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> Three-Data Monty, A Shadowrun Adventure "end-to-end" blog.
Malachi
post Nov 14 2008, 06:46 PM
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Given that there was at least a moderate amount of interest in my idea in my idea to do a do a blog about the development and running of an SR adventure, I'm starting this one to chronicle the development of the adventure I'm working on right now. (Original post of the idea here)

The Big Picture
For those of you running an entire Shadowrun "campaign" you should always attempt to have events follow a logical sequence of actions. Many SR adventures and campaigns happen "in front of" a backdrop of events happening in the world around the players. Some of which they will be able to affect and some of which they may not. The overall goal is to make the world feel "alive" for your players rather than simply a place to run their adventures in. In my particular case, I am running a campaign over the events of Year of the Comet. Although this is an SR3 campaign book I've simply back-ported the rule-set of SR4 into the SR3 timeline. Certain essentials to the SR4 rules (like the Wireless Matrix) I've have brought back into this timeline, while other things (most nanotech, and genetech) I have dropped out of the world because it hadn't been invented yet in the timeline. The campaign is still in the early part of the Year of the Comet timeline. Haley's Comet is not yet visible to the naked eye, but the megacorps that are part of the "Probe Race" (to be the first one to send a probe to make contact with the comet) are furiously sending shadow assets at each other in order to get ahead. These events provide an excellent backdrop for players to be on the "front lines" of this battle between corporations and provides a ready-made "big picture" reason for corps to be sponsoring runs against each other. Having a reason for corps to send shadow assets at each other is a vital component in making the world seem more "real" and "alive" to your players.

The Lead Up
So, along the vein of continuity, the current run I'm planning has its roots in what has come before. The players are in Seattle and have previously done 2 missions relating to the comet probes. First, they shadowed a man that Ares had employed as a consultant on their probe project while he met with Federated-Boeing officials in Seattle. Ares was concerned he may leak probe info to F-B. The climax came when the man was suddenly kidnapped (extracted) by forces unknown while under observation. Their Johnson order him rescued immediately in order to protect the information he had. Although logic dictated that F-B extracted him for the info, the runners' linchpin tip on his location appear to come from a F-B source. On their second mission they were ordered to shadow a German astrophysicist who was suspected to be working on one of the German company's probe projects (Saeder-Krupp or Proteus AG). The players followed the man while he was on a "working vacation" at Cougar Mountain Ski Resort in Seattle and managed to pick up a few tidbits of information. In the end they manage to break the most surprising info of all: Saeder-Krupp was launching their probe that day. A hasty entrance into the mark's condo (and tangle with his security force lying in ambush) allowed them to trace the launch location of S-K's probe and send the info to their Johnson. Two days later, the headline news was that S-K's probe had been "accidentally" destroyed during a "routine" Ares orbital weapons test (as described in the YotC sourcebook).
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Malachi
post Nov 14 2008, 07:07 PM
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The Lead Up (con't)
After that incident the Ares Johnson was finally able to convince his superiors to allocate him a large budget and untie his hands as far as planning operations against probe rivals in Seattle. Ares has vowed not to be caught flat-footed again. The next 3 runs will all be targeted at gathering information about, and sabotaging the probe being constructed by the Shibata/Federated-Boeing/Aztechnology joint venture probe: Kepler (this probe venture is described in the YotC sourcebook).

So, what's the point/thinking behind all this? Corporations do not sponsor runs against rivals without a reason. Shadowruns are dangerous, expensive operations. Corporations are always watching their bottom line, so there's no reason for them to send shadow ops at rivals unless they believe it will improve their bottom line; unless they think they can make an acceptable Return on Investment (RoI) for the run. In my particular case, the first corp to have their probe make contact with the Comet will score major public relations points, not to mention possibly valuable data. Therefore, all corps involved are willing to spend heavily in order to win the race. In my case, Ares realized they almost blew it with the S-K probe, and now they are not taking their opponents too lightly, even the underdog Kepler probe. Having this kind of solid background for a run helps in planning the details of a run as well as helping you (as the GM) improvise during a run. Players will often do things that the GM doesn't anticipate and often they can veer way off the "script" of the run. A GM that has a solid idea of the background for a run, of what the various "power players" are doing and why, can improvise more effectively and maintain the illusion of a living world.

For example, say you (as GM) design a run that includes a part where the players are to intercept a courier while in transit from one place to the next. Now say that for whatever reason, your players decide they aren't going to intercept the courier at the time or place you thought they would/should, or perhaps they roll really crappy and fail to catch the courier. Your run notes continue on assuming that the players succeeded, so now what do you do? If you have properly designed what is going on "behind the scenes" of the run you should be able to improvise and continue and give the players a chance to still complete their mission (although it may be more difficult now). Where was the courier going? What was he carrying? What was going to happen when he reached his destination? Perhaps you decided the courier was carrying a illegally-obtained telesma from Amazonia and is taking it to a secret research facility so magical experiments can be performed. Now that the players missed intercepting the courier, they'll want to find out where he was coming from, and where he was possibly going. Since you know that the package was smuggled out of Amazonia, you can give the players a clue when they get in touch with their contacts. From there you can lay out a few quick "investigation" encounters where they trace the destination of the courier to the secret research facility. Now the run can continue with the players now having to break into the facility. See how that "behind the scenes" planning helps? That sort of planning can help with little things too like Legwork. If you know who are the players involved in the run and what's going on behind the scenes than you can give reasonable, and meaningful Legwork clues to reasonable inquiries by your runners and everything will seem to tie together. All of these things go into making the SR world seem real and alive.
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Malachi
post Nov 27 2008, 07:01 PM
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The Hook
Now that the context and lead up are in place, it's time to start designing the events of the run itself. Generally when planning a run I start with what I call a "hook." The "hook" is a mental image I use to start to construct ideas around. The hook then generally becomes the centerpiece of the run in some form: be it the target of the run, the main opposition, or the climactic last encounter. For example, I may get a cool mental image of my players in a vehicle speeding down a freeway firing their guns at pursuing vehicles while dodging traffic. I would then proceed to construct a run where that scene takes place, probably as the final climax of the adventure. I would then work backwards decided "what lead up to this point?" Generally, I find it easiest to plan the climax of a run first and then backtrack to the events leading up to the run. Another mental image could be a hulking Troll with red cybereyes wielding some sort of nasty melee weapon such as a ball and chain, or a combat axe. I might then construct a run where that Troll features as a prominent NPC opponent for the players that they must overcome. Using mental "hooks" like this can help your runs have more excitement and seem more unique than "just another datasteal" or some such.

In the case of this particular adventure the image came to me while I was doing my background research. I knew I wanted this adventure to be a data steal of some kind about the Kepler probe so I was reading about the project in Year of the Comet. The information there said that the probe was a joint venture between three different companies and that is when the mental hook came to me. I imagined a game of three-card monty (or the cup and ball game) where the cards are shuffled and the player has to bet and pick the correct one. What if the finding the data they needed on the probe was like playing a game of three card monty where each of the corps involved was a "card" that got shuffled? Instead of shuffling cards its like the data is what's being shuffled, so it's like a game of Three-Data Monty (hence the name, cheezy I know). Of course, there's nothing saying that the players can't break into all three just to be sure, but it might have to be done on a tight timeline (like in a single night), and they may have to split the team in order to hit every facility. Now, I have a hook that I can start building around; that acts as a general "theme" while I'm designing the run.

From here I break the run down into a series of scenes. These are generally demarcated by location or timeframe. My preliminary thoughts are to have 5 scenes for this adventure:
1. The meet with the Johnson
2. Planning and legwork for the run.
3. Hitting a Shibata facility (of some kind)
3. Hitting a Federated-Boeing facility (of some kind)
4. Hitting an Aztechnology facility (of some kind)
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Malachi
post Dec 3 2008, 11:02 PM
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Well, the first session of this adventure is scheduled for this Friday, so I better get my butt in gear and finish planning it. Fortunately for me, I had one of my "eureka" moments where the run suddenly coalesced in my mind and I'm well into the detailed planning of the run.

