Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 3

Previously on Black Hearts: 

Two months ago two Black Hearts teams went after the Mirando organisation: One group hit a drughouse in the CAS on a Raid Party, which they discovered had quite some cameras inside. The other group had travelled to the Colombian jungle to engage in Soft Talks with the Artosa cartel, to obtain their aid in the fight against the Mirando cartel. Both teams left behind destroyed houses and a damaged Mirando cartel.

Now, while one team went after the daughter of the Mirando cartel’s boss, and another was up to no good somewhere out of sight, a third team was sent to engage the Mirando cartel again. But this time the Mirando cartel would not be the main target to hit…


The Run: Biggest Guns

The Agents:
  • Zen, a human magician with the most destructive spirits around
  • Scottie, human scottish demolitions expert extraordinaire
  • Doll, dwarven infiltrator and the best stealer of junk in the jungle

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To take out Arthur Nielsen, second-in-command of the Quantum group


After going shopping for various things in their respective home towns, our agents noticed something peculiar once they got back home: someone had sneaked a small device into their pockets, which they were unable to open. Zen tossed it in a corner of his house, where Doll just let it lay around. However Scottie pulled out some more paranoid means: He put the device in his explosion-proof safe and proceeded to blow it up.

The next day, Scottie found yet another device in his pocket, of the same kind. This time there was a note attached reading “Don’t blow this up you moron”. Still distrusting the thing, he stuck this one into the bomb-proof safe as well but decided not to blow it up for now.

A few days later, these mysterious devices started playing the ancient song “Thunderstruck”. When the agents rushed to observe their devices, they discovered that now they could be opened. Inside was a button and once they had pressed those, a message from their handler Mr. Smith began playing.

The mission they received from him was to go to Colombia to eliminate Arthur Nielsen, second-in-command of the Quantum terrorist group. Quantum had struck several UCAS targets in the past years so needed clearing. While Nielsen was normally well-hidden, he was set to visit the Mirando cartel, one of their sponsors, shortly. This was the opening the team needed to take him out.

The commlink also contained the standard 2000 nuyen advance, as well as the tickets to Colombia. However, as Zen quickly noticed, the message did not, as standard, self destruct, setting the team on edge a bit. They tried to contact their handler, but Mr. Smith was not reachable for comment. They requested Bluepin to hack Mr. Smith’s commlink for more information, who promptly declined (“You’re joking right? No way I’m even going near that”). Not knowing what else to do, the team decided to then simply cautiously proceed with the mission.


Scottie made some arrangements with his Coyote, paying quite a large sum for his services, while the other two simply didn’t take any illegal goods with them. The subsequent plane ride to Colombia proceeded without much difficulty.

The second leg was a tad less comfortable, being in a small postal plane with a pilot that wasn’t too enthusiastic about his job, but that too passed without incident. However from the air they could see that around the town they were going to, was quite a large number of military patrols. It appeared their destination would be far less peaceful than their ride there…


Once in town, Scottie noticed a familiar face – Black Hawk, a guide he had met last time he went into the jungle, to negotiate with an enemy of the Mirando cartel. Black Hawk did not have her bodyguards with her this time and she acted rather sour and unhelpful. She informed the agents that Nielsen already was in the area and that he had met with the local army commander. After that he had made for a camp in the jungle.

Black Hawk made it clear to the team that once they found her a trail, she would lead them along it, and that was all she would be doing for them. Without digging into her sour behaviour, the team went to the local watering hole to grill the locals present. Shortly after they entered, Scottie made a rather unfriendly remark to the locals and was shown the door, though Zen and Doll were allowed to stay around. An annoyed Scottie decided to retaliate by placing sticky grenades on the outside walls – something easily noticed by a few nearby soldiers. They didn’t stop to check it out yet at this point though.

When Zen and Doll did not get anywhere with simple questions – the locals being quite afraid of the whole cartel business – Zen decided to shift into a more aggressive gear and started threatening the locals instead. This quickly backfired as they realized that none of them were actually trained in interrogation or intimidation, and the locals weren’t too impressed. Our agents still had the upper hand, were open fighting to break out – but this time a fight had not been what they were looking for.

Fortunately, while lacking intimidation skills the group did have a Doll quite capable of lying through her teeth. Which came in handy when during their standoff the scene was joined by a group of soldiers. Thinking on her feet, Doll managed to sell the soldiers the story that the pub owner and his guests were plotting against the soldiers. Needless to say the troops became rather aggressive to the locals after they found out. The team quickly take off, as it wouldn’t take too long for the soldiers to beat the truth out of the locals.


With the agressive approach not working, the agents decided to go to the local general store and try a more bribery approach. While the shopkeeper was still not very willing to offer too much detail, after some pressing – and some generous “purchases” – he informed the agents that they should probably really stay away from a certain nearby path, because that would surely lead to trouble. After a wink and a nod, the team went back on their way.

Meanwhile, the local soldiers had discovered they had been played and gotten wind of what the team was actually doing, so they went on a manhunt. Rather than entering a shootout with the troops, Zen decided to solve their problems by making their entire truck invisible and silent. Scottie proceeded to drive the truck around stealthily enough so they also managed not to leave tracks the soldiers were able of following. With an exasperated Black Hawk in tow the group quickly left town and patrols behind, travelling to the path that the shopkeeper indicated.

