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.

J.

>>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?”

In light of current events

•April 7, 2016 • Leave a Comment

So, I’ve been spending probably way too much time on social media of late.  It’s a horrible time waster, but it’s just one of those things that seems to fill that “time to kill” between tasks.  Lately, I’ve seen a rash of testimonial articles about women trying to get involved in my assorted hobbies: video games, board games, tabletop war games and RPGs.  The horrible things these women express in terms of sexual harassment, sexual assault and overall disrespect.  I’ve seen mention of this happening at local game stores, conventions… even by volunteers who are supposed to represent a company by showcasing their product in public venues.

Personally, I haven’t seen this in the years I’ve been running games for the public at conventions, but that certainly doesn’t mean this doesn’t occur.  I’ve certainly run into my share of problem players over the years, so I know the socially awkward stereotype people associate with our hobby has a grain of truth to it.  But there is awkwardness and there is simple, blatant ignorance.

I’d like to think that I’m a very liberal and tolerant gamemaster.  I love having women at my table.  In many ways, I find them to be superior gamers.  They way they think their way through a problem is totally different from the way a man will.  And you can slice this any way you think of it.  A White player vs. a Black player vs. an Asian player.  A straight vs. homosexual vs. trans player…

Who gives a shit?

Every player has had different life experiences than the next, regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexual alignment… we’re all people who love to tell a good story.  We all have a different way of telling it.  Every person who wants to sit down at a table to roll dice, move pieces and have a good time, has as much right to be there as anyone else.  This is the 21st century, dammit.  This is the fucking future… leave your discrimination behind.  We’re all creative individuals, who build whole worlds in our imaginations and leave reality behind to indulge in feats of heroism.  If the games we build and play in are expansive and inclusive, so should our community.

My home group is blessed with more women than most groups will ever see.  I have players from all walks of life.  I’ve participated in Conventions all over the Toronto area, the Ottawa area, even in the US.  The players I have seen, for the most part, have been fantastic.  But I have talked to women at some of the Toronto conventions who have told me personal stories… stories that would shatter people’s pre-conceived notions of Canadians.  I hate that things like these happen… role playing games are a big part of the man I am today.  I went from being a silent introvert, to the social dystopian misfit that’s been churning out Shadowrun for over 15 years now greatly due to this wonderful hobby busting me out of my shell.  I love sharing my passion for the game, so when I hear stories like these it pains me.

Today, Randall Bills, one of the big wigs at Cataylst, took a stand against this kind of behaviour and I stand with him.  If you are at my table, whether in a private game or at a convention, and you pull any of this kind of crap that is a thinly veiled innuendo to a player, through pseudo-in-character actions, I will kick you from my game and report you to the venue.  I have no patience for misogyny or prejudice aimed at a player.  In games like Shadowrun, I realize that racism and hatred are part of the setting, but there are lines that cannot be crossed.

I hope that other GMs will adopt a similar stance to my own.  Welcome women without hitting on them.  Run games in venues where you’ll attract new players.  Experience something new by seeing how different players approach previously run material.

I know many won’t… and I hope that when a player runs into one of these GMs, that they reach out to community and try again.  Not every GM is so close-minded… the right group is out there.

The community will be better for your perseverance.

My 2¥… not sure it’s coherent, but there it is.

J.

Not Dead Yet

•March 22, 2016 • Leave a Comment

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything and for those who frequent my blog looking for ideas, I apologize for the long silence.  I’ve been hitting the convention circuit pretty hard so far this year (already done 3 this year), plus I suffered a bit of gamer burnout and wasn’t overly driven to write new material.  Plus some personal health issues that slowed me down considerably.  I am currently working on a new campaign that I’ve been promising my players for the better part of a year now and I might actually be able to kick it off soon.

Aside from that, I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading… I finally churned my way through Chrome Flesh and Data Trails… now I’m currently making my way through Rigger 5 and Hard Targets.  Hopefully, there will be a few hooks in those to stoke the fire and get me creating material at a faster rate.

In any case, I will post campaign material as we run it and hopefully get some fresh material to you all soon.

A House in Chaos (Shadowrun)

•January 10, 2016 • Leave a Comment

This was a run I put together for Phantasm in late 2015.  This was using some of the core plot from 5th Edition as an exercise in paranoia.  It went pretty well.  ;)

The team s contacted by their fixer about a job that will require some travel and involves some risk. The fixer will explain in greater detail if the meet him at the Renton Hole in the Wall at 9PM.

