On the Graves of Old Monsters (Shadowrun)

•October 6, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I ran this particular run for Phantasm in the Fall of 2017.  I treated the main adversaries as if they were Horrors of old, but if you don’t treat the Earthdawn universe as if it were connected, feel free to create your own spirits to serve as the main threat.

Scene 1 – Meeting Mr. Johnson

The runners are contacted by their fixer and offered a job where the location of meet is wherever is convenient for them, as Mr. Johnson wishes to have a digital meeting as opposed to meeting them in person.  They are told to log into a custom node that the fixer will provide to them for 8PM.

Give the runners enough time to gather together in the case of Computer Illiterate characters who cringe at the idea of logging into a Matrix system.

Wherever the runners log in from, when the log into the custom node provided to them by their fixer, they find themselves in a dank and dark dungeon.  The coding for the node seems somewhat incomplete, as while there are effects such as the cold air and the stink of mildew and rot, the textures seem off and details such as what lies beyond the windows are incomplete or generic.

At 8 o’clock on the dot an icon morphs out of the shadows, looming over them in the figure of the grim reaper.  The skull face looks over the assembled runners and nods.  A heavily distorted voice says, “Good.  I’m glad you were able to come.  I have need of capable people who can complete a task for me and your team came highly recommended.”

“There is a new corporate structure currently being built in Auburn that my colleagues would like to see halted.  However, the means I would like to see it halted has been…inconvenienced of late.  What I require is two-fold.  First, you must rescue an associate of mine from his captors… she has the knowledge required to disrupt the construction.  Once you have liberated her, you must protect her while she sets up the disruption.  Once the second task is complete and you have escaped, contact us to receive payment.  Questions?”

Mr. Johnson is with the Brotherhood of Darkness, a magical society that uses dark magics against darker foes.  The site the corporate building is being built on is the former site of the Frontier Frankie’s the runners dealt with before.  The manasphere there is already a mess, and they aim to amplify that substantially, to slow the construction to a crawl.

When the inevitable question of payment arises, he offers the runners 6500¥ each for the job.  He will negotiate some on the price, but won’t go over 9,000¥.  Once the runners agree to the terms, Mr. Johnson’s icon nods.

“Very well.  Your first task is to liberate a friend from the address I’m sending you.  The person you’re after is Kayleigh Alexander… she’s a ne’er do well like yourselves, but she has some knowledge we asked her to acquire that will help with the main objective of the mission.  Once you’ve freed her, you’ll go to this next address and sabotage the construction there with her assistance.  Is there anything else?”

Mr. Johnson will give them as much information as he is comfortable doing.  He will not reveal his affiliations (and if he detects that the runners are trying to ascertain information about him, the call will be immediately terminated), nor will he clarify anything pertaining to what Kayleigh Alexander was doing to get arrested.

Once the runners have had their questions answered, Mr. Johnson hands them the address of where Kayleigh is being held and a commcode to reach him at once they’ve liberated her.

Kayleigh Alexander
Black Mage / Criminal
Possible Sources – Shadowrunners, Magical Societies

1/2 – Kayleigh Alexander is a registered UCAS citizen as a magical consultant on paper.  However, the far-too-perfect history is a good sign that her SIN is a solid fake.

2/4 – Ran the shadows as Lore for many years before retiring into freelancing.  Her magic had been focused on misdirection rather than overt combat and ran with several teams before retiring.

4/7 – Having done extensive initiation over the years, her most recent efforts seem to be theft jobs.  Many of her recent targets have been museums and corporate sponsored archaeological digs.  No one has seen her fence the items she steals, which leads people to believe she is hoarding these relics for something.

7/11 – She is stealing what she steals as she’s on a retainer from some hidden organization.  She needs to make rent somehow and sitting on dusty artifacts won’t pay the bills.

Scene 2 – Military Resistance

The address given to the runners is the corner of Coolidge Avenue and Adams Street in Fort Lewis… the location of the Fort Lewis Stockades.  The strategy the runners choose to employ will likely depend greatly on the knowledge that she isn’t being held by a corporation, but rather the UCAS military.

Being a military prison and dealing with a known, potent mage, Kayleigh has been thrown into a deep dark hole to be forgotten.  Most prisoners get put to work keeping the Interstate (I-5) serviced, but mages can’t be trusted outside of their warded cages.  The runners will need to figure out a way into the stockade to free Kayleigh.

The mages are kept underground, magemasked and cuffed, the entire area warded, as well as each cell to prevent magical collusion.  

Leave the options open as to how the runners gain access to the building and how they get down to the high security detention area.  If the runners can successfully free Kayleigh, she will be a bit jumpy at first after being magemasked for a long while.  Once they get her on an even keel, she tells them that before she can leave she needs to get the object that was confiscated from her when she was arrested.  The artifact holds the power she would need to execute the ritual.

Once they retrieve the artifact (a battered chunk of stone with undecipherable writing) they will need to break out with countless UCAS soldiers converging on their position.

Scene 3 – Grave Underestimation

After freeing Kayleigh and escaping capture from the UCAS Army, the runners are likely to place a call to Mr. Johnson to let him know about the successful rescue of his preferred mage.  He congratulates them on a job well done and tells them to swing by a cemetery on Reid Road to get the final piece of the puzzle before heading on to the address in Auburn.

The cemetery is a relatively new one, with orderly headstones and plaques in tight, organized rows, designed in direct response to the shedim threat, where only ash is interred, rather than actual bodies.

Kayleigh seems to know exactly where she’s headed, walking toward a wall of plaques where memorials are set up for loved ones where remains weren’t to be buried at all.  She searches amongsts the many plaques until she comes to one labelled “Emmett Quill”.  Planting her palm against the plaque she does a hard twist with her wrist and the plaque pops off revealing a hidden compartment.  Reaching in, she pulls out a rolled up piece of paper.  As she grabs the paper, the cemetery fills with the beams of flashlights and several soldiers surround the area, demanding the surrender of both the scroll and the artifact.  Kayleigh staunchly refuses and if the runners stand with her, they will be stuck in a firefight with well-equipped soldiers.

