24 Apr 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 3 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter before continuing.

In Shadowrun, the success of a run can hinge on research.  Characters should try to get as much data about the target as possible, no matter what the job entails.  For a bodyguard job that the cast is on, working out the potential threats makes securing the target easier.  Need to protect a target from a gang, move the target to another gang's turf.  Protecting a Mr. Johnson at a multi-corporation meet, however, isn't that easy, especially when the location and the identities of the participants is unknown.  This is where the research comes in.

The chapter title, "Legwork", came directly from the name of the sections in published adventures for when players did the research needed.  The title sums up what the chapter is about.  Each character goes about using his or her contacts and skills to find out what they need.  Numbers starts breaking into databases while Charles has a beer with a fixer he knows.  In-game, the work can be done with a set of die rolls or with full-on roleplaying.  In a novel, it's best to show the characters doing the work.

As the group's hacker, Numbers took on the Matrix searches.  She started with several broad searches, checking public archives for various information.  Her research is similar to how most people would look things up today - search on Google using a variety of search terms using a different tab with each search, plus peeking at Wikipedia and official sites.  Numbers having her commlink play music is no different to people listening to mp3s or online radio stations while working at a computer.  The main difference is that a commlink can be set to display on any surface as well as monitors and holoscreens.

Most of Numbers' search allowed me to name drop corporate names from the game, tying the novel in closer.  The United Corporate Council, or UCC, is an "advisory" council to the Seattle government, suggesting laws.  The UCC first showed up in Shadowrun's first edition in 1989 and consists of the corporations having the most impact on Seatlle; while there are a few megacorporations, some are still regional and have little impact on the global economy.

The fashion search Numbers ran was to try to confirm whether Mr. Johnson worked for Federated-Boeing or was just trying to misdirect not just the team but the people he needed guarding against.  As a social engineer, Numbers does try to keep up with fashion.  It's much easier to be accepted in a large group if one dresses appropriately.  Wearing the correct tie and colours may be minor, but that subtle difference puts people at ease, letting them open up and talk with who they think is a co-worker.

Numbers' search let me show off my interpretation of the Shadowrun Matrix.  With processing power not an issue, Numbers can let her icon calculate a Fibonacci series.  She maintains the unified look by having her programs appear as different numbers; a zero (0) works well as a tablet in the Matrix.  Her spoof program, allowing her to appear as part of the network, runs a Taylor series to keep within her icon's theme.  From the view of the icon knights, Numbers would just cease to exist in their sight, without any of the numbers appearing.  The visuals are for the user, not the target programs.

The reaction Numbers had inside the virtual reception is based on events in her past.  For now, it's a hint of what she used to be, but there's a touch of foreshadowing as well.  Even when I wrote the outline for this chapter, I knew later that someone from her past would show up.  Deliberate foreshadowing, instead of the accidental one from Lethal Ladies.

With Charles, I went with the Big Rhino to play around in the Ork Underground.  The area exists today; when Seattle burned down in 1889, new buildings were built upon the ruins.  Parts of the Seattle Underground are even open to tours.  In the future history of Shadowrun, after the Night of Rage that saw rioting and an attempted purge of metahumans, the elves, dwarves, orks, and trolls of Seattle hid inside the Underground, claiming it as their own.  Add a falling out, and the main residents in the expanded Underground are orks.  The Big Rhino first appeared in the first edition of the game, getting a larger write up in the Seattle Sourcebook*.  The band, 3 Meter, comes from Seattle 2072, thus saving me from having to come up with my own name for a group.

Mr. Macro is my own creation, a troll fixer working out of the Big Rhino.  Chances are, many campaigns have someone similar.  The name comes from the typical size of trolls compared to human norms.  Vectrix is a hacker, meant to be implied; her name is me feminizing the word "vector".  Macro has a core job ethic; he gives away nothing for free.  He and Charles know each other well enough that they can skip most of the steps in haggling.  Four tickets to a prime event seems reasonable to both parties, and if Charles is paying a little more than he should, the extra gets him in a little tighter with Mr. Macro.

The last bit before moving on from Charles is the Tacoma Timberwolves.  The team is the city's entry in the Combat Biker League.  The sport gets mentioned early, definitely in the first edition of the Seattle Sourcebook, but got detailed in Shadowbeat.  The sport has some similarities to Quidditch in the Harry Potter setting, except fewer flying brooms and more submachine guns.  I chose the sport because it's part of the setting, letting me tie the story in more.

Oswald got to investigate the magical side of things.  In Shadowrun, not only has magic returned, it's a known quantity.  Magic can be tested in repeatable experiments.  Mages are highly sought employees by corporations.  Stores like Madame Elsa's can be found in malls selling magical wares, mostly fetishes and books.  Elsa is what the game calls a talismonger, someone who sells such talismans.  The good stuff is usually kept in the back for the more exclusive customers.  High school students looking for a luck charm can easily find one on the shelves.  Someone looking for a fireball spell needs to know Elsa well before she even thinks about inviting him or her to the back.

The scene between Oswald and Elsa was when I first noticed that the mage was a ladies' man.  I had set out with an outline, instead of writing by the seat of my pants.  I had the characters mostly worked out.  And, yet, I wasn't expecting Oswald to have this aspect.  The outline for this scene was simple:
 - Oswald uses his magical contacts to dig into the FB job; finds rumours of magical infiltrations into supposedly secure locations
The banter between Oz and Elsa just happened.  The aspect returns later, again without being planned.

Elsa's information is key if readers are knowledgeable of the setting.  Both Mitsuhama and Evo are major corporations in Shadowrun.  Mitsuhama first appeared in the first edition of the core rules.  Evo evolved from Yamatetsu in one of the tie-in novels, then, as a result of the events, renamed itself and moved headquarters from Japan to Russia.  Mitsuhama is the home of the mythical zero zone; nothing in or out alive, like Elsa said.  Mitsuhama is known, at least on the streets, to be one of the more ruthless corporation and capable of making sure intruders disappeared permanently.  Evo doesn't have the rep, but most corporations are good at removing irritants.

Treehugger didn't get to do legwork.  Her sports car needs repairs, so she turns to her mechanic, Two-Tone, another of my creations for the story.  Treehugger's allergy to sunlight also comes to play again.  The replacement car and all its post-dealer modifications come from Arsenal.  The scene's similar to the Q Branch scenes in a 007 movie, with Treehugger receiving a new gadget, one that can seat everyone in the cast.

The last scene in the chapter brings the cast back together.  The Pink Door is also from a Seattle sourcebook and is known, in-universe, for its bialys.  The beer Charles orders is a Labatt Blue, a push by me to make sure that the United Canadian and American States has some Canadiana in it.  The Pink Door also caters to trolls; Charles is comfortable, but Numbers comes up short.  Oz's Mets cap hints at his background, mainly that he's from the New York City area.  Treehugger demonstrates why using certain contacts might not be a good idea.

The negotiation at the end is mostly Treehugger taking advantage of Mr. Johnson.  Fortunately, he does know that if he dies before the run starts, the team doesn't get paid.  Thus, the low amount Treehugger asks for.  The Rubber Suit is another location from the first edition of the Seattle Sourcebook; more about it will be shown in Chapter 4.

Tomorrow, getting out of the Rubber Suit.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the round up of adaptational news.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Hansel and Gretal, Witch Hunters.
Coming soon, more Project Natasha.

* Probably the best sourcebook without rules ever printed.  Just pure setting.

No comments:

Post a Comment