Welcome to the Data Haven

•December 2, 2008 • 13 Comments

Hello chummers.  ;)

My name is J, but I also answer to Insomniac.  This blog will soon be the home of all my Shadowrun stuff that I have scattered around the Net.  Primarily a place to grab run notes, I plan on reviewing sourcebooks, posting fan fiction and perhaps even commenting on the game itself.

If you’re not familiar with Shadowrun (in the P&P RPG style, rather than the video games), it is a near-future, dystopian, cybernetic future game where fantasy elements have been re-introduced to the world causing an interesting blend of magic and machine.  The storyline is in-depth and there are so many things going on at once that Game Masters should have no shortage of material.  However, if you find yourself short on material, hopefully some of the future posts on this blog will help with that.  :)

While I will occasionally pipe up like this, the bulk of my posts will likely be “in-character” as my grumpy, sleep-deprived sysop alter-ego, Insomniac.  He runs a board in the Seattle Matrix where shadowrunners can look for work.  He’s a no nonsense kind of guy, but he does welcome some discussion.  So if you’d like to comment on run notes, feel free to do so in character and become part of the dialogue.

Well, I think that’s it for now.  Hopefully, you’ll check back from time to time.


>>Oi!  Who’s grumpy?  Anyways, I figured I’d step up and introduce myself.  The handle’s Insomniac and I run my own little corner of ShadowSea.  If you need work, I’m your guy…assuming legality ain’t a scruple you tend to have.  If you think the shadows might be the place for you, then loiter for a bit and see what’s around.  Who knows…maybe you’ll be the next best thing round here.  Or maybe you’ll end up as the next red stain on the asphalt.  Either way, these should be interestin’ times, omae.  Perhaps I’ll see ya round.
>> Insomniac
“The shadows never sleep, so why should I?”

When Motivation Fails

•November 17, 2015 • 4 Comments

Maybe it’s a product of the season, my busy life or my chaotic health, but one of the things I used to cling to for escape from daily life no longer seems to do the trick.  The hobby that created this blog and spurred my creativity now seems to be one of my sources of stress.

Don’t get me wrong… I still love the setting of Shadowrun, I devour new sourcebooks and when talking with friends about the game, I can babble at length like no one’s business.  However, when it comes to writing material and running games, the motivation isn’t there.  I talked about creating a compartmentalized campaign, with aligned characters, a coherent multi-path story with an actual start, middle and end.  I’ve gotten to writing one-offs for so long, that I felt a change was in order.  And between conventions (Phantasm and GenCon), work and diving headlong into LARPing over the summer and fall, working on Shadowrun has fallen to a much lower priority.  My 7th Sea campaign died over a year ago due to my interest being murdered and I now find Shadowrun going the same route.

I can’t even use it like a blanket statement though… I still love running at conventions and one-off games here and there.  So, my excitement has grown with each new character idea or campaign hook, I find that none of these ideas last long enough to see daylight on average… I recently took mental stock about the game, my home campaign and what sets it apart from convention games.  The first thing that hit me was a bit of a shock:

The very reason I got into RPGs in the first place no longer exists in my home game.

At my very core, I am a writer.  I love to tell a good story, with dynamic characters, a multi-faceted story to tell and a reason to come back for the next game… what might happen next?  A ragtag band of flawed “heroes” working together (sometimes reluctantly) to solve the crisis of the moment and thwart the villain… maybe they kill him, maybe he escapes… maybe the PCs make an error and an ally falls, but they bounce back and keep fighting…

In many ways, I’m my own worst enemy.  I don’t like telling players “no”.  I have an active disdain for railroading.  This willingness for a truly open world, where the players have creative control has prevented me from having a recurring villain for years… my players are extremely thorough in not only ensuring a would-be villain does not escape, but leave no way that even burning Edge could logically justify the bastard’s survival.  The players that attend session to session varies so wildly (one week, I might get three people, the next I’m turning away half of twelve who show interest) that having a run spill from one week to the next isn’t feasible half the time.  Due to the inconsistency, I started running smaller events to try and wrap it up neatly with the group that made it out that given night.

So, rather than the story of ups and downs, tragic falls and triumphant victories that I want, I end up with snapshots of carefully calculated characters, with tightly controlled actions, working to complete missions efficiently.  It’s not a flowing story, but rather a crafted cutscene for a video game, where none of the protagonists make mistakes, or serve self-fulfilling goals and the villains never win.

And this is why I enjoy conventions… with no character attachment, players are willing to take on the mentality of “Meh, fuck it” and going for the Hail Mary.  Instead of engineering characters for minimal flaw impacts, they look at the flaws on the page and indulge.  The alcoholic going to meet Mr. Johnson at a bar and thinking “Well, one won’t hurt…”, the troll mercenary throwing subtlety out the window and kicking in the front door guns ablazing.  I’ve seen characters die heroic deaths at conventions that no player in my home game would ever contemplate.  They are the actions that I hear about years later, when a player sits down and regales those gathered about the fall of their character at the hand of the big bad.  Aside from comedic moments in my home game, no one recalls those moments of a character’s fall or foolish heroism… because it never happens.  No mistakes are ever made and no one escapes to tell the tale…

Which is why after nearly six months of intermittent planning, this campaign still does not exist.  I have pages of notes and planned campaign structure… and no drive to actually get it finished.  I had asked for a pool of characters to be used for the campaign.  The idea being that if we had a pool of characters, then regardless of who showed up and how many, the same characters would be in the field and all equally leveled to prevent superhuman characters being teamed with rookies.  Instead, I have two-thirds of what I requested and rather than generic characters, I have characters created by those who made them to serve as personal characters and many have already begun accruing karma outside of the campaign due to players showing up with no character except the new ones, therefore shattering the balance I was going for.  I also have an over arching story line in mind, but deep down that it will be no different than all other campaigns I’ve attempted in the past… the plot I’ve developed will get torn to shreds by the very freedom I want to give my players.

