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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...)

Charisma 1.

And here's a Rigger! Stats good...cyber nice and balanced... good vehicle...

Charisma 2.

Mage! Excellent. High Willpower and Intelligence, okay Body, lousy Strength...good...

Charisma 3, and that's only because he's an Elf and couldn't go any lower.

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.