So, my players want to keep everything. They love the money they earn, but having something unique is even better. We had a long discussion that they couldn't keep an awakened rhino with wings (the mascot of the city they're running, which they had to rescue).

I want to design a run where they shall steal a formula or magic item which enables the user to force awakening of other people (it has something to do with my metaplot). But I'm pretty sure that they will not deliver it to their Johnson (which will be a close friend of them) but instead want to keep it in order to probably awaken themselves or well... "just in case, y'know". I could make the item cursed or let it break, but this is not my intention. I want to "educate" my players that they really do not want those things they have to steal.

How do you handle those "We want to keep EVERYTHING"-runners? The last time (rhino) was their very first run so I, as a GM, explained to them that their streetrep will suffer and that after not completing their first mission they would never again get a job. But nowadays they have a good rep, some high and loyal connections and probably think that they could manage this.

I know, as a GM there should always be the "Yes, you can, but ..." - but in most cases I think that their characters (they want to be super professional runners) would not act like their players ("UUUUH, I want to keep all the shiny things!!").


8 Answers 8


Let them

No seriously, let them.

They want to keep the McGuffin of doom, the schematics to the bank that the Johnson asked them to get, the sacred Rhino of the city?

Let them keep them.

They're seriously writing plot for you right here, don't speak to them as a GM saying "If you do that, X..." they're experienced runners now; this is fine at the start of games when players are learning systems, but when they know the world more, they've done a few runs - they need to expand out and be let free from the cotton wool of GM warnings.

Give them an OOC 'the talk' before the next game; "You're experienced runners now, what you do is up to you, what happens will happen as a consequence of that, so think carefully about stuff before you do it."

You can still give them warnings that their characters know about, if they wouldn't think of... "Hey Street sam, you know for a fact from your street contacts that holding onto a jacket from the DOOM X bikers gang is a way to get the gang hunting you down. Just so you know."

Why letting players keep stuff is great for your game

  • It puts the players more in control of the game, makes them feel like there is less railroading and hell, they get to keep stuff! They like that stuff.
  • Consequences. Oh such a beautiful word. Where the hell would they keep the sacred Rhino? If they keep the schematics of the bank what are they going to do with them? If they don't hand them over or the McGuffin then they might get a group of people coming after them. And for this formula? Well, they can use it. They could sell it. But if they've got it then the person who hired them is still going to want it. Bad enough to hire people to take them down, or, y'know extract it from their bodies with a syringe...
  • Or so they've got the schematics for the bank, they can try and crack it themselves, they're giving you plot hooks! They've got a rhino; okay, so how are they going to get the half tonne of specialised rhino food every day for the thing? And think of all that lovely rhino dung that they get to pick up ;)

Rep is great, it gets you off the hook; but like stocks and shares, it can go up and down. If they start doing Jobs for their Johnson and not finishing as required, then the next one will be a bit harder to do, the pay less... and so on.

Let them keep the stuff. Really.

Don't say anything. Well maybe just...

Player: Screw the Johnson, let's keep this Sabre-X missile launcher, it's awesome.
Other Players: Hell yeah!
GM: ~smiles to themself~ ~writes something down~

They'll learn to fear that smile ;)

  • 31
    \$\begingroup\$ DM smiles are pure evil. Especially if preceded by the sound of a D20 rolling. ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – DaFluid
    Oct 9, 2015 at 10:30
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    \$\begingroup\$ When you can get to the point when the players stop their rabid discussion and look at you with horror when all you've done is roll a dice, you know you've pavlov'd them correctly ;) \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Oct 9, 2015 at 10:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1. Shadowrunners are supposed to be greedy and opportunistic and wanting to take everything of value that isn't nailed down (and that's why they brought the monofilament chainsaw!). Use that behavior to your advantage when it comes time to introduce a new plot hook. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 9, 2015 at 23:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ @DaFluid: A D20... in Shadowrun? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 10, 2015 at 0:22
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ All of my favorite moments in my GM history have started with me cracking that evil grin. Every unplanned plot twist, every ridiculous fight or chase, every life-or-death disaster that had the game world turned upside-down once the dust settled... the kind of moments that are so epic you simply cannot plan no matter how hard you try, they all begin with that grin. Absolutely +1, let the players write the experience, games are so much more interesting that way. \$\endgroup\$
    – thanby
    Oct 11, 2015 at 14:33

It depends on various thing. How does your Shadowrun world look like and where in this world are your runners positioned.


