Out with the old, in with the new

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunters Hunted: Report of Wild Things #5

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

The team:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lying Lions: Report of Wild Things #4

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

The team:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sample Characters #2

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paper Places: Report of Wild Things #3

The third Wild Things session had five players for Paper Places, on a trip into the jungle.

The job: Travel to a village in the Congo Jungle, to negotiate for a permanent landing strip for future safaris.

The team:

  • Sergeant Sam, a Street Samurai with no mercy for no soldiers
  • H.R., a bow-wielder who fights for bovine freedom
  • Eiger, a non-social bodyguard troll who realizes just fine when she’s being scammed
  • Will I Am, a Survivalist Expert ready to act without hesitation
  • Mae, a Spirit Whispering Face whose Spirits help her whenever her smooth tongue won’t

Wild Life Incorporated had a few troubleshooters grab planes towards the airport at Johannesburg, to go on as team from there. They got their briefing near the gate from their usual contact, who was a bit delayed due to splurging on his duty-free shopping. The job seemed simple really. The company had recently obtained map-data indicating there was a village in the jungle near where Wild Life Incorporated wanted to host activities. If they could find a suitable place to land LAVs and convince the villagers to keep the landing strip safe and clean, they could make proper use of the location.

The company wanted Mae to go there and broker a deal, or at least a pre-deal for a temporary landing strip for more negotiations. The rest had to escort her, keep her safe and look menacing without opening their mouths please, because we all know what happens if you start talking…

This time the company supplied the team with two heavy-duty Commlinks, enhanced to have as much reach as possible as to let the team communicate. Sam already arranged one himself, so that meant the team could split into three groups if needed inside the jungle. Furthermore they got supplies, bugnets and 1 cubic meter of bugspray because the company bought an entire frickin’ crate. Oh, and socks against snakebites.

After doing some duty-free shopping themselves, which a few more familiar with Johannesburg were better at, the team went to their airplane for the trip to Congo. On the way there the airplane encountered an attack by a trigger-happy tribe, so the pilot got to dodge a missile strike, then decided to open fire on a few planes that came after the group, a dogfight he easily won. Thanks to their knowledge of Congo Militaries, the team could give the pilot a tip on who to call for a sign of gratitude.

A bit delayed the team landed at a village next to the jungle, unloaded their supplies and scouted for info. They received some info from a local soldier, who was surprised they were travelling to the middle of nowhere without civilization. He did note there were some tribal people, poisonous blowguns and all, but those lived 80km to the north, about 5km into the jungle. The team wanted travel 70km northeast instead.

Since 70km through the jungle was too much of a pain, the team decided to instead travel north over the savannah by car, then walk east into the jungle so they only needed to walk approximately 40km to their destination. They tried arranging for transportation, and Eiger soon ran into someone trying to scam her in broken english. Ignoring him, she just walked away and returned to the group. Mae got two people to transport the group, meanwhile H.R. encountered an African Buffalo and tried bribing it with hay. The animal pushed him away before eating though.

In the jungle Mae would have been the slowest teammember, but thanks to help from a Plant Spirit she was fast enough to keep up with the rest. Thanks to that they only spent two days travelling, which H.R. spent leaving hay breadcrumbs just in case. Near their target-coordinates, the team noticed tracks of patrolling people. With their intimate knowledge of Small Unit Tactics, they figured out both the formation of the locals, and where the place the patrols were circling was. This seemed to match their prior intel, so Mae sent a spirit there to scout from the astral plane. The spirit soon reported it had found a village, then that it was surrounded, and only seconds later it was disrupted by astral combat.

Shaken by this knowledge, the team made sure to prepare well for dangerous contact with the locals. After fatiguing summoning they were Concealed. They had three commlinks, and with H.R. and Will.I.Am both incompetent with Electronics, it was easy to determine who got to use them. With Mae and H.R. as center of a triangle-formation, the team soon encountered four locals which likely were the patrol from the previous tracks. Two decently-visible in the middle, and one on each flank hidden well.

As they approached, William realized something was off about the local he noticed on the flank. With horror, he realized the guy was showcasing a Termite Shamanic Mask*. He quickly took out his hunting rifle, switched to APDS, shouted “Danger!” and dropped the guy in a single shot. A quick fight later, the team asked for an explanation, and after receiving it joined in on the double-tapping. Then they proceeded to the village, ready to finish what they had started.

