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?”

Fruits of Investment – 7th Sea 2nd Edition

•August 12, 2016 • 2 Comments

So, a while back, I jumped on the crowdfunding bandwagon when it was announced that John Wick was releasing a new Edition of the much-loved game of 7th Sea.  I’ve been GMing the original game for over a decade, so when I heard that it was getting an update, I threw money at it pretty promptly.

I don’t do crowdfunding often.  The only other time I’ve done that kind of blind faith, it was for Shadowrun Returns.  So, I kept my fingers crossed that the new Edition would be worth the wait and the cash.

Did I get what I was expecting?  Not exactly.  Am I happy with my purchase?  Yes, I am.

I had expected some re-tooling of the original game and perhaps updated mechanics for some of the sorceries and sword schools.  Instead, the system has been re-invented to a more story-based game.  Since I got into RPGs for the ability to tell a collaborative story, featuring dynamic, three-dimensional characters, this was right up my alley.  Will this system be for everyone?  No.  Players who want to roll dice to try and smash things in impressively big ways, are likely to find this system unsatisfying, since damage (and combat in general) is somewhat abstracted in favor of drama and flair.

Character creation is greatly simplified, especially in comparison to Shadowrun.  I can draw parallels to several newer systems in how damage is tracked and how characters are assembled.  The process is very straightforward and yields a relatively balanced character.  Limits that are in place, such as Trait caps, prevent min-maxxed characters at character build and makes it that min-max builds will require a long amount of game time to implement.

The most interesting (and enjoyable for me) part of the new system is the lack of experience points.  All improvements are directly tied to the resolution of a story arc… it’s an addition I enjoy.  You want to improve your combat ability?  Undergo a journey to topple a nemesis.  You want to Improve your Convince skill?  Banter with the nobles in a Montaignian court to obtain a rare artifact.  There is a logical reward for a given tale.

There are things of first Edition I will miss… several of the sorceries are gone and replaced by something new, for example.  Ease of setup will be missed as well.  I was able to crank out 7th Sea adventures fairly quickly in 1st Edition, but with the incorporation of Consequences, Opportunities and giving the players a true voice in the direction a story will take, it means a lot more designing for the GM and a much greater need for improvisation on the storyteller’s part.

However, the system has gained a lot.  I love the dramatic, action feel of the game.  The new parts of the world, like the Sarmatian Commonwealth are great additions and add an interesting new venue to explore.  Two of the new sorceries, Hexenwerk and Sanderis, are delightfully dark, capable of taking players down a much darker path where they can either seek redemption from, or ride the spiral downward until they are irredeemably corrupt.  I like that characters with a flair for the dramatic (and player to match) get to shine and are rewarded in the system… that descriptive language and allowing your character to falter at times all provide reward, in order to tell a dynamic story that you laugh about later and have those “remember that time when…” moments.

So, overall, I enjoy the dramatic feel of the game.  The new system is very light in comparison to the crunch of Shadowrun and with the right group of people, promises a light-hearted game that you will share laughs over.  The system won’t be for everyone… not everyone wants to describe everything with flourish and crave a more defined mechanical system.  Some of the powers (I’m looking at Sanderis here) in a convention or one-off setting are prone to abuse, where players won’t care about consequence, but for an ongoing campaign, I think the system will work well.

Once I have play experience, I may weigh in on this again… see if my opinion changes overall after practical use.

Divert, Distract, Deceive (Shadowrun)

•July 10, 2016 • 1 Comment

The idea from this run came from the website Casting Shadows, where the owner Runeslinger has posted Adventure Seeds for all sorts of game systems.  If you haven’t already checked him out, you should check out his content.

The runners are contacted by their fixer for an extraction job. Mr. Johnson has opted to conduct the meet himself and will meet the team at The Purple Haze at 8PM.

Scene 1 – Getting the Rundown

The Purple Haze is a Pueblo restaurant known for it’s authentic cuisine and it’s luxury accommodations (dress code for attending the meet or be turned away at the door). Any AmerInds will get preferential treatment by the staff, but once they mention that they are meeting with Mr. Johnson, they are directed to a private dining room in the back of the restaurant.

Mr. Johnson is a man of Native American descent, but he speaks without hint of an accent and wears an expensive suit without logos or RFID markers of any kind. He smiles pleasantly at the runners, as if he were sitting down with old friends, rather than a group of criminals.

“Thank you all for coming. I have a matter that requires the aid of professionals and your fixer assures me that you are a team that gets results. I need your team to work in tandem with a second team, who has already been contracted to complete the second phase of this operation. A systems designer named Shunsuke Ogawa is flying in to Seattle from Neo-Tokyo three days from now. He will be flying in with an entourage of coworkers and security. I need your team to infiltrate Sea-Tac airport, separate Mr. Ogawa from the rest of his entourage and divert him into the hands of the second team, while planting false leads as to where the target has gone. Think this is something your team can do?”

Mr. Johnson is really Ben Evans, a member of the board of the Pueblo Corporate Council. The council seeks to redesign their Matrix infrastructure and needs some fresh blood in their design team. Rumours of Ogawa’s dissatisfaction at his current job have singled him out as a target for the PCC.

If the runners agree to the type of work, Mr. Johnson goes into greater detail.

“I will give you the contact information for the second team you will be delivering Ogawa to. I want this job to be traceless. No trace of this in security, as few eye witnesses as possible… I don’t want any reason for his associates to investigate the airport. Instead, I want you to doctor security to show Ogawa renting a car and driving away to tour the city. That should buy enough time before they realize he’s missing. Due to the limited window and the discretion required, I’m willing to pay each of you 13,000¥.