So, I open the mic to any who read my rambling rant here… how can I reconcile the game I want with the game I have?  I fear the trench is simply too deep at this stage and that my only recourse is to simply quit and take a long sabbatical until I can find the passion for an ongoing game again.  The very thing that drove my wife away from the game over a year ago now threatens to kill my love for the game as well.  The freedom to tell a story and to allow for mistakes to be made… conforming to a lack of commitment has made my material lazy and uninteresting for me… and my refusal to recognize it has allowed that resentment to fester.

So, what do people recommend for salvaging a game I love from being another game system that I blow the dust off at convention time?

Opium Kings (Shadowrun)

•November 4, 2015 • 1 Comment

The runners are contacted by their fixer to meet with a foreign Mr. Johnson for a job involving some travel. While Mr. Johnson hasn’t expressly mentioned the nature of the work, he promises fair compensation. While the team’s fixer has no personal experience with this particular Johnson, his reputation is clean. The meet is set up for 9PM on the fourth level of Dante’s Inferno.

Scene 1 – Hallo, Mein Herr

Dante’s is its usual busy spot, so the runners showing up early to deal with the line up is prudent. The bouncer is willing to accept some cash to expedite their entrance, especially if they drop their fixer’s name at the door. They are given a pass that get them access to the fourth level (Greed). While the main floor is jammed with people, the lower levels are emptier, giving room to move around and socialize. The levels above have different things to offer (Lust has scantily clad dancers, Gluttony has large portions from the bar). Greed features food and drink using real ingredients (and all items are extremely expensive).

Mr. Johnson is a square-jawed European man, savoring a German beer. As the runners arrive, he flashes a bright toothy smile and says “Guten Tag.” Once the team has all gathered, he introduces himself as Herr Schmidt, speaking in a lightly German accent. “Thank you for coming on your fixer’s word. I have a matter of some urgency I need taken care of and due to the area of the work, I cannot trust local talent to preserve my employer’s interests. My employer, as well as several other companies, had a plane with talented individuals aboard. It was to travel from Neo-Tokyo to Singapore for an employee retreat, but along the way, a team of shadowrunners hijacked the plane and redirected into the Indochina Peninsula. It was tracked until it crossed into the airspace of Thailand at which point, the local governments became uncooperative in tracking the plane. We believe the plane landed on Burmese soil, but the government there is so corrupt, they likely aim to benefit from whatever they want the plane for. Therefore, we wish to fly you out to Indochina to track down the plane and find out what they’ve done with two of our people: Chelsea Collins and Kiefer Wagner. Bring them back alive if you can, but if they have been killed, bring evidence as to how and why. They are far more valuable to us alive. We will cover your travel expenses, as well as pay you 10,000¥ apiece for your services.”

Herr Schmidt is really Heinrich Meier, an established Johnson for Saeder-Krupp. His reputation for fair treatment and no nonsense methods precedes him wherever he goes. He is a known troubleshooter for S-K, addressing issues anywhere Lofwyr deems.

Once the runners negotiate and agree to the terms, Schmidt nods. “Excellent. Given the unorthodox and vague nature of the work, I give you the option for where you’d like to touch down. We can fly you directly into Burma in either Rangoon or Mandalay… or a neighbouring, more corporate friendly nation and leave crossing the border to you. What works best for you?”

The runners will have obstacles no matter where they land, but their choices are Rangoon (Burma), Mandalay (Burma), Chiang Mai (Thailand) or Lashlo (Shan State). Rangoon is a congested mess that is difficult to navigate. Mandalay is more rural and in the heart of the drug runner’s sphere of immediate influence. Chiang Mai is part of the military junta of Thailand and near the front of the Karenni Enclave of Burma. The border is in a state of flux, but it means crossing a warzone. Lashlo is reliant on the Burmese drug trade for its economy, but the corporations are in growing influence here. They can enter the country easier, but getting into Burma legally can be tricky, as the border is very closely watched for the near constant smuggling activity.

Scene 2 – Chop Shop

There is no ideal option for arriving in Burma. It is unlikely that the runners will speak the local language (only 14% of the population speaks English), so they will either need Linguasofts or go it alone. The one English speaking border smuggler in Thailand that will help them into Burma is a naga named Hsing. Hsing can aid them through the Karenni front, having scouted out patrols and knowing where the armor divisions are stationed. If the runners are willing to grease the palms of both Hsing and any patrols they stumble upon, they can get in without violence. If they arrive via Lashlo, they will have drug runners looking to defend their routes or border guards who will highly doubt that anyone not involved in drug trafficking would want to get into Burma.

If the players fly into Burma directly, they will encounter one of two issues. Flying into Rangoon means getting stuck in endless traffic jams for hours at length before they can get outside the city’s limits. It will be the best Matrix access they get, but local resources will be dodgy at best, thanks to the saturating prevalence of the opium market. Flying into Mandalay means they will be immediately pegged as outsiders in the cartel’s turf and be tailed the entire time they’re in Burma.