To be continued…

Big Sticks & Biggest Guns: Report of Black Hearts #5 part 1

Given my busy schedule, desire for quality and simply the sheer length of it, the Black Hearts finale recap will be split into five posts: Two for each run and a fifth part revealing what was going on behind the curtains. The second post of each run’s recap will of course include a link back and a short summary of what has happened.

These five posts will be written and published over the coming week, so I’ll see ya when I see ya. 🙂


The Run: Big Sticks

The Agents:

  • Templar, a human sneak with slick hands and a vicious mind
  • Visage, a charming socialite doing what, why. when and who
  • Bubbles, a pseudo-elven girl who makes resort staff cry

Their Mission, should they choose to accept it:
To infiltrate a Wellness Resort and extract Daniella Mirando against her will


While in town for some shopping, Templar noticed he was being reverse-pickpocketed. Looking around he spotted a fellow Black Heart, the B&E Expert Ghost, giving him a knowing glance before disappearing into the crowd. In a more secluded area Templar observed the device, but soon discovered he could not open it, nor was it wirelessly active, so he stored it at home for now.

A few days later both Visage and Bubbles had suffered the same without realizing, causing them to be far more surprised than Templar when the device suddenly started playing the song “Thunderstruck”. From behind a couch Bubbles sent her actionman drone to check out the device for her and push its button, while Visage and Templar were less careful with the device. Once the button had been pressed, a message from their handler Mr. Smith began playing.

The mission they received from him was to infiltrate a Wellness Clinic and kidnap Daniella Mirando, daughter of the boss of the Mirando cartel. They would receive support from Bluepin, another member of their team. He’d need their help setting up ways to circumvent security, which they had two days for. On the second night of their stay, they had to extract Mirando no matter what.

As the commlink sparked and popped out a credstick, the teammembers quickly realized Mr. Smith had misspoken at the end of the speech, mentioning neither the self-destruct nor the disavowing of their actions. Bubbles even realized that he had not stated the run was from the UCAS Government… In a mild panic she had her actionman doll use a payphone to contact Mr. Smith and figure out if he was under duress. The sole response was his assurances that if they did their job, he would be alright…


During their planeride the teammembers debated their cover-story with each other and their Decker support. The anonymous clinic they were going to was one with two purposes: Actual rehab treatment for celebrities, and being a place where celebrities could just hang out and enjoy a vacation without paparazzi. Of course they went for the second purpose, because why go to a luxurious place if it wasn’t going to be a blast? And as a few months back, Templar would shapeshift and travel in a dress.

One unfortunate downside of the clinic’s dual purpose was its strict security. There were chemsniffers built into every room, disallowing the use of any drugs, toxins or explosives and even guns. Even worse, security was at such a level that a straight hack was impossible for more than a few seconds. The only way to hack in would be to directly plug into any devices on the scene. For this purpose the team was supplied with a massive supply of datatap dongles: Just get them into devices their Universal Data Port and Bluepin would be able to hack them whenever desired.

Bubbles decided to put her disguise skill to good use, turning her Steel Lynx into a dog. While everyone could see it was truly a drone, noticing the owner wasn’t mad as a hatter would be harder. She then decided to traumatize their rented limo-driver by demanding she’d be allowed to drive, while Templar complained the car was dull. Putting the pressure on the driver and offering a bribe as well, the poor man was about to cave and asked if Bubbles could show her driving license. Which she did. Her stuntdriver license. The driver fainted right away.


On their way to the resort, Bubbles went completely nuts with the driving, even drifting underneath a trailer and driving on two wheels as to not let speeding cams get footage of their license plate. Visage managed to keep his food inside, while Templar’s thrillseeking involved much rejoicing and a single finger out the windows, aimed at the speeding cams. Of course Bubbles didn’t forget to pop the trunk and release her Roto-Drones when they got close to the resort, after which she drifted through the security roadblocks and entered the resort, followed by a lot of pissed security.

While security surrounded them and the team got busy misleading and manipulating them, the team was quick to notice metahumans weren’t the only security patrolling the resort grounds. A bit removed from the buildings they could see quite a few guard dogs wandering around in groups. So while Visage and Templar kept smoothtalking Security, Bubbles decided to make things worse by sending Mango to ‘play with the cute other dogs’. Much to the chagrin of their handler, a bulky Cascade Ork.

Said handler quickly voiced his severe objections to this ‘provocation’, his language laced with profanities. He easily recognized Visage as a Cascade Crow and immediately labelled him the likely culprit, while also making very clear to the receptionist that he would not tolerate this kind of behaviour from the guests: Either she’d keep the guests in line, or he’d keep his dogs in line while walking out with all hundred-some of them. With a sigh Bubbles called Mango back to her.

While Templar and Bubbles went to check out the building and scan for security loopholes, Visage went to talk with the dog trainer. Given the bad blood between the Cascade Crows and the Cascade Orks, what with the latter separating from the former because of being fed up with racism, he had some hostility to overcome.

