17 Apr 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 2 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

With the intro to both the setting, the type of story, and the characters, it's time to get the main plot going.  Chapter 1 started with action to pull in readers.  Chapter 2 is to set the audience up for the longer plot.  In a typical Shadowrun session, the player characters are hired to perform a run, a job that is at best quasi-legal, for a fee.  The players can turn down jobs; the GM needs to either be ready with a number of runs to present or tailor the run towards the players' preferences.  Since /By the Numbers/ would go nowhere if the team had turned down Baba Ganoush last chapter, the job is tailored towards for characters.  Bodyguarding is mostly inoffensive, unless a group of orks is hired to protect a Humanis Policlub leader.

Speaking of Humanis, the setting has racism.  Shadowrun is a distopia, so all the flaws of humanity show up.  Racism goes beyond skin colour and national origins, adding in the human subspecies - ork, troll, elf, and dwarf.  The more the subspecies looks different from the human baseline, the more likely there will be a reaction.  Elves have people like Treehugger wanting to become one; trolls don't have that sort of luck.  The hesitation by the host stems from him not quite knowing what to make of Charles; the lack of chairs just adds to the the snub.

The early gathering was entirely a character piece, letting me develop the characters and show how they get along.  The cast is still professional; they check out the room to make sure it is secure, but they also take the time to enjoy having dinner paid.  The other goals, besides just introducing the plot, were to show how well everyone on the team gets along with each other and to show glimpses into their personalities.  Numbers shows an appreciation for the finer things in life, like real orange duck, and has corporate experience.  She also has personal standards.  It's one thing to use her implants, including the tailored pheromone bioware (see Augmentation), for social engineering her way through a run or supporting her teammates; it's another to take personal advantage with the augments.  Oswald prefers less formal surroundings and plays up the "scruffy shadowrunner" image.  He also tends to needle Treehugger.  Charles works to fit in when he's on a job; later chapters will show him more relaxed.

I should make a note here about the names.  Obviously, they're all aliases.  Last week, I mentioned how "Mr. Johnson" is a generic name used to hide the identity of the contractor.  The best description comes from Glenn Frey's Smuggler Blues: "Every name's an alias in case somebody squeals"*.  Runners get known by their handles or street names, and the names are given, not taken, just like the handles of Air Force fighter pilots.  There's probably multiple variants of "Dumbass" in every major city in 2070.  A runner can ditch his or her handle, but the reputation that the street name carries will be lost as well.

The aside aside, the rest of the dinner focuses on the negotiation of payment.  Notice Treehugger handling the details, not Numbers.  Treehugger's the negotiator of the team; she has the skillset.  Numbers is more focused on getting passwords out of people, not haggling.  Shadowrun separates the two areas in to Negotiation and Con.  Need to grift a passcode out of an exec?  Numbers is your woman.  Need to get a good price for the code when selling it later?  Treehugger.

Tomorrow, the team does its homework.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, Muppets Most Wanted.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, the April round up of adaptational news.
Coming soon, more Project Natasha.

* Potential Shadowrun GMs should give the song a listen, not so much for ideas of jobs but a look at life in the shadows.

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