Thursday, March 24, 2016

Session Report – Urban Surfin’ – Session 6: Garage Work

[This session happened February 15th.  Sin’s player started taking evening classes at this point and has temporarily dropped from the group.  That said, our plans required Sin, so he became an NPC for the rest of the run.]

Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
Murdoc – male elf kilt-wearing street mage, at home with the hobos
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Void – female human physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily

Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it

Saturday, March 14, 2076
Bookie used the temporary User ID he created in the Ares system to access the Ares vehicle fleet subsystem.  While the R&D subsystem was nearly impenetrable, the vehicle pool was a much easier nut to crack.  Bookie searched the vehicle request database, looking for vehicles matching the descriptions supplied by Mr. Johnson being requested on the target date.  He found two sets of vehicles match the descriptions Mr. Johnson provided: Set A was checked out from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM and Set B from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM.  Bookie was also able to locate the rigging access codes for the vehicles and quickly copied them to his cyberdeck.

The vehicles were currently at the corporate fleet garage in the Bothell neighborhood of Bellevue.  After discussing options and possibilities, the group decided Set A was the most likely to be the carrier group for the prototype with Set B carrying technicians to and from the testing range.  That said, it might be a ruse, so it would be best to plant a NeuroStun dispenser in both “carry” cars and to leave all of the security vehicles alone.  Void and Prometheus went to the garage to scope out the physical security there while Sin and Bookie fabricated A/C parts with remote-trigger NeuroStun dispensers hidden inside.

The vehicle pool garage turned out to be a multi-story parking garage with horizontal slats to protect the vehicles from acid rain without totally enclosing the garage.  The first floor seemed to be set up for vehicle maintenance with the remaining 7 floors simply parking.  The roof had no parking but could be used as a landing pad for helicopters and vectored thrust vehicles.  From the top of a nearby building, Prometheus used the telescopic enhancements in his Nikon eyes to carefully scan the roof security, sending the video feed to Void’s Hermes Ikon commlink.  Through the video feed Void spotted the motion sensors and cameras that comprised the roof security system and determined there was a small gap in the sensor overlap relatively near the door to the stairs down.  She had Prometheus re-scan that area and the additional video confirmed the gap existed.  Prometheus stated he could place a grapple at the top of that gap, allowing Void to access the roof via zipline.

Sunday, March 15, 2076
Void spent half the day with Sin learning about automobile engines and how to replace A/C components so she can attach the altered components by herself [she spent the day and the Karma necessary to get Rank 1 in Automotive Mechanics].  Prometheus spent the day in the Redmond Barrens practicing the grapple shot on some abandoned buildings.

That night, a small team consisting of Void, Prometheus, and Murdoc made their way back to the launching point.  Bookie was online and provided access to the security camera feeds from the parking garage to the rest of the team.  Murdoc cast invisibility on Void while Prometheus used his grapple gun to attach a line of stealth rope to the garage.  Checking the security feed, Void waited until the patrolling guards were on the lowest floors before zipping across to the garage.

Once on the roof of the garage, Void deactivated the motion detector covering the door to the stairs down.  She next tied off the zipline and retrieved the grapple.  She then stepped through the door and started on her way down.  Unfortunately, the guard on monitor duty noticed that door open slightly and then close and sent a patrol guard up to check it out.  [This was a mistake on our part – we forgot to have Bookie loop the video.]  This put a crimp in the plan as Prometheus wanted to leave the zipline in place in case Void needed backup.  With a guard on his way up, Prometheus had no choice but to apply the catalyst stick to the zipline to remove the evidence.  Bookie warned Void that a guard was on his way up the stairs and Void ducked out of the stairwell to let the guard go by.  Once he had, she continued down to the second floor where the first car was parked.

The rest of the team monitored the patrol guard who found nothing suspicious and reported an “all-clear” back to the rest of the guards.  The guard then continued his rounds, with Void receiving quiet updates as to his position while she swapped out the first car’s A/C component for the doctored one.  Once that was done, she used a fold-out template to spray-paint a symbol on the roof with the UV paint.  She also planted two RFID transponders on the vehicle.  These were mostly distractions to make the security people feel they foiled something.  Once Void completed doctoring the first target vehicle, she went up a floor to where the second vehicle was parked and repeated the whole process.

Two hours after arriving, with both target vehicles tagged and modified, Void was ready to leave.  [The process took some time as she had to pause work whenever a guard patrol was on the floor she where she was working.]  Void worked her way back down to the second floor and worked past the weather slats protecting the interior of the parking garage.  She safely leapt from that vantage point, across the fence surrounding the garage, to the street beyond.  [Physical adepts can leap far!]  She then walked to the waiting escape vehicle, where she found Prometheus and Murdoc already inside the vehicle.  Prometheus drove the group back to the Pleiades Group office.

