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View Full Version : Journal SR4A: We're not CLUEless, we're insane!



Alberic Strein
2015-02-10, 11:25 PM
"We can't all be the Majestic 5". It's a sad, yet indeniable truth. And indeed, my current Shadowrun 4th Anniversary edition capaign lacks the distinctive genius and humor of the M5.

It is, however, insane. Utterly, unrepentingly insane. For some, hilariously so. For others, the sheer jaw dropping stupidity of it all is going to be a turnoff. Be warned.

I am compelled to create this thread in the wake of our latest session, which pretty much ended on the tone of an NPC confessing that even though she knows and works with a clinically insane runner who kills things for fun, destroys giant malls with phosphorus grenades, infiltrates zones overrun with shedims (zombies) with a grenade launcher and under 50 bullets for his normal gun, and other moments of sheer insane stupidity she could lose sleep over it, she still finds us completely, utterly, unapologetically insane.

Oh, and she is never, ever, entering the same vehicle as us. Not even for all the gold in the world.

So, how did all this insanity start?

Well, funnily enough, it started with me as the GM and not that badly, really. I had asked the playground to help me design a run, and it went pretty well.
You may need some context here, so let me introduce us:
N: Me, all around awesome, with a penchant for awesome but insane characters, constantly rewriting my characters, showing up at the session sleep-deprived, ill and drinking with an empty stomach. I am told that I usually stop giving a f*ck in the later stages of the game. Others also could say that sometimes I take some bad things happening to my character too personnaly, that I pout, that I b*tch like a 5yrs old, and that I couldn't make a believable lie to save my life. But that's wrong. Absolutely so. Also, I can't be trusted to have an objective assessment of myself to save my life either. My character in the last campaign was the insane grenade launcher wielding psycho that the NPC was (favorably) comparing our new group to. That, right there, should send shivers down your spine. This time I play (once again) Sir Failure, a former knight errant with astral perception and (most of the time) some pretty badass credentials. A bit of a mid-point between the other characters. Not because he is balanced, but because he is slightly less unbalanced that the rest.

O: The poor guy we had initially roped into DMing Shadowrun for us even though he had no prior Shadowrun experience (besides ONE run I ran to break him into the game) and was probably the one with the least DMing experience out of all of us. Dislikes one-trick ponies characters and overly optimised ones. Enjoys playing characters based around one concept, even if they aren't the best around. Had to DM full time in the last campaign. This time he finally gets to play, and enjoys whiping out either a full-time rigger with some premiere data gathering skills, either through the matrix or through his swarm of kickass drones, or a shaman whose main ability is to conjure spirits and then make posess either him or enemies (or corpses of our enemies) for fun and profit. As expected from O, besides this gimmick, the character is well rounded in non-combat situations.

V: The guy eventually responsible for putting the group together. Has a tendancy to base characters around one thing they can't do. Ever. Teamwork being a regular choice. Played a number of characters last campaign because I kept killing them or putting them in situations so bad he basically went over to a new character. Like what some people say about me, he has a tendency to take bad things happening to his characters, or their posessions badly. Also nitpicks about rules from time to time, with varying degrees of severity. For some reason we have a very bad alchemy, his worse points and my worse points combo with each other, making the situation a living hell for O. This time he plays a -rather- successful mage spy with the KGB on his trail and a full information network as his main contact. Designed to infiltrate places, he has no offensive spells, and his only attacking method is a shock glove, which he does use to devastating effect. Usually hates his inability to use his palming skill.

A: The only player who wasn't part of the previous campaign. Good natured with a penchant for barbaric, barbaric IG violence, he tends to be slightly dissipated, but he is always ernest and really, really enjoys playing. He can, however, be surprisingly insightful. And with a noticeably longer fuse than either me or V he can be the only reason a game does not go off the deep end. He plays a straight Street Sam troll with a str rating of 13 on his cyber arm and has proven to be more than a match for any and everything put in his way. Killing things is his joy, his calling, his job, his one redeeming grace and his reason of existence. Could easily solo the rest of the group as long as no magical shenanigans are pulled.
DM:N, aka me.
Players: O with his rigger and V with his spy.
The situation: O and V's characters are working under my and V's previous characters, who have become important enough to make end's meet with being fixers.
The run:Find and rescue a kidnapped yakuza princess before she is traded for a ransom.
What happened:
O and V are introduced to the Johnson, a yakuza lieutenant, by my former character. He explains how the princess was kidnapped by runners and hires them to get her back before the other yakuza and before the exchange take place. If worst comes to worst, the body of the princess will suffice, but they are encouraged to bring her alive. Being the first to get her, however, is not facultative, so they better hurry up.