Tweaking the Targets
For awhile this run seemed to bland to me as I started to look at the details. It looked like it was just going to be the same thing x3: break into corp office and download some data from the computer. I didn't want the run to be that repetitive so I started at how I could add some variety. My first thought was to give some variety to the target locations, not just have them all in offices. Since this run focuses on threes (3 corps, 3 targets) I thought of putting each target at a different location: a home, a factory, and an office. That seemed to add some variety of things to me, but I still wanted some more variance than just 3 different sets of data. Well, one of the other common things runners take when stealing R&d is to steal a prototype as well as data. Stealing a prototype for the whole probe seemed kinda silly, but maybe they were creating a prototype for a part of it or one particular system. Just to back-check my idea, I looked up the entry on the Kepler probe in Year of the Comet and read something that I had forgotten about: the Kepler is acting as a carrier for a series of smaller drones that will collect the actual probe data. Ah ha! So, stealing the prototype of one of these drones would be entirely plausible. So that means 2 sets of data, and 1 physical prototype. I would still like the targets to be 3 different things (going with the three's theme), but the only thing I could think of was a person, and I already have an extraction planned for the next run, so I'll have to table that idea for now. In keeping with my "tight timeframe" idea, I decided that the opportunity to hit all 3 targets will expire after a single night. The runners only have from the time of the meet until 8am the next morning to hit as many targets as they can.

Detailing Scenes
As I mentioned before, I find it incredibly helpful/intuitive to break the run into a series of scenes. Each scene in a run has its own purpose and "feel" to it, but each should contribute to the overall run in a meaningful way. In the case of this run, it naturally splits itself up into scenes, so that wasn't a problem. To recap, the general feel or "hook" that I'm going for in this run is: multiple datasteal targets that all must (or can be) hit during a relatively short period of time. After thinking about these scenes as a whole and how to lay them out, I see that the run will flow most naturally if I allow the players to choose if and when they are going to hit the various targets. So, each target is a scene but they can be done in any order, but there are some fixed-time events to take into account. I had previously decided on 3 different locations, and 3 different targets so now all that remained was to assign each to the target corp. I decided to put the "home" location with Shibata Construction & Engineering since they probably don't have a presence in Seattle. The "factory" target will be the drone prototype, and Federated-Boeing does a bunch of manufacturing in Seattle so they're an easy pick for the target. Finally the "office" defaults to Aztechnology, and I suppose that means the runners will be breaking into the AZT Pyramid in downtown Seattle. Oh boy. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/devil.gif)
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Malachi
post Dec 8 2008, 10:33 PM
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Well, our game host's kid got the Chicken Pox so our Friday session got postponed. That gives me some time to finish posting my thoughts as I developed this run.

Scene 1 - The Meet and Legwork
I'm keeping this section purposefully short for now since the details of the run to follow will likely change what is said by the Johnson in this initial scene. However, at this point I do decide on a few "parameters" for the run that may affect how the players approach it. First off, the players can hit any number of the three targets that they want, but the Johnson is going to be paying per target. Secondly, he wants the information bad enough that he doesn't really care how they get it, however the info is much more valuable if it can be retrieved silently, so the team will get a 50% bonus if the info was retrieved in such a way that the owners do not know it was stolen. I'm expecting 5 players on this run, so I "eyeball" the reward at (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 25,000 per piece of data retrieved (5,000 per runner) which goes up to (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 7,500 per runner for doing it "silently." With three pieces of data the reward per runner will range from (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 5,000 to (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 22,500. This means there will be strong incentive for them to go for all 3 targets, and attempt to do it quietly.

Target 1 - Shibata Manager
So, this target goes with the "home" theme from before. However, instead of having the target be a "home" I decided that it will just be a person and the run can occur either in that person's home or somewhere else. So, this target will be a Project Manager that Shibata Construction & Engineering sent to Seattle to work out a detailed plan for the final stage of the Kepler probe project. He carries with him some detailed reports on the state and future direction of the probe project and has taken great precaution to keep them secret. Back in my earlier days of running Shadowrun, I used to design runs with a problem/obstacle and then design the solution to that problem. I would essentially stonewall all other player plans until they got to the one I was thinking of or had prepared for. This is a bad way to do things; players feel like they don't have true control. So now, although it is much more work on my part, I simply develop the problem in as much detail as I can, then let the players come up with their own solution. This allows for much more player freedom and I have found causes much more memorable moments in the gaming session as players come up with plans that I never would have anticipated. So, in order to facilitate that sort of player freedom I need to plan out where this manager is going to be for the entire timeframe of the run. Then the players can simply pick their own time.

So, I'm thinking the "meet" with Mr. Johnson will happen sometime around 6pm, with the manager leaving early in the morning say: 6:20am. First this manager needs a name: Ikara Hyru - I'm not great with names, especially Asian ones, but its sounds Asian to me. So, he's in Seattle right now, and will be leaving via suborbital to Japan early in the morning. Looks like there are 3 major times that the players can attempt to get their info: at his house, in transit, and at the airport.

Home
Federated-Boeing is not stupid. They know this probe project is a chance to compete with the "big boys" in the corporate world, as does Shibata C & E, so neither are going to be callous with their security. That being true, F-B will most likely offer to house this visiting manager in "Boeingville." This location is briefly described in New Seattle as a high security, private, gated community in Everett. Mr. Hyru has an apartment there that F-B loaned to him while he was on business in Seattle. They also threw in a personal bodyguard for him. So, Mr. Hyru has a personal bodyguard who is watching his apartment 24 hours a day. This apartment is in "Boeingville" which is a walled, private community, with well-armed guards on duty 24 hours at all the entrances. The area is heavily patrolled by F-B security personnel as well as drones. All people in the area have their SIN's verified as F-B employees or visitors that are authorized to be there. They will respond quickly and with force to any intrusion. Although possible, this would be the toughest place to attempt to get the data from Hyru.

Transit
Hyru is flying internationally so he will want to be at the airport plenty early. So, it seems reasonable that he'll leave about 3 hours before his flight: 3:30am. He will be taken to the airport by an F-B provided limo, accompanied by his bodyguard. The route goes south through Everett and Downtown Seattle to Sea-Tac. For extra measure, I'm saying that F-B has a second team in a car following the limo for extra protection. This is a VIP from a foreign corporation, and they want to make a good impression. Given this is very early in the morning, the traffic should be light so I'm saying it takes 60 minutes to go from the apartment to Sea-Tac. Again, this time isn't favorable for the players. Any attempt on the vehicle while it is in transit will almost certainly end in a "messy" extraction of the data including a fight with F-B security personnel somewhere in Downtown Seattle where security is ultra-tight (Lone Star will respond in force inside of a minute or two). The players will probably be smart enough not to attempt anything here.

Sea-Tac
Hyru arrives at the airport at 4:30am and immediately proceeds to the International terminal for Asian departures to check-in for his flight. Only his bodyguard accompanies him into the airport. Once in line at security the bodyguard will loiter around, growing more bored (and less attentive) while Hyru waits in line and then proceeds to go through terminal security. In total it will take him 52 minutes to clear security and enter the terminal. Once Hyru is in the International terminal the F-B bodyguard will leave, his work is done. So, Hyru will be alone for just over an hour in the terminal waiting for his flight to board. He will do a series of normal activities during that time such as reading the news, getting breakfast, and going to the washroom. During this time he is most vulnerable, even though Sea-Tac security is no slouch. First, the players have to get into the airport, which does a cursory check (rating 2) for weapons. Anything above pistol size will likely be detected. Second, they'll need to get into the International terminal. Security at the terminal is much tougher. A Rating 5 MAD will scan everyone going in for weapons or cyberware. All SINs and Permits will be thoroughly checked (Rating 5). Also, no one gets in without a ticket (duh). Purchasing a round-trip sub-orbital ticket to Japan will cost (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 4,000 (half that for one-way). If they ask for a refund before the flight leaves they'll only get 50% of it back (last minute cancellation fee, natch). Hacking a ticket can be done (also not easy): the airport ticket system is on a System 5 Firewall 4 node. The ticket database is Encrypted (rating 4) with an IC program constantly watching it for signs of tampering (Rating 4 Agent with Analyze 4). Any intrusion that is spotted will trigger an Alert and a Security Hacker will log in next round to investigate. As a precaution, all tickets will be temporarily invalidated and each one manually checked for validity by the Security Hacker. Magical security is limited to patrolling spirits and projecting mages. Active spell effects will only cause an alarm to be trigger if they are suspicious/dangerous (any Combat spell, Invisibility). Hyru will report any attack on himself or overtly suspicious activity to Sea-Tac security. Security personnel will first attempt to use non-lethal methods to capture assailants, but will respond to lethal force in kind.