March 16-18, 2076
The team spent the next three days scouting potential routes the target convoy might take from the Ares lab in Everett to the testing ground in Renton, looking for good spots to initiate an ambush.

End of Session

[Typed up, this was fairly short, but it kept us busy for the evening.  Next session we start the actual run, all our planning and preparation in place and ready to face the enemy.]

[Placing the NeuroStun dispensers in the actual A/C system was something we came up with while talking over the job, looking for potential failure points in our plan.  Having Void introduce the NeuroStun via a hole in the roof was the chanciest part of our plan with the highest likelihood of alerting any security inside the vehicle to her presence on the roof.  By placing the dispenser inside the A/C with a remote trigger, we no longer needed to worry about any of that.]

[We actually spend a lot of time planning and talking out modifications to the plan, making sure everyone is involved.  Shadowrun has so many moving parts rule-wise it is important that the entire team be involved with the planning so nothing gets missed.  I estimate we spend 3-4 hours talking, planning, and gathering information (in character) to every hour of pulling off the job our characters are getting paid to perform.  As a result, our success rate is high and everyone has some idea of what to do if/when things go pear-shaped.]

Session 1
Session 5

Session 7 [Not Yet Written]

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Session Report – Urban Surfin’ – Session 5: Construction Gig

[This session happened February 8th.  I was ill (the rough beginning of two and a half weeks of a cold) and missed this session.  As a result, I only have some bullet points as to what the players remembered the next week, so this will be short.]

Void – female human physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily
Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
Murdoc – male elf kilt-wearing street mage, at home with the hobos
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it

Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm

Friday Night, March 13-14, 2076
Bookie performed a datarun against the Ares Macrotechnology host with coldpulse backing him up [coldpulse is a NPC decker periodically hired by the Pleiades Group to keep Bookie alive on the matrix].  The first thing Bookie did was establish a temporary User ID in the system with strong administrative rights.  It would only last for a week, but that’s all he was going to need it for.  Bookie was able to determine that all the data on the prototype was kept is a separate, stand-alone system only accessible by R&D personnel on-site.

[Prometheus faded into the background for the next bit as I was not at the session but there was no story reason for Prometheus to disappear.]

Void, Killroy, Murdoc, and Prometheus rode in the van Sin was remotely driving to the construction site the team had targeted for their raid.  One of the unconscious Troll Killers kept waking up from the NeuroStun gas, but Void decked him twice to keep him unconscious.

At the construction site, Murdoc cast Physical Mask on Void and Killroy to make them appear like the unconscious gangers.  The two then leapt off the roof of the van and over the fence around the construction site.  Killroy used Stick-n-Shock ammo to KO two security guards.  Void broke into the office for the keys to a bulldozer.  [I think the team stole the bulldozer and sold it, but my notes don’t confirm that.]  In addition to the equipment the team specifically wanted (the power-actuated fastener tool, concrete spikes for it, and some thermite to dispose of evidence later) 2800¥ of other tools were stolen and gang sign was sprayed about the place.  The unconscious gangers were then planted on the site for Knight Errant to find later “in the act” and the team left.

The team also purchased some UV paint and the filters necessary so the camera on a Lockheed Optic-X2 drone can see the paint.

End of Session

[As promised, that was short.  Here we see the difference between a recap with notes and one without any notes, just the players’ memories.  The next write-up will be more detailed as I have actual notes to go from.]

Session 1
Session 4

Session 6

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

SABRE, Issue #2: Books and Beat Downs

[This session happened February 27, 2016, and is the second session with the newly revitalized superhero group SABRE.]

Mars – super-powered ex-professional wrestler
Mnemesys – teleporting martial artist with no official name, yet
Black Light – light manipulator with withering attacks
The Terrapin Avenger –model and spokesman for TURTLE Armor™ line of battlesuit products
Sentinel – combat armor-wearing inventor
The White Shade – mentalist with a Pulp style
Aces – the team’s “Sorcerer Superb”

Max Powers – President and CEO of FutureTech Systems and sponsor of SABRE
Chance Morway – PR representative for SABRE
Detective Alana Petrey – Detective in the CCPD Metahuman Crimes Division

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012, Capitol City
A few days earlier, The White Shade received an invitation to the memorial service for The Star-Spangled Singer, the first victim in the Cape-KRAKEN War two years ago.  A life-sized statue would be dedicated at the ceremony on the 20th.  The White Shade agreed to be there and since then calls from the press for her started coming in.  Most of the calls focused on her previous relationship with the martyred hero Victory Eagle and whether or not White Shade was dating again.  Secretly knowing that Victory Eagle’s death was not as heroic as everyone else believes, White Shade found she really could not deal with these kinds of questions.  She asked the team’s PR representative, Chance Morway, to field the calls for her.  As the invites included a “+1”, White Shade started giving thought to who she might invite that wouldn’t immediately start insinuating questions from the press.

