The ideal Shadowrun team consists of the following members: a longrifle, a brick, a thief, a decker, a rigger, a mage, and a shaman. Notice I said ideal. Very rarely will you find an even mix of characters like that. Even more rare are the players who understand the function of their characters. This section is designed to illustrate the tactical considerations concerning each member of the team. At least in my estimation. Feel free to disagree.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a more conventional name would be sniper. Longrifle's primary mission is to provide supporting fire for the insertion team. To do that well, she requires a good rifle and a good position. Depending on mission requirements, the ideal tool is the Barret 121. Portability and concealability might be considerations, though, in which case I recommend the Ranger Arms SM-3. The SM-3 is unsuitable as a combat weapon, so if a sniper chooses to carry one she should have at least an SMG or preferably an assault rifle handy in case she must extract under fire. The second mission for longrifles is surveillance. A good sniping position means having a view over most of the battlefield. This means that a sniper usually has a good idea of the big picture, which she should communicate to the insertion team at regular intervals. If the insertion team loses comms or becomes disoriented, the longrifle can coordinate a rescue by remaining team elements or direct a tactical withdrawal. Other than a weapon, the sniper's equipment should include high-powered binoculars or scope, comm gear, water, food, blanket or tarp, and rappelling gear. Character-wise, a sniper will only need a few cybermods. A smartlink II is a must, and eyes with either electronic or optical image enhancements. Headware communications often come in handy, usually a radio, with encryption and subdermal microphones. Fancy things like transceivers are nice if you can afford them, but ultimately superfluous in the mission of sniper. Reflex wise, I recommend at a minimum wired one, boosted two, or synaptic accelerator 2. If the longrifle is any good, she should get the first shot off and it should be a kill, so she doesn't need the massive reflexes that a brick requires. One of the advantages to getting a synaptic accelerator is that it's organic, it won't show up on a metal- detector. Which means, barring any other massive cybermodification, a longrifle can get access to more sensitive areas. Since her mission doesn't require her to be on the insertion team, her disguise doesn't have to be that elaborate either. Both Rigger 3 and Cannon Companion have developed the rules for indirect fire, making it an extraordinarily effective tool for even the most basic of runner teams. The tools necessary for the successful employment of these weapons are in the realm of two individuals: the rigger and the sniper. Both the Snake Eyes FDDM implant as well as the BattleTac cyberlink implant are considerations for the sniper, assuming funds are available and the GM is willing. If the longrifle is seeking a less intrusive way to spot for the rigger, any of the target designators in Cannon Companion are excellent choices. Specifically, laser target designators can be mounted directly on the sniper's weapon, with obvious advantage.
The brick, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is just that. He's your five million nuyen street samurai: lean, mean, chromed, and decked out with every fancy weapon Ares has produced in the last three years. He sleeps with his armor on, carries enough ammunition to build a small house, and even has minigrenades for earrings. Ah yes, the Brick. Bricks are those antisocial boys who think and talk with their guns. The bigger the gun, the better. Concealment? Subtlety? Overkill? Meaningless terms in the Brick's dictionary. The first, last, and only mission of a Brick is very simple: kill everything unfriendly. Wind 'em up and let 'em go. In any other situation than combat, Bricks should be left in the car. Or better yet, at the hideout. They're more dangerous to the team than anyone else. Orks and trolls make excellent Bricks; humans, elves, and dwarves to a lesser degree. A brick should be chromed. Period. Barring lack of funds, there is no excuse that a brick shouldn't be at 0.1 essence and 0.1 away from a full body index. With the advent of essence index you have to walk a finer line than before, choosing carefully from the myriad of combinations of cyberware and bioware. Choose well. Your life depends on it. As for weapons, bricks should carry two pistols, an SMG, a shotgun, and an LMG. And all the ammo they can. If you can get a hold of any LAWs or MAWs, those would be useful as well. As for any other equipment, only a grapple gun, line, and rappelling gear. Don't bother with medkits or anything else, if your brick is seriously wounded chances are the drek is so thick you don't have time to stop and play doctor. Physical adepts can make good bricks, but only if they don't focus purely on melee. Yes, the way of the warrior is purer, but there are just some times that you have to have a gun.
