29 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 22

Special Delivery
Shadowrun © 2013 The Topps Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Shadowrun and Matrix are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of The Topps Company, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries. Catalyst Game Labs and the Catalyst Game Labs logo are trademarks of InMediaRes Productions, LLC.
Saturday, April 24, 2071
0027 hours

    Charles eased his Harley into the Renton Mall's parking lot.  Treehugger followed with the Bulldog.  The lot was deserted, with only three cars total.  One of the cars, a dark blue BMW i985 sedan, flashed its headlights.  Treehugger blinked the step-van's once in response.  She parked the Bulldog several lanes away from the BMW.  Charles stopped beside the van and dismounted.  He walked around to the rear door.  Inside, Numbers removed her belongings from the bag holding the Evo representative.  She took a deep breath to steady herself.

28 Aug 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 21 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first before continuing.

Chapter 21 featured the great escape.  A car chase, allowing Treehugger to have her moment to shine.  The chase features three types of vehicles; the step van driven by Treehugger, the Chrysler-Nissan Patrol 1s driven by Evo's security, and the Harley Scorpion ridden by Charles.  Of the three, the Scorpion would have the best chance of escaping.  Too bad the package is in the van.

Car chases take some work in writing.  In a visual medium, like television or movies, it's enough to show the vehicles taking turns, their tires squealing as the coefficient of friction is almost overcome.  With the written word, the scene changes, becoming more about the reactions by the people involved instead of the adrenaline of a vehicle ramming another with chase music playing.  Adding to the complexity is Treehugger becoming one with the van.  While her body is still in the driver's seat, her consciousness is in the van's main computer.  Riggers are cybernetically enhanced to meld their reactions to a vehicle's system, from engine to steering to even the radio.  If the van takes a hit, Treehugger feels it as if it happened to her body.  Needless to say, this would get weird to write.  Fortunately, I also had Oz and Numbers, requiring me to place the "camera" inside the van instead of inside the van's computer.

Part of the planning for a car chase is figuring out where the chase is.  I had used placeholders at the time of writing, Wilshire and Smith.  When I wrote Crossover, a Subject 13 novel, I picked Washington and Main, hoping that they'd exist in Cleveland.  The hope worked out far better than I expected then; that very intersection was close enough to the main action that it made sense to keep it.  With Wilshire and Smith, though, I didn't have such luck.  First, having placed Evo in Renton, I had to rearrange the map.  Today, Renton, Washington, is a satellite city of Seattle, having its own industries, including an Boeing assembly plant and Wizards of the Coast.  It also acts as a bedroom community for people who commute to Seattle and back.  Naturally, I needed to raze that housing to drop Evo in somewhere.  The intersections mentioned do exist; they just don't have a corporate enclave or a red-light district office near them.

Numbers' crack about becoming the Chase of the Week comes from today's televised police chases.  It's a simple search on YouTube to find media footage of car chases in California.  It wouldn't be beyond the realm of conception that media outlets in the 2070s would feature the top five car chases of the week along the lines of today's sports channels showing the top five plays of the week.  In the future, the revolution won't be televised, but the top ten embarrassing mistakes by revolutionaries will be.

Chapter 21 was short.  The chase had to last long enough to provide a proper climax without boring the reader with minutiae, near-misses, and improbable stunts.  The point was made, Evo was not letting their rep be taken, and the crew got one last chance to show off.

Tomorrow, the delivery.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Lost in Translation's August news round up.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

22 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 21

Johnson Road, Next Two Exits

(Language warning in effect)
Shadowrun © 2013 The Topps Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Shadowrun and Matrix are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of The Topps Company, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries. Catalyst Game Labs and the Catalyst Game Labs logo are trademarks of InMediaRes Productions, LLC.
Friday, April 23, 2071
2348 hours

    Oswald let his spells fade, revealing himself, Numbers, and the bag holding their extractee.  He wiped sweat off his brow.  "Never doing that again.  Numbers, how's the package?"

    Numbers looked in the bag.  "Still out."

    Treehugger noticed flashing lights in her rear view mirror.  "Guys, trouble."

21 Aug 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 20 - Commentary

Welcome back!  As always, please read the chapter first.  I'll be referring to it anyway.

In chapter 19, we saw Numbers and Oswald's portion of the run, the extraction of Ms Evo from her place of employment.  It wasn't a voluntary extraction.  This chapter looks at the other half of the run, the getaway.