Scene 1 – Crossing the Pond

The Hole in the Wall bar is a seedy runner bar, buried beneath street level in Renton. The food is cheap, the booze is reasonable and privacy is assured. The place is busy as usual, but mentioning their fixer’s name sees them directed to a room in the back of the bar. Despite the appearance of the bar, the back rooms have been sound-proofed and hacker proofed to ensure the privacy of the teams meeting in the space.

Once everyone has arrived, the fixer sits everyone down and jumps into the business at hand. “All right, thank you all for coming. I have a task of some difficulty I need to have addressed for a client. However, he requires a team to do some field work abroad and bring the objective back to him. Mr. Johnson is after a medical prototype that is being designed by Proteus AG. It is a form of multi-phase medical injector, triggered by very specific biometric reading. Mr. Johnson is intrigued by the mechanics and the stimulus required to activate the device. The device is currently undergoing testing at a Proteus facility in Bremen. Therefore, Mr. Johnson would like to fly you out to the city, have you break into the Proteus facility and steal the prototype and bring it back to Seattle intact. Mr. Johnson will cover your travel expenses and pay you 10,000¥ each for the task at hand.”

Mr. Johnson represents Evo, more specifically, Crashcart. With the CFD infestation spreading, they are curious about what Proteus has developed, however, the Proteus facility making the device has gone quiet of late and they need infiltration experts to break into the compound. Locals know about the lockdown of the facility, so they are hoping foreigners aren’t up on European affairs.

The fixer will allow for some negotiations, to a maximum of 12,000¥. Once they agree to the terms, the team’s fixer tells them that air travel to Bremen has been arranged and that they fly out on the red-eye in a few hours. Getting equipment on the plane may be tricky, but Mr. Johnson is willing to arrange having reasonable equipment waiting for the team on the ground in Germany (reasonable being left to GM discretion, but typically small caliber weapons and concealable melee weapons).

Proteus AG

AA Corporation

Corporate Contact (1)

1 – Proteus is a AA corporation that is famous for its underwater operations, including the use of “arkoblocks” or aquacologies.

2 – The are also involved in undersea drilling, shipbuilding and biotechnology.

3 – After the Romo incident in 63 (Proteus attacked Ares naval assets and the Romo Arkoblock was vapourized from orbit by Ares), Proteus has been under a tight leash by the Corporate Court. Most of their public releases get screened by the Court.

5 – Proteus has fallen strangely silent in recent months, despite their technology being essential for the colonization of Mars.

Scene 2 – Welcome to Germany

The flight to Germany is uneventful and when the runners reach the ground in Europe, they find that they have a car waiting, along with the equipment they requested. Bremen is a corporate city in the North German League, with all the AAA corps and numerous AA all calling the city home. As a result security here is pretty tight, but on the other side, being a harbor town after the Black Tide, the influx of trade from around Northern Europe has made the language barrier less challenging, with English being quite prevalent in comparison to other German cities.

Despite the presence of all the big players, the number two corp in the city behind Saeder-Krupp is Proteus. With the Black Tide reclamation projects being vastly possible due to Proteus’ involvement the company has several facilities all over the city. The facilities in Bremen are all strangely quiet. Only the shipyards on the waterfront seem to still active in the city, where the rest are running quiet, with extreme amounts of physical security around the perimeter.

The runners are likely to want to find out two things: why are the buildings on lockdown and where is the prototype they aim to steal?

Unfortunately, the runners can’t seem to dredge up any facts on why the Proteus buildings in the city have been sealed. There is intense speculation in the shadows, everything from a Corporate Court enforced embargo on the company to a rogue AI being unleashed on their network. The one element of Proteus still open to the public are the shipyards, but the employees have been more exposed to the rumours than the company line (which is an update to the city-wide infrastructure). Tapping into the servers at the shipyards and using them to gain access to the central Proteus network reveals the truth: Proteus has had a bad run with an outbreak of CFD and is trying to keep the problem from escaping out into the city.

The second problem is locating the R&D project they’re out to steal. If they are able to breach the firewall and learn about the CFD infection, they may also be able to learn the location of the project. Otherwise, they may need to locate a Proteus technician who managed to avoid the lockdown, or find a reliable source from a competitor, like Crashcart. In any case, they learn that there is an arkoblock a couple miles off shore where the biotechnology research was being done on extreme pressure environments. Unfortunately, the facility is also on full lockdown. The runners will need to get to the aquacology and gain access while not being gunned down by security.