Regardless of the obstacles with getting into the jungle, doing a local search and bribing the locals, they can learn of an abandoned military base west of Mandalay that would have a runway large enough to land a plane of the size they’re looking for.

The military base has been converted to a smuggler hub, with anti-air defenses and several intercept vehicles that will run down and kill anyone trying to get onto the grounds. The plane, or what’s left of it, is here being carved up and sold to anyone willing to pay for the parts. One of the hangars has been converted to a prison to hold the passengers until they can find buyers for those in the sex trade or the corporate sector. The team will need to breach the defenses of the base, the soldiers and the runner team responsible for the hijacking to reach the prison and search for the required passengers.

There is a wealth of things in this facility the runners can walk away with, being that it’s an illegal facility. The equipment is all a few years old, but is serviceable. Some of the passengers had work data on their commlinks, or trinkets in their luggage. Some of the minds in the prison could be worth money to other corps, if they want to stoop as low as the men they are fighting. Any weapons they steal are free of tracking RFIDs, so they could keep them, but nothing there is extraordinary.

Naturally, several of the passengers are missing from the hangar, including Chelsea Collins (Kiefer Wagner is a little roughed up, but alive and present). If any of the hijackers/soldiers are still alive, they can be interrogated to find out that the people were sold to a slave ring in Rangoon. The computers in the old command center can provide a commcode for the slavers that be traced to a business on the Rangoon waterfront.

Scene 3 – Vice and Decadence

If the runners have never been in Rangoon, they will become acutely aware of the traffic in the city the moment they arrive. The traffic is so snarled up in the core of the city that walking would be faster. However they choose to cross the city, the waterfront looks like a cross between the Las Vegas strip and a scuzzy pirate’s wharf. Illegal casinos, brothels and opium dens make up the bulk of the tourism district along Rangoon’s waterfront. The address they traced the slavers to is a waterfront casino, whose underground is a slave market place with a private harbor to send any sold people to their buyers. While there are some legitimate tourists in the building many of the people inside are criminals who won’t take kindly to their business being disrupted. If the runners conduct themselves carefully, they should be able to avoid conflict for a while, but eventually, they will need to confront the slavers to try and find Chelsea Collins. The casino is full of people who will actively oppose them and for an added curveball, a boat can leave the underground with Chelsea and a couple others on board for private sale in Thailand. The runners will have to chase down the boat and get her back.

With both passengers rescued, they can call Herr Schmidt for transport back home and for getting payment.

>> A plane went down in that part of the world?  You might as well cut a check for the families and wash your hands of the whole thing.
>> Machete

>> Wow, you’re a regular saint.  I don’t fault your appraisal of the region, but it’s a cold thought all the same.
>> Filipirate

>> You just need to make sure you are well stocked in bullets and cred.  If bribing doesn’t work, the loss of a limb should deliver the message.
>> Rangoon Runner

>> Keep an eye on the local kingpins.  When stuff like this goes missing, they move quickly to make it vanish into the jungle for good.
>> Luck-E-1

Making Friends in Low Places (Shadowrun)

•October 6, 2015 • 2 Comments

The runners are contacted late in the evening by their fixer and asked if they can be ready right now. The fixer had a team on a job and the escape went sideways. The team is bunkered down in a safehouse in Auburn and needs assistance right away before the corpsec team that’s been pursuing them catches up with them and finishes the job. The team will cut them in on the pay for the current job, if they can offer immediate assistance and the fixer will add another 2,000¥ a piece to the total if the team gets a move on.

With luck, the team will save the negotiations for the other team rather than their fixer. The longer they delay, the less likely there will be any one to rescue and then they won’t get paid at all.

If the team suits up and heads out, they may arrive piecemeal and it will be to the runner’s discretion whether they rush in or wait for backup. The address the fixer provides is a ten story apartment building that is full of many innocent bystanders. One of the seventh floor apartments is a secured apartment by the runner team in question. The corpsec team is already converging on the building when the runners first start arriving, so they will need to act quickly if they want to save the other team.

The corporate strike team is wearing Knight Errant colors to help drive the civilians back into their apartments should they poke their heads out. They carry silenced weaponry and are wearing SWAT armor, expecting heavy resistance. However, the runners are already in rough shape. Only two made it back to the safehouse and both are wounded.

The runners will need to deal with two teams: one is inside and has locked down the elevator, while ascending the stairs, while the other is climbing the fire escape with airborne drone support.

If the runners make a lot of noise while dealing with corpsec, the real Knight Errant will show up fast if word arrives that a Knight Errant SWAT team is under attack (even if it isn’t a legitimate KE Team). As long as the team are able to get the other team to safety, either by pulling them from the building or defeating the attacking teams, they can talk with Havik, the dwarven demolitions expert on the team. The other member of the team is suffering from a bad chest wound and hasty applied bandaging to stop the bleeding. They are currently unconscious. Havik limps from a round to the leg that appears to have been stitched up crudely.

Thanks for the help guys. Lost half our crew trying to bust out of Shiawase and they’ve been dogging us since. Our mage split off with some of his mojo to hide away with the goods, but unfortunately Koryo and I got tagged and it’s been easier to catch up with us. If you can get us back to our rendezvous, we’ll cut you in on the payout for this job.”