Pretty self-explanatory, the thief is the character who specializes in acquiring goods. Usually illegally. The thief is the only character that must be on the insertion team. How do you expect to steal anything without a thief? Wetwork, kidnapping, industrial espionage/sabotage; those things might require a brick as well. But everything needs a thief. Thieves need to be skilled electricians and mechanics, up to date on the latest maglocks, voice recognition, and print scanners. Thieves need to be stealthy, low-profile, quick on their feet and quick thinking. Thieves should also be relatively proficient in the use of a firearm or something equally lethal. Hopefully something ranged, as well. You can't always count on having the drop on a security guard. Generally things like silenced heavy pistols, crossbows or regular bows, narcojet pistols, or Ares Squirts. A friend of mine who plays a thief carries around a pair of ceramic throwing spikes that she laces with neurostun VIII. Tools of the trade include a respirator/gas- mask/tracheal filter, mini-tool kit, grapple gun and line, ascent/descent kit, flashpak or two, medkit, magnifying goggles, and whatever other miscellany a thief has found useful in the past. Good cybermods include eyes with low-light, thermographic, flare compensation, electronic enhancement, image link, headware memory, gas spectrometer, commlink IV, transceiver, radio with encryption, datajack, smartlink II, fingertip expertpicks, voice modulator with all the neat gadgets, and maybe something like skillwires or dermal sheathing. Reflex wise I would suggest nothing less than wired two, boosted three, synaptic accelerator two, or even move by wire one. As for bioware, I'd say enhanced articulation, cerebral booster, extended volume, maybe a mnemonic enhancer or some muscle augmentation. Another thing thieves might want to look into are binders. Reintroduced in State of the Art: 2063, binders are toxin specific compounds that confer either immunity or help stage down the damage caused by the toxin. A case with a dozen injectors covering all the major toxin compounds should never be far from the thief's hand.
Ah, deckers. Such a painful lot. Luckily, though, a decker doesn't have to be exclusively a decker. One of the campaigns I was in featured a decker/squatter. If he couldn't find it in the matrix, he knew someone on the street that could. Which is, of course, the primary mission of a decker: intelligence. If you're lucky, you'll have a decker skilled in both elint and humint (electronic and human intelligence), but primarily deckers do elint. Secondary missions might include mop-up (what do you mean the file on the robbery is gone?) or a simple paydata run (this fine feast here represents the last of the petty cash). A decker doesn't need much more than a deck and a datajack to do his dirty work. And time. Lots of it. Which can be killer to an adventure, if you have to suffer through the decker tying up the GM with endless matrix meanderings. Which is why I have only one real suggestion for all the deckers and wanna-bes out there: know the rules. Know them well. It keeps the game moving and takes a load off the GMs mind. Let the other players take care of their business first, then do your work when everyone else is engaged in planning. This not only keeps your teammates happy, it prevents the GM from listening in on the plans and constructing ways to foil them. Invariably deckers will build up a fair amount of money. It can't be helped, after a while the only thing you can improve on is your skills and the quality of your programs. Which should be all handwritten anyway. Don't be stingy, support some of your more financially impoverished friends. The rigger is a good choice. She could always use another drone. Remember, what's good for the team is good for you.
