25 May 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 5 - Commentary

As always, please read the chapter first.

Apologies for the delay.  The time away helped clear my head.  On to the comments!

Right away, some area explanations.  "Boeingville" refers to the Federated-Boeing facility in 2070s Everett, a suburb of Seattle.  The facility is more than just a factory and offices; it includes living areas, schools, and stores so that employees don't have to risk their lives on the untamed streets.  Security is tight and armed.  It's Shadowrun; the expectation is that someone could send deniable, expendable assets against your facility at anytime, and those assets have no qualms about the number of casualties inflicted, so it's best to be prepared.  Security in 2070 has reasons to be paranoid.  However, Mr. Johnson has some pull with the men at the gates.

Mr. Johnson's apartment number, 514, is also Montreal's area code.  There's nothing else special about it.  I just needed a number.  I could have also gone with 613, 905, or 416, but preferred Montreal over Ottawa and the Greater Toronto Area.  His apartment block houses many families; he's in an area reserved for upper management.

One thing I did, and I may not have done it on purpose, was give all the major characters backstories.  Each of the runners has a backstory.  Mr. Johnson has a backstory.  The opposition has a backstory.  Even the mooks have a bit of backstory, enough for why they're working for the opposition.  Most of the info wasn't written down, but it let me work out why events are happening and what the reactions would be.  The method works best on a smaller cast.  So far, the cast of characters for By the Numbers is small.  It will grow in a few chapters.  I should try using the method again for NaNo 2014.

Mr. Johnson gets a proper name and even a family in this chapter.  Tarkov's family adds to the stakes while showing that NPCs in a Shadowrun game aren't just stats and damage tracking boxes.  The KSAF interview was a combined backgrounder and writing exercise to get me ready for NaNo 2010, when By the Numbers was first written.  The MSTing by the crew creates a problem in continuity, but it wasn't meant to be published.

Mira's reaction is based on several factors.  First, she's a parent.  Her husband just brought home several people she doesn't know, one being a towering troll, and one who is very much scruffy.  Second, she is a civilian, like the vast majority of Seattle's population.  She has seen orks and trolls around, and is aware that Federated-Boeing employs mages, but shadowrunners happen to other people, not her.  Third, she is aware of just what falls within her sphere of interests.  She provides for her family, has her own hobbies, and gets her news through the corporate filter.  Tarkov might have mentioned other details over dinner conversation, but she is not as involved in the underworld and the shadows as the crew is.

Naming Tarkov's family was a challenge.  With the main crew, they received street name, similar to nicknames, which are usually given instead of taken.  Real names, though, need to follow a proper convention, instead of being called Treehugger after wrapping a car around a tree.  I did a quick bit of research on naming trends; what tends to happen is that an older name associated with grandparents for one generation becomes the darling name for the next.  The baby Caitlins from the 1980s will become retired Caitlins in the 2040s, turning the name into a grandparent name.  Names like Greer, as in Greer Garson will return because they won't be attached to old people.  Naming characters is hard work.

While Mira is hesitant to have the crew in her home, and she really can't be blamed, her son, Holden, feels otherwise.  Goblinization, or the painful change from human to ork or troll, started in 2021, fifty years prior to By the Numbers.  Both Tarkov and Mira are old enough to have seen the first generation of orks and trolls, though neither are quite 50 yet.  Holden, though, has grown up with magic and orks and trolls and elves and dwarves and dragons being the norm.  For him, Charles is just another part of life, just like anyone born in the US after 2008 has had a black president as a normal part of theirs.

Oswald's scruffiness remark goes back to Chapter 2, where he remarked that people expect shadowrunners to have a certain level of scruff.  Just like television today, the trid series will take excessive liberties with reality.  Compare forensics science in the real world and then with what is seen on CSI; similar will occur in the future.  Given that corporations in 2070 really don't want people to question the status quo, shadowrunners will be portrayed as mercenary, money grubbing, down and out, lawless, and will be used as the villains or, most likely, the villain's expendable army.

Numbers brings up a good point; not all shadowrunners are cyborgs or wizards who can melt a car with a fireball.  Runners come from all walks of life.  Numbers has a corporate background.  Treehugger and Charles are from lower incomes.  There's no one way to becoming a shadowrunner, which gives players in the game a lot of leeway to create a character.

The next chapter has already been posted, so if you're the type to want to wait for the commentary before continuing, feel free to proceed.  The commentary for chapter 6 will appear on Tuesday.

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