Havik is on the level with the team and Koryo is in no position to oppose. Koryo’s condition is less than great and the team may offer to drop Koryo off at a street doc. Havik will not oppose that, since he’s already lost too many friends today as it is. The bullet that hit Havik is lodged in his leg still and contains an activate-on-demand tracker bug. The Shiawase troops will continue to pester the runners until they jam the signal or carve out the bullet.

The runners should have to deal with at least one more incursion with corpsec, either by a vehicle chase, magical battle or a new strike force.

Once the team arrives where the mage was supposed to be laying low, they find no sign of the magician. Their mage is a Black Mage called Void. In characteristic form for his tradition, Void waited the requisite amount of time for his teammates to show up (not long), decided they were probably dead and went to hock their spoils before the heat came down on him, keeping the total sum for himself.

The team will need to either track down Void or intercept him at the meet. Different complications can occur here if needed… Void turns full traitor and tries to eliminate his team when he learns they’re still alive, Shiawase successfully tracks the mage and captures him before he can deliver the goods…

In any case the team will have to collect the mage, willing or not, as well as the paydata.

Once they have what they need in order to get paid, Havik will arrange a meeting with Mr. Johnson to get the data out of their hands. Mr. Johnson shows up to the meeting with armed support, aiming to overwhelm the mage who was to deliver the data alone. Once it becomes apparent that the mage isn’t as alone as originally believed, Mr. Johnson will pay up as per the agreed amount of 30000¥. Havik will pay the team roughly half of the spoils, since the job would have botched entirely without their help (much to the disappointment of Void).

The team also gains Havik as a contact (C3 L1 Runner/Explosives Maker) for helping them out.

>> A rescue job?  Ugh… the pay always sucks and you always have to dig somebody out of a hole they dug themselves.  Not exactly grabbing my interest…
>> Burn

>> Sometimes the contacts you make are worth a slightly lower payout, you know.
>> Wraith

>> And sometimes, the troubles of others you adopt end up becoming your problems too…
>> Fade

Game Micromanagement – How much?

•September 15, 2015 • Leave a Comment

So, yesterday, I watched a video a friend had sent me the link for (see here Spoony’s Jyhad) and I got a chuckle from the scenario.  I shared the story with a friend who used to play RPGs with us and while they were also amused, they also shared that they stopped gaming because I was like the DM in the video.

For those who don’t want to watch the entire video, the DM was unsympathetic when the other players in the game ran the show and shanghaied the player’s character.  In the video, the character exacted revenge using the game’s rules against those who refused to let him play the character he wanted, but in this case, I simply lost a good player.

I don’t know how it is with other GMs, so my experiences with GMing may be vastly different than others.  Running a game is stressful.  There is a lot of planning required and you have to be willing to adapt as the situation unfolds.  If you’ve read the material that I post, I keep my planning relatively light, preferring to leave a situation vastly unplanned to allow for a wide range of improvisation to accommodate anything the players might want to try.  Because I run my sessions on a Friday night, due to player availability, many of my players work full time jobs and by week’s end, they’re pretty tapped out.  As a result, my useful window of time to run a game is limited.  Every time a game goes off the rails, due to out of game interactions, bouts of laughter, etc, it means less time for the actual game.

Every time there is a stop to the game’s progression, my brain immediately goes to compensation mode… “OK, we just lost X minutes to this conversation… I suppose I can drop this encounter, slim down this interaction, skip this scene…”  I immediately begin to analyze the situation, trying to figure out what I can do to keep the adventure fluid without dragging the game too late into the evening.  Often, my games get too simple because there simply isn’t enough time to throw the full adventure at players without seeing everyone fall asleep at the table.  With attendance hardly consistent, the odds of having the same players out week to week is nonexistent, so simply putting the adventure on hold and picking it up another night is pretty near impossible.

As far as my players go, they can be like herding cats.  Especially if we haven’t played in a while, we’re all friends and we typically catch up on each other’s lives, share jokes and tell stories on how our lives have gone.  I also enjoy seeing the table laughing and having a good time.  But there are times where no matter how hard I try, the game will not keep on track.  My 7th Sea campaign ultimately died after an extremely frustrating session where we played for 5 hours and made it less than halfway through the adventure because people got so far off track.  To this day, I think of that session and get angry that I put that effort into a game and no one seemed to care.  As a result of the dynamic in my group, a few players have risen to become the “alpha players” of the team.  They typically make the calls and direct the action in the games… it started because there wasn’t coherency in the game, so they just took charge and tried to get the game to progress.  It has happened enough times that these leader players now just assume the roles in pretty near every session.

This is where the issue stemmed from… this particular player typically wrote up characters who were useful to the team’s dynamic, but had some rogue-like qualities… they bucked the trend and wanted to contribute on their own terms.  So when they felt their character would have conducted themselves differently from the leader’s decided plan, they found themselves shouted down, disregarding the idea as foolish, as it could bring the team problems they didn’t require, etc.  This happened with enough regularity that they just gave up on Shadowrun and RPGs as a whole.

They had approached me on a few occasions, asking me to intervene on their behalf, but without fail each time it was happening, I didn’t recognize it in the moment because I was too busy coming up with contingency plans to compensate for the players’ chosen course of action.  In a way, I was thankful in the moment for the game being focused and moved forward, as it allowed me greater time and freedom to further the later parts of the game.