His sincere curiosity regarding the animal training, combined with his animal handling and excellent social skills, managed to win over both the dogs and their owner. Visage even managed to land an invite to check out the attack training in half an hour. The handler, blinded by his like for the man who was even eager to use live pigs, never realized his new friend was simply looking for info on the dogs and how to call them off, should a nightly escape involve getting past the dogs.


Visage joined the others at the bar, where soon they were confronted by an angry businessman. The man took offense to Bubbles her fake elven ears, which made her team members realize Bubbles was in fact not a real elf but an Elf Poser. Templar’s response was to covertly shape his ears like elven ones , then show them to the nuisance. Said nuisance sputtered and got mad, resulting in security escorting them away from the team.

A while later Visage left for the attack training, while the others ordered some good whisky. When they got their drinks another guest pushed them aside, scoffing at the poor quality the resort dared pour. He instructed the bartender to give the lovely ladies some from his own private stash, with whisky 1000 nuyen the glass rather than the bottle. He then introduced himself as Richard William Dickens IV. During the resulting conversation Rich made it quite clear by innuendo what his goal was at the resort: Hunting. And not for wildlife.

Spotting a likely easy mark, Bubbles tried distracting Dickens with idle conversation while Templar secretly swiped the man’s keycard to copy and return. Unfortunately, as both noticed, during this a faint smile endorned the man’s face. Hinting that he knew what they did, Dickens left soon after but not before Bubbles invited him over to their quarters in the evening, so she could offer him a drink herself.


Covertly armed with their Fly-Spies and dongles, the girls decided to check out the inside of the resort as well. Their first destination? The reception. Here Bubbles distracted the receptionist by enthousiastically asking about the dogs and deciding to go outside to pet the lovely beasts. While the receptionist and security frantically chased her, to make sure their precious insane guest didn’t get herself mauled to death, the dongle was easily planted. Bluepin gave some bad news though, the guestlist was in code so he’d need some guest’s information to crack it. Fortunately the group knew exactly what room to start with: The one belonging to Dickens.

The girls then went for a tour of the facilities, allowing Templar to intensely memorize another possible escape route, using the landry system. Eventually the girls, employing a lot of pressure, badgered their guide into letting them see the private garage. Here they got to see the cars stored by a lot of guests, allowing Bubbles the car fanatic to identify two cars as popular with Mexicans. She then caused another distraction by going fangirl over some other cars, allowing her drones to sneak under the Mexican cars and bug them as well. Afterwards the team was ‘tricked’ into attending the restaurant for an exclusive dish by now-relieved security.


While the girls were on their tour, Visage participated in some pig shredding and picked up how he could easily call off the dogs. Afterwards he returned to the bar. Here he ended up chatting with a male guest who boasted about his profound love for the resort, especially the presence of ‘exotic cuisine’. What the man meant was quite clear, as was the fact he was a greasy slimebag.

Still he was a possible information source so Visage tapped him for all he was worth. This paid off when the man mentioned a meal he’d have ‘loved to enjoy’, namely a gorgeous Mexican lady who unfortunately travelled with bodyguards. Through the conversation Visage found out that Daniella Mirando had the habit to stay at a pool during dinner times until shortly before Resort Curfew hours, before going for a massage.

As one of the few guests who was allowed to ignore curfew, she would then only return to her room after a very lengthy massage. Apparently Daniella and her bodyguards had separate connected quarters, though the slimebag noted he suspected her of having a ‘healthy appetite’ and sharing her bed with at least one of her bodyguards.

To be continued…

Houserules: Movement Power

The Movement power is what allows some spirits to move at incredible speed, as well as either buff or restrain others by either multiplying or dividing it with the Spirit’s Magic (which equals Force).

In SR4 this power had only two restrictions listed: Inside terrain it controlled, and based on Body (B>M = halved effect, B>2*M = no effect). SR5 has more detail to it, going back to SR3’s description and talking more explicitly about terrain/domain the Spirit controls, as well as containing a separate rule for vehicles.

This unfortunately runs into two complications. First of all, what IS terrain a spirit controls? Clearly it’s not just ‘their natural habitat’, since otherwise an Air Spirit could easily target any plane they see, while a Plant spirit would rule surpreme in the jungle. Don’t even get me started on what kind of terrain would be a Guardian spirit’s natural habitat…

The second is that the power’s description went back to its SR3 version. Unfortunately, some mechanics have changed since SR3… Some even midway SR5’s development, such as Vehicles… Rather than having a significant Acceleration and Speed directly translating to m/CT, Acceleration is now a tricky number solely for Vehicle Chases (which a previous houserule already covered) and Speed simply is a limit as well as translating to how fast you can go.

I mean nobody woudl believe it’s intended that a good test on a good car could easily make it go 2^18 as fast. That’s 50 million km/hour… If we look at SR3’s Speed system the original intent seems more clear: Say you got a vehicle with an Acceleration of 10, and Speed actually is your actual speed rather than a single-digit number, then those 6 hits would translate to making the vehicle go 100 m/CT faster/slower instead, which likely (especially with deceleration rules) could actually cause it to crash due to the sudden changes.