These soldiers are from Wuxing, as the ritual written down on the scroll Kayleigh carries was locked away by the corporation years before but it was recently stolen by Kayleigh’s benefactors, the Brotherhood of Darkness.  Since the theft, Wuxing has been tracking it down, trying to locate it before it is put to use.  They recently located the transporter of the scroll and tortured where it was hidden from the man, but they didn’t know exactly where on the grounds.  So they’ve been staking it out, waiting for the pick up.

If the runners successfully make a Perception+Intuition(4) test upon arriving at the cemetery, they might get a hint that something is off before the ambush.  Wuxing’s men will relentlessly pursue the runners so long as they have the scroll.

Scene 4 – Unleashing the Darkness

Once they have eluded their hunters, when they head to Mr. Johnson’s address, if any runners have previously done “One Night at Frankie’s”, they find themselves at the old address, which has thankfully been torn down at last.  The foundation has been dug out and the supports for the building that will now stand here have been erected.  Kayleigh tells the runners that she needs to get to the center of the foundation and set up the ritual.  They will need to make sure site security doesn’t interfere with the ritual once it begins.

Kayleigh has Efficient Ritual and Geomancy, so she attunes the space first and the ritual will take roughly three hours to complete once it begins.  Between Neo-Net and Wuxing, the runners should be challenged in keeping Kayleigh from being attacked.

If the ritual is disrupted, the magical backlash will mutilate Kayleigh’s body, but the materials will still be usable.  The runners will need to decide if one of them will take over the casting or abort.  If the ritual completes, the artifact shatters and orbs of darkness whirl around the building’s infrastructure.  One of them strikes Kayleigh in the chest and a dark haze fills the building’s foundation.  The runners hear screaming before squelching and the sound of concrete being torn apart.  The remaining orbs scatter around the construction site and take on humanoid forms, wielding large swords of obsidian.  They study the runners with curiousity and make no moves at first.

If the runners do nothing, they walk over to construction equipment and study it for a time before merging with them, amongst the same dark haze as the building foundation.  If the runners attack, the Knights will defend themselves, attempting to slay the runners and use their bodies as vessels.

The spirit that killed Kayleigh emerges from the ground as a blend of concrete, rebar and flesh.  The other Knights that merged will be made of whatever they touched.  If a runner or Wuxing soldier was unfortunate enough to be touched, the Knight becomes a demonic being resembling whomever they touched.

Much like bug spirits, these things die once their chosen vessel has been disrupted.  Being magical abominations, any spirits the runners summon are quite eager to destroy these creatures.  After the battle, not only is the site in ruin, but the background count is horribly corrupted.

After the spirits are destroyed, when the runners call up Mr. Johnson, he expresses sorrow about Kayleigh’s death and confusion about how the ritual went down.  In order to “buy the runner’s discretion”, he offers an additional 2,000¥ without prompting.

>> Now see… this is more my speed.  Blowing up corporate territory is what I do best.
>> Burn

>> If only it were so simple.  Look at the area’s history.  There’s more at play here than simply knocking down some building supports.
>> Arktik

>> Plus take a close look at the hired help.  She’s not exactly a lone wolf either.  She has her own allegiances that tells anyone willing to look that something
>> Heretic


Instant Fame (Shadowrun)

•September 5, 2017 • 1 Comment

The runners are contacted by their fixer and told of a job that could create some valuable allies, if they’re willing to work for the Johnson.  Mr. J wants to meet with them personally at the Snohomish Sheraton at 9PM.

Scene 1 – Not Trying to Hide

The Sheraton in Snohomish has seen better days.  The building shows its age with old style lit up sign (that barely lights up anymore), weathered brick facade and derelict pool.  The inside isn’t much better than the outside, with faded, stained wood and peeling paint in places.  The teenager behind the counter looks incredibly bored, typing with her friends on her commlink.  If the runners ask to see Mr. Johnson, she rolls her eyes, thumbs over her shoulder toward the dining hall and says “He’s in the dining room…”

The dining room is dimly lit and smells heavily of carpet cleaner and disinfectant.  Mixed with the pungent stink of overzealous cleaning is the smell of cheap cigar smoke.  Several bodyguards sit around the room with submachine guns at their sides, making no effort to conceal their arsenal.  Sitting at a large table is a slim dwarven man with the cheap cigar clamped in his teeth.  “Welcome!  Please, help yourself to the bar.  I gave the staff the night off.”

Mr. Johnson is a man who likes to parade his station by dressing well and showing his manicured nails and neatly trimmed goatee, but the hotel and his cigars showcase that he’s a cheapskate.  The bodyguards are definitely wary of the runners and their hands never stray far from their weapons.

Once the runners are seated, the dwarven Johnson looks around the table as he takes a long drag from his cigar.  “All right, I’m not going to beat around the bush.  My daughter, Michaela, is huge fan of that trid show… you know the one with all the people who scheme against each other… *snaps his fingers* GOD is Watching!  That’s the one.  Yeah, she’s a big fan.  She wants to be on it and after three seasons, her applications still keep getting refused.  I want you to make sure she’s on it this year.  I don’t care how you do it, just make it happen.  My princess deserves a turn in the spotlight.”

Mr. Johnson is Colm McCarthy, a Capo in the Finnegan family.  A small time slumlord and drug peddler, he likes to think of himself as a big shot in Snohomish.  He makes a profit off the backs of independent farmers and local shopkeepers and then hoards his wealth, trying to raise his visible station.

When asked about the amount of payment, he shrugs.  “I dunno, I’m just asking you to make a few threats to a few key people.  I figure 4,000¥ each oughta cover it.”

He will be a frugal negotiator, but will offer up (100¥ * number of runners) per net success.  Each dollar he coughs up is almost physically painful, but the one thing he loves more than his wealth is his daughter.

Once the runners sign on, he claps his hands and rubs them together.  “Perfect!  They’re supposed to be filming this season in Toronto.  So, go and find the people who call the shots and make it happen.  When Michaela gets that phone call, you get paid.”

If the runners balk at the idea of ponying up for their plane tickets, Mr. Johnson will mumble about them “bleeding him dry” and offer them an advance on the job of 1,000¥ apiece to buy the tickets.