For those that don’t know me, stress is a very bad thing for me.  I suffer from cluster headaches, which stress can kick off without much warning.  If I didn’t love the game so much, I probably wouldn’t GM.  I enjoy having the creative control that being a gamemaster provides, but if there’s something I’ve learned over doing this for the 16 years or so I’ve been doing this, is that if I don’t run the game, no one will.  It has been extremely rare that anyone has offered to take over the GM chair and when they do, they are met with a lukewarm response, as everyone is (for the most part), happy with the way I run the game.  I would rather run the game and flirt with pain than not play at all.  While I’m already spending the entire session trying to manage things and keep the game unfolding in a manner that is adaptive and fun, the idea that I need to micromanage the players and ensure everyone’s character is being played the way they want to, is simply impossible for me to manage during a session.

Have any other GMs run into similar issues, and if so, how did you deal with it?  Without putting the game on hold every time a player feels like they’re being led, is there any way this can be addressed?  I know most GMs will probably tell me to let the players work it out between themselves, but due to the personalities involved here, I really don’t have any faith that it would work out in the slightest.  While I highly doubt that I can convince this player to return, if there is a way I can address this without too much disruption, I could least invite them back, or avoid similar issues in the future.

I’m open to discussion, opinions and suggestions.  I feel guilty that this has unfolded the way it has, but I don’t honestly know how I can peacefully resolve this issue without adding more work or stress to an already pressuring hobby that could, at any time, trigger crippling pain.



A Long Silence

•August 28, 2015 • 3 Comments

For those who check this site semi-regularly, you’ll have noticed the long period with no activity.  There was quite a bit going on locally here, plus I made my first trip to GenCon down in Indianapolis with the Catalyst Game Labs team.  While I didn’t get to see any panels or tour a lot of the games out there, I ran a ton of Shadowrun in the game room and met some amazing people.  Dropped a pile around the exhibition hall, including half of my budget at the Catalyst booth, buying Shadowrun and a few other games while I was there.  Catalyst had a great year and the Shadowrun floor, both for the RPG and Crossfire, was hopping for the entire convention.

I also recently had LASIK eye surgery, freeing myself from the shackles of glasses until cybereyes become a thing.

With Phantasm coming up in less than a month, I’m head down on developing more material for what is likely to be my last convention of 2015.  But I will do my best to post some new material as steadily as I can over the rest of the year.

Strange Harvest (Shadowrun)

•June 22, 2015 • 1 Comment

The runners are contacted by their fixer about some work in the Seattle metroplex. A trusted associate of the fixer’s is looking for a team for a recovery job and would like to meet them at 9PM at a talismonger shop called “The Reliquary” in Tacoma’s commercial district.

Scene 1 – Eclectic Tastes

The Reliquary, on the surface, is a store specializing in knick knacks and magical-looking goods to sell to novices and enthusiasts. Beneath the outer skin is a fully functional talismonger shop with some quasi-legal goods for sale behind the counter. The proprietor is an old man, who dotes on his customers and gives off a grandfatherly vibe. His customers refer to him as Papa Pedro and his voice never seems to raise above a whisper, yet his voice carries in the shop.

If the runners show up before 9, he welcomes them with the same congenial attitude that he pays the other patrons, telling them that he’ll be with them in a moment. At 9 o’clock, he ushers the last patron out the front door and activates the ARO on the front door to flip the virtual sign over to “Closed”. With the customers gone, he politely asking the runners to follow him into the back. Once the shop is shut down and they gather into the back, the runners get a glimpse of the real moneymaker in The Reliquary. The store room is as cluttered as the storefront is organized. Fetishes, foci and reagents sit in bins, sorted by tradition and geography as to where they originated from.

Papa Pedro pulls a heavy black titanium ring from his finger and his age drops by 20 years, as he stands upright to his full height. His voice now carries a certain roughness, as he appraises the runners. “So, you guys are my crew, huh?” he asks, assensing the team to ensure honesty. Papa Pedro is a potent Chaos Mage and Enchanter, who’s street name is actually Raziel. Once he’s satisfied the runners are who they say they are, he starts into the job.

All right, you guys have a rep for getting shit done, so I will trust you guys to complete a couple odd jobs I need done with some delicacy. A client of mine is putting together a rather powerful alchemical compound and he needs a couple very specific ingredients to make it work. One of the ingredients I own land where it can be acquired, but it’s remote and I am hopeful you can collect it without too much difficulty. The second and more important ingredient, I do not own, which is where your skills will be required. The first ingredient is basalt… it’s a form of lava rock, for those not up to date in their geology. I have purchased an area in Puyallup that is covered in lava flats. I will give you some tools to locate and extract the reagents. A decent sized piece of stone should cover my needs… maybe around a football in size.”

He looks to the team and sizes them up as he tells them the second half. “The critical ingredient is kept in a Wuxing run greenhouse in Everett. They keep several species of exotic plant life in the greenhouse, but what I’m after is the fruit of the Gomorrah Apple Tree. To ensure I have enough for the preparation, you should probably pick a couple decent sized specimens. If you find anything else of value in the greenhouse that you can take without contaminating my sample, I will pay you for any liberated goods. For my primary ask, I’m willing to pay you 30,000¥ to be divided amongst you.”

Raziel will be pretty up front with the team. While he won’t say who wants the alchemical reagents, he will tell them that it’s for a concoction called Lot’s Curse, which if the team looks it up, is a pretty nasty thing. He warns them that the fruit is extremely dangerous and should not be even slightly ingested.