The chapter's title is from an older song, "Breaking Up is Hard to Do".  Apologies for that earworm.  It sums up the situation well.  Most shadowruns in-game have the problem of getting out.  Usually, the team of PCs has finally set off an alarm, alerting security.  Security's response depends on the value of the facility, the value of the work done at the facility, and the value of the employees.  A team of runners breaking into a nondescript warehouse to retrieve a copy of a bill of lading might only get Knight Errant out with a ten minute response time.  At the other extreme, Mitsuhama's Zero Zones, where nothing gets in and nothing gets out, have security that is highly motivated and equipped with the best gear around, including armed drones, mages with bound elementals, and guards in heavy armour toting assault cannons.  With Evo, the security is there, but the area is residential.  Employees tend to have poor morale when guards in armour patrol the hallways and demand papers in every corridor.

Treehugger and Charles are the exit strategy for the run.  The elf wanna-be is the getaway driver, like most riggers are.  Without a team to drive away with, though, all she can do is wait for the signal.  Treehugger is a little antsy; part of it comes from the cyberware she has.  Neural control over a vehicle combined with a love for the rush of speed means it's hard for her to sit down when needed.  To contrast, Charles has extensive experience in just waiting.  Bodyguard work tends to be reactive, though a good team of runners will do some work to find out where potential problems are and remove them before they become kinetic.

The exit plan depends on bureaucracy and paperwork.  With her step-van disguised as a courier's van, Treehugger can flash fake IDs at the guards while wearing a uniform that strengthens the ruse.  In a world where business is global and corporations never sleep, a late night courier run doesn't look odd.  With corporate espionage around, though, security still needs to be prudent.  But it's not the guards Treehugger has to fool.  They're looking for the proper codes.  The loading dock supervisor is the one who can spoil the run.  Treehugger's goal is to appear to be another corporate cog.  A human with pointed ears might be noticed, thus she's tucked the tips into her hair and into her cap.

Charles, in the meantime, gets to be the point of contact for everyone.  Treehugger should be busy with the workers in the loading dock; answering a call will raise suspicion.  If Charles is tracked, he's mobile enough with his motorcyle to find a new location while remaining in contact with Numbers and Oz.

The ruse can only last so long.  There's either a package or there isn't.  Treehugger's conversation with Charles lets her get the update to him while still acting as if she's talking to her dispatch.  Treehugger's main role is rigger, as mentioned above and in previous commentaries.  She is also a decent hand with computers.  Not necessarily to the same degree as Numbers, the hacker, but Treehugger can fake data enough to fool the casual observer.  The buzz on her commlink worked to her advantage; she received data, just not the data the supervisor expected.  There will be a report filed by supervisor about the missing package, but by the time someone thinks to check it, Ms Evo should be in downtown Berlin.

I had a troll supervisor on the loading dock to remind readers that trolls are more than just street muscle.  Trolls are in most walks of life, being absent from executive and most upper management levels.  The supervisor here worked his way up to his position.  Again, yet another incidental character with a backstory.  It's a fun way to populate a story, but it does take a bit of time to work out while writing.  In the outline, I just make note that the guy in charge is a troll, with no other notes.  Between the time when the outline was written and when the scene was, some thought had occurred about why the troll was there.

The Tim's on Aberdeen doesn't exist.  The coffee shop's name comes from Tim Horton's, a Canadian coffee and doughnut chain that has more stores than Starbucks does in Soviet Canuckistan.  There are indeed places where there's a Timmie's across the road from a Timmie's.  It's a busy road.  Tim's is home to Canadian comfort food, especially in the winter.  I just couldn't envision a future without Tim Horton's.  It's too ubiquitous to just disappear.  My little addition to the setting.  Beats having the team go to the Stuffer Shack; involving an Aztech subsidiary would add yet another layer of complexity late in the story.

Tomorrow, Evo really doesn't want to let its representative go.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Disney's Aladdin and a farewell to Robin Williams.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, a look at adapting myth and legend.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

20 Aug 2014

Test Run - Firefly RPG Revisited

The full Firefly RPG from Margaret Weis Productions is now out.  The system has been greatly expanded from the preview, adding more Distinctions and expanding the ship creation rules.  Last time I looked at the game was with the preview.  Let's see what Tanya, the test character from last time, would look like under the full ruleset.

17 Aug 2014

NaNo 2014 Prep - The Unrulies Are Go!

Just like winter, November is coming.  I haven't done much prep work since the last time, but I've been playing around with the idea in my head.  I may not be rebelling, either.  After working on converting chapter 1 of By the Numbers, I've realized that scripting won't be as quick as I thought, depending on the amount of action on a page.  That leaves The Unrulies, still a working title, as a potential serial.  The core concept of the Unrulies, girls at a school for troubled/trouble girls, allows for cast turnover and focusing on different groups, perfect for a serial with the occasional full-fledged novel dealing with major events like graduation.

The supporting cast is building.  Coca-Cola has a promotion that's turning useful for my purposes - "Share a Coke with...", where bottles of the soft drink have names.  The first bottle I bought with a name had Caroline on the label; Caroline is also Verity's second-in-command.  Why not populate the supporting cast with other names?  Caitlin's team now has counterparts; Sarah, Verity's muscle, and Mackenzie, the rival geek.  I also have Jay, the poor guy stuck in a tug-of-war between Autumn and Caroline.  I now also have a reason why Caitlin takes in Laura; there was a missing role on her team that the new girl fills nicely.

