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gom jabbarwocky
2015-01-08, 01:51 AM
Hey all, I've got a little problem with a game I'm about to start running. What it boils down to is that I've got a fresh PC who isn't giving me a lot to work with - their character is really flat and I'm having trouble getting plot hooks into them. There's a little more to it, but it's not terribly interesting, so look under the spoiler if you want more details:

I've got three PCs for a cyberpunk game, and all of them are rather... odd. One is a merc who chops people up with swords and shoots crossbows, which in a setting with ample access to firearms is weird, but not per se a problem. The other is basically a Latino version of Shaft, but replace the mob with a cult - pretty much takes care of itself. The third is a really really good medic/pharmacist. Since the game does not revolve around the medical profession and/or drugs (not even close), I'm basically having to bend over backwards to think of a reason why Dr. Feelgood would even go on adventures with the other two.

Maybe I'm just lacking creativity or flexibility, but I keep looking at this character sheet and getting an NPC vibe - like, this is a character whose main thing is that they don't seek out adventure. This would be a great character to, say, patch up the heroes after a scrap, but is by no means actually going out there to kick ass, you get my drift? That may be partially what the player intended (a hyper-competent non-action-y guy), but I know they didn't intend to sit on their hands for most of the game while the other PCs get stuff done. Maybe I wasn't exactly clear what the game was going to be about, and that's my fault, but either way I feel like a jerk telling a player, "eh, this doesn't work for me. Do it again."

Do I tell this player I need something else to work with, or is the onus on me, the GM to think up something, no matter how contrived?

Laughingmanlol
2015-01-08, 02:12 AM
In addition to asking the player what their idea for the character was, you could always look at it from another perspective, and create a medical intrigue campaign revolving around the side effects of prosthetics and drugs that the megacorps want covered up. They could start as a back-alley doctor's apprentice and heavies, and discover a big pharma conspiracy, forcing them to go on the run from mercenaries hired to protect the company's secrets.
In short, if it doesn't make sense for the doctor to join the killers in their adventures, have the killers, who probably won't need much motivation, join the doctor.

gom jabbarwocky
2015-01-08, 03:09 AM
Eh, I get what you're saying, but I'm not interested in running a game about the medical profession/industry. I feel like (and this is going to be a ridiculous and reductive exaggeration), this is like if a player created a character whose main thing they did was play the tuba. The PC is a world-class tuba player, to the exclusion of basically any other useful skill. I don't want to have to throw out all my other ideas and say, "well, I was going to send you guys on an adventure fighting trolls and dragons and stuff, but Bill can't do that, so now we're playing a game about going on a concert tour and a vast conspiracy in the classical music industry."

Obviously, this case isn't that bad (actually, that game might be fun to play in), but that's the issue. Do I trample this player's agency to play an otherwise acceptable character who simply has an absurdly specific focus, or do I go with the flow and have one PC alter the focus of the entire game?

JusticeZero
2015-01-08, 03:18 AM
Here's the thing.. he's not a tuba player, he's a street doc. he's playing a completely reasonable and relevant skillset. Maybe he's a free clinic doc who finds out a lot of goings on because the bodies end up in his free clinic.

Comet
2015-01-08, 03:32 AM
Yeah, a medical professional seems like one of the more obvious fits for a cyberpunk game.

What kind of story (and for what kind of characters) did you yourself have in mind?

As for having a specific character that doesn't necessarily fit the story you had: I would maybe just run with it. If your players are active and your story is at least somewhat flexible, they can probably find the nails to match their hammer just fine. Players are usually pretty good at applying mismatched tools to any situation.

some guy
2015-01-08, 04:37 AM
Do I tell this player I need something else to work with, or is the onus on me, the GM to think up something, no matter how contrived?

Just ask the player what their plan was with the character. They made it and probably have some idea about why the character would bite into an adventuring hook.

Earthwalker
2015-01-08, 05:44 AM
I too have to say I think that a medical professional is usful for most groups.

The medical skills can be used for investigation as well as healing.
Drug skills should have some cross over into combat.

If you are planning on running a combat only campaign I can see how this could be a problem.

Also another note, if you can't think of why the merc, the doc and Shaft. Then ask your players how do you all know each other and how come you are all so close friends. Make it thier problem not yours. Most players can come up with a good explaination.

