Corporate Party Crashing
For the second session of this Shadowrun game, I wanted to get back to what I felt made Shadowrun special and not “railroad” the procedures as much. Here I gave much more control over the way this run played out to my players, notably by having them decide how to approach the Mr. Juan (Johnson) and then on their approach. To begin with, I discussed some of the things they should consider buying like Fake SINs (to hide who they really were) and relevant equipment. Then it was onto the actual game and I was most interested in how this run would play out.
The basic scenario was that the Mr. Juan wanted the shadowrunners to infiltrate a high end corporate party held by Aztechnology. Here, a brilliant geneticist called Dr. Taryn Sims had been finally let out of her secure facility to attend this particular event, which presented a unique opportunity for the Mr. Juan to “extract” her and renegotiate her contract. It’s worth noting that in shadowrun once you are “employed” by a megacorporation that employment tends to be entirely on their terms. If you’re especially valuable to the corp in some way, they are never going to actually let you go and you might as well be working for them for life.
Hence why other corporations tend to hire shadowrunners to go and “renegotiate” these particular employees employment contracts.
So the first thing I wanted to try to improve in this session was how my players viewed and thought of the matrix. The matrix is shadowrun is an extremely cool concept and I decided much of the first 40 minutes of this session to describing how the particular club the Mr. Juan visited them was set up. Inspired by some of the descriptions in the core book, “The Warrior’s Den” was an upper market trideo-gaming cafe with a combined meatspace and matrix presence. When a user enters the host that the cafe has in the matrix, it creates a digital ARO (Augmented Reality Object, pronounced “Arrow”) that mimics that person in the bar simultaneously. Here I tried to sell the differences between the matrix, grids and a host – hopefully.
This also presented the runners with an interesting option – did they want to go to meatspace and meet the Mr. Juan in the metahuman flesh, or did they just all jack into the matrix and visit as AROs? On the one hand, meeting the My. Juan as an ARO posed little risk to themselves in case of a shootout and on the other hand, it might be viewed as rude or suspicious not to turn up in person. In the end the decision was to split the difference with “Just Eric” going into the matrix to check out the club and see what was going on. Once he determined it wasn’t an obvious ambush, the others could be called in to come meet the Mr. Juan in person in the VIP area of the club.
Here is where I dedicated a considerable amount of time to explaining to my players how the matrix looked and what the difference between grids and hosts was. Inside the host for the club, it enforced rules on reality (noting the matrix normally lets you do what you want) and showed how different users have specific icons. The majority of customers had whatever icons they wanted – it’s a gaming cafe so I figured personal icons would be permitted – while the cafe safe, patrol IC (thankfully not needed!) and such had their own icons, being large jaguar men and stone golems respectively.
This of course wasn’t all being done for flavor, but I needed to communicate some important concepts about the matrix. Notably that it’s typically full of different icons and learning to differentiate between what’s not important and is important was essential. It also provided a “safe” way for them to see how the matrix and meatspace could sometimes directly interact, how businesses could sculpt the matrix to their liking and the difference between an overall grid/host. Here is also where I emphasized the overall Grid Overwatch Division (or GOD) who look over the matrix. Hacking things or leaving too many traces can often be detected, so hacking things here I tried to emphasize could be quite difficult.
In any event the club was deliberately pretty safe and the Mr. Juan already had them on the registry as being “Ok” to enter into the VIP area. “Just Eric” went in through the matrix, while Kelpie and “Mister with Shotgun” decided to go in via the front door in meat space. This naturally meant that the newly bought synthetic pheromones bioware Kelpie had purchased would be most worthwhile. The Mr. Juan I decided to roleplay as very cordial and forthcoming with useful information on the nature of the job they had to do.
It seemed actually pretty straightforward, infiltrate the party and find Dr. Sims. Call her in when they identified her and then the Mr. Juan would send further instructions as to her “extraction”. Of course there was one tiny complication: The party was being held as a masquerade party and all identifying information would be erased by security. Finding Dr. Sims would actually be a considerable challenge because of this. Additionally the party was being held in an open air rooftop area of the Chinampa resort, with HTR security in copters only seconds away if required.
This meant a very “noisy” approach was going to draw a lot of extremely well armed trouble and quickly. So stealth was a priority and so the real challenge of this particular run was identifying what Dr. Sims looked like in the first place. Then successfully finding and identifying her. Complicating the issue further was the fact she was very likely to have her own private security keeping an eye on her at the party, making getting near her much more complicated.
At this point is where I took the hands off the wheel and just let my players come up with any crazy plan they wanted. The real fun in Shadowrun isn’t really the run itself: It’s all the shenanigans in the lead up to preparing for it (and of course, once it invariably goes pear-shaped). First of all, the most important thing to do on a run is to actively scout out the place you are going to go. Like any good heist movie, casing the joint first in both the matrix and physical meat space can be essential to surviving whatever happens afterwards.
Here they found out what grid the place was on, what its host looked like (a jungle themed thing, amusingly enough, complete with cat like IC). It also was linked to the nearby Docwagon medical hospital, who used some of the resorts rooms like their amphitheater for lectures. Here the runners interfered with things, got themselves onto the guest list (notably by Kelpie charming her way through using the pheromones and “Mister with Shotgun” was added to the security detail file by “Just Eric”), were able to find out the names of some VIPs, infiltrated the security and found out some more about Dr. Sims. Most notably that Dr. Sims had several allergies to various foods, notably peanuts and a few other things. This led to the hilarious idea of giving her an episode of anaphylactic shock and then using the docwagon to book her out of there.
