Tag Archives: Shadowrun

On Extremely High-Value Targets

A little while back, I mentioned the trouble our Shadowrun crew was getting into. Here’s how it went:

Erase Police Records

Through sheer blind luck, I managed to roll my way out of getting arrested by the police, and got hired by them instead. (I still got the data I wanted too, but we ended up not using it. Pity.) Turns out that being allowed (even paid) to walk in is a great way to make sure that certain records aren’t there when you leave. This was done largely as a favor to the Prodigies, the NPCs that Tam is writing about.
Police Troll

Protect Shipment

As a side benefit to the above, we managed to get to the docks a little early, arriving in time to set up an ambush. Turns out they weren’t quite prepared to deal with a jet and a ninja. This one went way, way better than expected, as we managed to keep the gangs from running off with the shipment and making enough noise that the police showed up in large numbers, just as we were leaving…

Break Into Mansion

…which meant that there was no police detail at the mansion when we arrived. This is really what we came to Boston for in the first place: our investigations led to us looking for data on Project Alchera, and this was allegedly where it was located. As expected, we ran into quite possibly the most hated shadowrunner team in Boston, as we knew they’d been keeping tabs on us. Turns out the Prodigies had a grudge too, and Alice managed to wreck the place with a rather large fireball (at some cost to her own well-being). We did manage to clean up the entire opposing shadowrunner team, which means we’re leaving the Boston scene a little nicer than we found it. After some additional nonsense involving cutting communications and thinking we were just going to get the data and get out, we ran into Alchera II.
alchera 2
Alchera II turned out to be a very cybered-up woman. She was in a tank and appeared unconscious, so our initial thought was to save her. Then she woke up, and everything went to hell. Lashing out with very odd powers, she blew up electronic devices in her immediate vicinity, while also attacking everything available on the Matrix, which included the technomancer of the Prodigies, Nick. Her downfall was her arrogance: she tried to do too many things at once and ended up taking counterattacks both in the matrix and her physical body. An EMP accompanied her death, so we may not have gotten all of the data, but we got enough to work from. Among other things, we found out that there were 8 more of these things.

Get the Magic Box

Unfortunately, we had to leave the formerly burning, soaking wet building in kind of a hurry, as our jet was being shot at on the way out. We’re currently lying low (or as low as it’s possible to get in a VTOL), so we’ll have to take care of this last job while on the road. There’s also the matter of getting paid for the jobs we did do…

On High-Value Targets

Blaugust Post #24

Shadowrun is certainly going interestingly. Our group has managed to make a name of sorts for ourselves in Boston, getting us closer to some of the objectives we got there for (and a brand new one that pays really well). The problem is that completing some of these jobs is likely to bring a ton of heat onto us in very short order, probably to the level that will force us to leave Boston.

the prodigies

We’re nothing if not ambitious, however.

Instead of picking and choosing, we’re trying to get several of the jobs done within a time span of about 48 hours. During this period, we’ll have to erase police records, protect a series of shipments (with a large side order of gang violence), break into a well-guarded mansion, and potentially recover a magical item of unknown origin (currently held by a shadowrunner team with different goals). On top of all of this, another opposing team is probably keeping track of us and may have to be dealt with.

the prodigies home base

As the team’s decker, I get to study up on the disabling aspects of matrix use. I’m far from the most gifted character in combat, and it looks like we might be doing a lot of it. On the other hand, forcing things quickly means that subtlety is not as much of a concern. This is good for me, because my ability to be loud and break things is better than my ability to sneak, both electronically and in meatspace.

At this point, what could possibly go wrong?

On Running, Continued

Blaugust Post #19


Shadowrun: Hong Kong came out yesterday. It’s the third Shadowrun game to come out of Harebrained Schemes since the Shadowrun Returns Kickstarter. For those who are not familiar, Shadowrun Returns was one of the first games to actually release from the big Kickstarter blitz in 2012. The Kickstarter promised 2 campaigns, and the game released in 2013 with the first one, Dead Man’s Switch. The second, Dragonfall, released as an expansion in early 2014. It got a standalone Director’s Cut release later in the year, with an updated engine. We played Dragonfall for Aggrochat Game Club.

Dragonfall seemed to be a product of having about the same amount of time to make a story+art as they had to make a story+art+engine for Dead Man’s Switch. More effort is devoted to characterization, you have a standard team, and it’s quite a bit longer. Generally speaking we seemed to like it, although if you’re going to play it for yourself, listen to the podcast afterwards, it’s full of spoilers.

Once More, With Feeling

Shadowrun: Hong Kong had its own Kickstarter, and I guess experience pays off. It released exactly when planned, which is nearly unheard of for Kickstarter games so far. I haven’t yet played it, but even starting it reveals that production values are quite a bit higher this time around. The character models are much higher resolution, the UI is cleaner, and it even starts with a voice acted cutscene. (Although I didn’t find any options for subtitles. Baby steps…) I’m currently in the middle of another RPG so I probably won’t get to this immediately, but I’m really looking forward to giving this a shot. Maybe I won’t play a troll adept who cuts things in half with a sword this time?

Seems Unlikely.
Seems Unlikely.

On Abstraction

Shadowrun has done interesting things with hacking over the years. In the game I’m currently in, I am our decker, which is to say I’m called on whenever something needs to be hacked. Given the setting, having someone capable of doing this is almost required, although they don’t have to be a decker. Regardless, they’ll need access to the matrix (the internet, according to Shadowrun) and some way of doing things in a less-than-legitimate fashion.