I’ll be discussing three core Movement houserules here, two of which I have already applied in my own campaign. An important note: This has actually impacted my campaign’s balance and I’ve been thinking of ways to nerf it down for a while, which will be included as corollaries. It wasn’t that bad (sorta) with one Speedster, but with four magicians all outshining the Rigger’s speed… Not to mention it kinda ruins ambushes and all that.


Ahem. Before we go into the houserules, there’s something VERY important you should know first, a small detail of the rules that many probably missed.

Your actions and movement are declared at the START of your Action Phase. That is, you FIRST declare what all you’ll do, THEN you start executing it. (Page 158, 159, 163.) You can stop or change direction, but you cannot increase your movement after finding out some of the results of your actions. Logically the same would apply to your offensive actions, even if not explicitly stated.

So say you decide to run around a corner. If there’s an enemy waiting around it, you can’t go ‘oh then I’ll just run past him’. You can break or dive back, but not go further than originally declared. You also cannot attack him if you didn’t keep the option in mind. That’s why I make my fast players declare what their intent will be in somewhat-vague terms, for example ‘cut the first enemy that dares to get in my way in two’. That way the runner still can go around a corner and attack, assuming there is in fact an enemy within reach.

This might seem like nitpicking but when it comes to combatants easily moving 100 meters in a single Combat Turn, it becomes VERY important. You can’t walk 20m, see what enemies are where and THEN make a detailed plan for the rest of your Action Phase: Decide at the start and run into danger! You can run up a staircase but only if you knew it was there and declared the intent.

A sidenote: This also means that you got to keep a few possible outcomes in mind as player. As GM I wouldn’t give you a lot of hassle if you used an If-statement in your Action Declarations, but you got to keep in mind the highest declared movement will count for your movement allotment of the Combat Turn. Just make sure you make clear to your players what the limitations will be before they run into nasty complications, as part of the social contract.


Rule: Spirits can only use Movement on others inside Aspected Areas

There are basically three ways for an area to get Aspected in the advantage of a Tradition: The Personal Domains of some Free Spirits, frequent use by that tradition and magical lodges, in order from large to small (multiple acres, ?, very-small-region). Which means that for nearly every situation the Spirit will not be able to use Movement on others, only on themselves, fitting with the ‘only in terrain they control’ restriction being an actual restriction.

If they have the home advantage though, from defending their magician’s turf or their own… Ohboy… And that’s exactly what this houserule is about: Making it about the home-advantage. You get the enemy to fight in an area aspected in your favor, they’ll be in massive trouble against your Spirits unless they cleanse the area… Only being able to run 6 meters per Combat Turn as a 9-Agility character can REALLY hurt in combat, especially once AoE effects are put into play!


Rule: Movement against vebicles uses (M+W)d6*Accel*10/Body

Leaving aside the whole ‘Speed-changes’, which obviously no longer is intended like that with the new Speed mechanic, there’s another problem I personally have with Movement against Vehicles. Right now they have to hit a threshold, which can be MASSIVE for high-Body vehicles (9 for a Roadmaster!), but the threshold itself is merely to decide if it works! You hit a threshold 6, you suddenly count as 6 hits instead of 0. That’s plain weird. It’d make more sense if your effect was divided by Body.

Now keeping the Acceleration is an easy call since it seems logical that the better a vehicle accelerates/decelerates, the more easily a Spirit can manage to change its speed. The biggest problem is what multiplier to use. SR5 mostly uses Acceleration 1~3, where 3 is the max that matters for a Vehicle Chase, only the occasional vehicle goes above it. So a significant multiplier seems required.

A Force 6 Spirit would average 4 hits, so on a 2-Accel Body-8 Jackrabbit we’d be at 4*2/8 = 1 as base modifier. To compare, in SR3 Accel-rates were roughly from 3 to 12 and the SR5 rule employs a Body/2 for the threshold. So let’s roughly quadruple to convert back to SR3’s concepts, double to fit with B/2 and round up to x10. Now 4 hits would translate to 40 m/CT. With the modified Speed system from my previous houserules, this could actually lead to a lot of discomfort for your enemies or even a crash test.


Rule: Channeled/Possession Spirits can use Movement

A Spirit can only use Movement on itself outside terrain/domains it controls. When a Spirit possesses someone or is channeled by a magician, they form a special kind of combination which impacts Physical attributes and their resistance to mental spells. So it makes sense to also let them use their powers (such as Elemental Aura and Movement) inside these bodies, with all the downsides in the case of Elemental Aura. (Congratulations, you’re on fire, how well-protected is your gear? You’re electrifying? Enjoy the fried commlink.)

There is a big balance risk with Movement though. Even a 3-Agility character Channeling a Force 6 Spirit will suddenly have 6 Agility and 72/144 as their Movement rates… A 5-Agility with a Force 8 would hit 9*8*4 = 288 m/CT running rate, that’s ~345 km/h. Compare that to a Rigger whose 4-Speed Drones, even under my Speed table if you don’t make them lose Speed categories (which I should consider only doing for walkers, and for any drone moving indoors), can only move 150 km/h, and you realize that indeed this houserule risks favoring Movement players too much. Of course there’s downsides (spooking cars, Metamagic or Tradition sacrifice, drawing unwanted attention, cannot mask this only Manascape it, etc.) but there’s still space for a few fixes to this.

