To Protect And To Serve: Report of Black Hearts #4

The agents (team Protect):

  • Doll, a dwarven lady with a love for French bread
  • Visage, a human smoothtalker with a love for French profanities
  • Zen, a human summoner with a love for teeth

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To go to an anti-terrorism conference and protect Agatha Lancer against assassins.

The agents (team Serve):

  • Templar, a human sneaky shifter with slick fingers
  • Bluepin, a human decker who handles his metadata well but has the worst luck
  • Bubbles, an elven spying recon eye there to watch everyone’s back, literally

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To go to an anti-terrorism conference, steal paydata from Victor Mondreau and then assassinate him.

Both teams, minus Bubbles, received invitations from the Argos company for jobs of various professions, each person being offered something fitting their fake licenses. Most realized the sender was this month’s codephrase, except Doll who needed a ‘friendly’ mailed reminder. Each agent went to their local Argos office to pick up their briefing with, as always, their advance and their datachip with instructions.

Team Protect received a curious briefing, with an exasperated Mr. Smith vocally telling his technical staff that no, the datachips should NOT be rigged to self-destruct rather than self-erase. Inbetween his complaints he delivered his instructions. The team was to attend the Joint UCAS-CAS Anti-Terrorism (JUCAT) Conference in Norfolk, there they were to protect sociology professor Agatha Lancer against likely assassination attempts, caused by her vocal opposition against terrorist groups.

Team Serve lucked out that their briefing was made second, so no self-destruct suggestions were debated in their briefing. They were informed that they were asked to attend the JUCAT Conference in Norfolk, where they had to obtain paydata owned by Victor Mondreau. Once the paydata was confirmed, they were to assassinate Mondreau. Since this time there was no contact on site, team Serve also received a decent bit of intel on their target.

Each team member took the plane to Norfolk, while also wondering about what all to bring. Licenses checked out fine, though Doll sent her explosives on another plane instead. As for Visage, the proud creature of comfort upgrades his plane ticket because if one is to travel around the country stuck in a big metal tube, one might as well do so in style!

The JUCAT Conference schedule, spanning 3 days from wednesday to friday, was quite simple. On thursday and friday there would be readings during the day, interrupted for a lunch in the afternoon. On these days there also would be a dinner available. On wednesday and thursday there would also be cocktail parties. Important for the teams was that on friday the last two readings would be from Lancer and Mondreau.

Lancer’s lecture would be about that the UCAS and the CAS should be wary of cartels sponsoring terroristic organisations to waste government resources, all so their drugtrades could do better. To counter this, she believed the countries should share more intelligence.

Mondreau, on the other hand, wanted to argue that the Intelligence Agencies should decentralize, split up more in a cell-structure. This because otherwise turncoats could do massive damage by leaking intel, not to mention that politics could result in one party leaking intel on another party’s agents. In effect he was arguing the opposite of Lancer, and his panel would be the closing one of the conference before the last supper.

On the plane Bluepin browsed the Matrix for intel on Mondreau and shared the intel with his teammates. As it turned out, their target was a sociologist who had a long history of arguing against the centralisation of intelligence services. Also a blogger who loved sharing his talks, meals and more. To the trained eye it appeared a sham, where even Mondreau’s well-covered peanut allergy seemed phony.

Team Serve arrived in the afternoon and first went to deposit their luggage at the hotel. In their rooms they found some extra tools of the trade, namely several toxins to pick from to either inconvene Mondreau, slowly kill him or take him out real fast. The killers were injection poisons, while inconvening here meant a contact-poison that would cause a severe pseudo-allergic reaction. A perfect counter to someone pseudo-allergic. The final tool they received was a maglock passkey copier, quite useful in a modern hotel.

A bit after five team Serve left for the conference building, checking out its security and quickly reaching the conclusion that unfortunately sneaking in covertly was not an option. Meanwhile team Protect arrived, dropped their stuff in the car and went back into the airport to pick up Lancer.

When the team walked up to Lancer they could tell she knew who they were. Another thing they noticed was two likely-assassins observing them from a distance. The team immediately jumped into action with Visage leading Lancer out, Zen quickly making Lancer invisible and Doll moving to head off the assassins.

Needless to say, casting magic in a crowded Airport is not the best way to not draw attention. As people voiced their shock, security immediately moved to surround Zen while everyone else scrammed. During this Doll managed to catch up to an assassin, whose response was a rather Cold-War-like cyanide pill in their teeth. As the assassin started foaming Doll quickly slipped into the crowd and got out of dodge fast.

Eventually Zen managed to convince security he didn’t cast anything harmful and was let off with a severe warning. Visage and Lancer made it to the car just fine, but Doll had to run back to actually pick up the lady’s luggage. Then they headed for the hotel and, to avoid any room-rigging by would-be assassins, immediately fiercely complained their way into better rooms.

When they hit their new room, the first thing Zen did was cast Extended Detect Enemies on Lancer so she’d be able to notice enemies coming. The second thing he did was summon an Air Spirit to stand guard, after which he went to check out the convention hall for anything and anyone suspicious, only noticing Private Eyes in disguise that were pickpocketing people. Meanwhile, the first thing Lancer did was raid the minibar since Uncle Sam was now paying the bill.

In the evening both teams visited the cocktail party, sitting out a dull introduction speech and then jumping into drinks. Team Serve kept an eye on Mondreau, who was accompanied by ‘friends’ , and played the waiting game while team Protect played the ‘listening to Lancer complain about Mondreau’ game. Things came to a head when Mondreau approached Lancer and started hassling her, which received both verbal and physical violence, in the form of Visage namecalling him in French and Doll grabbing a baguette to hit him with.

At this time Bluepin had started hacking Mondreau’s commlink and was failing miserably. Fortunately for him Mondreau was too busy being smacked around to notice his commlink alerting him to the attack, so Bluepin quickly pressed on and stole all the encrypted data from there. Unfortunately the data was a bust paydata-wise. Meanwhile Security decided to hold off on interfering so the fight could resolve itself, which it quickly did with Mondreau less bruised than his ego.

Afterwards a waiter walked up to Lancer and offered her a complimentary drink. The group realized he was an assassin and stealthily gestured for security to come. As the security guards took the assassin by the shoulders, Lancer finally paid enough attention to detect he was an enemy… Just in time for this one too to off himself by cyanide. As he lay writhing on the floor, rather upsetting the party and the carpet, Templar took the opportunity to swipe Mondreau’s keycard, copy it and put it back without anyone but Doll noticing.

Back at the hotel Bubbles joined team Serve, sent to give them aid by watching their backs and enemies with her drones. Everyone went to sleep while drones and a spirit stood guard inside the hotel rooms and, in one drone’s case, inside a vending machine. Thus ended an eventful first day.

Thursday morning Mondreau went for breakfast with his bodyguards, so Templar left the hotel, changed his looks by magic and returned a different person. He then snuck into Mondreau’s room with the copied keycard, after checking for traps of course and knowing exactly how to fake nobody had entered the room. Inside he noticed no suspicious electronics. One thing he did notice was a painting hanging slightly crooked. Giving it a push, and comparing it to one in their own hotel room, revealed that the painting likely had a small weight upsetting its balance.

A cautious inspection revealed a datachip hidden inside the painting. As he plugged it into his commlink, for Bluepin to hack, Bubbles warned them one of the bodyguards was returning. Bluepin checked the chip for traps, finding several protected files with Databombs on them. He tried to disarm the weakest but almost failed, scraping by with his teeth.

After this Bluepin did not dare try to disarm the others, so instead he corrupted another datachip and left it in the vending machines at the end of the corridor. Templar then left the room, switched the datachips and received a free Twix from a Fly-Spy, then planted the corrupted chip back in the painting. He left the room and set up the trapcard at the door to conceal his visit, getting into the elevator just as the bodyguard stepped out of it.

Team Serve then had the tough choice on what to do with the datachip. Bluepin did not dare risk it, so they called Mr. Smith and made arrangements to send it back home. Unfortunately all they had now was a file showing a bodyguard’s schedule, with the only thing of use being that a month from now he’d be protecting Daniella Mirando in the UCAS. Also Mondreau’s convention itinerary, including what questions he’d ask Lancer and what insults he’d throw her way to interrupt her speech. Not enough to be the paydata Team Serve needed and as such, until the datachip was succesfully decrypted they were not allowed to move on Mondreau…

At lunch security was in charge of the waitering due to people being afraid of poisoning attempts. And not normal security, no the elite security that normally was on standby… Needless to say this did not put them in a good mood. In the afternoon the only action was when a lecturer got confronted by his angry wife, who emptied his water pitcher in his face and stormed off. Team Serve did their best scouting for all their possible assassination chances, but unfortunately they were still on a red light.