Mr. Johnson (Colm McCarthy)
Finnegan Family Capo
Possible Sources – Mafia Contacts, Snohomish Underworld Figures
1/2 – Mr. Johnson is Colm McCarthy.  He’s a two-bit slum lord and drug dealer, turned Finnegan Capo due to his ability to bleed people dry.
2/4 – Capo McCarthy is one of the few Mafiosos in Snohomish and as a result, he likes to play up his position.  When compared to the major city centers, McCarthy’s name is rarely mentioned.
4/7 – His bodyguards are very loyal, as he pays them far better than other Soldatis in his employ.  Only employees that go above and beyond get promoted to McCarthy’s entourage.  Many Soldatis see assignments to McCarthy’s detail as a punishment, as shaking down farmers is hardly glamorous work.
7/11 – McCarthy has a few weaknesses that can be exploited in a pinch: his daughter Michaela is the center of his world and she could be used as leverage.  He has also been holding out on La Familia, as he has undisclosed greenhouses of drugs being grown, of which he keeps the profits for himself.

Michaela McCarthy
Capo’s Daughter
Possible Sources – Mafia Contacts, Snohomish Underworld Figures, Party Scene
1/2 – Michaela is a curvy, blonde (not naturally) dwarf woman with a sense of entitlement and little common sense.
2/4 – She is known to have her old man wrapped around her finger.  She has spent thousands of his money on cosmetic surgery, lavish parties and jetsetting vacations.  The Capo plays that he has a lot of money, but she spends it nearly as fast as he can bring it in.
4/7 – Rumour has it that she has slept with many of her Dad’s loyal soldiers and those the Capo catches get promoted so he can watch them more closely.
7/11 – Word on the street in Snohomish is that Michaela’s spending has been getting worse all the time and McCarthy is starting to struggle to make his regular payments.  Getting Michaela onto her favourite show will get her out of Seattle for at least a month and with her gone, he will have a chance to try and balance the books.

GOD Is Watching
Reality Trid Show
Possible Sources – Pop Culture (almost any contact or Matrix Search will yield results)
1 – “GOD Is Watching” is a reality show in a vein of the old TV show “Big Brother” from Amalgamated Studios, like most overly-trodden ideas.  People from across the globe are tossed together into a house/hotel and are asked to perform often-silly activities to compete with their fellow residents.
2 – The hosting city is chosen by lottery and the location dictates things like Native tongue and the theme of the challenges the players have to accomplish.  The three dimensional layout of the building is available at all times and viewers can view the action in VR as if they were in the middle of the show.
4 – The ratings for the last couple of episodes were the highest yet, but the cities chosen where Delhi and Shanghai, so the populations of those regions caused the ratings to spike.  The producers of the show are worried about how a season based in Toronto will fare in comparison.
6 – In an effort to boost the ratings, the show is to take place at Casa Loma, a Gothic style castle in the heart of the city.  The games will take on a similar medieval theme on the show.  However, the producers are having issues with getting the permits from the city, as the site will not be available for the public to view for over a month, costing the city much needed revenue.

Scene 2 – Hollywood North

With the flight being domestic between Seattle and Toronto, unless the runners do something truly outlandish at the airport, the trip should be of little consequence.  Pearson Airport is the third busiest airport in the UCAS, only slower than SeaTac and JFK.  With the rapid escalation the city saw when California went independant, Pearson is not a well designed airport.  After a couple of hours, the runners finally have their belongings and step out into the busy city.

This scene will be vastly freeform, as the runners could pursue multiple avenues of investigation while in Toronto.  The producers of “GOD Is Watching” are put up in the Ritz-Carlton hotel in the heart of the city, so to access their personal data or strong-arm the people making the casting choices, the runners may choose to infiltrate the hotel.  They may pay a visit to Casa Loma to scope out the pending set and corner some of the staff.  They may try to bribe city officials to reject the permits to draw targets out into the open.

Amalgamated Studios has a small studio in Toronto under the Global Studios umbrella.  Serving primarily as an ad company, the company serves as the main bank roller for local filming.  The runners may choose to go after the studio itself to gain information about the casting process.

The studio receives thousands of applications from around the world, of which they choose 12 people to be on the show.  They weigh things like language barriers, personality profiles (overall amicable, but with room enough for conflict), appearance and retaining the appearance of a world demographic.

Matrix: The Toronto grid has been beautifully sculpted to look like the city during the summer; bright blue skies and warm sun during the day, or the Toronto skyline lit up with the CN Tower prominently visible and spotlights rising up into a starry sky.  Numerous tourist attractions can be viewed by accessing the CN Tower.  Filming schedules and night spots can be found by accessing the spotlights while towers in the skyline allow users to access everything from hotels, banking, jobs and boat tours on Lake Ontario.

Intrepid visitors could go to the less glitzy side of the node to find access to the Toronto’s largest illegal export: BTLs.  Runners might be able to hang around to gain access to the GreatLakesNet, the shadow network that runs in secret throughout the city.

Amalgamated Studios
“A” Rated Media Corporation
Possible Sources – Corporate Contacts, Trid Pirates
1/2 – Amalgamated Studios was once the largest media conglomerate in the world.  Owned most of Hollywood until Crash 2.0 wiped out every bit of film they had shot in the past year.  They lost millions and had to reshoot everything.  As their subsidiaries went broke, Horizon bought them up.
2/4 – After falling from a AA megacorp to barely clinging to A status, they repurposed what few studios they had left to keep themselves afloat.  They film advertisements, reality shows, nature documentaries and even porn now.
4/7 – With the past few seasons of “GOD Is Watching” breaking ratings records, they’ve had several instances of rival studios trying to steal top talent from both cast and crew.  Since it’s one of the few money makers they have going on at the moment, they’ve taken to hiring Lone Star to protect their assets during filming sessions.
7/10 – Horizon has been causing enough interference for Amalgamated in recent productions, that there are rumours that branches of AS are starting to get into more risque practices and airing more controversial material, to save themselves from being completely barred by their long-time rival.

