After some discussion, we decided we wanted to run “something cyberpunk-y”. We looked at the several systems available and settled on Shadowrun 5th Edition as available and I’d heard good things about it from a friend actively running it. I would have preferred Cyberpunk 2020, but it’s way out of print and I don’t recall hearing positive reviews of the 3rd edition release.
So having settled on a game system, we decided to use Microscope to generate a background story for us to run against. The time scale we envision is technically too short for Microscope, but we decided to give it a spin and see what we get. So far we’ve been enjoying the game.
The first session was me explaining the rules and going through the start-up, selecting the first Focus, and the Lens adding an Event and a nested Scene to show everyone how it works. This past Monday we went through two complete rounds around the table and started the third Focus. Next week we’ll finish that round and get through the last two players having a turn as the Lens. That should give us enough background to run a short campaign in and add extra frisson when we perform runs that are events in the timeline we created.
In order to keep things straight in my head, I’m converting the notecards into a text-based timeline and I thought I’d share it here. This isn’t an actual play as I’m just going to run down the timeline, not what was added each round (mostly because we didn’t make note of that).
Microscope has the players set up a Palette, a list of things that should be in the timeline and a list of things that are not allowed. For this timeline, we selected the following:
Yes: Orbital action, Government intervention, and Class riots
No: Dragons do not get involved, no nukes, Organized Crime does not choose a side, No wanton environmental destruction
So without further ado:
The History of the 4th Corporate War
Period 1: Two corporations vie for control of a third corporation (Dark).
Event: Freeman Health Manufacturing (FHM) decides with some effort that they must acquire Alvarez Integrated Power Equipment (AIPE) and dominate their industry (Light).
Scene: Why did FHM need to acquire AIPE?
AIPE manufactures a micronized power cell used in all FHM cyberware and it is a significant percentage of the cost of the cyberware. Recently, AIPE introduced an upgraded version of this power cell, but eliminated a historical discount on sales to FHM. Alexandria Crowe, CEO of FHM, called a meeting of FHM’s VP of Procurement, FHM’s majority stockholder, and a representative from AIPE to discuss the situation. In this meeting, AIPE’s representative confirmed the discount had been eliminated and that next year prices were likely to rise again. At this point, Ms. Crowe decided that in order to control costs and preserve FHM’s profit margin, FHM needed to stage a hostile takeover of AIPE, immediately. (Light)
Event: After the takeover of AIPE, FHM raises the costs of the entire AIPE product line to external customers in order to recoup the cost of the takeover. Internal customers, like FHM’s cyberware division, get the power cells at cost instead of the pre-takeover wholesale prices. This allows FHM to keep their own retail prices low while sticking it to their competitors. (Dark)
Event: Tom Riddle, CEO of Riddle Netics – a FHM competitor, is outraged at the major price hike for AIPE components, components which are vital to their own products. (Dark) [Note: In hindsight, this event was not so much of an event and should have been expanded on, but it worked at the time.]
Event: Riddle Netics hires shadowrunners to steal samples and schematics of critical AIPE products. (Light)
Event: FHM uses new AIPE profits to bid on Aquamatics, a water purification company in need of a cash infusion to update and expand its facilities. Getting wind of this, Riddle Netics enters a competing bid. (Dark)
[Arguably, this action completes this Period, but I think there is still room for shadowrunning shenanigans to happen. We’ll have to see if this period is returned to in the next session.]
Period 2: The initial corporations start calling in allies. (Light)
Event: FHM hires shadowrunners to plant evidence that Riddle Netics is using poor people as test subjects. (Dark)
Event: FHM spurs a class riot at the HQ of Riddle Netics. (Dark) [This was probably a shadowrun of some sort.]
Event: Zenith AstroTech announces they are forming a joint venture with Riddle Netics to raise the bid for Aquamatics. (Light) [This spikes the price of Aquamatics stock, increasing the cost to purchase the company.]
Scene: Why would Zenith AstroTech support Riddle Netics?
At a public gala, representatives and CEOs of Riddle Netics, Zenith AstroTech, Rosa Digital, Diagnostic Radiomation, and the Bank of Burma fell to talking over drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Riddle Netics and Diagnostic Radiomation were being directly hurt by FHM raising AIPE prices, as were friends and associates of Zenith AstroTech and Rosa Digital. Discussion turned to the possibility of taking some sort of direct action against FHM. The representative of the Bank of Burma excused herself at this point. The CEO of Zenith AstroTech suggested raising the cost of the Aquamatics purchase. The representative of Diagnostic Radiomation then suggested removal of Aquamatics critical equipment right after the purchase was finalized would also cost FHM. The group agreed to put some off-budget resources together to make these things happen. (Light) [Yes, this is the beginning of a shadow war. Why do you ask?]
Event: In order to fund the escalating conflict with Riddle Netics, FHM borrows money and opens several lines of credit with Spanish Brokerage, a corporate bank headquartered in Hong Kong.
Period 3: The war heats up. (Dark)
[I’ve changed this as the original text was more appropriate for an event. I’ll note where that text gets re-inserted.]
Event: Shadowrunners hired by Zenith AstroTech raid the Aquamatics manufacturing facility in Egypt and it gets out of hand. (Light)
Event: The Aquamatics manufacturing facility in Egypt is completely destroyed. Prices of water purification tablets and filters immediately skyrocket in Egypt, leaving the poor masses without affordable potable water across most of the country. (Dark)
Event: Lack of affordable potable water among the poor causes class riots across Egypt. (Dark)
[The riots are the re-inserted text.]
Event: Spanish Brokerage, seeing FHM hemorrhaging money and not wanting to lose the large amounts of capital loaned to FHM, decides to call in all loans and credit made to FHM. (Dark)
Event: Zenith AstroTech buys the remains of Aquamatics in Egypt at a cut-rate price, allowing FHM to just barely pay off the loans. (Dark)
Event: To recoup costs, Zenith AstroTech shuts down all Aquamatics operations in Egypt, lays off all remaining employees, and ships out anything not nailed down to sell as scrap, causing an immediate recession in Egypt. (Dark)
[The last two events were put on one card as I allowed the player to dictate more than I should have, but it was late and I had to work the next day.]
Period 4: The conflict goes orbital. (Light)
Event: FHM offices in Burma targeted by shadowrunners – an entire city block is destroyed when the building collapses. (Light)
Event: FHM hires shadowrunner to get proof/evidence Riddle Netics and Zenith AstroTech were responsible for the attack on their Burma office. (Light)
Event: FHM releases evidence showing Riddle Netics and Zenith AstroTech were responsible for the attack on their Burma office. (Light) [Whether or not it is true is a matter for some discussion…]
Event: Aztechnology sends shadowrunners to attack the Zenith AstroTech orbital facility. (Dark) [Why this was done has yet to be determined.]
Event: Government(s) send in troops. (Dark) [Again, the specifics are still to be determined.]
Period 5: One side wins the corporate war. (Dark)
[Nothing added here yet, but this should probably end with the Corporate Court handing down a ruling, ending the war.]