ReaderAt2046
2015-01-08, 08:05 AM
One time I built a character for a Call of Cthulhu campaign who was really good at science and engineering... and pretty much useless at combat, investigation, or any of the other things CoC PCs usually do. I had an absolute blast with him, partially because he managed to be a freaking hero despite being a fat engineer with no combat skills whatsoever. Maybe your problem player is going for something similar.

goto124
2015-01-08, 08:20 AM
One time I built a character for a Call of Cthulhu campaign who was really good at science and engineering... and pretty much useless at combat, investigation, or any of the other things CoC PCs usually do. I had an absolute blast with him, partially because he managed to be a freaking hero despite being a fat engineer with no combat skills whatsoever. Maybe your problem player is going for something similar.

What did your character do?

DireSickFish
2015-01-08, 09:36 AM
I have not played in Cyberpunk at all so take what I say with a grain of salt.

It can be fun to have a character that is out of there depth or from a different element and bring them in. It sounds like your other two players are beat-em-up types and you have hooks for them so it is a thuggish kind of adventure. Where a swordpoint and a threat can solve a good chunk of problems. Think less of giving him something he is good at to challenge him but throw something very other at him. This makes it difficult for him to deal witha s he doesn't have the skills for it and interesting because he has to use unilateral thinking. Perhaps a patient of his died while under the knife/under his care and the widower is hellbent on revenge. The revenge character can be in whatever element you want the story to take place in, thug, high socialite, tuba player ect.


That said I'm not sure bieng a medic is all that out of place. In field triage can be just as effective as after event NPC style healing. You'd make good a good bodyguard crew with these 3 because they got the combat and he can keep the VIP alive. If threats are his game then scaring enemies with threats of toxins that will slowly eat away at the insides of there eyeballs, or cause brain anuyrisims could be far more effective than "do this or I'll shoot you".

I get what you mean though. I tend to be more creative in a fantasy setting than I am in a modern or future setting. I think the way phones, internet, and a regard for law enforcement work have a lot to do with it. It's easy to make things "somebody else's" problem in those settings for me.

zinycor
2015-01-08, 10:06 AM
Now i really want to make a tuba player in a cyberpunk game xD

Just let the players figure out their motivations, you can tell the doctor that he will need some sort of fighting ability since the world is very violent and if you don't you are dead. Besides, on a group of thugs a doctor would be highly valuable since he can heal, think and probably get the enemy sick.

ReaderAt2046
2015-01-08, 10:06 AM
What did your character do?

He killed an enemy soldier by throwing a billiard ball at him, successfully rescued several friendly psykers (including a cute waitress) from cultist stasis tanks, and hijacked the bad guy's soul-powered tractor beam to deflect the meteor they were trying to crash into the earth. Those are the ones I can remember, there may have been one or two more.

Lord Torath
2015-01-08, 10:22 AM
I second those who have suggested talking to the player about their ideas and plans for their character. After you know his plans, you can recommend changes (only if really needed) to make him fit a bit better. I also agree with asking the players to come up with a reason why they're working together.

Beta Centauri
2015-01-08, 10:34 AM
I also think you should directly the player (and the other two) for ideas on how to involve the character. It's likely that the player had a different idea for the game, but that it's an idea you can work with. Or, perhaps you'll find out that there's a misunderstanding or a disconnect, and a conversation will get everyone on the same page.

Earthwalker
2015-01-08, 11:25 AM
Now i really want to make a tuba player in a cyberpunk game xD


Itís amazing the orcestra keeps going, with all the new forms of entertainment the NovaRich still come to hear a concert or watch the opera. There is still work for a tuba player in the world of 2020 and the work is good. Bobby Salts manages to make a living playing tuba for the Seattle philharmonic (now owned privatly by MythicWave Inc).

Working for the orcestra gets him into some of the most exclusive noverich parties. The 10K he spent for the earware for was every dollar. He is now able to filter the sound of the orcesra and over hear conversations happening between the big players in the world. He never knows what he might over hear but there is always someone willing to buy his recordings.

<Bobby will be mostly social skill (low social skills) maybe a good wardrobe (which is a cyberpunk skill I think) and a little money invested on the cyber ears. For Cyberpunk maybe give him both the rocker and corp special abilities but at low values. Yeah he isnít much good in a fight but he knows to keep his head down when the bullets fly. He is good at knowing who is who among the power brockers and normally has an in to some powerful groups>

Mark Hall
2015-01-08, 11:34 AM
In addition to talking to the player, you might use some standard runs that otherwise tie into his medical background... not medical runs, per se, but runs that might draw on that, so they'd want an expert along.

