A Dragon in AMBer
Watch Your Back, Shoot Straight, Conserve Ammo, and Never, Ever Cut a Deal With a Dragon
It’s always seemed to me that this was one of the best bits of advice on shadowrun in any of the books. It covers all the things that you have to do if you want to be a shadowrunner and live. I know some people think it’s an annoying and boring and outdated and useless quote, but I think it really summarizes what shadowrunning is all about. Each part of it can be thought of a metaphor…
Watch your back
This is the first rule. You always should be watching your back. In a lot of the books, the characters are leery of their teammates selling them out, but I really can’t see this happening. You have to rely on your team to keep yourself alive, and they rely on you for the same reason. Besides, if you sell out your team, you’ll never work with anyone again. Look at Kane in the introduction to the Companion. But you still need to watch your back. Johnson’s tend to regard teams as expendable. Sure, if you work for the same company for a while, they have a higher regard for you, but you’re still an expendable asset. Plus there are all those people who you have pissed off in the past. Face it, running means making enemies. And there is the ever present threat of the law. You can take steps to avoid being hunted, but someone will eventually come after you, and you’d better be watching your back when that day comes.
This means more than just using a smartlink. You have to know when to kill people, and when not to. Most of the time, killing people is not the best option available. If you try and shoot to kill, the person you’re fighting will probably respond in kind. Whereas if you use non-lethal weapons, your foes won’t be so inclined to try to send you to the next world. Nothing is worse than becoming a cop killer. But sometimes you have to shoot to kill. And when you do, you’d better shoot straight, because that’s when it counts. Do what you need to do, and do it well. Don’t mess around. In the words of Terry Pratchett, “either fight or muck about, it’s up to you”.
In a shadowrun, one wrong move can be death. Have back-ups, plan for the future, always be ready. Keep at least one backup stash of gear somewhere safe. The people I GM for learned this lesson a while ago. They were captured by Lone Star, but managed to escape. They lost all their high powered gear, and were wandering around the city in their bright orange prison uniforms. If they had gotten into any trouble at all at that point, they would have been toast. Luckily, they were able to find shelter before anything bad happened. But what about next time? You should have things set up so that, if the worst happens, you will still be able to put up a fight. Unarmed combat is good for that, as well as lots of contacts, hidden weapon stashes, cyberware, and of course charisma. You can always try to talk your way out of anything. Even if you could normally blow several street gangs away with your custom built double barreled sawed off shotguns, what are you going to do if you’re surrounded by a gang without your weapons or armour? You talk to them. You tell them what they want to hear. You convince them that you can make it worth their while if you are allowed to get to one of your back-up stashes, where you keep some cred and some weapons and armour. You should make sure you have as many options as possible.
And never, EVER cut a deal with a dragon
Geez, dealing with a dragon must be pretty bad if it’s emphasized that much, and the other three rules are so important by themselves. Don’t do it. You’ll never get more out of a deal with a dragon than it gets out of you. You’ll always get more than you bargained for. This is a metaphor as well. The only time anyone would make a deal with a dragon is if they thought they could outwit the dragon. That never happens. Never let your ego get the better of you. No matter how good you think you are, there is always someone better, faster, stronger, and with more resources than you. That doesn’t mean you can’t beat that person, it just means that you could not win in a fair fight. Everyone has weaknesses, so you just have to exploit those weaknesses if you want to win. One person, no matter how physically powerful, could never destroy a megacorp. But one person could start a chain reaction that could rip a megacorp apart. Dunkelzahn did that with just one of the items in his will. If you want to directly oppose something, you have to have more power than it to win. But, if your clever, you can influence it, and maybe even manipulate it. Know your limits, and know your strengths, otherwise you’ll end up making a deal with a dragon.