Mr. Johnson can be negotiated up as high as 15,000¥ with some of that up front for expenses, if the players can roll high enough.

Once the runners have agreed to the terms, Mr. Johnson provides them the commcode for the other runner team, as well as the scheduled arrival time for Ogawa’s flight.

Mr. Johnson
Government Official – Connection 5, Loyalty 1
Possible Sources – NAN Politicians, Koshari, Matrix
1/2 – Mr. Johnson is someone of decent influence in the PCC. Not necessarily in the public eye, but has some pull, in any case.
2/4 – Mr. Johnson is Ben Evans, a member of the technology oversight division in the PCC government.
3/6 – He has been tasked with the less-than-great job of staying on top of the technology curve, in order to keep business running smoothly within the council. The job pool in the PCC is slim pickings, with Horizon gobbling up the talent in L.A.
4/8 – The PCC ultimately wants to decrease their reliance on Horizon for the rebuild of L.A. and hold a greater stake in the city.

Shensuke Ogawa
Matrix Systems Designer – Connection 3, Loyalty 1
Possible Sources – Renraku (Japan), Deckers/Technomancers
2/3 – Ogawa is a system designer that works for Renraku on updating outdated systems.
4/5 – He’s a bit of a rising star in the ranks at Renraku, having solved several key issues within the first two years of employment in the company.
5/7 – Given his rising status, he has been sent to Seattle to update the infrastructure there, along with a team of other designers to help him with the restructure. Given the poor public opinion of Renraku in the city, he has been sent with a bodyguard detail.
7/9 – Both he and his wife have busy jobs within Renraku, but despite this, they go out of their way to spend as much time with their eight year old daughter as they can, as they don’t want the company to raise their child.
*/12 – Unwilling to arrange a corporate nanny while both his wife and daughter were out on business, Ogawa arranged to have his daughter come along on the trip with him.

Scene 2 – Laying the Foundation

This scene will be vastly subjective and will require quite a bit of improvisation. The runners have less than three days to figure out how to pull off the extraction and put themselves in place within Sea-Tac in order to divert the target from the rest of his entourage and guide him, without resistance, to the other team’s waiting hands.

The second runner team consists of a face, a rigger and a decker, all of whom are trained in combat if needed. The team will most likely be working with Hydra, the team face, but he will provide the runners with images and information on the entire team, so when they hand off Ogawa to Vector, the team rigger, they know they’re meeting the right guy. Hydra will be receptive to the team’s input and mentions the current plan to have Vector in place as a personal limo driver on the fourth level of the parking garage, while 404 controls the external cameras and keeps the car off of GridGuide. Hydra is to create a scene or diversion, if needed, in order to deflect attention from the hand-off.

The decker will likely need to devote some attention to infiltrating the Sea-Tac system to learn their way around, while laying the foundation for the hack that will go down later.

Matrix: Just off of the Emerald City Grid is the Host for Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Rendered on the Grid as a neon green airplane repeatedly landing and lifting off at a simple airfield, it belies the scope of one of the largest Pacific airfields on the planet.

Sea-Tac Airport

The Sea-Tac Airport system is designed to mimic the actual site. As you arrive, you stand in the curved laneway between the terminal and parking structure, a scent of freshly cut grass hangs in the air and the roar of departing jumbo jets seems muted, even though they can be seen flying overhead. Stepping into the parking structure gives the user access to reserve parking, book a vehicle rental or airport limousine or check traffic conditions near the airport. Accessing the terminal allows the user to book flights, take a virtual tour of the airport, check what entertainment is available or check for weather warnings for the Seattle area. Accessing the passing jets shows the flight schedules for each airline, which planes are departing, arriving or are suffering delays. Going beyond the surface of the host will require a Perception test to locate hidden icons and Marks to access.

Icons in the public sphere are a mix bag, as users of all types mill about the system. People on your connection list that are inside the terminal can be set to appear on the virtual tour, so you can locate lost loved ones, should they become separated. Beyond the public face, employees appear as smiling people in the dark green uniform of a Sea-Tac employee, IC appears as a faceless humanoid in Knight Errant colors. System Deckers manifest as an air marshal with glowing green eyes.

Host Rating 8
Standard Configuration – Attack 9, Data Processing 10, Sleaze 8, Firewall 11
Security Protocol – Patrol IC running at all times in non-public areas of the system, Junior Security officer on regular patrols in secured areas.
Once an alarm has been triggered, IC activates in the following order: Probe, Scramble, Track, Jammer, Marker, Crash. If an IC is crashed, the host will reboot the IC before moving to the next stage. A security spider will log on after 2+1d6 combat rounds after the alarm is triggered.

Give the runners a lot of freedom to plan out the job in detail and once they are ready, move on to the next scene.

Scene 3 – Fading Away

The flight in from Neo-Tokyo is scheduled to touch down in Seattle at 4:45. Naturally, the flight is slightly delayed due to inclement weather and doesn’t start to disembark its passengers until slightly after 5 at Gate B8.

The group of Shiawase technicians, including Shunsuke Ogawa, step off the plane, staying close together, while being flanked by two security guards who scan the crowd with the required amount of disdain. The unexpected complication is that Ogawa has brought his eight-year old daughter along for the flight. His wife was called away on business at the last moment and without enough notice to get child care, Ogawa opted to bring his daughter to Seattle. Separating Ogawa from the group will be easier than trying to separate him from his daughter.

