Episode 037 – Character Optimization

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In which Vox and Mr. Johnson talk character optimization with Maverick from the Arcology Actual Play podcast.  Also included: a new listener story!

Show notes:

(Thanks again to SpitDawg for this breakdown!)

0:00:00 Episode 037
0:00:30 Shadowrun Blog: The Next Steps for Shadowrun Missions
0:00:45 3 New Hidden Grid Episodes
0:00:55 Shadowrun Returns by Hairbrained Schemes was awarded the Golden Geek Best Indie Game of 2013
0:01:17 Gamer-Goggles: Words with Randall Bills from Catalyst Game Labs
0:01:32 Gamer-Goggles: Crossfire Review
A Word from our Sponsor
02:00 Hero-Lab & Realm-Works
Main Topic
0:02:21 Character Optimization with Maverick
0:34:19 Question from John: What is a good rigger build?
0:46:42 Character Progression
0:43:05 Wheaton’s Law – Don’t Be a Dick
Story Time
0:58:47 Rossland the Elf – Ghouls have heart
1:01:54 Send Feedback
1:02:25 Music by Prism Shard
1:02:30 Disclaimer

25 thoughts on “Episode 037 – Character Optimization”

  1. I think I am in agreement with Mr Maverick. I want to make a bad ass character but I want everybody to have fun and participate.

    As for Min/maxing, it is part of the game… if it was against the rules it would say so.

  2. Maverick is right, optimization can help build a very powerful character. I also agree that you need to make sure not to step on anyone’s toes. If you’re the only hacker, having 20+ dice to hack is fine. If you’re the only mage, then max out your spellcasting abilities.

    To ensure that my characters are effective and interesting, I start with the mechanic I want to be good at (the invulnerable guy, the gunslinger, the super-decker, the elven mage who can incinderate you with a thought, etc) then try and figure out who this person is that has this much power. What does that power say about them in the Shadowrun universe.

    For example, I wanted to make the luckiest guy in the shadows. Using a human with with Lucky positive quality, I could have a starting (and maximum) edge of 8. From there, every decision was made on the basis of “What would the luckiest guy alive have? How would that affect his life choices?” Turns out he’s a gambler with a bit of a cocky ‘can-do’ attitude. After giving him some good Con and Gambling skills, I gave him the weapon on the luckiest person in the world would dare use: the mono-whip. Having a few special characteristic points left, I let him be an adept and put almost all my available points into Combat Sense and Danger Sense.

    I encourage you to try this concept creation method out. Come up with a way to optimize, then build the character around it by asking “who would have all this? Why is this person living in the shadows?”

  3. To each their own. Everyone should play the game in the way they will enjoy it the most. That being said, Mr. Maverick would not be welcome in our group.

    1. Well, you’d be missing out on a great player at your table, but to each their own.

    2. Thank you Mr. Johnson! I just had an “Aww shucks” moment. 🙂

      Lucifig unless you happen to dislike me as a person I believe you are talking about the character I run known as Maverick not being welcome in your group. Assuming that is the case then I have to say “that is perfectly ok!”. My point I was trying to get across in this interview is that character optimization is a style of game play that I and many like me particularly enjoy. That being said most of us as a rule do not ONLY play that way. During character creation sit down with your players and explain expectations for your game. Do not approve a character like Maverick if that is not something you are comfortable having in your group. Talking with players before a campaign is a wonderful and very important tool for insuring you get the style of game you want. No reason to turn down potential friends at a table because one character write-up does not match your personal preferred style. I wish you a lot of fun in the shadows.

      -Mr. Maverick

      P.S. Sorry for the rant! 🙂

      1. I should certainly clarify, and it came across much harsher/ruder than I had intended.

        I find your character in the actual run episodes interesting and meshing well, and as a player seem affable and knowledgeable. The “gaming” of character creation is what would be not well received in our group. Didn’t you mention you had like a 1 Logic in the latest episode? Aren’t isn’t Maverick a mage? That is where my problem is. Granted, if you constructed your character in the framework of the campaign and aligned with the other characters then there is no problem. It just isn’t how we do it. I greatly enjoy the Actual-play episodes and Maverick is a big (maybe the biggest) part of those so that goes a long way into showing how I feel about you and the character you play. (ie, positively).

        I shouldn’t have said you wouldn’t be welcome, it is just not how we operate in our group. We’re there to tell a story, and in some stories you actually miss a gunshot every now and again. If you can (and it sounds like in your follow up, that you could) work in that environment, of course you would be welcome.

        1. No worries chummer! Thanks for the clarification. I assumed you meant the character and not me but written words do not present tone very well. Maverick is actually an Shamanic Mystic Adept that follows the Eagle Mentor though admittedly the mentor does not get roleplayed to the degree that I like. If I roleplayed all the nuances of this character the whole session would be me talking about myself. You should see our private forums, I do a lot of supplementary roleplaying on downtime related stuff on there. Maverick is actually comes off as a real person. His fears, his interpersonal relationships, ect. Soon we may record readings of some of the forum downtime for you guys.

    1. Tempting but then I would not have any secrets for the audience in the lets play game. Maybe if Maverick ever starts running the shadows in the afterlife I will consider this request. *Knocks on wood.

  4. I second groovy’s request. It would really be helpful to see how maverick went about the char creation process as far as massaging the mechanics. Very cool episode, and I did the podcast in general.