They begin their investigation, starting from the place of the kidnapping. They learn that the most trusted bodyguard of the princess was there when the kidnapping happened and that he killed one assailant and wounded gravely another before being put down. In the astral space, O and V see that the bodyguard was crushed by guilt as he laid dying and that there was another person during the attack. O and V start working the clues, the identity of the enemy runners, their quirks and flaws, and using the network from V's character and their findings, the alcohol addiction of one of them and the painkillers for the wounded one among other things, they manage to triangulate the area where they are hiding and, after some astral reconaissance, the coffin motel in which they are resting.

They are on the 4th floor, the cameras of the entrance, and third-fourth-fifth floor are under their control. They each are in a different room and in one of the middle ones is the princess. They are the only clients in the 4th floor and 3rd and 5th are empty.

Wasting no time, they mount an attack, using the levitate spell between two non-windowed building walls to stealthily reach the top of the coffin motel. There they trigger an hidden sensor from the enemy runners and trigger a silent alarm. Unaware, they go down the levels, dealing with the cameras, as they reach the 4th level, they get ready to storm one room, silence the guy inside, and then methodically continue until they're all done for. However, right as they are ready to put their plan in motion, they are welcomed by a burst through the door, which does no damage, but puts them on the defensive. It is immediately followed by sound of explosions. Fearing the worst, V switches to astral sight and sees them rappeling down. They open the door, and see smoke leaving from a rather big hole in the wall, the runners just used cutting charges and prepared ropes to create themselves an escape route. Not to be had so easily, V drastically slows down one of the runners, while O goes back to the roof, sees the runners going for their car, and shoots it with tracker rounds. V goes down the flight of stairs, scares everyone in the living room, call Kain (their boss and my former character, yes they litteraly asked me to bring my honest-to-god DMPC into the mix) asking him to bring a car, a couple of minutes later, O, V and a very poor runner are in the back of a psycho's car, following the signal from the tracking device. After a short "interrogation", they get enough info to call the rest of the enemy runners and propose to trade the princess against their safety (basically a "give us the girl and we're getting off your back" deal). After a bit of convincing, the enemy runners decide they are in a difficult enough situation for them to accept the deal (the yaks are in full search mode and they have 2 days left till the meeting). They also reveal some info which ticks off my players, so V calls one of his contacts, a barmaid, and gets to have the exchange between runners happen here, she adds the condition not to wreck her bar and no killing, but this suits my players just fine. Just as they accept, Kain asks if he f*cked up, since he already caught up to them, way before they were supposed to meet. O and V decide to keep tailing them until the agreed rendezvous point. They reach it without issue. That is, until a car seemingly coming from nowhere blocks the path of the enemy runners, with 3 yakuzas unleashing machine pistol burst fire against the car. The fourth yakuza doesn' draw his gun but a katana (V notices it's a weapon focus) goes berserk and charges the car, smacking it with enough force to make it into a convertible. His men seem weirdly slow in coming to help him, limiting themselves to shooting at the car. The runners however, start laying the hurt on him, knocking him back with burst fire. Then his wounds start to heal and he pounces the car, stabbing his sword and killing the engine. Once again, return fire strikes and he falls down, but soon enough his wounds start to heal again.

That's when O and V rush in, with a physical barrier spell followed by a levitate spell and some good negotiation rolls, they manage to have the crazed yakuza calm down, reveal his name, Yojimbo (yeah, subtle, I know) and that he was the princess' bodyguard. They refuse to dispatch him since it became readily apparent that they weren't given the full story and want to tread carefully. They enter the bar and are led to a backroom, where they all sit at the same table, weapons on the table.

So here you have Yojimbo, roots filling out his wounds and seething in barely contained rage, the still-unconscious princess, the scared drekless runners and my confused players.