The Shiawase group’s plan is to gather at the gate, move through the customs checkpoint, head down to the baggage claim before securing vehicles and heading out to the Shiawase compound. Any significant deflections from this course will raise the alarm with the security team and if they become significantly paranoid, they will approach Sea-Tac security.

The runners will need to enact their plan and raise as few alarms as possible so they have fewer tracks to cover. Once Ogawa (and possibly his daughter) have been delivered into the hands of the second team, the runners will need to disappear from the airport, while erasing signs of their presence and planting the false footage. For every gap in the blackout they leave, their pay will fall, if Mr. Johnson even shows up, in the case of a complete screw-up.

>> Given how often my crew goes in and out of the city through Sea-Tac, not sure I want to crap in my own porridge…
>> Burn

>> Assuming you could do the job properly, no one should know it was you dropping a deuce in your oatmeal…
>> Wraith

>> What’s with the toilet humour?  Stick to the topic of the job.
>> Insomniac
“The shadows never sleep, so why should I?”

>> Be mindful of both who hires you and who you’re taking from… either of them could come knock, success or fail.
>> Verus

Shifting Paradigms – The Last Run (Shadowrun)

•June 20, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Long overdue after the first chapter, I finally dusted off the cobwebs and went for the next installment.  This story is based on lyrics from the second track off of Korn’s “Paradigm Shift”, called “Love & Meth”. Since the title of the song didn’t play into my story at all, I opted for my own title for the piece. I hope anyone who is reading these stories will enjoy the continued dark stroll through the Sixth World.

Where do I run!?
Where do I hide!?
Give me a reason to end my life!

Where do I run!?
Where do I hide!?
Give me a reason to get out alive!”

It was one of those days that people never hear about: a sunny, warm day in Seattle. Even the usual bank of smog that clung to the city like an omen seemed to have blown over. Devon sat back in his chair under the warm summer sun, a beer clutched in his hand. Carter walked to a chair beside Devon, and dropped down beside his friend.

Can’t believe we did it…” Carter said with a short laugh.

Devon reached into his cooler, pulled out a second beer and handed one to his friend. “Believe it, my friend. We’ve hit the big time.”

Carter let out a short laugh. “The big time? We just did a run against Ares… what are the odds we’re still alive in a week’s time?”

Pretty good. It’s not like we stole Damien Knight’s favourite car or anything. We took a small piece of merchandise that is so inconsequential, it isn’t worth chasing us down for. Trust me buddy, we’re golden. Drink your beer. That shit’s German. Don’t waste it.”

Carter took a long pull from the neck of his bottle and sighed contentedly as he tasted a real beer for the first time in his life. “Yeah, I suppose there are some perks, eh?”

There ya go. Enjoy the moment.”

Carter and Devon clinked bottles and took another drink. The two had grown up in Auburn since their early teens and knew each other pretty well. Both had washed out of the corporate training programs their parents tried to keep them in, but neither had been particularly fond of taking orders. They fell into petty crimes and had got pretty good at it. Devon had always been the sneaky fast one, where Carter was always the muscle. It wasn’t until they met the rest of their group that things really started to coalesce.

Skid was the first guy they met. The ork was good in a scrap, but his real talent was vehicles. The man could steer anything on wheels instinctively and made him a great getaway guy. Apparently he tried to make it as a courier, but his disregard for traffic laws saw his license suspended. Of course, he didn’t let that stop him from driving…

The other two members of their team came as a package deal, but the arrangement was never fully understood. Ferret was this mousy nerd who was this supposed wizkid at math and computers. His encryption cracking was top notch and his ability to track down useful data was good for a kid with only half a degree. With him, was a plain but still stunning redhead elf named Bonnie (still not sure if that was her real name or street name). She was a Dog Shaman and at some point Ferret did her some kind of solid and she was fiercely loyal to him. They never dated, much to Ferret’s disdain, but she was determined to watch over him. She was a manipulator, but she did have some mojo she called upon if her “pack” was threatened.

They had needed support for a job they were working and Skid had vouched for Devon after some previous work. The team was formed and they’d been working as a unit since then. Devon adopted the name Bandit for himself and dubbed Carter with the name Brick, joking that he was “as dense as a brick”. Unfortunately for Carter, the name stuck.

The other members of the team walked over to where Devon and Carter were relaxing. Skid stepped into Carter’s sun and looked down on the muscular human. “Sir, I found one…”

Carter’s face contorted in confusion. That wasn’t Skid’s voice…

Bonnie strode over and looked down, her face obscured by sunlight. “This one’s pretty rough. Hard to say if he’s even still alive. Check him.”

Ferret leaned in and placed his fingers to Carter’s throat.

Brick shot awake from his daydream. The warm backyard of two years ago was long gone. Instead, the grey wet concrete under him brought the reality of the situation back full force. Rain poured down over the city and Brick lay in a pool of water, stained red with his own blood. Recent events rushed back to him… the job had been going well, Ferret dove in to get the paydata. Something went sideways and Ferret went down. Bandit grabbed the decker’s rig while Brick had to pull Bonnie away from their late decker. Alarms had gone off, Skid ran the gate and scooped up Bandit and Bonnie. He had been covering their back when he took a round. He told Skid to run while he secured another exit. Before he found the sniper that had tagged him he had taken another round to the chest. He moved through the shadows to avoid being spotted and must have passed out while laying low.

When his eyes opened, he sharply inhaled and the Ares security officer who had checked his pulse quickly pulled back and several other guards raised their weapons, leveling them at Brick’s chest.