The village turned out to be several huts connected together with strange material into one big building. Six villagers were outside and a shaman came out to greet the group. Despite both the Insect Shaman and Mae pretending nothing was wrong, combat quickly started and all villagers present were identified as bug spirits. Soldiers burst out from inside as well, and while Mae’s spirit did not owe her any services next to the Concealment, he chose to protect the Spirit Whisperer all the same. And on his prompting, out from the jungle burst a certain African Buffalo.

Thanks to their smart formation, blowing up a bugspray canister to serve as gas grenade, the spirit drawing fire and the distraction supplied by the Buffalo, the team quickly took down all enemies. They called their boss, who was rather shocked to find out the company had been fed false map data. Just as shocked as he was to find out they had received help from a hunter-killing beast with a bounty of twenty grand on its head. He quickly sent an extra team by plane to help secure the location, interrogate the shaman and get everybody back out.

As it turned out, the shaman came from the blowgun-local village, where he had been turning some villagers into bug spirit vessels before having to flee. At his new base they had been discovered by some treasure hunters, which they had captured and converted as well. The same thing he likely would have tried to do with the team, had they not discovered the face behind the mask so soon. Glad that it was all over now, the team said their goodbyes to ‘Buffy’ and returned to civilization.

* Insect Spirits are spirits called over by an Insect Shaman. Unlike other spirits they cannot materialize or possess people. A living being must be prepared as vessel for them to take over, otherwise they grow weaker over time. This inhabitation ritual is lengthy and kills the original living being.

The inhabiation process can result in hybrid forms which are stronger but are visibly no longer human, or flesh forms which look the same as the original vessel. A flesh form will even have the same magical aura as the original, and have their knowledge and skill available.

Insect Spirits gather in hives and try to build up their forces, their final goal is basically to destroy the entire human race. As such, the best solution is to exterminate with extreme prejudice. The only exceptions are Mantis Spirits, who prey on other Insect Spirits for reproduction.

Life Modules: Characters with a story

For Wild Things, we use Life Modules for character creation. This is a special chargen method that the Fifth Edition introduced.

Normal character creation, both Priority and Build Points, can be roughly summarized as ‘here are a bunch of points, go use them any way you want’. With Priority you get different amounts of freebie points for different categories and a few ‘build points’ (karma) to round them off. Build Points is simply a load of karma without subdivision into categories.

Life Modules is Build Points with a twist: You start by buying several life modules, each with their own karma costs. Nationality, Formative Years, Teen Years, possible Further Education, then 1+ Real Life Modules. These Modules give you attribute bonuses, skills, knowledges and languages, and even positive and negative qualities. You add up their bonuses into the big picture, then you have as much karma as you didn’t yet spend to round things off.

There’s a decent bit of flexibility in the modules, usually in the knowledges but sometimes even in the active skills. And submodules give more detailed bonuses depending on what kind of person you are. For example College lets you pick a major, whereas a Tour Of Duty could have you in the Rigger Corps, or as Special Forces.

Now with normal chargen methods, you completely pick whatever you want and combine it into a story. With Life Modules, part of the story is already in the modules. The details you still fill in yourself, but the broad lines are already there. This helps give more depth to a character. I personally consider Life Modules perfect for a short campaign, and especially for sample characters. It gives flavour to the characters, so that they’re not just a combat mage, they’re a Siouan combat mage that turned mercenary just to get their thrill.

The biggest challenge was avoiding too much overlap, because when you design characters for a specific kind of campaign, it’s far too easy to end up with very similar characters. Part of what made Smedley hard to make was avoiding overlap with the Face for one of the regular players, who has a custom character.

The first sample character post already showed the history of two in detail, but to put it into quick text, here’s a few sample characters their modules:

Will. I. Am. (Survival Expert): Race: Human. Nationality: Canadian. Formative Years: Isolated Rural Upbringing. Teen Years: Isolated Rural Upbringing. No further education. Real Life Modules: Drifter, Tour Of Duty (UCAS, Special Forces), Tour Of Duty (Mercenary, Special Forces), Covert Ops.

Eiger (Bodyguard): Race: Troll. Nationality: UCAS (Seattle). Formative Years: Military Brat. Teen Years: Military School. No further education. Real Life Modules: Ganger, Bounty Hunter, Shadow Work (Street Samurai), Personal Investigator.