As a result of the video footage of the team’s fight with the Pistolero Brothers (see Issue #1 for the exciting details! –ed.), DanCo., The Terrapin Avenger’s sponsor, insisted on a mandatory upgrade to the defensive capabilities of the TURTLE Armor the Avenger wears.  They sent the Avenger’s personal field technician, Stan Volkov, to deliver the upgrade that morning and to run a system diagnostic test on the suit.  This test took up the rest of the 17th.  The Terrapin Avenger and Stan spent most of the day discussing what new weapon and defensive options were being worked on back in R&D and which might benefit the Terrapin Avenger most.

Sentinel had a morning meeting with Agent Rick Dicker, his liaison with the US Marshals Service.  Agent Dicker asked that Sentinel be a little more careful about invoking the US Marshals Service when working as a member of SABRE.  While Sentinel is still a deputy US Marshal, no one else on SABRE is and sometimes local law enforcement gets territorial about cases.  Agent Dicker also praised Sentinel for the team’s quick work taking down the Pistolero Brothers the previous week, pointing out that the Pistolero’s themselves had arranged for the traffic copters to be right there.  Instead of getting evidence they are “the real deal”, they provided all the evidence necessary to convict them for the armored car robbery.

In the afternoon, Mnemesys received a call from Nancy Nicholson at the DA’s office.  She told him that all of the evidence from the Howard Payne case had disappeared from the evidence locker a couple of days ago.  Worse, Payne’s lawyers seemed to be aware of it as they asked to see some of it.  When the evidence could not be produced, they immediately filed a motion to have the case dismissed.  The DA had to let it go as now the only evidence against Payne is Mnemesys’ testimony and a teleporting superhero with a bomb disposal history as the only witness would make it way too easy for the defense to instill a reasonable doubt in any jury.  The Capitol City PD Internal Affairs Department is aggressively looking into the disappearance.

Mnemesys decided to go over to the City Jail to pay Payne a visit before the mercenary bomber was let free, but Payne refused to see him.  Mnemesys decided to spend the next several days dropping in so Payne would know Mnemesys was watching.  [It wasn’t creepy or anything at all.]

Mars received notice that a WWE Smackdown event would be happening at the Rayes Aerobank Arena in Capitol City on the 20th and the WWE wanted Mars to do some interviews and color commentary at the event.  Mars readily agreed (being an ex-WWE member) and started working out the schedule for the pre-event interviews.  The WWE provided Mars with a number of tickets and VIP passes for the event, enough that Mars “and his team” could view the event from a box seating suite.  Later in the day, White Shade asked Mars if he would attend the memorial service for the Star-Spangled Singer with her on the 20th.  A quick comparison of schedules showed that both could attend the memorial service that morning and get back to Capitol City in time for the promotional work for the Smackdown that night.  Mars agreed and White Shade was relieved to have a safe “+1” to take to the service.

In her secret ID as Julie Burton, Black Light was setting up her next experiment at the Luneburg Optics Building on the University of Southern Maryland Main Campus in Capitol City.  This experiment was a preparatory experiment for her primary investigation into using light waves for epigenetic manipulation of cancer cells in order to force the body to correctly identify cancer cells as foreign bodies in need of destruction.  Set up for the experiment would take several days, even with the small team of grad students at her disposal.

Aces, in his secret ID as Professor William “Bill” Watson, was contacted by a colleague from Germany, Professor Maximillian Bates of Bielefeld University.  Professor Bates had an 8th century codex on Saxon pagan practices that he needed authenticated before he could get funding for a restoration and would Professor Wilson be available tomorrow to look at the codex?  Not having anything pressing on his schedule, Aces agreed to Professor Bates’ request and they agreed to meet at 9:00 AM the next day (the 18th).

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012, Capitol City, University District, 9:00 AM
Professor Bates arrived at the office of Professor Wilson (Aces) at precisely 9:00 AM, announcing himself with a firm knock on the door.  Professor Wilson’s office is on the Ground floor of the History Building on the University of Southern Maryland Main Campus.  Due to the hilly nature of the terrain, this floor is below ground on the east end of the building, where the main entrance is, but at ground level on the west end.

