Well, it's Wednesday (when you read this anyhow) and this week is my Shadowrun Game so, since I just finished some prep-work, the game is on my mind. Today's prep work? Gearing up some NPCs, another team of Shadowrunners, who will be going in opposed to my PCs. It's given me a lot of things to think about, and today I want to talk about a few of those points.
PCs and Gun Safety
To be blunt, as a GM, I feel that you need to treat your PCs with the same care that you treat a firearm. Namely, doing put anything in front of a PC that you don't want destroyed. Sure, some things can survive the pointing and other things will despite all odds, but that doesn't mean you don't need to be careful. If you put the big bad, who won't be revealed for another 20 sessions to actually be the big bad, in front of the PCs be prepared for that guy to take a crossbow bolt to the head and die. Why? because he was in front of the PC and therefore could potentially be viewed as a threat.
Why does this matter when you are gearing up NPCs? Well, because one of the first things a PC will do after killing a thing is to loot it. This means you need to be careful when equipping your NPCs. That big bad I told you about? Yeah, maybe he shouldn't be carrying his +10 Demon Summoning Sword of the Arcane on the first meeting, or at any meeting until you are ok with the PCs having that weapon. Why? Well, because as I said above, the PCs are probably going to kill him on site and then loot him...and now they have all his gear.
Balancing The Encounter
The need to balance the NPCs gear is even more important in a game like Shadowrun where the gear is also a big source of power for the character wielding it. Sure, that cyber limb may end up owned by the player but getting it attached right is going to take work. However, that LMG with maxed out recoil compensation that can full auto burst a guy with no negatives to the dice pool? That is a very powerful toy. More than just possibly not wanting your PC to have it yet (I don't see why they couldn't, honestly, not like an LMG is easily concealed) it could unbalance the encounter to the point that all you are doing is just mopping the floor with your PCs. If that is what you want, to just over-kill or insta-gib your PCs then might I recommend just telling the players you're going to GM fiat them and do that rather than make them play through a situation where they have rocks and the enemy has tactical nukes and invulnerability?
Watch The Numbers
One of the most fun I've been having with gearing up my NPCs is holding them to the same restrictions my PCs have been held to. Each NPC on this team is being made with the same rules used for my players. There are less NPCs than players so I gave a slight karma and money boost to offset it, but in general the NPCs are probably still weaker. This, by the system, should make the fight fair with the NPCs getting an edge by them dictating the terms of engagement. I can't wait to see how well it plays out.
Oh, and if you're one of my players reading this, good luck tonight. I'm looking forward to the firefight.