Miraculously the talking proceeds without a hitch, Yojimbo, the only belligerent one being calmed by the belief that if push comes to shove he can just slaughter everyone in the room and make away with the princess. This allows O and V to piece out what happened.

The runners were hired by the same Johnson as the party, given a picture of the princess and told to kidnap her. They weren't told about Yojimbo but were given her planning for the next few days. The next day had a pretty hefty shopping spree planned, so they decided to let legwork go to heck and strike there and then. They place the GMC Bulldog near one of the exits, and wait for the moment to strike. Eventually a girl looking like the picture leaves the mall, they drive to her, open the side door and are about to nab her away when they realise there are two girls looking like the picture they were given. Not enough to be twins, but still with a pretty big resemblance. Confused, the Sammie wastes his surprise round, Yojimbo reacts immediately drawing his blade and slicing the chromed man down with two consecutive strikes. He then positions himself between the runners and one of the girls. Enraged, the rest of the team opens fire, gunning him down. Still he gets back up, wounding one of the runners and destroying the hacker's drone before being finally put down. The runners are in yakuza territory, no member has the strength to carry the troll back, and they're confused as to which girl is the right one. One of the two looks a lot more like the picture, but Yojimbo was clearly protecting the other with his life. They only have a split second to choose, and the one with the taser makes the decision to knock out the one Yojimbo was protecting. They nab her away and manage to lose the pursuit through some good hacking. They stuff the girl into a big suitcase and call their Johnson, accusing him for not warning them about Yojimbo and asking compensation money for the Sammie's death. The Johnson refuses, so they skim through the girl's commlink and call Oyabun, asking for a ransom. He grudgingly accepts, but manages to slither a way to make them wait a full week from then before making the exchange. They then buy a dozen coffin motel rooms, bring the girl and the wounded in, then the two remaining ones go destroy the morgue where the body of their Sammie rests, before returning and holing up, fortifying their defences and only going out to indulge in their addictions.

Unbeknownst to them, Yojimbo had actually just cast away his honor and decided to protect his loved one, the princess' BFF, over the princess he had sworn to protect. As he bleeds out, his biomonitor activates a dose of Immortal Flower which starts regenerating him. He comes to, the princess next to him, and realizes the situation. He calls Oyabun, who sends his most trusted men to bring them back. He then reveals his plan to let the misunderstanding continue, sending search teams without warning them they are actually looking for the BFF and not the Princess, in a gamble to reveal the traitor, as he is convinced one of his captains, who knows the importance of the Princess just betrayed him. He also places some of his trusted men in control of some of the search cars and have them instruct their men to hunt but not catch the kidnappers, should they find them, and merely shoot them with tracker rounds in a bid, once again, to reveal the traitor. By the way, he grudgingly accepts to pay the BFF's ransom if push comes to shove, after the Princess laid the pressure on him. Dissatisfied, Yojimbo rallies some of his men, tells them of the Oyabun's plan but not of the switch, and patrols the streets in a car in astral sight mode, trying to find the aura of his beloved. He finally did a few minutes ago.

As the story unravels, Kain calls and sends a trid of Yojimbo's men outside being crashed into by an armored car, then the Johnson, the Johnson's boss and two more yakuza get out of the armored car, gun down the survivors among Yojimbo's men, and enter the bar. Kain asks if they want some support, O and V refuse (luckily for me). As he enters, the Johnson expresses regret at having to kill my players, stating that it was always the plan to pay them and let them be on their way. At least until they heard the whole story. A short, but vicious sword/gunfight ensues and sees the one-sided slaughter of the assaillants, followed by the one-sided slaughter of V as his barmaid chides him out.

BFF is safe, Yojimbo didn't lose his essence point, the runners are allowed (for having defended the BFF against the traitorous yaks in the last gunfight) to keep their arms and be allowed to flee after being beaten half to death. My players manage to get paid by Oyabun, and get the yaks as contacts.
The closest they could get to a happy end.
Well, that was rather tame, was it not? Indeed it was! No flying body parts, no epic assault cannon fire, no playing around with the lives of people for the heck of it... No insanity, no CLUElessness, even! Yes indeed, this first run left no clue as to what an utter nightmare this campaign was to devolve into.