Richie Rich: Report of Wild Things #2

The second Wild Things session was a blast, quite literally in-game, with six players for Richie Rich.

The job: Escort Richard William Dickens IV to the Sioux Nation, where he wants to see the local wildlife. That is, ladies at clubs AND buffalo.

The team:

  • Sergeant Sam, a Street Samurai who loves it when he doesn’t have to act polite
  • H.R., a bow-wielder who likes shooting arrows into people’s faces
  • Carl, a combat mage Wildcat army veteran enjoying heavy liquor
  • Eiger, a bodyguard troll capable of smashing any fool messing with her charge
  • Charmante, a huntress who can handle any environment. Except urban ones…
  • Mae, an Aztlan Facemage who has to clean up the mess of others way too much

The team were called together in Seattle and received the assignment to play bodyguard for Richard William Dickens IV,. And yes, both the Corporate Fixer and mister Dickens expected jokes about his name. When later they called him “Dick Dickens”, he immediately corrected it to “Dick Willy Dickens the Fourth”.

‘Mister Dickens’, an uncouth thrillseeking billionaire and heir to a fortune, wanted Wild Life Incorporated’s troubleshooters to accompany him to Cheyenne, protect him while clubbing, then escort him on his way to hunt buffalo in co-operation with the locals. Wild Life Incorporated’s connections were good enough to help him get what he wanted, and he liked having some proper security for him and his entourage. Since the locals spoke a lot of different languages, several secondary Faces would be hired to help with the initial interactions. Half the team speaking Ka-ne-tsv, the Sioux lingua franca, also would be useful against the language barrier.

Since the Sioux Nation has significantly different firearm laws, the company arranged for replacements. For starters, a heavy pistol carried openly was a must. Each member of the team received a Nemesis Arms Praetorian, a heavy pistol with an engraved bayonet fitted to the person. Sam’s held a cameo pattern, H.R. had the feathers of arrows upside down on his, Carl had flamed, Eiger a mountain icon, Charmante a snarling wolf and Mae a single rose with a thorny stem. Their illegal toys would be smuggled into the country and handed to them once they left Cheyenne. They found out later that their charge, Richard, owned two heavy revolvers, one brown-red and one lapis.

After they got to the airport in Seattle, the first test for the team was the booze supply on Rich’s private jet. They were actively encouraged to go wild, an offer most accepted with glee. From >500¥ beers to 15,000¥ Tír Tairngire liquor bottles, even enjoying >120-proof Vodka and Absinthe, the team consumed well, most of them in an uncouth manner, and passed the first test. Rich decapitating a beer bottle with one of his revolvers also made clear what he thought of manners, to the dismay of his entourage. He told the troubleshooters that once in Sioux, they should keep their illegal toys hidden. While chatting along he sent a secret message to their commlinks, noting “pull them out at my sign, you’ll know when”…

After hopping through a few other countries, the team landed at Cheyenne. Here they were welcomed by a lot of soldiers, led by a general who greeted them in a friendly hostile manner. Mae, as a citizen of Aztlan, and Anglo teammembers immediately got a taste of subtle discrimination as they were completely ignored. It was clear that money spoke but did not get goodwill in return, even if it paved the way.

At the luxury Corporate hotel a scene arose when Rich wanted to check in while speaking English, so the receptionist kept asking in Dakota what he wanted. Ignoring poor Mae her matrix-translate attempts and a rude H.R. writing insults for Rich to use, the receptionist insisted until her boss noticed who the customer was… And ever a playboy Rich made sure to express his appreciation for her attitude, and gave her a spare roomkey.

Before making his evening plans, Rich wanted to know if the team had some proper nice clothing. Appreciating their answers, he then told them to NOT wear those and change into the most unpolite thing they had. When all but Mae had done so, the team went to the hotel restaurant and played bodyguards while enjoying awesome food and shocking both the locals and mister Dickens his entourage. Afterwards they left for the nightclub Intensity, a place without bias pro- or con-NAN.