During dinner Team Protect confronted the PIs they had noticed before, who revealed they were working independently. One had come to find proof the lecturer from before was cheating on his wife, which had been succesful. The other revealed she was there because the resort manager responsible for the convention grounds was suspected of embezzling. Unfortunately this interrogating left the atmosphere tense, which meant Visage had a hard time convincing staff to take his order.

At the cocktail party, Lancer got into a conversation about cartel politics with another guest, when the party was over they continued the conversation in her sitting room, while Doll stood guard outside. Just as Lancer’s guest was leaving, Doll spotted two men approaching that she realized were even more assassins. The assassins knew that she knew so they ran, chased by a combat monster unwilling to relent.

Bullets started firing and it was the gel ones managing to take out a combatant. The second assassin went out a window and started climbing down, which turned out to be a very bad call. Doll had no interest in letting him go so kept pulling the trigger until the guy got knocked off, falling to his death. A mere second later security arrived and put a gun to her head. Hours later she was finally released from questioning.

On friday Zen brought his Air Spirit with him to the convention. Given the repeated assassination attempts on Lancer, Security was ill-equipped to refuse. They did force the spirit to wear a coat and guest badge though.

Half an hour after lunch Team Serve finally received their green light. The paydata had checked out and Mondreau was now officially a dead man walking. Or rather, a dead man lounging at the lobby, ignoring the afternoon lectures and preparing for his coming confrontation with Lancer. Templar took his poisons and sat down at the bar nearby, waiting for a chance.

That chance arrived when Mondreau requested another bottle of water from the convention staff, who all were wearing gloves. Templar prepared his allergy-poison, putting some on his own glove. When the bartender readied the bottle, Templar took it and passed it on to the waitress with a charming smile, who then delivered the bottle to Mondreau.

Several minutes later the poison caused Mondreau to spasm heavily and, after a careful wait, Templar offered his medical assistance with an epi-pen. That the pen was loaded with poison and killed Mondreau in seconds, well how was he to know… With confusion and security approaching, he played his part then bowed out, leaving the aftermath to those poor sods.

Inside the presentation hall rumors started up about the incident, which came to a head once the presentation was over. Massive gossiping caused a bit of chaos, leaving an opening for the final assassin to exploit. With all his comrades dead or captured, he pulled out his metal-detection-proof HK Urban Combat and went for Lancer. Zen spotted him and managed to warn the rest, but it was the Air Spirit who got off the first shot. His attack came as a real shocker to the assassin, slowing him down enough for Doll to take him out before Lancer could even get shot at.

At this point the final bang, figuratively, came when a courier arrived with Doll’s explosives. As the chemsniffer alarms went blazing the security guards dogpiled the poor man.

When the talks continued, things were shaken and stirred but still standing. Lancer did great on her speech, and Mondreau’s speech was replaced by one coming from the convention organizer, holding a passionate speech about the dangers terrorists formed for this society, including the new organizations such as the Hand of Five and even the intra-corp Omega Dawn! Ignoring all that boring intel, Teams Protect and Serve just served their time in lecture hell, then went for dinner and their planerides home, another ten grand richer than before.

Raid Party: Report of Black Hearts #3.B

The agents:

  • Doll, a dwarven Street Samurai with a peculiar fashion sense
  • Templar, a human assassin who easily resorts to violence
  • Zen, a human magician who’s very happy with his temporary friends

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To raid a drug cartel’s safehouse, destroying all narcotics inside.

While walking through the streets of their home town, each agent received a specially crafted AR-commercial titled “You were/will be from Gandahar” that told them to buy the book Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar. Recognizing that as their code for this month, they headed to the bookstore noted in the message to pick up the book. The establishment owner was so happy to sell his favorite book, he promptly offered it to them for free, as well as inviting them in back for a chat about the book.

In the back, the agents received the first part of their mission briefing, as well as the ¥2000 standard advance. Their UCAS handler asked them to head to Paris (the one in Texas) to raid a Mirando-cartel safehouse, without being identified by either the cartel or Lone Star – and, of course, staying out of the latter’s hands. They would need to go to the gothic-themed Darling Violetta bar in Paris for further instructions. With their plane tickets in hand, booked on their CAS identities, the runners had half an hour to prepare before heading to the airport.

All three chose to travel relatively light – with Doll deciding, after a short consideration, that it might be a bad idea to bring her explosives in her carry-on bag. The SIN-checker had some problems; Templar got lucky, as he got flagged as a VIP and got to spend time in the VIP lounge. Doll and Zen were decidedly less so, with the systems showing some inconsistencies, resulting in a… detailed checkup. Rubber gloves were involved. In the end, however, everything got cleared up, and they all boarded the plane. Unfortunately for Templar, all in coach.

When they arrived in Paris, the agents decided to spruce up their costume a bit with local clothing, including a rather overpriced and over-everything cowboy hat for Doll. They headed over to the Darling Violetta and sat in a booth with Desert Wars playing, as the briefing said, and waited for their contact, the waitress Clara. When she dropped by their booth she gave them menus that covertly contained the rest of their briefing.

Like the initial briefing said, their target was a Mirando-cartel safehouse. The cartel managed to get a foothold in Texas, primarily through the sale of Tempo and Novacoke. Lone Star took notice, forcing the cartel to switch locations regularly. The current safehouse, however, had been in the same location for two months. Present there was a fairly large stash with plenty of security. A stash the UCAS wanted gone, with its guards all taken outh (dead or alive, at the team’s discretion). Specifically, the UCAS wanted it gone quick; Lone Star was planning a raid on the place in three days so it needed to be dealt with before then.

With Lone Star keeping their distance, as to not alert the cartel, there’d be an opening for the team to use but Lone Star would be on the scene in a heartbeat if an alarm went out. Again, not being identified was to be of the utmost importance. To that effect, the agents received odor-suppressing and DNA-destroying rollers and sprays at their hotel rooms. Their payment would consist of the credsticks and other loot found at the scene – with added payment if that turned out not to be enough.

After the briefing, Doll headed over to a nearby sports store – having an evening sale – to pick up some ski goggles and a rather oversized respirator, while Zen picked up some clothes in the Darling Violetta’s in-house store, already having a gas mask ready to hide his face. Meanwhile, Templar planned on using his own disguise skill and face-sculpting power to hide himself.

First, however, it was time to get some transportation and do some surveillance. Getting a car rental in Texas isn’t exactly hard, so they headed over to the nearest rental place. Templar used his CAS identity to rent a pickup and once off the lot Zen used an illusion to change the car’s color.

When they arrived at the address, they found an old 3-story house, with a single guard on the balcony, lazily looking out. The house had an alarm system, but it appeared to have been neglected and likely had been nonfunctional for a while, while Zen couldn’t detect any astral protection either.

The team decided not to stick around for too long, so after a quick discussion on possible avenues of attack, they decided to head over to the hotel and discuss a plan in a more discrete location.

On the ride back, however, a small insignificant hurdle quickly turned into a bigger one. A lonely Lone Star patrolman, down on his ticket quota for the week, noticed a blue pickup coming by with green listed on its registration – none of the agents had thought to alter the signal the rental is transmitting. Not a big deal – people forget to update their registration all the time – but hey, with a quiet night and it upping the quota, the cop went for a ticket.

The cop expected a routine stop and at first all goes well. Templar, behind the wheel, stopped the car once he sees the lights, and the cop, after a quick chat, mentioned the incorrect registration. Templar managed to get the cop in a friendly mood, and since it was a rental, the cop decided to just file the ticket with them, so the agents wouldn’t be bothered by it.

And then it all went to hell. Templar decided that a ticket for an incorrect car color would raise alarms with the rental company, so he figured the cop had to go. And so Templar stepped out of the car, then used his garrote on the poor innocent cop, to lethal effect.

In full view of the camera in the cop car.

That was broadcasting the signal to the station.

The party quickly realized what trouble they got themselves into, and acted with haste. As the sirens started to flare up in the distance, they put the unfortunate officer in his car, and send it careening down the road.

Where it promptly ran into a car with a family inside.

Luckily for our murderous agents, they were in a quiet part of town in an off-road vehicle, and they managed to escape the cops long enough for Zen to remember he had just the spell for this: he switched the car’s signal with a random parked car, throwing the cops off their scent just long enough for them to dump the car and get out of dodge.