My next step is to work out the arcs.  First arc is obvious; Laura's arrival and orientation, allowing Caitlin to run a new scheme against Verity.  Perfect for the intro to a series, allowing readers to meet the major characters and get used to the setting.  That still leaves other arcs, since I don't expect the arrival to take up 50 000 words.  Right now, I have a rough idea that involves Autumn and Caroline working against each other without Caitlin and Verity knowing.  However, I still need to get a few more arc ideas, ideally highlighting each character at some point.  I also want to promote a Jennifer from spear carrier to regular cast, possibly joining Vamsi's crew.  Plenty of time except not really.

The other thing I want to do is write a short piece featuring the Unrulies.  It worked with By the Numbers, letting me discover a few personality bits that I could work into the narrative.  I'm hoping the same happens with the Unrulies.  The piece doesn't have to fit into continuity; the one for By the Numbers doesn't fit into the timeline of the story anymore.

In the next few months, expect to see some more Unrulies posts as I work out details and post them so I can find them again in November.

15 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 20

Breaking Out is Hard to Do

(Language warning in effect)
Shadowrun © 2013 The Topps Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Shadowrun and Matrix are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of The Topps Company, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries. Catalyst Game Labs and the Catalyst Game Labs logo are trademarks of InMediaRes Productions, LLC.
Friday, April 23, 2071
2335 hours

    Treehugger paced along the length of her step-van.  On her umpteenth lap to the van's rear, she stopped.  "You know, Charles, you could look more concerned."

14 Aug 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 19 - Commentary

Please read the chapter first.  Spoilers, sweeties.

Time for a different type of shadowrun, an extraction.  Sometimes the extraction is of someone willing to leave the corporation, in which case security may have orders to shoot the hostage.  It's a scorched Earth approach, but it may be less of a hit on the profit margin for a corporation to deny anyone the use of the extracted employee than to lose the employee and have a rival gain him.  That course on engineering economics is useful in hobbies, too, even if it means being very cynical.  Then again, Shadowrun is set in a cyberpunk dystopia; cynicism is part and parcel of the setting.

For the crew, the extraction is of an unwilling participant, one who may or may not be aware of trouble coming.  With the added deadline imposed by Fraulein Johnson, the crew has little time to set up proper escape routes, do reasonable reconnaissance, or even have a multiple entry and exit plans.  It's also personal.  In a game, breaking in and out depends on what the players prefer.  Some groups like gunplay and explosions; others prefer to remain subtle until things go bad before hauling out the heavy artillery.  The crew, though, works best through stealth, so they're going to use what they have.

The Murdered Mime is another location from the Seattle Sourcebook.  It may feel like namedropping, but the use of canon locations does two things.  First, it lets me tie the story into the published setting.  I wanted the story to be a Shadowrun tie-in.  Second, it lets me not have to come up with my own names.  One of the toughest parts of writing is coming up with a decent name for a store, restaurant, bar, or band.  For NaNoWriMo 2011, I was using my own setting, resulting in a ship called the Duchess Melisande and bars called The Penguin's Saloon and The Double Entendre.  Even in By the Numbers, I'm stretching for a decent name.  Anarchy's Cheerleaders were named after the cheerleaders in "Weird Al" Yankovic's video for "Smells Like Nirvana".  I should have gone with a DJ instead, though.  Live music is slightlier risky than a guy with a playlist of hits.

The scene at the club was based mostly on what I've seen in movies.  Loud music, friends gathering to unwind after a long work week, men and women hitting on each other, strobing lights.  The use of the 2070s electronics is an extrapolation of using smartphones today.  Can't hear someone?  Text them.  Want to be subtle when trying to get someone's attention?  Ping them.  The electronics don't replace social interaction; it just gets used to help get noticed.  Today, electronic flirting is in its infancy, being a reflection of face-to-face interaction with the awkwardness and rudeness of being faceless behind a screen.  Over sixty years, though, with commlinks, near ubiquitous wireless connections, programs to facilitate networking, and the general human desire for fellow contact, a new paradigm of dating and hooking up will evolve to take into account new ways to connect with members of the appropriate sex.

Of course, Numbers has an advantage.  First, she has an immediate goal, concrete and achievable.  Second, she has her bioware pheromones.  Joss, who is already on the prowl, doesn't stand a chance.  Numbers adds a few subtle details.  Sybrespace, another club from the first edition Seattle Sourcebook, is a known decker*/hacker hangout in the shadow of the Aztechnology Pyramid.  Aztech, as I may have mentioned previously, has a rep in the shadows of being one of the nastiest corporations around, with rumours of human sacrifice in the higher echelons.  Numbers is presenting herself as forbidden fruit, the best kind of fruit.  Joss never had a chance.