Scene 3 – Path of Resistance

Depending on the path the runners have taken, they are likely to encounter resistance.  The type of resistance they are likely to encounter may vary.  The most likely obstacle they will run into will be in the form of Lone Star, who has been brought in as personal security to protect the production crew and writers for the next season from Horizon-sponsored attacks.

Lone Star has to use non-lethal force in areas like Casa Loma or the Ritz-Carlton, as they are public venues with a risk for civilian casualties, but if the runners are caught on Amalgamated Studios property, Lone Star is free to use whatever force they deem appropriate.

Other forms of resistance could be:

  • Toronto Police getting involved during altercations around Casa Loma, having a pissing match over jurisdictions with Lone Star
  • If the runners snoop around Global Studios enough, they could uncover the BTL operation in the back lot of the studio.  While it arms the runners with solid blackmail material they can use on the producers, it can draw the ire of the local Triad operation funding the operation
  • A double-edged sword could be that the casting director’s hotel has been leaked to the press and as a result a mob of wannabe stars are swarming the hotel, trying to get past security to offer “private auditions”.  While it is keeping Lone Star very busy, it has also heightened their security and their sensitivity to every passerby.
  • City officials responsible for providing the permits to use Casa Loma are currently involved in a bidding war between Amalgamated Studios, local interests whose business is tied to the successful operation of Casa Loma and those who wish to see the show fail.  If the runners try to bribe the officials, but underbid considerably, the officials may notify interested parties about runners getting involved.

These are not the limit to the resistance that can be thrown at the runners, but could be used in a pinch.  Once the runners have overcome the obstacles presented and convince the casting director to use Michaela for his show, they had better oversee the phone call to Mr. Johnson, because if the candidacy is not validated in the runner’s presence, the job is ultimately failed.

>> This is some bottom-rung shit here, my friends.  Rigging a reality show for some two-bit Mafioso?  Really?
>> Skeptik

>> You might want to watch what you say.  There are certain people here who might take offence to your tone…
>> Pentito

>> Can we not have this conversation devolve into petty threats?  Anyone have anything useful to contribute?
>> EyeSpy

>> Just be careful… you have a stingy employer first of all.  You have a company desperate to cling to their fleeting status, who have hired Lone Star as security, who are equally desperate to not lose any more ground to Knight Errant.  Then there’s the viper’s nest that Toronto’s media climate has become.  Expect to be backstabbed and short-changed… welcome to Hollywood…
>> Fade

The Shadow of Elterwig Manor (7th Sea 2nd Ed)

•July 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is the first game of 7th Sea’s newest incarnation that I ran at a convention.  Overall, the game went pretty well, given that I had only GMed the system twice before then…

Scene 1 – A Town in Need

The Heroes have been on the road for several days when they arrive in the town of Pratchig in Northern Eisen.  The Posen region of Eisen saw the least amount of conflict in the Thirty Years War, so travelling across the Northern portions of the country allowed them to see the best Eisen had to offer.  After visiting Posen, the road turned south and took them into the forest town they now look upon.

Pratchig is a small town, that still shows signs of the past war, but is getting back onto its feet.  The surrounding forest has been pushed back, cleared for supplies in the repairs and to cultivate additional farmland to help meet national demand.  Despite the harsh landscape and the post-war conditions, the Heroes are greeted warmly by those in town.

The Heroes are free to walk around town, get some warm food (albeit simple) and a dry place to rest their heads.  Unless they actively alienate the townsfolk by antagonising them or preaching the Vatacine faith, the people here are kind but tired.  As they talk to the townspeople, they hear tales of the city’s young adults disappearing in the night.  If they inquire, they are told to talk to the mayor about the situation, if they are interested in helping.

The Mayor is no nobleman, but rather a retired soldier who saw fit to try and make an attempt to undo the damage he had had a part in during the war.  When asked about the missing people, he is saddened that many of their young people have disappeared over the past several weeks.  They have searched the woods for them, but there is never a trace left behind.  Repair efforts on the city have stalled without the strongest, most able-bodied people to help out.  He offers the Heroes a reward if they could lend a hand and try to locate their people.

The villagers talk about a village to the south, where the woods have grown dark and its people reclusive.  While they have few dealings with the people of Elterwig, it is the first place the villagers recommend they check.

Scene 2 – Town of Shadows

The road south from Pratchig is clear and well worn, showing signs that armies used this road to try to cover their movements under the forest canopy.  As they continue down the road, the trees get thicker and loom over the road.  Evidence of graves of fallen soldiers are present along the road and the air noticeably chills as a fog creeps in.

Depending on what time of day the Heroes arrive, the town is quite different.  During the day, the townsfolk are out and attempting to reinforce their homes, rather than trying to rebuild the village.  They are extremely suspicious of outsiders and their reactions range from dismissive to outright hostile.  Public spaces, such as inns and taverns have all but fallen into disrepair and the innkeeper of the village will need to be persuaded to even rent them a room for the night.  The town has a general tone of fear and people will be extremely reluctant to tell them anything for fear of what might happen to their loved ones.

At night, the town is practically boarded up in the face of some undescribed horror.  If the Heroes arrive in the middle of the night, they can find the plague that hunts the villagers in the streets, but if they showed up in the day and either camped outside the village or stayed in the inn, they will quickly discover what the village of Elterwig fears; the bodies of the fallen soldiers from the war sweep into the village and attempt to drag away any who had not defended themselves adequately.

There is one Strength six Brute Squad per player of undead men and women who move more agilely than one might expect.  They have the traits of Nocturnal and Unliving.

Once the Heroes have defeated the undead hordes, the villagers, who watched from their windows, praying for the Heroes to win, will emerge and thank them for saving them from the scourge, but warn that there are always more to come.  They will be far more supportive to the Heroes, once they’ve proved their mettle.

Scene 3 – The Darkness on the Hill

The village of Elterwig don’t know exactly what is going on and what has brought the dead back to haunt their village, but they suspect that it has something to do with the reclusive mayor of the town, Dirk Volker von Maier.