After regrouping in the middle of the night back at the hotel, they decided to call it a night – they still had a day to finish the mission.

They woke up to the sound of the news, with a big story about a heroic cop brutally murdered last night, and the family of four at the scene, the parents in critical condition and the young boy killed as the murderers turned the car into innocent bystanders.

Turning off the depressing news, they decided to skip the whole car-hiring scheme and go to the location by bus. Their plan was to do a quick sweep under the cover of invisibility provided by Zen, who would send a high-force spirit along while staying on the lookout outside.

Templar, Doll and the spirit entered through a window on the second floor, thanks to Templar’s Wall Walking. Unfortunately, Doll managed to make a little more noise than she had planned, causing one of the thugs inside to check out the noise. The poor thug, alone and facing two hardened and invisible killers, didn’t stand a chance – except for being able to make enough noise to alert his comrades. The big puddle of blood in the hall didn’t help either.

Three more guards came looking and a gunfight broke out. The first few guards were still unready, however, with them just coming from their GTA18 game. As a result the three invisible assailants – especially the spirit – easily ripped through the thugs. Quickly securing the second floor, taking all narcotics and credsticks they could find, the team headed back to the stairs to take the other floors, with Templar on point.

Then a complication reared its ugly head, in the form of a grenade bouncing down the stairs. Templar quickly dove behind a wall, cushioning most of the blast – though he still managed to get a decent ding from all the shrapnel flying around. On top of that, if no one was alerted yet, the whole neighborhood now knew what was going on, so it wouldn’t take long for the first officers to arrive.

Our agents were on the ball, however, and after a short but intense firefight – where they got away with only Doll taking a glancing blow – they split up, with Templar going downstairs and Doll taking the spirit upstairs. Templar issued an intimidating threat to the remaining thugs, enough to make one of them attempt to leave – although he was quickly shot by one of his companions.

Still invisible, and still trained killers, the two agents quickly took out the remaining, demoralized guards. Each went through their floor fast, taking any drugs and money – thankfully hidden in plain sight. Doll did find a small problem on the top floor, in one of the bedrooms – the thugs had a lady friend over for a visit, and she was in the bed, high and out of her mind from fear. Luckily for Doll, her invisibility held up, and she quickly went to the other rooms, leaving the civilian behind.

Another thing Doll noticed was hidden cameras, but since they were disguised and unrecognizable there was nothing to worry about. So the team gathered up all the narcotics scattered throughout the building and brought them to the basement, where they found the main stash. The team prepared to set fire to it all, with just enough time to spare to get out before the cops would arrive.

Which is when the spirit asked them, if they were going to destroy this all, why didn’t they pick up the stuff in the room with the nice lady. Oops, turned out Doll missed that part after being distracted by all the screaming.

So the team went for plan B and decided to blow it all up. With Doll being an expert in architecture, and Templar knowing enough about it to be able to give a hand, they easily found a weak spot for the whole building to blow the whole thing up. Being a demolition expert has their use occasionally. Setting the timer and running for it, while Zen started erasing his signature, they managed to get away from the exploding building just in time to avoid the eyes of the arriving police.

Once back safe and sound, Templar got a good chewing out for blowing his CAS SIN – the police easily tracking down the car rental – but he (barely) managed to talk himself out of taking a pay cut for the mess that their handler had to clean up now.

The narcotics destroyed and the guards all resting in pieces, and with innocents as collateral damage in the single digits, the mission was declared a success and our agents went home content.

Soft Talks: Report of Black Hearts #3.A

The agents:

  • Bubbles, a neon-green elven lady that loves her blood spatters
  • Scottie, a tall human that always packs the biggest gun
  • Visage, a male NAN human who’s a social creature of (dis)comfort

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To negotiate a deal with the Artosa cartel in the fight against the Mirando cartel

While walking through the streets of their home town, each agent received a specially crafted AR-commercial titled “You were/will be from Gandahar” that told them to buy the book Les Hommes-machines contre Gandahar. Surprised physical bookstores still existed but recognizing that as their code for this month, they headed to the bookstore noted in the message to pick up the book. After that they found secluded corners to start watching their briefing.

Their job was to go to Colombia, travel to Bogotá and get off at a supply stop a few hours before that final destination. There they were to meet with their local contact Black Hawk, who would help them broker a deal with the Artosa cartel. On this trip they were to only use the third fake identity the UCAS government had supplied them with, which varied for each but was pointedly neither CAS nor UCAS.

After picking up their belongings, and in Scottie’s case hiring his Coyote contact to smuggle guns and arms across the Spanish border, the team members went for their respective airplanes. With Visage the security system ended up taking a while but eventually all were cleared and a boring flight began.

In Colombia Visage joined Bubbles, who of course had brought her car and drone army. Scottie, on the other hand, was utterly paranoid about the rigger after the things she had put him through with the bike last time, so he rented a van without rigger interface and trailed behind the other two.

During their lengthy drive through the jungle, passing the occasional supply stop, at one point Bubbles received a headsup from her car that there were people ahead. She and Visage then realized there was a checkpoint ahead that was manned by rebels, and decided to first talk things out. After some talking and assuring the locals they weren’t really fond of Aztlan, plus bribing them with some beers, the two were allowed to pass without any form of extortion.

Since Bubbles decided to leave with a burnout, causing a lot of sand in the air, Scottie had an easy time getting past the rebels. Even though he denied being with the other agents, they didn’t push him to confirm his anti-Aztlan claim and quickly let him pass as well.

A few hours later the team arrived at a supply stop where they saw a black graffiti tag of a hawk on the side of the building. Taking that as their cue they stopped and entered the local restaurant there, Scottie still refusing to trust the crazy car lady and pretending he had nothing to do with them. Next to several locals around, they could see a darkskinned lady at the bar who was flanked by two big bodyguards, but nobody approached them yet.

A few minutes later a big fueltruck arrived with several escorting vehicles, delivering fuel to the supply stop. Then one of the escorts entered the bar, ordered a beer and threw it in Scottie’s face. Then he grabbed Scottie by the collar and pulled him up, slipping a key into his clothes. Scottie, recognizing his Coyote, played along with the charade and covertly passed on his car’s location. The Coyote went outside and moved a car next to Scottie’s.

The lady at the bar approached Bubbles and Visage, leaving her bodyguards at the bar, and told Scottie to join as well. She instructed the team to turn on any anti-eavesdrop devices, which Visage promptly did, then introduced herself as their contact and guide, Black Hawk.

Their job, she told them, was to make a deal with Daniel Artosa, leader of the Artosa cartel. The UCAS wanted Artosa’s help in their war against the Mirando cartel, and for that help they were willing to supply him with weapons and more. The team’s task was to make that deal, but demand high at first then go down to the desired bid. In other words, first try to make Artosa fight the Mirando cartel himself, then be willing to let the UCAS also handle attacks. In the end they were to sweeten the deal with a smuggling helicopter that was already ready to go.

One important detail, however, was that they had to keep their real purpose a secret until they met Artosa himself. His men were to be led to believe the team were Black Hawk’s bodyguards, only Artosa was allowed to know that she was merely their guide and that they were representing the UCAS.

As they left the restaurant, Scottie quickly loaded his gear from his Coyote’s car to his rented van and swung his Gauss Rifle over his shoulder. Black Hawk stepped into her Jeep and showed the team the route to Artosa’s main base, fake trees blocking the road and all. A while later they arrived at the fence around Artosa’s mansion grounds, where Bubbles decided to leave her Roto-Drones, Pineapple and Mango, behind for surveillance.

At Artosa’s mansion the team could see quite a few people walking around, some with Ares Alphas and some with AK-97s. As they parked their cars at one of the garages and got out, Scottie’s big gun caused distress amongst the guards that the team had to clear up, claiming it to be a sample. At that point Artosa’s second in command, Ricardo García, stepped in.

After distrusting them but willing to believe their sample-claim, García brought the group to Artosa’s game room on the second floor. Artosa was (as only some of the team realized) playing pool with painted minigrenades as balls and a sniper rifle as cue. García made clear to Artosa he didn’t trust the team, but Artosa dismissed his concerns and told him to leave, to García’s hidden dismay that only Bubbles managed to pick up. García had a good poker face, but he was steaming underneath.

After they were alone, Artosa toyed with the team by making clear he knew they weren’t representing a construction company, tossing them a grenade then threatening to blow it up. He even went as far as telling Scottie to get a bottle of booze from underneath the pool table only so he could point his sniper rifle cue at Scottie’s face, before informing them the bottles really were over at the bar. All while smiling and showing them he was completely in control here.