Hyru's Data
When they actually get down to retrieving the data, they'll hit some more obstacles. First, Hyru's public Commlink which does broadcast his ID with his plane ticket and such, and appears to have some "work" information on it. One hit on an Intuition test will reveal that the data seems unnaturally "bare" and is probably all "planted." Hyru's "real" work Commlink is implanted and running in Hidden mode: System 4, Response 3, Firewall 4, Signal 4, Stealth 4, Analyze 4. Winning a Computer + Analyze vs. System + Stealth of the node will reveal a hidden link between the public Commlink and the hidden one (a EW + Scan (4) test will also reveal the Hidden node). Once in the Hidden Commlink, a search will still not reveal the files but only an Access Log entry indicating that they were transferred via fiberoptic cable port to an external, cyberware, data storage device: a Data Lock. The Data Lock is not wireless so the players will have to physically locate it on his body, hidden behind a false nipple (Perception Threshold 4). Then they'll need to physically connect to it via cable. The device itself must be hacked (Rating 3 all around), then the Encryption on the data cracked (Rating 6) and the data transferred out. The data also has an attached Data Bomb (Rating 3) which must be defused or it will detonate, destroying the data. Triggering an Alert while hacking the Data Lock will cause the Data Lock to attempt to destroy the data, this can be prevented with an opposed Computer + Edit test vs. the Data Lock Rating x 2. Of course, this operation will look quite suspicious and will need to be done out of sight (such as the restroom with cameras disabled. Hyru himself will need to be duped somehow (or rendered "unsuspicously" unconscious) or else he will be aware that the data has been stolen.
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Malachi
post Dec 11 2008, 05:12 AM
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Target 2 - Federated-Boeing Factory
The second target I decided to detail was the one following the "factory" theme. For this target, the runners will have to steal a drone prototype from the Federated-Boeing factory in Renton. Here's a tip for you GM's out there: many of the major locations in Shadowrun (especially in Seattle) are based on real world locations. In this case, a quick internet search revealed that there was, indeed, a Boeing facility in Renton, WA. I googled the location and was able to get a nice overhead map that I can show to my players. Easy-peasie. After that, I started to detail the factory. First off, I decided that this factory is almost completely automated, and builds things "to order" with very little human intervention. This is done by having a large series of construction drones that execute a complex series of orders from a controlling computer. During the evenings, the factory is almost completely abandoned, so this should provide good opportunity to the runners to sneak in. Now, if they want to achieve the "stealth" bonus for this target they're going to have to get a little creative. Simply sneaking in and stealing the drone will accomplish the basics, but Federated-Boeing is sure to realize that it is missing. So, I'm hoping that they realize (without too much of me dropping hints) that if they could gain access to the factory controller computer, they could simply tell it to build a second copy of the drone and take that instead. With a little "creative" computer log editing, F-B will never know that anything happened.

Getting In
The F-B factory in Renton is briefly described in New Seattle as a sight where F-B manufactures unmanned ariel vehicles. It doesn't mention that security is exceptionally tight, so I decided to design it so that security is not a pushover, but definitely not impossible. First, the perimeter will be surrounded by a 4 meter high fence and topped with razorwire. A great deal of the exterior facility is a parking lot and loading area. This area is covered by patrolling ariel drones mounted with cameras. If the drones spot someone, they will attempt to verify their ID as an authorized employee or visitor. Entrances into the grounds are at gated checkpoints which are manned by F-B Security guards. With Federated-Boeing being a significant corp in Seattle, and a major manufacturer of military hardware, I'm thinking the guards won't have a great deal of 'ware enhancements but will be well trained, armored, and armed. This probably means full security armor and assault rifles. Conversely, F-B probably doesn't have a great deal in the way of magical resources, so magical security at the facility will be fairly light: 3 bound spirits patrolling in astral space (with a lot of ground to cover) and Wards on the building walls. The description in New Seattle states that there is an R&D section of the facility that has much heavier security, so much of the "heavy" resources are probably directed there. That area will have augmented guards on duty 24 hours, a dedicated spirit, a mage on call, and a second stronger Ward. However, unless the runners are being particularly brain-dead, they shouldn't even try to approach that area. Now, I'm a strong believer in creating a realistic, living world where things aren't simply waiting around for the players to interact with them. So, whenever designing a location such as this I like to think about its purpose and what it's "normal" operation day must be like. Considering this is a factory that produces drones en masse, working 24 hours, it's probably not unusual at all for pickups to happen at all hours of the night. So, if the players decide to masquerade as a transport there to pick up an order, this in and of itself will not appear unusual. All vehicle and personnel ID's will be verified (Rating 4) by the guard at the checkpoint. However, in the middle of the night he will not be feeling particularly attentive and will only catch suspicious clues if they are obvious.

The Factory
Again, this is a factory that deals in high volume so it must have a fairly significant "loading dock" type area, capable of handling smaller vans all the way up to full-sized semi trucks. This will almost certainly be the entrance of choice for the players. However, if they think they have a better idea, I'm thinking there must be a front entrance that leads into some sort of reception area, with another security checkpoint manned by a guard, which then leads into the offices area. They can gain entrance to the factory by winding their way through a maze of hallways and offices, all under the watchful eye of internal cameras, unless they disable them. At the back, the loading dock probably has a couple large overhead doors (for semi trucks), at least one smaller overhead door (for "cube vans" and smaller type trucks), and a standard (human-sized) door. Every door is locked by a Maglock (Rating 4). Additionally, the overhead doors are only opened by a command from the factory's internal computer, and lifting them manually would be extremely difficult. Cameras also cover the loading dock area (attached to the back of the building). Just inside the loading doors is a series of storage racks for neat organizing and categorizing of production runs. This area, as well as the factory floor itself, sees only a two-man guard patrol every hour. As far as the Matrix goes, the factory has three nodes: an Administration node, a Security node, and a Controller node for the factory drones. The Admin and Security nodes can be directly accessed only inside or very close to the factory building itself (must be within 10 meters of the building). The Security node controls all of the door locks and has feeds from all the cameras and internal sensors. This node is a difficult one to crack with a Firewall 5 and Analyze 5 running, it also is running a Rating 4 IC program with Analyze, Trace, Armor, and Stealth constantly looking for intruders in the system. If an intruder is spotted or an Active Alert is triggered the IC will attempt to Trace the intruder while the Security Spider arrives to prevent further damage and deal with the intruder. A Security Spider is on duty 24 hours a day, but most of his attention is focused on monitoring the R&D portion of the facility, which has much more sensitive equipment. The Controller node can only be accessed from inside the controller office, which is a small room at the top of a metal staircase, overlooking the factory floor. The door to the office is locked with a Rating 4 Maglock with a Fingerprint reader, and it is not wireless enabled. The Controller node has a rating 3 Firewall with only an Analyze 2 program and a specialized Command 4 program for the factory drones. The Administration node can be accessed from anywhere inside the facility. It has a Firewall 3 and Analyze 3 program running. This node contains all of the “working� information of the facility is kept including: personnel files, reports, order history, and the pickup schedule. If the runners want to insert information to make it appear that they are here to legitimately pick up an order, this is the node to do that in. User level access and a Computer + Edit (2) test will create the necessary records. The guard stations around the facility lookup the information in this node If the group's Hacker is feeling suicidal, the Admin and Controller systems can be accessed from the external Matrix but only through a Rating 6 “chokepoint� node loaded with enough IC to make you change your mind.