As experienced runners in the most basic setting (Do jobs for various Johnsons - some connected some independent) they should really know better. Tricking the Johnson just plain damages their street rep. Somewhere in the rules there is a tiny sentence stating that the street rep/bad rep adds as a modifier on social rolls if the street rep/bad rep is known to the person in question. Johnsons also do their research when choosing runners. They want to get their jobs done an nobody likes to tie loose ends...

So this is a general thing. Your characters are getting less an less jobs an the pay is shrinking. It might become hard to maintain a higher lifestyle an the such. Some Johnsons might hire a 3rd party right away who will "extract" the things in question right when the players are leaving the corporate site where they stole it.

Further consequences

Stolen things might be tagged with a stealth RFID-chip. Let someone (read: 3rd, 4th party) trace their houses. Destroying resources like lifestyle or (carefully an rarely) connections puts the players under pressure if they keep things too long. Don't just take it away, but make it part of the story. If you've got a rigger on the team, a pursuit can make a lot of fun. After they got through this hassle and after they lost or gave back the "quest item" give them a way to get their resources back or replace them (Not "ok, your connection actually survived", but give them a chance to meet new interesting people (this may also help directing your plot with new npcs))

Run intelligence

Johnsons often don't tell the runners what they are extracting. Don't reveal your secrets. Your Players can do research (matrix or connections) to find clues. Don't force every detail of your plot to be revealed directly. Revel the "true value" of special later when they don't have access onto it.

Dangerous Goodies

A rhino needs a huge pile of food. Getting the right things in the right amount may be difficult. It might be expensive or attract unwanted attention (see further consequences). Your Magic item might be otherwise dangerous. MMVV (see Run Faster) and CFD (Stolen Souls) might scare your players an add (executed good) another layer to the Shadowrun experience.

Let your players feel the consequences. A burnt kind fears the fire.

But don't punish them at random. Think of reasonable ways to crack their safety. Limit their moves when you need it, but let them go their ways; throw stone in their path, but don't bury them in boulders.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 For "But don't punish them at random" If the players are smart and can outthink the NPC's more power to them. Killing players is the apocalypse way out, hamper them, inconvenience them, stop people talking to them... \$\endgroup\$
    – Rob
    Oct 9, 2015 at 12:50

Basically, you need to let go more. No plot survives contact with the PCs. Period.

But that does not mean that you need to give in. Suppose your friend was involved in a bitter divorce with his wife, and now that they're divorced and he has another lover, he wants that perfect engagement ring back: but she says it's hers and is keeping it. So he pays you to steal it. But when you see it, it's worth more to you than the thousand dollars he was paying you to steal it, so you keep it. What now?

First off: you're not getting that money. Second: you're going to have a lot of strange phone calls. If he paid you half up-front, he's going to want you to complete your part of the deal. If you don't do that, bye-bye friendship, hello other thieves breaking into your home to find it -- or just goons roughing you up. You could go classic Machiavelli: "of course a great prince wants to be both loved and feared by those he meets, but if he has to choose, he should choose to be feared: because men will love you or not on their terms, but fear you on your own terms."

Someone gets shot in the leg by a sniper in broad daylight: they have to go to the hospital (or get healing magic or whatever) immediately. Or, while sleeping, their car is blown up, they have to call in a taxi to get to wherever they're going. When they come back they discover that their apartment has been completely turned over by someone looking for something. Their favorite fixer refuses to meet with them for unspecified reasons, says that they're bad news. Voice messages start appearing on one of their phones; you explain that it's their half-sister who they only met once, screaming in pain for him to help her. (Maybe she's in real trouble or maybe she's being paid as an actress: it doesn't matter much.)