Brick squinted against the bright lights of the underbarrel flashlights of the assault rifles. “Can you guys turn those down a little? They’re awfully bright…” Brick said, with as much mirth as he could muster.

Still has a sense of humor… I like this one…”

Raising his head toward the new voice, Brick saw a Knight Errant officer with several stripes on his sleeve standing not far away. The man’s uniform was drenched, but he seemed not to care, as he loomed over Brick, seeming to appraise the runner in silence.

You seem to have had a rough night…” The officer said in a casual tone.

Yeah, I’ve had smoother ones,” Brick said. He could feel his extremities getting cold and the puddle he lay in was continuing to expand. Mentally accessing his commlink via direct neural connection, he launched his biomonitor.

Aw shit…

I have a bad feeling your night is going to get rougher the longer we stand here and chat,” the officer said, maintaining his conversational tone. “Perhaps if you told me who hired you, I could look into getting those wounds checked.”

Brick laughed, but stopped suddenly from the pain it fired through his body. “And become an Ares lap dog? No thanks, chummer.”

The officer stared at Brick closely, his eyes moving to the gun sitting in the runner’s hand. “Will you at least put away your weapon, so there aren’t any ‘misunderstandings’?”

Brick tempered his response and merely let out a snort. “Buddy, I can’t even lift my arm, never mind a gun. You want it, just take it…”

In Brick’s field of view, a message arrived through his commlink: “You get out?”

Brick replied to Bandit quickly, to try and not tip off that he was in communication. “Afraid not.”

An Ares guard moved in, while the rest shouldered their weapons in case the runner made a move. The guard picked up the weapon by the barrel and when Brick made no motion to prevent the weapon from being taken, the guard picked it up in earnest. Once away from the runner, the biometric safety on the weapon kicked in, and an electric shock tore through the Knight Errant officer, dropping him in a pile.

Sorry! My bad!” Brick said, smiling despite himself.

The officer’s smug facade faltered briefly as his man collapsed in a pile.

Bandit’s next message appeared on his image link. “Need me to double back and cover you?”

Bit late for that. Hit bad. Surrounded. Don’t think I’ll be making the rendezvous, Devon.”

The Knight Errant officer’s contempt began to creep into his voice, as he looked away from the stunned guard. “This is a limited time offer, as they say. You either willingly give us the information we’re after, or we keep you alive long enough so that we can extract it. One way or another, we will get what we need, Brick.”

Brick looked up as best he could when the man used his street name. “What did you call me?”

Dropping to one knee, the man kneeled down. The flashlights he had been obscuring struck Brick’s eyes, kicking in his flare compensation. “We know all about you. Perhaps you forgot about a job you did a few years back, but as most of your kind does, you undervalued what you stole. We’ve been piecing together your ‘career’ for some time now. We know who you work with and trust me, we will get the information we’re after, if not from you, then from them. So if you want to spare your friends, perhaps if you give us your employer, we will forget they crossed our path.”

I’m coming back for you. I’m not leaving you to those Ares bastards.”

No! They’re after us… from our first job. You need to get to ground!”

You son of a bitch…”

Now now, this is not the time for name calling…” the officer said, smugness dripping from his voice. “After all, I’m the only chance you have of surviving this. Tell me what you know… before you use up all of my patience.”

Brick mentally accessed his commlink and pulled up his list of subsystems.

Cortex Bomb – Detonate on Expiration
Change Trigger Setting?

Brick replied yes to the prompt and set the device to manual. “All right… you want to know who hired me?” he asked in a low voice.

The runner mumbled under his breath and the officer held a finger to his ear. “Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that… you’re going to have to speak up.”

Brick mumbled again and his head slumped down against his chest.

The officer moved in close and smacked Brick to jar him awake.

Detonate.

Brick looked up and grinned, but instead met with the equally broad grin of the man gripping his collar. The cortex bomb hadn’t gone off.

You amateur little shit… when did you think you were smarter than us? The moment we found your idiot body we started getting through your firewall. We’ve been tracking your conversation with Bandit. Or should we say Devon? We’ve run a trace and know his location and it’s only a matter of time, before he is captured and gets to watch you be tortured. It won’t be long before one of you talks.” Turning back to his squad, the officer barked, “Get his ass up and prepped for interrogation.”

Protocol Black!” Brick sent before his connection was severed.

*****

Bandit was sprinting through back alleys, on his way back to the Ares compound, despite Skid’s pleas to stick to the plan. The rain continued to pour down, obscuring his vision, but he was guided by pure instinct. His friend needed his help and nothing else mattered.

The message he never wanted appeared in his goggles: “Protocol Black”

He stopped mid stride and slid headlong into the side of a dumpster. He stared numbly at the words that hovered in his field of vision. The sound of the rain and passing traffic fell away, hearing only the faint hum of the holographic projection facing him.

Skid’s voice broke the silence. “Bandit! You got that, right? Burn your devices and we’ll meet at the rendezvous point. If you’re not there in one hour, it’s been good working with you…”

Bandit didn’t reply and Skid didn’t wait for one. Protocol Black had been set up by the team to denote that the team was compromised and that one or more of the team had been captured. On a more personal level, Bandit and Brick had agreed to take it one step further. Each had installed a cortex bomb and promised the other, that should they fall, they would ensure that neither had to be taken alive.

Robotically, Bandit connected his commlink and activated a program Ferret had created for them. The little ferret sniffed the air and looked expectantly at Bandit.

Endgame.”