Raziel will only negotiate a little on the outset. Once the team is on board, he nods in appreciation. “All right, let me set you up with some tools. Harvesting reagents with unprepared equipment makes the entire effort pointless. I’m giving you a couple prepared satchels for carrying the goods and tools for collecting. If any of the stuff is touched by anything with an aura, it’s pretty much rendered inert. I’ll give you picks and shovels for the basalt and pruning shears for the apples. I’ll also get you the latitude and longitude of my basalt flat. You shouldn’t have any issue finding good material there.”

If the runners lack a mage or anyone with astral sight, they can pressure Raziel for an astral dowsing tool, in a sense. It’s a long wand with the tip covered a bio-luminescent moss that glows in the presence of auras.

The Reliquary – Talismonger Shop

Relevant Contacts – Magical Groups, Talismongers, Talisleggers


1/1 – It’s a small retail shop in Tacoma that specializes in magical-looking trinkets to sell to magician wannabes.

2/3 – Run by an old guy known as Papa Pedro. Easy going old coot, who seems to know a little bit about everything on his shelves.

3/5 – The Reliquary is a front for a legitimate talismonger shop. Good quality stuff, if you know who to talk to. Papa Pedro isn’t owning up to who runs the side business.

4/7 – The talismonger shop is run by a guy called Raziel. He’s a cutthroat businessman, powerful mage and potential former runner.

5/9 – Papa Pedro and Raziel are one and the same, but one persona is a disguise for the other.

Papa Pedro/Raziel/Mr. Johnson

Relevant Contacts – Fixers, Shadowrunners, Talisleggers


1/1 – Papa Pedro runs a little curiousity store called The Reliquary.

2/3 – Raziel is a mage who worked the shadows for a couple years, but after a few too many close calls, he decided to get into the Enchanting business.

3/5 – He’s a straight shooter, but he is a Chaos Magician, so he can be a bit unpredictable at times.

4/6 – He has a keen sense of reagents and will only buy from talisleggers if it is of high quality. If you come across magical goods of a respectable quality, odds are, he would give you a fair price.

Scene 2 – Unwelcome Visitors

Raziel’s “property” in Puyallup is a wide open field of smoldering lava rock. Off the beaten path in the Barrens, the basalt flats are right in the main flow path of Mount Ranier. While the ground looks solid, a misstep can release a pocket of steam, or even plunge the runner into molten rock. The GM should make the journey perilous enough to make the runners worry about their safety. Whether they use assensing, a guide or even a long rod to prod the lava in their path, the runners will need a plan to get where they need to go.

To make matters worse, once they arrive at the coordinates, they find an armed entourage waiting. A rival talislegger heard about the rich deposits that were sitting unguarded in the Barrens and decided to help himself. Unfortunately for him, the day he opted to raid the place, Raziel came to collect.

The area is wide open terrain, with no appreciable cover. There are at least as many armed mercs as there are runners, the talislegger is a mage as well, who will defend his crew with Physical Barrier and Shape Earth, as well as summoning spirits. Their escape route, a cargo helicopter, hovers overhead, offering support fire and a potential extraction plan, if things start going wrong.

The mercs are Grunts of Professional Rating 4, led by the talislegger, a Hermetic calling himself Darwin. A beat-up looking Ares Dragon flies overhead, with a crew of six people, ready to haul cargo or man the door mounted machine guns if needed.

If the runners can best their opponents (unless the GM deems it, the runners should not be allowed to claim the Dragon), they can scan the area for the reagents. The area where the fight occurred has been rendered useless by the mana use and blood spilled, but in the outlying areas, there should still be usable reagents (plus, if they didn’t damage it, Darwin’s collected items could still be viable). When they have the required quantities, they need to return to the city proper in order to get the second ingredient.

Scene 3 – Mother Nature’s Wrath

The Wuxing compound Raziel mentioned is a bio-diversity research center set into a wooded area in Everett. It’s a nice way of saying they study and do research on animals of all types. Most of the security on the compound is done by biodrones, guard animals and a handful of trained guards. The main building is where all the research is done, but thankfully, the runners aren’t here for research (though they could break in to steal some in hopes of selling to the highest bidder).

At the center of the compound is an enormous greenhouse. The building is state of the art and climate controlled, so different districts of the building mimic geographical climates. As a result, the following plants can be harvested, if the runners can figure out how to properly do so (stats for these can be found in Parabotany):

Hag Bolete Mushrooms


Nahala Aloe

There are also several species of orchid and tropical plant that could be potentially harvested as potential herbal reagents.

The main obstacle is that the plant life in the greenhouse is rather intolerant to visitors. Employees who are to enter the greenhouse are sprayed down with a tailored set of pheromones that repel the plant’s advances. If the runners can acquire these pheromones, their life will get easier. Plants will snare them, launch barbs, and scream as they walk by, alerting security and trying to consume them for sustenance. Between security and the wildlife, the runners will run a gauntlet to the back left corner of the greenhouse, where the area has been set to a sweltering hot African climate.

The Gomorrah Apple has more in common with a pomegranate than an apple. The tree stands almost as tall as the greenhouse and is in full bloom. The calcified body of a caretaker stands in a pensive stance beneath the canopy. If the runners go to harvest the fruit they will have to resist the Compulsion power from the tree (pg 30 in Parabotany) 12 dice vs. The character’s Will+Logic. Failing this test means the character approaches the tree, plucks a fruit and bites into it, unless restrained or stopped in some way. If they ingest the fruit, they take 6P damage every few minutes until they can acquire an antidote (which Wuxing has on site), as their body freezes in place. The tree’s roots rise up from underground and begin draining the Essence of the victim, turning them to salt as it does so.