Outside Intensity, SDF troops immediately picked a fight with the team and one decided arresting people would be a good idea. Given how this endangered Richard and could be an assassination attempt, guns were drawn very quickly and accusations of treason made very vocal. With a big lapis revolver in the face of the idiot, H.R. cursing, Eiger being a massive troll and Carl’s SIN noting he was a former Wildcat, the troops were intimidated into not starting a firefight. Carl called his former commanding officer, who quickly realized the mess and made arrangements to call back the troops. As for Rich’s advisor, the poor man nearly died of stress.

Inside Intensity, it wasn’t long before the playboy tore a couple in two. The pissed boyfriend got distracted by a flirting Mae, which helped prevent a scene. Three men later, however, were clearly out for a fight. Once they noticed the knife behind their back and started a brawl, however, they quickly realized they were outmatched by being beaten in mere seconds. Since technically the team could sell self-defense, they weren’t kicked out and Rich picked up several more ladies before leaving. All astrally vetted by the mages, who noticed one girl had a headache but that was the only suspicious thing they noticed.

Back at the hotel, Mae summoned a spirit to help sweep the entire penthouse. Unlike the mages, this spirit did notice the lady with a headache had a cortex bomb. Attempted misdirection while leading her away, panic, Richard enabling the penthouse’s Faraday Cage, security calls, police aid and a careful disarming later, it ended with a sizzle. The team questioned the lady’s friends, who had no idea who could have done this, why, when or where. They also playfully accused Rich’s advisor, who was very shocked and vehemently denied it all despite standard trid-show cliches. Eventually Rich went to bed with several ladies, Eiger locked herself into the guestroom and the rest of the team and entourage slept in the other penthouse.

The next day the team left Cheyenne in an SUV convoy, picking up their illegal gear from corporate agents on the way. Their various Sioux faces got them past both military and civilian checkpoints without hassle. Eventually they reached the locals, a tribe not fond of technology. There they tried riding horses, which several failed at. Carl ended up using his combat training to intimidate his ride, H.R. got a mule, a few others rode a car instead. Rich got to take down a buffalo with bow-and-arrow, and then they went to a White Buffalo herd to sightsee. And just as the team feared, rather quickly poachers appeared from a nearby forest. In two GMC Banshees…

As Rich took out a milspec Sniper Rifle, he also sent a single instruction to all troubleshooters: Gun ’em down. Two combat spirits, sniper rifles, an explosive arrow, an overcast combat spell, an Assault Cannon Round and only 2 seconds later the Banshees started crashing down to the ground, with only one having been able to fire back once. The team rushed towards the t-birds while their spirits massacred one of the crews. A dead and a few alive prisoners later, Richard and his advisor entered the now-secured plane. Rich smiled and told the prisoners “Rather poorly done, but one question. Why didn’t you fire at me from the start?” The guilty look in their eyes was all he needed to aim his red gun at his advisor and blow the man to kingdom come.

The team decided to call their boss, asking if Wild Life Incorporated wanted these poachers. “Ask them if they like Sudoku.” Their guilty eyes proved they did, so the prisoners were hidden. When the entourage and locals finally caught up, Rich took the lead and lied that there had been one survivor, who killed his poor advisor before H.R. got to kill him. To the surprise of the team, Rich lied so well that everyone fell for it. Had they not been there, they too would have believed him.

After an awesome evening meal with delicious buffalo meat later, and a peaceful paranoid night, the team drove back to Cheyenne and flew out of there. And now they knew that the advisor had been playing Richard, giving him advice to trick him into ignoring it and entering into hostile situations. The aggressive clubgoers, the cortex bomb assassination attempt and even the poachers sent to kill him knowing he’d go to visit the White Buffalo herds, were all his doing. But Rich had known something was up, and so had played along only after arranging for competent backup. The only question remaining for Wild Life Incorporated, was who was behind both this and the previous sabotage.

Polarbear Poachers: Report of Wild Things #1

The first Wild Things session went quite well. There were six players, who all played Polarbear Poachers.

The job: Go to Thule (Greenland) and take care of polar bears killing local wildlife, while killing as few polar bears as possible.

The team:

  • Sergeant Sam, a military brat gone Street Samurai
  • H.R., a bow-wielder who likes to shout “You have failed this ___!”
  • Carl, a combat mage army veteran
  • Will I Am, a Survival Expert and polar bear fanboy
  • Charmante, a huntress who can handle any environment
  • And finally a smiling Face who has to clean up the mess of others

The team received their briefing during the flight to Thule: Since polar bears went virtually extinct but rich people like seeing majestic animals in the wild, Wild Life Incorporated had sponsored a reintroduction program in the barren lands of Greenland several years ago. The locals got paid for the hassle and the Corp promised to take care of any problems. Problems were now present: Recently there had been a massacre of seals and the locals weren’t too happy with that.