Mayor von Maier saw much of his family killed in the war and after the war ended, the stark conditions left behind saw his wife fall ill and eventually succumb to her poor health.  After his wife died, he was almost never seen in town again.  But sightings of the dead started to occur and increase in frequency.  The mayoral residence is a manor on top of the hill on the village’s east side.  No one has successfully visited the house since the dead started stealing away the villagers.

A cold rain begins to fall as the Heroes near the manor.  The house is dark without signs of movement on the property.  Nearing the house reveals the truth… the dead guard the grounds as newer victims of the mayor burst out of the flower beds around the property.  These are similar to the ones the Heroes faced in the village.

Inside the house, they find the place to be devoid of presence.  Dust has not settled in, however, and they are confronted by abominations created as part of a twisted experiment, where human and animal have been blended (humans with wolf’s head, bipedal insect people and other chimeras).  All chimeras are Villains with Strength 5 and the quality Fearsome.  The insectoid men also possess the quality Chitinous.

The exception to this is the body of von Maier’s wife, who looks as she once did, but with pale skin and sunken eyes.  She is guarded by one of the chimeras, but she acts cheerful and asks them if they will be staying for dinner.

With the chimeras under control, the Heroes will need to head to the basement to meet the mayor.

Scene 4 – The Man Behind the Madness

The basement of the mayor’s manor is a stark contrast to the main level.  Where the main part of the house is upkept to maintain a normal appearance, the basement does little to mask the downward spiral the man has taken.  Part of the basement has been converted to a prison where the captured villagers are held until they are needed or die from starvation, at which point they are used for parts for experiments or drafted into his collection staff.

Books outlining insane magics litter the room, demonstrating that the man is experimenting in the darkest side of Hexenwerk.  The central part of the basement is the mayor’s lab, where he is found grinding up body parts for his next round of experiments.

“You!  You are not supposed to be here.  Bewachen!  Deal with them!”

A mountain of flesh and bone staggers out of a hidden room to the side of the lab.  An amalgam of several human bodies, the creature turns what might be a merge of face and torso to the Heroes and lets out a guttural roar before lurching towards the Heroes.

Dirk von Maier – Strength 3, Influence 5
The mayor is not a fighter.  He has a slight build and appears malnourished.  Wearing a bloody smock, he has no armor to speak of.  If any of the Heroes avoid Bewachen and come for him, he has several prepared Unguents on his work space.  He coats poison on his blade that causes severe hallucinations to any he strikes.  He will also snatch up a dose of Black Broth and gulp it down, retching slightly before his body ripples in rapid muscle expansion.  Confident in his new power, he will forgo the sword and attack hand to hand, if he is allowed to consume the potion.

Bewachen – Strength 10
Forged from several victims being spliced together, Bewachen (German for Guard) is a lumbering beast of pure damage.  Unintelligent, it unleashes its anger on whatever it is instructed to or anything that causes it pain.  Has the Monstrous Qualities of Fearsome and Powerful.

With both Bewachen and von Maier defeated, the Heroes can free the prisoners and receive their reward for rescuing people (Wealth 2 per Hero).

The Silence of the Haven

•June 19, 2017 • 1 Comment

So, I haven’t posted anything for a couple of months… truth being told, not a lot has been written in that time.  Life has been busy in all the wrong ways lately when it comes to gaming.

So, I got laid off back in February and while one might think that all the free time that provides would prove ideal for writing, the crappy job market where I am has forced me to spend as many hours as possible on the job search.

Not helping matters was the complete and utter derailment of my most recent campaign.  I mentioned my most recent project on my New Years post, where I built a 10+ part campaign that was going to travel the globe with a collective team of runners… well, I got 1.75 runs into the material before the players left the core plot behind and got further and further away from where they needed to be to progress the plot.  So after months of trying to think of a way to get the campaign back on the rails, but general consensus, the campaign is being shelved.  The characters are currently in the back of SWAT vehicles and on the road to be disappeared and so it goes, I guess.

I will probably re-tool the campaign in the future and try again with another group… fix the limitations I wrote into the story arc and see if the next group of players will jump through more than one of my hoops.

What that means for the Data Haven is that there really isn’t anything for me to add to the site, as I plan on reworking what has been written, and will eventually write the other 80% of the plot… so rather than players reading what is to come, I will keep the campaign close to the vest.

I do have one run I will post soon that I recently wrote up for a one-off, plus I have a blueprint for a shorter, less ambitious plot arc that will hopefully not trigger my players’ acute sense of paranoia.

With luck, I will start having new material to post in the near future.

A Character Comparison (SR5 vs SR Anarchy)

•April 11, 2017 • Leave a Comment

After my most recent convention at the end of March, I spoke to several people who had either recently tried Anarchy, or their only exposure to Shadowrun was through Anarchy.  For those who may not have heard of Shadowrun Anarchy, it is a recent sourcebook published by Catalyst, that allows people to play Shadowrun in a much more narrative style of play.  Some have nicknamed it “Shadowrun Lite” and having read the core book, it certainly qualifies for the title.

While I will likely post a review of Shadowrun Anarchy at some point, I’ve only recently read the rules and have yet to try it in practice.  Once I’ve had the opportunity to see how the system works first hand, I might be able to weigh in on the system as whole.  I can tell that my regular group as a whole, may not appreciate the system as many of the mechanics from the full game have been abstracted.

With the vast removal of the mechanics of the full game, my first experiment with Anarchy was with the character creation system.  With the reduction from 8 Attributes to 5, the limit of skills to six, the abstraction of qualities, magic and augmentation… I questioned just how an SRA character would compare to an SR5 one.

Using the SR5 to Anarchy Conversion rules, I took one of my pre-made Convention characters and attempted to convert it to Anarchy.  I went for a character that pretty much sees play at every convention I go to, but also features an extreme case that I felt Anarchy would be hard-pressed to replicate.

So, here is my cybered-up Merc Viper in his current Fifth Edition incarnation (Standard Build + 25 Karma post-build):

Jorge Domenico aka “Viper”

Bio – Jorge is a Latino ork and a veteran of the Aztlan-Amazonian conflict, who has seen far too much.  He feels his only viable trade is in dealing death, but he battles with PTSD on a regular basis.  Rather than seek therapy, he has taken to medicating himself using Bliss, which is an imperfect solution that is starting to take its toll.