The ferret scampered off through the Matrix to activate the backdoor that had been installed in Brick’s commlink. Bandit staggered out into the alleyway to see the Ares compound. He hoped that the Ares decker hadn’t dug deep enough to find the safeguard Ferret had installed.

After an agonizing thirty seconds, he heard the explosion of Brick’s cortex bomb going off and the alarms resume anew. He felt cold and empty before he screamed in rage, whipping his commlink against the nearby wall, followed by his goggles, to silence the blinking words in his field of vision.

He dropped to his knees and vomited what little his stomach had to give onto the asphalt before breaking down into gut-wrenching sobs. A lifetime of friendship and comradery rushed through his mind, from skipping class to petty crime to the times they shared as shadowrunners.

As brothers.

Punctuated at the end, by chaos, pain and blood. The final moment, a distant explosion, resonated in his memory. In his brother’s final moment, he hadn’t been there.

His sobs morphed into a more guttural sound that eventually became an unsettling laugh. He heard sirens moving in. Ares was coming for him.

Bandit’s weapon ejected its clip with a mental command and Bandit slammed in a new one. Rising to his feet, his rain-soaked frame seemed to fill with an energy he shouldn’t possess. Sliding back into the alleyways as the sirens and voices of officers closed in, he readied himself.

As the first beams of flashlights began to converge on his location, he sprang from his location and squeezed the trigger.

See you soon, my brother…”

One Night at Frankie’s (Shadowrun)

•June 6, 2016 • Leave a Comment

This run was a complete experiment.  This was the first Shadowrun my daughters helped me to design.  While much of the information I used came from my older daughter, it was a family experiment and for the first time, I think my daughter sees the appeal of the hobby.  Both of my kids are obsessed with Five Nights at Freddy’s.  If you aren’t familiar with the franchise, feel free to click the link.  After they babbled at length about the lore of the game series, I thought… “I could make a run of this…”

This is the result.  My kids insisted on being around as the game was run.  I’ve run the game three times now and each time, she listened in and waited with baited breath as the twists unfolded.  Each time, despite different approaches by each group, the nervousness and panic the setting created and the end results brought a smile to her face.  If you decide to give this run a try in your group, please let me know how it goes.  It’s an ongoing experiment we’d be interested in the final outcome.

The runners are contacted by their fixer about a job with a very tight timeline and a new Mr. Johnson. If they’re willing to take a gamble, they can meet with their employer at 8PM at the Auburn Center.

Scene 1 – Desperate Times

The Auburn Center is an aging mall with none of the major chains maintaining significant presence, though a few smaller shops for Body+Tech, Microdeck and WeaponsWorld are here to cater to the less-well-to-do populace. The food court is half closed down, and what restaurants remain deal in low quality soy knock off food stuffs that can be prepared quickly and are cheap.

Mr. Johnson is with his wife and are talking in hushed tones at the most remote corner of the food court when the runners arrive. He is obviously nervous and judging by his attire, he’s never done this sort of thing before. His wife looks positively fearful of the runners as they arrive, but Mr. Johnson does his best to maintain what little composure he has.

“Err.. uh, hi. Th-thanks for coming. We’re at our wits end and we didn’t know what else to do. Our son has gone missing and the police have set his safety at a lower priority because we are not a wealthy family. We don’t know where else to turn… we, uh… we’re hoping you can help us… We can pay you… is… 3000¥ each enough?”

The runners may balk at the low price point, but hopefully they will have some degree of moral compass and want to help out a desperate family.

Mr. Johnson can do a little negotiations (each net hit is 250¥), but not much. He’s gutting their savings to try and get their son back as it is. Runners could look up their employer to find out where they work and possibly negotiate favors from them.

If the runners agree to take the job, the couple seems relieved and they provide their son’s (Michael Schmidt) commcode and whatever other information the runners feel they require to help in the search. Mr. Johnson hands them his commcode to contact them when they have answer on their son.

Mr. and Mrs. Johnson (Thomas and Janet Schmidt)
Concerned Parents (NeoNet Employees)
Possible References – Construction Work, NeoNet, Matrix

1/2 – Tax paying citizens of the UCAS, one child (Michael), both currently under the employment of NeoNet.
3/5 – Thomas works for Visionary Design Works as a site surveyor and construction foreman. Janet is a secretary for a middle manager in VDW. They met when Thomas joined the company.
5/7 – Michael is a problem child, as the proverbial spoiled only child. Despite NeoNet granting him citizenship, the child makes a habit of leaving company grounds and skipping out on the corporate funded education he’s been granted.
6/8 – According to social media, Michael’s parents were about to pay to assign to have an escort assigned to their son and Mike found out. On any outlet Mike could find, he was telling his friends he was planning on running away. None took him seriously.

Scene 2 – Digging up the Trail

Using the commcode provided by Mr. Johnson, they can trace the commlink, which they find discarded in a trash can in a commercial district. However, they can pull up Mike’s friend list and find out more about the kid through the company he keeps. They learn that the kid is an avid gamer and is known for ditching school to go to Frontier Frankie’s to rack up more kills in Zombie Apocalypse.

Frontier Frankie’s is a new establishment that cropped up on the western edge of Auburn that features a toy store and factory, arcade, amusement park for young kids and a restaurant, selling cheap, crappy food. Greeting any who attend are Frontier Frankie and his pals; gaudy animatronics with several sample sound bites they greet people with. Viewing the place in AR overlays a dusty old west feel, complete with tumbleweeds and cacti, with each part of the establishment represented by an appropriate version (the restaurant appearing as a saloon, for example).