Visage informed Artosa of their real purposes and started the negotiations, allowing Artosa to bargain them down from ‘we supply the guns and you use them’ to ‘we supply the guns and you pass us intel on smuggling routes and Mirando cartel bases within the CAS and UCAS’, throwing in the smuggling helicopter after Artosa realized they were agreeing too easily and demanding another bonus.

With the deal done Artosa grinned and used a calling device to call one of his henchmen, telling Alejandro to go get three of the best bottles of champaign. Artosa explained to the group that all his men used two micro-transceivers, one for global communication and one strictly to him.

Then more sounds came from the device, with Alejandro talking to himself. Artosa asked the group to pretend they didn’t hear that, admitting Alejandro and technology didn’t always get along so sometimes a call wouldn’t connect or drop properly. As he explained that, they could hear Alejandro say “Hey García, what are you doing he-” and silence…

The team, paranoid as ever, immediately concluded that García had gone traitor and informed Artosa as such as they drew their weapons. Artosa grabbed a pair of binoculars and looked at the patrols, noticing the same thing that Bubbles her Roto-Drones did: Cartel-members suddenly shooting their comrades in the back.

Artosa responsed by causing all microtransceivers to broadcast an interference sound, hoping it’d save at least some of his men’s lives. Scottie blocked the door they came from with foam explosives, while Bubbles looked around with her drones and noticed some people were putting on helmets. They realized this likely meant gas masks, so Artosa opened up the cabinet underneath the pool table and brought out gas masks for everyone. Then Bubbles hid inside the cabinet to enter VR and jump into her drones, while the rest prepared for their escape.

The team decided to run to the guesthouse above one of the garages, rather than using the staircases inside the building. But on their route was a second set of stairs, so they prepared for an ambush instead. When hostiles fired gasgrenades from below, then came running up those stairs, the team quickly responded with violence. Worse, Artosa tossed all his poolballs down the stairs. As they ran past the enemies, Scottie took a potshot and caused the grenades to blow and take part of the floor with them.

While the Roto-Drones sniped at enemies to slow their advance towards the mansion, Bubbles her Steel Lynx woke up and snuck through the courtyard from the one garage to the other one underneath the guesthouse. The rest ran on towards the guesthouse while someone opened the main door to the game room, triggering the explosives Scottie had left behind there.

This all was much to the dismay of Visage, who saw a beautiful mansion quickly becoming a crater. ‘Hey, look on the bright side,’ Scottie said, ‘you could always stay in the guesthouse’. At that point in time, however, Bubbles her Steel Lynx had gone upstairs to the guesthouse, had spotted several enemies lying in ambush there and had tossed them a grenade before running downstairs.

The first thing the runners noticed was the drone sending their image links two warnings: One for hostiles, one for an explosion. They stopped just in time, as a few seconds later the grenade exploded and set off the grenades the ambushers were carrying themselves… As a result the guesthouse was completely wrecked and part of its floor even fell into the garage below.

Said Scottie to Visage: “I am so sorry.”

From the drek into the frying pan, the group, currently located in the bridge between mansion and guesthouse, noticed a flash to their left and dove for cover. Moments later automatic fire tore through the windows of the bridge and García screamed at them from outside, daring Artosa to come out and fight like a man!

There were a few things García hadn’t realized, doped-up on combat drugs as he was: Screaming tells the enemy where you are, so they can fire back at you. And Gauss Rifles can easily shoot through walls… The only benefit was that the shot merely knocked him unconscious, leaving him surrounded by his doped-up henchmen that were firing at any sound they heard (including taunts coming from a commlink that Scottie quickly threw inbetween them).

As the enemies were distracted, the group crawled forwards and climbed down the ruined guesthouse, then went for their vehicles. This was the point where Black Hawk realized they still had an armed smuggling helicopter on standby, so she gave Bubbles its ID and let her call the chopper towards them. Bubbles then carefully came out of her armored hiding place and maneuvered past the holes in the floor to a balcony looking out on the courtyard. While the rest prepared to drive away, Bubbles remote-controlled her car and managed to get it towards the balcony without a single enemy noticing it!

Well, until the moment it drove over them of course.

With Pineapple, Mango and Scottie covering their retreat by firing bullets and grenades, the team quickly drove away from the Mansion. Just as their enemies were about to come after them, the Northrup Wasp that Bubbles was controlling arrived and she used it to lay down suppressive fire. To her great joy she discovered its guns were powerful enough to tear through her enemies even with mere suppressive fire, while with the chaos and her distance to the battlefield only a single stray bullet managed to scratch the chopper.

Just to be sure, Bubbles ordered Pineapple and Mango to fly around the enemies and visit the courtyard for a final goodbye to the unconscious García, in the form of their last grenades. Then everyone made their escape, going to an underground hiding base of Artosa so he could prepare to get his empire back under control. The team stuck around that base for a few days, enjoying the luxuries being a druglord gets you, before going back to Colombia for their planerides back to civilization.


Grande Larceny: Report of Black Hearts #2

The agents:

  •  Bubbles, an elven criminal with a need for speed
  • Doll, a dwarven lady who pisses off pigeons
  • Templar, a human smoothtalker that dresses up
  • Bluepin, a human bluffard who can act dull
  • Scottie, a tall eye-patched english-hating human

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To steal three pieces of art from the Valhalla Hotel in Detroit, and replace them with replicas

The team members were all at their individual homes in the morning, when they were visited by actual carrier pigeons. After obtaining their briefing from the pigeons, and in one case pissing off the messenger, the team checked out their new assignment.

Their datachip told them they were meant to infiltrate a high-class party and replace several pieces of art with replicas. The party was a Grande Reopening party of the Valhalla Hotel, formerly in the possession of Horizon’s subsidiary company Elysium. The new owner was billionaire Sarah Dwighton, who invited VIPs and other guests to show off her new hotel.

The team was to report to agent Hetty, located in the Night-Night shop in Detroit. Agent Hetty would select proper attire for them and also give them additional information and required resources.  After a plane ride to Detroit, well-known for being the location of Ares HQ, the team quickly gathered at the Night-Night shop, a shop for all kinds of luxurious clothes.

The team members were quickly scooped up by agent Hetty and taken to the back. She began sizing them up and briefed them on the party. There would be no SIN-checks this party, instead all guests received a maglock passkey that would both open up all guest rooms in the hotel, as well as serve as their invite. Apparently miss Dwighton had decided to let her guests have a ‘taste’ of the rooms during the party.

The group was told what they had to replace: First, a small statue located in the Apollo Suite, the hotel’s penthouse. Second, a painting located on the seventh floor in a corridor. Third, a fake ruby placed in a terrarium along with other fake gems and several snapping turtle, located on the Mezzanine level of the hotel.

There was good news: The security system overhaul wasn’t finished yet, so there were complications with the systems and a lack of proper matrix security. Namely a low Firewall, no active IC or Agents and the Spider being busy with the hardware so not attending the Host itself. Furthermore there were problems with cameras occasionally failing. On top of that security would be focused on protecting the VIPs, leaving gaps for the group to use.

Agent Hetty started picking out clothes for the team members, as well as a few accessories. Bubbles had her Fly-Spies and action figure doll dressed up properly. The flying drones were given AR-decoration that made them look like an angel and a devil, while carrying her scarf.

Templar had disguised himself as a woman this time, greatly confusing both the other players and the other characters. He chose a dress along with a big purse that had a small smuggling compartment shielded against metal detectors. Furthermore the entire bag was wifi-inhibiting against RFID tags and signal sniffers. The dress itself also was fitted to allow for a painting to be stored inside.

Scottie requested a monocle to replace his eye-patch, while also desiring something to smuggle grenades with. He received plateaued boots with smuggling compartments in the heels, adding 10cm to put him at a total height of 2m. The others went for more subtle clothing, except for Bubbles who went with a Moonlight Dress.

The team also asked for some party drugs to hand out or drug people with, which Hetty quickly arranged, while Scottie also had his glider delivered to him by his Coyote contact. With all that done, it was time to attend the party.

Doll and Templar went together, being delivered by limousine. It didn’t take long for them to realize this was the same car they had helped shoot up just a month ago. Bluepin took a helicopter from the airport, sharing the ride with several businessmen and a Congolese Warlord named Carhel. They asked some questions about his company and Carhel turned out to be rather interested in Bluepin’s talks about noise-reduction protocols, though eventually Bluepin managed to out-technobabble him.

