I’d like to tell another gaming story. It’s a sequel of sorts to my previous story.
A couple of days after that Paranoia adventure, I was playing a different tabletop role-playing game: Shadowrun. The game setting of Shadowrun isn’t as crucial to the story as Paranoia was to the last story, so I’ll keep it brief: Shadowrun is a mix of cyberpunk and magical fantasy set in a near-future dystopia. You have Orcs with machine guns, Dwarves with computer implants, Elvish Technomancers, and so on.
The players in this particular game were all people who had played in the Paranoia game a couple days before. The gamesmaster, Lynn, was the person who previously played the role of Funny-G-IRL. She ran Shadowrun fairly, and did not try to take vengeance on those players who betrayed her in Paranoia, not even a little bit. (Does that make her a good GM or a lousy Paranoia player? I’ll let you decide.)
A Shadowrun game is fun, but for me there’s one problem: the rules for magic and for anything related to cybernetics are complicated. So I created a character with no skills in those areas. He’s a Troll who bashes things physically: axe, shotgun, grenades, or fists. It keeps things simple for me.
When I create a character for a role-playing game, I like to stick in flaws and personality traits that make him less than perfect. It adds color and keeps him from being a cookie-cutter paragon of virtue. (I don’t recall ever choosing to play a female character in a tabletop RPG; I don’t think I have the role-playing chops to play a woman realistically.) Among my Troll’s character flaws are his paranoia about his identity (he changes his name for every mission) and the way he allows his mother to interrupt his life.
Here’s an example of that last trait: He’ll be in the middle of a firefight when I say his phone rings. He’ll pick it up and I’ll improvise a conversation.
Troll: Mom! Why are you calling me now, Mom? I’m killing people here! (Listens)
Troll: Mom, I’m not going out with someone you met at the beauty parlor! (Listens)
Troll: She’s been arrested that many times? How many convictions? (Listens)
Troll: She sounds great! How about I take her out to dinner this Saturday (Listens)
Troll: Expensive tastes are no problem. We’ll just rob a bank. It’s a great way to get to know each other. (Listens)
Troll: OK, Mom, gotta go! (Dodges withering gunfire while his teammates sneaks around the bodyguards.)
Now that I’ve set up the setting and the character, let’s return to that particular Shadowrun adventure. We’re playing on a weeknight, so due to time constraints I can’t travel to the GM’s house. I’m participating in the adventure via Skype. Also connecting via Skype is Sam, who incidentally was the fellow who was texting the pictures in the Paranoia game.
We’re in the middle of the adventure when my real-life phone rings. I glance at it. I tell my fellow players, “It’s my mother. Give me a sec.” By force of habit, I answer the phone by pressing the speakerphone button, which I normally do when I’m alone.
Me: Hi Mom.
Her: Hello Bill There’s something I have to tell you I subscribe to a magazine and they…
I’d intended to say something like “Mom, can I call you back later? I’m doing something with my friends.” I didn’t get the chance. The lack of periods in the previous dialog is not an accident. I tried to interrupt. My friends could see me trying to get a word in edgewise. The flow was continuous. Sam messaged via Skype: “Wow, she just never pauses for breath. I’m impressed.”
Via Skype, I could see my friends laughing. They were learning that my characterization of my Troll’s mother was reflected in real life. They also learned why, despite my claim a couple of days ago, I hadn’t taught my mother about text messages.
After about ten minutes, I finally manage to break in, mainly because she reached the end of her story:
Me: Mom, I’m with some friends. Can we pick this up some other time?
Her: Oh, sure. So you’re with your friends?
Me: (I’m not about to tell her about Skype.) Yes, and I should get back to them.
Her: I hear laughing in the background. So your friends are funny? Me: (I point the phone at my computer speakers.) Hey guys, my Mom wants to know if you’re funny.
Lynn: We’re hilarious!
Mom: So one of them is a woman?
It took another five minutes to get her off the phone.
Later in the adventure, my Troll character crushed his phone and threw the pieces away. The in-game reason was to prevent our team from being tracked. Perhaps there was another reason that did not relate to cyber-security.