If they successfully resist the tree’s influence, they must use the provided tools and bag to take a couple fruits and escape with them undamaged in order to get paid. The profit margin on Lot’s Curse will depend on team size, but there may be room to negotiate afterwards (the amount of apple they harvest can make three doses of Lot’s Curse… roughly 45,000¥ worth).

>> Wait, we’re getting paid to steal fruit?  What is this, kindergarten?
>> Burn

>> Don’t underestimate this stuff.  If it has magical properties, it’s worth a lot of money to someone.
>> Glasgow

>> I can second the not underestimating.  Last time I was in one of these corporate greenhouses, every second plant was designed to kill you slowly.  I realize there’s security applications for these things sometimes, but some of these plants are simply abominations.  I’ve seen men get dragged down underground and heard them scream as they were devoured.  The area around the trees was so tainted that we were powerless to go rescue the guy without being drawn in ourselves.  If you ever want a sign that Mother Nature is pissed off, these Awakened plants are it.
>> Relic

Best Left Buried (Shadowrun)

•May 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

This was one of the two events I ran at the Spring Phantasm convention in 2015 (the other being a modified variant of Freefall).  The game went over well, with the desired level of panic this type of mission should evoke.

The runners are contacted by their fixer about a job just outside the Metroplex in the Salish-Sidhe Council. The job promises good pay for a recovery mission. Judge will meet them at Club Penumbra to discuss the particulars at 8PM.

Scene 1 – Meeting on Hallowed Ground

Club Penumbra’s heyday is long past, but it is still one of the foremost meeting places for runners in search of work. The acts are not top billed singers, but they still pull in some decent talent and the bar is well stocked. The team’s fixer is waiting at the back of the club at a private table. A white noise generator is resent to prevent eavesdropping and he greets them warmly, if a little fatigued.

Glad you guys could make it. My client has dug up information out of the Salish Nation about a find in a mine, that has peaked his interest. He wants to sponsor a team to go out to this mine and do some tracking. While the mine is known for its heavy metal mining operation, they recently uncovered an uncharacteristic gemstone in the tunnels. In order to ascertain any special properties the stone has, he wants it recovered for his own personal research. In exchange for this recovery, he is willing to pay 6,000¥ apiece to bring the stone back.”

Judge is authorized to negotiate a little bit, but seeing as it is a recovery job from a less-than-secure area, the pay is starting off relatively average. Mr. Johnson is a private purveyor of magical goods, who intends to cut the stone apart for multiple foci and make his money back quite easily.

Once the team has negotiated and taken the job, he provides a little more detail. “Great. The mine is in the Pend Orielle area. It’s a long standing lead and zinc extraction mine that was acquired by AN Meridian, a Saeder-Krupp subsidiary, a decade or so ago. Since the dragon got his claws into the place, production has been ramped up and the mines have taken over the river banks through much of the area. While they claim the lead extraction process has done no environmental damage, I’d advise against drinking the water in the area all the same. The locals are pretty loyal to Saeder-Krupp as a whole, but the local tribes are advocates for nature preservation. I’m sure you can find those who are watching the company closely.”

Judge will answer their questions as honestly as he can before leaving them to prepare for the trip to the Salish-Sidhe Council.

AN Meridian – Mineral Processing Company

Possible Contacts – Corporate contacts (Heavy Industry, Manufacturing), Tribal Elders in Northern Salish Lands

Thresholds (Direct Contact/Matrix)

1/1 – A company that controls mines over Europe and parts of rural North America, specializing in metals.

2/3 – Acquired by Saeder-Krupp in the 40’s, they were instrumental in snatching up metal rights in much of Western Europe and spotting opportunities to revive failing operations worldwide.

4/6 – AN Meridian has been at the center of a few controversies over the years for accidents and environmental catastrophes, which S-K was quick to clear out management as an example and clean up the mess, where possible.

5/8 – The Pend Orielle facility was looking defunct, but they drilled down deeper and found new deposits, as well as something new. Rumours circulate that there was an enormous amber gemstone uncovered, but no such find has been claimed by the company thus far.

Scene 2 – Harvesting the Earth’s Veins

After crossing the border into Salish lands, it will take a couple hours to reach the Pend Orielle area. It was a picturesque forested river once upon a time, but Saeder-Krupp’s exploitation of the area has vastly stripped the area of the riverside landscape. The town the mine is associated with is still a nice vacation hamlet. AN Meridian has done their part to conceal the mining operations from the tourists, but much of the river outside of town is off limits to tourists.

Despite the recent discovery in the lead-zinc mine, business carries on as usual. Infiltrating the mine may prove tricky, as there are always people milling about the area. During the day, AN Meridian is extracting the ore and at night Awakened World Research moves in to study the site the gemstone was unearthed from.

Security is actually lighter during the day, since no one is interested in stealing lead and toxic run-off, but AWR has thaumaturgical specialists (read: Magical Support) on site to study the tunnel.

The site is comprised of several elements:

  • The tunnel itself is a small tunnel leading to a deep shaft. At the bottom of the shaft is a large cavern that has been carved out via drilling and blasting. Lead ore is collected by lifter and dumped into an elevator that lifts the ore into the processing plant. The beginnings of a couple new shafts have begun, but all have been abandoned. One is where the gemstone was discovered, the others have been sealed off after cave-ins claimed the lives of several miners.