Scottie was delivered by a Mirage driven by Bubbles at a speed where even the police couldn’t catch up. She then delivered herself with a Eurocar Westwind 3000, breaking even more speed limits. Needless to say the police wanted to arrest them, but they weren’t allowed inside and their superiors decided not to make a fuss when there were judges and other VIPs inside.

The team members got through security, in some cases after a quick checkup, and started mingling at the bar and the Mezzanine level, those with poor Etiquette rolls receiving smug behaviour from rich jerks. Bubbles took revenge by letting her action figure trip the person, while Scottie lured out a racist remark with Carhel standing just behind the bigot. He handed Carhel a stun baton, who promptly used it to intimidate the man before letting him off with a warning zap.

After a short while everyone was gathered at the Auditorium for the intro chat. They were informed the keys could access all hotel rooms not locked from the inside, and to feel free to ‘try out’ the rooms, privacy guaranteed. ‘Yeah right, where are the cameras hidden’ was the mental response of the team. After that they decided to split up and hit all targets at the same time, because Bluepin did not dare prolonging his matrix activities as to not trigger an alarm.

A few switcharoo-tricks inside hotel rooms let Bluepin jump into VR to hack the Host before walking out again, while the rest split up and aimed for the target art pieces. Scottie stayed at the Mezzanine with Bubbles’ her drones, ready to cause a distraction for the drones to switch the ruby. Doll received the fake painting from Templar and started checking out art on the seventh floor, which happened to be completely devoid of others. Templar and Bubbles dropped by the Apollo Suite where 1 other couple was already present, and quickly locked the doors behind them to prevent others from entering.

It was then that the team discovered the complications for their jobs. Bubbles and Templar were invited to join the couple in the bath, but politely declined and checked out the statue. There was no pressure sensor, but they suspected there were hidden cameras in the suite as well as RFID tags in the statue, ready to trigger alarms when taken out the door.

Meanwhile, Doll checked out the painting for security and ran into a hardwired alarm on top of the lock. With Scottie it was simply that there were tame, likely-defanged, snakes in the Terrarium instead, with the snapping turtles locked up inside their caves. Snakes receiving quite a bit of attention from miss Dwighton and some of her guests…

Scottie baited two guests into sniffing Kamikaze, ‘no this probably is too much for you’, unfortunately before he could provoke them into fighting each other one of them decided to pick a fight with Carhel instead… At this point Bluepin rebooted a few cameras and everyone sprung into action.

Scottie quickly threw Carhel his stun baton again, who proceeded to toy with the rich man before knocking him out. While this was going on, in the penthouse Bubbles went into VR and seemingly fainted while knocking over the statue. Templar quickly switched the statue while taking care of Bubbles as she steered her drones into the terrarium to switch out the fake ruby with the replica. And Doll rapidly unlocked the case, switched the painting and locked it back up before the camera in her corridor came back online again.

With all that done and security rather pissed at the coked-up guest, the team, paranoid yet confident they had pulled it off, proceeded as if nothing had happened. Doll and Templar picked up the fake ruby and went to their car, ‘sending it home to pick up something they had forgotten to bring with them’ to bring the stolen items to safety.

After that, all that was left was to enjoy the party for a while before leaving the same way they came. Including a failed chase by police cars in the cases of Scottie and Bubbles, where after a while Scottie switched to his glider and flew away. One by one they dropped by the Night-Night shop, turned in their equipment to agent Hetty, received their payments and said their goodbyes after a job well-done.

Double Trouble: Report of Black Hearts #1

With six players (unfortunately one regular was sick) we were at the max for 1 table so no second scenario. Of these six players, three had made their own characters (Decker, Rigger, Face) and three chose Sample Characters (Illusion Mage, Assassin, Muscle). Given their black-op nature, each character went by a runner handle to their teammates.

The agents:

  •  Bubbles, an elven neon goth getaway driver
  • Doll, a dwarven well-muscled street sam
  • Fox, an elven pickpocket face
  • Templar, a human thrillseeking assassin
  • Zen, a human addicted buddhist illusionist
  • Bluepin, a human matrix security consultant

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To extract Jason McDonalds, an employee of a Horizon subsidiary located in Dallas, Texas.

Each team member was approached by a salesman giving away free Chocolate Surprise Eggs, employing the codephrase ‘To live for” to get their attention. Inside the surprise were a credstick with their expenses advance and a datachip with their first briefing: To gather their gear and take a plane, already booked on their fake CAS identity, go to Dallas and receive the second briefing at the airport restaurant.

In Dallas each team member completely ignored all agents they recognized and received a menu with their second briefing. Their assignment was to kidnap a man by the name of Jason McDonalds, who was a Horizon employee currently working for one of their non-extraterritorial subsidiaries in Dallas. The file included McDonalds’ current habits, working location and home address. It also had the location of a safehouse for the team to use during this mission.

The team rented a car and split up over the rental and Bubbles’ her own car, which included a Steel Lynx in the backseat covered with a blanket. They first gathered at the safehouse to introduce oneselves and make a legwork plan. While digging into their target, they soon noticed a gap inside their target’s career which suspiciously matched up with the Aztlan-Amazonia war, all the way from Horizon’s first involvement until the death of several POWs at the hand of Aztlan…

The team checked out three possible extraction points. The office building had suspiciously little physical security while also running a decent Host and a lot of hidden icons. McDonalds his route home went straight through an area filled with office buildings, the center of which had a lot of empty buildings not noticable from outside the area. Apparently vacancy was kept well-hidden here. His apartment was on the fourth floor of a five-floor complex and only had a handful of cameras.

While Bubbles kept an eye on the office building using a spydrone, the team decided to tackle the apartment first. In the alley next to the complex Templar quickly ran up the walls, while Doll slowly climbed up to give him a hand. They lockpicked the window and checked out the apartment, which they found was suspiciously unlived. While there was some food, the only clothing inside was from a single bag and looked as if someone had packed just enough for a short sleepover.

Zen and Doll teamed up to help people into and out of the apartment by using the fire escape. Zen used a spell to keep the noise down, while Doll lifted people up or let them down. Bluepin then hacked the maglock on the apartment’s door and checked out the logs. From this they quickly found out their target was almost a robot: Every day he would leave and return at the same time, except for on drinks night when he’d come back later and somewhere in a five-minute interval instead of on the dot. However, just a few days ago this had changed: He left 1 minute earlier and returned 1 minute later…

Their theory now was that their target either switched place during the day somewhere, or had switched a few days ago. Bluepin hacked one of the cameras inside the building and the team barely found out that the images supported their theory: Since a few days ago the target was approximately 1cm smaller than before…

Rather than changing things up, the team decided to continue as planned and extract the target the second he came home. After that they would take him to the safehouse for interrogation. So they waited and prepared a Neurostun grenade to take him out. At the right time Bubbles her drone confirmed the target had left the office building, and that lengthwise this was the new target, not the original one. She also discovered the reason for the different logtimes: The new target was so caught up in his commlink games that he’d forget to give his car’s autopilot an order.

With the gasgrenade, holding their breath and a silence spell the team easily captured the target, then brought him to the safehouse and checked out his commlink to figure out who he was (most likely an employee at a bar half a mile down the road from McDonalds’ building). Templar used his magic abilities to disguise him as the original target, and then was ‘tied up’ before the new target was woken up. After a bit of pressure from Fox he quickly confessed he had been hired as body-double by McDonalds while McDonalds was arranging to be extracted by another company. Said extraction would take place at the double’s former worksite at basically now’o’clock…

The team quickly killed the double, who had seen Fox’s face, then split up over their vehicles in 3 groups: Bubbles her car to check the bar, a bike to the airport and the rental inbetween. Templar soon noticed a suspicious limo on the way to the airport so he got out, still disguised as the target, and waved at the car. The limo immediately raced away and the chase was on.

The limo was no match for Bubbles, who quickly caught up with both cars while the passengers opened fire on the limo. Unfortunately their bullets were no match for the armor of the car. And with the car’s wireless being off, Bluepin couldn’t help either. Zen saved the day with a spirit, however, which he commanded to open the doors. It quickly materialized inside the car and started popping open doors, exposing the fact there was no driver and allowing Templar to dive from car to car.

Templar quickly knocked out the target, turned on the wireless so Bluepin could hack the car and give it a new command, then turned off the wireless again and enjoyed the ride. Zen disguised their vehicles so the cops wouldn’t be able to find them and the team quickly left for their extraction point. After giving their fellow secret agents a headsup that a cleaner would be required at the safehouse, they received their payment and left to enjoy a few days of vacation before their planerides home.