For example, try using organleggers... people who chop up living people and sell their body parts for transplants and replacements. It could tie into the cult, go with the merc's interests, and be a definite thing you want a doctor along on. You might also go with cyber-chop-shops, or really ANYTHING that, while not strictly medical, is going to make Shaftino and Navarre want to bring along someone with a good medical background.

And if he won't give you a background? Make one up. Start introducing people from his past that he knows. Develop contacts for him. If he starts asking around hospitals, he finds a guy he knew in residency. Or a nurse he worked with once who's willing to slide him some information as a favor... and three weeks later needs an MD on the DL to do a thing, and the thing becomes more complicated. If you're uncomfortable making up a background, start making up a foreground in the same way.

Red Fel
2015-01-08, 12:09 PM
Just ask the player what their plan was with the character. They made it and probably have some idea about why the character would bite into an adventuring hook.

This.

I'll agree with others that a medic is a great fit for a team like this. Maybe not the best fit for combat missions (unless he goes from clinic doc to combat medic) but a valuable ally to have, and at the very least he can cover utility stuff (keep the car running, be the public face, do some infiltration work, etc.). The guy is arguably legit, unlike the other two, and can get places and do things they can't.

The point is, it's not your place to create a way for him to fit in. It's your play to provide a world for them, sure. And it's certainly your place to allow him the opportunity to contribute, however he so chooses. For example, if he says, "Hey, this is a crime scene, and I'm a doctor, can I flash my badge and get in to help anybody who's injured?" You can think for a minute and say, "Know what? Yeah, roll me a <relevant skill> check, and see if they let you in." But let the player take the initiative in working his way into the plot. Let him be creative, and let him get the kudos when his ideas work out.

You don't need to shoehorn him in. If he wants to be a part of the story, he'll find a way. All you have to do is give him the chance to try.

gom jabbarwocky
2015-01-08, 12:22 PM
Thanks for the responses, everyone. Looking at this another way, I'm guessing maybe my problem with this specific PC stems from my personal biases - since I actually work in the medical industry, it just doesn't feel genre enough. So much of what I have to work with seems too close to reality to appeal to me.

On the other hand, a lot of these responses made me realize I'm really just thinking too hard about this. I can let this go, make the players do a little work, and bring it together later. I've done it before, there's no reason it shouldn't work now. I've run other games with similar non-actiony PCs in the past, I don't know why this particular one stumped me.


Itís amazing the orcestra keeps going, with all the new forms of entertainment the NovaRich still come to hear a concert or watch the opera. There is still work for a tuba player in the world of 2020 and the work is good. Bobby Salts manages to make a living playing tuba for the Seattle philharmonic (now owned privatly by MythicWave Inc).... *snip*

I don't know what it says about my GMing tendencies, but I could totally work with this PC. I can even picture Bobby's personal nemesis, rival CyberSousaphone player Yvonne Zemkova, a villainess whose cunning is as deft as her fingers. The cutthroat world of brass orchestra, Yvonne knows how to blow away the competition... allegations that she has used her uniquely modified instrument to sabotage rivals with ultra high frequency sound blasts have never been proven, as they lie beyond the range of human hearing. <Incidentally, making a PC with superhuman hearing the perfect foil...>

Honest Tiefling
2015-01-08, 02:12 PM
What about loot? I am not a medical doctor-man, but I do imagine it takes a great deal of supplies. Dangle some new tech that would be awesome to stitch people back together with or new limbs in front of him and see if the player takes the bait? Heck, if he doesn't already have a clinic, a home base with medical equipment in place might be nice. But I might be imagining this character as far more of a street-doc who takes medicine (and possibly justice) into his own hands and isn't afraid of a bit of larceny to get his job done.

EyethatBinds
2015-01-08, 02:53 PM
Ever seen the episode of Firefly where Simon leads a raid on an Alliance city to use an expensive medical machine? Ever seen the Batman the Animated series where Dr. Leslie is forced to help operate on a crime boss? Ever seen Agents of Shield with Fitz and Simmons who have no combat abilities but still want to help on the case?