  • Up the riverbank, the ore lifted out by elevator is loaded onto a conveyor and dumped into the processing plant. The environment is toxic to those not in safety gear (summoning spirits here is tricky, as the area is aspected to a poison tradition… -2 to non-toxics). In this large facility, the company uses heat and chemicals to extract the lead and other metals from the rock. Once extracted, they are melted down, formed into bricks and loaded into storage for shipment.

  • The security force on the grounds sees several perimeter stations and a centralized command post near the mine. Drones and guard dogs are used to police the wooded grounds.

Once into the facility, they can learned a few pieces in one of a few ways (interrogation, conversation, data steal, etc). What they find out while here:

  • The gemstone was taken away almost the same day they dug it up. Once word reached management, the parent company was notified. AWR learned of the find and swept in to claim it for research. AWR’s local branch office is in Pend Orielle, taking out a temporary lease on a vacant office tower.

  • AN Meridian has seen some rough times of late, with two previous attempts at digging out new tunnels ending in cave-ins that claimed the lives of roughly a dozen miners. Those areas have been left alone while internal affairs looks into the matter, but an astral sweep of the area shows something off on the astral plane. The ant hive nearby have sealed the cave-ins back off again, to cover up any trail.

  • AWR has been spun in a positive light in the eyes of the local public. While many vilify AN Meridian for tainting the Earth and corrupting the soil, AWR’s mission in Pend Orielle is to protect the sanctity of the local manasphere. While astral survey crews put on a smiling face to make the locals believe that S-K is helping the area, they are merely paying lip service until the gemstone is analyzed and consumed, before AN Meridian is given a passing grade and AWR moves on.

The gemstone that was found is a gemstone that formed amongst the heavy metals at an intersection of two dragon lines. While it’s not intrinsically magical, it is rich with refined reagents, which can be the core of multiple foci. The ant hive not far away was disturbed by the digging and by absorbing several miners into the hive, they learned of the gem and now want it to summon their Queen. They are digging day and night to reach AWR to take the stone for the hive, as well as potentially get hosts for new drones.

Once the team has learned about AWR and their possession of the gemstone, they will probably move on in order to get the gemstone for their employer. The players should not be permitted to learn about the insect hive at this point.

Awakened World Research – Thaumaturgy/Astral Research Company

Possible Contacts – Corporate contacts (Magical Goods/Theory), Residents of Pend Orielle, Talismongers/Talisleggers

Thresholds (Direct Contact/Matrix)

1/1 – A subsidiary of Saeder-Krupp, specializing in the study of all things magical.

2/3 – The company is more about the study of magical oddities, rather than the training of security mages. They are kind of like Lofwyr’s own Atlantean Foundation.

4/6 – While they are primarily focused on the Old World, they have been taking a more active interest in the American Hemisphere, searching for anything long buried.

5/8 – The Pend Orielle facility has only been operational for about a month. Rumours persist that they were in town before that, but they quickly took over a building and began shipping in personnel from wherever could spare the manpower.

Scene 3 – The Ground Falls Out from Under

The Awakened World Research building is an office tower on the edge of town, with a parking garage, a decent amount of land and a great view of the forest surrounding the mine. Formerly an office tower for a local surveying company, Saeder-Krupp swept in and filled in a temporary lease with the owning company so they could complete the local survey of this gemstone and search for other manifestations of the dragon line intersection.

When the runners opt to penetrate the building, the ants that want the gemstone will breach the underground parking garage and assault the structure. To complicate matters, representatives for AN Meridian are in the building to negotiate the transition of the stone, but some of them are flesh form ants, who will interfere with both S-K security and the runners to protect the gemstone from being stolen away from the hive again.

Map Plan:

7th Floor – Executive Offices

6th Floor – Research Level 2 (target is stored here)

5th Floor – Research Level 1

4th Floor – Office Level 2

3rd Floor – Office Level 1

2nd Floor – Cafeteria

Ground Floor – Reception

Basement – Parking Structure, with Loading docks at the bottom-most level.

The ants will enter the basement at the lowest level and use the freight elevator to reach reception and the cafeteria quickly. If the runners opt to take an elevator up, the power goes out just after it starts moving. If the opt for the stairs, the power goes off while they’re still at reception.

The hive will rush into the building and start laying waste to all human life, dragging who they can back into the tunnels for inhabitation as new drones. The entire scene should be a running firefight between the runners and the hive, until they reach the gemstone and escape the building. The hive will do everything they can to stop them from escaping, including bringing down the building in order to keep the gemstone from leaving the grounds (they can always dig it out later). If the GM deems it necessary, they can add in a shaman to give the hive a face that the team can destroy.

>> Oh, some mage wants some shiny new magical bauble.  Typical.  Nothing better to spend their hard-earned nuyen on, as usual…
>> Stanek

>> Better than drinking it all away, or slotting it in the form of chips.  What difference does it make if it’s some mage, or the corporation that gets a hold of this thing?  In either case, it gets consumed and sold to the highest bidder.  At least this way, I get paid.
>> Breach

>> Just keep your ears to the ground… Saeder-Krupp pretty much runs that part of the country and there have been some disappearances and accidents around that mine lately.  Something else is going on and it’s probably best you don’t find out what in person.
>> Digger


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