Black Hearts & Updates page

First about Updates: WordPress allows for both posts and pages. Since a page is permanent, it can be hard to realize an update has been made. With a post you can simply reschedule it to appear as a recent publication. So an Updates page has been made and added to the menu, where changes to the permanent pages will be written down.

Today’s updates are quite simple: The houserules index had some links added, and the Black Hearts pages have been added.

Black Hearts is the spiritual successor of Wild Things. Its information page has been added to the menu in both english and dutch, which includes dates and chargen rules. Of course sample characters will also be available again.

Black Hearts is an open campaign where the team has a fixed employer, namely the UCAS government. The goverment will provide the team with some necessities, such as several fake IDs, and also will give them as much intel as possible. There will still be plenty of need for legwork on-site though…

Each session will again be stand-alone, though a common thread will be present and build up to the season finale, so to speak.

Black Hearts will, unlike Wild Things, actually take place in civilization making the Matrix actually relevant. This means a good commlink is now rather relevant even for normal characters.

However, the Sample Characters will not include any Hackers or Riggers, because writing an adventure for both with and without risks devaluating those characters. Instead, these characters are allowed in chargen for those intending to attend all sessions. Please contact me if you want to make one of those, so we don’t end up with half a dozen Riggers or Hackers…

– MC

Out with the old, in with the new

Wild Things was above all an experiment so to speak. I wanted to try out a short homebrew Open Event Campaign as alternative to Missions, due to complications with running those. This involved runs with a reliable upfront Johnson where negotiating with them wasn’t needed (meant to result in shorter runs), and where several essential tools would be supplied.

I personally consider the experiment a success. It drew several people to try out Shadowrun, gave more flavour to the characters and came with more freedom reward-wise. With Missions rewards are strict because two teams running the same Mission need to have the same shots at the same rewards, tables need to be balanced compared to each other.

One downside: Timing is still tough, because flavor scenes are quite fun to have but too many of them can result in a run taking up a lot of time. However the timing was still doable, and I do intend to get better at it.

Yes, I intend to do another short campaign like Wild Things. The date and details aren’t final yet, I still have to cross my Ts and dot my Is. However, currently the goal is to do a 5-run campaign starting the 22nd of September. Like Wild Things (and the normal short Casus Belli RPGs) it will be one run every fortnight starting at 19:30 and preferably ending the runs at 22:00. I’ll make that 22:30 officially based on the results so far with Wild Things, but that will then in fact be the intended ‘end-at-most-at’ time, not ‘we-might-go-over-this’.

The campaign will be called Black Hearts and will feature a Black-Ops team of the UCAS (United Canadian and American States) doing the dirty work normal employees cannot do. Think Mission Impossible, with runs about theft, betrayal, wetwork, espionage and a grand conspiracy…

There will be three notable differences between Black Hearts and Wild Things. First of all most runs will of course be in an urban environment, which means civilians and public appearance have to actually be taken into account. As upside that means sneakily dealing with security, urban camouflage and more fun runner stuff.

The second is that, due to these urban environments, the Matrix will actually come into play. So Deckers, Riggers and *shudders* Technomancers will be allowed. However, I am only allowing these for own characters, I will not make Sample Characters for them.

The reason is that these characters deserve a chance to shine, so I want to be able to construct a run properly to give them a good role in the story. With Missions Riggers tend to be rather out of place and not have a chance to do their good stuff, plus they tend to break the runs sometimes.

The third difference will be Chargen. I experimented with Life Modules with Wild Things, and I really liked it. It meant the characters had actual weaker secondary skills they could employ, plus they had a lot of extra Knowledge Skills and an actual story to them. There were some significant downsides though, such as a lengthy character creation process and characters resembling each other too much on essential points. Such as having only ONE non-Uncouth character asides from the Face.

The lengthy character creation process is the biggest point here. If someone wants to make their own character, I want them to be able to do that without being forced to use a spreadsheet. Furthermore Life Modules, while less so than karmagen, still suffers from Choice Paralysis. So the chargen baseline will be Priority.

However. Life Modules did have some good sides to it, and since it’s a Black Ops campaign I want characters to have a decent bit of skill flexibility. So I’ll perform some restrictions and add a few extras.

Again, no final details yet but the idea I’m currently working with is Priority with Skills A and Sum-To-Seven-Without-As for the other Priorities. So with B being worth 3 and E being worth 0, that means BBDE/BCCE/BCDD/CCCD as possible remaining priorities. This is 1 higher than normal Priority, which is basically sum to ten, to compensate for the restrictions on the single A Priority.

I’ll also give some extra knowledge skills freebie points, and likely also extra contact stuff and several free Fake SINs. This lets players focus their resources on their own characters.

So that’s the summary of my future plans. More info on Black Hearts, and its own information page, in the near future. Talk to ya later, chum.

Hunters Hunted: Report of Wild Things #5

The job: Recover a guide who has lost his mind in the middle of the jungle Take out all the head chiefs of Natural Selection Incorporated

The team:

  • Sergeant Sam, a Street Samurai who now utterly dislikes trees
  • H.R., a bow-wielder who loves getting scammed
  • Eiger, a troll who considers a Cape Buffalo ‘superior cover’
  • Will I Am, a survivalist expert who knows what trees to trust
  • Charmante, a hunter who knows the entire wanted list of the Deadly Five
  • Overwatch, a paranoid support mage who practices hit-and-runs
  • Mae, a manipulative face who can score all the intel and bargains
  • Buffy, a serial-killing Cape Buffalo whose bounty just shot up from 37 grand to a whopping 43

The team (minus Overwatch and Buffy) got contacted by their boss, with the request to help out a crazy guide. Apparently the guy had eaten the wrong thing, lost his mind, and believing he was Neil the Ork Barbarian had fled into the jungle. The rest of the tour was incapable of convincing him to come along, so the troubleshooters had to find him and bring him back. Unfortunately a direct flight hadn’t been arrangable, so instead they had to use a cargo plane from Marocco to their destination with a stop in Egypt along the way.

Meanwhile, Overwatch got the same instructions. Since he already was nearby, all he had to do was travel to the jungle and meet the rest there.

The team had an uneventful flight to Egypt, until the engines started to smoke. While undergoing heavy turbulence the plane went in for an emergency landing. However, even under those circumstances Mae realized the pilot was trying to deceive them and called him out on it. From the resulting conversation she realized he was on their side but had to misdirect for some reason right now.

As the plane landed, the pilot gave the team a hologram-projector to watch ‘a movie’ while he fixed the plane. Since they didn’t trust the situation, most of the team disembarked the plane and immediately spotted a rather peculiar person next to the plane: A man with scales, six arms with claws, a tail and his eyes both on the left side of his face. The changeling greeted them and asked if they had seen their briefing yet. Realizing what the hologram projector was for, the team quickly turned it on and found out their REAL job.

The past months the team had run into rather peculiar situations that all smelled of a puppetmaster pulling strings. That smell had been followed, and Wild Life Incorporated had identified the culprit: Natural Selection Incorporated, a competing company planning a hostile takeover of WLI. Now before NSI got the chance to pull out bigger guns, WLI had decided to head them off. Literally, by taking out their leaders.

Since Natural Selection Incorporated is a big fan on dangerous game hunting, every year their head management would go on a survival trip through Africa. They would forgo a lot of modern technology and travel around tagging wild life for points. At the end, those with the most points would get a prize. Well ladies and gentlemen, each member of head management was now worth a prize of twenty thousand nuyen for the group…

Since NSI’s leaders did not have commlinks or a fixed travel plan, they could be taken out without being alerted. The downside was that they also had to be tracked down first, and if the team managed to tip off NSI the leaders might receive backup. So radio silence was mandatory during the trip.

As a result of the deception, the group was far from civilization in the middle of the Sahara, and only had a single bike with them. Which is where their guide came in. Each day he would call upon a Spirit that would endow the entire group with the ability to move at far greater speeds, allowing them all to move as fast as the bike. It only took the group two days to reach the edge of the Sahara, arriving in a town where they were treated with great suspicion and contempt.

While H.R. was getting scammed buying postcards, Mae managed to calm the locals (despite their scared response to the team’s ‘devil!’ guide) and find out exactly where their hostility was coming from. Apparently a group of arrogant tourists had come through a while ago and had shot local wildlife and even people’s goats for fun. Mae received the advice to not go to a town in the south where those crazy people had gone. So the group left, travelled east for a while, and when they were out of sight quickly turned towards the south and chased after their quarries.