Cubicle hotels like the Rent & Rest already exist in Japan.  They're no-frills, providing a bed, a TV, and possibly wifi for travellers who don't need much more than a place to sleep.  Fast forward in the Shadowrun setting, and people outside the law can find a new purpose for them - temporary hideouts, locations for drops, and convenient places to drop off an apparently drunk mark.  Needing Joss to appear drunk is why the crew had Oswald hit him with a stun bolt instead of having Charles smack him with a stun-stick.  Bumps and bruises are harder to explain when waking up in a coffin hotel than waking up with a hangover.  Numbers' message will help reinforce the idea that Joss was drunk instead of mugged.  Again, with her pheromones going, the clerk isn't going to remember many details other than a hot, stacked redhead named Kimberly left a wink for a visitor.

With Tillman's ID modified for Oswald, the mage and the hacker play out what Joss would have done - bring Numbers inside the Evo facility to have a romp, but without the romp.  They're relying a lot on Numbers and her social abilities.  At this point, she's just oozing sex.  Everyone's distracted, and since the bioware can't distinguish between friends and foes, that includes Oz.  Once in Tillman's apartment, Oswald's experience comes to the fore.  Bra flinging 101 - no one cares where the bra goes the moment it's off.

The core mission inside Evo is to find the rep who was at the meeting earlier in the story.  Numbers, having hacked Tillman's commlink already, can use his access level to get to the employee directory and get Ms Evo's address.  She doesn't need admin access for a public database, just user rights from someone authorized, like an employee.  That's a key item for hackers to remember in-game; a hacker doesn't always need full admin access.  The higher the access, the tougher the security, and user access can still get to critical data with the right user.  From the IT side, the goal is to make sure that critical data can only be reached by the people who need access.  That balance between security and user access is why network admins caffeinate during the day and drink at night.

Ms Evo is ready.  Paranoia is a perfectly reasonable response when you know someone is after you.  The Colt M23 is from the fourth edition sourcebook, Arsenal, and is a descendant of the M-16.  Numbers does make a good point; shadowrunners are independant contractors and can take higher bids.  She wasn't going to, but placing the idea out there had Ms Evo think a bit.  Think long enough for Oswald to get off another stun bolt.

The removal of the dwarf's clothing was to deal with radio frequency ID, or RFID, trackers.  Annoying today, in the 2070s, RFIDs get attached to almost everything, including clothes.  In part, it's another security measure.  If an RFID belonging to a shirt made by an Ares subsidiary appears in an area where no one is supposed to be, security is alerted and sent to investigate.  At the same time, knowing what key personnel are wearing means that it's easier to track their movement and notice when they're not where they're supposed to be.  Ms Evo falls into the latter category.  Security might get suspicious if an RFID signal moves down a hallway when no one can be seen in it.

Oswald is taxing his magical skills.  After a stun bolt to put down the dwarf, he's casting and sustaining three invisibility spells.  He's not going to be able to do much beyond carry the bag and walk.  Magic is an equilizer in teh Sixth World, but it has a price.  There's only so much a mage can do at any given point.  Most spells do take a toll on the caster, with some exceptions**.  Oz is good at what he does, but he's at his limit.

Tomorrow, now that they have what they broke in for, Numbers and Oswald now have to get out.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Beverly Hillbillies.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Aladdin.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

* First edition Shadowrun called the console cowboys deckers, after the cyberdecks they punched to break into corporate systems.
** The exceptions tend to be single sense illusions that only need to interact with the human mind of a single target.  Hot Potato, which causes the feeling that metal is too hot to hold, is such a spell.

12 Aug 2014

Fun With Traveller - The Mercenary Marine

Working on a few ideas, and character generation helps get the vagaries to solidify.  One idea I keep meaning to try is a multiple level story about a mercenary unit, looking at the things from three points of view - the high command level, the field command level, and the grunts in the field.  To see how things could go, I'll use Traveller Book 4: Mercenary.  I could use Vamsi Ng, but she's more of a story of a person who regretted her commission than anything else.  Vamsi wants back in the field.  While being a mercenary would work, that pesky rank of Major General is in the way.

I will use the house rule from last time, that is, I'll try to reach seven terms instead of stopping at five, though if a mishap or even just rolling too low to advance occurs on or after the fifth term happens, I'll stop then, unless the character isn't a mercenary yet.