It did pave the way for the 10 000 nuyen run, however, the second and last run I was going to DM. Once more this run was pretty tame, with one or two particular, striking exceptions. It was also a run in which I was tempted to have them discover a dirty bomb in an abandoned part of the subway. In hindsight, there are no words to express how terrible that idea would have been.

Alberic Strein
2015-02-13, 08:00 PM
The 10 000 nuyen run, eh?

You know, I always figured a descent into madness would be pretty quick. That the slippery slope would be pretty steep. As it turns out, not really.

DM: Yours truly, N.
Players:O with his trusty rigger and V with his mage spy.
The run: I let my inner sadist run wild here. I love how Shadowrun leaves characters the opportunity to refuse the run, and flee at full speed. Sure, I've seen this ruin campaigns when players just find the run too fishy and refuse, leaving the GM with a fully planned fun run which is now (unless we get help from Schr÷dinger) absolutely useless.

Still, sometimes characters can't run away from a particularly fishy run. They would love to, I'm led to believe, but they can't. For example, working under a psychopath, directly under a psychopath even, and having him be your Johnson for a run usually prevents you from turning said run down.

Then, sure in their inability to flee, I proceeded to make the run as fishy as possible. First, it's a 10 000 nuyen run for each, twice as much as they usually get. Also, the run is tied to growing tensions between the Yakuza and the Vory. Lastly their Johnson is uncharacteristically clear about them calling him right as the run is completed.

What they are told is pretty simple, the Yakuza and the Vory have conflincting interests, and are engaged in a power struggle. Still, and all-out war, no matter how short, would be ruinous. As they are negotiating a non-violent way to solve the conflict, the Oyabun (same as last time) is constantly massaging his temple. The Vory boss is surprised, demands an explanation, and Oyabun confesses suffer a headache from his daughter's constant nagging about how a match in the underground arena was cancelled. The underground arena was a knock off local version of the pits from Tenochititlan that Aztechnology ran for a time but it failed to meet its estimated profit point and was sold off to minimize the losses. Venting, Oyabun is surprised when he hears the Vory boss screaming genius. Everybody has its hands in the arena as a business and no group has overwhelming influence over it, so it's the closest they can get to a neutral ground. All they need to do is designate a champion each, and the winner takes control over the minor block they were arguing over. This suits Oyabun doubly well and he readily accepts. They schedule the match for next week and a couple of fights during the week as warm-ups. Since the location where the fight will take place is to be held secret up to one hour until the match starts, making sure the crowd is riled up for it is necessary.

A lot of rules are decided here and there, no member from their respective groups will be allowed to participate, to avoid revenges over a possible accidental death in the ring. Also, any and all form of drugs are forbidden and will lead to disqualification. Magically active meta-humans of any meta-type are allowed to compete without restriction.

Their Johnson, Kain, then tells the runners that the Yakuza representative for the match will be a woman named Acca, as the corporation she belongs to has ties to the Yakuza and he reputation precedes her. Of Aztlan descent, she is claimed to be one of the best pit fighters around, even good enough to compete and strive in the pits of Tenochititlan. Also, the Yakuza Princess has an honorary place in her fan club.

The runners' job is to guarantee she does not get disqualified by any mean, no matter what. Also, if lethal force is to be used against her, they are to call him immediately upon identifying the source of the threat. One side-job is to discover in advance where the match will take place and get there before her. Another is to remain unnoticed during the whole mission.

O and V are noticeably appalled at how easy the mission seems for the price he is offering and question him further. Were there threats of any kind? Not that he knows off. Why does he care? Not your business. What if she isn't disqualified but loses the match? Impossible. So there may be no threats, will they get paid then? There will definitely be threats, but for argument's sake, yes.

After a while they exhaust their questions and start to get on their legwork.

I'm going to cut this tales according to the game sessions. And the first session of the 10 000 nuyen run was almost exclusively legwork. And as it turns out, when your main contact works for a huge spy network. The Interpol of spies. So they uncover Acca's past very quickly -shipped from Tenochititlan to fight in the arena, wrecked every and anyone so hard and so quickly she was one of the reasons the arena went under, and ran away after her last match after receiving outside help in the form of flashbang grenades who delayed the security- where she is working now -an unremarkable corporation who doesn't even specialize in arena fights or security procedures, she is just hired as a consultant there- with that info in hand, they go to the HQ of the corporation, wait for her to leave work, tail her with astral sight, discover where she lives and stay on a stakeout near her house and workplace for the following days.

