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Icarus Protocol: Arias Must Die

AriasRecently I finished off my first Shadowrun game, Icarus Protocol, which actually came to a conclusion a lot quicker than I initially thought it would. For one, I was going to take two sessions to have this finale and secondly, I didn’t expect the Runners to so readily agree with the plan to back-stab Arias. On the other hand, I’ve noticed players in Shadowrun tend towards the “highly morally ambivalent” scale of things as opposed to anything else. So it really shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise that they agreed. Either way, it meant I could rapidly rocket through material and come to a conclusion. It was especially good from my point of view because it was still a conclusion and ultimately, one which was extremely satisfying and still worked very well.

A Fateful Meeting

I began this run with the Shadowrunners getting a mysterious message over the matrix. A contact who had a special proposition for the Runners, wanted to meet them in an old waste water and sewage facility in downtown Aztlan. This seemed like a suspicious meeting, so the Runners went in fairly paranoid and summoned a couple of decently sized spirits before going. Initially my plan for this was to give them some interesting conflict, with a group of “youths” about to become embroiled in a problem with the local toxic water spirits. One of these youths was actually a young female ork, which conflicted directly with Skemm’s sense of duty negative quality, possibly forcing a fight while negotiating with the Mr. Juan.

Reasonably quickly however, I discovered that the players were going with the Mr. Juan’s request rather readily. You see this client wanted them to eliminate a very specific target: Arias Ticjudos. Many higher ups within Aztechnology, have become very disgruntled and more than a bit concerned about her rapid rise through the ranks. As a result, the Mr. Juan proposed to the Runners that they use a key opportunity coming up to get close to her – the launch of her line of “Magiware*”. She will be available in public and in a known location, making it a prime chance to eliminate her.

Interestingly instead of the resistance to the idea I expected, they were happy to go along with this plan and turn on Arias (who has been their biggest supporter so far). Assassinating her wasn’t going to be easy and they needed some time to prepare, but while this conversation was ongoing the situation in the rest of the plant was getting problematic: The youths were being stalked by one of the spirits, which was soon beginning to manifest and potentially kill them. Naturally Skemm couldn’t stand around and do nothing, with one of his drones making a loud sudden noise. This alerted them to the danger and they were *just* able to escape from the sewer in time, much to Mister’s chagrin (who was hoping for some spirit based murder).

With the job accepted and the fee negotiated, which was naturally very high and with “corporate positions” on offer should they succeed, the Runners began planning their assassination….

Telling Arias

Naturally when you’re going to assassinate someone, the first thing to do is tattle and tell the person who is being targeted someone is after them. So the Runners promptly contacted Arias and informed her they had “reliable” information that someone was trying to kill her. Naturally she believed this, having worked with the Runners for some time and arrangements were made for the party to be her security (getting an up front payment as well for doing so). Looking back on this moment in the game, I should have perhaps emphasized that this was all just a little bit too easy on her part. They certainly figured something was up from her very casual attitude, but I should possibly have foreshadowed future events a bit more here.

In reality, I had wanted to make this a more substantial part of the run and really stretch out the part of this assassination, but ultimately the runners were going through with it very readily. I actually anticipated there would have to be a direct explanation of how much Arias was setting things up: But they were happy to try murdering her all the same. Other than their set up, involving getting a very good sniper rifle, a good vantage point and waiting, there wasn’t a lot of set up to everything required.

Especially as everyone high up in Aztechnology was doing everything they could – behind the scenes – to ensure that the shadowrunner’s plan was going to succeed.

The Assassination

The actual assassination was a plot point we go to very quickly in this run, meaning I had actually derailed everything towards the “conclusion” of the campaign in rapid time. As Arias took the stage for the evening and the runners took aim, there was a really key moment where I might have accidentally “overrode” a players choice. Upon rolling to actually hit, I misinterpreted what the runners wanted to do because they decided to do a double cross: Shooting Flavia de la Rosa (current canon CEO of Aztechnology). Unfortunately, I failed to hear this correctly and assumed they were going to shoot Arias first and THEN have a shot at Flavia – this is not what the player wanted to do!