A day later the team arrived 2 km away from said town, where they were awaited by a grumpy Overwatch. Apparently he had been sent here in the hopes the team would come by here, so he could aid them with his spells. The first thing he did was pull a gun on the guide, the second was to regain his composure and refrain from pulling the trigger. A bit of smoothtalking later the guide bade the group farewell and returned north to the peaceful desert. Next up, proper transportation and the next trail for them to follow.

The group did some searching and figured out where to rent cars. Meanwhile, H.R. went off to buy postcards for Buffy, expressing disappointment at not being scammed. A grumpy response quickly came up with a scam of 20 special edition postcards for 500 nuyen, which he bought with great delight. While H.R. was gleefully getting scammed, Mae ended up driving a bargain so hard with the rental company that she practically ended up scamming them. She also smoothly pumped the man for intel on other rented cars, finding out that their quarries seemed to have rented several cars and a truck and had ventured into bad areas of the Congo Tribal Lands. Apparently they had arranged for soldiers of a Congo warlord to protect them on their trip.

After Overwatch checked the jeeps for explosives and bugs, the group ventured south into the Tribal Lands. When night came they set up camp and did a quick scouting trip around their tents. Doing so they came upon a strange apple tree with bright red fruits and statues surrounding it. As they studied the situation, three team members suddenly began walking towards the tree as if enchanted by its fruits. Realizing something was wrong, the remaining team members quickly took out their teammates. Mae mind-controlled Sam to walk back to their camp, William grappled Charmante to the ground and Overwatch grabbed a car and ran over Eiger. These attacks managed to break the strange control the tree had over their teammates.

With some online research the group discovered they were dealing with a Gomorrah Apple Tree. These trees would lure people in with its tasty fruits, but consuming the fruits would cause the victim to petrify into the extremely lifelike statues they had seen around the tree… H.R. immediately grabbed an incendiary arrow and lit the tree up like an american christmas tree. Using various methods the team prevented the fire from spreading into the savannah before going to bed.

The next day while driving south the team spotted another suspicious tree, with both predators and prey peacefully sitting in its branches. While Sam immediately readied his Assault Cannon, Mae and William realized they were dealing with a Zieba tree and convinced Sam to stand down. Unlike the Gomorrah Apple Trees these trees posed no treat to people, their calming effect solely serving to cause locals to not wish to harm the trees. Creatures and people climbing the tree would leave on their own accord in a manner of mere hours.

Despite this, there was still a body next to the tree. But when they studied the corpse, the team quickly realized this was not the result of the tree. Instead, someone had used a hunting rifle, most likely a Remington 950, to shoot the man while he was sitting in the tree. This was exactly the kind of behaviour and gun the group expected from Natural Selection Incorporated… And the clothing of the victim, a Caucasian dressed like a servant, helped cement that impression, as it seemed like the kind of person rich snobs would force to come with them on a hunting trip.

The trackers of the group failed horribly for a while before finally managing to find old tiretracks belonging to their quarries. Using the cameras of their jeeps they managed to follow the tracks while at high speed, quickly drawing in on the unsuspecting targets. Employing Long Haul and a Sleep Regulator, they continued even after nightfall. At night they encountered a group of Umdhlebi, trees that suffocate those who approach them and then drag their victims under… Making them very glad they were safely in their car.

Shortly after daybreak the team discovered the corpses of local wildlife, both gazelles and a lion. Apparently NSI did not even bother bagging their kills, doing it solely for the points. Nearby they managed to make out a figure hidden in the bushes, which they soon realized was a very familiar Cape Buffalo: The serial hunter-killer Buffy that had aided them in the jungle two months ago. Charmante, who had not been present then, recognized him as having 37 grand as bounty on his head, which the rest told her they already knew of and did not care about.

H.R. gave a lot of tasty hay to Buffy, while Sam gave a quick call to excentric billionaire Richard William Dickens IV, asking whether he was interested in observing Buffy and H.R. messing about. Shortly after ending that phonecall, the group realized that Buffy was tracking the same people they were and drove on along with him. At dusk the team noticed the NSI camp only half a dozen kilometres away. They parked their cars and studied the terrain before coming up with a warplan…

The camp had four sentries, several tents and vehicles, then in the middle a huge musquito net held up by pillars. Within that net were several small trees, luxurious tents and eight loud drunk managers around a campfire. In the outer ring two tents seemed to contain soldiers, while two others appeared to belong to servants. The grass was tall enough to barely hide someone sneaking about. Near the camp was a small creek which could supply cover, and to the back were a few small hills that also could cover an approach. Two spirits would help conceal the group so the guards would have no chance at all to notice them.

A combination of snipers taking out sentries, grenades and suppressive fire at the inner pit, a plant spirit gleefully commanding tree roots to crush foul wildlife murderers, and a Cape Buffalo and Overwatch quickly taking care of the soldier tents ended up clearing the entire camp in mere seconds. Only the servants were spared in these bloody seconds, and after when Buffy made sure to kill all surviving soldiers despite Sam’s attempts to stop him. Knowing mercy the team allowed the servants to take two of the cars and leave.

The team called in their success, then rounded up all their bullets and shell casings, grabbed all the items in the camp and stole the other cars, including a big truck that they put all the corpses in. With all that they travelled back north to feed the corpses to the Umdhlebi trees. Going further north they returned their own cars while keeping the stolen ones, to hide the evidence of their actions. After that, all that was left was letting Richard drop by to take a look at Buffy, and to then put their new payday to good use: Joining their boss in shortselling Natural Selection Incorporated’s stock.

With the guidance of their boss and some dirty tricks, after WLI eventually gobbled up NSI each team member ended up with approximately 0.5% of the stock of Wild Life Incorporated, guaranteeing a very luxurious retiring funds.

With this ends the short campaign about the Troubleshooters of Wild Life Incorporated, and their great and insane efforts to protect their boss’s profit line. In their defense against several sabotage attempts they have dealt with Trolls shapeshifted magically into Polar Bears, murderous bug spirits and all kinds of strange trees. They also dealt with a rich arrogant bastard, heated soldiers, an unwilling and unknowing assassin with a bomb in her head, highly-armored VTOL planes and paranoid warlords about to go to war. Most importantly, they dealt with their own lack of social empathy and a Face perfectly willing to knock them out if it meant shutting them up so she could do her job already thank you very much.

Thanks to that all, the company is now once again ready to deal with the biggest and most unpredictable problem of all: tourists…

Lying Lions: Report of Wild Things #4

The job: Leading peace talks between two Congolese warlords whose men are practically snarling at each other

The team:

  • Sergeant Sam, a Street Samurai who flirts no matter the odds
  • H.R., a bow-wielder whose social interactions are as convoluted as the path of a damaged arrow
  • Eiger, a bodyguard troll badass enough to intimidate a tank
  • Will I Am, a survivalist expert who is a mean drunk
  • Mae, a face who knows exactly when to smile, nod and let others dig their holes

The troubleshooters got contacted all around the globe and sent on individual paths to the heart of the Congo Tribal Lands. Three flew in from Johannesburg with the same crazy pilot as last time, one got escorted by unwilling and disgruntled militia man, and the fifth got flown in from the UCAS and cargo-dropped down. After some confusing situations the team ended up together in the crazy pilot’s plane, taxying the last dozen clicks to their final destination. Even he was not crazy enough to fly into a potential warzone. It was then that they got greeted by tanks…

The team got contacted by their boss, who was tracking their locations and wondered why they weren’t in town yet. After the team explained the situation, and noted they still hadn’t been briefed and didn’t know what they were here for, the boss sighed and promised to take care of things. Soon after, the tanks decided it was in their best interest to let the team pass, who immediately convinced the tanks to give them rides instead.

When they got to town, the team got contacted by a man who was apparently their handler. He was stuttering and rushing, and they quickly surmised that the cause of his panicky behaviour was their boss ready to fire the poor sod. Literally. Inbetween his panic he managed to explain to them why they were here and what was expected of them.

There were two warlords in these parts, Carhel and Arland. Their territories were separated by a river, and the local town around this river was neutral ground. Upstream from the town was a big game reserve, which amongst other animals housed Africa’s only Black Lions. What made these majestic animals so special was that they were not Awakened themselves, instead they had simply mutated. Rich tourists loved coming here and taking pictures of the lions, so both Wild Life Incorporated and the local warlords made good money.