First up, the character.  Once again, in the Spinward Marches sector of the Third Imperium.  This time around, I want someone from a world that's at most Early Stellar, a more typical tech level in the Marches.  Adabicci, in the Lunion subsector, fits, plus a possible tie to Philomena.  Adabicci has no world codes, which can happen in the Traveller world creation but is rare, but does have an Imperial Naval Base, which can help.
Name: Sonja Nolan
Species: Human (Solomani/Vilani mix)
Homeworld: Adabicci/Lunion (A57189B-B, Naval Base)
Tip of the hat to Seventh Sanctum and the name generator for Sonja's last name.  Naming can be tough at times.  Next up, the rolls for the characteristics.  I got, in order, 5, 5, 7, 9, 12, and another 9.  Since Adabicci has a Naval Base, I want to see if Sonja gets into the Imperial Marine Corps, a switch from both Cuddy and Vamsi.  Marines need Endurance and Education to survive and to be promoted.  Social Standing helps with commissions, but becoming an officer may not be high on Sonja's agenda.
  Str 9/+1
  Dex 9/+1
  End 12/+2
  Int 5/-1
  Edu 7/+0
  Soc 5/-1
Sonja's healthy, athletic, has an average education but isn't as bright as the average person and comes from a seemier side of Adabicci.  She gets three background skills, and since Adabicci has no trade code, she has no required choices.  Sonja picks up Computer, Drive, and Trade.  The last skill is used for creating items, and can have specializations such as Biologicals and Cooking.  Next up, enlistment.  To become a Marine, Sonja needs to make an Endurance check of 6 or higher.  Her roll is 9, modified to 11, and the Imperial Marine Corps welcomes its new recruit with open arms.

As always, the first term starts with basic training.  Sonja gets trained in Athletics, Battle Dress, Tactics, Heavy Weapons, Gun Combat, and Stealth.  As a Marine, she also gets either Melee (blade) or Gun Combat (any) at 1.  She then needs to choose a specialization, and opts for Ground Assault, the Marines who take beachheads after being shot down from orbit.  From there, she takes her first skill roll on the Ground Assault table, getting more training in the use of Battle Dress, the Marine Corps' powered armour.  To survive the term, Sonja needs to make an Endurance check of 7 over better; the roll is 10, modified to 12.  No problem, and this lets her roll on the Events Table.  Book 4 introduced extended tables for the Army and Marine careers, so I'll use that.  The d66 roll is 65, assigned to the security staff of a space station, letting her take Zero-G as a skill.  Nice gig for a first term, with the implication that she spent time outside the station in her battle dress.  The commission roll is a 7, modified to 6, missing the 8+ needed.  Sonja tries for a promotion, needing 5 or better on an Education check.  The roll total is 8, thus Sonja makes Lance Corporal.  The promotion gets Gun Combat (any) 1 and another skill roll, taken on the Personal Development table, resulting in +1 to Strength.

The second term looks good for Lance Corporal Nolan.  She's had a nice simple position already but she wants to see some real action.  The first skill roll is taken on the Ground Assault table, getting Sonja more Heavy Weapons training.  She takes Man-Portable Artillery so she can fire the heavy plasma and fusion weapons the Imperial Marine Corps is known for.  The survival roll is 5, modified to 7, just enough to continue.  The event this time is 45, a Wartime Event.  Similar to the core rulebook's Life Events, the Wartime Events covers what happens on the battlefield.  Sonja rolls 8, Weapons Cache, letting her choose an armour, weapon, or combat implant when she musters out of the Marines.  With a shiny new toy in her possession, Sonja aims for a promotion, rolling 8.  Corporal Nolan takes a look at her other new shiny, a new rank insignia, before rolling on the Service Skills table and getting Athletics.

Term three, Corporal Nolan is still a Marine.  Her firsl skill roll is again on the Ground Assault table, getting Battle Dress again.  The survival roll is 4, modified to 6, a Mishap.  Rolling on the new Mishap table gets 8, Injured.  The roll on the Injury Table is 6, lightly injured.  Something is up; a light injury isn't enough to force someone out, unless there's something else afoot.  Still, Sonja has to muster out.  With two complete terms and being rank 2, she gets three rolls on the Mustering Out Tables.  Her first is on the Cash table, something to keep her going between careers.  The roll is 6, for Cr30 000.  The other rolls are on the Other Benefits Table.  With 3 and 4, she gets +1 to Education and a weapon.  At this point, Sonja declares she found a Laser Rifle in the cache, and gets a +1 to her Energy Rifles skill.