If they're really so green, have the Mr. Johnson totally forgive them and line up a new mission for them: but then he anonymously tips off the rival megacorp and it's a massive ambush which the PCs have to flee in order to survive. Maybe they make it to the rendezvous point where Mr. Johnson has told them he'll have a helicopter waiting, only to see that there is no copter there. Maybe they make the wrong decisions and pursue a suicidal action of fighting the megacorp head-on, and last-minute to save the characters you need to have the megacorp stun and capture them, pumping them for more information about Mr. Johnson. You have so many options once that bridge is burned.

Give them as much power as they want, if they're not looking at the price tag. Let them backstab anyone they want to, if they're not foreseeing how a backstabbed big-shot will hit back. If they say "okay, we're storming the White House", let them meet the President briefly before his bodyguards block their path, he escapes by car, and tanks are rolling in.


Pay them more.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with greedy Shadowrunners, but if your employees would rather keep the doohicky than hand it over to you in return for the agreed payment for the job, then maybe you aren't paying them a fair rate.

This is one reason why specific information is a good target of runs: it's genuinely worth more to the Johnson/client than it is to the runners, so it's easy to find a mutually acceptable price.

If the runners already have more cash than they can spend then (a) why are they still in the biz? and (b) their clients, including this Johnson, need to find things to offer them that are more interesting than cash. If they see a genuine angle into the metaplot, and a genuine gain to themselves in making a deal to give up something of value in return for something else of value, then they've learned that there's more to life than stumbling over neat stuff and keeping it.

Make the doohickey less tempting.

Similar to "specific information", if you want to give the runners a reason to want to hand over the formula then you could make it not "the formula for blah", but "the last piece of the formula for blah, needed by the dude accumulating all the pieces". It's near-useless on its own, but that in itself will prompt the runners to think, "why am I being paid good money to recover something that appears useless?", and your metaplot progresses from there.

Make it not entirely obvious what the object is.

Their rep is that they're reliable, but maybe their very good friend knows them a bit better than that. Maybe he knows how close they were to keeping the rhino, or otherwise figures out that they have magpie tendencies, and isn't stupid. So he doesn't tell them exactly what the item is (perhaps he lies about what it is), and he arranges the handover soon enough after the run that they won't have time to magically investigate the item to figure it out. Maybe they'll discover later what it was, but his goal is to make sure it's out of their hands before then. How will they feel when they realise the people who know them best don't trust them and aren't straight with them, and it's their own fault because they aren't trustworthy?

Let them screw over their friend.

He'll come after them. If he can afford to hire them, he can probably afford to hire another team just as good. Where do they keep their stuff when they aren't around to guard it? Unless they have a corp-sized bankroll, a team as good as them can probably waltz through any security they can afford. And, to be fair, 90% of Shadowrun is being screwed over by Messrs Johnson, so it's entirely reasonable to let the runners do the reverse.

I think that their characters (they want to be super professional runners) would not act like their players ("UUUUH, I want to keep all the shiny things!!").

There are times when players don't get everything they want. They can either play super-professional characters, or they can play characters who keep everything shiny. They can't play both at the same time, but it's their choice which, and you can't decide for them which they choose. If the players have written down in their character descriptions, "I am super-professional", but lack some self-discipline in actually playing the character they've defined, then you can always point out to them, either with in-game events or even just an out-of-character remark, "guys, you're doing it again -- the professional thing to do here would be to finish the job". But in my opinion you can't just "educate" players who aren't sure what they want to play, that's something they have to figure out by trial and error. And you can't tell them what characters to play, firstly because players deserve more input to the game than that and secondly because it's boring. If they play a bunch of unprofessional wannabe runners who'd rather hoard cool stuff than get paid, then the game supports that. It might even be more fun than doing as they're told, after all runners don't have to be total jobsworths whose job happens to be a little more dangerous than most.

The good news is, you may be worried about nothing. You say the last time this happened was their first ever run. That means they thought about doing it once but eventually didn't, and they've never done it since, which is hardly conclusive. So you don't know what they'll do when tempted again. If you're interested in exploring the issue in the game, then you could either throw temptation in their path in a different way, to get to know them better before hanging your metaplot on their decisions. Or you could ensure your metaplot will be interesting regardless of their decision and let it play out as they choose.