The Prototype
The original build order sent to the facility will start at 1am and has the drone being completed at 3:30am. The factory drones take 90 minutes to produce the prototype from scratch. The drone itself is a simple cylindrical design, 2 meters long, 1 meter wide, and weighing 100kg. It contains no propulsion or sensor systems: it is just the hull. Once the drone is completed by the factory systems it is delivered into a specially marked holding area in the back of the factory to await pickup. As part of the construction, the drone was implanted with a hidden RFID tag for tracking purposes. A Computer + Analyze (4) test while examining the drone build orders will reveal this as will an Electronic Warfare + Scan (4) test after the drone is complete. A tag eraser will neutralize it.

Getting Out
Security scanners at the checkpoints to the facility will immediately pick up the RFID tracking tag if it is not neutralized somehow. Depending on how the players did or didn't manipulate the pickup schedule in the Admin Node determines what the guards will be looking for. If the schedule shows that the runners are supposed to be transporting the prototype then the guards will attempt to verify this when they leave and will question them if the tracking tag cannot be found. Conversely, if the pickup schedule doesn't show that they should take the prototype the guards will question any attempt to remove it. The guards do not normally search vehicles as they leave and will only do so if the players do something that seems overly suspicious. A record of the runners leaving, their IDs, and the "cargo" ID will all be recorded in the factory's Administration node. Unless the players erase any traces of the pickup, Federated-Boeing will know that a copy of the prototype was stolen. For the runners to receive the "stealth" bonus, they will need to steal the prototype in such a way that F-B has no record of a copy being produced or that anything but the original prototype was taken.
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Malachi
post Dec 12 2008, 07:38 PM
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Target 3: Aztechnology Office
Alright now I'm on to the third and final target of this run. This, just from my preliminary thoughts, will be the most difficult target to hit. This is due to a few factors that I just can't compromise on. First, Aztechnology is putting a lot of stock in this probe project, Year of the Comet mentions that they are helping out a couple "little corps" with this because they're trying to cozy their way into Wuxing's Pacific Prosperity Group (PPG). Since they put so much stock in this project, I couldn't see them handling it from any other place but their Seattle Head Office. I also don't want to make the facility easy to penetrate, either, as Aztechnology is no pushover corp and their Seattle Office is a bastion that the corp wants to hold in the North-West. So, that means I need to design a hole that the players can exploit to get their job done without making it seem like a gaping flaw in Aztechnology's security. As a secondary effect, I also wanted to provide a little more variety to this target than "just another data grab." That's when the idea finally came to me: a person. Often, extremely tightly secure facilities are most vulnerable to be attacked from the legitimate user. So, I started to design a "user" that would be the avenue through which the team could get what they needed. The manager that AZT had handling their end of the probe project would be an unrealistic choice as a security threat, AZT probably screened their employees very closely. However, someone working under him, like a secretary or assistant, could be the threat. I started to work from that assumption and design a person that could be a security risk, a secretary/assistant named Maria Veracruz.

The Office
The Aztechnology manager in charge the Kepler probe project is named Harry Raine. Recently, a package of confidential information including production materials requests and build schedules has been sent to him for review and approval. Normally, this sort of information is immediately moved to a secure system that only Raine has access to and all other copies of the information is destroyed. However, by random bad luck, the transmission came in after Raine had already left for the evening. In this circumstance, his assistant, Maria Veracruz, has been instructed to hold the data on her terminal until it can be "personally" delivered to Raine, who will be in at 8am the next morning. Both Raine and Veracruz work at the Aztechnology Pyramid in Downtown Seattle. This facility has extremely tight security, with the Jaguar Guards providing the physical presence. Veracruz works on the 8th floor of the office. The bottom 3 floors of the Pyramid are a publicly accessible mall (as mentioned in New Seattle), open until 11pm daily (for your convenience). If the runners want to break into the facility without "using" Veracruz, this is the most likely avenue. Access to the office wing is through a bank of secure elevators. These elevators can be accessed from the Mall or from an "employee only" entrance. However, access to the office wing from the Mall can also be gained through the HVAC system. These ducts are still monitored by motion sensors (configured to detect large objects moving through the ducts) and small drones. Magical security at the facility is particularly tight, considering the considerable Magical resources that AZT has. Each floor is Warded off individually (with particularly sensitive rooms having a separate Ward), and each floor has multiple bound spirits on patrol. There is also one Magician on guard duty for every 5 floors of the facility. The Jaguar guards will respond quickly to any intruder reported.

Maria Veracruz
Maria Veracruz represents the biggest flaw in the system security. She has authorization to enter the facility, log on to her workstation, and access the data. She presents a prime target for the players' use. Fortunately for them, she has some weaknesses that can be exploited. Ms. Veracruz is a Latino woman in her late twenties, born to parents that lived their lives in the sheltered corporate world, and never rose to another above middle manager prominence. Due to her incredibly dull childhood, Maria developed somewhat of a wild streak during her teens which continues to this day. During work hours, Maria is a loyal, hard-working employee who finds her job quite dull, but she continues to work and look for advancement to fit the comfortable lifestyle of "nice things" that is familiar from her upbringing. During her teens, Maria chafed at her parents' upbringing and developed a wild streak. She is heavily into the Seattle club scene and is a "recreational" drug and BTL user. During her night "excursions" she lets herself go a little bit wild, and is willing to try many new things. Aztechnology security is not stupid, they have already flagged Maria's file as a potential security risk. As such, particularly suspicious activity on the part of her account, such as coming into work during unusual hours, will be noticed immediately by security personnel. However, coming into work an hour or so early will not be seen as unusual. After finishing work at 6pm, Maria will head back home to her apartment in Lower Queen Anne Hill in Downtown Seattle. She will have a subdued supper at home, then change into her "club" clothes (a provocative tight leather dress) and head to Dante's Inferno by 8pm. She will remain there until 11pm. Maria frequents the club and has several friends there; she has achieved level 4 in the club and is quite proud of this. She will begin the evening dancing and meeting her friends. She will order a steady stream of drinks, growing increasingly harder. The last few hours of the evening will be spent in a private booth with her closest friends, doing shots of Bliss and BTLs. Maria is a very attractive Hispanic woman and it is not unusual for her to take home people that she meets at the club, especially after the evening's dose of narcotics. While at the club she will refuse to talk about her work, as she goes to Dante's to get away from her boring job. However, she will reveal what she knows about her work under heavy coercion, such as threat of physical harm, or by being drugged (Gamma-Scopolamine, BBB pg. 246). Once she knows what kind of people the runners are, she become extremely frightened and will remain passively cooperative, with her sole focus being staying alive. If forced to accompany the runners on their intrusion, she will warn building Security at any opportunity she gets as she believes the runners will kill her once they are done. If confined during the run, she will notify AZT security with everything she knows once she is set free. This will, of course, cost the runners their "stealth" bonus, and if she is able to identify them, put AZT security on their tails.

Security: What she does know
Veracruz knows the following about building security (the runners can also discover all of this through good Legwork). When entering the building, there is a security station with a guard that verifies her identity. She must turn in her personal Commlink while in the building. She passes through "some kind of scanner" as well. Her workstation is configured to accept connections only from her Datajack and a short list of other authorized users. She uses a different password to access the probe files than the one she uses to access her workstation. She has been given strict instructions to deliver the data package to Raine the instant he arrives in the office, and has been told that the files will delete themselves off of her machine when they are given to Raine. When she accepted the position at AZT she was implanted with some sort of RFID tag. Outside of daytime hours (8am to 5pm) she only sees one guard, the one at the employee entrance, when going to work.

