And we’re back

Our game location, Moenen & Mariken, moved about 70m eight months ago and needed some time getting its new basement ready. The basement now has its own entrance, allowing for us to play there again.

I intend to switch over to more regular open events in the future, rather than two short campaigns per year, but we’ll see how it goes. There also will be miniature-games in the future, which are basically fight-scenes fought out in detail. Unfortunately the miniatures need to be painted first.

For now there will be Ticket To Ride, three sessions working for GridGuide. These sessions will have a lower power level, using Sample Characters from the books rather than more optimized ones. To keep the power level balanced, no custom characters will be allowed. For more info, see here:

Words of a Feather – Balmung: Chasing of the wind

In his office, Corey Jacobson muttered to himself while going through actual paperwork. The vice-president of the bookshop Library of Progress and the secret organization Gram always did prefer the old ways, trusting pen and paper far more than unreliable hardware. In front of his desk his head clerk, Alicia Corson, cleared her throat. As he looked up he noticed her and curator Samuel Jenkins, who shyly had seated himself in one of the chairs in front of his desk. “Oh, can I help you two?”

Alicia rolled her eyes. “Not again! Sir, we can only enter your office when you explicitly gave us one-time access. Thus our presence here means you called for us. So what did you want to discuss with us, and does it have to do with our goons going on a covert operation for you?”

Jacobson blinked slowly then smiled. “Ah yes, you’re completely right! Thank you Alicia, you know how I can get lost in my head sometimes. So, yes, the job. I sent our people to investigate rumors of a hidden library said to have belonged to a departed dragon. Figured it was a good place to search for the third item, since the rumors rather smelled.”

Jenkins grew pale as Jacobson chattered on with a big smile on his face. “So I sent them to Helena, with one of our recent gains as gift to the local museum as an in. You know how the Siouans are with Anglos, so this was the best way to get past their prejudice. Now I hear our people had some trouble with a gang trying to rob them, but they managed to survive long enough for the army to rescue them and blow things to smithereens. That is the term kids use these days, right?”

“Breadcrumbs, sir?” Jenkins uttered in a quiet voice, earning him a probing glare from Alicia. Jacobson shook his head in response. “No, blow things to breadcrumbs sounds wrong Jenkins. What in heavens makes you think that’s the term they’d use? If so I wouldn’t want to live on this planet anymore.”

Jenkins coughed before daring to respond again. “Smelling rumors sir? I was contacted by Blumberg during this job, sir. He was wondering who was laying the breadcrumbs. And they already voiced their concerns before. It appears they have realized we’re being led around just like our competitors.”

“Ah, interesting. I guess they’ll get a good performance review in the future. But we’re not being led around like our competitors, because we’re the ones leading them around. After all, wouldn’t want to be too far ahead of them, that’d make them unpredictable! Speaking of which, let’s continue my recap shall we? By digging for information at the museum our men scored information suggesting where they wanted to go, so they got in touch with a team of guides I had arranged for them. Which of course they figured was already infiltrated by our enemies.”

The cheerful smile on Jacobson’s face compared rather poorly to the ghastly look on Jenkins’ and the frown on Alicia’s. “And that is a good thing why, sir? That means our competition knew we were coming so they wanted to follow us to the destination.”

“Uhm, miss Corson,” spoke a shy Jenkins. “Perhaps it is a good thing because it means they know we outclass them and this way they would tag along and let us prepare for them, rather than following us and catching us by surprise?”

“Precisely, dear Jenkins! Precisely! It means they recognize us as their betters! Oh, wait, I’m getting lost again. Did I explain what the find was? No? Ah, apologies. Okay so the guides helped sneak our people into the forest, where they searched for the terrain they thought likely to be the site they sought. I forget the details, it’s somewhere in these papers. Something about stories involving a hidden cave and an Ecclesiastes quote in ancient languages? I have to say I’m impressed, it only took them a day to find the real thing, booby-trapped and all.”

