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I'm working on an adventure that requires the team to intercept a data courier traveling by train. As you might expect the central NPC is a high-value data courier, who in this case goes by the moniker Kinetic. I was hoping to get some ideas from people here on Dumpshock to flesh out the scenario and this NPC.

First the build: what Qualities/Gear/'Ware/Skills/etc do you think would suit a professional data courier? How do you make such an NPC challenging for the players? I don't expect him to hold his own in a toe-to-toe fight with a team of PCs, but he should be fast, smart, wily, and deadly enough to give them a good run for their money*. Obviously he will have a Data Lock and probably a Cranial Bomb with the Mysterious Implant [Cyberware Backdoor] Quality**. Any other thoughts?

Second: how would a highly-skilled professional data courier operate? What kinds of data would they transport? Do you think this is a viable occupation in the Wireless World of 207x or do you think they would be obsolete?


*He won't be the only opposition- there will be other parties on the train that also hope to intercept him.

**Kinetic has a colorful past, and isn't always the most willing courier. His handlers hire him out to clients, who can purchase the option of arming the Cranial Bomb to ensure his loyalty. They are issued a personalized passkey that is valid from the time their data is uploaded to the time its delivered, and they can detonate the bomb at any time via the Backdoor. Insurance is a bitch...
A data lock with high encryption is relatively inexpensive, so you can go several different routes. You can make an archetypical sammie ('ware to be faster and tougher, with boosted Attributes and dice pools, and an array of senseware). You can make a parkour-type (similar, but oriented towards athletics and driving tests). For someone who is capable of taking public transit, either one of the above with good fake permits, or a bioware-intense adept whose cyber mainly consists of good senseware.

Data couriers would probably only be hired for the most sensitive data, the kind that companies are paranoid about. They might require a bit of suspension of disbelief to exist, but they are a cool concept.
The Jake
What about a technomancer? There aren't ways to readily detect them YET? Give him/her a few submersion grades, stuff like Biowire, Acceleration, so he/she is a challenge. With photographic memory, he/she could recall all the bits of data that make up a file.

PCs will more than likely except a cybered individual or an adept. A TM will throw them.

- J.
QUOTE (The Jake @ Jan 29 2010, 09:37 AM) *
What about a technomancer? There aren't ways to readily detect them YET? Give him/her a few submersion grades, stuff like Biowire, Acceleration, so he/she is a challenge. With photographic memory, he/she could recall all the bits of data that make up a file.

PCs will more than likely except a cybered individual or an adept. A TM will throw them.

- J.

Oooo... add in that nano-ware memory from unwired, but change it a bit...

The nano-machines once injected cannot take in or give out the info they hold. A specific wireless or chemical signal, known only to the client (who injected it) will cause all the nanobots to move though the kidneys and into the bladder. Once there, they form a smooth sphere (unlike a jagged kidney stone). They will send out a stealth RFID signal saying "Ready for delivery. The courier can pee in a cup, the ball 'o nano will pass out, and can be read.

This has the advantage that as a dissasembaled mass, the nano's couldn't be hacked. The nano won't harm essence, and would fool someone who would expect the courier to have a datajack/lock. Nano breaks down over time (1 rating per week), perhaps some small portion of the bots have a radioactive fleck in them that are insulated, but when the bot breaks, would be exposed, poisoning the courier, making him want to get it out, just like a cranial bomb.

Of course, this would require GM Fiat in it's creation, but I don't think any of it is unreasonable.
QUOTE (The Jake @ Jan 29 2010, 08:37 AM) *
With photographic memory, he/she could recall all the bits of data that make up a file.

Would have to be a fairly small file. Photographic memory isn't exactly like a camera with infinite storage space and technical data can go on for reams and reams. I'd rule against this unless the data was only a few pages and not too far removed from the courier's own understanding.

Also, cranial bomb or no cranial bomb, you wouldn't reveal the data to the courier if you didn't have to (and most couriers would prefer not to see it I'm sure).

It might be fun and devious (if a little heavy-handed) to use invoked programming on the courier with a PAB unit. Block his memories of the data even being in his possession (or that he's even a courier!) and give the recipient access to the release trigger (a particular sight, sound, smell, etc.). Then when the party get to him all the torture in the world won't tell them where it is or how to get at it.

A trick used by security companies is to have multiple routes planned and roll a die just before setting off to decide which one to take. You could have the PCs know the options but not which one to hit so they have the challenge of watching more than one route at once. Splitting the party might be undesirable, but there are ways around it (e.g. hack a camera to report a sighting with facial recognition software).

A similar tactic could be to have more than one courier with the information split between them such that if any one of the pieces were missing the data would be unusable. You could define this technologically or put it down to an algorithm calculating which bits of data are critical to which other bits. Then the couriers go different ways, simultaneously or even on different days. Perhaps they don't even know about each other.