Security: What she doesn't know
These are the technical details that Maria does not know. Veracruz's workstation has been specially configured to only accept connections from a short "white list" of approved device ID's (either the datajack ID or the Commlink ID). A datajack can be modified to emit Veracruz's datajack ID (once it has been observed) with a Logic + Hardware (4, 1 hour) extended test. Her workstation can only be accessed in User mode by Veracruz or Raine. Her workstation will accept a connection from another Commlink only at Security or Admin level, and only if the Commlink's ID matches one on the list pre-authorized and entered into the system. The AZT office has several Security Spiders on duty 24 hours a day and they will respond quickly to any alert that is raised in the system. If an intruder is spotted, a Spider will dispatch a security team to the location of the Node placed on alert, attempt to Trace the intruder, and prevent any further damage to the system. If the Trace completes, the Security team will be given the location info. The data package in question is easy to find on Veracruz's system: Computer + Browse (2). The package is marked as Certified Data (Unwired, pg. 95), meaning it will delete itself if moved to any other Node, and will keep an internal record of all times it is touched. To bypass this security and copy the file requires a Hacking + Edit (4). The package is also equipped with a Data Bomb (Rating 4) which will detonate if any attempt to illegally move the data fails. The Data Bomb will destroy the data package and put the system on Alert. In order to leave no trace of the data package being stolen, the system's Access Log must be located (Data Search + Browse (3)), and altered (Hacking + Edit (4)). A Rating 3 Agent with Analyze makes periodic sweeps of this system, looking for intruders and will alert the on-duty Security Spider if one is located. If the players are discovered they will be overwhelmed in a matter of minutes, so they should know to keep the intrusion as quiet as possible, and get out of the facility as quickly as possible if they are discovered. If this part of the run goes bad there is a good chance all players caught inside the office will be killed. I generally don't like to do that, but I also don't want to pull many punches and diminish the very real danger of this situation. However, if they are smart about it, they should be able to use Veracruz to get them in and out without being noticed.
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Malachi
post Dec 12 2008, 08:31 PM
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Now that I have a detailed layout of the run I usually review it and make sure all of the details make sense in my head. I also review it with an eye toward balance, trying to find places where I need to make things easier or more difficult for my players. One aspect I noticed when reviewing it was that the airport scene was probably too difficult. There would really be know opportune place to render Hyru unconscious and perform the difficult data extraction, so I decided to throw the players a bone.

Target 1 - Addition
While at the airport, Hyru will spend his time in the Gold Travelers lounge. The lounge includes luxury furniture, a bar with a full restaurant menu, and sound-dampened "quiet rooms" with a bed where patrons can catch rest before their flight leaves. One of these "quiet rooms" (once the camera is disabled) will provide an ideal location for the runners to perform the awkward data extraction on Hyru.
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Malachi
post Dec 12 2008, 09:25 PM
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Scene 1 - The Meet
Now that the details of all the subsequent scenes are set, this is usually where I go back and design the first scene, which is almost always "the meet" with the Johnson. The players will be contacted by their Fixer to meet with the Johnson they know as "Chrome" (for his two obvious cyberlimbs) at about 5:30pm. The Meet will take place in Chrome's favored location: some god-forsaken hole in the Redmond Barrens. At the meet Chrome will ask them if they are interested in a job to gather critical data in a short period of time, with a great deal of discretion on their part. Due to their past successes, he's putting a lot of faith in them for a job on this short notice. When (if?) the players accept he will give them the details as he knows it. By random chance, his "sources" have learned of 3 lucrative opportunities to gather critical intelligence on the Kepler probe. The problem is: the opportunity to hit all 3 targets will expire after tonight. Chrome will give the players all the information he has on the 3 targets and they are to hit any number of them that they choose. The Pay is (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 30,000 (upped from my first estimates) per target retrieved, with a bonus of 50% if (after 3 days time) his sources indicate the target corp was not aware of the theft. Here is what Chrome knows of the 3 targets. A Shitbata C & E manager named Ikara Hyru came to Seattle last week to meet with Federated-Boeing and Aztechnology officials. Their purpose was to create a plan for the final phase of the probe construction project and to coordinate their efforts. An intercepted communication indicates that Hyru has completed his plan and will be returning to Shibata Head Offices in Japan via a commercial sub-orbital flight leaving Sea-Tac airport at 6:20am tomorrow morning. A F-B communication was intercepted indicating that a prototype for the drones that will be delivered by the Kepler probe is to be constructed at the F-B factory in Renton. The construction of the drone will be done sometime during the night and will be picked up by F-B courier tomorrow morning at 8am and bring it to the F-B Auburn R&D lab for analysis and testing. A third intercepted communication came from the "office" of Harry Raine, an Aztechnology Manager. The communication was from his secretary, Maria Veracruz, indicating that she had received the data package concerning the Kepler probe, but that Mr. Raine was out of the office for the evening. She will deliver the package to him first thing when he arrives at work the following morning at 8am. From there, the runners are to formulate their own plans on retrieving the three targets. Chrome gives the runners a contact number where they can arrange delivery of the various items. Initial payment will be made upon delivery of each of the items, with the "secrecy" bonus to be awarded three days later, conditionally. The players can ask for up to (IMG:style_emoticons/default/nuyen.gif) 30,000 up front.

Wrap-up
Lastly, I often write up some notes on the conclusion of the run as well as possible repercussions. In this case the main thing to note is if any of the corps are aware of the theft(s) they will be extremely unhappy. Any of the three will assign a team to find the item/data that was stolen and the team that perpetrated the theft. Aztechnology in particular is a dangerous foe to anger. If the runners had left any evidence behind that could be used to link them to the theft they could be in for a reprisal.

Karma Awards:
1 Karma for each target retrieved
1 Karma for each target retrieved without the owner knowing it was stolen
Optional discretionary awards for particularly ingenious actions

NOTE: I realize this means this run could result in a 6+ Karma award. Normally, I keep my Karma awards in the 3-5 range. However, I'm actually not expecting that they will be able to retrieve all three items without being spotted. There are just too many places where 1 Glitch could ruin the show. However, if they manage to pull it all off, I'll pass out the 6 Karma, I didn't try to make it easy on them.
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Malachi
post Dec 12 2008, 09:27 PM
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I just learned that 6 players have confirmed for the first sessions, scheduled for tomorrow night. That's why I upped the reward to 30k, so it works out to a base 5k per runner, per item. Look for a report of the first session before the weekend is out.

At this point if anyone has comments/questions on how I came up with some of my ideas or anything about the development of the run, feel free to ask.
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Malachi
post Dec 13 2008, 11:37 PM
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If anyone is interested, I've uploaded a PDF of the full notes that I'm going to use when I run this session. I'm a pretty improvisational GM, so I just run from some quick point-form notes. You can view my run notes here.
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Malachi
post Dec 16 2008, 09:53 PM
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Forward
Ok, before I start posting the recap of the first sessions I'm going to set up the "purpose" here. My intention behind doing this thread was to give tips to other GM's by showing them how I develop an adventure, and then run it for my players. I'm hoping that other GM's will be able to get something out of seeing how a I develop a run and then how I respond to player actions when I run it. From this perspective, the recap of our first sessions, as follows, focuses on my perspective as GM, my thinking behind what I do, and how I respond to the players. I hope some of you find this useful. Feel free to post questions if you have any.

Session 1
December 13th, 2008 - 3 hours
The team for this run:
Reaper - a pistol-wielding, super-stealthy, elf adept
Unbeliever - human hacker, loves to play pranks on other team members
Reso - Latin Ork drone rigger, chronically ill when not in his nice, clean, vehicles
Cruiser/Bruiser - troll tank/brawler, likes to play AR games when not "working"
Pedro - human magician (Christian Theurgist), also a Catholic Priest
Primus - human sammie/combat monster, ex-UCAS Army, now on the run

The run began as I have nearly all of my runs start: with the group members being called by their fixer, a portly Troll named "Tiny." However, what was unusual about this call was that it happened in the afternoon (5:30pm). Tiny told them that this was a job from "Chrome" the Johnson who had employed them on the last run (and one other prior to that). He was again asking the team to meet him in some god-forsaken corner of the barrens, and again, when the team arrived he appeared unarmed and unguarded, yet completely comfortable. He told the team that he needed them for immediate employment for a target of opportunity. I laid out the information from "The Meet" (above). Several players took copious notes (they're good about that) and asked a couple good questions ("Do we have to steal the original drone?" "No, a copy will be sufficient.").