(Incidentally, I already employ slight Accel/Decel-rules and ‘Gridguide hates you and demands you wear a tracker on the highway so you don’t spook their cars’, but there’s still space for more because it’s fun but not enough.)


Rule: Movement’s buff is divided by TerrainDifficulty

Note that this does not just matter for Channeling and Possession. Great Form Spirits with 6+ net hits on the ritual can Endow a power, meaning you can now let your Spirit pass Movement on to multiple teammembers… Anyway:

On page 201 you’ll find terrain modifiers for vehicle stunts. Now we could demand Gymnastic tests for magical-boosted movement speeds, but that’s a bit tricky for long movement and rather detracts from the game. So instead we’d nerf it differently: You want to channel a spirit and run through side-streets? The buff you get is divided by 2 for the Vehicle Terrain Modifier, so a Force 6 only triples your speed instead. Want to hit the back-alleys with a Force 8? You only double instead of eightfold due to/ 4. Rounding is of course on the final movement speed, not the multiplier.

(No, these are not insane examples. Now it might be because I employ a karma<->nuyen rule but I actually do have people working towards being able to Channel Force 10 Spirits and already using Force-9 ones…)

An important note here is that the same Vehicle table includes terrain modifiers for flying. Irrelevant for metahumans themselves, but Spirits CAN fly, even if they normally don’t. Still facing some restrictions even if they take into the air is quite nice and means drones are still quite useful: A Roto-Drone managing 200 km/h (+1 Speed Category with risks, no Speed Category reduction for being a drone) would still be able to outfly a Spirit using Movement, IF directly controlled by its Rigger or solely doing normal low-altitude flying (threshold-2 is doable for 9 dice, 15% failing odds and that simply means failing and a second attempt normally).

An alternative houserule would use percentages rather than division, and of course the vehicle table is for vehicles so the descriptions would need to be altered. What is the pedestrian equivalent of sidestreets?


Two sidenotes to make. First, Harlequinn channeling would easily go faster than the speed of sound but others would have a hard time coming close. Even if you go with ‘Increase Agility stacks with Possession’ like I do, you essentially need a Force 16 Spirit in a 5[9]->17 Agility character or a Force 14 in an 8[12]->19 to barely reach 1 mach.

Sidenote two: You need ~30 m/second, so ~90 m/CT, to be able to run on water. If we count running on water with Magic as /2 for difficulty, you’d need 180 meters/CT before division. Divide by 4 for running, and 6 for a normal Force 6 Spirit and you’d need 8 Agility which is doable.

Want to walk on water without running penalties or eventual running-exhaustion? You’d need 360, say Force 9 Spirit for 10 Agility, 4 of which from the Spirit so quite doable with a bit of magic. A Force 8 would require 11~12 Agility.

My poor Valkyries

I’ve employed a few Valkyries (Guardian Spirits of a few traditions) in my games as police NPCs and unfortunately the upcoming Movement-nerf, described in next week’s houserule, will restrict them as well. ^_^ Alas.

Of course normally they fly without worries since they can just fly within the non-essential airspace and get a free clearance through Knight Errant so no slowing down for other aircrafts, but if they go towards unfriendly skies they’ll have to fly lower and will get their movement reduced. Ahwell, guess they’ll have to live with going ~175 km/h if they decide to do a sweep into Redmond. (Yes that’s Force 9. Did you think a PR6 SWAT team would send mere Force 6 Spirits into combat?)

And yes when a bunch of Valkyries, wearing Full Body Armor and wielding Ares Alphas, go into a combat zone someone WILL be playing Wagner out loud.

Houserules: Perception Teamwork

Perception is often rolled to see if someone notices a sneaker, a hidden object, a pickpocket or stuff like that. But there’s times where the Perception rolls seem a bit strange in execution. I’m listing a few of those situations below:


Say everyone’s together and something happens. They all get a Perception test, so you end up with some people rolling poorly and not noticing a thing, some decent, one or two rolling high and they all receive different intel and then quickly share it. If what they spot isn’t the equivalent of a Surprise test, the ‘some notice different things’ element just seems silly. Especially in cases where the team is clearly working together. You’re clearing a room? Investigating a mansion? Protecting someone and looking out for hostiles? Obviously you’re working together, so why are you all rolling separately? Why not a teamwork test?

Mathwise, by the way, the teamwork test likely will roll higher on average but with more extremes. It’s a bit related to how when you roll a test often, you’ll get relatively closer to the average, you get less extremes. A d12 has 1/3 chance to roll 9+ and 1/3 to roll 4-, while 2d6 is at 10/36 and 1/6 respectively. This gets you the kind of statistics I like in Shadowrun, but let’s leave that aside. So, summary: A Perception Teamwork test here would better represent your team actually working together, would have a slightly higher average but with more chance on the extremes due to boiling down to one final test.