Alicia gulped, which was rather out-of-character for her. “Booby-trapped, sir? What kind of traps were there in a dragon’s cave exactly?”

“Oh you know, tripwires connected to arrow systems, anchored spells ready to kill anyone making the wrong step and a door only a dragon could open or close. Oh, you’ll love this! Not only did they find evidence that elves had served the dragon in the Fourth World, they also discovered a massive library with protective spells that prevented decay! Now mind you there was a ward around it, which apparently lasted decades if not more, but the protective spells were immune to the ward so we got them all out intact. Such a marvelous find!”

While Jacobson started on a long story about the various scrolls in the library, and how much he was looking forward to studying them all, Alicia and Jenkins looked at each other as if to ask which of them would interrupt their boss. And more importantly, with what question. Eventually Alicia’s impatience triumphed over her reluctance. “Sir, what about the treacherous guides?”

“-magine wh-! Hm? Traitors? Ah, right. They all were actually! When our people sent a few outside to call for assistance from a smuggler the guides knew, the guides all insisted to come with in case traps would go off and lock everyone inside. Of course it was partially a ruse as one of them then commanded the others to attack. Apparently he had approached them anonymously so that they would never suspect their boss was one of them. Now mind you it was rather foolish of them to attack our people, so the guy died rather soon and the rest surrendered. It’s a real shame though, but at the very least they blew his head off later at my request. Now, back to the scrolls! Can you believe that they contain information on the Horrors? It’s a true wonder! An-“

“Sir! Please. So our people won, took prisoners and called. What happened then?”

“Oh, I asked our lady to take care of it. She sent our people away and made arrangements, bringing all of the scrolls here. Mind you I did get intel on the traps first so there was no real danger. She got out all the scrolls, and of course the third item of our precious set of fo-. I forgot to tell you that they discovered that as well. Apologies. Yes, the breadcrumbs led us to the third item and only one remains. We’ll reach our goal before long.”

While Alicia and Jenkins again looked at each other, wondering about exactly how their president had so easily brought hundreds of scrolls in metal casings to Kansas City, Jacobson continued his enthusiastic description of various subjects covered in the scrolls he had read so far. It was clear to them that they would no longer be able to interrupt him so proper answers would have to wait. And perhaps he never intended to give them those to begin with…

“I really don’t get it,” sighed a fence of stolen art at a dive bar, “this Blumberg guy pays me a grand to protect a dead drop of his, comes over to review the data he sent me, then within a few seconds he grows pale and deletes it all before taking off as if he’s seen a ghost. What’s up with that, did a dragon eat his mother or something?”

Words of a Feather – Nothung: To give and take

In the best vault of the secret organization Gram, hidden in the deep basement of the Library of Progress, three people gathered in front of a new exhibit. Curator Samuel Jenkins gleefully studied the shield as he polished it very carefully, Alicia Corson oversaw this activity with an annoyed look on her face, while Corey Jacobson altered between checking out random items and checking his notes. These actions were interrupted when a shimmering figure appeared in between them, a watcher spirit sent by the president with her eternal smile.

“Of course she had to send a watcher,” Alicia grumbled. “Still, could we not have held a meeting elsewhere? No reason why she could not study the shield after the meeting.”

“Uhm, but miss Corson,” Jenkins timidly interrupted, “that’d cost more time and she has a busy sched-” then quickly shut up as he received a death glare. Meanwhile the watcher spirit studied the shield for a few seconds, then motioned for them to start. With a grunt Alicia began the debriefing.

“I sent those unmannered thugs, who rudely insisted on a lunch break first, to New Orleans to visit a party at The Rising Sun. As I reported last week, one of our sources had informed us there was something strange going on there in the art collection. Since the president gave her okay at last, I quickly sent the group there to infiltrate the party and find out what was going on. Oh, and get this, those idiots got searched at the border to the Confederation of American States, because one of them had Psyche on them and it got picked up by the drug hounds! A good thing nobody brought anything problematic with them, otherwise this mission would have failed even before it started!”