After the meet was done I asked them, "Ok, it's now 6pm. What do you do?" As was my fear, I saw blank stares looking back at me. I could tell just from those looks that I was going to have to give some nudges to get the guys going in the right direction. Now I should take this opportunity to say that this group is made up of (with one exception) Shadowrun rookies. Consequently, in order to keep the game fun and moving forward for them, I tend to be generous with "you would know this" kind of GM hints. So, after a moment of blank stares the players started to discuss with each other and attempt to formulate a plan. As I had hoped, the promise of the 50% bonus for stealth was enough to entice them to try that method. However, I was hearing a lot of plans that ended with "...and then we blow it up" (mainly from Primus). After a few minutes a got a couple requests to do Data Searches, which is not a bad place to start. Now, I'm of the opinion as GM that a Data Search on the "public" Matrix doesn't get you any confidential information but it can get you some basic info to get you going in the right direction. Unbeliever decides to search for information about the woman from target 3: Maria Veracruz. Well, she's just another corporate drone among many so I wasn't going to give him much there beyond what he already knows, but I do tell him he has managed to find a picture of her, which is important later. Second, Reso searches for the manager from target 1: Ikara Hyru. He rolls fairly well so I tell him that he finds a bunch of info on previous projects this guy has supervised, lots of high-profile construction projects all around the Pacific Rim. He's become somewhat of a celebrity among the crowd of "big construction projects" and he appears to be the best that Shibata Construction & Engineering has right now. At this point Reso decides that this must mean he is staying in the best hotel in town and decides he wants to try and hack the hotel's system. I called for him an Intuition test, as this is my usual mechanic for GM "common sense hints." He rolled 2 hits so I let him know that trying to hack every hotel's registry is going to be a wild-goose chase, and is not likely to be productive. Next Reso decides to switch his attention to the drone prototype. They know its being moved from the Renton facility to the Auburn facility (this Chrome told them) so he decides he needs more info on the who's going to be moving it, so he asks to hack Federated-Boeing's head office system. Hmm. Another common sense check and another "that's not a productive idea" from me. Finally, he decides it would be a good idea to head over to the Renton facility and scope it out with his drones. Now we're getting somewhere. I put Reso on "pause" and moved my attention back to the other guys who were waiting to do something new. I mention this to remind GM's to "attention switch" between players doing individual actions while running this sort of legwork/surveillance portion of an adventure. Try not to let yourself get too focused on one player's actions and leave everyone else out in the cold. Some people may say I railroaded Reso a bit, but I think the kind of "tips" I was giving him are helpful to a new player as they avoid wasting time and frustrating the player when their character may have known that they were undertaking a fool's errand, but the player doesn't.
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Malachi
post Dec 16 2008, 09:54 PM
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Switching back to the other guys, they decide its time to call some contacts, and because they want information fast, they decide to give them a little nuyen to "grease the wheels." Good plan. Pedro calls up a Mafia Soldier contact (he's a Sicilian Catholic Priest, did I mention that?) and get him to ask around about the Maria Veracruz girl, he throws him 1,500. Cruiser decides to call up Tiny and have him check on Ikara Hyru: where is he staying and when is he leaving? Cruiser throws Tiny 1,800. I mentally give the Veracruz information a Threshold of 8 on the "ask around" test, as she's a fairly visible figure at Dante's (Pedro sent his contact the picture they had of her). The Mafia Soldier has a Connection 1, so I'm rolling 2 dice but I throw in another 3 as a bonus due to the picture and the bribe. For Tiny, with a Connection 4, I'm rolling 8 dice and I throw in 4 due to the bribe. The Hyru information is hard to come-by, however, so I set the Threshold at 12. I make the extended test at an interval of 1 hour, getting both of them on the 3rd round in each case. I told them it was 6pm when they called the contacts, so they're going to get back to them at 9pm. Timing is important in this run so I wanted to make sure to keep track of it carefully.

Now back to Reso at the F-B Renton factory. He's still really focused on getting that shipping information, and he figures (correctly) that he can do it from this facility. He sends in his GTS Tower drone so that he can sit in his van a few kilometers away and do the hacking from there. At first, he sets the drone in a high orbit over the facility and gives it a visual check. One Perception test later (with 5 hits), and he can see that the factory grounds look pretty dead except for a few drones patrolling. At this point he wants to Hack the facility computer, but (unknown to him) he's still not in range to get directly into the Admin node. I tell him that the only node he detects for the facility is labeled "Federated-Boeing Renton Factory System Access - AUTHORIZED PERSONNEL ONLY." I also add, "that seems like a big scary chokepoint to you." I also throw in the hint, "but that's the only node you can detect from about 500 meters above the facility." Finally, he gets the hint to bring the Tower in closer. He jumps into the drone to get a good Infiltration test, and I roll the patrolling drone's Perception to spot him. Reso wins handily and now has the Tower hover just above the roof. Now Reso can detect 2 new nodes: Administration and Security. Fearing the system is formidable, he calls Unbeliever over to do the Hack. Unbeliever scoots over, via the Matrix, and hacks the Administration node. Firewall 3 against a Hacker throwing 14 dice in Hot-Sim for Hacking on the Fly. No problem getting in. By now the team is hoping they can grab some "blueprints" for the drone, make a copy and be done with this one. I'm not making it so easy. After looking through the system (a Data Search test), I tell them that there are no "blueprints" here and that all manufacturing appears to be done with the "Controller" node, as information in this node indicates. So, now they knew they needed to get into the Controller node and it couldn't be accessed from where they were. Unbeliever does another quick Data Search and pulls up a map of the facility which indicates where the "Controller" office is located. Reso decides he wants to send in a drone for a closer look so he launches a Fly-Spy from the Tower (that Tower is a very useful drone) and sends into the factory through a vent in the roof. He has to Edge a Piloting test in order to get the 3 hits he needs, but he does it. After getting in he finds the controller office and notices that it has 1 door, locked with a fingerprint reader maglock, and he cannot detect any wireless node, even when right next to the room. So now they know they need to get inside in order to access it. The players start to formulate a plan to do this, and they're on the right track, Reso pulls out his Fly-Spy back to the Tower, and Unbeliever is about to log out of the system. However, in all of the scouting of the Controller room Reso has forgotten the original reason he wanted to access that Administration node. I ask him, "Aren't you forgetting to do something?" Nope, he can't remember. So (being the nice GM that I am) I let his character make a Memory Test. He gets 3 hits so I say, "What about the pickup schedule?" Oh yeah! Unbeliever grabs the pickup schedule and copies it to Reso.

We had a good laugh at this moment due to Unbeliever's AR icon. He calls it "Big Sexy" because it looks like a "well endowed" Minotaur, wearing nothing but a cape and a bow-tie. The comedy came when I described how the "Big Sexy" icon might visually represent "depositing" information to another character, and then reminded everyone that (if you're connected to your Commlink through DNI), you're getting a full sensory experience. I believe "yuck" was the general feeling around the table.
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Malachi
post Dec 16 2008, 09:55 PM
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After that short diversion the players were back to planning their intrusion into the facility. They were still attempting to be stealthy so that automatically meant that Reaper would be the point man on the intrusion, with Primus coming along (he has a decent Infiltration skill too) for backup in case things go wrong. They're planning on Pedro casting Improved Invisibility on both of them. At this point Pedro decides it might be a good idea to Astrally scout the factory since they're planning on going in with an active spell effect. Good idea. I just make him make one Astral Perception test and tell him that the building appears to be Warded, and he sees a couple bound Spirits zooming around on patrol, but they have a lot of ground to cover. They will probably be able to get in, plus Reaper has the Cloak power which does state that it helps against detection by Spirits.