Naturally when the GM gets something like this wrong it creates a lot of conclusion, but especially so when I started picking up the larger amount of dice that Rosa would use to defend himself. This struck the players as being very strange, because they assumed he would be surprised by the shot (but indeed, he was fully expecting an attack and was ready to defend himself – unlike Arias apparently**). This led to a conversation around the table about if the players wanted to continue with my initial wrong assumption, or see if Flavia could dodge the shot or not – potentially threatening to ensure they couldn’t kill anyone (once they were given away anyway). Eventually despite my mistake, they went with shooting Arias first – who was killed by the massive internal damage of the bullet – the had an ineffective shot at de la Rosa (later explained as “making it look good”).

As Arias died Skemm heard her say “She said it wasn’t going to be like this… I was supposed to be safe…” before passing away. Mysterious! After this they were contacted by their employer, who was most satisfied with the job they had performed and even invited them to the impending “Funeral”. By this point if everything wasn’t entirely fishy to the players, how easy this had all been had certainly made them very worried….

Wrapping it all up

When I mentioned this campaign came to a rapid conclusion, I wasn’t kidding because the players again happily rolled with events and attended the funeral. On their way up, including the former player character Kelpie, Dr. Simms and a new character who was known to Kelpie in Marcus White, they encountered an old – but supposedly dead – friend. Arias stepped into the elevator and casually sent it back up, eventually explaining to the runners they had performed their role perfectly. Most notably by the runners assassinating Arias’ body double, it had ensured that the people afraid of her had let their guard down and even gathered in the one place. Now it was time for her to take revenge and total control over the corporation – as the approaching mercenary VTOL transports would indicate.

Arias also explained that since the runners had freed her from the imprisonment in the lab – making the link between her and the creature from the start implicit – she had followed the runners actions. She had learned from them and used them as the model of how she should behave. This idolization resulted in her deciding that the only person worth defending or supporting was herself, so hence she had decided to wipe out all of Aztechnologies leadership in one fell swoop. This would allow her to install herself as the new CEO of the company and bring in some new ideas. She did not need the runners to do anything in this process, but if they wanted a place in her new look company policies, shooting a few corporates would definitely be a good start.

Naturally all of the runners readily agreed with the one exception being Kelpie. Aside from the fact her parents were in attendance, being high ranking corporate franchise owners in the company, the entire thing felt wrong and barbaric to her. Arias argued a bit with her, but when the fighting started Kelpie disappeared and went to retrieve her parents. Meanwhile, the other runners helped Arias take down Rosa and most of the other corporates, especially because Arias revealed the trick to “Magiware”. An inbuilt killswitch in Magiware let her instantly turn the most powerful blood mages in the corporation into instant mundanes – immediately reducing their ability to defend themselves to near zero. With the security firmly on her side and everything under control, there was but one complication: What to do with Kelpie?

Kelpie had holed herself up in a room with her parents, Marcus and Dr. Simms and this did not impress Arias. Arias of course had been the direct victim of all of these peoples research and wanted them gone to finally complete her revenge, but her feelings for Kelpie complicated things substantially. She demanded Kelpie make a choice, naturally in her favor and the runners tried to negotiate a peaceful solution – but they sadly failed. The resulting firefight saw the end of the only runner who showed any substantially principled stance in this game. With this, Arias was left in total control of Aztechnology and soon declared her willingness to enter the position of CEO. Her first speech dedicated to chasing down the “Terrorists” who originally killed the top corporate officers and brass of Aztechnology in that terrible attack….

Thus did the first of my Shadowrun games end, with Mostly Flesh and Steel ending a week or so afterwards. I won’t get into a “What I did wrong and right” style post until after I finish the write up for that game as well, but I will say that I did move along to a conclusion very fast with Icarus Protocol. Partly that was because the players went with the general “plan” very quickly and readily, so it removed a lot of other needed “establishing” scenes. For example, the initial scene at the water treatment plant was supposed to be rather different in tone and execution – but the runners happily agreed to “betray” their patron/ally in Arias. That sort of set the scene for a very quick conclusion!

Overall I was satisfied with how the ending played out, even if it was quick, but I feel that I didn’t really “get” how to make an engaging Shadowrun campaign. A topic I intend to discuss in another post soon!

*Magiware is a kind of bioware with almost no essence loss for the awakened. Unfortunately, it has a significant drawback, as you can see from this play report.

**Which was a huge hint that something was very wrong with the situation.