Made characters are actually pretty decent. I have never had a problem snagging a nice full color page (my pages fell out long ago) and transcribing the character to a sheet. I usually make a few changes along the way, just to make the character “mine”. This is much easier with many other archetypes than it is with the Street Samurai sets. Now before we go on, I want to explain that there are 5 street samurai pre-made characters. Now your asking me “Dog, what the drek are you talking about?” Well I’ll tell you. The Covert Ops Specialist, Mercenary, Sprawl Ganger and Weapons Specialist are all different versions of the street samurai. Each of these pre-made characters is representative of the four different types of Street Sam’s. So now, with further ado, I bring you the four other types of samurai…
The Infiltrator… a.k.a. John McLane
As the name implies, this sub-type of samurai specializes in infiltration and deception. The Infiltrator is a master of misdirection, deception and wet work. He is typically hired when someone needs discreet killing, or the target of a run is deep within a heavily guarded location. His weapons are often non-lethal and silent. The Covert Ops Specialist is a good example of this type of samurai, however she can be adapted for a little extra “oomph” fairly easily.
First thing we need to do is take a look at his weapons. Let’s face it; not having a single weapon that does moderate physical damage is lame. I know the character isn’t supposed to get into “shoot outs” but COME ON, it’s Shadowrun, and the shootouts are half the fun. Let’s drop that piece of drek walther palm pistol and get something a little more “hefty” like a Browning or a Predator. A silencer/sound suppresser can be added fairly easily.
Next we need the addition of some form fitting armor to bring him up to a respectable 5/2-armor rating. They also went to a lot of trouble to pick out equipment for him that makes his special skill set work, but they forgot one important piece of gear, sub-dermal microphone. While the character is an intrusion specialist, there is a team that needs to be communicated silently with. The radio already in the characters head can be easily upgraded to include a sub-dermal microphone… and it doesn’t even cost a lot of nuyen.
So how does an Infiltrator out think the other guy? Typically through pre-emptive action. The infiltrator employs misdirection and stealth to prevent the runners from being seen until it is necessary to reveal themselves, usually in, once again, a pre-emptive strike to quickly and quietly reduce the oppositions options to “being dead/unconscious”. If things go right nobody knows who was there. If things go very right, nobody knows anyone was there. If things go wrong Thundercock is making googly eyes at you from across the prison cell.
The Lead Chucker… a.k.a El Mariachi
The lead chucker fills the air with bullets and hopes none of them are coming back towards him. They shoot first, and ask questions later. Their idea of stealth is using a silencer. His jobs usually involve gangers, lethal security or even military targets. You don’t hire him if the job needs to be done without a body count.
The mercenary in the BBB is pretty solid stuff. I find the body rating to be a bit over-kill because 8 dice handles most pistols very well, but heavier weapons can just fire in full auto mode, making 16 body dice more he “critical number”. It’s hard to explain, but I love probability mathematics. Basically I drop the body from 10(13) to 8(11) and grab 2 more points of willpower. It really helps to have more combat pool. I also jumped the Boosted Reflexes up to rating 3, and dropped the muscle replacement.
The lead chucker can also be built around an “agile” concept, which is what I prefer to do. B resources and Beta Wired 2 with a reflex trigger are a good place to start here. Priority A skills make sure your not lacking in anything important, and C attributes still locks you into a good stat line with high quickness and intelligence.
The lead chucker out thinks the other guys by killing them all before they have the ability to fight back. If his “implementation” stage fails, he relies on armor and cover to survive long enough to finish off the job. He often finds himself guarding a Decker during a gun battle, or covering his group’s escape. If things go right, there is a moderate pool of blood, and cash coming your way. If things go very right, there is a very large pool of blood and cash coming your way. If things go wrong, there is a large pool of blood your desperately trying to put back in your body.
The meat shield… a.k.a. Ahnold
Why bother getting better at hitting first, when you can just absorb so much damage they run out of bullets? This is an excellent choice for games where combat ends in melee range very often. For games where you have the “moral authority” such as Doc Wagon or Corporate Thug games, this character also gives you a lot of what you want. In any situation where subtlety is desirable… well nobody calls you for that. His runs often include protection and bodyguard duty or targets in low security areas (like the barrens).
The sprawl ganger is as close to the meat shield as the pre-made characters get, but it just isn’t enough to really drive home that feeling of complete invulnerability. The first thing I did was switch out the D resources or B skills. That doesn’t stay very true to the concept, but we are breaking the concept/game rules wide open here anyway, so lets just go with it. This is one of the few times when a character doesn’t need a wide variety of skills. He relies on his group to bring those skill thingies; he simply acts as a protective measure. I then buffed up dermal plating to rating 3, and bought Titanium bone lacing. I threw in muscle augmentation 2, and for giggles made it all alpha ware because I had way too much money. I also re-named the character concept “The Button Man” and gave him some Mafia contacts.
To retro-fit the sprawl ganger into another concept takes much more effort than other pre-made characters, but in the right campaign, it can be a lot of fun.
The meat shield out thinks his opponents by generating a situation where none of their plans can survive their implementation phase. Rather than being smarter than his opponent, he just trivializes their intelligence. If things go right he hears the *thump thump* of fleeing footsteps. If things go very right, he hears the *click click click* of empty gun chambers. If things go wrong he hears the *woo woo* of a DocWagon.
The OSP… a.k.a. MacGuyver
A distant cousin to the infiltrator, the OSP uses his environment to best his foes. He quickly takes in the situation and develops a plan using his surroundings. Often he takes only a gun, and some body armor into his missions, which usually center on extended periods of self-reliance, or extraction. OSP stands for On Sight Procurement… it’s the term the military uses for “stealing the enemies guns/weapons”.
The Weapons Specialist is a near perfect example of the OSP character. All I altered there was the addition of Electronics and Electronics B/R in place of heavy weapons skills. I would also consider moving some knowledge skills to survival oriented skills. If building this concept from the ground up, I recommend a cyber-limb with gadgets and a cybergun. A heavy pistol in your arm with a gyro-scope is some good loving for the character who likes to enter a situation carrying no excess baggage.
The OSP out dances his opponents on the battlefield. He blows holes in walls to make new doors, shoots chandeliers down from above or throws a rock at the button that drops the metal grate down on Jabba’s Rancor… oops, wrong universe. If things go right your opponent fell right into your trap. If things go very right your opponent took some friends into your trap with him. If things go wrong your hiding behind a blast shield doorway, whose controls you just destroyed, also controls the extending bridge you needed to cross… damn it, wrong universe again.
Conclusion: So now I tell you that there are a thousand other viable ways to go. You could go with a Troll Sammy and just stand there and watch bullets bounce off of him. You could build a 4 cyber-limb sammy who doesn’t have any reflex enhancers, but a ton of gadgets in his arms. You could build a "cyber-lite" sam even, with a ton of skills and great attributes, but only 90,000¥ to spend. I say this in a vane attempt to not stunt your imagination. The framework I have laid out is there to allow a flexible character that can have options in any situation. When you start playing the game, kill your opponents with creativity. Duck behind things, lob concussion grenades, throw chairs at them and pull off weird stunts you could never do in real life. If you think of your Samurai less like a Samurai, and more like The Major from Ghost in the Shell... you will do well.