The characters around the themed restaurant are:

Frontier Frankie – An exaggerated person in frontiersmen clothing and a coonskin hat with a comical musket over one shoulder. He has a square jaw in a broad grin and vivid blue eyes and a tuft of blond hair from under his cap

Buckskin Brave – A smiling native American in traditional clothes and a bow at his side. His skin is darker and is broadly muscled. He has a comically large gap where one of his teeth should be and his hair goes half way down his back.

Wilbur the Wolf – Featuring a salt and pepper pelt of fur, this grinning wolf is snarky in attitude. Despite being one of the more menacing figures, he is a favourite of the kids and sells the most toys. His figures typically show him cleaning his teeth with one of his claws, while winking with one yellow eye open.

Barty Beaver – The joker of the crew, Barty liked to sneak up behind groups and slap his tail on the ground to try and startle them, letting out a hearty guffaw when he got a jump from someone. Typically seen with a goofy grin, featuring his prominent front teeth, waving vigorously.

Injun’ Kim (Retired) – Being short for Kimosabe, from old Lone Ranger fame, Native American groups protested the character as being a walking stereotype. With warpaint, a headband with feather and a tomahawk, this animatronic was retired and stored for parts, while being replaced by Buckskin Brave.

Looking around and talking to the regulars, or gaining access to camera feeds shows that Mike did skip school and come to the arcade. However, the camera system had a gap in the camera feed (going back a few days in the footage will show one of the cameras was re-positioned to create the blind spot) right where Mike went to play Zombie Apocalypse.

Talking to the arcade regulars, they do recall Mike being at the arcade and talking with one of the security guards. If asked what the guard and Mike were talking about they are met with shrugs or vague descriptions of a discussion about the game. No one recalls seeing them leave.

Careful monitoring of the camera feeds shows the security guard slipping into the arcade, but never leaving through any of the exits. However, there are instances moving through the back corridors where doors hung open longer than they should have. Going further back, they can get a clear look at the man’s face in the one camera he forgot about and didn’t turn away from.

Searching the Matrix for a hit on the man’s face yields several results. It becomes rapidly apparent that the man has burned through several IDs over the years, including the runner handle “Indigo”. His most recent alias is James Kendall and he has an address on the far side of Auburn.

Scene 3 – Diary of a Madman

Going to the address of James Kendall, at first everything seems normal. He lives on an apartment on the 5th floor of one of the nondescript blue collar housing buildings. The apartment is spartanly furnished and even what furniture is there is cheap and nondescript. The kitchen has very little food in it and what is present appears to be leftovers from Frontier Frankie’s.

The apartment looks barely lived in, until you go into the bedrooms. The master bedroom is a chaotic mess with a filthy bed that barely looks structurally sound and volumes of books strewn about the bed and any flat surface available. Anyone with magical theory or knowledge of Necromancy or Geomancy will recognize the books for what they are. Otherwise, the books don’t seem to make much sense, especially to the mundane. Buried in the clutter of the master bedroom is an optical chip that contains Vincent’s old journal, caked in mud. Most of it is innocuous, but the last three entries may be of interest to the runners. <hand them the diary printout – see below>

The second bedroom is dark and bare. The light has no bulb in it and in the middle of the room on the floor is a holo projector. Turning it on brings up a directory of files. Most are folders with names and they depict pictures of kids, taken by an amateur photographer. One folder is entitled Mike Schmidt, with pictures of the runner’s quarry dating over the past week. The other is titled Vincent Jessop.

The folder entitled Vincent Jessop fills the rooms with holographic projections of newspaper clippings, images of the man they’re after and connections that assemble a chronology of the man’s activities over the past 18 years. The story begins just before the original disappearance of a boy named Mitchell Warren. Vincent was suspected of being behind the disappearance (and judging by how closely the investigation was tracked, it appears to be correct) and he fled, cross much of North America, expanding his magical knowledge and laying low using multiple pseudonyms.

After years of silence, suddenly there are news clippings of children experiencing missing time in amusement parks and themed restaurants all around the UCAS and CAS, which after magical deconstructions revealed magical memory tampering. By then, he had moved on and adopted a new alias. Once he had offended several regions with his antics, he faded into the shadows as a work-for-hire mage known as Indigo.

Indigo earned a reputation as being powerful, but “giving off a bad vibe”, so after wearing out his welcome in Boston and New York, he returned to his old stomping grounds in Seattle. Returning home turned out to be the worst idea he had, as he entered a downward spiral of remorse and instability, which led to him going dark for about a year.

Then Mike Schmidt entered the picture.

Frontier Frankie’s had laid dormant for years, with the owner of the franchise stubbornly holding on to the business name and the land tied up in the business’s name for over a decade. The original owner passed away and the ownership of the franchise passed to the son. Seeing an opportunity, NeoNet swept in and offered money to the new owner in order to revive the franchise and snatch up the real estate.

Handing the contract off to their subsidiary Visionary Design Works, they began redesigning the Frontier Frankie’s, but with the bad publicity that killed the franchise before (the disappearance of Mitchell Warren), they opted to tear down the original location.

As the other articles toward the end indicate, the latest issues the press has been muzzled on telling is that each of the construction crews that have gone to survey the site have had injury or disappearance on the grounds. The last person to check out the site and escape without incident was Thomas Schmidt, Mike’s father. After his visit to the old Frankie’s, the pictures of Mike began.

Armed with the man’s itinerary, the runners are left to investigate the original location of Frontier Frankie’s.