Scene 3 – Breaking the Blockade

Once the runners know where they have to go, they need to figure out how to bypass the blockade. Due to the suspicions of the Corporate Court, the area has respectable coverage over the area, so they will either need to pay a pilot insane enough to attempt to run the blockade, or steal a vehicle of their own to break through.

Since Proteus owns the shipyards, they monitor the naval traffic closely and if the runners steal a ship that hasn’t filed a navigation plan (or one that has that they don’t follow), the security forces are quickly dispatched. If the runners opt for approaching by air, there are airborne drones and anti air defenses around the arkoblock that will attempt to take them down.

This scene should encompass the plan of the approach, the chases as they approach. Once they arrive on the arkoblock, a helicopter closes in and demands that they stand down, but if they still attempt to override the lockdown, the helicopter attacks and spirits manifest. Once the doors open, they can duck inside and the surface forces will not pursue them out of fears of what lies within.

Scene 4 – Silicon Contagion

Once inside the Proteus arkoblock, the violence of the outside world is shut out for the relative silence of the inside of the building. The building has been completely cut off from the outside world for over a week. The upper-most floors are vastly unaffected by what’s going on below and they are desperate for information on what’s going on, as well as knowing why they have been prevented from leaving.

The woman that works reception perks up when the outer door opens, but when those that enter are not Proteus employees, she dutifully alerts security while trying to deal with the intruders as pleasantly as possible. Being sealed into a building for over a week has started to fray the edges of her temper and may be short with the runners with certain lines of questioning.

Once security arrives in the form of a single guard, he demands to know what’s going on if the runners pass themselves off as Proteus resources, but otherwise surrenders his weapon quickly, knowing he’s horribly outmatched. He berates his employer for locking him down below with no chance of reinforcement and is willing to tell the runners what little he knows of the situation.

The lower levels of the arkoblock were devoted to medical R&D, trying to develop treatments for diseases in high and low pressure environments for both deep sea and space missions. However, during a period of testing, an alarm sounded and the head of security authorized a full building lockdown, though none of the environmental sensors had gone off, mentioning unleashing a contagion. The lockdown message went to HQ and Proteus went so far as to tell people that they were quarantined until further notice.

The guest quarters were opened up to outside employees who were now stuck in the building and the food stores were rationed. The R&D wing was sealed and no one was permitted to enter or exit under any circumstance. Unfortunately, much of building security was in R&D, trying to contain whatever was going on when the lockdown kicked in.

Amongst the deep sea and deep space research they were doing, Proteus was also working on treatments for flushing CFD from a patient’s body. However, the testing was not going well and the sample of CFD they used was not properly contained. As a result, the nanite disorder has been infecting many of the research team and the personality changes have begun to manifest. When the head of security recognized the signs of fledgling head cases, he ordered the lockdown to try and contain it.

Despite the efforts of the lockdown, the CFD infection has not been contained. With its capability to infect technological systems, it has wormed its way into the arkoblock’s system and has been working at taking over the building. When the guard has “said too much” the automated turrets in the lobby deploy and look to cut down everyone, including the guard and receptionist.

If either employee survives the attack, they will tell them that the number of technological glitches is on the rise since the lockdown and that the security rigger had been looking into the issues. They can provide the runners the room where the rigger is staying.

They find a small cluster of drones that mill about the hall near the rigger’s room, seemingly buzzing around at random, though two combat drones hover outside the door and given the two bullet-riddled bodies in the hall, they are not overly accepting of guests. The rigger is a headcase, who got infected from servicing the networks when systems began getting unreliable. He has only recently become aware that he suffers from missing time and his alternate persona is getting out more often. When the runners get into the room, the rigger is jacked into the system, but quickly logs out and holds up his hands in surrender. He confirms that he’s Fred Desilva, the spider for the facility, but knows nothing about the turret attack in the lobby or the attack drones outside his door. If he’s forced to review the activity logs, or is threatened his other persona comes out when his normal self learns that he’s behind the attacks.

His alternate persona is an entity that calls itself Xephos and despises the “Flesh bags” that reside in the building and resents his captivity in the locked down building. He is willing to make a deal with the runners to give them unrestricted access to the system if they lift the lockdown, specifically access to the global Matrix.

Taking the deal will give the team decker access to the arkoblock systems and as long as they avoid a hardline connection, they can safely use the network without being infected. However, giving the AI access to the Matrix could be a bad plan. Using the system without Xephos’ say so, means that the system actively moves to thwart them.