Due to a snowstorm, the team had to be dropped off a while removed from the village. Fortunately they had received a decent bit of equipment: Arctic suits, survival kits, rations and good-rating commlinks with satellite links. They got to the village with just a bit of frostbite, where they ran into the local (well-armed) youth who immediately picked a fight, and the runners returned in kind. The mayor arrived and intervened, and when the rabble discovered the team was from Wild Life Incorporated the temperature dropped even more.

While Carl left a spirit outside to start change the weather, the team got briefed by the mayor. He reported that there had been two seal massacres so far the past two weeks, and yesterday a shepherd had been attacked. The man had gotten away, but his goats got slaughtered. In all cases the killings had been needless, with most corpses not even having been eaten from. The seal corpses had been picked up with snowmobiles and stored in the village, saving the village some hunting, but if more were killed then the local seal population could become endangered. And as an added burden, the snowmobiles had broken down from all the load.

The team checked out the dead seals and soon discovered anomalies. The hunting behaviour seemed amateuristic for bears, instead the attacks seemed to more resemble how swordwielders would attack. Furthermore a magical residue was discovered in some of the wounds. With the snow storm now alleviated by the spirit, part of the team went off to check on the villagers, while Charmante and H.R. decided to go out and interrogate seals. And of course got lost on the way, fortunately ending up close enough to then find the seals by following their sounds.

The team discovered there were a few latent adepts in the village, as well as a low-magic adept (the shepherd, who apparently frequently saw local spirits) and a young girl the spirit described as having a connection to the strange world humans connected to through their devices. In other words, a technomancer. A few theories arose about polar bear cyborgs being controlled, but these seemed unlikely. They also dug into the timings of the attack, and realized they seemed to resemble that of Long Haul periods: Four days on, two days off. These helped cement their suspicions that shapeshift-spells were involved. Their most likely suspect was a hermit living a while away from the village.

Meanwhile, Charmante and H.R. found the seals at the second attack location but got attacked by a walrus. After quickly beating him up and intimidating him, they then proceeded to demand the walrus told them where the polar bears were. By some miracle, with the help of some animal empathy, they managed to get through enough and the walrus led them to a damaged bush. They quickly realized that this bush had suffered damage from a large falling individual, suggesting that a polar bear had tried to stand on hind legs and had failed horribly at that.

The rest of the team contacted Wild Life Incorporated and discussed their findings so far. When Charmante and H.R. joined the conversation and spoke about interrogating a walrus, they immediately got psych evaluations scheduled. The team discussed what would be the best course of action. Taking out the mage first would likely result in unshifted people freezing to death, so they decided to first take out the fake polar bears, without lethal force, and to go after the mage after that.

After convincing the local youth to NOT go out and pick a fight with polar bears, the team went to the most likely location for the polar bears to show up now. They managed to quickly ambush them, knock them out and then managed to bring them back to the village where they were chained up and guarded by the trigger-happy youths. To get to the hermit, Carl summoned a Beast Spirit which pulled a dog sled for the team. After a tactical pincer-movement on the hermit’s cabin, H.R. opened the door to find… The hermit busy solving sudoku puzzles and not paying attention at all…

A quick takedown later, which they confirmed had undone the spells on the fake bears (which turned out to be trolls), the team scouted the scene. They found troll-sized sleeping bags, a bunch of books including a bible, a lot of solved sudoku and a commlink containing only received sudoku files. Suspecting secret codes, they took it all in and brought it back to the village. Since the real polar bears had not been involved in any of the attacks, culling was fortunately not needed. Still, the team arranged for plans to tag more of the bears and to set up a beacon net around the village to detect any trespassing polar bears in the future.

As for figuring out who arranged for these fake polar bears, the team left that to Wild Life Incorporated. With a job well done, it was time to get back to civilization and get wasted on warm food and good alcohol.

First Wild Things session & Sample Characters #1

First Wild Things game will be tomorrow, on the 5th of may. The scenario played will be Polarbear Poachers, and a second scenario has been prepared named Noisy Nights.