Scene 4 – Haunted Funhouse

The original Frontier Frankie’s is a dilapidated structure, whose exposure to the acid rain that permeates the metroplex has done no favors to the building. The once bright colors are faded and bleached. A few vehicles belonging to Visionary Design Works are still in the parking lot, showing signs of plundering and sabotage.

The inside of the building stinks of dust and mold. Vandal graffiti stains the walls from people breaking in over the years and marking their presence. A smaller, more modest version of Frontier Frankie greets them in the entry way, the telltale grin and wave still prevalent, though the animatronic’s skin has decayed over the years, revealing the mechanical endoskelton underneath in places, giving the jovial figure a semi-skeletal appearance.

Indigo has used the Leeching ritual extensively within the building, so the manasphere within the building is messed up pretty bad. To any mage that would project and move through the building, the astral space feeling like trudging through mud, the air is cold and they feel short of breath. It translates to a -3 background count due to the astral plane not fully recovering.

These maps were done up by a friend, who was kept blind as to the theme or the reason as to why they were requested.  Feel free to make the substitutions I made:

  • Ignore most of the animatronics on the map, but use Pooky the Pig as Frontier Frankie, Okra Owl is Wilbur the Wolf, Boo Boo is Buckskin Brave and Walter is Betty Beaver.  Injun Kim is in shambles in the Storage Room to start, but should get into the vents early on…
  • Cool Charlie’s Corral becomes the Wolf’s Den and Boo Boo’s Saloon is rebranded Brave’s Saloon
  • I had the building as L-shaped, with the rear entrance of the Storage Room exit into a small, rusted-out playground and a overgrown concrete path led to the double doors into the Reception area of the factory floor
  • Remember the animatronics are being puppeted by spirits, which can possess astrally projected mages and corpses of dead construction workers as well…

The facility is deserted save for the abandoned animatronics. Evidence of the construction workers are around, with bloody drag marks being pulled into party rooms or up into the HVAC vents. Water damage is everywhere. Some of the party rooms have smeared blood on the walls that say “Release Us” and “Avenge Me”.

Once the runners are sufficiently deep enough into the building, bound spirits under the control of Indigo possess the animatronics and move in to attack the runners. Some will use Stealth as their optional power, others may use Trid Phantasm to fool the runners as to their direction of approach. Frankie, Buckskin Brave and Barty will opt for a direct approach, using illusions to get in close. They will freeze in place and evacuate the body if the runners look back, so that they will see that the animatronics have moved, but be unsure as to how.

Injun Kim, in his dilapidated state, scampers up into the ceiling vents and will attack from above. Wilbur the Wolf starts off in the Wolf’s Den, but once he wakes up, he gallops toward the runners at full speed tackling the nearest target and tearing into them with tooth and claw.

Toys in the toy store have had the Homonculus ritual performed on them and will pursue and dog the runners, trying to make them expend their ammunition. If the mage projects after the spirits have been unleashed, the mage’s body will be possessed and the spirit will attempt to lead the runners astray and into a trap.

Each of the spirits manifest on the astral plane as a child, one of whom appears as Mitchell Warren. Should the runners use banishing to break the connection between spirit and summoner, the spirit thanks them for freeing them and may help them in the battle against Indigo. If requested, the spirit will show them where to gain access to the safe room.

Beneath the toy store are a series of steam tunnels, long dormant and dusty that lead to a panic room. Inside is Indigo, hiding in the darkness of the room. Dressed in Light Military Armor (Run & Gun), painted up like a twisted mime, he activates a potent Lightning Aura spell and attacks the runners, while turning any spirits he has left on the runners, possessing anything or anyone convenient. If the runners are struggling and they freed a spirit, rather than blasting it, they can possess Indigo’s armor and work against the mage to buy the runners opportunity to kill the man.

Once Indigo is dead, they find a room in the back with a simple cot and stolen food. Mike Schmidt is whimpering, blindfolded and chained to the bed, but other than the psychological harm, is otherwise unhurt.

Indigo’s Diary

July 17, 2057 – Frontier Frankie’s in Auburn

First day on the site at Frontier Frankie’s here in Auburn. While they maintain their own security team, they had me join on as a consultant. Astral alignment, make people spend their money… the usual drill. Apparently, they’ve encountered enough trouble with people intruding and trying to mess up astral space in the spot that they’re even talking about paying me to erect a ward to keep out would-be saboteurs. Since wards require maintenance, it would be semi-regular work. Not a bad gig. If you can get past the cartoon character vibe of the place…

On a more personal note, I think my mentor has been messing with me again. I’ve never been very good with people. Oh sure, I get quite a few phone numbers and flirts from women (and a few men), but invariably I alienate them in some way, usually by talking about my tradition. Voodoo has such a bad rap, it rarely goes over well when people ask what type of magician I am. Never mind when I tell them that Erzulie is my guide, Loa of Love and Lust. I had always thought that worshipping a lover would endear me to others, but instead people perceive it with the same disdain they might if I told them I followed Ghede…

This man though… something about him captivates me. Erzulie has played this game with my heart before, but when this young man asked me about my magic and I told him I practiced Voodoo, there was no fear, no revulsion… merely fascination and adulation. I still have several more days of work ahead of me at Frankie’s and Mitchell (that’s his name) says that he’s in the back corner most days, playing Miracle Shooter 3. Maybe this time, fate will treat my heart more kindly than the past.