One side-effect of this is Edging by the way. If you’re doing a teamwork test, you got more dice to Edge but it all boils down to a single person having to make the call on whether or not they use a point of Edge.


Drones can roll Perception, as Riggers are wont to do. Unfortunately Drones run into 1 big problem… Their Sensor Rating is 3, which is their Limit. So if you roll 3 hits on Sneaking versus half a dozen drones with Clearsight 6? Even if the Drones take a -3 circumstantial Perception penalty they’ll have only 68.04% chance to not roll 3 hits, chances not a single drone pierces your Sneaking is <10%. At the full 9 dice, only 3 drones put you at ~5%.

On the other hand, if you roll 4 hits, even if they have their full 9 dice they now don’t stand a chance, simply because of their limit. So the entire drone-spy-network thing is utterly useless all of a sudden, only jumped-in can a Rigger stand a chance (or they could pay thousands to upgrade each drone…)

Teamworkwise, however, suddenly the drones will do rather decent. With several drones they’ll likely hit the maximum 15 teamwork dice, which puts you at ~60% to hit 5+ hits. Suddenly a properly-deployed network of spy-drones can truly serve as a Rigger’s Eyes! And even with just two they already can up their limit to 5!

Now granted, a GM may want to put restrictions on this. One option would be to require them being slaved to the same RCC, or even running a communication program (taking a program slot!) as well. In that case non-streaming drones would need to run their own, streaming drones could get it from the RCC. Your call really. I’d go with RCC-slaving, to further reward RCC-owners for going the extra mile. 🙂


Concealment, giving a penalty to physical detection, is real nasty against mooks. Quite often they’ll have 0 or nearly no dice left, giving them zero chance to ever detect the players. It’d be more fun if they’d still receive a bit of risk, through other means than ‘okay they just get plenty of extra dice each!’ Adding their PR (like with social resists) would be a bit weird since it’d mean that high-Perception people get a bigger bonus, since better PR translates to better stats and skills already.

So instead teamwork would be allowed only in professional settings, so a group of NPCs doing a big search and stuff like that. You randomly surprise them, they still roll individually, but if a team is trying to hunt you down specifically… Of course this rule has 1 big problem: It screws over non-Concealment players. 15 Sneaking versus 10 Perception is good, 15 Sneaking versus 15~18 Perception will do poorly.


All in all, just take a look at the circumstances and see if you’ll use some of these at your table (though for Drones, I strongly recommend it no matter what!). I can note that the third one added some excitement to Black Hearts #5: Biggest Guns.

Rule: Under Professional Circumstances players can teamwork Perception

(This of course does not EVER apply in Surprise Tests.)

Rule: Drones can teamwork Perception when slaved to the same RCC

Rule: Under Professional Circumstances enemies can teamwork Perception






http://www.AnyDice.com formulae used for this post, a d{0,0,1} simulates a Shadowrun die with 1/3 chance at a hit:

output [highest of [highest of [highest of [highest of 11d{0,0,1} and 11d{0,0,1}] and 10d{0,0,1}] and 9d{0,0,1}] and 8d{0,0,1}]
vs
output 17d{0,0,1}

output [highest of [highest of [highest of [highest of 14d{0,0,1} and 14d{0,0,1}] and 13d{0,0,1}] and 12d{0,0,1}] and 11d{0,0,1}]
vs
output 20d{0,0,1}

output [lowest of 3 and 6d{0,0,1}]
   (0.6802^6 = not anydice but just calculator)
output [lowest of 5 and 15d{0,0,1}]
output [lowest of 10 and 15d{0,0,1}]

 

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.

Houserules & Rule Clarifications: Background Count

Background Count is a GM-tool that can be used to nerf down players and enemies. It also can be used to buff magical characters by using Aspected Background Counts. Before we cover the houserules, let’s quickly cover some details here.

For those who don’t know how it works: A Background Count of Rating +/-X normally gives a -X Dice on all tests (buffed by) Magic, and sustained effects (spells, Foci) get hit by -X on their Force. Magical-buffed Initiative also likely takes a hit though that’s not entirely official yet (Missions came with it but will it apply elsewhere?). If the Force-drop makes the Force drop to 0, effects go poof: Foci deactivate and spells are all gone. (Including Quickened Spells, ouch for karma! What were you doing quickening at that low a Force though?)

If the Force of a Focus goes down, it also means the Focus gives less bonus. A Force 3 Power Focus in Background Count -2 will be stuck at only a +1 from Force 2 (and you ALSO take a -2 on the magical tests). A Force 4 Qi Focus giving you 2 ranks of 0.5 PP each will drop down to Force 2 so only giving 1 rank of whatever Adept Power it gave. And if you got a Force 4 Qi Focus giving you, say, Astral Perception? POOF! Force 2 means you no longer have the Force 4 required, so the power is unaccessable.

Sustained Spells also get hit by the Force Penalty, which may or may not matter. An Increase Attribute Spell must be high enough Force-wise to impact the target. If the Force is lowered to below the previous attribute value, well it would probably mean (GM-decision in the end) the spell is still active but no longer is giving a boost. Detection spells decrease in range, but most Illusion spells wouldn’t care. Combat Spells are Instant so don’t care anyway (even if cast from outside to inside a background count). And if you cast a low-Force Sustained spell using Reagents to keep the drain low, a background count can easily pop the spell.