In the fourth term, Sonja still wants to see action.  She looks through job listings and finds a few mercenary listings.  The Striker career, in Book 4, has two ways to enlist.  The first is an Endurance check, requiring 6 or better.  The second is to have one term in a previous military career.  With her three terms, including the disastrous one, in the Marine Corps, the mercenary company has no problems welcoming her, albeit as a recruit.  Sonja needs to go through basic training again, but this time, she just gets checked through after the company teaches her the basics of Explosives.  She chooses to be a Rifleman, and takes her first skill roll on that table, getting Recon.  The survival roll is based on Endurance, needing 6 or better.  Sonja rolls 5, modified to 7, squeaking by.  The event roll is 33, a Life Event.  The roll on that table is 3, a birth or death.  Sonja has no allies or contacts, and it'd be odd if she died, so either she gave birth, or a family member either produced a child or has died.  I'll put this choice on the back burner for now.  Next, the roll for promotion; Sonja gets a 6, modified to 8 by her Endurance, more than the 5 or better needed.  As a Trooper, Sonja gets Gun Combat (any) at 1.  She chooses to specialize with Shotguns this time.  At this point, Sonja has more skill levels than Cuddy got, but he put all of his into one specialization.  Sonja also gets a skill roll, which she takes on the Advanced Education table, getting Flyer (Grav).  With the fourth term coming to a close, Sonja has to check for aging effects.  As long as she rolls 1 or higher, she has no problems; her roll, modified by terms served, is 6.

Term five looms.  Trooper Nolan is ready.  Her first skill roll is again on the Rifleman table, getting  Survival.  That leads to the survival roll, again modified by Sonja's Endurance; the roll is 8, more than enough.  The event table roll is 24, Sonja needs to be the unit's spokesman to deny criminal allegations.  She needs to make a Diplomat skill check of 8 or better.  Too bad Sonja's version of diplomacy is to shoot the negotiator.  Her Diplomat check, modified by Education and the -3 untrained penalty, is 3.  Sonja now has a rival spreading baseless rumours about her and her unit.  However, Sonja's career can continue as she now checks for promotion; her roll is 10 total, and she becomes Strike Specialist Nolan.  The promotion comes with Gun Combat (any) 1 or Heavy Weapons (any) 1; again, she can't add the skill level to an existing rating.  Sonja grabs Heavy Weapons (Launchers) 1.  The skill roll is taken on the Personal Development table; Sonja gets Survival again.  At this rate, put Sonja in Battle Dress, drop her in the wilderness, and she'll take the target out single-handedly.  Before that can happen, she needs to check for aging effects again; the roll is 3, so she's safe for now.

The sixth term dawns as Sonja remains in the mercenary company.  At 38, Sonja is not ready to slow down.  Her first skill roll is taken again on the Rifleman table, getting Recon.  The survival roll totals 7, squeaking by on the strength of her Endurance.  The event roll is 45, a Wartime Event.  Rolling on that table gets 4, a double-cross as a member of the company switches sides.  The promotion roll is 8, another promotion for Sonja.  The resulting skill roll is taken on the Advanced Education table, getting Weapon Engineering (any).  Sonja picks the Energy Weapons specialty for the skill.  The aging check is 2, close again, but still no effect.

Strike Leader Sonja Nolan enters her seventh term, her fourth as a mercenary.  The first skill roll is taken under Personal Development this time, getting +1 to her Dexterity.  Could be handy when the aging effects are rolled.  Sonja checks her survival, and gets a total of 11, no problem.  The event roll is 55, the mercenary ticket doesn't go the way it should have, and Sonja needs to make an Intelligence check of 8 or more to get either Instruction of Jack of All Trades.  Sonja rolls 7, modified to 6 by her Int mod, and gets neither.  She checks for a promotion, and rolls a total of 6.  That's enough to be promoted to Unit Leader and get Recruiting as a skill, but not enough to continue as a Striker.  At age 46, the company feels that Sonja's getting too old to be in the field and lets her go.  The aging check is 1, even closer than last term.  Maybe the company's command is right?

Sonja now musters out of her company after four successful terms.  She gets four rolls from terms served plus two more for rank achieved.  Sonja can only roll twice on the Cash Table, so she does so now, getting snake eyes, and Cr10 000 total.  Because she was a mercenary, she has no retirement pay, so the Cr40 000 she has needs to last her long enough to find work.  The remaining four rolls, 2, 6, 4, and 6 again get her, in order, +1 Dexterity, a combat implant, a gun, and another implant.  As before, Sonja can't take a plasma gun or a fusion gun; they're heavy weapons and very illegal to own.  However, since she already has a laser rifle, Sonja can boost her Energy Rifles skill.  For the combat implant, Sonja chooses to take Dexterity Enhancement twice, allowing her to take a higher tech level implant that results in +2 to Dexterity.

Mercenary adds a new table for mustering out, to make up for the lack of retirement pay and for not providing a ship like the Scout Service does.  Sonja gets one roll for each term after the fourth on the table.  She rolls 7, 7, and 11.  The two sevens result in old debts being paid back, Cr5000 each.  The eleven, though, gets Sonja a choice of vehicle that was "lost in transit", either an Air/Raft or a Ship's Boat.  Since Sonja doesn't have the Pilot skill, she takes the Air/Raft, an open-topped grav vehicle that seats four.  Looks like someone in the motor pool doesn't care much that Sonya was let go the way she was.