Body 6(8), Agility 5, Reaction 4(6), Strength 5, Willpower 3, Logic 3, Intuition 4, Charisma 3
Edge 2, Essence 0.02


Natural Athlete, Resistance to Pathogens, Moderate Addiction (Bliss), SINner (Aztlan)

Active Skills

Automatics 5, Heavy Weapons 5, Blades 4, Running 3, Gymnastics 3, Perception 3, Sneaking 3, Survival 2, Unarmed Combat 2

Knowledge Skills

Tactics 4, Yucatan War 4, Spirits 3, English 3, Aztlan Spanish N


Judge – Fixer – C4 L1
Dr. Hook – Drug Dealer – C2 L2



Ares Crusader II – Machine Pistol – Concealed Holster, Smartlink, Gas Vent II
HK 227 – Submachinegun – Retractible Stock, Smartlink, Sound Suppressor
AK 97 – Assault Rifle – Imaging Scope w/ Flare Compensation, Low-Light and Vision Magnification, Gas Vent III, Smartlink
Ingram Valiant – LMG – Shock Pad, Smartlink, Gas Vent II


Armor Jacket w/ Chemical Protection 4, Thermal Damping, Nonconductivity 4


Datajack (Alpha Grade), Ultrasound Sensor 3 (Alpha Grade), Cybereye 3 w/ Smartlink, Vision Enhancement 3, Thermographic, Low Light and Vision Magnification (Alpha Grade), Cyberears 2 w/ Audio Enhancement 3, Damper, Spatial Recognizer and Select Sound Filter 2 (Alpha Grade), Full Obvious Cyberarm w/ Str5, Agi5, Cyberarm Gyromount, Implanted Machine Pistol w/ Extended Clip (Standard Grade), Aluminum Bone Lacing (Alpha Grade), Reaction Enhancers 1 (Alpha Grade), Wired Reflexes 1 (Standard Grade), Damage Compensators 4, Toxin Extractors 3


Hermes Ikon Commlink, AR Gloves, Biometric Reader, Subvocal Mic, Gas Mask, Magnesium Torches, piles of ammo for all guns, Basic DocWagon Contract, several doses of Bliss, Fake SIN 4 plus many fake licenses, several thousand nuyen.

Viper version 2

So… that in a nutshell is the current build for Viper.  What follows is what I got using the SR5 to SRA conversion rules.  The Name and Bio don’t change, but you will likely note several differences on the following version:


Strength 5, Agility 5, Willpower 3, Logic 3, Charisma 3
Edge 2, Essence 0.5


Natural Athlete = +2 to Athletics
Resistance to Pathogens = +2 Strength to Resist Damage from Pathogens
Moderate Addiction (Bliss) = must use a Plot Point to not get a fix when in a stressful situation, -2 to all tests if drug not available


Firearms 5, Heavy Weapons 5, Close Combat 4, Athletics 4, Stealth 3, Survival 2


Machete – Dam 6P, Close

Ares Crusader II – Dam 6P, Close/Near (-2)
HK 227 – Dam 6P, Close/Near
AK 97 – Dam 8P, Close/Near/Far (-2)
Ingram Valiant – Dam 8P, Close/Near/Far


Armor Jacket – 12, -1 Skill Point

Shadow Amps

Full Cyberarm = (Amp 3) Re-roll 2 dice on Agility Skills, -1 Essence
Aluminum Bone Lacing = (Amp 3) -2 Damage on all received attacks, -1 Essence
Wired Reflexes = (Amp 2) +1 attack, -1 Essence
Cybereyes = (Amp 3) Ignore all negative Vision mods, re-roll 2 dice on ranged attacks, -1 Essence
Cyberears = (Amp 3) Ignore all negative Audio mods, re-roll 2 dice on Perception rolls for detecting ambush, -1 Essence
Damage Compensators = (Amp 5) Ignore 3 wounds of damage (Stun and Physical) before determining negative wounds modifiers, -0.5 Essence


Gas Mask, doses of Bliss, DocWagon Contract, Fake SIN, Judge – Fixer, Dr. Hook – Drug Dealer


Battlefields change, but the rules remain the same
Adapt to the environment


“I’m a product of war and war is my product.”
“You guys handle the talking… when you want someone dead, come fetch me.”
“When you’ve seen the things I’ve seen, you need a way to switch it off.  This is my way.  Gimme my stash before I break your legs…”


For those not familiar with both systems, a lot of the above might as well be Greek.  The biggest changes that I’ve noted with this character in particular:

  • The abolition of tracking nuyen and ammo makes upgrading cybered individuals easier
  • The limit of 6 Shadow Amps caps the number of augmentations at 6, regardless of whether the character has Essence left or not (this limitation will also apply to adepts and mages as well)
  • Customization of cybernetics with capacity is outright gone, as are the grades of cybernetics
  • The limit of only 6 skills makes having a skill-focused character much less viable, especially if you wish to use one of those for a Knowledge skill
  • Lumping contacts in with gear and then limiting the amount of gear that can be carried limits the character’s ability to gather a network of useful people
  • The limit of two positive and one negative Quality (which you then have to define) also limits the customizations on characters

I’m sure other issues will appear as I explore the mechanics of Anarchy.  My initial thoughts…

In some ways, the new version is better… by gaining the group as opposed to individual skills, he can use a wider range of weapons, or his skills with some weapons have improved.  Perception is no longer a skill, but an attribute-based item, which made Viper’s overall dice pool drop slightly.

However, a lot of the customizations, particularly in his cybernetics, was lost.  With every cybernetic implant costing 1 Essence and every Bio Implant costing 0.5 Essence, it really limits what you can load into a character.  For old-school Shadowrun players, the idea that a Datajack and Wired 3 cost the same amount of Essence probably comes off as just plain wrong…

It probably shows through in my bias, that I prefer the flexibility of the full-blown system when it comes to characters.  However, if you have a group of players that are brand new to the world and they aren’t keen on spending hours tweaking a character with a giant pile of books, then Anarchy could prove a quick entry point for new players.  However, I don’t know that anyone comfortable in the full SR5 world will enjoy the vastly simplified characters used in Anarchy.