After an initial greeting, Professor Bates pulled the codex he wished Professor Wilson to authenticate out of a satchel.  It was in a hard-shelled carrying container, which the professor opened.  Inside, wrapped in protective plastic was the codex.  While unwrapping the codex, Professor Bates explained that the codex was found in a private book collection that was recently donated to Bielefeld University.  The inventory indicated a few stone figurines belonged with the codex, and Professor Bates had those with him as well.  The codex appeared to be a previously unknown compilation of letters by Alcuin (a preeminent 8th century scholar in the court of Charlemagne).

Just as Professor Wilson was finally getting a chance to look at the codex, he heard the door to his office quietly open and someone attempting to be quiet enter the office.  Pretending to not notice, Professor Wilson (with gloved hands) picked up the codex and turned in his chair so he could see the door out of the corner of his eye.  Three men were standing there, two in black and one in brown, one of the ones in black was quietly closing the door.  The man in brown, who also had red hair with a single white streak, spoke with a slight German accent, saying “Good morning, professors.  I will be taking the codex from you now.  We can do this the easy way or the hard way, but the hard way involves the two of you learning if the American health system is as good as its reputation.”  He smiled at his own witticism.

Professor Wilson carefully turned back to his desk to set the codex back down in the plastic wrapping.  While doing so, he covertly triggered the SABRE communicator in his jacket pocket, knowing the signal was monitored back at SABRE Tower.  Maybe he could stall long enough for someone on the team to arrive…

Back at SABRE Tower, the PA system chimed and all members of SABRE in the building were requested to go to the Communications Center, a message that repeated twice more.  Inside the Tower were White Shade, Terrapin Avenger, Mnemesys, and Sentinel (who was doing maintenance on his armor suit).  White Shade, Terrapin Avenger, and Mnemesys went to the Communications Center while Sentinel used the intercom to listen in while reassembling his armor.

The Tech on duty explained he was receiving signal from Aces’ communicator and was hearing a threatening conversation.  White Shade asked for him to play it on the speakers and the team heard a German voice saying, “Thank you for accepting the easy way as I have doubts about the efficiency of the American health system.  Take the codex.”  White Shade asked the tech where Aces’ communicator was and the tech pointed to a map of the city on a monitor with a flashing light at the University of Southern Maryland.  Tapping a couple of buttons zoomed in the map to show just the university campus, with the blinking light in the History Building.

After a quick consultation with Mnemesys and Terrapin Avenger, White Shade issued orders, Mnemesys would teleport her and Terrapin Avenger to the University, Sentinel would follow as soon as he and his suit were ready, and the Duty Technician would contact Black Light and Mars to alert them to the situation.  Mnemesys, Terrapin Avenger, and White Shade then headed to the roof so Mnemesys could see the university to teleport them there.

Meanwhile, one of the German thugs wrapped the codex back into the plastic and retrieved it from the two professors.  During the scene Professor Bates whispered to Professor Wilson that he knew someone was following him but not who, which was why he came to the States.  Professor Bates was not able to elaborate on that confession before the thugs moved too close to whisper safely.  Once the thugs had the codex they left quietly, without harming either professor.  After giving them a 30-count to leave, Professor Wilson moved to the door and peeked outside – no sight of the thugs.  He told Professor Bates they should split up so they wouldn’t both be caught in case they ran into the thugs again.  He directed Professor east, telling him more students would be that way and should negate any potential violence.  Once Professor Bates was out of sight, Professor Wilson ducked back into his office, said Three Words of Power, and transformed into Aces.

Aces attempted to teleport to the main entrance of the History Building so he could capture the thugs before they got too far.  His teleportation spell failed.  Completely failed.  He tried it again and got nothing.  This started freaking Aces out – he thought his powers had no limits but his imagination!

After a couple of teleport hops, Mnemesys, White Shade and the Terrapin Avenger arrived at the front entrance to the History Building.  Classes were in session, so there were very few students wandering the campus at that moment.  The trio looked around for Professor Wilson’s office (Aces had finally gotten on the communicator and blurted out bad guys had stolen a book from Professor Wilson).  Mnemesys and Terrapin Avenger noticed a directory just inside the front doors and the trio moved in.  Mnemesys also noticed a rune written in ink beside the door, but didn’t give it immediate thought, having no context to put it in.  Inside, while Mnemesys and Terrapin Avenger were looking at the directory, White Shade noticed a man in black clothes step around a corner, notice the heroes, and then immediately turn back, waving off someone back around the corner.  White Shade threw a mental entangle at the person and alerted her compatriots.

