31 Jul 2014

By the Numbers Chapter 17 - Commentary

Welcome back!  As always, please read the chapter first.

Mood whiplash is in effect between chapters 16 and 17.  Fraulein Johnson defused a tense situation, at least temporarily, because she needed deniable expendable assets.  The good fraulein has her own sources about the infiltration, and wants the person responsible.  From the narrative point of view, this gives the crew the motive to investigate.  It's a good motive, too - cash.  Should the crew trust Fraulein Johnson?  Hell no.

The negotiation starts from a position of anger.  Payment has always been a touchy subject in Shadowrun campaigns.  How much is too much?  In the fourth edition, the recommended amount was about 5000 nuyen per runner for a run.  However, that amount didn't take into account difficulty of accessing the target, whatever the target.  This is where the GM needs to make the tough decisions.  The GM needs to accommodate his players, make sure that their characters can pay the bills and save up for wanted upgrades while still not letting the PCs get so powerful that nothing is a challenge.  Adding to the payoff challenge, magical types - mages and adepts - use experience points, called Karma, to pay for improvements.  The mundanes can only keep up through improving skills, also through Karma, or installing implants, which costs nuyen.  An ideal game will have the mundanes and the awakened keeping pace with each other, at least over the long run.

A story, though, has other considerations.  Treehugger is, justifiably, angry with Fraulein Johnson and Saeder-Krupp.  Twenty-five thousand for each person on the crew goes some distance in mollifying the elf wanna-be.  Oswald has a good point; as far as he knows, there's nothing stopping Johnson from telling her Loyalty Enforment Officer friend to clean up loose ends.  The suggestion from Numbers does get Johnson's attention.  Her response shows exactly how much control she has over Wulfe.

The rest of the chapter is just narrowing down suspects.  Mitsuhama's Research Unit 12 first appeared in the first edition of The Grimoire, the magic supplement, as an example of a magical group.  "Betray the corp, and the entire circle will know right away," is putting it simply; magical groups can fall apart if a member breaks a stricture.  The group will also know who was responsible.  Mitsuhama has a reputation for strictness amongst employees; where Saeder-Krupp sends Loyalty Enforcement Officers, Mitsuhama sends hitmen.  And S-K themselves are out; Loyalty Enforcement tend to be loyal, and Wulfe is far more loyal than his peers.

Shadowrun focuses mainly on player characters being used for corporate espionage.  The government seldom gets mentioned.  In part, the lack of mention comes from the relative power the AAA megacorporations have over national governments.  Buying a politician is a cheap investment in 2071*, and if the politician starts having delusions of grandeur, funding an opponent is just as cheap.  That isn't to say governments don't have an effect.  Someone has to pay to maintain the infrastructure, even if a corporation winds up picking up the contract.  Like today, various national governments are better or worse at governing.  In Aztlan, the former Mexico plus a bit more, there's almost no distinction between the national government and Aztechnology.  The Pueblo Corporate Council, however, is its own entity.  Sure, the PCC will contract out services, but the PCC is set up along a corporate line, where the number of votes a citizen has is proportional to the number of shares owned.  The reasoning is, the more someone has invested, the more that person has to lose on a bad decision.  The public service in the PCC has to maintain that infrastructure, so being caught in corruption means not just losing a job but also losing citizenship.  Few people are willing to give up a home for a paltry bribe.

The other issue, jobs in the government are harder to get.  In the past, it was considered normal for public servants to be fired after a change of government.  Supporting the wrong candidate led to job loss.  The replacements worked for the new party in power, with hiring based on family ties, contributions to the political machine, or being a friend of an influential friend.  At some point, and this is in history texts somewhere, it was decided that a professional public service had to not be beholden to any one party but to the best interests of the nation; plus, professional public servants deserved a steady job.  Thus the public service position exams were born!  To be considered for a job, candidates needed to write an exam that was based on the position being sought.  The system is still gamable, but usually at higher levels where there aren't many people with specific qualifications.  At the entry level, the exam helps find the best and brightest of the batch while filtering out others.  In contrast, in many companies, it's still a matter of knowing the right person at the right time.

For those wondering, yes, I have written a number of public servant exams.  Numbers speaks from my experience.  Most of my personal work experience at government sites has been through temporary contracts meant to shore up numbers** when no new public service positions could be created.  Getting on the contracts?  I showed up to interviews with the agencies and showed my experience.  Interviews and resumes count for more in the private sector.

Tomorrow, more legwork, eliminating the last suspects, and Oswald has a date.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, the July news round up of all movies adaptational.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, The Dukes of Hazzard.
And peek at Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of Lost in Translation, also on Saturdays.

* Not going to speculate on how cheap it is today.
** No relation.

No comments:

Post a Comment