There are two AI fragments loose in the arkoblock. Xephos is more of a conniving and manipulative personality. The fragment loose behind the sealed doors in the R&D department is Verus, a protosapient AI that unleashes blind rage in those he infects. Once into the sealed R&D department, the runners will be faced with darkened research labs, where the technology is actively hostile, the people that are still alive can switch between scared and confused to blind rage or backstabbing plotting if they’re a carrier. Some may not be infected yet. Security guards that aren’t infected are unlikely to care that runners are stealing materials if it means they can escape. Infected guards will be the main obstacle.

Once the runners find the tech they’re after, the CFD infected by Verus will move in to stop the runners from escaping. Both shards have been experimented on extensively and looking to escape the lockdown and the aquacology in general.

With Verus slowing down the runner’s escape, Xephos will sacrifice one of his infected to set off an explosion on an upper level to let the tainted ocean water into the building. The runners will need to fight their way out as the building fills with water. To make matters more tricky, once they surface from the arkoblock, Proteus is waiting for them, hoping to contain the escape of potential head cases. Exiting topside isn’t likely an option, but they will have limited time with the water pouring in. There is an underwater lock with sea sleds which will allow them to escape underwater if the runners are trained enough, though Proteus has submersibles in the area they’ll need to evade.

If the runners can escape back to Bremen and board their flight, they will get paid as promised and may have blackmail data that Proteus might be will to pay for to keep quiet.

>> It always makes me nervous when Mr. Johnson hires someone from another country to do his work… it likely means no one local, who knows the score, is willing to take the job.
>> Skeptik

>> Yeah, it’s pretty unusual for a company with Proteus’ pull to suddenly go dark.  Something is definitely up.
>> Revenge

>> Never mind the fact that Proteus keeps all their best stuff off shore.  Hope you kids can swim.
>> Fenix

>> Isolation and radio silence… has no one seen a horror movie in the past, I don’t know… 100 years?
>> Glasgow

Altering the Order (Shadowrun)

•December 23, 2015 • 1 Comment

This was the first of two adventures from Phantasm in fall of 2015.  It was also my first experiment with extra-planar journeys in Fifth Edition.

The runners are contacted by their fixer about an extraction job. The job will require some legwork, but he/she would like to discuss the details at Club Penumbra at 9PM.

Scene 1 – Old Stomping Grounds

Club Penumbra is having a quiet night, which is entirely relative given the fact that it’s still a nightclub. The dance floor is still active, but with room to move. The regulars are still crowding the bar and the music is still near deafening. But the thinner crowds means the runners can get in without a cover or much of a line up.

The team’s fixer is waiting for them at a back table in a sound-insulated booth. Offering to buy the team a round, he waits for everyone’s orders to arrive before getting to the matter at hand.

Thanks for coming. Mr. Johnson wanted to hire a team who could get the job done in a timely manner. A geomancer under the employ of Red Wheel Engineering has gone missing and Mr. Johnson wants to know what has happened and have the man returned. He wants you to investigate the man’s disappearance, track him down and bring him back alive along with any information that might have warranted his abduction. Mr. Johnson is willing to offer 10,000¥ apiece for your services.”

Mr. Johnson works for Wuxing, the parent company of Red Wheel and wants to know why one of their enchanters has gone missing. As far as he is aware, the man is of little consequence, so suspicions have been raised that he was working with an outside company and has been extracted. He needs to ensure company secrets haven’t been stolen away.

Their fixer is clear to negotiate some, up to a maximum of 12,000¥ apiece (in 500¥ intervals per net success on Negotiations). Once the team is on board, the fixer fills in further details.

The man you are looking for is Guiren Yao. I will provide you his home address, commcode and image to try and help you to track him down. Mr. Johnson didn’t know what the man was working on for his employer, so you may have to get the info out of Red Wheel for that. Odds are, whatever he got involved in was done without his employer’s knowledge though. We don’t know whether Dr. Yao went willingly or not, so be prepared for resistance.”

Guiren Yao

Wuxing Geomancer

Thresholds – Corporate Contacts (3), Magical Contacts (2)

1 – Dr. Yao? He’s a geomancer of some talent. Got recruited by Red Wheel to “adjust” some local buildings for better prosperity.

2 – Red Wheel was experimenting with higher magics to better hone the flow of qi through the spaces. I believe Dr. Yao was part of that research.

3 – Rumour has it that he was doing some field research into ways of tapping greater sources of power.

Red Wheel Engineering

Contractor and Building Services

Thresholds – Corporate Contacts (1)

1 – Red Wheel Engineering is a recent acquisition of Wuxing and has only recently begun making inroads into North America. They are aggressively hiring.