Forceful Ballot (Shadowrun)

•March 28, 2017 • Leave a Comment

This is the new material that I ran at Phantasm this past weekend.  I know I haven’t been posting much new material of late, but I hope to get into some kind of regular rhythm once my life gets under control.

The runners are contacted by their fixer in regards to a high profile run that, while risky has the potential to make strides for change in the city. If they’re willing to hear out Mr. Johnson, he will meet them in the Ork Underground at the Big Rhino for 9PM.

Scene 1 – A Dangerous Proposal

The Big Rhino is the best known ork hotspot in the entire city. As one of the main entrances to the Ork Underground, it has become somewhat of a tourist trap. The slummy feel of the place has been preserved as they actively refuse to fix up the place. The air is rich with spices and the smell of cooking meat. The runners won’t draw too much attention until they try to go past the public face of the Rhino, especially if they are not ork or troll.

Once they get into the back room, the smells of the restaurant fade away and gives way to the dank smell of wet concrete. They are led into a maintenance room just off the main tunnel, where two ork gangers stand vigil.

Inside, the room has been converted into a reinforced conference room, which has seen its share of wear and tear. A heavy wooden table has been set in the center of the room, though no chairs are present. A burly, augmented ork chomps on a smoldering cigar as the runners walk in.

C’mon in. I’d offer you a chair, but we’re fresh out” he says with a chuckle. “I’ll be frank with you all… I’m not looking for subtlety, only results. But there is a good likelihood that your handiwork will be publicly known. I know runners like to be invisible, but I want to send a very distinct message. Anyone want out at this stage?”

Assuming no runners opt out, he continues. “All right then. Our current Governor of Seattle, one Kenneth Brackhaven, is well known for his ties to Humanis, thinly veiled racist policies and no shortage of political scandal. His most recent bill is another step down that exact same road. He and his cronies in the positions of power wish to pass a bill in response to the movement to have the Ork Underground recognized as an official district of the metroplex, where all residents of the new district would be registered and tracked by the police. It definitely takes away the freedom we’ve come to appreciate during our time down here. While going after Brackhaven himself would be a tall order, instead we want you to go after his associate Finlay Clarke. Clarke is his liaison with Brackhaven Investments, Humanis member and general asshole. With a break in his administrative chain, it should disrupt the bill, his connections to Humanis and his family’s business. If it isn’t enough of a message, then perhaps there will have to be other actions down the road. For the extermination of Clarke, we’re willing to pay you 8000¥ apiece.”

Mr. Johnson is Hansen de Lange or “Knuckles” to those unwilling to remember his given name. He is a prominent member of the Sons of Sauron and outspoken opposer to the Brackhaven administration. Not afraid to get his hands dirty, this time he had to be certain that the Sons were nowhere close to ground zero. The bankroll for this job has come from several sources, including the Seattle Government itself.

Once the runners are on board, he doesn’t give them guidelines on how to do their job, only a commcode to contact him on once the deed is done.

Matrix: The Ork Underground’s Matrix connection is dodgy at best. With the legitimacy of the Underground being in the spotlight, those that administer the area have erected a makeshift infrastructure, but it is far from standard. Mercifully, the team shouldn’t have to delve too deep and only suffer a Noise rating of 2 while underground.

Scene 2 – In Pursuit

After the meeting with Mr. Johnson, the runners will likely follow the typical avenues of investigation to track down Clarke. His workplace is in City Hall and anything overt there will draw law enforcement very quickly, where his home is in a AAA neighborhood, so both methods will require stealth and a quiet approach to avoid heavy response from Knight Errant.

His office provides information on some of Finlay’s misdeeds, including allocating money to anti-metahuman projects and bribing city officials to side with Brackhaven, but offers no insight into where he is.

His home is empty, regardless of the time of day the runners show up. His house is set up with a state-of-the-art security system that features live monitoring, so the runners will need to get in and out quickly if they want to avoid detection. His personal effects are still in his house, including his personal commlink. The runners find a few incriminating items in his possession, such as recreational drugs and encrypted files that shows he enjoys the services of elven prostitutes, but on his commlink the runners can also find out that he received an email warning him of their impending arrival:

Hey Finn. A couple of the guys are going to swing by to pick you up. Word has it that the tuskers in the SoS have put out a hit on you. While those shit-for-brains demon-spawn probably can’t figure out your security system, we don’t want to risk anything. Grab your bug-out bag and we’ll scoop you in a few minutes. Bring nothing traceable.”

Based on the jargon the sender uses, a trace on the phone call, or going through Finlay’s personal memberships, all of them point to the Downtown Branch of the Humanis Policlub. Hopefully, the runners will see the intentional giant glowing arrow and approach the policlub with caution.

Scene 3 – Supremely Misguided

The Humanis Policlub is housed in a modern, almost church-like building that is clean and sleek. It blends in with the Seattle skyline of corporate efficiency, rather than a building one would associate with spreading hate. The professional facade of the building does little to mask the rot at the charitable organization’s core, however. If the runners enter the building during the day, any humans will be cheerfully greeted and handed propaganda, all while talking about the charity work the policlub does in the city. Metahumans are greeted and through not-so-subtle suggestion, are told that perhaps they’ve come to the wrong place. If they still do not leave they are escorted out by on-site security. If they resist, Knight Errant is called. The runners may use these as distractions to get access to the location and try to locate Finlay.

At night, the building runs under minimal lighting, but is still a hub of activity. The front doors and the outward facing windows are dark and locked, but employee entrances in the back are accessible by passkey… or intrepid hacker.

Once the door is opened, the system recognizes an intruder (unless a decker has intervened) and the runners will have only a handful of minutes before police arrive. Inside, the Policlub enforcers will try to slow them down, focusing on metahumans first, naturally. Once the welcoming committee has been dealt with, the runners will be able to hear voices coming the levels below. The Humanis squad inside will show little restraint, drawing sidearms and firing at the runners. The leader of the goon squad hunkers down behind an overturned table snapping of shots while trying to conceal the person he’s with.