I don't really see your problem here. Usually Johnsons have access to a lot more power than runners. The reason why they hire runners is that they don't want to be linked to whatever crime it is, the Johnsons has the runners commit. So if the runners don't hold up their end of the bargain one (or more) of these things is bound to happen:

  • The Johnson doesn't pay the runners: This might be okay for one run, but the thin is, runs are expensive. Armor breaks, ammo gets depleted, drones are torn to pieces, dram get spent, people get treatments for their injuries. All those thinks cost money or favours. If the runners don't get paid, eventually they won't be able to pay their bills.

    • A variant of the Johnson doesn't pay or let's say a stronger form: The Johnson has a way to make what the characters kept worthless (on top of not paying). Let's say he knows, the awakening serum will become worthless sludge, if exposed to high intensity UV light. He shines a bright light at the vile, wishes the characters well, and now they have wasted their time, equipment, reputation as well as effort and put themselves in harm's way - all for nothing. Deliver it with a smirk of superiority from Johnson. Hopefully that was a sobering experience.
      (Can also be used as extortion: "Okay boys, either you give me the goods, or it's scourged earth, poisoned wells and salted fields.")
  • The Johnson takes revenge: As said the Johnson usually has the power of a larger organization behind him. This organization has the power to make life a living hell. Examples include (but are not limited to):

    • Trash-talking the runners with other employers: They are now blacklisted and will never find a job with any ally of the Johnson ever.
    • Unleashing a bureaucratic nightmare: Fake SINs are blacklisted, licences are revoked, accounts frozen or confiscated. Since basically everything the runners own is illegal, it can be taken away from them. They won't be able to set foot in a normal region of the city without being arrested for possession of this or that or for having a fake SIN. They can't driver their cars, buy a coffee or use the slightest bit of magic in public. Machines will refuse to acknowledge they exist and the matrix will be closed to them.
    • Hire other runners: The run should be easier than the original one because the new crew now has a lot of information about your group, has the moment of surprise, has more time and doesn't have a whole mega-corp complex but just a (relatively) normal home to break into. Also they have the support of the Johnson.
    • Go all-out: If the Johnson is really pissed, he might just wipe the runners with a virus-bomb, and orbital strike or the like. There is a need to be subtle against an enemy of comparable size and power, like another AAA con, but not against a small group of outlaws.

    • Your runners were revenge-hired: Maybe it's not an awakening-drug after all. Maybe the Johnson works for (or is himself) a former employer of your runners. An employer the characters had crossed before and the whole thing was a revenge plot ("Congratulations, you have stolen a vile of dragon XY's favorite beverage and made him your mortal enemy. Enjoy your frog's-blood... until he comes for you.")

  • The Johnson took precautions: Turns out, the credstick he gave the runner was laced with some poison. If they don't hand over the goods, he won't give them the antidote and take what is his out of their cold, dead hands.

  • The Johnson forces the characters: Ever heard of mind control? People can use it against you. Could be a powerful spell inside their compensation (whatever it is).

  • The Johnson hid some truths from the runners, a.k.a he was being a regular corporate dick: Maybe the awakening-drug was just a prototype that has severe side effects, causes mutation, makes you a ghoul or paralyses you. It's cutting-edge stuff, after all. Maybe it's radioactive and contaminated the runners. Now who are the runners running to for help? What will the Johnson want for his help (in advance this time). Maybe the Johnson wanted the runners to test it on themselves so he can later dissect them or at least see the effects first hand.

  • The Johnson engineered a double-cross from the start: The operation was really a distraction from a larger thing, the Johnson planned. Maybe a parallel job took place while the runners did their thing. The Johnson never really wanted the drug and now the runners take the blame for whatever greater thing happened.