Peanut oil is still the most destructive weapon of choice in 2075 it appears.
One important thing they did was they discovered some strange entries on the guest list for the night, which didn’t seem to add up as these names were blank entries while the other names on the list were clearly there (including Dr. Sims). “Just Eric” decided to delete the things and this naturally meant that a certain group of security for Dr. Sims were about to get a pretty serious problem on the night. On a meta point of view, I also allowed this because without the two more combat orientated characters around, a shootout was going to be difficult and so bypassing the security for Dr. Sims this way felt like a satisfying solution given the runners current resources.
Going forward into the party, they knew the following about Dr. Sims:
She is naturally blonde (but may have any color hair)
She’s tall, roughly 6’1″
Speaks with a “Southern” US accent
Upon getting to the party, “Mister with Shotgun” took his position amongst the security detail for the night and Kelpie arrived shortly before the start of the party to mingle with the crowd in general. This is while Just Eric hung around in the matrix (where his character was most comfortable), keeping an eye on things there and trying to narrow down who Dr. Sims was. Essentially at this point in the game we were playing Shadowrun: Guess Who edition.
The first thing of course that happened was a speech from the CEO of Aztechnology (or possibly one of his clones/body doubles, one can never tell) and then from a rising up and coming star of the company: Arias Ticjudos. A brilliant researcher, she had developed numerous magical formulae and was also pioneering a new kind of bioware, which would enable magic users to add bioware mods to themselves with no essence cost (a big deal in a magical arms race). Of course, once she stood on the podium and began speaking, she did something curious: She spotted and then stared at the runners for a short, but obviously uncomfortably long period.
Did she recognize them?
Kelpie after the lecture decided to show no real fear and just straight up approached Arias, asking some questions and seeing how she would react. Arias, who was one of the few people on the night to have a known identity, engaged in some chit chat for a while but didn’t give much away. There were some clear hints that Arias had a bit more knowledge than she was letting on, but was otherwise pretty cordial with Kelpie. I thought this was a pretty important moment and during the next events to occur, would definitely have an impression.
In any event the game of guess who continued, with mingling through the guests and an incident in a bathroom where two corporates were talking about how Dr. Sims was an “Evenophile” and insulting elves. Right in front of “Mister with Shotgun”, who should be noted is an elf.
None the less Mister held his composure and didn’t put two dark red stains all over the urinal and with some further information at the party, most notably that Dr. Sims was in a green dress and Eric being able to narrow down the number of guests, Kelpie was able to run into her standing by herself towards the back of the party. Naturally being interested in elves, Dr. Sims paid good attention to Kelpies approach, standing up taller and giving her an interested smile. Upon confirming who they were dealing with, they called in Sims location to the Mr. Juan.
Then all hell broke loose.
When the Mr. Juan meant “Extraction”, in this case it also happened to mean “Extraction from this mortal coil” as a sniper activated his smart link and then began lining up a shot on Dr. Sims. Now, let’s be clear about one thing here: I didn’t plan anything beyond this point for what the runners “should” do. They could happily collect their 150,000 Nuyen and let Dr. Sims eat the high velocity armor piercing bullet to the head. Alternatively, they could have tried to prevent the assassination attempt and that is precisely what they did.
So in order to do this fairly, I decided early on that the first initiative pass that the sniper took was going to be spent using the “Take Aim” option. This bought the runners at least one entire round to try to do something about the sniper collectively, before someone got their brains blown out. Especially because after smartlinks and similar were taken into account, the sniper had a massive 21 dice for each of their shots. Of course, I decided that certain actions would either surprise the sniper or cause them to miss: Most notably by introducing some other things runners could do in combat.
In this case Kelpie pretended to “jump” Dr. Sims romantically and give her a kiss, pushing her to the ground (along with Kelpie). This mechanically was a knockdown attack with the runner choosing to go prone when she succeeded. Meanwhile Just Eric attempted to hack the gun, but failed, at least forcing the sniper to turn off his smart link and go silent (otherwise Just Eric could brick the gun with matrix damage and attacks). After this they were hiding behind the barrier, but Kelpie wisely decided to move and thus the explosive bullet careered directly behind her and Dr. Sims, preventing them from dying horribly. Then Mister wisely turned both Kelpie and Dr. Sims invisible, while the frustrated Mr. Juan yelled down their commlink to ask what they were doing.
“Renegotiating the contract” was the rather glib answer from Kelpie.
A last frustrated bullet ploughed into another corporate and then the sniper wigged out. Mister, Sims and Kepie took the elevator down to safety… when they were joined by Arias at the last minute. Arias naturally greeted them cordially and then suggested some surprise at the currently rather… alive Dr. Sims being present. Of course Arias had observed the entire attack and actually strode out looking for the sniper during it, so this gave the runners the idea she was very capable in a fight (so thoughts of a second kidnapping were out). Of course, Arias was very impressed and suggested that the runners expect her to get in contact with them… and soon.
Safely in the garage, the runners piled into the getaway vehicle and were then out of there before anyone knew any better. Here the runners didn’t get any of their pay, but they did gain a valuable NPC in Dr. Sims. Taryn is grateful to them and sets up shop near their safehouse, allowing them a 10% discount on cyberware or bioware. Additionally she can be a useful source of information, which more than compensates for the 150,000 Nuyen the runners gave up in saving her.
But as to long term consequences? This was definitely the more interesting path for the runners to take with this run. Definitely.