It will depend on what sort of sources you are allowed or are using. The Psion class by its nature is not as "Manipulative" as a wizard concentrating on charm powers. It also is a Controller class, meaning its role is to put effects on foes on the battlefield.
That said, if you want to roleplay the character is then a good charisma is the start. Next, you might consider skill powers for utilities rather than the stated powers allowing you to use one skill for another or rerolls.
In 4e, hitting is everything and a Psion's main attribute is intelligence so you want it to be your highest with your charisma a good second. Since you get both as bonus you could reasonable have them at 20 and 18 by 5th level. Your high intelligence gives you a bonus with no or light armor to AC so either invest in Leather armor proficiency feat or unarmored agility feat. Next, get a background that either gives you a bonus on one of your main skills (Diplomacy, Bluff, Intimidate, Insight) or use it to get streetwise. Certain feats or skill powers will allow you to use one skill over the others. In addition, you are a ritual caster, so don't to forget to invest in any ritual that will aid in your negotiations. You might even consider multiclassing in Bard to get access to any bard rituals.
I would take at least Dishearten as one of your 1st level at wills, Betrayal for your 3rd, and Crisis of identity for the 5th daily.
As a GM, I do grant bonuses to engaging reconnaissance missions. However, the bonuses are directly tied to how much recon is performed.
For example, if Railin the Rogue uses stealth to get close to a bandit camp and study the enemy, I would expect (and vocally encourage) the player to select two or three areas of the camp, and each area would warrant a suitable skill or ability check. Afterward, Railin the Rogue will need to relay his observations to the rest of the party; if the player is thorough, everyone receives a bonus to skill checks and attack rolls equal to the number of successful skill checks Railin made, but those bonuses only apply with regard to the areas that Railin observed and noted.
I encourage this type of play style because it pulls the players beyond their dice. Sure, d20 rolls are important, but the players' direct involvement in the story can yield surprising and engaging rewards, and as a GM, I enjoy crafting surprising and engaging stories that matter to the players and their characters.
What you have to say makes perfect sense. I would say many gamers get into the hobby to be able to be heroes and do things they could never do in life or recreate things they see on TV or in movies, which is totally logical. However, as you mention a lot of these players take things too far and get so into the 'I can do anything I want' and fail to take into account that actions have consequences. This is especially true with fantasy settings as they frequently do not have strong legal systems where the PCs will be subject to consequences for their actions.
Do NOT beat yourself over something like this. In 30 years i've had it happen enough to know that it simply will no matter what i do. Maybe its a bad day to start and you threw fire on some though they were mulling, maybe daddy abused them, maybe they got a headache. If this works for you 90% of the time keep doing it. I love GM's who provide great NPC's - even if its sometimes confrontational, awkward or annoy's me - then you're doing your job well. I have a level of gaming etiquette and personal maturity to take up something outside the game, or if its uncomfortable enough inside the game i'll just throw it out there -"Hey! This seems very distracting - can we move forward?". In short, "its not you, its them".
In my own experience its the GM that is typically the glue - easily tops out over 50%. IF they are not mature enough, smart enough, competent enough, and strong enough nothing goes right. Its their job to provide the guidance, pick a group that works, navigate friendships, and know when to lay down the law or let things slide to ensure everyone has a good time. Its a tough and often thankless job - but i do get some praise and when i do its pretty flattering and makes me feel like we're all working together. The group is essential - but a GM is the fulcrum of putting the group together. Rarely can you magically assemble a group and have everyone work together. Its the system that matters the least - if a GM is good players can envision and play their characters in any system - though some work better for a particular style, setting or flavor. I find my own system helps me tell the tale the easiest - allowing me to focus less on mechanics (i can rely on the system to resolve any situation without much effort from me) and more on immersion in the world and the story.
Mix and match all the way
As a GM, my gaming experience IS the story writing. Its my creative outlet - like the players have their characters, so the story itself is for me. The only negative impact my gaming has is time with my wife, who has no use for it and prefers her creativity through textiles, glass works, fashion, and millinery outlets. I don't know what i'd do without it. All the cool ideas i think of during the day somehow end up in my stories. All the interesting science, medical, and technology stories i read daily inspire some direct outlet in my writing for fantasy, conspiracy or dark futures milieus. Its all for my own benefit - i publish it all online under creative commons and i don't care if anyone uses it - it is for me, after all. I say publish what you have got, damn the torpedoes. Writing is a healthy exercise of the mind and what comes of it can be your voice if you let yourself post it somewhere - a voice that can reach a lot of people and inspire them in turn.
Combat is one means to resolve physically a conflict. When I design a conflict, I don't generally design a solution; it's the players' job. Some conflicts are easier to resolve using one method or another, and I try to be as open as possible - player to player - as to what a given resolution's likely consequences are. Conflict as "punishment" or "thinning the herd" is rather alien to me.
(Also, the premise sounds like an excluded middle. It reads like 'creativity' simply means 'non-combat,' and thus combat and creativity are mutually exclusive. I'd take issue with that first claim.)
It depends on the encounter. Some of them are pure combat, these I view as punishing the players for doing something stupid. For example if they are meant to sneak into the villain's lair and instead they kick in the front door, they are going to fight guards; short of running away I don't tend to include alternate solutions. These are definitely the 'quell the herd' encounters.
