Okay, everybody, gather 'round.
We're going to play Shadowrun. Everyone get out your books
and make up characters--we'll meet back here in an hour to see
what kind of team we've got.
Back so soon? Good! Let's have a look here...
Hey, great! This guy looks like he's going to be able to kick
some butt. Intelligence 6, Willpower 6, Body and Strength 8
(with appropriate cybered modifications), Quickness 5 (a little
room to grow there...good...)
And here's a Rigger! Stats good...cyber nice and balanced...
Mage! Excellent. High Willpower and Intelligence, okay Body,
Charisma 3, and that's only because he's an Elf and couldn't go
Do you sense a trend here?
Charisma, Shadowrun's throwaway stat. The one that nobody bothers
with unless they're (a) running a kick-ass conjurer, or (b) have
a passion for characters that have a few social graces. I've found
that in the SR games I've been involved in, players like (b) are
few and far between.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that everybody should go
out and make up the ultimate James or Jane Bond, with charisma oozing
out their ears, social skills higher than their combat skills, and
a wardrobe that cost more than their artillery. But let's think about
this for a minute: everybody can't be ugly and socially inept!
Okay, maybe they can. I'm sure there are plenty of campaigns out
there where the primary object is to blast one's way through as many
security guards, barriers, vehicles, and innocent bystanders as
can possibly be blasted through. And I'm sure these games are fun
for all involved. And I'm sure I would be asleep by the second fight.
But fun can be had in more than one way. Instead of blasting through,
why not try talking your way in? If the NPCs are behaving like real
people and not like cardboard gun targets, who are they going to be
less threatened by? Somebody who looks and acts like James Bond or
Emma Peel, or somebody who more closely resembles one of those weird
mutant guys from Monday Night Wrestling--you know, the ones whose
most articulate sentences generally involve going "AAaarrgh!" a lot
and gesturing wildly with hands the size of Big-Ass Hams (or guns
the size of large household appliances)?
Too many players, in my opinion, blow off Charisma because it's
not something you use every day. Body keeps you alive. Willpower
keeps you alive. Intelligence helps you notice stuff that's going
to kill you. Strength helps you hurt things. Quickness helps you
get places fast. Charisma--well, aside from helping you conjure
spirits, it doesn't really have much of a use, right?
It doesn't figure into any of the calculated stats. Raising
it doesn't help your Reaction or your Combat Pool. It's the
poor little orphan stat that everybody ignores. After all, who ever
died because they blew a Charisma test?
But just wait. One of these days, when you least expect it,
your character's life might depend on his or her ability to sweet-talk
a Corp guard, negotiate a deal, or just generally not look like
a blithering idiot in front of the local Oyabun.
That one Charisma die is going to look awfully lonely sitting
there on that table.