  5. So Hey, I don’t need his character sheet, but HOW does maverick get to 35 dice or whatever with pistols? Just give me the attribute, skill, bonuses, etc. I assume edge and specializations are used, sounds like an agility of 11.

    1. If memory serves, he goes through the math in episode 7 of the Actual Play, titled “Startled and Surprised.”

  6. Whilst I personally do not approve of such optimised characters at my gaming table, I do feel it is a case of “each to their own”.
    I am surprised that Mr Johnson does not apply the real world limitations of leaving Attributes at level 1, e.g. Maverick has a Strength of 1, but carries weapons and ammo, and wears armour, with no issues (Encumbrance is covered in the Core Rules, after all). Likewise, a Logic of 1, yet Maverick is able to offer logical solutions to problems that the team face.
    As a GM I insist my players play to their Attributes, not just their dice pools.

    1. Yeah this frustrates the hell outta me and makes me think a lot less of Maverick, the group as a whole and Mr J (sorry about that, gotta call em like I see em though). Maverick is wearing armour and carrying more than two guns, normally it sounds like 6 (or maybe more) plus I would assume some spare ammo. There is no way in hell as a GM I’d ever let a Strength 1 character (even with stupidly high Body – again something I’d never allow with Strength 1) carry all of that. And in the last episode Maverick tries to ‘pick up Kenji and run’ – the fact Mr J didn’t just laugh speaks volumes to me. I don’t dislike min/maxing, I do it an awful lot myself (both PC’s I play and NPC’s I use as Named opponents), but I try and make the weaknesses believable. Anyone with Logic 1 would be in a mental institution, regardless of their Willpower or Intuition, and no-one with Strength 1 would be able to hold a Roomsweeper at head height for long, let alone do half the things Maverick supposedly does, including firing the damn thing!! Optimised is fine, but capable of existing plausibly in a universe is surely a bare minimum requirement. Plus there are other more useful, and potentially comedic, ways to nerf such a character – like incompetences in close combat skills or something – or even just play it cool. Don’t get me wrong, I think Maverick is a good solid character, but he’s not plausible or believable in my opinion – and if he were at my table he’d have died at least once by now, and quite possibly be hanging out in the Great Runner Bar in the Sky

      1. My strength has come to bite me in the behind more times then I am happy with. It also has prevented me from pursuing burst fire or automatic weaponry. I am strongly considering bolstering that in the future. As to my logic If it is coming off as me roleplaying a very logical character it is probably my fault as a roleplayer. I am a logical thinker in real life and from my perspective I am playing a very impulsive character. That all being said I have two points to bring up that may add insight to this discussion.

        The first point is starting characters are possible to be made with as little as 12, 14, or 16 attribute points respectivley to split among 8 attributes. Stats of 1 are going to happen in this game and they are not going to be nearly as infrequent as they are in many other roleplaying games.The limitations of my attributes have been enforced on many occasions some of which (catching falling team members, carrying team members to safety) have been potentially life threatening. I think Mr. Johnson is doing an outstanding job of abjucating the rules in this regard.

        My second point is an important one. This is a game not a job or a reality simulator. I am not being compensated in any way for playing outside of what fun I have at the table. We are playing in a fantastical world with cybernetic implants, magic, and dragons. There comes a point where a suspension of disbelief is required in order to have fun. If Mr. Johnson were to enforce encumberance rules Maverick would likely be the least effected.

  7. To start off with, Kudos to the Arcology for touching such a hot-button topic. Yikes.

    For anyone who’s listened to the podcast, it’s got to be pretty obvious that Maverick is nowhere near a ‘problem player’ type twink/crunchkin. He plays well with others, he doesn’t hog the spotlight, he pushes/progresses the story and action and in doing so involves everyone else at the table in the umbrella of involvement. He’s the type of player the makes running a game easier and more fun as a GM.

    That said (as far as I’ve listened, and I’m nearly current) he also effortlessly exhibits a speed of thought that’s crucial to being a shadowrunner/troubleshooter, is unfazed by unexpected situations that crop up, and quickly dissects problems down to core components which allow him to analyze and attack the situation in the area that would most expediantly allow resolution — all of these things are very reflective of a high Logic attribute as opposed to a low one.

    I also, though, don’t feel that it should fall on the shoulders of Mr Johnson to enforce this, but instead would like to see Maverick show this aspect of his character in roleplay. This isn’t to mean that he should be stupid, but I’d definitely see (just as one viewpoint) a low-logic Maverick ruled more by ‘gut’ and emotion, prone to acting first instead of rationalizing a situation.

    Flaws are often the most interesting aspect of a character, don’t be afraid to make a mistake in-character or be purposefully wrong about something ICly. After all, the runs that go off without a hitch are never the most interesting ones 😉

    Sorry for the spam, and much love to the Arcology players, can’t wait for more!

    – Wailer

  8. So I have a similar, but different, approach character generation with my guys. I typically have a whole back story and character profile before I then go and ‘build’ the actual character. I also tend to lean toward generalist builds over hyper focused specialist builds. FWIW, we all probably go about it differently. So long as we build and play to our groups play style, AND HAVE FUN, then we’re doing it right. I’m so caught up in the story of all my guysthat I can always find a style that fits with the group.

    1. Thanks! Roleplaying is definatley a different experience when you are being scrutinized so heavily in a public game. Sometimes it makes me wish I would of ran with a less controversial character. Sometimes it does the opposite and I wish I would have been more controversial. Cannot please everybody.

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