July 21, 2057

No! Nonononono… I don’t… I can’t…

Why?! I’m so sorry Mitchell…

I…I’ve continued to work at Frankie’s… my contract is nearly done. I continued to talk with Mitchell and the young man captivated me. Such a sharp mind… and funny! Such a well-developed sense of humor. And his laugh… I could listen to him talk for hours.

But… today was Saturday… party day, so the place was a fucking zoo. Mitchell was as annoyed with the abundance of rugrats in the place as I was. So, I offered him a private tour behind the scenes at Frankie’s… away from all the noise. I showed him where they service the animatronics, where food was prepared for the parties, especially the bakery. And I showed him my office.

I…I told him how I felt. At first he thought I might have been joking… but I explained to him that my mentor doesn’t fool around when it comes to matters of the heart and he suddenly got very nervous. He told me that he couldn’t be in a relationship because he was only 15… 15! He looked older than that, seemed older and wiser than someone his age should.

Erzulie has told me in the past that I have never been assertive enough when seeking companionship, so I pressed the issue. Mitchell cried out for help and I didn’t even think… I just cast a stunbolt to quiet him and he collapsed.

I stood over him dumbstruck for a moment… he looked so peaceful… Erzulie was talking in my ear. I couldn’t help myself… I just… I just…

<long pause>

After… I had to cover my tracks… all I wanted to do was alter his memory… give him a different version of events so he would be happy and we could go our separate ways. But… something… something went wrong. The spell… my concentration wavered, only for a second and… the spell got away from me. I… I…

Gods… why did this have to happen?

I’m recording this as I drive out to the woods. He deserves a proper burial, so Ghede can embrace him. I will bury this diary with him, so that when he is found, people will know the truth and justice will be delivered. I will hide myself away to pay penance. I must redeem myself in the eyes of the Loa and myself. I was weak and must be stronger. I only hope that when my judgement comes, I will be strong enough to accept it.

May 21, 2075

Mitchell… the world has failed you.

For years, I prayed. Atoned. Expected the avenging souls to descend upon me to make me pay for my mistake all those years ago.

Instead, you faded from memory. The memory of your sweet smile and joyful laugh faded into obscurity, forgotten by this dreary city and all who dwell within it. Your family moved on… even the glade in which I chose to bury you seemed to have been ignored by even the most gluttonous of corporations.

Everyone, except me…

Erzulie’s plan for me changed over the years. Leading me into one relationship after another… destined to fall in love, but never to attain it. There have been others… like you… never with the disastrous result we shared… and none have imprinted themselves on my mind as you did.

All of my prayers, all of my penance and all of my misdeeds… none of it has worked. So, I have returned to you… to seek forgiveness. I hope you can understand. I must take you back to where this all began, so we can both finally be at peace.

Please…forgive me…

Indigo NPC Stats

Body – 3, Agility – 4, Reaction – 3, Strength – 3
Charisma – 5, Intuition – 4, Logic – 3, Willpower – 5
Essence – 6,  Edge – 3, Magic – 6

Skills
Spellcasting 8
Counterspelling 8
Ritual Spellcasting 8
Summoning 8
Banishing 8
Binding 8
Assensing 6
Unarmed Combat 5
Survival (Urban) 4 (6)
Sneaking 5
Performance 5
Leadership 5
Etiquette 5
Running 3
Disguise 4
Perception 5

Spirits (Loa) 4(6)
Knight Errant Tactics 3
Frontier Frankie’s 4
Geomantic Principles 3
English N

Spells & Rituals
Trid Phantasm, Stealth, Lightning Aura, Stunbolt, Alter Memory

Homonculus, Ward, Calling Soul, Grave Binding, Whisper of Bones, Leeching

Metamagics
Masking, Necromancy, Geomancy

Equipment
Light Hardened Mil-Spec Armor (Armor 15)
100 Reagents
Renraku Sensei Commlink w/ AR Gloves, Biometric Reader
Satchel of Necromantic components (the bones of Mitchell Warren)

>> Are you joking?  Like I would work for so little…
>> Burn

>> Heartless as always, Burn.  You mean to tell me you wouldn’t help out the desperate even once?
>> Glasgow

>> I tried it once.  Damn near killed me.
>> Burn

>> Anyone notice anything odd going on in Auburn?  Been in this city a long time and something’s not right… may have to check this one out.
>> Wraith

The gears are still turning

•May 24, 2016 • 2 Comments

Just to inform people that the site isn’t dead and forgotten.  It has been an unfortunately busy first half of 2016… I have about half a dozen runs ready to go but there hasn’t really been time to break them out thus far.  I hope to get this corrected as soon as possible.

I’ve already done 4 conventions this year, using older material, revamped and retooled for 5th Edition which has been fun to reinvent some of my older, well remembered adventures from Editions gone by.  I’m working on a minimum 10 part campaign (of which I’m 90% through planning and 25% through implementation), as well as trying out new systems as a player, rather than a GM.  Plus I’ve been feeding my board game addiction pretty hard of late as well.

I am now GMing 4 Shadowrun groups… my gaming calendar is getting pretty full.  That being said, I am looking to try a few different things.  First of all, I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing what comes of the new Edition of 7th Sea when it kicks off later this year.  I’m also thinking seriously about starting up a gaming podcast/vlog, though I’m not sure what to blog about aside from filling the internet up with one more person’s opinion on gaming as a whole.  But, if you think there’s something worthwhile that you feel I can comment on by all means, let me know.  Always wanting to find a way to fill a void in GM tools and information.

In any case, I should have some new run material to share with everyone soon.  Cheers!

J.

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.

 
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