Doctors are driven, motivated people who have years of training and are generally very ambitious. They also have massive debt from schooling, probably had friends and enemies from med school, and street doctors know tons of illicit contacts.

Why not draw on ANY of these sources to get them into a jam?

Knaight
2015-01-08, 03:41 PM
I wouldn't be too worried about the PC. It would help if there was some level of explicit underworld connection, given how Shadowrun works. In practice though, I've found that whether PCs end up tied in and active depends almost entirely on the player behind them. You can give a PC with a bunch of built in plot hooks and obvious useful abilities to a passive player, and they won't do jack. A proactive player will pretty much be proactive regardless.

jedipotter
2015-01-09, 12:08 AM
Ever seen the episode of Firefly where Simon leads a raid on an Alliance city to use an expensive medical machine? Ever seen Agents of Shield with Fitz and Simmons who have no combat abilities but still want to help on the case?



Simon from Firefly is a great example of a ''Action'' Doctor, as are Fitz and Simmons. The Doctor from Voyager fits too. And characters like Bones, from Bones. Dr. Isles from Rizzoli and Isles.

And most Cyberpunk settings have Doctors...someone has to hook up all them cybernetics....

Storm_Of_Snow
2015-01-09, 12:28 PM
Simon from Firefly is a great example of a ''Action'' Doctor, as are Fitz and Simmons. The Doctor from Voyager fits too. And characters like Bones, from Bones. Dr. Isles from Rizzoli and Isles.

And most Cyberpunk settings have Doctors...someone has to hook up all them cybernetics....
As shown in Serenity, Simon Tam kind of had to learn to become an action guy, he broke his sister out of the facility where they were experimenting on her, Fitz and Simmons probably wouldn't have been let out of the SHIELD research facilities if they couldn't potentially handle, even if they're not cleared for combat at the start (although the real reason is to reduce the costs of having the cast and sets that splitting the techies from the operatives would entail :smallwink: ), and Temperance Brennan (Bones) is supposed to have been on various digs in trouble spots around the word, so again, she's had to learn how to take care of herself.

gom jabbarwocky
2015-01-09, 01:28 PM
I've noticed that most of the examples that a lot of people have been providing for "adventure doctors" (Simon Tam, Agent Simmons, Bones) are all characters who still have some other skills besides doctoring (charisma, and supernatural/criminal investigation respectively). This guy gave me a character sheet where literally his only skills were First Aid, Medicine, Pharma, Diagnose Illness, ect. ... no social skills, no "action" skills, no non-medical technical skills. Not even "Research/Library Use," where I could at least put a "Call of Cthulhu"-style investigator spin on it. Frankly, he can barely dress himself (typical attire: 'Leisure wear'. Seriously), drive a car, or even run up a flight of stairs, but he can perform flawless brain surgery. So I think this is less a specific issue of the type of character he's playing, and more an issue of how to deal with laser-focused min-maxing in general.

I mean, now that I think about it, I know the player didn't intend to play an autistic savant, but if he did, that would be a great character concept and would be plot hooky as all get-out. But I would never push a player to play a character with a severe disorder if they didn't want to or were uncomfortable with it.

There a still other possibilities that I think it's possible to explore, it'll just take some time to hash it out with the players.

Honest Tiefling
2015-01-09, 01:32 PM
Have you suggested he generalize a bit more? I mean, even the doctor from Voyager could sing opera. "Tuvok, I understand, you are a Vulcan man, who has gone without, for seven years about..." and he was mostly stuck in the medical bay for a great deal of time. Perhaps he was trying to be helpful to the party and overspecialized? Perhaps ask him what he intends to do.

Red Fel
2015-01-09, 01:45 PM
A better example than Simon or Fitz-Simmons is Waldo Butters, from The Dresden Files. Scrawny mortician with a polka habit. Nervous around people, s'why he works with corpses. Quotes SF/fantasy a bunch. Definitely not hero material.

And yet, he's incredibly reliable. Patches up the heroes when they can't be seen going into a hospital with their injuries (or when the presence of a Wizard might cause sensitive equipment to break down). Rigs up gizmos to help with the magic-ing, despite lacking magical talent himself. Dates a shape-shifter. (She's more his knight in shining armor than the other way around.)

He's no action hero, and yet he has secured a position of utility among the core cast. That's what a non-combat medic can do. Get in restricted areas. Provide assistance where the heroes can't get it otherwise. Offer esoteric wisdom or an extra pair of eyes. Create a Ghostbusting cannon. You know, stuff.