Several miles away, Mars was giving a promotional interview for the WWE when a female voice called out, “Hey, Mars! Heads up!”  Mars was then slammed by a Cacophonic Blast from Katerwaller, a female villain from his rogues gallery.  While Mars is very strong and has the bone structure to support that strength, he is vulnerable to sound-based attacks, like everything in Katerwaller’s arsenal.  Additionally, Mars will not strike a woman, a hold-over from his upbringing.  Recognizing what kind of trouble he was in, Mars immediately put in a call for help over his SABRE communicator.

Sentinel, finally in his armor, knew that Mars almost never calls for help, so if he was, Mars really needed it.  He acknowledged Mars’ request and informed the rest of the team that he was going to the arena instead of the university.

Back at the university, Mnemesys attempted to teleport to the hallway corner so he could see what was going on there and couldn’t teleport.  This surprised him but did not stop him, so he ran to the corner instead.  Around the corner was the man White Shade has paralyzed.  Way down the hallway, running towards the doors at the far end, was another man in black and a red-headed man in brown.  Terrapin Avenger stepped around the corner and fired an Expanding Plasti-web ™ from his Ballistic Polymer Multigun ™.  This wrapped the two fleeing individuals in quick-hardening polymer strands that hardened immediately.

The man White Shade paralyzed broke free of the mental entangle, but was knocked unconscious by Terrapin Avenger.  Mnemesys, suddenly linking the rune outside the door with his inability to teleport went back outside and used a rag to erase the rune.

Inside, the red-headed man suddenly broke free of the polymer bonds, catching Terrapin Avenger and White Shade by surprise.  He ran to the far door with White Shade flying in pursuit and alerting Mnemesys to the issue.  Mnemesys teleported to the far end of the building, finding the red-headed man just outside the History building.  Mnemesys ordered the man to surrender.  Instead the man pulled a bronze wand from inside his coat and fired a lightning bolt at Mnemesys.  Mnemesys performed a passing teleporting throw on the man, dropping him back inside the History Building.  Terrapin avenger, down at the far end of the hallway popped another shot into the red-headed man to keep him down.  [This was a bit excessive.]  Aces finally showed up once the fight was over, just in time for campus security to also show up and try to arrest everyone.

Back over at the arena, Mars and Sentinel knocked out Katerwaller, but Mars took more than he gave in the fight, with several broken bones and swaths of disrupted tissue.  Aces was called for and a quick teleport later was using healing magic to repair the damage to Mars’ body.

White Shade worked with the police once the Metahuman Crimes Division arrived.  White Shade and Detective Petrey, the head of the MCD, collected statements and both noticed that the statements from Aces and Professor Wilson (once he finally showed up) did not match up very well.  They also reviewed video tape, discovering that there had been two more men in black suits in the building and they had kidnapped Professor Bates while the fight had been happening in the building.

End of Session

[After the game, we discussed how things went.  The players were pleased with the story and how things played out.  I was very pleased with the overall level of role play and specifically by Mars, Aces, and White Shade.  Both Aces and White Shade have their own reasons to be a bit paranoid, each having secrets to hide.  Mars faced an adversary he was particularly vulnerable to and responded appropriately.]

[In future games, I think I’m going to require any power with the Mega Scale advantage also have the Additional Time disadvantage with a minimum additional time of 1 minute.  Mega Scale teleport (Mnemesys and Aces) and Mega Scale Flight (Sentinel) means that the heroes arrive at any scene almost as soon as they are aware of it.  This causes problems with certain types of story elements and tropes and is vaguely dissatisfying to me as the GM.  Plus, it tends to lead to “hurry up and tell my character where the action is so I can get in on it” activities, which complicates scenes and nullifies what may have been a spotlight scene for the character who found the action.  The opposite (the characters can never get to a crime scene before the villains are long gone) is also no good.  I’ll have to experiment some more and have the villains adjust to what the heroes can do.]

[Also, Katerwaller can create a wall of pure sound, hence her name.  She was designed specifically to be an occasional foil for Mars without having to roll out something that would crush the rest of the heroes.  That’s still coming.  ;) ]

Issue #1

Issue #2, Act 2

Monday, March 7, 2016

Updates Imminent

So, February was a rough month for me.  I was ill with/recovering from a two-stage cold for most of it with very little energy for writing.  At the end of the month, my employers closed down the Houston office and laid us all off.  Times are tough in the oil and gas industry, but I worked for a reputable company and received a severance package that did not suck.  The benefits of working for a privately owned company over a publicly owned one.

The upshot is that I'm now spending half my time looking for my next job/career and the other half catching up on all the things I didn't have time for plus writing again.  I have notes for several sessions of both games I'm in/running and no excuses, so, as the title says, Updates are imminent.