“Hm, ah, easy Alicia,” spoke a distracted Jacobson. “We’ll discuss it in the annual performance reviews. That’s what they’re for, right?” His innocent smile managed to lessen the frown on her face. “Uhm, this was a party at the former-brothel-former-speakeasy owned by that horrible Anderson, correct?”She nodded and continued.

“I hear they broke illegally hidden cameras at their hotel rooms, which at the least helped their covers since who would stand out that much then commit theft… Anyway, we got them into the party easily since I had prepared even before the final okay, and they even wore some mediocre clothes instead of street clothes. At the party they studied the horrid art collection, if you can call that abomination such a thing. He even hung paintings in front of other paintings! Really, who does that?!”

“Ah, a barbarian I would say.” Jenkins coughed shyly. “He gathered these things and exposed them purely to shock and entertain, not to actually appreciate them. At least that is what we thought.”

“Indeed,” Alicia agreed. “So it was a bit of a shock what happened. But let me rewind a short bit for the full summary to this -” she gestured towards the president’s watcher spirit “- messenger here. So at the party Blumberg discovered a book he had stolen three years ago had been replaced with a forgery, which got him kicked out after he exposed it with quite a bit of dramatic flair. The only upside to that is that it left him free to run Matrix searches on several suspicious party guests, who turned out to be Private Eyes, most likely hired by our faceless competition. Meanwhile Henri and Ogalesha spent time seducing and ended up with peculiar information regarding Anderson’s conquests at his parties. They didn’t really remember their one-night stands but he didn’t really impress them.

“Meanwhile Grod got bored,” she snorted in disdain, “and ended up hiding in one of the secret rooms upstairs. This led to him witnessing Anderson stab a woman with an Aztec dagger, then use a strange shield to heal her. He promptly fed her some wine, causing her to go unconscious, and cast some magic on her. Combined with the information the women downstairs had told our people, they figured out this was a case of ritual sacrifice combined with a healing shield and a combination of memory-erasing drugs and implanting false memories in his victims. Those false memories disappearing after a few months resulted in the peculiar broken recollections. At least now they knew what they were after, the shield, so they made a plan to come back the next day.

“Their plan was smart, disguise as workers for the broken elevator and then sneak through the shaft into a hidden room they had discovered during the party, which they did through levitation. Unfortunately Anderson and a possible conquest of his, who the group didn’t trust because she proved immune to their charms, arrived early and they were forced to hide. When through sneaking and magic they observed the woman distract then kill Anderson, ironically using his own ritual dagger against him, they quickly attacked her. Grod burst through a wall for that, can you believe that?! How inane is that!”

“Hm, yes, rather inane,” Jacobson mumbled. “But it did get them the element of surprise, which let them take out a rather dangerous blood mage. Initiation grade eight at the least? She had quite the rap sheet. Then killed her before running away from all the king’s men responding to the fire alarm. Ah, that reminds me, I should really have a word with Grod for bashing her to death with his chains, though he did have a valid excuse so could be forgiven.”

Alicia and Jenkins blinked and looked at each other for a few seconds before Jenkins spoke up. “Ah, forgiven for uhm what, sir? Killing her so brutally?”

Now it was Jacobson’s turn to blink. “Huh? No, of course not.” A smile came upon his face as he continued: “For not slowly torturing her to death first, of course! After all, that’s what should happen to all enemies of metahumanity, make them suffer before they die a slow, antagonizing death!”

The shocked silence was interrupted when from the watcher spirit came brilliant laughter in the voice of the president. “Oh Corey, wonderful, wonderful. This, this kind of attitude is why I made you my second-in-command. You always are so eager to do what’s needed. Thank you for that. And thank you all, I have confirmed this is the item we were looking for. Shield and armor taking care of, just two more things to go…”

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…