(Summoners get hit badly by this as well: Spirits ARE magical. So ALL their actions take the penalty. Evasion? Yeah that seems like an action (GM-calls may vary). The sole exception would be Resistance tests.)

The flipside is Aspected Background Counts: If a Background Count is Positive AND Aspected in YOUR favour, ignore everything before this! Instead it gives you a limit-bonus on magic! Dangerous for Spellcasting (hits after limit decide whether drain is physical or stun), but real useful for things where the Force decides Physical vs Stun Drain and where the limit awfully gets in the way. Alchemy, Summoning and Binding come to mind. ESPECIALLY Binding, where without Limit-increase you’re stuck with >1/6 chance that a Force 6 Spirit’s hits will equal or exceed your limit and you’ll autofail. Also nice for Rituals which also suffer from an opposed dicepool depending on the Force.

Speaking of Aspected Background Counts, according to page 31 and page 32 from Street Grimoire these are aspected towards their traditions and their Rating counts as their Background Count. On the other hand Missions rules player-owned Lodges don’t get this bonus. Which brings us to houserule number 1. Houserule 2 might not even be a houserule but simply a bad phrasing in Core, 3 takes that up a noth, while houserule 4 goes into a silly side-effect of the Force-loss of spells we mentioned earlier.

Before we get into the houserules, first though one tip for GMs: Background Counts are a weapon against magical players. Use them sparingly. Yes, it can be nice to make a Force-1-Sustainer suffer penalties, or to give the magicians a penalty once in a while (plus letting Adepts show off their Adept Centering), but when you start throwing around background counts as if they’re candy on halloween you should take a long, hard look at what you’re doing and why. Hint: If it starts with ‘Player X needs to be put in their place’, you need to smack yourself upside the head. Seriously though, don’t overdo it with this unless your campaign has a plausible reason for it AND you made sure your players knew in advance. Nobody faces Auslander every month and even that ass only manages an Aspected Count 4. That’s a horrible Force 8 Master Shedim that oughta die in a frickin’ fire and then be torn apart by demons, and even he only has a Rating 4. So ease up on the massive counts would ya?


Rule: Magical Lodges/Circles take time to aspect their count

As noted above, SG says these have an aspected count, while the Missions FAQ doesn’t allow it. Now we could decide one of them is wrong and the other should be followed, but where’s the fun in that? How about instead we reward permanency? See, you can take a lodge down in a day and rebuild it elsewhere in <Force> days. So if a runner really needs to, they can tear it down or just forfeit it and get another one. Which, if you end up burned by a Johnson, might be a good idea. You won’t always have a good base available.

So to not let background counts go crazy (‘hey, I spent a week of downtime setting this up, hello Force-4-limit-11 spells, let me just roll these 24 dice and BAM 8 hits!’), but also reward people who manage to keep their Lodge around, we let Lodges slowly build up their Background Count. Each step up costs <NewRating> months, so from BC0 to BC4 you’d need 1+2+3+4=10 months. And no, a lodge bought in chargen would start the game at rating 1 at most, no ‘but I’ve had it for yeaaaaaars!’.


Rule: Cleansing impacts an Area around the magician for all

Cleansing lets a Magician temporarily reduce a positive background count, with the fluff talking about neutralizing the background count and it being useful for a few hours, or temporarily cleaning up a mess. Now the ritual lets you cleanse a small sphere for a few hours, while the metamagic itself only lets the magician make a very-shortlasting effect.

One problem with that though: It’s noted to only affect the cleansing magician (for (Magic) CTs). This could be poor phrasing, or it could mean that Cleansing has no impact on other people. However the technique says you temporarily reduce the background count, NOT that it lets the magician ignore part of the count, so the magician-only thing seems rather weird.

So this rule lets the metamagic create a cleaned area the same size as the ritual, aka a (Magic) meters radius sphere around the Cleanser. This lets them support other magical beings such as their Spirits or Adepts, while also damaging any nearby enemies enjoying the count. It makes Cleansing not just an expensive thing for the Mage but also something with significant rewards for not just the mage but also their allies.


Rule: The Cleansing area is larger, jammer-wise

Normally Cleansing, both the metamagic and the Ritual, only work inside a rather small sphere around the caster. Which sounds a bit like bollocks. Seriously, you got a metamagic that lets you fight a background count and the best you can do is only reduce it in a tiny sphere?

Instead, we make it work like a jammer. Each increment equals (Magic) meters and each increment away from the origin you lose 1 impact. So you roll 4 net hits on your Cleansing test and got Magic 8? At 17 meters distance the Aspected Background Count will have been reduced by 2 for a short while.

This mechanic can be adjusted to even downgrade in increments rather than fully fizzle out in a single second. So when the effect starts wearing off, it will take a while before  it’s completely gone and until then the effect simply reduces by 1 each interval. (Magic – Original Background Count?)