For fun, I'm going to refer to the Traveller 5 core rules, aka the Big Black Book, and randomly generate the units Sonja served in.  First, the Imperial unit, starting with the flux, or d6-d6 roll.  The result is -3, the <City> Ortillery Regiment.  Um, no, that doesn't fit with Sonja's career in the Marines.  Next roll is -5, the Joint <World> Lift Infantry Regiment.  That's better.  For the mercenary unit, the roll is -1, the <three-digit number> Lift Cavalry Squadron.  Filling things out, Sonja enlisted with the Imperial Marine Corps and was assigned to the Joint Adabicci Lift Infantry Regiment.  When she was let go, she was recruited by the 725th Lift Cavalry Squadron, a mercenary unit based in the Spinward Marches.

Former Imperial Marine Corps Corporal Sonja Nolan, a former unit leader with the mercenary 725th, is now on her own, filled with expensive technology, and only possessing skills suitable for military work.

Sonja's character sheet:
Name: Sonja Nolan
Age: 46
Species: Human (Solomani/Vilani mix)
Homeworld: Adabicci/Lunion (A57189B-B, Naval Base)
Rank: Corporal/Unit Leader

  Str 10/+1
  Dex 11(13)/+1(+2)
  End 12/+2
  Int 5/-1
  Edu 8/+0
  Soc 5/-1

  Athletics 0
    Endurance 1
  Battle Dress 2
  Computer 0
  Drive 0
  Explosives 0
  Flyer 0
    Grav 1
  Gun Combat 0
    Energy Rifles 3
    Shotguns 1
    Slug Rifles 1
  Heavy Weapons 0
    Launchers 1
    Man-Portable Artillery 1
  Recon 2
  Stealth 0
  Survival 2
  Tactics 0
  Trade 0
  Weapon Engineering 0
    Energy Weapons 1
  Zero-G 1

Career - Marine/Ground Assault; 4th to Striker/Rifleman
Term 1: Assigned to space station security.  Promoted.
Term 2: Wartime Event: Discovered a weapons cache.  Promoted.
Term 3: Mishap: Lightly injured.
Term 4: Life Event: Birth/Death.  Promoted.
Term 5: Forced to be spokesperson to defend against criminal allegations, but failed.  Promoted.
Term 6: Wartime Event: Double-cross.  Promoted
Term 7: Ticket does not go as advertised.  Promoted, but cannot continue.

Cr 50 000
Retirement Pay:

  One spreading baseless rumours.
  Ex-company-mate turned traitor

  Dexterity Enhancement/TL12 (+2 Dex)

  Laser Rifle
As always, if you wind up playing this character, let me know how it goes.

8 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 19

Break and Extract

(Mild language warning in effect)
Shadowrun © 2013 The Topps Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Shadowrun and Matrix are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of The Topps Company, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries. Catalyst Game Labs and the Catalyst Game Labs logo are trademarks of InMediaRes Productions, LLC.
Friday, April 23, 2071
2107 hours

    Numbers watched the crowd as it it milled around the Murdered Mime.  Anarchy's Cheerleaders, an up and coming band, wailed on the stage, drowning out conversation.  As she nursed her glass of wine, she flipped through the messages popping up on her AR contacts.  She ignored the ads for the brands of alcohol sold at the nightclub, sent teasing messages back to the people propositioning her, and shot down several blatant attempts at getting into her panties.  Her software agent flashed a green light in the lower corner of her vision; her mark had arrived.  Numbers scanned the entrance.  The Evo employee she waited for walked in, alone.

7 Aug 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 18 - Commentary

Welcome back.  As always, please read the chapter first.

Chapter 18 covered even more legwork.  Investigation should be a part of any shadowrun; the more the crew knows, the less likely there will be a nasty surprise waiting for them.  Numbers leads off.  Her paranoia is still strong, but is it really paranoia when someone is out to get her?  Being the hacker of the crew, Numbers covers the Matrix for her research, using Jackpoint as her starting point.  Jackpoint is also from the setting, this time from the fourth edition.  The site is invite only, in-universe, and Fastjack gets particular about who gets in.  Slamm-O, Numbers' contact, is one of the invited, and, for the sake of the story, vouched for Numbers.  He also does have a love life, revealed over the fourth edition's supplement.

The discussion of Seattle's future is a plot point in the game.  When there's uncertainty over the future of the city's relationship with the rest of the United Canadian and American States (UCAS), there's room for enterprising outsiders to make a bit of cash.  Joey D was one of the candidates for Governor of the Metroplex of Seattle and was in favour of turning the region into an independant city state.  Brackhaven won, though, with the strength of several corporations backing his warchest.  Seattle remains as the lone UCAS outpost surrounded by a potentially hostile nation, which makes residents who pay attention nervous.  There's not many of that type of resident, though.