In reality, he isn’t trying to keep anyone safe. The man he’s with is a bound ork man, who they were planning on “making an example of”. With the runners bursting in looking for Finlay, they set the ork up as Finlay’s proxy, hoping the runners will take the rap for the murder by shooting the innocent man, mistaking him for their target. He films the shootout on his commlink, trying to capture as much as possible before broadcasting it out onto the Matrix.

After the shootout, the man that used the ork as a decoy is the one who warned Finlay about the hit squad. He’s rather smug about the whole situation, especially if his video went out or the runners killed the ork (if desperate, he will use the ork as a hostage to try and bargain for his escape). Under duress and pain, he tells them that the ork they had is/was an accountant for the Sons of Sauron and saw the fund allocation for the hit. As for Finlay Clarke’s current location, he tells them that upon the realization that they might hire actual professionals to kill the man, Brackhaven Investments sent over some of their security detail to collect Clarke almost immediately after his extraction and moved him to a more secure location. The Humanis leader has no idea what that location would be.

Matrix: The Humanis host is rendered to be as clean as the building exterior. The public face of Humanis is a polished veneer of political correctness and carefully crafted images that while all icons are human, they run the gamut of body types so they could be elves or orks, aside from lacking the troublesome features that would mark them for hate.

Host Rating 5 – Attack 6, Sleaze 5, Data Processing 7, Firewall 8

The system aims to delay any would-be hackers until police can arrive. Most measures are relatively passive, but when sensitive areas are probed, the system fights back before ultimately taking itself offline before anything incriminating can be obtained.

Scene 4 – Business as Usual

Depending on how the runners have handled the job to this point, they might be back to nearly square one, or they might additionally have the police actively hunting them down after their break-ins on two locations close to Finlay Clarke. If the runners have been noisy and/or sloppy, the police might be in the area surrounding Brackhaven Investments, compounding the difficulty in gaining access.

Brackhaven Investments, unsurprisingly, is one of the largest real estate resellers in the Metroplex thanks to the favoritism from the Governor. Luckily for the team, their listings of properties is a matter of public record. The runners simply have to deduce what kind of building would be ideal for protecting someone from assassination. Ultimately, the runners can track it down to a section of three floors of an office tower in the middle of the building. The section is supposed to be empty, but the runners can find it furnished and manned by armed men who suspiciously do not wear BI logos. Finlay is in the break room, grabbing a bite to eat and chatting with his protectors, but the moment any alarm is tripped he sprints for the server room, which can be sealed and has been warded as a panic room.

The runners will need to deal with the protection detail and breach the server room to finally reach their quarry. The last hurdle is what is in the server room with him. The chief of the guard detail will do his best to protect Finlay, but Clarke has also been given a suit of enclosed armor and been injected with a dose of kamikaze. The man, not used to combat or stimulants, throws himself at the runners in a blind rage. Once the captain and Clarke are defeated, the runners can take footage of Clarke’s end to Mr. Johnson for payment.

Matrix: The Brackhaven Investments host is rendered in blues and whites, advertising the perks of the office space. The public face of the host is strictly for real estate purposes, but behind the crafted lobby is the hostile engine for those who aim to sabotage BI property. The system has been retooled for defending the people in the safehouse, relying on motion sensors rather than cameras to track movement in the office.

Host Rating 7 – Attack 9, Sleaze 7, Data Processing 8, Firewall 10

>> Taking down one of those racist pigs?  Sign me up.
>> Burn

>> You think it’s going to be easy?  Brackhaven knows that the public isn’t fooled any more… he’s taking extra precautions to protect those he can trust or easily control these days.
>> Wraith

>> Of course it won’t be easy.  I never made claims that it would be.  I’d be doing the city a favor and get paid for doing it.  Who woulda thought that I’d be one of the good guys, huh?
>> Burn

>>I know I didn’t.
>> Wraith

>> C’mon Wraith… you know you want a piece of this job.
>> Burn

>> Kinda yeah…
>> Wraith

>> You know how to reach me.
>> Burn

Happy New Year!

•January 5, 2017 • 1 Comment

Greetings to my scattered readers!  The blog has been pretty quiet of late and I have no one to blame but myself.  I kind of took the entire month of December off from RPGs, despite having several ideas burning away in my brain.  I will get some stuff posted soon, once I get some traction on the creative side of things.

I have been painfully and slowly working on this ongoing campaign called “Demons of a Fallen God” which I had huge ambitions for and instead it has been moving at a snail’s pace.  Plus going in the totally wrong direction from what I had planned.  If I can get this thing back on the rails, I’ll start posting the runs that comprise the campaign to date.

The concept of the campaign was that the setting was 2075 Eastern Europe (curtain goes up in Kiev, Ukraine).  I asked players to make a slightly-better-than-standard runner (normal build with 30 after-gen Karma and 50,000¥ in additional funds) that would form a mercenary company called “The Fractured”; a mercenary company that operates in 8-man cells globally.  As part of the Eastern EU company the players could choose from this 8-runner pool and maybe choose different characters each time, as the job required.  If a character died, they now had to try and compensate for the gap in the company.  This allowed me to allow the players some flexibility.  Even if the players that attended each session differed, the runners involved could be the same.

I planned 10 “core plot” runs with an undetermined number of additional runs for bankrolling the team, tying off loose ends, etc.

So far, we’ve done 2 of the plot runs (since they happened within 24 hours of each other), at which the players did a hard right and left part of the second run incomplete and have been off on a tangent for one run, going on a second shortly… still leaving business unconcluded and derailing my intended plot arc indefinitely.  They’ve left contacts high and dry, who will eventually leave them hung out to dry if they don’t conclude the business at hand.  Tempted to put the concept to bed and chalk it up to a failed experiment, given that I hinged my plot too greatly on a handful of actions being done.  I really should know better by now…

Convention season is ramping up, so I should have some new material coming soon.  Whether it is the first few runs of “Demons” or the forthcoming convention runs, time will tell.