26 Jun 2014

By The Numbers Chapter 12 - Commentary

Please read the chapter first.  Spoilers may abound.

The action now focuses on recovering Sun Jung.  The team is letting Treehugger take point, and she's letting a small drone, the Aztech Crawler, do the hard work of looking for traps.  In the game, riggers can use their drones for many uses, from reconaissance to food retrieval, as long as they have the right drone for the job.  The Crawler is a small drone, about the size of a remote control car[link] with cameras, letting Treehugger get a better view of anything on the floor without getting caught by any booby traps.

Hackers are ideal for handling electronic equipment.  They work with computer equipment and tend to come from technical backgrounds.  When a hacker isn't around, the rigger is a decent second choice.  While riggers don't usually have the software needed to hack, mainly because they have better uses for their money, they do understand electronics.  Treehugger stepping up to deal with the tripwires is stretching her capabilities, but possible.  The term "spider" refers to a corporate rigger who is connected to a building's security system.  The move to using riggers in security systems occurred after hackers turned corporate networks into a personal challenges.  A rigged system is harder to hack; the hacker's software suite isn't set up to deal with the hardware and software differences.

There's a continuity error in the first scene.  Back in Chapter 10, Gale Storm had volunteered to look for Sun Jung, figuring that subtlety was needed.  In Chapter 12, Tempest is in the assault team.  Oops.  I also don't know how to work out the change.  It's something that needs editing, probably back in Chapter 10 to have Tempest volunteer.

The duel of the mages developed after I realized that I had introduced a magic user in earlier chapters without figuring out what the character was doing.  The duel also let me show off Oswald a bit more.  The fight comes down to power versus control.  Oswald doesn't go for overpowering a spell right away; doing so leads to exhausting him or even hurting him physically.  His approach is closer to judo or aikido, using opponent's power against him.

Treehugger's disorientation is from hacking without the proper software.  The disorientation, known as dump shock, happens when there's a sudden disconnect from a computer.  Treehugger didn't log out of the trap's network properly.  Mild dump shock means a few seconds of disorientation.  Worse versions can lead to brain damage and death.  But, again, without a hacker to deal with electronic circuits, the assault team had to go with what they had.  The circuit itself went from parallel to serial, where only one beam would set off an alarm.

Even Numbers got a scene.  She and Nabi were in a stand off last chapter.  With the tension building in the other scenes, it was time to ramp up the drama between Numbers and Nabi.  There's a hint about Numbers' background here, and Treehugger's elf poser drawback comes back with the rigger's use of elven rock band Til Es Hault as her hold music.  Hopefully, the scene was received as dramatic instead of comedic.

Back at the battle of the mages, Oswald's opponent reveals a bit of his nature.  In /Shadowrun/, shamans take on the mask of their totem, no longer needing the manufactured masks now that magic has returned.  The mask resembles the totem, so a Coyote shaman takes on the appearance of Coyote.  Dragon shamans do exist in the game, usually through a supplement like Street Magic.  They aren't common, though.  The fight is a series of one-upmanship.  The dragon shaman summons a fire elemental, Oswald starts a fire using Ignite.  The shaman casts Armor to protect against Oz's pistol, Oz throws a Stunbolt, a mana-based spell that avoids armour.  Oz casts Invisibility, the shaman makes it harder to walk.  The main problem the two have is that every spell that needs to be sustained makes it harder to cast a second spell and resist the drain it causes.  The dragon shaman has two spells already sustained, Armor and Ice Sheet; Oswald has just Invisibility.

The method used by the shaman to find Oswald is questionable in-game.  Does Invisibility also affect the astral, or can a mage use astral perception to find an invisible opponent?  I went with "yes"; maintaining astral perception means not seeing items like cars, making it dangerous to cross roads.  However, it is the spell that's seen, not the person hidden by it.  This ruling would allow a mage to cast Invisibility on a teammate, thus preventing a searching wizard from seeing who is being hidden.

Oswald wins by overpowering a Stunbolt.  He took the risk, knowing he needed to end the fight, and paid for it.  Burst blood vessels leading to a nosebleed is the least he could have expected.  The last spell he cast on the shaman was Mind Probe.

The shaman's mooks react appropriately to facing trained troopers; they use the girl as a shield.  The lead mook is committed to his mission.  The others are seeing the job going sour and would prefer to leave.  Treehugger is out of her element.  Shadowrunners aren't supposed to get into police SWAT raids.  Her team is very much a stealth-based group.  Her testiness with Numbers is perfectly reasonable.

The use of time stamps became useful this chapter, despite not planned.  The stamps let me show the passage of time and imply that Oswald's scenes and Treehugger's were happening simultaneously.  The girl falling down is pure visual, a way to break the tension, and was based on seeing it filmed.  Tempest's lightning bolt ends the tension, at least for Treehugger's group, and is the reason why I wanted Tempest in the scene.  Nabi's relief finishes the tension that had been building.  Ideally, readers are relieved at the same time.  The gunfire is just clean up, which will come up again later.

Tomorrow, the job wraps up.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, a look at a fan interpretation of Super Mario Bros.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, the June round up of upcoming adaptations and remakes.
Coming soon, more Traveller and the return of Project Natasha.

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