The Way Things Were

In 4th edition, the section of the book that dealt with hacking was rather long and complex, and required a lot of knowledge of real-world networks to make any sense of. Actually using any of it in-game basically required the GM to be running two games at once, one for the hacker and one for everyone else. If complex enough, possibly the rest of the party could go out for lunch in the meantime. (As a side note, this is the real reason you never split the party.) The hacking in 4th was an attempt to make things “more realistic” but it wasn’t great for the pace of the game, or even really for good play.

The Way Things Are

5th decided to abandon that, and went for a system where hacking things depends on establishing marks which can be used to access/control/whatever a given matrix entity. It also established that the “inside” of a host should resemble the physical area, which means that if you need to provide on-the-fly support to a run, you can be presented in the same game space. This obviously has no relation to how actual networking works, but it’s a much better fit for the game system. If you also tack on things like an inability to do the required hacking ahead of time (because you can’t be logged in forever without consequence and marks fade when you log out) and the requirement to be somewhat physically close to whatever you’re hacking (because there are noise penalties for trying to hack a building from across town), suddenly the hacker is a member of the team again, and has to play the game along with everyone else.


“More Realistic”

That phrase I used seems to come up a lot, although usually in the context of video games and not Tabletop RPGs (although that might explain how it found its way into Shadowrun 4). It was the driving principle behind the failed Kickstarter, Clang. Yet when people get what they ask for, the result is often not what they expect.

When I was working at the MIT Game Lab (then called the Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab), one of our projects looked at the (then relatively new) Wii Remote, to see what we could do in terms of using it as a motion control device. One of the first things we tried to simulate was the cracking of a whip. If you’ve ever done this in real life, you might know that it’s not quite as easy as it looks in media, and at first we attempted to require similar motions in the game we were building. We eventually found that this frustrated players, and eventually eased off and implemented a much simpler (but more intuitive) motion.

I think what’s desired isn’t to have more realism, but more believability. As long as this thing works this way, and always works this way, it doesn’t matter quite as much if reality doesn’t also work this way. Sometimes reality is boring, that’s why we play games in the first place.

On Pink Mohawks

So as the D&D game is winding down (possibly involving both dungeons and actual dragons), I’m looking to the next thing that I’m likely to take part in, which is Shadowrun. For those who are unaware, Shadowrun is a cyberpunk setting that also happens to include magic and some “traditional fantasy races” although not in traditional roles, in some cases. For more info, play one of the recent Shadowrun Returns games.

The Shadowrun setting is a bit of a relic of the 80s, and has some weird things in it associated with that. Some of those have been touched on in later editions (4e and 5e decided that “everything is wireless”), but some have not. The New Age movement influenced the political landscape in Shadowrun, including a nation of hippie elves and Native Americans taking over most of the US. Megacorps are a product of the time the game was written (and the term itself is borrowed from William Gibson)*. Virtual reality did not quite take off like the writers expected**. The fall of the Soviet Union was unexpected, but the only effect in the setting is that the name is changed from USSR to “Russian Federation”***. In 2015, some of it is quite anachronistic for what’s supposed to be the future. On the other hand, they were prescient about a few things. The Internet wasn’t really a thing in the 80s, but it is in Shadowrun, and it absolutely is now. Everything having wireless capability can’t really be credited to the 80s (it was introduced in 4e, written in 2005). Drones that were part of Science Fiction in the 80s are a very real part of military technology now. Other things aren’t quite a reality, but we’re getting there, like cybernetics and brain interfaces.

*We can talk about Wal-Mart and GE and Google and Japan in general, but they aren’t quite there yet.

**We can talk about the current VR wave if you want, but I’m not yet convinced it’s going to go differently than the last few.

***This one I’m not going to talk about, sorry.


Black Trenchcoats

A major part of the way the game is assumed to go is that you are part of a team doing somewhat illegal things for a mysterious benefactor (called Mr. Johnson regardless of their actual name). Some players view this whole conceit more seriously than others, and the terms that have arisen to describe this are “Black Trenchcoat” and “Pink Mohawk”. The names play off of sterotypes: In a Black Trenchcoat game, everyone is wearing a black trenchcoat and trying not to attract attention and complete the mission, and so on. In a Pink Mohawk game, someone shows up with a Pink Mohawk, and everyone else is okay with that.

Personally I don’t see the distinction as quite so black and white, but that might be because I’m predisposed to the latter style anyway. Even if the tone of a game is entirely serious, I think things are more interesting with a bit of personality. Shadowrun mechanically encourages this somewhat with the addition of positive and negative qualities available during character creation. (For the curious, a pink mohawk would almost certainly fall under “Distinctive Style”, a negative quality worth 5 Karma.) Being serious, and competent and yes, even optimized doesn’t necessarily exclude having a bit of fun.


Interesting times

One of the best things to me in tabletop RPGs are what I’d like to call “Interesting Bad Ideas”. If everything goes as planned things can get boring (although a good GM won’t let this happen), and these provide nice hooks for things that are likely to be fun. While Kodra is usually a nice source of these in games we end up playing together, I’ve been known to make my fair share. Our previous D&D campaign was largely defined by a deal I attempted to make with a red dragon in the first session (It seemed like a good idea at the time). This is how we end up doing things like starting (and sometimes ending) wars and uncovering very odd artifacts and sometimes destroying large sections of the countryside and/or planets.

This Shadowrun campaign might be interesting, as there are two groups (one local to the GM and one through Roll20) running for similar goals. It’s yet to be seen if we’ll come into conflict, although I’m guessing we will, indirectly. My planned Shadowrun character is a bad idea personified (as well as the very incarnation of a running joke about a previous character of mine). Details of this aren’t exactly available to the rest of the party (the GM knows, of course), although a few of them would be able to quickly figure it out if they knew what to look for. From what I know so far of the other characters, I might not be the only one playing a disaster waiting to happen. It should be fun to see whose number comes up first.