The courier could be a decoy with the data in the 'hands' of one of his bodyguards. Then when the chips are down have the undercover courier flee from the fight while the party focuses on their mark. If they let him escape they'll then have the job of chasing after him.
Some equipment/ware suggestions for the courier:

- All ware is high-grade, preferably bio; so that it won't show up on scanners and avoid questions.
- Good sensory gear
- Disguise gear, especially instant disguises, to escape when people are tying to corner you
- High Reaction and IPs
- Concealed/undetectable weapons only
- B&E gear, some one-shot escape kits and such, concealed in clothing
- Actioneer Business Clothes or something like it; first class has better security
- Manatech to detect nearby magical activity
- Secure decoy commlink, secure real commlink
- Some microdrones to be used as scouts/guards/decoys/distractions/bait
- Extensive maps and orientation systems
- Screaming Loud Rape Alarm
- Implants to protect from chemical attack (drugs, toxins, disease)
- Running/climbing/flying/swimming augmentations for escape
- Top piloting skills or skillsofts
- Smoke+ grenades to cover your getaway (smoke, thermal smoke, emp, white noise, etc.)

Some tactics:
- Hire different bodyguards in different stages, plus a few for the whole trip, so the runners won't know who all of them are
- Sit in the same coach as another VIP and profit from added security
- Special one-time code phrases to let the courier know a communication is genuine
- A good cover; a good secondary cover
- Don't accept drinks from strangers
- Start conversations yourself to gain cover; anyone who tries to start a conversation with you is out to get you
- Act the part of a normal, slightly corrupt businessman; squeaky-clean and dark-brooding are both too unusual
- Communicate with regular business contacts just as much as a normal businessman would; total radio silence is suspicious
- Have backup identities ready
Something interesting in the train setting would be to have him be a master of disguise (with all the useful gear) so that they could meet him several times without knowing it's him.
Cybereyes and commlink - continous feed from his cybereyes to his handlers - if the feed gets cut, or the handlers see signs of interception, they trigger a data delete.

But I think you need to work at this from a different angle. What is going to be the runners' challenge? Spotting and finding him? Telling him apart from the decoy? Apprehending him with stealth and speed so he doesn't delete the data? Separating him from his bodyguard? An action-packed chase through the train? Fighting through his bodyguards? Persuading, bribing, blackmailing or threatening him into cooperating? DO they need to steal the data without it being revealed to the courier (or his handlers, if you can ensure his cooperation)? Depending on the answers, you'd design him differently. You can present lots of restrictions for the runners here - what gear can they bring, how many people can they get in range of him without revealing themselves, using only non-lethal options, doing everything fast enough to not let him delete the data (a variation is setting the interception up so right until the last moment the courier thinks he can get away with the data and complete the mission succesfully, either by letting him think he has a way out, or that the runners' actions has nothing to do with him).

Regarding type of data, encryption in SR4 seem to completely unsecure, so you can't transmit data securely. One-time pads seem to not exist in SR4, but even if they did, they'd still need transfer of the pad securely (which means physically), which is just as difficult as sending the data itself - or perhaps that's what they're stealing, a one-time pad so they can listen in on the paydata once it gets transmitted.

If you want to be sure that there aren't any copies of the data out there, you must use a data lock. Once you start transmitting it, someone could have kept a copy, give it to your competitor, blackmail you with it, etc. But inside a data lock, no one gets hold of it.

Sometimes, people don't want to use the usual channels. Maybe two people in different corporations are running a double-cross on their employer - they can't transmit data to eachother, they can't include anyone in the loop, but they can meet with a courier and put the data in the data lock. Just about the same applies if it is something personal, if there's suspicion of a mole in an organisation.

Data couriers would operate like spies. Below average height, no outstanding features, behaves in way that doesn't draw attention to themselves. The "flamboyant double bluff" doesn't work, because people will notice you more, and more importantly it gives people justifiable reason to approach and observe you - which makes it impossible to tell innocent approaches from beginning interception attempts. They'll never do anything that would give anyone an excuse to approach them, or even keep their attention on them.

They'll make interception attemps difficult. One method is operational security through multiple plans and last minute randomization as someone else mentioned - even if your plans are compromised, the opposition will need massive resources to cover all options. Another is removing the opposition options to approach you covertly. The old "walk through a lingerie shop open to two streets" to shake tails can be adopted for train use - simply book the last available ticket(s) in a carriage or the entire train, and there are no legitimate way for an interception to get close to you. Get hold of the passenger manifest at the same time as you book the ticket, and if anything changes, you know who to look for. A particularly devious plan could be to deliberately book while there are still a few spots available, then arrange for accidents to happen to those who book the last tickets.
Great responses so far. Lots of good ideas. Thanks!

