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Mostly Flesh and Steel: Intensive Care

Welcoming my players back to Shanghai, we first of all went and developed the safehouse that I spoke about a while ago. The safehouse has a variety of benefits, most of which match the Home Ground rules from the main rulebook, with some others such as blackmarket dealers and similar. After some discussion they went with some Gang Connections, Home Turf (Matrix) and Black Market Dealer (Heavy Weapons). Eventually after I do some wizardry, I’ll make the Gang Connections and Black Market Dealer into fully realized NPCs with their own goals and agendas, just to spice things up.

Then the really fun bit of creating the safehouse began, where I invited the players to go around in a circle describing some aspect of the place that stood out or was interesting about it. This is what we ended up with:

“Located in an old gang infested area in the docks district of Shanghai, the Runner’s safehouse is an old three story building with a front facade of an old bakery on the ground floor. Although unclean, dingy and worn down on the outside the safehouse is extremely clean inside and has been decorated with an 80s aesthetic throughout, including a functional pinball machine! This is probably to suit the more elderly runner who lives in the building and lives there, Nanna, who has also technically adopted the groups young decker Radical Edward.

Despite the age there are good access points to the local Renraku grid in the region and so the matrix here is well connected. Additionally the building has its own host and shaped matrix within, which looks rather like an extremely quirky bakery complete with digital bread from when it was active some years ago. A long laundy chute links the top floor with an abandoned and crumbling garage on the ground floor. Through here is the entrance to the basement, where the mage Raijin has set up shop and a further long entrance goes out to the sea. Just in case.”

While I’ve elaborated on things slightly, everything in here was the creation of the players involved in one way or another. The idea of these Shadowrunners hanging out in basically an old bakery was a delightful image that I had to emphasize in the description. Makes sense as well given Nanna and her… cookies.

In any event, with the safehouse created we moved onto the actual run itself, where one of the local triads from the “Jade Empire” gang decided to get in contact with the runners. This was easy to justify narratively because they are familiar with the runners already, sharing territory. The gang aren’t stupid enough to annoy the runners and the rather large troll that tends to accompany them in particular. In this case though, there had been a bit of a change in management in the triads and someone wanted to ensure it stayed that way.

The Shadowrunners met the Triads at their main hangout, an old run down dive bar, which was in the process of being renovated recently. Like anyone suitably paranoid, my players were immediately curious if the people painting the place were really painting or heavily armed to the teeth assassins – always worth asking! Fortunately they actually were proper workmen and not assassins, which helped the subsequent negotiations feel a bit more relaxed to say the least.

Here I had the Mr. Wong explain that the old leader, “Jade Wolf” got taken out by a rival gang of Yakuza in a clear hit. Unfortunately they didn’t quite finish the job and a docwagon team successfully extracted him to a nearby hospital. He’s in bad shape, but has been progressively getting better as opposed to being dead. In the weeks he’s been like this, the “New management” has found running the gang to their liking and even improved the neighbourhood (which the runners have definitely noticed). His return would probably be a bit of a return to the more sociopathic tendencies of the Jade Empire triads and destabilizing the area.

The runner’s job was to basically make sure that Jade Wolf didn’t leave the hospital alive. Preferably, they were to do it as quietly as possible and ensure that there was little chaos to blow back onto the Jade Empire triads. This is because Jade Wolf is still strongly supported by the Wuxing megacorporation, not to mention that the hospital is also owned by said corporation as an additional complication. So a lot of mess and damage was not going to look good on the runners or the triad.

Unlike the previous run, which was designed as a tutorial of sorts for the base rules and concepts of Shadowrun, I decided to relax things more and just let the players decide how to approach things. Did they want to just not care and go in shooting the place up? Sure. Did they want to try a sneaky approach through the matrix? Sure. Basically I let them figure things out more and plan their own approach, albeit providing some guidance where required as they are still new to the game!

The first order of the day is you want to try to acquire the floorplan of the place you are hitting. This often involves a combination of examining the place in meatspace and of course getting any relevant files or access through the matrix. A combination approach is very important, because while you may think everything could be accessed by the matrix it won’t always tell you everything important inside the building. Like with Icarus Protocol, I again went with a shaped matrix host that resembled a big glowing healing “Plus” sign common from video games. Entering the host got the runner into a matrix space that was designed to be close to the physical meatspace with a similar ARO system to the bar in Icarus Protocol.

Of course the purpose here was to allow authorized visitors to safely visit their loved ones from a distance place, instead of having to come all the way into downtown Shanghai to visit the hospital. Unfortunately though, what the runners encountered at the hospital was an extremely stiff security force. Nearly every door was guarded and many of them were very jumpy. An attempt by Candy to sneak in through the service door failed rather dramatically because the security team were exceptionally paranoid of her trying to enter. Minding, even other doctors and nurses had been denied access with one having an argument with them for several hours!