The encounters I really enjoy making and sending my players into the combat is secondary, and their real goal is something that combat won't solve. For example there is some ritual going on that the players need to stop, in their way are the guys casting the ritual. The combat is tactical where they are herding the cultists away from their work so that their spell can be dismantled. The idea is that the combat is another difficulty in the larger encounter, killing off all the cultists won't give them victory since the ritual will still be going on; but stopping the ritual without harming a cultist would be a victory.
I also like to put twists on the combat to make the players seek solutions that don't involve death. Have them need to capture one of the enemies for interrogation, or have one of the good guys possessed by an evil spirit, stuff like that. Killing their opponent will win the encounter, however it will have some negative effects in the larger campaign.
Realistically its not possible to have these sort of special more-than-combat encounters all the time. They take significantly more time to plan out so there isn't always free time to put them together. Not to mention there are some places in the story where they simply won't fit. So I'll admit that there are times when I might steer my players towards more power gaming.
I usually plan out what encounters should be combats and which ones should be solved by means other than combat. Being a combat junkie though, I don't usually have alot of non-combat encounters. Also, I have my DMing style strongly influenced by Dark Sun, so i usually make a bit tougher encounters.
I try to make a mix, but most non-combat encounters are made to usually very quickly take care of whatever that it was made for so I can get back to the combats. I do like having the characters use their skills, since they went to the effort to put ranks in them or take them trained. The skills rarely used in my games are the craft or profession skills.
I usually start from the top down. I create a world view, then a nation view, then a city view (where the characters are at) and so on down. If the characters work at street level, then I make my bad guys at the city level. So the PCs will eventually meet up with them but not for a while. On the street level I then place a number of situations for them to deal with. But I never lead the characters around to do some specific task and Especially do not make them solve it a certain way. If the characters rely on any specific way of doing something, it can generally bite them at some point. Word gets around and NPCs are not always dumb.
90% of the time, I can come up with plan A, B or C and they can come up X, Y or Z that Never occured to me. I guess that is why I like SR. It's more the results that matter most alot of the time and the characters live in a gray area with alot of choice.
My definition of combat is any fight, whether to the death or not.
If I feel that I am burning out, I will work on another system for a period of time to recharge my energy. My default backup system is Traveller. I do every other week for my table top, I find that it gives me enough time to work on the the next part of the game.
I just started GMing again in Dec and I think I am approaching some burn out. I do alternate with another GM since Feb 1 and I think that has delayed my burnout by quiet a bit. I am excited about mixing 2E Shadowrun with 4E. I like the "hacker and rigger" from 4E but I like combat, skill tests and magic from 2E. Heck I'm contemplating 2E AD&D because I think I am getting "complexity burnout". Sometimes I just want to HacknSlash my way through true baddies, recover some treasure and come back to town knowing I am the baddest thing around. I suppose it is my testosterone building up over time. Maybe not,,,
we've had a Great group though for the past 8 months and just started to get some new players in this spring. Most are not working out for one reason or another. Two gave up RPG for their family time. Two just didn't mesh with the group's style. It is kind of disheartening since Omaha does not have a Huge RPG community. But it is coming around to Convention time though so we might strike gold there,,,
Like you I have run campaign for over a year without burn out. In fact, when the players get into the game, both in character and out of character, I get excited and can get on a roll. But when players either can't show or don't show, I start to loose momentum. It only gets worse the longer it goes on until I want to match the players efforts.
have you tried google images for the floorplans? I've gotten some off of there.
I also used DIA until recently to make some up. I happened on an old copy of Visio which is marginally better for floorplans.
You can also find floorplans for lots of places online or use buildings that could be dual purpose. Like a college hall in place of a museum.
I don't think All the supplements are required. I am planning to add some RIFTs components to my Shadowrun campaign. I am also trying to make a New Orleans campaign and I think the Shadowrun universe is sparse on stuff for that area. I also totally game out the monsters from Shadowrun. I think some of them are Way too tame like vampires.
I would agree with the original post in terms of priority, but not sure of the percentages. The group or a good GM can make a cruddy system ok. If you don't have a good group, then the GM doesn't matter. Also a good GM can overcome a cruddy system but not a bad group. I played RIFTS with a great GM. I think RIFTs has Tons of flaws but she worked around them and made it fun.
The reason my group plays different games is that different systems are inherent to the GM. Same as where a campaign is played. I played 1st and 2nd ed ADnD and each GM in the group had a different world that fit them. One liked forgotten realms, one liked greyhawk and another completely made up his own.
I also have problems with being able to dodge bullets (using reaction) and the magic system in general. The mages I've seen played never take drain. I think 2nd edition had it better in those respects.
I have basically everything for AD&D 2e (except for adventures) when 3 came out I was gifted with the core 3 books, and never bought anything for 3, yet I ran many 3 games. (Hasbro didn't get any $$ from me LOL)
As for Sci-fi genre games I find that I shop around for interesting supplements and do my own conversions between all the various systems.
So, I'd agree with you, just get the core book(s) and you can use all your old stuff to sup. the new stuff
I still use some of my 1e stuff -- it was so well write it works for any fantasy like game
I would say the GM is 45% of a Game and how the GM gets along with each member of the group, Knowledge of their own Game and skilled use of thier world/setting is the most important part. followe3d closely by group dynamic say 35% of the fun. but I will put up with 1 or 2 I can't stand if the GM is Good, the story interesting, and I get along with the rest of the players. In a Really good game I won't even try to kill the other players I can't stand. and finally the story/system is about 20% If you don't have a story that can draw you in and keep you involved the other flaws in your group will become all the more apparent. some may think I have over stated this last element but play a game with your friends without any dice see how well you like them afterwards.