All right, all right, all right, with Rigger 3 out, you've got lots of new toys to play with. And play you should. Primary mission for the rigger? Drive. Secondary mission? Fire support. No rigger should be without two cars and at least half a dozen drones. Most of them armed and armored. The rigger has returned to the forefront in the fire support role and needs to take full advantage of it. When you're not driving, you need to be doing maintenance, when you're not in the shop, you should be designing your next drone. Beg the decker for money, you'll need it. Riggers require specialized cyberware and you know what that is, other useful stuff includes headware comms and smartlink. Bioware wise I'd suggest the cerebral booster as well as the sleep regulator. That little piece of gear is absolutely essential to a character that plans to spend a decent amount of time modifiying/repairing vehicles. Cyber- and bioware other than that is mostly superfluous unless you're competing for another job or just enjoy being a mercenary rigger. Any other gear should mostly relate to vehicles, and your skills should reflect as much. Useful items include the Electronic Warfare concentration of the Electronics skill, as well as vehicle tactics and gunnery. Weapons, other than vehicle ones, shouldn't be much. Probably not more than a heavy pistol or SMG. Hopefully if anything heavier is required you've got a drone lugging around a GPHMG. It's long been my opinion that Rigger 3 pulled the teeth from drones like the Ares Guardian and the Steel Lynx. They're still reasonably difficult to kill, but they lack the ability to mount the kind of firepower they once did. Until something better comes along, though, you have to use what you can. The Steel Lynx is the best ground combat drone, the Guardian works well for all terrain and limited aerial cover. Fixed wing goes to the Wandjina, high speed surveillance should be delegated to the Wolfhound, while the Condor II remains the premier stealth drone.
Okay, okay, for all the ruffled feathers out there, I'm sorry. I know that mages aren't shamans and shamans aren't mages and the two hate being grouped together. But since the aspects and powers of each approximate the other, with only the underlying theory to differentiate, I've decided to lump the two sections into one to save space and avoid repeating myself. If you don't like it send me your version for the two sections and I'll see what I can't work out. Your mage can be one of your most powerful assets. He can also be the greatest liability. Apart from the Brick, that is. Mages can see and do things mundanes can't. But that also means they show up like other mundanes don't. So unless you've got a nice initiate on your hands who can make himself look as mundane as bellybutton lint, you'd better keep a close eye on the mage. The primary mission of a mage is magical security. Both the team's and the opposition's. Good guy wise, the mage needs to recognize magical threats to other team members. Obviously not to much can be done when all that's needed for a material link is a single strand of hair, but common sense still applies. Don't leave used bandages behind, clothing items, or other gear. If at all possible, burn trash and used gear. The mage should be able to recognize incoming ritual sending as well as watchers and spirits keeping tabs on fellow runners. Mages should also be up on their paranormal knowledge, so they can warn other team members on just what exactly came stomping around the corner. Surveillance wise, mages need to be able to recognize astral barriers and wards, anchored and quickened spells, as well as other mages, shamans, and adepts in combat. Similarly, mages should understand what fiber-optic networks and FAB/FAB-UV zones look like, so when your decker prints out a hardcopy of the blueprints for the site you're about to hit you know what to look for. Magicians should have a full stable of elementals at all time. Preferably a mix of high and low power ones, with a majority high. The one thing all mages need to strive for, though is initiation. Whether you do it on your own or with a group is up to you, but to compete successfully you need to be an initiate. I won't go into the whole foci/fetish or quickened/anchored argument but I will say this: if you're playing a mage know the rules. Know what happens when you anchor versus quicken, why each is different, and which is better in a given situation. Understand your vulnerabilities and how to minimize them. Let the brick hog the spotlight and the bullets, just hang back in the shadows and go do that voodoo that you do.
Inevitably there are going to be those out there who's characters don't fit into a single category nicely, kind of like mine. In general, though, I've found that a player who chooses to create or modify an archetype with a broad range of talents either knows what she's doing or learns quickly that she doesn't and shifts back to a more traditional archetype. Do I think that all players should be limited to the roles I've describe above? Hell no. One of my favorite NPCs is a former captain in the CAS infantry who now plays country and western in a little bar off of McLellen Street. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. The reason I outlined the general responsibilities above is this: while not every character needs to fall into one of those archetypes, a successful Shadowrun team needs to have someone who can at least cover the job.