The matrix was also very secure, with Radical Edward discovering two large strange white blob things (macrophages), which turned out to be the hospitals icon for Patrol ICE systems. Additionally running silent she was able to identify and find a decker-spider guarding the facility, making this run much harder again if they were going to get in unnoticed. Radical Edward began to poke around in various files, seeing who the patients were and discovering that Jade Wolf was due for surgery in an auto-surgeon system in 4 days. Unfortunately, the thing was actually disconnected from the rest of the matrix and would have to be interfaced with directly in meat space – so they needed to get to it.

During this time she was also able to hack in Candy into the nurses file and found out why there was so much security: Terrorist threats from the “Cult of the Ascendant” had been received and a Wuxing corporate head was being treated there. A specific threat or two to the hospital about him might be enough to clear him out of the hospital and ensure that a fair amount of the security (and associated HTR team) wasn’t present during their run at Jade Wolf.

Now at this point you might be wondering what the patrol ICE and Spider Decker are doing. Want to know? It turns out they are glitching just about everything they do. The spider-decker couldn’t figure out anything because he glitched his matrix perception test (rolled 7 1s!) and the Patrol ICE both (on something like 10 dice) failed to score a single hit to determine that someone was hacking their systems. Radical Edward was literally a ghost, so the security and systems had no reason to be suspicious of any kind of infiltration or suspicious activity!

Meanwhile, Nanna and Raijin were exploring the front of the building and establishing where the spider was: Inside of the storage locker facility. Apparently the staff were unhappy with him hacking the vending machines to sing Elvis (a reference to System Shock 2, which sadly nobody seemed to catch at the time), giving Lemon-Lime instead of Orange Soda from said vending machines (a Deus Ex reference everyone caught!) and generally tormenting the staff. Unfortunately he was supposed to be one of the best defensive deckers in the city. Here Nanna, being an elderly lady, was able to get past one security guard but they were blocked by the others in the corridor to the private wards. Again, security in here was extremely tight and not entertaining individuals they didn’t easily recognize.

Clearly he was having a distinctly bad off day today.

Meanwhile accompanied by one of Nanna’s smaller flying drones, Tiny got into the hospital by the emergency ward. Having had a knife conveniently stuck into him by Candy (he’s a troll, he didn’t mind that much) he caused a scene in the ER and managed to draw some of the securities attention (or at least demonstrated he could draw 4-5 security instantly just by turning up – something that would be relevant later). Not speaking Mandarin made life very difficult, remembering that software to translate languages out of Mandarin is not permitted in Shanghai at the moment. Fortunately the hospital had a staff member who could speak English, who took him into triage and then began asking him about his “Domestic abuse” as he did let on it was his wife that stuck it there.

Unfortunately, what I should have done at this point if I had thought of it, was to let the small drone that Nanna had use the opportunity to sneak by and into the rest of the hospital to look around. Unfortunately I didn’t present this option to the player or sufficiently hint at it, which was a bit of a missed opportunity and made this ER trip feel a bit too much like a side distraction (instead of something very useful). I did emphasize the terrorist threats to the hospital and the extremely stringent (and aggressive) security via a side conversation in triage that Tiny (and the drone) could overhear.

In any event, the runner’s had enough information, a time and a plan on how to take the guy out. Break in, remove the security spider and then hack the security cameras between the staff door (which Candy could now access) and the actual autosurgeon. Then allow Nanna to get in and jump into the auto-doctor, completing the surgery in the least suspicious manner possible so Jade Wolf ended up “dead” without realizing it. Here again, everything went perfectly with Tiny and Raijin starting a fight in the parking lot to draw off what security was present (most of it left because their previous terrorist threat caused Wuxing to move their VIP). Candy snuck through and got past the security in the wards without an issue, then knocked out the decker silently (so he would wake up confused later).

Radical Edward easily took out the security and then Nanna, with some guidance from Candy’s knowledge of cybersurgery, silently made the murder of Jade Wolf through directly jacking into the auto-doc AI center. During this entire time, the Patrol ICE also failed to notice Radical Edward hacking the cameras or doing anything untoward! So they got in, killed Jade Wolf and then got out without anyone being even remotely suspicious!

They literally had the perfect run. Nobody human or machine saw them in particular and other than a bit of a ruckus caused by Tiny in the ER and later in the parking lot, there wasn’t even any real indication that anyone odd had been around (and this wasn’t even that odd). None of the complications I expected actually occurred and nobody needed to fire a single bullet. This is despite the patrol ICE looking for odd marks or activity, who it appears couldn’t roll a 5/6 to save their lives.

Naturally this gives the runners an incredibly positive reputation amongst certain elements – the main one being their neighbouring triad gang and their “New management”. The runner’s job was so well done in fact, that the Mr. Wong had something else of interest for them: The name of a contact known to associate himself with Wu Shen – the man who screwed them over initially with the whole “Bombing a building and trying to murder them with cyberzombies” thing – and where he tended to hang out with another local gang.

Now they had a place to start looking for some pay back….