The choice of music Numbers has is Europop, something sort of exists today.  The big question, in a future where there is no America, is there still an American culture to export?  Even today, it's possible for a non-American to reach the top of American music charts.  PSY did it with "Gangnam Style", and Canadians have slipped in many times.  The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were part of the British Invasion in the 60s.  So, Numbers listening to a Czech pop band isn't unusual.  Prompting that sort of choice was my listening habits.  The bulk of my music collection falls under three categories: "Weird Al" Yankovic, The Arrogant Worms, or instrumentals.  The rest is an eclectic mix that includes French Canadian performers like Mylene Farmer and Marc Drouin and other foreign language singers, with a few English-language CDs tossed in.  The reason may stem back to high school English.  I already wrote about some of the issues I had with the class, but along with learning to hate writing, I learned to hate poetry, and songs are poetry with music.  Instrumentals and foreign language songs let me listen to music without having to deal with the words.

Moving on, Charles meets with Mr. Macro again.  Macro has ties with the Mafia, and the Mafia isn't happy about people shooting up one of their front businesses.  Charles doesn't have physical evidence about the hitters getting what was coming to them, but passing along the info to Macro will get him brownie points for future considerations.  The new job offer is life as a shadowrunner; you're only as good as your last job.  More work, more money for expenses, and a better rep on the street.

Oswald, once again, is dealing with the ladies.  This was deliberate and set up in previous chapters.  If anyone is surprised that Oz and Nabi are having dinner together, it's not my fault.  The dinner is less a date as it is a chance for Oz to get info from Nabi and Nabi repaying him for rescuing her daughter.  Sometimes, the best payment isn't in money.  I also wanted to show a runner off duty, as it were.  Characters aren't always on a job.

Treehugger starts her scene in an argument.  Two-Tone does have a point - his garage was shot up and the door broken.  This time, the negotiations are to get Treehugger back on her contact's good side.  Contacts do need to be kept happy; a happy contact will be more willing to go out of his or her way to do something for a character.  Works in real life, too.  Be nice to the staff of your favourite place.

After the dinner, Oswald pays a visit to Numbers.  He's well aware of the hacker's problems at this point.  The scene is meant to show off both characters and their relationship.  Numbers finally reaches her break point.  All through the story, she maintained a professional demeanor, remaining calm even when Nabi threatened to shoot herself.  The possibility that she has to return to Saeder-Krupp HQ for further interrogation and who knows what happens afterward was enough to break through Numbers' resolve.  Oswald being there let her give herself permission to have the breakdown.

The scene with Charles introduces the other long-time character idea I've had for the game.  While Skater was tied to a specific event in the game's history, Jade was based on an idea, a hermetic mage with healing magic, using the Former Company Mage archetype from the first edition core book.  Normally, it's shamans who are more attuned to healing magic.  Right away, Jade was different.  Her goal was to open up her own street clinic and, thanks to time passing and me needing some info on Doc Wagon, I get to let her obtain the goal.  By pulling her into the story, I have yet another supporting character with backstory.  Makes the setting feel a little more vibrant.

I realized at some point that I still had too many suspects.  The remainder of the chapter works to eliminate as many as possible.  I removed Doc Wagon, then had to put them back, so Sun Jung's finger pointing was needed.  I don't like using something that blatant, but without her, there'd be several more chapters of investigation when it was time to evolve the job into the involuntary extraction.  However, the added bit with Numbers turning her charms on the Doc Wagon representative added to the word count, so it wasn't a loss.

Tomorrow, the involuntary extraction.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, The Dukes of Hazzard.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, The Beverly Hillbillies.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation.

1 Aug 2014

By the Numbers - Chapter 18

Shadow Information

(Language warning in effect)
Shadowrun © 2013 The Topps Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Shadowrun and Matrix are registered trademarks and/or trademarks of The Topps Company, Inc., in the United States and/or other countries. Catalyst Game Labs and the Catalyst Game Labs logo are trademarks of InMediaRes Productions, LLC.
Tuesday, April 21, 2071
1209 hours

    Numbers arrived back at her apartment building shortly after noon.  She walked past the main door as she hacked the building's security camera.  The hacker found the recordings for the past few days and downloaded a copy into her commlink.  She continued to a Koffee Shop around the corner.  The hacker paid for her soykaf, then sat down to watch the comings and goings of the building's tenants and visitors.

    Satisfied that neither Wulfe nor any of his people had been to the apartment, Numbers finished her drink and returned home.  As she entered her apartment, she verified with her home node that no one had tried to enter.  Numbers set the security system to its highest setting, then stretched out on her couch.  She put some soft Europop music on and let her hair change colour with the tempo of the songs.