I'll post my specific thoughts in a bit. Gotta get some sleep.
I made a data-courier character for SR4 that I've never really had a good opportunity to use for all of the reasons that people have mentioned above. There probably isn't a very large market for data-couriers, anymore, with most devices having practically-limitless storage capacity, cheap-and-easy encryption, and instantaneous transmission speeds.

However, two SOTA methods that jumped out at me as cool included:

1. (Soft?) taggant nanites (Augmentation). Someone could encode their data on nanites (particularly soft-nanites) and inject them into a courier - who doesn't even need a nanohive, since you would WANT your data to become lost if the courier took more than a week or so to reach the other client. They would be very difficult to extract, decode, etc, and almost impossible to then replace with other data. The data could still be encrypted, and could probably be split up among multiple couriers insuring that if any one of them were successfully intercepted and their blood supply was recovered, the data would be incomplete.

2. Nanocybernetic flashback system. Nodding towards the photographic memory idea above... this really IS a camera with infinite film. Coupled with a data-filter, someone could activate both, show the courier whatever top-secret information they wanted transferred, and then download the neural mapping from the flashback system. They would be confident that the information would not enter long-term memory, and would be forgotten almost immediately afterward. The file cannot be accessed or understood by anyone except the specific courier who created it (since it merely maps his neural activity at the time, and not the specific data), and so could be sent separately (by any means, really) to the end-client - although some basic precautions would still be a good idea. Then, separately, you send the courier to the same client (without the data on him). If either "key" is intercepted, the data cannot be recovered. Someone would need both access to that file, and access to the courier's cyberware (and the will of the courier), in order to reproduce whatever information they experienced. Because of the way the flashback system works, the courier would replay his experiences as if watching a simsense replay of the information being show to him. You would also, obviously need to trust the courier, either by reputation, or because of polygraphs, mind-control, etc, etc.

Anyways, those are some ideas I thought were cool. They probably make better twists for a Run involving recovering the data or intercepting a courier than ideas for PCs.
(removed double-post)
The Jake
QUOTE (BlackHat @ Jan 29 2010, 08:04 PM) *
I made a data-courier character for SR4 that I've never really had a good opportunity to use for all of the reasons that people have mentioned above. There probably isn't a very large market for data-couriers, anymore, with most devices having practically-limitless storage capacity, cheap-and-easy encryption, and instantaneous transmission speeds.

On the contrary - since no level of encryption is perfect (this is covered in Unwired) that means that if you have something that is TRULY sensitive enough you don't want to transmit it over a network (e.g. lets say a cure for HMHVV for argument sake) then using a courier is perfectly acceptable. This goes double if the data was stolen from someone and the courier's employer isn't taking any chances and doesn't want its original owner tracking them down (ala. Johnny Mnemonic).

- J.
Ok, tons of good stuff here.

Glyph: I was kind of leaning toward a cyber-sam type build, or a bioware build with light cyber, but that may change based on some of the ideas presented.

The Jake: I hadn't considered a TM, but thats a very interesting idea. Specifically I think it could be cool if he hacked the train and turned it against the PCs as they try to capture him. I kind of agree with Aerospider, tho- Photographic Memory could be a stretch. If nothing else the recipient of the data would have to simply trust that the couriers memory is in fact perfect and accurate. Also a TM able to compile Courier Sprites wouldn't have to endanger himself physically to transport data. However, I might use this idea for one of the other opposing forces on the train... devil.gif

Nows7 / BlackHat: At first I didn't like the idea of a nanotech-based data package because spilled blood = lost data. But after some thought it occurred to me that this would be a great way force the PCs into using non-lethal methods, which could greatly increase the challenge if he is still well armed.

Aerospider / Ascalaphus: Good stuff there all around.

Blade: I think the PCs will have foreknowledge of who they are looking for, but that certainly doens't mean he can't change his appearance in transit to throw them off. He should probably change disguises before getting off the train and making his get away (if the PCs don't catch him first).

Smokeskin: Good point about the objective. I have already considered how I want the adventure to flow, but I was deliberately vague to see what people would throw out. I think the runners will have foreknowledge of the couriers identity- the real challenge will be capturing him before the other groups do. Also great ideas regarding how he would operate. I already planed to give him the Bland quality and possibly some other enhancements to his social abilities.

Any other ideas?
Purely biological.
Completely Photographic and all other senses too memory.
Have him memorize what you need delivered.
As long as it takes less than 24 hours, have him drink a bottle of laes wine after delivery.
nothing left in that brain.
Again, while the Photographic Memory thing is intriguing, I just don't think that the people who pay for a high-end data courier are just going to trust that his memory is perfect. Plus, with a Data Lock you don't have to worry about what he remembers when the job is done.
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