Now, shifting my attention back to the technical characters, I was still hearing a lot of talk about "blueprints." At this point I asked what knowledge skills they had. Reso has Engineering and Auto Mechanics so I have him roll them both. With 4 hits on the Auto Mechanics I say that he has somewhat of an idea how a Drone Factory like this might work. The system will not contain a "blueprint" of the item, just a series of instructions to the drone on how to construct the item. They can steal those instructions, but they will be useless in trying to tell what the item is actually like. Now, I've stumped them again, and I can see they need a slight nudge towards the critical idea of having the factory create a second prototype. So, when Reso decides he going to take a closer look at the pickup schedule they copied from the Admin node, I decide to drop my hint: "The pickup schedule just shows the ID of the item, the IDs of the vehicle and people that are authorized to pick it up, and it says quantity 1." Props to Reaper for finally clicking in, "Just tell it to make another one!" Now the team was rolling, they started to talk about this idea and decided that they needed to steal the copy without the system actually record that it had made a copy. So, now they know that they need to get into the Controller, and tell it to make a second prototype without touching the inventory records on the Administration node.

So, with it now being about 7pm the players decide to wait a couple of hours until the facility is good and quiet. That means its time for their contacts to call them back (remember that?). Pedro's Mafia Soldier tells him that it took awhile, but he finally got word from one of the Mafia's drug dealers that recognized Maria Veracruz. I tell them that Maria is heavy into the club scene, spends most of her nights at Dante's, indulges fairly regularly in substances, and that it's not unusual for her to take home someone from the club. So, they decide to make preliminary plans to (possibly) have the Priest (of all people) go into the club and try to go home with her (possibly with the help of some Magic). Then Tiny calls Cruiser back and tells him that he's got the skinny on this "corp guy" but the info wasn't easy to come by and he needs to be "reimbursed." Cruiser gives him an extra 2k and he gets the lowdown. Federated-Boeing is treating this Hyru guy like royalty. They gave him an apartment in "boeingville" to stay at, as well as a personal bodyguard for the whole time he's staying in Seattle. Sources say that Boeing is going to babysit him all the way to the airport to ensure that nothing goes wrong. They are putting a lot of pride in this probe project.
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Malachi
post Dec 16 2008, 09:55 PM
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So, that information gets put on the shelf for later and the team turns their attention back to the factory. However, the team realizes that they still have a lot of security to deal with: cameras outside and inside the facility, guards, and door locks. After some quick discussion they decide to take the risk and have Unbeliever hack the main Security system. This is where things get interesting. First of all, at Firewall 5 and Analyze 5, the Security Node is no slouch, plus there's going to be patrolling IC once he gets in. Unbeliever makes his tests and manages to get User access on the first try, and good thing for him because I rolled 4 hits on my first test, so he would have almost certainly been caught had it gone to a second roll. Now, this was an unusual session for Unbeliever because he usually rolls really well, especially on the Hacking stuff, but tonight just wasn't his night (He was sitting on a different side of the table than he normally was, and the rest of the team kept telling him to switch back). First up he wanted to "feedback loop" the cameras all along the path to the Controller office: 1 in the loading dock, 1 in the storage area, 1 in the factory area, and 1 in the Controller office. Since this is not an "authorized" action he's rolling Hacking + Edit vs. the Firewall + Analyze (for most actions in the Matrix, that's my standard fallback test) of the node. His first 2 attempts fail, getting no more than 2 hits on 12 dice. I decide its time for the IC to make a pass so I roll its Pilot + Analyze (10 dice) and Unbeliever opposes with Hacking + Stealth (Matrix Perception, BBB pg. 217). Unbeliever wins and stays hidden for the moment. He tries a third time for the camera (still just the first one) and still only rolls 2 hits, fortunately I only roll 1 on the opposition so he loops the camera. Now he Browses for the next one in the route and prepares to Hack the second. I decide its time for the IC to make another pass, and this time it spots him. I tell Unbeliever to make a Matrix Perception test, which he gets 2 hits on, so I tell him that he notices a patrolling program (which looks like a Surveillance Drone) has locked on to him and appears to be paying a great deal of attention to what he is doing, though it isn't doing anything itself. This IC's job is to cruise the system and try to catch anyone doing something "fishy." Unbeliever things for a moment then decides to try and crash the IC before moving on to the other cameras (it isn't running an Armor program). He whacks it with his Attack program (which looks like Big Sexy wielding his manhood as a weapon), and only manages to score 6 net hits. The IC is damaged but now knows its under attack and promptly puts the system on Active Alert.

I had previous decided that when this goes on Alert it will call the on-duty Security Spider which will arrive at the beginning of the next IP. Unbeliever knows he's in a bind now. First he quickly decides (wisely) to finish of the IC before anyone else spots him. Now, the way I play things, when you are running a Stealth program, any other program/persona that wants to spot you needs to beat you in the opposed perception test. If a "friendly" icon has already spotted the intruder, then they provide a bonus to the test (which would give the Security Spider +4 in this case), but spotting you is not automatic. So, Unbeliever whacks the IC one more time, finishing it off, then quickly logs off of the system. Unknown to him, the Security Spider arrives and starts looking for what set the system on Alert. He knows the IC was crashed so he comes loaded up to find and fix any problems: Attack, Armor, Analyze, Edit, and Trace. This turns out to be a tactical error on his part. Now, Unbeliever wants to Hack back into the system at Administrator Access so that he can shut down the alarm and undo the damage. That becomes a hefty Threshold 15 (5 Firewall + 6 Admin + 4 Active Alert), with the node opposing with 14 dice (5 Firewall + 5 Analyze + 4 Active Alert). Unbeliever is rolling better now, getting to 15 in 3 rolls, but the system easily gets the 5 hits before he breaks in. That means the Spider is waiting for him. What follows is some unbelievable luck on Unbeliever's part. When he enters the system he knows its on Alert and that the Spider has spotted him (since the system's Firewall spotted him breaking in). The Spider makes a Perception test on Unbeliever to check his program load. He's not carrying anything lethal, so the Spider doesn't change his programs. Unbeliever on his action, shuts down his Attack (in my games that's a Free Action) and loads up Black Hammer (a Complex Action). The spider, not believing he is in physical danger, begins a Trace on Unbeliever but with only 5 dice (Computer 5 + Trace 5 – 5 Stealth), it's going to take awhile to get to 10 hits. Unbeliever then gives the poor Spider the most enormous whack of Black Hammer: 7 hits, and the Spider only gets 2 hits on his opposed roll. Since the poor guy isn't running a Biofeedback Filter he's resisting 10P (Black Hammer 5 + 5 Net Hits) with 4 dice. Amazingly he gets 3 hits, and "only" eats 7 boxes. Now, the Spider looks at his situation: 7 boxes of damage, no Biofeedback Filter, and even if he loads it up now he's going to have to stand and take another hit. He decides to retreat and call in reinforcements, so he decides to log off. Looking back now, I realized that I totally missed the fact that he would have needed to succeed on an opposed Willpower test in order to do that, but no matter.

With the system secure, Unbeliever cancels the Active Alert, which I still make him make a Computer + Edit test to accomplish, but since he is now authorized to do this I just make it a Threshold 2 test. Now, Unbeliever is new to the Matrix in Shadowrun (though he's doing quite well), so I give him the tip that it would be wise now to cancel every other account on the system to force the system owners to have to Hack into their own system. He thought that was a very nasty/nifty idea. Also, now that he's got Administrator rights, modifying any part of the security system takes not test. He tells the rest of the team that they are cleared to go.
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Malachi
post Dec 16 2008, 09:55 PM
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The plan is for Reaper and Primus to sneak into the Controller booth. The team assumes (correctly) that the Controller booth/node is isolated from the rest of the system, so any Hacking of that system will have to happen from inside. Unbeliever has a handy Agent (rating 4) loaded up with a nice array of programs for just such a situation: Exploit, Stealth, Browse, and Edit. Reaper decides to carry the Agent on his Commlink and will be the one to deploy it on the Controller system. Unbeliever gives the agent a "script" of instructions to: 1) Hack the Controllers system, 2) Give the node instructions to build a second Prototype drone, to be completed immediately before the original, at 1 am, 3) Alter the system log to erase any trace that the build order was given, 4) Return to your original node. Now, I guided the player through making these decisions because he didn't know all the nuts and bolts, but he understood the concept of what he was trying to do, which is the important part. From there, I can talk him through the rules.