2 – While the company has obtained several government contracts, they are looking to streamline their business and aligning with more of Wuxing’s other industries.

4 – There has been a build up of dragon line energy in key Red Wheel structures around the metroplex. There doesn’t appear to be a definitive reason for it, but productivity is up company-wide…

Scene 2 – Tracing Footsteps

The runners will need to follow Dr. Yao’s movements over the last several days he was operating in Seattle. His commlink seems to be offline, but his data trail can still be traced by an intrepid hacker. In the days surrounding his disappearance, Dr. Yao shows that he was frequenting assorted talismonger shops around the city. He continued to work for Red Wheel during the day, but spent many of his off hours touring the cities or practicing assorted enchanting rituals.

If the runners opt to investigate Red Wheel, Dr. Yao’s work for the company is pretty standard for someone familiar with geomancy. The areas of the city where he was tuning up the qi are stationed around the city and he has manipulated the local mana flow to siphon off power to a central location in the downtown core.

Talking to the talismongers Dr. Yao spoke with will tell them that the materials he purchased were for summoning rituals. Investigating the area where the mana was focused, they found a ritual circle with a spirit sealed inside.

Speaking with the spirit, the spirit reveals that Dr. Yao summoned it in order to find a way to tap into untouched potential of the metaplanes. In exchange, for power the spirit opened a door to the metaplanes and Dr. Yao stepped in. While the spirit knows which plane he went to, he knows that the Doctor found another way out and the spirit doesn’t know where on the planet he is now.

As the runners are talking with the spirit, Wuxing has decided to follow up on their missing man and followed the same leads they have. As a result, a Wuxing team moves in to clean up Guiren Yao’s mess and to interrogate the spirit.

Once the Wuxing team has been dealt with, the spirit is grateful that they have spared it whatever the Wuxing team might have planned for it and if they agree to break the circle that binds it to the mortal plane, it will send them to the same plane as Dr. Yao in thanks.

If they agree to the terms and free the spirit, it upholds its side of the deal and opens an astral window for the team to step through and pursue the only lead they have.

Scene 3 – Out of their Element

Using the astral window, the team is thrust into the metaplane suitable for a Wujen (since Dr. Yao was a Wujen himself). They find themselves in a small home that appears on an isolated pond. The home has all the wuxing elements in balance a small village, circling a lake (water), with a large tree at the center (wood). At the side of the lake is an earthen plateau (earth) with a campfire at the center (fire), as well as several tools used for shaping the ground and chopping wood (metal). Beside the fire is an old man in long flowing robes who sits patiently, not speaking unless spoken to.

The old man refers to himself as the “Keeper of the Way” and if the runners ask about Dr. Yao, the Keeper speaks of a young traveler who recent came by, seeking knowledge. The traveler sought the Keeper’s counsel, but was dissatisfied with the Keeper’s caution and warning about the traveler’s impatience and when the traveler insisted, the Keeper sent him on a journey that he was certain the man was unprepared for.

If the runners ask to be pointed in the same direction, the Keeper shakes his head. “Every person must follow their own path. If you truly seek this wayward traveler, then you must take on your own journey and obtain your own answers. Are you willing to do this?”

If the runners decide not to play the old man’s game, they will wander off through the plane, be attacked by a local denizen of the plane and end up back at the old man’s home. Once they agree, he nods. “Very well. Head toward the mountains (which as far as the runners can recall, weren’t there a moment ago) and climb to the summit. At the peak, you will find your answers.”

The journey up the mountain will challenge them on all five elements:

A giant forest around the base of the mountain

As they near the edge of the wood, lightning strikes and starts a forest fire

As they ascend, a rockslide threatens to knock them from the mountain

Atop a large perch where they can rest, a band of rogue soldiers attack

The chill of the snow at the peak actively slows their progress.

Each element has a sympathetic element and an opposing element:

Wood = (Water is sympathetic, but Metal opposes)
Fire = (Wood is sympathetic, but Water opposes)
Earth = (Fire is sympathetic, but Wood opposes)
Metal = (Earth is sympathetic, but Fire opposes)
Water = (Metal is sympathetic, but Earth opposes)

The runners will quickly learn that each challenge aims to stop them and the only way to overcome each challenge is wield the appropriate element. The first challenge is the forest slowing their progress with overgrowth and thorns, but any metal will stop them, so guns, blades and even cyberlimbs are enough to slow the growth. Using fire will also work, as the sympathetic links consume.