She doesn't get out much, the only thing of importance they learn is that she is in a relationship with Kain, their Johnson and employer. Something they tease him about relentlessly via commlink.

One issue pops up though. They still don't know where the fight will take place, what kind of security will be there, and how the corporation will bring her here.

The mage spy boasts that he can get that info pronto, but fears splitting the party and losing their astral sight coverage on Acca. But after a bit on convincing, he agrees to it, and prepares his solo run on the corp, his goal being to plant a backdoor which will allow their hired hacker to access the database where the information is stored.

To that end, he studies the guards' shift, follows one of them home, catches him with his pants down, shocks him into unconsciousness, mind probes him, steals his clothes, ID and face, and gets ready to leave.

Now, I did tell you that V really enjoyed having his characters being unable to do teamwork correctly, didn't I. Well, this time he achieved it with the help of his mentor spirit, the Trickster. Giving him strong impulses to act on any and every jokes who sprang to mind. So what was he to do with an unconscious pantless guard in the leaving room? Well, leave him here with an explicit trog on trog trid blasting for the pleasure of his family when they come home from school. Classy.

This out of the way, V proved to be awesome with his mage, impersonating perfectly his victim, infiltrating through wits and skill the office and eventually correctly planting the virus and getting out without raising one single alarm. Now that was one flawless victory if there was ever one. I'm cutting it short because it was long ago and memory fails me, but I was pretty anal about it, demanding dice rolls and good results, but they were the dice rolls he was expecting and had sizeable pools in those, and he steamrolled the oppositon. Effortlessly. And God was he happy about it.

But anyway, they learn of the time and place... Of where the corp has to drop Acca so the Vory goons can get her at the right place. Seems like the Vory doesn't trust the corp's security measures. The dropoff point is the Grand Hotel. Acca will be in a car with corp security forces, while a second car of hired mages from a security corp will join them at the halfway point and will stay with them until the Grand Hotel. They dig info about the Hotel and find out it's linked to an old abandoned subway station which goes straight into neutral territory for both the Yakuza and the Vory.

Comes D Day, and our heroes are tailing Acca's car, when O's rigger intercept a communication. They are farther than the halfway point and still no sign of the mages. The rigger sends his surveillance drone and stumbles upon the bizarre sight of a dozen of gangers attacking and pillaging the crashed car of the mages. Worse yet, the car visibly took a missile to the face. This is bad, really bad. Up to that point they believed that Kain was just being parano´d, but it seems someone is ready to pull out the big guns for this. If there is a trap ready at the Grand Hotel it'll be too late to intervene if they keep tailing her, so they change their plans, switch gears and precede them to the Grand Hotel. All seems calm. They go to the lobby, pay for a coffee and the newspaper -some keep publishing those things for the theatrical effect- and wait for Acca's car. Soon enough it arrives in the tense atmosphere, but nothing happens, not even when she walks up the stairs to the lobby. But when she enters the Hotel, two cars come to a screeching halt, and half a dozen men in black with suitcases come out, and start going for the Hotel. O and V disagree and hesitate on what to do. Acca's escort is blind to the threat, and when the Vory goons come up to the escorts to relieve them of their duties, the six men in black enter.

And that's when everything starts going to hell...

Next session!
So here you have it, the first joke in overwhelmingly bad taste. And it's going to be the first of a long, long line. It's not even particularly stupid. It's not CLUEless. It's just a bad joke. But damn, weren't bad jokes about to become our anthem.

Alberic Strein
2015-03-01, 04:05 PM
So, I suppose that it would be rather bad not to give you the end of the run, eh?

Well, things went to hell.

No, really, that's pretty much it. My players didn't even have the margin to do anything particularly crazy. Well almost.