So, with the Security system subverted (for now) the team decides to move in. Pedro casts the Invisibility spells and Reaper and Primus move in. The two quickly move to the fence line, Unbeliever shuts down the electricity, they scale it, and cut the razorwire on top with some wire cutters (they told me they were brining some). They hop down on the other side and proceed to the loading dock entrance. I do a couple quick Perception checks for the guard and drone, but they can't even beat the spell. Unbeliever unlocks the door for them and they head into the building. At this point, Pedro needs to drop the spell because of the building's Ward, so Reaper and Primus will have to rely on old-fashioned sneaking from here on out. They quickly proceed to the factory floor with some kick-all Infiltration rolls (5 hits for Primus and 7 hits for Reaper - did I mention he was sneaky?). At this point I decide its time for the 2-man guard patrol to show up. I tell the two of them to make an auditory Perception test. Now, prior to this Primus made a point of telling me that he was putting in his Ear Buds with their Enhanced Hearing and Spatial Recognizer (since he's forgotten to put them in for the previous 3 missions), so he had no problem hearing the guards walking and talking, even over the noise of the construction drones. His Spatial Recognizer gave him an exact location of the sound on his AR display. After notifying Reaper (at first he thought he had to use hand signals, until he was reminded that his implanted Commlink could be controlled with his mind), the two decide to quickly head up the stairs and duck inside the controller office. Unbeliever opened the door lock and the two duck inside. I have both of them make Infiltration rolls opposed by the Guards' Perception, but with the Guards getting a "distracted" penalty, they are easily beaten on the test.

Now inside the Controller room, they lose contact with everyone else on the team except the two of them (wireless inhibiting walls). They were expecting that, so Reaper activates the Agent against the system. I make Reaper roll for the Agent, 8 dice in 4 different tests. Since there's no way for them to know how well the Agent did, I don't tell them. After a few seconds the Agent returns to Reaper's link and tells him that it's done. A few more Infiltration rolls later and the two have made it out to the fence without being spotted. Pedro is out of sight in the team's van so he's wasn't able to reestablish the Invisibility. They need to make one last roll to get away without being seen. Reaper makes his roll and does awesome (as usual), but then Primus rolls: 1 hit (and no more Edge). The nearest Guard rolls 2 hits on the Perception check, and hears Primus make a very ungraceful *thump* when he hits the ground on the other side of the fence. Seeing two suspicious people loitering near the fence line he decides to saunter over and have a look. Unbeliever, being a quick thinking guy, sees the situation developing and sets off a security sensor in the system. The guard, seeing the security sensor trip decides to go off and check that instead. Primus and Reaper slip away into the night and back to the team's van.

That's where we stopped for the evening. The team is on their way now and starting to formulate some good plans for accomplishing the run, though I'm still hearing comments about "Plan B(ullets)." Things may get interesting by the end.
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Malachi
post Dec 16 2008, 11:03 PM
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Well, I appear to be getting a bunch of views on this thread, but no one has any questions?
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Lance
post Dec 17 2008, 11:06 AM
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I really like your "Gamemaster's Notes" blog and it DOES help me.
While I am a fairly experienced gamemaster (have been playing various RPGs for 10+ years) I am still rather new to SR. Most importantly, up until now SR has always been the secondary or even tertiary RPG, thus my background knowledge is limited and it is difficult for me to capture the "feel" of SR, sometimes. The same goes for the 4th edition rules. Reading your way of preparing for an adventure and the runs, dealing with players and the not always clear rules is very useful for me.
Especially the hacking part starts to make more sense, although it seems to be necessary to make some arbitrary rulings as GM, as a lot of things are not covered too well.
And, no questions (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) I read it as a blog ... not as a traditional thread.

cheers

Lance
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The Jake
post Dec 17 2008, 12:01 PM
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I too have read this as a blog.

- J.
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Yoan
post Dec 17 2008, 01:14 PM
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Really great, I might annex some of this for my own use! I imagine this'll be a major boon to new GM's and new players alike, too. +1 Karma.
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Malachi
post Dec 17 2008, 04:45 PM
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Thanks for the comments everyone. I was starting to wonder if anyone was actually reading it all. I realize the "wall of text" might be intimidating because I tend to really crank up the word count when I get going on something.

QUOTE (Lance @ Dec 17 2008, 07:06 AM) *
Especially the hacking part starts to make more sense, although it seems to be necessary to make some arbitrary rulings as GM, as a lot of things are not covered too well.

In many ways I think this was intentional. In previous editions the rules tried to cover "all" things that a player might want to do in a system and the rules just started to get really bloated and complicated. When I read the SR4 Matrix rules I saw them as a breath of fresh air because things were undefined. As I see it, you can break down Matrix stuff in basically 3 tests:
1) Breaking In - as described on BBB pg. 221
2) Changing Something - use Computer + Edit if the Account is "authorized" to do this, Hacking + Edit if not opposed by the Nodes Firewall + Analyze; I just made up this part but it seemed reasonable to me
3) Finding Something - Data Search + Browse, this is an extended test against a Threshold set by the GM

IMO, these are the 3 things that your Hacker PC is going to be doing most commonly, so you can run pretty much everything with those 3 tests. If the System beats him on any particular test, I just saw "Access Denied" and they can try again (though the attempt will be noted in the system's Access Log). If the Hacker glitches on any test, they set off an Alarm, and you have +4 Firewall from then on. If you want to make the system tougher, make periodic tests by some IC program, or by the Node on a Matrix Perception Test (BBB pg. 217). If the Node/IC wins the test then the Hacker is spotted and you can do whatever you want from there. The biggest thing to keep in mind with SR4's Matrix is that there is no "right" way to play it.

Stop thinking of running the Matrix like a "computer simulation" and run it more like a "real world" encounter. People ask lots of questions about the SR4 Matrix like "how often do I make Perception tests for patrolling IC?" "What happens when the player is spotted?" "How does the system respond?" The answer to all of these is: whatever you want! Think of it this way: instead of a computer system, imagine the Hacker is sneaking into some corporate office. Now ask yourself "How often should I roll to see if a patrolling guard spots the character?" Well, whenever you think the guard has an opportunity to spot the character. "What happens when the guard spots the character?" Well, maybe he'll sound an alarm right away, maybe he'll stop and ask for ID, maybe he'll just keep an eye on the player but not interfere. All of these are right answers for a "meat" NPC guard as well as an IC guard.

@Yoan: Feel free to pillage ideas. That's why I posted it.
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Tachi
post Jan 6 2009, 09:33 AM
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Please excuse the near necroposting.
Did writing this make your fingers hurt? Damn, info overload. I appreciate you going through the trouble though, this'll be very useful considering my near ten years away from RPGs, much less GMing. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/read.gif)

Oh, and finish the story. I wanna know what happened. Edge of my seat and all that.
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Malachi
post Jan 7 2009, 04:30 PM
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QUOTE (Tachi @ Jan 6 2009, 05:33 AM) *
Please excuse the near necroposting.
Did writing this make your fingers hurt? Damn, info overload. I appreciate you going through the trouble though, this'll be very useful considering my near ten years away from RPGs, much less GMing. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/read.gif)

Oh, and finish the story. I wanna know what happened. Edge of my seat and all that.

(IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) I type all day at my job (computer programmer) so typing all of this is nothing to my fingers. I'm glad you are finding it useful. I realize the "wall of text" is going to drive some people away, so I did my best to break it up into paragraphs and such.

Rest assured I'll post the rest of the run once we actually play it. (IMG:style_emoticons/default/wink.gif)
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Lance
post Jan 7 2009, 08:58 PM
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Get your group to meet and play (IMG:style_emoticons/default/smile.gif) I am still looking forward to the upcoming stories. I am posting this, just in case you lack the motivation to continue without some encouragement.

Cheers, Lance
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Malachi
post Jan 7 2009, 09:27 PM
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It's not for lack of motivation on my part, trust me. The problem is scheduling. We all have jobs and a couple of us (myself included) have a wife and kids. This weekend has already been ruled out, so we'll try again next weekend.

In the meantime, I'll make a shameless plug for Maxmahem's Shadowrun podcasts, which are recordings of his Shadowrun sessions. I've been enjoying listening to them and his GM style seems fairly similar to mine.
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