19 Jun 2014

By The Numbers Chapter 11 - Commentary

As usual, please read the chapter first.

The title refers to what happens in the chapter and is considered a bad idea in a game.  First, splitting the party means splitting the GM's attention, leading to a small group of players sitting and watching for part of a session.  Second, in-game, there's always the chance that the active group needs the skills of someone in the inactive group, who may not be available to go help.  In Shadowrun, if the party's muscle is off holding back a guard while he's needed to break through a door elsewhere, both groups are going to run into problems.

In fiction, though, an inactive character is just left doing what he or she was doing before the scene switched.  The active group may need someone from the inactive characters, but, unlike a game where a character's death means a player needs to create a new one, the death of a character is a setback that the others in the group need to work around before mourning.

In game or in story, though, the crew has a reason to split up.  Charles and Numbers are keeping an eye on Nabi, trying to give Oswald and Treehugger the time needed to find the woman's daughter.  At this point, the details of the meeting aren't important.  It's the same bickering as the previous days.  The key was to show that the crew had a plan and was following it.

Treehugger and Oswald's search is two-fold.  First, they have a rough location, so they're trying to narrow things by driving around based on what they saw in the ransom video.  Second, Oswald is scanning the astral.  The astral reflects the general mood of the area.  In an old cathedral in Europe, where many joyous occasions have occurred over the centuries, the astral plane is pleasant and warm.  In the Barrens, though, where misery is the highlight of the inhabitants' days, the astral is bleak.  Staring at the misery taxes a mage.  Oswald needed a break when he watched the ransom video again.

Here is where I blew some foreshadowing.  The little bit of graffiti that Oz spots was seen by Numbers back in Chapter 6.  Unfortunately, I never made a note of the detail in the earlier chapter.  Numbers never mentioned the detail, and with the rate needed to complete NaNoWriMo, it got lost.  Oops.

The graffiti turns into the detail needed to find Sun Jung.  It's a saving throw on my part - I needed to girl to be found, but I may have made it too hard by making the opposition too competent.  At the same time, incompetent opposition is just dull.  The crew's victories are earned, not given, and spotting that one detail, a potential long shot, is something that Oswald's skill set and background allows.  That still leaves finding the building, and Treehugger's abilities will come to the forefront with that task.

Back at the meeting, I finally could hint that Nabi was augmented.  For those wondering what sort of game mechanics she has, Nabi counts as a company man, active or former.  In the setting, company men and women are troubleshooters, in that they shoot people causing trouble for the corporation, and are typically cybernetically augmented.  That Numbers couldn't shrug out from Nabi's grip should imply that the Korean woman has some sort of strength upgrades.  Numbers is also a little more paranoid than usual, as seen with her trembling.  The run, what was supposed to be a simple bodyguard job, just keeps getting worse.  A good runner team should be able to adjust plans as obstacles come up.  The crew, though, didn't anticipate a meeting of key security heads being compromised.  They are adjusting, but other elements are coming up.

As Treehugger searches with the Fed-Boeing drone, Oswald gets the news of the deadline.  He adds a buffer, in part to get TH to rush, in part so that there's time to get the rescue team in place.  The one hour difference between Oz and Treehugger's last scene and this one helps show how long a process it was for TH to find the billboard.  Treehugger also stays jumped in her vehicles during the scene.  She had to switch from the Kull to the Bulldog to take advantage of the van's speaker, but she loses less time in her search doing that than she would returning to her body.  With the location narrowed down to a few buildings, an astral search is far easier.  The astral barrier will keep out prying astral searches, whether from mage sight, mages travelling on the astral, or spirits looking.

Numbers is worried.  Data models, simulations, anything to keep her employer alive, and nothing is working.  The hacker's Plan B is hasty, not thought through, and requires her own implants to work well.  Numbers is a hacker who uses social engineering; she knows how to shoot a gun, but it's not her primary role.  Nabi, as mentioned above, is a former company woman, a troubleshooter, someone who shoots hackers causing trouble.  In a fair fight, Numbers is toast.  If Numbers could tilt the battlefield to her favour, she is still hosed.  Numbers has a hold out pistol, a two-shot derringer.  Nabi has wired reflexes and a machine pistol.  Numbers is not in a good position right now.

Tomorrow, the stand-off continues.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the mess that is Super Mario Bros.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, another take on Mario with The Four Players.
Coming soon, more Traveller and the return of Project Natasha.

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