However, in recent days the warlords had been gathering their armies, not to protect their borders but around the river, ready to square off against each other… Such a war, no matter how brief, could be a big problem for the game reserve so Wild Life Incorporated wanted things settled peacefully. They had encouraged peace talks and Mae was to supervise these talks, while the rest kept her out of harm’s way. And maybe beat up anyone too problematic if really necessary.

The team got approached by one of Arland’s patrols, led by a man named Fresnel who ordered the team to come with him to Arland. While the team was willing to come along peacefully, Fresnel was still treating them in a rather hostile manner and that ended up setting the Uncouth people off. After a few barbs Fresnel lost it and shot Sam in the back. Due to restraint, plus Eiger being there to aid in intimidating, the situation didn’t escalate into a massacre and instead Fresnel simply ended with a bloody nose as payback.

Then a patrol from Carhel’s troops, led by a lady named Helena, came along. After Helena gleefully insulted Fresnel, she offered to play for tour guide for the team. H.R. going tourist (insisting on buying souvenirs for his new buddy ‘Buffy’, the murderous Cape Buffalo from last month) and buying a map, plus Helena’s explanations, helped clarify the layout of the area and the town. There was a hotel, a restaurant, a bar, and of course the building where the peace talks would be.

The building for the meet had its furniture set up in perfect ambush-style, so the team sighed and went at redecorating the place. They also tested the quality of the sturdy walls (conclusion: sturdy but Eiger could still punch through) and scanned the place with bugscanners and chemsniffers, retrieved from a supply crate at the hotel courtesy of Wild Life Incorporated. They also arranged for some security from both sides to make sure the site wasn’t tampered with again.

Next was the cause of the local unrest. As far as they could gather, the two warlords had simply been mobilizing and there had been a rising amount of paranoia and animosity towards each other on both sides. While some kept cool heads, such as Helena and her friend Claire who worked for Arland, others like Fresnel did not. And Arland’s advisor, Sydney, was apparently a rabid hive of paranoia bundled in a single man.

The team went for food at the restaurant and drinks at the bar, keeping their eyes and ears open. Here William heard troops of Carhel talk about how they had discovered Arland’s troops maneuvering to get a better strike position back when things first became tense, suggesting that Arland had started and Carhel had simply responded. But Sam overheard people of Arland saying the same thing about Carhel…

Then the team got a concerned call that Richard William Dickens IV was en route to visit the Black Lions. Given the tense situation, this meant he could be shot down, and such an act of violence could easily set off the powderkeg. So it was up to the team to take care of things. Helena helped them contact Carhel’s advisor Lisy, while Claire could give them the commcode of Alexis, one of Arland’s bodyguard. Quickly being passed on to both warlords, Mae explained the situation and despite Sydney shouting “It’s an ambush! They’re sending a commando strike team to take us all out!”, both warlords agreed to make anti-air stand down.

After this, Mae and H.R. decided to pay a visit to Sydney. They had a good inking of the cause of the situation now, so they figured going through the paranoid advisor was the best way to take care of things. Meanwhile, the rest of the team got boozed up, then went to the hotel. On their way there they got ambushed by Fresnel and his gang, who wanted to even the score in a brawl.

Mae and H.R. got to meet Sydney and Arland, after having been disarmed of course. Sydney was very paranoid about them and threatened them with a gun, while H.R. explained that he’d been in a situation where nobody believed him yet he was right recently, so he knew how Sydney felt. No, this did not mean they were here to kill one of the two warlords! H.R. simply meant that sometimes you are indeed getting played. Now with both sides convinced the other side was planning to strike first, the crisis had become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So the question was, who had initiated the paranoia?

At that point Sydney realized exactly who to go for. ‘No, not the guy who told me Carhel was up to no good! We need the guy who put that guy up to it, isn’t that obvious?!’ Afterwards, both the team and Sydney contacted Carhel about their revelations and the two warlords secretly dealt with their traitors. While they did that, the team took a trip with Richie Rich to the Black Lions, got drunk and went to bed. The next day, everyone at the peace talks was extremely surprised when the two warlords shook hands, agreed all was settled now, and left. The only victims of the conflict? One person had choked in his vomit overnight, and another collapsed from some strange sickness during the peace talks…

The warlords shared their torture results with Wild Life Incorporated, who now had gathered all the pieces they needed to figure out their enemy. Which meant that now it was time for them to prepare for war. The runners flew off with Richard, while their boss started plotting a tale of sweet revenge…

Sample Characters #2

Last week I mentioned how Life Modules helps give depth to the characters, but at the same time it’s hard to prevent too much overlap. This is especially hard when dealing with specialized characters such as Faces and Mages. Afte all, there’s only so many modules that give magical skills.

Here’s the two mages, one Combat and one more support, Overwatch so to speak. I had a tough time tweaking those, and ended up switching the Overwatcher’s tradition to the Combat Mage because it fit far better.


Let’s start with the Combat Mage, Carl: Carl is a human who was born in the Siouan part of Denver. His parents were soldiers, which impacted his behaviour and gave him quite a lack of manners. Rather than teaching him one of the many Siouan dialects, his parents were pragmatic and taught him ka-re-tsv, the lingua franca of the Sioux Nation.

Carl got sent to Military School, which instilled a moral code into him that still influences his actions to his day. While in Military School, he awoke as a magician from the Siouan tradition. Now he wanted some magical training, but without selling his soul to the Megacorps. So he went to Community College, Majoring in the Magic program. Now Sioux still knows the draft, because they’re paranoid about the UCAS. So after college Carl was drafted into the Siouan army, sticking around for a full five-year tour as Wildcat.

Now Carl only saw action against the occasional smuggler and such during his tour, and he felt the need for more. So he decided to find a battlefield where his talents were actually useful. Rather than going for anglo territory, he decided to go to Africa where he served as mercenary in several Congo armies and picked up some French.

After he got tired of Mercing about, Carl decided to check out the neighbouring country of Kenya. A man of his magical talents was well sought-after and so he spent several years as a Street Mage in the Shadows of Nairobi. It was then that he drew the attention of Wild Life Incorporated, who decided they could use someone with magical talent and experiences all over the globe.

Carl’s military training shows in his heavy knowledge of Small Unit Tactics, while his spell reservoir is all combat spells and self-buffs. While he’s not as skilled as he’d prefer in magic, he compensates with extra training in combat spells and a spell focus that makes him really pack a punch. His mental focus on combat even causes his direct spells to be more painful yet also more taxing.

Next is Mr. Overwatch, and no you don’t need to know his name. He was born in Seattle as the child of two proud Dwarves. Unfortunately, during his youth his parents ended up accused of being Blood Mages and had to go on the lam. This caused the child to grow rather untrusting of others, and to this day many suspect he is the same as his parents are said to be, a Blood Mage.

As for his folks, one day they didn’t run far enough and Renraku caught up with them. During this stressful situation Overwatch awoke and Renraku decided they cared less about the parents and more about the boy. So they made a deal with him: Sell his soul to the Corp and they’d take care of his folks. Betraying them would mean abandoning his family…

Overwatch received magical education in preparation for the Corp, then went through a bit of community college to further increase his knowledge of magic. After that he spent a while working directly for Renraku as Wage Mage. But Renraku decided they didn’t want a man of his talents inside the company. Instead they wanted him as playable tool outside. Specifically they wanted him to find more people they could use like him.

Thanks to his Renraku SIN overriding his Criminal SIN, scoring a job in Law Enforcement was rather easy for Overwatch. So he served as Mage support, but his paranoid attitude didn’t help making him likeable with his colleagues. So Renraku decided to change the plan. With Africa being an awakened continent, there was bound to be something useful for them there. So Overwatch resigned and went to Johannesburg, where he spent several years as Occult Investigator. It paid the bills, and the occasional report home helped keep Renraku satisfied.

One day Wild Life Incorporated approached Overwatch, impressed by his magical talents. Personally he suspects they know about his Renraku-ties, and doesn’t know why they don’t care about him briefing things on to his corporate masters. He might just be paranoid, or they might not care if it means borrowing a useful tool.

Overwatch is better at spellcasting than Carl, but a bit weaker magically. He wields a Power Focus so that all his magical mojo gets a boost, rather than one small part of it. He owns some neat clothes with modifications against tasers and toxins, only has the one Talismonger contact and his spells are primarily focused on control as well. Detection and illusion spells help him stay safe, combat can be done if really necessary, and his Wuxing tradition is a perfect match for his controlled style of living.