(Yes, the alliteration is intended. 🙂 Of the first four run-titles 3 alliterated, so I adjusted them to all do so.)

Asides from three players with their self-made characters, there’s six sample characters available for people to choose from. They’re a Face (social character), a Bodyguard, a Hunter, a Survivalist Expert and two mages, one Overwatch and one Combat.

Now these have been made with the Life Modules system, which gives more detail to their development history. Rather than just being a set of skills and attributes, your character combines Life Modules and some extra karma expenses into a bigger story.

First of, we got the Face, Smedley: He’s an Ork (the only orc in Shadowrun is the Ork Rights Committee) from Tír Tairngire. Now the Tir, which roughly overlaps with current Oregon, is a mostly-Elf country which has a lot of discrimination going on against non-elves. So an Ork will usually suffer greatly there. Smedley still went to all the decent amounts of education though: He went through white collar education, prep school, state college and obtained a job in Sales.

But due to all the discrimination there was a rub for Smedley, and at age 25 he had enough. The control of English he had picked up over the years he then employed in the shadows, doing the social work for others as Face. He scored some nice big connections then, but he still didn’t feel at home, so he began to drift. His journeys brought him to Africa, where after a while doing work here and there in Cape Town, he moved to Johannesburg and scored a job as cop there.

Now while intimidating people might alleviate boredom for a while, it’s not the greatest of all jobs and Smedley really felt the urge to put his other social skills to work again. One of his big connections then contacted him, suggesting a job that he might very well enjoy: Troubleshooter for Wild Life Incorporated. It’d give him a chance to put his social skills to the test, a challenge he decided to accept.

Statwise Smedley is average physically, except for a really sturdy body. But he’s real smart and charismatic, quite excellent at his social skills, and knows nearly every main language he should know for his job. While he’s not all that good in his physical skills, he compensates with the smooth talk or the threats you’d never expect from a sturdy Ork.

Another character from the Tir is the Elf Hunter Charmante. As an Elf she was treated far better, but she became an orphan as a young kid and ended up spending her teen years on a farm. Due to this she lacked the chance to get a proper education, instead she decided to get tough and mean. At a mere age of seventeen she already hit the shadows as Street Samurai, developing her gun skills and her quick eye.

A few years later Charmante managed to draw the attention of a corporate Johnson from Telestrian Industries. Since she was an elf born and raised in the Tir, getting her a limited Corporate SIN wasn’t that hard to arrange. Charmante got much better at her combat skills there, and used her spare time to learn more about critters & paracritters since Telestrian Industries bred and trained those.

When gender-discrimination got in the way of her position, her boss helped her get a job working for the cops. With her skillset SWAT was glad to have her. Heck, her skills were so good she got to spend part of her weapon training on improving her skill with blades instead.

Charmante got to the point where SWAT just didn’t do it for her anymore and she started missing her life in the shadows, where she was her own boss. She used her skills to become a Bounty Hunter and liked to hunt them in wilder areas. Eventually one of her bounties happened to be on a Wild Life Incorporated safari. She took the guy down without security even noticing and got him out through twenty miles of jungle.

By the time Wild Life Incorporated caught up, she had already cashed in the bounty. She immediately got hired as Troubleshooter, because someone that good at hunting, sneaking about and beating people up was perfect for many a Wild Thing.

Wild Things

Going to keep this brief, because most of the info is on the left already. Just check Open Play Events and its subheader Wild Things (also linked to on the Open Play Events page).

Wild Things is an open campaign, so anyone can join. It will be a bunch of single sessions where someone can just come in, grab a sample character and enjoy the game. There also will be a red thread weaving through the sessions, connecting them to a scary spooky evil masterplot.

Because the runners work for a company, there won’t be the usual ‘going to the meet, possibly getting ambushed/tested, negotiating with the Johnson, finding out what they’re not telling you and whether or not they’ll backstab you’ that most normal Shadowrunners go through. This is part of how I’m cutting down the gametime required. There will still be plenty of chances for socialites, of course, and also battle opportunities for the tough guys.

One last note: No Riggers, Deckers or Technomancers. We’re avoiding the complicated archetypes for this campaign. Plus in the middle of nowhere none of those are that comfortable to play. ^_^’

– MC