The second challenge is a forest fire, so if the runners used fire to purge the wood, they may have shot themselves in the foot. The only elements that will aid them here are water (since water opposes) or Earth (since fire is sympathetic to earth). Any time the runners use something else, the opposition is unaffected unless they use a sympathetic element or the same element, in which case it intensifies. So if they use wood or fire in the forest fire, the blaze gets worse. Mages who rely on spirits can only summon the spirit types available to wujen.

If they can subdue the fire, they must begin climbing the mountain, but rocks fall as they ascend. Using wood or metal, they can get through, but using Earth or Fire intensifies the damage, either my making rocks larger, or reducing the mountain side to magma.

Once they make it up the mountain to the clifftop perch, they find a team of bandits, representing metal. Unfortunately, using weapons like blades and bullets count as the same element and instead of slaying their foes, causes them to split in two and replicate. Using Earth has a similar effect. To defeat the soldiers, they must use fire or water.

Once they move beyond the bandit camp (they can stop to rest, eat, etc), all that remains is the summit. The snow actively seems to slow them down through blizzards and in the worst case, an avalanche. Using earth and wood will allow them to carve a path, while water and metal only make matters worse.

At the very summit, stands the Keeper. He congratulates them on reaching the peak and says they must overcome one final challenge before he can open the gate. One Yeti bursts from the snow for each runner to face. Once they have proven themselves worthy, a gateway opens into a black abyss and the Keeper tells them that the man they seek is beyond. Whether the runners want to or not, they are expelled from the metaplanes through the portal.

Scene 4 – Frozen Guardians

The runners are unceremoniously dumped into deep snow and bone chilling cold. After their commlinks reacquaint themselves to the Matrix, they have been thrust onto the Antarctic continent without proper cold protection. The environment is considered Harsh Cold (or if GMs are feeling particularly malevolent, Extreme), which means they are required to take regular tests against the cold to avoid frostbite and succumbing to the frigid temperatures.

Luckily, they are able to see light on the horizon when they are kicked from the astral plane and can minimize their exposure by heading to the light. When they arrive, the cold is already starting to make them numb and potentially taking damage from the cold.

The Antarctic facility is owned by Evo and there doesn’t appear to be external defenses around the compound. A hacker or someone with lockpicking will need to unlock the outer door to allow them into the facility. The compound is small with a compliment of only 40 employees total, but the quarters are tight. The lights are on minimal power and heat is starting to fail. Security forces have been reduced to crystalline statues in combative postures, while others are in positions of fear before being turned to crystal.

Two Guardians of Order are loose in the facility and Guiren Yao is currently doing his best to hide from the dangerous spirits. On the far side of the facility is the foundation of a fixed astral window, which will allow them to escape once they find Yao and either defeat or evade the Guardians.

Crystalline Spirits

Force 6

B: 10, A: 5, R: 6, S: 6, W: 6, L: 8, I: 6, C: 6, Edge: 3, Ess: 6, Magic: 6

Init: 16+2D6

Astral Init: 12+3D6

Skills: Assensing, Astral Combat, Counterspelling, Exotic Ranged Weapon, Flight, Perception, Spellcasting, Unarmed

Powers:Astral Form, Compulsion, Crystallize, Influence, Materialize, Natural Weapon, Spell (Control Thoughts), Spell (Mob Mind), Energy Aura

Crystallize – Use Exotic Ranged to attack for 12P damage -6AP. Target is then immoblized. If further attacks hit and fills the condition monitor, they are fully crystallized. This isn’t fatal unless shattered.

The formula to reverse the crystallization is in the facility, or if they can find an Evo mage, he is already familiar with the spell. Otherwise, they need to grab Dr. Yao and flee. A ritual will need to be conducted in order to open the portal to return to the metaplanes and find a path back to Seattle… like through the heart of an Evo compound…

>> Chasing some wizard across the metaplanes is no way to earn a paycheck.  Not interested.
>> Burn

>> Just remember that the metaplanes are sticklers for metaphor and imagination shaping the landscape.  It can be one of best tools or the worst setbacks in the team.
>> Revenge

>> The plane of Wuxing is particularly tricky.  A wujen friend once went on a quest and was nearly thwarted by casting a heal spell on a friend.  The whole yin and yang balance thing meant that for every scratch he patched up, he took it instead.  Not everything functions the way you expect…even magic.
>> Glasgow

>> The quest for power rarely ends well.  Best to let this guy burn in his own ambition.
>> Gia

When Motivation Fails

•November 17, 2015 • 5 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

 
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