Last resort: Have them roll

Even if the players are not convinced, a Johnson could convince their characters. There are rules for intimidation, charming and tricking. Make the character that holds the goods, roll against one of those. Also if you really feel it is totally unprofessional and against the characters' inner convictions, make them roll plain old Willpower. Can they hold up against their conscience or fear of repercussions? There have been cold-blooded murderers that lived with their deeds for many decades, just to turn themselves in one day. That could be one of your chars and it only takes one.

A word of advice here is, be careful with that. It can make for a compelling story of personal growth and redemption, it can also lead to open war between you, the GM and your players. If you do it, make the Johnson out as the bad guy, not you, the GM.


Don't let them have toys that break the world.

Would doing "the wrong thing" with the thing you're giving them result in the destruction of the setting, or consequences so massive that your basically going to just spawn bad guys until TPK?

Don't do it. That's not going to be fun for anybody, so just don't go there. Players can enjoy consequences, but only when it's trouble they can get out of (with a bit of work). They won't expect you to hand them something they can break the game so easily with, and will be unhappy.

Scale down the consequences

Maybe the item isn't as powerful as you're initially thinking. It can't just Awaken everybody, it has a time limit to recharge. Or it takes massive resources to recharge. Or it's a huge astral beacon and cannot possibly be hidden while used. Or, when it Awakens somebody, it moves their stats to support their magic ability and nerfs everything else (with dramatic physical changes to match).

Presume intelligent NPCs

Your Mr. Johnson isn't dumb. Even a group that has a decent rep can still be turned, either by their own greed, or another offer. So, for anything that's sufficiently valuable that they can't just write off the loss - they WILL have backup plans. Think about that before they tell you their plan for what they're going to do. How are they being monitored? How will they be checked up on? What scale of consequences are likely to be applied - another two runner teams coming at them?

Or maybe they EXPECT betrayal (if you have a psych profile on this team, it's not impossible the corps do too). Maybe they want it tested in the wild, with deniable resources.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1. For example, rather than them getting a formula that allows them to to force awakening, they could be sent to retrieve a half of the formula, that was broken in two. Each half alone is useless. Mr Johnson already has the first half. So either you give it too him and get money (possibly after some renegotiation), or you don't, and get nothing, and Mr Johnson probably sends someone to rob you. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 10, 2016 at 6:16

They were hired to steal the rhino. That means they know that there's someone willing to pay someone to steal the rhino. If they fail to turn it over why in the world would they expect that someone wouldn't be hired to steal the rhino from them?!?!


While I don't have any experience with Shadowrun personally, I do however have lots of experience when dealing with players, and player greed is a pretty easy situation to deal with in a lot of other games. I think the best way for you to personally deal with the greed at your table is to adapt the concept of Cursed Items from another RPG to your Shadowrun game.

Cursed items are invaluable at making PCs think twice before being a bit too grabby in a Role playing game, and in a scenario where an item has obvious magical qualities, if its cursed that makes even more of an impact on the players. It makes them second guess their greed, which in turn reduces the avarice they normally have during play sessions.

My personal helmet is the Helmet of Water Breathing, when identified it seems like a helmet that allows you to breathe water, but what it really is, is a helmet that when put on will fill up with water, allowing you to breathe it. (Into your lungs, which will kill you) Other favorites are constricting collars, which attempt to strangle you when you put them on (They're disguised as other more valuable items), and Backbiting spears. (On natural 20's the spear actually turns on you and crits the owner.)

You did specifically mention that you didn't want to use any kind of cursed items in your game, you just wanted them to not be too grabby and want everything, that is a problem that it a bit more difficult to address if you don't want to make usage of cursed items to temper your player characters with suspicion. Paranoia is a powerful tool for a GM, so cursed items are one of the best avenues to mold your PCs. This is also possible to do with another type of item, which is similar to a Faustian pact in that it has consequences for its use. You get a boost of power when using the item but afterwards suffer some kind of horrific drawback that discourages its use.

So using your example, in the metaplot exists an item that will force the awakening of other people, however for those inexperienced in using that item (Read:Your PCs) could cause horrific drawbacks or worse. This a good example of what could be considered an Artifact of Death. (Warning: TVTropes) And you can have their Johnson send them on a quest to remove the curse caused by their greed in using the item.


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