So, six men in black enter the Grand Hotel. Enjoying their surprise round, half throw their suitcases at Acca and her group, while the rest shoot said suitcases out of the air, dispersing something that looks like smoke, but pings on the V's mage's astral radar. Not surprised, he gets to act and erects a physical barrier between the smoke and Acca's group. However the barrier is very weak and does not protect against bullets. In the subsequent round her escorts are gunned down under heavy fire. The Vory guys fare better and duck for cover while Acca hesitates unsure whether to take down the enemies at the risk of exposing herself to the smoke, or retreating. That's when O and V's characters come into play, they reach her and tell her to follow them. Of course she is not thrilled by the idea, so they reveal Kain hired them. Which, technically goes against their orders, but they can't be bothered to care about that at this point.

They leave the Vory goons holding off the men in black and rush for the stairs, getting to the underground garage with a blocked door linking it to the subway. Neither of them has the strength to open it by force, or anyway to take out the old lock, but Acca does and promptly slices it open. They rush in, hide the broken lock, close the door, and run. Underground they don't have a signal so they don't know how the fight between the men in black and the Vory ultimately went.

O and V proceed slowly through the subway, going from tunnel to tunnel. It took quite a bit of gaming time, but there is not much to say, I was trying to build a nice ambience there and rile them up for when...

Assault rifles Vory goons suddenly come out!

The tension was quite tense, but they O and V managed, barely to keep their calm, and after some time managed to get brought with Acca to the Arena, where a few Vory men were waiting. They enter a room, meet a mid-level Vory goon, as well as the chief of the division Acca belongs to.

Well, I thought they would negotiate a bit you know? Ahah. No. Not in a thousand years. They basically looked the division chief in the eye and told him in no uncertain words, to go sit on a cactus. Well, was I rather taken aback, and uttered a single "What."

Oh, that was a bad move. O, usually the calmest, most level headed of the group started tearing the division chief a new one in a language so french I can't write it here.

Composing myself I had the division chief get angry, which was met with even worse verbal abuse, the Vory underboss not interjecting since, technically, the runners had done his men's job when they had failed, so he wasn't in any position to say anything. When the division chief tried to get them to leave he got nicely (no, not really) told to shut up, as they brought Acca to the medical check-in. The doctor saw nothing wrong, and the division chief, who had gone to fetch Acca some coffee, even though he hated with burning passion the runners he still was being very nice to their corp's ace after all.

Okay, to be honest, I half expected O and V to ask him to sample the coffee, or to trade his cup with Acca's or something, which would have ended in mission failure. Instead, they slapped the cups out of his hands and took whatever much was left to the doctor, who identified a minor drug inside. Acca got into her match unhindered and properly slaughtered the opposition in one forceful blow. The runners contacted Kain as per their contract, who swiftly pressed a button, exploding charges all over the corp's buildings. Yup, overkill and completely unneeded, but he wasn't supposed to be sane to begin with. He was about to refuse to pay them too, for having revealed that they had worked for him to the target, but after some persuasion from Acca, he paid them in full.

So what had been going on?
Acca hadn't been hired by the division chief who went missing after being handed to the Yakuzas but by another, which had abused his authority to get her in the corporation. So Acca's division chief saw each of her successes as an insult, and it was also bad for his place in the politics of the corp. So he had wanted her to fall into disgrace in a bid to get back his influence and control over his own division. To that end he had hired runners who, in turn, had hired gangers from a mage-hating gang and given them disposable rocket launchers so they could assault the mages' car. Then they had moved in for the "kill". They wanted to avoid her rushing them, so they dispersed an awakened drug who enters the system through inhalation. It isn't all that nocive in itself, but would have disqualified her.

But everything is well that ends well.
Kain got an earful but also some thanks.
Acca raised her fame once more and got quite a bit of cash in the bidding war to hire her again.
The Yakuza princess got to see an awesome match.
The Yakuza princess' BFF and Yojimbo got to enjoy a nice date.
The Vory goons who defended Acca at the Grand Hotel survived.
The "Pros", the runner team hired against our heroes retreated and survived to run another day.
O and V got paid rather handsomely for a short period of time and got some good blackmail material on their boss.

This was the last game I DM'd, so my info regarding the next games is going to be more parcellar.

Also, in a game where I wasn't there, in which V was the GM and which was an introduction for A to Shadowrun, there was a break-in in a hospital, a nurse, and an attempt at non-consensual relationship.

Yuck. And this was only beginning.