Qwertystop
2015-01-09, 02:02 PM
Dates a shape-shifter. (She's more his knight in shining armor than the other way around.)

Wait, which book was that in? I thought I'd caught up. Did I skip one by mistake?

Studoku
2015-01-11, 07:52 AM
Nobody's mentioned Breaking Bad yet.

Walter White isn't a doctor but is another example of what you can do with !science!

ReaderAt2046
2015-01-11, 09:24 AM
A better example than Simon or Fitz-Simmons is Waldo Butters, from The Dresden Files. Scrawny mortician with a polka habit. Nervous around people, s'why he works with corpses. Quotes SF/fantasy a bunch. Definitely not hero material.

And yet, he's incredibly reliable. Patches up the heroes when they can't be seen going into a hospital with their injuries (or when the presence of a Wizard might cause sensitive equipment to break down). Rigs up gizmos to help with the magic-ing, despite lacking magical talent himself. Dates a shape-shifter. (She's more his knight in shining armor than the other way around.)

He's no action hero, and yet he has secured a position of utility among the core cast. That's what a non-combat medic can do. Get in restricted areas. Provide assistance where the heroes can't get it otherwise. Offer esoteric wisdom or an extra pair of eyes. Create a Ghostbusting cannon. You know, stuff.

And Butters ends up wielding the Lightsaber Of Faith as one of the three Knights Of The Cross (The other two Knights wield Excalibur and Durendal).

Red Fel
2015-01-11, 11:04 AM
And Butters ends up wielding the Lightsaber Of Faith as one of the three Knights Of The Cross (The other two Knights wield Excalibur and Durendal).

To be fair, it's more a symbol than a weapon. Although it does technically function as a weapon. It functions really well as a weapon.
The point is that even non-combat ensemble characters in that series get their moments to be useful. And some even engage in minor combat scenes. But generally, characters like Butters are defined by what they do outside of combat. And that's not a bad thing.

dps
2015-01-11, 12:59 PM
The point is, it's not your place to create a way for him to fit in. It's your play to provide a world for them, sure. And it's certainly your place to allow him the opportunity to contribute, however he so chooses. For example, if he says, "Hey, this is a crime scene, and I'm a doctor, can I flash my badge and get in to help anybody who's injured?" You can think for a minute and say, "Know what? Yeah, roll me a <relevant skill> check, and see if they let you in." But let the player take the initiative in working his way into the plot. Let him be creative, and let him get the kudos when his ideas work out.

You don't need to shoehorn him in. If he wants to be a part of the story, he'll find a way. All you have to do is give him the chance to try.

I agree. Moreover, if the player is having fun, and not actively disrupting the game, I don't see why it's a problem anyway.

Nagash
2015-01-11, 11:09 PM
I've noticed that most of the examples that a lot of people have been providing for "adventure doctors" (Simon Tam, Agent Simmons, Bones) are all characters who still have some other skills besides doctoring (charisma, and supernatural/criminal investigation respectively). This guy gave me a character sheet where literally his only skills were First Aid, Medicine, Pharma, Diagnose Illness, ect. ... no social skills, no "action" skills, no non-medical technical skills. Not even "Research/Library Use," where I could at least put a "Call of Cthulhu"-style investigator spin on it. Frankly, he can barely dress himself (typical attire: 'Leisure wear'. Seriously), drive a car, or even run up a flight of stairs, but he can perform flawless brain surgery.
.

So rather then Bones he made Dr House?

First step I would talk to the player and be frank with him.

"dude I understand what your going for here but I gotta be honest, i plan a fairly heavy combat game and this skill set wont last 2 rounds. You probably want to switch it up and put at least a little skill into things that will keep you alive, unless you dont mind spending a lot of time sitting on your hands while everyone else plays".

He probably just didnt think through some of the implications of his skill choices.

Mutazoia
2015-01-13, 05:34 PM
Thanks for the responses, everyone. Looking at this another way, I'm guessing maybe my problem with this specific PC stems from my personal biases - since I actually work in the medical industry, it just doesn't feel genre enough. So much of what I have to work with seems too close to reality to appeal to me.

Well...if you want a cyber-punkish medical mystery, go watch (and plagiarize) Max Headroom.