Rule: Sustained Spells don’t keep hits from Background Counts

Say you cast a spell at Force 6 outside a background count of Rating 2. You step in, spell is now at Force 4. You step out, step in, Force 2. Third time kills the spell. If you end up going through a patchy area, or temporarily enter a fully-cleansed area, that will suck balls.

Instead we simply make the highest count experienced count, almost as if it’s Essence Loss. You lost 2 Force? Well you’re at Force 4(6) then. Exit, still 4(6). Enter a Rating 1 Count then? Still 4(6). But a Rating 3 drops you to 3(6).

Houserules: Spirits breaking free

As some of you may know, Spirits can occasionally break free from their summoner and become Free Spirits. This is, however, extremely rare because for non-Allies there’s only 1 way for it to happen: The Summoner has to go unconscious from Drain damage while summoning or binding the spirit. Then and only then can they possibly break free. If they manage to hit a threshold of 3, they start Free with 1 Edge. Extra hits become extra Edge, which matters greatly but doesn’t matter now.

(For Allies they can break free during a Ritual of Change or at any point when the master goes down from Drain or Physical damage. No such rules are defined for normal spirits, in fact there’s nothing at all stating what happens if the summoner goes k.o. or dies in combat. Does the spirit stay, poof, go free? Nothing. But let’s not go into that right now.)

The actual fluff-text notes that Bound Spirits with a Force of 6 or higher tend to become free spirits. This is the same text as in SR4. Even the mechanic itself hasn’t changed. Which is, unfortunately, why the fluff description now is a load of crap.

The breaking-free test is an Edge test with threshold 3, with a possible +2 bonus. But Spirits now have Edge equal to F/2 instead of F. So a Force 6 bound spirit now has 3 dice instead of 6… Take a look at the following table:

Dice Chance Dice Chance
3 3.7% 6 32.0%
4 11.1% 7 42.9%
5 21.0% 8 53.2%

The 32% chance now is 3.7%. With +2 the 53.2% now has become a mere 21%, hardly fitting ‘tend to become free’. And the -4 from SR4 for unbound spirits now means that even with the +2 modifier added as well, a spirit needs to be Force 9 to even have the slightest chance of breaking free.

Worse, there was a way for a spirit to get more dice in SR4, though that way made no sense back then. It let them burn edge to edge the test. A test which determined how much Edge they started with as Free Spirit, so as long as they succeeded they lost nothing. That way is gone now, so it’s way harder for them to break free yet the fluff still acts as if the odds are the same.

So to summarize, F/2 makes the test near-impossible, the -4 means unsummoned got no chance at all, even the +2 hardly compensates and the spirit can’t hurt itself for better odds, plus if they could it should actually hurt them.

Which leads me to the houserule below:


Rule: Spirits trying to break free use the following table:

Situation Modifier
Unbound Spirit Edge
Bound Spirit Force
Experienced Spirit +2
Long-bound Spirit  +years bound
Rebound Spirit +rebinding attempts
Bound Burns Force Edged test allowed

The fixed unbound penalty has been replaced with a Force-related penalty. Since the Unbound Spirit uses Edge, they cannot Edge this test (Missions FAQ). Replacing it with F/2 would allow them to Edge it, but that would give them better odds than bound spirits without a price. Hence the odds are kept low like this.

The ‘memorable or frequent encounters with metahumanity’ (Street Grimoire p203) is kept.

Spirits that have spent a LOT of time tied to humanity by binding (even if not in this plane) get a bonus for being well-connected to this world. This basically lets GMs give spirits a bonus for being kept around idly. This can combine with the Experienced Spirit.

Furthermore, any rebinding attempts (either succesful or failed, including the current) add a bonus. The longer you force it to stick around, the better the odds it breaks free if you go unconscious. 🙂 Note that this could be ruled as ‘resummoning + binding the same spirit also adds the bonus even if it’s technically not rebinding’ if the GM wants a memorable spirit to have better odds.

Lastly, the SR4 Edge-burn rule gets replaced. Instead the Spirit burns a point of FORCE. Unlike Edge this actually is relevant and permanently damages the spirit no matter whether it fails or succeeds. In return both their odds and their average Edge as Free Spirit can go up quite nicely. By burning 1 point of Force, despite being summoned (so no access to their own Edge) the Spirit is allowed to actually Edge the test as normal, so Push before/after or Second Chance.

One bonus to these changes: The limit of [Force] to the Edge [Force] (3) test actually matters… Under RAW only a bound F3 spirit actually could be limited, anything above would have at most their Force in dice even with the +2.

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 GarcĂ­a, stepped in.

After distrusting them but willing to believe their sample-claim, GarcĂ­a 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. GarcĂ­a made clear to Artosa he didn’t trust the team, but Artosa dismissed his concerns and told him to leave, to GarcĂ­a’s hidden dismay that only Bubbles managed to pick up. GarcĂ­a 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 GarcĂ­a, what are you doing he-” and silence…


The team, paranoid as ever, immediately concluded that GarcĂ­a 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 GarcĂ­a screamed at them from outside, daring Artosa to come out and fight like a man!

There were a few things GarcĂ­a 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 GarcĂ­a, 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.